Acts 17:1

(1) Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia.--The two cities were both on the great Roman roads known as the Via Egnatia. Amphipolis, formerly known as Ennea Hodoi, or the Nine Ways, was famous in the Peloponnesian War as the scene of the death of Brasidas, and had been made, under the Romans, the capital of Macedonia prima. It was thirty-three Roman miles from Philippi and thirty from Apollonia, the latter being thirty-seven from Thessalonica. The site of Apollonia is uncertain, but the name is, perhaps, traceable in the modern village of Polina, between the Strymonic and Thermaic Gulfs. A more famous city of the same name, also on the Via Egnatia, was situated near Dyrrhacium. It seems clear that the names indicated the stages at which the travellers rested, and that thirty miles a day a somewhat toilsome journey for those who had so recently been scourged) was, as with most men of ordinary strength, their average rate of travelling. It would seem that there was no Jewish population to present an opening for the gospel at either of these cities, and that St. Paul, therefore, passed on to Thessalonica.

Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews.--The city, which had previously borne the names of Emathia, Halia, and Therma, had been enlarged by Philip of Macedon, and named after his daughter. It was situated on the Thermaic Gulf, and had grown into a commercial port of considerable importance. As such, it had attracted Jews in large numbers. The MSS. differ as to the presence or absence of the Greek article before "synagogue," but, on the whole, it is probable that we should read, "the synagogue," that which served for the Jews of the neighbouring cities, who were not numerous enough to have one of their own. The old name survives in the modern Saloniki, and there is still a large Jewish population there.

Verse 1. - Amphipolis. This was the ancient capital of that division of Macedonia (Macedonia Prima); see Acts 16:12, note. It was situated on the Via Egnatia, thirty-four miles southwest from Philippi, and three miles from the AEgean Sea. It lay in a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by the Strymon, whence its name, Amphipolis; its modern name is Neokhoria, now a village. Its original name was Ἐννέα  ῾οδοί, The Nine Ways. Originally a Thracian city, it was conquered by the Athenians, then by the Lacedaemonians, then fell under the dominion of Philip of Macedon, and finally, with the rest of Macedonia, became part of the Roman empire. Apollonia; now probably Polina, thirty miles due west of Amphipolis, on the Via Egnatia. The modern track from Amphipolis to Thessalonica does not pass through Polina, but beneath it. Thessalonica; on the Via Egnatia, now the important seaport of Saloniki, on the Aegean Sea or Archipelago, thirty-eight miles from Apollonia, and con-raining about sixty thousand inhabitants. Its ancient name was Therma (whence the Thermean Bay), but it took the name of Thessalonica under the Macedonian kings. It continued to grow in importance under the Romans, and was the most populous city of the whole of Macedonia. It was the capital of Macedonia Secunda under the division by AEmilius Paulus (Acts 16:12, note), and in the time of Theodosius the Younger, when Macedonia consisted of two provinces, it was the capital of Macedonia Prima. But from its situation and great commercial importance it was virtually the capital of "Greece, Macedonia, and Illyricum" (Howson, in ' Dict. of Geog.'). Its trade attracted a great colony of Jews from before the time of St. Paul, and through the Roman and Greek and Turkish empires, down to the present day, when "one-half of the population is said to be of Israelitish race "(Lewin). Thessalonica had a terrible celebrity from the massacre of its inhabitants by order of the Emperor Theodosius, in revenge for the murder of Botheric, his general, which led to the famous penance imposed upon the emperor by St. Ambrose (Gibbon,' Decline and Fall,' Acts 27.). It was also taken three times in the Middle Ages: by the Saracens, with fearful slaughter, A.D. 904; by the Normans, with scarcely less cruelty, A.D. 1185; and by the Turks, in 1430. Its ecclesiastical history under its archbishops is also of great interest (see 'Dict. of Greek and Roman Geog.'). Where was a synagogue. It is needless to point out the exact agreement of this brief statement with historical fact as pointed out above. There is said to have been twenty-two Jewish synagogues at Thessalonica after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in the fifteenth century, and the number at the present time is stated to be thirty-six. The existence of a synagogue at this time was the reason of St. Paul's visit and sojourn there.

