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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
Acts 8

 

 

Introduction

CHAPTER 8

Acts 8:1. πάντες τε] Lachm. Tisch. Born. read πάντες δέ, according to B C D E H, min. Vulg. Copt. al., and several Fathers. A, min. Syr. Aeth. have τέ; א* has only πάντες; א** has καὶ π. The δέ has the preponderance of testimony, and is therefore to be adopted, as also in Acts 8:6.

Acts 8:2. ἐποιήσαντο] Lachm. and Born. read ἐποίησαν, according to decisive testimony.

Acts 8:5. πόλιν] Lachm. reads τὴν πόλιν, after A B א, 31, 40. More precise definition of the capital.

Acts 8:7. πολλῶν] Lachm. reads πολλοί,(215) and afterwards ἐξήρχοντο, following A B C E א, min. Vulg. Sahid. Syr. utr.; ἐξήρχοντο is also in D, which, however, reads πολλοῖς (by the second hand: ἀπὸ πολλοῖς). Accordingly ἐξήρχοντο, as decisively attested, is to be considered genuine (with Born. and Tisch.), from which it necessarily follows that Luke cannot have written πολλοί (which, on the contrary, was mechanically introduced from the second clause of the verse), but either πολλῶν (H) or πολλοῖς (D*).

Acts 8:10. καλου΄ένη] is wanting in Elz., but is distinctly attested. The omission is explained from the fact that the word appeared inappropriate, disturbing, and feeble.

Acts 8:12. τὰ περί] Lachm. Tisch. Born. read περί, after A B C D E א. Correctly; εὐαγγελίζ. is not elsewhere connected with περί, and this very circumstance occasioned the insertion of τά.

Acts 8:13. δυνά΄εις καὶ ση΄εῖα ΄εγάλα γινό΄ενα] Elz. Lachm. Born. read: ση΄εῖα κ. δυνά΄εις ΄εγάλας γινο΄ένας. Both modes of arrangement have important attestation. But the former is to be considered as original, with the exclusion, however, of the ΄εγάλα deleted by Tisch., which is wanting in many and correct codd. (also in א), and is to be considered as an addition very naturally suggesting itself (comp. Acts 6:8 for the sake of strengthening. The later origin of the latter order of the words is proved by the circumstance that all the witnesses in favour of it have ΄εγάλας, and therefore it must have arisen after ΄εγάλα was already added.

Acts 8:16. οὔπω] A B C D E א, min. Chrys. have οὐδέπω. Recommended by Griesb. and adopted by Rinck, Lachm. Tisch. Born. The Recepta came into the text, through the inattention of the transcribers, as the word to which they were more accustomed.

Acts 8:18. On decisive evidence ἰδών is to he adopted, with Griesb. and the later editors, instead of θεασάμ. The latter is a more precise definition.

Acts 8:21. ἐνώπιον] A B C D א, min. and several Fathers have ἐναντίον or ἔναντι, which last Griesb. has recommended, and Lachm. Tisch. Born. have adopted. Correctly; the familiar word was inserted instead of the rare one (Luke 1:8).

Acts 8:22. κυρίου] So Lachm. Tisch. Born. But Elz. Scholzhave θεοῦ, against preponderating evidence. A mechanical repetition, after Acts 8:21.

Acts 8:25. The imperfects ὑπέστρεφον and εὐηγγελίζοντο (Lachm. Tisch. Born.) are decisively attested, as is also the omission of τῆς before βασιλ. in Acts 8:27.

Acts 8:27. ὅς before ἐληλ. is wanting in Lachm. and Born., following A C* D* א*, Vulg. Sahid. Oec. An incorrect expedient to help the construction.

After Acts 8:36, Elz. has (Acts 8:37): εἶπε δὲ φίλιππος· εἰ πιστεύεις ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας, ἔξεστιν. ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ εἶπε· πιστεύω τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ εἶναι τὸν ἰησοῦν χριστόν. This is wanting in decisive witnesses; and in those which have the words there are many variations of detail. It is defended, indeed, by Born., but is nothing else than an old (see already Iren. iii. 12; Cypr. ad Quir. iii. 43) addition for the sake of completeness.

Acts 8:39. After πνεῦ΄α A**, min. and a few VSS. and Fathers have ἅγιον ἐπέπεσεν ἐπὶ (or εἰς) τὸν εὐνουχον, ἄγγελος δέ. A pious expansion and falsification of the history, induced partly by Acts 8:26 and partly by Acts 10:44.


Verse 1

Acts 8:1. The observation σαῦλοςαὐτοῦ(216) forms the significant transition to the further narrative of the persecution which is annexed.

ἦν συνευδοκῶν] he was jointly assenting, in concert, namely, with the originators and promoters of the ἀναίρεσις; comp. Luke 11:48, and on Romans 1:32. On ἀναίρεσις, in the sense of caedes, supplicium, comp. Numbers 11:15; Judith 15:4; 2 Maccabees 5:13; Herodian. ii. 6. 1, iii. 2. 10. Here, also, the continuance and duration are more strongly denoted by ἦν with the participle than by the mere finite tense.

ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡ΄έρᾳ] is not, as is usually quite arbitrarily done, to be explained indefinitely illo tempore, but (comp. Acts 2:41): on that day, when Stephen was stoned, the persecution arose, for the outbreak of which this tumultuary stoning served as signal.

τὴν ἐν ἱεροσ.] added, because now the dispersion (comp. Acts 11:19) set in.

πάντες] a hyperbolical expression of the popular mode of narration, Matthew 3:5; Mark 3:33, al. At the same time, however, the general expression τὴν ἐκκλησίαν does not permit us to limit πάντες especially to the Hellenistic part of the church (Baur, I. p. 46, ed. 2; comp. de Wette). But if the hyperbolical πάντες is not to be used against the historical character of the narrative (Schneckenburger, Zeller), neither are we to read withal between the lines that the church had been formally assembled and broken up, but that to dispersion into the regions of Judaea and Samaria (which is yet so clearly affirmed of the πάντες!), a great part of those broken up, including the apostles, had not allowed themselves to be induced (so Baumgarten).

