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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary
Acts 8

 

 

Verse 1

1. συνευδ.] See reff.: and compare his own confession, ch. Acts 26:9-11. From this time, the narrative takes up Saul, and, at first with considerable interruptions (ch. 8, 10, 11, 12.), but after ch. Acts 13:1 entirely, follows his history.

ἐν ἐκ. τῇ ἡμ. can hardly mean, as some (Dr. Burton, De Wette, Meyer, Stier) would render it, on that very day, viz. when Stephen was stoned. For what follows, πάντες δὲ διεσπάρησαν … cannot have happened on the same day, but would take some little time: and it is hardly allowable to render ἐγένετοbroke out.’ We have ἐν ἐκ. τῇ ἡμέρᾳ used indefinitely, Luke 6:23; John 14:20; John 16:23; John 16:26. In Luke 17:31 it has direct reference to a ἡμέρα just mentioned.

πάντες] Not perhaps literally,—or some of them soon returned: see ch. Acts 9:26-30. It may describe the general dispersion, without meaning that every individual fled.

σαμαρείας] Connected with Acts 8:4; this word is not without importance, as introducing the next step in the dissemination of the Gospel, according to our Lord’s command in ch. Acts 1:8.

πλὴν τῶν ἀποστόλων] Perhaps, from their exalted position of veneration by the people, the persecution did not extend to them: perhaps they remained, as possessed of superior firmness and devotion. But this latter reason is hardly applicable, after the command of our Lord, ‘When they persecute you in one city, flee to another.’ Matthew 10:23. Stier (Reden d. Apostel, i. 253) refers their remaining to an intimation of the Spirit, to stay and strengthen those who were left ( ἑτέρους γενέσθαι θράσους αἴτιοι, Chrys.). Mr. Humphry (Comm. on Acts) cites an ancient tradition, mentioned by Clem(52) Alex., Strom. vi. 5 (43), end, p. 762 P, from the Prædicatio Petri (and by Euseb. H. E. Acts 8:18), that the Apostles were ordered by our Lord to remain at Jerusalem twelve years: φησὶν ὁ πέτρος εἰρηκέναι τὸν κύριον τοῖς ἀποστόλοις ἐὰν μὲν οὖν τις θελήσῃ τοῦ ἰσραὴλ μετσνοῆσαι διὰ τοῦ ὀνόματός μου πιστεύειν ἐπὶ τὸν θεόν, ἀφεθήσονται αὐτῷ αἱ ἁμαρτίαι· μετὰ δώδεκα ἔτη ἐξέλθετε εἰς τὸν κόσμον, μή τις εἴπῃ οὐκ ἀκηκόαμεν. But this could not be the case, as we have Peter and John going down, to Samaria, Acts 8:14.


Verses 1-3

1–3.] PERSECUTION OF THE CHURCH BY SAUL, CONSEQUENT ON THE DEATH OF STEPHEN.


Verse 2

2. ἄνδρ. εὐλαβεῖς] Whether Jews or Christians is not certain. Ananias is so called, ch. Acts 22:12 (not in rec), and he was a Christian. At all events, there is no contrast implied in the δέ (as Mey.), ‘Yet, notwithstanding the persecution and dispersion, pious men were found who, &c.:’ the δέ is merely the transitional particle,—and, so far from its being any unusual thing to bury an executed person, it was commanded among the Jews. Olshausen thinks that, if they had been Christians, the term ἀδελφοί would have been used: but this does not seem by any means certain: we can hardly reason so minutely from the diction of one section in the narrative to that of another, especially in the case of a section so distinct and peculiar as this one. (Besides, ἀδελφοί in this sense does not occur till ch. Acts 9:30; see reff. there.) Probably they were pious Jews, not yet converts, but hearers and admirers of Stephen.


Verse 3

3. ἐλυμαίνετο] Properly used of wild beasts, or of hostile armies, devastating and ravaging. (See examples in Kuin.)

κατὰ τοὺς οἴκους, entering (the houses) from house to house,—a pregnant construction.

σύρων] So Philo, in Flacc. 9, vol. ii. p. 526, συρόμενοι κ. πατούμενοι διὰ τῆς πόλεως ἁπάσης ἐξαναλώθησαν.

παρεδίδου] viz. to the gaolers—so παραδιδοὺς εἰς φυλακάς, ch. Acts 22:4.


Verse 4

4.] μὲν οὖν resumes the subject dropped at the end of Acts 8:1, and determines this verse to be the opening of a new section, not the close of the former.

διῆλθ.] See reff.

εὐαγγ. τ. λόγ.] Here first we become acquainted with the missionary language so frequent in the rest of the book: and we have τὸν λόγον, an expression very familiar among Christians when the book was written, for [the fuller one which must have prevailed at first] τ. λ. τοῦ θεοῦ.


Verses 4-13

4–13.] PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL IN SAMARIA BY PHILIP.


Verse 5

5. φίλιππος] The deacon; not, as apparently implied in the citation from Polycrates in Eus(53) H. E. iii. 31, Acts 8:24, one of the twelve: this is precluded by Acts 8:1; Acts 8:14. And it is probable, that the persecution should have been directed especially against the colleagues of Stephen. Philip is mentioned again as ὁ εὐαγγελιστής,—probably from his having been the first recorded who εὐηγγελίσατο τὸν λόγον,—in ch. Acts 21:8,—as married and having four daughters, virgins, who prophesied.

