Sunday, 31 October 2021
Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Acts 2:10
Note: You can listen to today’s introduction courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).
Luke continues the list of those who were present and heard the disciples speaking in their own dialects. As with the previous verse, we will cite the work of Albert Barnes. His descriptions are detailed and provide all that is necessary to know where the people were from. This verse begins with, “Phrygia, and Pamphylia.” Of these, Albert Barnes says, “These were also two provinces of Asia Minor. Phrygia was surrounded by Galatia, Cappadocia, and Pisidia. Pamphylia was on the Mediterranean, and was bounded north by Pisidia. The language of all these places was doubtless the Greek, more or less pure.” Today, these areas are included in the nation of Turkey.
Next, Luke notes “Egypt.” Barnes states, “This was that extensive country, well known, on the south of the Mediterranean, watered by the Nile. It extends 600 miles from north to south, and from 100 to 120 miles east and west. The language used there was the Coptic tongue. At present the Arabic is spoken. Vast numbers of Jews dwelt in Egypt, and many from that country would be present at the great feasts at Jerusalem. In this country the first translation of the Old Testament was made, which is now called the Septuagint.”
After Egypt, it says, “and the parts of Libya.” Of this, Barnes notes, “In the parts of Libya – Libya is a general name for Africa. It properly denoted the region which was near to Egypt; but the Greeks gave the name to all Africa.”
That area is said to be “adjoining Cyrene.” It is, as Barnes details, “…a region about 500 miles west of Alexandria in Egypt. It was also called Pentapolis, because there were in it five celebrated cities. This country now belongs to Tripoli. Great numbers of Jews resided here. A Jew of this place, Simon by name, was compelled to bear our Saviour’s cross after him to the place of crucifixion, Matthew 27:32; Luke 23:26. Some of the Cyrenians are mentioned among the earliest Christians, Acts 11:20; Acts 13:1. The language which they spoke is not certainly known.”
Also noted at this time are “visitors from Rome.” The word translated as “visitors” is found only here and in Acts 17:21, epidémeó. It signifies a sojourner. Of these Jews from Rome, Barnes notes, they “…were doubtless Jews who had taken up their residence in Italy, and had come to Jerusalem to attend the great feasts. The language which they spoke was the Latin. Great numbers of Jews were at that time dwelling at Rome. Josephus says that there were eight synagogues there. The Jews are often mentioned by the Roman writers. There was a Jewish colony across the Tiber from Rome. When Judea was conquered, about 60 years before Christ, vast numbers of Jews were taken captive and carried to Rome. But they had much difficulty in managing them as slaves. They pertinaciously adhered to their religion, observed the Sabbath, and refused to join in the idolatrous rites of the Romans. Hence, they were freed, and lived by themselves across the Tiber.”
Of these from Rome, Luke carefully notes they were “both Jews and proselytes.” The Jews are those who were born as Jews, even if outside of the land of Israel. They retained their cultural identity, and they continue to do this today, regardless as to where they are born and live. The proselytes are Gentiles who are converted to Judaism and who had come, along with the native Jews, to observe this pilgrim feast in Jerusalem.
The term “both Jews and proselytes” is probably a descriptor that applies to all of the people groups mentioned in both verses, not just to those in Rome. The point then is that there are native Jews from all of these locations as well as converts. This would make what is happening all the more notable. It isn’t just that some Jews from these places had heard the disciples who would then go back and say, “This miraculous event occurred while we were in Jerusalem.” Rather, it would be something that both native Jews and converts could both attest to. In their return to their own countries, the events would then be spoken of throughout much of the Roman empire.
Life application: The disciples of Jesus spoke in many different dialects, demonstrating that the Spirit is able to express God’s words in an understandable way to all people. Though the languages are different, the idea of communicating knowledge is still possible.
Though it should not be expected that we will suddenly be infused with another language when we want to tell someone about Jesus, we still have the ability to learn other languages, or use translators, to convey the gospel. Jesus gave us the commission –
“‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” Matthew 28:18-20
As this has been directed by the Lord, let us make use of every opportunity that arises to share this word. In today’s world, the gospel has been printed in innumerable languages. If you go to a Thai or Greek restaurant frequently, be sure to print off something in their language and pass this good news onto them. There are also CDs and DVDs with the message on them, even gospel-oriented movies about Jesus can be obtained in many languages for a dollar or two. Be inventive, but be sure to get this word out.
Lord God, help us to be responsible with our time, and to share the message of the gospel to any and all who come our way. May we not fail in sharing this wonderful news with those around us. Give us both the opportunity and the desire to do so. Yes Lord, be with us as we do as we are directed in Your word to do. Amen.