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the acts of the apostles
1:1 14 . Link connecting this book with St Luke’s Gospel. Detailed account of the Ascension
The Title . According to the best MSS. this should be simply “Acts of Apostles.” The Cod. Sin. gives only “Acts.” The former of these titles, while having most authority, also most fitly describes the character of the composition. The book is not The Acts of the Apostles, but merely some Acts of certain Apostles which are related by the author, intermixed with the acts of others among the Christian community, where such additions were needful to make the story clear. The writer tells us in the introduction how Christ, when ascending in glory, declared what should be the course which His doctrine should take in its extension, “Ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judæa and Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ). To describe the fulfilment of this departing prophecy is that on which the whole book is engaged. It is natural, therefore, to find that the two chief actors are the energetic Peter, and, after his conversion, the enthusiastic Apostle of the Gentiles. But even they are only used as representative characters. The writer does not aim at giving us full details of the work of either of these Apostles. We see most of Peter and John while the preaching is confined to Jerusalem, but the narrative leaves them to recount some acts of Philip, because he was the pioneer of the Gospel in Samaria. Peter is again brought before us engaged in preaching in Judæa and Samaria and confirming the work which Philip and his companions had begun; and because the conversion of Cornelius was the beginning of the proclamation of Christ’s message beyond the Jewish race, we have a full account of St Peter’s mission to this first Gentile convert and of the debate which arose among the Jews in consequence. But when Peter has been present at the council of Jerusalem, at which was finally settled the relation between the Jews and Gentiles who became Christians, we lose sight of him, and the further spread of the Gospel is summarized in a description of some of the labours of St Paul; and when he has reached the capital of the west, to shew us that the writer contemplated no biography of St Paul, the history comes to what some have thought an abrupt close. But the writer’s task was done when he had told how the great Apostle brought Christ’s message to the capital of the Gentile world. See Introduction .
1 . The former treatise ] In the original we have the superlative adjective used, but the idiom which speaks of the first of two is common to Greek with many other languages. An example is found 1 Corinthians 14:30 . So Cicero, de Inventione , in his second book (chap, iii.) calls the former book primus liber .
treatise ] The original ( λόγος ) indicates rather an inartistic narrative than a history. It is a book more like a piece of Herodotus than Thucydides.
have I made ] Better, I made . The time is indefinite, and we have no warrant in the text for that closer union of the two books, in point of date, which is made by the language of the A. V.
Theophilus ] Nothing is known of the person to whom St Luke addresses both his Gospel and the Acts, but the adjective “most excellent” applied to him in Luke 1:3 is the same which is used in addressing Felix in a letter and in a speech (Acts 23:26 , Acts 24:3 ), and Festus (Acts 26:25 ) in a speech; from which we are perhaps warranted in concluding that Theophilus was a person of rank, and it may be a Roman officer. Josephus uses the same word in addressing Epaphroditus, to whom he dedicates the account of his life (Vit. Josephi, ad fin. ). The suggestion that Theophilus (= lover of God) is a name adopted by the writer to indicate any believer, is improbable. Such personification is unlike the rest of Scripture, and is not supported by evidence.
began ] for the Gospel is not a history of all that Jesus did, but only an account of the foundations which He laid and on which the Church should afterwards be built So this book is still an account of what the Lord does and teaches from heaven.
to do and teach ] As in the Gospel (Luke 24:19 ) the disciples call Jesus “a prophet mighty in deed and in word .” The acts and life spake first, and then the tongue.
2 . the day in which he was taken up ] The Gospel of St Luke closes with a very brief notice of the Ascension: of which event fuller details are given in this chapter, so as to form a connection between the two treatises and to indicate the purpose with which the latter was written. See below on v. 8.
through the Holy Ghost ] That the whole institution of the Christian Church might be Divine. The Spirit of the Lord was upon the Anointed Jesus in this as in His other works and words. Cp. Luke 4:18 .
