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Acts 21:15-40


21:15 After these days we got ready 1  and started up 2  to Jerusalem. 21:16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea 3  came along with us too, and brought us to the house 4  of Mnason of Cyprus, a disciple from the earliest times, 5  with whom we were to stay. 21:17 When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us gladly. 6  21:18 The next day Paul went in with us to see James, and all the elders were there. 7  21:19 When Paul 8  had greeted them, he began to explain 9  in detail 10  what God 11  had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 21:20 When they heard this, they praised 12  God. Then they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews 13  there are who have believed, and they are all ardent observers 14  of the law. 15  21:21 They have been informed about you – that you teach all the Jews now living 16  among the Gentiles to abandon 17  Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children 18  or live 19  according to our customs. 21:22 What then should we do? They will no doubt 20  hear that you have come. 21:23 So do what 21  we tell you: We have four men 22  who have taken 23  a vow; 24  21:24 take them and purify 25  yourself along with them and pay their expenses, 26  so that they may have their heads shaved. 27  Then 28  everyone will know there is nothing in what they have been told 29  about you, but that you yourself live in conformity with 30  the law. 31  21:25 But regarding the Gentiles who have believed, we have written a letter, having decided 32  that they should avoid 33  meat that has been sacrificed to idols 34  and blood and what has been strangled 35  and sexual immorality.” 21:26 Then Paul took the men the next day, 36  and after he had purified himself 37  along with them, he went to the temple and gave notice 38  of the completion of the days of purification, 39  when 40  the sacrifice would be offered for each 41  of them. 21:27 When the seven days were almost over, 42  the Jews from the province of Asia 43  who had seen him in the temple area 44  stirred up the whole crowd 45  and seized 46  him, 21:28 shouting, “Men of Israel, 47  help! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people, our law, 48  and this sanctuary! 49  Furthermore 50  he has brought Greeks into the inner courts of the temple 51  and made this holy place ritually unclean!” 52  21:29 (For they had seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him previously, and 53  they assumed Paul had brought him into the inner temple courts.) 54  21:30 The whole city was stirred up, 55  and the people rushed together. 56  They seized 57  Paul and dragged him out of the temple courts, 58  and immediately the doors were shut. 21:31 While they were trying 59  to kill him, a report 60  was sent up 61  to the commanding officer 62  of the cohort 63  that all Jerusalem was in confusion. 64  21:32 He 65  immediately took 66  soldiers and centurions 67  and ran down to the crowd. 68  When they saw 69  the commanding officer 70  and the soldiers, they stopped beating 71  Paul. 21:33 Then the commanding officer 72  came up and arrested 73  him and ordered him to be tied up with two chains; 74  he 75  then asked who he was and what 76  he had done. 21:34 But some in the crowd shouted one thing, and others something else, 77  and when the commanding officer 78  was unable 79  to find out the truth 80  because of the disturbance, 81  he ordered Paul 82  to be brought into the barracks. 83  21:35 When he came to the steps, Paul 84  had to be carried 85  by the soldiers because of the violence 86  of the mob, 21:36 for a crowd of people 87  followed them, 88  screaming, “Away with him!” 21:37 As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, 89  he said 90  to the commanding officer, 91  “May I say 92  something to you?” The officer 93  replied, 94  “Do you know Greek? 95  21:38 Then you’re not that Egyptian who started a rebellion 96  and led the four thousand men of the ‘Assassins’ 97  into the wilderness 98  some time ago?” 99  21:39 Paul answered, 100  “I am a Jew 101  from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city. 102  Please 103  allow me to speak to the people.” 21:40 When the commanding officer 104  had given him permission, 105  Paul stood 106  on the steps and gestured 107  to the people with his hand. When they had become silent, 108  he addressed 109  them in Aramaic, 110 

1 tn Or “we made preparations.”

2 tn Grk “were going up”; the imperfect verb ἀνεβαίνομεν (anebainomen) has been translated as an ingressive imperfect.

sn In colloquial speech Jerusalem was always said to be “up” from any other location in Palestine. The group probably covered the 65 mi (105 km) in two days using horses. Their arrival in Jerusalem marked the end of Paul’s third missionary journey.

