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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Acts 2



Other Authors
Verse 1

1. ἐν τῷ συμπληροῦσθαι. This compound verb is not found in the LXX. (nor in classical Greek in this sense), but the derived noun occurs 2 Chronicles 36:21 of the ‘complete fulfilling’ of a period of time. The simple verb is used both of a period of time to be gone through and of a point of time which has to be reached. See Numbers 6:5, and Jeremiah 25:12 compared with Acts 2:34 of the same chapter. The Vulg. gives ‘cum complerentur dies Pentecostes,’ as if the day of the feast was regarded as the completion of the whole seven weeks.

τὴν ἡμέραν τῆς Πεντηκοστῆς. Pentecost was the second of the three great Jewish feasts, the Passover being the first, and the third the Feast of Tabernacles. The name is derived from πεντηκοστός, fiftieth; because it was kept on the fiftieth day after the Passover Sabbath. In the Law it is called ‘the feast of harvest, the first-fruits of thy labours’ (Exodus 23:16) and also, from being seven weeks after the Passover, it is named ‘the feast of weeks’ (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:9-10). The offering in this festival was the two first loaves made from the first portion of the wheat-harvest of the year, as a thank-offering.

The words of Chrysostom on the typical character of the Pentecostal feast are worthy of notice. τίς ἐστιν αὓτη ἡ Πεντηκοστή; ὅτε τὸ δρέπανον ἐπιβάλλειν ἔδει τῷ ἀμήτῳ, ὃτε τοὺς καρποὺς συνάγειν ἐχρῆν. εἶδες τὸν τύπον· βλέπε πάλιν τὴν ἀλήθειαν.

This day was probably chosen for the outpouring of the Spirit upon the Apostles, that there might be a greater multitude present in Jerusalem, and so the tidings of this gift might at once be spread abroad. It is perhaps for this reason that the very word employed is one which indicates that the day was fully come, and so all that were intending to be present at the feast were there. We find in Acts 9:2 that there were Christians at Damascus before we read of any one of the Apostolic band visiting that city. It may well be that among those who saw the gifts now bestowed, and whose hearts were pierced by Peter’s sermon, there were some who went forth to this and other cities, bearing the fame and teaching of the new society along with them. In like manner, we cannot doubt that it was in order that more might hear His words, that our Lord so frequently went to Jerusalem at the feasts (John 4:45; John 5:1; John 7:10; John 10:22, &c).

ὁμοῦ, together. This word and that which takes its place in the Text. recept. i.e. ὁμοθυμαδόν occur frequently in this part of the Acts and mark very strongly the unity which existed in the new society, but which was so soon destined to be broken. For ὁμοθυμαδόν cf. Acts 1:14; Acts 2:46; Acts 4:24; Acts 5:12, &c. Beside this book the word is only found in N.T. in Romans 15:6.

ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό. Doubtless this was in the upper room in which the disciples were wont to meet.

Verses 1-13


Verse 2

2. ὥσπερ φερομένης πνοῆς βιαίας. Literally ‘as of a mighty wind borne along,’ i.e. as of the rushing of a mighty wind. The verb here employed to express the rushing of the wind is used by St Peter (2 Ephesians 1:17-18) of ‘the voice which came from heaven’ at the Transfiguration, also (Acts 1:21) of the gift of prophecy, and the motion of the prophets by the Holy Ghost.

Verse 3

3. διαμεριζόμεναι γλῶσσαι ὡσεὶ πυρός, tongues like as of fire distributed among them. Cf. Isaiah 5:24, where the Hebrew has ‘tongue of fire’ (see margin) while the A.V. gives only ‘fire.’ It is also to be noticed that the appearance is not called fire, but only compared to fire. The idea conveyed by the verb is that the flamelike tongues were distributing themselves throughout the assembly (the Vulg. has ‘dispertitæ’), and the result is expressed by what follows; and it sat upon each of them. The intention of the writer is to describe something far more persistent than meteoric light or flashes of electricity. The sound which is heard fills the house, and the flame rests for some time on the heads of the disciples. (See Acts 2:33.)

Verse 4

4. This verse describes a great miracle, and its simplicity of statement marks it as the record of one who felt that no additional words could make the matter other than one which passed the human understanding.

ἤρξαντο λαλεῖν ἑτέραις γλώσσαις. These are spoken of as καιναὶ γλῶσσαι, new tongues (Mark 16:17). The meaning is, they spake in languages which before were unknown to them, and from the history it would appear that some of the company spake in one and some in another language, for the crowd of foreigners, when they come together, all find somebody among the speakers whom they are able to understand.

ἀποφθέγγεσθαι αὐτοῖς. The order is supported by the Vulg. ‘dabat eloqui illis,’ as well as by the oldest MSS.

Verse 5

5. ἦσαν δὲ ἐν Ἱερουσαλήμ. Probably, in addition to the visitors who had come to the feast, many religious Jews from foreign parts were permanent residents in Jerusalem, for it was to the Jew a thing much to be desired, that he might die and be buried near the Holy City. It is said (T. B. Kethuboth, 111 a), ‘Every one that is buried in the land of Israel is in as good case as if he were buried under the altar,’ and there are many other like expressions in the immediate context of this quotation. That among the crowd were some residents seems the more likely, because when they recognized the new tongues, some asked as though they were acquainted with the speakers, ‘Are not these men Galilæans?’