3 . after his passion ] Literally, after he had suffered .
by many infallible proofs ] The adjective here has no representative in the original. The Greek word signifies some sign or token manifest to the senses, as opposed to evidence given by witnesses. The word infallible has been used in the A. V. to bring out this signification. It is better to omit it. The proofs here meant are Christ’s speaking, walking and eating with His disciples on several occasions after His resurrection, and giving to Thomas and the rest the clearest demonstration that He was with them in the same real body as before His death, and not in appearance only (Luke 24:39 , Luke 24:43 ; John 20:27 , John 21:13 ). As the verity of the Resurrection would be the basis of all the Apostolic preaching, it was necessary that such clear proofs as these should be given by Christ to the twelve who were to be His witnesses.
being seen of them forty days ] Better, appearing unto them by the space of forty days . Christ was not continuously with the disciples, but shewed Himself to them frequently at intervals during the forty days between the Resurrection and the Ascension. The period of forty days is only mentioned here, and it has been alleged as a discrepancy between the Gospel of St Luke and the Acts that the former (Luke 24:0 ) represents the Ascension as taking place on the same day as the Resurrection. It needs very little examination to disperse such an idea. The two disciples there mentioned ( v. 13) were at Emmaus “towards evening” on the day of Christ’s resurrection; they returned to Jerusalem that night and told what they had seen. But after this has been stated the chapter is broken up at v. 36 (which a comparison with John (20:26 28) shews to be an account of what took place eight days after the Resurrection), and at vv. 44 and 50, into three distinct sections with no necessary marks of time to unite them, and in the midst of the whole we are told that Christ opened the mind of His disciples that they might understand the Scriptures. No reasonable person would conclude that all this was done in one day. Beside which the objectors prove too much, for according to their reasoning the Ascension must have taken place at night after the two disciples had come again to Jerusalem from Emmaus.
the kingdom of God ] This expression is found most frequently in the last three Evangelists, St Matthew’s form being “the kingdom of heaven.” It has several significations, but here, as in Mark 1:14 , it includes the whole Christian dispensation, its message, progress and economy. Some traces of the nature of these communications in the forty days we find in the Gospels. The disciples were sent as Christ Himself was sent (John 20:21 ), their understandings were opened that they might understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45 ); the extent of their commission was set before them, as well as the solemn issues of their work (Mark 16:15 , Mark 16:16 ), and to that was added the promise of their Lord’s constant presence (Matthew 28:20 ).
4 . not depart from Jerusalem ] This injunction is only mentioned by St Luke (24:49). The importance of their keeping together until the Holy Ghost was given is clear. It would thus be made more manifest that, though hereafter scattered abroad, their inspiration was supplied from one common source. To the Jews, to whom the Apostles were first to speak, this would appeal, because their own prophet (Isaiah 2:3 ) had said “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
ye have heard of me ] This promise is alluded to (Luke 24:49 ) and found in St John (14:16, 26, 15:26), “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, shall teach you all things,” &c. “He shall testify of me.” Thus were they to be prepared as witnesses for Christ.
5 . ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost ] Thus was now to be fulfilled that of which John the Baptist had spoken (Matthew 3:11 ), “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” Such an event, when it came to pass, could not fail to work mightily on the minds of those among Christ’s Apostles who had been disciples of John, as Andrew had been (John 1:40 ), and probably some of the others.
6 . wilt thou … restore ] Literally, dost thou restore (or art thou restoring ), but the English future gives the sense.
the kingdom to Israel ] The question was asked when all the Apostles were gathered together, so that the enquiry was not dictated by the mistaken notion of some single member. It shews, as do many other remarks and questions (cp. Luke 24:21 , &c.), how far the Apostles were even yet from comprehending the spirituality and universality of the work to which Christ was sending them. A temporal kingdom confined to Israel is what they still contemplate. The change from the spirit which dictated the question in this verse, to that in which St Peter (Acts 2:38 , Acts 2:39 ) preached repentance and forgiveness to all whom the Lord should call, is one of the greatest evidences of the miracle of Pentecost. Such changes can only come from above.
