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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
Acts 6

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

Acts 6:1. δὲ; cf. Acts 1:15, and see above in Acts 5:41. There seems no occasion to regard δὲ as marking a contrast between Acts 5:41 and the opening of this chapter, or as contrasting the outward victory of the Church with its inward dissensions (as Meyer, Holtzmann, Zechler, see Nösgen’s criticism in loco); simply introduces a new recital as in Acts 3:1. It may refer back to the notice in Acts 5:14 of the increase of the disciples, and this would be in harmony with the context. On the expression ἐν ταῖς ἡμέρ. ταύτ., as characteristic of Luke, see above, and Friedrich, Das Lucasevangelium, p. 9; in both his Gospel and the Acts expressions with ἡμέρα abound. Harnack admits that in passing to this sixth chapter “we at once enter on historical ground,” Expositor, 5, p. 324 (3rd series). For views of the partition critics see Wendt’s summary in new edition (1899), p. 140, Hilgenfeld, Zeitschrift für wissenschaft. Theol., p. 390 ff. (1895), and also in commentary below. Wendt sees in Acts 6:1-7 the hand of the redactor, the author of Acts 2:5; others suppose that we have in 6 the commencement of a new Hellenistic source; so Feine, J. Weiss, Hilgenfeld. Clemen refers Acts 6:7-8 to his Historia Petri, whilst Acts 6:9 commences his Historia Hellenistarum (Acts 6:1-6 belong to a special source); others again see in chap. 6 the continuance of an earlier source or sources.— πληθυνόντων, when the number of the disciples was multiplying (present part(188)); verb frequent in LXX, sometimes intrans. as here, Exodus 1:20, etc., and see Psalms of Solomon, Acts 10:1, and note in Ryle and James’ edition; cf. also its classical use in its more correct form, πληθύω, in the Acts: Acts 6:7; Acts 7:17; Acts 9:31; Acts 12:24. On St. Luke’s fondness for this and similar words (Friedrich) see p. 73. Weiss calls it here a very modest word, introduced by one who knew nothing of the conversions in many of the preceding chapters. But the word, and especially its use in the present participle, rather denotes that the numbers went on increasing, and so rapidly that the Apostles found the work of relief too great for them.— μαθητῶν, the word occurs here for the first time in the Acts (surely an insufficient ground for maintaining with Hilgenfeld that we are dealing with a new source). The same word is found frequently in each of the Gospels, twenty-eight times in Acts ( μαθήτρια once, Acts 9:36), but never in the Epistles. It evidently passed into the ancient language of the early Church from the earthly days of the ministry of Jesus, and may fairly be regarded as the earliest designation of the Christians; but as the associations connected with it (the thought that Jesus was the διδάσκαλος and His followers His μαθηταί) passed into the background it quickly dropped out of use, although in the Acts the name is still the rule for the more ancient times and for the Jewish-Christian Churches; cf. Acts 21:16. In the Acts we have the transition marked from μαθηταί to the brethren and saints of the Epistles. The reason for the change is obvious. During the lifetime of Jesus the disciples were called after their relationship to Him; after His departure the names given indicated their relation to each other and to the society (Dr. Sanday, Inspiration, p. 289). And as an evidential test of the date of the various N.T. writings this is just what we might expect: the Gospels have their own characteristic vocabulary, the Epistles have theirs, whilst Acts forms a kind of link between the two groups, Gospels and Epistles. It is, of course, to be remembered that both terms ἀδελφοί and ἅγιοι are also found in Acts, not to the exclusion of, but alongside with, μαθηταί (cf., e.g., Acts 9:26; Acts 9:30, Acts 21:4; Acts 21:7; Acts 21:16-17): the former in all parts of the book, and indeed more frequently than μαθηταί, as applied to Christians; the latter four times, Acts 9:13; Acts 9:32; Acts 9:41, Acts 26:10. But if our Lord gave the charge to His disciples recorded in St. Matthew 28:19, bidding them make disciples of all the nations, μαθητεύσατε (cf. also Acts 14:21 for the same word), then we can understand that the term would still be retained, as it was so closely associated with the last charge of the Master, whilst a mutual discipleship involved a mutual brotherhood (Matthew 23:8). St. Paul in his Epistles would be addressing those who enjoyed through Christ a common share with himself in a holy fellowship and calling, and whom he would therefore address not as μαθηταί but as ἀδελφοί and ἅφιοι. They were still μαθηταί, yet not of man but of the Lord (only in one passage in Acts, and that a doubtful one, Acts 9:43, is the word μαθηταί or μαθητής used of any human teacher), and the word was still true of them with that significance, and is still used up to a period subsequent (we may well believe) to the writing of several of Paul’s Epistles, Acts 21:16. How the word left its impress upon the thought of the Church, in the claim of the disciple to be as his Master, is touchingly evidenced by the expressions of St. Ign., Ephes. i. 2; Magn., ix., 2; Rom. iv. 2; Tral., v., 2 (St. Polyc., Martyr, xvii., 3, where the word is applied to the martyrs as disciples of the Lord, and the prayer is offered: ὧν γένοιτο καὶ ἡμᾶς συγκοινωνούς τε καὶ συμμαθητάς γενέσθαι).— γογγυσμὸς and γογγύζειν are both used by St. Luke (cf. Luke 5:30), by St. John, and also by St. Paul, Philippians 2:14, and 1 Corinthians 10:10, the noun also by St. Peter, Acts 1:4; Acts 1:9. The noun is found seven times in the LXX of Israel in the wilderness (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:10); so in Philippians 2:14 it is probable that the same passage, Exodus 16:7, was in the Apostle’s mind, as in the next verse he quotes from the Song of Moses, Deuteronomy 32:5, LXX so γόγγυσις is also found in LXX with the same meaning, Numbers 14:27. γογγυσμός is also found in Wisdom of Solomon 1:10, Sirach 46:7, with reference to Numbers 14:26-27, and twice in Psalms of Solomon Acts 5:15, Acts 16:11. In Attic Greek τονθυρισμός would be used (so τονθρίζω and τονθυρίζω). Phrynichus brands the other forms as Ionian, but Dr. Kennedy maintains that γογγυσμός and γογγύζειν from their frequent use in the LXX are rather to be classed amongst “vernacular terms” long continued in the speech of the people, from which the LXX drew. Both words are probably onomatopoetic.—Kennedy, Sources of N. T. Greek, pp. 38–40, 72, 73, 76; see also Rutherford, New Phrynichus, p. 463; Deissmann, Bibelstudien, p. 106. Here the word refers rather to indignatio clandestina, not to an open murmuring.