Tag Archives: Acts

Simeon the Prophet

Simeon, that was called Niger (Acts 13:1)

Simeon is an alternate spelling of the name Simon (Acts 15:14 spells Simon Peter’s name Simeon). The name Niger means “black.” Some have suggested that this means that Simeon was a black man. If this is the case, then it would imply that Simeon was a Gentile, and would therefore be the first recorded Gentile prophet in the New Testament. If the fact that he was called “black” means that he was indeed of African descent, then that makes the Antioch church look even better, because they didn’t care about skin color.

Others state that in the Roman Empire, the surname “Niger” or “Black” was just as common as the name “Black” is today in the United States.

A third suggestion which is made is that this Simeon/Simon was one of the people mentioned in 11:20, and that the phrase “of Cyrene” applies in 13:1 to both Simeon/Simon and Lucius. If this is the case, then it would identify this man with Simon of Cyrene who was compelled to carry the cross of Jesus Christ to Golgotha.1 According to Mark 15:21, he is also the father of two men whose name pop up elsewhere in the biblical record: Rufus2 and Alexander.3

Luke has a habit of rarely mentioning people by name unless they show up elsewhere, are well-known to his readers, or are a main character in the narrative. For example, there are two disciples on the road to Emmaus who meet the resurrected Christ. One of them (Cloepas) is named, the other is not. According to John 19:25, Cleopas (also spelled “Cleophas”) was the husband of one of the women who stood at the cross of Christ. Though this isn’t definitive proof, it points to Simeon being someone who appears elsewhere in the biblical record. For that reason, it seems as though identifying him with the man who carried the cross of Jesus would make the most sense.

But look at the beauty of this: A man who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time was grabbed and forced to carry Jesus’ cross. There’s no indication that this man was a disciple of Jesus at this point. But then comes Pentecost, and Simon of Cyrene hears the gospel, and obeys it. He returns home and teaches them. He hears about the household of Cornelius, and he knows the importance of that event. He rushes to Antioch and starts preaching Jesus to the Gentiles there, and watches the church grow and flourish. While he’s there, he meets Saul of Tarsus, the former persecutor-turned-prophet, and gets to know him. And it’s also about this time that his name becomes immortalized, because Matthew—one of Jesus twelve apostles—has published the first official gospel account,4 and it is making its rounds among the Jews and Jewish Christians. And there, near the end of it, Simeon sees the words, “And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled him to carry (Jesus’) cross.”

Is it any wonder that Simeon is mentioned in this list?

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Luke 23:26

2 Romans 16:13

3 Acts 19:33

4 Some scholars date Matthew as early as AD 38. It is not within the scope of this work to debate/prove the order in which the gospels were written. However, we would submit that every collection of the gospels in Greek and Latin have Matthew first. We would also submit that it was the universal assertion of early Christian writers (at least, of those who spoke to the order of writing) that Matthew and Luke were written first, then Mark, then John. J.W. McGarvey suggests a date between AD 42-58, while seeming to lean towards the earlier end of the spectrum.

From Murderer to Missionary – The Life of the Apostle Paul (Part Five)


Saul in Antioch

After a period of time had passed,1 the word had spread in many of the churches that Peter had baptized some Gentiles into Christ.  Then the first recorded integrated congregation, Antioch, began to grow with an influx of Gentiles obeying the gospel.2  When word of this reached Jerusalem, the church sent Barnabas to Antioch to see what was happening.  When he arrived and saw the great work that was being done, he was glad and encouraged the brethren there.  But he also saw this as an opportunity to bring Saul in.  Barnabas must have remembered that Jesus had foretold Saul would “carry my name before the Gentiles.”3  So he left Antioch and went to Tarsus to find him.

What Saul did while in Tarsus, we are not told.  It is almost certain that Paul taught or preached while he was there.  Possibly he tried to convert his family to Jesus Christ.  Regardless of what happened, Saul was certainly glad to see his friend Barnabas and hear the news about the Gentiles being brought into the kingdom of Christ.  That meant that he was going to be put to use in the service of the Lord.

Saul accompanied Barnabas back to Antioch, and they remained there for a full year, working with the congregation, teaching many people, and also fulfilling prophecy.  The Old Testament Scriptures say:

The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of Jehovah shall name.4

The Lord Jehovah shall…call His servants by another name.5

So when Barnabas and Saul came to Antioch, after the Gentiles had seen the righteousness of Christ, they called the disciples this new name (by inspiration): Christians.6

During that year in Antioch, some prophets (including Agabus, who will figure into Paul’s life years later) came from Jerusalem, foretelling that there would be a horrible famine throughout all of Palestine.7  The Christians in Antioch, being good-hearted towards their brethren, gathered up what they could, and sent it to Judea in the care of Barnabas and Saul—two men who had proven themselves to be trustworthy and reliable to the church there.8

Arriving in Jerusalem, Saul and Barnabas delivered the gift to the church there (most likely to James and the elders), and having fulfilled their mission, they went back to Antioch, taking Barnabas’ nephew, John Mark, with them.9  That choice, to bring John Mark with them, would end up causing some very hard feelings years later.

Some time after returning to Antioch, Saul and Barnabas, along with some other prophets, were ministering to the Lord,10 and fasting, when the Holy Spirit spoke to them: “Separate for me Barnabas and Saul now, for the work to which I have called them.”11  The other prophets laid their hands on them, showing that they were commissioning them as emissaries of the church at Antioch.12

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Estimates vary from a few months to a few years.

