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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Acts 1



Other Authors

Readings varying from the Text. recept.

Title. πράξεις ἀποστόλων adopted on the authority of B, and as describing the contents of the book better than any other. The book is not the Acts of the Apostles, but merely some acts of certain Apostles, which are related by the author, but intermixed with the acts of others who were not Apostles, wherever such additions seem needed to make the narrative clear. א gives πράξεις only, which appears too brief, sufficient for the purposes of quotation, but not for a complete title. א has the subscription πράξεις ἀποστόλων. The longer forms bear marks of the reverent additions of a later date.

Verse 1

1. πρῶτον. The use of πρῶτος for the former of two things was not uncommon in later Greek. We have examples, Matthew 21:28; 1 Corinthians 14:30; Hebrews 8:7; Hebrews 9:15; Revelation 21:1. We use first in the same way in English, and Cicero (de Inventione) in his second book (chap. 3) calls the former book primus liber. The work here intended by it is the Gospel according to St Luke, also addressed to Theophilus.

τὸν μὲν πρῶτον λόγον. The clause which should have answered to this and been of the form τοῦτον δὲ τὸν δεύτερον κ.τ.λ. is omitted. The writer is carried on by the subject to speak of Christ’s appearances and leaves the structure of his sentence incomplete.

λόγος is used in a similar way by Xenophon (Anab. ii. 1) in speaking of one ‘book’ of his history.

ἐποιησάμην, I made. The time is indefinite and we have no warrant in the text for that closer union of the two books, in point of date, which is made by the rendering of the A.V.

Θεόφιλε. Nothing is known of the person so called, except that from the adjective κράτιστος applied to him in Luke 1:3 he seems to have held some official position. Cf. Acts 23:26; Acts 24:3; Acts 26:25. Some have however thought that had the title been an official one it would not have been omitted in this verse. The word is used without any official sense; cf. Josephus Ant. vi. 6, 8; where the Midianitish women speak to the Israelites as ὦ κράτιστοι νεανιῶν. But its employment elsewhere in the Acts favours the acceptance of it as a title. Josephus uses the word as a title in addressing Epaphroditus, to whom he dedicates the account of his life (Vit. Joseph. ad fidem). The suggestion, that θεόφιλος, = ‘lover of God,’ is a name adopted by the author to indicate any believer, is improbable. Such personification is unlike the rest of Scripture and is not supported by evidence.

ὧν. The relative, instead of standing as required by the governing verbs (ποιεῖν and διδάσκειν) in the accusative is attracted into the case of the preceding demonstrative. This grammatical peculiarity is very common. Cf. Acts 3:21; Acts 3:25; Acts 7:17; &c.

ἤρξατο. This is an emphatic word. The writer regards the Gospel as a record of work which Jesus began, and committed to others to be carried forward; and this later book is to be a history of the beginning of Christian congregations in various places, and after such a beginning has been made at Rome, then the metropolis of the civilized world, his proposed labour is brought to a close.

The Gospel was the record of Christ’s work on earth, the Acts of His work from heaven. Hence the force of ‘began’ as applied to the former. His work was continued by the various ‘beginnings’ recorded in the Acts.

ποιεῖν τε καὶ διδάσκειν. So in St Luke (Luke 24:19) the disciples call Jesus ‘a prophet mighty in deed and in word.’ The acts and the life spake first and then the voice.

Verses 1-14


Verse 2

2. ἄχρι ἧς ἡμέρας. An instance of the incorporation of the antecedent into the relative clause, where it must take the case of the relative. Cf. Matthew 7:2, ἐν ᾧ μέτρῳ μετρεῖτε = ἐν τῷ μέτρῳ, ἐν ᾦ μετρεῖτε.

διὰ πνεύματος ἁγίου. The preposition indicates the operation of that power of the Holy Spirit with which Jesus was filled after His baptism (Luke 4:1). Chrysostom speaks of Christ’s communication to the Twelve thus: πνενματικὰ πρὸς αὐτοὺς εἰπὼν ῥήματα οὐδὲν ἀνθρώπινον. Along with the charges which Jesus gave to His disciples there was bestowed on them too a gift of the Holy Ghost (John 20:22), which at Pentecost was to be poured out in rich abundance, so that ‘filled with the Holy Ghost’ becomes a frequent phrase in the Acts to describe the divine endowment of the first evangelists. (Cf. Acts 2:4; Acts 4:8; Acts 4:31; Acts 6:3; Acts 6:5; Acts 7:53; Acts 11:24; Acts 13:9.)