εὐλαβεῖς, devout. The word is used of the aged Simeon (Luke 2:25) and of the men who carried Stephen to his burial (Acts 8:2). It is one of those Greek words which Christianity has taken hold of and dignified. In classical language its sense is merely = circumspect. The LXX. (according to some authorities) has it (Micah 7:2) of the good, godly, merciful man; other MSS. read εὐσεβὴς there.

ἀπὸ παντὸς ἔθνους. This expression is hyperbolic. We say from every part of the world, when we only mean from a great many parts. Cf. also Deuteronomy 2:25, ‘This day will I begin to put the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven.’ That the Jews were spread abroad very widely is seen from Josephus (B. J. II. 16, 4) where Herod Agrippa says ‘There is not a nation in the world which does not contain some of us’ (Jews). So Philo In Flaccum, § 7, says of them, τὰς πλείστας καὶ εὐδαιμονεστάτας τῶν ἐν Ευρώπῃ καὶ Ἀσίᾳ κατά τε νήσους καὶ ἠπείρους ἐκνέμονται.

Verse 6

6. γενομένης δὲ τῆς φωνῆς ταύτης, and when this sound was heard. Φωνή though not the same word as ἦχος which is used for sound in Acts 2:2, yet is never found in the sense of a report or rumour, as is given by the A.V. It is used for crying aloud, as in the mourning at Rama and Christ’s cry on the cross (Matthew 2:18), or in John the Baptist’s preaching (Mark 1:3), and of voices from heaven frequently (Matthew 17:5; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22; Acts 9:4, &c.), of the sound of the wind which is used as a figure for the gift of the Spirit in Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:8), and constantly of the heavenly voices in the book of the Revelation (Acts 1:10, Acts 5:2, Acts 6:6, &c.). So in the LXX. we have φωνή with σάλπιγγος, βροντῆς, σεισμοῦ, and such like words, all indicating a loud noise.

The sound which was sent forth, though heard around in the city, was evidently such as could be traced to a central spot, for led by the sound, the multitude came together to the room in which the Apostles were assembled. It would need but a brief space for a crowd to gather, and all the new-comers found among the disciples, now divinely prepared to be Christ’s heralds, some who were declaring what had come to pass, and the great things which God had wrought with them, in the different languages of the lands where the strangers had been born. This was clearly not a proclamation of the wonderful works of God in some one language, which the Spirit, acting upon the hearers, caused them to appreciate as if it were their own, for in that way the gift of the Holy Ghost ought to have been described as poured out, not on the speakers, but on the listeners.

ἤκουον. The verb is plural, in consequence of the plural idea contained in πλῆθος, though the verbs in immediate connexion with the noun are singular. For πλῆθος joined directly with a plural cf. Luke 23:1 ἃπαν τὸ πλῆθος ἤγαγον αὐτόν. See also Acta Apocryph. Philip. 7 πολὺ πλῆθος ἐξ αὐτῶν ἀποφυγόντες ἀπὸ τοῦ ἐχθροῦ ἐπεστρέφοντο ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰησοῦν.

εἷς ἕκαστος is explanatory and distributive, and not to be regarded as a direct nominative to the verb. So too in Acts 2:8, and also Acts 11:29.

Verse 7

7. οὐχ. This form, though the succeeding word has only the smooth breathing, is supported by the best MS. authority and adopted by Lachmann and Tischendorf. See also Acts 19:23, where οὐχ ὀλίγος is read by Lach.; but not by Tisch. though it has the support of אAD. Similarly below in Acts 2:26 of this chapter ἐφ' ἐλπίδι is the reading favoured by Lachmann, Tischendorf and Tregelles, Tischendorf reading also ἑλπίδι.

Verse 8

8. τῇ ἰδίᾳ διαλέκτῳ. There is no description here of any jargon or incoherent speech. We are told of utterances tested by the ears of men who had spoken these languages from their youth. Cf. Chrysostom’s words οὐ γὰρ ἁπλῶς ἐλάλουν, ἀλλά τινα θαυμαστὰ ἔλεγον. The only question on which from St Luke’s description we are left in uncertainty is this: whether the disciples did or did not understand the new words which they were enabled to utter. The only other place in the New Testament which throws any light on this matter is St Paul’s 1st Epistle to the Corinthians. For a consideration of the expressions which St Paul there employs concerning these marvellous gifts, see note after Acts 2:13.

Verse 9-10

9, 10. Under all the nationalities mentioned in these verses we are to understand the Jews, either by birth or conversion (as is indicated in the case of Rome), whose homes were in the countries named.

Πάρθοι. A people who occupied a wide extent of country south of the Caspian Sea, from which they were separated by Hyrcania. They stretched in the Apostolic times from India to the Tigris, and no doubt stand foremost in this list because of their great fame among the nations of the time.

΄ῆδοι. Their country lay east of Assyria, north-west of Persia and south-west of the Caspian Sea.

Ἐλαμῖται. These dwelt in the district known to the Greeks and Romans as Susiana. It lay at the north of the Persian Gulf and was bounded on the west by the Tigris, touching Media on the North and Persia on the South and East. They were a Semitic people, perhaps taking their name from Elam, son of Shem (Genesis 10:22). ‘Shushan in the province of Elam’ is mentioned Daniel 8:2.

