Acts 4 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Acts 4
Pulpit Commentary
And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,
Verse 1. - The captain of the temple. Only here and Acts 5:24, and Luke 22:4, 52 in the plural some have thought that the commander of the Roman garrison of the castle of Antonia is here meant. But as the scene is laid in the court of the temple, this is very improbable. Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 20, 6:2) speaks of an officer apparently of the temple, who was called ὁ στρατηγός, and was certainly a Jew by his name Ananus, and being, as Josephus relates farther ('Bell Jud.,' 2, 12:6), the son of the high priest Ananias. He also mentions the captain of the temple ('Bell. Jud.,' 6, 5:3) at the time of the destruction of the temple. There can be little doubt, therefore, that the captain of the temple here spoken of was a priest who had under him the Levitical guard, and whose duty it was to keep order in the temple courts in these turbulent times, lie appears from Acts 5:25, 26, Luke 22:4, 52, and the passages in Josephus, to have been an officer of high rank.
Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
Verse 2. - Sore troubled for grieved, A.V.; because for that, A.V.; proclaimed in Jesus for preached through Jesus, A.V. The preaching the resurrection of the Lord Jesus as the "First fruits of them that slept," would be especially obnoxious to the Sadducees, "which deny that there is any resurrection" (Luke 20:27). The Sadducees were at this time in power (see Acts 5:17; and comp. Acts 23:6-8); and we learn from Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,'20. 9:1) that the son of this Annas (or Anauus) went over to the sect of the Sadducees, being himself high priest as his father had been.
And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.
Verse 3. - Ward for hold, A.V. (see ver. 18); morrow for next day, A.V. They laid hands on them. The harsh persecution of the disciples at Jerusalem at this time when the Sadducees were in power is in exact accordance with Josephus's statement in the passage just referred to, that the Sadducees were more severe and cruel in their administration of justice than any other Jews. Their tenet of no life to come made them look to severe punishments in this life.
Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.
Verse 4. - But for howbeit, A.V.; that for which, A.V.; came to be for was, A.V. The number of the men; strictly, of the males (ἀνδρῶν) (Acts 5:14), but probably used here more loosely of men and women. It is not clear whether the five thousand is exclusive of or includes the three thousand converts at the Feast of Pentecost; but the grammar rather favors, the former, as there is nothing in the word ἀνδρῶν, itself to signify "disciples," or "believers," and therefore it is more naturally referred to those of whom it had just been predicated that, having heard the Word, they believed it.
And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,
Verse 5. - Were gathered together in Jerusalem for at (ver. 6), A.V.; or, as it should rather be rendered, to - some of them probably living in the country. This clause is placed in the A.V. at the end of ver. 6 because, in the T.R., Annas, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander are in the accusative ease, whereas, in the R.T., they are in the nominative case; for which reason the R.V. supplies the words "was there" in ver. 6. We see here the different classes which composed the Sanhedrim.
And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.
Verse 6. - Annas the high priest was there for Annas the high priest, a.V. This is the same Annas as is mentioned in Luke 3:2 and John 18:13, and is described as "father-in-law to Caiaphas." He is called by Josephus, Ananus. The succession of the high priests was so irregular, and their tenure of the office so uncertain, in these later years of the Jewish commonwealth, being dependent upon the caprice of the civil rulers who appointed and deposed them at their pleasure, that it does not surprise us to find Annas and Caiaphas high priests at the commencement of John the Baptist's ministry, then Caiaphas at the time of our Lord's passion, and now Annas again. It is possible, however, that Annas may have continued to be president of the Sanhedrim, and be called high priest, even when not actually so. He seems to have lived to old age. He is mentioned by Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 20, 60:1) as having had the singular felicity not only of enjoying the high priesthood himself for a great length of time, but of having five sons promoted to the dignity of high priest, viz. Eleazar, Jonathan, Theophilus, Mat-thins, and Ananus (or Annas). Caiaphas (John 18:13). Of John and Alexander nothing further is known, but Farrar conjectures that John may be "the celebrated Johanan Ben Zakkai, and Alexander perhaps the wealthy brother of Philo" ('Life of St. Paul,' 1. p. 107). Of the kindred of the high priest; rather, of the high priestly race. The high priests were only taken from certain families; the members of which were called ἀρχιερεῖς, or chief priests, A.V. (Matthew 16:21; Matthew 26:47, etc.), Many of these would naturally be the near relations of the high priest.
And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?
