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Bible Commentaries
Acts 6

Concordant Commentary of the New TestamentConcordant NT Commentary

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Verses 1-12

36 The fact that this Theudas is not mentioned in profane literature is no reason for doubting the truthfulness and accuracy of the narrative. Josephus, in his Antiquities, hints at many disturbances of this character at about the time indicated; He does, indeed, tell of another Theudas, about fifty years later, during the reign of the emperor Claudius, whose career corresponds closely to the one mentioned by Gamaliel, but it was plainly impossible for Gamaliel to speak of an insurrectlon which had not yet occurred. Such a statement would not have gone unchallenged during the early centuries of our era, if it had no foundation in fact.

37 Judas, the Galilean, is often mentioned by Josephus (Antiquities 18, 1, 1; Wars of the Jews 2, 8, 1). He charges him with starting a new sect of Jewish philosophy from which sprang many misfortunes and wars. This sect agreed in the main with the Pharisees, but they had an inviolable attachment to liberty, and said that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord. They did not hesitate to die any kind of death, nor did they heed the death of their relatives and friends, nor could any fear make them call any man lord. In the book on the Wars of the Jews, Josephus characterizes him thus: "a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas, prevailed on his countrymen to revolt, and said that they were cowards if they would endure to pay a tax to the Romans, and would, after God, submit to mortal men as their lords. This man was a teacher of a peculiar sect of his own and was not at all like the rest of their leaders." His followers were dispersed: but the love of liberty was spread among the people and later led to many other uprisings.

38 Gamaliel's cowardly evasion suited the Sanhedrin because they were afraid of the people. Though God used this speech for the apostles' salvation, his specious reasoning is not to be trusted. So Job's friends falsely argued. "Truth is mighty and will prevail"-yes, ultimately, but not necessarily here and now. Gamaliel left out faith , an omission which invalidates his conclusions and makes it impossible to accept as witnesses for God such as "the last apostles, as deathdoomed, for we became a theater to the world and to messengers and to men" ( 1Co_4:9 ).

1 It is important to grasp clearly the distinction between the "Hebrews" and "Hellenists." The latter were not gentiles. They were Israelites just as really as the Hebrews. The Hellenists were those in the nation who had renounced the ancient customs and traditions to a large extent and had taken up Greek culture. All classes spoke Greek, but the Hebrews also used an Aramaic vernacular in familiar intercourse. The Hellenists were largely those Jews who had resided in foreign lands and had acquired the customs and manners of the Greeks. In one sense the Hellenists were Hebrews, but this term gradually came to be confined to those who were true to the old traditions. Thus, when Paul speaks of himself as a Hebrew of the Hebrews he means that he was not a Hellenist, but had clung closely to Judaism and had resisted the influence of foreign culture and customs. The usual definition of a Hellenist, "a Greek-speaking Jew," is not adequate, for all Jews spoke Greek. Our Lord and His apostles used it in their public discourses and the most illiterate could understand them. Only occasionally did they use Aramaic expressions. The Hebrews looked down on the Hellenists, hence they formed a separate class of disciples.

5 Though these seven names are all Greek, the fact that one proselyte, Nicholas, was included, seems to indicate that all parties were represented. Only the first two are mentioned again in the Scriptures. They do not seem to have confined themselves to the serving of tables, but took a leading part in the evangel.

9 There were hundreds of synagogues in Jerusalem, some of which were maintained by the various groups of Jews in foreign lands. About B. C. 63 Pompey carried a large number of Jews to Rome. When they were liberated and returned to Judea, they formed the synagogue of the Freedmen, These synagogues seem to have been composed mostly of Hellenists. In all probability Saul of Tarsus belonged to the synagogue of Cilicia.

Verses 13-15

13 These synagogues were doubtless very lax in their adherence to the Jewish law and customs, yet they are not ashamed to charge Stephen with this, in order to inflame the Sanhedrin against him. The false witness did not consist in trumping up charges with no foundation in fact, but in perverting the truth, just as was done in the case of our Lord. Indeed, they brought up the very same charge ( Mat_26:61 ). While Christ was on earth, His body was the true temple of God ( Joh_2:21 ). Jehovah did not inhabit Herod's splendid pile. It did not house the Shekinah glory. The only times that it was tenanted by the Divine Effulgence was when He came into its courts. When He left it the last time, He exclaimed, "Lo! your house is left to you desolate!" ( Mat_23:38 ). Stephen had doubtless brought this truth home to them, and perhaps had also pressed our Lord's prediction concerning the destruction of Herod's shrine, so that not one stone should be left on another ( Mat_24:2 ). But in no case could he have said that Christ (Whom they contemptuously termed the Nazarene) would Himself destroy the temple. On the contrary, He said that, when they destroyed it, He would raise it up ( Joh_2:19 ). This He did in His resurrection ( Joh_2:22 ). And now the glory of God's presence illuminates the face of Stephen, so that he becomes, for the time, the messenger, or angel of God to them.

1 The address of Stephen is a model for presenting the Messiah to the Jews. They stumbled at His sufferings and rejection, so Stephen takes up the greatest of the nation's heroes, who were types of Messiah, and shows that, in each case, there was a preliminary separation or rejection. Abraham was compelled to leave his kindred and his father's house, Joseph was hated by his brethren, Moses was not recognized when he first came to help his people, even David, that unparalleled type of the coming King, not only spent years in rejection, but had to leave the building of the temple to Solomon. All of these are pictures of a rejected Messiah. In each the glory followed suffering and separation. Such is the picture which the ancient Scriptures draw, and the inference is clear that Jesus is Messiah.

2 Abram was first called out of his land and from his relatives, and went as far as Haran, accompanied by his father's household. Further obedience to the divine command seems to have been hindered by his father, and they went no further. At his father's death, he leaves his father's house and completes his journey to Canaan. Yet he received none of the land which should become his, and thus prefigures Him Who came to his own and received nothing but a tomb (Gen.23). The rite of circumcision likewise tells of the cutting off of His flesh on the cross.

9 Joseph is a marvelous miniature of the suffering and glorified Messiah. The jealous hatred of his brethren placed him in the pit and in the prison, but God was with him and exalted him to the highest place on earth. He became the deliverer, not only of his own brethren; but of all of Egypt also. The one whom they despised and ill-treated became their lord and saviour. The Sanhedrin could hardly miss the application of this to the Messiah Whom Stephen proclaimed. They were the brethren of Messiah ben Joseph.

11 The great affliction of Jacob is typical of the great affiiction of the end time, after which Messiah will make Himself known to His brethren.

14 The Septuagint, or Greek version, differs from the Hebrew text in Gen_46:26-27 by giving Joseph nine sons in place of two, and thus bringing the total up to seventy-five. But, as the enumeration in Genesis does not necessarily include all who are alluded to by Stephen,

there is no reason why they should give the same total. The Septuagint differs greatly from the Hebrew text in regard to numbers, especially in the genealogies, and it may preserve some true readings.

16 The bones of Joseph were transferred from Egypt to the land by Moses ( Exo_13:19 ). So the rest of the patriarchs were transferred to Sychem, where Jacob had bought a parcel of a field ( Gen_33:19 ), probably near, or adjoining the sepulcher which Abraham had bought before, of which there is no record in Genesis. If Stephen had made even a minute blunder regarding this the Sanhedrin would soon have set him right. They were much "higher" critics than any we have today.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 6". Concordant Commentary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/aek/acts-6.html. 1968.
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