πόλιν τ. σαμ.] Verbatim as John 4:5, in which case it is specified as being Sychar (Sichem). As the words stand here ( πόλιν = τὴν πόλιν, after εἰς, compare also 2 Peter 2:6), seeing that σαμάρεια (Acts 8:9; Acts 8:14; ch. Acts 9:31; Acts 15:3) signifies the district, I should be inclined to believe that Sychem is here also intended. It was a place of rising importance, and in after-times eclipsed the fame of its neighbour Samaria, which latter had been, on its presentation by Augustus to Herod the Great, re-fortified and called Sebaste, Jos. Antt. xv. 7. 3, and 8. 5. It still, however, bore the name of Samaria, Jos. xx. 6. 2,—where, from the context, the district can hardly be intended.

αὐτοῖς] The inhabitants, implied in πόλις.


Verse 6

6. προσεῖχον] If this place was Sychem, the narrative in John 4 will fully account for the readiness with which these people received the κήρυγμα τοῦ χριστοῦ—‘the proclamation of the Christ.’


Verse 7

7.] According to the reading in the text, which is too strongly upheld by manuscript authority to be rejected for the easier ordinary one, πολλαί is a ‘nominativus pendens’ (compare ch. Acts 7:40; Revelation 3:12. Winer, edn. 6, § 29. 1), For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they crying out with a loud voice, came out: ἐξήρχοντο being plur., as often when the neuter plural betokens living agents; see Winer, edn. 6, § 58. 3, a. β.

πολλοί has probably been altered to πολλῶν, to agree with τῶν ἐχόντων, on the difficulty being perceived.


Verse 9

9. σίμων] Neander, in the course of some excellent remarks on this whole history (see further on Acts 8:14), identifies, and I believe with reason, this Simon with one mentioned as living from ten to twenty years after this by Josephus, Antt. xx. 7. 2, καθʼ ὃν καιρὸν τῆς ἰουδαίας ἐπετρόπευσε φῆλιξ, θεασάμενος ταύτην (Drusilla) … λαμβάνει τῆς γυναικὸς ἐπιθυμίαν, καὶ σίμωνα ὀνόματι, τῶν ἑαυτῷ φίλων, ἰουδαῖον, κύπριον δὲ γένος, μάγον εἶναι σκηπτόμενον, τέμπων πρὸς αὐτὴν ἔπειθε τὸν ἄνδρα καταλιποῦσαν αὐτῷ γήμασθαι. The only difficulty seems to be, that Simon is stated by Justin Martyr, himself a Samaritan, to have been σαμαρέα, ἀπὸ κώμης λεγομένης γίττων. But it has struck me that either Justin, or perhaps more probably Josephus, may have confounded Ghittim with Chittim, i.e. Citium in Cyprus. This conjecture I also find mentioned in the Dict. of Biography and Mythology, sub voce. The account in Josephus is quite in character with what we here read of Simon: not inconsistent (Meyer) with Acts 8:24, which appears to have been uttered under terror occasioned by the solemn denunciation of Peter.

Justin goes on to relate that he was worshipped as a God at Rome in the time of Claudius Cæsar, on account of his magical powers, and had a statue on the island in the Tiber, inscribed ‘Simoni Deo Sancto.’ Singularly enough, in the year 1574, a stone was found in the Tiber (or standing on the island in the year 1662, according to the Dict. of Biogr. and Myth.), with the inscription SEMONI SANCO DEO FIDIO SACRVM, i.e. to the God Semo Sancus, the Sabine Hercules, which makes it probable that Justin may have been misled.

The history of Simon is full of legend and fable. The chief sources of it are the Recognitiones and Clementina of the pseudo-Clemens. He is there said to have studied at Alexandria, and to have been, with the heresiarch Dositheus, a disciple of John the Baptist. Of Dositheus he became first the disciple, and then the successor. Origen (in Matt. Comm. § 33, vol. iii. p. 851) makes Dositheus also a Samaritan: so also contra Cels. i. 57, vol. i. p. 372, and Hom. xxv. in Luc. vol. iii. p. 962. His own especial followers (Simoniani) had dwindled so much in the time of Origen, that he says νυνὶ δὲ τοὺς πάντας ἐν τῇ οἰκουμένῃ οὐκ ἔστι σιμωνιανοὺς εὑρεῖν τὸν ἀριθμὸν οἶμαι τριάκοντα. καὶ τάχα πλείονας εἶπον τῶν ὄντων, contra Cels. ubi supra; see also ib. vi. 11, p. 638, and περὶ ἀρχῶν, iv. 17, p. 176. In the Becognitiones and the Clementina are long reports of subsequent controversies between Simon Magus and Peter, of which the scene is laid at Cæsarea. According to Arnobius (adv. Gentes, ii. 12, p. 828 ed. Migne), the Constt. Apostol. (ii. 14, p. 620; vi. 9, p. 932 ed. Migne), and Cyril of Jerusalem, he met with his death at Rome, having, during an encounter with Peter, raised himself into the air by the aid of evil spirits, and being precipitated thence at the prayer of Peter and Paul. [I saw in the church of S. Francesca Romana in the forum, a stone with two dents in it and this inscription, “On this stone rested the knees of S. Peter when the dæmons carried Simon Magus through the air.”] The fathers generally regard him as the founder of Gnosticism: this may be in some sense true: but, from the very little authentic information we possess, it is impossible to ascertain how far he was identified with their tenets. Origen (contra Cels. v. 62, p. 625) distinctly denies that his followers were Christians in any sense: λανθάνει τὸν κέλσον, ὅτι οὐδαμῶς τὸν ἰησοῦν ὁμολογοῦσιν υἱὸν θεοῦ σιμωνιανοί, ἀλλὰ δύναμιν θεοῦ λέγουσι τὸν σίμωνα.