2 Acts 9:19-21.

3 Acts 9:15.

4 Isaiah 62:2.

5 Isaiah 65:15b.

6 Acts 11:26.  Most translations say “the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”  However, the word “called” is not in the passive voice, as it is rendered in most translations, but in the active voice.  That is, “they” (Barnabas and Saul) are the ones who actively gave the name.  The Greek word used is always something delivered by God.  It is translated “admonished by God” (Hebrews 8:5); “warned by God” (Matthew 2:12, Acts 10:22, Hebrews 11:7).  The MLV translates it here in Acts 11:26, “divinely-called.”

7 The KJV translates it as “the whole world,” but Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian, uses the word to refer exclusively to the Promised Land.  This makes much more sense than “the whole world,” since the Christians in Antioch decided to send relief specifically and exclusively to the Christians in Judea.  Had it been “the whole world,” they would have needed to take care of themselves as well.

8 Acts 11:27-30.

9 Acts 12:25.

10 Acts 13:2.  The word translated “ministering” is from leitourgeo, which is where the word “liturgy” originated.  Some have taken this to mean that these prophets were officiating over a liturgical worship service in Antioch (where everything is structured, done the same way, said in the same way, etc.).  However, the word’s main meaning is serving at one’s own cost, such as someone who took it upon himself to pay expenses to run or improve the city.  The secondary meaning is simply religious service.  The second meaning is certainly in view.  See notes on this passage in this author’s The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts.

11 Acts 13:1-2.  Most translations leave out the word “now,” which comes from the Greek de.  It means “now,” or “at once.”  The Holy Spirit told them it was time to get to work without delay.  The word “called” is the same one used in Acts 2:39, and means called for a specific purpose, work, or ministry.

12 Acts 13:3.  Later, they return to Antioch, “from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled” (Acts 14:26, KJV).  Robertson argues, based on Philippians 4:15, that the church in Antioch did not support the missionary effort monetarily, but the grammar of that verse doesn’t fit.

From Murderer to Missionary – The Life of the Apostle Paul (Part Four)


Saul’s Early Christian Experiences

After obeying the gospel, having his sins washed away, and ridding himself of the guilt over what he had done to the church, Saul of Tarsus began to meet with the disciples in Damascus.  One can only imagine what the reaction was among those Christians when they first heard about Saul’s conversion.  Many of them were probably like those in Jerusalem, who didn’t believe he was really converted.  However, it is almost guaranteed that Ananias spoke up on his behalf, explaining his own part in Saul’s conversion to the truth.

Somewhere around this time (the Bible isn’t clear on exactly when it took place), Saul traveled to Arabia, before returning to Damascus.1  How long he was there, what happened while he was there, or even exactly where there is—all of these are questions to which we are simply not given the answer.2  Some have suggested that it was in Arabia that Saul was baptized with the Holy Spirit, receiving his apostolic orders and the ability to pass on miraculous abilities.3

During his time in Damascus, Saul started preaching in the synagogues, gathering the evidence from the Scriptures and putting it all together, showing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.4  By doing this, he stirred up the Jews, causing them great confusion and aggravation (something he was going to experience for the rest of his life); and he also amazed all those who heard him because of his complete change of heart.  “Isn’t this he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and came here for the same purpose, that he might bring them tied up to the ruling priests?”5

The Christians were being encouraged, and it is probable that several of the Jews obeyed the gospel during those days.  But after “many days” passed (most likely three years since his conversion), the Jews decided they’d had enough and plotted together to kill him.  They watched the city gates day and night, waiting for the opportunity to grab him and kill him6—they didn’t take kindly to traitors, especially because his change was a condemnation of their own practices.

However, Saul was aware of their plot, and after discussing it with the other Christians in the city, it was decided that they would take him at night, put him in a basket, and lower him down the wall of the city so he could escape.  From there, he traveled south, back to the city where he had been hailed as a hero by the Jews, and feared by a struggling and decimated Christian population—Jerusalem.7

Once Saul arrived, he located some of the Christians (having persecuted them heavily, he would have had a good idea where many of them lived or met), and tried to join them.  Saul’s history in the city, his reputation as a murderer of Christians, was still fresh in their minds, and they rejected his attempts, believing that Saul was lying about having been converted.  It’s not a stretch to imagine them running, hiding, locking their doors, having private meetings with other Christians who were all afraid that Saul had come back home.

However, Barnabas learned about Saul’s conversion (whether he simply believed Saul or it was revealed to him by inspiration, we are not told),8 and took it upon himself to bridge the gap that separated Saul from the Jerusalem Christians.  He took Saul to the apostles9 and declared to them how Jesus had appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, and had spoken to him.  He certainly would have told them about his baptism.  Then he added how Saul had boldly preached the name of Jesus in the synagogues at Damascus.  Barnabas’ words held a great influence, and the apostles and Christians in Jerusalem forgave Saul for his persecution, and welcomed him as a faithful brother in Jesus Christ.10

As a member of the church in Jerusalem, Saul was very active in publicly proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ.  He even debated against the Hellenistic Jews,11 frustrating them so much that they tried to kill him.12  Like in Damascus, when the brethren discovered what was happening, they sent Saul away for his safety, as well as their own.  They took him to Caesarea, on the western coast of Judea, and sent him (most likely by ship) to his hometown of Tarsus.13

With Saul gone, the fires of controversy mellowed, and the churches of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had rest, and the church grew.14

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Galatians 1:17

2 In Galatians 1:17-18, Paul mentions “after three years,” but that phrase comes after he mentioned the return to Damascus—and that time period might encompass the entire time since his conversion.  So the only thing it tells us about the length of his Arabian stay is that it must have been less than three years—and most likely it wasn’t a long stay at all, since Luke didn’t see fit to even mention it, even in passing.  Regarding where this Arabia was, we shall quote from Vincent’s Word Studies on Galatians 1:17: “It is entirely impossible to decide what Paul means by this term, since the word was so loosely used and so variously applied. Many think the Sinaitic peninsula is meant (Stanley, Farrar, Matheson, Lightfoot). Others, the district of Auranitis near Damascus (Lipsius, Conybeare and Howson, Lewin, McGiffert). Others again the district of Arabia Petraea.”