Verse 7. - Inquired for asked, A.V.; in for by, A.V. In what name; ποίος, what, means exactly, "what kind." The miracle might have been wrought, as it seemed to them, by Beelzebub, or by magic (Luke 15:15, etc.; Acts 13:6; Acts 19:19, etc.), as well as by Divine power and in the Name of God. They asked which it was. In the Greek there is an emphasis upon the "ye," which is placed last, equal to "such as you," unlearned and contemptible men.
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,
Verse 8. - Elders for elders of Israel, A.V. and T.R. Filled with the Holy Ghost; in direct fulfillment of the promise (Mark 13:11; Luke 12:12; Luke 21:14, 15; comp. Acts 7:55). St. Peter addresses them with all respect (see Matthew 23:2).
If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;
Verse 9. - Are for be, A.V.; concerning a (good deed) for of the, A.V.; an (impotent) for the, A.V.; this man for he, A.V. We; eraphatic, probably in response to the emphatic "you" at the end of ver. 7. An impotent man. The following οῦτος, this man, makes it necessary to supply the definite article, as the A.V. has done. St. Peter alludes to the good deed, i.e. the benefit done to the lame man, being the subject of a criminal inquiry, as a tacit condemnation of the unrighteousness of such a course.
Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
Verse 10. - In (the name) for by, A.V., and again, in (him) for by, A.V.; but if ἐν τίνι is rightly rendered by what means, ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι and ἐν τούτῳ ought to be rendered as in the A.V., by. Be it known unto you all, etc. St. Peter skillfully excuses himself from any presumption in preaching to the rulers by making his words the direct and necessary answer to their inquiry. Jesus Christ of Nazareth (see Acts 3:6, note). Whom ye crucified, whom God raised. With what wonderful conciseness and force are the great doctrines of the gospel condensed into a few words! The human nature, the mediatorial glory, the humiliating but atoning death, the glorious resurrection (a cardinal point in all the apostolic preaching), and the present might of Christ to save his people on earth, are all set out in hail a dozen pregnant words. Even in him. The apostle thus passes from the Name to him whose Name it was. Before you. How could they deny what was actually before their eyes?
This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
Verse 11. - He for this, A.V.; the builders for builders, A.V.; was made for is become, A.V. He is the stone. He had just appealed to their own senses; he now adds the witness of their own prophets. These had declared that the stone which was set at naught by the builders should become the chief corner-stone; just as it had come to pass. The quotation is from Psalm 118:22; only St. Luke here substitutes the word ἐξουθενεῖν, to set at naught, for that used by the LXX., ἀποδοκιμάζειν, to refuse, or reject as unfit. The word ἐξουθενεῖν is applied directly to our Saviour in Luke 23:11, and the similar word, ἐξουδενόειν, in Mark 9:11.
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Verse 12. - And in none other is there salvation for neither is there salvation in any other, A.V.; neither is there any other, etc., for there is none other, A.V.; that is given for given, A.V.; wherein for whereby, A.V. The eighteenth Article of Religion refers directly to this verse as proving that eternal salvation can be obtained only by the Name of Christ.
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
Verse 13. - Beheld for saw, A.V.; had perceived for perceived, A.V. The boldness; literally, free or outspokenness (παῥῤησία), and properly used with words signifying to speak (see Acts 2:29; Acts 4:29, 31; Acts 28:31; John 7:13, etc.), and so the verb (παρρησιάζεσθαι) means "to speak freely and boldly" (Acts 9:27, 29; Acts 13:46; Acts 14:3; Acts 18:26; Acts 19:8; Acts 26:26; elsewhere in the New Testament only in Ephesians 6:20; 1 Thessalonians 2:2). St. Peter had shown his free-spokenness in so boldly proclaiming the resurrection and mighty power of him whom the rulers he was addressing had crucified. Boldness of speech, when combined with charity and moderation, is a most important grace for a minister of Christ. Unlearned and ignorant men. The term unlearned (ἀγράμματος) means that they had no "knowledge of Jewish culture" beyond the Scriptures. Ignorant men (ἰδιῶται) was a technical term for those who had not studied in rabbinic schools. The word hediot occurs frequently in the Talmud (Farrar's 'Life of St. Paul,' vol. 1. p. 106). They took knowledge, etc. Annas and Caiaphas or some of their people, it is likely, had seen them in the high priest's palace (John 18:15-18).
And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.
Verse 14. - Beholding for seeing, A.V.
But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,
Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.
Verse 16. - Wrought through them for done by them, A.V.; to all for to all them, A.V. Only here and at ver. 22 and in Luke 23:8 has miracle been retained in the R.V. as the rendering of σημεῖα: everywhere else it is sign. Wrought through them; more literally, hath come to pass through them.
