Skip to content

Skip to table of contents

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Select language English
New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)

Acts of Apostles 16:1-40

16  So he arrived at Derʹbe and also at Lysʹtra.+ And a disciple named Timothy+ was there, the son of a believing Jewish woman but of a Greek father,  and he was well-reported-on by the brothers+ in Lysʹtra and I·coʹni·um.  Paul expressed the desire for Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews in those places,+ for they all knew that his father was a Greek.  As they traveled on through the cities, they would deliver to them for observance the decrees that had been decided on by the apostles and the elders who were in Jerusalem.+  Then, indeed, the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number day by day.  Moreover, they traveled through Phrygʹi·a and the country of Ga·laʹti·a,+ because* they were forbidden by the holy spirit to speak the word in the province of Asia.  Further, when they came down to Mysʹi·a, they made efforts to go into Bi·thynʹi·a,+ but the spirit of Jesus did not permit them.  So they passed by Mysʹi·a and came down to Troʹas.  And during the night a vision appeared to Paul—a Mac·e·doʹni·an man was standing there urging him and saying: “Step over into Mac·e·doʹni·a and help us.” 10  As soon as he had seen the vision, we tried to go into Mac·e·doʹni·a, drawing the conclusion that God had summoned us to declare the good news to them. 11  So we put out to sea from Troʹas and made a straight run to Samʹo·thrace, but on the following day to Ne·apʹo·lis; 12  and from there we went to Phi·lipʹpi,+ a colony, which is the principal city of the district of Mac·e·doʹni·a. We stayed in this city for some days. 13  On the Sabbath day we went outside the gate beside a river, where we thought there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. 14  And a woman named Lydʹi·a, a seller of purple from the city of Thy·a·tiʹra+ and a worshipper of God, was listening, and Jehovah opened her heart wide to pay attention to the things Paul was saying.+ 15  Now when she and her household got baptized,+ she urged us: “If you have considered me to be faithful to Jehovah, come and stay at my house.” And she just made us come. 16  Now it happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a servant girl with a spirit, a demon of divination,+ met us. She supplied her masters with much profit by fortune-telling. 17  This girl kept following Paul and us and crying out with the words: “These men are slaves of the Most High God+ and are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” 18  She kept doing this for many days. Finally Paul got tired of it and turned and said to the spirit: “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.+ 19  Well, when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone,+ they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the rulers.+ 20  Leading them up to the civil magistrates, they said: “These men are disturbing our city very much.+ They are Jews, 21  and they are proclaiming customs that it is not lawful for us to adopt or practice,+ seeing that we are Romans.”+ 22  And the crowd rose up together against them, and the civil magistrates, after tearing the garments off them, gave the command to beat them with rods.+ 23  After they had inflicted many blows on them, they threw them into prison+ and ordered the jailer to guard them securely.+ 24  Because he got such an order, he threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25  But about the middle of the night, Paul and Silas were praying and praising God with song,+ and the prisoners were listening to them. 26  Suddenly a great earthquake occurred, so that the foundations of the jail were shaken. Moreover, all the doors were instantly opened, and everyone’s bonds came loose.+ 27  When the jailer woke up and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, assuming that the prisoners had escaped.+ 28  But Paul called out with a loud voice: “Do not hurt yourself, for we are all here!” 29  So he asked for lights and rushed in, and seized with trembling, he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30  He brought them outside and said: “Sirs, what must I do to get saved?” 31  They said: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will get saved, you and your household.”+ 32  Then they spoke the word of Jehovah to him together with all those in his house. 33  And he took them along in that hour of the night and washed their wounds. Then he and his entire household were baptized without delay.+ 34  He brought them into his house and set a table before them, and he rejoiced greatly with all his household now that he had believed in God. 35  When it became day, the civil magistrates sent the constables to say: “Release those men.” 36  The jailer reported their words to Paul: “The civil magistrates have sent men to have you two released. So come out now and go in peace.” 37  But Paul said to them: “They flogged us publicly, uncondemned,* though we are Romans,+ and threw us into prison. Are they now throwing us out secretly? No, indeed! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” 38  The constables reported these words to the civil magistrates. These grew fearful when they heard that the men were Romans.+ 39  So they came and pleaded with them, and after escorting them out, they requested them to depart from the city. 40  But they came out of the prison and went to the home of Lydʹi·a;+ and when they saw the brothers, they encouraged them+ and departed.

