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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Acts 3

 

 

Verse 1

III.

(1) Now Peter and John went up.—Better, were going up. The union of the two brings the narratives of the Gospels into an interesting connection with the Acts. They were probably about the same age (the idea that Peter was some years older than John rests mainly on the pictures which artists have drawn from their imagination, and has no evidence in Scripture), and had been friends from their youth upward. They had been partners as fishermen on the Sea of Galilee (Luke 5:10). They had been sharers in looking for the consolation of Israel, and had together received the baptism of John (John 1:41). John and Andrew had striven which should be the first to tell Peter that they had found the Christ (John 1:41). The two had been sent together to prepare for the Passover (Luke 22:8). John takes Peter into the palace of the high priest (John 18:16), and though he must have witnessed his denials is not estranged from him. It is to John that Peter turns for comfort after his fall, and with him he comes to the sepulchre on the morning of the Resurrection (John 20:6). The eager affection which, now more strongly than ever, bound the two together is seen in Peter’s question, “Lord, and what shall this man do?” (John 21:21); and now they are again sharers in action and in heart, in teaching and in worship. Passing rivalries there may have been, disputes which was the greatest, prayers for places on the right hand and the left (Matthew 20:20; Mark 10:35); but the idea maintained by Renan (Vie de Jésus, Introduction), that St. John wrote his Gospel to exalt himself at the expense of Peter, must take its place among the delirantium somnia, the morbid imaginations, of inventive interpretation. They appear in company again in the mission to Samaria (Acts 8:14), and in recognising the work that had been done by Paul and Barnabas among the Gentiles (Galatians 2:9). When it was that they parted never to meet again, we have no record. No account is given as to the interval that had passed since the Day of Pentecost. Presumably the brief notice at the end of Acts 2 was meant to summarise a gradual progress, marked by no striking incidents, which may have gone on for several months. The absence of chronological data in the Acts, as a book written by one who in the Gospel appears to lay stress on such matters (Luke 3:1; Luke 6:2), is somewhat remarkable. The most natural explanation is that he found the informants who supplied him with his facts somewhat uncertain on these points, and that, as a truthful historian, he would not invent dates.

At the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour—sc., 3 P.M., the hour of the evening sacrifice (Jos. Ant. xiv. 4, § 3). The traditions of later Judaism had fixed the third, the sixth, and the ninth hours of each day as times for private prayer. Daniel’s practice of praying three times a day seems to imply a rule of the same kind, and Psalms 55:17 (“evening and morning and at noon will I pray”) carries the practice up to the time of David. “Seven times a day” was, perhaps, the rule of those who aimed at a life of higher devotion (Psalms 119:164). Both practices passed into the usage of the Christian Church certainly as early as the second century, and probably therefore in the first. The three hours were observed by many at Alexandria in the time of Clement (Strom, vii. p. 722). The seven became the “canonical hours” of Western Christendom, the term first appearing in the Rule of St. Benedict (ob. A.D. 542) and being used by Bede (A.D. 701).


Verse 2

(2) A certain man lame from his mother’s womb.—The careful record of the duration of his suffering is more or less characteristic of St. Luke (Luke 9:33; Luke 14:8). The minuteness in this narrative suggests the thought that St. Luke’s informant may have been the cripple himself.

Was carried.—Better, was being carried.

The gate of the temple which is called Beautiful.—Literally, door, though “gate” is used in Acts 3:10. No gate of this name is mentioned by other writers, but it was probably identical either (1) with the gate of Nicanor (so called, according to one tradition, because the hand of the great enemy of Judah had been nailed to it as a trophy), which was the main eastern entrance of the inner court (Stanley’s Jewish Church, iii. p. 323); or (2) the Susa gate, also on the eastern side, and named in memory of the old historical connection between Judah and Persia, leading into the outer court of the women. The latter was of fine Corinthian brass, so massive that twenty men were required to open or shut it (Jos. Wars, v. 5, § 3).

