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Bible Commentaries
Acts 6

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-15

VI 1-VIII 3 The Deacons and St Stephen. A.D. 36 (?) —This section describes the advance made by the Hellenist Christians, and St Luke must have derived it from sources preserved by them, perhaps at Antioch, after persecution had driven them from Jerusalem. The transitoriness of the temple and Law are proclaimed, and hence the autonomy of Christianity.

VI 1-7 The Seven Deacons —1. ’As the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews’. Some time had evidently elapsed since the events in ch 5. The Hellenists were the Greekspeaking Jews of the Dispersion (not Hellenes, Gentile Greeks, cf. 11:20), and the Hebrews were Aramaicspeaking Jews of Palestine. The charm of the idyllic years is broken, and the first disagreement, though immediately remedied, has great effects. The care for widows, cf. 9:39, and the reference to the daughters of Philip 21:9, reveal the esteem in which chastity was held. [An interesting addition in Codex Bezae—’in the ministry of the Hebrews’ contains a hint that the Hebrews may already have had deacons of their own —Gen. Ed.]

2-3. The Apostles were teachers, § 819c cf.1 Corinthians 1:17, and must pray continually, v 4, not only privately, but publicly, and at the Eucharist. They were above petty quarrels, and could not undertake the service of tables.

5. All the names are Gk, and Nicholas was not even a Jew by birth. Most probably all were Hellenists, Hebrews forming a small minority. 6. The Seven were chosen by all, and accepted by the Apostles, who by the qualifications they required, v 3, by prayer and the laying on of hands, showed that they were conferring a spiritual power, and making sacred ministers. The deacons not only supervised ’the distribution of meals, but from the first were chiefly concerned with spiritual affairs; Stephen and Philip preach, and Philip too baptises, cf. DTC Art. Ordre, XI, 1239. Though never called deacons in Ac, the Seven perform the same functions as the deacons of St Paul’s Epistles, and St Luke knew he was describing the origin of the office.

7. It seems to be implied that the increase (note especially the numerous conversions among the priests) was due to the preaching of the deacons.

8-15 The Preaching, Miracles and Arrest of St Stephen —St Peter and the Twelve had shown that our Lord was the Messias, but like their Master, they still kept the whole Jewish Law. St Stephen now develops the teaching as to the temporary nature of the Law, which the New Covenant was to fulfil and replace, Matthew 5:17; Matthew 19:7-8, and of which Jesus was the Master, Matthew 5:22; Matthew 12:8, and the prophecies as to the destruction of the temple, to be superseded by the spiritual temple of Christ’s Body, and by adorers in spirit and truth, John 4:23-24. Thus St Stephen proclaims the independence of Christianity, he is the father of the Gentile Church, the precursor of Barnabas and St Paul, and for that he is martyred. 8. ’Full of grace and power’. Deacons share the apostolic power of miracles.

9. ’The Synagogue of the Freedmen, as it is called’, composed originally of descendants of Jews taken to Rome as slaves, by Pompey, in 63 b.c., who perhaps shared a synagogue with the Jews from Africa. Among the Jews from Cilicia was St Paul. The Hellenist Jews reacted violently to the preaching of their former colleague, and later we find St Paul ’disputing’ with them, 9:29.

10. ’They were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit, with which he spoke’. Here, and still more in the speech in ch 7, Jesus was keeping the promise of Luke 21:12-15, for this true witness of his.

11-12. The Hellenists resort to false accusers, and stir up the until then friendly people.

13-14. St Stephen’s teaching is travestied; cf.Mark 14:58.

15. How often when filled with the Holy Spirit, have saints and mystics had their faces thus transfigured!

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Acts 6". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/acts-6.html. 1951.
 
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