κ. σα΄αρείας] This country only is here mentioned as introductory to the history which follows, Acts 8:5 ff. For a wider dispersion, see Acts 11:19.

πλὴν τῶν ἀποστ.] This is explained (in opposition to Schleiermacher, Schneckenburger, and others, who consider these statements improbable) by the greater stedfastness of the apostles, who were resolved as yet, and in the absence of more special divine intimation, to remain at the centre of the theocracy, which, in their view at this time, was also the centre of the new theocracy.(217) They knew themselves to be the appointed upholders and πρωταγωνισταί (Oecumenius) of the cause of their Lord.


Verse 2-3

Acts 8:2-3. The connection of Acts 8:1-3 depends on the double contrast, that in spite of the outbreak of persecution which took place on that day, the dead body of the martyr was nevertheless honoured by pious Jews; and that on the other hand, the persecuting zeal of Saul stood in stern opposition thereto. On that day arose a great persecution (Acts 8:1). This, however, prevented not pious men from burying and lamenting Stephen (Acts 8:2); but Saul laid waste, in that persecution which arose, the church (of Jerusalem, Acts 8:3). The common opinion is accordingly erroneous, that there prevails here a lack of connection (Acts 8:2 is a supplementary addition, according to de Wette), which is either (Olshausen, Bleek) to be explained by the insertion of extracts from different sources, or (Ziegler in Gabler’s Journ.f. theol. Lit., I. p. 155) betokens that ἐγένετο δὲἀποστόλων is an interpolation, or (Heinrichs, Kuinoel) at least makes it necessary to hold these words as transposed, so that they had originally stood after Acts 8:2.(218)

συγκομίζειν] to carry together, then, used of the dead who are carried to the other dead bodies at the burial-place, and generally: to bury. Soph. Aj. 1048; Plut. Sull. 38. According to the Scholiast on Soph. l.c. and Phavorinus, the expression is derived from gathering the fruits of harvest. Comp. Job 5:26.

The ἄνδρες εὐλαβεῖς are not (in opposition to Heinrichs and Ewald) Christians, but, as the connection requires, religious Jews who, in their pious conscientiousness (comp. Acts 2:5), and with a secret inclination to Christianity (comp. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus), had the courage to honour the innocence of him who had been stoned. Christians would probably have been prevented from doing so, and Luke would have designated them more distinctly.

κοπετός: θρῆνος μετὰ ψοφοῦ χειρῶν, Hesychius. See Genesis 50:10; 1 Maccabees 2:70; Nicarch. 30; Plut. Fab. 17; Heyne, Obss. in Tibull. p. 71.

ἐλυμαίνετο] he laid waste, comp. Acts 9:21; Galatians 1:13. The following sentence informs us how he proceeded in doing so; therefore a colon is to be placed after τ. ἐκκλ.

κατὰ τοὺς οἰκ. εἰσπορ.] entering by houses (house by house, Matthew 24:7; Winer, p. 374 [E. T. 500]).

σύρων] dragging. See Tittmann, Synon. N. T. p. 57 f., and Wetstein. Comp. Acts 14:19, Acts 17:3. Arrian. Epict. 1:29.


Verse 4-5

Acts 8:4-5. διῆλθον] they went through, they dispersed themselves through the countries to which they had fled.(219)

Acts 8:5. Of the dispersed persons active as missionaries, who were before designated generally, one is now singled out and has his labours described, namely Philip, not the apostle, as is erroneously assumed by Polycrates in Eusebius, iii. 31. 2, v. 24. 1 (see, on the contrary, Acts 8:1; Acts 8:14, and generally, Zeller, p. 154 ff; Ewald, p. 235 f.), but he who is named in Acts 6:5, Acts 21:8. That the persecution should have been directed with special vehemence against the colleagues of Stephen, was very natural. Observe, however, that in the case of those dispersed, and even in that of Philip, preaching was not tied to an existing special office. With their preaching probably there was at once practically given the new ministry (that of the evangelists, Acts 21:8; Ephesians 4:11), as circumstances required, under the guidance of the Spirit.

κατελθ.] from Jerusalem.

εἰς πόλιν τῆς σα΄αρ.] into a city of Samaria. What city it was (Grotius and Ewald think of the capital, Olshausen thinks that it was perhaps Sichem) is to be left entirely undetermined, and was probably unknown to Luke himself. Comp. John 4:5. Kuinoel, after Erasmus, Beza, Calvin, Calovius, and others, takes τῆς σαμαρ. as the name, not of the country, but of the capital (Sebaste, which was also called Samaria, Joseph. Antt. xviii. 6. 2). In that case, indeed, the article would not have been necessary before πόλιν, as Olshausen thinks (Poppo, ad Thuc. i. 10; Ellendt, Lex. Soph. II. p. 137; comp. Luke 2:4; Luke 2:11; 2 Peter 2:6). πόλις, too, with the genitiye of the name of the city, is a Greek idiom (Ruhnk. Epp. crit. p. 186); but Acts 8:9, where τῆς σαμαρ. is evidently the name of the country ( τὸ ἔθνος), is decidedly opposed to such a view. See also on Acts 8:14.

αὐτοῖς] namely, the people in that city.


Verse 6-7

Acts 8:6-7. προσεῖχον] they gave heed thereto, denotes attentive, favourably disposed interest, Acts 16:14; Hebrews 2:1; 1 Timothy 1:4; often in Greek writers, Jacobs, ad Ach. Tat. p. 882. The explanation fidem praebebant (Krebs, Heinrichs, Kuinoel, and others) confounds the result of the προσέχειν (Acts 8:12) with the προσέχειν itself,—a confusion which is committed in all the passages adduced to prove it.

