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ACTS xi. 27. to the end 13.
13 The transpositions in the order of the sacred narrative which I have thought it advisable to make in this, the preceding, and the following sections, have been adopted from a consideration of the circumstances of the Christian Church at this period. The first persecution of the Church by the Sanhedrim, was terminated by the conversion of St. Paul; the second persecution, which had now begun, was the work of Herod Agrippa, the great favourite of the Emperor Claudius. Dr. Lardner is of opinion that the previous repose of the Church continued only a year, or a short time longer, and that the disturbances of the Church began in the year 41, when Herod was invested by Claudius with full power. He observes-" From the very beginning of his reign, especially from his arrival in Judea, and during the remainder of it, the disciples must have been under many difficulties and discouragements." The Jews, and their new sovereign, who was very rigid and punctual in his observances of the Mosaic law, were alike disposed to harass the Christians, as an increasing heresy. The persecution, therefore, which had ceased for a time, would soon be openly renewed; and as James had been put to death, and Peter thrown into prison, I consider this (see note 11, p, 144, &c.) to have been the moment when the apostles for the first time left Judea, and not as Dr. Lardner supposes, about the year 49 or 50, after the apostolic council. Two circumstances related in the sacred narrative confirm me yet further in this opinion, and seem to justify the transposition I have here made. One is, that we read for the first time that prophets, who appear to have been next in order to the apostles, went down from Jerusalem to Antioch; the other is, that when Paul and Barnabas arrived at Jerusalem, in consequence of their mission from the Church at Antioch, after the prophets had foretold the famine, the Church sent their contributious to the elders, and not to the apostles (chap. xi. 30.) and that St. Paul, in his account of his coming up to Jerusalem on this occasion, tells us that he found none of the apostles at Jerusalem but James, the Lord's brother, (Gal. i. 18.)-See Lardner's Supplement to the Credibility, chap. vi. on the time when the apostles left Judea.
14 One manuscript only, the Cambridge manuscript, reads here, "As we were together," from which it has been inferred, that St. Luke was now with St. Paul. This, however, is not sufficient authority to enable us to conclude against the general opinion of the Church, and the concurrent testimony of manuscripts, that this evangelist certainly joined St. Paul til! his arrival at Mysia, (Acts xvi. 10.)
This prophesy of Agabus resembled those of the ancient prophets, not merely in the certainty, but in the manner of its fulfilment. It was accomplished in the first (a) and second year of Claudius. A second famine (b) was in the fourth year of Claudius, when Helena, Queen of the Adiabeni, sent assistance to the Jews. A third famine (c) was in the ninth year of Claudius. A fourth (d) in the eleventh year.
The most severe of these happened between the fourth and the eighth years of Claudius, under the government of Cuspius Fadus, or under that of Tiberius Alexander, perhaps under both. There is some reason to imagine, that a famine was be
CLAUDIUS IS PREDICTED-CHAP. X.
28 And there stood up one of them, named Agabus, Antioch. riod, 4757. and signified by the Spirit that there should be great Vulgar Æra, 44. dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Cesar.
29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea :
30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders 15 by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
ginning to be feared in Syria, about the time of the death of
(a) This is mentioned, with its causes, by Dio Cassius, 9. p. 949.
15 It is now that we first meet with the disputed word Presbyter. It occurs in the last verse of Acts xi. The corn collected by the Church at Antioch, for the relief of the brethren in Jerusalem, was sent to the Presbyters, or elders. The word ro pεobvтépiov occurs in the New Testament three times-in Luke xxii. 66. Acts xxii. 5. and 1 Tim. iv. 14. The signification of the word must be ascertained from the interpretation given to it in the time of the inspired writers. The term Presbytery was applied to an united body of men, and the word Presbyter was given to the members of which it was individually composed. In the first of these passages it refers to the Sanhedrim, and it is well translated by Dr. Campbell "the national senate." In the second it has the same meaning. In the third it is used by St. Paul, to denote the collected body of the elders, or ministers, who assisted at the ordination of Timothy.
As the Jewish Sanhedrim, with their head, consulted for the benefit of the Jewish nation, so might the Christian presbyters, with their head, consult the public welfare of the Christian churches. The members of the Sanhedrim were not equal in authority to the Nasi, neither were the Presbyters of the New Testament, reasoning on the same analogy, equal in authority to him who was their Nasi, or Prince; that is, the apostle, or his successor. But the Presbytery who governed the Christian Church at Jerusalem, and to whom St. Paul went, had no civil power, their authority was exclusively spiritual; and their head, or Nasi, or Prince, must therefore have possessed powers of a spiritual nature, superior to those which were possessed by the general body. And this appears to have been the case, from the unanimous testimon; of antiquity. The privilege of preaching, teaching, and many other things, was common to all; the power of ordaining, and deciding, was reserved for one. Thus Timothy was ordained with the concurrence and sanction of the Presbytery, or general body of ministers; but he was not ordained by them, but by St. Paul. This, then, explains the meaning of the word in the third passage, in which the word Presbytery occurs, and enables us to ascertain with greater pre
Julian Period, 4757. Vulgar Æra, 44.
