Chapter 5: Paul Disbelieved Continued. Jerusalem Visit II. Money-Bringing Visit.—Barnabas Accompanying Him From Antioch
Section 1: At Antioch, Agabus Having Predicted a Dearth, Money Is Collected for the Jerusalem Saints
At his own house it was, that we last left our self-declared Apostle: at his own birthplace—Tarsus: what we have next to see is—what drew him from thence.
All this while there were other disciples that had not been idle. To the new religion, already was Antioch, Antioch in Syria, become a new Jerusalem.
Upon the dispersion of the Jerusalem Christians, occasioned by the judicial murder of the sainted trustee of the poor's fund—Stephen,—some of them, among whom were some natives of Cyprus,—in which island was situated the property of the son of consolation, Barnabas,—had betaken themselves to that same island, others to that same city of Antioch in Syria.
Of these, some addressed themselves exclusively to the Jews: others ventured so far, as to make an experiment upon the Grecians. Unfortunately, these terms are, neither of them, wholly free from ambiguity. By the word Jews, may have been meant either Jews by birth and abode, or Jews by religion: by the word Grecians, either Jews who, born or dwelling within the field of quondam Grecian dominion, used the Greek as their native language,—or Greeks, who were such, not only by language, but by religion. In this latter case, their lot was among the Gentiles, and much more extraordinary and conspicuous was the importance of the success.
How, under the Apostolical aristocracy, it had been acted upon in Jerusalem, has been seen already. The time was now come,—for its being established, and acted upon in Antioch.
At Jerusalem, under the spiritual dominion of the Apostles, lived a man of the name of Agabus. Among the endowments,—of which, in the character of qualifications, a demand was by some understood to be created, by the business of propagating the new religion,—qualifications, a list of which, according to his conception of it, Paul, in 1s Corinthians 12:10, has given us,—was one, which, among these endowments, was called the "gift of prophecy":—a gift, under which, as under that of speech in general, particularly when applied to occasions of importance, the faculty of prediction—of forming correct judgments respecting future contingencies—would, if not necessarily, very frequently at least, come to be included.
In the instance of the prophecy here in question, this same prospective faculty, it should seem, was actually included.
The fact, for the purpose of predicting, or giving information of which, this useful emissary was, on the present occasion, sent from Jerusalem to Antioch,—was—that of signifying, that there should be a great dearth: an inference deduced from it, was—that, at this same Antioch, for the relief of the brethren at Jerusalem, contributions should be collected, and sent to Jerusalem.
In the calamity of dearth may be seen one of those events, of which—especially if the time of it be not predesignated with too rigid an exactness—a prediction may be hazarded,—and even by any man,—without much risk of falling under the disgrace attached to the appellation of a false prophet. Of this observation, an exemplification seems to have been afforded, in the present instance. With not unaccustomed prudence,—"the spirit," by which, on this occasion, the calamity was "signified," forbore, as we see, from the fixation of any particular year—either for the prophecy, or for the accomplishment of it. "The days of Claudius Caesar" are mentioned as the time of the accomplishment. By agreement of all chronologists,—the duration of his reign is stated as occupying not less than thirteen years. Whether this same reign had then already commenced,—is not, on this occasion, mentioned: from the manner in which it is mentioned, the negative seems not improbable; if so, then to find the time which the prophecy had for finding its accomplishment to the definite term of thirteen years, we must add another, and that an indefinite one.
According to the situation, of the individuals by whom the word is employed,—worlds vary in their sizes. Of the dearth in question, the whole world, "all the world," is, by the author of the Acts, stated as having been the afflicted theatre:
28 It is in the parting scene—when about to break from his dissuading disciples, and enter upon his invasion project—that Paul is represented as saying to them: