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Bible Commentaries
Acts 8

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

Was consenting (ην συνευδοκων). Periphrastic imperfect of συνευδοκεω, a late double compound (συν, ευ, δοκεω) that well describes Saul's pleasure in the death (αναιρεσις, taking off, only here in the N.T., though old word) of Stephen. For the verb see on Luke 23:32. Paul himself will later confess that he felt so (Acts 22:20), coolly applauding the murder of Stephen, a heinous sin (Romans 1:32). It is a gruesome picture. Chapter 7 should have ended here.

On that day (εν εκεινη τη ημερα). On that definite day, that same day as in Acts 2:41.

A great persecution (διωγμος μεγας). It was at first persecution from the Sadducees, but this attack on Stephen was from the Pharisees so that both parties are now united in a general persecution that deserves the adjective "great." See on Matthew 13:21 for the old word διωγμος from διωκω, to chase, hunt, pursue, persecute.

Were all scattered abroad (παντες διεσπαρησαν). Second aorist passive indicative of διασπειρω, to scatter like grain, to disperse, old word, in the N.T. only in Acts 8:1; Acts 8:4; Acts 11:19.

Except the apostles (πλην των αποστολων). Preposition πλην (adverb from πλεον, more) with the ablative often in Luke. It remains a bit of a puzzle why the Pharisees spared the apostles. Was it due to the advice of Gamaliel in Acts 5:34-40? Or was it the courage of the apostles? Or was it a combination of both with the popularity of the apostles in addition?

Verse 2

Devout (ευλαβεις). Only four times in the N.T. (Luke 2:25; Acts 2:5; Acts 8:2; Acts 22:12). Possibly some non-Christian Jews helped. The burial took place before the Christians were chiefly scattered.

Buried (συνεκομισαν). Aorist active indicative of συνκομιζω, old verb to bring together, to collect, to join with others in carrying, to bury (the whole funeral arrangements). Only here in the N.T.

Lamentation (κοπετον). Late word from κοπτομα, to beat the breast, in LXX, Plutarch, etc., only here in the N.T.

Verse 3

Laid waste (ελυμαινετο). Imperfect middle of λυμαινομα, old verb (from λυμη, injury), to dishonour, defile, devastate, ruin. Only here in the N.T. Like the laying waste of a vineyard by a wild boar (Psalms 79:13). Picturesque description of the havoc carried on by Saul now the leader in the persecution. He is victor over Stephen now who had probably worsted him in debate in the Cilician synagogue in Jerusalem.

Into every house (κατα τους οικους). But Luke terms it "the church" (την εκκλησιαν). Plainly not just an "assembly," but an organized body that was still "the church" when scattered in their own homes, "an unassembled assembly" according to the etymology. Words do not remain by the etymology, but travel on with usage.

Haling (συρων). Literally, dragging forcibly (=hauling). Present active participle of συρω, old verb.

Men and women (ανδρας κα γυναικας). A new feature of the persecution that includes the women. They met it bravely as through all the ages since (cf. Acts 9:2; Acts 22:4). This fact will be a bitter memory for Paul always.

Committed (παρεδιδου). Imperfect active of παραδιδωμ, old verb, kept on handing them over to prison.

Verse 4

They therefore (ο μεν ουν). Demonstrative ο as often (Acts 1:6, etc.) though it will make sense as the article with the participle διασπαρεντες. The general statement is made here by μεν and a particular instance (δε) follows in verse Acts 8:5. The inferential particle (ουν) points back to verse Acts 8:3, the persecution by young Saul and the Pharisees. Jesus had commanded the disciples not to depart from Jerusalem till they received the Promise of the Father (Acts 1:4), but they had remained long after that and were not carrying the gospel to the other peoples (Acts 1:8). Now they were pushed out by Saul and began as a result to carry out the Great Commission for world conquest, that is those "scattered abroad" (διασπαρεντες, second aorist passive participle of διασπειρω). This verb means disperse, to sow in separate or scattered places (δια) and so to drive people hither and thither. Old and very common verb, especially in the LXX, but in the N.T. only in Acts 8:1; Acts 8:4; Acts 11:19.

