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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Acts 12

Verses 1-17

Acts 12:1-17 . Persecution of the Church by Herod Agrippa. Peter’ s Escape from Prison.— On Agrippa, see p. 610 . His persecution of the Christians was according to his general policy. The persecutions of the faithful have been hitherto from the Jews acting through their local courts or the Sanhedrin. Now there is a civil ruler, also a Jew, minded to injure them, and persecution becomes more deadly.

Acts 12:1 . about that time: this must be before the death of Herod in A.D. 44 ; it must be after Paul’ s visit to Jerusalem in Galatians 2:1, Acts 11:30, for he found James and Peter and John there. [98] James the brother of the Lord is spoken of by Paul under that title in Galatians 1:19, and it is natural to take the James and John mentioned along with Peter to be the two sons of Zebedee. [If the visit in Galatians 2 is the Famine Visit of Acts 11:30 this is possible, but no argument can safely be built on the difference of designation of James in Galatians 1:19 and Galatians 2:9; Galatians 2:12. The other identification is in fact open to precisely the same objection, for it might just as well be argued that since Luke refers to James here “ as the brother of John” he must be different from the James of Acts 15, with whom the author of the commentary identifies him. If the visit of Galatians 2 is that of Acts 15, and later than the Famine Visit, the James of Galatians 2 cannot be the brother of John, he must have been the Lord’ s brother. The readers of Gal. presumably knew who was meant in Acts 2:9; Acts 2:12; there was no reason to add any description to distinguish him from the son of Zebedee, who would by this time be dead. The natural inference from Acts 21:17-26 is that the James of Acts 21:18 is identical with the James of Acts 15:13 and presumably with the James of Acts 12:17 (confessedly the Lord’ s brother), who is thus prominent at an early stage of the history. The dynastic principle which accorded a special place to the relatives of Jesus soon made itself felt in Jerusalem, and lasted for a long time.— A. S. P.]— to afflict: lit. maltreat; killing is meant.

Acts 12:2 . It is likely that there were other victims, and the conclusion is accepted by Wellhausen, Schwartz, Heitmü ller, Burkitt, and others that John the son of Zebedee was one of them, and that the prediction in Mark 10:39, which could scarcely have stood in the Gospel if nothing of the kind had happened, was thus fulfilled [99] ( cf. pp. 694 , 744 ).

Acts 12:3 . Peter, like his Master, is not to be put to death during the festival, but is arrested before it.

Acts 12:4 . four quaternions, each taking three hours on guard.

Acts 12:6 . A chain connecting him with each of the two guards. Each touch tells in the narrative; the king’ s intention, the strength of the guard, Peter’ s quiet sleep.

Acts 12:7 . Literature has many instances of such deliverance of the faithful from prison by their deity; cf. Acts 5:19; Acts 16:26 (see Wettstein and Preuschen).

Acts 12:8 . The escape is not too hurried.

Acts 12:9 . true: better “ real.”

Acts 12:10 . The first and the second guard, with the two chained to the prisoner, make up the quaternion of this watch. The prison will be in the Antonia; the Roman barrack overlooking the Temple to which Paul was carried (see Acts 22:24). D adds to the detail of the place that after passing through the iron gate to the town “ they went down the seven steps.”

Acts 12:11 answers to Acts 12:9; it is a reality, not a vision, that has happened to him; he has got out of Herod’ s hand, and the Jews will not have their will of him.

Acts 12:12 . considered: rather “ when he was clear about it.”— house of Mary: identified since the fourth century with the Cenaculum, the house where the Lord’ s Supper is said to have been instituted.— mother of John: on the relation between this Mary and John, and the Mary and John of the Fourth Gospel ( Acts 19:26 f.), see J. Weiss, Das ä lteste Evangelium, pp. 409 ff. On this John-Mark and his connexion with Peter and Paul and then with Peter again, see Acts 13:13 f.*, also Menzies, The Earliest Gospel, pp. 40 ff.

Acts 12:13 . Rhoda: Rose, a common slave name. The house is a large one with a gateway ( cf. Acts 10:17), where a domestic church could meet.

Acts 12:15 . It is his angel: Matthew 2:1-12 *, Matthew 18:10 *

Acts 12:17 . James, brother of the Lord, is the leader of the church; he is not present but is to be told.— to another place: Roman Catholic writers suggest Rome. So also Edmundson, The Church in Rome in the First Century, pp. 29 , 44– 58 ; cf. Lake, Earlier Epistles of St. Paul, pp. 375– 9 . Wellhausen, with more likelihood, suggests Antioch, where Peter is found in Galatians 2:11. The place is really unknown.

[98] E. Schwartz, Die Chronologie des Paulus, in the Nachrichten von der Kö n, Ges. der Wissenschaften zu Gö ttingen, 1907.

[99] Wellhausen und Schwartz in the Gö ttingen Nachrichten zur Johannestradition; Heitmü ller in Z N T W, 1914, pp. 189ff.; Burkitt, The Gospel History and its Transmission, pp. 252ff. A direct statement to this effect is said by Philippus of Side (A.D. 430) to have been made by Papias in his Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord, in the words “ John the theologian and James his brother were put to death by the Jews.” The disappearance of this fact in Church history is due to the growth of the tradition of the long-lived John of Ephesus; see detailed proof of this in Heitmü ller. The traditional view is upheld by Bernard, Irish Church Quarterly Review, 1908, pp. 51ff. ( = Studia Sacra, ch. xi.), Harnack, Peake, INT, pp. 142– 146. See J. Weiss, Das Urchristentum, pp. 232– 4. While the present writer inclines to the new view he recognises that the question is by no means closed.

[The association of the two gods Zeus and Hermes was familiar in the region round Lystra, see Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery, pp. 47ff.— A. J. G.]

Verses 18-25

Acts 12:18-23 . Fate of the Soldiers and of Herod.— For the soldiers, cf. Acts 5:21 ff. Here they are led away to be put to death. The story of Herod’ s glorification and end is told by Josephus in a similar way; but our version is at some points defective. Herod’ s displeasure with Tyre dates from an earlier period; no disagreement with Sidon is reported. As king of Judæ a he had a hold on the two towns which depended on importation for their corn, and they might seek to work on him through Blastus, the Master of his Bedchamber; he was a good-natured man— they could get round him.

Acts 12:21 b requires some such clause as is found in D, “ on his being reconciled to the Tyrians.” His decision was evidently to be given at a splendid court ceremony. The scene is described by Josephus ( Ant. XIX. viii. 2 ) who speaks of a robe made entirely of silver, which shone brilliantly in the morning sun and prompted the broad flattery, not unheard of in these days, that his voice was that of a god rather than of a man. His death was that of Antiochus ( 2Ma_9:3 ff.), Sulla, and other presumptuous characters of antiquity.

Acts 12:24 f. Return of Barnabas and Saul to Antioch.

Acts 12:24 . A very vague and general statement; to what region does it refer?

Acts 12:25 continues Acts 11:30. The reading in mg. is quite inconsistent with the narrative.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Acts 12". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/acts-12.html. 1919.