3 It is never said in the Scriptures that Saul/Paul ever received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  However, there must have been some point in time where he received the miraculous abilities direct from heaven, for only an apostle could pass on the miraculous gifts (which Paul could do, see Acts 19:1-7), and Paul declared that his apostleship did not come from man, but from God (Galatians 1:1).  Since Luke doesn’t reveal it to us (Saul/Paul is first recorded to have done a miracle in chapter 13), we are left to guess.

4 Acts 9:20-22.  The word “proving” (KJV, verse 22) literally means “to put together.”  Thus, Saul was presenting the evidence and showing how it all fit together to prove that Jesus is that Christ they had been waiting for.

5 Acts 9:21.

6 Acts 9:23-24.

7 Acts 9:24-26a.

8 Barnabas was a prophet (Acts 13:1), so receiving the message directly from God wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.

9 At this point, there are some difficulties.  According to Paul’s own testimony in Galatians 1:17-19, when he went to Jerusalem, he met with Peter, but saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother (see chapter on him for more details on his status as an “apostle”).  Yet Luke says that Barnabas took him before “the apostles.”  Vincent suggests that this visit was just before Peter and James, seeking to harmonize the two passages.  It is possible that the Jerusalem visit of Galatians 1:17-21 is a different one from Acts 9, though both chapters record him traveling to Cilicia afterwards, which seems to indicate that they are the same event (Acts 9:30, Galatians 1:21).  Ultimately, Vincent’s suggestion, though not thoroughly satisfactory, seems to be the most likely explanation.

10 Acts 9:26-28.

11 Acts 9:29.  The ASV has “Grecian Jews,” which is a more explanatory translation.  The word “Hellenist” describes Jews who spoke Greek, and were not fluent in Hebrew/Aramaic—if they spoke it at all.  These Jews did not reside in the Promised Land (Judea, Samaria, Galilee), but in other areas of the Roman Empire.  See also Acts 6:1.

12 Acts 9:29.  There was a class/racial divide among the Hellenistic Jews and the Jews from Judea.  The Hellenists in general viewed themselves as more educated than their Judean counterparts.  Meanwhile, the Judean Jews viewed themselves as more faithful to God because they could still speak Hebrew/Aramaic.  Saul is placed in an interesting position, because he was not born in Judea, but was fluent in both Greek and Hebrew.  His education (and likely inspiration as well) made him too great of a challenge for the “educated” Hellenists.  Thus, these factors all worked together to make them want him gone.

13 Acts 9:30.

14 Acts 9:31.  It is interesting that Luke records Saul’s departure as one of the things that brought peace and growth to the churches in that area.  While Saul had the best of intentions, and was forcibly proving his case, his tactics may have been closing people’s minds to the truth instead of opening them.  Let us at least consider that as a possibility and think about the way we come across to others.

From Murderer to Missionary – The Life of the Apostle Paul (Part Three)


Saul Sees the Light

Enthusiastically, Saul was tormenting the church.  He had been threatening and murdering Christians in Judea, and decided it was time to expand his area of destruction to the north.  So he went to the high priest and asked for official letters so that he could go to the synagogues of Damascus and arrest anyone he found there—man or woman—who followed Jesus.1

So Paul took a group of men with him, a posse if you will, to help with his operations.  These would have been men like Paul, men who were viciously opposed to Christianity, and men who took pride in destroying the doctrine and followers of Jesus of Nazareth.  These men are all traveling together on the road to Damascus, and it is almost noon,2 when the sun is at its brightest, when all of a sudden…

A light from heaven shined all around him, and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”3

His mission forgotten for the moment, Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?”  Saul knew that this light was supernatural, for it was much brighter than even the noonday sun.  Therefore, he knew that this was a voice from heaven—a voice that spoke with the authority of God.  But Saul didn’t understand; he was confused—he had lived in all good conscience before God,4 and was dedicating his life to the extermination of a blasphemous religion.  Surely Saul wasn’t persecuting God Himself!  No, he was serving God…wasn’t he?

The voice from heaven replied in Hebrew, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”5

Saul was terrified at what he had just heard, and remained on the ground, trembling in fear.  If Jesus was speaking from heaven, then Saul had been fighting against God—had been murdering people who were righteous and obedient.  If Jesus was speaking from heaven, then Saul deserved the worst possible punishment that Deity could possibly conceive.  But Saul, trembling, said, “Lord, what do you wish for me to do?”  Certainly fearful of the worst, Saul had to have some measure of hope and relief when he heard the words, “Arise, and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”6

His companions—who were speechless and afraid after the incident, seeing the light and hearing a voice7—took Saul, who was unable to see, by the hand and led him into Damascus, where he stayed at the house of a man named Judas.8  We aren’t told what happened to Saul’s companions, but it is hard to believe that they were unaffected by this incident.  It is almost certain that Saul, shaking as they walked, would have told them what the voice said; and they would have had a hard time disbelieving it.