17:1-9 The drift and scope of Paul's preaching and arguing, was to prove that Jesus is the Christ. He must needs suffer for us, because he could not otherwise purchase our redemption for us; and he must needs have risen again, because he could not otherwise apply the redemption to us. We are to preach concerning Jesus that he is Christ; therefore we may hope to be saved by him, and are bound to be ruled by him. The unbelieving Jews were angry, because the apostles preached to the Gentiles, that they might be saved. How strange it is, that men should grudge others the privileges they will not themselves accept! Neither rulers nor people need be troubled at the increase of real Christians, even though turbulent spirits should make religion the pretext for evil designs. Of such let us beware, from such let us withdraw, that we may show a desire to act aright in society, while we claim our right to worship God according to our consciences.Now when they had passed through Amphipolls,.... A city of Macedonia, where it is placed by Pliny (q); according to Ptolomy (r), it was in that part of Macedonia, which is called Edonis, and was near Philippi, and lay in the way from thence to Thessalonica; Harpocratian (s) says, it was a city of Thrace, formerly called "the Nine Ways"; it was upon the borders of Thrace, and had its name Amphipolis from the river Strymon running on both sides of it, making it a peninsula; it was also called Crademna, and Anadraemum; it is now in the hands of the Turks, and by them called Empoli; this city was originally built by Cimon the Athenian, into which he sent ten thousand Athenians for a colony, as the writer of his life reports (t). The apostle only passed through this place; it does not appear that he at all preached in it, or at any other time, nor do we read of it in ecclesiastical history, nor of the following place:

and Apollonia; this is also placed by Pliny (u) in Macedonia, and is said by him to have been formerly a colony of the Corinthians, and about seven miles from the sea; and by Ptolomy (w), in that part of Macedonia called Mygdonia, and with him its name is Apollonia of Mygdonia; it was situated by the river Echedorus, and was famous for Augustus Caesar's learning Greek here, and is now called Ceres: there was another of this name in the region of Pentapolis, and was one of the five (x) cities in it; and another in Palestine mentioned by Pliny (y), along with Caesarea; and by Josephus (z), with Joppa, Jamnia, Azotus, &c. but this was near Thessalonica; it is said to be about twenty miles from it: here also the apostle did not stay to preach the Gospel, nor is there any mention made of it elsewhere in the Acts of the Apostles, and yet Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, is said to be bishop of Apollonia; See Gill on Luke 10:1, but whether the same place with this, or whether fact, is not certain;

they came to Thessalonica; a free city of Macedonia (a); it was formerly called Halis (b), and sometimes Therme; it had its name of Thessalonica from the victory which Philip king of Macedon obtained over the Thessalians; and not from his daughter Thessalonica, the wife of Cassander, who also had her name from the same victory: in this place a sedition being raised, and some magistrates killed, Theodosius the Roman emperor suffered seven thousand men to be slain; and when he came to Milain, Ambrose bishop of that place having heard of it, would not suffer him to enter into the church and receive the Lord's supper, until he repented of his sin, and made public confession of it (c). Thessalonica has been since the head of a new kingdom erected by Boniface marquis of Montferrat; it was for some time in the hands of the Venetians, but was taken from them by Amurath emperor of the Turks (d). The Italians call it now Saloniki; it has been since inhabited by Christians, Turks, and Jews, and chiefly by the latter, their number, according to their own account, is fourteen thousand, and their synagogues fourscore. There always were many Jews in this place, and so there were when the apostle was here, for it follows;

where was a synagogue of the Jews; it seems as if there was none, neither in Philippi, nor in Amphipolis, nor in Apollonia: why these two last places should be passed through by the apostle, without making any stay at them, cannot be said; it is very likely he had, as in some other instances before, some particular directions from the Spirit of God, there being none of the chosen vessels of salvation to be called there, at least, at this time, when there were many at Thessalonica.

(q) Nat. Hist. l. 4. c. 10. (r) Geograph. l. 3. c. 13. (s) Lexic. Decem. Orat. p. 20, 104. Vid. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 8. (t) Cornelius Nepos in Vita Cimon. c. 2.((u) Nat. Hist. l. 3. c. 23. (w) Geograph. l. 8. c. 13. Vid. Plin. l. 4. c. 10. (x) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 5. (y) Ib. c. 13. (z) Antiqu. l. 13. c. 15. sect. 4. & de Bello Jud. l. 1. c. 8, sect. 3.((a) Plin. l. 4. c. 10. (b) Ptolom. l. 3. c. 13. (c) Magdeburg. Hist. Eccles. cent. 4. c. 3. p. 82. (d) Petav. Rationar. Temp. par. 1. p. 462, 475.

Acts 16:40
Top of Page
Top of Page