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with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Acts 13

The mission of Paul and Barnabas. (1-3) Elymas the sorcerer. (4-13) Paul’s discourse at Antioch. (14-41) He preaches to the Gentiles, and is persecuted by the Jews. (42-52)

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The mission of Paul and Barnabas

1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

Elymas the sorcerer

4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.

5 And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.

6 And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus:

7 Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.

8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.

9 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him.

10 And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?

11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.

12 Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.

13 Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.

Paul’s discourse at Antioch

14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.

15 And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.

16 Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.

17 The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it.

18 And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.

19 And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot.

20 And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.

21 And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.

22 And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.

23 Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:

24 When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

25 And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.

26 Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.

27 For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.

28 And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.

29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.

30 But God raised him from the dead:

31 And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.

32 And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,

33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

34 And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.

35 Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

36 For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:

37 But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.

38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:

39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

40 Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;

41 Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.

He preaches to the Gentiles, and is persecuted by the Jews

42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.

43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.

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

45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.

46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.

47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.

48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.

50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.

51 But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.

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

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Manahen . . . foster-brother to Herod, or nursed with the same milk. Wi. — It would appear from his having been brought up with Herod, that he was of noble parentage. He is likewise believed to have been one of the seventy-two disciples. The Latins keep his feast on the 24th of May. Calmet.

Ver. 2. As they were ministering to the Lord.[1] Mr. N. and some others translate, offering up sacrifice. There are indeed good grounds to take this to be the true sense, as the Rhemish translators observed, who notwithstanding only put ministering, lest, (said they) we should seem to turn it in favour of our own cause, since neither the Latin nor Greek word signifies of itself to sacrifice, but any public ministry in the service of God; so the S. Chrys. says, when they were preaching. Wi. — Separate me. Though Paul and Barnabas are here chosen by the Holy Ghost for the ministry, yet they were to be ordained, consecrated, and admitted by men; which loudly condemns all those modish and disordered spirits, that challenge and usurp the office of preaching, and other sacred and ecclesiastical functions, without any appointment from the Church. B. — Consider, says S. Chrysostom, by whom they are ordained: by Lucius, of Cyrene, and Manahen, rather than by the Spirit. The less honourable these persons are, the more signal is the grace of God.”

Ver. 3. Fasting and prayer, imposing their hands upon them. By which is clearly expressed, the manner in which the ministers of God were, and are still ordained bishops, priests, deacons in the Church. Wi. — Interpreters are much divided in opinion, whether this imposition of hands be a mere deputation to a certain employment, or the sacramental ceremony, by which orders are conferred. SS. Chrysostom, Leo, &c. are of the latter opinion; nor does it any where appear that S. Paul was bishop before this. Arator, sub-deacon of the Church of Rome, who dedicated in the year 544 his version of the Acts of the Apostles into heroic verse to Pope Virgilius, attributes this imposition of hands to S. Peter:

———-Quem mox sacravit euntem

Imposita Petrus ille manu, cui sermo magistri

Omnia posse dedit.———-

See his printed poems in 4to. Venice, an. 1502. Arator was sent in quality of ambassador from Athalaric to the emperor Justinian. — Following the practice of the apostles, the Church of God ordains a solemn and general fast on the four public times for ordination, the ember days, as a necessary preparation for so great a work, and this S. Leo calls also an apostolical tradition. See S. Leo, serm. ix. de jejun. and ep. lxxxi. c. 1. and serm. iii. and iv. de jejun. 7. mensis. Nor was this fasting a fasting from sin, as some ridiculously affirm, for such fasting was a universal obligation: nor was it left to each one’s discretion, as certain heretics maintained. Vide S. Aug. hæres. liii.

Ver. 5. In the synagogues of the Jews, preaching first the gospel to them. Wi.

Ver. 6. A magician . . . whose name was Bar-jesu, son of Jesus, or Josue. In Arabic, Elymas is the same as magician. This man did all he could to dissuade the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, from embracing the Christian faith. Wi. — Salamina was the capital of the island of Cyprus, and at the eastern extremity, as Paphos was at the western. A. D. 45.

Ver. 9. Then Saul, who also is Paul. This is the first time we find the apostle called Paul. Some, therefore, think it was given him when he converted this proconsul, Sergius Paulus. Others, that Saul being a Hebrew word, the Greeks, or rather the Romans, turned it into Paul. Wi. — This is the first place in which this apostle is called Paul. He took this name out of respect to the illustrious convert he had made in the person of the proconsul, the governor of the island. Menochius. — Or, more probably, his former name, by a small change, was modelled into Paulus, which was a sound more adapted to a Roman ear. He begins to bear this name only, when he enters on his mission to the Gentiles. Calmet.

Ver. 10. Son of the devil. Sharp language, when grounded on truth, may be used against those who hinder the conversion of others. S. Chrys. says, he was struck with this blindness only for a time, to make him enter into himself, and be converted. Wi.

Ver. 14. Antioch. Many cities in Asia Minor bore this name. It is related that Seleucus Nicanor built many, and called them by this name, in honour of his father Antiochus. Tirinus. — Pamphylia and Pisidia were two provinces in Asia Minor. — The sabbath-day. Some not only understand, but even translate, the first day of the week: but here is rather meant the Jewish sabbath, as S. Paul went into their synagogues. And in this his first sermon to them, which S. Luke has set down, he speaks nothing that could offend or exasperate the Jews, but honourably of them, to gain them to the Christian faith; he commends in particular David, whose Son they knew the Messias was to be: and of whom he tells them, that God had given them their Saviour, Jesus. He mentions this high eulogium, which God gave of David, Ps. lxxxviii. 21. that he was a man according to God’s heart, who in all things should fulfil his will, that is, as to the true worship of God; though he fell into some sins, of which he repented, and did penance. Wi.

