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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
Acts 6

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAPTER 6

Acts 6:3. ἁγίου] is wanting in B D א, 137, 180, VSS. Chrys. Theophyl. Deleted by Lachm. Tisch. Born.; the Syr. expresses κυρίου. A more precisely defining addition (comp. Acts 6:5), which is also found inserted at Acts 6:10.

καταστήσομεν] Elz. has καταστήσωμεν, against decisive evidence. An over-hasty correction.

Acts 6:5. πλήρη] A C* D E H א, min. have πλήρης, which, although adopted by Lachm., is intolerable, and is to be regarded as an old error of transcription.

Acts 6:8. χάριτος] Elz. has πίστεως, contrary to decisive evidence. From Acts 6:5.

Acts 6:9. καὶ ἀσίας] is deleted by Lachm., following A D* Cant. It was easily overlooked after κιλικιασ; whereas it would be difficult to conceive a reason for its being inserted.

Acts 6:11. βλάσφημα] D has βλασφημίας. Recommended by Griesb. and adopted by Born. But ῥήματα βλάσφημα was explained by the weakly-attested βλασφημίας (blasphemies) as a gloss; and this, taken as a genitive, thereupon suppressed the original βλάσφημα.

Acts 6:13. After ῥήματα, Elz. has βλάσφημα, against a great predominance of evidence. From Acts 6:11.

After ἁγίου, Elz. has τούτου, which, it is true, has in its favour B C, Tol. Sahid. Syr. utr. Chrys. Theophyl. 2, but was added with reference to Acts 6:14, as the meeting of the Sanhedrim was conceived as taking place within the area of the temple court.


Verse 1

Acts 6:1. δέ] Over against this new victory of the church without, there now emerges a division in its own bosom.

ἐν ταῖς ἡμέρ. ταύτ.] namely, while the apostles continued, after their liberation, to devote themselves unmolested to their function of preaching (Acts 5:42). Thus this expression ( בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם) finds its definition, although only an approximate one, always in what precedes. Comp. on Matthew 3:1.

πληθυνόντων] as a neuter verb (Bernhardy, p. 339 f.): amidst the increase of the Christian multitude, by which, consequently, the business of management referred to became the more extensive and difficult. Comp. Aesch. Ag. 869; Polyb. iii. 105. 7; Herodian, iii. 8. 14, often in the LXX. and Apocr.

ἑλληνιστής, elsewhere only preserved in Phot. Bibl. (see Wetstein), according to its derivation (from ἑλληνίζειν, to present oneself in Grecian nationality, and particularly to speak the Greek language; Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 380), and according to its contrast to ἑβραίους, is to be explained: a Jew (and so non-Greek) who has Greek nationality, and particularly speaks Greek: Acts 9:29. Comp. Chrysostom and Oecumenius. As both appellations are here transferred to the members of the Christian church at Jerusalem, the ἑβραῖοι are undoubtedly: those Christians of the church of Jerusalem, who, as natives of Palestine, had the Jewish national character, and spoke the sacred language as their native tongue; and the ἑλληνισταί are those members of this church, who were Greek-Jews, and therefore presented themselves in Greek national character, and spoke Greek as their native language. Both parties were Jewish Christians; and the distinction between them turned on the different relation of their original nationality to Judaism. And as the two parties embraced the whole of the Jews who had become Christian, it is a purely arbitrary limitation, when Camerarius, Beza, Salmasius, Pearson, Wolf, Morus, Ziegler, (Einleit. in d. Br. a. d. Hebr. p. 221), and Pfannkuche (in Eichhorn’s allg. Bibl. VIII. p. 471) would understand exclusively the Jewish proselytes who had been converted to Christianity. These are included among the Greek-Jews who had become Christian, but are not alone meant; the Jews by birth who had been drawn from the διασπορά to Jerusalem are also included. The more the intercourse of Greek-Jews with foreign culture was fitted to lessen and set aside Jewish narrow-mindedness, so much the more easy is it to understand that many should embrace Christianity. Comp. Reuss in Herzog’s Encykl. V. p. 703 f.

πρός] denotes, according to the context, the antagonistic direction, as in Luke 5:30. Comp. Acts 9:29

ἐν τῇ διακ. τῇ καθημ.] in the daily service (2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 9:1; 2 Corinthians 9:13), here: with provisions, in the daily distribution of food. Acts 6:2 requires this explanation.

