The Meaning of Acts 21:38 Explained

Acts 21:38

KJV: Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?

YLT: art not thou, then, the Egyptian who before these days made an uprising, and did lead into the desert the four thousand men of the assassins?'

Darby: Thou art not then that Egyptian who before these days raised a sedition and led out into the wilderness the four thousand men of the assassins?

ASV: Art thou not then the Egyptian, who before these days stirred up to sedition and led out into the wilderness the four thousand men of the Assassins?

What does Acts 21:38 Mean?

Context Summary

Acts 21:27-40 - Facing A Bigoted Mob
Four days passed and there seemed a hope that, as the number of pilgrims grew less, Paul might escape recognition till his vow was fulfilled. In fulfilling it he was required to live with four paupers in a chamber of the Temple, to pay for sixteen sacrificial animals and the accompanying meat offerings on their behalf, and to stand with them while the priest offered lambs and rams on their behalf.
But as the ceremonies were approaching completion, he was recognized by Jews from Ephesus and other cities of Asia-perhaps Alexander the coppersmith was one of them-and a cry of hatred and horror was raised. They had seen the Ephesian Trophimus walking with him in the streets of Jerusalem, and supposed that Paul had taken him into the holy precincts. The punishment for that crime was death. They therefore seized him and forced him through the Beautiful Gate and down the fifteen steps, that they might kill him outside the Temple. This outburst attracted the notice of the Roman garrison in the neighboring Castle of Antonia, and Lysias with his soldiers forced his way through the throng, rescued Paul from his would-be murderers, and bore him beyond their reach. God had other work for the Apostle yet to do. [source]

Chapter Summary: Acts 21

1  Paul calls at the house of Philip, whose daughters prophesy
10  Agabus, foretelling what should befall him at Jerusalem,
13  he will not be dissuaded from going thither
17  He comes to Jerusalem;
27  where he is apprehended, and in great danger, but by the chief captain is rescued;
37  and requests, and is permitted to speak to the people

Greek Commentary for Acts 21:38

Art thou not [οὐκ ἄρα οὺ εἶ]
Indicating the officer's surprised recognition of his own mistake. “Thou art not, then, as I supposed.” Rev. properly adds then ( ἄρα )The EgyptianA false prophet, who, in the reign of Nero, when Felix was governor of Judaea, collected a multitude of thirty thousand, whom he led from the wilderness to the Mount of Olives, saying that the walls of Jerusalem would fall down at his command and give them free entrance to the city. Felix with an army dispersed the multitude, and the Egyptian himself escaped. There is a discrepancy in the number of followers as stated by Josephus (80,000) and as stated by the commandant here (4,000). It is quite possible, however, that Josephus alludes to the whole rabble, while Lysias is referring only to the armed followers. [source]
Indicating the officer's surprised recognition of his own mistake. “Thou art not, then, as I supposed.” Rev. properly adds then [ἄρα]
A false prophet, who, in the reign of Nero, when Felix was governor of Judaea, collected a multitude of thirty thousand, whom he led from the wilderness to the Mount of Olives, saying that the walls of Jerusalem would fall down at his command and give them free entrance to the city. Felix with an army dispersed the multitude, and the Egyptian himself escaped. There is a discrepancy in the number of followers as stated by Josephus (80,000) and as stated by the commandant here (4,000). It is quite possible, however, that Josephus alludes to the whole rabble, while Lysias is referring only to the armed followers. [source]
Madest an uproar []
Better, as Rev., stirred up to sedition. The rendering of the A. V. is too vague. The verb means to unsettle or upset, and the true idea is given in the A. V. of Acts 17:6, have turned the world upside down. Compare Galatians 5:12, and kindred words in Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19. [source]
That were murderers [τῶν σικαρίων]
The A. V. is too general, and overlooks the force of the article, which shows that the word refers to a class. Rev., rightly, the assassins. The word, which occurs only here, and notably on the lips of a Roman officer, is one of those Latin words which “followed the Roman domination even into those Eastern provinces of the empire which, unlike those of the West, had refused to be Latinized, but still retained their own language” (Trench, “Synonyms”). The Sicarii were so called from the weapon which they used - the sica, or short, curved dagger. Josephus says: “There sprang up in Jerusalem another description of robbers called Sikars, who, under the broad light of day, and in the very heart of the city, assassinated men; chiefly at the festivals, however, when, mixing among the crowd, with daggers concealed under their cloaks, they stabbed those with whom they were at variance. When they fell, the murderers joined in the general expressions of indignation, and by this plausible proceeding remained undetected” (“Jewish War,” c. xiii.). The general New Testament term for murderer is φονεύς (see Matthew 22:7; Acts 3:14; Acts 28:4, etc.). [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Acts 21:38

