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​Justification Offered
Part I

Acts 13:13-22

Acts 13:13
Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.

We have briefly recognized John breaking his commitment of service to Paul and Barnabas with no apparent explanation in the remainder of God’s Word. However, toward the end of his life, the Apostle Paul, in writing to Timothy, speaks of Mark as being profitable for the ministry (2 Timothy 4:11).

Acts 13:14
But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.

A brief history lesson. As Alexander the Great sweep through the known world east of Macedonia, conquering all that was before him, he introduced the Greek culture everywhere. This process was called the Hellenization of non-Greek lands. He did this, in part, by introducing a universal or common language. The language was Koine Greek. Koine Greek was the language from Macedonia to India in poetry, and literature, and philosophy. 

When it comes to Judaism, Hellenistic culture was introduced through the Septuagint, the Koine Greek translation of the Old Testament. It was completed in 246 B.C. by Ptolemy. Seventy-two Jewish sages were placed in seventy-two separate rooms and Ptolemy demanded seventy-two translations. All seventy-two were identical. But Judaism hated the Septuagint and compared it to the day Aaron made the golden calf.

The Hebrew speaking Judeans viewed the Hellenistic culture as being against the traditions of Judaism and therefore, there was friction. However, in time, Judaism did adopt things from the Hellenistic culture, even within Jerusalem. Consider Acts 6:1 the word Grecians in the text is hellenistes.

This division of Hellenism verses tradition is seen with the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Sadducees liked Hellenism; the Pharisees held to tradition. This gave rise to the Maccabean Period which itself ended in a civil war concerning the Pharisees and Sadducees. The conflicts along these lines can readily be seen in the days of the Apostle Paul (Acts 23). 

The civil war ending the Maccabean Period resulted in the rise of Herod the Great.

This brief history lesson helps to give us a context with which to read and understand Paul’s travels around the Mediterranean Sea. 

This Antioch is in Pisidia, southern Galatia, which tells us a few things about this synagogue. First, it would be a Hellenist synagogue and its spoken language would be Koine Greek. Any scriptures that Paul quotes would be coming from the Greek Septuagint because that is the text a Hellenistic synagogue would be using.

Why would Paul and Barnabas, of all places, go to a synagogue?

Consider their choices. 

In a pagan temple no one was looking for the One True God. The town’s agora, a crowded, nosy marketplace where people were looking to buy and sell. The agora could be used, but not a first choice. The local synagogue, where Judean and Gentile would be seeking to learn of the One True God is the logical first choice.

In Hebrew, a synagogue is called Beit Knesset or the “house of gathering.” Synagoge is the term in Greek with the same basic meaning, another example of Hellenistic influence. The synagogue was to be a place of prayer and a place of learning. If a Rabbi taught a school, like Gamaliel’s school that Paul attended, the school would be in a synagogue.

Hellenistic synagogues, meaning a synagogue that spoke Koine Greek verses speaking Hebrew, were even in Jerusalem. If you will recall, Stephen got in trouble in a Hellenistic synagogue located in Jerusalem, in Acts chapter 6.

Acts 13:15-16a
And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. Then Paul stood up…

In the gospels we saw the Hebrew method of showing respect for God’s Word. Jesus stood up to read from God’s Word and sat down to speak. Notice here in Acts 13:16, Paul is doing the opposite, he is standing to speak. Again, this tells us it is a Hellenistic synagogue. We can tell this because it is the Hellenistic, or Greek, custom to stand to speak, while it is the Hebrew custom to sit when speaking.

Acts 13:16-22
Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience. The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it. And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness. And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot. And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.

Like Stephen in Acts chapter 7, Paul opens with a history lesson about God and Israel. However, there is one major difference. Stephen focused, by revelation, on what Israel did not do, which was to believe God. Stephen shows Israel the judgment of God for the times they have rejected God and His Word, both the written Word and the living Word. 

Paul’s focus, also by revelation, is on what God has done. Paul is focused on the goodness of God which leads a person to repentance.

Romans 2:4 
Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Notice the figure of speech polysyndeton or many-ands. Bringing emphasis to each word or phrase connected by “and.” In literature this also applies to the conjunctions “or” and “but.” However, it is only used with the conjunction “and” in the Bible.

Paul said, God chose our fathers, He exalted the people, and with power and strength He brought them out of Egypt and removed the trespassers in the land. All of this is based on the goodness of God.

God gave them judges so the nation could have direction (Judges 17:6, 21:25). God answered their demand, as a child to a parent, for a king, of whom God, in His goodness, raised up David.

But what about verse 18.

Acts 13:18
And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.

This is a statement that draws upon the negativity of Israel. It is a statement that flows more with the Stephen teaching than with Paul’s teaching. However, most manuscripts render this verse differently.

Acts 13:18
And for about the time of forty years as a nursing-father bare he them in the wilderness. 
American Standard Version

The text used for the American Standard Version is more in line with the thrust and heart of Paul’s teaching. But just because we like this translation better does not make it more accurate.

What caused the contrast in translations?

The difference in the translations is one letter, in one word. In some texts we have the word tropophoreo, and it is rightfully translated “suffered their manners.” While many other texts have the word trophophoreo and is rightfully translated, “bare as a nurse or nursing father.” Comparing these two words, you will find there is only one letter different.