7 . It is not for you , &c.] During the tutelage, as it may be called, of His disciples, our Lord constantly avoided giving a direct answer to enquiries which they addressed to Him. He checked in this way their tendency to speculate on the future, and drew their minds to their duty in the present. Cp. John 21:21 , John 21:22 .
in his own power ] The word here rendered power is not the same as that so rendered in the following verse. The sense of this first word is “absolute disposal,” and we might well render it authority .
8 . ye shall receive power ] Something different from the profitless speculations to which they had just desired an answer, even “a mouth and wisdom which their adversaries could neither gainsay nor resist” (Luke 21:15 ). Thus would they be enabled to become Christ’s witnesses.
in Jerusalem, and in all Judea ] To which district all the ministrations of the Apostles were confined till the death of Stephen.
and in Samaria ] Whither the first who went with authority was Philip, one of the seven (Acts 8:5 ), and afterwards Peter and John.
and unto the uttermost part of the earth ] Commenced by the preaching of Paul, Barnabas, Mark, Silas and Timothy, and regarded as placed on a secure footing when St Paul was once brought into the capital city of the world.
The writer keeps before him from first to last the promise contained in this verse, and leaves out of his narrative all that does not tend to illustrate its fulfilment. The work of every agent is followed so far as he is used to bring about this result and no farther. This will be noticed at each stage as we proceed, and it will be seen that it explains why among “Acts of Apostles” some works are included which were not carried on by Apostles, and why the histories of the chief agents are left incomplete.
9 . while they beheld ] That they might have as clear proof of His Ascension as they had received of the reality of His Resurrection, He is taken from them while they are still gazing on Him and with His words yet sounding in their ears. In the Gospel (24:51) it is “while He blessed them.” From the narrative in this place the witnesses of the Ascension seem to have been only the eleven, and this is stated expressly in St Mark’s Gospel (16:14), so that although in St Luke’s Gospel (24:33) the two disciples who had returned from Emmaus are related to have come unto the eleven to report what they had seen, we are not to conclude that they remained with them during all the other events recorded in that chapter, an additional evidence that that chapter relates to events which happened in the course of several days and not all in close sequence on the same day. Cp. 1:3, note.
10 . as he went up ] The preposition is not in the Greek, which has simply, as he went .
in white apparel ] They are called men , but they are evidently angels. So the two angels are clothed in white (John 20:12 ) whom Mary saw in the sepulchre after the Resurrection, and one of these is called by St Mark (16:5) “a young man clothed in a long white garment.” St Luke in the Gospel calls them “two men in shining garments” (24:4). So the “man in bright clothing,” Acts 10:30 , is described in 11:13 as “an angel.” This was a common Jewish expression to signify angelic or divine messengers. Cf. Talm. Jer. Joma v. 2, ad fin.
“Shimeon ha-Tsaddik (i.e. the righteous) served Israel forty years in the High-priesthood, and in the last year he said to the people, ‘In this year I shall die.’ They said to him: ‘How dost thou know this?’ He said to them: ‘Every year when I was going into the Holy of Holies there was an Ancient one, clad in white garments and with a white vail , who went in with me and came out with me; but this year he went in with me and did not come out with me.’ [On this matter] they asked of Rabbi Abuhu, ‘But surely it is written: ‘Nothing of mankind shall be in the tent of meeting when he [the High-priest] goes in to make atonement until his coming out again,’ not even those concerning whom it is written [Ezekiel 1:5 ] ‘They had the likeness of a man ,’ even they shall not be in the tent of meeting.’ He said to them: ‘What is there [in this language of Shimeon] to tell me that it was a human being at all? I say it was the Holy One .”
11 . Ye men of Galilee ] The Galilæan dialect was a marked peculiarity of the apostolic band. It seems also to have been our Lord’s manner of speech. For when Peter is accused (Matthew 26:73 ) of being one of Christ’s followers the words of the accusation are “Surely thou art one of them , for thy speech bewrayeth thee.”
shall so come ] This promise of the return of Jesus, on the immediate expectation of which so many of the first Christians fixed their thoughts, explains those words in the abridged account of the Ascension in St Luke’s Gospel (24:52), “They returned to Jerusalem with great joy.”