3 sn Caesarea was a city on the coast of Palestine south of Mount Carmel (not Caesarea Philippi). See the note on Caesarea in Acts 10:1.

map For location see Map2 C1; Map4 B3; Map5 F2; Map7 A1; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

4 tn Grk “to Mnason…”; the words “the house of” are not in the Greek text, but are implied by the verb ξενισθῶμεν (xenisqwmen).

5 tn Or perhaps, “Mnason of Cyprus, one of the original disciples.” BDAG 137 s.v. ἀρχαῖος 1 has “. μαθητής a disciple of long standing (perh. original disc.) Ac 21:16.”

6 tn Or “warmly” (see BDAG 144 s.v. ἀσμένως).

7 tn BDAG 760 s.v. παραγίνομαι 1 has this use under the broad category of meaning “draw near, come, arrive, be present.”

sn All the elders were there. This meeting shows how the Jerusalem church still regarded Paul and his mission with favor, but also with some concerns because of the rumors circulating about his actions.

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

9 tn Or “to report,” “to describe.” The imperfect verb ἐξηγεῖτο (exhgeito) has been translated as an ingressive imperfect.

10 tn BDAG 293 s.v. εἷς 5.e has “καθ᾿ ἕν one after the other (hence τὸ καθ᾿ ἕν ‘a detailed list’: PLille 11, 8 [III bc]; PTebt. 47, 34; 332, 16) J 21:25. Also καθ᾿ ἕν ἕκαστονAc 21:19.”

11 sn Note how Paul credited God with the success of his ministry.

12 tn Or “glorified.”

13 tn Grk “how many thousands there are among the Jews.”

sn How many thousands of Jews. See Acts 2-5 for the accounts of their conversion, esp. 2:41 and 4:4. Estimates of the total number of Jews living in Jerusalem at the time range from 20,000 to 50,000.

14 tn Or “are all zealous for the law.” BDAG 427 s.v. ζηλωτής 1.a.β has “of thing…τοῦ νόμου an ardent observer of the law Ac 21:20.”

15 sn That is, the law of Moses. These Jewish Christians had remained close to their Jewish practices after becoming believers (1 Cor 7:18-19; Acts 16:3).

16 tn BDAG 511 s.v. κατά B.1.a has “τοὺς κ. τὰ ἔθνη ᾿Ιουδαίους the Judeans (dispersed) throughout the nations 21:21.” The Jews in view are not those in Palestine, but those who are scattered throughout the Gentile world.

17 tn Or “to forsake,” “to rebel against.” BDAG 120 s.v. ἀποστασία has “ἀποστασίαν διδάσκεις ἀπὸ Μωϋσέως you teach (Judeans) to abandon Moses Ac 21:21.”

sn The charge that Paul was teaching Jews in the Diaspora to abandon Moses was different from the issue faced in Acts 15, where the question was whether Gentiles needed to become like Jews first in order to become Christians. The issue also appears in Acts 24:5-6, 13-21; 25:8.

18 sn That is, not to circumcise their male children. Biblical references to circumcision always refer to male circumcision.

19 tn Grk “or walk.”

20 tn L&N 71.16 has “pertaining to being in every respect certain – ‘certainly, really, doubtless, no doubt.’…‘they will no doubt hear that you have come’ Ac 21:22.”

21 tn Grk “do this that.”

22 tn Grk “There are four men here.”

23 tn L&N 33.469 has “‘there are four men here who have taken a vow’ or ‘we have four men who…’ Ac 21:23.”

24 tn On the term for “vow,” see BDAG 416 s.v. εὐχή 2.

25 sn That is, undergo ritual cleansing. Paul’s cleansing would be necessary because of his travels in “unclean” Gentile territory. This act would represent a conciliatory gesture. Paul would have supported a “law-free” mission to the Gentiles as an option, but this gesture would represent an attempt to be sensitive to the Jews (1 Cor 9:15-22).

26 tn L&N 57.146 has “δαπάνησον ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῖς ‘pay their expenses’ Ac 21:24.”

27 tn The future middle indicative has causative force here. BDAG 686 s.v. ξυράω has “mid. have oneself shavedτὴν κεφαλήν have ones head shavedAc 21:24.”

sn Having their heads shaved probably involved ending a voluntary Nazirite vow (Num 6:14-15).

28 tn Grk “and.” Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was begun in the translation, and καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the logical sequence.

