Father Callan's Commentary on Acts 13:13-16, 43-52

Posted 4/14/2013

13. Now when Paul and they that were with him had sailed from Paphos, they came to Perge in Pamphylia. And John departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.
14. But they passing through Perge, came to Antioch in Pisidia: and entering into the Synagogue on the sabbath day, they sat down. 
15. And after the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying: Ye men, brethren, if you have any word of exhortation to make to the people, speak.

Sailing from Paphos, Paul, with Barnabas, John Mark, and perhaps some other converts who had joined the little company, came to Perge (Perga), the capital of Pamphylia, on the river Cestrus. It was a journey of about 170 miles. We have no record of any preaching in Pamphylia, and here John Mark parted with the Apostle and went back to Jerusalem. We do not know the reason for this action on the part of Mark, but it was very displeasing to St. Paul. Proceeding from Perge by land, the missionaries came to Antioch in Pisidia, a journey of about 100 miles. Antioch was situated on the slopes of Mount Tarsus, and was the capital of Southern Galatia. It was built by Seleucus Nicanor in memory of ‘his father Antiochus, and under Augustus was elevated to the dignity of a Roman colony. St. Paul’s preaching in Antioch
bore much fruit with the Gentiles, but the Jews became enraged against him.

The Synagogue. See on Matthew 4:23. Paul entered the synagogue to take part in divine worship, and as it was customary to ask strangers who seemed qualified to give instruction to speak, Paul was requested by the rulers of the synagogue to give an exhortation to the people. See on Luke 4:16.

44. But the next sabbath day, the whole city almost came together, to hear the word of God.

Saints Paul and Barnabas are in the city of Antioch in Pisidia. See Acts 13:16-43.

45. And the Jews seeing the multitudes, were filled with envy, and contradicted those things which were said by Paul, blaspheming.

Filled with envy and jealousy over the success of Paul’s preaching, and angered at the doctrine that the Gentiles should be allowed to enter the Messianic kingdom without first being subjected to circumcision and the observances of the Mosaic Law, the Jewish leaders and teachers began to contradict St. Paul. They would not admit a Messiah who would take away their privileges and receive Gentiles on an equal footing with Jews, and hence ”blaspheming” they broke out into injurious speech against our Lord also.

46. Then Paul and Barnabas said boldly: To you it behoved us first to
speak the word of God: but because you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold we turn to the Gentiles.

It behooved the Apostles to preach first to the Jews and announce to them the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the Messiah, because to the Jews were delivered the oracles of the prophets; but now, by refusing faith in Christ, the only way to eternal life, the Jews had become unworthy of that life.

47. For so the Lord hath commanded us: I have set thee to be the light of the Gentiles; that thou mayest be for salvation unto the utmost part of the earth.

The Lord hath commanded us, etc. It was the will of God, made manifest through the prophet Isaias (49:6), that the good tidings of the Gospel should be carried to the Gentiles and to all the world.

48. And the Gentiles hearing it, were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to life everlasting, believed.

Were ordained, τεταγμενοι, praeordinati, in the Vulgate, means well disposed, as contrasted with the Jews who were ill disposed to make use of the means for obtaining eternal life. It is generally admitted that there is no question of predestination here, although St. Augustine often infers from this passage that election to glory depends solely on the free will of God, and not at all on the merits of the elect. We must, however, hold that the good dispositions of the converts for faith were from God and not from their own merits.

49. And the word of the Lord was published throughout the whole country.
50. But the Jews stirred up religious and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas: and cast them out of their coasts.

Honourable women; i.e., proselytes, who had been converted to Judaism, but whose prominent and influential husbands had remained pagans. These women, influenced by the Jews, persuaded their husbands that Paul and Barnabas should be cast out as disturbers of the peace. This was the first persecution Paul encountered on his mission, but numerous others were to follow.

51. But they, shaking off the dust of their feet against them, came to
Iconium.

Shaking off the dust, etc. This action on the part of the Apostles was intended to show that the people who rejected or ill treated them were unworthy of further attention, and were to be avoided, even as things unclean or impure. The Rabbis taught the Jews always to shake the dust from their feet when coming from pagan cities or lands to Palestine.

52. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost.

The disciples; i.e., the new converts whom Paul left behind at Antioch. In spite of persecution they were full of joy, and ready to suffer anything for the sake of Christ.