΄εσοποταμίαν. The country between the Euphrates and the Tigris.

Ἰουδαίαν. These would comprise the Jews from the neighbouring towns.

ΚαππαδοκίανΠαμφυλίαν. These were all countries within Asia Minor, Pontus lying in the N.E. and forming, on the north, part of the shore of the Euxine. Cappadocia was south of Pontus, Phrygia was westward of Cappadocia, separated from it by Lycaonia, while Pamphylia stretched on the south coast of Asia Minor between Lycia on the W. and Cilicia on the E. By Asia in this verse, and everywhere else in the Acts is meant the Roman province known as Proconsular Asia. It comprised all the western coast of Asia Minor and may be roughly considered as embracing the countries known as Mysia, Lydia and Caria. Its capital was Ephesus, and in this district were the seven churches of the Apocalypse.

Αἴγυπτον. The cities of the north of Egypt, and especially Alexandria, were the abodes of great numbers of Jews.

Λιβύη was the name anciently applied to the African continent. The ‘parts of it about Cyrene’ means the district called Cyrenaica. This lay E. of the Syrtis Major and contained five chief cities of which Cyrene was the best known. We find Simon a Cyrenian living in Jerusalem at the time of the Crucifixion (Matthew 27:32). Josephus has a passage (Antiq. XIV. 7, 2) which testifies to the wide dispersion of the Jews at this time, and also mentions specially Egypt and the parts of Libya about Cyrene as full of them. It runs thus:

‘Strabo in another place bears witness to this [the wealth and influence of the Jews]; saying that when Sulla crossed over into Greece to war against Mithridates, he also sent Lucullus to put down in Cyrene the revolution raised there by our nation, of whom the whole world is full. His words are: There were four classes in the city of the Cyrenians, that of citizens, that of husbandmen, that of resident aliens, and the fourth of the Jews. Now this last class has already spread into every city, and it is not easy to find a place in the world which has not admitted this tribe and which is not swayed by them. And with regard to Egypt and Cyrene as being under the same governors, and many portions of other countries, it has come to pass that they imitate them [the Jews], and also give special support to companies of the Jews, and flourish from their adoption of the ancestral laws of the Jews. For instance, in Egypt there is a special district set apart for the Jews, and beside this a large part of the city of Alexandria is apportioned to this race. And a special magistrate is appointed for them, who governs their nation and administers judgment, and takes charge of their contracts and agreements as if he were the governor of an independent state.’ Philo in Flaccum, § 8, confirms what is said here about Alexandria, telling that two districts, out of the five into which that city was divided, were known as, Ἰουδαϊκαί, while Jews also lived in parts of the other three.

οἱ ἐπιδημοῦντες Ῥωμαῖοι. Render, sojourners from Rome, both Jews &c. We know from the allusions to them in Latin writers that Jews were numerous in Rome (Hor. Sat. I. 5; Juv. x. 14, &c.). It is most probable that converts from among these Romans founded the Church which we learn from Acts 28:14-15 was flourishing there when St Paul first came to that city.

προσήλυτοι. This word, signifying one who has come over, is mainly employed of converts from heathenism to the religion of the Jews. It is of very frequent occurrence in the LXX. of the last four books of Moses.

Verse 11

11. Κρῆτες. Natives of the well-known island which lies south of the Cyclades in the Mediterranean, and is now called Candia. Christianity may perhaps have been spread in Crete also from the converts of Pentecost. Titus was made bishop of Crete.

Ἄραβες. Inhabitants of the great peninsula which stretches between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.

τὰ μεγαλεῖα. Literally, the great works of God. Vulg. ‘magnalia.’ The word is rendered ‘wonderful works’ (as A.V.) in Sirach 36:8. In the same way it is said (Acts 13:46) of the first Gentile converts on whom the Holy Ghost came, ‘They heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.’ And of those to whom the Spirit was given at Ephesus (Acts 19:6), They spake with tongues and prophesied.’

Verse 12

12. διηποροῦντο, were perplexed. They were in no doubt about the facts. Their eyes and ears were trusty witnesses. But they were at a loss how to account for what they heard and saw.

Verse 13

13. ἕτεροι δὲ κ.τ.λ., but others mocking said: They are full of new wine. γλεῦκος, not a common word, is found in LXX. of Job 32:19.