Footnotes

Or “and.”
Or “without a trial.”

Study Notes

Timothy: In the Bible, this is the first mention of Timothy, whose Greek name means “One Who Honors God.” It is not known precisely when Timothy embraced Christianity. However, his believing Jewish mother, Eunice, and probably also his grandmother Lois taught him from his early childhood “the holy writings” found in the Hebrew Scriptures, as the Jews understood them. (2Ti 1:5; 3:15) It is very likely that Eunice and Lois became Christians when Paul visited Lystra during his first missionary tour. Timothy’s father was called a Greek, meaning either that his ancestors were from Greece or that he was a member of another race. He was apparently not a Christian. During Paul’s second missionary tour, in late 49 or early 50 C.E., Paul came to Lystra, apparently Timothy’s hometown. At that time, Timothy was a Christian disciple who “was well-reported-on by the brothers in Lystra and Iconium.” (Ac 16:2) Timothy may then have been in his late teens or early 20’s, a conclusion supported by Paul’s statement to Timothy some 10 or 15 years later when he said: “Never let anyone look down on your youth.” (1Ti 4:12, likely written between 61 and 64 C.E.) This indicates that even then, Timothy was a relatively young man.

circumcised him: Paul well knew that circumcision was not a Christian requirement. (Ac 15:6-29) Timothy, whose father was an unbeliever, had not been circumcised. Paul knew that this might stumble some of the Jews whom they would visit together on their preaching tour. Instead of allowing this obstacle to impede their work, Paul asked Timothy to submit to this painful surgery. Both men thus exemplified what Paul himself later wrote to the Corinthians: “To the Jews I became as a Jew in order to gain Jews.”—1Co 9:20.

elders: Lit., “older men.” Here the Greek term pre·sbyʹte·ros refers to those who held a position of responsibility in the early Christian congregation. The elders of the Jerusalem congregation are mentioned together with the apostles as the ones to whom Paul, Barnabas, and some other brothers from Syrian Antioch went in order to get the matter of circumcision settled. So just as some elders served in fleshly Israel on a national level, these elders together with the apostles formed a governing body for all the Christian congregations in the first century C.E. This indicates that the original group serving as a governing body, the 12 apostles, had now been enlarged.—Ac 1:21, 22, 26; see study notes on Mt 16:21; Ac 11:30.

the apostles and the elders who were in Jerusalem: As shown in the study note on Ac 15:2, some elders in the nation of Israel served in positions of responsibility on a national level. Likewise, these elders in Jerusalem together with the apostles formed a governing body for all the Christian congregations in the first century C.E. After handling the issue of circumcision, these apostles and elders made their decision known to the congregations, and it was accepted as authoritative.

the province of Asia: See Glossary, “Asia.”

the spirit of Jesus: Apparently referring to Jesus’ use of the holy spirit, or active force, which he had “received . . . from the Father.” (Ac 2:33) As head of the Christian congregation, Jesus used the spirit to direct the preaching work of the first Christians, indicating where they should concentrate their efforts. In this case, Jesus used “the holy spirit” to prevent Paul and his traveling companions from preaching in the province of Asia and the province of Bithynia. (Ac 16:6-10) These regions, however, were later reached with the good news.—Ac 18:18-21; 1Pe 1:1, 2.

passed by: Or “passed through.” The Greek verb pa·rerʹkho·mai, here rendered “passed by,” allows for the idea of traveling through the area, which is apparently what Paul and his companions did. The seaport of Troas was in the region of Mysia, located in the NW part of Asia Minor. They had to travel through Mysia to reach Troas, so they “passed by Mysia” in the sense that they traveled through the area without stopping to do extensive preaching there.

