4. Gospel expansion into Greece, 16:1-20:38

ii] Paul and Silas in prison


Following the vision of the man from Macedonia, 16:6-10, Paul crosses the Hellespont and enters Europe. Visiting Philippi, he is able to lead Lydia to the Lord, v11-15. Paul's ministry in Philippi enters a difficult phase when he exorcises a demonic power from a slave girl and finds himself, along with Silas, incarcerated for disturbing the peace, or more properly, interfering in legitimate trade. The miraculous release of Paul and Silas further grounds the fledgling Philippian church, although Paul and his missionary team are forced to leave town.


"Nothing can stop the gospel", Williams


i] Context: See 15:36-41.


ii] Background:

iSalvation by households, 10:44-48;

iWater Baptism in Acts, 2:37-41;


iii] Structure: Paul's mission in Philippi goes wrong:

An encounter with a Pythoness, v16-18;

The arrest, punishment and prison, v19-24;

A jailer and his family are saved, v25-34;

Official embarrassment, v35-40.


iv] Interpretation:

Luke goes into some detail telling this story, and as Dunn notes, this may have nothing to do with theology, but with the fact that "it was a great story in itself." Tannehill argues that the focus of the story is on the jailor and his conversion - here we see evident the joyful experience of God's saving work as the early church made its appearance in a Gentile environment.

Of course, Luke's focus may well be on the exorcising of the slave girl - of the power of the gospel to dispel dark powers (the gospel is bigger than magic). The story does show that Paul exorcises demonic powers in like manner to Jesus; "the exorcism of the possessed slave girl is used by Luke to depict the triumph of Christianity over pagan Greco-Roman practices", Fitzmyer.

Then again, Luke may be taken by the earthquake and the miraculous release of Paul and Silas - human interference cannot thwart the progress of the gospel; "As in Acts 5 and 12, imprisonment is an attempt by the authorities to control the proclamation of the gospel, but in this narrative an earthquake transforms the situation", Peterson Gk. God's hand is certainly evident in their release, although we are left wondering how prison doors can be wrenched open without major damage to the prison and the town in general, or at least Barrett so wonders.

It is possible that Luke is interested in the gospel's first encounter with Roman power and the justice accorded to the missionaries, although only after some injustice. It is worth nothing that the historic reliability of Acts can be assessed on the basis of Paul's encounters with Roman justice and it is generally felt today that Luke rates favourably in this regard, cf., Bock.


"You will be saved, you and your whole household", v31. As already noted, the salvation of households (family as well as staff?) is a feature of Acts. Here, the idea is boldly presented as a promise. The salvation of the household rests on the faith of the jailer. The faith of the head of a home achieves salvation, not only for himself, but the others in his family.

Of course, the promise here should not be generalised. A specific promise to a specific person at a specific point in time, does not necessarily constitute a general promise to everyone for all time. What we have here is a gracious blessing for this particular person, a blessing which reflects the principle that God tends to work within families, and this because he created the family as the basic unit of human association.

Paul, 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, gives us another angle of this subject. His statement that a believing partner aJgiazw, "sanctifies", the unbelieving partner, and makes the children aJgioV, "holy", is covered by the indefinite use of the conjunction ei, "to what extent do you know whether you will save (your partner)?", v16. A personal faith in Christ guarantees salvation, but it remains a mystery as to what extent that faith covers the other family members. As already indicated, I take the view that as long as members of my family do not reject Jesus outright they are covered by my faith, but in the end, the idea is contested and so I leave the matter in God's hands.


v] Homiletics: A Working-class Man

[Jailer] The Philippian jailer, on seeing the signs and hearing the good news of the kingdom, came to put his trust in Jesus. His household also received the gospel and they too believed. Touched with the power of the gospel, the jailer set out to care for Paul and Silas, offering hospitality to these travellers from afar. "He washed and was washed", said Chrysostom; "He washed them from their stripes, and he was washed of his sins."

Let's call him a working-class man - an existential thinker - a person living in the now and emoting, rather than rationalising, his way through life. So, here is a man of the present. He is not a middle-class man, an eschatological man, a man planning to better himself and his family, a man of the future. Mind you, we can't really say what type of man he is, other than he is a lost man. But let's say he is a working-class man. Of such men are most men, and few of them are in church; few of them know Jesus.

There are a number of things we can say of a working-class man. The most obvious fact is that he makes up an increasing proportion of the population in Western societies. From the 1880's to the 1980's the broad middle-class increasingly made up the bulk of Western societies, but now it is a shrinking class. There are more rich and more poor, but fewer middle-class. Of the working-class we can say they are matter of fact people. Honest and generous to their own kind, and possessing a certain morality. They will care for their daughter's illegitimate child rather than aborting it. They view life as a failure because nothing works and they always stay at the bottom of the pile. Yet, they are survivors. They are disdainful of authority and can pick a fraud a mile off. They find it hard to say what they think and so tend to hug, or punch, as the situation warrants.

