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Acts 16:16-40

Context
Paul and Silas Are Thrown Into Prison

16:16 Now 1  as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave girl met us who had a spirit that enabled her to foretell the future by supernatural means. 2  She 3  brought her owners 4  a great profit by fortune-telling. 5  16:17 She followed behind Paul and us and kept crying out, 6  “These men are servants 7  of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way 8  of salvation.” 9  16:18 She continued to do this for many days. But Paul became greatly annoyed, 10  and turned 11  and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ 12  to come out of her!” And it came out of her at once. 13  16:19 But when her owners 14  saw their hope of profit 15  was gone, they seized 16  Paul and Silas and dragged 17  them into the marketplace before the authorities. 16:20 When 18  they had brought them 19  before the magistrates, they said, “These men are throwing our city into confusion. 20  They are 21  Jews 16:21 and are advocating 22  customs that are not lawful for us to accept 23  or practice, 24  since we are 25  Romans.”

16:22 The crowd joined the attack 26  against them, and the magistrates tore the clothes 27  off Paul and Silas 28  and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 29  16:23 After they had beaten them severely, 30  they threw them into prison and commanded 31  the jailer to guard them securely. 16:24 Receiving such orders, he threw them in the inner cell 32  and fastened their feet in the stocks. 33 

16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying 34  and singing hymns to God, 35  and the rest of 36  the prisoners were listening to them. 16:26 Suddenly a great earthquake occurred, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. Immediately all the doors flew open, and the bonds 37  of all the prisoners came loose. 16:27 When the jailer woke up 38  and saw the doors of the prison standing open, 39  he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, 40  because he assumed 41  the prisoners had escaped. 16:28 But Paul called out loudly, 42  “Do not harm yourself, 43  for we are all here!” 16:29 Calling for lights, the jailer 44  rushed in and fell down 45  trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas. 16:30 Then he brought them outside 46  and asked, “Sirs, what must 47  I do to be saved?” 16:31 They replied, 48  “Believe 49  in the Lord Jesus 50  and you will be saved, you and your household.” 16:32 Then 51  they spoke the word of the Lord 52  to him, along with all those who were in his house. 16:33 At 53  that hour of the night he took them 54  and washed their wounds; 55  then 56  he and all his family 57  were baptized right away. 58  16:34 The jailer 59  brought them into his house and set food 60  before them, and he rejoiced greatly 61  that he had come to believe 62  in God, together with his entire household. 63  16:35 At daybreak 64  the magistrates 65  sent their police officers, 66  saying, “Release those men.” 16:36 The jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, 67  “The magistrates have sent orders 68  to release you. So come out now and go in peace.” 69  16:37 But Paul said to the police officers, 70  “They had us beaten in public 71  without a proper trial 72  – even though we are Roman citizens 73  – and they threw us 74  in prison. And now they want to send us away 75  secretly? Absolutely not! They 76  themselves must come and escort us out!” 77  16:38 The police officers reported these words to the magistrates. They were frightened when they heard Paul and Silas 78  were Roman citizens 79  16:39 and came 80  and apologized to them. After 81  they brought them out, they asked them repeatedly 82  to leave the city. 16:40 When they came out of the prison, they entered Lydia’s house, and when they saw the brothers, they encouraged them and then 83  departed.

1 tn Grk “Now it happened that.” The introductory phrase ἐγένετο (egeneto, “it happened that”), common in Luke (69 times) and Acts (54 times), is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.

2 tn Or “who had a spirit of divination”; Grk “who had a spirit of Python.” According to BDAG 896-97 s.v. πύθων, originally Πύθων (Puqwn) was the name of the serpent or dragon that guarded the Delphic oracle. According to Greek mythology, it lived at the foot of Mount Parnassus and was killed by Apollo. From this, the word came to designate a person who was thought to have a spirit of divination. Pagan generals, for example, might consult someone like this. So her presence here suggests a supernatural encounter involving Paul and her “spirit.” W. Foerster, TDNT 6:920, connects the term with ventriloquism but states: “We must assume, however, that for this girl, as for those mentioned by Origen…, the art of ventriloquism was inseparably connected with a (supposed or authentic) gift of soothsaying.” It should also be noted that if the girl in question here were only a ventriloquist, the exorcism performed by Paul in v. 18 would not have been effective.