καθημερινός only here in the N. T., more frequently in Plutarch, etc., belongs to the later Greek; Judith 12:15; Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 55.

The neglect of due consideration ( παραθεωρεῖν, not elsewhere in the N. T., nor in the LXX. and Apocr., but see Kypke, II. p. 36), which the widows of the Hellenists met with, doubtless by the fault not of the apostles, but of subordinates commissioned by them, is an evidence that the Jewish self-exaltation of the Palestinian over the Greek-Jews (Lightf. Hor. ad Joh. p. 1031), so much at variance with the spirit of Christianity (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11; Romans 10:12; 1 Corinthians 12:13), had extended also to the Christian community, and now on the increase of the church, no longer restrained by the fresh unity of the Holy Spirit, came into prominence as the first germ of the later separation of the Hebrew and Hellenistic elements (comp. Lechler, apost. Zeit. p. 333); as also, that before the appointment of the subsequently named Seven, the care of the poor was either exclusively, or at least chiefly, entrusted to the Hebrews. Mosh. de reb. Christ, ante Const., pp. 118, 139.

The widows are not, as Olshausen and Lekebusch, p. 93, arbitrarily assume, mentioned by synecdoche for all the poor and needy, but simply because their neglect was the occasion of the γογγυσμός. We may add, that this passage does not presuppose another state of matters than that of the community of goods formerly mentioned (Schleiermacher and others), but only a disproportion as regards the application of the means thereby placed at their disposal. There is nothing in the text to show that the complaint as to this was unfounded (Calvin).


Verses 1-7

Acts 6:1-7. An explanation paving the way for the history of Stephen, Acts 6:8 ff. Acts 6:7 is not at variance with this view.


Verse 2

Acts 6:2. τὸ πλῆθος τῶν μαθητῶν] the mass of the disciples; i.e. the Christian multitude in general, not merely individuals, or a mere committee of the church. Comp. Acts 4:32. It is quite as arbitrary to understand, with Lightfoot, only the 120 persons mentioned in Acts 1:15, as, with Mosheim and Kuinoel, to suppose that the church of Jerusalem was divided into seven classes, which assembled in seven different places, and had each selected from their midst an almoner. As the place of meeting is not named, it is an over-hasty conclusion that the whole church could not have assembled all at once.

οὐκ ἀρεστόν ἐστιν] non placet, Acts 12:3; John 8:29; Herod. i. 119; Plato, Def. p. 415 A. The Vulgate, Beza, Calvin, Piscator, Casaubon, Kuinoel, incorrectly render: non aequum est, which the word never means, not even in the LXX. It pleased not the apostles to leave the doctrine of God (its proclamation), just because the fulfilment of the proper duty of their calling pleased them.

καταλείψ.] A strong expression under a vivid sense of the disturbing element (to leave in the lurch). On the form, see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 713 ff.

διακονεῖν τραπέζαις] to serve tables, i.e. to be the regulators, overseers, and dispensers in reference to food. The expression, which contains the more precise definition for τῇ διακονίᾳ of Acts 6:1, betrays “indignitatem aliquam” (Bengel).

The reference which others have partly combined with this, partly assumed alone, of τράπεζα to the money-changers’ table, Matthew 21:12, Luke 19:23 (“pecunia in usum pauperum collecta et iis distribuenda,” Kuinoel), is excluded, in the absence of any other indication in the text, by the διακονεῖν used statedly of the ministration of food (Wetst. ad Matthew 4:11). Moreover, the designation of the matter, as if it were a banking business, would not even be suitable. The apostles would neither be τραπεζοκόμοι nor τραπεζοποιοί (Athen. IV. p. 170). They may hitherto in the management of this business have made use, without fixed plan, of the assistance of others, by whose fault, perhaps, the murmuring of the Hellenists was occasioned.


Verse 3

Acts 6:3. Accordingly ( οὖν), as we, the apostles, can no longer undertake this business of distribution, look ye out, i.e. direct your attention to test and select, etc.

ἑπτά] the sacred number.

σοφίας] quite in the usual practical sense: wisdom, which determines the right agency in conformity with the recognised divine aim. With a view to this required condition of fulness of the Spirit and of wisdom, the men to be selected from the midst of the church were to be attested, i.e. were to have the corresponding testimony of the church in their favour. Comp. Acts 16:2 and on Luke 4:22; Dion. Hal. Ant. ii. 26.