It is easy to see how a transcriber could mistakenly add one letter to a word or leave one letter out of a word. So, we understand what has caused the problem, but which word is accurate? Which word is the word God inspired Luke to write in the book of Acts?

Too often the answer is, what do I already believe? Then proclaim the word we “like” to be the accurate text and translation. But that solution is both lazy and dishonest. We do not study God’s Word to prove what we already think. We study God’s Word to gain an accurate knowledge of our Heavenly Father, so that we can walk forth with Him and for Him.

No matter who you are, your lifestyle, your current thought pattern is going to be challenged if you study the Bible. It is not about the thoughts you bring to God’s Word; it is about what thoughts you hold as you leave God’s Word. 

What has God said? 

No one can say every thought they hold is in alignment and harmony with the Word and Will of God, not even Jesus. But it is not about what thoughts you have; it is about the thoughts you hold and the thoughts you act upon. The perfect example of this is Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane just before he is arrested. 

Matthew 26:36-38
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, my soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

Jesus knew his time was at hand. So, he was going to his Father in prayer to see if there was another way. He knew full well what was coming, for he knew what is written in the Old Testament concerning his sacrifice. Consider Isaiah 50:6

Isaiah 50:6
I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.

Consider the pain associated with giving up your back or ripping a beard from a man’s face. “I gave” shows us these actions were voluntary and not out of compulsion. This is a small portion of the torture Jesus understood was in the cup before him.

Matthew 26:39
And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.

The key here is to recognize there are two distinct wills. God’s will as declared in the Old Testament, and the will of Jesus, “let this cup pass from me.” 

But the bottom line for Jesus is the “will of God.” Asking God if there is another way, a possible change in plans, is not disobedience, it is a question or a request. 

The word “if,” ei in the Greek, makes this a conditional clause. It is a second-class conditional clause meaning the speaker assumes the condition to be untrue. In other words, Jesus assumed there was no possibility of a different cup.

After Jesus prays the first time he comes back to his disciples, and they are sleeping.

Matthew 26:40-41
And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, what, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

I always assumed Jesus was speaking of the disciples falling asleep when he makes this statement, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” and indeed he is. But as I learned just recently, he is also speaking of himself. His spirit was willing to do God’s will, but his flesh had a desire to find another cup. His flesh was looking for a solution other than the one God had already shown him. What a blessing when another believer opened my eyes to a greater understanding of this verse.

After praying two more times, Jesus has his mind set to do the will of God. Jesus allowed the guards to arrested him, so that the Adversary could torture and crucify him. Jesus went not with the solution he “liked” but with the godly solution to mankind’s problem. What changed his mind? Let’s go back to Isaiah 50 again and add another verse.

Isaiah 50:5-6
The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.

God opened his ear, figure of speech Metonymy, for hearing God’s voice in Gethsemane. Jesus was not disobedient; he did not turn back to his own will. 

We face this question every time God’s Word makes a statement that cuts across our lives. Will we go with what we like or with what is right in the eyes of God?

But we still have the same question for this verse. How do we determine the correct translation of Acts 13:18? 

Did God say, “suffered their manners” or “bare them as a nurse or nursing father.”

First, let’s look at the immediate context. What is Paul teaching?

In verse 17 Paul is teaching how God chose the fathers of Israel, and exalted the people of Israel, and brought them out of Egypt with power. In verse 19 Paul speaks of how God removed the nations that occupied the land God had promised their fathers. Later, God divided the land by tribe. Then Paul continues with how God gave them judges, so that they would not be in complete anarchy. Then God answered their desire for a king and raised up David. Even referring to God’s covenant with David to bring a savior for the people. Paul even brings in God’s prophecy in Malachi of a prophet in the spirit of Elijah coming before the Messiah. All these things focus on the goodness of God without falling back upon the unbelief of Israel.

The immediate context flows with the translation that speaks of God as Father, nursing His child. But I have told you in the past that God’s Word must fit from Genesis to Revelation. Does the Old Testament tend toward either of these statements?

Deuteronomy 32:9-12a
For the LORD's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So, the LORD alone did lead him,

This sounds like a father nursing his family as He led them through the wilderness.

Deuteronomy 1:30-31
The LORD your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes; And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the LORD thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place.

Both the immediate context and the remote context show us that the translation that speaks of a “nursing father baring his child” is accurate. Therefore, with this verse the American Standard Version is more accurate than the King James Version. It must be that a transcriber, by accident, dropped the letter “h” in the word tropophoreo.

Again, Paul’s teaching of God’s care for and love of Israel stands in great contrast to Stephen showing the Sanhedrin the judgment of God against all unrighteousness. God holds the Revealing Administration in abeyance, but the outpouring of God’s grace, in the Administration of Grace, is only just beginning, as Paul proclaims the goodness of God to the world.

But what about all those things God did to Israel while they travelled in the desert for forty years? I bet you are thankful we considered the figure of speech Idioma of the verb by permission in the last teaching. How many other times, or in other situations, does that figure of speech apply in God’s Word? I would seek to learn more about this figure of speech and expect to increase my understanding of God’s Word.

Paul’s history lesson of God blessing Israel, now gives way for news of more current events. We will pick up Paul’s teaching at that point the next time.

© Auxano Ministry 2021
A Journey through the Book of Acts