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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
Acts 11

 

 

Verse 1

Acts 11:1. For Western readings see critical notices.— κατὰ τὴν .: not simply in but throughout Judæa, “all about Judæa,” Hort, Ecclesia, p. 57, cf. Acts 8:1.


Verse 2

Acts 11:2. διεκρίνοντο, cf. Jude, Acts 11:9, with dative of the person (Polyb., ii., 22, 11). For similar construction as here see LXX, Ezekiel 20:35-36, see Grimm-Thayer, sub v. Otherwise in Acts 10:20.— οἱ ἐκ περιτομῆς, cf. Galatians 2:12; we can scarcely confine the term here to those mentioned in Acts 10:45 (although Dr. Hort takes this view as most probable), but how far there was a section of the Church at Jerusalem who could thus be described at this time it is difficult to say, see Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 44.


Verse 3

Acts 11:3. ἀκροβυστίαν ἔχοντας: the expression intimates the bitterness of the opposition. Bengel curiously comments “benigne loquuntur”. On ἀκροβ. see especially Kennedy, Sources of N. T. Greek, p. 111.— καὶ συνέφαγες αὐτοῖς: this was the real charge, the violation of the ceremonial law, cf. Acts 10:28; see on the intolerant division between Pharisaical Jews and Gentiles, Weber, Jüdische Theol., pp. 59, 60; Edersheim, Jewish Social Life, pp. 26–28. There is therefore nothing in the statement to justify the objection raised by Zeller and others against the whole narrative of the baptism of Cornelius (so Wendt, edition 1888 and 1899). But if the complaint against Peter was based not upon the fact that he had baptised Cornelius but had eaten with him, then we can see a great difference between the narrative here and that of the Ethiopian eunuch in chap. 8. In the latter case there was no question of the obligations of the ceremonial law—the baptism was administered and Philip and the eunuch separated, but here the whole stress of the narrative lies in the fact referred to in Acts 11:3, so that if the eunuch and Cornelius both belonged to the class of “half-proselytes” their cases are not parallel. But even if they were, in other respects there would still remain a distinction between them. It was one thing for the Ethiopian to be received into the Church of Christ by the Hellenist Philip, but it was another thing—and a marked advance—when the principle asserted by Philip was ratified by the Apostles of the circumcision in the case of Cornelius. Wendt, edition 1899, pp. 181, 198, and Lightfoot, Galatians, p. 300.


Verse 4

Acts 11:4. ἀρξ. δὲ π. “But Peter began, and expounded the matter”: ἀρξ. may be pleonastic, Acts 1:4, cf. καθεξῆς, or may be used graphically, or because the reproaches of οἱ ἐκ περιτ. gave the first incentive to St. Peter’s recital.— καθ. only in Luke, Gospel and Acts, see Acts 3:24.— ἐξετίθετο, Acts 18:26, Acts 28:23, Jos., Ant., i., 12, 2, so also in Polyb., x., 9, 3. Perhaps used here by St. Luke from its use by Dioscorides; familiar word to him also as a physician, see Vogel, p. 17. Evidently St. Luke by the two accounts attaches great significance to this first reception, exceptional case as it was, of a Gentile proselyte like Cornelius into the Christian Church, but it was an isolated case, and moreover a case within Palestine, not beyond its borders, so that the great questions of a mission to the Gentiles of the heathen world, and of the conditions for their reception as Christians, were not matter for consideration as afterwards in chap. 15, see Wendt, edition 1899, p. 211; Hort, Ecclesia, pp. 58, 59; and see below on Acts 11:12.


Verse 6

Acts 11:6. κατενόουν, cf. Acts 7:31-32, Matthew 7:3, Luke 6:41, R.V., etc., the seeing is the result of the considering—“contemplabar singula, effectus comprehenditur aoristo” εἶδον.— θηρία: not specially mentioned in Acts 10:12 (see critical notes), but there πάντα precedes τετράποδα.


Verse 8

Acts 11:8. εἰσῆλθεν, cf. Matthew 15:11; Matthew 15:17. Blass sees in the phrase “locutio hebraismum redolens,” cf. Acts 8:35; on the other hand the Hebraistic πᾶν of Acts 10:14 is omitted (Weiss).