Let's say the jailer was such a man. He had obviously heard of the "spirit" being cast out of the slave girl. He heard Paul and Silas singing in the stocks. He saw the earthquake fling open the doors. But above all, he saw the apostles refrain from flight. They didn't act with the customary self-preservation of a prisoner with freedom offered on a plate. He saw, and wanted what they had.

The hammer blow of the gospel resides in the power of the message itself. Yet, it is often the visible sign, or expression of the gospel, that gains a hearing. It was the gospel lived out in Paul and Silas that touched this ordinary man. The message of God's grace, alive in the apostles, prompted the question, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" No, it was most likely not the earthquake, rather it was the two apostles sitting there in jail with the doors wide open before them. That's what touched him.

To reach working-class people, not only must our message be simple and to the point, it must be a message lived out in our daily life. In the face of growing secularism, we may wonder how the Christian church can survive through this new century. Be reminded that the apostles were not bewildered by the secular city. They knew full well that, as God's messengers, they could break into the bastions of darkness and release its prisoners.

Text - 16:16

Paul's mission in Philippi goes wrong, v16-40: i] Paul's encounter with a fortune-telling slave girl, v16-18. The mission team is again on its way to thn proseuchan, "the place of prayer" - the word is probably being used for the local synagogue. In v13 the team was looking for it, with Paul ending up speaking with a group of women beside the river, but now they are on their way to it - presumably on a different occasion. On the way, they come across a "Pythoness" (a person inspired by Apollo as a conduit of ecstatic prophecy. Most practitioners were charlatan ventriloquists, although this women seems to possess some psychic powers). The Pythoness reveals that the apostles are servants of the supreme being. Over a number of days, she follows the missionaries, and in a trans-like state, tells all and sundry that these men know the secret way of salvation. Enough is enough, so Paul casts out the spirit of divination, and by doing so, removes her psychic powers.

poreuomenwn (poreuomai) pres. part. "[once] when we were going" - [but/and it became = happened] going [into the place of prayer]. The genitive participle and its genitive subject hJmwn, "we", forms a genitive absolute construction, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

uJpanthsai (uJpantaw) act. inf. "were met by" - to meet [a certain slave girl]. The infinitive, with its accusative subject "a certain slave girl having a spirit of python", forms a nominal phrase which stands as the subject of the impersonal verb egeneto, "it happened"; "a certain slave girl ...... met/meeting us happened = a certain slave girl by chance came upon us." The dative hJmain, "us", serves as the direct object the uJpo prefix infinitive "to meet", although usually rendered in the active voice, "we met a slave-girl", NRSV. It's a chance crossing of paths, not a formal introduction.

ecousan (ecw) pres. part. "who had" - having. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "slave girl", as NIV; "who was possessed of a clairvoyant spirit", Berkley.

puqwna (wn onoV "by which she predicted the future" - [a spirit] a python. Variant genitive puqwnoV exists, adjectival, attributive, "a divining spirit". As an accusative, it is probably standing in apposition to pneuma, "a spirit"; "a spirit, that is a python (a soothsayer)", so Barrett. The term is used to describe someone who can predict the future. "A spirit of divination" NRSV. An "evil spirit", "demon-possessed" are possibilities, although that's not what's being said. Plutarch said they were "ventriloquists". It was believed that in their trans-like state they conveyed the words of God.

ergasian (a) "a great deal of money" - [who was bringing] profit, gain [much]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to bring." "Her owners made a handsome profit out of her fortune-telling", Barclay.

toiV kurioiV (oV) dat. "for [her] owners" - to the masters [of her]. Dative of interest, advantage.

manteuomenh (manteuomai) pres. part. "by fortune-telling" - prophesying = divining. The participle is adverbial, probably instrumental, expressing means, as NIV.


