Acts 13:50 says in part that the Jews "stirred up the devout and prominent women AND the chief men of the city" raising up persecution against Paul and Barnabus, causing them to be expelled from the area.

Can we infer from the original language/grammar, as to the role of the women vs. the men in this verse? In particular, do we have enough context to be confident whether it was the women instigating and influencing the chief men to persecute (ala Eve instigating Adam to partake in the garden of Eden) or whether everyone involved, happening to be both men and women of prominence, are all equally to blame for the persecution?

This verse came up in a women's bible study, related to the power a women has to influence, but without being an expert at biblical greek, am unsure whether this verse is a good example of the point the author was trying to make, or misrepresenting what the verse actually says/means.

1 Answer 1


The ESV offers a good essentially literal translation, rendering the verse this way:

But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.

Acts 13:50

Looking at the following items I found, I think that we can conclude that Luke is describing women who were religious and well respected in Antioch in Pisidia.

First let's look at some of the key Greek words and their translations to set the stage.

Jews - Ἰουδαῖος

2453 Ἰουδαῖος [Ioudaios /ee·oo·dah·yos/] adj. 198 occurrences; AV translates as “Jew” 193 times, “of Judea” three times, and “Jewess” twice. 1 Jewish, belonging to the Jewish race. 2 Jewish as respects to birth, race, religion.

devout - σέβω

4576 σέβω [sebomai /seb·om·ahee/] v. Middle voice of an apparently primary verb; 10 occurrences; AV translates as “worship” six times, “devout” three times, and “religious” once. 1 to revere, to worship.

high standing - εὐσχήμων

2158 εὐσχήμων [euschemon /yoo·skhay·mone/] adj. Five occurrences; AV translates as “honourable” three times, and “comely” twice. 1 of elegant figure. 1A shapely, graceful, comely, bearing one’s self becomingly in speech or behaviour. 2 of good standing. 2A honourable, influential, wealthy, respectable.

leading (men) - πρῶτος

4413 πρῶτος [protos /pro·tos/] adj. 105 occurrences; AV translates as “first” 85 times, “chief” nine times, “first day” twice, “former” twice, and translated miscellaneously seven times. 1 first in time or place. 1A in any succession of things or persons. 2 first in rank. 2A influence, honour. 2B chief. 2C principal. 3 first, at the first.

I looked at a few commentaries that emphasize textual criticism and I found this item that gives a good view of the women mentioned here:

The devout and honourable women —female proselytes of distinction, jaundiced against the new preachers by those Jewish ecclesiastics to whom they had learned to look up. The potent influence of the female character both for and against the truth is seen in every age of the Church’s history.

Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Ac 13:50). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Pulling all of this together we can see that the women referenced were clearly the faithful and religious ones in their city. Antioch in Pisidia had a large Jewish (as a nationality or race, although assumed to be very religious) population and it is a little unclear whether this references Jews, Gentiles, or both. The Greek word "kai" used for "and" implies that the Jews who were stirring up trouble were using the men and the women both. As to what role the women specifically played, this passage is not clear. I would not assume that they brought this to the attention of the men who then acted upon it, although that is possible from the text.

Dictionary Used: Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.

  • the old copulative kai
    – swasheck
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 16:37

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