Bibliotheca Sacra 151 (January-March 1994) 32-49.

           Copyright © 1994 by Dallas Theological Seminary.  Cited with permission.



                          PAUL'S SERMON

                   IN ANTIOCH OF PISIDIA


                                           David A. deSilva


            Acts 13 occupies a privileged place in Luke's narra-

tive. Beginning in chapter 13 Paul's ministry dominates the nar-

rative to the end of the book. The mission of the church begun in

the first half of the book has now reached a new stage; no longer is

Palestine the central geographical focus. While Jerusalem re-

mains important for the remainder of Acts, the reader's attention

is turned to "the Gentiles over whom My name [the Lord's] has

been called" (15:17).1 This change was prepared for in the citation

from Joel in Acts 2:21, the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham

in 3:25, and the conversion of Cornelius recorded in Acts 10-11.

As at other important junctures in Acts,2 so here Luke marked

and illuminated the significance of the turning of this corner

with a speech.

            What is the significance of Paul's review of God's saving

acts toward Israel recorded in Acts 13:17-22? How does the topic of

promise and fulfillment work in this sermon? What argument is

being developed through the three citations of Scripture in 13:33-35

(Ps. 2:7; Isa. 55:3; Ps. 16:10)? What place does Acts 13:38-39 have

in the argument? What "work" is referred to in verse 41?

Through the answers to these questions a picture emerges of what

Luke sought to accomplish through recording this sermon.



            Paul and Barnabas had been set apart by the Holy Spirit for

"the work (to> e@rgon) to which I have called them" (13:2). The


David A. deSilva is a Ph.D. candidate in religion, Emory University, Atlanta, Geor-



1 Scripture references are from the New Revised Standard Version.

2 Martin Dibelius, Studies in the Acts of the Apostles, trans. Mary Ling (New

York: Scribner, 1956), 175.

         Paul's Sermon in Antioch of Pisidia                        33


grammatical definiteness of the work causes one to look back to

the ascended Lord's description of the work He had in mind for

Paul, as stated in 9:15: "he is an instrument whom I have chosen

to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people

of Israel." The double reference to their being “sent off” (13:3-4)

makes clear that their work was considered a mission.

            The missionaries, having left Cyprus and reached Antioch,

entered the synagogue, a frequent place of preaching for Paul and

his companions. Paul went first to the synagogue in almost every

city in which he preached the gospel (Iconium, 14:1; Thessa-

lonica, 17:1-3; Berea, 17:10-12; Athens, 17:17; Corinth, 18:4; Eph-

esus, 18:19 and 19:8). Luke provided some summary statements

about the content of these discussions or homilies in the syna-

gogues. For example in 17:2-3 Paul "argued with them from the

Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the

Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This is

the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.’" In 13:16-41

this preaching is expanded into a full address. Luke also gave

details about the proceedings of the service. This included a read-

ing from the Law, a reading from the prophets, and an address, a

(lo<goj paraklh<sewj, "a word of exhortation," v. 15), which the

leaders of the synagogue invited Paul and Barnabas to give.

            The sermon that follows, then, is a "word of exhortation" (cf.

the description of the homilylike Epistle to the Hebrews in Heb.

13:22). Pillai, however, identifies lo<goj paraklh<sewj as a techni-

cal term for a unit of tradition, consisting of a liturgical credo

which recites the saving acts of God, and which is transmitted

from rabbi to student.3 The "word of exhortation" would then be

limited to the words recorded in Acts 13:17-22. Pillai, however, of-

fers no evidence for this view, and the one other occurrence of the

phrase in the New Testament (in Heb. 13:22) is against this view.

Other scholars see Paul's entire sermon (Acts 13:17-41) as the

"word of encouragement," particularly Kilgallen, who sees the

argument as a whole leading up to verses 38-39.4 Buss notes fur-

ther that the lo<goj paraklh<sewj is called a lo<goj swthri<aj in

verse 26.5


3 C. A. Joachim Pillai, Early Missionary Preaching (New York: Exposition Uni-

versity Press, 1979), 55.

4 John J. Kilgallen, "Acts 13, 38-39: Culmination of Paul's Speech in Pisidia," Bib-

lica 69 (1988): 482.

5 Matthaus F.-J. Buss, Die Missionspredigt des Apostels Paulus im Pisidischen

Antiochien (Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1980), 142.

34        BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January–March 1994




            Carrez and Schneider say the threefold address in verses 16,

26, and 38 introduces three divisions of the speech.6 The content of

the speech supports this in that verses 16-25 treat the period leading

up to Christ, verses 26-37 develop the thesis that the times of

fulfillment have come through the presentation of the kerygma

and argumentation from Scripture, and verses 38-41 provide the

conclusion and exhortation.

            On the other hand Buss and Pillai' follow a topical division of

the speech.7 Verses 16-23 comprise the introduction, verses 24-26

relate to John the Baptist, verses 27-31 present the kerygma, verses

32-37 give scriptural proofs, and verses 38-41 present a call to re-

pentance. The difficulties with this scheme are that it does vio-

lence to the natural division of the speech by the three apostrophes

and does not associate clearly enough the "message" or "word of

salvation" (v. 26) with the kerygma (vv. 27-31). While the phrase

"message of this salvation" does not occur elsewhere in Acts, one

might most naturally associate it with the "message about this

life" (5:20), "the word of God" (6:2, 7), or "the word of the Lord"

(16:32; 19:10), all of which pertain to the proclamation of the gospel

and the benefits associated with it. Buss and Pillai's division,

however, does highlight the Lucan division of time elsewhere

between the Law and the Prophets and the appearance of John. (Cf.