Macedonia: See Glossary.

The first account: Luke here refers to his Gospel account of Jesus’ life. In his Gospel account, Luke focused on “all the things Jesus started to do and to teach.” In the book of Acts, Luke picks up where he left off and records what Jesus’ followers said and did. The accounts are similar in style and wording, and both are addressed to Theophilus. Whether Theophilus was a disciple of Christ is not stated explicitly. (See study note on Lu 1:3.) Luke begins the book of Acts by summarizing many of the events recorded at the end of his Gospel, clearly indicating that this second account is a continuation of the first. In this summary, however, Luke uses somewhat different wording and provides extra details.—Compare Lu 24:49 with Ac 1:1-12.

us: Luke’s use of the first person pronoun “us” indicates that he rejoined Paul at Philippi; the two men had parted company at Philippi some time earlier. (Ac 16:10-17, 40) They now traveled together from Philippi to Jerusalem, where Paul was later arrested. (Ac 20:5–21:18, 33) This is the second section of the book of Acts where Luke includes himself in the narrative.—See study notes on Ac 16:10; 27:1.

us: As mentioned in the study notes on Ac 16:10 and 20:5, the book of Acts contains sections where Luke, the writer of the book, uses first person pronouns such as “we,” “us,” and “our” (Ac 27:20) when describing what happened. This indicates that Luke accompanied Paul for portions of some of his many journeys. The section of Acts that starts here and continues to Ac 28:16 includes such references, showing that Luke traveled with Paul to Rome.

declaring the good news: The Greek verb eu·ag·ge·liʹzo·mai, used here, is related to the noun eu·ag·geʹli·on, “good news.” In the Christian Greek Scriptures, an important aspect of the good news is closely linked with God’s Kingdom, the theme of Jesus’ preaching and teaching work, and with the salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. In the book of Acts, the Greek verb eu·ag·ge·liʹzo·mai occurs numerous times, emphasizing the preaching work.—Ac 8:4, 12, 25, 35, 40; 10:36; 11:20; 13:32; 14:7, 15, 21; 15:35; 16:10; 17:18; see study notes on Mt 4:23; 24:14.

we: Up to Ac 16:9, the book of Acts is narrated strictly in the third person, that is, the writer Luke reports only what others said and did. Here at Ac 16:10, however, there is a change in that style, and Luke includes himself in the narrative. From this point on, he uses the pronouns “we” and “us” in sections of the book where he was apparently accompanying Paul and his traveling companions. (See study note on Ac 1:1 and “Introduction to Acts.”) Luke first accompanied Paul from Troas to Philippi in about 50 C.E., but when Paul left Philippi, Luke was no longer with him.—Ac 16:10-17, 40; see study notes on Ac 20:5; 27:1.

declare the good news: See study note on Ac 5:42.

Philippi: This city was originally called Crenides (Krenides). Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great) took the city from the Thracians about the middle of the fourth century B.C.E. and named it after himself. There were rich gold mines in the area, and gold coins were issued in Philip’s name. About 168 B.C.E., the Roman consul Lucius Aemilius Paulus defeated Perseus, the last of the Macedonian kings, and took Philippi and the surrounding territory. In 146 B.C.E., all Macedonia was formed into a single Roman province. The battle in which Octavian (Octavius) and Mark Antony defeated the armies of Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, assassins of Julius Caesar, took place on the Plain of Philippi in 42 B.C.E. Afterward, as a memorial of his great victory, Octavian made Philippi a Roman colony. Some years later, when Octavian was made Caesar Augustus by the Roman Senate, he named the town Colonia Augusta Julia Philippensis.