For the next three days, the worried persecutor abandoned all food and drink, fasting and dedicating himself to praying to God, whom he had unknowingly been fighting against.9  There is no doubt that he pleaded with God for forgiveness, for understanding of the Scriptures which he had misunderstood, and for mercy on him, whose entire world had just been turned upside-down, and who now viewed himself, not as the hero of Judaism and destroyer of heresy, but as the worst sinner in history.10  Yet through three days of praying, Saul was still not relieved of his sin nor his guilt.

While he is agonizing over his sins, the Lord appears in a vision to a Christian in Damascus—one of the very people who Paul was coming to brutally arrest and perhaps even kill.  This disciple of Jesus, a man named Ananias, heard Jesus say:

Get up, and travel on11 the avenue12 which is called “Straight,” and at the house of Judas, ask for the one called “Saul of Tarsus,” because behold, he is praying.  And he has seen, in a vision, a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hands on him so that he might see.13

Ananias puts up an argument, showing just how far Saul’s reputation had spread.  Ananias hadn’t just heard one person talk about Saul’s actions.  He said, “Lord, I’ve heard from many about this man, how much evil he’s done against your saints in Jerusalem, and he possesses authority from the ruling priests to tie up all that call on your name here.”14  Saul was greatly feared because of the wide swath of destruction that he had enacted against the church, and it was common knowledge in Damascus that he was on his way there to do the same thing.

But Jesus reiterates the message in such a way that it calms some of Ananias’ fears (though it isn’t a stretch to think that Ananias was still incredibly nervous):

Travel [Ananias], because he is a chosen tool for me, to carry my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how many things he must suffer for the sake of my name.15

So Ananias traveled on Straight Street, found the house, and went inside to where Saul was.  Saul, unable to see who entered into the room, felt hands being put on him, and heard the words “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me so that you might receive your sight, and [that you] might be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Receive your sight.”16 And immediately, it was as though something like scales had fallen from his eyes, and he looked up at Ananias, who was standing in the room by him.17  Then Ananias gave him a message—the most important message that Saul had ever heard, the answer to his prayers: what he needed to do to receive forgiveness.

The God of our fathers has chosen you so that you should know His will, and see the Righteous One, and should hear the voice of His mouth.  Because you shall be His witness to all people of what you have seen and heard.  And now, why are you waiting?  Get up and be immersed, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.18

Then Saul arose, no doubt overjoyed by the message of forgiveness that was given to him by Ananias, and he obeyed the gospel.19

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Acts 9:1-2.

2 Acts 22:6.

3 Acts 9:4.

4 Acts 23:1

5 Acts 9:5, 26:14-15.  The goads are sharp, pointed sticks (sometimes metal) that are used to push goats or oxen in a certain direction.  There are different views as to what Jesus means by the “goads.”  Some say it is speaking of Saul’s conscience, which would make him a liar in Acts 23:1, where he says that he had lived in all good conscience before God.  Some have suggested that perhaps he was fighting against Gamaliel’s advice in Acts 5.  Others have suggested, based on Romans 16:7, that Paul was fighting against family.  While these may have some level of validity, it seems more likely that the “goads” that Saul was kicking against are the Law and the Prophets—the inspired Scriptures which pointed the way to Christ.  Some translations omit “it is hard for you to kick against the goads” in 9:5, but the words are present in 26:14 in those same versions.

6 Acts 9:6.

7 Acts 9:7-8, 22:9-11.  The men heard the sound of the voice, but they did not comprehend the words spoken.  There is little doubt that Saul relayed to them what was said.

8 Acts 9:11.

9 Acts 9:9-11.

10 1 Timothy 1:12-16

11 The KJV says “go into,” but both words are not as accurately translated as they could be.  The word “go” is actually a word that means “travel,” “transfer,” or “journey (somewhere).”  It is used again in verse 15.  The word “into” (KJV) is the word epi which means “on” or “upon.”

12 The word translated “avenue” (“street” in most translations) is only used here in the New Testament, and refers to a very busy avenue, crowded with people, and lined on either side with buildings.

13 Acts 9:11-12.  The KJV says “that he might receive his sight.”  However, the Greek is literally “look up,” and is in the active voice, not the passive as the KJV and most other modern translations render it.  By implication, the idea is regaining one’s sight, but since it is spoken in the active voice—as something done by Saul, it is best rendered as we have it (and so agrees Hugo McCord’s translation), “he might see.”  Verse 17 shows that it was Jesus speaking to Ananias.

14 Acts 9:13-14. “Tie up” (“bind” in many translations) can refer to being bound in chains, or tied with ropes.  One can imagine Saul’s posse traveling towards Damascus with ropes or chains in their hands.

15 Acts 9:15-16.  The word “tool” (“vessel,” KJV) is translated as “instrument” in the ESV.  The Greek word was often used to describe the sails and tackle equipment on a fishing boat.

16 Acts 9:17; 22:13.

17 Acts 9:18; 22:13.

18 Acts 22:14-16.  On the translation “Righteous One,” see MLV, ESV, ASV.

19 Acts 9:18.

Alexander Campbell’s Commentary on Acts

Back in the mid-1800s, Alexander Campbell received the ire of many religious bodies for having the audacity to produce a new translation of the New Testament (Because, they would say, God Himself inspired the translators of the King James’ Version).  In the first edition, he took most of the translation from various well-respected commentaries (George Campbell [no relation], MacKnight, and Doddridge) and edited it together in one volume.  In the second through fourth editions, he made several changes, seeking to have more uniform translating principles throughout.