In the above description of the events of the day of Pentecost, the meaning which St Luke intends to convey is very plain in every respect, except that we cannot with certainty gather from it whether the disciples, as well as speaking new languages, also understood what they uttered. It would seem most reasonable to conclude that the Holy Spirit with the one power also bestowed the other, and this may have been so in the case of the disciples at Pentecost, even though it was not so at other times and under other circumstances. The only Scripture which bears upon the question is St Paul’s 1st Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12:10 to 1 Corinthians 14:30). There among the gifts of the Spirit the Apostle enumerates “divers kinds of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:10; 1 Corinthians 12:30) and as what might be a separate gift not included in the first, “the interpretation of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:10). He mentions in the next chapter the tongues of angels as well as of men (1 Corinthians 13:1), but not in such an enumeration as to connect the words with our inquiry. It should be borne in mind that all which the Apostle says in the Epistle is addressed to the Corinthians, not as missionary labourers but as members of a settled Christian Church, and he is instructing them what the best gifts are after which they should seek. Now their labours and utterances were to be among their own people and mostly among those already professing Christianity. St Paul repeatedly dwells on ‘the Church’ as the scene of their labours, which expression without necessarily always implying an edifice (which however here seems to be its meaning, see 1 Corinthians 14:23-24) indicates a Christian community. The Apostle tells them that gifts of tongues are not for these. Tongues are for a sign not to them that believe but to the unbelieving. To speak with tongues was therefore not the best gift to be desired for the Church at Corinth. Yet we can fancy that some members longed for such a power, and it is to such as these that the Apostle’s remarks are directed. In such a congregation as theirs, he tells them, ‘he that speaketh in a tongue, speaketh not unto men, but unto God’ (1 Corinthians 14:2), meaning to teach them that if a man had this gift he would yet profit his neighbours nothing, for they would not be men of a foreign speech like the crowd at Pentecost, or like those in foreign lands which the Christian missionaries must visit. Next he adds ‘he that speaketh in a tongue edifieth himself’ (1 Corinthians 14:4), for he feels the power and tells of the great works of God. The Apostle could wish ‘they all spake with tongues,’ if, that is, there were an advantage to the Church therein, but under their circumstances he rather wishes for them the gift of prophecy, or power of exposition of the Scriptures and preaching. We next come to those sentences which bear directly upon our inquiry (1 Corinthians 14:13), ‘Let him that speaketh in a tongue pray that he may interpret.’ There were then in the Corinthian Church examples of that division of these closely connected gifts which in the recital of spiritual gifts the Apostle seems to imply; some spake with tongues who could not interpret, and others could interpret who did not speak with tongues. And the next words confirm this view, ‘If I pray in a tongue my spirit prayeth’ (and in this way I edify myself), ‘but my understanding is unfruitful.’ Therefore the Apostle desires that form of power for himself which in a congregation shall exercise both spirit and understanding. He himself had this gift in great fulness, but in the Church it is not that which he would desire to use, lest the unlearned should not be able to say ‘Amen’ to his giving of thanks. For in the ordinary church-assembly if the gift of tongues were exercised, it would seem madness to those Corinthian unbelievers who came in, and heard a speaker uttering a foreign language to a congregation who were all Greeks, and their minister a Greek likewise. St Paul therefore ordains that if any man speak in a tongue in the Church, he must have an interpreter, or else must keep silence. From which ordinance also it appears that there were those who, though endowed with the gift of speaking with tongues, were yet not able to interpret to the congregation the words which they were empowered to speak.

In these passages we have all the references to this gift of the Holy Ghost which seem to help us to appreciate in some degree what its character was. Whatever may have been the case at Pentecost, certainly in the Corinthian Church the power of speaking seems not always to have had with it the power of interpretation, though in some cases it had, and all were to pray for the one to be given with the other. Yet in this whole account it is to be borne in mind that we have no indication that such gifts were frequent in Corinth, but only that the members of the Church longed to possess them. From this wish the Apostle dissuades them, because their duty was to minister to believers rather than to unbelievers, whereas on those occasions where the gift was most markedly bestowed, as related by the author of the Acts, viz. at the house of Cornelius, and in the heathen and multilingual maritime city of Ephesus, as well as at the outpouring on Pentecost, there was the probability of having an audience on whom such a display of God’s gifts would be likely to produce the same kind of effect as that produced in Jerusalem on the first manifestation.

Verse 14

14. Πέτρος σὺν τοῖς ἕνδεκα. The Twelve naturally take the leading place among the disciples, and Peter, who is usually the spokesman in the Gospels, begins the general address now, directing it principally to those who were dwellers in Jerusalem and the neighbouring country, for it was more likely to be these who gave vent to the mocking speeches than the foreigners who would better recognize the astounding nature of what had come to pass.

ἀπεφθέγξατο, spake forth unto them. The word is the same that is used to describe the gift which they had just received. ‘They spake as the Spirit gave them utterance,’ lit. ‘to speak forth’ (Acts 2:4). St Paul employs it when Festus had said he was mad. ‘I speak forth the words of truth and soberness’ (Acts 26:25).

ἐνωτίσασθε. The word signifies ‘to take anything into the ears.’ It is only found here in N.T. but is very common in the LXX., especially in the Psalms. Cf. also Genesis 4:23 (Lamech’s address); Job 32:10; Job 34:16; Job 37:13.

Verses 14-21


Verse 15

15. μεθύουσιν. Wine was drunk by the Jews with flesh only, and, founding the custom on Exodus 16:8, they ate bread in the morning, and flesh in the evening, and so took no wine till late in the day. So Ecclesiastes 10:16-17, by the ‘princes who eat in the morning’ are meant those who eat to the full of all sorts of food and so take wine, and their opposites are next described as those who eat in due season for strength and not for drunkenness.

The paraphrase of this passage given in the Targum is worth notice in illustration of the text of the Acts. It reads, ‘Woe to thee, O land of Israel, when there shall reign over thee Jeroboam the wicked, and shall exterminate from the midst of thee the offering of the morning sacrifice, and when thy lords shall eat bread before any man has offered the perpetual offering of the morning. Blessed art thou, land of Israel, at the time when Hezekiah the son of Ahaz (who is of the genealogy of the house of David) shall reign, who will be a mighty hero in the law, and fulfil all the duties of the commandments, and then thy princes shall only eat bread after the perpetual offering has been offered (i.e. their eating shall be) at the fourth hour, from the labour of their hands in the strength of the law, and not in faintness and blindness of the eyes.’