Verse 10

Acts 11:10. ἀνεσπάσθη: only found in Luke 14:5 in N.T., another touch of vividness as in Acts 11:5-6. In LXX three times, and possibly once in Bel and the Dragon, ver. 42, of drawing up Daniel from the den (but reading may be the simple verb, see H. and R.).


Verse 12

Acts 11:12. μηδὲν διακρινόμενον, cf. Acts 10:20, but if we read (see critical notes) μ. διακρίναντα, “making no distinction,” R.V.— οἱ ἓξ ἀδελφοὶ οὗτοι: who had been with Peter at Cæsarea, and had returned with him to Jerusalem, see Acts 10:45. Hilgenfeld would regard them as constant companions of St. Peter on his Apostolic journeys. Differences such as these between the narrative here and that in Acts 10:23 where the brethren are mentioned without their number constrain Feine to regard Acts 11:1-18 as derived like the earlier narrative in 10 from one and the same source, not as added by a reviser (although he excludes Acts 11:1; Acts 11:18 in 11 from the original narrative). Spitta agrees with Feine in this view of Acts 11:2-17; a forger writing with a “tendency” would have smoothed away any apparent discrepancies, as Zöckler well points out. With regard to the whole Cornelius episode, Spitta and Feine (so Weiss and Wendt), inasmuch as they regard St. Luke’s narrative as containing at least a genuine historical kernel, and as marking a special exceptional case, and not a general rule as existing at such an early time, are much less radical than Weizsäcker, Holtzmann, and Clemen. For a good review of the relation of modern criticism to the narrative see Wendt (1899) on Acts 10:1 and Zöckler, Apostelgeschichte, pp. 226, 227 (second edition).


Verse 13

Acts 11:13. σταθέντασταθείς: used only by St. Luke, in Gospel and Acts: Luke 18:11; Luke 18:40; Luke 19:8, Acts 2:14; Acts 5:20; Acts 11:13; Acts 17:22; Acts 25:18; Acts 27:21, found therefore in all parts of Acts (Friedrich, Vogel).


Verse 14

Acts 11:14. ἐν ἷς σωθ. σὺ καὶ πᾶς οἶκ. σου: words not found in 10, but may be fairly taken as implied; the prayers of Cornelius we can scarcely doubt had been that he might see the salvation of God, and his household were devout like himself, cf. Acts 10:2-6.


Verse 15

Acts 11:15. ἄρξασθαι: somewhat more precisely stated than in Acts 10:44. The speech has there no abruptness, but St. Peter may well have intended to say much more; if this was so, the notice here is quite natural, Winer-Moulton, lxv., 7 d.ἐν ἀρχῇ, i.e., at the great Pentecost.


Verse 16

Acts 11:16. Words not found in the Gospels, but in Acts 1:5, quoted here with the omission of οὐ μετὰ πολλὰς ταύτας ἡμέρας, showing that St. Peter regarded the baptism of the Holy Ghost received by Cornelius as equally decisive of the Spirit’s presence as the bestowal upon himself and others at Pentecost.— ὡς ἔλεγεν: not merely pleonastic, cf. Luke 22:61; Winer-Moulton, lxv., 1 a, Wendt, Felten.


Verse 17

Acts 11:17. πιστεύσασιν, see R.V., best to take participle as referring both to αὐτοῖς and to ἡμῖν; in each case the Holy Spirit was bestowed, and in each case as a result of the preceding belief, not as a result of circumcision, or of uncircumcision; sometimes referred to ἡμῖν, so Bengel, Nösgen, Wendt, sometimes to αὐτοῖς, so Weiss, Blass.— τίς ἤμην δ., cf. Exodus 3:11, 2 Kings 8:13, Blass, Gram., p. 173; in reality two questions: Who was I? Was I able to withstand God? Winer-Moulton, lxvi., 5.— ἐγὼ, emphatic, “merum organon,” Bengel.


Verse 18

Acts 11:18. ἡσύχασαν, cf. Acts 21:14 and Luke 14:3, so in LXX, Nehemiah 5:8 (Job 32:6, Hebrew different); also in a different sense in Luke 23:56, 1 Thessalonians 4:11, only in Luke and Paul in N.T.— ἐδόξαζον, see critical notes, imperfect of continuous action—the writer about to pass to other things thus depicts the state of things which he leaves, cf. Acts 8:3 (Blass).— ἄραγε, see critical notes.