12 . from the mount called Olivet ] Elsewhere usually called the mount of Olives, but in Luke 19:29 , Luke 21:37 , some texts give, as here, Olivet
which is from Jerusalem , &c.] Literally, which is near unto Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey off . The mount of Olives is on the east of Jerusalem, and must be passed by those who go from Jerusalem to Bethany. Hence St Luke’s expression in the Gospel is (24:50) “He led them out as far as towards ( ἔως πρὸς ) Bethany.”
The sabbath day’s journey was two thousand yards or cubits [ ammoth ], and in the Babylonian Talmud, Erubin 51 a, there is given an elaborate account of how this precise limit was arrived at, which is such an interesting specimen of Rabbinical reasoning, that it seems worth quoting at some length. “We have a Boraitha [i.e. a Mishna not taught officially in R. Jehudah ha-Nasi’s lectures and so not embodied in the Mishna proper, but incorporated amongst the Gemara or in other ways] on Exodus 16:29 , ‘Abide ye every man in his place ’ ( takhtav ), that means the four yards (which is the space allowed for downsitting and uprising), and in the same verse it says ‘Let no man go out of his place ( makom ), this is the two thousand yards.’ ” The argument intended to be founded on this explanation is, that as Holy Writ, which does not uselessly multiply words, has used here two different words for place , this is done because there is a different meaning for each. “But (continues the questioner) how do you learn this?” (viz. that makom implies two thousand yards). Rab Chisda says “We have learnt the meaning of makom from the use of makom elsewhere, and we learn what that [second] makom means from nisah (= flight, with which word, in one passage, it is connected), and what nisah means we have learnt from another nisah , and the meaning of the [second] nisah we gather from gebul (= border, which is found in connection with it in a certain passage), and what gebul means we gather from another gebul , and what that gebul means from khuts (= extremity), and what khuts means from another khuts; for it is written (Numbers 35:5 ) ‘and ye shall measure from the extremity ( mikhuts ) of the city, on the east side, two thousand yards.’ ”
So taking khuts in this last passage as defined, they, by an equation khuts = gebul = nisah = makom , defined the second word place mentioned in Exodus 16:29 , as also equal to two thousand yards.
The Scriptural passages on which the above reasoning is based are (1) Exodus 21:13 , “I will appoint thee a place ( makom ) whither he shall flee ” ( yanus ), and from the verb yanus the noun nisah is formed; (2) Numbers 35:26 , “But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border ( gebul ) of the city of his refuge whither he is fled ,” which passage connects gebul and nisah ; and (3) Numbers 35:27 , “If the avenger of blood find him without ( mikhuts ) the border of the city of his refuge,” which brings khuts into connection with gebul .
A traditional development of an interpretation like this must have been received, by him who announces it, from his teacher and must not be his own invention, and in this way a very high antiquity is assured for all such interpretations.
13 . And when they were come in ] i.e. into the city, from the open country where the Ascension had taken place.
they went up into an [ the ] upper room ] Probably the upper room which has been mentioned before (Mark 14:15 ; Luke 22:12 ) as used by our Lord and His disciples for the passover feast. The Greek word in the Gospels is not the same as here, but in both cases it is evident that it was some room which could be spared by the occupiers and which was let or lent to the Galilæan band and their followers. The next words indicate die temporary occupancy, and would be better rendered where they were abiding, namely Peter , &c. The eleven were the tenants of the upper room, to which the other disciples resorted for conference and communion.
Peter , &c.] The names of the Apostles are again given, though they had been recorded for Theophilus in “the former treatise” (Luke 6:14-16 ), perhaps because it seemed fitting that the names of those who are now to be the leaders of the new teaching should be recited at the outset, that each one may be known to have taken his share in the labour, though it will not fall within the plan of the writer to give a notice of their several works; and secondly, as all the twelve had fled before the Crucifixion, this enumeration of them as again at their post, may shew that there had been in all of them, except Judas, only weakness of the flesh, and not unwillingness of the spirit.