ἐν τῷ ἀκούειν αὐτοὺς κ. κ. τ. λ.] in their hearing, etc., while they heard.

In Acts 8:7, more than in v. 16, those affected by natural diseases ( παραλελ. κ. χωλοι), who were healed ( ἐθεραπεύθ.), are expressly distinguished from the possessed (comp. Luke 4:40 f.), whose demons came out ( ἐξήρχετο) with great crying.

Notice the article before ἐχόντων: of many of those who, etc., consequently, not of all. As regards the construction, πολλῶν is dependent on the τὰ πνεύματα ἀκάθαρτα to be again tacitly supplied after πνεύματα ἀκάθαρτα (see Matthiae, p. 1533; Kühner, II. p. 602).


Verse 9

Acts 8:9 σίμων] is not identical (in opposition to Heumann, Krebs, Rosenmüller, Kuinoel, Neander, de Wette, Hilgenfeld, see also Gieseler’s Kirchengesch. I. sec. 18. 8, and others) with the Simon of Cyprus in Joseph. Antt. xx. 7. 2,(220) whom the Procurator Felix, at a later period, employed to estrange Drusilla, the wife of Azizus king of Emesa in Syria, from her husband. For (1) Justin, Apol. I. 26 (comp. Clem. Hom. i. 15, ii. 22), expressly informs us that Simon was from the village Gitthon in Samaria, and Justin himself was a Samairitan, so that we can the less suppose, in his case, a confusion with the name of the Cyprian town κίτιον (Thuc. i. 112. 1). (2) The identity of name cannot, on account of its great prevalence, prove anything, and as little can the assertion that the Samaritans would hardly have deified one of their own countrymen (Acts 8:10). The latter is even more capable of explanation from the national pride, than it would be with respect to a Cyprian.

προϋπῆρχεν] he was formerly (even before the appearance of Philip) in the city. The following μαγεύων κ. τ. λ. then adds how he was occupied there; comp. Luke 23:12.

μαγεύων] practising magical arts, only here in the N. T.; but see Eur. Iph. T. 1337; Meleag. 12; Clearch. in Athen. vi. p. 256 E Jacobs, ad Anthol. VI. p. 29. The magical exercises of the wizards, who at that time very frequently wandered about in the East, extended chiefly to an ostentatious application of their attainments in physical knowledge to juggling conjurings of the dead and demons, to influencing the gods, to sorceries, cures of the sick, soothsayings from the stars, and the like, in which the ideas and formulae of the Oriental-Greek theosophy were turned to display. See Neander, Gesch. d. Pflanz. u. Leit. d. christl. K. I. p. 99 f.; Müller in Herzog’s Encykl. VIII. p. 675 ff.

τιναμέγαν] We are not, accordingly, to put any more definite claim into the mouth of Simon; the text relates only generally his boasting self-exaltation, which may have expressed itself very differently according to circumstances, but always amounted to this, that he himself was a certain extraordinary person. Perhaps Simon designedly avoided a more definite self-designation, in order to leave to the praises of the people all the higher scope in the designating of that (Acts 8:10) which he himself wished to pass for.

ἑαυτόν] He thus acted quite differently from Philip, who preached Christ, Acts 8:5. Comp. Revelation 2:20.


Verse 10

Acts 8:10. προσεῖχον] just as in Acts 8:6.

ἀπὸ μικροῦ ἕως μεγάλου] A designation of the whole body, from little and up to great, i.e. young and old. Comp. Hebrews 8:11; Acts 26:22; Baruch 1:4; Judith 13:4; Judith 13:13; 1 Maccabees 5:45; LXX. Genesis 19:11; Jeremiah 42:1, al.

οὗτός ἐστιν δύν. τ. θεοῦ καλ. μεγ.] this is the God-power called great. The Samaritans believed that Simon was the power emanating from God, and appearing and working among them as a human person, which, as the highest of the divine powers, was designated by them with a specific appellation κατʼ ἐξοχήν as the μεγάλη. Probably the Oriental-Alexandrine idea of the world-creating manifestation of the hidden God (the Logos, which Philo also calls μητρόπολις πασῶν τῶν δυνάμεων τοῦ θεοῦ) had become at that time current among them, and they saw in Simon this effluence of the Godhead rendered human by incarnation,—a belief which Simon certainly had been cunning enough himself to excite and to promote, and which makes it more than probable that the magician, to whom the neighbouring Christianity could not be unknown, designed in the part which he played to present a phenomenon similar to Christ; comp. Ewald. The belief of the Samaritans in Simon was thus, as regards its tenor, an analogue of the λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο, and hence served to prepare for the true and definite faith in the Messiah, afterwards preached to them by Philip: the former became the bridge to the latter. Erroneously Philastr. Haer. 29, and recently Olshausen, de Wette, and others put the words δύναμις κ. τ. λ. into the mouth of Simon himself, so that they are held only to be an echo of what the sorcerer had boastingly said of himself.(221) This is contrary to the text, which expressly distinguishes the opinion of the infatuated people here from the assertion of the magician himself (Acts 8:9). He had characterized himself indefinitely; they judged definitely and confessed ( λέγοντες) the highest that could be said of him; and in doing so, accorded with the intention of the sorcerer.


Verse 12

Acts 8:12. They believed Philip, who announced the good news of the kingdom of God and of the name of Jesus Christ.

εὐαγγελίζ. only here (see the critical remarks) with περί, but see Romans 1:3; Josephus, Antt. xv. 7. 2.

The Samaritans called the Messiah whom they expected הַשָּׁהֵכ or הַתָּֽהֵב, the Converter, and considered Him as the universal, not merely political, but still more religious and moral, Renewer. See on John 4:25.


