Acts 13:21 is usually taken to mean that Saul reigned 40 years. However, some hold that the forty years are to include Samuel's time on the scene before Saul's reign began. Here are the revelant verses in the NIV:
20 All this took about 450 years. "After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years.
Here are a few commentators who mention this view:
By the space of forty years - During forty years. The Old Testament has not mentioned the time during which Saul reigned. Josephus says (Antiq., book 6, chapter 14, section 9) that he reigned for 18 years while Samuel was alive, and 22 years after his death. But Dr. Doddridge (note in loco) has shown that this cannot be correct, and that he probably reigned, as some copies of Josephus have it, but two years after the death of Samuel. Many critics suppose that the term of 40 years mentioned here includes also the time in which Samuel judged the people. This supposition does not violate the text in this place, and may be probable. See Doddridge and Grotius on the place.
by the space of forty years, are to be joined with the foregoing verse, and the other foregoing words in the verse read with a parenthesis: and thus they show how long Samuel the prophet (as he is here called) exercised his prophetical office, which was the space here mentioned, partly before Saul was anointed king, and in part afterward; in which, as another Moses, he cared for, and went in and out before, the people of God, the like space of forty years. This computation of St. Paul might also agree more with the Septuagint, and be according to the then current account, which (not being of more consequence) St. Paul would not controvert at this time, having greater matters to speak of unto them.
Σαοὺλ—Βενιαμὶν, Saul—Benjamin) Paul had been of the same name and tribe.—ἔτη τεσσαράκοντα, forty years) Here the years of Samuel the prophet and Saul the king are brought together into one sum: for between the anointing of king Saul and his death there were not twenty, much less forty years: 1 Samuel 7:2, “While the ark abode in Kirjath Jearim—twenty years” (a considerable part of Samuel’s ministry before the reign of Saul).
Meyers' Commentary, however rejects it:
ἔτη τεσσαράκ.] ʼΕβασίλευσε Σαοὺλ, Σαμουήλου ζῶντος, ἔτη ὀκτὼ πρὸς τοῖς δέκα· τελευτήσαντος δὲ δύο καὶ εἴκοσι, Joseph. Antt. vi. 14. 9 (according to the usual text, in which, however, καὶ εἴκοσι is spurious; see Bertheau on Judges, p. xx.). In the O.T. there is no express definition of the duration of Saul’s reign. However, the explanation (Erasmus, Beza, Calovius, Wolf, Morus, Rosenmüller, Heinrichs) that ἔτη τεσσαράκ. (which, in fact, contains the duration of ἔδωκεν … Σαούλ) embraces the time of Samuel and Saul together, is to be rejected as contrary to the text; and instead of it, there is to be assumed a tradition—although improbable in its contents, yet determined by the customary number 40—which Paul followed
Who is correct: Barnes or Meyer? Does this interpretation "not violate the text," or is it "to be rejected as contrary to the text?" I'm not asking how long Saul reigned. My question strictly concerns this verse's meaning: Does the language & grammar of Acts 13:21's Greek limit the forty years to Saul or does it allow Samuel's pre-Saul career to be included in them?