Verse 19

Acts 11:19. οἱ μὲν οὖν, cf. Acts 8:4. μὲν οὖν introduces a general statement, whilst δέ (Acts 11:20) marks a particular instance.— ἐπὶ σ.: “about Stephen” A. and R. V. (best); somerender “against Stephen,” and others “post Stephanum”. See also critical note.


Verses 19-26

Acts 11:19-26. Further spread of the Gosael to Antioch.


Verse 20

Acts 11:20. ἄνδρες κύπ. καὶ κυρ., cf. Acts 4:36, Acts 21:16; Acts 2:10, Acts 6:9.— ἑλληνιστάς, see critical notes.— εὐαγγελιζόμενοι τὸν κ. .: on construction with accusative of the message, Simcox, Language of the N. T., p. 79. We can scarcely take the phrase given here, instead of “preaching that Jesus was the Christ,” as a proof that the word was preached not to Jews but to Gentiles.— ἀντιόχειαν: on the Orontes, distinguished as . πρός, or ἐπὶ δάφνῃ, and bearing the title μητρόπολις. There appear to have been at least five places in Syria so called under the Seleucids. For the Arabs Damascus was the capital, but the Greeks wanted to be nearer the Mediterranean and Asia Minor. The city built in 500 B.C. by Seleucus Nicator I. became more and more beautiful, whilst all the trade of the Mediterranean was connected with it through its harbour Seleucia. All the varied elements of the life of the ancient world found a home there. From the first there were Jews amongst its inhabitants. But in such a mixed population, whilst art and literature could gain the praise of Cicero, vice as well as luxury made the city infamous as well as famous. Josephus calls it the third city of the empire, next to Rome and Alexandria, but Ausonius hesitates between Antioch and Alexandria, as to the rank they occupied in eminence and vice. The famous words of Juvenal: “in Tiberim defluxit Orontes,” Sat., iii., 62, describe the influences which Antioch, with its worthless rabble of Greeks and parasites, with its quacks and impostors, its rivalries and debaucheries, exercised upon Rome. Gibbon speaks of the city in the days of Julian as a place where the lively licentiousness of the Greek was blended with the hereditary softness of the Syrian. Yet here was the μητρόπολις, not merely of Syria, but of the Gentile Christian Churches, and next to Jerusalem no city is more closely associated with the early history and spread of the Christian faith. See “Antioch” (G. A. Smith) in Hastings’ B.D.; Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chaps. xxiii., xxiv.; Renan, Les Apôtres, chaps. xii., xiii.— ἐλάλουν: “used to speak,” so Ramsay.


Verse 21

Acts 11:21. χεὶρ κ., cf. Acts 4:28; Acts 4:30, Acts 13:11, Luke 1:66; frequent in O.T. τε closely connects the two clauses, showing that the result of “the hand of the Lord” was that a great number, etc. (Weiss).


Verse 22

Acts 11:22. τῆς ἐκκ. τῆς ἐν .: in contrast here to Antioch, in which the existence of an Ecclesia was not yet formally recognised; but cf. Acts 11:26, Hort, Ecclesia, pp. 59–61.— περὶ αὐτῶν: “concerning them” R.V., i.e., the persons who had believed and turned to the Lord. Meyer takes it of the preachers, Felten of both preachers and converts.


Verse 23

Acts 11:23. τὴν χάριν: if we add τὴν, see critical notes, “the grace that was of God” Hort, Ecclesia, p. 60, so Alford.— παρεκάλει: a true son of encouragement, exhortation—see on Acts 4:36, imperfect because Barnabas remained at Antioch, and the result is indicated in Acts 11:24, προσετέθη. This mention of Barnabas and the part played by the primitive Church is referred by Clemen to his Redactor Antijudaicus, p. 109. If we read ἐν τῷ κ. with R.V. margin we could render “to abide by the purpose of their heart in the Lord,” so Hort, u. s., p. 60; Rendall; cf. 2 Timothy 3:10; and Symmachus, Psalms 10:17 (Weiss). τῷ κ., i.e., Christ; with this verse cf. Acts 15:32, where St. Luke similarly insists upon the due qualification of divine gifts; Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 45.