Luke 16:16, as well as proclamations of the kerygma which began

with John the Baptist's ministry, including Acts 1:22 and 10:37.)

Syntactically, however, the words about John the Baptist in 13:24

are connected with what precedes, which one's proposed structure

should reflect.

            A third alternative in recent scholarship is to approach the

structure of the speech through its movement from the past of his-

tory into the present. Thus Carrez divides the speech into past time

(vv. 17-25) and "the present time of realization and accomplish-

ment,"8 and Kilgallen places only verses 38-41 at the time of the

hearers.9 This achieves their primary goal of searching out the


6 Maurice Carrez, "Presence et Fonctionnement de L'Ancien Testament Bans

L'Annonce de L'Evangile," Recherches de Science religieuse 63 (1975): 336; and

Gerhard Schneider, Die Apostelgeschichte, II. Tell (Freiburg: Herder, 1982), 130.

7 Buss, Die Missionspredigt des Apostels Paulus im Pisidischen .Antiochien, 91;

and C. A. Joachim Pillai, Apostolic Interpretation of History (New York: Exposi-

tion University Press, 1980), 8.

8 Carrez, "Presence et Fonctionnement de L'Ancien Testament dans L'Annonce

de L'Evangile," 337.

9 Kilgallen, "Acts 13, 38-39: Culmination of Paul's Speech in Pisidia," 488.


           Paul's Sermon in Antioch of Pisidia                        35


climax of the speech, but does not in itself open up the structure of

the speech as units of argumentation.

            The present writer follows the structure suggested by the repe-

tition of the apostrophe (vv. 16, 26, 38). The announcement in

verse 32 ("we bring you" the good news about the promise given to

the ancestors) suggests a subdivision of the second section of the

speech. Content would support a division here, as verses 26-31

provide the complete kerygma (by analogy with 1 Cor. 15:3-7) and

Acts 13:32-37 develops an argument from Scripture that proves the

truth of the thesis stated in verses 32-33.




            In verse 16 Paul addressed his hearers as "you Israelites"

and "others who fear God," indicating the mixed congregation in

Antioch. This double address was repeated in verse 26 as "you de-

scendants of Abraham's family, and others who fear God." Paul

was conscious of his mission to the Gentiles even when preaching

in the synagogue. In the synagogue Gentiles were prepared for the

kerygma and arguments from Scripture concerning Jesus. The

tension in Paul's multiple announcement that he was turning to

the Gentiles (13:46; 18:6; 28:28) is therefore not to be resolved by

supposing that in each town he must first preach to and be rejected

by Jews before he could turn to the Gentiles.

            Paul opened the speech with a summary of God's mighty acts

in Israel's history, moving from the election of the patriarchs and

Israel's deliverance from Egypt (13:17) to their taking possession

of the land of Canaan (v. 19), the giving of judges to lead them (v.

20), the establishment of a kingdom under Saul (v. 21), and the

raising up of David to be king over Israel in Saul's place (v. 22).

The language is highly influenced by the Septuagint, as com-

mentaries and the marginal notes in the Nestle-Aland text am-

ply document. The sense of the verses is straightforward, except

for the difficulty posed in verse 20 as to when the 450 years began.

Bruce counts them as referring to the 400 years of sojourning in

Egypt, the 40 years in the wilderness, and the time (about 10 years)

taken to conquer the land.10 Conzelmann suggests as the probable

meaning that "he gave them the land for 450 years, and after the

conquest, he gave them judges."11 Given the grammar of the text,


10 F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of Acts (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960),


11 Hans Conzelmann, Acts of the Apostles, trans. James Limberg, A. T. Kraalbel,

and D. H. Juel (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), 104.

36        BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January—March 1994


this makes the clearest sense. Since the w[j in verse 18 points to an

extent of time, namely, the period of wandering in the wilder-

ness, the w[j in verse 20 should also refer to an extent of time,

namely, the dispossession of the nations and the inheritance of

Canaan. The event to which it is syntactically connected is the

inheritance of the land. The phrase "after that" (v. 20b), then,

refers not to the passing of the 450 years (v. 20a) but to the dispos-

session of the seven nations and the inheritance of the land (v.

19). Once the rule passed to a king, it could be said that he became

the possessor of the land.

            The passage recounts a steady climax from the election of the

patriarchs to the raising up of David as king (the oppression in

Egypt is passed over, as is the rebellion of the people, which was so

much the focus of Stephen's speech in Acts 7). David's reign is

lauded in many psalms and prophetic texts as the zenith of Is-

raelite history. For Paul, however, the zenith is reached in the ap-

pearance of the "Savior Jesus" (13:23). While Second Temple Ju-

daism longed for the appearance of the scion of David who would

restore Israel's former glory (cf. Ps. Sol. 17:21-24), Paul pro-

claimed this One as having come, in accord with the promise

(kat ] e]paggeli<an, Acts 13:23).

            Buss warns against seeing this promise solely against the

background of the Davidic promise. He says Luke "has the whole

OT before his eyes as a single e]paggeli<a."12 Others, however, ar-

gue persuasively that in this verse the promise made to David is

in view.13 The reference to the "posterity" (Acts 13:23) of David

whom God will raise up echoes the promise in 2 Samuel 7:16

(LXX). (Cf. Rom. 1:3, where Jesus is presented as "descended

from David according to the flesh.")

            The introduction of John the Baptist in Acts 13:24 occurs in a

genitive absolute construction, making it syntactically depen-

dent on verse 23. Here John is not presented, as in Luke 16:16 or

Acts 10:37, as introducing the beginning of a new stage in salva-

tion history, but as the forerunner of the One whose coming con-

stituted the climax of the past history of salvation. "He belongs to

the time before Jesus, in the time of the prophets."14 John's testi-

mony points to Jesus in the same manner as the prophets who are

cited in Luke and Acts; he and they were witnesses to the min-

istry of the Savior.

