Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
What a mix of persons who are believers in one location; Antioch, Syria (not Turkey). This is the continental divide of Acts; a time when Luke switches discussion from Peter to Saul/Paul. In a sense the water shed of Luke’s focus in the Book of Acts. Peter was to the Jews (Acts 1 – 12) what Paul became to the Greeks/Gentiles (Acts 13 to 28). If this was quiz time as in a bible school, college or university, here is a set of Questions very likely to appear as an Acts 13 student challenge sometimes called a quiz or a test.
Who separated Barnabus and Saul for the work of God’s ministry?
How should we get involved in the ministry today? (essay question)
Is an academic qualification essential for ministry? (essay question)
Would you say Paul’s judgement on the sorcerer was harsh?
Do you think Paul’s own experience influenced his action in Acts 13:11?
How are we as Christians to discern the time to call for God’s judgement and the time for his mercy? (essay question)
When is Saul referred to as Paul? (essay question; see end of this article)
Was any reason given for John Mark’s departure? Acts 13:5, Acts 13:13, Acts 15:36-38
Paul’s sermon in Acts 13:13-41 shows his understanding and knowledge of the scriptures. Is the Old Testament still relevant to us today? (essay question)
What was the outcome of Paul’s preaching?- Acts 13:42-52
Back to this article: The above questions are offered for one purpose…to stimulate thinking. One aside note that may be of interest per political correctness is the one mentioned as either a prophet or teacher in Act 13:1 and in perspective of today’s social norms would be (ASV) “…Symeon that was called Niger,…” [many Bible translation spell Symion as Simeon]. It is almost too obvious. Niger means black. Simeon is not the same Simon mentioned often in the bible. He also may have been the one who carried the cross of Jesus when Jesus no longer had the strength to carry it up Calvary’s Hill of the Skull.
Some commentaries want to make a point that a black man in this gathering for prayer must have been from Africa. How shallow is this thinking! Back when God created Adam and Eve, we have no clue what skin color was given to both or either of them. In Middle East culture, race has little to do with society at-large. As Malcom X discovered when he went to the Middle East to pursue his Muslim learning, he discovered that race was not an issue. Why? Because the DNA can appear in anyone and the original man and woman carried all of the DNA components of the “races” we see today.
Another very interesting component of Acts 13:1 is a man named Manaen…”the foster brother” of Herod the Tetrarch. This is one of four Herods mentioned in scripture. We know this guy as Herod Antipas. To help us understand, see the chart to the right.
This Herod was partly responsible for the trial and crucifixion of Jesus; it was Augustus Caesar who appointed him ruler over one-fourth of his father, Herod the Great’s kingdom; he was the one who had John the Baptizer’s head removed; he feared the powers of the Jewish Sanhedrin leaders. Again see the above chart. To keep the time line of bible events in order… “When Jesus hears that John has been killed, “he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place,” (Matthew 14:13).
This is the chapter where Barnabas and Saul (Paul) are separated out as missionaries; going synagogue to synagogue. It would be remiss to not mention that Mark (John Mark), a young man at the time, accompanied them for a short while but eventually returned home. Saul (Paul) saw this as desertion on behalf of John Mark, later refusing to take him along again. This all changed when Paul ended up in Rome to be tried and executed.
When Paul and Barnabas traveled through the island of Paphos, they met Sergius Paulas, Island Proconsul appointed by Rome. He was a devout man of great intellect. Elymas the sorcerer who had the attention of Sergius tried to keep Paul and Barnabas apart from him. Why? Elymas had the attention and possibly the support of Serguis and KNEW (yadda) the Spirit in Paul and Barnabas. Paul calls him the “son of the devil” (ASV) which suggests he was magical with the support of Satan; i.e. possessed. Paul calls upon the Spirit to blind Elymas “for a season.”
JIV NOTE: Do these names align with secular history? The above stone marker was found with the Greek name of Sesguis Paulas inscribed on it.
In verse 15, they find themselves in Antioch of Pisidia (Turkey). They again go directly to the Synagogue where they find their usual audience of worshipers. Verse 15 tells us that they are called upon to speak of any word of exhortation if they have one. That is all Paul needed. He stands and delivers the message of his calling and of Jesus Christ. Paul addresses them in a two-fold manner… “Men of Israel and those that fear God.” He distinguishes between those who attend the Synagogue out of routine and those who respect and worship God (Judaism style).
JIV NOTE: Paul says “MEN OF ISRAEL.” This means he is talking to a mixed crowd of Israelis that were dispersed from their Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians hundreds of years earlier (720 B.C.). Essentially he said: “Men of Israel” which is all inclusive and “those of the same heritage” who still followed God plus Gentile proselytes.
Paul proceeds to discuss the lineage and history of those called “God’s People.” He goes from Egypt, through the Wilderness experience, time of the Judges (400 + years), setting up of Kings beginning with King Saul, John the Baptizer of repentance, the birth of Jesus in the line of Judah (David), the prophets, and the calling for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ BY THE JEWS OF JERUSALEM, his resurrection, all from the Old Testament teachings as this was before the written New Testament was even committed to a scroll or parchment. It was also a book with which his audience was familiar.
The fascinating but often missed portion of Acts 13 is the how Paul began his audience transition from the Jews to the Gentiles…the Jews left the Synagogue (v42) but the “nations” (people of Gentile background) remained asking to hear more. The next Sabbath almost the entire city (v44) showed up at the Synagogue to hear more of this one time Christian killer. This chapter ends with those of “devout” Judaism forcing Paul and Barnabas to leave the city. They shook off the dust of their feet leaving the unbelievers to their eternal destiny.
JIV: Saul is a Jewish name; Paul is a Gentile name. Some historians suggest that Saul took the last name of Lucius Sergius Paulis as his own Greek name: Paul. This is probably little more than speculation but We Teach – You Decide.
Rev. Dr. Jstark