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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Acts 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1. λαλούντων δέ. Some little time must have elapsed since Pentecost, for now the movements of the Apostles have become a matter of concern to the Jewish authorities. See their complaint (Acts 5:28). There is no note of time at the beginning of chap. 3. It need not have been a long period, for news soon spread in the city, as we learn from the events related in the previous chapter.

ἐπέστησαν, came upon them, i.e. to arrest them. The same word is used (Acts 23:27) of the action of the chief captain. See note there.

οἱ ἱερεῖς. Those whose duty it was at the time to take charge of the Temple services, and who probably had taken offence at the multitudes assembled in the Temple court. The division of the priests was into twenty-four courses, each of which was to serve in the Temple for a week, see 1 Chronicles 24:1-19; 2 Chronicles 23:8. It was during such service in the order of his course, that the promise of the birth of John the Baptist was made to Zacharias the priest (Luke 1:5-8). Some versions render high-priests, but these were only gathered to the council on the following day.

ὁ στρατηγὸς τοῦ ἱεροῦ. There is mentioned in the O.T. an officer whose title is ‘the ruler of the house of God,’ ὁ ἡγούμενος οἰκοῦ κυρίου (or τοῦ θεοῦ), (1 Chronicles 9:11; 2 Chronicles 31:13; Nehemiah 11:11). He was not a military officer, but had charge of the guard of priests and Levites who watched the Temple at night. There are two titles given to such an officer in the later writings of the Jews. [1] the memunneh (T. Babl. Tamid I.), a kind of prefect of the Temple guard; and [2] a higher officer called ‘the captain of the mountain of the [Lord’s] house.’ (T. Babl. Middoth II.) Rabbenu Shimshon describes this second officer as ‘the Commander who was set over every watch of those that watched in the less sacred portion of the Temple.’ He was apparently a civil as well as a religious official, for we find (Acts 5:26) that he goes with ‘the officers’ to make the second arrest of the Apostles.

οἱ Σαδδουκαῖοι. This was the name of one of the most influential sects among the Jews in our Lord’s time. Their name has been variously explained. The Jewish authorities state that the name, which they write Tsedukim, is derived from Tsadok (Zadok) the proper name, and that thus they are ‘the followers of Zadok.’ The Zadok from whom they derive the title is said to have been a disciple of Antigonus of Socho. This Antigonus is the second in order of the Jewish Fathers whose sayings are recorded in the Pirke Aboth, and the commentators thereon mention two of his pupils, Baithos and Zadok, to the latter of whom and to his followers they attribute the teaching that ‘there was nothing for them in the world to come.’ But it is perhaps more probable, from their constant connexion with the priests, that the name of the Sadducees was derived from the more famous Zadok who became high priest in the reign of king Solomon (1 Kings 2:35). We read of the distinction of his descendants as ‘the sons of Zadok,’ and ‘the priests the Levites of the seed of Zadok,’ even as late as the description of Ezekiel’s temple (Ezekiel 40:46; Ezekiel 44:15). The probability of this priestly descent of the sect of the Sadducees is strengthened by the way in which they are mentioned Acts 5:17, ‘Then rose up the high priest and all they that were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees).’ The derivation which makes their name the plural of the Hebrew adjective Tsaddik, = righteous, has not much authority to support it.

The teaching of the Sadducees is partly described (Acts 23:8). They ‘say that there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit.’ In addition to this they attached no authority to the Oral Law, while the Pharisees maintained that the greater portion thereof had been transmitted to them from Moses. The Sadducees also taught the doctrine of the freedom of the will of men. The statement that they rejected all the Old Testament Scriptures except the Pentateuch has no confirmation in Josephus, and has arisen from a confusion of the Sadducees with the Samaritans. Josephus (Antiq. XVIII. 1. 4) says ‘their doctrine is accepted only by a few, but yet by those of the greatest dignity,’ a statement fully borne out by the influential position in which we find them when the history of the Acts opens. They play no very prominent part in the Gospel history, because the teaching of Christ while on earth was directed more specially against the formalism and outward show of religion that prevailed among the Pharisees. It is when the doctrine of the resurrection begins to be preached that the hostility of the Sadducees makes itself most apparent.


Verses 1-12

Acts 4:1-12. FIRST ARREST OF THE APOSTLES. THEIR HEARING AND DEFENCE


Verse 2

2. διαπονούμενοι. The word is found in LXX. (Ecclesiastes 10:9) of the pain and risk which a man incurs in removing stones. Here the pain is mental, they were sorely grieved. It is used (Acts 16:18) of St Paul’s feeling when the ‘damsel possessed with a spirit of divination’ cried after him at Philippi.

Chrysostom’s words on this sentence are: διεπονοῦντο οὐ μόνον ὅτι ἐδίδασκον, ἀλλ' ὅτι οὐκ αὐτὸν μόνον ἔλεγον ἐγηγέρθαι, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἡμᾶς δι' ἐκεῖνον ἀνίστασθαι. οὔτως ἰσχυρὰ ἐγένετο ἡ ἀνάστασις ὡς καὶ ἑτέροις αὐτὸν αἴτιον γενέσθαι ἀναστάσεως.