            Here, as Buss argues, one need not see the mention of John the


12 Buss, Die Missionspredigt des Apostels Paulus im Pisidischen Antiochien, 49.

13 Kilgallen, "Acts 13, 38-39: Culmination of Paul's Speech in Pisidia," 490.

14 Schneider, Die Apostelgeschichte, 134.

             Paul's Sermon in Antioch of Pisidia                        37


Baptist as apologetically motivated as an attempt to distance him

from Jesus.15 One might, rather, understand 19:4 in that way.

The emphasis in 13:24, however, is on John's role as herald or as

"Elijah redivivus."16 The phrase pro> prosw<pou recalls the proph-

ecy of Malachi 3:1 that a forerunner would come to Israel to pre-

pare the way (o[do<j, Mal. 3:1, LXX; cf. ei@so<doj, Acts 13:24) before

the eschatological "day of the Lord." The fulfillment of the

prophecy of the forerunner is associated here with John the Bap-

tist's ministry (cf. Mark 1:2). The testimony of John in Acts 13:25

(preserved also in Mark 1:7; Luke 3:16; and John 1:27) stresses

the significance of the One who appeared after the forerunner.

            What, then, does this first section in Paul's speech accom-

plish? Pillai is correct in rejecting Dibelius's position with re-

gard to the opening summary of history in Acts 13:17-22: "the first

section has no connection with the missionary—and there is cer-

tainly none with the content of the missionary sermon. All that is

given is a survey of the history of Israel."17 It is also more than a

supplement to Stephen's speech, even though Luke did present here

"other scenes."18 Bruce and Carrez correctly see these verses as a

sort of Old Testament "kerygma" or "credo of Israel," to which

one may attach the New Testament message.19 In its positive and

lofty portrayal of the history of Israel, it may also be described as

a captatio benevolentiae ("the securing of the hearer's goodwill")

suitable for the synagogue setting.20 (Pillai uses this as an argu-

ment in favor of the generally unfavored variant e]trofofo<rhsen,

"tenderly cared for" in verse 18,21 rather than e]tropofo<rhsen, "put

up with.") Conzelmann inappropriately calls verses 17-22 a

"proof from Scripture,"22 yet this rightly throws into relief the

continuity between these verses and verses 23-25. Verse 23 pre-

sents the goal of what was presented in verses 17-22. This ex-

ordium takes the rhetorical form of a narration. The purpose of

this form is to lead to the point to be adjudicated or developed


15 Buss, Die Missionspredigt des Apostels Paulus im Pisidischen Antiochien, 65.

16 Pillai, Apostolic Interpretation of History, 27.

17 Pillai, Early Missionary Preaching, 84.

18 Ernst Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles, trans. Basil Blackwell

(Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971), 415.

19 Bruce, Commentary on the Book of Acts, 272; Carrez, "Presence et Fonction-

nement de L'Ancien Testament dans L'Annonce de L'Evangile," 337.

20 Buss, Die Missionspredigt des Apostels Paulus im Pisidischen Antiochien, 48.

21 Pillai, Early Missionary Preaching, 85.

22 Conzelmann, Acts of the Apostles, 104.

38        BIBLIOTHECA SACRA/ January—March 1994


(depending on the type of speech). Here the narration of the high-

lights of Israel's history lead up to the coming of Jesus, the Savior,

to Israel, the significance of which is to be developed in the sec-

tions that follow. The subject of most of the verbs in these verses is

God.23 This underscores the connection between God's initiative

in Israel's history and His initiative in the present initiation of

the fulfillment of the Davidic, messianic promise.

            Luke has provided in this opening section a fitting response

to the request of the synagogue leaders for a "word of exhortation"

(v. 15). Read against the background of the apocryphal Psalm of

Solomon 17 and 18, this message is a word of the greatest encour-

agement. That section describes the hope of the coming of the Da-

vidic Messiah and the anticipated blessedness of His future

reign: "See, Lord, and raise up for them their king, the Son of

David, to rule over your servant Israel in the time known to you,

0 God. Undergird him with the strength to destroy the unrigh-

teous rulers, . . . To smash the arrogance of sinners like a potter's

jar; To shatter all their substance with an iron rod. . . . Blessed

are those born in those days to see the good fortune of Israel which

God will bring to pass in the assembly of the tribes" (17:21-24, 44).

"Blessed are those born in those days, to see the good things of the

Lord which he will do for the coming generation [which will be]

under the rod of discipline of the Lord Messiah" (18:6-7).

            The "word of exhortation" is that the God who acted in Israel's

past has also acted in the most recent past to fulfill the promise of

the coming of One in whom the promises of future blessing would

become present possibilities, clearly visible on the horizon, hav-

ing first sent His herald, John the Baptist. The content of these

promises becomes clear as Paul's sermon progresses.



            This second section of Paul's message opens with the decla-

ration to the "descendants of Abraham's family" and "others who

fear God" that "to us the message of this salvation has been sent:"

The "message of this salvation" is the kerygma, the proclamation

of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the events on which

salvation is founded, or which have made salvation ("repentance

that leads to life," Acts 11:18) a present possibility for the hearers.