Acts 17:6 They dragged [εσυρον]
Imperfect active, vivid picture, they were dragging (literally). See note on Acts 8:3; and note on Acts 16:19. If they could not find Paul, they could drag Jason his host and some other Christians whom we do not know. Before the rulers of the city (επι τους πολιταρχας — epi tous politarchas). This word does not occur in Greek literature and used to be cited as an example of Luke‘s blunders. But now it is found in an inscription on an arch in the modern city preserved in the British Museum. It is also found in seventeen inscriptions (five from Thessalonica) where the word or the verb πολιταρχεω — politarcheō occurs. It is a fine illustration of the historical accuracy of Luke in matters of detail. This title for city officers in Thessalonica, a free city, is correct. They were burgomasters or “rulers of the city.” Crying Yelling as if the house was on fire like the mob in Jerusalem (Acts 21:28). These that have turned the world upside down (οι την οικουμενην αναστατωσαντες — hoi tēn oikoumenēn anastatōsantes). The use of οικουμενην — oikoumenēn (supply γεν — genō or χωραν — chōran the inhabited earth, present passive participle of οικεω — oikeō) means the Roman Empire, since it is a political charge, a natural hyperbole in their excitement, but the phrase occurs for the Roman Empire in Luke 2:1. It is possible that news had come to Thessalonica of the expulsion of the Jews from Rome by Claudius. There is truth in the accusation, for Christianity is revolutionary, but on this particular occasion the uproar (Acts 17:5) was created by the rabbis and the hired loafers. The verb αναστατοω — anastatoō (here first aorist active participle) does not occur in the ancient writers, but is in lxx and in Acts 17:6; Acts 21:38; Galatians 5:12. It occurs also in Harpocration (a.d. 4th cent.) and about 100 b.c. εχαναστατοω — exanastatoō is found in a fragment of papyrus (Tebtunis no. 2) and in a Paris Magical Papyrus l. 2243f. But in an Egyptian letter of Aug. 4, 41 a.d. (Oxyrhynchus Pap. no. 119, 10) “the bad boy” uses it = “he upsets me” or “ he drives me out of my senses” (αναστατοι με — anastatoi me). See Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, pp. 84f. It is not a “Biblical word” at all, but belongs to the current Koiné. It is a vigorous and graphic term. [source]
Acts 17:6 Crying [βοωντες]
Yelling as if the house was on fire like the mob in Jerusalem (Acts 21:28). These that have turned the world upside down (οι την οικουμενην αναστατωσαντες — hoi tēn oikoumenēn anastatōsantes). The use of οικουμενην — oikoumenēn (supply γεν — genō or χωραν — chōran the inhabited earth, present passive participle of οικεω — oikeō) means the Roman Empire, since it is a political charge, a natural hyperbole in their excitement, but the phrase occurs for the Roman Empire in Luke 2:1. It is possible that news had come to Thessalonica of the expulsion of the Jews from Rome by Claudius. There is truth in the accusation, for Christianity is revolutionary, but on this particular occasion the uproar (Acts 17:5) was created by the rabbis and the hired loafers. The verb αναστατοω — anastatoō (here first aorist active participle) does not occur in the ancient writers, but is in lxx and in Acts 17:6; Acts 21:38; Galatians 5:12. It occurs also in Harpocration (a.d. 4th cent.) and about 100 b.c. εχαναστατοω — exanastatoō is found in a fragment of papyrus (Tebtunis no. 2) and in a Paris Magical Papyrus l. 2243f. But in an Egyptian letter of Aug. 4, 41 a.d. (Oxyrhynchus Pap. no. 119, 10) “the bad boy” uses it = “he upsets me” or “ he drives me out of my senses” (αναστατοι με — anastatoi me). See Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, pp. 84f. It is not a “Biblical word” at all, but belongs to the current Koiné. It is a vigorous and graphic term. [source]
Acts 17:6 These that have turned the world upside down [οι την οικουμενην αναστατωσαντες]
The use of οικουμενην — oikoumenēn (supply γεν — genō or χωραν — chōran the inhabited earth, present passive participle of οικεω — oikeō) means the Roman Empire, since it is a political charge, a natural hyperbole in their excitement, but the phrase occurs for the Roman Empire in Luke 2:1. It is possible that news had come to Thessalonica of the expulsion of the Jews from Rome by Claudius. There is truth in the accusation, for Christianity is revolutionary, but on this particular occasion the uproar (Acts 17:5) was created by the rabbis and the hired loafers. The verb αναστατοω — anastatoō (here first aorist active participle) does not occur in the ancient writers, but is in lxx and in Acts 17:6; Acts 21:38; Galatians 5:12. It occurs also in Harpocration (a.d. 4th cent.) and about 100 b.c. εχαναστατοω — exanastatoō is found in a fragment of papyrus (Tebtunis no. 2) and in a Paris Magical Papyrus l. 2243f. But in an Egyptian letter of Aug. 4, 41 a.d. (Oxyrhynchus Pap. no. 119, 10) “the bad boy” uses it = “he upsets me” or “ he drives me out of my senses” See Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, pp. 84f. It is not a “Biblical word” at all, but belongs to the current Koiné. It is a vigorous and graphic term. [source]
Acts 21:33 Laid hold on him [επελαβετο αντου]