Verse 3

3. μετὰ τὸ παθεῖν αὐτόν, after He had suffered. The death is included with the other forms of the passion.

ἐν πολλοῖς τεκμηρίοις. This use of ἐν for expressing the means by which anything is done, is from a translation of the Hebrew בְּ = in. Thus the LXX. have (Ecclesiastes 9:15) καὶ διασώσῃ αὐτὸς τὴν πόλιν ἐν τῇ σοφίᾳ αὐτοῦ.

A τεκμήριον is such an evidence as to remove all doubt. It is explained by Hesychius as σημεῖον ἀληθές. See also Aristot. Rhet. i. 2. So 3 Maccabees 3:24, καὶ τεκμηρίοις καλῶς πεπεισμένοι. The proofs which Christ gave of His true resurrection were His speaking, walking and eating with His disciples on several occasions after His resurrection, and giving to Thomas and the rest the clearest demonstration that He was with them in the same real body as before His death (Luke 24:39; Luke 24:43; John 20:27; John 21:13). As the verity of the Resurrection would be the basis of all the Apostolic teaching, it was necessary for the Twelve who were to be His witnesses to have every doubt removed.

δι' ἡμερῶν. The preposition intimates that the appearances of Jesus to His disciples happened from time to time during the forty days, a force which is scarcely to be gathered from A.V. So Chrysostom who remarks οὐκ εἶπεν τεσσεράκοντα ἡμέρας ἀλλὰ δι' ἡμερῶν τεσσεράκοντα, ἐφίστατο γὰρ καὶ ἀφίπτατο πάλιν.

The period of forty days is only mentioned here, and it has been alleged as a discrepancy between St Luke’s Gospel and the Acts that the former (Luke 24) represents the Ascension as taking place on the same day as the Resurrection. It needs very little examination to disperse such an idea. The two disciples there mentioned (Luke 24:13) were at Emmaus ‘towards evening’ on the day of the Resurrection. They came that night to Jerusalem and told what they had seen. But after this has been stated, the chapter is broken up at Luke 24:36 (which a comparison with John (John 20:26-28) shews to be an account of what took place eight days after the Resurrection), and again at Luke 24:44 and Luke 24:50, into three distinct sections, with no necessary marks of time to connect them. And in the midst of the whole we are told that Christ opened the minds of His disciples that they should understand the Scriptures. No reasonable person can suppose that all this was done in one day. Beside which the objectors prove too much, for according to their reasoning the Ascension must have taken place at night, after the two disciples had returned from Emmaus to Jerusalem.

ὀπτανόμενος. A rare word. It is used Tobit 12:19 by the angel Raphael, πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας ὠπτανόμην ὑμῖν, and in the LXX. of 1 Kings 8:8 about the staves on which the ark was carried, and which when it rested in the Most Holy place were not seen outside.

βασιλ. τοῦ θεοῦ. The more frequently used phrase is βασιλ. τῶν οὐρανῶν. Here the meaning is, the new society which was to be founded in Christ’s name, and in which all members were to be His soldiers and servants and to bear His name. On the nature of the intercourse between Christ and His disciples during this period, see John 20:21; Matthew 28:20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:45. They received their solemn commission, and were made to understand the Scriptures, and also were comforted by the promise of the Lord’s constant presence to aid them in their great work.

Verse 4

4. συναλιζόμενος. This word is not found elsewhere in N.T., and in only one doubtful instance (Psalms 140:5) in the LXX., but is frequent in Herodotus, and several times found in Xenophon. Connected with ἁλής = close gathered together, its sense is ‘being gathered in company,’ and αὐτοῖς is to be supplied in thought. The Vulgate renders by ‘convescens’ = eating together, as if the word were derived from ἅλς, salt. This sense was put on the word by some of the Greek Fathers, Chrysostom expounding it by τραπέζης κοινωνῶν.

ἐπαγγ. τοῦ πατρός. That promise which God had made of old time through His prophet (Joel 3:1-5) concerning the outpouring of His Spirit, which Jesus knew was shortly to be fulfilled. This promise is alluded to, Luke 24:49, and is found in St John (John 14:16; John 14:26; John 15:26), ‘The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, shall teach you all things’; ‘He shall testify of Me.’ This was to be their special preparation for their future work.