Verse 13

Acts 8:13. ἐπίστευσε] also on his part ( κ. αὐτός), like the other Samaritans, he became believing, namely, likewise τῷ φιλίππῳ εὐαγγελιζομένῳ κ. τ. λ. Entirely at variance with the text is the opinion (Grotius, Clericus, Rosenmüller, Kuinoel) that Simon regarded Jesus only as a great magician and worker of miracles, and not as the Messiah, and only to this extent believed on Him. He was, by the preaching and miracles of Philip, actually moved to faith in Jesus as the Messiah. Yet this faith of his was only historical and intellectual, without having as its result a change of the inner life;(222) hence he was soon afterwards capable of what is related in vv.18, 19. The real ΄ετάνοια is not excited in him, even at Acts 8:24. Cyril aptly remarks: ἐβαπτίσθη, ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἐφωτίσθη.

ἐξίστατο] he, who had formerly been himself ἐξιστῶν τὸ ἔθνος!


Verses 14-17

Acts 8:14-17. οἱ ἐν ἱεροσ. ἀπόστ.] applies, according to Acts 8:1, to all the apostles, to the apostolic college, which commissioned two of its most distinguished members (Galatians 2:9).

σαμάρεια] here also the name of the country; see Acts 8:5; Acts 8:9. From the success which the missionary labours of Philip had in that single city, dates the conversion of the country in general, and so the fact: δέδεκται σαμάρεια τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ.

The design of the mission of Peter and John(223) is certainly, according to the text (in opposition to Schneckenburger), to be considered as that which they actually did after their arrival (ver.15): to pray for the baptized, in order that ( ὅπως) they might receive the Holy Spirit. Not as if, in general, the communication of the Spirit had been exclusively bound up with the prayer and the imposition of the hands (Acts 8:17-18) of an actual apostle; nor yet as if here under the Spirit we should have to conceive something peculiar ( τὸ τῶν σημείων, Chrysostom, comp. Beza, Calvin): but the observation, Acts 8:16, makes the baptism of the Samaritans without the reception of the Spirit appear as something extraordinary: the epoch-making advance of Christianity beyond the bounds of Judaea into Samaria was not to be accomplished without the intervention of the direct ministry of the apostles. Comp. Baumgarten, p. 175 ff. Therefore the Spirit was reserved until this apostolic intervention occurred. To explain the matter from the designed omission of prayer for the Holy Spirit on the part of Philip (Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 2, p. 32), or from the subjectivity of the Samaritans, whose faith had not yet penetrated into the inner life (Neander, p. 80 f., 104), has no justification in the text, the more especially as there is no mention of any further instruction by the apostles, but only of their prayer (and imposition of hands(224)), in the effect of which certainly their greater ἐξουσία, as compared with that of Philip as the mere evangelist, was historically made apparent, because the nascent church of Samaria was not to develope its life otherwise than in living connection with the apostles themselves.(225) The miraculous element of the apostolic influence is to be recognised as connected with the whole position and function of the apostles, and not to he referred to a sphere of view belonging to a later age (Zeller, Holtzmann).

δέδεκται] has received: see xvii. 7; Winer, p. 246 [E. T. 328]; Valcken. p. 437.

καταβάντες] namely, to Samaria situated lower.

οὐδέπω γὰρ ἦν] for as yet not at all, etc.

μόνον δὲ βεβαπτισμένοι κ. τ. λ.] but they found themselves only in the condition of baptized ones (not at the same time also furnished with the Spirit).


Verse 18

Acts 8:18. The communication of the Spirit was visible ( ἰδών, see the critical remarks) in the gestures and gesticulations of those who had received it, perhaps also in similar phenomena to those which took place at Pentecost in Jerusalem.

Did Simon himself receive the Spirit? Certainly not, as this would have rendered him incapable of so soon making the offer of money. He saw the result of the apostolic imposition of hands on others,—thereupon his impatient desire waits not even for his own experience (the power of the apostolic prayer would have embraced him also and filled him with the Spirit), and, before it came to his turn to receive the imposition of hands, he makes his proposal, perhaps even as a condition of allowing the hands to be laid upon him. The opinion of Kuinoel, that from pride he did not consider it at all necessary that the hands should be laid on him, is entirely imaginary. The motive of his proposal was selfishness in the interest of his magical trade; very naturally he valued the communication of the Spirit, to the inward experience of which he was a stranger, only according to the surprising outward phenomena, and hence saw in the apostles the possessors of a higher magical power still unknown to himself, the possession of which he as a sorcerer coveted, “ne quid sibi deesset ad ostentationem et quaestum,” Erasmus.


Verse 20-21

Acts 8:20-21. Thy money be along with thee unto destruction; i.e. let perdition, Messianic penal destruction, come upon thy money and thyself! The sin-money, in the lofty strain of the language, is set forth as something personal, capable of ἀπώλεια.

εἴη εἰς ἀπώλ.] a usual attraction: fall into destruction and be in it. See Winer, p. 386 f. [E. T. 516 f.]. Comp. Acts 8:23.

τὴν δωρεὰν τοῦ θεοῦ] τὴν ἐξουσίαν ταύτην, ἵνα κ. τ. λ., Acts 8:19. Observe the antithetically chosen designation.

ἐνόμισας] thou wast minded, namely, in the proposal made.

μερὶς οὐδὲ κλῆρος] synonyms, of which the second expresses the idea figuratively: part nor lot. Comp. Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 14:27; Deuteronomy 14:29; Isaiah 57:6. The utterance is earnest.

ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τούτῳ] in this word, i.e. in the ἐξουσία to be the medium of the Spirit, which was in question. Lange gratuitously imports the idea: in this word, which flows from the hearts of believers moved by the Spirit. λόγος of the “ipsa causa, de qua disceptatur,” is very current also in classical writers, Ast, Lex. Plat. II. p. 256; Brunck, ad Soph. Aj. 1268; Wolf, ad Dem. Lept. p. 277; Nägelsb. on the Iliad, p. 41 f. ed. 3. Others, as Olshausen and Neander after Grotius, explain λόγος of the gospel, all share in whose blessings is cut off from Simon. But then this reference must have been suggested by the context, in which, however, there is no mention at all of doctrine.