It’s really interesting to note the background given above, because some years later, the Baptists organized a translation committee with some other religious groups (including the Disciples) called The American Bible Union.  And they recognized that Campbell was no slouch when it came to knowing the original language–so they chose him to translate Acts of Apostles.

As each book was translated for the A.B.U., it was published and distributed for comment, and it would then be revised prior to its inclusion into the finalized New Testament.

Alexander Campbell’s translation of Acts was published in a large size (8 1/2 x 11), with his commentary included–and was nearly 240 pages long.  This commentary is different from what you would expect.  It included the following features:

  • The King James’ Version text of Acts
  • The Greek original of Acts
  • His “Revised Version” of Acts
  • Translation notes on all three.


Because of the sheer amount of Greek, and the amount of notes (see picture above), we have decided to add this book to the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary as published, and not attempt (at this time) to do any updating to to it (as we have with all the other books in the library).  It would just be too overwhelming of a project for now, but we want to get this book out for as many people as possible to enjoy.

Now, pay attention here, because we’re giving you two options:

The higher quality scan, as seen in the image above, is too large for us to upload to our website (115 Meg), so you will have to download it from a special link (no worries).

The second option is black/white, and is 1/10 the size of the other one, and while it is easier to read, it has a LOT of underlining and notes in the margins (This was a scan we made from Jimmie’s personal copy).  Note the picture below is the same page as the picture above, from the other copy.



To download the higher quality version, click the link below:

Alexander Campbell’s Acts of Apostles (HQ)

To download the B/W version (easier to read, other than the underlining and notes), click this link below.

Campbell, Alexander – Acts of the Apostles

Biography of a Young Preacher (Part 7)

Describing Timothy

Timothy was a faithful Christian, though he may have been vexed with anxiety.  Paul spends a good deal of time encouraging Timothy to stay strong, to keep fighting, to remember why he is a minister of the gospel.  This would seem unnecessary unless Timothy struggled with that sometimes.  Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, telling them that if Timothy arrives, they are to take it easy on him, possibly because—unlike Paul—Timothy did not thrive on confrontation and debate.

If Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear: for he works the work of the Lord, as I also do.  Therefore, let no man despise [belittle] him, but conduct him in peace that he may come to me (1 Corinthians 16:10-11).

In Ephesus, Timothy seemed to struggle with problems with the elders.  This situation apparently was so stressful that he was having stomach ailments (many believe this is describing ulcers) and was frequently sick.

Against an elder do not receive an accusation, except before two or three witnesses.  [But] them that sin, rebuke before all, so that others may fear.  I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that you observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.  Lay hands [or, ordain] suddenly on no man, neither be a partaker of other men’s sins: keep yourself pure.  Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent sicknesses. Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before unto judgment; and some men they follow after.  Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid (1 Timothy 5:19-25).

The popular verse about “drink a little wine for your stomach’s sake” is contained in a discussion of dealing with elders who sinned and those who aren’t qualified trying to become elders.  Timothy was making himself sick worrying about these problems.  It says a lot about Timothy that he was so concerned about the spiritual condition of the church and her leaders that he would be physically sick because of it.


A work entitled the Acts of Timothy claims that Paul ordained Timothy as “Bishop” of Ephesus during the reign of Nero, and that Timothy remained there the rest of his life.  In this apocryphal writing, a pagan festival called the Katagogia (the “bringing down”) was taking place in Ephesus, where men with masks on took sticks and clubs “assaulting without restraint free men and respectable women, perpetrating murders of no common sort and shedding endless blood in the best parts of the city, as if they were performing a religious duty.”  Historians are divided on whether this was done in the name of Diana (the chief goddess of Ephesus) or Dionysius (the god of liquor and revelry).  Timothy, according to the story, stood in front of the mob, pleading with them to stop, preaching peace in the name of Jesus, but was clubbed to death in the street.  This was said to have happened in AD 97.

-Bradley Cobb

Biography of a Young Preacher (Part 6)

Timothy after Rome

Anyone who has tried to piece together the life and movements of the apostle Paul after Acts 28 will tell you that it is difficult, and relies a lot on hints and a few guesses, since there is no detailed account of what he did after the events recorded in Acts.  Trying to figure out Timothy’s movements carries with it the same problems.  However, there are some things we can know.

Prior to Paul’s release from prison, he was making plans to visit specific people and places.  One of those was Philippi.  To the Philippians, he said:

I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be of good comfort when I know your state.  For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.  For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.  But you know the proof of him, that as a son with the father, he has served with me in the gospel.  Therefore, I hope to send him presently, as soon as I shall see how it will go with me.  Bit I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly (Philippians 2:19-24).

Paul sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi with this letter, but planned on sending Timothy so that he could get a report on how the Christians in that city were doing.  But Paul was waiting until he knew how things were going to go in his upcoming trial before Caesar before sending Timothy, probably because he wanted to be able to send that information as well—they being the main conduits from which support came during his imprisonment.

The book of Hebrews appears to have been written from Rome,*[1] and the writer (Paul)*[2] anxiously awaits the arrival of Timothy so that he can leave and visit the Christians to whom he was writing.  It seems, then, as though Paul sent Timothy off on a mission (perhaps to Philippi in Macedonia), and was waiting on his return so they could go travel together again.