ἣν ἠκούσατέ μου. Here the language passes from the oblique to the direct form of narrative, as is not uncommon in Greek. Cf. Acts 23:22 where a similar change occurs. See also Tobit 8:21, καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ Ῥαγουὴλλαβόντα τὸ ἥμισυ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων αὐτοῦ πορεύεσθαι μεθ' ὑγείας πρὸς τὸν πατέρα, καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ ὅταν ἀποθάνω καὶ ἡ γυνή μου.

μου. Vulg. ‘per os meum.’

Verse 5

5. The variation in construction after βαπτίζειν, first the dative ὕδατι without a preposition and then with ἐν, is probably due to the difference of sense between baptism with water and with the Spirit. But βαπτίζειν ἐν ὕδατι is found (John 1:31) where there is no contrast between sacramental and spiritual baptism.

Verse 6

6. εἰ. This conjunction, at first used after some verb on which it was dependent, at last came to be employed in questions of an independent form. We may suppose that originally some such expression as ‘Tell us’ was understood before the ‘if,’ but in translating this sentence the Vulgate merely gives ‘Domine, si restitues’ … and the Latin si in Jerome’s time had become a particle of direct interrogation. For other examples of εἰ thus used cf. Acts 19:2; Acts 21:37; Acts 22:25.

βασιλείαν. Though they were being taught the nature of the kingdom of God, yet their minds were even still far from open, and ran on the thought of a temporal kingdom over Israel to be established by Jesus. The change from the spirit which dictated the question in this verse, to that in which St Peter (Acts 2:38-39) preached repentance and forgiveness to all whom the Lord should call, is one of the greatest evidences of the miracle of Pentecost. Such changes are only wrought from above.

Verse 7

7. οὐχ ὑμῶν ἐστίν, it does not belong to you, it is not your business. This sense of the genitive, implying property or propriety, is not uncommon in classical Greek. During the tutelage, as it may be called, of His disciples, Jesus constantly avoided giving a direct answer to the inquiries which they addressed to Him. He checked in this way their tendency to speculate on the future and drew their minds to their duty in the present. Cf. John 21:21-22. Of this conduct Chrysostom writes: διδασκάλου γὰρ τοῦτό ἐστι, μὴ ἃ βούλεται ὁ μαθητὴς ἀλλ' ἃ συμφέρει μαθεῖν, διδάσκειν.

καιρούς. Vulg. ‘momenta.’ This word differs from χρόνος in being restricted to some well-defined point of time, while χρόνος embraces a more extended period. Cf. LXX. Nehemiah 10:34, where the wood for the altar is to be brought εἰς ἀπὸ χρόνων ἐνιαυτὸν κατ' ἐνιαυτόν, = at fixed points of time chosen out of larger periods, year by year. The A.V. has ‘at times appointed year by year.’ Cf. also for the idea of the words LXX. 2 Samuel 20:5, καὶ ἐχρόνησεν ἀπὸ τοῦ καιροῦ οὗ ἐτάξατο αὐτῷ, ‘he tarried longer than the set time which he had appointed him’ (A.V.). The two nouns are found in conjunction LXX. Daniel 2:21; Daniel 7:12. Also in 1 Thessalonians 5:1.

ἐξουσίᾳ = authority, absolute disposal. ‘Which the Father appointed by His own authority.’ It is not the same word as that in the next verse, δύναμις, though the A.V. renders both by ‘power.’

Verse 8

8. δύναμιν. The Vulgate renders ‘virtutem,’ and makes it govern the words in the genitive which immediately follow, ‘Ye shall receive the influence of the Holy Spirit which shall come upon you.’ It is better, with A.V., to render the genitive as genitive absolute, because of the participle included in the expression. The phrases δύναμις τοῦ πνεύματος and δ. πνεύματος ἁγίου do occur (Luke 4:14; Romans 15:13; Romans 15:19), but not constructed as in this verse. The effect of this gift was to be something different from the profitless speculations to which they had just desired an answer, even ‘a mouth and wisdom which their adversaries could neither gainsay nor resist’ (Luke 21:15).

