Jerusalem To Rome

The Acts of the Apostles

By Charles Fremont Sitterly


Advance from the Capital of the Province to that of the Empire A. D. 44 To A. D. 62

Chapter 21

The Return and Report to the Church at Jerusalem



Now, when we had torn ourselves away from them and set sail, we ran a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes and from there to Patara. There we found a vessel bound for Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After we sighted Cyprus we passed it on the left and sailed on to Syria and so landed at Tyre, for there the boat was to discharge her cargo. After we had found the disciples we stayed a week there. Taught by the Spirit, they kept telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. But when our time was up we left and continued our journey, all accompanying us outside the walls with their wives and children. Then we kneeled down on the beach, offered prayer, bade each other good-by, and embarked while they went back home. We, however, with the run from Tyre to Ptolemais completed our voyage; there also we greeted the brothers and stayed over with them one day.


At last Paul is off for his final visit to Jerusalem. "The northwest wind drives his ship straight to her first port of call on the island of Cos, off the Carian coast. The next day they make Rhodes, a larger island but not more notable. Then they run into the Lycian harbor of Patara on the mainland, where they transship to a larger vessel going straight to Tyre. That port is made without delay, their course lying south of Cyprus; here the ship takes a week to unload and take on her cargo. Paul and his friends search the city and finally discover one of those hundred and more churches which had already sprung up in every corner of the empire. Here again it was deeply felt that Paul’s purpose in going to Jerusalem would not be appreciated nor his gifts allay antagonism, and that therefore he ought not to go. To Paul’s mind this was only the greater reason for persistence, and when the ship runs on down to her last port, Ptolemais, the company from the Ęgean cities is on board. The pretty scene of the parting on the seashore outside the walls of Tyre as hosts and guests pledge mutual love in fervent prayers and farewells is another of those artistic yet homely touches so characteristic of Luke. At Ptolemais they spend a day with a like group and thence take the land route along the shore to Caesarea.  


Paragraph 2. THE VISIT TO THE CHURCH IN CAESAREA. Verses 8-16.

The next morning we left and proceeded to Caesarea where we went to the house of Philip, the Evangelist, one of the seven deacons, and we stayed with him. Philip had four unmarried daughters—prophetesses. As we remained there for some days a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he met us he took Paul’s girdle and bound his own feet and hands with it.

“Thus,” he said, “‘speaks the Holy Spirit, ‘The Jews will bind the man who owns this girdle in Jerusalem just like this and they will hand him over to the Gentiles.’ ”’ When we heard this, we kept appealing to Paul, and so did the local brothers, not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered back:

“What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am not only ready to be bound but even to die at Jerusalem for the sake of the Lord Jesus.”

As he would not be persuaded, we desisted, saying,

“The Lord’s will be done.” After these days we made preparations and began our journey to Jerusalem. There went along with us some of the disciples from Cęsarea who brought us to Mnason, a native of Cyprus, one of the early disciples, with whom we were to stay.  

  They reach the capital of Palestine in good season, and, having a margin to spare before the feast, they spend it in pleasant intercourse with the church and brethren there. Philip, the first Evangelist who went to people outside of Judea and of the Jewish pale, opens his home to welcome the great Apostle to the Greco-Latin World, and they have converse to mutual edification. Philip’s four unmarried daughters have shared in the spirit and work of their father and also exercised the gift of Pentecost—“your daughters shall prophesy.” While Paul remains there a prophet, Agabus, possibly he of the episode at Antioch, narrated in Chapter XI, comes down from Jerusalem and adds the final page to this chapter of predictions as to Paul’s immediate future. He well knew the sentiment of the majority in Jerusalem, as to this new Way, and Paul’s preaching and practice concerning it, and he predicted trouble. After the fashion of the Old Testament prophets, Agabus illustrates his meaning by a symbolic act. To cavil, as some have done, complaining that the prediction was not fulfilled is futile. That Paul was bound hand and foot in Jerusalem as far as exerting any freedom or influence such as he had vainly longed for ever since his return from Damascus, is manifest enough. Even Luke and the others from Asia seem to have joined the friends in Cęsarea in making this last plea for Paul not to venture to go up to the Holy City. This only fixes his purpose the more firmly, but it also nearly breaks his heart. With their usual courtesy, the local disciples provide well for the comfort of the Apostle, since they cannot bend his will, and thus they go on with him to Jerusalem and conduct him to the pleasant home there of Mnason, from Cyprus.