μαγεύων] Not to be joined with προϋπῆρχεν (as in E. V. and Kuin.), which belongs to ἐν πόλει: exercising magic arts, such as then were very common in the East and found wide acceptance; impostors taking advantage of the very general expectation of a Deliverer at this time, to set themselves up by means of such trickeries as ‘some great ones.’ We have other examples in Elymas (ch. 13): Apollonius of Tyana; and somewhat later, Alexander of Abonoteichos: see these latter in Dict. of Biogr. and Myth.

τινὰ μέγαν] Probably not in such definite terms as his followers later are represented as putting into his mouth: ‘Ego sum sermo Dei … ego paracletus, ego omnipotens, ego omnia Dei.’ Jerome on Matthew 24:5, vol. vii. p. 193.


Verse 10

10. ἡ δύν. τ. θ. ἡ καλουμένη μεγάλη] Neander (l. c.) and Meyer think that they must have referred to the λόγος, the creating and governing manifestation of God so much spoken of in the Alexandrine philosophy (see extracts from Philo in note on John 1:1. The term, but by no means with the same idea, was adopted by the Spirit, speaking by John, as belonging to the Son of God: see the same note, end), and must have regarded Simon as an incarnation of the λόγος (the μητρόπολις πασῶν τῶν δυνάμεων τοῦ θεοῦ, Philo), so that their erroneous belief would form some preparation for the great truth of an incarnate Messiah, preached by Philip. But to this De W. well replies, that we can hardly suppose the Alexandrine philosophy to have been so familiar to the mass of the people, and refers the expression to their popular belief of a great angel (Chron. Sam. 10), who might, as the angels were called by the Samaritans the powers of God (for which he refers to Reland, de Samar. § 7. Gesen. Theol. Samar. p. 21 ff.), be designated as ἡ δύν. τ. θ. ἡ καλουμένη μεγάλη.

καλουμένη rests on such strong manuscript authority, and is so unlikely to have been inserted (the idea of a scholium to indicate the force of the art. (Bloomf.) is quite out of the question, no such scholium being here needed), that both on external and internal grounds it must form part of the text. The lit. rendering will be, This man is the power of God which is called great: the sense, ‘This man is that power of God (see above) which we know as the great one.’

λεγομένη, found in a few later mss., is an explanation of καλ. by a more usual word.


Verse 11

11.] ἐξεστακέναι can hardly be as E. V., transitive, “he had bewitched them:” there appears to be no example of the perfect being thus used.


Verse 13

13.] ‘Simon saw his followers dropping off, and was himself astounded at the miracles wrought by Philip: he therefore thought it best himself also to acknowledge this superior power. He attached himself to Philip, and was baptized like the rest: but we are not, as the sequel shews, to understand that the preaching of the Gospel had made any impression on his heart, but that he accounted for what he saw in his own fashion. He was convinced, from the works which Philip did, that he was in league with some powerful spirit: he viewed baptism as the initiation into communion with that spirit, and expected that he should be able to make use of the higher power thus gained for his own purposes, and unite this new magical power to his own. All were baptized who professed belief in Jesus as the Messiah: there was therefore no reason for rejecting Simon, considering besides, that from the nature of the case he would for the time have given up his magical practices.’ Neander, Pfl. u. Leit. p. 102.

‘Hoc Simonis exemplo clare patet, non conferri omnibus indifferenter in Baptismo gratiam, quæ illic figuratur. Papistarum dogma est, Nisi quis ponat obicem peccati mortalis, omnes cum signis recipere veritatem et effectum. Ita magicam vim tribuunt Sacramentis, quasi absque fide prosint. Nos autem sciamus offerri nobis a Domino per Sacramenta quicquid sonant annexæ promissiones, et non frustra nec inaniter offerri, modo fide ad Christum directi ab ipso petamus quicquid Sacramenta promittunt. Quamvis autem nihil illi tunc profuerit Baptismi receptio, si tamen conversio postea secuta est, ut nonnulli conjiciunt, non extincta fuit nec abolita utilitas. Sæpe enim fit, ut post longum tempus demum operetur Spiritus Dei, quo efficaciam suam Sacramenta proferre incipiant.’ Calvin in loc.


Verse 14

14. πέτ. κ. ἰωάν.] Perhaps two, in accordance with the δύο δύο of their first missionary journey (Mark 6:7): so Paul and Barnabas afterwards (ch. Acts 13:2): and the same principle seems to have been adhered to even when these last separated: Paul chose Silas, Barnabas took Mark.

PETER,—because to him belonged, in this early part of the Gospel, in a remarkable manner, the first establishing of the church; it was the fulfilment of the promise ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν. It was he who had (in common with all the Apostles, it is true, but in this early period more especially committed to him) τὰς κλεῖδας τῆς βασιλείας τῶν οὐρανῶν,—who opened the door to the 3000 on the day of Pentecost, now (as a formal and ratifying act) to the Samaritans, and in ch. 10 to the Gentiles. So far, is plain truth of Scripture history. The monstrous fiction begins, when to Peter is attributed a fixed diocese and successors, and to those successors a delegated power more like that ascribed to Simon Magus than that promised to Peter.