διδάσκειν. The scribes and priests would have made teaching a monopoly of their own, and would be the more vexed because these new teachers were ἄνθρωποι ἀγράμματοι. See Acts 4:13.

καταγγέλλειν ἐν τῷ Ἰ. κ.τ.λ. Bender, and published in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. This would rouse the feelings of the Sadducees. The resurrection is said to be in Jesus, because His resurrection was a pledge that all should rise. ‘In Christ all shall be made alive’ (1 Corinthians 15:22). The language of the Apostles in the Acts does not dwell on this as a consequence of the resurrection of Jesus, for the Apostles set forth at first what was historical rather than doctrinal teaching. Their language was a proclamation, not an argument.

τὴν ἀνάστασιν τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν, the resurrection from the dead. Here this expression seems to mean exactly the same as ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν in Acts 24:21, viz. the general resurrection. The latter expression is the more common, being found nine or ten times (in Acts 24:15 modern editors omit νεκρῶν), and means most frequently the general resurrection, though it is applied to Christ’s resurrection in Acts 26:23; Romans 1:4; while in 1 Corinthians 15:21 it signifies the general resurrection implied in the particular raising up of Jesus.

ἡ ἀνάστασις τῶν νεκρῶν (Matthew 22:31; 1 Corinthians 15:42) of the general resurrection; and the form in this verse (ἡ ἀνάστασις ἡ ἐκ νεκρῶν) is found again in Luke 20:35, there, as here, signifying the resurrection of all men. Like this is ἡ ἐξανάστασις ἡ ἐκ νεκρῶν of Philippians 3:11. And we have once (1 Peter 1:3) ἀνάστασις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκ νεκρῶν.

When the verb (ἐγείρω, ἀνίστημι, &c.) is used, the preposition which most usually follows it is ἐκ; commonly ἐκ νεκρῶν, now and then ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν. In St Matthew we have, three times, ἀπὸ τῶν νεκρῶν (Matthew 14:2, Matthew 27:64, Matthew 28:7).

It appears that the preposition most commonly employed after the verb was also put after the derived noun (as 1 Peter 1:3); and once or twice the preposition was used, as here, in the adjectival form (ἡ ἐκ νεκρῶν) appended to the noun.

Those sentences where the verb is used refer nearly always to Christ’s coming up from among the dead, or to some particular rising, like that of Lazarus or John the Baptist; but once in Mark 12:25 there is a wider sense. Where the noun is found the phrase is nearly always of the general resurrection, though the examples given above shew that it is sometimes restricted to our Lord’s rising again.


Verse 3

3. τήρησιν, ward, safe keeping, i.e. in a prison-house. And it is worth noticing on the use of it, that the Jews only employed imprisonment for this precautionary purpose. It was not a mode of punishment with them, and where we find mention of it so used in the Scripture records, the authorities who inflicted it were not Jewish.

ἑσπέρα ἤδη, already eventide. The Apostles had gone up to the Temple about the ninth hour, so sundown would soon come on, and the Jews were not allowed to give judgment in the night, while their day ceased at the twelfth hour. The Rabbis founded the prohibition on Jeremiah 21:12, ‘O house of David, thus saith the Lord, Execute judgment in the morning.’ In Mishna Sanhedrin IV. 1 it is said: ‘Judgments about money may be commenced in the day and concluded in the night, but judgments about life must be begun in the day and concluded in the day.’ And even the rule about the declaration of the new moon, which was looked on as a judicial proceeding, is similarly regulated (Mishna Rosh ha-Shanah III. 1), and it may not be declared unless the examination of the witnesses and all other preliminaries enjoined before its proclamation be completed before dark.


Verse 4

4. πολλοὶ δέ, but many &c.; i.e. they were not deterred by the arrest of the Apostles.

ἐπίστευσαν, believed, i.e. on Him (Jesus) whom Peter had set before them as the Prophet of whom Moses had spoken.

ἐγενήθη, came to, amounted to. Thus the Christian brotherhood had gained nearly two thousand adherents since the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:41).


Verse 5

5. ἐπὶ τὴν αὔριον, on the morrow, when the investigation was permitted to be held.

τοὺς ἄρχοντας καὶ τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους. Here we may see that the party of the Sadducees was at this time the party of power and influence.

καὶ τοὺς γραμματεῖς. Not only did the Scribes copy, but they also expounded the Law. And the teaching of the followers of Jesus would probably differ as much as did His own from the lessons of the Scribes. Cf. Matthew 7:29.

ἐν Ἱερουσαλήμ. This is the preposition in the best MSS. Some of the authorities may have resided away from the city, and had to be summoned. Hence συναχθῆναι, to be gathered together.