Ἱερουσαλὴμ κ.τ.λ. The order here appointed for the preaching of the Gospel was exactly observed. At Jerusalem (Acts 2-7), Judæa and Samaria (Acts 8:1), and after the conversion of Saul, in all parts of Asia, Greece, and last of all at Rome.

ἕως ἐσχάτου τῆς γῆς. The precise expression occurs several times in the LXX. of Isaiah (Isaiah 48:20, Isaiah 49:6, Isaiah 62:11). See also Acts 13:47.

Verse 9

9. βλεπόντων αὐτῶν. The Ascension took place while the Eleven beheld, for they were to be witnesses of that event to the world as well as of the life, death, and resurrection. That the Eleven alone saw Christ go into heaven is told us, Mark 16:14. In the Gospel (Luke 24:51), we are told that Christ was parted from them ‘while He blessed them.’

Verse 10

10. πορευομένου αὐτοῦ, as He went. The ‘up’ of A.V. is not represented in the Gk.

καὶ ἰδού. The καὶ with the apodosis after expressions signifying time is very common in N.T. Greek and is to be classed with those where a similar untranslatable καὶ follows ἐγένετο δέ and like expressions. See Winer-Moulton, p. 756 n.

ἐν ἐσθήσεσι λευκαῖς. The plural rendering given by the Vulgate is strong evidence in favour of the reading of the older MSS., for the unusual Greek is not likely to have been put into the place of the more usual form. The two persons are called men, but were evidently angels. So one of the two angels which Mary saw in the sepulchre after the Resurrection is called (Mark 16:5), a young man, clothed in a long white garment. The Jews use the expression ‘clad in white garments’ in describing angelic or divine messengers. Cf. Luke 24:4; Acts 10:30; Acts 11:13.

Verse 11

11. Γαλιλαῖοι. We know that most of the Twelve were called in Galilee, and it is very probable that they were all from the same district, as they would be called at the earliest portion of Christ’s ministerial life, which was begun among His countrymen in the north. Below (Acts 5:22) Peter speaks of the new disciple to fill the place of Judas, as one who must be fit to be a witness from the time when John was baptizing; so the Twelve must themselves have been companions of Jesus from that early period. Men of Galilee were easily known by their peculiar dialect. Thus when Peter is accused (Matthew 26:73) of being a follower of Jesus, it is said to him, ‘Surely thou art one of them, for thy speech bewrayeth thee,’ a remark which shews plainly that Christ’s immediate followers and friends were known as Galilæans.

οὕτως ἐλεύσεται. These words explain the statement which occurs in the abridged account of the Ascension given by St Luke in the Gospel (Luke 24:52), ‘They returned to Jerusalem with great joy.’ They had been supernaturally assured that He would return to them.

ὃν τρόπον. The manner in which an action is performed is often expressed both in classical and Hellenistic Greek by the simple accusative; cf. Judges 1:7, τὸν ὅμοιον τούτοις τρόπον ἐκπορνεύσασαι. When a relative and antecedent are to be used in this way, the antecedent is transferred not unfrequently, as here, into the relative clause. See Matthew 23:37, ὃν τρόπον ὄρνις ἐπισυνάγει τὰ νοσσία. Also LXX. Ezekiel 42:7; 2 Maccabees 15:39.

Verse 12

12. τοῦ καλουμένου, as well as the subsequent indication of the locality of mountain, shew us that he for whom the Acts was written was a stranger to these places.

Ἐλαιῶνος. Here Ἐλαιών is given as the designation by which the mountain was known. Its name was = Olivetum.

ἐγγὺς Ἱερουσαλήμ, near unto Jerusalem. The A.V. omits to translate the preposition. The mount of Olives is on the east of Jerusalem, between that city and Bethany.

σαββάτου ὁδόν. The journey which a Jew was allowed to take on the sabbath. This was put at two thousand yards or cubits (Heb. ammoth), and the Rabbis had arrived at the measure by a calculation based on their exposition of Exodus 16:29, ‘Abide ye every man in his place.’ Here the Hebrew word is takhtav, and this the Talmud (Erubin 51 a) explains to mean the four yards (which is the space allowed for downsitting and uprising), but in the same verse it says, ‘Let no man go out of his place,’ and here the word is makom, and this means two thousand yards. For makom is in another passage explained by nisah = flight, and nisah is explained by gebul = border, and gebul is explained elsewhere by khuts = extremity, and in one place khuts = two thousand yards. For it is written (Numbers 35:5) ‘And ye shall measure from the extremity of the city on the east side two thousand yards.’