To ask alms of them that entered into the temple.—The approaches of the Temple, like those of modern mosques, were commonly thronged with the blind, lame, and other mendicants. (Comp. John 9:8.) The practice was common at Constantinople in the time of Chrysostom, and has prevailed largely throughout Christendom.


Verse 4

(4) Peter, fastening his eyes upon him . . .—See Notes on Luke 4:20, Acts 1:10, where the same characteristic word is used. The gaze was one which read character in the expression of the man’s face, and discerned that he had faith to be healed (Acts 3:16). And he, in his turn, was to look on them that he might read in their pitying looks, not only the wish to heal, but the consciousness of power to carry the wish into effect.


Verse 6

(6) Silver and gold have I none.—The narrative of Acts 2:45 shows that the Apostles were treasurers and stewards of the sums committed to their charge by the generous self-denial of the community. Either, therefore, we must assume that the words meant that they had no silver or gold with them at the time, or that, as almoners, they thought themselves bound to distribute what was thus given them in trust, for the benefit of members of the society of which they were officers and for them only. They, obeying their Lord’s commands (Matthew 10:9), had no money that they could call their own to give to those that asked them. But they could give more than money.

In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth . . . .—The full trust with which the words were spoken was in part a simple act of faith in their Master’s promise (Mark 16:18), in part the result of a past experience in the exercise of like powers (Mark 6:13). And the Name in which they spoke could hardly have been a new name to the cripple. Among the beggars at the Temple-gate there had once been the blind man who received his sight at the pool of Siloam (John 9:7-8). The healing of the cripple at Bethesda (John 5:2; John 5:14) could scarcely have been unknown to the sufferer from a like infirmity. What made the call to rise and walk a test of faith was that, but a few weeks before, that Name had been seen on the superscription over the cross on which He who bore it had been condemned to die as one that deceived the people (John 7:12).


Verse 7

(7) His feet.—Better, his soles. The precision with which the process is described is characteristic of the medical historian. Both this term and the “ankle bones” employed are more or less technical, as is also the word rendered “received strength,” literally, were consolidated, the flaccid tissues and muscles being rendered firm and vigorous.


Verse 8

(8) And he leaping up stood.—The verb is a compound form of that in the LXX. version of Isaiah 35:6—“The lame shall leap as a hart.” First there was the upward leap in the new consciousness of power; then the successful effort to stand for the first time in his life; then he “began to walk,” and went on step by step; then the two-fold mode of motion, what to others was the normal act of walking, alternating with the leaps of an exuberant joy. And so “he entered with them into the Temple,” i.e., into the Court of Women, upon which the Beautiful Gate opened. At this hour, the hour of the evening sacrifice, it would be naturally filled with worshippers.


Verse 10

(10) They knew.—Better, they recognised him that it was he.


Verse 11

(11) In the porch that is called Solomon’s.—The porch—or better, portico or cloister—was outside the Temple, on the eastern side. It consisted, in the Herodian Temple, of a double row of Corinthian columns, about thirty-seven feet high, and received its name as having been in part constructed, when the Temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabel, with the fragments of the older edifice. The people tried to persuade Herod Agrippa the First to pull it down and rebuild it, but he shrank from the risk and cost of such an undertaking (Jos. Ant. xx. 9, § 7). It was, like the porticos in all Greek cities, a favourite place of resort, especially as facing the morning sun in winter. (See Note on John 10:23.) The memory of what had then been the result of their Master’s teaching must have been fresh in the minds of the two disciples. Then the people had complained of being kept in suspense as to whether Jesus claimed to be the Christ, and, when He spoke of being One with the Father, had taken up stones to stone Him (John 10:31-33). Now they were to hear His name as Holy and Just, as “the Servant of Jehovah,” as the very Christ (Acts 3:13-14; Acts 3:18).