29 tn The verb here describes a report or some type of information (BDAG 534 s.v. κατηχέω 1).

30 tn Grk “adhere to the keeping of the law.” L&N 41.12 has “στοιχέω: to live in conformity with some presumed standard or set of customs – ‘to live, to behave in accordance with.’”

31 sn The law refers to the law of Moses.

32 tn L&N 13.154 has “‘having decided that they must keep themselves from food offered to idols, from blood, from an animal that has been strangled, and from sexual immorality’ Ac 21:25.”

sn Having decided refers here to the decision of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:6-21). Mention of this previous decision reminds the reader that the issue here is somewhat different: It is not whether Gentiles must first become Jews before they can become Christians (as in Acts 15), but whether Jews who become Christians should retain their Jewish practices. Sensitivity to this issue would suggest that Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians might engage in different practices.

33 tn This is a different Greek word than the one used in Acts 15:20, 29. BDAG 1068 s.v. φυλάσσω 3 has “to be on one’s guard against, look out for, avoid…w. acc. of pers. or thing avoided…Ac 21:25.” The Greek word used in Acts 15:20, 29 is ἀπέχω (apecw). The difference in meaning, although slight, has been maintained in the translation.

34 tn There is no specific semantic component in the Greek word εἰδωλόθυτος that means “meat” (see BDAG 280 s.v. εἰδωλόθυτος; L&N 5.15). The stem –θυτος means “sacrifice” (referring to an animal sacrificially killed) and thereby implies meat.

35 sn What has been strangled. That is, to refrain from eating animals that had been killed without having the blood drained from them. According to the Mosaic law (Lev 17:13-14) Jews were forbidden to eat flesh with the blood still in it (note the preceding provision in this verse, and blood).

36 tn BDAG 422 s.v. ἔχω 11.b.β has “temporal, to be next, immediately followingτῇ ἐχομένῃon the next day Lk 13:33Ac 20:15; w. ἡμέρᾳ added…21:26.”

37 tn That is, after he had undergone ritual cleansing. The aorist passive participle ἁγνισθείς (Jagnisqei") has been taken temporally of antecedent action.

38 tn Grk “entered the temple, giving notice.” The participle διαγγέλλων (diangellwn) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

39 sn The days of purification refers to the days of ritual cleansing.

40 tn Grk “until” (BDAG 423 s.v. ἕως 1.b.β.א), but since in English it is somewhat awkward to say “the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice would be offered,” the temporal clause was translated “when the sacrifice would be offered.” The point is that the sacrifice would be offered when the days were completed. Paul honored the request of the Jewish Christian leadership completely. As the following verse makes clear, the vow was made for seven days.

41 tn Grk “for each one.”

42 tn BDAG 975 s.v. συντελέω 4 has “to come to an end of a duration, come to an end, be overAc 21:27.”

43 tn Grk “Asia”; in the NT this always refers to the Roman province of Asia, made up of about one-third of the west and southwest end of modern Asia Minor. Asia lay to the west of the region of Phrygia and Galatia. The words “the province of” are supplied to indicate to the modern reader that this does not refer to the continent of Asia.

sn Note how there is a sense of Paul being pursued from a distance. These Jews may well have been from Ephesus, since they recognized Trophimus the Ephesian (v. 29).

44 tn Grk “in the temple.” See the note on the word “temple” in v. 28.

45 tn Or “threw the whole crowd into consternation.” L&N 25.221 has “συνέχεον πάντα τὸν ὄχλον ‘they threw the whole crowd into consternation’ Ac 21:27. It is also possible to render the expression in Ac 21:27 as ‘they stirred up the whole crowd.’”

46 tn Grk “and laid hands on.”

47 tn Or “Israelite men,” although this is less natural English. The Greek term here is ἀνήρ (anhr), which only exceptionally is used in a generic sense of both males and females. In this context, it is conceivable that this is a generic usage since “the whole crowd” is mentioned in v. 27, although it can also be argued that these remarks were addressed primarily to the men present, even if women were there.

48 sn The law refers to the law of Moses.

49 tn Grk “this place.”

sn This sanctuary refers to the temple. The charges were not new, but were similar to those made against Stephen (Acts 6:14) and Jesus (Luke 23:2).