Verse 25

Acts 11:25. Luke gives no reason why Barnabas goes to seek Saul, but Barnabas who had already vouched for Saul’s sincerity before the Church of Jerusalem, Acts 9:27, could scarcely be ignorant that the sphere of his friend’s future work was to be the Gentile world. In Acts 9:30 Saul was sent away to Tarsus, and now Barnabas goes to Tarsus to seek him; each statement is the complement of the other, and a long period intervenes not marked by any critical event in Saul’s history. So also Paul’s own statement, Galatians 1:21-22, marks the same period, and the two writers complete each other. Ramsay, St. Paul, pp. 45, 46, on Luke’s style and reading in (244) above.— ἀναζητὴσαι, cf. Luke 2:44-45, nowhere else in N.T., a word therefore not only common to, but peculiar to Luke’s writings.— ἀνά: giving idea of thoroughness; it was not known at what precise spot Saul was prosecuting his work, so the word implies effort or thoroughness in the search; εὑρὼν implies the same uncertainty. In LXX, cf. Job 3:4; Job 10:6, 2 Maccabees 13:21. Calvin comments on the fresh proof of the “simplicitas” of Barnabas; he might have retained the chief place at Antioch, but he goes for Paul: “videmus ergo ut sui oblitus nihil aliud spectat, nisi ut emineat unus Christus”.


Verse 26

Acts 11:26. ἐγένετο δὲ αὐτοὺς, see critical notes, if dative αὐτοῖς = accidit eis, see Plummer, St. Luke, p. 45, on the use of ἐγένετο.— ἐνιαυτὸν ὅλον: “even a whole year” R.V.— συναχθῆναι ἐν τῇ ἐκκλ.: “they were gathered together in the Church,” so R.V. margin. Rendall holds that ἐν is fatal to the A.V. and R.V. text, and renders “they [i.e., Barnabas and Saul] were brought together in the Church,” an intimate association of inestimable value. Hort adopts as “the least difficult explanation of this curious word” “were hospitably received in the Church,” so Wendt, Weiss, Nösgen, cf. Matthew 25:35; Deuteronomy 22:2, Joshua 2:18, Judges 19:18, 2 Samuel 11:27.— διδάξαιχρηματίσαι: both infinitives depend upon ἐγένετο, “and that the disciples,” etc., suggesting that the name “Christian” followed as result upon the widespread teaching of the Apostles amongst the Gentiles. If St. Luke, as Eusebius states, was himself a native of Antioch, it has been well noted that he might well record such a distinction for his city as the origin of the name “Christian”.— χρηματίσαι: prim. to transact business ( χρῆμα), passes into the meaning of taking a name from one’s public business, so to receive a name, to be called, cf. Romans 7:3, so in Josephus and Philo, and instances in Grimm-Thayer. See also Acts 10:22 for another shade of meaning, and so elsewhere in N.T.; and for its use to express a reply or information by a king or those in authority to inquiry, see Deissmann, Bibelstudien, p. 118.— πρῶτον, see critical notes.— χριστιανούς: in the N.T. the Christians always named themselves μαθηταί, ἀδελφοί, ἅγιοι, πιστοί, etc., but on no occasion “Christians,” whilst the Jews not only refused to recognise that Jesus had any claim to be the Christ, but also called His followers ναζωραῖοι (Acts 24:5), or spake of them as αἵρεσις αὕτη (Acts 28:22, cf. Acts 24:14). On the probably contemptuous use of the word in 1 Peter 4:16 and Acts 26:28 as not inconsistent with the above statements, see Wendt, edition 1899, in loco, and “Christian” in Hastings’ B.D. But whilst it is difficult to find an origin for the title amongst Christians or amongst Jews, there is no difficulty in attributing it to the keen-witted populace of Antioch, already famous for their bestowal of nicknames, although perhaps the possibility that the name may have originated amongst the Latin—speaking official retinue of the legatus at Antioch should not be excluded (though there is no evidence whatever that it became at this early date an official name). But there is no need to suppose that the name was of Roman origin, although we may readily concede that the Latin termination -ianus was common enough at this period. There is ample proof of the use of the same termination not only in Latin but in Greek, even if we do not regard - ιανός with Wendt as a termination of a native “Asiatic type”. The notice in Tacitus, Ann., xv., 44 (cf. Suetonius, Nero, 16), who was probably in Rome during Nero’s persecution, A.D. 64, is very significant, for he not only intimates that the word was commonly and popularly known, but also that the title had been in vogue for some time: “quos vulgus Christianos appellabat,” note the imperfect tense. Against the recent strictures of Weizsäcker and Schmiedel we may place the opinion of Spitta, and also of Zahn, Einleitung, ii., 158. How soon the title given in mockery became a name of honour we may gather from the Ignatian Epistles, cf. Rom., iii. 3; Magn., iv.; Ephes., xi., 2, and cf. Mart. Polyc., x. and xii., 1, 2. See further Lightfoot, Phil., p. 16; Lechler, Das Apostolische Zeitalter, p. 129 ff.; Smith, B.D.2 “Christian,” Conybeare and Howson, p. 100 (smaller edition), and Expositor, June, 1898.


