Which was with the deputy of the country
Or the Roman governor of the island; who very likely dwelt at Paphos, it being a principal, if not the principal city in the island, since Pliny mentions it first of all the cities in it, as before observed: and with this governor, or proconsul, as the word signifies, or rather praetor, Bar-jesus was: either he lived with him, making great pretensions to knowledge and learning, which the governor might be a favourer of, or in quality of a physician; the Ethiopic version adds, "and he was a servant of the governor"; or he might be only with him occasionally and accidentally, just at that time, though the former seems most likely: and the name of this deputy was Sergius Paulus; the name of Paulus was common among the Romans; Pliny the younger speaks F2 of one Passienus Paulus, a famous Roman knight, and very learned, who wrote elegies; and Trajan F3, in an epistle to him, makes mention of Paulus the proconsul; and Pliny the older, among his authors from whom he compiled his history, cites one of this very name, Sergius Paulus F4. The island of Cyprus was at this time in the hands of the Romans, and this man was the governor of it; it was first inhabited by some of the sons of Japhet; Josephus F5 assigns it to Cittim: Cittim, he says,
``had the island Chetima, which now is called Cyprus; and from it all the islands, and most places about the sea, are called Chethim by the Hebrews; and as a proof of what I say, (adds he,) one of the cities in Cyprus still retains the name; for it is called Citium by those who have made it Greek, and not much differing from the name Chethimus.''After the Trojan war, it came into the hands of the Grecians; and continued with them from the times of Teucer, until Evagoras and his son Nicocles; and then it fell into the hands of the Romans, and through them to the kings of Egypt; and after them became a Roman colony, in the following manner: Clodius Pulcher condemned Cyprus to the Roman people, to possess which Cato being sent, Ptolomy the king of the island, having cast his money into the sea, prevented the ignominy of it by a voluntary death, Anno U. C. 698 F6. The Roman historian says F7, Cyprus being conquered, the glory of it was not assigned to any, seeing it was made a province by the decree of the senate, by the means of Cato, through the death of the king, which he brought upon himself; and from that time, as Strabo says F8, it became a praetorian province, and was now governed by a praetor, though he is called a deputy, or proconsul; the reason of which Dr. Hammond thinks was, because that P. Lentulus, Ap. Claudius, and M. Cicero, being proconsuls of Cilicia, had the administration of Cyprus also granted to them by the senate; hence afterwards the governors of Cyprus were called proconsuls, or deputies. This same Greek word here used, is adopted by the Jewish Rabbins into their language; hence we read of (ajwpyjna) (anyupatov) , "the deputy", or "proconsul" of Caesarea F9; which is explained by a governor, and a judge F11 or a third from the king F12; and it is refined in the Syriac version: this deputy is said to be a "prudent man". The Arabic version seems to distinguish Paul the prudent man, from Sergius the deputy, or tribune, as it calls him; reading the words thus, "who was by Sergius the tribune, with Paul a prudent man"; but Sergius and Paulus undoubtedly design one and the same man, who was prudent: he is said to be "a prudent man", in the management of his affairs, as a governor; and might be very learned, ingenious, and an understanding man; a man of great sagacity and penetration, who very likely saw through the vain pretensions, and impostures of Bar-jesus, and was desirous to expose him in a public manner; or at least might conclude he would be discovered and exposed by those good men, who were come into the city; and what follows seems to be mentioned as an instance of his prudence:
who called for Barnabas and Saul;
sent messengers to them, to desire them to come to him; Barnabas is mentioned first, though the inferior person, because he was a native of the country, and might be best known:
and desired to hear the word of God;
whether this was at first from mere curiosity, or from any political view, or from a true desire of knowing the way of life and salvation, which might be wrought in his soul by the Spirit of God, is not certain; though the latter seems most likely, since it issued in his conversion.
F2 L. 6. ep. 15. p. 139.
F3 Ib. l. 10. ep. 68. p. 267.
F4 Elenchos Hist. ex autoribus, l. 2. & 1. 18.
F5 Antiqu. l. 1. c. 6. sect. 1.
F6 Petav. Rationar. Temp. par. 1. l. 4. c. 18. p. 191.
F7 Velleius Paterculus, l. 2.
F8 Geograph. l. 14. p. 471.
F9 T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 9. 1. Midrash Kohelet, fol. 66. 3. & 82. 2.
F11 Arnch apud Mattanot Cehuna in Midrash ib.
F12 David de Pomis Lex, Heb. fol. 9. 2.