It may be noticed that, whereas in the list of Apostles given in St Luke’s Gospel the name of Andrew stands second in the first group of four and next after Peter, in this repeated list Andrew is placed fourth. The history gives no reason for this change, but we see in the Gospels, when important events occurred in Christ’s ministry, such as the raising of the daughter of Jaïrus, the Transfiguration, and the Agony in Gethsemane, that the three disciples chosen to be present with Jesus are Peter, James and John, but not Andrew. Whatever may have been the reason for such an omission, the fact may in some degree explain the altered position of Andrew’s name in the list of the twelve. It appears no more in Holy Writ.
The order of the next group of four differs from their arrangement in the Gospel, but as none of them are mentioned after this verse there is nothing to explain the variation in order. In the next group the A. V. is inconsistent in rendering James the son of Alphæus, and afterwards a like construction by Judas the brother of James. It is more common to find this dependent genitive in descriptions of a son, though the relationship of brother to brother is found so indicated. Judas is called the brother of James here because it is assumed that he is the same person as the author of the Epistle of St Jude, who (Jude 1:0 ) calls himself brother of James. But as it is not certain that the writer of that Epistle was one of the twelve, it is better to render the two identical constructions standing so close together in the same way, and so to read Judas the son of James . James in that case would be the name of some otherwise unknown person, but it was a very common name among the Jews.
Simon Zelotes ] called Simon the Canaanite (Matthew 10:4 ; Mark 3:18 ). The last-named title is a corruption of an Aramaic word of like meaning with the Greek Zelotes , and signifying Zealot, a name applied in our Lord’s time to those Jews who were most strict in their observance of the Mosaic ritual. Of this Simon we have no further mention in Scripture history.
14 . These all continued , &c.] Prayer was the fittest preparation for the gift which they were expecting. The words rendered and supplication are omitted in the best MSS.
with the women ] Better, with certain women . Literally, with women . Probably some of those who during the life of Jesus had ministered to Him of their substance and had been at the cross and at His grave (Luke 8:3 , Luke 8:24 :22; Matthew 27:55 ). The frequent mention of these and other women in the course of Christ’s ministry is a noteworthy feature of the Gospel story, and bespeaks more consideration shewn by Him for women than was usual among His nation or with other great teachers.
Mary the mother of Jesus ] who would naturally remain with St John, to whose care she had been confided by Jesus at the Crucifixion (John 19:27 ). This is the last mention of the Blessed Virgin, and thus Scripture leaves her on her knees. She is mentioned apart from the other women as having a more deep interest in all that concerned Jesus than the rest had.
and with his brethren ] These, called (Matthew 13:55 ; Mark 6:3 ) James, Joseph (or Joses), Simon and Judas, are here clearly distinguished from the Apostles, which shews us that James, the son of Alphæus, and James, the Lord’s brother, were different persons.
15 26 . Election of an Apostle into the place of Judas Iscariot
15 . And in those days ] i.e. the days intervening between the Ascension and Pentecost.
Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples ] The best MSS. read brethren for disciples . Here we have a formal assembling of all those who were avowed followers of Jesus in Jerusalem, and the rising of Peter to address them bespeaks the importance which he attached to the duty they were about to perform in electing a successor to Judas.
the number , &c.] Render, and there was a multitude of persons (Gr. names ) gathered together, about a hundred and twenty . For this use of names = persons cp. Revelation 3:4 , “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments.”
The hundred and twenty here collected is in no way inconsistent with St Paul’s statement (1 Corinthians 15:6 ) that Christ shewed Himself on one occasion, before His Ascension, to more than five hundred brethren at once. Those were gathered from all parts of the land, and we have now mention made only of such as had continued in the Holy City.