Went about (διηλθον). Constative second aorist active of διερχομα, to go through (from place to place, δια). Old and common verb, frequent for missionary journeys in the Acts (Acts 5:40; Acts 8:40; Acts 9:32; Acts 11:19; Acts 13:6).

Preaching the word (ευαγγελιζομενο τον λογον). Evangelizing or gospelizing the word (the truth about Christ). In Acts 11:19 Luke explains more fully the extent of the labours of these new preachers of the gospel. They were emergency preachers, not ordained clergymen, but men stirred to activity by the zeal of Saul against them. The blood of the martyrs (Stephen) was already becoming the seed of the church. "The violent dispersion of these earnest disciples resulted in a rapid diffusion of the gospel" (Alvah Hovey).

Verse 5

Philip (Φιλιππος). The deacon (Acts 6:5) and evangelist (Acts 21:8), not the apostle of the same name (Mark 3:18).

To the city of Samaria (εις την πολιν της Σαμαριας). Genitive of apposition. Samaria is the name of the city here. This is the first instance cited of the expansion noted in verse Acts 8:4. Jesus had an early and fruitful ministry in Samaria (Acts 8:4), though the twelve were forbidden to go into a Samaritan city during the third tour of Galilee (Matthew 10:5), a temporary prohibition withdrawn before Jesus ascended on high (Acts 1:8).

Proclaimed (εκηρυσσεν). Imperfect active, began to preach and kept on at it. Note ευαγγελιζομενο in verse Acts 8:4 of missionaries of good news (Page) while εκηρυσσεν here presents the preacher as a herald. He is also a teacher (διδασκαλος) like Jesus. Luke probably obtained valuable information from Philip and his daughters about these early days when in his home in Caesarea (Acts 21:8).

Verse 6

Gave heed (προσειχον). Imperfect active as in verses Acts 8:10; Acts 8:11, there with dative of the person (αυτω), here with the dative of the thing (τοις λεγομενοις). There is an ellipse of νουν (mind). They kept on giving heed or holding the mind on the things said by Philip, spell-bound, in a word.

When they heard (εν τω ακουειν αυτους). Favourite Lukan idiom, εν and the locative case of the articlar infinitive with the accusative of general reference "in the hearing as to them."

Which he did (α εποιε). Imperfect active again, which he kept on doing from time to time. Philip wrought real miracles which upset the schemes of Simon Magus.

Verse 7

For many (πολλο γαρ). So the correct text of the best MSS., but there is an anacoluthon as this nominative has no verb with it. It was "the unclean spirits" that "came out" (εξηρχοντο, imperfect middle). The margin of the Revised Version has it "came forth," as if they came out of a house, a rather strained translation. The loud outcry is like the demons cast out by Jesus (Mark 3:11; Luke 4:41).

Palsied (παραλελυμενο, perfect passive participle). Luke's usual word, loosened at the side, with no power over the muscles. Furneaux notes that "the servant was reaping where the Master had sown. Samaria was the mission field white for the harvest (John 4:35)." The Samaritans who had been bewitched by Simon are now carried away by Philip.

Verse 9

Simon (Σιμων). One of the common names (Josephus, Ant. XX. 7, 2) and a number of messianic pretenders had this name. A large number of traditions in the second and third centuries gathered round this man and Baur actually proposed that the Simon of the Clementine Homilies is really the apostle Paul though Paul triumphed over the powers of magic repeatedly (Acts 13:6-12; Acts 19:11-19), "a perfect absurdity" (Spitta, Apostelgeschichte, p. 149). One of the legends is that this Simon Magus of Acts is the father of heresy and went to Rome and was worshipped as a god (so Justin Martyr). But a stone found in the Tiber A.D. 1574 has an inscription to Semoni Sanco Deo Fidio Sacrum which is (Page) clearly to Hercules, Sancus being a Sabine name for Hercules. This Simon in Samaria is simply one of the many magicians of the time before the later gnosticism had gained a foothold. "In his person Christianity was for the first time confronted with superstition and religious imposture, of which the ancient world was at this period full" (Furneaux).