On our reaching Jerusalem the brothers cordially welcomed us. On the day following we went with Paul to see James; moreover, all the elders were present. When Paul had saluted them he began to describe from first to last what God had done through his ministry among the Gentiles. After they heard it they began to glorify God and said to him:

“Brother, you see how many tens of thousands there are among the Jews of those who have come to believe; moreover, all of them are zealous upholders of the law. Now, they have been informed about you that you are teaching all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children nor to live after the old customs. What, then, is to be done? They will surely hear that you have arrived. So, then, do this which we suggest to you. We have four men here who have taken a vow. Join these men and purify yourself with them; moreover, pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads. Then, every-one will understand that there is nothing in what they have been told about you but that you conduct yourself, on the other hand, strictly according to the law. As for Gentiles who have believed, we issued our injunction that they guard against anything offered to an idol, from blood, from things strangled, and fornication.”

Thereupon, Paul joined the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, he went into the Temple publishing widely the time when the days of purification would be done, namely, the time when the sacrifice could be offered for each one of them.  


Luke’s method of employing the first person without any consistency is illustrated in the scenes now narrated. He was no doubt closer in every way to Paul and more constantly by his side than any of his friends, but from the moment he goes into audience with James until they start over two years later from Cęsarea to Rome he does not again disclose his presence. Paul’s considerable party of representative and very intelligent men, all well conditioned and nearly all Greeks or Greek proselytes, made a favorable impression as they were received by the Apostles and others. Each in turn made a presentation speech as he went forward with the gift of the churches which had sent their token of love by his hands, the aggregate making up a sum never before nor afterward poured into the coffers of the Christian Church at Jerusalem. Paul’s report was, however, the chief feature, and, although Luke gives but slight reference to it, the assembly saw thereby how genuine must be the faith that bore such fruits as Paul and his commission laid before them. No doubt the inner apostolic group would have been content with the showing which Paul’s detailed account of the triumph of these three long and hazardous tours, covering a period of eight years, from Antioch clear around to Illyricum on the Adriatic, presented to them. But some present and outward sign and proof that he was truly scrupulous in keeping himself and teaching the other Jews to keep the strict Mosaic Laws was felt to be needful, not so much for them but to disabuse the minds of those who accepted the persistent rumors that he had been teaching and encouraging Jews and Jewish proselytes all over Asia and Greece to repudiate circumcision and other customs and legal observances almost equally sacred. For there were tens of thousands of Jews already believing in Christ whose faith was being jeopardized by such reports, and it must be remembered that Christ was a Jew and the Scriptures were Hebrew writings and the great hope of the world was in the redemption of the chosen people. Then came the plan, utterly simple and completely feasible and withal conciliatory, but like all such makeshifts, only a subterfuge of no permanent value. However, Paul meets it in the noblest Christian spirit. He assumes the expense involved, not small in money nor in precious time, nor least in its tax on his mental and spiritual sense of values.


Paragraph 4. THE ATTEMPT BY THE MOB TO LYNCH PAUL. Verses 27-36.

Now, as the seven days were nearly done, the Jews from Asia saw Paul in the Temple and began to arouse all the people. They laid hands on him and kept shouting :

“Men of Israel, give us your help. This is the man who is teaching every-one everywhere against the people and the law of this place. Moreover, he has even gone so far as to bring Greeks into the Temple proper and has made the Holy Place unclean.” For they had before

that seen Trophimus, the Ephesian, with Paul in the city, and thought Paul had brought him into the Temple. The whole city was in an uproar and a mob began to gather. They seized Paul and began to drag him outside of the Temple, and at once the doors were shut. They were trying to kill him when report reached the Commander of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. At once he took along troops and centurions and ran down upon them. When they saw the Commander and his troops they stopped beating Paul. Upon that the Commander went up and seized him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He then began to ask,

“Who is he?” and “What has he been doing?”

Some of the crowd shouted one thing and some another. So when he could not learn the facts because of the din he ordered that he should be brought into the castle. When, however, he reached the steps Paul was actually being carried by the soldiers, owing to the fury of the crowd, for the mass of the people was following, crying out,

“Away with him!”