The two friends and fellow-soldiers of the cross went to Asia Minor, stopping at Ephesus, where they were able to reunite with the Christians they loved dearly and hadn’t seen for several years.  While they were there, Paul (and perhaps Timothy as well) probably traveled to Laodicea to visit Philemon,*[3] who he had told to “prepare me a lodging, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be released to you” (Philemon 22).  Returning to Ephesus, Paul saw work that needed to be done in the congregation, but he also felt a very pressing desire to get to Macedonia personally and reunite with the ones who supported him tirelessly and out of their poverty.  Thus, he told Timothy that they must separate.  Timothy remained behind in Ephesus while Paul went on to Macedonia,*[4] but he planned on returning at some point in the future.*[5]

Timothy’s time in Ephesus was not the most pleasant of events.  There were men who were completely unqualified who sought to join the eldership.*[6]  There were false teachers on the rise.*[7]  There were women who wanted to be teachers in the assembly.*[8]  Paul knew about these problems, but he was confident that Timothy would be able to handle them.

Paul most likely returned to see Timothy in Ephesus before leaving for more mission work, some believe westward to Spain.  After some time, Paul made it back to Troas, but was arrested and taken back to Rome.  Timothy has remained in Ephesus during this time, working with the congregation there, but then he receives a letter (2 Timothy) which causes him much concern.  The Roman Empire has declared Christianity to be their enemy, and an Empire-wide persecution has begun.  Paul, being perhaps the most well-known of the Christians, would have been one of their primary targets.  Timothy reads the letter, which urges him to remain strong, to prepare people to continue to propagate the message of the gospel, and to endure hardships like a good soldier.*[9]  Paul is telling Timothy that they may never see each other again on this side of death.*[10]  So Timothy hurriedly gathers what things he needs and travels north to Troas to gather Paul’s books, parchments, and cloak,*[11] and travels to Rome with John Mark (who had apparently come to Ephesus), probably by ship.

Whether he made it to Rome in time to see Paul prior to his execution, we have no way of knowing.

-Bradley Cobb

[1] *The writer, who has traditionally been identified as Paul, tells his readers “they of Italy salute you” (Hebrews 12:24).

[2] *It is the belief of this author that Paul is the writer of the book of Hebrews.  However, as this work is not focused on that book, nor is the point here being made one of major significance, the evidence for such a conclusion does not need to be presented here.

[3] *Most scholars place Philemon in Colossae, but this author believes the evidence points to the nearby city of Laodicea.  See the introduction and appendix of The Prodigal Slave: A Study of the Letter to Philemon by this author for more details.

[4] *1 Timothy 1:3.

[5] *1 Timothy 4:13.

[6] *1 Timothy 5:21-22, 24-25.

[7] *1 Timothy 4:1-5.

[8] *1 Timothy 2:9-15.

[9] *2 Timothy 2.

[10] *2 Timothy 4:6-8.

[11] *2 Timothy 4:9, 13

Biography of a Young Preacher (Part 5)

Timothy during Paul’s Imprisonment

Timothy accompanied Paul and the others into Jerusalem, where they met with James, the brother of Jesus, as well as the elders of Jerusalem.  They presented the funds, as well as gave a report of the great work God was doing among the Gentiles.  This brought up a touchy subject in Jerusalem.  There were thousands of Jewish Christians in the city, and they’d all heard reports that Paul was teaching Jews not to circumcise their children anymore, and that they should forsake all the customs passed down from Moses.*[1]  All Paul would have had to do is point to Timothy to disprove those rumors.  Timothy was a Jew who had not been circumcised, yet Paul made it a point to circumcise him.

Some Jews from Asia had seen Paul in the temple, and began to make these same accusations, but added that he brought a Gentile into the temple, because they falsely assumed that Trophimus had accompanied him there.  Paul was forcibly removed from the temple by a mob, and the doors were shut behind him.  The mob began to beat Paul, and would have succeeded in killing him, had not the Roman soldiers arrived on the scene.  It does not appear that Timothy was with Paul during this uproar, but no doubt he heard about it shortly thereafter.*[2]

Timothy was no doubt anxious the next day when the chief captain, Claudius Lysias, called together the high priest and the Sanhedrin to hear Paul’s testimony.  The proceedings quickly turned ugly, and Claudius removed Paul, “lest [he] should have been pulled in pieces by them.”*[3]  It is quite possible that Timothy visited Paul while he was being held as a prisoner in Jerusalem, and brought him much-needed comfort.*[4]  Timothy most likely joined Paul as he was taken to Caesarea and was probably present during his trial before Felix.*[5]  Timothy was given freedom by Felix to visit Paul as often as he wanted, and this he no doubt did as Paul was there for two years.  It is believed by some that Paul’s letters to the Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, and to Philemon were all written during this two-year period.*[6]  If this is the case, then Timothy’s constant presence with Paul is confirmed, for he is mentioned as co-writer in three of those letters.*[7]

Paul, in order to guarantee that he wasn’t turned over to the Jews, whom he knew would try to kill him, appealed to Caesar.  This was the right of every Roman citizen, and required going to Rome and awaiting a convenient time for the emperor to hear his case.  Luke does not record who, other than himself, joined Paul on this treacherous sea voyage,*[8] but it would be surprising if Timothy was not among his companions.*[9]  If this is indeed the case, then Timothy would have experienced the Euroclydon, the “tempestuous wind” that attacked their ship for fourteen days, and was so bad that the professional sailors tried to abandon the ship, leaving Paul, Timothy, Luke, and the other 200+ to die in the storm.  He would have come aboard the land at Malta, seen Paul get bitten by a viper, yet suffer no ill effects.  He would have seen Paul heal many of the inhabitants of the island, and helped the apostle in preaching to them for the three months they were there.*[10]

The prevailing view among Bible scholars, past and present, is that Paul wrote his “prison epistles” while in Rome under house arrest.*[11]  The greeting at the beginning of Philemon, Colossians, and Philippians all include Timothy, showing he was there with Paul during his imprisonment.