This is the last time that JOHN appears in the Acts. He is only once more mentioned in the N. T. (except in the Revelation), viz. as having been present in Jerusalem at Paul’s visit, Galatians 2:9.


Verses 14-24

14–24.] MISSION OF PETER AND JOHN TO SAMARIA. A question arises on this procedure of the Apostles:—whether it was as a matter of course, that the newly baptized should, by the laying on of hands subsequently, receive the Holy Ghost,—or whether there was in the case of these Samaritans any thing peculiar, which caused the Apostles to go down to them and perform this act. (1) The only analogous case is ch. Acts 19:5-6; in using which we must observe that there it is distinctly asserted that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit followed the laying on of Paul’s hands; and that by the expression ἰδών in Acts 8:18, which must be taken literally, the same is implied here. And on this point the remarks of Calvin are too important to be omitted: ‘Hic occurrit quæstio. Dicit enim tantum fuisse baptizatos in nomine Christi, atque ideo nondum fuisse Spiritus participes. Atqui vel inanem et omni virtute et gratia carere Baptismum oportet, aut a Spiritu sancto habere quicquid efficaciæ habet. In Baptismo abluimur a peccatis: atqui lavacrum nostrum Spiritus sancti opus esse docet Paulus (Titus 3:5). Aqua Baptismi sanguinis Christi symbolum est: atqui Petrus Spiritum esse prædicat, a quo irrigamur Christi sanguine (1 Peter 1:2). In Baptismo crucifigitur vetus noster homo, ut suscitemur in vitæ novitatem (Romans 6:6): unde autem hoc totum, nisi ex sanctificatione Spiritus? Denique Baptismo nihil reliquum fiet, si a Spiritu separetur. Ergo Samaritanos, qui vere Christum in Baptismo induerant, Spiritu quoque vestitos fuisse negandum non est (Galatians 3:27). Et sane Lucas hic non de communi Spiritus gratia loquitur, qua nos sibi Deus in filios regenerat, sed de singularibus illis donis, quibus Dominus initio Evangelii quosdam esse præditos voluit ad ornandum Christi regnum.’ And a little after: … ‘Papistæ, dum ficticiam suam confirmationem extollere volunt, in hanc sacrilegam vocem prorumpere non dubitant, semichristianos esse, quibus manus nondum fuerunt impositæ. (See this asserted by Wordsworth, in loc. p. 40, Colossians 2, bottom.) Hoc jam tolerabile non est, quod quum symbolum hoc temporale esset, ipsi perpetuam legem finxerunt in Ecclesia.… Atqui fateri coguntur ipsi quoque, Ecclesiam nonnisi ad tempus donis istis fuisse ornatam. Unde sequitur, impositionem manuum, qua usi sunt Apostoli, finem habuisse, quum effectus cessavit’ (in loc.). And yet after this, Wordsw. refers to “Calvin here,” “in whose opinion,” says R. Nelson, “this passage in the Acts shews that Confirmation was instituted by the Apostles.” This example may serve to suggest extreme caution in trusting to Wordsw.’s reports of the opinions of the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers. The English church, in retaining the rite of confirmation, has not grounded it on any institution by the Apostles, but merely declared the laying on of hands on the candidates, to certify them (by this sign) of God’s favour and goodness towards them, to be, ‘after the example of the holy Apostles.’ Nor is there any trace in the office, of the conferring of the Holy Ghost by confirmation;—but a distinct recognition of the former reception of the Holy Spirit (at Baptism), and a prayer for the increase of His influence, proportioned to the maturer life now opening on the newly confirmed. (2) If then we have here no institution of a perpetual ordinance, something peculiar to the case before us must have prompted this journey. And here again we have a question: Was that moving cause in the Samaritans, or in Philip? I believe the true answer to the question will be found by combining both. Our Lord’s command (ch. Acts 1:8) had removed all doubt as to Samaria being a legitimate field for preaching, and Samaritan converts being admissible. (So also with regard to Gentile converts,—see ch. 10, notes: but, as the church at this time believed, they must be circumcised, which the Samaritans already were,—and keep the law, which after their manner the Samaritans did.) The sudden appearance, however, of a body of baptized believers in Samaria, by the agency of one who was not one of the Apostles,—while it would excite in them every feeling of thankfulness and joy, would require their presence and power, as Apostles, to perform their especial part as the divinely appointed Founders of the Church. Add to this, that the Samaritans appear to have been credulous, and easily moved to attach themselves to individuals, whether it were Simon, or Philip; which might make the Apostles desirous to be present in person, and examine, and strengthen their faith. Another reason may have been not without its influence: the Jewish church at Jerusalem would naturally for the most part be alienated in mind from this new body of believers. The hatred between Jews and Samaritans was excessive and unrelenting. It would therefore be in the highest degree important that it should be shewn to the church at Jerusalem, that these Samaritans, by the agency of the same Apostles, were partakers of the same visibly testified gifts of the one Spirit. The use of this argument, which was afterwards applied by Peter in the case of the Gentiles, unexpected even by himself, ch. Acts 11:17,—was probably no small part of the purpose of this journey to Samaria.


Verse 15

15. προσηύξ.] So laying on of hands is preceded by prayer, ch. Acts 6:6; Acts 13:3.


Verse 18

18. ἰδών] Its effects were therefore visible (see above), and consequently the effect of the laying on of the Apostles’ hands was not the inward but the outward miraculous gifts of the Spirit.

