I recently came across a view of Acts 21:11 that says Agabus made a prophecy that was mostly right, but wrong in a number of ways as well - namely that Paul was not bound by the Jewish leaders, nor that they handed him over to the Gentiles. Instead it is said the Romans seized Paul from the mob and they are the ones that bound him.

After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, "The Holy Spirit says, 'In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.'"

Acts 21:10-11 NIV

Yet the text doesn't exactly point out Agabus's error - at least not explicitly. Does Luke mean to show that Agabus only right in the generalities and not the particulars? What is Luke's view of Agabus as a prophet here in Acts 21?

  • I'm curious where you came across this view...?
    – Dan
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 5:19
  • 2
    @Daи In this video. Ian Hamilton asks Wayne Grudem to name an instance where a NT prophet is wrong or makes a prophecy that has some mixture of truth and falsity. Grudem says Agabus in Acts 21.
    – Soldarnal
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 13:32

2 Answers 2


Luke in fact indicates that the Jews bound Paul after the prophecy of Agabus, but the mention occurs later in the Book of Acts -

Acts 23:25-27 (NASB)
25 And he wrote a letter having this form:
26 “Claudius Lysias, to the most excellent governor Felix, greetings.
27 “When this man was arrested by the Jews and was about to be slain by them, I came up to them with the troops and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman...”

The Roman centurion states that Paul "was arrested" (συλλαμβάνω) by the Jews, who stopped beating him so that the centurion could take Paul. That is, this participle is the Aorist Active Accusative (masculine singular), and its meaning in Koine Greek is to take prisoner (whenever physical force between people is in view). It is the SAME VERB PARTICIPLE that Luke used to refer to the arrest of Jesus by the Jews (Luke 22:54 and Acts 1:16); and it is the SAME VERB INFINITIVE used by Luke to refer to the arrest of Peter by the Jews (Acts 12:3); and finally Luke uses the SAME VERB PARTICIPLE again to indicate that the Jews had arrested Paul at the temple (Acts 26:21), which is yet another reference to the same incident that Agabus had predicted. In each case, and without doubt the case of Jesus, the arrest included the binding of at least the hands, since the verb means to take prisoner (whenever physical force between people is in view).

The predictive prophecy of Agabus was therefore fulfilled in the most literal sense, since the Jews did not kill Paul but instead allowed the Roman centurion to take him, albeit by force. That the centurion put Paul in two chains (binding hands and feet) does not obviate that the Jews had already bound his hands or feet with something other than chains (for example, Paul's belt). Why? The Greek participles in Acts 23:27 and Acts 26:21 comes from συλλαμβάνω, which means to take prisoner.


Even from a human standpoint, apart from the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, Luke would not say something in one verse and then contradict himself a few verses later. If Luke felt that there was a contradiction, as it seems to appear to the English Language reader, then he would have corrected himself before releasing the text. However, in the Greek, or possibly the Hebrew spoken by Agabus (he could have used the hiphil stem, indicating that the Jews set into motion an action which caused Paul to be bound and turned over to the gentiles), the two accounts must have been in agreement with each other. Otherwise, Luke would have changed the wording.

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