16 . Men and brethren ] The original is meant for one epithet, and would be fully enough rendered by brethren alone, here and in other places where it occurs.
this scripture , &c.] “ This ” is omitted by the best authorities. Read The scripture , &c. It is to be noticed that Peter can thus speak because he had now been taught to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45 ).
must needs have been fulfilled ] Christ was to die on the cross, betrayed to death by one in whom He had trusted. David had spoken in the Psalms of his own afflictions from a similar treachery and also of the destruction which he invoked upon those who were guilty of such infidelity. But while David spake of himself and of his own circumstances, the Holy Ghost through him was speaking of the betrayal of the “Son of David,” and the words which had been true of David, must have their still more complete fulfilment in the betrayal of the Saviour, by him “who was guide to them that took Jesus” (Matthew 26:47 , &c.).
17 . For he was numbered with [ among ] us, and had obtained part of this ministry ] Literally, had received the lot of , &c. Judas fulfils the conditions of the prophecy (Psalms 109:2-5 ). His was the mouth of the deceitful, the lying tongue, the groundless enmity, the requital of evil for good. But though numbered among the twelve that was not his true place.
18 . It seems best to treat this verse and the following, which break the connexion of St Peter’s remarks on David’s prophecies, as no part of the Apostle’s speech on the election of Matthias. St Luke most likely derived the words from St Peter, from whom he no doubt gathered the facts for this part of his history, and the Apostle would thus at a later time emphasize to St Luke, by a minute description, the ruin which came upon Judas, though in his public address he had only spoken in the words of the Psalmist.
These two verses (18 and 19) are connected in themselves by the copulative conjunction, but the particles which introduce verse 18 ( μὲν οὗν ) express no more than a confirmation of the statement in which they occur, and a transition to some explanatory matter. They are frequently employed in a similar manner by the writer of the Acts (as 5:41, 13:4, 17:30, 23:22, 26:9). But that which stamps the passage as a parenthesis is the demonstrative pronoun which stands at the head of it. The position of the Greek words would be represented by This man you are to know acquired, &c. If it had been a continuous narrative we should have had some connection of the following kind: “He had obtained part of this ministry, and yet he with the reward of his iniquity, &c.” without the insertion of any demonstrative, or indeed of any pronoun at all, in the Greek.
Now this man purchased a field ] Rather, acquired , which probably was the sense intended by the A. V., as it was an old sense of the English word purchase . This may be said not only of him who buys, but of him who becomes the occasion of another’s buying. The field was bought by the chief priests (Matthew 27:5-8 ) with the money which Judas returned, but as they could not take that money for the treasury, they were likely to look upon what was purchased with it as still the property of the traitor. St Luke’s employment of the unusual word “acquire” in a narrative where he calls the price of the land “the reward of iniquity,” and speaks of the immediate death of Judas, makes it clear that he views (and that the people of Jerusalem did the same) the field Akeldama as the field which Judas acquired, though it became, from the circumstances, a public possession for a burial ground.
the reward of iniquity ] This expression is only found in N. T. here and 2 Peter 2:13 , 2 Peter 2:15 . So that it seems to be a Petrine phrase. The A. V. conceals the identity of the Greek words in these three passages by giving them in each place a different English rendering.
and falling headlong , &c.] This can only have occurred after the hanging mentioned by St Matthew (27:5). It appears from St Luke’s narrative here that the death of Judas, attended by all these dreadful circumstances, took place in the spot which the chief priests eventually purchased. This, if a fit place for an Eastern burying ground, would be of a rocky character where caves abounded or could easily be made, and it would be the more rugged, if, as St Matthew’s narrative intimates, it had been used for the digging of clay for the potters. If in such a place the suicide first hanged himself and the cord which he used gave way, it is easy to understand how in the fall all the consequences described in this verse would be the result. For a similar result to bodies falling on rocks, cp. 2 Chronicles 25:12 . Buxtorf ( Rabb. Lex . s. v. סכר ) suggests that the expression of St Matthew, “hanged himself,” might be rendered “he was choked,” as if by asphyxia, from over-excitement and anguish. He says the Jews have so explained the end of Ahithophel, and that a like explanation might suit in the Gospel. And St Chrysostom, Hom . xxii. ad Antiochenos , uses the expression to be strangled by conscience . But this view seems to be surrounded by far more difficulties than the belief that St Matthew merely mentioned one single incident in the suicide’s fate, while St Luke, because his purpose seemed to ask it, has described the death of Judas in such wise as to shew that his destruction was as terrible as anything of which David had spoken in the Psalms to which St Peter had referred.
