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Acts 21:20-25

Context
21:20 When they heard this, they praised 1  God. Then they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews 2  there are who have believed, and they are all ardent observers 3  of the law. 4  21:21 They have been informed about you – that you teach all the Jews now living 5  among the Gentiles to abandon 6  Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children 7  or live 8  according to our customs. 21:22 What then should we do? They will no doubt 9  hear that you have come. 21:23 So do what 10  we tell you: We have four men 11  who have taken 12  a vow; 13  21:24 take them and purify 14  yourself along with them and pay their expenses, 15  so that they may have their heads shaved. 16  Then 17  everyone will know there is nothing in what they have been told 18  about you, but that you yourself live in conformity with 19  the law. 20  21:25 But regarding the Gentiles who have believed, we have written a letter, having decided 21  that they should avoid 22  meat that has been sacrificed to idols 23  and blood and what has been strangled 24  and sexual immorality.”

1 tn Or “glorified.”

2 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.

3 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.”

4 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).

5 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.

6 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.

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

8 tn Grk “or walk.”

9 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.”

10 tn Grk “do this that.”

11 tn Grk “There are four men here.”

12 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.”

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

14 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).

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

16 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).

17 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.

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

19 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.’”

20 sn The law refers to the law of Moses.

21 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.

22 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.

23 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.

24 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).



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