Ver. 19. These seven nations are the Chanaanites, the Hethites, the Hevites, the Pherezites, the Gergesites, the Jebusites, and the Amorrhites. Jos. iii. 10. and alibi.

Ver. 20. Chronology only gives about 350 years from the entrance into the land of promise to the end of Samuel’s judicial government, who was the last of the judges. V.

Ver. 24, &c. He then brings the testimony, which John the Baptist gave of Jesus, as it is likely many of them had heard of John, and of the great esteem that all the people had of his virtue and sanctity. He tells them that salvation was offered and sent them by Jesus, against whom the chief of the Jews at Jerusalem obtained of Pilate a sentence, that he should be crucified; but that God raised him up from the dead the third day. And we, says he, publish to you this promise, the Messias, promised to our forefathers.

Ver. 33. He then shews them that Jesus was their Messias, and the Son of God, begotten of his Father from eternity, who rose from the dead, and he applies these words, (Ps. ii. 7.) to prove Christ’s resurrection, thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee. It is true, these words regard chiefly the eternal generation of Christ, as they are applied by S. Paul, (Heb. v. 5.) but the resurrection was a necessary consequence of his divinity, since death could have no power over him. S. Paul here also proves Christ’s resurrection by the following predictions. Wi. — Second psalm. The oldest copy reads, first psalm. The difference is merely in words; for the division of the psalter at present is very different from what it formerly was: sometimes a single psalm of ours being divided into many, and many of our divisions making only one, according to the Hebrews. The latter are not even now agreed among themselves on the same division of the psalms. Calmet. — Some suppose, that what we call the first psalm was originally looked upon as a preface to the psalter; others, that our first and second psalms united in one. Mat. Polus.

Ver. 34. I will give you the holy things of David sure. These are the words of the prophet Isaias, lv. v. 3. According to the Sept. the sense is, I will faithfully fulfil the promises I made to David. Ch.

Ver. 35. In another place also he saith, (Ps. xv. 10.) thou wilt not suffer thy holy one to see corruption. That is, Christ’s body to be corrupted in the grave. See the words of S. Peter, Acts c. ii. 27. Wi.

Ver. 36. After he had served in his generation. That is, in his life-time, saw corruption, or was corrupted in the grave. Wi.

Ver. 37-38. Justified. That your sins being forgiven by the merits of Christ, you may be truly just in the sight of God. Wi.

Ver. 39. The law of Moses was then imperfect. I shew you its completion, by preaching to you Christ, whom it foretold. You would violate the law of Moses by opposing the new law, to which he leads you. Tirinus.

Ver. 40. See then that you reject not this divine Saviour, lest what has been denounced by the prophets fall upon your incredulous heads: I will abandon the holy place which I entrusted to you; I will cease to look upon you as my people; I will transfer my kingdom to the Gentiles. V.

Ver. 41. Ye despisers[2] of the favours offered you, behold, wonder, &c. This citation is out of Habacuc, (c. i. v. 5.) according to the Sept. The prophet, by these words, foretold to the Jews in his time the evils that would come upon them in their captivity in Chaldea, but S. Paul here applies them at least to the miseries that the incredulous Jews would incur, if they obstinately refused to believe in Christ. Wi.

Ver. 44. The whole city. Not only Jews, but a great many Gentiles, which exasperated the envious Jews. Wi.

Ver. 48. As many as were pre-ordained to eternal life,[3] by the free election, and special mercies, and providence of God. Wi. — Some understand this as if it meant, predisposed by their docility, to receive the word of life. But the Fathers unanimously understand it literally of predestination, which is defined by S. Thomas, serm. i. qu. 23. a. 1. “The disposition of God, by which he prepares, what he will himself perform, according to his infallible foreknowledge.” In other words, it is the manner in which God conducts a reasonable creature to its proper destiny, which is eternal life. In this mystery of the Catholic faith, which cannot be clearly explained to human understanding, because it is a mystery, there are nevertheless several points, which we know for certain. 1st. Though it is certain, that this decree of the Almighty is infallible, and must have its effect, yet it is far removed from the blasphemy of Calvinists, who pretend that it destroys free-will, and therefore removes all motives of exertion to good works. 2d. For it is a point of Catholic faith, that this foreknowledge of the Almighty no ways interferes with man’s liberty, but leaves him still a perfectly free agent, and therefore responsible for his actions. 3d. It is likewise decreed by the Council of Trent, that no one can certainly know that he is of the number of the predestined, without a special revelation to that effect. These are the most essential points, which it concerns us to know of this doctrine. As to the consequences which may be drawn from these positions, it were better for us to submit our understandings to the obedience of faith, than entangle ourselves in a maze of abstruse errors, far removed from our comprehension. Would that this sober line of conduct were pursued by many moderns, who at present talk and write so much on this subject, and to such little purpose. How excellently well does the great genius of the Latin Church, S. Augustin, say: Melius est dubitare de occultis, quam litigare de occultis! How much wiser and better is it to confess our ignorance on mysteries, than idly to dispute on mysteries! l. viii. de Gen. ad litt. c. 5.

Ver. 51. Shaking off the dust, &c. See the Annotations, Matt. x. 14.

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[1] V. 2. Ministrantibus illus, leitourgounton de auton. Erasmus translates, Sacrificantibus, but St. Chrysostom, toutesti keruttonton, prædicantibus.

[2] V. 41. Habac. i. 5. In the Latin text, and according to the Hebrew, aspicite in Gentibus: but in the Sept. and Greek here, idete kataphronetai.

[3] V. 48. Præordinati, tetagmenoi, on which S. Chrys. says, toutesti aphorismenoi, prædefiniti.