Paul and his Travels: from Perga to Antioch of Pisidia

Next episode (Acts 13.13-52) is crafted by focusing on Paul and the recurring ways of his ministry (Barrett 1994, 625). The others are described as ‘his companions’ (οἱ περὶ Παῦλον), and from among them John left them and returned to Jerusalem, but they went on. We have a movement from geography, to dedication for mission, to a service in synagogue. From that service the focus is on the sermon Paul delivers as they are invited to have a ‘word of exhortation’ (λόγος παρακλήσεως). The people in the synagogue are a mixture, as Paul mentions at the beginning of his word: Israelites and others who fear God (οἱ φοβούμενοι τὸν θεόν). We have a long sermon on the way God dealt with his people: from the election, to Exodus, wandering through wilderness, giving them the land of Canaan; judges, monarchy and Messiah. Four names are mentioned in this overview of Jewish history: Samuel, Saul, David and Jesus; a prophet, two kings, and a Savior. Saul is removed but David is a man after God’s heart and from his seed will come the Savior of Israel.
In this survey of salvation history the climax is the fulfillment of God’s promise in the coming of Jesus as the Savior to Israel. John the Baptist has the role of identifying him. He does that by way of contrast: I am not he; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet (v. 25).
Paul’s generation is a generation seen as ‘descendants of Abraham’s family’ (υἱοὶ γένους Ἀβραὰμ); to them was sent the message of this salvation. Paul describes the condemnation, the killing and burial of Jesus as a ‘caring out of what was written about him (v. 29). They killed him, but God raised him from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to their ancestors; through this man forgiveness of sin is proclaimed to them (v. 38). The end of the sermon is a warning: when God works among his people they should believe it. Even if that work is beyond and perhaps contrary to their expectations (v. 41).
Many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas (v. 43) and were encouraged to continue in the grace of God.
In the next sabbath almost the whole city was there to hear the word of the Lord. This success was not well received by the Jews, who, from jealousy, blasphemed and contradicted everything Paul said. This rejection is understood by Paul and Barnabas as an indication that they should turn to Gentiles. In this way they will follow the commandment of being ‘a light for Gentiles’ (φῶς ἐθνῶν). This was well received by the Gentiles and many of them believed. The jealousy and rejection of the Jews continued by inciting the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city (see Pervo 2009, 342). This led to persecution and Paul and Barnabas were driven out from that region.

Barrett, C. K. 1994. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Acts of the Apostles. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
Pervo, Richard I. 2009. Acts: A Commentary on the Book of Acts. Edited by Harold W. Attridge. Hermeneia - a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

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