Verse 6

6. καὶ Ἄννας ὁ ἀρχιερεύς, and Annas the high-priest was there. The verb in this sentence is understood. Annas (called Ananus in Josephus) son of one Seth was made high-priest (A.D. 7) by the Roman governor Quirinus [Cyrenius], and so continued till A.D. 14 (Joseph. Antiq. XVIII. 2. 1). We do not find that he was ever again appointed to the office, though St Luke here calls him high-priest. But the way in which he is mentioned at the time of the trial of Christ, who was brought, as we read, before Annas first (John 18:13), and sent by him afterwards bound unto Caiaphas, shews that, though not actual high-priest, yet in the eyes of the people of Jerusalem his position was one which justified them in bringing Jesus to him as soon as he was seized. It is difficult to explain from the words of the New Test. the relation of these two men in their office. Caiaphas is expressly called high-priest by St John, yet we are not told why Christ was not at once brought to him. It may be that one was acting high-priest, while the other was nasi or president of the Sanhedrin. Moreover it is not improbable that Annas, having been high-priest before, and only deposed from the office by the Roman governor Gratus, would, both during the short high-priesthood of his son Eleazar (A.D. 16), and the longer high-priesthood of Caiaphas, his son-in-law (A.D. 25–37), exercise much influence by reason of his age and experience, and might from his former tenure of the office even be spoken of as high-priest. It is clear that he was at the head of one of the most influential Jewish families, for before his death, five of his sons had been high-priests (Joseph. Antiq. XX. 9. 1). We can see from Luke 3:2, where both Annas and Caiaphas are said to be high-priests, that there was some laxity in the common use of the title. So far only does the New Testament carry us, but when we come to examine the Old Testament, and the records of later Jewish literature, there seems every reason to conclude that the expressions which seem somewhat hard to reconcile are exactly those which would naturally be employed. We find that Moses, who is himself counted (Psalms 99:6) high-priest on the same level with Aaron, anointed not Aaron only, but his sons at the same time (Exodus 40:12-15) to be high-priests. Also (Numbers 31:6) Phinehas the son of Eleazar is sent to the war against the Midianites with ‘the holy instruments’ (i.e. the Urim and Thummim), which shews that he was high-priest at the same time as Eleazar his father. Again in later times (2 Kings 25:18) we have mention made of ‘Seraiah the chief priest and Zephaniah the second priest,’ which the Targum explains as ‘high-priest and Sagan’ or deputy high-priest. The Talmud makes it very clear that there was a special arrangement for providing on some occasions such a deputy for the high-priest. Thus (Mishna Joma I. 1) it says, ‘Seven days before the day of atonement they remove the high-priest from his house to the chamber of the assessors, and they provide another priest in his place lest any disqualification should befall him.’ On this passage Rashi’s note is ‘to be high-priest instead of him’: and a little later on in the same treatise (T. B. Joma 39 a) it is said concerning the services of the Day of Atonement: ‘Rabbi Khanina the Sagan of the priests (and so one qualified to speak on the duties of the office) said: “Why does the Sagan stand on the right hand of the high-priest (when the lots are being cast for the goats)? “The answer is, “So that if any disqualification should befall him, the Sagan may go in (to the Holy of Holies) and perform the service in his stead.”’ Cp. also Midrash Rabbah on Leviticus (par. 20 ad fin.). ‘If there was any defilement on Aaron, Eleazar served (as high-priest), and if there was any defilement on Eleazar, Ithamar served.’ (On the slight matters which caused such ceremonial defilement, see note on Acts 10:28.) And in the same chapter we find ‘Had not Elisheba (Exodus 6:23, the wife of Aaron) joy in this world who saw five crowns (i.e. subjects for rejoicing) in one day; her brother-in-law (Moses) a king (Deuteronomy 33:5); her brother (Naashon) nasi, i.e. president of the Sanhedrin; her husband high-priest; her two sons, Sagans of the high-priest; and Phinehas her grandson anointed for the war?’ These notices make it clear that from the earliest times down to a period posterior to the date of the Acts, there were occasions, and these not unfrequent, when two men were called high-priests at the same time.

That one who had been high-priest should still retain the title may be seen from the principle laid down in several places in the Talmud, (see Mishna Shekalim VI. 6, ed. princ. Jerus.), viz. that ‘you may elevate in a sacred office or service, but you cannot bring down’: as with us ‘once a Bishop, always a Bishop.’ The illustration given is that you might lay the shewbread on a marble table first, and afterwards on a golden one, but the contrary order of proceeding was forbidden. (For another illustration, see note on Acts 6:3.) Therefore Annas, having been high-priest could, according to Jewish usage, never be called by any lower title.

The relationship between Annas and Caiaphas and the seniority of the former is enough to explain the conduct of the crowd in bringing Jesus to him first: while the omission of the word high-priest (Acts 4:6) with the name of Caiaphas is no more a proof that he was not also known to be high-priest, as well as Annas, than the words of St Mark’s Gospel (Acts 16:7), ‘Go your way, tell His disciples and Peter’ can be made evidence that Peter was not one of the disciples. For a similar phrase see chap. Acts 5:29 and the note there.

καὶ Καϊάφας, and Caiaphas. He was called Joseph Caiaphas (Joseph. Ant. XVIII. 22), and was son-in-law of Annas.

καὶ Ἰωάννης, and John. This is the same name as Johanan, and Lightfoot concludes that this person was the famous Johanan ben Zaccai, who by his influence with Vespasian procured permission for many of the Jews to settle in Jamnia (Jafneh) after the destruction of their city, and himself became head of the synagogue there.

καὶ Ἀλέξανδρος, and Alexander, of whom we have no other notice than this. The adoption of a Greek name, and his being by that best known, is a sign that foreign influence was at this time strong among the Jews.