See same verb in Acts 21:30. To be bound (δετηναι — dethēnai). First aorist passive infinitive of δεω — de (see Acts 21:11). With two chains Instrumental case of αλυσις — halusis old word from α — a privative and λυω — luō (not loosing, i.e. chaining). With two chains as a violent and seditious person, probably leader of a band of assassins (Acts 21:38). See Mark 5:4. Inquired (epunthaneto). Imperfect middle of punthanomai old and common verb used mainly by Luke in the N.T. Lysias repeated his inquiries. Who he was Present active optative of πυντανομαι — eimi changed from τις ειη — estin (present indicative) in the indirect question, a change not obligatory after a past tense, but often done in the older Greek, rare in the N.T. (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1043f.). And what he had done (ειμι — kai tōi estin pepoiēkōs). Periphrastic perfect active indicative of εστιν — poieō here retained, not changed to the optative as is true of και τι εστιν πεποιηκως — eiē from ποιεω — estin in the same indirect question, illustrating well the freedom about it. [source]
Acts 21:33 With two chains [αλυσεσι δυσι]
Instrumental case of αλυσις — halusis old word from α — a privative and λυω — luō (not loosing, i.e. chaining). With two chains as a violent and seditious person, probably leader of a band of assassins (Acts 21:38). See Mark 5:4. Inquired (epunthaneto). Imperfect middle of punthanomai old and common verb used mainly by Luke in the N.T. Lysias repeated his inquiries. Who he was Present active optative of πυντανομαι — eimi changed from τις ειη — estin (present indicative) in the indirect question, a change not obligatory after a past tense, but often done in the older Greek, rare in the N.T. (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1043f.). And what he had done (ειμι — kai tōi estin pepoiēkōs). Periphrastic perfect active indicative of εστιν — poieō here retained, not changed to the optative as is true of και τι εστιν πεποιηκως — eiē from ποιεω — estin in the same indirect question, illustrating well the freedom about it. [source]
Acts 21:37 Dost thou know Greek? [ελληνιστι γινωσκεισ]
Old Greek adverb in ι — ̇i from ελληνιζω — Hellēnizō meaning “in Greek.” “Do you know it in Greek?” In the N.T. only here and John 19:20. Art thou not then the Egyptian? (Ουκ αρα συ ει ο Αιγυπτιοσ — Ouk ara su ei ho Aiguptioṡ). Expects the answer Yes and αρα — ara argues the matter (therefore). The well-known (ο — ho) Egyptian who had given the Romans so much trouble. Stirred up to sedition First aorist active participle of αναστατοω — anastatoō a late verb from αναστατος — anastatos outcast, and so to unsettle, to stir up, to excite, once known only in lxx and Acts 17:6 (which see); Acts 21:38; Galatians 5:12, but now found in several papyri examples with precisely this sense to upset. Of the Assassins (των σικαριων — tōn sikariōn). Latin word sicarius, one who carried a short sword σιχα — sica under his cloak, a cutthroat. Josephus uses this very word for bands of robbers under this Egyptian (War II. 17, 6 and 13, 5; Ant. XX. 8, 10). Josephus says that there were 30,000 who gathered on the Mount of Olives to see the walls of Jerusalem fall down and not merely 4,000 as Lysias does here. But Lysias may refer to the group that were armed thus (banditti) the core of the mob of 30,000. Lysias at once saw by Paul‘s knowledge of Greek that he was not the famous Egyptian who led the Assassins and escaped himself when Felix attacked and slew the most of them. [source]
Acts 21:37 Stirred up to sedition [αναστατωσας]
First aorist active participle of αναστατοω — anastatoō a late verb from αναστατος — anastatos outcast, and so to unsettle, to stir up, to excite, once known only in lxx and Acts 17:6 (which see); Acts 21:38; Galatians 5:12, but now found in several papyri examples with precisely this sense to upset. Of the Assassins (των σικαριων — tōn sikariōn). Latin word sicarius, one who carried a short sword σιχα — sica under his cloak, a cutthroat. Josephus uses this very word for bands of robbers under this Egyptian (War II. 17, 6 and 13, 5; Ant. XX. 8, 10). Josephus says that there were 30,000 who gathered on the Mount of Olives to see the walls of Jerusalem fall down and not merely 4,000 as Lysias does here. But Lysias may refer to the group that were armed thus (banditti) the core of the mob of 30,000. Lysias at once saw by Paul‘s knowledge of Greek that he was not the famous Egyptian who led the Assassins and escaped himself when Felix attacked and slew the most of them. [source]
Galatians 5:12 Which trouble [ἀναστατοῦντες]
Only here in Paul, and twice elsewhere, Acts 17:6; Acts 21:38. olxx. Stronger than ταράσσειν disturbRather to upset or overthrow. The usual phrase in Class. is ἀνάστατον ποιεῖν tomake an upset. Used of driving out from home, ruining a city or country. See on madest an uproar, Acts 21:38. Rev. unsettle is too weak. [source]
Galatians 5:12 They which unsettle you [οι αναστατουντες υμας]
Late verb from αναστατος — anastatos driven from one‘s abode, and in papyri in this sense as well as in sense of upsetting or disturbing one‘s mind (boy‘s letter) as here. In Acts 17:6; Acts 21:38 we have it in sense of making a commotion. Cut themselves off (αποκοπσονται — apokopsontai). Future middle of αποκοπτω — apokoptō old word to cut off as in Acts 27:32, here to mutilate. [source]