— ἑλληνιστῶν. The meaning of the term, which was a matter of conjecture in St. Chrysostom’s day, cannot be said to be decided now (Hort, Judaistic Christianity, p. 48). The verb ἑλληνίζειν, to speak Greek (Xen., Anab., vii., 3, 25), helps us reasonably to define it as a Greek-speaking Jew (so also Holtzmann and Wendt). The term occurs again in Acts 9:29 (and Acts 11:20? see in loco), and includes those Jews who had settled in Greek-speaking countries, who spoke the common Greek dialect in place of the vernacular Aramaic current in Palestine, and who would be more or less acquainted with Greek habits of life and education. They were therefore a class distinguished not by descent but by language. This word “Grecians” (A.V.) was introduced to distinguish them from the Greeks by race, but the rendering “Grecian Jews” (R.V.) makes the distinction much plainer. Thus in the Dispersion “the cultured Jew was not only a Jew but a Greek as well”; he would be obliged from force of circumstances to adapt himself to his surroundings more or less, but, even in the more educated, the original Jewish element still predominated in his character; and if this was true of the higher it was still more true of the lower classes amongst the Hellenists—no adoption of the Greek language as their mode of speech, no separation of distance from the Holy City, no defections in their observances of the law, or the surrender as unessential of points which the Pharisees deemed vital, could make them forget that they were members of the Commonwealth of Israel, that Palestine was their home, and the Temple their pride, see B.D.2, “Hellenist,” Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. ii., p. 282, E.T.; Hamburger, Real-Encyclopädie des Judentums, ii., 3, “Griechenthum”. But bearing this description in mind, we can the more easily understand the conflict with Stephen, and his treatment by those who were probably his fellow-Hellenists. If as a cultured Hellenist St. Stephen’s sympathies were wider and his outlook less narrow than that of the orthodox Jew, or of the less educated type of Hellenist, such a man, who died as St. Stephen died with the prayer of Jesus on his lips (see Feine’s remarks), must have so lived in the spirit of his Master’s teaching as to realise that in His Kingdom the old order would change and give place to new. But the same considerations help us to understand the fury aroused by St. Stephen’s attitude, and it is not difficult to imagine the fanatical rage of a people who had nearly risen in insurrection because Pilate had placed in his palace at Jerusalem some gilt shields inscribed with the names of heathen gods, against one who without the power of Pilate appeared to advocate a change of the customs which Moses had delivered (see Nösgen, Apostelgeschichte, p. 69).— ἑβραῖοι—in W.H(189) with smooth breathing, see W.H(190), Introduction, p. 313, and Winer-Schmiedel, p. 40; here those Jews in Palestine who spoke Aramaic; in the Church at Jerusalem they would probably form a considerable majority, cf. Philippians 3:5, and Lightfoot’s note. In the N.T. ἰουδαῖος is opposed to ἕλλην (Romans 1:16), and ἑβραῖος to ἑλληνιστής, Acts 6:1. In the former case the contrast lies in the difference of race and religion; in the latter in the difference of customs and language. A man might be called ἰουδαῖος, but he would not be ἑβραῖος in the N.T. sense unless he retained in speech the Aramaic tongue; the distinction was therefore drawn on the side of language, a distinction which still survives in our way of speaking of the Jewish nation, but of the Hebrew tongue. See Trench, Synonyms, i., p. 156 ff. In the two other passages in which ἑβρ. is used, Philippians 3:5 and 2 Corinthians 11:22, whatever difficulties surround them, it is probable that the distinctive force of the word as explained above is implied. But as within the nation, the distinction is not recognised by later Christian writers, and that it finds no place at all in Jewish writers like Philo and Josephus, or in Greek authors like Plutarch and Pausanias (Trench, u. s.).— πρὸς, cf. St. Luke 5:30, ἐγόγγυζον πρὸς τ. μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ.— παρεθεωροῦντο: not found elsewhere in N.T. and not in LXX, but used in this sense in Dem. (also by Diodorus and Dion. Hal.) = παρορᾶν, Attic: imperfect, denoting that the neglect had been going on for some time; how the neglect had arisen we are not told—there is no reason to suppose that there had been previously Palestinian deacons (so Blass in (191), critical notes), for the introduction of such a class of deacons, as Hilgenfeld notes, is something quite new, and does not arise out of anything previously said, although it would seem that in the rapidly growing numbers of the Church the Hebrew Christians regarded their Hellenist fellow-Christians as having only a secondary claim on their care. Possibly the supply for the Hellenists fell short, simply because the Hebrews were already in possession. The Church had been composed first of Galileans and native Jews resident in Jerusalem, and then there was added a wider circle—Jews of the Dispersion. It is possible to interpret the incident as an indication of what would happen as the feeling between Jew and Hellenist became more bitter, but it is difficult to believe that the Apostles, who shared with St. James of Jerusalem the belief that θρησκεία consisted in visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction, could have acted in a spirit of partiality, so that the neglect, if it was due to them, could be attributed to anything else than to their ignorance of the greatness of the need.— διακονίᾳ, see below on Acts 6:2.— καθημερινῇ: not found elsewhere in N.T. or in LXX, only in Judith 12:15. It is a word only used in Hellenistic Greek, cf. Josephus, Ant., iii., 10, 1; but it may be noted that it is also a word frequently employed by medical writers of a class of fevers, etc. See instances in Hobart, pp. 134, 135, and also in Wetstein, in loco.— αἱ χῆραι αὐτῶν: not merely a generic term for the poor and needy—under the Mosaic dispensation no legal provision was made for widows, but they would not only receive the privileges belonging to other distressed classes, but also specific regulations protected them—they were commended to the care of the community, and their oppression and neglect were strongly condemned—it is quite possible that the Hellenistic widows had previously been helped from the Temple Treasury, but that now, on their joining the Christian community, this help had ceased. On the care of the widow in the early Church, see James 1:27 (Mayor’s note); Polycarp, Phil., vi., 1, where the presbyters are exhorted to be εὔσπλαγχνοι μὴ ἀμελοῦντες χήρας ὀρφανου πένητος, and cf. Acts 4:3. The word χήρα occurs no less than nine times in St. Luke’s Gospel, three times in the Acts, but elsewhere in the Evangelists only three times in St. Mark (Matthew 23:14, omitted by W.H(192) and R.V.), and two of these three in an incident which he and St. Luke alone record, Mark 12:42-43, and the other time in a passage also peculiar to him and St. Luke (if we are justified in omitting Matthew 23:14), viz., Mark 12:40.