-Bradley Cobb

[1] *It is important to note that James calls them “customs,” and not “commands.”  By this point, the Law of Moses had no binding effect on anyone, having been superseded by the law of Christ.  The customs would have included observing the Sabbath, circumcision, feast days, fasting, vows, meat restrictions, etc.

[2] *Luke tells us that Paul went to the temple with the four men who had a vow on them.  This would appear to exclude anyone else from being with Paul at that point.

[3] *Acts 23:1-10.

[4] *Paul’s nephew was able to come see him (Acts 23:16-22), so it is not a stretch to think that others were permitted to as well.

[5] *At the conclusion of Paul’s trial before Felix, the ruler stated that Paul’s acquaintances and ministers (assistants) were to be permitted to come and go to meet with him.  This implies that Felix had knowledge of Paul’s traveling companions.

[6] *The majority of Bible scholars place the writing of these letters a few years later while Paul was imprisoned in Rome, as recorded in Acts 28.

[7] *The only exception being Ephesians.

[8] *Note the use of “we” throughout chapters 27-28.

[9] *This is especially true if we assume—as do the majority of Bible scholars—that Paul’s “prison epistles” were written from Rome, which include Timothy in their greetings.  Some might suggest that Timothy was sent on missionary journeys to some of the congregations that they had visited before, informing them of Paul’s current situation, and that is also a logical guess as well, considering that Paul would need financial support while under house arrest in Rome, awaiting trial.

[10] *These events are recorded in Acts 27-28.  The specific time on Malta is given in 28:11.

[11] *This living arrangement is shown by Luke in Acts 28:16, 30-31.

Biography of a Young Preacher (Part 4)

Journey to Jerusalem

Sometime thereafter, Paul joined them in Macedonia, and Timothy is listed as a co-author of the second letter to the church in Corinth.*[1]  After traveling with Paul throughout Macedonia, Timothy finally made it back to Corinth, where they stayed about three months,*[2] and during which time, he was mentioned to the church in Rome by Paul.*[3]  Timothy had planned to accompany Paul on a sea journey to Syria (probably returning to Antioch).*[4]  However, since there were Jews waiting to kill Paul, the apostle decided to travel by way of Macedonia instead, apparently sending Timothy and several others ahead to wait for him at Troas.*[5]

Timothy was present in Troas on the Lord’s Day when Eutychus fell asleep in an open window on the third story of the building where the church was meeting.  This young man slid down and fell out the window to his death, but Paul healed him.*[6]  Timothy then rode with Luke and some others in a boat to Assos, meeting up with Paul who had decided to go there on foot,*[7] and they continued their journey to Miletus.  It was in Miletus that Paul waited, calling the elders of Ephesus to come meet him there.*[8]  These are some of the same men that Timothy would have interacted with during his initial time in that city with Paul, as well as during his time preaching there full-time some years later.*[9]

The young preacher accompanied Paul and the others as they made his way back east, sailing past Cyprus (where Barnabas and John Mark had last been seen), and finally arriving in Syria at Tyre.  In this city, they stayed for a week, meeting with the disciples who lived there.  Timothy must have been impressed by the love and care of the Christians in Tyre.  The entire congregation—men, women, and children—walked Paul, Timothy, Luke, Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Tychicus, and Trophimus out of the city and to their boat.  Then they all knelt together on the shore and prayed to God.  These Christians did not head back home until Paul and his company had all boarded the ship.*[10]

Timothy’s next stop was in Caesarea, where he got to meet Philip, the man who taught the gospel to the eunuch of Ethiopia.*[11]  Philip welcomed the traveling missionaries into his house for “many days,” being overjoyed no doubt at the aid which the churches of Macedonia and Achaia had sent for the poor saints in Jerusalem.  It was while staying in Caesarea that Timothy saw a prophet named Agabus grab Paul’s belt and tie himself up with it, prophesying that Paul would be arrested in Jerusalem and turned over to the Romans as a prisoner.*[12]  Timothy began to beg and plead with Paul not to go,*[13] but the apostle stood firm, telling him and the others who also pleaded, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart?  For I am ready, not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”*[14]  Finally, Timothy and the rest of Paul’s company ceased their pleading, instead saying “The will of the Lord be done,” and they traveled to Jerusalem in the company of one of the early disciples, Mnason,*[15] with whom they would stay in Jerusalem.*[16]

-Bradley Cobb

[1] *2 Corinthians 1:1

[2] *Acts 20:2-3.  Corinth is the primary city of Greece, and Paul had promised the Corinthians that he would come to see them in person after traveling through Macedonia (1 Corinthians 16:5, 2 Corinthians 9:4).

[3] *Romans 16:21.  Paul wrote that he was staying at the house of Gaius (Romans 16:23), who was one of the few people in Corinth that Paul himself baptized (1 Corinthians 1:14).  Paul also mentions “Erastus, the chamberlain of the city” (Romans 16:23), and a first-century inscription in Corinth exists which says “Erastus, the commissioner of public works, laid this pavement at his own expense.” (see introduction to Romans in “The Open Bible: Expanded Edition,” 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers).