3 tn Grk “who.” Because of the awkwardness in English of having two relative clauses follow one another (“who had a spirit…who brought her owners a great profit”) the relative pronoun here (“who”) has been translated as a pronoun (“she”) and a new sentence begun in the translation.

4 tn Or “masters.”

5 tn On this term see BDAG 616 s.v. μαντεύομαι. It was used of those who gave oracles.

6 tn Grk “crying out, saying”; the participle λέγουσα (legousa) is redundant in English and has not been translated. The imperfect verb ἔκραζεν (ekrazen) has been translated as a progressive imperfect.

7 tn Grk “slaves.” See the note on the word “servants” in 2:18. The translation “servants” was used here because in this context there appears to be more emphasis on the activity of Paul and his companions (“proclaiming to you the way of salvation”) than on their status as “slaves of the Most High God.”

8 tn Or “a way.” The grammar of this phrase is a bit ambiguous. The phrase in Greek is ὁδὸν σωτηρίας (Jodon swthria"). Neither the head noun nor the genitive noun has the article; this is in keeping with Apollonius’ Canon (see ExSyn 239-40). Since both nouns are anarthrous, this construction also fits Apollonius’ Corollary (see ExSyn 250-54); since the genitive noun is abstract it is most naturally qualitative, so the head noun could either be definite or indefinite without being unusual as far as the grammar is concerned. Luke’s usage of ὁδός elsewhere is indecisive as far as this passage is concerned. However, when one looks at the historical background it is clear that (1) the woman is shut up (via exorcism) not because her testimony is false but because of its source (analogous to Jesus’ treatment of demons perhaps), and (b) “the way” is a par excellence description of the new faith throughout Acts. It thus seems that at least in Luke’s presentation “the way of salvation” is the preferred translation.

9 sn Proclaiming to you the way of salvation. The remarks were an ironic recognition of Paul’s authority, but he did not desire such a witness, possibly for fear of confusion. Her expression the Most High God might have been understood as Zeus by the audience.

10 tn Grk “becoming greatly annoyed.” The participle διαπονηθείς (diaponhqei") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style. The aorist has been translated as an ingressive aorist (entry into a state or condition). See BDAG 235 s.v. διαπονέομαι.

11 tn Grk “and turning.” The participle ἐπιστρέψας (epistreya") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

12 tn Or “Messiah”; both “Christ” (Greek) and “Messiah” (Hebrew and Aramaic) mean “one who has been anointed.”

13 tn BDAG 1102-3 s.v. ὥρα 2.c has “at that very time, at once, instantly” for the usage in this verse.

14 tn Or “masters.”

15 tn On this use of ἐργασία (ergasia), see BDAG 390 s.v. 4. It is often the case that destructive practices and commerce are closely tied together.

16 tn Grk “was gone, seizing.” The participle ἐπιλαβόμενοι (epilabomenoi) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

17 tn On the term ἕλκω ({elkw) see BDAG 318 s.v. 1.

18 tn Grk “And when.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here.

19 tn Grk “having brought them.” The participle ἐπιλαβόμενοι (epilabomenoi) has been taken temporally. It is also possible in English to translate this participle as a finite verb: “they brought them before the magistrates and said.”

20 tn BDAG 309 s.v. ἐκταράσσω has “agitate, cause trouble to, throw into confusion” for the meaning of this verb.

21 tn Grk “being Jews, and they are proclaiming.” The participle ὑπάρχοντες (Juparconte") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

22 tn Grk “proclaiming,” but in relation to customs, “advocating” is a closer approximation to the meaning.

23 tn Or “acknowledge.”

24 sn Customs that are not lawful for us to accept or practice. Ironically, the charges are similar to those made against Jesus in Luke 23:2, where Jews argued he was “twisting” their customs. The charge has three elements: (1) a racial element (Jewish); (2) a social element (unlawful); and (3) a traditional element (not their customs).

25 tn Grk “we being Romans.” The participle οὖσιν (ousin) has been translated as a causal adverbial participle.

26 tn L&N 39.50 has “the crowd joined the attack against them” for συνεπέστη (sunepesth) in this verse.

27 tn Grk “tearing the clothes off them, the magistrates ordered.” The participle περιρήξαντες (perirhxante") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style. Although it may be possible to understand the aorist active participle περιρήξαντες in a causative sense (“the magistrates caused the clothes to be torn off Paul and Silas”) in the mob scene that was taking place, it is also possible that the magistrates themselves actively participated. This act was done to prepare them for a public flogging (2 Cor 11:25; 1 Thess 2:2).