So taking khuts as defined in the last passage, they made an equation khuts = gebul = nisah = makom, and made makom in Exodus 16:29 also equal to two thousand yards. The Scriptural passages on which the above reasoning is based are [1] Exodus 21:13 ‘I will appoint thee a place (makom) whither he shall flee’ (yanus), and from the verb yanus the noun nisah is formed. [2] Numbers 35:26 ‘But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border (gebul) of the city of his refuge whither he is fled,’ a passage which connects gebul and nisah. [3] Numbers 35:27 ‘If the avenger of blood shall find him without (mikhuts) the border of the city of his refuge,’ where gebul is brought into connexion with khuts.

Verse 13

13. εἰσῆλθον, they were come in, i.e. entered into Jerusalem, coming from the open country where the Ascension had taken place.

εἰς τὸ ὑπερῷον, into the upper room. The occurrence of the article is probably because the room was the same which had been used before for the Last Supper (Mark 14:15; Luke 22:12). The noun is not the same here as in those passages, but it seems most probable that the disciples, strangers in Jerusalem, when they had shortly before found one such room which could be obtained, would hardly seek after another. The passover chamber moreover would be hallowed to them by what happened at the Last Supper. In the next clause καταμένοντες seems to imply that the Twelve had taken possession of the room while awaiting the fulfilment of the promise which Jesus had made to them.

The names of the Eleven are probably here recited again, though they had been given to Theophilus in the Gospel, that it might be on record, that though all of them at the arrest and trial forsook their Master, this was done by all but Judas only through fleshly weakness not through defection of heart. It may also be that their names are here given at the outset of the Acts, that it may be intimated thus, that though the separate works of each man will not be chronicled in these fragmentary ‘Acts of Apostles,’ yet all alike took their part in the labour which their Master had appointed for them.

Ἰάκωβος ἈλφαίουἸούδας Ἰακώβου. The A.V. renders these two identical constructions in different ways, making James the son of Alphæus, but Judas the brother of James. There is authority to be found for both renderings, though many more instances occur where the ellipse is the word son, than where it is brother. Judas is made to be the brother of James here, because in Judges 1:1 that Judas calls himself brother of James. But we cannot be sure that they were the same person, and in the list of the Twelve it is hardly conceivable that two different words were meant to be supplied with names which stand in close juxtaposition. It is better therefore to render Judas the son of James, for which insertion we have more abundant authority.

Σίμων ὑ Ζηλωτής. Ζηλωτής is a Greek rendering of the Hebrew word which is represented by Κανανίτης (Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:18). That word signifies one who is very zealous for his opinions or his party, and was applied in our Lord’s time to those Jews who were specially strict in their observance of the Mosaic ritual.

Verse 14

14. τῇ προσευχῇ. It would seem from the article here as if already some religious service had taken definite form among the disciples. This is almost implied too in the fact of their continuance therein with one accord, a description hardly consistent with mere individual supplication. The disciples had long before made the request ‘Lord, teach us to pray’ (Luke 11:1), and during the three years of association with Jesus, the form given them as an example may very well have grown into the proportions suited for general worship.

σὺν γυναιξίν, best rendered ‘with certain women’ There is nothing to define them, but from the first, women played a helpful part in Christian offices.

τῇ μητρί. It is noteworthy how from first to last the Gospel history shews our Lord acknowledging a human mother, and so causing her to be cared for by His friends, but from the dawn of consciousness at twelve years old never speaking but of a Father in heaven. The blessed Virgin would naturally remain with St John, to whose care she had been confided by Jesus at the Crucifixion (John 19:27). This is the last mention of the Virgin, and thus Scripture leaves her on her knees. She is mentioned apart from the other women as having a deeper interest in all that concerned Jesus than the rest could have.

ἀδελφοῖς. See Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3. The brethren of our Lord are there named James, Joses (or Joseph), Simon and Judas. Being mentioned here as persons distinct from the Eleven, we may fairly conclude that James, the son of Alphæus, and James, the Lord’s brother, were different persons.

A change has come over these ‘brethren’ since the last mention of them (John 7:5). There we are told that they did not believe on Jesus.

Verse 15

15. ἡμέραις. The days which intervened between the Ascension and Pentecost.