εὐθεῖα, straight, i.e. upright (comp. Wisdom of Solomon 9:3; Sirach 7:6), for Simon thought to acquire ( κτᾶσθαι) an ἐξουσία not destined for him, from immoral motives, and by an unrighteous means. Herein lies the immoral nature of simony, whose source is selfishness. Comp. the ethical σκολιός (Luke 3:5), Acts 2:40; Philippians 2:15. “Cor arx boni et mali,” Bengel; Delitzsch, Psychol. p. 250.


Verse 22-23

Acts 8:22-23. ἀπὸ τῆς κακ.] i.e. turning thee away from, Hebrews 6:1. Comp. on 2 Corinthians 11:3.

εἰ ἄρα ἀφεθήσεται] entreat the Lord (God, Acts 8:21), and try thereby, whether perhaps (as the case may stand) there will be forgiven, etc. Comp. on Mark 11:13; Romans 1:10. Peter, on account of the high degree of the transgression, represents the forgiveness on repentance still as doubtful.(226) Kuinoel, after older expositors (comp. Heinrichs and de Wette), thinks that the doubt concerns the conversion of Simon, which was hardly to be hoped for. At variance with the text, which to the fulfilment of the μετανόησον (without which forgiveness was not at all conceivable) annexes still the problematic εἰ ἄρα. Concerning the direct expression by the future, see Winer, p. 282 [E. T. 376].

ἐπίνοια] the (conscious) plan, the project, is a vox media, which receives its reference in bonam (2 Maccabees 12:45; Ar. Thesm. 766, al.), or as here in malam partem, entirely from the context. See the passages in Kypke, II. p. 42, and from Philo in Loesner, p. 198 f.

For I perceive thee (fallen into and) existing in gall of bitterness and (in) band of iniquity, i.e. for I recognise thee as a man who has fallen into bitter enmity (against the gospel) as into gall, and into iniquity as into binding fetters. Both genitives are to be taken alike, namely, as genitives of apposition; hence χολὴ πικρίας is not fel amarum (as is usually supposed), in which case, besides, πικρίας would only be tame and self-evident. On the contrary, πικρία is to be taken in the ethical sense, a bitter, malignant, and hostile disposition (Romans 3:14; Ephesians 4:31; often in the classical writers, see Valck. ad Eur. Phoen. 963), which, figuratively represented, is gall, into which Simon had fallen. In the corresponding representation, ἀδικία is conceived as a band which encompassed him. Comp. Isaiah 58:6. Others render συνδεσμός, bundle (comp. Herodian. iv. 12. 11). So Alberti, Wolf, Wetstein, Valckenaer, Kuinoel, and others, including Ewald. But in this way the genitive would not be taken uniformly with πικρίας, and we should expect instead of ἀδικίας a plural expression. Ewald, moreover, concludes from these words that a vehement contest had previously taken place between Peter and Simon,—a point which must be left undetermined, as the text indicates nothing of it.

εἶναι εἰς] stands as in Acts 8:20. See Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 286 [E. T. 333]. Lange,(227) at variance with the words, gratuitously imports the notion: “that thou wilt prove to be a poison … in the church.”


Verse 24

Acts 8:24. ὑμεῖς] whose prayer must be more effectual. On δεήθ. with πρός, comp. Psalms 64:1.

ὅπως μηδὲν κ. τ. λ.] “poenae metum, non culpae horrorem fatetur,” Bengel. A humiliation has begun in Simon, but it refers to the apostolic threat of punishment, the realization of which he wishes to avert, not to the ground of this threat, which lay in his own heart and could only be removed by a corresponding repentance. Hence, also, his conversion (which even Calvin conjectures to have taken place; comp. Ebrard) does not ensue. It would, as a brilliant victory of the apostolic word, not have been omitted; and in fact the ecclesiastical traditions concerning the stedfastly continued conflict of Simon with the Jewish-apostolic gospel, in spite of all the strange and contradictory fables mixed up with it down to his overthrow by Peter at Rome, testify against the occurrence of that conversion at all.


Verse 25-26

Acts 8:25-26. τὸν λόγ. τ. κυρ.] The word which they spoke was not their word, but Christ’s, who caused the gospel to be announced by them as His ministers and interpreters. Comp. Acts 13:48 f., Acts 15:35 f, Acts 19:10; Acts 19:20. But the auctor principalis is God (Acts 10:36), hence the gospel is still more frequently called λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ (Acts 4:29; Acts 4:31, Acts 6:2, and frequently).

πολλάς τε κώμαςεὐηγγελ.] namely, on their way back to Jerusalem.

εὐαγγελίζεσθαι, with the accusative of the person (Luke 3:18; Acts 14:21; Acts 16:10), is rare, and belongs to the later Greek. See Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 267 f.

ἄγγελος δὲ κυρίου] is neither to be rationalized with Eichhorn to the effect, that what is meant is the sudden and involuntary rise of an internal impulse not to be set aside; nor with Olshausen to the effect, that what is designated is not a being appearing individually, but a spiritual power, by which a spiritual communication was made to Philip (the language is, in fact, not figurative, as in John 1:51, but purely historical). On the contrary, Luke narrates an actual angelic appearance, that spoke literally to Philip. This appearance must, in respect of its form, be left undefined, as a vision in a dream (Eckermann, Heinrichs, Kuinoel) is not indicated in the text, not even by ἀνάστηθι, which rather (raise thyself) belongs to the pictorial representation; comp. on Acts 5:17. Philip received this angelic intimation in Samaria (in opposition to Zeller, who makes him to have returned with the apostles to Jerusalem), while the two apostles were on their way back to Jerusalem.

