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Bible Commentaries

Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

Acts 1

Verse 1

1. τὸν μὲν πρ . λ . ] The latter member of this sentence, τανῦν δέ , … is wanting (see Winer, § 63, I. 2, e. γ ), and the author proceeds at once to his narration, binding this second history to the first by recapitulating and enlarging the account given in the conclusion of the Gospel.

πάντων ] Whatever latitude may be given to this word, it must at all events exclude the notion that Luke had at this time seen the Gospels of Matt. or Mark, in which many things which Jesus did and taught are contained, which he had not related in his πρῶτος λόγος . On Theophilus, see notes, Luke 1:3 .

ὧν ἤρξατο Ἰησ .] I cannot think ἤρξατο here to be merely pleonastic. Its position here shews that it is emphatic , and the parallel cases (see reff.) all point to a distinct and appropriate meaning for the word. That meaning here seems to be, that the Gospel contained the ἀρχάς , the outset , of all the doings and teachings of our Lord, as distinguished from this second treatise, which was to relate their sequel and results. Meyer understands it which Jesus first of all men did , &c. But this introduces a meaning irrelevant to the context, besides not giving the emphasis to ἤρξατο , but to Ἰησοῦς . The position of emphasis given to the verb shews, that the beginning of the doing and teaching of Jesus must be contrasted with the continuance of the same , now about to be related.

Verses 1-3


On the title, see Prolegomena.


Verse 2

2. ἐντειλ . τ . ἀπ . ] See Luke 24:48 ff., and Act 1:4 below.

διὰ πν . ἁγ . may be joined either with ἐντειλάμενος (as in vulg copt Ch [1] Thl); or with ἐξελέξατο (as in syrr æth Cyril [2] Aug [3] Vig [4] ). In the former case, our Lord is said to have given His commands to the Apostles through , or in the power of , the Holy Ghost. Similarly He is said, Hebrews 9:14 , διὰ πνεύματος αἰωνίου ἑαυτὸν προσενέγκαι ἄμωμον τῷ θεῷ . In the latter , He is said to have chosen the Apostles by the power of the Holy Ghost. Similarly, in ch. Acts 20:28 , Paul tells the Ephesian elders, that the Holy Ghost had made them overseers in the Church of God. The former construction however appears much the best, as expressing not, as might at first seem, a mere common-place, but the propriety of the fact, that His last commands were given in the power of (see Joh 20:22 ) the Holy Ghost . To take διὰ πν . ἁγ . with ἀνελήμφθη (see Olsh. i. 629) seems to me inadmissible; as also is Dr. Burton’s rendering, “having told His Apostles that His commands would be more fully made known to them by the Holy Ghost.”

[1] Chrysostom, Bp. of Constantinople, 397 407: Chr-montf, a MS. cited from Montfaucon; Chr-wlf, Wolfenbüttel MS. of Chr. written in cent y . vi.; Chr-Fd, Field’s edn. of the Hom. on Matthew 6:0

[2] Cyril, Bp. of Alexandria, 412 444

[3] Augustine, Bp. of Hippo , 395 430

[4] Vig ilius of Thapsus , 484 3

ἀνελήμφ .] = ἀνεφέρετο εἰς τὸν οὐρ ., Luke 24:51 . The use of the verb in this abbreviated form, without the εἰς τ . οὐρ ., testifies to the familiarity of the apostolic church with the Ascension as a formal and recognized event in our Lord’s course.

Verse 3

3. ἐν π . τεκμ . ] See Luke 24:31 ; Luke 24:39 ; Luke 24:43 . The ἐν is in its signification of investiture , in which it introduces the element or condition in which, and thus the means by which, an agent operates.

ὀπτανόμενος ] οὐ γὰρ ὥσπερ πρὸ τῆς ἀναστάσεως ὡς ἀεὶ μετ ʼ αὐτῶν ἦν , οὕτω καὶ τότε · οὐ γὰρ εἶπε τεσσεράκοντα ἡμέρας , ἀλλὰ δι ʼ ἡμερῶν τεσσεράκοντα · ἐφίστατο γὰρ καὶ ἀφίστατο πάλιν , Chrysostom. This is the only place where the interval between the Resurrection and the Ascension is specified.

τὰ περ . τ . β . τ . θ . ] τά , in the widest sense; not ῥήματα merely: the matters . The article has been taken to imply (and so in some of my earlier editions), that during this period they received from our Lord the whole substance of the doctrine of ‘the Kingdom of God.’ But this remark seems to lose its propriety owing to the present participle λέγων . Both the participles, ὀπτανόμενος and λέγων , carry with them a ratiocinative force, in dependence on τεκμηρίοις : “proofs, consisting in this, that He” &c. And thus the art. τά gives the sentence the meaning, “and inasmuch as the things which he said were those pertaining to the Kingdom of God;” thus serving only to define λεγόμενα . [What things these were, we are not told. Certainly, not future events in their detail, as the next portion of the narrative shews us. I should rather believe them to have concerned the future founding and government of the Church: though even here the greatest Apostles were apparently left to the unfolding of the teaching of the Holy Spirit as years went on.]