Verse 12

(12) Why look ye so earnestly on us?—The verb is the same as that in Acts 3:4. The pronoun stands emphatically at the beginning of the verse—Why is it on us that ye gaze?

As though by our own. . . . holiness. . . .—Better, purity, or devotion. The words refer to what may be called the popular theory of miracles, that if a man were devout, i.e., “a worshipper of God,” God would hear him (John 9:31). That theory might be true in itself generally, but the Apostle disclaims it in this special instance. No purity of his own would have availed, but for the Name, i.e., the power, of Jesus of Nazareth.


Verse 13

(13) The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.—Here again we have an echo of our Lord’s teaching. That Name had been uttered in the precincts of the Temple, not improbably in the self-same portico, as part of our Lord’s constructive proof of the resurrection of the dead (Matthew 22:32). Now it was heard again in connection with the witness borne by the Apostles that He Himself had risen. (See also Note on Acts 7:32.)

Hath glorified his Son Jesus.—Better, Servant. The word is that used throughout the later chanters of Isaiah for “the servant of Jehovah” (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 48:20; Isaiah 52:13; Isaiah 53:11). It meets us again in Acts 3:26; Acts 4:27; Acts 4:30, and as applied to Christ, is peculiar to the Acts, with the exception of the citation from Isaiah in Matthew 12:18. It is, therefore, more distinctive than “Son” would have been, and implies the general Messianic interpretation of the prophetic language in which it is so prominent.

When he was determined.—Better, when he had decided; the word implying, not a purpose only, but a formal act, as in Luke 23:16.


Verse 14

(14) Ye denied the Holy One and the Just.—The language, though startlingly new to the hearers, had been partially anticipated. It had been used of the Christ by the demoniacs (Mark 1:24). The best MSS. give St. Peter’s confession in John 6:69 in the form, “Thou art the Holy One of God.” Pilate’s wife, and Pilate himself, had borne their witness to Jesus as emphatically “Just” (Matthew 27:19; Matthew 27:24). It is interesting to note the recurrence of the word as applied to Christ in the writings of each of the Apostles who were now proclaiming it (1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 2:1), yet more so to think of this as the result of their three years’ converse with their Master. To them He was emphatically, above all the sons of men that they had known, the Holy and the Righteous One.

Desired a murderer to be granted unto you.—The fact that Barabbas was a murderer as well as a robber is stated by St. Mark (Mark 15:7) and St. Luke (Luke 23:12) only.


Verse 15

(15) And killed the Prince of life.—The word translated “Prince” is applied to Christ here and in Acts 5:31. In Hebrews 2:10 we meet with it in “the Captain of their salvation;” in Hebrews 12:2, in “the Author and Finisher of our faith.” Its primary meaning, like that of prince (princeps), is one who takes the lead—who is the originator of that to which the title is attached. The “Prince of life,” the “Captain of salvation,” is accordingly He who is the source from which life and salvation flow. In the LXX. of the Old Testament it is used for the “chieftains” or “princes” of Moab and the like (Numbers 13:3; Numbers 24:17).

Whereof we are witnesses.—St. Peter falls back, as in Acts 2:32 (where see Note), on this attestation to the one central fact.


Verse 16

(16) His name through faith in his name.—We have, in technical language, the efficient cause distinguished from the indispensable condition of its action. The Name did not work as a formula of incantation; it required, on the part both of the worker and the receiver, faith in that which the Name represented, the manifestation of the Father through the Son.

Hath made this man strong.—The verb is the same as that which had been used in Acts 3:7 of the “feet and ankle-bones.” It was Jesus who had given them that new firmness.

The faith which is by him.—The causation of the miracle is carried yet another step backward. The faith which was alike in the healer and in the man healed was itself wrought in each by the power of Christ. The man was first a willing recipient of that faith spiritually, and then was in a state that made him worthy to be a recipient also of the bodily restoration.