28 tn Grk “off them”; the referents (Paul and Silas) have been specified in the translation for clarity.

29 tn The infinitive ῥαβδίζειν (rJabdizein) means “to beat with rods or sticks” (as opposed to fists or clubs, BDAG 902 s.v. ῥαβδίζω).

30 tn Grk “Having inflicted many blows on them.” The participle ἐπιθέντες (epiqente") has been taken temporally. BDAG 384 s.v. ἐπιτίθημι 1.a.β has “inflict blows upon someone” for this expression, but in this context it is simpler to translate in English as “they had beaten them severely.”

31 tn Grk “commanding.” The participle παραγγείλαντες (parangeilante") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

32 tn Or “prison.”

33 tn L&N 6.21 has “stocks” for εἰς τὸ ξύλον (ei" to xulon) here, as does BDAG 685 s.v. ξύλον 2.b. However, it is also possible (as mentioned in L&N 18.12) that this does not mean “stocks” but a block of wood (a log or wooden column) in the prison to which prisoners’ feet were chained or tied. Such a possibility is suggested by v. 26, where the “bonds” (“chains”?) of the prisoners loosened.

34 tn Grk “praying, were singing.” The participle προσευχόμενοι (proseucomenoi) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

35 sn Praying and singing hymns to God. Tertullian said, “The legs feel nothing in the stocks when the heart is in heaven” (To the Martyrs 2; cf. Rom 5:3; Jas 1:2; 1 Pet 5:6). The presence of God means the potential to be free (cf. v. 26).

36 tn The words “the rest of” are not in the Greek text, but are implied.

37 tn Or perhaps, “chains.” The translation of τὰ δεσμά (ta desma) is to some extent affected by the understanding of ξύλον (xulon, “stocks”) in v. 24. It is possible (as mentioned in L&N 18.12) that this does not mean “stocks” but a block of wood (a log or wooden column) in the prison to which prisoners’ feet were chained or tied.

38 tn L&N 23.75 has “had awakened” here. It is more in keeping with contemporary English style, however, to keep the two verbal ideas parallel in terms of tense (“when the jailer woke up and saw”) although logically the second action is subsequent to the first.

39 tn The additional semantic component “standing” is supplied (“standing open”) to convey a stative nuance in English.

40 sn Was about to kill himself. The jailer’s penalty for failing to guard the prisoners would have been death, so he contemplated saving the leaders the trouble (see Acts 12:19; 27:42).

41 tn Or “thought.”

42 tn Grk “But Paul called out with a loud voice, saying.” The dative phrase μεγάλῃ φωνῇ (megalh fwnh) has been simplified as an English adverb (“loudly”), and the participle λέγων (legwn) has not been translated since it is redundant in English.

43 sn Do not harm yourself. Again the irony is that Paul is the agent through whom the jailer is spared.

44 tn Grk “he”; the referent (the jailer) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

45 tn Or “and prostrated himself.”

sn Fell down. The earthquake and the freeing of the prisoners showed that God’s power was present. Such power could only be recognized. The open doors opened the jailer’s heart.

46 tn Grk “And bringing them outside, he asked.” The participle προαγαγών (proagagwn) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style. Because of the length of the Greek sentence, the conjunction καί (kai) has not been translated here. Instead a new English sentence is begun by supplying the conjunction “then” to indicate the logical sequence.

47 tn The Greek term (δεῖ, dei) is used by Luke to represent divine necessity.

48 tn Grk “said.”

49 sn Here the summary term of response is a call to believe. In this context it refers to trusting the sovereign God’s power to deliver, which events had just pictured for the jailer.

50 tc The majority of mss add Χριστόν (Criston, “Christ”) here (C D E Ψ 1739 Ï sy sa), but the best and earliest witnesses read simply τὸν κύριον ᾿Ιησοῦν (ton kurion Ihsoun, “the Lord Jesus”; Ì74vid א A B 33 81 pc bo). The addition of “Christ” to “Lord Jesus” is an obviously motivated reading. Thus on both external and internal grounds, the shorter reading is strongly preferred.

51 tn Grk “And they.” Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the continuity with the preceding verse. Greek style often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” but English style does not.

