Acts 11:19 says,

Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only (NKJV, my boldface).

How should one interpret the words "Jews only" in light of Jesus' command in the "Great Commission" (Matthew 28:18-20); namely, that his disciples go into all the world making disciples of all the nations (πάντα τὰ ἔθνη = panta ta ethnē) and not just the Jewish nation?


5 Answers 5


You should interpret it to mean that the Great Commission was not yet complete as of the statement in Acts 11.

(Remember, in Acts 1 Jesus clarified that there would be a progression to how the Commission would be fulfilled. It was to begin with in Jerusalem, then be extended out from there, eventually to the whole world.)

This does not suggest Jesus' mission changed. If you read the Gospels (and OT) carefully you see that the salvation of the whole world was the end-game all along. It just wasn't "Step 1".


Keep in mind those scattered Jewish evangelists (of verse 19) who preached to only Jews were not the apostles, they those saints written of in Acts 8:1:

Act 8:1 Saul was consenting to his death. A great persecution arose against the assembly which was in Jerusalem in that day. They were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except for the apostles.

God, by His providential hand, used the persecution of the saints in Jerusalem to spread the message of Christ to regions far from Christianity's original home. Those same Jews of Act 8.1 who had reached the region of Samaria had progressed into the areas of Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch within a few years.

As Jas mentioned earlier, Jesus mapped out a progression of the gospel in Acts 1:8:

Act 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

Just as there outreach was incremental, so was their knowledge of Christ's commission. Jesus told his disciples in John 16:12:

Joh 16:12 “I have yet many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now. Joh 16:13 However when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak from himself; but whatever he hears, he will speak. He will declare to you things that are coming. Joh 16:14 He will glorify me, for he will take from what is mine, and will declare it to you.

It was the Apostle Peter's vision and subsequent visit to gentiles in Acts Ch 10 that illuminated the hearts of the other Christian brothers regarding the power of the gospel. Another work of the Spirit of God to open hearts and tear down social, religious, and cultural barriers.

Act 11:18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life!


Let's redefine the question;

  1. Did some of the disciples who were scattered preached to Jews only as per Acts 11:19 says? The answer is 'Yes'
  2. Did all the disciples who were scattered preached to Jews only? The answer is 'No', referring to the next verse.

20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. (Acts 11:20 NIV)

Earlier the narrative in Acts 11:1-18 is the account of Peter reported to Jerusalem his vision and his preaching in the house of Cornelius, that the disciples found out God has granted repentance to Gentiles as well.

I think the question was too narrow on Acts 11:19 and did not consider the whole picture.


My view is that the gentiles mentioned weren't non Jews. My view is that it was the Jews that did not adhere to scripture and therefore considered gentiles. Also when they speak of corners of the world and all nations in my view it speaks about Jews that had been dispersed in exile after Israel being conquered and he preached the gospel to those Jews/ isrealites. I Don't think Jesus is preaching to anyone outside the isrealites and judaites gods chosen people.

I came to this position after my own bible studies. I understand I am not a scholar but it is my honest view wich I got from studying the bible and religion.

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Q. How should one interpret the words "Jews only" [in Acts 11:19] in light of Jesus' command in the "Great Commission" (Matthew 28:18-20); namely, that his disciples go into all the world making disciples of all the nations (πάντα τὰ ἔθνη = panta ta ethnē) and not just the Jewish nation?

The problem with this question is that it presumes that Acts and Matthew are telling the same story. They were not written with the intention of harmonizing with each other, but rather to modify the story in order to tell more, better or more desirable story.

In Luke's story in Acts, Jesus does not tell the disciples to meet in Galilee and gives no great commission. Instead, he tells them to remain Jerusalem and wait for Pentecost, after his ascension:

[Act 1:3-5, 12-14 NASB20] [3] To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over [a period of] forty days and speaking of things regarding the kingdom of God. [4] Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "Which," [He said,] "you heard of from Me; [5] for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." ... [12] Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mountain called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. [13] When they had entered [the city,] they went up to the upstairs room where they were staying, that is, Peter, John, James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James [the son] of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas [the] [son] of James. [14] All these were continually devoting themselves with one mind to prayer, along with [the] women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

Neither does John know anything about Pentecost:

[Jhn 20:19-22 NASB20] [19] Now when it was evening on that day, the first [day] of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were [together] due to fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, "Peace [be] to you." [20] And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. [21] So Jesus said to them again, "Peace [be] to you; just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." [22] And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

Nor does John know of or allow for the "eucharist."

So the answer to the question is, you are comparing apples to oranges. None of the four gospels agree with each other or Acts, so the question will not be answered correctly by anyone with the presumption that these four anonymous authors agree on such things.

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