Verse 4

4. συναλιζ .] not middle, ‘ assembling them ,’ as Calv. ( congregans eos ), Grot., Olsh., and others, which is without example; but passive, = συναλισθείς , Hesych [5] , as E. V. Chrys., the Vulg., &c., interpret it ‘ eating and drinking ;’ so E. V. marg., Thl., Œc [6] , &c., κοινωνῶν ἁλῶν , mistaking the etymology. The conjecture of Hemsterhuis, συναλιζομένοις (which however is found in Didymus), is quite unnecessary.

[5] Hesychius of Jerusalem, cent y . vi.

[6] Œcumenius of Tricca in Thrace, Cent y . XI.?

ἀπὸ Ἱερ . μὴ χωρ . ] See Luke 24:49 . ‘Simul manere jussi sunt, quoniam uno omnes Spiritu donandi erant. Si fuissent dispersi, unites minus cognita fuisset.’ Calvin.

περιμ .] to await , i.e. wait till the completion of: the περι implies this. The ancient idea mentioned by Wordsw. that our Lord commanded the Apostles to remain at Jerusalem for twelve years after the Ascension, is sufficiently refuted by His own words here, and by the subsequent history: cf. ch. 8 &c. That, in the main, they confined themselves to circuits in Palestine for some years, appears to be true; but surely would not he in compliance with such a command.

τ . ἐπαγγ . τ . πατρός ] See note on Luke 24:49 .

Verses 4-14


Verse 5

5 .] The Lord cites these words from the mouth of John himself, reff. Matt.; and thus announces to them that, as John’s mission was accomplished in baptizing with water , so now the great end of His own mission, the Baptism with the Holy Ghost , was on the point of being accomplished. Calvin remarks, that He speaks of the Pentecostal effusion as being the Baptism with the Holy Ghost, because it was a great representation on the whole Church of the subsequent continued work of regeneration on individuals: ‘Quasi totius Ecclesiæ communis baptismus.’ I may add, also because it was the beginning of a new period of spiritual influence, totally unlike any which had preceded. See ch. Acts 2:17 .

ὕδατι and ἐν πν . ἁγ . are slightly distinguished. The insertion of the preposition bef. πν . ἁγ . seems to give a dignity which the mere instrumental dative, ὕδατι , wants.

ταύτας serves to bind on the οὐ πολλ . ἡμ . to the day then current; as we say, ‘one of these days.’ See Winer, § 23. 5, who instances ‘ante hos quinque dies’ in Lat, and quotes πρὸ πολλῶν τῶνδε ἡμερῶν , from Heliod. ii. 22. 97.

‘Numerus dierum non definitus exercebat fidem discipulorum,’ Bengel.

Verse 6

6 .] This συνελθόντες does not belong to another assembling, different from the former; but takes up again the συναλιζόμενος of Acts 1:4 . Olsh. has mistaken the sense of the μὲν οὖν , which refers, not to another incident , but to other actors; they , as distinguished from Him who had been speaking.

Κύριε , εἰ ] The stress of this question is in the words, prefixed for emphasis, ἐν τῷ χρόνῳ τούτῳ . That the Kingdom was, in some sense , and at some time , to be restored to Israel, was plain; nor does the Lord deny this implication (see on Act 1:8 ). Their fault was, a too curious enquiry on a point reserved among the arcana of God. Lightfoot’s idea, that the disciples wondered at the Kingdom being about to be restored to the ungrateful Jews, at this time , now that they had crucified Him, &c., would make our Lord’s answer irrelevant.

See Micah 4:8 , LXX.

Meyer would refer ἐν τῷ χρ . τού . to the interval designated by οὐ μετὰ πολλ . ταύ . ἡμ ., ‘during this time.’ But this does not seem natural: I should rather understand it, at this present period, now . The pres. ἀποκαθιστάνεις , is that so often used in speaking with reference to matters of prophecy, importing fixed determination: as in ὁ ἐρχόμενος (ref. Mt.) and the like. So that we must not render, “Art thou restoring?” but “ wilt ” or “ dost thou restore?” As to the word itself, καθιστάνω (= στημι ) is to establish or set up, and ἀπό gives the sense of completeness, or the cognate one of entire restitution. See Wordsw.’s note.

Verse 7

7 .] This is a general reproof and assertion, spoken with reference to men , as forbidden to search curiously into a point which Omniscience has reserved the times and seasons of the future divine dealings. But it is remarkable that not θεός , but ὁ πατήρ , is here used; and this cannot fail to remind us of that saying ( Mar 13:32 ), περὶ δὲ τῆς ἡμέρας ἐκείνηςτῆς ὥρας οὐδεὶς οἶδεν , οὐδὲ ἄγγελος ἐν οὐρανῷ , οὐδὲυἱός , εἰ μὴπατήρ . It may be observed however, that the same assertion is not made here : only the times and seasons said to be in the power of the Almighty Father, Who ordereth all things κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ . The Knowledge of the Son is not here in question, only that of the disciples . It is an enquiry intimately connected with the interpretation of the two passages, but one beyond our power to resolve, how far, among the things not yet put under His feet, may be this very thing, the knowledge of that day and hour . Bengel attempts to evade the generality of the οὐχ ὑμῶν ἐστιν : ‘quæ apostolorum nondum erat nosse, per Apocalypsin postea sunt significata.’ But signified to whom? What individual, or portion of the Church, has ever read plainly these χρόνουςκαιρούς in that mysterious book? There is truth in Olsh.’s remark, that the Apostles were to be less prophets of the future, than witnesses of the past; but we must not so limit the ὑμῶν , nor forget that the γνῶναι χρόνουςκαιρ . has very seldom been imparted by prophecy, which generally has formed a testimony to this very fact, that God has them in His foreknowledge, and, while He announces the events, conceals for the most part in obscurity the times .