What do the individual words in Acts 21:38 mean?

Not then you are the Egyptian - before these the days having led a revolt and having led out into the wilderness the four thousand men of the Assassins
οὐκ ἄρα σὺ εἶ Αἰγύπτιος πρὸ τούτων τῶν ἡμερῶν ἀναστατώσας καὶ ἐξαγαγὼν εἰς τὴν ἔρημον τοὺς τετρακισχιλίους ἄνδρας τῶν Σικαρίων

Αἰγύπτιος  Egyptian 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: Αἰγύπτιος  
Sense: an Egyptian.
  - 
Parse: Article, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
πρὸ  before 
Parse: Preposition
Root: πρό  
Sense: before.
τούτων  these 
Parse: Demonstrative Pronoun, Genitive Feminine Plural
Root: οὗτος  
Sense: this.
ἡμερῶν  days 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Feminine Plural
Root: ἡμέρα  
Sense: the day, used of the natural day, or the interval between sunrise and sunset, as distinguished from and contrasted with the night.
ἀναστατώσας  having  led  a  revolt 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Participle Active, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: ἀναστατόω  
Sense: to stir up, excite, unsettle.
ἐξαγαγὼν  having  led  out 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Participle Active, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: ἐξάγω  
Sense: to lead out.
εἰς  into 
Parse: Preposition
Root: εἰς  
Sense: into, unto, to, towards, for, among.
ἔρημον  wilderness 
Parse: Adjective, Accusative Feminine Singular
Root: ἔρημος  
Sense: solitary, lonely, desolate, uninhabited.
τετρακισχιλίους  four  thousand 
Parse: Adjective, Accusative Masculine Plural
Root: τετρακισχίλιοι  
Sense: four thousand.
ἄνδρας  men 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Plural
Root: ἀνήρ  
Sense: with reference to sex.
τῶν  of  the 
Parse: Article, Genitive Masculine Plural
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
Σικαρίων  Assassins 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Masculine Plural
Root: σικάριος  
Sense: an assassin.

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