γάζα, עַזָּה, i.e. the strong (Genesis 10:19; Joshua 15:45; Judges 3:3; Judges 16:1; 1 Maccabees 11:16), a strongly fortified Philistine city, situated on the Mediterranean, on the southern border of Canaan. See Stark, Gaza u. d. philistäische Küste, Jena 1852; Ritter, Erdk. XVI. l, p. 45 ff.; Arnold in Herzog’s Encykl. IV. p. 671 ff. It was conquered (Plut. Alex. 25; Curt. iv. 6) and destroyed (Strabo, xvi. 2. 30, p. 759) by Alexander the Great,—a fate which, after many vicissitudes, befell it afresh under the Jewish King Alexander Jannaeus, in B.C. 96 (Joseph. Antt. xiii. 13. 3, Bell. i. 4. 2). Rebuilt as New Gaza farther to the south by the Proconsul Gabinius, B.C. 58, the city was incorporated with the province of Syria. Its renewed, though not total destruction by the Jews occurred not long before the siege of Jerusalem (Joseph. Bell. Jud. ii. 18. 1). It is now the open town Ghuzzeh.

αὕτη ἐστὶν ἔρημος] applies to the way (von Raumer, Robinson, Winer, Buttmann, Ewald, Baumgarten, Lange, and older commentators, as Castalio, Beza, Bengel, and others). As several roads led from Jerusalem to Gaza (and still lead, see Robinson, II. p. 748), the angel specifies the road, which he means, more exactly by the statement: this way is desolate, i.e. it is a desert way, leading through solitary and little cultivated districts. Comp. 2 Samuel 2:24, LXX. Such a road still exists; see Robinson, l.c. The object of this more precise specification can according to the text only be this, that Philip should take no other road than that on which he would not miss, but would really encounter, the Ethiopian. The angel wished to direct him right surely. Other designs are imported without any ground in the text, as, e.g., that he wished to raise him above all fear of the Jews (Chrysostom, Oecumenius), or to describe the locality as suitable for undisturbed evangelical operations (Baumgarten), and for deeper conversation (Ewald, Jahrb. V. p. 227), or even to indicate that the road must now be spiritually prepared and constructed (Lange). ἕρημος stands without the article, because it is conceived altogether qualitatively. If αὕτη is to be referred to Gaza (so Stark, l.c. p. 510 ff., following Erasmus, Calvin, Grotius, and others), and the words likewise to be ascribed to the angel, we should have to take ἕρημος as destroyed, and to understand these words of the angel as an indication that he meant not the rebuilt New Gaza, but the old Gaza lying in ruins. But this would be opposed, not indeed to historical correctness (see Stark), but yet to the connection, for the event afterwards related happened on the way, and this way was to be specified. Others consider the words as a gloss of Luke (de Wette, Wieseler, and others, following older interpreters). But if αὕτη is to be referred to the way, it is difficult to see what Luke means by that remark. If it is to indicate that the way is not, or no longer, passable, this has no perceptible reference to the event which is related. But if, as Wieseler, p. 401, thinks, it is meant to point to the fact that the Ethiopian on this solitary way could read without being disturbed, and aloud, no reader could possibly guess this, and at any rate Luke would not have made the remark till Acts 8:28. If, on the other hand, we refer αὕτη in this supposed remark of Luke to the city, we can only assume, with Hug and Lekebusch, p. 419 f., that Luke has meant its destruction, which took place in the Jewish war (Joseph. Bell. ii. 18. 1). But even thus the notice would have no definite object in relation to the narrative, which is concerned not with the city, but with the way as the scene of the event. Hug and Lekebusch indeed suppose that the recent occurrence of the destruction induced Luke to notice it here on the mention of Gaza; but it is against this view in its turn, that Luke did not write till a considerable time after the destruction of Jerusalem (see Introduction, sec. 3). Reland, Wolf, Krebs, inappropriately interpret ἔρημος as unfortified, which the context must have suggested (as in the passages in Sturz, Lex. Xen. II. p. 359), and which would yield a very meaningless remark. Wassenberg, Heinrichs, and Kuinoel take refuge in the hypothesis of an interpolated gloss.


Verse 27

Acts 8:27. καὶ ἰδού] And behold (there was) a man. Comp. on Matthew 3:17.

εὐνοῦχος δυνάστης] is, seeing that δυνάστης is a substantive, most simply taken, not conjointly (a power-wielding eunuch, after the analogy of Herod. ii. 32: ἀνδρῶν δυναστέων παῖδες, comp. Sirach 8:1), but separately: a eunuch, one wielding power, so that there is a double apposition (see Bornemann in loc). The more precise description, what kind of wielder of power he was, follows (chief treasurer, γαζοφύλαξ, Plut. Mor. p. 823 C Athen. vi. p. 261 B). The express mention of his sexual character is perhaps connected with the universalism of Luke, in contrast to Deuteronomy 23:1. In the East, eunuchs were taken not only to be overseers of the harem, but also generally to fill the most important posts of the court and the closet (Pignor. de servis, p. 371 f.; Winer, Realw. s.v. Verschnittene); hence εὐνοῦχος is often employed generally of court officials, without regard to corporeal mutilation. See de Dieu, in loc.; Spanheim, ad Julian. Oratt. p. 174. Many therefore (Cornelius a Lapide, de Dieu, Kuinoel, Olshausen) suppose that the Ethiopian was not emasculated, for he is called ἀνήρ and he was not a complete Gentile (as Eusebius and Nicephorus would make him), but, according to Acts 8:30 ff., a Jew, whereas Israelitish citizenship did not belong to emasculated persons (Deuteronomy 23:1; Michaelis, Mos. R. II. § 95, IV. § 185; Ewald, Alterth. p. 218). But if so, εὐνοῦχος, with which, moreover, the general word ἀνήρ(228) is sufficiently compatible, would be an entirely superfluous term. The very fact, however, that he was an officer of the first rank in the court of a queen, makes it most probable that he was actually a eunuch; and the objection drawn from Deut. l.c. is obviated by the very natural supposition that he was a proselyte of the gate (comp. on John 12:20). That this born Gentile, although a eunuch, had been actually received into the congregation of Israel (Baumgarten), and accordingly a proselyte of righteousness, as Calovius and others assumed, cannot be proved either from Isaiah 56:3-6, where there is a promise of the Messianic future, in the salvation of which even Gentiles and eunuchs were to share; nor from the example of Ebedmelech, Jeremiah 38:7 ff. (considered by Baumgarten as the type of the chamberlain), of whom it is not said that he was a complete Jew; nor can it be inferred from the distant journey of the man and his quick reception of baptism (Lange, apost. Zeitalt. II. p. 109), which is a very arbitrary inference. Eusebius, ii. 1, also designates him as πρῶτος ἐξ ἐθνῶν, who had been converted. κανδάκη was, like Pharaoh among the Egyptian kings, the proper name in common of the queens of Ethiopia, which still in the times of Eusebius was governed by queens. See Strabo, xvii. 1. 54, p. 820; Dio Cass. liv. 5; Plin. N. H. iv. 35. 7. Their capital was Napata. See particularly Laurent, neutest. Stud. p. 140 ff.