οὓς καταστήσομεν ἐπὶ τῆς χρείας ταύτης] whom we (the apostles) will appoint(177) (when they are chosen) over the business in question (on ἐπί with the genitive, in the sense of official appointment over something, see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 474; Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. iii. 3. 2). This officium, ministration (see Wetstein and Schweighäuser, Lex. Polyb. p. 665), is just that, of which the distributing to the widows was an essential and indeed the chief part, namely, the care of the poor in the church, not merely as to its Hellenistic portion (Vitringa, de Synag. ii. 2. 5, Mosheim, Heinrichs, Kuinoel). The limitation to the latter would presuppose the existence of a special management of the poor already established for the Hebrew portion, without any indication of it in the text; nor is it supported by the Hellenic names of the persons chosen (Acts 6:5), as such names at that time were very common also among the Hebrews. Consequently the hypothesis, that pure Hellenists were appointed by the impartiality of the Hebrews (Rothe, de Wette, Thiersch, Kirche im apost. Zeitalt. p. 75), is entirely arbitrary; as also is the supposition of Gieseler (Kirchengesch. I. sec. 25, note 7), that three Hebrews and three Hellenists (and one proselyte) were appointed; although the chosen were doubtless partly Hebrews and partly Hellenists.

Observe, moreover, how the right to elect was regarded by the apostles as vested in the church, and the election itself was performed by the church, but the appointment and consecration were completed by the apostles; the requisite qualifications, moreover, of those to be elected are defined by the apostles.(178) From this first regular overseership of alms, the mode of appointment to which could not but regulate analogically the practice of the church, was gradually developed the diaconate, which subsequently underwent further elaboration (Philippians 1:1).(179) It remains an open question whether the overseers corresponded to the גַבַּאִים of the synagogue(180) (Vitringa; on the other side Rhenfeld, see Wolf, Curae).

τῇ διακονίᾳ τοῦ λόγου] correlate contrasting with the διακονεῖν τραπέζαις in Acts 6:2.(181) The apostolic working was to be separated from the office of overseer; while, on the other hand, the latter was by no means to exclude other Christian work in the measure of existing gifts, as the very example of Stephen (Acts 6:8-10) shows; comp. on Acts 8:5.


Verse 5

Acts 6:5. παντὸς τοῦ πλήθους] “pulcher consensus cum obsequio,” Bengel. The aristocracy of the church was a μετ ̓ εὐδοξίας πλήθους ἀριστοκρατία, Plat. Menex. p. 238 D.

πίστεως] is not, with Wetstein, Kuinoel, and others, to be interpreted honesty, trustworthiness; for this qualification was obvious of itself, and is here no peculiar characteristic. But the prominent Christian element in the nature of Stephen was his being distinguished by fulness of faith (comp. Acts 11:24), on which account the church united in selecting him first.

φίλιππον] At a later period he taught in Samaria, and baptized the chamberlain (Acts 8:5 ff.). Concerning his after life and labours (see, however, Acts 21:8) there are only contradictory legends.

νικόλαον] neither the founder of the Nicolaitans (as, after Iren. Haer. ii. 27, Epiph. Haer. 25, Calvin, Grotius, and Lightfoot assumed), nor the person from whom the Nicolaitans had borrowed their name in accordance with his alleged immoral principles (Constitt. ap. vi. 8. 3; Clem. Al. Strom. ii. p. 177, iii. p. 187; Thiersch wishes historically to combine the two traditions; see his Kirche im apost. Zeitalt. p. 251 f.; comp. generally, Lange, apost. Zeitalt. II. p. 526 ff., and Herzog in his Encykl. X. p. 338 f.), but otherwise historically quite unknown. νικολαιταί, Revelation 2:6, is an invented Greek name, equivalent to κρατοῦντες τὴν διδαχὴν βαλαάμ (Acts 6:14), according to the derivation of בָּלַע עָם, perdidit populum. See Ewald and Düsterdieck, l.c. Of the others mentioned nothing further is known.

προσήλυτον ἀντιοχ.] From this it may be inferred, with Heinsius, Gieseler, de Wette, Ewald, and others, that only Nicolas had been a proselyte, and all the rest were not; for otherwise we could not discern why Luke should have added such a special remark of so characteristic a kind only in the case of Nicolas. But that there was also a proselyte among those chosen, is an evidence of the wisdom of the choice.