Which beforetime used sorcery (προυπηρχεν μαγευων). An ancient idiom (periphrastic), the present active participle μαγευων with the imperfect active verb from προυπαρχω, the idiom only here and Luke 23:12 in the N.T. Literally "Simon was existing previously practising magic." This old verb μαγευω is from μαγος (a μαγυς, seer, prophet, false prophet, sorcerer) and occurs here alone in the N.T.

Amazed (existanon). Present active participle of the verb εξιστανω, later form of εξιστημ, to throw out of position, displace, upset, astonish, chiefly in the Gospels in the N.T. Same construction as μαγευων.

Some great one (τινα μεγαν). Predicate accusative of general reference (infinitive in indirect discourse). It is amazing how gullible people are in the presence of a manifest impostor like Simon. The Magi were the priestly order in the Median and Persian empires and were supposed to have been founded by Zoroaster. The word μαγο (magi) has a good sense in Matthew 2:1, but here and in Acts 13:6 it has the bad sense like our "magic."

Verse 10

That power of God which is called Great (η Δυναμις του θεου η καλουμενη Μεγαλη). Apparently here already the oriental doctrine of emanations or aeons so rampant in the second century. This "power" was considered a spark of God himself and Jerome (in Acts 8:24) quotes Simon (Page) as saying: Ego sum sermo Dei, ... ego omnipotens, ego omnia Dei. Simon claimed to impersonate God.

Verse 11

Because that of long time he had amazed them with his sorceries (δια το ικανω χρονω ταις μαγιαις εξεστακενα αυτους). Causal use of δια with the accusative articular infinitive (perfect active Koine form and transitive, εξεστακενα). Same verb as in verse Acts 8:9 participle εξιστανων and in verse Acts 8:13 imperfect passive εξιστατο (cf. also Acts 2:7 already). Χρονω is associative instrumental and μαγιαις instrumental case.

Verse 12

They were baptized (εβαπτιζοντο). Imperfect passive (repetition, from time to time), while

believed (επιστευσαν) is constative aorist antecedent to the baptism. Note dative case of Philip with επιστευσαν. Note the gospel of Philip "concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ."

Verse 13

And Simon also himself believed (Hο δε Σιμων κα αυτος επιστευσεν). Note the same verb in the aorist tense επιστευσεν. What did he believe? Evidently that Jesus was this "power of God" not himself (Simon). He saw that the miracles wrought by Philip in the name of Christ were genuine while he knew that his own were frauds. He wanted this power that Philip had to add to his own pretensions. "He was probably half victim of self-delusion, half conscious impostor" (Furneaux). He was determined to get this new "power," but had no sense of personal need of Jesus as Saviour for his sins. So he submitted to baptism (βαπτισθεις, first aorist passive participle of βαπτιζω), clear proof that baptism does not convey salvation.

He continued with Philip (ην προσκαρτερων τω Φιλιππω). Periphrastic imperfect of the verb προσκαρτερεω (see on Acts 2:46). He stuck to Philip (dative case) to find out the secret of his power.

Beholding (θεωρων). Watching the signs and miracles (powers, δυναμεις that threw his "power" in the shade) as they were wrought (γινομενας, present middle participle of γινομα). The more he watched the more the wonder grew (εξιστατο). He had "amazed" (verse Acts 8:9) the people by his tricks and he was himself more "amazed" than they by Philip's deeds.

Verse 14

That Samaria had received (οτ δεδεκτα η Σαμαρια). The district here, not the city as in verse Acts 8:5. Perfect middle indicative of δεχομα retained in indirect discourse. It was a major event for the apostles for now the gospel was going into Samaria as Jesus had predicted (Acts 1:8). Though the Samaritans were nominally Jews, they were not held so by the people. The sending of Peter and John was no reflection on Philip, but was an appropriate mission since "many Christian Jews would be scandalized by the admission of Samaritans" (Furneaux). If Peter and John sanctioned it, the situation would be improved. John had once wanted to call down fire from heaven on a Samaritan village (Luke 9:54).