a river: Many scholars identify the river with the Gangites, located 2.4 km (1.5 mi) W of Philippi, more than a sabbath day’s journey away. Some feel that because of Philippi’s military character, the Jews may have been forbidden to assemble for worship inside the city and had to meet far away. Others favor the Crenides (Krenides), a small stream that is closer to the city and is locally called the stream of Lydia. However, Roman tombs have been found there, and since it was an area in public view, some feel that it would have been an unlikely place for prayer. Still others suggest the area of a now-dry streambed that was outside the Neapolis Gate, where a number of churches were built in the fourth or fifth century C.E. to commemorate Paul’s visit to Philippi.

a place of prayer: Perhaps the Jews were forbidden to have a synagogue in the city because of Philippi’s military character. Or the city might have lacked ten Jewish males—the minimum number traditionally required for establishing a synagogue.

a woman named Lydia: Lydia is named only twice in the Bible, here and at Ac 16:40. There is documentary evidence to show that Lydia was used as a proper name, though some believe that Lydia was a nickname meaning “Lydian Woman.” Lydia and her household became Christians about 50 C.E. in Philippi, so they were among the first individuals in Europe to embrace Christianity as a result of Paul’s preaching. Lydia—who possibly never married or was a widow—had a generous spirit that enabled her to enjoy rewarding association with missionaries Paul, Silas, and Luke.—Ac 16:15.

a seller of purple: Lydia may have traded in purple goods of various kinds, including purple fabric, clothing, tapestries, dyes, or other items. She was originally from Thyatira, a city of western Asia Minor in the region called Lydia. An inscription found in Philippi testifies to the presence of a guild of sellers of purple in that city. The Lydians and their neighbors were famed for their skill in the dyeing of purple since the days of Homer (ninth or eighth century B.C.E.). Since Lydia’s trade required substantial capital and she had a large house capable of hosting four men—Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke—in all likelihood she was a successful and wealthy merchant. The reference to “her household” could mean that she lived with relatives, but it could also imply that she had slaves and servants. (Ac 16:15) And the fact that before leaving the city, Paul and Silas met with some brothers in this hospitable woman’s home suggests that it became a meeting place for the first Christians in Philippi.—Ac 16:40.

Jehovah opened her heart wide: Lydia is identified as a worshipper of God, an expression that indicates that she was a Jewish proselyte. (Ac 13:43) On the Sabbath, she had gathered with other women at a place of prayer at a river outside Philippi. (Ac 16:13) It may be that there were few Jews and no synagogue in Philippi. Lydia may have become acquainted with the worship of Jehovah in her home city, Thyatira, which had a large Jewish population and a Jewish meeting place. Jehovah, the God whom she worshipped, noticed that she was listening attentively.​—See App. C.

Jehovah opened her heart wide: Lydia is identified as a worshipper of God, an expression that indicates that she was a Jewish proselyte. (Ac 13:43) On the Sabbath, she had gathered with other women at a place of prayer at a river outside Philippi. (Ac 16:13) It may be that there were few Jews and no synagogue in Philippi. Lydia may have become acquainted with the worship of Jehovah in her home city, Thyatira, which had a large Jewish population and a Jewish meeting place. Jehovah, the God whom she worshipped, noticed that she was listening attentively.​—See App. C.

faithful to Jehovah: As shown in the study note in the preceding verse, Lydia’s background as a Jewish proselyte makes it logical that she had Jehovah in mind. She had just heard about Jesus Christ from Paul’s preaching but had not yet shown that she was faithful to Jesus. It seems logical, then, that she was referring to her faithfulness to the God whom she had already been worshipping, Jehovah.​—See App. C.

with a spirit, a demon of divination: Lit., “with a spirit of python.” Python was the name of the mythical snake or dragon that guarded the temple and oracle of Delphi, Greece. The Greek word pyʹthon came to refer to a person who could foretell the future and to the spirit that spoke through that one. Although later used to denote a ventriloquist, here in Acts it is used to describe a demon who enabled a young girl to practice the art of prediction.

