Acts Chapter 21
An Understandable Version of ACTS
Translation by William E. Paul
Concise PRESENTATION NOTES
by Charles Dailey

(Black underlined words match words in the Bible text.)
1) After we had [reluctantly] left [the Ephesian elders] and set sail, we traveled straight [south] to Cos [i.e., a small island] and the next day to Rhodes [i.e., another island], and from there on to Patara [i.e., a seaport town on the southern coast of the province of Asia Minor]. - Paul had not gone to Ephesus to see the elders of the church but called them to Miletus on the sea coast. He was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem and had been delayed by the need to meet with the new Christians at Troas. See the introduction to chapter 20 above. He was in a hurry as in 20:16 which says he passed by Ephesus because "he hurried, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost."
- Paul kept Jewish customs: see Oral Law.
� Luke is with the group as they take passage on coastal ships that put in to harbors each night.
- Notice that the word we is the second word in each of the first seven verses.
2) Here we found a ship heading across [the open sea] for Phoenicia, boarded it and sailed away. � This time they boarded a ship designed for the open seas.
- The capitol of Phoenicia is Tyre.
3) When we sighted Cyprus [i.e., a large island], we sailed past it on our port side and arrived at Tyre [i.e., a major seaport] in Syria [i.e., on the west coast of Palestine], where the ship was to unload its cargo. Port is seaman's language for the left side.
4) When we located the disciples [there] we stayed [with them] for seven days. They advised Paul, through [inspired revelations from] the Holy Spirit, not [even] to set foot in Jerusalem. � This is the first mention of a church in Tyre.

- The Spirit revealed the future through the prophets. The disciples used the information to urge Paul not to go. He was valued by these brethren.

5) When we had completed preparations for the next day's voyage we left, and headed out [to sea] on our journey. All the disciples, together with their wives and children, escorted us out of the city and knelt down and prayed with us as we said goodbye to each other.
6) Then we went aboard the ship while the disciples returned home again.
� There must have been work for the passengers to do, too.
- This is the first mention of children in conjunction with the church. Notice the male leadership.
- The sailors had a new experience - that of seeing people pray at dockside.
- These believers had bonded in just one week.

7) When we completed our voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais and greeted the brothers there, then stayed with them for a day. Ptolemais also called Acco and Acre was about 30 miles down the coast and across the bay from Haifa. See photo It was originally named Acco and the name was changed to Ptolemais by Alexander the Great. It later became an important Crusader fortress city
8) The next day we left and came to Caesarea, where we went to the house of Philip, the evangelist, who had been one of the seven ["deacons" chosen by the Jerusalem church to minister to widows, See Acts 6]. We stayed with him [while there]. � This was Paul's third visit to Caesarea.
- Philip was married and had been "located" for some years. He was not itinerant as some think of evangelists.
- To clear up any identity problem, Luke ties Philip back to the Philip of Acts 6.
- While Luke was a guest here, he could have made notes on the events that involved Philip back in Acts 8. The text almost says as much.
9) This man had four virgin [i.e., unmarried] daughters, who were female prophets [i.e., they spoke by inspiration]. � The four daughters of Philip did not use their gifts of prophecy to proclaim. Rather, they were probably the music people for the church. Such an inspired and inspiring quartet! Miriam, Moses' sister, was called a prophetess and she was a music director. See chart on Chapter 2, page 8.
10) As we waited there for a number of days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. � News of the arriving contingent has reached Judea.
- If the four ladies were predicting on behalf of the Holy Spirit, why did God have the prophet Agabus come from somewhere in Judea to deliver this message?
11) When he met with us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet [with it], and said, "The Holy Spirit has revealed [to me] that the man who owns this belt will be tied up like this by the Jews in Jerusalem and will be turned over to the Gentiles." � Drama was used frequently by the Old Testament prophets to communicate beyond using words.
- Agabus was a predictive prophet. He foretold the future.
- Paul had to know that he was traveling into trouble. He was a willing participant.
12) When we heard these things, both we and those who lived there [i.e., Philip, his daughters and local disciples] urged Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. � Luke and all of the others pressured Paul to avoid Jerusalem, but he was determined.
13) [But] Paul answered, "What are you trying to do [by your] crying and breaking my heart [like this]? [Do you not know that] I am ready, not only to be chained up, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus?" � There were tears.
- breaking: used of pounding clothes.


- Paul was mentally prepared for a much worse outcome than what really happened.