19 . And it was known ] Rather, became known . The fate of Judas, if he died there, and the way in which the purchase money was obtained, caused the name to be changed from “the Potter’s Field” to “the Field of Blood,” all people recognizing the fitness of the new name.
is called ] The use of expressions like this in the present tense shews that we are dealing with documents written before the destruction of Jerusalem.
in their proper tongue ] i.e. in the language spoken by the Jews in Jerusalem, which was Aramaic. The addition of these words and the explanation of the name Akeldama point to this passage as an insertion made by St Luke for the information of Theophilus, who, as his name indicates, was probably of Greek origin, and, it may be, unacquainted with the vernacular speech of Palestine. There could have been no need for St Peter to make such an explanation to the one hundred and twenty who listened to his address. Nor, indeed, is it probable that the name “Field of Blood” became of such common use within the time between the Crucifixion and the election of Matthias, as to make it possible for St Peter to have used the words.
For a similar insertion of a significant name introduced into a compiled narrative before the time at which the name was actually given, cp. 1 Samuel 4:1 , where Eben-ezer is spoken of, though the circumstances in which the name originated are not mentioned till 1 Samuel 7:12 .
20 . The passages quoted by St Peter are from Psalms 69:25 , where it is written “Let their habitation be desolate, and let none dwell in their tents;” and Psalms 109:8 , “Let his days be few, and let another take his office.” St Peter changes the plural of the former verse into the singular in his quotation, for David was speaking of many enemies of his own, yet though Judas was the instrument through which the many enemies of Jesus wrought out their will, it is the punishment which came on the chief offender that St Peter is now desirous to illustrate and point to as a fulfilment of prophecy. The fulfilment in the case of the Jewish nation came at a later date, though their days as a nation were now few, and their destruction, when it came, as terrible as that of Judas.
Let his habitation be ] Rather, become , or be made .
and his bishoprick ] Now that this word has so restricted a meaning in English it is better to use the more general term office which is given in the margin. In v. 25 this ministry is used of the same charge, and might be rendered this diaconate . A comma placed after the second and in this verse will make it clear that there are two quotations from different places. There is no contradiction between the two passages quoted by St Peter, for though the habitation of Judas is to become desolate, and have none dwelling therein, the office which he had been chosen to fill is still to be occupied, and the purpose of God in the choice of the twelve is not to be left incomplete through the offence of the traitor. And it is on the necessity for filling his place that St Peter immediately dwells, saying, For this reason must a new member be chosen. In one passage of the Psalmist the Spirit speaks of the vacancy in the Apostolic office through Iscariot’s transgression, in the other of the necessity for filling it up.
21 . As the new Apostle is to be, like the rest, an eyewitness to the life of Jesus, he must have been a disciple from the beginning of Christ’s ministry. Such a necessity would probably make the number from whom choice could be made a very small one. It seems hardly probable, if St Luke’s design had been (as is so often asserted) to represent St Paul as in every way like St Peter, that he would have dwelt so strongly on this personal knowledge of Jesus during his ministerial life, as a necessary qualification for the Apostolate.
the Lord Jesus went in and out ] This expression, though used in the O. T. to describe some position of leadership in war or otherwise (cp. Deuteronomy 31:2 ; 1 Samuel 18:13 ), yet is apparently used here only=led his life. So we have it again Acts 9:28 . Cp. also John 10:9 .