Verse 2

Acts 6:2. προσκαλεσάμενοι δὲ οἱ δώδεκα: whatever may have been the irritation caused by the pride or neglect of the Hebrews, the Apostles recognised that there was ground for complaint, and thus showed not only their practical capacities, but also their freedom from any partiality. οἱ δώδ.: only here in Acts, but cf. 1 Corinthians 15:5, where St. Paul uses the title as if it were well and widely known, and required no explanation from him. It is found six times in St. Luke’s Gospel, and no less than ten in St. Mark’s. See also above Acts 1:26, Acts 2:14.— τὸ πλῆθος = the whole Church, not the hundred-and-twenty, as J. Lightfoot. The expression is a general one, and need not imply that every single member of the Church obeyed the summons. For the word πλῆθος and the illustration of its use in religious communities on the papyri by Deissmann, see p. 73. The passage has been quoted in support of the democratic constitution of the Apostolic Church, but the whole context shows that the government really lay with the Apostles. The Church as a whole is under their direction and counsel, and the Apostles alone determine what qualification those chosen should possess, the Apostles alone lay hands upon them after prayer: “The hand of man is laid upon the person, but the whole work is of God, and it is His hand which toucheth the head of the one ordained, if he be duly ordained” (Chrys., Hom., xiv.). The dignity of the Apostles, and their authority as leaders of the Church and ordainers of the Seven, is fully recognised by Feine, but he considers that their position is so altered, and the organisation of the Church so much more developed, that another source and not the Jerusalem Quellen-schrift must be supposed; but if, as Feine allows, such passages as Acts 4:34, Acts 5:2, belong to the Jerusalem source, it would appear that the authority of the Apostles in the passage before us was a very plain and natural development.— καταλείψαντας: on the formation of the first aorist see Blass, Grammatik, p. 43, and also Deissmann, Neue Bibelstudien, p. 18; Winer-Schmiedel, p. 109.— διακονεῖν τραπέζαις: there seems to be an intentional antithesis between these words and τῇ διακονίᾳ τοῦ λόγου in Acts 6:3. The Twelve do not object to the work of ministering, but only to the neglect of ministering to the higher sustenance for the sake of the lower (Hort, Ecclesia, p. 206); thus Bengel speaks of the expression as used with indignation, “Antitheton, ministerium verbi”. διακονία and διακονεῖν are used for ministrations to man, although more usually of man to God; cf. Acts 19:22, of service to St. Paul, διακονία, Acts 11:29; Acts 12:25, of service to the brethren of Judæa in the famine, Romans 15:25; Romans 15:31, 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 9:1; 2 Corinthians 9:12-13, of the Gentile collections for the same purpose, so too probably in Romans 16:1 of the service rendered by Stephanas to travelling Christians, cf. Hebrews 6:10, and its use of the verb in the Gospels of ministering to our Lord’s earthly wants, Luke 8:3; Luke 10:40 (both noun and verb), John 12:2; cf. also Luke 12:37; Luke 22:27, Matthew 4:11, Luke 4:39; see further on the use of the word in classical Greek, Hort, Ecclesia, p. 203. The word had a high dignity conferred upon it when, in contrast to the contemptuous associations which surrounded it for the most part in Greek society, Epictetus remarks that it is man’s true honour to be a διάκονος of God (Diss., iii., 22, 69; 24, 65; iv. 7, 20; cf. iii. 26, 28), and a dignity immeasurably higher still, when the Son of Man could speak of Himself as in Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45; cf. Luke 22:27. “Every clergyman begins as a deacon. This is right. But he never ceases to be a deacon. The priest is a deacon still. The bishop is a deacon still. Christ came as a deacon, lived as a deacon, died as a deacon: μὴ διακονηθῆναι, ἀλλὰ διακονῆσαι” (Lightfoot, Ordination Sermons, p. 115). In the LXX the verb does not occur at all, but διάκονος is used four times in Esther 1:10; Esther 2:2; Esther 6:3; Esther 6:5, of the king’s chamberlains and of the servants that ministered to him, and once in 4 Maccabees 9:17; διακονία is also found in two of the passages in Esther just quoted, Acts 6:3; Acts 6:5, where in A we read οἱ ἐκ τῆς διακοίας (BS διάκονοι), and once in 1 Maccabees 11:58, of the service of gold sent by Jonathan to Antiochus. What is meant by the expression here? does it refer to distribution of money or in kind? The word in itself might include either, but if we were to limit διακονία to alms, yet the use of the word remarked upon above renders the service higher than that of ordinary relief: “ministration” says St. Chrysostom (although he takes it of alms, Hom., 15), “extolling by this at once the doers and those to whom it was done”. But τραπέζαις presents a further difficulty; does it refer to the tables of exchange for money, a rendering which claims support from Matthew 21:12; Matthew 25:27, Luke 19:23, John 2:15, or to tables for food, Luke 16:21; Luke 22:21; Luke 22:30? Possibly the use of the word in some passages in the N.T., and also the fact that the διακονία was καθημερινή, may indicate the latter, and the phrase may refer to the actual serving and superintending at the tables at which the poor sat, or at all events to the supplying in a general way those things which were necessary for their bodily sustenance. Zöckler, Apostelgeschichte (second edition), refers the word to the ministration of the gifts of love offered at the Eucharist in the various Christian houses (so Scaliger understood the expression of the Agapæ). Mr. Humphry reminds us that the words were quoted by Latimer (1548) in a sermon against some bishops of his time who were comptrollers of the mint.


Verse 3

Acts 6:3. ἐπισκέψασθε οὖν: the verb, though frequently used by St. Luke in both his writings, is not elsewhere used in the sense of this verse, “look ye out,” cf. σκέπτεσθαι in Genesis 41:33.— μαρτυρουμένους, cf. Hebrews 11:2; Hebrews 11:39; Hebrews cf.4, 5, and 1 Timothy 5:10, Acts 10:22; Acts 22:12, also Acts 16:2; cf. its use also in Clem. Rom., Cor(193), Acts 17:1; Acts 18:1, etc.; Ignat., Phil., xi., 1; Ephes., xii. 2. See also the interesting parallels in Deissmann, Neue Bibelstudien, p. 93. In Jos., Ant., iii., 2, 5, and xv., 10, 5, it is used as here, but of hostile testimony in Matthew 23:31, John 18:23.