προσήν. αὐτ. χρήματα] De W. excellently remarks, ‘He regarded the capability of imparting the Holy Spirit,—rightly, as something conferred, as a derived power (see ref. Matt.), but wrongly, as one to be obtained by an external method, without an inward disposition: and, since in external commerce every thing may be had for gold, he wanted to buy it. This is the essence of the sin of Simony, which is intimately connected with unbelief in the power and signification of the Spirit, and with materialism.’

Clearly, from the narrative, Simon himself did not receive the Spirit by the laying on of hands. His nefarious attempt to treat with the Apostles was before he himself had been presented to them for this purpose.


Verse 20

20.] The solemn denunciation of Peter, like the declaration of Paul, 1 Corinthians 6:13, has reference to the perishableness of all worldly good, and of those with it, whose chief end is the use of it (see Colossians 2:22), ‘Thy gold and thou are equally on the way to corruption:’ thy gold, as its nature is: thou with it, as having no higher life than thy natural corrupt one: as being bound in the σύνδεσμος τῆς ἀδικίας. The expression of Peter, 1 Peter 1:7, χρυσίου τοῦ ἀπολλυμένου, is remarkably parallel with this (see too 1 Peter 1:18).

ἐνόμισας] aor. thou thoughtest: not ‘thou hast thought,’ as E. V. The historic force of the tense is to be kept here: the Apostle uses it as looking forward to the day of ἀπώλεια, ‘Let thy lot be ἀπ., and that because thou thoughtest,’ &c.

κτᾶσθ.] to acquire, not pass. as E. V., ungrammatically.


Verse 21

21. μερὶς κλῆρος] synonymous: the first lit., the second fig. (see ref.), but not without reference perhaps to the κληρονομία of the kingdom of God, the κλ. ἄφθαρτος, 1 Peter 1:4.

τῷ λόγ. τούτ.] The matter now spoken of,—‘to which I now allude.’

εὐθεῖα] Hardly, ‘right before God,’ E. V., but thy heart is not right,—sincere, single-meaning,—in God’s presence, ‘as God sees it:’ i.e., ‘seen as it really is, by God, is not in earnest in its seeking after the gospel, but seeks it with unworthy ends in view.’


Verse 22

22.] εἰ ἄρα, if perhaps (not ‘ut sane,’ which it will not bear: see on its meaning, “if, which none can say,” Hartung, Partikellehre, i. 440): and the uncertainty refers, not to the doubt whether Simon would repent or not (see below on γάρ): but as to whether or not his sin may not have come under the awful category of those unpardonable ones specified by our Lord, Matthew 12:31, to which words the form ἀφεθήσεται seems to have a tacit reference. Peter does not pronounce his sin to have been such, but throws in this doubt, to increase the motive to repent, and the earnestness of his repentance. This verse is important, taken in connexion with John 20:23, as shewing how completely the Apostles themselves referred the forgiveness of sins to, and left it in, the sovereign power of God, and not to their own delegated power of absolution.


Verse 23

23.] γάρ gives the reasons, not why it would be difficult for forgiveness to take place, but why he had such extreme need of repentance and prayer, as being tied and bound by the chain of sin.

ὄντα εἰς] a pregnant construction—having fallen into and abiding in: not to be taken (as Kuin., &c.) as ‘amounting to,’—‘totus quantus es, nil nisi venenum amarum es et colligatio iniquitatis,’ which is very harsh, and improbable: nor (as Stier) is it prophetic, as to what would be the consequence, if he did not repent: ‘I see that thou wilt come to,’ &c. Least of all must it be said, here or any where else, that εἰς is put for ἐν. I cannot too often remind my younger readers, that it is a fundamental maxim of all sound scholarship, that no word is ever put for another.

χολ. πικρ.] see reff. ‘the gall which is the very seat and essence of bitterness’—a very gall of bitterness. The poison of serpents was considered to be seated in their gall: so χολὴ ἀσπίδος ἐν γαστρὶ αὐτοῦ, Job 20:14. See Plin. H. N. xi. 37.


Verse 24

24.] Simon speaks here much as Pharaoh, Exod. (Acts 8:28; Acts 9:28) Acts 10:17,—who yet hardened his heart afterwards (Stier). It is observable also that he wishes merely for the averting of the punishment. The words ὅπως μηδὲν ἐπέλθῃ ἐπʼ ἐμὲ ὧν εἰρήκατε seem remarkably to set forth the mere terror of the carnal man, without any idea of the ἐμέ becoming another man in thoughts and aims.


Verse 25

25.] μὲν οὖν indicates (see note on Acts 8:4) that the paragraph should begin here, not at Acts 8:26 as commonly.

κώμας τ. σαμ.] It is interesting to recall Luke 9:52, where on their entering into a κώμην σαμ, the same John wishes to call down fire from heaven, καὶ ἀναλῶσαι αὐτούς. On constr. ( εὐαγγ. w. accus.), see reff.

The gradual sowing of the seed further and further from Jerusalem is advancing: not only is this eunuch to carry it to a far distant land, but Philip is sent to a desert road, away from town or village, to seek him. The imperfects (altered in the rec., see var. readd., into aorists) are significant. They were on their way back to Jerusalem, and were evangelizing the Samaritan villages, when the angel spake (aor.) to Philip.


Verses 25-40

25–40.] CONVERSION OF THE ÆTHIOPIAN EUNUCH BY PHILIP’S TEACHING.