χρ . καιρ .] not synonymous; as Meyer observes, καιρός is always a definite limited space of time, and involves the idea of transitoriness. See also Tittmann, N. T. Synonymes, pp. 39 45.

ἔθ . ἐν τῇ ἰδ . ἐξ .] Some (De Wette, al.) render ‘hath appointed by His own power;’ I should rather take ἐν ἐξ . as in ch. Acts 5:4 , in His own power , and understand by ἔθετο kept , ‘(hath) placed,’ as E. V. But the aor. sense should be preserved: the period referred to being that of the arrangement of the divine counsels of Redemption.

Verse 8

8 .] ‘Quod optimum frænandæ curiositati remedium erat, Christus eos revocat tam ad Dei promissionem, quam ad mandatum.’ Calvin.

ἀλλά , ‘antitheton inter id quod discipulorum erat, vel non erat; tum inter id quod illo tempore futurum erat, et inter id quod in ulteriora reservatum erat.’ Bengel.

δύνα ̇ μιν , that power, especially , spoken of ch. Acts 4:33 , connected with their office of witnessing to the resurrection; but also all other spiritual power. See Luke 24:49 . μου , not emphatic, as Wordsw. here and often elsewhere: see note on Matthew 16:18 . The emphasis would be extremely out of place here: it was not their subordination to Him, but their office as witnesses, which was the contrast to their ambitious aspirings.

μάρτυρες ] This was the peculiar work of the Apostles[: so they say of themselves, ch. Acts 5:32 , ἡμεῖς ἐσμὲν αὐτοῦ μάρτυρες τῶν ῥημάτων τούτων ]. See on Acts 1:21-22 , and Prolegg. Vol. I. ch. i. § iii. 5.

ἔν τε Ἱερ …] By the extension of their testimony, from Jerusalem to Samaria, and then indefinitely over the world, He reproves, by implication, their carnal anticipation of the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel thus understood. The Kingdom was to be one founded on μαρτυρία , and therefore reigning in the convictions of men’s hearts; and not confined to Judæa, but coextensive with the world.

They understood this command only of Jews scattered through the world, see ch. Acts 11:19 .

De Wette observes, that these words contain the whole plan of the Acts: λήμψεσθε δύναμιν κ . τ . λ ., ch. Act 2:1 end; ἐν Ἱερουσαλήμ , ch. Act 3:1 to Acts 6:7 ; then the martyrdom of Stephen dispersed them through Judæa , Act 6:8 to Acts 8:3 ; they preach in Samaria , Acts 8:4-40 ; and, from that point, the conversion of the Apostle of the Gentiles , the vision of Peter, the preaching and journeys of Paul. In their former mission, Matthew 10:5-6 , they had been expressly forbidden from preaching either to Samaritans or Gentiles.

Verse 9

9 .] This appears (see Prolegg. Vol. I. ch. iv. § iv. 2) to be an account of the Ascension given to Luke subsequently to the publication of his Gospel , more particular in detail than that found in it. He has not repeated here details found there; see Luke 24:50-52 . On the Ascension in general, see note on Luke, l c.

ἐπήρθη ] “was taken up , we may understand of the commencing ascent … ὑπέλαβεν by a pregn. constr involves the idea of away as well as up , and hence takes after it ἀπό . This verb describes the close of the scene, as far as it was visible to the spectators.” Hackett.

νεφέλη ] There was a manifest propriety in the last withdrawal of the Lord, while ascending, not consisting in a disappearance of His Body, as on former occasions since the Resurrection; for thus might His abiding Humanity have been called in question. As it was, He went up, past the visible boundary of Heaven, the cloud, in human form , and so we think of and pray to Him.

Verse 10

10. ἀτενίζ . ἦσαν ] they were gazing , stood gazing .

εἰς τ . οὐρ . belongs to ἀτενίζ ., not to πορευομ ., see reff.

πορευομένου , not πορευθέντος : implying that the cloud remained visible for some time, probably ascending with Him.

παρειστήκεισαν , imperf . in sense, as the perf. is present : were standing by them .

ἄνδρες ] evidently angels. See Luke 24:4 ; John 20:12 .

Verse 11

11. οἳ καὶ εἶπαν ] who (not only appeared but) also said . There is a propriety in the address, ἄνδρ . Γαλιλαῖοι . It served to remind them of their origin, their call to be His disciples, and the duty of obedience to Him resting on them in consequence.

ὃν τρόπον ] in the same manner as ; to be taken in all cases literally, not as implying mere certainty: see reff.

οὕτως , i.e. ἐν νεφέλῃ , Luke 21:27 [in the clouds of heaven: and in the same human form]. His corporeal identity is implied in οὗτοςἸησοῦς .

ἐλεύσεται ] ‘Non ii, qui ascendentem viderunt, dicuntur venturum visuri . Inter ascensionem et inter adventum gloriosum nullus interponitur eventus eorum utrique par: ideo hi duo conjunguntur. Merito igitur Apostoli ante datam Apocalypsin diem Christi ut valde propinquum proposuerunt. Et congruit majestati Christi, ut toto inter ascensionem et inter adventum tempore sine intermissione expectetur.’ Bengel.