The Death of Herod Agrippa.
ACTS xii. part of ver. 19. and ver. 20—23.
And he went down from Judea to Cesarea, and
20 And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus, the king's chamberlain, their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king's country.
21 And upon a set day, Herod, arrayed in royal appa-
cision the import of the word Presbyter in this passage, where
But we are enabled to learn the precise meaning of the word
Whitby, however, is of opinion that the elders here mentioned might not even be Christians, but the elders of the Jewish synagogues, or the πρωτοι των Ιεροσολυμίτων, the chief men of Jerusalem, to whom King Izates sent relief at the same time; or if they were Christians, they might still be the elders of the synagogues, the Christians then retaining the Jewish rites. To the first of these opinions it may be answered, that in ver. 29. we read that the relief which the Church at Antioch sent to Jerusalem, was intended for their own brethren. The second opinion is conjectural, but not probable. The elders of the synagogues who were converted, might have been admitted among the elders of the infant Church.
Whether the Christian Church was entirely constructed on the model of the Jewish synagogue, as Grotius asserts, will be considered in the notes to the next chapter of this arrangement.
PAUL RETURNS TO ANTIOCH-CHAP. X.
22 And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice Cesarea.
riod, 4757. of a god, and not of a man. Vulgar Æra,
23 And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost 1.
The Churches continue to increase.
ACTS xii. 24.
24 But the word of God grew, and multiplied.
Julian Pe- Saul having seen a vision in the Temple", in which he is
riod, 4758. Vulgar Æra, 45.
16 See the account in Josephus Antiq. 19. 7. 2.
17 I refer the vision seen by St. Paul in the temple, mentioned in Acts xxii. 17-24. and the commission he then received to preach to the Gentiles to this period of his history, principally on the authority of Lord Barrington and Dr. Benson, who maintain also that this vision was the same as the extacy alluded to in 2 Cor. xii. 2. though Dr. Doddridge would rather refer this vision to St. Paul's first return to Jerasalem.
Dr. Lardner discusses at some length the question when St. Paul was made an apostle, and concludes that he was appointed to the apostolic office on his conversion: one of his principal arguments is, that he began to preach so soon after that event. That the ultimate object which our Saviour proposed to St. Paul, was mentioned to him at his conversion, is evident, from his own narration, Acts xxvi. 17, 18. But it is equally certain that he did not exercise the apostolic functions till the Holy Ghost separated him for the work to which he had been called, and till he had been ordained by the laying on of hands.
With respect to Dr. Lardner's remark, that Paul was made an apostle, it is only necessary to observe, what perhaps the learned writer would not acknowledge, that there were various duties attached to the various orders of ministers in the service of God. The deacons, evangelists, and elders, might preach as well as the apostles; but to the apostles only belonged the power of governing, and controlling, and superintending the Churches, the ordaining of elders, &c. &c. which things St. Paul did not attempt to do, till he returned from Jerusalem to Antioch.
As the essay of Lord Barrington on this subject is not in the hands of many students of Scripture, I have added an abridg. ment of it. The learned writer defines an apostle to be one who was a chief and primary minister of the kingdom of Christ, who was commissioned by God to testify the great facts of Chris. tianity, as far as he was personally acquainted with them; particularly that of the resurrection, and who was endued with superior courage in times of danger, and with extraordinary powers of working miracles, and imparting the Holy Ghost.
It is the object of this essay to fix the precise time when Paul received his commission, which Lord Barrington supposes to bave been at his second visit to Jerusalem, when he saw Christ
commanded to leave Jerusalem, and to preach to the Gen- Jerusalem, tiles, returns with Barnabas to Antioch.
in a trance, A.D. 43. In support of the opinion, that at his
His preaching to the Jews does not prove his apostolic com-
The account St. Paul gives before Agrippa, (Acts xxvi.) has been adduced as an argument that he was appointed apostle at his conversion; but is it not more likely, that he would give a brief and perhaps obscure relation of this event before the king, than that the two accounts of the circumstance (Acts ix. and xxii.) should be incorrect? and in both these places it seems to specify that no commission was received. If, indeed, the Gentiles were converted so early as has been generally supposed, they would have formed part of the Christian Church, before Peter preached to the Proselytes of the Gate, which would destroy the wise order in which Christianity was spread, which was in the order our Saviour had before preached, and agrees also to his prediction, as related in Acts i. 8, &c. first to the Jews of the Holy City, then in Judea, then in Samaria, to the proselytes, and lastly to the Gentiles. Again Paul says, that at first (after his conversion) he preached the faith, he once destroyed," and that afterwards he committed the Gospel he preached to the Gentiles. He did not change his name to Paul till ten