Verse 27

Acts 11:27. Antioch sends relief to Jerusalem.— ἐν ταύταις δὲ ταῖς ., cf. Acts 1:15, Acts 6:1. ταύταις emphatic, by its position and also by its significance, days full of importance for Barnabas and Saul, who were still at Antioch (Weiss).— προφῆται: the coming of the prophets gave an additional sanction to the work at Antioch. There is no reason in the uncertainty of the dates to suppose that they had been driven from Jerusalem by persecution. For the position of the Christian prophets in the N.T. cf. Acts 13:1, where Barnabas and Saul are spoken of as prophets and teachers; afterwards as Apostles, Acts 14:4; Acts 15:32, where Judas and Silas are described as prophets, having been previously spoken of, Acts 11:22, as ἡγούμενοι amongst the brethren at Jerusalem (while Silas later bears the name of Apostle); cf., further, 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Corinthians 14:29-33; 1 Corinthians 14:39, Ephesians 4:11, where in each case the Prophet is placed next to Apostles (although in 1 Cor. he may have been merely a member of a local community), perhaps because “he belonged to the same family as the great prophets of the Old Testament,” for whilst foreknowledge of events was not necessarily implied by the word either in the O.T. or in the N.T., the case of Agabus, both here and in Acts 21:10-11, shows that predictiveness was by no means excluded. The Christian prophets, moreover, as we see them in Acts, combine the duty of “ministering to the Lord” with that of preaching the word; they are not only foretellers, but forth-tellers of God’s will, as in the case of a Samuel or an Elijah, Gore, Church and the Ministry, pp. 240, 261, 393, etc.; Moberly, Ministerial Priesthood, p. 160 ff.; and for Sub-Apostolic Age, p. 179 ff.; Bigg, Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles, p. 28 (1898); Harnack, “Apostellehre” in Real-Encyclopädie für Protestant. Theol. (Hauck), p. 716, and see, further, on Acts 13:1.