by fortune-telling: Or “by practicing the art of prediction.” In the Bible, magic-practicing priests, spiritistic diviners, astrologers, and others are listed as claiming the ability to foretell the future. (Le 19:31; De 18:11) In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the only mention of demons predicting the future is in connection with this event in Philippi. The demons oppose God and those who do his will, so it is not surprising that Paul and Silas suffered severe opposition as a result of casting out this demon of divination.—Ac 16:12, 17-24.

marketplaces: Or “places of assembly.” The Greek word a·go·raʹ is here used to refer to an open area that served as a center for buying and selling and as a place of public assembly in cities and towns of the ancient Near East and the Greek and Roman world.

the marketplace: Located NW of the Acropolis, Athens’ marketplace (Greek, a·go·raʹ) covered 5 ha (12 ac) or so. The marketplace was much more than a location for buying and selling. It was the center of the city’s economic, political, and cultural life. Athenians enjoyed meeting at this center of public life to engage in intellectual discussions.

marketplace: Or “public square; forum.” The Greek word a·go·raʹ is here used to refer to an open area that served as a center for buying and selling and as a place of public assembly in cities and towns of the ancient Near East and the Greek and Roman world. From this account about what happened in Philippi, it appears that some judicial matters were handled in the marketplace. Excavations of the ruins of Philippi indicate that the Egnatian Way ran through the middle of the city and alongside it was a fair-sized forum, or marketplace.—See study notes on Mt 23:7; Ac 17:17.

the civil magistrates: The plural form of the Greek term stra·te·gosʹ here denotes the highest officials of the Roman colony of Philippi. These had the duties of keeping order, administering finances, trying and judging violators of the law, and ordering punishment.

Philippi: This city was originally called Crenides (Krenides). Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great) took the city from the Thracians about the middle of the fourth century B.C.E. and named it after himself. There were rich gold mines in the area, and gold coins were issued in Philip’s name. About 168 B.C.E., the Roman consul Lucius Aemilius Paulus defeated Perseus, the last of the Macedonian kings, and took Philippi and the surrounding territory. In 146 B.C.E., all Macedonia was formed into a single Roman province. The battle in which Octavian (Octavius) and Mark Antony defeated the armies of Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, assassins of Julius Caesar, took place on the Plain of Philippi in 42 B.C.E. Afterward, as a memorial of his great victory, Octavian made Philippi a Roman colony. Some years later, when Octavian was made Caesar Augustus by the Roman Senate, he named the town Colonia Augusta Julia Philippensis.

we are Romans: The city of Philippi was a Roman colony, and its inhabitants were granted many privileges, possibly including a partial or secondary form of Roman citizenship. This may explain why they seem to have had a stronger attachment to Rome than would otherwise have been the case.—See study note on Ac 16:12.

the word of Jehovah: This expression has its background in the Hebrew Scriptures, where it appears as a combination of a Hebrew term for “word” and the divine name. Together with the expression “Jehovah’s word,” it occurs in some 200 verses. (Some examples are found at 2Sa 12:9; 24:11; 2Ki 7:1; 20:16; 24:2; Isa 1:10; 2:3; 28:14; 38:4; Jer 1:4; 2:4; Eze 1:3; 6:1; Hos 1:1; Mic 1:1; Zec 9:1.) When this expression occurs at Zec 9:1 in an early copy of the Septuagint found at Nahal Hever, Israel, in the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea, the Greek word loʹgos is followed by the divine name written in ancient Hebrew characters (). This parchment scroll is dated between 50 B.C.E. and 50 C.E. The reasons why the New World Translation uses the expression “the word of Jehovah” in the main text, although many Greek manuscripts of Ac 8:​25 read “the word of the Lord,” are explained in App. C.

the word of Jehovah: See study note on Ac 8:​25 and App. C.

