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Acts 13 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Acts 13 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

(Jehovah's Witnesses) "The Holy Ghost said ... I have called them."
JWs deny that the Holy Spirit is a person. Why then does he talk and refer to himself in the first person in this verse?
An excellent question. But again, Jehovah Witnesses believe very little of what is written in the Bible.

3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.

5 And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.

6 And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-jesus:

7 Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.

8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.

(13:8-11) "The hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind."
Paul and the Holy Ghost conspire together to make Elymas (the sorcerer) blind.
"Thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness"
(13:10) "Pervert the right ways of the Lord"
BOM: 1 Nephi 13:27, 22:14; 2 Nephi 28:15; Alma 31:11
Quite a trick isn't it, being able to conspire to make someone blind? But despite the allegations of the author of the SAB that isn't at all what this verse describes. Elymas had a free will, it was he who conspired, who withstood Paul and Barnabas. And no one can make another person blind by just speaking to him. Only God can do that. What Paul did here was done through the Holy Ghost. God can see the heart and knew of what spirit Elymas truly was, and what was the most fitting punishment for this man who tried to turn his master from what is good back to that which is evil.
Note also that this punishment was for a time, Elymas didn't stay blind, it would be for a season. John Gill writes:

some say that Elymas repented, and had his sight restored to him; and after that he returned to his sorcery, and again greatly opposed Barnabas in the island of Cyprus

9 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,

10 And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?

11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.

See the individual texts the author of the SAB mentions, his quotes are taken completely out of context.

12 Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.

"Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed."
When the deputy saw that God could (through Paul) make people blind, he believed. (Who else shows off their power by blinding people?)
Paul didn't have this power, it was a judgment by God. And that is why he believed, not in Paul, but in Paul's sender.

13 Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.

14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.

15 And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.

16 Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.

17 The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it.

18 And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.

"... forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness"
It took the Israelites 40 years to travel from Egypt to Canaan, yet such a journey, even at that time, would have taken no more than ten days.
Does this verse mention a journey? And the few days journey the author of the SAB would like to have them taking would be past numerous Egyptian fortifications, full of soldiers and chariots. But see chapter 7:36.

19 And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot.

The author of Acts brags about God destroying "seven nations of the land of Canaan" and dividing their land by lot.
God gives countries to whom he will. The Canaanites lost their country because of their sins, just as the Israelites lost it many years later.

20 And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.

21 And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.

Gen.49:10 says that all of Israel's kings will be from the tribe of Judah, yet we see in this verse that Israel's first king was from the tribe of Benjamin.

22 And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.

"A man after mine own heart"
Paul quotes God as saying, "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will." But no such quote can be found in the Old Testament. (Although 1 Sam.13:14 does refer to David as "a man after his [God's] own heart." And it makes some sense, too, since David was nearly as cruel as the biblical God.)
David, a man after God's own heart (WWDD?)
If we look for this quote in a single text it is indeed not found. But this quote is a combination of two verses, the first part is found in 1 Sam. 13:14. The second part is found in Is. 44:28 where we read “and shall perform all my pleasure.” The reason God raises servants is that they serve him. That was the reason Cyrus was raised, that was the reason David was raised, and that was how Saul should have behaved.

23 Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:

(13:23) "Of this man's seed"
Was Joseph the father of Jesus?

24 When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

25 And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.

26 Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.

27 For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.

28 And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.

29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.

(13:27-30) "They that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers ... laid him in a sepulchre."
Who buried Jesus?
It would lead to absurdity to attach the meaning “every Jew and every ruler in Jerusalem” to the word “they” that buried him. But Jesus was buried by Jews and rulers among the Jews, such as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, although they did not consent in his dead.
See also John 19:38.

30 But God raised him from the dead:

"But God raised him from the dead."
Who raised Jesus from the dead?

31 And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.

"And he was seen many days."
When did Jesus ascend into heaven?
Somehow the word many cannot mean forty according to the author of the SAB. But Luke tells us exactly how many days many days is. See chapter 1:9.

32 And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,

33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

34 And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.

"The sure mercies of David."
David was anything but merciful. For an example of his behavior see 2 Sam.12:31 and 1 Chr.20:3, where he saws, hacks, and burns to death the inhabitants of several cities.
First of all, the interpretation of the author of the SAB might not be correct at all, see an alternative translation in 1 Chr. 20:3.
But secondly, the phrase “sure mercies of David” is taken from Is. 55:3. And the meaning is not that David was full of mercies, but that he received mercies! The sure mercy is the promise of Christ as God who cannot lie had promised would be of David's seed and would also die for David's sins.

35 Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

36 For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:

37 But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.

38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:

39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

"All that believe [the right things] are justified from all things," contrary to what Jesus said in Matthew (12:31-32) and Luke (12:10).
Is there an unforgivable sin?

40 Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;

41 Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.

42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.

43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.

44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.

45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.

(13:45-46) "The Jews ... were filled with envy ... contradicting and blaspheming."
The Jews of Antioch, after seeing Paul's success in preaching, were envious and blasphemed God. Paul then declares them to be "unworthy of everlasting life."
This accusation is false. A mere human cannot declare another person unworthy of everlasting life. So Paul doesn't say that. He says that they judged themselves unworthy, Paul doesn't say they are unworthy.

46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.

47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.

48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

"As many as were ordained to eternal life believed."
God chooses those who will believe [the right things], and only they will go to heaven.
Do humans have free will?
What the Bible says about determinism and free will
The issue if humans have a free will is an important one. First of all, we have to define the meaning of free will here. Free would mean really free to choose between good and evil. That on every occasion someone can act fully rationally, free of prejudice, emotion and addiction. Everyone with a bit of introspection will readily see that humans do not possess such a free will. And who has never willed something that was not good?
The Bible goes further indeed and says we are dead in trespasses and sins, Eph. 2:1. That there is none who does good, Gen. 6:5
So how can people who are dead be saved? How can people be born again, John 3:3? That is the work and grace of God. God works in this world according to his pleasure. We humans do not have rights here because we, willingly, do not seek God. This verse indicates how being saved is not according to what we wanted, but it is an act of God's free grace. How can we hope that loved ones who do not seek God but are bound by Satan are saved? We do not have to despair in a single case, but can ask God to extend mercy even to those that do not want to know him.
The author of the SAB turns this verse in something different: if God wants to save us, he will, and if he won't, there's nothing you can do. But there is nothing we will do, that should be our starting point. And there are many verses in the Bible that exhort us to come to Jesus without delay, and many verses that tell us that God's grace is for everyone, Rev. 22:17.
It is indeed true that the Bible also tells us that God elects, but it is not to make us despair, but to make us hope. We certainly should not think about election first, but we should do what the Bible commands us to do: come to Jesus without delay.

49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.

50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.

"The Jews ... raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas."
"The Jews stirred up" trouble and "raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts."
Did they or didn't they?

51 But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.

52 And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.