Πέτρος. As in the Gospels, so here, Peter is always the moving spirit and speaker among the Apostles, till he drops out of the history and gives place to St Paul.

ἦν τε κ.τ.λ. This sentence is not well rendered in A.V. Better ‘and there was a crowd of persons [names] gathered together, about a hundred and twenty.’ On this use of ὀνόματα = persons, cf. Revelation 3:4, ‘Thou hast a few names even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments.’

Verses 15-26


Verse 16

16. ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί. This form of beginning an address is common throughout the Acts (cf. Acts 1:11, Acts 2:14; Acts 2:22; Acts 2:29, Acts 3:12, &c.), and an objection has been raised against this uniformity. But we cannot but suppose, that St Luke after collecting the speeches which were reported to him, cast them into a form fitted for insertion in his narrative. This is only what a writer of history must do. Some introductory words were necessary at the commencement of the speeches, and it is probable that the uniformity found in these places is due to him and not to those whose words he reports and supplies with the links needful to attach them to his narrative.

γραφή. A constant word for Old Testament Scripture (cf. John 7:38; John 10:35; Acts 8:32, &c.), and often used in the plural in the same sense (Matthew 21:42; Matthew 22:9, &c.).

ἣν προεῖπεν. The quotations made below are from Psalms 69:25; Psalms 109:8, and these the minds of the disciples, being opened, comprehend may be applied to the case of Judas, whose treachery more than fulfils all the description of the Psalmist. The words which describe the traitor-friend suit completely the conduct of Judas, but we are not on that account to suppose that they had not a first fulfilment in the life-history of him who wrote these Psalms, and the otherwise fierce character of the imprecations they contain finds its best justification when we learn how they are to be applied. While the Psalmist spake of himself and of his own circumstances, the Holy Ghost was speaking through him of what should happen to “the son of David.”

Verse 17

17. ἐν ἡμῖν. This preposition is supported by the ‘in nobis’ of the Vulgate, and seems to give, more than is done by the σὺν of the Text. recept. the sense that though Judas was counted in the Twelve, he was not truly of them.

τὸν κλῆρον. The article is best rendered by the possessive pronoun ‘his part.’

Verse 18

18. μὲν οὖν. These particles at the opening of the verse shew that there is a break in the continuity of the narrative and that what follows, in Acts 1:18-19, must be taken for a parenthesis. For examples of such use of μὲν οὖν cf. Acts 5:41; Acts 13:4; Acts 17:30; Acts 23:22; Acts 26:9.

ἐκτήσατο, acquired. The word may be used not only of him who gets something for himself, but of one who is the cause of its being gotten by another. The field was bought by the chief priests (Matthew 27:5-8), but it was the return of the money by Judas, and the difficulty of disposing of it in any other way, which brought about the purchase of the field.

ἐκ μισθοῦ τῆς ἀδικίας. This expression is found only here and in 2 Peter 2:13; 2 Peter 2:15. It seems therefore to be a Petrine phrase. The varied English of the A.V. in these places effectually obscures the evidence of this. Though these verses are in the form of a parenthesis, St Luke most probably gathered the facts which they contain from St Peter himself, or he would not thus have inserted them within the compass of that Apostle’s address.

πρηνὴς γενόμενος. Of course this occurred after he had hanged himself, as is recorded by St Matthew (Matthew 27:5). If the cord used by Judas broke with his weight, it is easy to understand how all that is related took place. The ground, to be suitable for an Eastern burial-place must needs be rocky and cavernous. St Matthew intimates that it was a clay-pit which had probably been long before dug out for making pottery. When the body suspended over such a place fell down on the hard bottom, a result would ensue like that described 2 Chronicles 25:12, and which might well be described by the language in the text.

ἐλάκησεν (from λάσκω). The word indicates that the occurrence was attended by a loud sound. There is a passage in the apocryphal Acta Thomæ § 33 which illustrates the language of this verse, and where this rare verb occurs. ὁ δράκων φυσηθεὶς ἐλάκησε καὶ ἀπέθανε καὶ ἐξεχύθη ὁ ἰὸς αὐτοῦ καὶ ἡ χολή. The dragon burst asunder by reason of the poison which he had been compelled by the Apostle to suck back out of the body of a young man whom he had slain and whom the Apostle raised to life. The apocryphal story then goes on to tell how a chasm opened, so that the dragon was swallowed into the earth, while the Apostle, after commanding the hollow to be filled up, and houses to be built over it, adds, ἵνα οἴκησις γένηται τοῖς ξένοις, that it may be a dwelling-place for the strangers. Cf. Matthew 27:7.