Verse 15

That they might receive (οπως λαβωσιν). Second aorist active subjunctive of λαμβανω, final clause with οπως. Did they wish the Samaritan Pentecost to prove beyond a doubt that the Samaritans were really converted when they believed? They had been baptized on the assumption that the Holy Spirit had given them new hearts. The coming of the Holy Spirit with obvious signs (cf. Acts 10:44-48) as in Jerusalem would make it plain.

Verse 16

He was fallen (ην επιπεπτωκος). Periphrastic past perfect active of επιπιπτω, old verb. The participle is neuter here because of the grammatical gender of πνευμα, but the translation should be "he" (natural gender), not "it." We should not use "it" for the Holy Spirit.

Only they had been baptized (μονον δε βαβαπτισμενο υπηρχον). Periphrastic past perfect passive of βαπτιζω with υπαρχω (see verse Acts 8:9 προυπηρχον), instead of ησαν.

Into the name (εις το ονομα). Better, in the name (see on Acts 2:38).

Verse 17

Laid they their hands (επετιθεσαν τας χειρας). Imperfect active, repetition. The laying on of hands did not occur at the great Pentecost (Acts 2:4; Acts 2:33) nor in Acts 4:31; Acts 10:44 nor is it mentioned in Acts 8:1; Acts 8:14. It is mentioned in Acts 6:7 about the deacons and in Acts 13:3 when Barnabas and Saul left Antioch. And in Saul's case it was Ananias who laid his hands on him (Acts 9:17). Hence it cannot be concluded that the Holy Spirit was received only by the laying on of the hands of the apostles or by the hands of anyone. The so-called practice of "confirmation" appeals to this passage, but inconclusively.

They received (ελαμβανον). Imperfect active, repetition as before and παρ πασσυ with the laying on of the hands.

Verse 18

When Simon saw (Ιδων δε ο Σιμων). This participle (second aorist active of οραω) shows plainly that those who received the gift of the Holy Spirit spoke with tongues. Simon now saw power transferred to others. Hence he was determined to get this new power.

He offered them money (προσηνεγκεν χρηματα). Second aorist active indicative of προσφερω. He took Peter to be like himself, a mountebank performer who would sell his tricks for enough money. Trafficking in things sacred like ecclesiastical preferments in England is called "Simony" because of this offer of Simon.

Verse 19

Me also (καμο). This is the whole point with this charlatan. He wants the power to pass on "this power." His notion of "The Holy Spirit" was on this low level. He regarded spiritual functions as a marketable commodity. Money "can buy diamonds, but not wisdom, or sympathy, or faith, or holiness" (Furneaux).

Verse 20

Perish with thee (συν σο ειη εις απωλειαν). Literally, Be with thee for destruction. Optative for a future wish. The use of εις with the accusative in the predicate is especially common in the LXX. The wish reveals Peter's indignation at the base offer of Simon. Peter was no grafter to accept money for spiritual power. He spurned the temptation. The natural meaning of Peter's language is that Simon was on the road to destruction. It is a warning and almost a curse on him, though verse Acts 8:22 shows that there was still room for repentance.

To obtain (κτασθα). To acquire. Usual meaning of the present tense (infinitive middle) of κταομα.

Verse 21

Lot (κληρος). Same idea as "part" (μερις), only as a figure.

Matter (λογο). Literally, word or subject (as in Luke 1:4; Acts 15:6), the power of communicating the Holy Spirit. This use of λογος is in the ancient Greek.

Straight (ευθεια). Quotation from Psalms 78:37. Originally a mathematically straight line as in Acts 9:11, then moral rectitude as here.

Verse 22

Wickedness (κακιας). Only here in Luke's writings, though old word and in LXX (cf. 1 Peter 2:1; 1 Peter 2:16).