ἀρχιερατικοῦ. The adjective is of rare occurrence. It occurs of the chief priest’s dress τὸ ἔνδυμα τὸ ἀρχιερατικόν in the Acta Philippi in Hellade §§ 9 and 23; also Joseph. Ant. XI. 8. 2. Here ‘the kindred of the high priest’ would most likely all of them belong to the sect of the Sadducees.


Verse 7

7. ἐν τῷ μέσῳ, in the midst. The council or Sanhedrin was assembled in the Beth-din or Judgment-hall.

ἐν ποίᾳ δυνάμει, by what power. The noun here is the same which is used often for ‘a mighty work,’ and so has the force of ‘miraculous power.’

ἢ ἐν ποίῳ ὀνόηατι. Literally ‘in what name.’ But ὄνομα is constantly used in the sense of authority. In this second member of the sentence, the literal translation is the most forcible. Cf. Peter’s very words in Acts 3:6.


Verse 8

8. πνεύματος ἁγίου. The Spirit of God which had come upon him had changed Peter ‘into another man.’ Cf. 1 Samuel 10:6.

ἄρχοντες τοῦ λαοῦ. This was the highest tribunal which the Jews possessed.

καὶ πρεσβύτεροι. The council was composed of the chief priests, i.e. the heads of each of the twenty-four classes into which the priests were divided, the scribes, men who were skilled in all the Jewish law, and the elders, grave and learned men chosen to complete the number, which is stated to have been in all seventy-one.


Verse 9

9. εἰ. This conjunction followed as here by the verb in the indicative = if, as is really the case; and so in sense is equivalent to ἐπεὶ, since, but may still be rendered ‘if.’

ἀνακρινόμεθα κ.τ.λ. Render, we are examined concerning a good deed done to an impotent man. Both the nouns are without the article. This of itself however is not conclusive, as may be seen below in Acts 4:11, εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας. Not unfrequently after a preposition the article is omitted even where a definite sense is required. But in this verse the definiteness begins in the οὖτος which follows immediately.

εὐεργεσία very often means well-doing, kindness of spirit, generally, but it is used of a concrete act, as here, in 2 Maccabees 9:26, ἀξιῶ μεμνημένους τῶν εὐεργεσιῶν, ‘I claim that ye should remember my good actions.’

ἐν τίνι οὗτος σέσωσται, by what means this man is made whole. The demonstrative pronoun should be expressed in the translation (it is not so in A.V.) for it is emphatically inserted in the Greek. The man was there for all to see (cf. Acts 4:14) and probably St Peter pointed him out as he spake.

σέσωσται. The verb σώζω primarily refers to the body, and means the keeping of that safe and sound, and out of peril of death. Then it is used for healing, bringing the body into a sound state out of an unsound one. But as disease and death are the consequences of sin, the scriptural use of the word was elevated, and it meant in the end the salvation of the soul.


Verse 10

10. ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι, in the name, as before in Acts 4:7.

ὑμεῖς ἐσταυρώσατε, ye crucified. For though the Roman soldiers were the actual agents in the crucifixion, it was the Jewish people and their rulers who set the Roman power in motion and urged it to the last extremity. The pronoun is therefore emphatically inserted.

ἐν τούτῳ. Refer back to the previous ἐν, and so render, in this name.


Verse 11

11. οὖτος, this, viz. Jesus.

ὑφ' ὑμῶν τῶν οἰκοδόμων. Render, of you the builders. The article has its proper force. The council are fitly called the builders, for on them depended the whole religious and civil government of the people. St Peter, with his mind now enlightened to apply the Scriptures, uses the words of the Psalmist (Psalms 118:22) as spoken prophetically of Christ. Christ had already (Matthew 21:42) applied these words to Himself and to the way in which He was being rejected of the Jews, in the close of one of His parables which the Pharisees felt had been spoken against them.

The rendering of the Psalm by the Apostle does not altogether accord with the words of the LXX.

εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας, the head of the corner. Christ, now exalted into heaven, is no longer the despised, but is become the most important, stone in the new building of the Christian society, cf. Ephesians 2:20-22. St Peter uses this quotation in his Epistle (1 Peter 2:7), and joins with it a passage (Isaiah 28:16) where the like figure is employed prophetically of the Messiah, ‘the foundation stone laid in Zion.’

For the expression cf. LXX. Jerem. 28:26, λίθος εἰς γωνίαν and Job 38:6 ὁ βαλὼν λίθον γωνιαῖον.


Verse 12

12. καὶἡ σωτηρία. Render, and salvation is not in any other, i.e. salvation in all the fulness of its conception. St Peter thus intimates that the cure of the lame man is only a sign of the power of salvation for the soul which was in Jesus. The people were to draw from the effect produced by ‘Arise and walk,’ the conclusion that the same power could as surely give the greater blessing, ‘thy sins be forgiven thee’ (Matthew 9:5). Cf. on σώζω, Acts 4:9, and the use of σωθῆναι immediately.

τὸ δεδομένον ἐν ἀνθρώποις, i.e. communicated to men by God, as a means of salvation.

δεῖ implies the necessity of seeking our salvation in this name, if we are ever to find it.