Verse 12

12 .] In so careful a writer (see Luk 1:3 ) there must be some reason why this minute specification of distance should be here inserted, when no such appears in the Gospel. And I believe this will be found, by combining the hint dropped by Chrysostom, δοκεῖ δέ μοι καὶ σαββάτῳ γεγονέναι ταῦτα ʼ οὐ γὰρ ἂν οὕτω τὸ διάστημα ἐδήλωσενεἰ μὴ ὡρισμένον τι μῆκος ἐβάδιζον ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ σαββάτου , with the declaration in the Gospel ( Luk 24:50 ) that he led them out as far as to Bethany , This latter was ( Joh 11:18 ) fifteen stadia from Jerusalem, which is more than twice the Sabbath-day’s journey (2000 cubits = about six furlongs). Now if the Ascension happened on the Sabbath, it is very possible that offence may have arisen at the statement in the Gospel: and that therefore the Evangelist gives here the more exact notice, that the spot, although forming part of the district of Bethany, was yet on that part of the Mount of Olives which fell within the limits of the Sabbath-day’s journey. This of course must be a mere conjecture; but it will not be impugned by the fact of the Ascension being kept by the Church in after ages on a Thursday. This formed no hindrance to Chrysostom in making the above supposition: although the festival was certainly observed in his time (see Bingham, Orig [7] Eccl. 20:6. There is no mention of it in the Fathers of the first three centuries). Forty days from the Resurrection is an expression which would suit as well the Saturday of the seventh week as the Thursday.

[7] Origen, b. 185, d. 254

The distance of the Mount of Olives from Jerusalem is stated by Josephus at five stadia, Antt. xx. 8. 6, at six stadia, B. J. v. 2. 3; different points being taken as the limit. The present church of the Ascension rather exceeds the distance of six stadia from the city.

The use of ἐλαιών , - ῶνος , here (and in reff.) by Luke only is remarkable, especially as the whole passage is so much in his own distinctive style as to preclude the idea of his having transferred a written document.

ἔχον is not for ἀπέχον , but as in τριάκ . κ . ὀκτ . ἔτη ἔχων , John 5:5 , and in reff.; the space or time mentioned being regarded as an attribute of the subject.

Verse 13

13. εἰσῆλθ .] ‘into the city;’ see reff.

τὸ ὑπερῷ .] The idea that this was a chamber in the Temple has originated in low literal-harmonistic views, Luke having stated ( Luk 24:53 ) that they were διὰ παντὸς ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ . As if such an expression could be literally understood, or taken to mean more than that they were there at all appointed times (see ch. Act 3:1 ). It is in the highest degree improbable that the disciples would be found assembled in any public place at this time. The upper chamber was perhaps that in which the last Supper had been taken; probably that in which they had been since then assembled (John 20:19 ; Joh 20:26 ), but certainly one in a private house . Lightf. shews that it was the practice of the Jews to retire into a large chamber under the flat roof for purposes of deliberation or prayer. See Neander, Pfl. u. Leit., p. 13, note. Epiphanius, de ponderibus, c. 14 (vol. iii. p. 170), relates that when Hadrian came to Jerusalem, εὗρε τὴν πόλιν πᾶσαν ἠδαφισμένην καὶ τὸ ἱερὸν τοῦ θεοῦ καταπεπατημένον , παρεκτὸς ὀλίγων οἰκημάτων καὶ τῆς τοῦ οεοῦ ἐκκλησίας μικρᾶς οὔσης , ἔνθα ὑποστρέψαντες οἱ μαθηταί , ὅτεσωτὴρ ἀνελήφθη ἀπὸ τοῦ Ἐλαιῶνος , ἀνέβησαν εἰς τὸ ὑπερῷον . ἐκεῖ γὰρ ᾠκοδόμητο , τουτέστιν ἐν τῷ μέρει Σιών · ἥτις ἀπὸ τῆς ἐρημώσεως περιελήφθη , … ἕως χρόνου Μαξίμου τοῦ ἐπισκόπου καὶ Κωνσταιτίνου τοῦ βασιλέως , ὡς σκηνὴ ἐν ἀμπελῶνι , κατὰ τὸ γεγραμμένον . And Nicephorus viii. 30 (see Wordsw.) says that the Empress Helena enclosed in her larger church the chamber where took place ἡ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος καθοδος ἐν τῷ ὑπερῴῳ .

οὗ ἦσαν κατ . ] not to be taken as in E. V. ‘ where abode both Peter,’ &c. ; which gives the idea that Peter, &c. were already in the chamber , and the rest joined them there : but, on entering the city, they went up into the upper chamber , where they (usually) sojourned (not ‘ dwelt :’ they did not all dwell in one house; see John 19:27 , note), namely, Peter , &c. On the catalogue of the Apostles, see Matthew 10:2 , note.