Verse 28

Acts 11:28. ἄγαβος: on derivation see W.H(245), ii., 313, from עגב “to love”; or from חגב “a locust,” Ezra 2:45, Nehemiah 7:48, with rough breathing ἅγ. W.H(246) follow Syriac and read the former as in T.R., so Weiss; Blass doubtful; Klostermann would connect it with ἀγαυός, Probleme im Aposteltexte, p. 10. As a Jewish prophet he would naturally use the symbolic methods of a Jeremiah or an Ezekiel, see on Acts 21:10-11. On insertion in (247) see critical notes.— μέλλειν ἔσεσθαι: future infinitive only used in N.T. with μέλλειν in this one phrase, and only so in Acts, cf. Acts 24:15; Acts 27:10. In Acts 23:30 μέλλειν omitted (although in T.R.), and in Acts 24:25 ἔσεσθαι omitted (although in T.R.). Klostermann, Vindiciæ Lucanæ, p. 51, Simcox, Language of the N. T., p. 120, and Viteau, Le Grec du N. T., p. 158 (1893).— λιμὸν: masculine in Luke 4:25, and so in common usage, but in Doric usage, as it is called, feminine, and so also in later Greek; feminine in Luke 15:14 and here; see critical notes; Blass, Gram., p. 26.— ἐφʼ ὅλην τὴν οἰκ.—the civilised world, i.e., the Roman Empire. Cf. Acts 24:5, and Luke 2:1, see Plummer’s note on Luke 4:5 (and Hackett’s attempt, in loco, to limit the expression), and Ramsay, Was Christ born at Bethlehem? p. 118. We have ample evidence as to a widespread dearth over various parts of the Roman Empire, to which Suetonius, Dion Cassius, Tacitus, and Eusebius all bear witness, in the reign of Claudius; and in no other reign do we find such varied allusions to periodical famines, “assiduae sterilitates,” Suetonius, Claudius, xviii., cf. Dion Cassius, lx., 11; Tac., Ann., xii., 43, etc. These and other references are given by Schürer, Jewish People, div. i., vol. ii., p. 170, E.T. (so also by O. Holtzmann, Neutest. Zeitgeschichte, p. 124), but instead of drawing from these varied references the inference that the author of Acts had ample justification for his statement as to the prevalence of famine over the Roman Empire, he takes him to task for speaking of a famine “over the whole world”. See Ramsay, St. Paul, pp. 48, 49, and also Was Christ Born at Bethlehem? pp. 251, 252, cf. Acts 11:29-30. At least there is no ground to suppose, with Clemen and others, that the writer of Acts was here dependent on Josephus for the mention of the famine which that historian confined to Judæa, but which the writer of Acts, or rather Clemen’s Redactor Antijudaicus, magnified according to his usual custom.


Verse 29

Acts 11:29. καθὼς ηὐπορεῖτό τις: only here in N.T., and the cognate noun in Acts 19:25, but in same sense in classical Greek; cf. Leviticus 25:26; Leviticus 25:28; Leviticus 25:49, and Wisdom of Solomon 10:10 (but see Hatch and Red-path on passages in Lev.). “According to his ability,” so A. and R.V., i.e., as each man prospered, in proportion to his means. The expression intimates that the community of goods, at least in a communistic sense, could not have been the rule, cf. 1 Corinthians 16:2, but a right view of “the community of goods” at Jerusalem invokes no contradiction with this statement, as Hilgenfeld apparently maintains, Zeitschrift für wissenschaft. Theol., p. 506, 1895. On the good effect of this work of brotherly charity and fellowship, this practical exhibition of Christian union between Church and Church, between the Christians of the mother-city and those of the Jewish dispersion, see Hort, Ecclesia, p. 62; Ramsay, u. s., p. 52; Baumgarten (Alford, in loco).— εἰς διακονίαν: “for a ministry,” R.V. margin, cf. Romans 15:31, 2 Corinthians 9:1, etc., Acta Thomæ, 56; “contributions for relief” Ramsay, see further below; on the construction and complexity of the sentence see especially Page’s note, and Wendt.— ἀδελφοῖς: not merely as fellow-disciples, but as brethren in the One Lord.