14) And when he could not be dissuaded [from going to Jerusalem] we stopped [trying to convince him], saying, "Let the Lord's will be done in the matter." � Paul had the Spirit, too. We may be convinced that our judgment is correct and overlook that our coworkers also have the Spirit.
- They were resigned that Paul's head was set.
15) After these days we packed up our belongings and went up to Jerusalem. � Unpacking and repacking are part of the task of traveling.
- This was thrilling to Luke. He mentions Jesus and the apostles going up to Jerusalem frequently in the Gospel of Luke. See chapter 1, following verse 14, of these notes.
16) Some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us also, bringing with them Mnason from Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we were to live [while in Jerusalem]. � A group that included Gentiles were going to Mnason's house at Jerusalem. (Can you hear the neighbors?)
- Like Philip (above), Mnason had a house large enough to provide hospitality.
17) And when we came to Jerusalem, the brothers [there] welcomed us gladly. � The Gentile brethren were well received by the Jewish church.
- This is the official end of the 3rd journey.
18) The next day Paul went with us to visit James [the Lord's half-brother and a leader in the Jerusalem church], with all of the elders [of the Jerusalem church] being present. � This was a leadership-level meeting of Jews and Gentiles including Luke, the writer.
- The wording leads us to believe that James was an elder in the Jerusalem church.
19) And after greeting them Paul reported one by one the things that God had brought about among the Gentiles through his ministry. � Time was devoted to hearing Paul. (If only tape recorders had been invented then!)
20) And when they heard [all] this, they gave honor to God, then said to Paul, "Brother, you can see how many thousands of Jewish believers [in Christ] there are [everywhere] and all of them are eager to observe the [requirements of the] law of Moses. Paul and his group probably delivered the special offering from the Gentile churches for the Jerusalem church at this meeting.
- Paul is clearly considered to be a brother.
- They still Kept Moses' law as Christians. So did Paul.
- See the discussion Christian Jews and Paul's observance of the Law here
21) Now these [Jewish Christians] have been informed that you are teaching all the Jews living among the Gentiles to give up [following the teaching of] Moses, [even] telling them not to circumcise their children and not to practice the [other] customs. � False reports were creating public relations problems for Paul among the believers at Jerusalem.
- "Customs" or Oral Law of the Jewish religion that Paul said he had perfect knowledge in. (Gal. 1:14; Acts 22:3)
- Paul had not told Jews to turn from the Law of Moses. He had said that Gentile believers were not bound by the Law. It was not required by either group for salvation. Jewish believers were at liberty to continue the customs, including circumcision. Lifestyles from the Law: YES. Salvation by the Law: NO.
22) What do you think will happen when they hear that you have come [here to Jerusalem]? � James' goal seems to be to avert problems for Paul.
- We do not agree with commentators that claim serious errors were made by either Paul or James. They looked at the facts and made proper choices. But God had other plans for Paul. Shortly a great opportunity will open for Paul as he addresses his countrymen.
23) So, here is what we would like you to do: We have four men who have made a vow [i.e., a special promise to God].
24) Take these men and observe the ceremony of purification with them, pay their expenses so they can shave their heads [i.e., to signify that they were completing their a vow] and [then] everyone will know that there is no truth in what people have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, and keep the law [of Moses.] � Paul followed Jewish Oral Law, not Mosaic. These were four believers who needed a sponsor to pay the fees to the priest. The shaving of the head was done at the beginning of the vow and again at the end of the vow and the hair offered as a proof of how long the vow lasted. Acts 18:18
- To "walk orderly" means to follow the order and manner of the "Oral Law," and "keep the law" means to also keep the ordinances of the Law of Moses.
- James is saying that Paul's observing of the Oral Law can then show that the rumor of teaching Jews to forsake Moses and the "traditions of the fathers" is false.
- He had to be a law keeper to win Jews. Though his synagogue-preaching days are about over, he still had to reach law-observing Jews with the story of Christ as in Acts 28:17.
25) But concerning Gentile believers, we wrote [to them] our decision, that they should avoid [eating] things sacrificed to idols, from [drinking] blood, from [eating] what is strangled and from sexual immorality." � These practices are part of their Jewish heritage and are not intended for Gentile believers to obey.
- James is citing the letter recorded in Acts 15:20. He had been its chief architect.
26) Then Paul took the men and the next day he observed the ceremony of purification with them. Then he went into the Temple, declaring [to the priest] when he would fulfill the [required] days of the purification [ceremony] and [be ready] for the sacrifices to be offered for each of them. Paul moved on it. There was no waiting.
- Paul was not ceremonially unclean.
- "To the Jews, I became as a Jew" 1 Corinthians 9:20 ff.