Verse 14

14. ] σὺν γυναιξίν has been rendered ‘ with their wives ,’ to which sense Bp. Middleton inclines, justifying it by σὺν γυναιξὶν καὶ τέκνοις , ch. Acts 21:5 . But the omission of the articles there may be accounted for on the same principle as in Matthew 19:29 , viz. that which Bp. M [8] calls enumeration , ch. 6 § 2. Here I think we must take σὺν γυν . not as meaning ‘ with women ,’ as Hackett, but, the art. not being expressed after the preposition σύν , as = σὺν ταῖς γυν . (see Middl. ch. 6 § 1), and interpret γυν ., the women , viz. those spoken of by Luke himself, Luke 8:2-3 , where, besides those named, he mentions ἕτεραι πολλαί . Many of these were certainly not wives of the Apostles; and that those women who were ‘last at the Cross and earliest at the tomb’ should not have been assembled with the company now, is very improbable.

[8]. Marcion, 130; fragments in Epiph. (Mcion-e) and Tert. (Mcion-t)

καὶ Μαρίᾳ ] The καί gives eminence to one among those previously mentioned. So τῶνδε εἵνεκα , καὶ γῆς ἱμέρῳ , Herod. i. 73. See Hartung, Partikellehre, i. 145.

This is the last mention of her in the N. T. The traditions, which describe her as (1) dying at the age of fifty-nine, in the fifth year of Claudius (Niceph. H. E. ii. 21), or (2) accompanying John to Ephesus, and being buried there (see Winer, Realwörterb. art. Maria), are untrustworthy. Other accounts, with the authorities, may be seen in Butler’s Lives of the Saints, Aug. 15. The fable of the Assumption has no foundation even in tradition .

τοῖς ἀδελφ . αὐτ . ] This clearly shews, as does Joh 7:5 compared with John 6:69-70 , that none of the brethren of our Lord were of the number of the Twelve . When they were converted, is quite uncertain. See the whole subject discussed in note on Matthew 13:55 , and in the Prolegomena to the Epistle of James. In both cases of one being distinguished from a number, cited here by Wordsw. to shew that James the Less may have been one of these brethren, viz. that of Μαρία , as distinguished among the women here, and that of Joseph, ch. Acts 7:9 , he does not observe that the general statement precedes the individual distinction, as indeed it naturally must.

Verse 15

15. ἐν τ . ἡμ . τ . ] ln the days between the Ascension and Pentecost; during which it appears that the number of the assembly had increased, not probably by fresh conversions, but by the gathering round the Apostles of those who had previously been disciples.

ἦν τε ] The very frequent use of τε is a peculiarity of the Acts, and should have its weight in determining the reading, even where, as here, δέ seems more appropriate. It occurs in the Gospel 5 times: in the Acts, 121.

ὀνομάτων ] [that is, of persons: but the term would hardly be used except where the number is small.] See note on Revelation 3:4 .

ἑκατὸν εἴκοσι ] De Wette asks, ‘where were the 500 brethren of 1Co 15:6 ?’ We surely may answer, ‘not in Jerusalem.’ See Neander, Pfl. u. Leit., p. 72, note.

Verses 15-26


Verse 16

16. ] We may enquire, by what change in mind and power Peter was able, before the descent of the Spirit , thus authoritatively to speak of Scripture and the divine purposes? The answer will be found in the peculiar gift of the Spirit to the Apostles, John 20:21 ; John 20:23 ; where see note.

The pre-eminency of Peter here is the commencement of the fulfilment of Matthew 16:18-19 (see note there).

Verse 17

17. ] ὅτι , not ‘ although ’ (Kuinoel), but because : it gives the reason of the previous assertion, viz. that Judas held, and had betrayed, that place of high trust of which the prophecy spoke. Thus the ὅτι has reference to the substance of the prophecy , already in Peter’s mind, and serves to explain ἡ ἔπαυλις αὐτοῦ and ἡ ἐπισκοπὴ αὐτοῦ .

ἔλαχεν τὸν κλῆρον ] not literally, but inasmuch as the lot of every man is regarded as being cast and appointed by God.

κλῆρος , first, the lot itself; then, that apportioned by lot ; then, any species of apportionment , whether possession , or office , as here.

Verse 18

18. ] This verse cannot be regarded as inserted by Luke ; for, 1. the place of its insertion would be most unnatural for an historical notice; 2. the μὲν οὖν forbids the supposition; 3. the whole style of the verse is rhetorical, and not narrative, e.g. οὗτος , μισθοῦ τῆς ἀδικίας .

The ἐκτήσατο χωρίον does not appear to agree with the account in Matthew 27:6-8 ; nor, consistently with common honesty, can they be reconciled, unless we knew more of the facts than we do . If we compare the two, that of Matthew is the more particular, and more likely to give rise to this one, as a general inference from the buying of the field , than vice versâ . Whether Judas, as Bengel supposes, ‘initio emtionis facto, occasionem dederat ut Sacerdotes eam consummarent,’ we cannot say: such a thing is of course possible[, but is certainly not contemplated by St. Matthew’s account, where the priests settle to buy the field, on deliberation, what they should do with the money]. At all events we hence clearly see that Luke could not have been acquainted with the Gospel of Matthew at this time , or surely (not, he would have repeated St. Matt.’s account, as Wordsw. unfairly represents me to say, but) this apparent discrepancy would not have been found. The various attempts to reconcile the two narratives, which may be seen in most of our English commentaries, are among the saddest examples of the shifts to which otherwise high-minded men are driven by an unworthy system. See as a notable example, Wordsw.’s note, written since the above. I need hardly say to any intelligent and ingenuous reader, that his way of harmonizing, viz. that as the Jews are said to have crucified our Lord when they were only the occasion of his being crucified, so Judas may be said to have bought the field when he only gave occasion to its being bought by the Chief Priests, is entirely precluded here by the words ἐκ μισθοῦ τῆς ἀδικίας , ‘out of the wages of his iniquity,’ which plainly bind on the purchase to Judas as his personal act.