Verse 26

26.] An angel, visibly appearing: not in a dream,—which is not, as some suppose, implied by ἀνάστηθι, see reff. The ministration of angels introduces and brings about several occurrences in the beginning of the church, see ch. Acts 5:19; Acts 10:3; Acts 12:7 (Acts 27:23). The appearance seems to have taken place in Samaria, after the departure of Peter and John; see above, on the imperfects.

He would reach the place appointed by a shorter way than through Jerusalem: he would probably follow the high road (of the itineraries, see map in Conybeare and Howson’s St. Paul) as far as Gophna, and thence strike across the country south-westward, to join, at some point to which he would be guided, the road leading from Jerusalem to Gaza.

γάζαν] The southernmost city of Canaan (Genesis 10:19), in the portion of Judah (Joshua 15:47), but soon taken from that tribe by the Philistines, and always spoken of as a Philistian city (1 Samuel 6:17; 2 Kings 18:8; Amos 1:6-8; Zephaniah 2:4; Zechariah 9:5). In Jeremiah 47:1, we have ‘before Pharaoh (Necho?) smote Gaza,’—implying that at one time it was under Egypt. Alexander the Great took it after a siege of five months (Q. Curt. iv. 6, 7. Arrian, Alex. ii. 26), but did not destroy it (as Strabo relates in error, xvi. 759, see below in this note), for we find it a strong place in the subsequent Syrian wars, see 1 Macc (1 Maccabees 9:52) 1 Maccabees 11:61, f.; 1 Maccabees 13:43 (1 Maccabees 14:7; 1 Maccabees 15:28; 1 Maccabees 16:1); Jos. Antt. xiii. 5. 5; 13. 3 al. It was destroyed by the Jewish king Alexander Jannæus (96 A.C.), Jos. Antt. xiii. 13. 3, after a siege of a year, but rebuilt again by the Roman general Gabinius (Antt. xiv. 5. 3),—afterwards given by Augustus to Herod (xv. 7. 3), and finally after his death attached to the province of Syria (xvii. 11. 4). Mela, in the time of Claudius, calls it ‘ingens urbs et munita admodum,’ with which agree Eusebius and Jerome. At present it is a large town by the same name, with from 15,000 to 16,000 inhabitants (Robinson, ii. 640). The above chronological notices shew that it cannot have been ἔρημος at this time: see below.

αὕτη ἐστὶν ἔρημος] The words, I believe, of the angel, not of Luke. There appear to have been two (if not more) ways from Jerusalem to Gaza. The Antonine itinerary passes from Jerus. to Eleutheropolis—Askalon—Gaza. The Peutinger Table, Jerus.—Ceperaria—Eleutheropolis—Askalon—Gaza. But Robinson (ii. 748. Winer, Realw.) found an ancient road leading direct from Jerusalem to Gaza, through the Wadi Musurr, and over the Beit Jiibrin, which certainly at present is ἔρημος, without towns or villages. Thus the words will refer to the way: and denote the way of which I speak to thee is desert (Schöttg. cites from Arrian, iii. p. 211, ἐρήμην δὲ εἶναι τὴν ὁδὸν διʼ ἀνυδρίαν). Besides the above objection to applying ἔρημος to Gaza, there could be no possible reason for adding such a specification here, seeing that Gaza had nothing to do with the object of the journey, and the road would be designated the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, whether the latter city was inhabited, or in ruins.

Those who apply ἔρημος to Gaza, have various ways of reconciling the apparent discrepancy with history: most of them follow Bede(54)’s explanation, that the ancient city was ἔρημος, and that the Gaza of this day was another town nearer the sea. But how this helps the matter I cannot perceive, unless we are to suppose that the deserted Gaza and the inhabited Gaza were so far apart that it was necessary to specify which was meant, because there would be from Jerusalem two different roads,—of which no trace is found, nor could it well be. Some again suppose (Hug, al.) that the Acts were written after the second Gaza was destroyed (Jos. B. J. ii.18.1), just before the destruction of Jerusalem, and that Luke inserts this notice: but to what purpose? and why no more such notices? In the passage of Strabo, commonly cited to support the application of ἔρημος to Gaza, ἔνδοξός ποτε γενομένη, κατεσπασμένη δʼ ὑπὸ ἀλεξάνδρου (the Great, according to Strabo, which it was not) καὶ μένουσα ἔρημος, the last three words are wanting in some edd. and are supposed to have been a gloss from the Acts. Others suppose ἔρημος to signify ‘unfortified,’ which standing alone it cannot. Besides, this notice would be wholly irrelevant;—and would probably not have been true,—see Mela above. The objection of Meyer to the interpretation given above, that if ἔρημ. referred to ἡ ὁδός, the article would be expressed, is not valid: the emphasis is on αὕτη; ‘that way, of which I speak, is desert:’ not, ‘is the desert one:’ no reference is made to the other.


Verse 27

27. εὐνοῦχος] The very general use of eunuchs in the East for filling offices of confidence, and the fact that this man was minister to a female sovereign, makes it probable that he was literally an eunuch. If not so, the word would hardly have been expressed. No difficulty arises from Deuteronomy 23:1, for no inference can be drawn from the history further than that he may have been a proselyte of the gate, in whose case the prohibition would not apply. Nay, the whole occurrence seems to have had one design, connected with this fact. The walls of partition were one after another being thrown down: the Samaritans were already in full possession of the Gospel: it was next to be shewn that none of those physical incapacities which excluded from the congregation of the Lord under the old covenant, formed any bar to Christian baptism and the inheritance among believers; and thus the way gradually paved for the great and as yet incomprehensible truth of Galatians 3:28.