— ἑπτὰ: why was the number chosen? Various answers have been given to the question: (1) that the number was fixed upon because of the seven gifts of the Spirit, Isaiah 11:2, Revelation 1:4; (2) that the number was appointed with regard to the different elements of the Church: three Hellenists, three Hebrews, one Proselyte; (3) that the number was regulated by the fact that the Jerusalem of that day may have been divided into seven districts; (4) that the number was suggested by the Hebrew sacred number—seven; (5) Zöckler thinks that there is no hypothesis so probable as that the small Jerusalem ἐκκλησίαι κατʼ οἶκον were seven in number, each with its special worship, and its special business connected with alms-giving and distribution—alms-giving closely related to the Eucharist or to the Love-Feasts; (6) the derivation of the number from Roman usage on the analogy of the septemviri epulones advocated by Dean Plumptre, officials no doubt well known to the Libertini (see also B.D.2 “Deacon,” and the remarks of Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 375, on Roman organisation and its value). This is far more probable than that there should be any connection between the appointment of the Seven and the two heathen inscriptions quoted by Dr. Hatch (Bampton Lectures, p. 50, note 56), in which the word διάκονος is used of the assistants in the ritual of sacrificial and temple feasts at Anactorium in Acarnania and Metropolis in Lydia (see on the other hand, Hort, Ecclesia, p. 210), for in the incident before us the word διάκονος is not used at all, and later in the history, Acts 21:8, Philip is described not by that title but as one of the Seven. Nor is there any real likeness to be found between the office assigned to the Seven and that of the Chazzan or officer of the Jewish synagogue ( ὑπηρέτης, Luke 4:20), who corresponded rather to our parish-clerk or verger, and whose duties were confined to the synagogue; a nearer Jewish parallel is to be found in the צְדָקָה גִּבָּאֵי, collectors of alms, but these officers would rather present a parallel to the tax-gatherers than to those who ministered to the poor (see “Deacon” in Hastings, B.D.). Whilst, however, these analogies in Jewish offices fail us, we stand on much higher ground if we may suppose that as our Lord’s choice of the Twelve was practically the choice of a number sacred in its associations for every Israelite, so the number Seven may have been adopted from its sacredness in Jewish eyes, and thus side by side with the sacred Apostolic College there existed at this period another College, that of the Seven. What was the nature of the office? Was it the Diaconate in the modern sense of the term? But, as we have noted above, the Seven are never called Deacons, and therefore it has been thought that we have here a special office to meet a special need, and that the Seven were rather the prototypes of the later archdeacons, or corresponded to the elders who are mentioned in Acts 11:30 and Acts 14:23. On the other hand St. Luke, from the prominence given to the narrative, may fairly be regarded as viewing the institution of the office as establishing a new departure, and not as an isolated incident, and the emphasis is characteristic of an historian who was fond of recording “beginnings” of movements. The earliest Church tradition speaks of Stephen and Nicolas as ordained to the diaconate, Iren., Adv. Haer., i., 26; iv., 15, and the same writer speaks of Stephen as “the first deacon,” Acts 3:12; cf. also the testimony of St. Cyprian, Epist., 3, 3, and the fact that for centuries the Roman Church continued to restrict the number of deacons to seven (Cornelius, ap. Euseb. H. E., vi., 43). It is quite true that the first mention of διάκονοι in the N.T. (although both διακονία and διακονεῖν are used in the passage before us) is not found until Philippians 1:1, but already a deaconess had been mentioned in writing to the Church at Rome (Acts 16:1, where Phœbe is called διάκονος), in the Church at Philippi the office had evidently become established and familiar, and it is reasonable to assume that the institution of the Seven at Jerusalem would have been well known to St. Paul and to others outside Palestine, “and that analogous wants might well lead to analogous institutions” (Hort, and to the same effect, Gore, The Church and its Ministry, p. 403). But if the Seven were thus the prototypes of the deacons, we must remember that as the former office though primarily ordained for helping the Apostles in distribution of alms and in works of mercy was by no means confined to such duties, but that from the very first the Seven were occupied in essentially spiritual work, so the later diaconate was engaged in something far different from mere charity organisation; there were doubtless qualifications demanded such as might be found in good business men of tact and discretion, but there were also moral and spiritual qualities which to a great extent were required of the διάκονοι no less than of the πρεσβύτεροι and ἐπίσκοποι: there was the holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience, there was the moral and spiritual courage which would enable the διάκονοι to gain even in the pursuit of their διακονία “great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus,” 1 Timothy 3:13 (Moberly, Ministerial Priesthood, p. 138 ff.); see also on the whole subject, Felten, Apostelgeschichte, p. 139 ff.; Zöckler, Apostelgeschichte, p. 206 ff.; Lightfoot, Philippians, “Dissertation on the Christian Ministry,” and Real-Encyclopädie für protest. Theol. und Kirche (Hauck), “Diakonen” (Heft 38, 1898).— σοφίας: practical wisdom, prudentia, cf. 1 Corinthians 6:5 (Blass, so Grimm); in Acts 6:10 the use of the word is different, but in both places σοφία is referred to the Spirit, “it is not simply spiritual men, but full of the Spirit and of wisdom … for what profits it that the dispenser of alms speak not, if nevertheless he wastes all, or be harsh and easily provoked?” Chrys., Hom., xiv.— οὒς καταστήσομεν (on the reading whom ye, which was exhibited in some few editions of A.V., see Speaker’s Commentary, in loco): the appointment, the consecration, and the qualifications for it, depend upon the Apostles—the verb implies at all events an exercise of authority if it has no technical force, cf. Titus 1:5. The same shade of meaning is found in classical writers and in the LXX in the use of the verb with the genitive, with ἐπί, sometimes with a dative, sometimes with an accusative: Genesis 39:4; Genesis 41:41, Exodus 2:14; Exodus 18:21, Numbers 3:10, Nehemiah 12:44, Daniel 2:48-49, 1 Maccabees 6:14; cf. its use in Luke 12:14; Luke 12:42; Luke 12:44. The opposite is expressed by μεταστήσασθαι ἀπὸ τῆς χρ., Polyb., iv., 87, 9; 1 Maccabees 11:63 (Wendt).— χρείας: the word might mean need in the sense of necessity, Latin opus, want, 2 Chronicles 2:16, Wisdom of Solomon 13:16, 1 Maccabees 3:28, or it might mean business, Latin negotium, officium. In the LXX it seems to be employed in both senses, as also in classical writers, but here both A. and R.V. render “business” (so in Polybius), cf. Judith 12:10 (194) (195)., 1 Maccabees 10:37; 1 Maccabees 11:63; 1 Maccabees 12:45 ( χρεία is found no less than eight times in 1 Macc., seven times in 2 Macc., once in 3 Macc.); see Wetstein for uses of the word in Philo and Josephus.