The superlative adjective uJyistou, "highest", is used to differentiate the gods the Python serves, and the God the missionaries serve; they serve the greater God by explaining the pathway to salvation.

katakolouqousa (katakolouqew) pres. part. "[this girl] followed" - [this one / she] following. Possibly an attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to cry out", although the presence of kai suggests otherwise. Culy suggests adverbial, temporal, or adjectival, but it is possibly a periphrastic imperfect with the verb to-be assumed; "she kept following Paul", Barclay.

tw/ Paulw/ (oV) dat. "Paul" - paul. The verb "to follow after" takes a dative, so dative of direct object after the participle "following."

hJmin dat. pro. "the rest of us" - to us. Usually treated as a dative of direct object along with "Paul", but more likely a dative of reference / respect after the imperfect verb "to shout out"; "she kept following Paul and was shouting out about us."

ekrazen (krazw) imperf. "shouting" - was calling out, shouting out, groaning out. The imperfect implies that she kept on crying out, ie., a continuous action. Luke possibly chooses this verb to represent the strange voice associated with ventriloquism.

legousa (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to call out", semi-redundant, serving to introduce direct speech.

tou qeou gen. "[servants] of the Most High God" - [these men are the slaves] of the [most high] god. The genitive is adjectival, either intended as possessive, or possibly verbal, subjective. The girl is using the title in a general sense, in the same way as we might use the title "Supreme Being" as a general designation of the divine. The Hebrew equivalent is "El Elyon", Gen.14:18. Gentiles often used the title for Zeus.

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - [who are proclaiming] to you. Dative of indirect object

swthriaV (a) gen. "[the way] to be saved" - [a way] of salvation. The genitive is adjectival, possibly epexegetic, limiting by defining / explaining "the way", "the way which is all about salvation", or possibly idiomatic / destination, "a way which leads to salvation", so Culy. The NIV, as with most other translations, treats this nominal phrase verbally, eg., the TEV goes all the way with "how you can be saved." Barrett treats the phrase as verbal, subjective, "the way to acquire salvation." The NRSV follows the text literally, "a way of salvation", reminding us that there is a distinction between preaching "a way" and "a how", and also, that there is a difference between "a way" and "the way (the way proclaimed by Jesus)." Although there is no definite article in the Greek, it is quite proper to read "a way" as "the way", but again, is our fortune-teller being that specific?


The Python persists with here revelation diaponhqeiV, "grieving = exasperating", Paul. Luke uses language typical of an exorcism, this one performed, not by Christ, but in his name, ie., in his person and by his authority. The results, "in this hour", means immediately - the phrase is a Lukan mannerism / idiom, for "at that very moment", so Barrett. The Western text adds "immediately" so that we don't miss the point.

epi + acc. "[kept this up] for" - [but/and this she was doing] upon [many days]. Temporal use of the preposition serving to express duration of time.

diaponhqeiV (diaponeomai) pas. part. "became so troubled / annoyed" - [but paul] having become grieved, angry, troubled, upset, annoyed [said]. As with the conjoined participle epistreyaV "having turned", an attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "said"; "Totally exasperated, Paul spun around and said."

tw/ pneumati (a atoV) dat. "to the spirit" - to the spirit. Dative of indirect object.

en + dat. "in" - in [the name of jesus christ]. Here adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of his command, a command associated with the person and authority of Christ.

soi dat. pro. "you" - [i command] you. Dative of direct object after the para prefix verb "to command."

exelqein (exercomai) aor. inf. "to come out" - to come out. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Paul commanded; "I command that you come out of her."

ap (apo) + gen. "of [her]" - from [her]. Expressing separation; "away from." Due to the prefix ex in the verb, the preposition is redundant, but its use reflects normal idiom.

auth/ th/ wJra/ dat. "at that moment" - in the same hour. The dative is adverbial, temporal. The phrase means "immediately". "And it came out immediately", Phillips.


ii] The arrest, punishment and prison, v19-24: Once Paul has cast out the spirit from the girl, a fairly violent reaction develops over the interference by traveling Jews in a valid economic pursuit - both the spirit and the profits exhlqen, "went out". The two town magistrates (Praetors) dutifully have Paul and Silas chastised for their economic interference. A beating by the Lictors and a night in the stocks is regarded a worthy punishment for the reformation of these social misfits. Luke has made sure we understand that Paul's punishment is not motivated by a clash over religious ideology, but by pure greed.

idonteV (eidon) aor. part. "when [the owners of the slave girl] realised" - [but/and the masters of her] having seen. The participle is adverbial, temporal, as NIV.

oJti "that" - that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception, expressing what they came to realise.

thV ergasiaV (a) gen. "[hope] of making money" - [the hope] of gain, profit. The genitive is adjectival, verbal, objective, "their hope for a profit."

autwn gen, pro. "-" - of them [went out]. The genitive is adjectival, possibly classified as epexegetic in that it specifies the profit, a "profit which was due to come to them."

epilabomenoi (epilambanomai) "they seized" - having seized [paul and silas]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb eiJlkusan, "they dragged"; "they seized ...... and dragged ...."