On γάζα, a word received from the Persian (“pecuniam regiam, quam gazam Persae vocant,” Curt. iii. 13. 5) into Greek and Latin, see Serv. ad Virgil. Aen. i. 119, vol. i. p. 30, ed. Lion. and Wetstein in loc.

ἐπί, as in vi. 3. Nepos, Datam. 5 : “gazae custos regiae.”

Tradition (Bzovius, Annal. ad a. 1524, p. 542), with as much uncertainty as improbability (Ludolf, Comm. ad Hist. Aeth. p. 89 f.), calls the Ethiopian Indich and Judich, and makes him,—what is without historical proof, doubtless, but in itself not improbable, though so early a permanent establishment of Christianity in Ethiopia is not historically known,—the first preacher of the gospel among his countrymen, whose queen the legend with fresh invention makes to be baptized by him (Niceph. ii. 6).


Verses 28-31

Acts 8:28-31. He read aloud (see Acts 8:30), and most probably from the LXX. translation widely diffused in Egypt. Perhaps he had been induced by what he had heard in Jerusalem of Jesus and of His fate to occupy himself on the way with Isaiah in particular, the Evangelist among the prophets, and with this very section concerning the Servant of God. Acts 8:34 is not opposed to this.

εἶπε δὲ τ. πνεῦμα denotes the address of the Holy Spirit inwardly apprehended. Comp. Acts 10:19.

κολλήθητι] attach thyself to, separate not thyself from. Comp. Ruth 2:8; Tobit 6:17; 1 Maccabees 6:21.

ἆρά γε γινώσκεις ἀναγινώσκεις;] For instances of a similar paronomasia,(229) see Winer, p. 591 [E. T. 794 f.]. Comp. 2 Corinthians 3:2; 2 Thessalonians 3:11. ἆρα, num (with the strengthening γέ), stands here as ordinarily: “ut aliquid sive verae sive fictae dubitationis admisceat,” Buttmann, ad Charmid. 14. Comp. Herm. ad Viger. p. 823, and on Luke 18:8; Galatians 2:17; Baeuml. Partik. p. 40 f. Philip doubts whether the Aethiopian was aware of the Messianic reference of the words which he read.

πῶς γὰρ ἂν δυναίμην κ. τ. λ.] an evidence of humility and susceptibility, ἂν, with the optative, denotes the subjective possibility conditionally conceived and consequently undecided. See Kühner, § 467. γάρ is to be taken without a no to be supplied before it: How withal, as the matter stands. See on Matthew 27:23.


Verse 32-33

Acts 8:32-33. But the contents of the passage of Scripture which he read was this. τῆς γραφῆς] is here restricted by ἣν ἀνεγίνωσκεν to the notion of a single passage, as also, Acts 8:35, by ταύτης (comp. Acts 1:16; Luke 4:21; and on Mark 12:10). Luther has given it correctly. But many others refer ἣν ἀνεγίνωσκ. to περιοχή “locus autem scripturae, quem legebat, hic erat,” Kuinoel, following the Vulgate. But it is not demonstrable that περιοχή signifies a section; even in the places cited to show this, Cic. ad Att. xiii. 25, and Stob. Ecl. Phys. p. 164 A, it is to be taken as here: what is contained in the passage (Hesych. Suid.: ὑπόθεσις), and this is then verbally quoted. Comp. the use of περιέχει, 1 Peter 2:6, and Huther in loc.

ὡς πρόβατον κ. τ. λ.] Isaiah 53:7-8, with unimportant variation from the LXX.(230) The subject of the whole oracle is the צֶבֶד יְהֹוָה, i.e. according to the correct Messianic understanding of the apostolic church, the Messiah (Matthew 8:17; Mark 15:28; John 12:38 ff; John 1:29; 1 Peter 2:22 ff.). Comp. the παῖς τοῦ θεοῦ, Acts 3:13; Acts 3:26, Acts 4:27; Acts 4:30. The prophetical words, as Luke gives them, are as follow: As a sheep He has been led to the slaughter; and as a lamb, which is dumb before its shearer, so He opens not His mouth. In His humiliation His judgment was taken away; i.e. when He had so humbled Himself to the bloody death (comp. Philippians 2:8), the judicial fate imposed on Him by God κρίσις αὐτοῦ presupposes the idea of its vicarious and propitiatory character.">(231) was taken from Him, so that now therefore the culmination and crisis of His destiny set in (comp. Philippians 2:9). But His offspring who shall describe? i.e. how indescribably great is the multitude of those belonging to Him, of whom He will now be the family Head (comp. Philippians 2:10)! for (ground of the origin of this immeasurable progenies) His life is taken away from the earth, so that He enters upon His heavenly work relieved from the trammels of earth (comp. John 12:32; Romans 5:10; Romans 8:29; Romans 8:34; Romans 14:9). γενεά does not, any more than דוֹר, signify duration of life (Luther, Beza, Calvin, and others). The explanation, also, of the indescribably wicked race of the contemporaries of Christ, who proved their depravity by putting Him to death ( ὅτι αἴρεται κ. τ. λ.), is inappropriate. Such is the view I have previously taken, with de Wette and older commentators. But in this way the prophecy would be diverted from the person of the Messiah, and that to something quite obvious of itself; whereas, according to the above explanation, the αἴρεται ἀπὸ τ. γ. ζωὴ αὐτ. stands in thoughtful and significant correlation to κρίσις αὐτοῦ ἤρθη. In these correlates lies the δικαιοσύνη of the Humbled one, John 16:10. The Fathers have explained γενεά in the interest of orthodoxy, but here irrelevantly, of the eternal generation of the Son. See Suicer, Thes. I. p. 744.