Verse 4

Acts 6:4. ἡμεῖς δὲ: in marked contrast to the service of tables, etc., but still every work in the Church, whether high or low, was a διακονία.— τῇ διακ. τοῦ λ., see above.— προσκαρτερήσομεν, “will continue steadfastly,” R.V., see above on Acts 1:14.— τῇ προσ., “the prayer” (Hort); the article seems to imply not only private prayer and intercession, but the public prayer of the Church.


Verse 5

Acts 6:5. ἤρεσεν ἐνώπιον: phrase not usual in classical Greek; but ἐνώ. in this sense, so κατενώπιον ἔναντι κατέναντι, derived from the LXX ( ἐναντίον frequent in LXX, is also classical); cf., e.g., Deuteronomy 1:23 A, 2 Samuel 3:36, 1 Kings 3:10; 1 Kings 3:20(1 Kings 3:21), Jeremiah 18:4, Judges 7:16; Judges 13:20, 1 Maccabees 6:60; 1 Maccabees 8:21 ( ἐναντίον, ), where the whole phrase occurs. Blass, Grammatik, p. 125, and see on Acts 4:10.— πλήθους, cf. Deissmann, Neue Bibelstudien, p. 60, and above on p. 73.— ἐξελέξαντο, see above, cf. Acts 15:22; Acts 15:25, always in the middle in N.T. (Luke 9:35 doubtful), so in LXX. Blass, Grammatik, p. 181, nearly always = בָּחַר. On the importance of the step thus taken as marking a distinct stage in the organisation of the Church, and in the distribution of work amongst the members of what was now a true body politic, see Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 372; Hort., Ecclesia, p. 52, and on its further importance in the emancipation of the Church, see Lightfoot’s “Paul and the Three”. The choice of the names has often been held to indicate the liberal spirit in which the complaint of the Hellenists was met, since the Seven bear purely Greek names, and we infer that the bearers were Hellenists, “elegerunt ergo Graecos non Hebræos, ut magis satisfacerent murmuri Graecorum” Cornelius à Lapide. But the inference is not altogether certain, however probable (see Wendt, Felten), for Greek names, e.g., Philip, Didymus, Andrew, were also found amongst the Palestinian Jews. Bengel holds that part were Hebrew, part Hellenist, whilst Gieseler hazarded the opinion that three were Hebrews, three Hellenists, and one a proselyte. But we cannot conclude from the fact that they were probably Hellenists, that the Seven were only charged with the care of distribution amongst the Hellenist section of the Church, as there is nothing in the narrative to warrant this. We cannot say that we know anything of the Seven except Stephen and Philip—Stephen the preacher and martyr of liberty, Philip the practical worker (Lightfoot, “Paul and the Three”). Baronius hazarded the fanciful conjecture that Stephen as well as Saul was a pupil of Gamaliel. Both Stephen and Philip were said to have been amongst the Seventy, Epiphanius, Haer., xx., 4 (but see Hooker, v., lxxviii., 5). If so, it is possible that they may have been sent to labour in Samaria as our Lord had laboured there, Luke 9:52; Luke 17:11; and possibly the after work of Philip in that region, and possibly some of the remarks in St. Stephen’s speech, may be connected with a mission which had been committed to Hellenistic Jews. See further on his name and work, Dean Plumptre, in loco, and also below, notes on chap. 7. He may well be called not only the proto-martyr, but also the first great Christian Ecclesiastic (B.D. “Stephen”).—The description given of Stephen (as of Barnabas, so closely similar, Acts 11:24, cf. Numbers 27:18 of Joshua) shows that the essential qualifications for office were moral and spiritual; see also below on φίλιππον.— πλήρη: in some MSS. the word appears as indeclinable, W.H(196) margin, so in Acts 6:3, Acts 19:28, Mark 8:19, 2 John 1:8. Blass, Grammatik, p. 81. St. Luke uses the adjective twice in his Gospel, and eight times in the Acts; on his fondness for such words, see p. 73.— πίστεως: not in the lower sense of honesty or truthfulness, but in the higher sense of religious faith, cf. Acts 11:24, “non modo fidelitate sed fide spirituali,” Bengel.— φίλιππον, cf. Acts 8:5, Acts 21:8 : we may probably trace his work also along the coasts of Palestine and Phœnicia, cf. Acts 8:40, Acts 15:3, Acts 21:3; Acts 21:7 (Plumptre’s notes on these passages), and no doubt St. Luke would have learnt from him, when he met him at Cæsarea, Acts 21:8, much that relates to the early history of the Church, Introd., 17. It would appear both in his case and in that of St. Stephen that the duties of the Seven could not have been confined to service of the tables. In the deacons M. Renan saw a proclamation of the truth that social questions should be the first to occupy the attention of man, and the deacons were, for him, the best preachers of Christianity; but we must not forget that they did not preach merely by their method and works of charity, but by a proclamation of a Saviour and by the power of the Holy Ghost. In the reference to Philip in Acts 21:8 as simply “one of the Seven” we may fairly see one of the many proofs of the unity of the authorship of Acts, see Salmon, Introd., chapter 18, and Lightfoot, “Acts,” B.D.2, and see further, Salmon in the same chapter, on the proof which is afforded in the account of Philip of the antiquity of the Acts; see below also on Acts 21:8.— πρόχορον: tradition says that he was consecrated by St. Peter Bishop of Nicomedia, and a fabulous biography of John the Evangelist had his name attached to it, as a companion of the Apostle in Asia, and his biographer—but we cannot attach any credence to any such professed information; see Blass, in loco, Hilgenfeld, Zeitschrift für wissenschaft. Theol., 1895, p. 426; B.D.1 iii. sub v. Of Simon, Parmenas, Nicanor, it cannot be said that anything is known, as is frankly admitted by the Romanist commentator Felten.— νικόλαον προσήλυτον .: that the name proselyte is given to him has been held by many to mark him out as the only proselyte among the Seven; otherwise it is difficult to see why he alone is so designated (so Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 375, Lightfoot, Hort, Weiss, Felten, and amongst earlier writers, De Wette and Ewald). No doubt he was a proselyte of the higher and more complete type (a “proselyte of the gate,” the lower type—as distinct from a “proselyte of righteousness”—is always in Acts φοβούμενος or σεβόμενος τὸν θεόν), but Ramsay sees in his election to office another distinct step in advance: “the Church is wider than the pure Jewish race, and the non-Jewish element is raised to official rank,” although, as Ramsay himself points out, there was nothing in this step out of harmony with the principle of the extreme Judaistic party (St. Paul, p. 375, cf. 157). The case of Cornelius was of a different kind, see below on chap. 10. But the notice is all the more interesting because it contains the first mention of the Church afterwards so important, the Mother Church of the Gentiles, Antioch in Syria, and this may point to the reason of the description of Nicolaus as a proselyte of Antioch. It was a notice of special interest to St. Luke if his own home was at Antioch, but we cannot say positively that the notice means that Nicolaus was the only proselyte among the Seven. That the Jews were numerous at Antioch and had made many proselytes we learn from Jos., B. J., vii., 3, 3: of the supposed connection between this Nicolaus and the sect of the Nicolaitans, Revelation 2:6; Revelation 2:14, we may hesitate to say with Blass that it is worthy of no more credit than the notice which attaches to Prochorus, although we may also well hesitate to accept it, but it has been advocated by Lightfoot, Galatians, p. 297, and recently by Zöckler, Apostelgeschichte, p. 199. Zöckler goes so far as to see in the list of the Seven a copy of the list of the Apostles, inasmuch as the most distinguished is placed first, the traitor last. But Nicolaus would be fitly placed last if he were the only proselyte. The Patristic evidence in support of the connection in question is by no means conclusive, see Ritschl, Altkatholische Kirche, p. 135 and note (second edition), Felten, Apostelgeschichte, p. 140, and Wendt, in loco, Hilgenfeld, Zeitschrift für wissenschaft. Theol., p. 425 (1895). Holtzmann on Revelation 2:6 holds that the Nicolaitans, who are not to be connected with Nicolaus the deacon, may = symbolically, the Bileamites, Acts 6:14; so Grimm, sub. v. νικολαΐτης, if we take the latter as coinciding with the Hebrew בִּלְעָם = destruction of the people.


Verse 6

Acts 6:6. ἔστησαν, cf. Acts 1:23; for ἐνώπιον, see above.— καὶ προσευξάμενοι ἐπέθηκαν αὐτοῖς τὰς χεῖρας: change of subject. This is the first mention of the laying on of hands in the Apostolic Church. No doubt the practice was customary in the Jewish Church, Numbers 27:18, Deuteronomy 34:9; see also Edersheim, Jewish Social Life, p. 281, and Jesus the Messiah, ii., 382, and Hamburger, Real-Encyclopädie, ii., 6, pp. 882–886, “Ordinirung, Ordination”; Hort, Ecclesia, p. 216; Gore, Church and the Ministry, pp. 187, 382; but the constant practice of it by our Lord Himself was sufficient to recommend it to His Apostles. It soon became the outward and visible sign of the bestowal of spiritual gifts in the Apostolic Church, cf. Acts 8:15; Acts 13:3, 1 Timothy 4:14; 1 Timothy 5:22, 2 Timothy 1:6, and every convert was instructed in its meaning as one of the elementary teachings of the faith, Hebrews 6:2. That the act was a means of grace is evident from St. Paul’s words, for he reminds Timothy of the grace thus bestowed upon him, 1 Timothy 4:14, 2 Timothy 1:6, and from the narrative of St. Luke in Acts 8:15; Acts 8:17, and passages below. But that it was not a mere outward act dissociated from prayer is evident from St. Luke’s words in the passage before us, in Acts 8:17, Acts 13:3, and Acts 19:6. See especially Hooker, v., lxvi., 1, 2; see below in 8 and 13, and Gore, Church and the Ministry, especially note G. Holtzmann would draw a distinction between the laying on of hands here and in Acts 8:17, Acts 19:6. Here, he contends, it only corresponds to the customary usage at the ordination of a Rabbi, as the Seven had already received the Holy Ghost, Acts 6:3; Acts 6:5, cf. Acts 13:1. But Acts 6:8 undoubtedly justifies us in believing that an accession of power was granted after the laying on of hands, and now for the first time mention is made of St. Stephen’s τέρατα καὶ σημεῖα μεγάλα (see St. Chrysostom’s comment).