thn agoran (a) "marketplace" - [they dragged them into] the town square. The place for public meetings, a town square which was used for a full range of civic occasions: political, judicial, celebratory, commercial (market day), etc.; in front of a court house may be a better translation for us. Paul and Silas are set upon, and dragged publicly before the local magistrates.

epi + acc. "to face" - upon. Spatial; "up to, to, before."

touV arcontaV "the authorities" - the rulers. Most likely magistrates is intended. A Roman colony, such as Philippi, would have two collegiate magistrates.


prosagagonteV (prosagw) aor. part. "they brought [them]" - [and] having brought [them]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "said", "they brought them .... and said", but possibly adverbial, temporal, "and when they had brought them ....", ESV.

toiV strathgoiV (oV) dat. "before the magistrates" - to the magistrates. Dative of indirect object.

uJparconteV (uJparcw) pres. part. "are [Jews]" - [they said, these men] being [jews]. Although anarthrous, the participle is probably adjectival, attributive, limiting "men", "these men who are Jews."

ektarassousin (ektarassw) "are throwing [our city] into an uproar" - are disturbing, causing confusion in, causing trouble in (ie., promoting civic disorder) [the city of us]. Note how Paul and Silas are identified as Jews, indicating a touch of xenophobia on the part of the citizenry. It is also assumed they are not Roman citizens; a dangerous assumption as it turns out.


It is likely that what is unlawful is the advocating of foreign customs, given that Roman law prohibited the circulation of foreign religious propaganda among Roman citizens. Of course, it is also likely that there is a touch of antisemitism in the mix, given the propensity of the Jewish population to retain a degree of separation from their Gentile neighbours, cf., Peter's comment 10:28. "Since it is unlawful for these Jews to advocate foreign beliefs, it is not proper for us to either listen or act on what they are telling us."

kataggellousin (kataggellw) "by advocating" - [and] they are preaching, teaching, declaring [customs]. "They are trying to propagate ways of life which ....", Barclay.

hJmin dat. pro. "for us" - [which is not permitted] for us. Dative of interest, advantage.

ousin (eimi) dat. "[Romans]" - being [romans]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the dative personal pronoun "us"; "for we who are Romans. "Which, as Roman citizens, we cannot possibly accept or put into practice", Cassirer.

paradecesqai (paradecomai) pres. inf. "to accept" - to receive [nor to do]. This infinitive, as for "to do", serves as the subject of the negated impersonal verb "it is not permitted"; "they are proclaiming customs which for us being Romans to accept nor to do is not permitted." The accusative subject of the infinitive is a}, "which [for us being Romans]." For a complementary classification see plhrwqhnai, 1:16.


Probably the magistrates ordered that Paul and Silas be stripped and beaten (usually administered by the rhabdouchoi / "Lictors", with rhabdoi, "wooden rods" - their sheriff's badge illustrated rods and an axe, rods for beating and an axe for chopping off heads), although it can be read that the magistrates ripped their own clothes and then ordered that Paul and Silas be beaten. The former is the more likely, given that the theatrical ripping of togas was not a Roman custom.

sunepesth (sunefisthmi) aor. "joined in the attack" - [and the crowd] rose up together [against]. Some commentators suggest the the confrontation is physical, others that it is verbal. In 24:9 the same word is used for what is obviously a verbal attack.

kat (kata) + gen. "against [Paul and Silas]" - according to [them]. Here expressing opposition; "against".

perirhxanteV (perirhgnumi) aor. part. "stripped" - having torn off [the garments of them]. The participle is adverbial, temporal; "after having them stripped", Moffatt.

rabdizein (rabdizw) aor. inf. "[ordered them] to be ..... beaten" - to be beaten with wooden rods. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech, expressing what the magistrates commanded; "commended that they be beaten".


The beating was corporal punishment inflicted by the magistrate's attendants.

epiqenteV (epitiqhmi) aor. part. "after [they] had been [severely] flogged" - [and] having inflicted on, laid on. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

autoiV dat. pro. "they" - them [many blows, wounds]. Dative of direct object after the epi prefix verb "to inflict upon."

paraggeilanteV (paraggellw) aor. part. "was commanded" - [they threw them into jail] having commanded, ordered [the jailer]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "throw"; "they threw them into jail and commanded the jailer ..." The dative "jailer" is a dative of indirect object.

threin (threw) pres. inf. "to guard [them carefully]" - to guard [securely them]. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what the magistrate commanded.


