Acts of Apostles 11:1-30

11  Now the apostles and the brothers who were in Ju·deʹa heard that people of the nations had also accepted the word of God.  So when Peter came up to Jerusalem, the supporters of circumcision+ began to criticize him,*  saying: “You went into the house of men who were not circumcised and ate with them.”  At this Peter went on to explain the matter in detail to them, saying:  “I was in the city of Jopʹpa praying, and while in a trance I saw a vision, something* descending like a great linen sheet being let down by its four corners from heaven, and it came right down to me.+  Looking closely into it, I observed four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles,* and birds of heaven.  I also heard a voice say to me: ‘Get up, Peter, slaughter and eat!’  But I said: ‘Certainly not, Lord, because a defiled or unclean thing has never entered my mouth.’  The second time, the voice from heaven answered: ‘You stop calling defiled the things God has cleansed.’ 10  This happened a third time, and everything was pulled up again into heaven. 11  Also just at that moment, three men were standing at the house where we were staying, having been sent to me from Caes·a·reʹa.+ 12  Then the spirit told me to go with them, not doubting at all. But these six brothers also went with me, and we entered into the house of the man. 13  “He reported to us how he saw the angel stand in his house and say: ‘Send men to Jopʹpa and summon Simon who is called Peter,+ 14  and he will tell you things by which you and all your household may get saved.’ 15  But when I started to speak, the holy spirit fell on them just as it did also on us in the beginning.+ 16  At this I recalled the saying of the Lord, how he used to say: ‘John baptized with water,+ but you will be baptized with holy spirit.’+ 17  If, therefore, God gave the same free gift to them that he gave to us who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I should be able to hinder God?”*+ 18  When they heard these things, they stopped objecting,* and they glorified God, saying: “So, then, God has also granted to people of the nations repentance leading to life.”+ 19  Now those who had been scattered+ by the tribulation that arose over Stephen went as far as Phoe·niʹcia,+ Cyʹprus, and Antioch, but they spoke the word only to the Jews.+ 20  However, some of the men among them from Cyʹprus and Cy·reʹne came to Antioch and began talking to the Greek-speaking people, declaring the good news of the Lord Jesus. 21  Furthermore, the hand of Jehovah was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord.+ 22  The report about them reached the ears of the congregation in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barʹna·bas+ as far as Antioch. 23  When he arrived and saw the undeserved kindness of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all to continue in the Lord with heartfelt resolve;+ 24  for he was a good man and full of holy spirit and faith. And a considerable crowd was added to the Lord.+ 25  So he went to Tarsus to make a thorough search for Saul.+ 26  After he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year they assembled with them in the congregation and taught quite a crowd, and it was first in Antioch that the disciples were by divine providence called Christians.+ 27  In those days prophets+ came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28  One of them named Agʹa·bus+ stood up and foretold through the spirit that a great famine was about to come on the entire inhabited earth,+ which, in fact, did take place in the time of Claudius.+ 29  So the disciples determined, each according to what he could afford,+ to send relief+ to the brothers living in Ju·deʹa; 30  and this they did, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barʹna·bas and Saul.+

Footnotes

Or “began to contend with him; took issue with him.”
Lit., “some sort of object (vessel).”
Or “creeping things.”
Or “to stand in God’s way.”
Lit., “they became silent.”

Study Notes

Antioch: This city was located in Syria on the river Orontes, some 32 km (20 mi) upstream from the Mediterranean seaport of Seleucia. By the first century C.E., Syrian Antioch ranked third in size and wealth among the cities of the Roman Empire, after Rome and Alexandria. It hosted a large and ancient Jewish community, and there was no great hostility between Jews and Gentiles at this time. Syrian Antioch apparently offered the right atmosphere for something new to take place​—the disciples were preaching not only to Jews but also to uncircumcised Gentiles. (See study note on the Greek-speaking people in this verse.) This Antioch should not be confused with Antioch in Pisidia in Asia Minor.​—See study notes on Ac 6:5; 13:14 and App. B13.

the Greek-speaking people: Lit., “Hellenists.” The meaning of the Greek term used here (Hel·le·ni·stesʹ) has to be determined by the context. When used at Ac 6:1, it most likely means “Greek-speaking Jews.” (See study note on Ac 6:1.) This has led some scholars to conclude that the disciples in Syrian Antioch must have been preaching to circumcised Jews or proselytes who spoke Greek. However, what is described here apparently refers to a new development in Antioch. As mentioned at Ac 11:19, the preaching of God’s word in Antioch had previously been restricted to Jews only, but now the message was apparently spreading among the non-Jews living there. Barnabas was likely dispatched to Antioch to encourage these new disciples who communicated in Greek. (Ac 11:22, 23) Some ancient manuscripts use the word Helʹle·nas (meaning “Greeks”; see Ac 16:3) here instead of Hel·le·ni·stesʹ. So a number of translations use the terms “the Greeks” or “the Gentiles.” These terms would indicate that none of those spoken to in Antioch were adherents to the Jewish religion. It is possible, though, that both Jews and Gentiles familiar with the Greek language may have been referred to, and for that reason, the term “Greek-speaking people” is used in this translation. These Greek-speaking people may have come from various national backgrounds, but they adopted the Greek language and perhaps Greek customs.