καὶ πρ . γεν . ] The connexion of this with the former clause would seem to point to the death of Judas having taken place in the field which he bought. See also Acts 1:19 .

πρηνὴς γενόμενος will hardly bear the meaning assigned to it by those who wish to harmonize the two accounts, viz. that, having hanged himself, he fell by the breaking of the rope. πρηνής · ἐπὶ πρόσωπον πεπτωκώς , Hesych [9] ὅλον μὲν τὸ σῶμα κεῖσθαι πρηνὲς λέγομεν , ὅτανμὲν γαστὴρ κάτωθεν , ἄνωθεν δὲτὸ νῶτον , Galen, cited by Wetstein. πρηνής , εἰς τοὔμπροσθεν , ἐπὶ στόματος , Etymol. Nor again is it at all probable that the Apostle would recount what was a mere accident accompanying his death , when that death itself was the accursed one of hanging . What then are we to decide respecting the two accounts? That there should have been a double account actually current of the death of Judas at this early period is in the highest degree improbable , and will only be assumed by those (De Wette, &c.) who take a very low view of the accuracy of the Evangelists. Dismissing then this solution, let us compare the accounts themselves. In this case, that in Matthew 27:0 is general , ours particular. That depends entirely on the exact sense to be assigned to ἀπήγξατο ( וַיֵּחָנַק , καὶ ἀπήγξατο , 2Sa 17:23 ): whereas this distinctly assigns the manner of his death, without stating any cause for the falling on his face. It is obvious that, while the general term used by Matthew points mainly at self-murder , the account given here does not preclude the catastrophe related having happened, in some way, as a divine judgment, during the suicidal attempt . Further than this, with our present knowledge, we cannot go. An accurate acquaintance with the actual circumstances would account for the discrepancy, but nothing else .

[9] Hesychius of Jerusalem, cent y . vi.

Another kind of death is assigned to Judas by Œcumenius, quoting from Papias: ἱστορεῖ Παπίαςτοῦ Ἰωάννου τοῦ ἀποστ . μαθητὴς λέγων · μέγα τῆς ἀσεβείας ὑπόδειγμα ἐν τούτῳ τῷ κόσμῳ περιεπάτησεν Ἰούδας · πρησθεὶς γὰρ ἐπὶ τὴν σάρκα , ὥστε μὴ δύνασθαι διελθεῖν , ἁμάξης ῥαδίως διερχομένης , ὑπὸ τῆς ἁμάξης ἐπιέσθη , ὥστε τὰ ἔγκατα αὐτοῦ ἐκκενωθῆναι . Theophylact quotes the same on Matthew 27:0 , but without the last words, ὑπὸ τῆς ἁμ . κ . τ . λ ., which De Wette supposes to have been inserted from Œcumenius having misunderstood Papias. If so, the tradition is in accordance with, and has arisen from an exaggerated amplification of, our text. See the whole passage from Theophylact cited, and a discussion whether it is rightly ascribed to Papias, in Routh, Reliquiæ Sacræ, vol. i. p. 9, and notes.

ἐλάκησεν ] cracked asunder : it implies bursting with a noise. It is quite possible that this catastrophe happening in the field, as our narrative implies, may have suggested its employment as a burial-place for strangers, as being defiled. So Stier, Reden der Apostel, i. 10.

Verse 19

19. ] It is principally from this verse that it has been inferred that the two Act 1:18-19 are inserted by Luke . But it is impossible to separate it from Acts 1:18 ; and I am disposed to regard both as belonging to Peter’s speech, but freely Græcized by Luke, inserting into the speech itself the explanations τῇ [ ἰδίᾳ ] διαλ . αὐτ ., and τουτέστιν χ . αἵμ ., as if the speech had been spoken in Greek originally. This is much more natural, than to parenthesize these clauses; it is, in fact, what must be more or less done by all who report in a language different from that actually used by the speaker. The words and idioms of another tongue contain allusions and national peculiarities which never could have been in the mind of one speaking in a different language; but the ear tolerates these, or easily separates them, if critically exercised.

γνωστὸν ] See Luke 24:18 .

ὥστε ] in Matthew 27:8 , the name ‘the field of blood’ is referred to the fact of its having been bought with the price of blood : here, to the fact of Judas having there met with a signal and bloody death . On the whole, I believe the result to which I have above inclined will be found the best to suit the phænomena of the two passages, viz. that, with regard to the purchase of the field , the more circumstantial account in Matthew is to be adopted; with regard to the death of Judas , the more circumstantial account of Luke. The clue which joins these has been lost to us : and in this, only those will find any stumbling-block, whose faith in the veracity of the Evangelists is very weak indeed.

Ἀκελδαμάχ ] חֲקִל דְּמָא . The field originally belonged to a potter, and was probably a piece of land which had been exhausted of its clay fit for his purposes, and so was useless. Jerome relates that it was still shewn on the S. side of Mount Sion ( ἐν βορείοις τοῦ Σιὼν ὄρους , but by mistake, Eusebius), in which neighbourhood there is even now a bed of white clay (see Winer, Realw., art. ‘Blutacker’).