            The kerygma is a central element in the sermons of the first

half of Acts (2:22-24; 3:13-15; 5:30-31; 10:37-41). Textual variants

in the statement of this kerygma in 13:27-31 are largely intelligi-

ble as attempts by the Western text tradition (D*) to overcome the


23 Pillai, Early Missionary Preaching, 86.

          Paul's Sermon in Antioch of Pisiclia                      39


difficulties created by Luke's compression of the kerygma,24 par-

ticularly in verse 27. What stands out in verses 27-29 is the phrase

that "the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders" did not know

or recognize "the words of the prophets that are read every Sab-

bath." This calls to mind the note in verse 15 about the reading in

this, as in every, Sabbath service from the Law and the Prophets,

and relates to the larger theme in Luke about the correct reading

of the Hebrew Scriptures.

            Luke often emphasized the "reading" and "interpretation" of

the sacred books. For example the story of Philip and the

Ethiopian eunuch focuses on the correct interpretation of Isaiah

53. "About whom . . . does the prophet say this, about himself or

about someone else?" (Acts 8:34). The answer of course is "about

someone else," namely, Jesus. Earlier, on the road to Emmaus

the risen Lord opened the minds of two disciples to the meaning of

"the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms" (Luke 24:44). In

Peter's first sermon, as in the sermon presently under considera-

tion, it is "proven" that David the psalmist could not have been

speaking about himself, since his corpse decomposed in its tomb

(Acts 2:29; cf. 13:36), and so he too had to be speaking "about some-

one else." Later in Acts 17:10-11 Luke presented a model for read-

ing and exegeting the Hebrew Scriptures, as such an endeavor led

the members of the Berean synagogue to believe in Jesus as the

Messiah. Second Corinthians 3:14-16 gives a clear parallel

statement of this concept which runs throughout Luke-Acts: "To

this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that

same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed,

to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds;

but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed."

            The reading and interpreting continues, however, beyond the

earthly ministry of Jesus into the life of the early Christian

movement. The Psalms must be fulfilled in the election of

Matthias (Acts 1:20); Joel illuminated its experience of the Holy

Spirit, showing it to be a sign of the dawning of the end times (Acts

2:16-17); and Paul's mission to the Gentiles began to fulfill the

prophecy that "the nations shall come to your light" (Isa. 60:3).

            Another important aspect of the kerygma in Acts 13:27-31 is

the ignorance or lack of recognition on the part of the Jewish peo-

ple with respect to their promised Messiah (cf. 3:17-18; 4:27-28).

This is stressed twice in Paul's sermon, in 13:27 and 29. The suf-

fering Messiah still presented a stumbling block to Israel.25 Luke


24 C. S. C. Williams, A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (New York:

Harper & Brothers, 1957), 163.

25 Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles, 416.

40        BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January—March 1994


appealed to the Hebrew Scriptures to demonstrate that it was nec-

essary for the Messiah to suffer (Luke 24:25-27, 44-47; Acts 8:32-

35; 17:2-3). The Jews' rejection of the Messiah is explained by

their failure to recognize Him as such (Acts 3:17-18; 13:27). This

rejection nevertheless fulfilled the purpose of God for the Messiah

(4:27-28; 13:27, 29).

            The fact of the resurrection is boldly stated in 13:30 (and also

later in vv. 34, 37) as an act of God, in the same way as in 3:15.

The proof of this is to be found in 13:31, which mentions witnesses

of the resurrection. The verb w@fqh ("was seen") appears also as the

introduction to the witness clauses in 1 Corinthians 15:5-6, indi-

cating perhaps Luke's own dependence on traditional material.26

Some see it as a problem that Paul did not include himself in Acts

13:31 as a witness to Jesus' resurrection.27 However, he did so pre-

sent himself in 1 Corinthians 15:8. Schneider explicitly con-

fronts this problem from the perspective of Lucan composition:

"Paul cannot reckon himself as a witness according to the Lucan

conception of a witness."28 The Lucan definition of the "witness to

the resurrection" had been set out as early as Acts 1:21-22: "one of

the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the

Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the bap-

tism of John until the day when he was taken up from us." To this

is added the further description or perhaps qualification: they

were chosen by God as witnesses "who ate and drank with him

after he rose from the dead" (10:41). These would have been, then,

also among those who "came up with him from Galilee to

Jerusalem" (13:31), a brief retrospect to the Lucan travel narra-

tive of Luke 9:51-19:45. The appearance of the Risen Lord had a

different value for Paul than for Luke.

            In the second part of the sermon, Acts 13:26-31, one finds con-

nections, or at least consistency, with some of the concerns of

Luke: the proper key to the interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures,

the explanation of the crucified Messiah, and the concept of the

"witness to the resurrection." The history of the Savior, Jesus, is

now added to the record of God's saving events and God's plan to

make for Himself a people. The death and resurrection of Jesus,

which were confirmed by witnesses (the valuable "inartificial"

proofs, Acts 1:3), provide the foundation for the conviction that the

promises given long ago had now reached the dawning of their

fulfillment (cf. 13:32-33a, 34, 38-39).


26 Ibid., 410.

27 Carrez, "Presence et Fonctionnement de L'Ancien Testament dans I"Annonce de

1'Evangile," 338.

28 Schneider, Die Apostelgeschichte, 136.

              Paul's Sermon in Antioch of Pisidia            41


            THE ARGUMENT FROM SCRIPTURE (13:32-37)


            The promise. What promise was Paul referring to when he

said, "We bring you the good news that what God promised to our

ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Je-

sus" (vv. 32-33)?