ὥρα τρίτη. Only one quarter of the day was over. The Jews divided the day and night each into twelve parts, calling them hours, though their length varied according as the daylight was less or more. When day and night were equal, the third hour would be nine o’clock in the morning.

Verse 16

16. διὰ τοῦ προφήτου, through the prophet. διὰ is the preposition generally used in such phrases, and denotes that the prophet was the instrument by whose intervention God spake. Joel himself (Acts 1:1) calls his prophecy ‘the word of the Lord that came unto Joel.’ The quotation is from Joel 2:28-32. The order of sentences differs here from the Hebrew (which is represented by the A.V. of Joel), but agrees with the LXX. very nearly, only for ἐν ταῖς ἐσχ. ἡμέραις the LXX. has μετὰ ταῦτα, and omits σημεῖα in Acts 2:19.

Verse 17

17. ἐν ταῖς ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις. In the language of the Old Testament prophets these words signify the coming of the Messiah (Cf. Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1).

Verse 18

18. καί γε may be rendered, Yea and, or And truly. Cf. Acts 17:27 where καί γε is the correct reading. The Vulg. gives ‘et quidem.’

προφητεύσουσιν. Fulfilled also in the case of Agabus (Acts 11:28), and of the Ephesian converts (Acts 19:6), and of the daughters of Philip the Evangelist (Acts 21:9).

Verse 19

19. τέρατα. Even when the Kingdom of Christ shall have come mighty troubles will still prevail. Christ Himself gave the same lesson (Matthew 24:21-30).

Verse 20

20. ἐπιφανῆ, notable. The Hebrew word in Joel means terrible. But the Hebrew verbs to fear and to see are often confounded in the LXX. version, with which the quotation in the text agrees. The prophecy of Joel had a partial fulfilment in the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, but it also looked onward to its later destruction by the Romans.

Verse 21

21. σωθήσεται. Eusebius (H. E. III. 5. 3) tells how the Christians were warned to leave Jerusalem before its destruction, and went into a city of Perea called Pella.

Verse 22

22. ἄνδρες Ἰσραηλῖται. As the prophecies which St Peter is about to put forward were given before the nation was rent into two parts, he calls them by a name which points to their union and common descent from Jacob.

Ἰησοῦν τὸν Ναζωραῖον. This accusative, taken up by the following τοῦτον, continues in suspense till the close of the next verse.

ἄνδρα. St Peter begins with the humanity of Jesus, as a point on which they would all agree.

ἀποδεδειγμένον. Publicly demonstrated, or set forth. Cf. the words of Nicodemus (John 3:2) ‘No man can do these miracles that thou doest except God be with him.’ The sense of the participle is given by the gloss of D, which reads δεδοκιμασμένον.

εἰς ὑμᾶς. Render, unto you. The testimony was not given among them only (as A.V.), but unto them. Cf. John 12:37 ‘Though He had done so many miracles before them yet they believed not on Him.’

δυνάμεσι κ.τ.λ. These distinct names are given to Christ’s marvellous works according to the light in which they are viewed. The first name, δυνάμεις, lit. powers, is applied to them because they proclaimed the might of Him who wrought them; they are named τέρατα, wonders, because they called forth that feeling when they were wrought; and σημεῖα, signs, because they point out their author as divine.

οἷς. Attracted into the case of the antecedent, as in Acts 1:1, though here that case is dative. See note there.

ὁ θεός. St Peter does not advance at once to the declaration that Christ is God, but speaks of Jesus as God’s agent, in the mighty works which their own eyes had seen.

Verses 22-36


Verse 23

23. ἔκδοτον. Given up onto you as God had decreed He should be, for the sake of man’s redemption.

διὰ χειρὸς ἀνόμων, by the hand of wicked (lit. lawless) men. διὰ χειρός is a literal translation of a Hebrew expression = by means of. Cf. Leviticus 8:36 ‘Things which the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses.’ See also 2 Kings 14:25, though in both those passages the LXX. has ἐν χειρί. But διὰ χειρός in the same sense is found 2 Kings 14:27; 1 Chronicles 11:3; 1 Chronicles 29:5, &c.

Verse 24

24. τὰς ὠδῖνας τοῦ θανάτου. The expression occurs in LXX. Psalms 17:5, &c.

Verse 25

25. Δαυεὶδ κ.τ.λ. The passage which St Peter quotes is from Psalms 16:8-11, and he argues that it could not be of himself that the Psalmist there spake, for they had evidence that the words could not be truly said of him. But having regard to God’s promise David spake of Him who was to be born from his line, as identified with himself. St Peter’s quotation is from the LXX.

εἰς αὐτόν, in reference to him. The preposition indicates the direction of the thoughts of him who spoke. Cf. Winer-Moulton, p. 495.

προορώμην. The πρὸ is used here as a strengthening of the following ἐνώπιόν μου, and in the same sense. The foresaw of A.V. is equal to no more than saw. The Hebrew text would be rendered, I set.