Verse 20

20. ] γάρ , the connexion being, ‘all this happened and became known,’ &c., ‘ in accordance with the prophecy,’ &c. Psalms 69:0 is eminently a Messianic psalm, spoken in the first place of David and his kingdom and its enemies, and so, according to the universal canon of O. T. interpretation, of Him in whom that kingdom found its true fulfilment, and of His enemies. And Judas being the first and most notable of these, the Apostle applies eminently to him the words which in the Psalm are spoken in the plural of all such enemies. The same is true of Psalms 109:0 , and there one adversary is even more pointedly marked out. See also Psalms 55:0 .

ἐπισκοπήν = פְּקֻדָּה , office, or charge. The citations are freely from the LXX.

Verse 21

21. ] οὖν , since all this has happened to Judas, and since it is the divine will that another should take the charge which was his.

ἐν παντὶ χρόνῳ ] This definition of the necessary qualification of an apostle exactly agrees with our Lord’s saying in John 15:27 ; καὶ ὑμεῖς δὲ μαρτυρεῖτε , ὅτι ἀπ ʼ ἀρχῆς μετ ʼ ἐμοῦ ἐστε . See Prolegg. Vol. l. ch. i. § iii. 5.

εἰσῆλθ . κ . ἐξῆλθ . ἐφ ʼ ἡμᾶς ] An abridged construction for εἰσῆλθ . ἐφ ʼ ἡμᾶς κ . ἐξῆλθ . ἀφ ʼ ἡμῶν .

Verse 22

22. βαπτ . Ἰωάν .] Not ‘ His being baptized by John ’ (as Wolf, Kuin., &c.); but the baptism of John , as a well-known date, including of course the opening event of our Lord’s ministry, His own baptism. That John continued to baptize for some time after that, can be no possible objection to the assignment of ‘John’s baptism’ generally, as the date of the commencement of the apostolic testimony (against De Wette). We may notice, that from this point the testimony of the Evangelists themselves in their Gospels properly begins, Matthew 3:1 , Mark 1:1 , Luke 3:1 , John 1:6 .

μάρτ . τῆς ἀναστ .] This one event was the passage-point between the Lord’s life of humiliation and His life of glory, the completion of His work below and beginning of His work above. And to ‘give witness with power’ of the Resurrection (ch. Act 4:33 ), would be to discourse of it as being all this ; in order to which, the whole ministry of Jesus must be within the cycle of the Apostle’s experience.

It is remarkable that Peter here lays down experience of matters of fact , not eminence in any subjective grace or quality, as the condition of Apostleship. Still, the testimony was not to be mere ordinary allegation of matters of fact: any who had seen the Lord since His resurrection were equal to this; but belonged to a distinct office (see John 14:26 ; also ch. Acts 5:31 , note), requiring the especial selection and grace of God .

Verse 23

23. ] ἔστησαν , viz. the whole company, to whom the words had been spoken ; not the eleven Apostles.

Ἰωσὴφ .…] The names Ἰωσήφ and Ἰωσῆς , different forms of the same, are confused in the MSS., both here and in ch. Acts 4:36 . But Barsabbas (or Barsabas) and Barnabas are not to be confounded: they are different names (Barsabbas = son of Sabba or Saba: on Barnabas, see ch. Acts 4:36 , note); and Barnabas is evidently introduced in Act 4:36 as a person who had not been mentioned before.

Of Barsabas, nothing further is known. Euseb., iii. 39, states, on the authority of Papias, that he drank a cup of poison without being hurt. [There is a Judas Barsabbas mentioned in ch. Acts 15:22 , whom some take to be his brother.]

In all probability both the selected persons (see Eus [10] i. 12) belonged to the number of the Seventy, as it would be natural that the candidates for apostleship should be chosen from among those who had been already distinguished by Christ Himself among the brethren.

[10] Eusebius, Bp. of Cæsarea, 315 320

Justus is a Roman cognomen, assumed according to a custom then prevalent. The name Justus seems to have been common: Schöttgen, Hor. Hebr., on this place, gives two instances of Jews bearing it.

Μαθθίαν ] Nothing historical is known of him. Traditionally, according to Nicephorus (H. E. ii. 40, Winer), he suffered martyrdom in Æthiopia; according to others, in Colchis (Menolog. Græc. iii. 198, Winer): another account (Perionii Vitæ Apost. p. 178 sqq., Winer) makes him preach in Judæa and be stoned by the Jews. Clem [11] Alex., Strom. ii. 9 [45], p. 452 P., vii. 13 [82], p. 882 P., mentions the παραδόσεις of Matthias, which perhaps were the same as an apocryphal gospel once current under his name, mentioned by Eus [12] , H. E. iii. 25. See Winer, Realw.