            The words e]paggeli<a ("promise") and e]paggeli<zw ("to

promise") occur frequently in Acts. In 1:4, recalling Luke 24:49,

the verb refers to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is itself

connected with the power to witness (Acts 1:8). The pouring out of

the Holy Spirit (Acts 2) is interpreted as a fulfillment of the

prophecy in Joel 2:28-32, though these verses from Joel are not

limited to the Holy Spirit's outpouring. Joel's prophecy speaks

about the coming of the day of the Lord (Acts 2:20) and the promise

of salvation to "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord"

(2:21). The "promise" appears again in 2:39, indicating the uni-

versal intention of the promise, but here too it is not simply the es-

chatological gift of the Spirit which is intended; it also seems to

include the "forgiveness of sins" (a@fesin tw?n a[martiw?n, 2:38; cf.

13:38). At Paul's defense before Agrippa the "promise" again was

an important topos. Paul claimed to be on trial "on account of my

hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors, a promise that

our twelve tribes hope to attain" (26:6-7). This is related in 26:8 to

the resurrection of the dead by God. However, this verse does not

specify whether Jesus' resurrection is in view, or whether it is the

resurrection of the last day, which indeed had become a much dis-

cussed hope since Daniel 12 and 2 Maccabees 7. Kepple points out,

however, that in Acts (as in Paul's epistles) these two eschatologi-

cal events are intimately linked.29 In Acts 26:23, for example, Je-

sus is referred to as the "first to rise from the dead." In 4:2 one

sees more clearly the connection between Jesus and the hope of

future resurrection, as the disciples were "proclaiming that in Je-

sus there is the resurrection of the dead." When Paul stated in

23:6 that he was on trial for the "resurrection of the dead," this is

more than just a clever way of referring to Jesus' resurrection,

which caused a division between the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Paul also said before Felix that he had "a hope in God—a hope that

they themselves also accept—that there will be a resurrection of

both the righteous and the unrighteous" (24:15). This hope is based

on God "raising up Jesus" (13:33).

            Psalm 2:7. Is the phrase "raising Jesus" (Acts 13:33) used in

the sense of verse 34, "raising Him from the dead," or as in 3:22 or


29 Robert J. Kepple, “The Hope of Israel, the Resurrection of the Dead, and Jesus,”

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 20 (1977): 238.

42        BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January–March 1994


7:37 (cf. Deut. 18:18) in the sense of "raising up" or "sending" a

prophet? Related to this is the question of what the citation of

Psalm 2:7 refers to. Bruce argues that, by analogy with 3:22 and

7:37, Paul here referred to the sending of Jesus to Israel. "The day

of the king's anointing in Israel of old was ideally the day in

which he, the nation's representative, was born into a new rela-

tion of sonship towards Jehovah."30 Bruce says the psalm refers to

the anointing of Jesus with the Holy Spirit when He was baptized

by John (cf. Luke 3:22). Bruce notes that the Western textual

tradition related the baptism event to Psalm 2:7 by its quotation at

the baptism scene.

            However, several factors suggest that Luke did not refer here

to the anointing of Jesus at His baptism. As Schweizer points out,

from Acts 13:26 onward Paul spoke about the death and resurrec-

tion of Jesus, and verse 34, "using the same verb [‘raised’] speaks

unambiguously of the resurrection from the dead."31 O'Toole

points out that the thought of verses 30-37 would be broken if the

baptism or sending of Jesus is referred to in verse 33.32 Schmitt

discerns a chiastic structure in verses 30-37 of the verbs that refer

to the resurrection, which would be disturbed if verse 33 referred to

something other than the resurrection.33 Moreover, Schweizer ar-

gues that since no title such as "Prophet" or "Savior" is mentioned

in this context, as in 3:22 and even 13:23, it is more reasonable to

read it in the sense of the verses that precede and follow.34

            Psalm 2:7, then, is taken as a prophecy referring to the resur-

rection of Christ. For Luke, as already seen in Luke 24:44, the

psalms are valued as prophetic,35 and David's words are fre-

quently appealed to as prophecies foretold by the Holy Spirit and

fulfilled in the early church (cf. Acts 1:16; 4:25). In Acts 4:25-26,

Psalm 2:1-2 is quoted and then interpreted in Acts 4:27-28 as ful-

filled in the actions of Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and people of

Israel against Jesus at His trial and crucifixion. In the psalm the


30 Bruce, Commentary on the Book of Acts, 275.

31 Eduard Schweizer, "The Concept of the Davidic ‘Son of God’ in Acts and Its Old

Testament Background," in Studies in Luke-Acts, ed. Leander Keck and J. Louis

Martyn (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980), 186.

32 R. F. O'Toole, "Christ's Resurrection in Acts 13, 13-52," Biblica 60 (1979): 336.

33 J. Schmitt, "Kerygme pascal et lecture scripturaire dans l'instruction

d'Antioche," in Les Acts des Apbtres, ed. J. Kremer (Leuven: University Press,

1979), 161.

34 Schweizer, "The Concept of the Davidic ‘Son of God’ in Acts and Its Old Testa-

ment Background," 186.

35 Schneider, Die Apostelgeschichte, 137.

           Paul's Sermon in Antioch of Pisidia                        43


response of God was to establish His regent, who is presented as

the begotten of God. In Acts 13 this is understood as being realized

in the resurrection of Jesus. (In Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5, Psalm 2:7

appears again as a Christological topic).

            Isaiah 55:3. How does Paul's argument from Isaiah 55:3 and

Psalm 16:10, presented in Acts 13:34-37, develop or prove the thesis

of verses 32-33 regarding Jesus' resurrection from the dead and

other promises?