Verse 13

13. θεωροῦντες. This is not the common verb for seeing, but implies that they beheld with some astonishment.

παρρησίαν, a freedom and readiness of speech not to be expected in unlearned men. This it was which made them wonder.

τοῦ Πέτρουκαὶ Ἰωάννου. It appears then, though St Luke has not recorded a word of his, that St John had also shewn boldness of speech on this occasion. Another evidence that St Luke has not aimed to report complete speeches of those about whom he writes.

ἰδιῶται. Render, common men. The word signifies plebeian, as opposed to men of noble birth.

ἐπεγίνωσκόν τε αὐτούς. These words have been interpreted as though they meant that the members of the Sanhedrin now for the first time discovered the relation in which the two Apostles stood to Jesus. Those who press such a rendering must overlook the force of the very same verb as used in Acts 3:10, ‘They knew that it was he which sat for alms.’ The men of whom this is said had known the cripple for years, but now observed in addition that he was a cripple no longer, though still the same man whom they had so long seen begging. Just so with the Jewish authorities; they could hardly fail to have known the connexion of the preachers with Jesus after the sermon on the Day of Pentecost and the events which followed it, and now they further (ἐπὶ) notice that as the Master’s words had been powerful, so there was like power in the language of those who had been with Him. We are told (John 18:15) of one disciple, taken always to be St John himself, that he was known to the high-priest before the Crucifixion.


Verses 13-22

13–22. THE APOSTLES ARE DISMISSED UNPUNISHED


Verse 14

14. τόν τε ἄνθρωπον. It has been asked on this verse: Why did the sight of the healed man so utterly confound the judges that they had not a word to say? We may see from what happened afterwards that there were men in the council not without the thought that God was really working through the Apostles. Gamaliel says (Acts 5:39) ‘If this work be of God’; and if this feeling operated in him, the recognised head of the Jewish court, it is not unlikely that others were also silent with the consideration that ‘haply they might be fighting against God.’

Chrysostom says the miracle spake as forcibly as did the Apostles: οὐχ ἦττον δὲ τῆς τούτων φωνῆς ἠφίει φωνὴν τὸ θαῦμα καὶ τὸ σημεῖον. ὃ δὴ καὶ μάλιστα ἐνέφραξεν αὐτῶν τὰ στόματα.


Verse 15

15. ἔξω τοῦ συνεδρίου, i.e. to retire from the council-chamber while the members of the council considered in conference what course should be taken. συνέβαλλον is the word used (Acts 17:18) of the conference of the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers with St Paul at Athens.


Verse 16

16. γνωστόν, well-known, patent to all. For the word, which is less common in the singular than in the plural, cf. Sirach 21:7 γνωστὸς μακρόθεν ὁ δυνατὸς ἐν γλώσσῃ.

πᾶσινφανερόν, manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem. Because all the inhabitants knew the beggar at the Temple-gate, and that he had been lame all his life. There could only be two grounds on which, in reference to the cure of the cripple, the Apostles could be worthy of punishment: [1] If it were a case of imposture, but this nobody in the council or anywhere else insinuated, or [2] if the miracle had been wrought by some unlawful agency (Deuteronomy 13). The question of the Sanhedrin points in this direction, ‘By what power have ye done this?’ But Peter from the first (Acts 3:13) had ascribed the miracle to the ‘God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,’ and again testifies that it is God through Jesus Christ that hath made the man whole. So that there was no charge possible on the second ground.


Verse 17

17. διανεμηθῇ, be spread abroad, i.e. the fame of the miracle and the consequent belief in the divinity of Jesus.

ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόηατι. The notion in the preposition here is that of resting upon. The Apostles were no more to make the name of Jesus the basis and groundwork of their addresses, nor to refer to it as the source of their power.


Verse 18

18. καλέσαντες, having called them, i.e. back again into the council-chamber.

παρήγγειλαν, they commanded. The verb is frequently used of our Lord’s strict injunctions that His miracles should not be published abroad (Mark 6:8; Luke 5:14, &c.).

τὸ καθόλου, at all. This not very common adverb is found in Acts 4:26 of the Song of the Three Children, καὶ οὐχ ἤψατο αὐτῶν τὸ καθόλου τὸ πῦρ.


Verse 19

19. ὁ δὲ Πέτρος καὶ Ἰωάννης. Both alike express their determination to publish the news of Christ’s life and resurrection. The reason why both names are here mentioned may be that each was separately appealed to for a promise to desist. For an instance of like firmness in a good cause cf. 2 Maccabees 7:30.

κρίνατε, judge ye, i.e. come to whatever decision you please. Our minds are made up, and ‘we are not careful to answer you in this matter.’


Verse 20

20. εἴδαμεν καὶ ἠκούσαμεν, we saw and heard. For the witness is to be concerning the whole life of Jesus.


Verse 21

21. προσαπειλησάμενοι, having further threatened. The first threats must have been made as soon as the Apostles were called back into the council-hall, as was suggested in Acts 4:17. They did not see their way to do more than threaten, because the people were sure that the lame man had been healed and that there was no charge against the Apostles for which they deserved punishment. They could not say that the miracle was untrue, for there was the man standing by, and proving its reality; and they could not inflict a punishment’ for a good deed,’ nor could they find any ground for an accusation in the declaration that the man had been healed in the name of Jesus.