hand of Jehovah: This phrase, as well as “Jehovah’s hand,” is often found in the Hebrew Scriptures as a combination of the Hebrew word for “hand” and the Tetragrammaton. (Some examples are found at Ex 9:3; Nu 11:23; Jg 2:15; Ru 1:13; 1Sa 5:6, 9; 7:13; 12:15; 1Ki 18:46; Ezr 7:6; Job 12:9; Isa 19:16; 40:2; Eze 1:3.) In the Bible, the term “hand” is often used figuratively for “power.” Since the hand applies the power of the arm, “hand” may also convey the idea of “applied power.” The Greek expression rendered “the hand of Jehovah” (or, “Jehovah’s hand”) also occurs at Lu 1:66 and Ac 13:11.​—See study notes on Lu 1:6, 66 and App. C3 introduction; Ac 11:21.

were by divine providence called: Most Bible translations simply read “were called.” However, the Greek words commonly rendered “called” are not used here. (Mt 1:16; 2:23; Mr 11:17; Lu 1:32, 60; Ac 1:12, 19) The word that appears in this verse is khre·ma·tiʹzo, and in most of the nine places where it occurs in the Christian Greek Scriptures, it clearly refers to things that come from God, that have a divine origin. (Mt 2:12, 22; Lu 2:26; Ac 10:22; 11:26; Ro 7:3; Heb 8:5; 11:7; 12:25) For example, at Ac 10:22, this word is used together with the expression “by a holy angel,” and at Mt 2:12, 22, it is used in connection with divinely inspired dreams. The related noun khre·ma·ti·smosʹ appears at Ro 11:4, and most lexicons and Bible translations use such renderings as “divine pronouncement; divine response; God’s reply; the answer of God.” It is possible that Jehovah directed Saul and Barnabas to use the name Christians. Some have suggested that the Gentile population in Antioch may have used the nickname Christians out of jest or scorn, but the usage of the Greek term khre·ma·tiʹzo clearly indicates that God was responsible for the designation “Christians.” And it would have been most unlikely that the Jews would label Jesus’ followers “Christians” (from Greek) or “Messianists” (from Hebrew). They had rejected Jesus as the Messiah, or Christ, so they would not have tacitly recognized him as the Anointed One, or Christ, by identifying his followers with the designation “Christians.”

Christians: The Greek term Khri·sti·a·nosʹ, meaning “follower of Christ,” is found only three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (Ac 11:26; 26:28; 1Pe 4:16) It is derived from Khri·stosʹ, meaning Christ, or Anointed One. Christians follow both the example and the teachings of Jesus, “the Christ,” or the one anointed by Jehovah. (Lu 2:26; 4:18) The designation “Christians” was given “by divine providence” possibly as early as the year 44 C.E. when the events mentioned in this text occurred. The name apparently gained widespread acceptance, so that when Paul appeared before King Herod Agrippa II, about 58 C.E., Agrippa knew who the Christians were. (Ac 26:28) The historian Tacitus indicates that by about the year 64 C.E., the term “Christian” was in use among the general population in Rome. In addition, sometime between 62 and 64 C.E., Peter wrote his first letter to Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire. By then, the name Christian seems to have been widespread, distinctive, and specific. (1Pe 1:1, 2; 4:16) With this divinely provided name, Jesus’ disciples could no longer be mistaken for a sect of Judaism.

a great famine: The report of this disaster, which occurred about 46 C.E., was corroborated by Josephus, who also referred to “the great famine” that occurred during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius. Famines were particularly hard on the poor, who had no reserves of money or food. The Christians in Antioch were thus moved to send a relief contribution to their impoverished brothers in Judea.

in the time of Claudius: Roman Emperor Claudius, who ruled from 41 to 54 C.E., began his reign with a friendly disposition toward the Jews. By the end of his reign, the relationship had soured, and he expelled all Jews from Rome. (Ac 18:2) Claudius was reportedly poisoned with mushrooms given to him by his fourth wife. Nero succeeded him.

relief: Or “a relief ministration.” This is the first recorded instance of Christians sending relief aid to fellow Christians living in another part of the world. The Greek word di·a·ko·niʹa, often rendered “ministry,” is also used in the sense of “relief work” at Ac 12:25 and “relief ministry” at 2Co 8:4. The use of the Greek word di·a·ko·niʹa in the Christian Greek Scriptures shows that Christians have a twofold ministry. One aspect is “the ministry [form of di·a·ko·niʹa] of the reconciliation,” that is, the preaching and teaching work. (2Co 5:18-20; 1Ti 2:3-6) The other aspect involves their ministry in behalf of fellow believers, as mentioned here. Paul stated: “There are different ministries [plural of di·a·ko·niʹa], and yet there is the same Lord.” (1Co 12:4-6, 11) He showed that these different aspects of the Christian ministry all constitute “sacred service.”​—Ro 12:1, 6-8.