            Most commentators view 13:34-37 as presenting part of the

scriptural proof for the resurrection of Jesus. As in Acts 2:25-35,

Psalm 16:10 is here offered as proof that the Messiah was to rise

from the dead, never again to see corruption. Isaiah 55:3 and

Psalm 16:10 appear together as the proof is developed in accord

with rabbinic exegetical practice. Isaiah 55:3 is cited and then is

interpreted "by analogy" with Psalm 16:10. The correspondence

between ta> o!sia ("holy blessings," Acts 13:34) and to>n o!sion

("Holy One," v. 35) brings these passages together for the reading

of one in light of the other.36 "Both testimonies are meant to prove

that Jesus was ‘no more to return to corruption.’"37

            Introducing an alternative reading, Dupont holds that Paul's

citation of Isaiah 55:3 brings into focus the benefits of the resur-

rection of Christ.38 Buss, Kilgallen, and Carrez agree with this

view.39 The logic of the passage supports such a reading, if one is

careful about what value is given to the words o!ti, ou!twj, and di<-

oti. The first of these may carry a causal sense, and Kilgallen

translates it "because."40 The second word would then draw an

inference from the phrase that precedes it., The sense of verses 34-

35 would then be, "Because God raised Jesus from the dead, no

more to return to corruption, he therefore was able to say, ‘I will

give to you the holy and sure things of David.’ For this reason it

says in another place, ‘You will not give your Holy One to see cor-

ruption’" (italics added).


36 Cf. Schmitt, "Kerygme pascal et lecture scripturaire dans l'instruction

d'Antioche," 162; Williams, A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, 164; and

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., "The Promise to David in Psalm 16 and Its Application in

Acts 2:25-33 and 13:32-37," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 23 (1980):


37 Piilai, Apostolic Interpretation of History, 83.

38 Jacques Dupont, "Ta Hosia Dauid Ta Pista (Ac XIII 34 = Is LV 3)," Revue

Biblique 68 (1961): 111.

39 Buss, Die Missionspredigt des Apostels Paulus im Pisidischen Antiochien, 10;

Kilgallen, "Acts 13, 38-39: Culmination of Paul's Speech in Pisidia," 489-90; and

Carrez, "Presence et Fonctionnement de l'Ancien Testament dans l'Annonce de

1'Evangile," 338.

40 Kilgallen, "Acts 13, 38-39: Culmination of Paul's Speech in Pisidia," 491.

44        BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January–March 1994


            A further point in favor of the latter reading is that the Isaiah

citation preserves the plural u[mi?n. In English translation it is pos-

sible to misread the citation as referring to a singular recipient of

the "holy and sure things," but not in Greek. Luke's emphasis has

been on the promises of salvation to the ancestors, as in 2:39,

where Peter said that "the promise is for you (u[mi?n)." One should

not therefore do violence to the Greek citation by insisting that a

single recipient is intended where plural recipients are indi-

cated. As Kilgallen explains,

            The words of Isaiah do not speak of the incorruptibility of Jesus

            . . . but the words of Isaiah, if they are to be fulfilled, are best

            fulfilled by the fact that Jesus, once raised, is incorruptible. . . .

            Jesus' incorruptibility, then, is a presupposition, Paul argues, by

            which God could make a promise of the ta> o!sia to "you."41


            Psalm 16:10. The Book of Acts underscores the importance of

Psalm 16 for the early church. It is quoted at length in Acts 2:25-

28, and again here at 13:35. In both places it is developed further

by the preacher (2:29-32; 13:36-37).

            Schmitt has demonstrated that such a reading of the psalm

could only have developed from the Septuagint. He notes that the

Hebrew text of Psalm 16:9b, which declares that the psalmist's

"body will dwell in security," has been transformed in the Septu-

agint, the concept of "hope" replacing that of "security." He con-

cludes that the Septuagint allows for the possibility of reading this

verse as a ground for the hope of the resurrection.42 Similarly the

"concrete" concept of the Hebrew tHw, ("grave") is rendered more

abstractly in the Septuagint as diafqora<, "corruption, decay."

This translation opens up the possibility of interpreting the pas-

sage in terms of a "deliverance from the grave."43 In both places

where it is cited in Acts, Psalm 16 is understood as referring to

God's deliverance of His Holy One from the bonds of death

through a begetting to eternal life.

            The development of this citation in Acts 13:35-37 is in many

ways parallel to its development in 2:29-32. There the body of

David, the supposed speaker, is said to have decomposed in his

grave, so that the statement refers prophetically to someone else,

namely, Jesus the One "whom God has raised." Acts 13:35-37,

however, advances beyond what was argued in chapter 2. The fact

of Jesus' resurrection and the testimony that Jesus is now incor-


41 Ibid., 491-92.

42 Armin Schmitt, "Ps 16. 8-11 als Zeugnis der Auferstehung in der Apg,"

Biblische Zeitschrift 17 (1973): 237.

43 Ibid., 238.

         Paul's Sermon in Antioch of Pisidia                        45


ruptible indicate that Jesus as Messiah is enabled by God to con-

tinue His saving work,44 thereby securing the promises to the an-

cestors for their descendants.

            Still another advance over the discussion of 2:25-32 is made.

In 13:36, which syntactically admits of three possible readings,

Paul said David "served the purpose of God in his own genera-

tion" and then slept with his ancestors (2 Sam. 7:12; cf

Schweizer45) and saw corruption. Likewise, Jesus "served the

plan of God" but did not see corruption.

            The argument of Acts 13:32-37, then, does not merely repro-

duce a scriptural proof for the resurrection of Jesus. Through the

citation of Isaiah 55:3, Luke began to bring out the significance of

the resurrection of Jesus for those who believe in His name. Be-

cause Jesus has been begotten (Ps. 2:7) to an incorruptible life (Ps.