κανδάκης] As Pharaoh among the Egyptians was the customary name of kings, so Candăce of the Queens among the Æthiopians in upper Egypt ( αἰθίοπες ὑπὲρ αἰγύπτου οἰκοῦντες, Dio Cass. liv. 5),—in the island of Meroe, Plin. vi. 29, where he says, ‘Ipsum oppidum Meroen ab introitu insulæ abesse LXX m. pass.… Regnare fœminam Candacen, quod nomen multis jam annis ad reginas transiit.… Cæterum cum potirentur rerum Æthiopes, insula ea magnæ claritatis fuit.’

γάζης] A Persian term. Q. Curt. iii. 13. 5, ‘pecuniam regiam, quam gazam Persæ vocant.’ See Virg. Æn. i.119.

ὃς ἐληλύθει] This did not only Jews and proselytes, but also those pious Gentiles who adhered to Judaism,—the proselytes of the gate, see John 12:20. Euseb. ii. 1, prope fin., speaking of this eunuch says, ὃν πρῶτον ἐξ ἐθνῶν πρὸς τοῦ φιλίππου διʼ ἐπιφανείας τὰ τοῦ θείου λόγου ὄργια μετασχόντα, τῶν τε ἀνὰ τὴν οἰκουμένην πιστῶν ἀ παρχὴν γενόμενον κ. τ. λ., taking for granted that he was a Gentile. There were (see below, ch. Acts 11:21) cases of Gentile conversion before that of Cornelius; and the stress of the narrative in ch. 10 consists in the miscellaneous admission of all the Gentile company of Cornelius, and their official reception into the church by that Apostle to whom was especially given the power. We may remark, that if even the plain revelation by which the reception of Cornelius and his company was commanded failed finally to convince Peter, so that long after this he vacillated (Galatians 2:11-12), it is no argument for the eunuch not being a Gentile, that his conversion and baptism did not remove the prejudices of the Jewish Christians.


Verse 28

28. ἀνεγίνωσκεν] aloud, see Acts 8:30. Schöttg. quotes from the Rabbis: ‘Qui in itinere constitutus est, neque comitem lmbet, is student in Lege.’

He probably read in the LXX, the use of which was almost universal in Egypt. The word περιοχή below (see on Acts 8:32) is not decisive (Olsh.) against this (as if there were περιοχαί only in the Hebrew, not in the LXX), as it would naturally be used as well of one as the other by those cognizant of the term. Besides, must there not have been περιοχαί in the copies of the LXX read in the synagogues?


Verse 29

29.] This is the first mention of that inner prompting of the Spirit referred to again, probably ch. Acts 13:2, but certainly ch. Acts 10:19; Acts 16:6-7. Chrysostom understands the words of the appearance of an angel, but the text hardly allows it.

κολλ.] no stress—attach thyself to.


Verse 30

30.] ἆρά γε = Yea, but …; q. d. It is well, thou art well employed: but …? On the force of ἆρα, used “ubi responsio expectatur negans id de quo erat interrogatum,” see Hermann on Viger, p. 821. The γε strengthens the ἆρα, implying the passing over of all other considerations, and selecting this as the most important: see Hartung, Partikellehre, i. 376 f. It assumes, modestly, that he did not understand what he was reading.

γινώσκ. ἃ ἀναγ.] So 2 Corinthians 3:2. So too Cato (Wetst.), ‘Legere et non intelligere nec legere est.’ “Valck. compares the celebrated paronomasia of Julian the Apostate, ἀνέγνων, ἔγνων, κατέγνων, and the courageous reply of the Christian Bishop to him ἀνέγνως, ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἔγνως· εἰ γὰρ ἔγνως, οὐκ ἂν κατέγνως.” Wordsw.


Verse 31

31.] γάρ gives the reason of the negative which is understood. The answer expresses at once humility and docility.


Verse 32

32.] Perhaps it is best to render, The contents of the (passage of) Scripture which he was reading were as follows: see περιέχει, 1 Peter 2:6. Cicero indeed appears to use περιοχή in the sense of a ‘paragraph,’ or ‘chapter;’ ad Attic. iii. 25, ‘At ego ne Tironi quidem dictavi, qui totas περιοχάς persequi solet, sed Spintharo syllabatim.’ The citation is from the LXX-A, with only the variation of αὐτοῦ inserted after ταπεινώσει (and [ δέ] before γενεάν).


Verse 33

33. ἐν τῇ ταπεινώσει αὐτοῦ ἡ κρίσις αὐτ. ἤρθη] Heb. ‘He was taken away by distress and judgment’ [so in the margin of E. V.]: i.e. as Lowth, ‘by an oppressive judgment.’

γενεὰν αὐτοῦ] i.e., the age in which He shall live—‘the wickedness of his contemporaries.’ The fathers, and Bede(55) (and so Wordsworth), explain ‘His generation’ of His eternal Sonship and His miraculous Incarnation. But the Heb. does not seem to bear this out. See the meaning discussed at length, and another interpretation defended in Stier, Jesaias, &c., pp. 466–470. Cf. also Gesenius’ Thesaurus under דּוֹר.


Verse 34

34. ἀποκριθείς] to the passage of Scripture, considered as the question proposed: not, to the question in Acts 8:30. We can hardly suppose any immediate reference in ἑτέρου τινός to Christ.