Verse 7

Acts 6:7. τῶν ἱερέων: the reading ἰουδαίων is advocated by Klostermann, Probleme in Aposteltexte, pp. 13, 14, but not only is the weight of critical evidence overwhelmingly against it, but we can scarcely doubt that St. Luke would have laid more stress upon the first penetration of the Christian faith into districts outside Jerusalem—this is represented as the result of the persecution about Stephen, Acts 8:4; cf. John 12:42 (see also Wendt, 1899, p. 145, note). The whole verse shows that the γογγυσμός had not interfered with the growth of the Church. The conjecture that in the word ὄχλος reference is made to the priests of the plebs in contrast to the learned priests is in no way satisfactory; if this had been the meaning, the words would have been πολλοί τε ἱερεῖς τοῦ ὄχλου, and no such distinction of priests is anywhere noticed in the N.T., see further below.— ἐν ἱερουσαλὴμ: Hilgenfeld (so Weiss) considers that, as this notice implies that there were disciples outside Jerusalem, such a remark is inconsistent with the statements of the after-spread of the Church in this chapter and in 8, and that therefore the words ἐν . are to be referred to the “author to Theophilus”. But so far from the words bearing the interpretation of Hilgenfeld, the historian may have introduced them to mark the fact that the growth of the Church continued in Jerusalem, in the capital where the hierarchical power was felt, and that the growth included the accession of priests no less than of laymen.— ὑπήκουον τῇ πίστει: the imperfect may denote repetition—the priests kept joining the new community, Blass, in loco; cf. Romans 1:5; Romans 1:16-17; Romans 10:16, 2 Thessalonians 1:8—the verb (very frequent in LXX) is only used in Acts in this place in the sense given, but often in St. Paul’s Epistles. No doubt when the number of Jewish priests was so large (according to Josephus, twenty thousand) both poor and wealthy would have been included in the statement, and we cannot limit it to the Sadducees. It must be borne in mind that the obedience of these priests to the Christian faith need not of necessity have interfered with the continuance of their duties in the Temple (so Felten), especially when we remember the attitude of Peter and John; but the words certainly seem to mark their complete obedience to the faith (see Grimm-Thayer, sub v. πίστις, i. b, (197)), and in face of the opposition of the Sadducees and the more wealthy priestly families, an open adherence to the disciples of Jesus may well have involved a break with their former profession (Hort, Judaistic Christianity, p. 49, and Ecclesia, p. 52). May there not have been many among the priests waiting for the consolation of Israel, men righteous and devout like the Pharisee priest or priests, to whom perhaps we owe that expression of the hopes of the pious Jew in the Psalms of Solomon, which approach so nearly in style and character to the Hymns of the priest Zacharias and the devout Symeon in the early chapters of St. Luke’s Gospel? see Ryle and James’s edition, Psalms of Solomon, Introd., lix., lx. Spitta refers the whole verse to his source , as a break in the narrative, without any connection with what follows or precedes. Clemen assigns Acts 6:1-6 to his special source, H(istoria) H(ellenistarum); Acts 6:7 to his H(istoria) Pe(tri). Jüngst assigns Acts 6:1 to Acts 6:7 b, c, to his source , 7a to his R(edactor). The comment of Hilgenfeld on Acts 6:7 is suggestive (although he himself agrees with Spitta, and regards the verse as an interpretation), “Clemen und Jüngst nicht einmal dieses Verstein ungeteilt”.


Verse 8

Acts 6:8. πλήρης πίστεως, but χάριτος, R.V. Vulgate, gratia = divine grace, Acts 18:27, not merely favour with the people—the word might well include, as in the case of our Lord, the λόγοι χάριτος which fell from his lips (Luke 5:22). On the word as characteristic of St. Luke and St. Paul, see Friedrich, Das Lucasevangelium, pp. 28, 96; in the other Gospels it only occurs three times; cf. John 1:14; John 1:16-17. See Plummer’s note on the word in St. Luke, l. c.δυνάμεις: not merely power in the sense of courage, heroism, but power to work miracles, supernatural power, cf. Acts 8:13 and Luke 5:17. That the word also means spiritual power is evident from Acts 6:10.— ἐποίει, “was doing,” imperfect, during Stephen’s career of grace and power the attack was made; notice imperfect combined with aorist, ἀνέστησαν, see Rendall’s note. In Acts 6:8 Spitta sees one of the popular legendary notices of his source B. St. Stephen is introduced as the great miracle-worker, who is brought before the Sanhedrim, because in Acts 5:17, a parallel incident in , the Apostles were also represented as miracle-doers and brought before the same assembly; it would therefore seem that the criticism which can only see in the latter part of the Acts, in the miracles ascribed to St. Paul, a repetition in each case of the miracles assigned in the former part to St. Peter, must now be further utilised to account for any points of likeness between the career of St. Stephen and the other leaders of the Church. But nowhere is it said that Stephen was brought before the Sanhedrim on account of his miracles, and even if so, it was quite likely that the ζῆλος of the Sanhedrim would be stirred by such manifestations as on the former occasion in chap. 5.