On the contrast between the courage of the Apostles and the terror of the Sanhedrin Chrysostom says: τοιοῦτον ἡ φιλοσοφία. ἐκεῖοι ἐν ἀπορίᾳ, οὗτοι ἐν εὐφροσύνῃ· ἐκεῖνοι πολλῆς γέμοντες αἰσχύνης, οὗτοι μετὰ παῤῥησίας πάντα πράττοντες· ἐκεῖνοι ἐν τῷ δεδοικέναι, οὗτοι ἐν τῷ θαῤῥεῖν. τίνες γὰρ ἦσαν, εἰπέ μοι, οἱ φοβούμενοι; οἱ λέγοντες ἵνα μὴ ἐπὶ πλέον διανεμηθῇ εἰς τὸν λαὸν ἢ οἱ λέγοντες οὐ δυνάμεθα ἃ εἴδαμεν καὶ ἠκούσαμεν μὴ λαλεῖν; καὶ ἐν ἡδονῇ καὶ ἐν παῤῥσίᾳ καὶ ἐν εὐφροσύνῃ μείζονι πάντων οὗτοι· ἐκεῖνοι ἐν ἀθυμίᾳ ἐν αἰσχύνῃ ἐν φόβῳ. τὸν γὰρ λαὸν ἐδεδοίκεσαν. ἃ ἐβούλοντο ἐφθέγξαντο οὗτοι, ἐκεῖνοι ἃ ἐβούλοντο οὐκ ἐποίησαν. τίνες ἦσαν ἐν δεσμοῖς καὶ ἐν κινδύνοις;

τὸ πῶς κολάσωνται, i.e. on what pretext, or in what way they might punish them, without enraging the multitude. For the form of the sentence cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:1 παρελάβετε παρ' ἡμῶν τὸ πῶς δεῖ ὑμᾶς περιπατεῖν.


Verse 22

22. ἐτῶντεσσεράκοντα, above forty years old. To one who looked on the circumstances, as St Luke, with a physician’s eye (Colossians 4:14), this feature would be most noticeable. For limbs unused shrink and wither, and become disproportionate to the other parts of the frame.

ἐφ' ὃν γεγόνει τὸ σημεῖον κ.τ.λ. Literally, ‘on whom this sign of healing was wrought.’ The A.V. rendering σημεῖον by miracle has given somewhat of its sense by using the verb shewed.


Verse 23

23. πρὸς τοὺς ἰδίους, to their own company, who were perhaps still abiding in the upper room which they had occupied before Pentecost. Because St Peter on a later occasion (Acts 12:12) made his way, after his delivery from prison, to the house of Mary the mother of John Mark where many were gathered together praying, some have thought that this was the house where the Apostles had dwelt from the first. Such men at such a time would have neither means (see Acts 3:6) nor inclination to change from house to house, and Christ’s injunction (Luke 10:7) ‘Go not from house to house’ was given with a purpose which the Apostles would be likely to bear in mind and act upon.


Verses 23-31

23–31. THE APOSTLES RELEASED. THEIR PRAYER AND ITS ANSWER


Verse 24

24. οἱ δὲ ἀκούσαντες, and they, having heard it, viz. the report of the threats.

ἦραν φωνήν, lifted up their voice. The compound verb ἐπαίρειν is the more common in classical Greek in this phrase. Both forms are found in the LXX. For αἴρειν φωνὴν cf. Judges 21:2; 1 Samuel 11:4, and ἐπαίρειν occurs Judges 9:7; Ruth 1:9; Ruth 1:14. The words of the prayer which follows have so direct a reference to the circumstances which had just occurred that we cannot interpret otherwise than that to the prayer, uttered by the lips of one, all the rest, with one mind, pronounced fervent Amens. ‘The author (says Zeller) takes no forbidden liberty when he collects the concordant expressions of individuals into one common expression.’

δέσποτα, LORD, lit. Master. The word is not often used of God (as Luke 2:29) or Christ, but it is worth notice that St Peter (2 Peter 2:1) and St Jude [4] apply it to Jesus.

σὺ ὁ ποιήσας, Thou that hast made. The ὁ θεός of the Text. Recept. is an expository note, meant to explain δέσποτα.


Verse 25

25. ὁ τοῦ πατρὸς παιδός σον. Render, who by the Holy Ghost [through] the mouth of our father David thy servant. See textual note. If through be omitted in this rendering then the latter clause becomes an apposition in explanation of the words ‘by the Holy Ghost.’

The Apostle now proceeds to apply the words of the second Psalm, which has been admitted by the Jews themselves to be Messianic, to the circumstances under which Christ was put to death.

The words of the LXX. are here quoted exactly.

ἔθνη, the nations, or the Gentiles as it is rendered in Acts 4:27.

The Psalm in its first application probably referred to some revolt against the king of Israel. We have such a revolt mentioned in David’s reign (2 Samuel 8), where the Syrians, Moabites, Ammonites and other nations were conquered by David, after being in vain rebellion.


