This work performed on the cripple was a marvel to all beholders. The
subject was so well known, and the cure
was so complete, that there was
no room for skepticism on their part. The Lycaonians were convinced that
supernatural power attended the labors of the apostles, and they cried out
with great enthusiasm that the gods had come down to them from Heaven
in the likeness of men. This belief was in harmony with their traditions
that gods visited the earth. They conceived the idea that the great heathen
deities, Jupiter and Mercury, were in their midst in the persons of Paul and
Barnabas. The former they believed to be Mercury; for Paul was active,
earnest, quick, and eloquent with words of warning and exhortation.
Barnabas was believed to be Jupiter, and father of gods, because of his
venerable appearance, his dignified bearing, and the mildness and
benevolence expressed in his countenance.
[p. 170] And now arose a great tumult of voices from the crowd. Such a cure
of a congenital disease, so sudden and so complete, would have confounded
the most skilful and sceptical physicians. An illiterate people would be
filled with astonishment, and rush immediately to the conclusion that
supernatural powers were present among them. These Lycaonians
thought at once of their native traditions, and crying out vociferously in
their mother-tongue,1—and we all know how the strongest feelings of an
excited people find vent in the language of childhood,—they exclaimed
that the gods had again visited them
in the likeness of men,—that Jupiter
and Mercury were again in Lycaonia,—that the persuasive speaker was
Mercury and his companion Jupiter. They identified Paul with Mercury,
because his eloquence corresponded with one of that divinity's attributes.
Paul was the "chief speaker," and Mercury was the god of eloquence.
And if it be asked why they identified Barnabas with Jupiter, it is
evidently a sufficient answer to say that these two divinities were always
represented as companions2 in their terrestrial expeditions, though we
may well believe (with Chrysostom and others) that there was something
majestically benignant in his appearance, while the personal aspect of St.
Paul (and for this we can quote his own statements)3 was comparatively
How truthful and how vivid is the scene brought before us! and how
many thoughts it suggests to those who are at once conversant with
Heathen mythology and disciples of Christian theology! Barnabas, identified
with the Father of Gods and Men, seems like a personification of mild
beneficence and provident care;4 while Paul appears invested with more
active attributes, flying over the world on the wings of faith and love,
with quick words of warning and persuasion, and ever carrying in his hand
the purse of the "unsearchable riches."5
1 Some are of opinion that the "speech of Lycaonia" was a Semitic language;
others that it was a corrupt dialect of Greek. See the Dissertations of Jablonski and
Gühling in Iken's Thesaurus.
2 See, for instance, Ovid. Fast. v. 495.
3 See 2 Cor. x. 1, 10, where, however, we must remember that he is quoting the statements of
4 See Acts iv. 36, 37, ix. 27, xi. 22-25, 30. It is also very possible that Barnabas
was older, and therefore more venerable in appearance, than St. Paul.
5 The winged heels and the purse are the well-known insignia of Mercury.
And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted
up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are
come down to us in the likeness of men. (Acts 14:11)
And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. (Acts 14:12)