Verse 9

Acts 6:9. ἀνέστησαν: in a hostile sense, cf. Luke 10:25, Mark 14:57, and see above on Acts 5:17.— τῆς συναγωγῆς: in Jerusalem, Alexandria, Rome and the larger towns there was no doubt a considerable number of synagogues, but the tradition that assigned no less than four hundred and eighty to Jerusalem alone is characterised by Schürer as a Talmudic myth (Jewish Temple, div. ii., vol. ii., p. 73, E.T., so too Edersheim, Jewish Social Life, pp. 83, 252, but see also Renan, Apostles, p. 113, E.T.). The number four hundred and eighty was apparently fixed upon as the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word for “full,” in Isaiah 1:21, a city “full of judgment”. The names which follow have been variously classified, but they have always proved and still prove a difficulty. Ramsay considers that the bad form of the list is due to the fact that St. Luke is here dependent on an authority whose expressions he either translated verbatim or did not understand, Expositor (1895), p. 35. One thing seems certain, viz., that λιβερτίνων does not refer to any town Libertum in the neighbourhood of Carthage, which has been urged as an explanation of the close juxtaposition of Cyrene, also in Africa. The existence of a town or region bearing any such name is merely conjectural, and even if its existence could be demonstrated, it is improbable that many Jews from such an obscure place should have been resident in Jerusalem. There is therefore much probability that St. Chrysostom was correct in referring the word to the Libertini, ῥωμαῖοι ἀπελεύθεροι. The Libertini here were probably Roman “freedmen” who were formerly captive Jews brought to Rome by Pompey, B.C. 63 (Suet., Tib., 36; Tac., Ann., ii., 85; Philo, Legat. ad Gaium, 23), and afterwards liberated by their Roman masters. These men and their descendants would enjoy the rights of Roman citizenship, and some of them appear to have returned to Jerusalem, where they had their own community and a synagogue called συναγ. λιβερτίνων (according to Grimm-Thayer, sub v. λιβερτ., some evidence seems to have been discovered of a “synagogue of the Libertines” at Pompeii), see Schürer, Jewish Temple, div. ii., vol. ii., pp. 57, 276, 277; O. Holtzmann, Neutest. Zeitgeschichte, p. 89; and Zöckler, Apostelgeschichte, p. 201 (second edition). But a further question arises as to the number of synagogues intended. Thus it has been maintained that they were five in number. This is Schürer’s decided view, Weiss, Meyer (in earlier editions), so Hackett, so Matthias, Handbuch zum N. T., V. Apostelgeschichte, 1897. By other writers it is thought that reference is made to two synagogues. This is the view advocated by Wendt as against Meyer. Wendt admits that as in the places named there were undoubtedly large numbers of Jewish inhabitants, so it is possible that in Jerusalem itself they may have been sufficiently numerous to make up the five synagogues, but his own view is based upon the ground that τῶν before ἀπὸ κ. καὶ . is parallel with the τῶν after τινες (so Holtzmann, Felten). So too Zöckler, who depends upon the simple καί before κυρηναίων and ἀλεξ. as pointing to one group with the Libertines; τῶν ἀπὸ κ. καὶ ἀσίας forming a second group. Dr. Sanday, Expositor, viii., p. 327 (third series), takes the same view of two synagogues only, as he considers that it is favoured by the Greeks (so too Dean Plumptre and Winer-Moulton, xix., 5a, note, but see also Winer-Schmiedel, p. 158; cf. critical note above). Mr. Page is inclined to think that three synagogues are intended: (1) i.e., of the Libertini, (2) another of the men of Alexandria and Cyrene, (3) another of the men of Cilicia and Asia; whilst many writers from Calvin, Bengel and others to O. Holtzmann and Rendall hold that only one synagogue is intended; so Dr. Hort maintains that the Greek suggests only the one synagogue of the Libertines, and that the other names are simply descriptive of origin—from the south, Cyrene, and Alexandria; from the north, Cilicia, and Proconsular Asia. On the whole the Greek seems, to favour the view of Wendt as above; καὶ κυρην. καὶ ἀλεξ. seem to form, as Blass says, a part of the same appellation with λιβερτίνων. Blass himself has recently, Philology of the Gospels, p. 49 ff., declared in favour of another reading, λιβυστίνων, which he regards as the correct text, λιβερτίνων being corrupt although differing only in two letters from the original. In the proposed reading he is following Oecumenius and Beza amongst others; the same reading is apparently favoured also by Wetstein, who gives both the passages to which Blass refers, one from Catullus, lx., 1, “Leæna montibus Libystinis,” and the other from the geographical Lexicon of Stephanus Byzantinus. λιβυστίνων would mean Jews inhabitants of Libya, not Libyans, and the synagogue in question bore the name of λιβυσ. καὶ κυρηναίων καὶ ἀλεξ., thus specifying the African Jews in the geographical order of their original dwelling-places.— κυρηναίων, see on Acts 2:9, and below, Acts 11:20, Acts 13:1.— ἀλεξ.: probably there was no city, next to Jerusalem and Rome, in which the Jewish population was so numerous and influential as in Alexandria. In his new city Alexander the Great had assigned the Jews a place: their numbers rapidly grew, and, according to Philo, two of the five districts of the town, named after the first five letters of the alphabet, were called “the Jewish,” from the number of Jews dwelling in them, one quarter, Delta, being entirely populated by them. Julius Caesar and Augustus confirmed their former privileges, and they retained them for the most part, with the important exception described by Philo, during subsequent reigns. For some time, until the reign of Claudius, they had their own officer to represent them as ethnarch (alabarch), and Augustus appointed a council who should superintend their affairs according to their own laws, and the Romans evidently recognised the importance of a mercenary race like the Jews for the trade and commerce of the city. Here dwelt the famous teacher Philo, B.C. 20–A.D. 50; here Apollos was trained, possibly under the guidance of the famous philosopher, and here too St. Stephen may have belonged by birth and education (Edersheim, Jewish Social Life, p. 253). St. Paul never visited Alexandria, and it is possible that the Apostle may have felt after his experience at Corinth, and the teaching of Apollos (1 Corinthians 1:12), that the simplicity of his own message of Christ Crucified would not have been acceptable to hearers of the word of wisdom and the lovers of allegory. On the causes which tended to produce a distinct form of the Jewish character and faith in the city, see B.D.2 “Alexandria,” and Hastings, B.D., sub v.; Stanley’s Jewish Church, iii., xlvii.; Hamburger, Real-Encyclopädie des Judentums, ii., 1, 47. We know that Alexandria had, as was only likely, a synagogue at Jerusalem, specially gorgeous (Edersheim, Jewish Social Life, p. 253); on the history of the place see, in addition to literature already mentioned, Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. ii., pp. 73, 228, 229, 244, E.T.; Jos., Ant., xiv., 7, 2; x., 1; xix., 5, 2.— κιλικίας: of special interest because Saul of Tarsus would probably be prominent amongst “those of Cilicia,” and there is no difficulty in supposing with Weiss and even Spitta (Apostelgeschichte, p. 115) that he belonged to the members of the Cilician synagogue who disputed with Stephen. To the considerable Jewish community settled in Tarsus, from the time of the Seleucidæ, Saul belonged. But whatever influence early associations may have had upon Stephen, Saul by his own confession was not merely the son of a Pharisee, but himself a Pharisee of the Pharisees in orthodoxy and zeal, Galatians 1:14, Philippians 3:5. It would seem that there was a synagogue of the Tarsians at Jerusalem, Megilla, 26a (Hamburger, u. s., ii., 1, 148); see also B.D.2 “Cilicia,” Schürer, u. s., p. 222; O. Holtzmann, Neutest. Zeitgeschichte, p. 100. The “Jews from Asia” are those who at a later date, Acts 21:27, are again prominent in their zeal for the sacredness of the Holy Place, and who hurl against Paul the same fatal charge which he now directs against Stephen (Plumptre, in loco; Sabatier, L’Apôtre Paul, p. 20).— συνζητοῦντες: not found in LXX or other Greek versions of the O.T., or Apocrypha, although it may occur, Nehemiah 2:4, in the sense of request, but the reading is doubtful (see Hatch and Redpath). In the N.T. it is used six times by St. Mark and four times by St. Luke (twice in his Gospel), and always in the sense of questioning, generally in the sense of disputatious questioning. The words of Josephus in his preface (sect. 5), B. J., may help us to understand the characteristics of the Hellenists. The same verb is used by St. Paul himself, as in this same Jerusalem he disputed, possibly in their synagogue, with the Hellenists on behalf of the faith which he was now seeking to destroy, Acts 9:29. In modern Greek the verb has always the meaning to discuss, to dispute (Kennedy).


Verse 10

Acts 6:10. καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυον ἀντιστῆναι: the whole phrase is an exact fulfilment of Luke 21:15, cf. 1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 2:6. πνεῦμα, as Wendt points out, was the Holy Spirit with which Stephen was filled, cf. 3, 5. Vulgate renders “Spiritui Sancto qui loquebatur,” as if it read ; see critical notes.


Verse 11

Acts 6:11. ὑπέβαλον: only found here in N.T., not in LXX in this sense; sub-ornaverunt; Vulgate, submiserunt (Suet., Ner., 28), cf. Appian, B. C., i., 74, ὑπεβλήθησαν κατήγοροι, and Jos., B. J., v., 10, 41, μηνυτύς τις ὑπόβλητος.— ῥήματα βλασφημίας = βλάσφημα, Hebraism, cf. Revelation 13:1; Revelation 17:3, Winer-Schmiedel, p. 266.— εἰς ΄ωυσῆν καὶ τὸν θεόν: Rendall draws a distinction between λαλοῦντοςεἰς and λαλῶν ῥήματα κατά in Acts 6:13, the former denoting charges of blasphemy about Moses, and the latter against, etc., cf. Acts 2:25, Hebrews 7:14, but it is doubtful whether this distinction can be maintained, cf. Luke 12:10; Luke 22:65. The R.V. renders both prepositions against: cf. Dan., LXX, Daniel 7:25, and Daniel 3:29 (96; LXX and Theod.).


Verse 12

Acts 6:12. συνεκίνησαν: not found in LXX or other Greek versions of O.T., or in the Apocrypha, cf. Polyb., xv., 17, 1, so too in Plutarch. As this word and συνήρπασαν are found only in St. Luke it is perhaps worth noting that they are both frequent in medical writers, see below.— τὸν λαὸν: a crafty design to gain the people first, not only because they had hitherto favoured the Nazarenes, but because the Sanhedrim would be more inclined to take action if they felt that the people were with them, cf. Acts 4:26.— ἐπιστάντες, see on Acts 4:1.— συνήρπασαν, “seized him,” R.V.; “caught,” A.V., signifies rather capture after pursuit than a sudden seizure (Humphry); only in St. Luke in the N.T., once in his Gospel, Acts 8:29, and Acts 19:29; Acts 27:15. In the first passage it is used of the demoniac of the country of the Gerasenes; many times the evil spirit συνηρπάκει αὐτόν; see 2 Maccabees 7:27, Proverbs 6:25, 2 Maccabees 4:41, 4 Maccabees 5:4. The word is also quite classical, see Hobart, Medical Language, pp. 204, 243; on the hostility against Stephen and its causes, see above. At this word συνήρπ. Hilgenfeld would stop, and the rest of the verse, ἤγαγον to Acts 7:2, is referred by him to his “author to Theophilus”. The leading Stephen before the Sanhedrim is thus excluded by Hilgenfeld, because nothing is said of the previous summoning of the Council as in Acts 4:5-6! and the introduction of false witnesses and their accusation is something quite different from the charge of blasphemous words against Moses and God! In somewhat the same manner Spitta refers Acts 6:1-6; Acts 6:9-12 a, to his source A, and sees so far a most trustworthy narrative, no single point in which can fairly be assailed by criticism, Apostelgeschichte, p. 115, whilst vi. 7 f., 12b–15 constitute , a worthless document on account of its legendary and fictitious character—instituting a parallel between the death of Stephen and that of Christ, and leaving nothing historical except the fact that Stephen was a conspicuous member of the early Church who died as a martyr by stoning. But whilst Hilgenfeld and Spitta thus treat the passage beginning with καὶ ἤγαγον, Jüngst refers these verses and the rest of the chapter as far as Acts 6:14 to his source A, whilst the previous part of Acts 6:12, συνεκίνησαναὐτόν, is in his view an insertion of the Redactor. Clemen regards the whole incident of the bringing before the Sanhedrim as a later addition, and as forming part of his Historia Petri, the revolutionary nature of Stephen’s teaching being placed in the mouth of false witnesses, and the fanaticism of the Jews being lessened by their susceptibility at any rate to the outward impression made by their opponents (Acts 6:15).