ἀντιοχέα] but who dwelt in Jerusalem.

The fact that Stephen is named at the head of the Seven finds its explanation in his distinguished qualities and historical significance. Comp. Peter at the head of the apostles. Chrysostom well remarks on Acts 6:8 : καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἑπτὰ ἦν τις πρόκριτος καὶ τὰ πρωτεῖα εἶχεν· εἰ γὰρ καὶ χειροτονία κοινή, ἀλλʼ ὃμως οὗτος ἐπεσπάσατο χάριν πλείονα. Nor is it less historically appropriate that the only proselyte among the Seven is, in keeping with the Jewish character of the church, named last.


Verse 6

Acts 6:6.(182) And after they (the apostles) had prayed, they laid their hands on them.

καί is the simple copula, whereupon the subject changes without carrying out the periodic construction (see Buttm. neut. Gr. p. 116 [E. T. 132]). It is otherwise in Acts 1:24. The idea that the overseers of the church (comp. on Acts 13:3) form the subject, to which Hoelemann is inclined, has this against it, that at that time, when the body of the apostles still stood at the head of the first church, no other presiding body was certainly as yet instituted. The diaconate was the first organization, called forth by the exigency that in the first instance arose.

The imposition of hands ( סמיכת ידים, Vitringa, Synag. p. 836 ff.), as a symbol exhibiting the divine communication of power and grace, was employed from the time of Moses (Numbers 27:18; Deuteronomy 34:9; Ewald, Alterth. p. 57 f.) as a special theocratic consecration to office. So also in the apostolic church, without, however, its already consummating admission to any sharply defined order (comp. 1 Timothy 5:22). The circumstance that the necessary gifts (comp. here Acts 6:3; Acts 6:5) of the person in question were already known to exist (Ritschl, altkath. Kirche, p. 387) does not exclude the special bestowal of official gifts, which was therein contemplated; seeing that elsewhere, even in the case of those who have the Spirit, there yet ensues a special and higher communication.

Observe, moreover, that here also (comp. Acts 8:17, Acts 13:3) the imposition of hands occurs after prayer,(183) and therefore it was not a mere symbolic accompaniment of prayer,(184) without collative import, and perhaps only a “ritus ordini et decoro congruens” (Calvin). Certainly its efficacy depended only on God’s bestowal, but it was associated with the act representing this bestowal as the medium of the divine communication.


Verse 7

Acts 6:7, attaching the train of thought by the simple καί, now describes how, after the installing of the Seven, the cause of the gospel continued to prosper. “The word of God grew”—it increased in diffusion (Acts 12:24, Acts 19:20), etc. Comp. the parable of the mustard-seed, Matthew 13:31-32. How could the re-established and elevated love and harmony, sustained, in addition to the apostles, by upright men who were full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom (Acts 6:3), fail to serve as the greatest recommendation of the new doctrine and church to the inhabitants of the capital, who had always before their eyes, in the case of their hierarchs, the curse of party spirit and sectarian hatred? Therefore—and what a significant step towards victory therein took place!—a great multitude of the priests became obedient to the faith, that is, they submitted themselves to the faith in Jesus as the Messiah, they became believers; comp. as to ὑπακοὴ πίστεως, on Romans 1:5. The better portion of the so numerous (Ezra 2:36 ff.) priestly class could not but, in the light of the Christian theocratic fellowship which was developing itself, recognise and feel all the more vividly the decay of the old hierarchy. Accordingly, both the weakly attested reading ἰουδαίων, and the conjecture of Casaubon, approved by Beza: καὶ τῶν ἱερέων, sc. τινὲς, are to be entirely rejected; nor is even Elsner’s view (which Heinsius anticipated, and Wolf and Kuinoel followed) to be adopted, viz. that by the ὄχλος τῶν ἱερ. the sacerdotes ex plebe, plebeii sacerdotes, כהנים עם חארץ, are meant in contradistinction to the theologically learned priests, תלמידי חכמים. The text itself is against this view; for it must at least have run: πολλοί τε ἱερεῖς τοῦ ὄχλου. Besides, such a distinction of priests is nowhere indicated in the N. T., and could not be presumed as known. Compare, as analogous to the statement of our passage, John 12:42.