Verse 27

27. ἐπ' ἀληθείας, of a truth. This expression is both classical and is also found often in the LXX. as Daniel 2:8; Daniel 2:47; Job 9:2; Job 19:4; Job 36:4; Isaiah 37:18, for the Hebrew אָמְנָם = verily.

The Apostle proceeds to apply the language of the Psalmist to the events which preceded the Crucifixion. Thus the words ἐν τῇ πόλει ταύτη find a natural place here, as given by the best authorities.

παῖδα, servant, as in Acts 3:13.

ἔχρισας, Thou hast anointed, i.e. by the descent of the Holy Ghost upon Him at His baptism.

Ἡρώδης. The representative of the rulers of the Jews. This particular Herod was Antipas the son of Herod the Great by his Samaritan wife Malthace. He was tetrarch of Galilee and Perea (Luke 3:19), and because our Lord belonged to Galilee, Pilate took occasion to send Jesus to be examined by him, as Herod was in Jerusalem to keep the feast of the Passover.

καὶ Πόντιος Πιλάτος, who was the Roman Governor; and so in his person were represented many nations at this time under the sway of Rome. His officials and soldiers would be drawn from all lands, and the mockery to which Jesus was exposed at their hands might well be described as the rage of the Gentiles.

Pontius Pilate was the sixth Roman procurator of Judæa; he was appointed A.D. 25–6 in the twelfth year of Tiberius, and continued to hold the office till A.D. 36, when he was sent to Rome by Vitellius under an accusation brought against him by the Samaritans. Of his after life and his death there are many legends, but no history.


Verse 28

28. ποιῆσαι, to accomplish. God made the passions, which the enemies of Jesus indulged, to be the instruments for working out His will. So men, when they suppose they are choosing their own way, have the ends thereof shapen by God, ‘rough hew them how they will.’ Their misdeeds are made to execute the will of God, yet they are not on that account exempt from blame.

ἡ χείρ σον. The verb (προώρισεν, = preordained) which follows is due to the intervening noun βουλή = counsel. Such a zeugma is not uncommon. And in χείρ is conveyed the idea of grandeur and majesty, so that the need for a different verb is scarcely felt. For an instance of zeugma, cf. Acta Pauli et Theclæ 43, ᾤκησεν ἐν σπηλαίῳ ἐσθίουσα βοτάνας καὶ ὕδωρ.


Verse 29

29. ἔπιδε, look upon. The verb is employed in heathen writings very often of the oversight and notice of the gods, and is common in the LXX. for God’s providential care. Cf. Job 22:12; Psalms 112:6; Ezekiel 8:12, and 2 Maccabees 7:6 ὁ κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἐφορᾷ.

δούλοις. The Apostles use this word of themselves, they are Christ’s bond-servants. For Jesus the word is παῖς. Cf. Acts 4:30. St Paul constantly calls himself δοῦλος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ or the like. Cf. Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1, &c.

παρρησίας, boldness, freedom of speech, as above, Acts 4:13. Christ had promised that this should be given to them (Luke 21:15), and they are able to feel (cf. below, Acts 4:31) that His promise is fulfilled.


Verse 30

30. ἐν τῷ τὴν χεῖρά σου ἐκτείνειν σε. Literally, ‘while Thou stretchest forth Thine hand.’ Thus the mighty works were to be a sign and testimony to the words which the Apostles spake, to demonstrate that they were God’s words, and that none could do the works which they did except God were with him. (John 3:2.)

παιδός σον, Thy servant (as in Acts 4:27).


Verse 31

31. ἐσαλεύθη ὁ τόπος. That they might feel at once that the God of all nature, to whom they had appealed (Acts 4:24), was among them. In their immediate need an immediate answer is vouchsafed, and a token with it that their prayer was heard. Cp. Acts 16:26 of the shaking of the prison at Philippi after the prayers of Paul and Silas.

ἐλάλουν. The imperfect tense indicates that they went on preaching, speaking the word which God gave unto them, without regard to the threats of the council.


Verse 32

32. καρδία καὶ ψυχὴ μία, one heart and soul. This was a Hebrew form of expressing complete accord. So (1 Chronicles 12:38) καὶ ὁ κατάλοιπος Ἰσραὴλ ψυχὴ μἱα τοῦ βασιλεῦσαι τὸν Δαυίδ. Also cf. such expressions as (1 Samuel 14:7; 2 Kings 10:15) ὡς ἡ καρδία σοῦ καρδία μοῦ. In some MSS. there is an addition to this verse, καὶ οὐκ ἦν διάκρισις (some have χωρισμός) ἐν αὐτοῖς οὐδεμία. This is followed by several versions and quoted by the Fathers. It has not found its way into the Received Text, but is just such a marginal explanation as a scribe would be sure sooner or later to incorporate.

καὶ οὐδὲ εἶς κ.τ.λ., and not one of them said. This is much stronger than the rendering of the A.V. Each felt that he held his possessions only as a trust, and if occasion called for it, they were to be given up. Such love towards one another, Christ had foretold, should be a mark of His disciples (John 13:35). All those who have sketched a perfect society, as Plato in his Republic, and Sir Thos. More in his Utopia, have placed among their regulations this kind of community of goods which was established by the first Christians. In theory it is the perfection of a commonwealth, but there is need of perfection in the citizens before it can be realized. There can be no question that an expectation of Christ’s immediate return from heaven, acting along with the unity of thoughts and feeling, made these men willing to part with their possessions and goods, there being, as we shall see from the case of Ananias, no constraint upon them to do so.