Verse 19

19. καὶ γνωστὸν ἐγένετο, and it became known. And hence the name of ‘the Potter’s Field’ was by general consent changed to ‘the Field of Blood.’ The entire story, as St Luke tells it, must have been what in later days became widely known, for there is nothing of it in St Matthew’s narrative, which only mentions the purchase to account for the change of name.

τῇ ἰδιᾳ διαλέκτῳ. i.e. in the Aramaic speech, which was the language of the dwellers in Jerusalem. The giving of this name must have taken place some time after the Day of Pentecost. So that St Luke is explaining parenthetically something in which evidence still remained, in the name, to bear witness to the terrible fate of Judas, and to the impression which it produced throughout all Jerusalem.

Ἀχελδαμάχ. This orthography, which has most authority, is not easy to explain. The Aramaic form would be חֲקַל דְּמָא, and for this we should expect an aspirate at the beginning of the word, and it is so represented in some authorities, as in Vulg., which gives ‘Haceldama.’ When the word was made to commence with , the principle of compensation for the lost aspirate may have converted Hacel into Ἀχελ (cf. for the converse of this ἔχω, future ἕξω), and the final χ may be due to a desire to represent in some way the final א of the Aramaic, which together with the preceding vowel-point might be deemed incompletely represented by α only.

Verse 20

20. γενηθήτω, let it become (or be made) desolate. The Vulgate gives ‘fiat commoratio eorum deserta,’ quoting exactly from Psalms 69, where the pronoun is plural. But there is no authority for reading αὐτῶν instead of αὐτοῦ, and the singular is needed in this application of the verse to Judas. The further application of the prophecies to the Jewish nation, and their fulfilment in that case too, came at a later date, but were as terrible as the fulfilment upon Judas.

ἐπισκοπήν. An office involving oversight of others. In A.V. ‘bishoprick,’ and so in all previous versions except the Geneva, which has ‘charge.’ But ‘office’ which is the word used in Psalms 109:8 is better.

It is this second prophecy which makes a new election necessary. Judas has perished, but the work must have another overseer and not be hindered by the sin of the traitor.

The former of these quotations stands in the LXX. (Psalms 68, Heb. 69:26) thus γενηθήτω ἡ ἔπαυλις αὐτῶν ἠρημωμένη, καὶ ἐν τοῖς σκηνώμασιν αὐτῶν μὴ ἔστω ὁ κατοικῶν. These variations are of interest as shewing the freedom with which the text was handled in quotation.

Verse 21

21. ἐν παντὶ χρόνῳ. It seems then that Justus and Matthias had been companions of Jesus from a very early period, as no doubt were several others; for the Twelve were chosen out of a greater number, and the sending of the Seventy shews us that Jesus employed many more agents, and had many more who were ready to be employed, than the Twelve selected to be His closest companions.

εἰσῆλθεν καὶ ἐξῆλθεν. These verbs are used in connexion more than once in the LXX. (cf. Deuteronomy 31:2; Joshua 14:11; 1 Samuel 18:13), but in those passages (though the third sentence about David is not so manifestly like the other two) the reference is to some leadership in war or otherwise. Here the sentence seems to mean no more than ‘passed His life’ (cf. Acts 9:28), unless the leadership of Jesus is to be understood in the preposition ἐφ' = over, which immediately follows. On the expression cf. Chrysostom’s words: δείκνυσιν αὐτοὺς συνῳκηκότας αὐτῷ οὐχ ἁπλῶς ὡς μαθητὰς παρόντας.

Verse 22

22. ἀρξάμενος. For it could not be long after His baptism that Jesus began to gather followers around Him, and some of these had been beforetime disciples of John, had perhaps been witnesses of the baptism of Jesus, and certainly had heard the frequent testimony borne to Him by the Baptist.