[4] *Acts 20:3.

[5] *Acts 20:4-5.

[6] *Acts 20:6-12.

[7] *Acts 20:13-14.

[8] *Acts 20:17.

[9] *See 1 Timothy 1:3.

[10] *Acts 21:3-6.

[11] *Acts 21:8.  As a side note, it is quite possible that Luke was able to talk to Philip at this time, gathering the information that he would later include when writing the book of Acts.

[12] *Acts 21:10-11.

[13] *Acts 21:12.

[14] *Acts 21:13.

[15] *Mnason may well have been one of the converts on the day of Pentecost.

[16] *Acts 21:14-16

Biography of a Young Preacher (Part 3)

Solo Journeys of Timothy

Timothy and Silas left Berea, and together they journeyed to Athens.  No doubt these two fellow-soldiers of the cross talked about their experiences over the past months while on their journey, and wondered what things God had in store for them once they arrived in Athens.

Upon their arrival,*[1] Paul was worried.  He remembered the Christians in Thessalonica who had been scared by a mob of angry Jews and their band of thugs, and was concerned that the persecution of godless men and Jews who refused to obey the gospel might cause them to leave the faith.  So he spoke with Timothy and told the young man that he was being sent on a mission to “establish” and “comfort” the congregation in the midst of their trials.  So Timothy went on a solo journey, returning to Thessalonica (in Macedonia) to check on them.  When he arrived, he was overjoyed with what he found.  The Christians there, even though they’d only received three weeks’ teaching from Paul and Silas, were staying faithful and showing love one for another.*[2]  Soon after arriving and seeing their spiritual condition, Timothy brought the happy news to Paul, who had moved on from Athens to Corinth by this point.*[3]  It was upon receiving this uplifting news that Paul wrote the first letter to the Thessalonian Christians.

Timothy apparently remained in Corinth for at least a few months, for his name is included as a co-writer of the second letter to the Thessalonians, which most believe was sent between 3-6 months after the first letter.  What happened next with Timothy is not spelled out for us in the Scripture.  It seems most likely that Timothy stayed with Paul as he traveled from Corinth to Ephesus for a very short stay, and then went to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish feasts*[4] before returning to Antioch to give a report to the church there.*[5]  Afterwards, having spent some time in Antioch, he would have then journeyed with Paul back through Galatia and Phrygia (in Asia Minor), “strengthening all the disciples”*[6]  before arriving with Paul in Ephesus, which is where he shows up next in the biblical narrative.

Paul remained in Ephesus for three years (Acts 20:31), and it was during that time that he sent Timothy on a journey that would eventually take him to Corinth*[7] to give the Christians there a refresher course in Paul teaching.*[8]  There is reason to suspect that Timothy was not able to make his planned visit to Corinth (or perhaps that Paul sent Titus instead),*[9] and returned to Paul in Ephesus instead.*[10]  Some time after his arrival back in Asia Minor, Timothy was sent on another mission, this time to Macedonia with a man named Erastus (Acts 19:22).  This mission to Macedonia quite possibly included traveling to the various congregations, raising support for the poor saints in Jerusalem.*[11]

-Bradley Cobb

[1] *Some are of the belief that Silas and Timothy went to Athens, but that by that point Paul had already moved on to Corinth, and so they would have had to search him out there.  1 Thessalonians 3:1-5, however, makes it clear that Timothy and Silas met up with Paul in the city of Athens.  Acts 18:5, which records their arrival to meet Paul in Corinth, must have come after Timothy (and apparently Silas) was sent out to check on other congregations.

[2] *This trip is recorded in 1 Thessalonians 3:1-6.

[3] *Acts 18:5 shows Silas and Timothy meeting up with Paul in Corinth, apparently after they had been sent to visit other congregations in place of Paul (who was a lightning rod for the unbelieving Jews).  See 1 Thessalonians 3:1-6 for at least part of this evidence.  Timothy went to Thessalonica, and it is guessed by many that Silas went to Philippi.

[4] *Acts 18:21.  Johnson (People’s New Testament with Notes) says “There are reasons for believing the feast to be Pentecost.”  Most modern versions leave out Paul’s explanation of why he couldn’t stay in Ephesus, due to some faulty ancient manuscripts which they have mistakenly elevated to “most accurate” status.  The visit to Jerusalem and to the church in that city is mentioned in Acts 18:22—Paul went to Caesarea, and from there “went up” to some city [Jerusalem] to salute the church there, and then “went down” to Antioch.

[5] *These events are recorded in Acts 18:18-22.

[6] *Acts 19:23.

[7] *If Paul had sent him directly to Corinth, then it would have been with this letter in his hand.  However, at the end of the letter, he says “if Timothy come…” which implies that by the time the Corinthians receive this correspondence, Timothy still wouldn’t have been there yet.  Thus, Timothy’s mission must have included other stops on the way.

[8] *1 Corinthians 4:17

[9] *See 2 Corinthians 2:13, 7:6, 13-14, 8:6, 16, 12:18 for evidence of Titus’ mission to Corinth.

[10] *Paul seemed to take this into consideration before sending the letter to the Corinthians.  Even though he told them that he had sent Timothy to Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:17), he also told them that it wasn’t a certainty (1 Corinthians 16:10), saying “If Timothy comes…”

[11] *See 2 Corinthians 8:1-4