"Threw them into the maximum security cell in the jail and clamped leg irons on them", Peterson.

labwn (lambanw) aor. part. " when he received [these orders]" - [who] having received [such an order]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV, even causal; "Since he had received such an order", Barclay.

eiV + acc. "in the stocks" - [threw them into the inside jail and the feet of them he fastened] into [the wood = stock]. Local, expressing movement toward and/or arrival at. This was a rather painful exercise as the leg-holes were often far apart; a very painful business for a person with short legs!


iii] The conversion of the Philippian jailer and his household, v25-34. In prison, Paul and Silas are singing hymns when all of a sudden the prison is shaken by the hand of God; the prison doors are flung open and Paul and Silas find themselves freed from the stocks. The prison warder, fearing the consequences, is about to take his life, when Paul shouts out from the darkness that they are still in the prison. By remaining, rather than running, the warder is opened to the gospel and so he invites the missionaries back to his home. On hearing the gospel, he and his family came to put their faith in Jesus.

kata + acc. "about" - [but/and] according to = toward [midnight]. Temporal use of the preposition, so "about midnight."

proseucomenoi (proseucomai) pres. part. "praying [and singing hymns to God]" - [paul and silas] praying [were hymning god]. The participle is usually treated as attendant on the verb "to hymn", so "were praying and singing hymns to God", as NIV, ESV, etc. Yet, it seems better to treat it as adverbial, temporal; "while they were at their prayers", so Moffatt. It was during their prayer-time, that they "were singing praises to God", REB. This seems a better translation than suggesting that we have here the first example of a hymn sandwich - hymn, prayers, hymn, prayers, hymn (but missing the sermon!)..... Given that both Paul and Silas are Jews, their "hymning" (a durative imperfect) would most likely be in the singing of Psalms. Note the accusative ton qeon, "the God", usually treated as the accusative direct object of the verb "to hymn." Yet, do we sing hymns to God, or do we sing them about God, in honour of God, ie., adverbial accusative of reference / respect? We often sing to an audience to entertain, but do we sing to God to entertain him? A purist would argue that only hymns of praise have a valid place in Christian worship, ie., hymns about God. Whatever the intent of the accusative here, we can certainly do without love songs to Jesus (easily identified by replacing Jesus with John or Joan).

autwn gen. pro. "[were listening to] them" - [but and the prisoners were listening to] them. Genitive of direct object after the epi prefix verb "to listen to."


A miraculous intervention by God in the terms of Peter's release from jail.

wJste + inf. "that [the foundations of the prison were shaken]" - [but/and suddenly there came a great earthquake] so as [to be shaken]. This construction, wJste, followed by an infinitive, usually forms a consecutive clause expressing result, "with the result that ...." The shaking is of "the foundations", meaning the substance upon which the building is built, therefore, possibly "so as to shake the ground upon which [the prison] was built." To the modern ear, shaking foundations is a rather strange image.

tou desmwthriou (on) gen. "of the prison" - [the foundations] of the jail. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

paracrhma adv. "at once" - [but/and were opened] immediately [all the doors were opened]. Temporal adverb, possibly in the sense of "unexpectedly" rather than "immediately", Barclay; "in an instant", Moffatt.

tantwn gen. adj. "everyone's" - [all the doors were opened, and all the bonds, chains] of everyone [were forgiven = unfastened]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive; "the prisoner's shackles fell off."


"For a man brought up to a Roman soldier's ideas of duty and discipline, there was only one course open - suicide", Bruce.

genomenoV (ginomai) aor. part. "[the jailer] woke up" - [but/and the jailer] having become [awake and having seen]. The participle, along with the conjoined participle "having seen", is adverbial, best treated as temporal; "When the jailer started from his sleep and saw the prison doors open", Moffatt.

thV fulakhV (h) gen. "the prison [doors]" - [the doors] of the prison. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or partitive.

anew/gmenaV (anoigw) perf. pas. part. "open" - having been opened. The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "the doors [of the jail]", forming a double accusative construction and asserting a fact about the object "the doors", namely that they were open; he "saw that the doors of the prison had been opened", Phillips.

spasamenoV (spaw) aor. part. "he drew [his sword]" - having drawn [the sword he was about to kill himself]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb hmellen "to be about to", and its infinitive complement anairein "to kill [himself]"; "He pulled out his sword and was about to kill himself", CEV.

nomizwn (nomizw) pres. part. "because he thought" - supposing, thinking, assuming, presuming. The participle is adverbial, probably causal; "He acted in this manner because he supposed the prisoners had made good their escape", Cassirer.

ekpefeugenai (ekfeugw) perf. inf. "had escaped" - [the prisoners] to have run away. The infinitive introduces a dependent statement of perception expressing what the jailer supposed / thought; "he thought that the prisoners had run away." The accusative subject of the infinitive is "the prisoners."