27) When the seven days [required by the vow] were almost completed, the Jews from Asia saw Paul in the Temple. They incited the whole crowd and took hold of him, � Jews came from Ephesus and used the strategy of Demetrius. It had worked there and they had been the target.
28) shouting, "[You] Israelites, help [us]! This man is teaching people everywhere [to be] against our people [i.e., the Jews], the law of Moses and this place [i.e., the Temple]; and in addition to that he has also brought Greeks [i.e., Gentiles] into the Temple and has [thereby] contaminated this holy place." � The shouted charges were that Paul was anti-Semitic, antinomian (law) and anti-Temple. This should be enough to get him killed.
- Paul had been involved with similar charges against Stephen. Now he is the victim instead of the accuser.
- These totally phony charges are refuted by Luke in vs. 29.
- If there was contamination, it was caused by their hatred and lying.
29) (For the Jews had previously seen him on a city street with Trophimus, the Ephesian, whom they assumed Paul had taken into the Temple [with him]). � There were signs in stone posted at the Temple entrances - between the Court of Gentiles and the next inner compartment. Called the Thanatos Inscription Stone, its message is below with a photo of the recently discovered stone. For background, see Josephus, Wars VI.2.4.
�Several of these signs have been uncovered.� This one reads,� "NO MAN OF ALIEN RACE IS TO ENTER WITHIN THE BARRICADE WHICH SURROUNDS THE TEMPLE.� ANYONE WHO IS CAUGHT DOING SO WILL HAVE HIMSELF TO BLAME FOR THE PENALTY OF DEATH THAT FOLLOWS."
30) [So], the entire city was stirred up, and the mob rushed together and attacked Paul, dragging him out of the Temple. Immediately the [Temple] doors were closed [i.e., to secure it from further intrusion]. � The death penalty was enforceable without Roman permission and even against Roman citizens.
- The doors were closed "as if to seal the area against further pollution."
31) And as they were attempting to kill Paul, the commander of the military unit was informed that the entire city of Jerusalem was rioting. � The troops were in the tower of Antonia.
- Justice does not come from an angry crowd whether in Jerusalem or in our community or even at church.
- The commander was named Claudius Lysias. Acts 23:26.
32) So, immediately he rushed down on the people with his soldiers and officers, and when the mob saw the commander and his soldiers [coming], they stopped beating Paul. � Down from the tower of Antonia that adjoined and overlooked the Temple in Jerusalem.
- The commander would be over 1,000 men; the officers over 100 soldiers each. That does not mean that all of their men were with them.
33) Then the commanding officer approached Paul, took hold of him and ordered him to be secured with two chains. He then questioned him as to who he was and what he had done. � This would calm the crowd.
- Now we see how the earlier prophecies were taking form. Acts 20:22-23; Acts 21:11-13.
34) From the crowd, some shouted one thing and some another. When the commander could not hear what was being said because of the noise, he ordered Paul to be taken into the battalion headquarters. � These are words of an eye-witness. There are seldom right answers at a riot.
- The shouting crowd unwittingly contributed to Paul's safety.
35) When they got to the stairway [of the headquarters building] the soldiers had to carry Paul because of the [unrestrained] violence of the mob, � God's man was carried and surrounded by soldiers.
36) for the crowds that followed were [pressing in on them] shouting, "Kill him." � They were truly "blood thirsty." The posted stone signs made it all "legal."
The Tower of Antonia was built by Herod the Great and named for his friend Marc Anthony.
-�The Tower of Antonia is at the far right in this model of the Temple in Jerusalem and is marked by the twin turrets,-- looking from the west.� Roman soldiers could watch down into the Temple Courts. Jesus was abused by Roman soldiers inside the court-yard of the Antonia called The Gabatha. (Matt. 27:27-31) The Gabbatha or pavement inside the Tower of Antonia is now under the Convent of the French Sisters of Notre Dame in Jerusalem.
37) As Paul was being brought into the headquarters building, he said to the commander, "Can I speak with you?" The commander replied [with surprise], "You know the Greek language? Paul saw a golden opportunity to address his countrymen - even if they were enraged. After all, he now had protection.
- Paul's Greek was flawless so he wasn't an Egyptian.
38) Are you not the Egyptian who, a while back, stirred up a revolt and led four thousand of the 'Dagger Men' out into the wilderness?" � The Claudius Lysias had thought he was an Egyptian and did not have a right to be in the Temple. He was into going by guesswork, too.
39) Paul answered, "[No], I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city, and I beg you to allow me to speak to these people." Paul was a Jew from Tarsus. Therefore he was not an Egyptian and he did have a right to be in the Temple.
- "Now let me speak to these people." Such a stroke of genius!
40) And when the commander gave him permission, Paul stood on the stairway and motioned to the people with his hand [for attention]. When they completely quieted down, he spoke to them in the Hebrew [i.e., Aramaic] language, saying, � Granting permission to speak might help Claudius Lysias sort out fact from fiction.
- As a wise speaker, he waited for total quiet.
- Paul was fluent in Greek and Hebrew.

Compare James McGarvey's comments on chapter 21.

Compare Albert Barnes's notes on Chapter 21.

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