Verse 26

26. ἡ γλῶσσά μου. The Hebrew = my glory. For this exposition of glory, cf. Psalms 108:1, where the A.V. has, according to the Hebrew, I will give praise even with my glory,’ while the Prayer-Book Version renders ‘with the best member that I have.’ If however we are to be guided by the Hebrew parallelism ‘the glory’ is the soul or life. Cf. Psalms 7:5, ‘Let him tread my life upon the earth, and lay my glory (A.V. honour) in the dust.’ On the use of a similar expression by the Arabs for any member of the body of special honour, see Gesenius s. v. כבוד.

κατασκηνώσει. Lit. shall tabernacle.

Verse 27

27. εἰς ᾅδην, in Hades, i.e. in the unseen world. So too in Acts 2:31 where we have the more usual expression εἰς ᾅδου (understanding δόμον), but in the Psalm from which quotation is made, the best text of the LXX. gives the accusative there too.

δώσεις, Thou wilt suffer [lit. give].

τὸν ὅσιόν σου, Thy Holy One. The Hebrew word in the Psalm conveys the idea of beloved, as well as godly or pious.

Verse 28

28. πληρώσεις κ.τ.λ. This is an example of how the LXX. sometimes paraphrases. The Hebrew text literally translated is, ‘in thy presence is fulness of joy.’

Verse 29

29. ἐξὸν εἰπεῖν. Here ἔστι is the verb to be supplied. Render ‘It is allowed me = I may freely say unto you concerning the patriarch David that he both died and was buried.’ Here St Peter begins his argument with a statement which none of them will gainsay. St Paul makes use of the selfsame argument (Acts 13:36) ‘David after he had served his own generation … fell on sleep and was laid unto his fathers.’

τὸ μνῆμα. The existence of the sepulchre is evidence that David did not rise again. The sepulchre of the House of David was a famous object in the Holy City. Among the marvels of Jerusalem mentioned in the Aboth de-Rabbi Nathan (c. 35), we are told, ‘There are no graves made in Jerusalem except the tombs of the House of David and of Huldah the Prophetess, which have been there from the days of the first prophets.’

On the burial of David in Zion, cp. 1 Kings 2:10 with 2 Samuel 5:7.

Verse 30

30. ὅρκῳ ὤμοσεν. See Psalms 132:11 ‘Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.’

ἐκ καρποῦ κ.τ.λ. Render, of the fruit of his loins one should sit [or, he would set one] on his throne; for καθίζειν is used both transitively and intransitively.

Verse 31

31. περὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως τοῦ Χριστοῦ, of the resurrection of the Christ, i.e. the Messiah, Jehovah’s Anointed.

ὅτι οὔτε ἐγκατελείφθη, that neither was He left in Hades nor did His flesh, &c. The ἡ ψυχὴ αὐτοῦ of the Text, recept. has been introduced to make this application accord more exactly with the words of the prophecy quoted in Acts 2:27. At first perhaps the addition was innocently placed as a note on the margin, but the next copyist incorporated it.

Verse 32

32. ἀνέστησεν, raised up (from the dead). The word takes up the ἀνάστασις of the previous verse. The English cannot mark by similarity of word the forcible character of the Greek, which would be given in sense somewhat thus: ‘David spake of a resurrection, which manifestly was not his own, but here is now come to pass the resurrection of Jesus, of which we all are witnesses.’ The πάντες is probably to be confined to Peter and the Eleven, with whom he is more closely connected in this speech (see Acts 2:14) than with the rest.

Verse 33

33. ὑψωθείς, exalted (into heaven), for the Apostles are witnesses not only of the Resurrection but of the Ascension also.

τήν τε ἐπαγγελίαν πν. τ. ἁγ. Called in Acts 1:4 ἡ ἐπαγγελία τοῦ πατρός. The promise was made by the Father, and the Holy Ghost was the gift promised. Christ’s words were, ‘I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter’ (John 14:16). What was at first an ἐπαγγελία has now attained its fulfilment, so that λαβών implies the complete fruition of all that was promised.

ἐξέχεεν, He hath poured forth. Thus fulfilling the promise in the prophecy quoted Acts 2:17 : ἐκχεῶ ἀπὸ τοῦ πνέυματός μου.

βλέπετε καὶ ἀκούετε. It would seem from this that the appearance, like as of fire, which rested upon each of them, remained visible for some time, thus making it evident how different this was from any meteoric flashes into which some have endeavoured to explain away the miracle which St Luke describes.

Verse 34

34. οὐἀνέβη, he ascended not. He went down to the grave, and ‘slept with his fathers.’

λέγει δέ. The passage is from Psalms 110:1. David saith, speaking as a prophet, and concerning the same person, whom though He is to be born of the fruit of his loins, he is yet taught by the Spirit to call his Lord. The words of this Psalm were admitted by the Jews themselves in their discourse with Jesus (Matthew 22:44-45) to be spoken of the Christ.

κύριος τῷ κυρίῳ μου. The sense is, the Lord [Jehovah] said unto [Him whom I must even now call] my Lord, since I foresee how great He shall be.

κάθου ἐκ δεξιῶν μου. A common Oriental expression for sharing power and sovereignty. Cf. the request of the mother of James and John when she desired places of influence for her sons in the future kingdom, which she supposed would be an earthly one (Matthew 20:21).

Verse 35

35. ὑποπόδιον. To put the foot on the neck of a prostrate enemy was in the Eastern world a token of complete conquest. (Cf. Joshua 10:24.)