22 . to be a witness with us of his resurrection ] The Resurrection was the central truth, but to bear testimony that it was truly Jesus who had risen, the witness must have known Him well before His crucifixion.
It is quite in accordance with the character of St Luke’s narrative that although he is careful to relate how the number of the Apostles was made complete, and the Church thus furnished with that same number of leaders which Jesus had chosen from the first, yet when Matthias has been chosen, he tells us no word about his special actions. These were no doubt of the same character as those of the eleven, but the writer’s purpose is only to give typical instances of the Apostolic labours, and to shew how the Gospel was spread abroad exactly as Christ had foretold.
23 . they appointed two ] Thus exercising their own judgment to a certain degree in the appointment, as they could rightly do from their three years intimacy with those who had been disciples from the beginning.
Joseph called Barsabas [Barsabbas in the best MSS.] who was surnamed Justus ] From the identity of the names Joseph and Joses (see note on v. 14) it has been thought that this Joseph is identical with Joses surnamed Barnabas, mentioned 4:36. But Barsabbas is apparently a patronymic like Bartimæus, while Barnabas is interpreted as a significant appellation in 4:36 (see note there), so that there is no sufficient ground for the identification. The name Justus , being of Latin origin, was probably used by Joseph in his intercourse with the Gentile inhabitants of the country. Thus Saul takes a Latin name, Paulus, at the commencement of his missionary labours. So Simon had a Greek name, Peter (and may not Christ have given it to him as the name by which he should be known over all the world?), and Thomas was called Didymus. To judge from the mention of Joseph’s three names, and from his standing first in order in the mention of the chosen pair, he was of more account among the Apostles than Matthias. Of his previous or future history we know nothing.
and Matthias ] He is said by Eusebius ( H. E . 1. 12. 1) and Epiphanius (i. 20) to have been one of the Seventy, and there was an apocryphal Gospel which passed by his name (Euseb. iii. 23).
24 . And they prayed, and said ] Here we are not to conclude that St Luke has recorded any more than the purport of the prayer of the disciples, in the same way as in the speeches which he reports he has only preserved a brief abstract of the speakers’ arguments and language.
Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men ] By the lot the final decision was left in the hands of God (cf. Proverbs 16:33 ), who alone could know which of these two, both having the needful qualifications as far as man could see, would prove the more excellent Apostle. The same expression is applied to God, Acts 15:8 .
shew whether of these two ] Literally, shew of these two the one whom thou hast chosen .
25 . that he may take part ] The best MSS. read that he may take the place , &c. The Rec. Text has the same words here and in v. 17, as is represented in the A. V. A scribe remembering the former would easily assimilate the two places, and as the Greek word in v. 17 signifies lot , he might perceive a fitness in its use in this part of the narrative.
from which Judas by transgression fell ] Better, from which Judas fell away . The Gk. has only a verb which literally = transgressed .
that he might go to his own place ] He had been chosen into one place by Jesus, but had made another choice for himself, which had ended in destruction. That “his own place” when thus used was, to the Jewish mind, an equivalent for Gehenna = the place of torment, may be seen from the Baal Haturim on Numbers 24:25 , where it is said “Balaam went to his own place , i.e. to Gehenna.” A like expression is found concerning Job’s friends, Midrash Rabbah on Ecclesiastes 7:1 .
26 . And they gave forth their lots ] Better, And they gave lots for them , in accordance with MSS. The process probably was that each member of the company wrote on a tablet or ticket the name of one of the chosen two; the whole were then placed in some vessel and shaken together, and that tablet which was first drawn out decided the election. The casting of lots, though not now permitted to the Jews (see Shulkhan Aruch Joreh Deah par. 179. 1), was used by a provision of the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 16:8 ) for the selection of one out of the two goats for the Lord. “The goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell” was offered for a sin offering. The Apostles had not yet received the Spirit which was to “guide them into all truth.” When the Holy Ghost had been given, they, as St Chrysostom notices ( In Act. Ap. Hom . III.), used no more casting of lots.
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"Commentary on Acts 1". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17