Verses 32-37

32–37. UNANIMITY AND LOVE AMONG THE FIRST CHRISTIANS


Verse 33

33. ἀπεδίδουν τὸ μαρτύριον, they gave their witness. The article should have its force. See above on Acts 4:12. The verb is also much stronger than the usual verb ‘to give.’ It is used for ‘paying a debt’ (Matthew 18:29; Luke 7:42) and for ‘rendering an account’ (Matthew 12:36; Hebrews 13:17): so that there is implied in it the sense of obligation under which the Apostles so constantly declare themselves placed (cf. above, Acts 4:20).

χάρις τε μεγάλη, and great grace (or favour). Like their Master, while experiencing the favour of God, they were also finding favour with men. Cf. Acts 5:13.


Verse 34

34. σὐδὲ γὰρ ἐνδεής τις ἦν. The A.V. omits to translate γὰρ, but it is essential to the sense. For neither was there, &c. This was one reason for their favour among men. All could see and admire the spirit of self-sacrifice which was exhibited by what they were doing. See Acts 2:44-45 and the notes there.

τὰς τιμὰς τῶν πιπρασκομένων. The language here expressly avoids saying that these men sold all they had. They sold some things, and the sum realized by what was sold was offered to the common store. We never hear that a similar fund was raised in any place except Jerusalem.


Verse 35

35. παρὰ τοὺς πόδας. To lay a thing at, or under, any one’s feet was a significant act. Here it denoted that entire control was given to the Apostles over the bestowal of these sums. For the figure, cp. Psalms 8:6, and Cicero pro Flacco (XXVII. § 68) ‘ante pedes prætoris in foro expensum est auri pondo centum paullo minus.’

διεδίδετο δὲ κ.τ.λ. Render, and distribution was made unto each according as any had need. There were no doubt many who were not in need, and they of course lived on their own. The distribution was intended only for the needy, as widows, &c., and for those who could not otherwise support themselves while they took part, as many did, in the active propagation of the new faith. It may be, too, that some were deprived of the means of support because they had become Christians. Cf. the threat of the authorities, John 9:22.


Verse 36

36. Ἰωσήφ. The oldest MSS. give this as the form of the word. Barnabas, who was so called, was afterwards the companion of St Paul in his first missionary journey (Acts 13:2), and is often mentioned by St Luke. He was invited by St Paul to join him on his second journey, but as they disagreed about taking John Mark with them, they did not labour again, as far as we know, in the same field, and the writer leaves Barnabas (Acts 15:39) with the mention that ‘he took Mark and sailed to Cyprus.’

μεθερμηνευόμενον. The interpretation is added for the sake of Theophilus, who may have had no knowledge of Hebrew (see on Acts 1:19).

υἱὸς παρακλήσεως. Probably, son of exhortation, rather than, of consolation. The Hebrew noun nebuah is from the same root as the common word for prophet. The title may have been given to Barnabas from his ability as a preacher (Acts 9:23), though in this he seems (Acts 14:12) to have been less prominent than St Paul, as most men must have been. In describing the work of Barnabas in Acts 11:23 the verb used (παρεκάλει), ‘he exhorted,’ is that from which the noun in this verse is derived, and is akin to the word παράκλητος, which is so often translated ‘Comforter’ when applied to the Holy Ghost, but rendered ‘advocate’ in 1 John 2:1 when used of the intercession of Jesus.

Λευΐτης, a Levite. In the Holy Land, the Levites had no portion assigned unto them, but were scattered through all the tribes; the same regulation may not, however, have applied to the Levites in other countries; and we are not informed where the field was situated which Barnabas sold. He may also have been a married man, and have held lands from his marriage.

Κύπριος. The island of Cyprus, still called by the same name, is in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. We find Jews settled there in the Maccabean times (1 Maccabees 15:23). It was one of the places to which Paul and Barnabas went in their missionary journey, and it had been previously visited by some of the Christian teachers who were driven from Jerusalem by the persecution which succeeded the death of Stephen (Acts 11:19).


Verse 37

37. ἀγροῦ, a field. Joseph is perhaps chosen as an example of the primitive liberality of the Christian community, because there was something remarkable in the kind of gift, or the nature of the sacrifice which he made. And the character of the man, who was to play a part in the history of the Acts, is also set before us by his first recorded action.

Chrysostom says: μέλλει διηγεῖσθαι τὸ κατὰ Ἀνανίαν λοιπὸν καὶ Σάπφειραν, καὶ θέλων δεῖξαι τὸν ἄνδρα χείριστα ἡμαρτηκότα, πρῶτον μέμνηται τοῦ κατωρθωκότος.

τὸ χρῆμα, the money, the price realized. The word is seldom found in the singular in this sense. Perhaps it is so used here to indicate the compactness, the entirety of what was brought. It was the sum without deduction, in contrast to the proceeding which follows in the next chapter.

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Acts 4:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/acts-4.html. 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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