Verse 30

Acts 11:30. καὶ ἐποίησαν κ. τ. λ.: a question arises as to whether this took place during, or at a later date than, Herod’s persecution in 44 A.D.—the year of his death. Bishop Lightfoot (with whom Dr. Sanday and Dr. Hort substantially agree) maintains that Barnabas and Saul went up to Jerusalem in the early months of 44, during Herod’s persecution, deposited their διακονία with the elders, and returned without delay. If we ask why “elders” are mentioned, and not Apostles, the probability is suggested that the Apostles had fled from Jerusalem and were in hiding. Against this view Ramsay strongly protests, not only on account of the part assigned to the leading Apostles, but also because of the meaning which he attaches to the διακονία of Barnabas and Saul (see on Acts 12:25). The elders, not Apostles, are mentioned because the embassy was of a purely business kind, and it was not fit that the Apostles should serve tables. Moreover, Ramsay places the visit of Barnabas and Saul to Jerusalem in 45, or preferably in 46, at the commencement of the great famine in Judæa—not in 44, but in 45. Still, as Dr. Sanday urges, the entire omission of any reference to the Apostles is strange (cf. Blass on Acts 11:30, Acts 12:17, who holds that the Apostles had fled), especially as elsewhere Apostles and elders are constantly bracketed together as a single body (Acts 15:2; Acts 15:4; Acts 15:6; Acts 15:22-23, Acts 16:4, cf. Acts 21:18). Nor does it follow that because James, presumably “the brother of the Lord,” is mentioned as remaining in Jerusalem during the persecution (but see Lightfoot, Gal., p. 127, note), which his reputation for sanctity amongst his countrymen might have enabled him to do, that the other Apostles could have done so with equal safety. But Ramsay at all events relieves us from the difficulty involved in the entrance of Paul into Jerusalem at a time of persecution, and the more so in view of the previous plots against his life, a difficulty which is quite unsatisfactorily met by supposing that Paul did not enter the city at all for some unknown reasons, or more unsatisfactorily still by attributing to the author of Acts a mistake in asserting that any visit of Paul to Jerusalem was made at this time. On the chronological order involved in accordance with the two views mentioned, see Ramsay, St. Paul, pp. 48 ff., 68, 69; Lightfoot, Gal., p. 124, note; and, as space forbids more, for the whole question Expositor for February and March, 1896; Lightfoot, Gal., p. 123 ff.; Hort, Judaistic Christianity, p. 61, and Ecclesia, p. 62; Wendt, p. 265 (1888) and p. 218 (1899).— τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους, see previous verse. It is also noticeable that St. Luke gives no account of the appointment of the elders; he takes it for granted. These Christian elders are therefore in all probability no new kind of officers, but a continuation in the Christian Church of the office of the זְקֵנִים, πρεσβύτεροι, to whom probably the government of the Synagogue was assigned—hence we may account for St. Luke’s silence (Moberly, Ministerial Priesthood, p. 141; Hort, Ecclesia, p. 62; Lightfoot, Phil., pp. 191–193; “Bishop” (Gwatkin), Hastings’ B.D.). In the Christian συναγωγή (James 2:2) there would naturally be elders occupying a position of trust and authority. There is certainly no reason to regard them as the Seven under another name (so Zeller, Ritschl), although it is quite conceivable that if the Seven represented the Hellenists, the elders may have been already in existence as representing the Hebrew part of the Church. But there is need to guard against the exaggeration of the Jewish nature of the office in question. In the N.T. we find mention of elders, not merely so on account of age, not merely as administrative and disciplinary officers (Hatch, Bampton Lectures, pp. 58, 61), as in a Jewish synagogue, but as officers of the Christian Church with spiritual functions, cf. James 5:14, 1 Peter 5:2, Acts 20:17, Titus 1:5, and also 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14, Hebrews 13:7 (see Mayor, St. James, p. cxxviii; Gore, Church and the Ministry, pp. 253, 263, and note ). At the same time there is nothing to surprise us in the fact that the administration of alms should be connected in loco with the office of elders. If they were representing the Apostles at the time in Jerusalem, it is what we should expect, since the organisation of almsgiving remained part of the Apostolic office, Galatians 2:10, 2 Corinthians 8, etc.; and if in a passage from Polycarp (quoted by Dr. Hatch) we find the two connected—the presbyterate and what looks like the administration of alms, Polycarp, Phil., vi., xi.—this again need not surprise us, since not only in the N.T., but from the passage referred to in Polycarp, it is evident that the elders, whilst they exercised judicial and administrative functions, exercised also spiritual gifts, and discharged the office of teachers, functions to which there was nothing analogous in the Jewish presbyters (see Gore, u. s., note , and Gwatkin, u. s., p. 302). To turn back the sheep that are gone astray ( ἐπιστρέφοντες τὰ ἀποπεπλανημένα) is one of the first commands laid by Polycarp in his Epistle upon the Christian Presbyters (vi., quoted by Hatch), and from this alone it would appear that a familiar title in the Jewish Church passed into the Church of Christ, gaining therein a new and spiritual power. See further on Acts 20:17, and for the use of the word in inscriptions, Deissmann, Bibelstudien, p. 153, and Neue Bibelstudien, p. 160.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Acts 11:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/acts-11.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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