Verse 36

36. γινωσκέτω. This appeal could only be made to Israel, for they alone knew of the promises and prophecies in which the Christ had been foretold.

ὅτι καὶ κ.τ.λ. Render, that God hath made Him both Lord and Christ, even this Jesus whom ye crucified. Thus closes the argument. Its steps are: Jesus, who has been crucified, has been by God raised from the grave, by God exalted to heaven, and set at His right hand, and thus proved to be the Lord and the Anointed One.

Verse 37

37. κατενύγησαν τὴν καρδίαν. The verb, without the following noun, is found LXX. Genesis 34:7 (were grieved A.V.) and κατανενυγμένον τῇ καρδίᾳ, Ps. 108:16 of one ‘broken in heart.’ The sense here is, they were stung with remorse at the enormity of the wickedness which had been committed in the crucifixion, and at the blindness with which the whole nation had closed their eyes to the teaching of the prophecies which had spoken of the Messiah.

πρὸς τὸν Πέτρον κ.τ.λ. For these men, who had so clearly set before them the error of the whole people, were the most likely to know what could be done to atone for it.

ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί. See Acts 1:16 note.

Verses 37-40


Verse 38

38. μετανοήσατε. This was in accordance with the directions of Jesus before His Ascension (Luke 24:47) ‘that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name.’ On the omission of both ἔφη and φησίν in this verse, cf. Acts 25:22; Acts 26:28, where the best MSS. are without any verb = he said. It should be noticed that the Vulg. has ‘Pænitentiam (inquit) agite.’

βαπτισθήτω. The verb is here singular from the close connexion with the distributive ἕκαστος, but the plural with which the verse commenced is resumed immediately in λήμψεσθε.

The exhortation to baptism is in accord with Christ’s injunction (Matthew 28:19), and though there the baptism is directed ‘to be in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,’ and here it is only said ‘in the name of Jesus Christ,’ we are not to suppose any change made from the first ordinance, but only that as the Church was to be called Christ’s, so in mentioning the Sacrament for the admission of its members His name was specially made prominent. It was belief in Christ as the Son of God which constituted the ground of admission to the privileges of His Church. This made the whole of St Peter’s Creed (Matthew 16:16) when Christ pronounced him blessed.

δωρεὰν τ. ἁγ. πν. This is expressly stated to have been bestowed on some of the first converts (see Acts 8:17, Acts 10:44, &c.), and the prompt repentance of these earliest hearers of the truth would not be without its reward.

Verse 39

39. ἐπαγγελία must be taken to embrace the same gifts which it included in Acts 1:4 and Acts 2:33.

καὶ τοῖς τέκνοις. As under the old covenant the promises were made (Galatians 3:16) ‘to Abraham and his seed,’ so is it to be under the new dispensation.

τοῖς εἰς μακράν. Peter knew from the first, we see, that the Gentiles were to be admitted to the same privileges as Israel. But Christ’s commission said they were to preach first in Jerusalem and in Judæa. Peter needed the vision of the great sheet let down from heaven to tell him when God’s time was come for the extension of the work; and though in his dream the natural prejudice of his race was asserted, yet when he awoke he went ‘without gainsaying as soon as he was sent for’ (Acts 10:29), as he says to Cornelius. For Christ’s words had been ‘Go, teach all nations.’

The expression οἱ εἰς μακράν means those persons, whom to reach you have to go out into the distance.

προσκαλέσηται. Render, shall call unto Him. Thus the force of the preposition will be given, which disappears in A.V.

Verse 40

40. ἑτέροις τε λόγοις πλείοσιν. This is a very important statement. We learn from it that there is no attempt made by the writer of the Acts to produce more than the substance and character of what was here said. And we may be sure that he uses the same rule always. We need not therefore be startled if we find an address followed by mighty results, even though St Luke’s abstract of it may only extend over a few verses.

διεμαρτύρατο, he charged, as 1 Timothy 5:21; 2 Timothy 2:14; 2 Timothy 4:1. Peter’s address was not of the nature of testimony but a direction what the penitents were to do.

σκολιᾶς. Literally crooked. The expression ‘crooked generation’ is found in A.V. (Deuteronomy 32:5) where the Greek of the LXX. is the same as here and in Philippians 2:15. γενεὰ σκολιά is also the text in Psalms 77 [78]:8.

Verse 41

41. προσετέθησαν. Render, there were added on that day about three thousand souls, i.e. to the hundred and twenty who composed the community when the day began. In Acts 2:47 it is said ‘the Lord added.’

Verses 41-47


Verse 42

42. προσκαρτεροῦντες. This means that they allowed nothing to interfere with the further teaching which the Apostles no doubt gave to the newly baptized. The converts would naturally seek to hear all the particulars of the life of Him whom they had accepted as Lord and Christ, and such narratives would form the greatest part of the teaching of the Apostles at the first.

The phrase ἡ διδαχὴ τῶν ἀποστόλων has acquired a new interest since the recent discovery and publication of a MS. with that title. But the subjects treated of in this new discovery, a work manifestly of the first or beginning of the second century, are not such as could be spoken of immediately after the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit. They relate to the Church when she has taken a firm hold on the world.

κοινωνίᾳ, that communion, or holding all things common, of which a more full description is given in the following verses, and which would bind them most closely into one society.