52 sn The word of the Lord is a technical expression in OT literature, often referring to a divine prophetic utterance (e.g., Gen 15:1, Isa 1:10, Jonah 1:1). In the NT it occurs 15 times: 3 times as ῥῆμα τοῦ κυρίου (rJhma tou kuriou; Luke 22:61, Acts 11:16, 1 Pet 1:25) and 12 times as λόγος τοῦ κυρίου (logo" tou kuriou; here and in Acts 8:25; 13:44, 48, 49; 15:35, 36; 19:10, 20; 1 Thess 1:8, 4:15; 2 Thess 3:1). As in the OT, this phrase focuses on the prophetic nature and divine origin of what has been said.

53 tn Grk “And at.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here.

54 tn Grk “taking them…he washed.” The participle παραλαβών (paralabwn) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

55 tn On this phrase BDAG 603 s.v. λούω 1 gives a literal translation as “by washing he freed them from the effects of the blows.”

56 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the logical sequence.

57 sn All his family. It was often the case in the ancient world that conversion of the father led to the conversion of all those in the household.

58 tn Or “immediately.”

59 tn Grk “He”; the referent (the jailer) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

60 tn Grk “placed [food] on the table” (a figurative expression). Since the actual word for food is not specified, it would also be possible to translate “set a meal before them,” but since this is taking place in the middle of the night, the preparations necessary for a full meal would probably not have been made. More likely Paul and Silas were given whatever was on hand that needed little or no preparation.

61 tn Or “he was overjoyed.”

62 tn The translation “come to believe” reflects more of the resultative nuance of the perfect tense here.

63 tn The phrase “together with his entire household” is placed at the end of the English sentence so that it refers to both the rejoicing and the belief. A formal equivalence translation would have “and he rejoiced greatly with his entire household that he had come to believe in God,” but the reference to the entire household being baptized in v. 33 presumes that all in the household believed.

64 tn The translation “day is breaking” for ἡμέρα γίνεται (Jhmera ginetai) in this verse is given by BDAG 436 s.v. ἡμέρα 1.a.

65 tn On the term translated “magistrates,” see BDAG 947-48 s.v. στρατηγός 1. These city leaders were properly called duoviri, but were popularly known as praetors (στρατηγοί, strathgoi). They were the chief officials of Philippi. The text leaves the impression that they came to the decision to release Paul and Silas independently. God was at work everywhere.

66 tn On the term ῥαβδοῦχος (rJabdouco") see BDAG 902 s.v. The term was used of the Roman lictor and roughly corresponds to contemporary English “constable, policeman.”

67 tn The word “saying” is not in the Greek text, but is implied; it is necessary in English because the content of what the jailer said to Paul and Silas is not the exact message related to him by the police officers, but is a summary with his own additions.

68 tn The word “orders” is not in the Greek text, but is implied. Direct objects in Greek were often omitted when clear from the context, but must be supplied for the modern English reader.

69 tn Grk “So coming out now go in peace.” The participle ἐξελθόντες (exelqonte") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

70 tn Grk “to them”; the referent (the police officers) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

71 tn Grk “Having us beaten in public.” The participle δείραντες (deirante") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

72 tn Or “in public, uncondemned.” BDAG 35 s.v. ἀκατάκριτος has “uncondemned, without due process” for this usage.

73 tn The participle ὑπάρχοντας (Juparconta") has been translated as a concessive adverbial participle.

74 tn The word “us” is not in the Greek text, but is implied. Direct objects were often omitted in Greek when clear from the context, but must be supplied for the modern English reader.

75 tn L&N 28.71 has “send us away secretly” for this verse.

76 tn Grk “But they.”

77 sn They themselves must come and escort us out! Paul was asking for the injustice he and Silas suffered to be symbolically righted. It was a way of publicly taking their actions off the record and showing the apostles’ innocence, a major public statement. Note the apology given in v. 39.

78 tn Grk “heard they”; the referents (Paul and Silas) have been specified in the translation for clarity.

79 sn Roman citizens. This fact was disturbing to the officials because due process was a right for a Roman citizen, well established in Roman law. To flog a Roman citizen was considered an abomination. Such punishment was reserved for noncitizens.

80 tn Grk “and coming, they apologized.” The participle ἐλθόντες (elqonte") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

81 tn Grk “and after.” Because of the length of the Greek sentence, the conjunction καί (kai) has not been translated here. Instead a new English sentence is begun.

82 tn The verb ἐρώτων (erwtwn) has been translated as an iterative imperfect; the English adverb “repeatedly” brings out the iterative force in the translation.

83 tn “Then” is not in the Greek text, but has been supplied to clarify the logical sequence in the translation.



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