Verse 36

36. τὶ ὕδωρ] In the scholia to Jerome’s Epitaph of Paula (not in Jerome himself) on the words, ‘A Bethsur venit,’ we have, ‘hæc ætate Hieronymi vocabatur Bethsura: vicus est in tribu Juda, obvius vigesimo lapide euntibus ab Hierosolyma Chebron. Juxta hunc fons est ad radices montis ebulliens, qui ab eadem in qua gignitur humo sorbetur. In hoc fonte putant eunuchum Candacis Reginæ baptizatum fuisse.’ Jerome’s own words (Ep. 108 (27) ad Eustochium, 11, p. 700) are: ‘cœpit per viam veterem pergere quæ ducit Gazam … et tacita secum volvere, quomodo Eunuchus Æthiops, gentium populos præfigurans, mutaverit pellem suam, et dum vetus relegit instrumentum fontem reperit Evangelii. Atque inde ad dexteram transit. A Bethsur venit Escol’ … where no reference is made to the tradition, save what may be inferred from the mention of Bethsur. Eusebius also ( περὶ τόπων) states it to be twenty miles south of Jerusalem in the direction of Hebron: and so it is set down in the Jerus. Itin. and the Peutinger Tab. (Howson’s map.) Pocock found there a fountain built over, and a village called Betur on the left. Fabri describes the fountain as the head of a considerable brook, and found near it the ruins of a Christian church. There is no improbability in the tradition except that, even supposing a way going across from Hebron straight to Gaza to be called ἔρημος, this would not be on that portion of it, but on the high road (Winer, Realw.).

τί κωλ. μ. βαπ.] There is no reason for supposing Philip to have preached to him the necessity of baptism: his own acquaintance with Jewish practices, and perhaps his knowledge of the progress of the new faith in Jerusalem, would account for the proposition.

[37.] The authorities against this verse are too strong to permit its insertion. It appears to have been one of those remarkable additions to the text of the Acts, common in D (which is here deficient) and its cognates: few of which, however, have found their way into the received text. This was made very early, as Irenæus has it. The manuscripts which contain it vary exceedingly: another strong mark of spuriousness in a disputed passage. See var. readd. Wordsw. retains it, citing Bornemann as doing the same; but it is Bornemann’s principle that all these insertions of D and its cognates formed part of the original text: so that his authority goes for nothing. Wordsw. also states that it is found in the codex amiatinus of the vulgate, which it is not, except as a correction a secunda manu.]


Verse 38

38. ἐκέλ.] viz. the eunuch.


Verse 39

39. πν. κυρ. ἥρπ. τ. φ.] The reading, ‘the Spirit fell on the Eunuch, and an angel of the Lord caught away Philip,’ is curious, and has probably arisen from a desire to conform the results of the eunuch’s baptism to the usual method of the divine procedure, and the snatching away of Philip to his commission, Acts 8:26. But the Spirit did not fall on the Samaritans after baptism by Philip.

The text clearly relates a supernatural disappearance of Philip: compare μήποτε ᾖρεν αὐτὸν πνεῦμα κυρίου, 4 Kings Acts 2:16; no interpretation (as Eichhorn, Kuin., Olsh., Meyer) of his being suddenly hurried away by the prompting of the Spirit, will satisfy the analogy of the above-cited passage, and of (see below) a parallel one in Luke’s own Gospel. The ἁρπάζειν of ref. John, which Meyer cites to justify his view, tells in my mind the other way; the fear was lest the multitude should come and carry Him off to make Him a King: and in the reff. I have therefore marked the two as bearing the same meaning.

οὐκ εἶδεν αὐτὸν οὐκέτι] Not ‘never saw him from that day,’ though (see below) that meaning may be indirectly included:—but as Luke 24:31, αὐτὸς ἄφαντος ἐγένετο ἀπʼ αὐτῶν, and as in the strictly parallel words of 4 Kings Acts 2:12, οὐκ εἶδεν αὐτὸν ἔτι,—after the going up of Elijah. These last words in my view decide the question, that the departure of Philip was miraculous.

γάρ] refers to what follows ( φ. δὲ εὑρ.). Philip was found at Azotus: if the eunuch had gone that way, he might have met with him again: but he did not, for he went from the fountain on his own way, which did not lead through Azotus.


Verse 40

40. εὑρ. εἰς ἄζ.] A constr. prægnans,—was borne to, and found at. The word εὑρέθη again appears to refer to 4 Kings Acts 2:17.

AZOTUS or ASHDOD (Joshua 13:3; 1 Samuel 5:5 al.) was one of the five principal cities of the Philistines, never, though nominally in Judah, thoroughly subjugated by the Jews:—it was taken by Tartan the Assyrian general (Isaiah 20:1),—again by Psammetichus, Herod. ii. 157; Jeremiah 25:20,—again by Judas Maccabæus (1 Maccabees 5:68) and Jonathan (ib. 1 Maccabees 10:84), and by the latter destroyed;—rebuilt by Gabinius (Jos. Antt. xiv. 5. 3. B. J. i. 7. 7), and belonged to the kingdom of Herod, who left it in his will to his sister Salome (Antt. xvii. 8. 1; 11. 5). At present, it is a small village, retaining the name Esdud, but no remains. (Robinson, ii. 629; iii. 1, 232. Winer, Realw.)

τὰς πόλεις πάσας] viz. Ekron, Jamnia, Joppa, Apollonia, on the direct road: or, if he deviated somewhat for the purpose, Lydda also (which seems implied ch. Acts 9:32).

καισάρειαν] See note, ch. Acts 10:1.

 


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Bibliography Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Acts 8:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/acts-8.html. 1863-1878.

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Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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