It's still dark, so obviously the jailer is assuming his prisoners have escaped, although looking out from the dark, Paul can see what the jailer is about to do.

megalh/ fwnh "[Paul shouted]" - [but/and paul shouted] in a loud voice. The dative is adverbial, instrumental, "by means of", or modal, expressing the manner of his calling out, "with a loud voice"; "Paul shouted using a loud voice."

legwn (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant, serving to introduce direct speech.

mhden praxhV (prassw) aor. subj. "don't [harm]" - nothing may do [harm]. Subjunctive of prohibition; "Do yourself no harm, we are all here", CEV.

seautw/ dat. ref. pro. "yourself" - to yourself. Dative of indirect object.

gar "-" - for [we are here]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why he should do no harm to himself, namely because Paul and Silas have not tried to escape.


Luke's use of the adjective entromoV, "trembling", is stylistic, typical of Greek literature where strong emotions are "extravagantly displayed", Johnson.

aithsaV (aitew) aor. part. "called for" - [but/and] having asked, called for [lights, he rushed in]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "to rush in"; "He called for torches and sprang in." The plural "lights" indicates that the jailer has called for "torches" (bundled fire sticks) or possibly "lamps", rather than "lights", since the singular "light" would be used.

genomenoV (ginomai) aor. part. "[fell] trembling [before]" - having become [trembling he fell down before]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he fell down before"; "He began to tremble and prostrated himself before Paul", TNT. The jailor fell semi-faint at the feet of Paul - the wind had been knocked out of him.

tw/ paulw/ dat. "[fell .... before] Paul" - paul [and silas]. Dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "to fall before."


Luke is obviously summarising the jailer's conversion, so much so that the Western text builds the verse out a bit. As it is, the jailer's response links to the earthquake, implying that they are kurioi, "Lords", divine men, gods on a mission to earth, a title Paul would reject immediately. So, the jailer's address is most likely "Sirs", not "Lords", and we must assume a lengthy discussion before his request for salvation.

proagagwn (proagw) aor. part. "he then brought [them] out" - [and] having gone before [them outside he said]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to say"; "he led them out of the prison and said."

ti "what" - what. The question is surely theological and not just a request to be directed through a difficult situation. How much understanding the jailer has at this point in time is difficult to assess, but clearly Luke is intent on explaining to his readers what is required for eternal salvation.

poiein (poiew) "[must] I do" - [me] to do [is necessary]. The infinitive serves as the subject of the verb dei "it is necessary", while me, "me", serves as its accusative subject. "What do I have to do to be saved, to really live?" Peterson.

iJna + subj. "to be [saved]" - that i may be saved. Probably final, introducing a purpose clause; "in order that I may be saved."


Luke precisely outlines the necessary requirement for entrance into God's new age kingdom / participation in his eternal covenant community, the Way, namely, through faith in Jesus, and nothing else. This brings with it salvation, or as John puts it in his gospel, eternal life, and this not just for the one who believes, but also his immediate family.

oiJ de "they" - but/and they [they said]. Transitional construction indicating a change in subject from the jailer to Paul and Silas.

epi + acc. "[believe] in" - [believe] upon [the lord jesus]. Spatial; "on, upon." Virtually interchangeable with eiV, "into", or en, "in". The key lies with the sense of pisteuw, "believe / put faith in / rest upon". So, here with the sense is rely on, put one's weight on.

swqhsh/ (swzw) fut. "you will be saved" - [and] you will be saved. The eschatological hope of Israel - new life in the kingdom of God = eternal peace and joy.

oJ oikoV (oV) "household" - [you and] the house [of you]. "You and the house" serves as the compound nominative subject of the future verb "will be saved." As already noted, we may draw a general principle from this promise, but it primarily remains a particular promise to a particular person at a particular point in time, and not a general promise for all people for all time. This removes Barrett's concern over the promise covering infants, so requiring a literal understanding of the statement that the gospel was delivered to "all who were in the house", ie., they were of an age to understand it. With issues like this, it is never wise to try to wholly eliminate God's sovereign will in his dealings with humanity. Note also that oikoV primarily means "household", a term that includes servants, and for Jews, even includes the stranger within the gates, cf., 11:14. For the OT principle that God's covenant blessings apply to households / family units, see Gen.12:2-3; 17:7-14; 18:17-19.