50 tn BDAG 400 s.v. ἔτι 2.b has “. δὲ καί furthermore…al. . τε καίLk 14:26; Ac 21:28.” This is a continuation of the same sentence in Greek, but due to the length and complexity of the Greek sentence and the tendency of contemporary English to use shorter sentences, a new sentence was begun here in the translation.

51 tn Grk “into the temple.” The specific reference is to the Court of the Sons of Israel (see the note following the term “unclean” at the end of this verse). To avoid giving the modern reader the impression that they entered the temple building itself, the phrase “the inner courts of the temple” has been used in the translation.

52 tn Or “and has defiled this holy place.”

sn Has brought Greeks…unclean. Note how the issue is both religious and ethnic, showing a different attitude by the Jews. A Gentile was not permitted to enter the inner temple precincts (contrast Eph 2:11-22). According to Josephus (Ant. 15.11.5 [15.417]; J. W. 5.5.2 [5.193], cf. 5.5.6 [5.227]), the inner temple courts (the Court of the Women, the Court of the Sons of Israel, and the Court of the Priests) were raised slightly above the level of the Court of the Gentiles and were surrounded by a wall about 5 ft (1.5 m) high. Notices in both Greek and Latin (two of which have been discovered) warned that any Gentiles who ventured into the inner courts would be responsible for their own deaths. See also Philo, Embassy 31 (212). In m. Middot 2:3 this wall was called “soreq” and according to m. Sanhedrin 9:6 the stranger who trespassed beyond the soreq would die by the hand of God.

53 tn Grk “whom.”

54 tn On the phrase “inner temple courts” see the note on the word “temple” in v. 28.

sn This is a parenthetical note by the author. The note explains the cause of the charge and also notes that it was false.

55 tn On this term see BDAG 545 s.v. κινέω 2.b.

56 tn Or “the people formed a mob.” BDAG 967 s.v. συνδρομή has “formation of a mob by pers. running together, running togetherἐγένετο σ. τοῦ λαοῦ the people rushed together Ac 21:30.”

57 tn Grk “and seizing.” The participle ἐπιλαβόμενοι (epilabomenoi) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style. Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was begun in the translation, and καί (kai) has not been translated here.

58 tn Grk “out of the temple.” See the note on the word “temple” in v. 28.

59 tn Grk “seeking.”

60 tn Or “information” (originally concerning a crime; BDAG 1050 s.v. φάσις).

61 tn Grk “went up”; this verb is used because the report went up to the Antonia Fortress where the Roman garrison was stationed.

62 tn Grk “the chiliarch” (an officer in command of a thousand soldiers). In Greek the term χιλίαρχος (ciliarco") literally described the “commander of a thousand,” but it was used as the standard translation for the Latin tribunus militum or tribunus militare, the military tribune who commanded a cohort of 600 men.

63 sn A cohort was a Roman military unit of about 600 soldiers, one-tenth of a legion.

64 tn BDAG 953 s.v. συγχέω has “Pass. w. act.force be in confusionὅλη συγχύννεται ᾿Ιερουσαλήμ 21:31.”

65 tn Grk “who.” Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence and the tendency of contemporary English to use shorter sentences, the relative pronoun (“who”) was translated as a pronoun (“he”) and a new sentence was begun here in the translation.

66 tn Grk “taking…ran down.” The participle κατέδραμεν (katedramen) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

67 sn See the note on the word centurion in 10:1.

68 tn Grk “to them”; the referent (the crowd) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

69 tn Grk “seeing.” The participle ἰδόντες (idonte") has been taken temporally.

70 tn Grk “the chiliarch” (an officer in command of a thousand soldiers). See note on the term “commanding officer” in v. 31.

71 sn The mob stopped beating Paul because they feared the Romans would arrest them for disturbing the peace and for mob violence. They would let the Roman officials take care of the matter from this point on.

72 tn Grk “the chiliarch” (an officer in command of a thousand soldiers). See note on the term “commanding officer” in v. 31.

73 tn Grk “seized.”

74 tn The two chains would be something like handcuffs (BDAG 48 s.v. ἅλυσις and compare Acts 28:20).

75 tn Grk “and he.” Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was begun in the translation, and καί (kai) has been replaced with a semicolon. “Then” has been supplied after “he” to clarify the logical sequence.

76 tn Grk “and what it is”; this has been simplified to “what.”