the elders: Lit., “the older men.” In the Bible, the Greek term pre·sbyʹte·ros refers primarily to those who hold a position of authority and responsibility in a community or a nation, although the term sometimes refers to physically older men. (See study note on Mt 16:21.) In the ancient nation of Israel, elders shared the responsibility of leadership and administration, both on a community level (De 25:7-9; Jos 20:4; Ru 4:1-12) and on a national level (Jg 21:16; 1Sa 4:3; 8:4; 1Ki 20:7). This is the first use of the term in connection with the Christian congregation. As had been true in fleshly Israel, the elders in spiritual Israel were responsible for the direction of the congregation. In this context, the elders were the ones who received the relief contribution, and they supervised its distribution to the congregations in Judea.

Media

Joppa
Joppa

This video shows the seaport of Joppa, located on the Mediterranean Coast halfway between Mount Carmel and Gaza. Modern Yafo (Arabic, Jaffa) merged with Tel Aviv in 1950. Now Tel Aviv-Yafo occupies the ancient site. Joppa was situated on a rocky hill rising to a height of about 35 m (115 ft), and its harbor is formed by a low ledge of rocks about 100 m (330 ft) from the coast. The Tyrians floated rafts of timber from the forests of Lebanon to Joppa to be used in constructing Solomon’s temple. (2Ch 2:16) Later, the prophet Jonah, seeking to flee his assignment, went to Joppa and boarded a ship bound for Tarshish. (Jon 1:3) In the first century C.E., there was a Christian congregation in Joppa. In that group was Dorcas (Tabitha), whom Peter resurrected. (Ac 9:36-42) And it was while staying at Simon the tanner’s house in Joppa that Peter received the vision that prepared him to preach to the Gentile Cornelius.—Ac 9:43; 10:6, 9-17.

Antioch of Syria—An Early Center of Christian Activity
Antioch of Syria—An Early Center of Christian Activity

Antioch of Syria was the capital of the Roman province of Syria. Along with Rome and Alexandria, it ranked as one of three major cities in the Roman Empire during the first century. Antioch was built on the eastern bank of the Orontes River (1) and originally included an island (2). Several miles downstream from the city was the port of Seleucia. Antioch could boast of its hippodrome (3) for horse and chariot racing, one of the largest at the time. Antioch was well-known for its immense colonnaded street (4), which Herod the Great paved with marble. Later, Tiberius Caesar added roofed colonnades and decorated the street with mosaics and statues. This multicultural city had a large Jewish community (5). From this group, many became Christians. Antioch was the first place where Jesus’ disciples were called Christians. (Ac 11:26) In time, many Gentiles became believers. About 49 C.E., the question of circumcision arose, so a delegation, including Paul and Barnabas, was sent to the governing body in Jerusalem to receive direction. (Ac 15:1, 2, 30) The apostle Paul used Antioch as a home base for all three of his missionary tours. (Ac 13:1-3; 15:35, 40, 41; 18:22, 23) This map includes a composite illustration of the city walls as they appeared over a number of centuries.

Antioch of Syria
Antioch of Syria

This photograph shows the city of Antakya in modern-day Türkiye. It is the location of the ancient city of Antioch, capital of the Roman province of Syria. In the first century C.E., Antioch of Syria is said to have been the third-largest city in the Roman world, after Rome and Alexandria. Some estimate that its population was 250,000 or more. After Stephen was murdered by a mob in Jerusalem and persecution broke out against Jesus’ followers, some disciples of Jesus came to Antioch. They preached the good news with much success among Greek-speaking people. (Ac 11:19-21) Later, the apostle Paul used Antioch as a home base for his missionary tours. “It was first in Antioch that the disciples were by divine providence called Christians.” (Ac 11:26) Antioch of Syria is not to be confused with another city named Antioch, in Pisidia (central Türkiye), mentioned at Ac 13:14; 14:19, 21, and 2Ti 3:11.

Emperor Claudius
Emperor Claudius

The book of Acts twice refers to Roman Emperor Claudius by name. (Ac 11:28; 18:2) He succeeded his nephew Caligula (who ruled from 37 to 41 C.E. and who is not mentioned in the Scriptures) to become the fourth emperor of Rome, ruling from 41 to 54 C.E. About the year 49 or 50 C.E., Claudius ordered all Jews to leave Rome. As a result, Priscilla and Aquila moved to Corinth, where they met the apostle Paul. Claudius’ fourth wife reportedly poisoned him in 54 C.E., and he was succeeded by Emperor Nero.