16:10), He is able to guarantee for the present generation of believ-

ers the promises given to their ancestors. The argument from

Scripture proves the thesis stated in Acts 13:32-33 that the fulfill-

ment of those promises has come on the generation of Paul's audi-

ence. The promises include the resurrection of Christ and of the

righteous dead. They also include, the evangelization of the Gen-

tiles, as the contexts of both Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 55:3 refer to the

Gentiles coming into the possession of the Lord's anointed or

coming to join themselves to God's chosen people. This promise

began to be fulfilled in the mission to the Gentiles.



            Kilgallen argues that verses 38-39 form the culmination or

climax of the speech. The particle ou#n suggests that Paul reached

his conclusion and that these words constitute the "word of en-

couragement to the people," namely, the blessings now available

to them and hopes secured for them through the risen Christ.46

Dupont also indicated that these verses are more than an af-

terthought.47 The question remains as to how these verses relate to

the foregoing argument. Also of concern is the identification of

the "work" of which verse 41, which cites Habakkuk 1:5, speaks.

            Verses 38-39 and the content of the speech. Kilgallen connects

the blessings described in verses 38-39 (forgiveness of sins and


44 Buss, Die Missionspredigt des Apostels Paulus im Pisidischen Antiochien,


45 Schweizer, "The Concept of the Davidic 'Son of God' in Acts and Its Old Testa-

ment Background," 189.

46 Kilgallen, "Acts 13, 38-39: Culmination of Paul's Speech in Pisidia," 482-83.

47 Dupont, "Ta Hosia Dauid Ta Pista (Ac XIII 34 = Is LV 3)," 114.

46        BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January—March 1994


justification) with the "holy promises made to David" in verse

34.48 Forgiveness is frequently mentioned in Acts as a benefit of

the saving work of Jesus (2:38; 5:31; 10:43; 26:18). Acts 10:43 even

cites the "forgiveness of sins" as a benefit to which "all the

prophets testify." Kilgallen sees a connection between "justifica-

tion" here in 13:38-39 and the Benedictus in Luke 1:74-75. Accord-

ing to that text, the Savior from the house of David will bring holi-

ness and justice to Israel so that they may worship properly. "The

making of Israel into a forgiven and justified [holy] people is also

an effect of the saving action of the Savior described in the Bene-

dictus. Ta< o!sia, then, is [sic] that forgiveness and justification

brought to Israel—by God's holy one."49

            Verses 38-39 relate more broadly as well to everything that

has been said, about Jesus. Forgiveness and justification are

available through "Him whom God raised from the dead."

Verses 38-39 and Pauline theology. The relationship of these

verses to the concepts of Paul with regard to forgiveness of sins

and justification and the Law in the Epistles is a much debated is-

sue. Conzelmann and Kayama reject them as non-Pauline ex-

pressions.50 Kilgallen adds that the expression "being justified

from sins" or the equivalent never appears in the Pauline let-

ters.51 Similarly Schneider,says these verses are "ein schwacker

Nachklang" ("a faint echo")52 of Paul, and Williams says Luke

used distinctive terminology to adapt the speech to the speaker.53

Pillai, on the other hand, contends at length for Pauline authen-

ticity of the speech, and therefore of these verses.54

            Conzelmann and Schneider point out that in Acts 15 the

"insufficiency" of the Mosaic Law is its difficulty or burden-

someness. This, it is true, is not the Pauline concept of the insuf-

ficiency of the Law. For Paul, the Law was "unable" to justify

(Rom. 8:3); if a law "capable of making alive" had been given,

then justification would have been accomplished by the Law (Gal.

3:21). In Acts 13:38, it is true, the incapability appears to rest with

people rather than the Law, but this is not opposed to Paul's posi-


48 Kilgallen, "Acts 13, 38-39: Culmination of Paul's Speech in Pisidia," 498.

49 Ibid., 501.

50 Conzelmann, Acts of the Apostles, 106; Kisao Kayama, "The Image of Paul in the

Book of Acts" (Ph.D. diss., Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, CA, 1971), 175.

51 Kilgallen, "Acts 13, 38-39: Culmination of Paul's Speech in Pisidia," 503.

52 Schneider, Die Apostelgeschichte, 140.

53 Williams, A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, 165.

54 Pillai, Early Missionary Preaching, 77-111.

        Paul's Sermon in Antioch of Pisidia                        47


tion. The point is still that one is unable to attain justification by

means of the Law of Moses.

            Similarly Kilgallen's point about the non-Pauline nature of

the phrase "justified from sins" is negated by the occurrence of

this phrase in Romans 6:7. True, it is a "rare formulation,"55 but

it is not non-Pauline. Verse 39 is even more strongly Pauline in

its flavor: the phrase "everyone who believes" occurs throughout

Romans, and the passive phrase "is justified in him" has a close

parallel in Galatians 2:17: "in our effort to be justified in


            The e@rgon ("work') of verse 41. Following Paul's announce-

ment about forgiveness and justification being available in

Christ, the apostle gave a warning by citing Habakkuk 1:5. Even

the negative response to the gospel is seen as a fulfillment of the

plan of God. The citation from Habakkuk follows the Septuagint,

which in the first phrase renders the Hebrew "among the Gen-

tiles" as "scoffers."

            What, however, is this e@rgon which God announced, which

will not be believed, "even if it were declared" to the hearers? Pil-

lai identifies it with the resurrection of Christ. His reasons are

that (a) the temporal indicator, "in your days," indicates an event

in the recent past, (b) the "work" is also presented as an object of

Christian faith (pisteu<shte), and (c) Paul's speech has been de-

voted to confirming the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.57

            Pillai's arguments, however, cannot hold up to criticism.

First, "in your days" may indicate a contemporaneous event or

an event in the near future, and not simply one in the recent past.