Verse 8-9

Acts 6:8-9. Yet there now came an attack from without, and that against that first-named distinguished overseer for the poor, Stephen, who became the πρωτομάρτυρ (Const. ap. ii. 49. 2). The new narrative is therefore not introduced abruptly (Schwanbeck).

χάριτος is, as in Acts 4:33, to be understood of the divine grace, not as Heinrichs, according to Acts 2:47, would have it taken: gratia, quam apud permultos inierat. This must have been definitely conveyed by an addition.

δυνάμεως] power generally, heroism; not specially: miraculous power, as the following ἐποίει τέρατα κ. τ. λ. expresses a special exercise of the generally characteristic χάρις and δύναμις.

τινες τῶν ἐκ τῆς συναγωγῆς λεγ. λιβερτ.] some of those who belonged to the so-called Libertine-synagogue. The number of synagogues in Jerusalem was great, and is estimated by the Rabbins (Megill. f. 73, 4; Ketuvoth f. 105, 1) at the fanciful number 480 (i.e. 4 × 10 × 12). Chrysostom already correctly explains the λιβερτῖνοι: οἱ ῥωμαίων ἀπελεύθεροι. They are to be conceived as Jews by birth, who, brought by the Romans (particularly under Pompey) as prisoners of war to Rome, were afterwards emancipated, and had returned home. [Many also remained in Rome, where they had settled on the other side of the Tiber; Sueton. Tiber. 36; Tacit. Ann. ii. 85; Philo, Leg. ad Cai. p. 1014 C.] They and their descendants after them formed in Jerusalem a synagogue of their own, which was named after the class-designation which its originators and possessors brought with them from their Roman sojourn in exile, the synagogue of the freedmen (libertinorum). This, the usual explanation, for which, however, further historical proof cannot be adduced, is to be adhered to as correct, both on account of the purely Roman name, and because it involves no historical improbability. Grotius, Vitringa, Wolf, and others understand, as also included under it, Italians, who as freedmen had become converts to Judaism. But it is not at all known that such persons, and that in large numbers, were resident in Jerusalem. The Roman designation stands opposed to the view of Lightfoot, that they were Palestinian freedmen, who were in the service of Palestinian masters. Others (see particularly Gerdes in the Miscell. Groning. I. 3, p. 529 ff.) suppose that they were Jews, natives of Libertum. a (problematical) city or district in proconsular Africa. If there was a Libertum (Suidas: λιβερτῖνοι· ὄνομα ἔθνους), the Jews from it, of whom no historical trace exists, were certainly not so numerous in Jerusalem as to form a separate synagogue of their own. Conjectures: λιβυστίνων,(185) Libyans (Oecumenius, Lyra, Beza, ed. 1 and 2, Clericus, Gothofredus, Valckenaer), and λιβύνων τῶν κατὰ κυρ. (Schulthess, de charism. Sp. St. p. 162 ff.).

καὶ κυρ. καὶ ἀλεξ.] Likewise two synagogal communities. Calvin, Beza, Bengel, Heumann, and Klos (Exam, emendatt. Valck. in N. T. p. 48) were no doubt of opinion that by ἐκ τῆς συναγωγῆςκαὶ ἀσίας there is meant only one synagogue, which was common to all those who are named. But against this may be urged, as regards the words of the passage, the circumstance that τ. λεγομένης only suits λιβερτίνων, and as regards matter of fact, the great number of synagogues in Jerusalem, as well as the circumstance that of the Libertini, Cyrenaeans, etc., there was certainly far too large a body in Jerusalem to admit of them all forming only one synagogue. In Cyrene, the capital of Upper Libya, the fourth part of the inhabitants consisted of Jews (Joseph. Antt. xiv. 7. 2, xvi. 6. 1; c. Apion. ii. 4); and in Alexandria two of the five parts into which the city was divided were inhabited by them (Joseph. Antt. xiv. 7. 2, xiv. 10. 1, xix. 5. 2; Bell. Jud. ii. 18. 7). Here was also the seat of Jewish-Greek learning, and it was natural that those removing to Jerusalem should bring with them in some measure this learning of the world without, and prosecute it, there in their synagogue. Wieseler, p. 63, renders the first καί and indeed, so that the Cyrenaeans, Alexandrians, and those of Cilicia and Asia, would be designated as a mere part of the so-called Libertine synagogue. But how arbitrary, seeing that καί in the various other instances of its being used throughout the representation always expresses merely the simple and! The Synagoga Alexandrinorum is also mentioned in the Talmud (Megill. f. 73, 4). Winer and Ewald divide the whole into two communities: (1) κυρην. and ἀλεξ. joined with the Libertines; and (2) the synagogue formed of the Cilician and Asiatic Jews. But against this view the above reasons also militate, especially the τῆς λεγομένης, which only suits λιβερτίνων. The grammatical objection against our view, that the article τῶν is not repeated before κυρην. (and before ἀλεξ.), is disposed of by the consideration, that those belonging to the three synagogues (the Libertine-synagogue, the Cyrenaeans, and the Alexandrians) are conceived together as one hostile category (see Krüger, ad Xen. Anab. ii. 1. 7; Sauppe and Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. i. 1. 19; Dissen, ad Dem. de cor. p. 373 f.); and the two following synagogal communities are then likewise conceived as such a unity, and represented by the καὶ τῶν prefixed (Vulg.: “et eorum qui erant”). We have thus in our passage five synagogues, to which the τινές belonged,—namely, three of Roman and African nationality, and two Asiatic. The two categories—the former three together, and the latter two together—are represented as the two synagogal circles, from which disputants emerged against Stephen. To the Cilician synagogue Saul doubtless belonged.