This perfect soundness.—Literally, this completeness. This is the only passage in the New Testament in which the word occurs. The cognate adjective is found in the “whole” of 1 Thessalonians 5:23; the “complete” of James 1:4.


Verse 17

(17) I wot that through ignorance ye did it.—The Rhemish is the only version which substitutes “I know” for the now obsolete “I wot.” St. Peter’s treatment of the relation of “ignorance” to “guilt” is in exact agreement with St. Paul’s, both in his judgment of his own past offences (1 Timothy 6:13) and in that which he passed on the Gentile world (Acts xvii 30). Men were ignorant where they might have known, if they had not allowed prejudice and passion to over-power the witness borne by reason and conscience. Their ignorance was not invincible, and therefore they needed to repent of what they had done in the times of that ignorance. But because it was ignorance, repentance was not impossible. Even the people and rulers of Israel, though their sin was greater, came within the range of the prayer, offered in the first instance for the Roman soldiers: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (See Note on Luke 23:34.)


Verse 18

(18) Those things, which God before had shewed.—As in Acts 1:16; Acts 2:23, we have again an echo of the method of prophetic interpretation which the Apostles had learnt from their Lord.


Verse 19

(19) Repent ye therefore, and be converted.—The latter word, though occurring both in the Gospels and Epistles, is yet pre-eminently characteristic of the Acts, in which it occurs eleven times, and, with one exception, always in its higher spiritual sense. The use of the middle voice for “be converted,” gives the word the same force as in the “turn yourselves” of the older prophets (Ezekiel 14:6; Ezekiel 18:30; Ezekiel 18:32).

That your sins may be blotted out.—This is the only passage in which the verb is directly connected with sins. The image that underlies the words (as in Colossians 2:14) is that of an indictment which catalogues the sins of the penitent, and which the pardoning love of the Father cancels. The word and the thought are found in Psalms 51:10; Isaiah 43:25.

When the times of refreshing shall come.—Better, “that so the times of refreshing may come.” The Greek conjunction never has the force of “when.” The thought is that again expressed both by St. Peter (2 Peter 3:12) and by St. Paul (Romans 11:25-27); that the conversion of sinners, especially the conversion of Israel, will have a power to accelerate the fulfilment of God’s purposes, and, therefore, the coming of His kingdom in its completeness. The word for “refreshing” is not found elsewhere in the New Testament, but the cognate verb meets us in 2 Timothy 1:16. In the Greek version of Exodus 8:15, it stands where we have “respite.” The “times of refreshing” are distinguished from the “restitution of all things” of Acts 3:21, and would seem to be, as it were, the gracious preludes of that great consummation. The souls of the weary would be quickened as by the fresh breeze of morning; the fire of persecution assuaged as by “a moist whistling wind” (Song of the Three Children, Acts 3:24). Israel, as a nation, did not repent, and therefore hatred and strife went on to the bitter end without refreshment. For every church, or nation, or family, those “times of refreshing” come as the sequel of a true conversion, and prepare the way for a more complete restoration.


Verse 20

(20) And he shall send Jesus Christ.—Better, as before, and that He may send.

Which before was preached unto you.—The better MSS. have, which was fore-appointed, or fore-ordained, for you.


Verse 21

(21) Whom the heaven must receive.—The words have a pregnant force: “must receive and keep.”

Until the times of restitution of all things.—The “times” seem distinguished from the “seasons” as more permanent. This is the only passage in which the word translated “restitution” is found in the New Testament; nor is it found in the LXX. version of the Old. Etymologically, it conveys the thought of restoration to an earlier and better state, rather than that of simple consummation or completion, which the immediate context seems, in some measure, to suggest. It finds an interesting parallel in the “new heavens and new earth”—involving, as they do, a restoration of all things to their true order—of 2 Peter 3:13. It does not necessarily involve, as some have thought, the final salvation of all men, but it does express the idea of a state in which “righteousness,” and not “sin,” shall have dominion over a redeemed and new created world; and that idea suggests a wider hope as to the possibilities of growth in wisdom and holiness, or even of repentance and conversion, in the unseen world than that with which Christendom has too often been content. The corresponding verb is found in the words, “Elias truly shall come first, and restore all things” (see Note on Matthew 17:11); and St. Peter’s words may well be looked on as an echo of that teaching, and so as an undesigned coincidence testifying to the truth of St. Matthew’s record.