Also the work is not necessarily an object of "faith" in a soterio-

logical sense.    @Apiston occurs in connection with the resurrec-

tion in Acts 26:8, where it seems to be free of theological weight,

meaning simply "incredible" or "unbelievable." As already dis-

cussed, the argumentation in 13:32-37 does not concern simply the

resurrection of Jesus.  Instead the verses move to a new level—the

discussion of the benefits or consequences of that resurrection,

which are made certain by the incorruptible One. As Jesus' resur-

rection is a fact on which something else can be built or from

which something else may be deduced, it is not the goal of the

speech. The "work" more likely relates to the goal of the speech,

the work which is to be accepted and not despised. The "work in

your days," then, relates to God's promises to the ancestors, which


55 Ibid., 106.

56 Ibid.

57 Pillai, Apostolic Interpretation of History, 72-73.

48        BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January—March 1994


had come to the dawn of their fulfillment in the present time of the


            More specifically, in light of the context of Psalm 2:7 and Isa-

iah 55:3, which are quoted in Acts 13:33-34, this "work" is the mis-

sion to the Gentiles.58 Support for this view is seen in the rejection

of Paul's message by the Jews (v. 45) and Paul's words about turn-

ing to the Gentiles (vv. 46-47). This "work" is in fact not "told" to

the hearers of the sermon in verses 16-41. Yet it is "told" to the

reader, first in Luke 2:32, and later in Acts 26:22-23. The reader

is aware that part of the function of the Messiah was to fulfill the

promise made concerning Gentiles joining themselves to the

chosen people of God, or, as in the promise made to Abraham, be-

ing blessed through his offspring (Gen. 12:3).

            Acts 13:47 seems to relate Isaiah 49:6 to Paul and Barnabas,

whereas the prophecy in Luke 2:32 and Acts 16:23 relates directly

to Christ. They said the Lord's command was given "to us," but

the quotation preserves the singular pronoun "you." Grelot ex-

plains that whereas Paul and Barnabas were to proclaim the

Word of God, the efficacy of this Word, the gospel, is in Christ

Himself.59 Paul and Barnabas continued the work of Christ lby

presenting Him as the "light" to both Jews and Gentiles.

            The opposition of "the Jews" (13:45, 50) to Paul's message was

part of a pattern that occurred nearly everywhere he preached

(14:2-7, 19-20; 17:5, 13; 18:6, 12; 20:3; 21:28; 28:25b-28). The first

half of Acts, similarly, notes the growing opposition of the Jews,

including Saul, and particularly the opposition of the Jewish

leaders. This establishes a continuity with Jesus' ministry, for

the opposition of "the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders"

(13:27) against Him also was in fulfillment of "the words of the




            Paul's sermon at Antioch develops several themes that are

central to Luke's interests in his historiographical endeavor. The

historical exordium emphasizes the continuity of the present

work of God with the history of God's mighty acts on behalf of Is-

rael. The theme of promise and fulfillment, which dominates the

speech, further develops and refines this point. Highlighted here

are the promise to David, fulfilled in the raising up of Jesus from

among David's offspring, and the announcement of the forerun-


58 Schneider, Die Apostelgeschichte, 141.

59 Pierre Grelot, "Note sur Actes, XIII, 47," Revue Biblique 88 (1981): 371.

            Paul's Sermon in Antioch of Pisidia                        49


ner, John the Baptist, who gave testimony to Jesus.

            The sermon highlights the broader Lucan themes of the igno-

rance of those who opposed Jesus and the fulfillment of God's plan

in spite of, or rather through, that very lack of recognition. Paul's

mention of the weekly reading of the Old Testament Scriptures in

the synagogue (v. 27) relates to the emphasis in Luke-Acts on

reading and properly interpreting the Old Testament. Paul's ref-

erence to witnesses to the resurrection is in accord with the con-

cept of "witness" developed in the first half of Acts.

            Rather than simply demonstrate again the reality of Jesus'

resurrection, Paul set forth the consequences of the resurrection

and the continued work of the incorruptible One (vv. 32-41).

Promises made to the ancestors, which were then being fulfilled,

include the provision of the forgiveness of sins and justification.

The contexts of the Old Testament citations employed in this sec-

tion and the context of the speech in the development of Acts sug-

gest that a promise of keen interest to Luke that is being fulfilled

and the "work" that is being effected is the incorporation of the

Gentiles through the promised Messiah, the "light to the Gentiles"

(Isa. 49:6; Acts 13:47; 26:23). This work has been prepared for in

the narrative from before the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:32) and in

Acts as early as 1:8 and 2:21 (the conclusion of the Joel citation,

which refers to the salvation of "everyone who calls upon the

name of the Lord"). The fulfillment of prophecy occurs in the fol-

lowing narrative, as the Jews resisted Paul's message and ex-

pelled him and Barnabas from the city. The future hope of Israel

and of the blessing of the nations are assured by Jesus, who as the

resurrected One beyond the reach of death and decay, provides

salvation for all who believe.

            The sermon in Pisidian Antioch stands at an important

juncture in Acts. Paul was set apart for the work (Acts 13:2) de-

scribed in verses 46-47 as proclaiming Christ, the Light of the

Gentiles. That work is seen in the context of the saving acts of

God, stretching from the election of the patriarchs to the very day

of Paul's sermon. Paul's break with the Jews and his turning to

the Gentiles (vv. 46-47) occurred frequently in Paul's ministry.

Even at the end of the Book of Acts many Jews in Rome rejected

his message of salvation (a rejection that Paul said [Acts 28:25-27]

was in accord with Isaiah's words in Isa. 6:9-10) and so the Word

of God was sent to the Gentiles, for "they will hear" (Acts 28:28).


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