Verse 13

Acts 6:13. οὗτος: here and in Acts 6:14 used contemptuously, iste, so Vulgate; cf. Acts 7:40, Acts 18:18, Acts 19:26, παῦλος οὗτος.— οὐ παύεται λαλῶν: the words in themselves are sufficient to indicate the exaggerated and biassed character of the testimony brought against Stephen—“invidiam facere conantur,” Bengel, βλάσφημα omitted, see above.— μάρτυρας ψευδεῖς, “false,” inasmuch as they perverted the meaning of Stephen’s words, which were no blasphemy against Moses or against God, although no doubt he had taught the transitory nature of the Mosaic law, and that the true worship of God was not confined to the Temple (see Weizsäcker, Apostolic Age, i., 64, 83, E.T., and Wendt, p. 148 (1899)). So also in the very same manner Christ’s words had been perverted (John 2:21, cf. Mark 14:56, Matthew 27:63), and it is likely enough that the spirit of His teaching as to the Sabbath, the laws of purifying, the fulfilling of the law, breathed again in the words of His disciples. But such utterances were blasphemous in the eyes of the Jewish legalists, and Stephen’s own words, Acts 7:48-49, might well seem to them an affirmation rather than a denial of the charges brought against him.— κατἀ τοῦ τόπου τοῦ ἁγίου τούτου: if τούτου is retained (W.H(198)), phrase could refer not only to the Temple as the holy place, but also to the place of assembly of the Sanhedrim, where according to Acts 6:15 the charge was brought, which was probably situated on the Temple Mount on the western side of the enclosing wall, Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. i., p. 190, E.T., so Hilgenfeld and Wendt, and also Blass, who adds “itaque etiam τούτου (, cf. 14) recte se habet,” although he omits the word in his own text. Weiss thinks that the word dropped out because it could have no reference to a scene in the Sanhedrim.


Verse 14

Acts 6:14. ναζ. οὗτος: not part of the words of Stephen, but of the witnesses—see however Blass, in loco.καὶ καταλύσει: the closest similarity to the words in Mark 14:58 (cf. Matthew 26:61), and in both passages the same verb καταλύειν is used. It is also found in all three Synoptists in our Lord’s prophecy of the destruction of the Temple, Matthew 24:2, Mark 13:2, Luke 21:6, and we find it again in the bitter scorn of the revilers who passed beneath the cross (Mark 15:29, Matthew 27:40). The prophecy, we cannot doubt, had made its impression not only upon the disciples, but also upon the enemies of Jesus, and if St. Stephen did not employ the actual words, we can easily understand how easily and plausibly they might be attributed to him.— ἀλλάξει τὰ ἔθη, cf. Ezra 6:11, Isaiah 24:5. ἔθος is used by St. Luke seven times in Acts, three times in his Gospel, and it is only found twice elsewhere in the N.T., John 19:40, Hebrews 10:25; in the Books of the Maccabees it occurs three or four times, in Wisdom of Solomon 4:16 (but see Hatch and Redpath), in Bel and the Dragon Acts 6:15, in the sense of custom, usage, as so often in the classics. Here it would doubtless include the whole system of the Mosaic law, which touched Jewish life at every turn, cf. Acts 15:1, Acts 21:21, Acts 26:3, Acts 28:17. For the dignity which attached to every word of the Pentateuch, and to Moses to whom the complete book of the law was declared to have been handed by God, see Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. i., p. 307, E.T., and Weber, Judische Theologie, p. 378 (1897). We have moreover the testimony of Jewish literature contemporary with the N.T. books, cf., e.g., Book of Jubilees, placed by Edersheim about 50 A.D., with its ultra-legal spirit, and its glorification of Moses and the Thorah, see too Apocalypse of Baruch, e.g., xv., 5; xlviii., 22, 24; li., 3; lxxxiv., 2, 5.


Verse 15

Acts 6:15. ἀτενίσαντες, see above on Acts 1:10.— ὡσεὶ πρόσωπον ἀγγέλου, cf. LXX, Esther 5:2, where Esther says to the king in reverence εἶδόν σε κύριε, ὡς ἄγγελον θεοῦ; in 2 Samuel 14:17; 2 Samuel 14:20, the reference is not to outward appearance, but to inward discernment (see Wetstein, who refers also to Genesis 33:10, and quotes other instances from the Rabbis, e.g., Dixit R. Nathanael: parentes Mosis viderunt pulchritudinem ejus tanquam angeli Domini: and we have the same expression used by St. Paul in Acta Pauli et Theklœ, 2; ἀγγέλου πρόσωπον εἶχεν. See too Schöttgen, in loco. R. Gedalja speaks of Moses and Aaron when they came to Pharaoh as angels ministering before God). At such a moment when Stephen was called upon to plead for the truth at the risk of his life, and when not only the calmness and strength of his convictions, but also the grace, the beauty of his Master, and the power of His spirit rested upon him, such a description was no exaggeration, cf. a striking passage in Dr. Liddon’s Some Elements of Religion, p. 180. It was said of the aged Polycarp, as he faced a martyr’s death: τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ χάριτος ἐπληροῦτο and “to have lived in spirit on Mount Tabor during the years of a long life, is to have caught in its closing hours some rays of the glory of the Transfiguration”. But if the brightness on the face of St. Stephen is represented by St. Luke as supernatural (as Wendt admits), we are not called upon to conclude that such a description is due to the glorification of the Saint in Christian legend: “the occasion was worthy of the miracle,” the ministration of the Spirit, διακονία τοῦ πνεύματος, in which St. Stephen had shared, might well exceed in glory; and a brightness like that on the face of Moses, above the brightness of the sun, might well have shone upon one who like the angels beheld the face of the Father in heaven, and to whom the glory of the Lord had been revealed: “As if in refutation of the charge made against him, Stephen receives the same mark of divine favour which had been granted to Moses” (Humphry). St. Chrysostom speaks of the face of Stephen as being terrible to the Jews, but lovable and wonderful to the Christians (cf. Theophylact, in loco). But although St. Stephen’s words must afterwards have proved terrible to his opponents, we scarcely associate the thought of terror with the verse before us; we may speak of such faces as that of the proto-martyr as αἰδέσιμα but scarcely as φοβερά. It is possible that the representation of St. Stephen in sacred art as a young man may be due to this comparison of his face to that of an angel, angels being always represented as in the bloom of youth (Dr. Moore, Studies in Dante, first series, p. 84).

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Acts 6:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/acts-6.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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