Verses 34-38

Acts 8:34-38. ἀποκριθείς] for Philip had placed himself beside him in the chariot, Acts 8:31; and this induced the eunuch, desirous of knowledge and longing for salvation, to make his request, in which, therefore, there was so far involved a reply to the fact of Philip having at his solicitation joined him.

The question is one of utter unconcealed ignorance, in which, however, it is intelligently clear to him on what doubtful point he requires instruction.

ἀνοίξας κ. τ. λ.] a pictorial trait, in which there is here implied something solemn in reference to the following weighty announcement. See on Matthew 5:2; 2 Corinthians 6:11. Comp. Acts 10:34.

κατὰ τὴν ὁδόν] along the way; see Winer, p. 374 [E. T. 499].

τί κωλύει] σφόδρα ψυχῆς τοῦτο ἐκκαιομένης, Chrysostom.

βαπτισθῆναι] Certainly in the εὐηγγελίσατο αὐτῷ τὸν ἰησοῦν there was comprehended also instruction concerning baptism.

Acts 8:38. Observe the simply emphatic character of the circumstantial description.

ἐκέλευσε] to the charioteer.

Beza erroneously supposes that the water in which the baptism took place was the river Eleutherus. According to Jerome, de locis Hebr., it was at the village Bethsoron. Robinson, II. p. 749, believes that he has discovered it on the road from Beit Jibrîn to Gaza. For other opinions and traditions, see Hackett, p. 157; Sepp, p. 34.


Verse 39-40

Acts 8:39-40. Luke relates an involuntary removal(232) of Philip effected by the Spirit of God ( κυρίον). Comp. 2 Corinthians 12:2; 2 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Ezekiel 3:14; 1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:16; also what happened with Habakkuk in Bel and the Dragon, 33. He now had to apply himself to further work, after the design of the Spirit (Acts 8:29) had been attained in the case of the Ethiopian. The Spirit snatched him away (comp. John 6:15), in which act not only the impulse and the impelling power, but also the mode, is conceived of as miraculous—as a sudden unseen transportation as far as Ashdod, Acts 8:40. The sudden and quick hurrying away which took place on the impulse of the Spirit (Kuinoel, Olshausen, comp. also Lange, apost. Zeitalt. II. p. 113) is the historical element in the case, to which tradition (and how easily this was suggested by the O. T. conception in 1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:16) annexed, in addition to the miraculous operative cause, also the miraculous mode of the event. But to go even beyond this admission, and to allow merely the country and person of the converted Ethiopian to pass as historical (Zeller), is wholly without warrant with such an operation of angel and Spirit as the narrative contains, when viewed in connection with the super-sensuous causal domain of N. T. facts in general.

ἐπορεύετο γὰρ κ. τ. λ.] he obtained no further sight of Philip, for he made no halt, nor did he take another road in order to seek again him who was removed from him, but he went on his way with joy, namely, over the salvation obtained in Christ (comp. Acts 16:34). He knew that the object of his meeting with Philip was accomplished.

εἰς ἄζωτον] He was found removed to Ashdod. Winer, pp. 387, 572 [E. T. 516, 769]; Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 287 [E. T. 333]. Transported thither, he again became visible. Comp. Acts 21:13; Esther 1:5; Xen. Anab. iii. 4. 13 : εἰς τοῦτον δὲ τὸν σταθμὸν τισσαφέρνης ἐπεφάνη, 2 Maccabees 1:33.

ἄζωτος (Herod. ii. 157; Diod. xix. 85; in Strabo, xvi. 29, p. 759; oxytone(233)), אַשְׂדוֹד, Joshua 13:3, 1 Samuel 5:5, was a Philistine city, the seat of a prince; after its destruction by Jonathan rebuilt by Gabinius (Joseph. Antt. xiv. 5. 3), 270 stadia to the north of Gaza, to the west of Jerusalem, now as a village named Esdud (Volney, Travels, II. p. 251; Robinson, II. p. 629). See Ruetschi in Herzog’s Encykl. II. p. 556.

καισάρεια is the celebrated καισ. σεβαστή (so called in honour of Augustus), built by Herod I. on the site of the Castellum Stratonis,—the residency of the Roman procurators, on the Mediterranean, sixty-eight miles north-west of Jerusalem; it became the abode of Philip; see Acts 21:8. He thus journeyed northward from Ashdod, perhaps through Ekron, Ramah, Joppa, and the plain of Sharon. There is no reason to regard the notice ἕωςκαισάρειαν as prophetic, and to assume that Philip, at the time of the conversion of Cornelius, Acts 10:1 ff., was not yet in Caesarea (Schleiermacher, Lekebusch, Laurent), seeing that Cornelius is by special divine revelation directed to Peter, and therefore has no occasion to betake himself to Philip.

 


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Bibliography Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Acts 8:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/acts-8.html. 1832.

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