[11] Clement of Alexandria, fl. 194

[12] Eusebius, Bp. of Cæsarea, 315 320

Verse 24

24. ] It is a question, to Whom this prayer was directed . I think all probability is in favour of the Apostle (for Peter certainly was the spokesman) having addressed his glorified Lord . And with this the language of the prayer agrees. No stress can, it is true, be laid on κύριε : see ch. Acts 4:29 , where unquestionably the Father is so addressed: but the ἐξελέξω , compared with οὐκ ἐγὼ ὑμᾶς τοὺς δώδεκα ἐξελεξάμην , John 6:70 , seems to me almost decisive. See also Acts 1:2 ; Luke 6:13 ; John 13:18 ; John 15:16 ; John 15:19 . The instance cited on the other side by Meyer, ἐξελέξατοθεὸς διὰ τοῦ στόματός μου ἀκοῦσαι τὰ ἔθνη κ . τ . λ ., is not to the point, as not relating to the matter here in hand; nor are the passages cited by De Wette, 2 Corinthians 1:1 ; Ephesians 1:1 ; 2 Timothy 1:1 , where Paul refers his apostleship to God , since obviously all such appointment must be referred ultimately to God : but the question for us is, In these words, did the disciples pray as they would have prayed before the Ascension , or had they Christ in their view? The expression καρδιογνῶστα (used by Peter himself of God , ch. Act 15:8 ) forms no objection: see John 21:17 , also in the mouth of Peter himself. We are sure, from the προσκυνήσαντες αὐτόν of Luke 24:52 , that even at this time, before the descent of the Spirit, the highest kind of worship was paid to the ascended Redeemer . Still, I do not regard it as by any means certain that they addressed Christ, nor can the passage be alleged as convincing in controversy with the Socinian.

ἀνάδειξ . κ . τ . λ .] Not, as in E. V., ‘ shew whether of these two Thou hast chosen ,’ but appoint (see reff.) one of these two (him) whom Thou hast chosen . The difference is of some import: they did not pray for a sign merely, to shew whether of the two was chosen, but that the Lord would, by means of their lot, Himself appoint the one of His choice.

Verse 25

25. ] τόπον is from internal evidence, as well us manuscript authority, the preferable reading. It has been altered to κλῆρον to suit Acts 1:17 .

διακονίας , implying the active duties; ἀποστολῆς , the official dignity of the office: no figure of ἓν διὰ δυοῖν .

τὸν τόπον τὸν ἴδιον ] With the reading τόπον before, I think these words may be interpreted two ways: 1. that Judas deserted this our τόπος , our office and ministry, to go to his own τόπος , that part which he had chosen for himself, viz. the office and character of a traitor and enemy of God; 2. regarding the former word τόπος as being selected to correspond to the more proper and dreadful use of the word here , that Judas deserted his τόπος , his appointed place, here among us, that he might go to his own appointed τόπος elsewhere , viz. among the dead in the place of torment . Of these two interpretations, I very much prefer the second, on all accounts; as being more according to the likely usage of the word, and as more befitting the solemnity of such a prayer. At the same time, no absolute sentence is pronounced on the traitor, but that dark surmise expressed by the euphemism τὸν τόπον τ . ἴδ ., which none can help feeling with regard to him. To refer the words πορ . εἰς τ . τόπ . τ . ἴδ ., to the successor of Judas (Knatchbull, Hammond, al.), ‘ ut occupet locum ipsi a Deo destinatum ,’ (1) is contrary to the form of the sentence, which would require καὶ πορευθῆναι ; (2) is inconsistent with the words πορ . κ . τ . λ ., which are unexampled in this sense; (3) would divest a sentence, evidently solemn and pregnant, of all point and meaning, and reduce it to a mere tautology. It appears to have been very early understood as above; for Clement of Rome says of Peter (1 Corinthians 5:0 ), οὕτω μαρτυρήσας ἐπορεύθη εἰς τὸν ὀφειλόμενον τόπον τῆς δόξης , an expression evidently borrowed from our text. Lightf., Hor. Hebr. in loc., quotes from the Rabbinical work Baal turim on Numbers 24:25 , ‘Balaam ivit in locum suum, i.e. in Gehennam.’

Verse 26

26. ἔδωκ . κλήρους αὐτοῖς ] They cast lots for them, αὐτοῖς being a dativus commodi . The ordinary reading, whether αὐτῶν is referred to the Apostles or to the candidates, would require τοὺς κλήρους . Αὐτῶν has been an alteration, to avoid the rendering ‘they gave lots to them.’ These lots were probably tablets, with the names of the persons written on them, and shaken in a vessel, or in the lap of a robe ( Pro 16:33 ); he whose lot first leaped out being the person designated.

συγκατ .] The lot being regarded as the divine choice, the suffrages of the assembly were unanimously given (not in form , but by cheerful acquiescence) to the candidate thus chosen, and he was ‘voted in’ among the eleven Apostles, i.e. as a twelfth . That Luke does not absolutely say so , and never afterwards speaks of the twelve Apostles, is surely no safe ground on which to doubt this.

Stier seems disposed to question (in his Reden der Apostel, Acts 1:18 ff., which however was a work of his youth) whether this step of electing a twelfth Apostle was altogether suitable to the then waiting position of the Church, and whether Paul was not in reality the twelfth, chosen by the Lord Himself. But I do not see that any of his seven queries touch the matter. We have the precedent, of all others most applicable, of the twelve tribes, to shew that the number, though ever nominally kept , was really exceeded . And this incident would not occupy a prominent place in a book where Paul himself has so conspicuous a part, unless it were by himself considered as being what it professed to be, the filling up of the vacant Apostleship.

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Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Acts 1". Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.