If perhaps (ε αρα). Si forte. This idiom, though with the future indicative and so a condition of the first class (determined as fulfilled), yet minimizes the chance of forgiveness as in Mark 11:13. Peter may have thought that his sin was close to the unpardonable sin (Matthew 12:31), but he does not close the door of hope.

The thought (η επινοια). Old Greek word from επινοεω, to think upon, and so purpose. Only here in the N.T.

Verse 23

That thou art (σε οντα). Participle in indirect discourse after ορω (I see).

In the gall of bitterness (εις χολην πικριας). Old word from χολας either from χεω, to pour, or χλοη, yellowish green, bile or gall. In the N.T. only in Matthew 27:34 and here. In LXX in sense of wormwood as well as bile. See Deuteronomy 29:18; Deuteronomy 32:32; Lamentations 3:15; Job 16:14. "Gall and bitterness" in Deuteronomy 29:18. Here the gall is described by the genitive πικριας as consisting in "bitterness." In Hebrews 12:15 "a root of bitterness," a bitter root. This word πικρια in the N.T. only here and Hebrews 12:15; Romans 3:14; Ephesians 4:31. The "bond of iniquity" (συνδεσμον αδικιας) is from Isaiah 58:6. Paul uses this word of peace (Ephesians 4:3), of love (Colossians 3:14), of the body (Colossians 2:19). Peter describes Simon's offer as poison and a chain.

Verse 24

Pray ye for me (Δεηθητε υμεις υπερ εμου). Emphasis on υμεις (you). First aorist passive imperative. Simon is thoroughly frightened by Peter's words, but shows no sign of personal repentance or change of heart. He wants to escape the penalty for his sin and hopes that Peter can avert it. Peter had clearly diagnosed his case. He was an unconverted man in spite of his profession of faith and baptism. There is no evidence that he ever changed his life at all.

Which (ων). Genitive by attraction of the accusative relative α to case of the unexpressed antecedent τουτων (of those things), a common Greek idiom.

Verse 25

They therefore (ο μεν ουν). Demonstrative ο with μεν (no following δε) and the inferential ουν (therefore) as often in Acts (Acts 1:6, etc.).

Returned (υπεστρεφον). Imperfect active picturing the joyful journey of preaching (ευηγγελιζοντο, imperfect middle) to the Samaritan villages. Peter and John now carried on the work of Philip to the Samaritans. This issue was closed.

Verse 26

Toward the South (κατα μεσημβριαν). Old word from μεσος and ημερα, midday or noon as in Acts 22:16, the only other example in the N.T. That may be the idea here also, though "towards the South" gets support from the use of κατα λιβα in Acts 27:12.

The same is desert (αυτη εστιν ερημος). Probably a parenthetical remark by Luke to give an idea of the way. One of the ways actually goes through a desert. Gaza itself was a strong city that resisted Alexander the Great five months. It was destroyed by the Romans after war broke out with the Jews.

Verse 27

A eunuch of great authority (ευνουχος δυναστης). Eunuchs were often employed by oriental rulers in high posts. Dynasty comes from this old word δυναστης used of princes in Luke 1:52 and of God in 1 Timothy 6:15. Eunuchs were not allowed to be Jews in the full sense (Deuteronomy 23:1), but only proselytes of the gate. But Christianity is spreading to Samaritans and to eunuchs.

Candace (Κανδακης). Not a personal name, but like Pharaoh and Ptolemy, the title of the queens of Ethiopia. This eunuch apparently brought the gospel to Ethiopia.

Treasure (γαζης). Persian word, common in late Greek and Latin for the royal treasure, here only in the N.T.

For to worship (προσκυνησων). Future active participle expressing purpose, a common idiom in the ancient Greek, but rare in the N.T. (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1128).

Verse 28

Was reading (ανεγινωσκεν). Imperfect active descriptive, not periphrastic like the two preceding verbs (was returning and sitting). He was reading aloud as Philip "heard him reading" (ηκουσεν αυτον αναγινωσκοντος), a common practice among orientals. He had probably purchased this roll of Isaiah in Jerusalem and was reading the LXX Greek text. See imperfect again in verse Acts 8:32.

