Acts 21:39

39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.”

Acts 21:39 in Other Translations

King James Version (KJV)
39 But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.
English Standard Version (ESV)
39 Paul replied, "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people."
New Living Translation (NLT)
39 “No,” Paul replied, “I am a Jew and a citizen of Tarsus in Cilicia, which is an important city. Please, let me talk to these people.”
The Message Bible (MSG)
39 Paul said, "No, I'm a Jew, born in Tarsus. And I'm a citizen still of that influential city. I have a simple request: Let me speak to the crowd."
American Standard Version (ASV)
39 But Paul said, I am a Jew, of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and I beseech thee, give me leave to speak unto the people.
GOD'S WORD Translation (GW)
39 Paul answered, "I'm a Jew, a citizen from the well-known city of Tarsus in Cilicia. I'm asking you to let me talk to the people."
Holman Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
39 Paul said, "I am a Jewish man from Tarsus of Cilicia, a citizen of an important city. Now I ask you, let me speak to the people."
New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
39 Paul answered, "I am a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia. I am a citizen of an important city. Please let me speak to the people."

Acts 21:39 Meaning and Commentary

Acts 21:39

But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus
And not that Egyptian; he was not of that country, much less that man; but a Jew, both by birth and religion; he was born of Jewish parents, and brought up in the Jewish religion; though his native place was Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, where it is placed by Pliny {n}, Ptolomy F15, and Mela F16; and is by some thought to be the same with the Tarshish of the Old Testament:

a citizen of no mean city;
Pliny F17 calls it a free city, and Solinus F18 says it is the mother, or chief of cities, and Curtius


F19 speaks of it as a very opulent one; which when Alexander drew near to with his army, the inhabitants of it set fire to, that he might not possess their riches; which he understanding, sent Parmenio to prevent it: through this city, as the same historian, in agreement with Pliny and others, observes, ran the river Cydnus; and it being summer time when Alexander was here, and very hot weather, and being covered with dust and sweat, he put off his clothes, and cast himself into the river to wash himself; but as soon as he was in, he was seized with such a numbness of his nerves, that had he not been immediately taken out by his soldiers, and for the extraordinary care of his physician, he had at once expired. Josephus F20 calls this city the most famous of the cities in Gallicia; and derives it, and the whole country, from Tarshish, the grandson of Japheth, ( Genesis 10:4 ) his words are,

``Tharsus gave name to the Tharsians, for so Cilicia was formerly called, of which this is an evidence; for the most famous of the cities with them, and which is the metropolis, is called Tarsus; Theta being changed into Tau for appellation sake.''

Though some say it was built by Perseus, the son of Jupiter and Danae, and called Tharsus, of the hyacinth stone, which is said to be found about it: others think it was so called, (para to tersanyhnai) , because the places of this country were first dried up after the flood: it was not only a city of stately buildings, as it was repaired by Sardanapalus, and increased after the times of Alexander; but there was a famous academy in it, which, for men of learning, exceeded Athens and Alexandria F21; though these exceeded that in number of philosophers: here it is thought lived Aratus the poet, from whom the apostle cites a passage, in ( Acts 17:28 ) and of this place was the famous Chrysippus, who is called (tarseuv) , "a Tarsian" F23, as the apostle is here. Hermogenes, a very celebrated rhetorician, some of whose works are still extant, came from hence F24. Jerom F25 reports it as a tradition, that the parents of the Apostle Paul were of Giscalis, a town in Judea; which with the whole province being destroyed by the Romans, they removed to Tarsus, a city of Cilicia, whither Paul when a young man followed them; but certain it is, that the apostle was born there, as he himself says, in ( Acts 22:3 ) . Ignatius, in F26 the "second" century, writing to the church at Tarsus, calls them citizens and disciples of Paul; citizens, because he was of this city; and disciples, because of the same faith with him; and very likely the first materials of the church in this place were converts of his; since it is evident that he went hither after he was a preacher; see ( Acts 9:30 ) ( 11:25 ) .

And I beseech thee suffer me to speak unto the people;
first he desired to speak with the captain, and that was in order to obtain leave to speak to the people; and which he asks in a very handsome and submissive manner, and hopes to have his request granted him, since he was not the person he took him for, but was a Jew by birth, and a citizen of a very considerable Roman city; and was not a mean, sordid, vagabond creature, nor need he fear that he would sow any discord and sedition among the people.

F14 Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 27.
F15 Geograph. l. 5. c. 8.
F16 De orbis situ, l. 1. c. 13.
F17 Ib. ut supra. (Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 27.)
F18 Polyhist. c. 51.
F19 Hist. l. 3. c. 4.
F20 Antiqu. l. 1. c. 6. sect. 1.
F21 Strabo, Geograph. l. 14.
F23 Laert. Vit. Philosoph. l. 7.
F24 Vid. Fabricii Bibl. Graec. l. 4. c. 31. sect. 4. 5.
F25 Catalog. Script. Eccles. sect. 15. fol. 90. G. & Comment. in Philemon. ver. 23. Tom. 9. fol. 116. L.
F26 Ep. ad Tarsenses, p. 75.

Acts 21:39 In-Context

37 As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, “May I say something to you?” “Do you speak Greek?” he replied.
38 “Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness some time ago?”
39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.”
40 After receiving the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic :

Cross References 2

  • 1. S Acts 9:11
  • 2. S Acts 6:9; Acts 22:3
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