The week of patient waiting in the court of the Nazarites is nearly ended. And although Paul has inwardly chafed at this restriction upon his one last opportunity to preach the gospel openly in Jerusalem—a privilege he has sought for years and which he has never been granted—he has learned in patience to wait. He has also learned during these days more of the hollowness and emptiness and futility of the whole rigmarole of ceremonialism as then conducted within the precincts of the Temple, and this was well worth a week. It is probably the last day, and Paul has arisen with a great sense of relief, hoping soon to be again out in the great free world of the west. Even the incense of the endless sacrifices and the shuffling of the perfunctory priests, and especially the crafty, calculating face and manner of the treasury’s deputy, whom he had to deal with in settling for the bullocks to be slaughtered for his four Nazarite companions, irk him. He knows not, however, what the day will bring forth. Those sleepless Jewish fanatics from Asia and Corinth are not to be robbed of their revenge. They have at last concocted a plot which, if sprung just at the right moment and with an air of unctuous spontaneity, promises success and a quick lynching. To us the ridiculous side creeps in and makes it seem unthinkable, but not an actor in that comedy of errors in Herod’s Temple that day saw anything other than its tragic side. One of the chief elements in the entire performance on Paul’s part was to be its publicity feature, as widely advertising as possible his punctilious regard for the “laws of Moses,” the “sanctity of the Temple,” and the “customs of our people.” With a single blow every one of these pretended claims is dashed to the ground. Not only are the rumors true that Paul has constantly preached to a contrary end, but for seven days he has practiced in the upper precinct their utmost profanation.

“Did not one Trophimus of Ephesus, a well-known Greek, not even a pretended proselyte, accompany Paul to this city?”

“Who has seen him since?”

“He is, of course, with Paul, who has taken him across this outer court, up those fifteen steps, through that narrow door, past those deeply incised warnings, and for seven days passed him off as a Jew and now will bring him out and forever both will boast that they have broken Moses’ law and the Temple law and the law of sacred customs right here in Jerusalem and not a stroke of vengeance has fallen! There they come now! See those five men? That’s Paul in front! He is a Jew, that’s clear enough! What joy if we can but get him this day! Do you see that third man? He’s Trophimus! Nobody can deny it! Of course—his head is shaved to the scalp; nobody can deny that’s a Greek, and one of the others looks like a Greek! Now, when they reach the door just at the top of the stairs I will run up and yell. Are you all ready? Help, ho! Men of Israel, come this way to the rescue; That’s Paul, the pretender! He has broken that law cut in stone right over his head! He has brought that Greek, that man right there, into the upper courts. Seize him! Drag him down! Kill him! Get him out! Shut the doors! We'll finish him!” But the eye of the Roman Eagle was also sleepless. And the angel of Jehovah was very near. The lookout on the tower of Antonia sees the concourse, hears the clamor, calls the guard, and Lysias, the Tribune, or Commander, of the cohort, with two centurions or captains and their men, glide as by magic into the center of the scene. Paul is put into custody, chained and dragged toward the castle. The Commander can get no notion of the situation; the maddened mob have but one cry—“Away from the earth with such a man!”  


About to be led into the castle, Paul said to the Commander,

“May I have a word with you?”

The Commander replied:

“Do you know Greek? Are you not, then, the-Egyptian who some time ago raised to revolt the four thousand assassins and led them out into the desert?”

“I am a Jew,” said Paul, “native of Tarsus in Cilicia, citizen of no mean city, and I beg you give me leave to speak to the people.”

When he had given him leave Paul stood there on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. When a great silence fell on them he spoke to them in Hebrew.  


By this time Paul sees through the plot and his imperial wits are at work. He now sees his great opportunity has come. He can clear himself of course. Innocence only has to be given the chance to show itself and it will be acknowledged by all fairminded men. As for others, he is not concerned. He must get the true state of things before the people and then preach Jesus to them. This is his chance. To the Greek he is a Greek, and arrests the Greek.

“What, you speak Greek then?” says the commander. “T thought I had the Egyptian assassin we are all after.”

“I am a Jew of Cilicia, of the capital city, Tarsus, well enough known, but let me speak to the people; they also think me some assassin. It is all a mistake; I can quiet them. There ought to be no uproar here like this and on a feast day—I can explain it all in a moment—let me speak right here.”

The commander willingly consents. Paul raises his manacled hand and at once all is quiet.