Asia is not to be taken otherwise than in Acts 2:9.

συζητοῦντες] as disputants, Acts 9:29. The συζητεῖν had already begun with the rising up ( ἀνέστησαν), Bernhardy, p. 477 f. Winer, p. 320 f. [E. T. 444].


Verse 10-11

Acts 6:10-11. The σοφία is to be explained, not of the Jewish learning, but of the Christian wisdom (Luke 21:15; and see on Ephesians 1:8; Ephesians 1:17), to which the Jewish learning of the opponents could not make any resistance. Comp. 1 Corinthians 1:17 ff; 1 Corinthians 2:6 ff. The πνεῦμα was the πν. ἅγιον,(186) with which he was filled, Acts 6:3; Acts 6:5.

] Dative of the instrument. It refers, as respects sense, to both preceding nouns, but is grammatically determined according to the latter, Matthiae, p. 991.

τότε] then, namely, after they had availed nothing in open disputation against him. “Hic agnosce morem improborum; ubi veritate discedunt impares, ad mendacia confugiunt,” Erasmus, Paraphr.

ὑπέβαλον] they instigated, secretly instructed. Comp. Appian. i. 74, ὑπεβλήθησαν κατήγοροι. The Latin subornarunt, or, as the Vulg. has it, submiserunt (Suet. Ner. 28).

ἀκηκόαμεν κ. τ. λ.] provisional summary statement of what these men asserted that they had heard as the essential contents of the utterances of Stephen in question. For their more precisely formulated literal statement, see Acts 6:13-14.


Verses 12-14

Acts 6:12-14. The assertion of these ὑποβλητοί (Joseph. Bell. v. 10. 4; Plut. Tib. Gr. 8) served to direct the public opinion against Stephen; but a legal process was requisite for his complete overthrow, and prudence required the consent of the people. Therefore they stirred up the people and the elders of the people and the scribes, etc.

συνεκίνησαν] they drew them into the movement with them, stirred up them also. Often in Plut., Polyb., etc.

καὶ ἐπιστάντες] as in Acts 4:1. The subject is still those hostile τινές.

συνήρπ.] they drew along with them, as in Acts 19:29.