The phrase "the word of the Lord" (variant "God") usually refers to the gospel. Paul and Silas now take time to explain the substance of the message to, not only the jailer, but his household as well. The logistics of this, and of the baptisms that follows in v33, is somewhat unclear, in that Luke tells us that the jailer takes Paul and Silas home with him after presenting the gospel to the household and after the communal baptism, v34. It's clear that the logistics are not front and centre for Luke.

tou kuriou (oV) gen. "[the word] of the Lord" - [and they spoke the word] of the lord. The genitive is adjectival, and may be classified as possessive, "the Lord's word", or idiomatic / source, "the word from the Lord."

autw/ pro. "to him" - to him. Dative of indirect object. The condensed nature of Luke's account is a mite unclear. Paul obviously presents the gospel message to the jailer in the jail, and later, probably in more detail, to his family and attendants (in the jail precinct ???). "They went on to spell out in detail the story of the Master", Peterson.

sun + dat. "and to" - with. Expressing accompaniment / association, "along with"; "as well as to all those who belonged to his household", Cassirer.

pasin toiV dat. "all the others" - to all the ones [in the house of him]. The articular adjective serves as a substantive, dative of indirect object. If there were children in the family, Barrett thinks that they would not be involved. This would certainly align with cultural convention, although it is an assumption.


Barrett makes the point that the household is baptised without instruction. Catechetical instruction prior to baptism did soon become a tradition in the Christian church, but at this point of time, baptism is administered at the point of conversion, so serving as an outward expression of repentance.

en + dat. "at" - in [that hour]. A temporal use of the preposition; "while it was still night", CEV.

thV nuktoV (x toV) gen. "of the night" - of the night. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

paralabwn (paralambanw) aor. part. "took" - having taken [them]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "washed". "He took them into the bathhouse / bathroom / courtyard and cleansed their wounds."

apo + gen. "[washed their wounds]" - [he washed] from [the wounds]. Expressing separation; "away from." Elliptical, or probably better, idiomatic; "he washed the dirt and infection from their wounds." "He bathed and cleansed their wounds."

kai "then" - and. Coordinative.

paracrhma adv. "immediately" - at once. Temporal adverb. As already noted, the account is condensed so it is unclear how the "household" got to hear the gospel in the interval between moving from the jail to the jailer's home (were the buildings combined?). Bruce suggests that "the washing and the baptism took place after he brought them out of the prison and before he took them into his house, probably at a well in the courtyard."

autou gen. pro. "[all] his [family]" - [he was baptised and all the ones] of him. The genitive is adjectival, relational. See above on the issue of "all of his household, his entire family."


Luke equates the action of a person who exercises faith upon the Lord Jesus (v31) with the action of a person having found faith in God (v34) - both actions are the same, and are applied to the same object. And having exercised faith, Luke, both in his gospel and in Acts, describes the person's conversion-response as one of hgalliasato, "joyfulness"", Lk10:21, Acts 2:26

te .... kai "-" - and. Coordinating construction; "and then he brought them ... and rejoiced along with his entire household."

anagagwn (anagw) aor. part. "[the jailer] brought [them]" - having led [them into the house]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he set before"; "he brought them into his house and set food before them."

trapezan (a) "a meal" - [he set before them] a table. Idiomatic of providing a meal for a person, in that it was customary to set "an individual table ... beside each guest", Bruce.

hgalliasato (agalliaw) 3 ps. sing. aor. mid. "he was filled with joy" - [and] he was overjoyed, very happy. The NIV seems on the mark, given the person and number of this verb, but a collective sense is possible, "the whole household celebrated their conversion", NJB, see below.

pepisteukwV (pisteuw) perf. part. "because he had come to believe in" - having believed. The participle is adverbial, probably causal as NIV. This participle may be taken with either the verb "he was overjoyed" alone, or with the verb and the adverb "with ones entire household". So, Luke is either saying that the jailer, along with his family, was filled with joy, because he believed in God, or that the jailer, along with his family, were filled with joy because he and the family had come to believe in God. NRSV takes the first option, NIV the second. Either way, there's great joy.

tw/ qew/ (oV) dat. "in God" - god. Dative of direct object after the verb "to believe in."

panoikei adv. "he and his whole family" - with the entire household. An indeclinable adverb which takes the sense "with one's entire household"


iv] Official embarrassment, v35-40. Luke takes the time to record Paul's response to his imprisonment. As Roman citizens, Paul and Silas should not have to face arbitrary treatment under the law and so they call for an apology, and this they receive from the magistrates. They have though, infringed matters of public order and trade and so are respectfully asked to leave town. This they do after encouraging the new church now meeting in Lydia's home. The account reflects Luke's apologetic on behalf of the church of the Way. With respect to Roman law, the church of the Way is compliant and law-abiding, worthy participants in Roman society.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

genoenhV (ginomai) aor. part. "when it was [daylight]" - [the day] having become. The genitive participle and its genitive subject form a genitive absolute construction, temporal, as NIV.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "with the order" - [the magistrates sent the/their attendants (rJabdoucoi, "Lictors")] saying [release those men]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to send", semi-redundant, but introducing direct speech.