Chrysostom calls this ‘an angelic republic’: τοῦτο πολιτεία ἀγγελικὴ μηδὲν αὐτῶν λέγειν ἴδιον εἶναι. ἐντεῦθεν ἡ ῥίζα τῶν κακῶν ἐξεκόπη, καὶ δι' ὧν ἔπραττον ἔδειξαν ὅτι ἤκουσαν.

The omission of the conjunction after κοινωνίᾳ makes a division between the educational and social duties on one hand, and the strictly devotional on the other.

τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου. The earliest title of the Holy Communion and that by which it is mostly spoken of in Scripture. (See Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 10:16, &c.) In consequence of the omission here and elsewhere of any mention of the wine, an argument has been drawn for communion in one kind. But it is clear from the way in which St Paul speaks of the bread and the cup in the same breath, as it were, that such a putting asunder of the two parts of the Sacrament which Christ united is unwarranted by the practice of the Church of the Apostles.

It is worth notice that in the ‘Teaching of the XII Apostles’ to which allusion has just been made, the directions concerning the cup stand first. See chap. 9 περὶ δὲ τῆς εὐχαριστίας, οὕτως εὐχαριστήσατε. πρῶτον περὶ ποτηρίου· κ.τ.λ.

ταῖς προσευχαῖς. There is the article here too. Render, the prayers. See note on Acts 1:14.

Verse 43

43. πάσῃ ψυχῇ. Even the mockers were afraid to continue their jeers in the face of such preaching and such lives.

τέρατα καὶ σημεῖα. See note on Acts 2:22. The purposes now chiefly aimed at by the miracles were to arrest attention and bear evidence to the new teaching. So they are not here spoken of as δυνάμεις.

Verse 44

44. ἦσαν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ κ.τ.λ. With the words of the angels still in their ears (Acts 1:11) ‘This same Jesus shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven,’ the disciples were no doubt full of the thought that the return of Jesus was not far distant. Such an opinion spreading among the new disciples would make them ready to resign their worldly goods, and to devote all things to the use of their brethren. For so the spreading of a knowledge of Christ could be made the chief work of the whole body of believers.

Verse 45

45. κτήματαὑπάρξεις. The Vulg. distinguishes the words by rendering ‘possessiones et substantias.’ The former of the Greek words seems to imply those means which were at the time actively employed in the acquisition of more wealth; this would include farming and trade stock, &c., while ὕπαρξις refers rather to realized property (cf. however Acts 4:34). Soon, it seemed, there would be no need for either, and the produce of their sale was the most convenient form in which the bounty could be used for those who needed it.

καθότι ἄν τις χρείαν εἶχεν, according as any man had need. We gather from this that the first converts kept their homes and things needful for themselves, but held the rest as a trust for the Church to be bestowed whenever need was seen. This is an earlier stage than that in which the money was brought and put at the disposal of the Apostles.

The verb εἶχεν is in the indicative notwithstanding the preceding καθότι ἂν, because the writer’s intention is to describe a fact, viz. that there were persons in need.

Verse 46

46. καθ' ἡμέραν τε κ.τ.λ., and day by day attending continually with one accord, &c.

At the Temple they were likely to meet with the greatest number of devout listeners; and we shall find that the first Christians did not cease to be religious Jews, but held to all the observances of their ancient faith, its feasts, its ritual, and its hours of prayer, as far as they could do so consistently with their allegiance to Jesus. We find (Acts 21:20-24) the elders of the Church in Jerusalem urgent on St Paul that he should shew his zeal for the Law by taking upon him the vow of a Nazirite, and should so quiet the scruples of Jews, and of such Christian brethren who were more zealous for the Law than St Paul himself, and the Apostle saw no reason why he should not comply with their request.

κλῶντές τε κατ' οἶκον ἄρτον. Render, breaking bread at home; though the A.V., if rightly understood, gives the sense very well. What is meant is, that the specially Christian institution of the breaking of bread was not a part of the service in the Temple, but was observed at their own homes, the congregations meeting now at one house, now at another. The Vulg. has ‘circa domos.’ The connexion of the Lord’s Supper with the Passover meal at its institution made the Christian Sacrament essentially a service which could be celebrated, as on the first occasion it was, in the dining-room of a dwelling-house.

τροφῆς, i.e. their ordinary meals.

ἀγαλλιάσει, with gladness. Because those who were able to contribute to the support of the poorer members of the Church were delighted to do so, and thus all over-anxious care for the morrow was removed from the whole community.

ἀφελότητι καρδίας. Vulg. ‘simplicitate cordis.’ Having but one end in view, that the faith of Christ should be as widely spread abroad as possible.

Verse 47

47. χάριν, favour. As it was said of Christ, ‘The common people heard Him gladly’ (Mark 12:37), so it seems to have been with the Apostles. The first attack made on them is (Acts 4:1) by the priests, the Captain of the Temple, and the Sadducees.

τοὺς σωζομένους. For this use of the present participle in relation to a work or condition begun, but only as yet in progress and not complete, cf. LXX. Judges 13:8 (Manoah’s question to the angel), τί ποιήσωμεν τῷ παιδίῳ τικτομένῳ; The child spoken of is not born, but will be, for God has promised it. So here the men were put into the way of salvation, but not yet saved, though made through hope to be heirs of salvation. The rendering of the text is, and the Lord added day by day together such as were in the way of salvation.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Acts 2:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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Saturday, December 5th, 2020
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