King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Acts 16

Paul takes Timothy to be his assistant. (1-5) Paul proceeds to Macedonia, The conversion of Lydia. (6-15) An evil spirit cast out, Paul and Silas scourged and imprisoned. (16-24) The conversion of the jailer at Philippi. (25-34) Paul and Silas released. (35-40)

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Paul takes Timothy to be his assistant

1 Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:

2 Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.

3 Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.

4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.

5 And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.

Paul proceeds to Macedonia, The conversion of Lydia

6 Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,

7 After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.

8 And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.

9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.

10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;

12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.

13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

An evil spirit cast out, Paul and Silas scourged and imprisoned

16 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:

17 The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.

18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.

19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,

20 And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,

21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.

22 And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.

23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:

24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

The conversion of the jailer at Philippi

25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.

27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.

28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.

29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,

30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.

33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.

34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

The conversion of the jailer at Philippi. (25-34) Paul and Silas released

35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go.

36 And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.

37 But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.

38 And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans.

39 And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.

40 And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 3. Circumcised him. Not to obstruct the conversion of the Jews; and because it was still lawful to observe the Jewish ceremonies, though the obligation of keeping the old law had ceased. Wi. — This S. Paul did in order to gain the Jews, and make Timothy acceptable to them. Tirinus. — To the Jew, says he, (1 Cor. ix. 20.) I became a Jew, that I might gain the Jews. If he refused to circumcise Titus, in order to vindicate the Christian’s independence of the Mosaic ceremonies; he now submits to the observance of them, to shew there is nothing of itself bad in them, and that they might without crime be practised, till time by degrees had abolished them. S. Aug. ep. lxxxii. ad S. Hieronymum.

Ver. 4. Here, as well as in the last verse of the former chapter, we see S. Paul ordering the new converts, wherever he went, to receive, as their rule of conduct, the ordinances of the apostles and priests assembled in Jerusalem.

Ver. 6. They were forbidden by the Holy Ghost, to go, and preach at that time in the Lesser Asia, perhaps because their preaching in Macedonia was more necessary; or because S. John was to be sent into Asia. Wi. — Forbidden. Why? Because they were not yet prepared to receive the gospel; or, perhaps, these provinces were reserved for S. John, as Bithynia was for S. Luke. Menochius. — S. Leo compares this question to many others respecting the inscrutable judgments of God. Why did not the Son of God come into the world many ages before? Why did he suffer so many to die in ignorance? Why are there yet so many in infidelity? Why, in one family, does one believe and is converted, while another remains in darkness, and crime? Who shall account for the exercise he pleases to make of his rigour, or his mercy, when all were justly victims of the former? S. Leo de vocat. Gentium. lib. ii. c. 2.

Ver. 7. The spirit of Jesus permitted them not. It is the same spirit, which just before was called the Holy Ghost: for the Holy Ghost is the spirit of Jesus, as proceeding from the Son as well as from the Father. Wi.

Ver. 9. A vision, &c. The tutelar angel of the province, according to most interpreters, under the form of a Macedonian, who implored S. Paul in behalf of the province he guarded.

Ver. 10. We. This change in the narration from the third, to the first person, we sought, &c. is remarkable. It is hence inferred, that S. Luke, the author of this book, joined S. Paul at Troas, and became his inseparable companion. Calmet. — It is, however, probable, that as the narrative in the first person changes again at the end of this chapter, and is not resumed, till the fifth verse of the 20th chap. that S. Luke was absent on some mission during the time that elapsed between this and their sailing from Philippi, as mentioned hereafter. Chap. xx. v. 6. Tirinus.

Ver. 13. There was prayer.[1] The Greek word signifies either prayer itself, or an oratory, or place to pray in. Wi. — Not every prayer is here understood, but that which was joined in the celebration of the sacred mysteries. Estius in diffic. loca. See 1 Cor. vii. and Acts vi.

Ver. 16. A pythonical spirit. A spirit pretending to divination, to tell secrets, and things to come. See 2 Kings xxviii. Isaias viii. 19. Wi. — A divining spirit, which pretended to foretell things to come. It is strictly forbidden every where throughout the old law to have any dealings with persons of this description. Deut. xviii. 10. Levit. xx. ult. &c. Hence it would appear that these superstitions were of early practice among mankind. It is lamentable that the present age is still credulous enough to believe in such impostures. The ignorance of mankind, it appears, has always been made a source of emolument to the designing. A.

Ver. 17. These men are the servants of the most high God. Evil spirits in possessed people, are sometimes forced to tell the truth. Wi.

Ver. 18. Observe here that the servants of God have a power granted them of controlling wicked spirits, according to the promise of our Lord, Luke ix. and x. Hence the seventy disciples, returning, said: Lord, even the devils are subject to us in thy name. Est. in diffic. loc.

Ver. 20. Jews. This was the name the first Christians went by among the pagans. Indeed our Saviour’s being born of that nation, and his disciples adoring the same God, and following the same morality and Scriptures as the Jews, were sufficient reasons to make them confounded. When Suetonius relates that Claudius banished the Jews from Rome, he means the Christians. Calmet.

Ver. 21. There was a standing decree of the senate, which forbade the introduction of any new divinity, without the formal consent of the senate. V.

Ver. 24. Made their feet fast in the stocks. By the Latin and Greek text, they made them fast with wood. Wi.

Ver. 26. All the doors were opened. This made the jailer conclude the prisoners had made their escape. And he being answerable for them, and expecting to be put to death, was for stabbing himself. Wi.

Ver. 33. Was baptized, being first told what he was to believe, and do. Wi. — Hence Catholics draw a very plausible argument for the baptism of infants, as it is very probable there were some infants in the family. See Estius in diffic. loc.

Ver. 35. Sent the serjeants,[2] vergers, or such like officers. Wi.

Ver. 37. Romans. S. Paul inherited his right of citizenship from his father; it does not appear how Silas obtained it, perhaps by purchase. There is no proof that Silas was a freeman of Rome. D. Dion. Carthus. — It was forbidden by the Porcian and Sempronian laws, for a Roman citizen to be scourged, unless he was likewise convicted of a capital crime. Cicero pro Rabirio. Facinus est vinciri civem Romanum: scelus verberari. Id. cont. Verrem. The Romans were always very jealous of the dignity of their city. We cannot but admire S. Paul’s astonishing desire of suffering for the name of Jesus, in concealing a circumstance, the very naming of which would have saved him the cruel scourging he suffered. If he now refuses to go out of the prison privately, it is to vindicate his honour, and to avert the scandal, which the new converts would naturally feel, in seeing their master treated as a criminal. He exemplified in this instance S. Augustin’s principal; “Our lives are necessary for ourselves, but our reputation for others.” A. — Estius declares, that Silas was also a Roman citizen, and that from this circumstance he probably received a Roman name, as Paul did. For in other parts of Scripture we find him styled Silvanus, (2 Cor. i. 19.) and at the commencement of both the epistles to the Thessalonians. — Not so; but let them come, &c. S. Paul patiently submitted himself to be whipped in a most disgraceful and cruel manner, which he could easily have prevented or put a stop to, by saying, I am a Roman citizen. Afterwards, when they were for setting him at liberty, he claims his privilege, he puts all the magistrates in a fright; they run to ask him pardon, and entreat him with all civility to leave the town, which he does not think fit to do, till he visited his brethren and friends. Wi.


[1] V. 13. Oratio, proseuche, preces, oratio & Oratorium.

[2] V. 35. Lictores, rabduchous, vergers, rod-bearers.