Which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets.—The relative, if we take the meaning given above, must be referred to the “times,” not to “things.” The words, compared with 2 Peter 1:21, are, as it were, the utterance of a profound dogmatic truth. The prophets spake as “they were moved by the Holy Ghost”; but He who spake by them was nothing less than God.

Since the world began.—Literally, from the age—i.e., from its earliest point. The words take in the promises to Adam (Genesis 3:15) and Abraham (Genesis 22:18). See Note on Luke 1:70, of which St. Peter’s words are as an echo.


Verse 22

(22) For Moses truly said unto the fathers.—Better, For Moses indeed said, the word being one of the common conjunctions, and not the adverb which means “truthfully.” The appeal is made to Moses in his two-fold character as lawgiver and prophet. As the words stand, taken with their context, they seem to point to the appearance of a succession of true prophets as contrasted with the diviners of Deuteronomy 18:14; and, even with St. Peter’s interpretation before us, we may well admit those prophets as primary and partial fulfilments of them. But the words had naturally fixed the minds of men on the coming of some one great prophet who should excel all others, and we find traces of that expectation in the question put to the Baptist, “Art thou the prophet?” (John 1:21; John 1:25.) None that came between Moses and Jesus had been “like unto the former,” as marking a new epoch, the channel of a new revelation, the giver of a new law.

In all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.—The words are inserted by St. Peter as a parenthesis in the actual quotation, and suggest the thought of a quotation from memory.


Verse 23

(23) Shall be destroyed from among the people.—The original has it, “I will require it of him” (Deuteronomy 18:19). The words which St. Peter substitutes are as an echo of a familiar phrase which occurs in Exodus 12:15; Exodus 12:19; Leviticus 17:4; Leviticus 17:9, et al. This, again, looks like a citation freely made.


Verse 24

(24) All the prophets from Samuel.—Samuel is named, both as being the founder of the school of the prophets, and so the representative of the “goodly fellowship,” and as having uttered one of the earliest of what were regarded as the distinctively Messianic predictions (2 Samuel 7:13-14; Hebrews 1:5).


Verse 25

(25) And of the covenant. . . .—It is a significant indication of the unity of apostolic teaching, which it was St. Luke’s aim to bring before his readers, that St. Peter thus refers chiefly to the covenant made with Abraham (Genesis 12:3), with as full an emphasis as St. Paul does when he had learnt to see that it implicitly involved the calling of the Gentiles into the kingdom of Christ (Galatians 3:8.).


Verse 26

(26) Unto you first. . . .—Here again we note, even in the very turn of the phrase as well as of the thought, an agreement with St. Paul’s formula of the purpose of God being manifested “to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile” (Acts 13:46; Romans 1:16; Romans 2:9-10). St. Peter does not as yet know the conditions under which the gospel will be preached to the heathen; but his words imply a distinct perception that there was a call to preach to them.

His Son Jesus.—Better, as before, Servant. (See Note on Acts 3:13.)

Sent him to bless you.—The Greek structure gives the present participle where the English has the infinitive, sent Him as in the act of blessing. The verb which strictly and commonly expresses a spoken benediction is here used in a secondary sense, as conveying the reality of blessedness. And the blessing is found, not in mere exemption from punishment, not even in pardon and reconciliation, but in a change of heart, in “turning each man from his wickednesses.” The plural of the abstract noun implies, as in Mark 7:22, all the many concrete forms in which man’s wickedness could show itself.

 


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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Acts 3:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/acts-3.html. 1905.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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