The jailer thinks the matter is settled in Paul's favour, and so bids him and Silas a hearty farewell, but Paul has other ideas.

oJti "-" - [the jailer announced toward paul] that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of direct / indirect speech expressing what the jailer announced.

iJna + subj. "that" - that [you may be released]. Introducing a final clause, expressing purpose, "in order that", or consecutive, expressing result, "with the result that."

oun "-" - therefore. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion.

exelqonteV (exercomai) aor. part. "you can leave" - having come out. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to go"; "Therefore, come out now and go in peace", ESV.

in + dat. "in [peace]" - [go] in [peace]. Adverbial used of the preposition, modal, express the manner of the going, namely, "peacefully", although by this time the phrase is a common idiomatic expression for "farewell", similar to our "Goodbye" = "Godbwye"= "God be with you."


Roman citizenship originally applied to the citizens of Rome and its environs, but by this time it had been extended somewhat. A citizen is protected from arbitrary treatment under the law and so Paul determines to make a point, with respect to his treatment. By addressing the matter with the magistrates, Paul removes any impropriety that may have attached itself to the church of the Way in Philippi.

oJ de "but [Paul]" - but/and the [paul]. Transitional construction indicating a change in subject from the jailer to Paul.

proV + acc. "to [the officers]" - [said] toward [them]. Instead of a dative, the preposition is used here to introduce the indirect object of the verb.

deiranteV (derw) aor. part. "they beat [us]" - having beaten us. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to throw"; "They publicly flogged us without a trial and they flung us into prison", Barclay.

dhmosia/ (oV) dat. "publicly" - in public. The dative is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the beating, "publicly".

akatakritouV adj. "without a trial" - uncondemned. The adjective serves as a substantive, accusative complement of the direct object "us", standing in a double accusative construction and asserting a fact about the object; "they have publicly beaten us, uncondemned men."

uJparcontaV (uJparcw) pres. part. "even though we are" - being [roman men they threw us into jail, and now they are secretly casting us out]. The participle is adverbial, concessive, as NIV, so Kellum, Rogers Gk.; "Notwithstanding the fact that we are Roman citizens, we have been thrown into prison", Cassirer. Culy suggests that it is adjectival, attributive, limiting "men"; "men who are Roman citizens", ESV.

ou gar "No!" - no for = indeed. The phrase is used to express an emphatic rejection of a proposal; "No way!"

elqonteV (ercomai) aor. part. "let them come" - [but] having come [themselves, let them lead us out]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the imperative of the verb "to lead away, to lead out." "Nothing doing! If they want us out of here, let them come themselves and lead us out in broad daylight", Peterson.


The magistrates have good reason to tremble, given the severe punishment that falls upon those guilty of maladministration. Rome had long learnt that violence was the best way to maintain order in their vast empire.

toiV strathgoiV (oV) dat. "to the magistrates" - [but/and the attendants reported] to the magistrates [these words]. Dative of indirect object.

akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "when they heard" - [but/and they were afraid] having heard. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal with a touch of cause, as NIV. "When the officers reported this, the judges panicked. They had no idea that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens", Peterson.

oJti "that" - that [they are romans]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what they heard.


The request for Paul and Silas to leave Philippi is presumably political; the magistrates will only keep their positions if they maintain public order. The Western text actually draws out this motivation by adding, "lest they again gather against us and cry out against you."

elqonteV (ercomai) aor. part. "they came [to appease them]" - [and] having come [they urged them]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to urge, beg, exhort", here with the sense "to apologise."

exagagonteV (exagw) aor. part. "escorted" - [and] having led out them. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal; "and after taking them out of prison", Moffatt.

apelqein (apercomai) aor. inf. "[requesting them] to leave" - [they were asking them] to depart from [from the city]. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what the magistrates asked Paul and Silas to do. In typical fashion the prepositional prefix of the infinitive, apo, "from", is repeated.


We could construe that Paul defiantly delays his departure, but it is more likely that Luke is telling us that he performs two important duties: he makes sure that the new church in Philippi is parakalew, "encouraged", for their new life together, and he complies with the request of the magistrates toward the maintenance of public order.

exelqonteV (exercomai) aor. part. "after [Paul and Silas] came out" - [and] having come out from [from the jail they came toward lydia]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV; "When they left the prison, they went to Lydia's house", Barclay.

idonteV (oJraw) aor. part. "where they met" - [and] having seen them [they encouraged the brothers and went out]. Again, the participle is best treated as adverbial, temporal; "and when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed", ESV.

Acts Introduction

Exegetical Commentaries


[Pumpkin Cottage]