King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Acts 21

Paul’s voyage towards Jerusalem. (1-7) Paul at Cesarea. The prophecy of Agabus, Paul at Jerusalem. (8-18) He is persuaded to join in ceremonial observances. (19-26) Being in danger from the Jews, he is rescued by the Romans. (27-40)

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Paul’s voyage towards Jerusalem

1 And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the day following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara:

2 And finding a ship sailing over unto Phenicia, we went aboard, and set forth.

3 Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden.

4 And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.

5 And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed.

6 And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned home again.

7 And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.

Paul at Cesarea. The prophecy of Agabus, Paul at Jerusalem

8 And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.

9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.

10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.

11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.

12 And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.

13 Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.

15 And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem.

16 There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.

17 And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.

18 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.

He is persuaded to join in ceremonial observances

19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.

20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:

21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.

22 What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.

23 Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;

24 Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.

25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.

26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.

Being in danger from the Jews, he is rescued by the Romans

27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,

28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.

29 (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)

30 And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut.

31 And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.

32 Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul.

33 Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done.

34 And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle.

35 And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people.

36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him.

37 And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek?

38 Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?

39 But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.

40 And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Coos and Rhodes are islands in the Archipelago.

Ver. 3. Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean, to the east of Patara and Rhodes.

Ver. 4. Not go up to Jerusalem. S. Paul says in the foregoing chapter that he was pressed by the Holy Ghost to go to Jerusalem; and do these prophets now advise him to stay away, and disobey the inspiration? No: their dissuasion was not the effect of inspiration, but the expression of their tenderness and affection for him, which made them fear what they saw he was going to endure. D. Carthus. — Hence S. Paul disregarded their entreaties, as well as the imminent dangers that every where stared him in the face. See his heroic answer to the melting entreaties of the faithful of Cæsarea, and their final acquiescence: “the will of the Lord be done.” Infr. v. 14.

Ver. 8. Philip, the evangelist, so called from his preaching the gospel, though he was one of the seven, that is, of the seven deacons. Wi.

Ver. 9. Prophecy. It is supposed that these daughters of S. Philip had made a vow of virginity, or at least remained in that state out of a motive of religion. S. Jerom thinks in reward of this they were gifted with a prophetic spirit. Lib. i. c. 24. cont. Jov. — Others think that by prophesying is meant interpreting the Scriptures, or singing the praises of God. Estius.

Ver. 18. To James, the bishop of Jerusalem, where all the seniors, that is, the bishops and priests, had assembled. Wi.

Ver. 20. How many thousands. In the Greek, how many ten thousands. Wi.

Ver. 21. To forsake Moses. In the Greek, to depart or apostatize from Moses and the law. This is more than was true. For S. Paul circumcised Timothy, (c. xvi.) and did not absolutely hinder converts who had been Jews, from practising the Jewish ceremonies. Wi. — There is a manifest falsity in this accusation against S. Paul. He had never commanded or advised the Jews, to whom he had preached, to renounce the law, abandon the ceremonies of Moses, or reject the ancient customs of the nation. He had never hindered any one from following in this respect the bias of his inclinations. He had indeed defended the liberty of the converts from these ceremonies; he had taught that Christ had taken away the necessity of this yoke; but he left them at liberty still to carry it if they pleased. Calmet. — For these things were not then to be sought after as necessary, nor yet to be condemned as sacrilegious. The law of Moses at that time was dead, but not deadly. S. Aug. ep. lxxxii. — These considerations will sufficiently explain the apostle’s motive for submitting on this occasion to one of their ceremonies. He became all to all, that he might gain all to Christ. A.

Ver. 23. Who have a vow upon them. On which account they will have sacrifices offered for them in the temple. Wi.

Ver. 24. Bestow on them. It was thought a merit among the Jews to bear the expenses of any vow which another had made. They thus became partakers of it; in the same manner as at present those, who have not the courage to forsake the world by solemn vows, seek to have some share in the merits of those who do forsake it, by contributing part of their substance to their support. Calmet.

Ver. 30. The doors were shut, lest the temple should be profaned by Gentiles entering into it. Wi. — The temple was an asylum, but not for those men who were justly pursued. Hence the Jews looking upon Paul as a blasphemer, they did not think they violated this asylum by forcibly removing Paul from the temple; but lest he might return, they fastened the entrance-gates.

Ver. 33. Two chains, for his hands and feet; or perhaps one chain was put on each hand, which was likewise tied to a soldier on each side of him, who led him. This was the Roman custom of binding prisoners. See Seneca, ep. v. et lib. de tranquil. animi. x. See supra xii. 6, 7.

Ver. 34. Into the castle.[1] Neither the Latin nor the Greek word signifies a castle, but rather a camp, or a place walled, or with a trench about it. It is true, we may here understand the tower, called Antonia; but within its court might be tents for soldiers, where there was so great a number: for we see that Lysias could send away 470 with S. Paul, besides those that might stay behind. Wi.

Ver. 37. Canst thou speak Greek? We cannot doubt but S. Paul had in Greek spoke already to the tribune: upon which he said, dost thou speak Greek? and then asked him, if he were not that seditious Egyptian, who had headed so many murderers? Wi.

Ver. 38. This Egyptian coming to Jerusalem, and professing himself to be a prophet, had persuaded the people to accompany him to Mount Olivet, pretending he would throw down the walls of the city only by a word. Felix, the Roman governor, attacked the deluded multitude, and killed 400. The leader escaped, and was heard of no more. This was in the 13th year of Claudius, about three years before S. Paul’s apprehension. Menochius. — These rebels are called murderers, Sikarioi, Sicarii, from Sica, a small dagger, which they concealed under their cloak. Some of them were the retainers of Judas Galilæus; other Hessæans, who fought with the greatest animosity against the Romans, and suffered the most cruel death, sooner than to acknowledge Cæsar for lord and master. Some again suppose that the word sikarioi is only a corruption of the words, oi karioi, Scriptuarii, a name given to the Esseni. Consult. Jos. Antiq. xx. 7.

Ver. 39. I am indeed a Jew, by birth and education. Wi.

Ver. 40. He spoke in the dialect of the country, which was partly Hebrew and partly Syriac, but the Syriac greatly prevailed; and from the steps, epi tous anastathmous, which led to the fortress of Antonia. Here a Roman cohort was lodged; it was situated to the north-west, and joined the temple. The flight of steps was occupied by the lowest orders of the people. Thus Cicero ad Atticum: Gradus templorum ab infimâ plebe completi erant; and again, pro Cluentio: gradus concitatis hominibus narrat.


[1] V. 34. In castra, which in the plural number, is not a castle: neither doth parembole, which is in the Greek, signify a castle.