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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 1

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-5

Acts 1:1-5. Introduction.—The writer refers to his former treatise, intimating rather than stating that he is beginning a second. The Ascension is his present starting-point, but instead of simply referring to the account already given (Luke 24:50-53), he narrates it again, and in a way which shows that the tradition had grown considerably in the interval. The apostles appear as a fixed number, with definite functions. The text reads more simply without Acts 1:3; "the things concerning the kingdom of God" is the writer's summary of the contents of Christian preaching; cf. Acts 8:12, Acts 19:8, Acts 28:23; Acts 28:30. It is nowhere explained. The "forty days" are heard of only here in NT: they provide room for the growing tradition of a life of Christ on earth after the Resurrection.

Acts 1:2 seems to place the choice of the apostles in this period, as well as the instructions which Jesus gave them through the Holy Spirit, but there is no real conflict with Luke 6:13.

Acts 1:4. The writer silently glides into the narrative of the "second treatise." We are told of a meeting or a meal (mg., see Field, Notes on Trans. of NT, p. 110) of Jesus with the disciples, at which He prescribed their future policy. They are to stay at Jerusalem till the promise of the Father (Luke 24:49) is fulfilled and the Spirit comes to them. (In the Acts of Peter their stay is fixed at twelve years.) The prediction of John the Baptist was that Jesus Himself would baptize with Holy Spirit; here the imparting of the Spirit is made to mean the speedy clothing of the disciples with power (Acts 1:8; cf. Acts 2:6-11).


Verses 6-11

Acts 1:6-11. Programme of the Mission: the Ascension.

Acts 1:6. The opening words suggest a religious meeting; the occurrences of Acts 1:9-11 are in the open air; cf. the tryst made in Mark 16:7=Matthew 28:16. Here the disciples are not thinking of the promise of the Spirit, but of supremacy to be restored to Israel. Jesus' answer does not notice this limited view, and forbids speculation as to the date (Mark 13:32); Acts 1:8 states the writer's view, worked out in the whole book, as to the development of the cause, only a part of which these men were to realise. The statement of Acts 1:4 is repeated. "Witnesses," i.e. of the Resurrection (see Acts 1:22, Acts 2:32, etc.). The Saviour is removed on a cloud, the ascent of which the disciples are following with their eyes, when two celestial beings, as their dress denotes (Mark 9:3), appear beside them and recall them to the earth, or rather state the expectation which is henceforth to fill their minds. Jesus is to come again from heaven, as they have seen Him go up to it, i.e. on clouds, as the Messiah was expected to come (Daniel 7:13, Mark 14:62, Revelation 1:7, 1 Thessalonians 4:17, etc.).


Verses 12-14

Acts 1:12-14. The Community at Jerusalem.—The scene of the Ascension was not mentioned before; we hear of it now. Luke 24:50 puts it at Bethany which is (John 11:18) fifteen stades (about miles) from Jerusalem; the Mount of Olives (here expressed in one word Elaion, hence, EV properly, Olivet), is less than half that distance. (For the tradition that the Messiah was to appear first on the Mount of Olives, see Ezekiel 11:23, Zechariah 14:4, and cf. Mark 11:1-10*.) The account is written for people unacquainted with Jerusalem.

Acts 1:13. The upper chamber is probably in a private house; the believers could not be abiding in the Temple. The religious life of the little community is described in phrases which repeatedly occur: "with one accord"—there is complete unanimity among them—"they continue steadfastly in prayer"; they are directed to one object and know how it is to be secured; only so could the little band prevail who were responsible for the new truth. "The women" may be the wives of the apostles; D adds "and the children," which would point in this direction. Mary, mother of Jesus, was last heard of in Luke 8:19 (but cf. John 19:25-27), and His brothers also. Of them James is heard of afterwards (Galatians 1:19).


Verses 15-26

Acts 1:15-26. Election of a Twelfth Apostle.—"In those days" (cf. Mark 1:9; a vague expression) Peter comes forward as leader. 1 Corinthians 15:6* speaks of 500 brethren at once. The first to whom the risen Lord appeared was naturally their leader; though Ac. does not mention this, Lk. does (Luke 24:24-34). We have here the first example in Ac. of the application of OT passages to Christian things. Two passages from Ps. are applied to Judas, whose place is now to be filled. It is assumed that there is a fixed number of apostles, and that the number is to be kept up. Judas (Acts 1:17) was one of the twelve; Psalms 69:25 proves that there is a vacancy in their number, and Psalms 109:8 that the vacancy must be filled. It is necessary that these prophecies should be fulfilled. The account of Judas' death differs from that in Matthew 27:5-7*. There the high priests buy the field, or claypit, with Judas' money after his death: here he buys a field himself and dies the death of Antiochus Epiphanes (2 Maccabees 9:7 ff.). The name Aceldama is probably historical; the story explains the name which existed already. The election of a successor is to be by lot; the Lord is to decide. The qualifications of suitable candidates are first set forth. They must have been familiar with the ministry of Jesus, which began with John the Baptist (Mark 1:1-4, Luke 3:2), and they must have been present in these last days up to the Ascension. An apostle is elected by the Church (2 Corinthians 3:1) as well as by God; this the name, which means "sent" or "messenger," implies. It is not the Eleven who put the candidates forward, but the whole meeting, addressed by Peter and invited to act with him. The Lord who knows the heart is invoked; He must know best which of the two is the more sincere (Jeremiah 17:10) and will make the better apostle. The office is one of ministry; not of tables only, but of the Word (Acts 6:2-4). Neither candidate is heard of afterwards. Acts 1:26 identifies the apostles with the Twelve. In 1 Corinthians 15 the Twelve are spoken of first, then the apostles as a larger body. Apostles would come into existence when there were several communities of Christians to be kept in touch with each other; the use of the word in the Gospels, in which Luke goes much the furthest, is an anachronism (p. 646, Harnack, Mission and Expansion2, i. 319ff.).

Acts 1:15. Cf. Mishna (Sanh. Acts 1:6), which says a town must have 120 inhabitants to have a council, and the officers must be one-tenth of the whole.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Acts 1:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/acts-1.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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