we: Up to Ac 16:9, the book of Acts is narrated strictly in the third person, that is, the writer Luke reports only what others said and did. Here at Ac 16:10, however, there is a change in that style, and Luke includes himself in the narrative. From this point on, he uses the pronouns “we” and “us” in sections of the book where he was apparently accompanying Paul and his traveling companions. (See study note on Ac 1:1 and “Introduction to Acts.”) Luke first accompanied Paul from Troas to Philippi in about 50 C.E., but when Paul left Philippi, Luke was no longer with him.—Ac 16:10-17, 40; see study notes on Ac 20:5; 27:1.

were baptized without delay: The jailer and his household, his family, were Gentiles and were likely unfamiliar with basic Scriptural truths. After having encouraged them to “believe in the Lord Jesus,” Paul and Silas spoke “the word of Jehovah” to them, no doubt extensively. (Ac 16:31, 32) This affected them deeply, for that same night, as Ac 16:34 shows, they “believed in God,” or came to have faith in him. Therefore, it was appropriate that they were baptized without delay. When Paul and Silas left Philippi, Paul’s traveling companion Luke did not leave together with them, as indicated at Ac 16:40. (See study note on Ac 16:10.) Perhaps Luke was able to remain in Philippi for some time to give extra help to the new Christians there.

the constables: The Greek word rha·bdouʹkhos, literally meaning “rod bearer,” referred to an official attendant assigned to escort a Roman magistrate in public and to carry out his instructions. The Roman term was lictor. Some of the duties of the Roman constables were policelike in nature, but the constables were strictly attached to the magistrate, with the responsibility of being constantly at his service. They were not directly subject to the wishes of the people but only to the orders of their magistrate.

a Roman: That is, a Roman citizen. This is the second of three recorded instances in which Paul made use of his rights as a Roman citizen. Roman authorities usually interfered little in Jewish affairs. However, the Romans got involved in Paul’s case not only because a riot erupted when he visited the temple but also because he was a Roman citizen. Citizenship afforded a person certain privileges that were recognized and honored throughout the empire. It was illegal, for example, to bind or beat an uncondemned Roman, since such treatment was considered fit for slaves only.—For the other two occasions, see study notes on Ac 16:37; 25:11.

I appeal to Caesar!: In the Bible record, this is the third time that Paul made use of his rights as a Roman citizen. (For the other two occasions, see study notes on Ac 16:37; 22:25.) Such an appeal to Caesar could be made either after the pronouncement of judgment or at any earlier point in the trial. Festus gave evidence of not wanting to decide the matter himself, and a trial in Jerusalem held virtually no hope of justice. So Paul made this formal petition to be judged by the highest court of the empire. It appears that in some cases the appeal could be denied, for example, in the case of a thief, a pirate, or a seditionist caught in the act. Likely for this reason, Festus conferred with “the assembly of counselors” before admitting the appeal. (Ac 25:12) The subsequent hearing with the visiting Herod Agrippa II was held in order that Festus might have clearer information to submit when transmitting Paul’s case to “the August One,” Nero. (Ac 25:12-27; 26:32; 28:19) Paul’s appeal also served the purpose of taking him to Rome, fulfilling an intention expressed earlier. (Ac 19:21) Jesus’ prophetic promise to Paul as well as the angelic message that he later received shows divine direction in the matter.—Ac 23:11; 27:23, 24.

we are Romans: That is, Roman citizens. Paul and apparently also Silas were Roman citizens. Roman law stated that a citizen was always entitled to a proper trial and was never to be punished in public uncondemned. Roman citizenship entitled a person to certain rights and privileges wherever he went in the empire. A Roman citizen was subject to Roman law, not to the laws of provincial cities. When accused, he could agree to be tried according to local law; yet, he still retained the right to be heard by a Roman tribunal. In the case of a capital offense, he had the right to appeal to the emperor. The apostle Paul preached extensively throughout the Roman Empire. He made use of his rights as a Roman citizen on three recorded occasions. The first is here in Philippi when he informed the Philippian magistrates that they had infringed on his rights by beating him.—For the other two occasions, see study notes on Ac 22:25; 25:11.

Media