μάρτυρας ψευδεῖς] Consequently, Stephen had not spoken the same words, which were then adduced by these witnesses, Acts 6:14, as heard from him. Now, namely, in presence of the Sanhedrim, it concerned them to bear witness to the blasphemy alleged to have been heard according to the real state of the facts, and in doing so those ἄνδρες ὑποβλητοί dealt as false witnesses. As formerly (Matthew 26:61) a saying of Jesus (John 2:19) was falsified in order to make Him appear as a rebel against the theocracy; so here also some expression of Stephen now unknown to us,—wherein the latter probably had pointed, and that in the spirit of Jesus Himself, to the reformatory influence of Christianity leading to the dissolution of the temple-worship and legal institutions, and the consummation of it by the Parousia, and had indeed, perhaps, quoted the prophecy of the Lord concerning the destruction of Jerusalem,—was so perverted, that Stephen now appears as herald of a revolution to be accomplished by Jesus, directed against the temple and against the law and the institutions of Moses.(187) Against the view of Krause (Comment. in histor. atque orat. Steph., Gott. 1780), that an expression of other, more inconsiderate Christians was imputed to Stephen, may be urged not only the utter arbitrariness of such a supposition, but also the analogy of the procedure against Jesus, which very naturally presented itself to the enemies of Stephen as a precedent. Heinrichs (after Heumann and Morus) thinks that the μάρτυρες were in so far ψενδεῖς, as they had uttered an expression of Stephen with an evil design, in order to destroy him; so also Sepp, p. 17. But in that case they would not have been false, but only malicious witnesses; not a ψεῦδος, but a bad motive would have been predominant. Baur also and Zeller maintain the essential correctness of the assertion, and consequently the incorrectness of the narrative, in so far as it speaks of false witnesses. But an antagonism to the law, such as is ascribed by the latter to Stephen, would lack all internal basis and presupposition in the case of a believing Israelite full of wisdom and of the Holy Spirit (comp. Baumgarten, p. 125); as regards its true amount, it can only be conceived as analogous to the subsequent procedure of Paul, which, as in Acts 18:13, Acts 21:21, was misrepresented with similar perversity; nor does the defensive address, Acts 7:44-53, lead further. Nevertheless, Rauch in the Stud. u. Krit. 1857, p. 356, has maintained that Stephen actually made the assertion adduced by the witnesses, Acts 6:14, and that these were only false witnesses, in so far as they had not themselves heard this expression from the mouth of Stephen, which yet was the purport of their statement. This is at variance with the entire design and representation (see particularly Acts 6:11). And the utterance itself, as the witnesses professed to have heard it, would, at any rate, even if used as a veil for a higher meaning, be framed after a manner so alien to Israelite piety and so unwise, that it could not be attributed at all to Stephen, full as he was of the Spirit. Oecumenius has correctly stated the matter: ἐπειδὴ ἄλλως μὲν ἤκουσαν, ἄλλως δὲ νῦν αὐτοὶ προυχώρουν, εἰκότως καὶ ψευδομάρτυρες ἀναγράφονται.

τοῦ τόπου τοῦ ἁγίου] the holy place κατʼ ἐξοχήν is the temple, 3 Maccabees 2:14.

Acts 6:14. ναζωρ. οὗτος] is not to be considered as part of the utterance of Stephen, but as proceeding from the standpoint of the false witnesses who so designate Jesus contemptuously, and blended by them with the words of Stephen. And not only is ναζωρ. an expression of contempt, but also οὗτος (Acts 7:40, Acts 19:26; Luke 15:30; Ast, Lex. Plat. II. p. 494; Dissen, ad Pind. Nem. ix. 29, p. 492): Jesus, this Nazarene!

τὸν τόπον τοῦτον] The false witnesses represent the matter, as if Stephen had thus spoken pointing to the temple.


Verse 15

Acts 6:15. All the Sanhedrists(188) saw the countenance of Stephen angelically glorified; a superhuman, angel-like δόξα became externally visible to them on it. So Luke has conceived and represented it with simple definiteness; so the serene calm which astonished even the Sanhedrists, and the holy joyfulness which was reflected from the heart of the martyr in his countenance, have been glorified by the symbolism of Christian legend. But it would be arbitrary, with Kuinoel (comp. Grotius and Heinrichs), to rationalize the meaning of εἶδονἀγγέλου to this effect: “Os animi tranquillitatem summam referebat, adeo ut eum intuentibus reverentiam injiceret;” according to which the expression would have to be referred, with Neander and de Wette, to a poetically symbolical description, which does not correspond with the otherwise simple style of the narrative. The phenomenon was certainly “an extraordinary operation of the Spirit of Jesus” (Baumgarten, p. 130); but the form of it is added by tradition, which betrays the point of view of the miraculous also by the πάντες. The parallel adduced afresh by Olshausen (2 Samuel 14:17) is utterly unsuitable, because there the comparison to an angel relates to wisdom, and not to anything external. Nor is the analogy of the δόξα in the face of Moses (2 Corinthians 3:7) suitable, on account of the characteristic πρόσωπ. ἀγγέλου. For Rabbinical analogies, see Schoettgen and Wetstein.

 


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Bibliography Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Acts 6:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/acts-6.html. 1832.

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Saturday, December 14th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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