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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 6

 

 

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Verses 1-6

Acts 6:1-6. Choice of the Seven.—A division shows itself in the Church. The Hellenists (mg.), the members who spoke Greek, having been brought up in Greek-speaking countries, murmur against the Hebrews, those who spoke Aramaic. This happens "in these days" (cf. Acts 1:15); we are not told the month or the year, only there is a transition in the narrative. The Church is growing; the existence of different elements in it is felt. A daily dole, probably financial, takes place (Acts 4:35) under supervision of the Hebrew element; the widows of the Hellenist section find cause to complain. The Twelve call a general meeting and propose a cure of the mischief which they cannot personally rectify. Prayer and preaching and teaching is their task (Acts 5:42); they cannot turn from this to financial business. They propose the election of seven men to take it in charge, while the apostles devote themselves to their spiritual functions. The qualifications, however, are not those wanted for "serving tables"; the seven are to be of good report, but are also to be full of the Spirit and of wisdom; speaking is to be their task. In the later constitution there are seven deacons in a church (Euseb., H.E., VI. xliii. 11), and they fulfil practical functions of a subordinate nature; see also 1 Timothy 3:8-10. In Philippians 1:1, they are mentioned with bishops who, we see from 1 Timothy 3:1, have charge of the practical business; in the Didaché, xv. 1, bishops and deacons are similarly spoken of together; they may take part in preaching, but that is not their principal office. The seven here chosen are from their qualifications, and from what we afterwards hear of them, preachers not stewards. They are not called deacons, but the story is the account given in Ac. of the institution of that order. The seven have all Gr. not Aram. names; Nicolas is a proselyte of Antioch, the city of which so much is to be heard; the others are born Jews; only Stephen and Philip (was he both one of the Twelve and one of the Seven?) the two first, are afterwards heard of. The community elects and presents them, the apostles after prayer institute them in their office, by laying their hands on them.


Verse 7

Acts 6:7. No number is stated here. The closing statement is without corroboration. The demand made in Acts 15:5 need not have been made by priests.


Verses 8-15

Acts 6:8-15. Attack on Stephen.—This Hellenist Christian draws upon himself the attention of the people. He was full of grace; the inspiration which gave him his power led to disturbance from a synagogue or synagogues of foreign Jews from various countries settled at Jerusalem. Hellenistic Jews could be as narrow as those at Jerusalem (cf. 2 Corinthians 10-13). To the statement that they could not resist him D adds: "because they were boldly confuted by him and could not face the truth." These disputes not yielding any matter for a charge, they got others to come forward and accuse him of attacking Moses and God, and thus stirred up the people, till now so favourable to the believers. The elders and scribes are also worked upon; Stephen is brought before the Sanhedrin. The charges are, to some extent, borne out by the following speech (Acts 7:48), as the charge against Jesus (Mark 14:58) was by His words (Mark 13:2). To a Christian writer they are false charges, because directed against Christ. Cf. the charge made against Paul by Jews of Asia (Acts 21:28). Acts 6:14 enables us to understand the tendency of Stephen's teaching up to this point, as well as the change of popular feeling, at least towards Stephen's section of the Church. Paul's doctrine completes the theme announced by Stephen. It is "Jesus, this Nazorean" (Acts 2:22*) who is to destroy the Temple and change the ritual ("customs," cf. Acts 15:1, Acts 16:21, Acts 21:21, Acts 26:3, Acts 28:17). The illumination of the face of the martyr who saw the Divine glory is mentioned in several early martyrdoms.

[Acts 6:9. Libertines: i.e. freedmen. But probably we should read "Libyans" (i.e. Libustinôn for Libertinon. This emendation is as old as Œcumenius. It was proposed in modern times by Beza, in the first and second editions of his Annotations, and subsequently withdrawn. Wetstein retains "Libertines," but explains it as equivalent to "Libystines" (Libyans). In his Philology of the Gospels (pp. 69f.), on the basis of "Libyans" read by Armenian versions of the Acts and commentaries, Blass suggested Libustinon, in complete ignorance that it had been suggested before, though a glance at Wetstein, or even at Meyer, would have shown him that he had been anticipated. It suits geographically the combination with Cyrenians and Alexandrians. No synagogue of the Libertines is known in Jerusalem, though there may have been one in Pompeii. The emendation has been accepted by several scholars. Preuschen reads "Libyans." See further Rendel Harris, Sidelights on NT Research, pp. 181f.—A. S. P.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Acts 6:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/acts-6.html. 1919.

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Monday, December 9th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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