Verse 29

Join thyself (κολληθητ). See this vivid word (be glued to, first aorist passive imperative) already in Acts 5:13; Luke 10:11; Luke 15:15. Philip probably jumped on the running board on the side of the chariot.

Verse 30

Understandest thou what thou readest? (Αρα γε γινωσκεις α αναγινωσκεισ?) The interrogative particle αρα and the intensive particle γε indicate doubt on Philip's part. The play (παρανομασια) upon the words in the Greek is very neat:

Do you know what you know again (read)? The verb for read (αναγινωσκο) means to know the letters again, recognize, read. The famous comment of Julian about the Christian writings is often quoted: Ανεγνων, εγνων, κατεγνων (I read, I understood, I condemned). The keen retort was: Ανεγνωσ, αλλ'ουκ εγνωσ, ε γαρ εγνωσ, ουκ αν κατεγνως (You read, but did not understand; for if you had understood, you would not have condemned).

Verse 31

How can I, except some one shall guide me? (Πως γαρ αν δυναιμην εαν με τις οδηγησε με?). This is a mixed condition, the conclusion coming first belongs to the fourth class (undetermined with less likelihood of being determined) with αν and the optative, but the condition (εαν, instead of the usual ε, and the future indicative) is of the first class (determined or fulfilled. Robertson, Grammar, p. 1022), a common enough phenomenon in the Koine. The eunuch felt the need of some one to guide (οδηγεω from οδηγος, guide, and that from οδος, way, and εγεομα, to lead).

Verse 32

The place (ε περιοχη). See the verb περιεχε so used in 1 Peter 2:6. The word is used either of the section as in Codex A before the beginning of Mark or the contents of a passage. He was here reading one particular passage (Isaiah 53:7). The quotation is from the LXX which has some variations from the Hebrew.

Verse 33

Was taken away (ηρθη). First aorist passive indicative of αιρω, to take away. It is not clear what the meaning is here either in the Hebrew or the LXX. Knowling suggests that the idea is that justice was withheld, done away with, in his death, as it certainly was in the death of Christ.

Verse 34

Of whom (περ τινος). Concerning whom, a pertinent inquiry surely and one that troubles many critics today.

Verse 35

Beginning from this scripture (αρξαμενος απο της γραφης ταυτης). As a text. Philip needed no better opening than this Messianic passage in Isaiah.

Preached unto him Jesus (ευηγγελισατο αυτω τον Ιησουν). Philip had no doubt about the Messianic meaning and he knew that Jesus was the Messiah. There are scholars who do not find Jesus in the Old Testament at all, but Jesus himself did (Luke 24:27) as Philip does here. Scientific study of the Old Testament (historical research) misses its mark if it fails to find Christ the Center of all history. The knowledge of the individual prophet is not always clear, but after events throw a backward light that illumines it all (1 Peter 1:11; 2 Peter 1:19-21).

Verse 36

What doth hinder me to be baptized? (Τ κωλυε με βαπτισθηναι?). Evidently Philip had said something about baptism following faith and conversion. Verse Acts 8:37 is not a genuine part of Acts, a western addition. Later baptismal liturgies had it.

Verse 39

Out of the water (εκ του υδατος). Not from the edge of the water, but up out of the water as in Mark 1:10.

Caught away (ηρπασεν). Suddenly and miraculously, for αρπαζω, like the Latin rapio, means to carry off. Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

Went on his way (επορευετο). Kept on going, imperfect active.

Verse 40

He preached the gospel (ευηγγελιζετο). Imperfect middle describing the evangelistic tour of Philip "till he came to Caesarea" (εως του ελθειν αυτον, genitive articular infinitive with the preposition εως and the accusative of general reference) where he made his home and headquarters thereafter (Acts 21:28) and was known as the Evangelist.

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Acts 8". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/acts-8.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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