ἧς. This is perhaps not to be regarded as. an attraction of the relative like that in Acts 1:1, for the genitive of the time when is common in Greek, and this may be taken as an example of it. Cf. LXX. Leviticus 23:15, ἀπὸ τῆς ἡμέρας ἧς ἂν προσενέγκητε τὸ δράγμα. So too Deuteronomy 4:32; Baruch 1:19. The form ἀπὸ τῆς ἡμέρας ᾖ κ.τ.λ. occurs Numbers 15:21; Joshua 9:12, &c.

τῆς ἀναστάσεως. This, as the central point of the Christian faith, must be attested, and they would be the most cogent witnesses thereto who had known most of Jesus before His crucifixion. Cf. the language of Chrysostom on this as the chief subject of the Acts: καὶ γὰρ τοῦτο μάλιστά ἐστι τὸ βιβλίον, ἀπόδειξις ἀναστάσεως.

τούτων. Resuming the construction of the συνελθόντων at the beginning of the verse.

Verse 23

23. ἔστησαν. They first exercised their own powers in selecting those who best fulfilled the condition laid down. Probably there were only few among the hundred and twenty, besides the Eleven and the selected two, who had been continuously in the company of Jesus.

Βαρσαββᾶν. A patronymic. The man’s Jewish name was Joseph, and his father’s Sabba. He had besides a Roman name, Justus. This was a common thing among the Jews to have one name among their own people, and another for use in their intercourse with non-Jews. Thus Saul becomes generally known as Paulus when he is to go forth on his missionary labours. Simon takes (from Christ, perhaps that by it he might become known to all the world) the name of Petrus, and Thomas is called Didymus.

If we may judge from his three appellations, and from his being set first in order, Joseph was the better known, and it may be of more repute among the brethren. But God’s choice falls on Matthias.

Verse 24

24. προσευξάμενοι. They made a solemn supplication to God for His guidance. St Luke mentions the only point towards which the whole tenor of their petitions was directed, viz. for light to see God’s choice. No doubt the prayers, like the speeches in the book, were of greater extent than is indicated in the sentence or two of abstract in which the author sums up for us their purport.

The participle προσευξάμενοι, though aorist, is used to express a simultaneous action with the verb, ‘they prayed and (in their prayer) said.’

ἀνάδειξον. Having done their utmost to select fit persons, and having sought God’s blessing on their endeavour, they now ask for some token by which they may be guided in the final choice. From the use of κύριε we may judge that the prayer was addressed to Christ, by whom at first the Twelve had been chosen. καρδιογνώστης is applied to God the Father (Acts 15:8), but the Apostles (John 2:25) had learnt that their Master ‘knew what was in man.’

Verse 25

25. τόπον. Used in the sense of a position or office, Sirach 12:12 μὴ ἀνατρέψας σε στῇ ἐπὶ τὸν τόπον σου. Cf. also 1 Corinthians 14:16. The testimony of the Vulgate is in favour of τόπον, for κλῆρον could not be rendered by ‘locum ministerii.’

διακονίαςκαὶ ἀποστολῆς. The office is described by two words, the first of which is the more general, the second defining the character of the work which was to constitute the διακονία.

παρέβη, fell away. The periphrasis ‘by transgression fell’ of the A.V. gives the sense correctly, but does not shew that the whole expression is but a single verb in the original.

τὸν τόπον τὸν ἴδιον. He had been chosen for one place, but had made choice of another for himself. The writer does not define what this was, but what this phrase meant in a Jewish mouth is seen from the Baal Haturim on Numbers 24:25, where the place to which Balaam went is explained as Gehenna, the place of torment. So too Midrash Koheleth Rabbah, VII. 1.

Verse 26

26. κλήρους. The giving of lots was a provision in the Law (Leviticus 16:8) by which one of the two goats offered on the great Day of Atonement was to be selected for the Lord. ‘The goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell’ was offered for a sin offering. Most probably in this case each one of the Eleven wrote on a tablet the name of that one of the two men for whom in his heart he was prompted to vote, and he who had most votes was chosen to fill the vacant place among the Apostolic band.

St Chrysostom, on this passage, remarks that these events took place before Pentecost. After the Holy Ghost had been given they used no more casting of lots.

συγκατεψηφίσθη μετά, he was numbered (literally together) with. This is an example of redundancy of prepositions with which may be compared LXX. Psalms 46:10, ἄρχοντες λαῶν συνήχθησαν μετὰ τοῦ θεοῦ Ἀβραάμ. See also Ezekiel 28:7.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Acts 1:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, August 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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