77 tn L&N 33.77 has “ἄλλοι δὲ ἄλλο τι ἐπεφώνουν ἐν τῷ ὄχλῳ ‘some in the crowd shouted one thing; others, something else’ Ac 21:34.”

78 tn Grk “he”; the referent (the commanding officer) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

79 tn This genitive absolute construction has been translated temporally; it could also be taken causally: “and since the commanding officer was unable to find out the truth.”

80 tn Or “find out what had happened”; Grk “the certainty” (BDAG 147 s.v. ἀσφαλής 2).

81 tn Or “clamor,” “uproar” (BDAG 458 s.v. θόρυβος).

82 tn Grk “him”; the referent (Paul) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

83 tn Or “the headquarters.” BDAG 775 s.v. παρεμβολή 2 has “barracks/headquarters of the Roman troops in Jerusalem Ac 21:34, 37; 22:24; 23:10, 16, 32.”

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

85 sn Paul had to be carried. Note how the arrest really ended up protecting Paul. The crowd is portrayed as irrational at this point.

86 tn This refers to mob violence (BDAG 175 s.v. βία b).

87 tn Grk “the multitude of people.” While πλῆθος (plhqo") is articular, it has been translated “a crowd” since it was probably a subset of the larger mob that gathered in v. 30.

88 tn The word “them” 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.

89 tn Or “the headquarters.” BDAG 775 s.v. παρεμβολή 2 has “barracks/headquarters of the Roman troops in Jerusalem Ac 21:34, 37; 22:24; 23:10, 16, 32.”

90 tn Grk “says” (a historical present).

91 tn Grk “the chiliarch” (an officer in command of a thousand soldiers) See note on the term “commanding officer” in v. 31.

92 tn Grk “Is it permitted for me to say” (an idiom).

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

94 tn Grk “said.”

95 sn “Do you know Greek?” Paul as an educated rabbi was bilingual. Paul’s request in Greek allowed the officer to recognize that Paul was not the violent insurrectionist he thought he had arrested (see following verse). The confusion of identities reveals the degree of confusion dominating these events.

96 tn L&N 39.41 has “οὐκ ἄρα σὺ εἶ ὁ Αἰγύπτιος ὁ πρὸ τούτων τῶν ἡμερῶν ἀναστατώσας ‘then you are not that Egyptian who some time ago started a rebellion’ Ac 21:38.”

97 tn Grk “of the Sicarii.”

sn The term ‘Assassins’ is found several times in the writings of Josephus (J. W. 2.13.3 [2.254-257]; Ant. 20.8.10 [20.186]). It was the name of the most fanatical group among the Jewish nationalists, very hostile to Rome, who did not hesitate to assassinate their political opponents. They were named Sicarii in Latin after their weapon of choice, the short dagger or sicarius which could be easily hidden under one’s clothing. In effect, the officer who arrested Paul had thought he was dealing with a terrorist.

98 tn Or “desert.”

99 tn Grk “before these days.”

100 tn Grk “said.”

101 tn Grk “a Jewish man.”

102 tn Grk “of a not insignificant city.” The double negative, common in Greek, is awkward in English and has been replaced by a corresponding positive expression (BDAG 142 s.v. ἄσημος 1).

103 tn Grk “I beg you.”

104 tn The referent (the commanding officer) has been supplied here in the translation for clarity.

105 tn Grk “Giving him permission.” The participle ἐπιτρέψαντος (epitreyanto") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

106 tn Grk “standing.” The participle ἑστώς (Jestws) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

107 tn Or “motioned.”

108 tn γενομένης (genomenhs) has been taken temporally. BDAG 922 s.v. σιγή has “πολλῆς σιγῆς γενομένης when a great silence had fallen = when they had become silent Ac 21:40.”

109 tn Or “spoke out to.” L&N 33.27 has “to address an audience, with possible emphasis upon loudness – ‘to address, to speak out to.’ πολλῆς δέ σιγῆς γενομένης προσεφώνησεν τῇ ᾿Εβραίδι διαλέκτῳ ‘when they were quiet, he addressed them in Hebrew’ Ac 21:40.”

110 tn Grk “in the Hebrew dialect, saying.” This refers to the Aramaic spoken in Palestine in the 1st century (BDAG 270 s.v. ῾Εβραΐς). The participle λέγων (legwn) is redundant in English and has not been translated.

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