But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.
Verse 17. - Threaten for straitly threaten, A.V. and T.R. The subject of that it spread seems to be "a notable miracle." They could not deny that it had taken place, but they could prevent the knowledge of it spreading, by forbidding the apostles to speak of the Name of Jesus in which it had been wrought.
And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
Verse 18. - Charged for commanded, A.V.
But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.
Verse 19. - Rather for more, A.V.
For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
Verse 20. - Saw and heard for have seen and heard, A.V. We cannot but speak, etc. We have here another instance of Peter's boldness of speech under the influence of the Holy Ghost.
So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.
Verse 21. - And they when they, etc., let them go for so when they, etc., they let them go, A.V.
For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed.
Verse 22. - More than for above, A.V.; wrought for showed, A.V. Wrought; literally, as in ver. 16, came to pass, or happened, or took place.
And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.
Verse 23. - Came for went, A.V.; the elders for elders, A.V. To their own company (comp. Malachi 3:16). The chief priests (οἱ ἀρχειρεῖς); evidently the same as those who were described as being "of the kindred of the high priest," in ver. 6 (where see note).
And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:
Verse 24. - They, when they heard it, lifted for when they heard that they lifted, A.V.; O Lord, thou that didst make, or as in margin, thou art he that did make, for Lord, thou art God, which hast made, T.R. and A.V.; the heaven and the earth for heaven and earth, A.V. With one accord (ὁμοθυμαδόν) occurs eleven times in the Acts (ten times in the R.T.) and only once elsewhere in the New Testament, viz. in Romans 15:6. O Lord, etc. Either the margin or the A.V. is preferable to the R.V., which gives an unmeaning vocative pendent. The word here used for "Lord" is δεσπότης, from which our English word "despot" comes. It means "master, owner," in respect of slaves, and "a lord" or "king," whose power over his subjects is similar to that of a master over slaves. Here, with reference to creation and God's unlimited power overall that he has made, the Church in danger finds support and solace in the thought of God's absolute sovereignty. The term is applied to God in the New Testament elsewhere only in Luke 2:29 (where observe its relation to δοῦλον); 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 1:4, R.T. (of our Savior); and Revelation 6:10, where σύνδουλοι αὐτῶν immediately follows, as here in ver. 29 does "thy servants." In the LXX. it sometimes answers to Elohim, and sometimes to Adonai. As regards the question how the whole assembly joined in this prayer, whether by a common inspiration, or by repeating the words after him that prayed them aloud (Alford), or by merely singing the second psalm (Baumgarten), or by all using what was already a formulary prepared for the needs of the Church (Meyer), it is difficult to speak positively, nor is it of any moment. Another possible explanation is that several members of the congregation, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, uttered brief prayers and praises, the consenting matter of which Luke thus puts together.
Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?
Verse 25. - Who by the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of our father David thy servant, didst say for who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, T.R. and A.V.; Gentiles for heathen, A.V.; peoples for people, A.V. Who by the Holy Ghost, etc. The R.T. here is impossible, but the T.R. is perfectly easy and natural. The confusion in the manuscripts from which the R.T. is formed appears to have arisen from στόματος having been accidentally mistaken for πνεύματος, which led to other changes. Three readings resulted and seem to be combined: ὁ διὰ τοῦ πατρός ἡμῶν Δαβὶδ εἰπών: or, ὁ διὰ πνεύματος ἁγίου εἰπών: or the original one, ὁ διὰ στόματος Δαβὶδ παιδός σου εἰπών, which is preserved in the T.R.
The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.
Verse 26. - Set themselves in array for stood up, A.V.; Anointed for Christ, A.V. Set themselves in array, Παρίστημι does not specially mean "to set themselves in array," which implies a battle, of which there is not question home, but it means simply "to present" or "show themselves" (Acts 1:3) "to be ready," or, as in ver. 10, "to stand." Anointed. The text in the whole citation follows the LXX. exactly.
For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
Verse 27. - Of a truth in this city for of a truth, A.V. Servant for child (as in Acts 3:26), A.V.; didst anoint for hast anointed, A.V.; peoples for people, A.V. For of a truth, etc. The saying just quoted is proved to have been the word of God by its exact fulfillment in the heathen and Jewish rulers and peoples who were concerned in the crucifixion of the Lord Christ. In this city. This is omitted in the A.V. and T.R., but found in most uncials and Fathers, and adopted by Wordsworth, Alford, Meyer, Bengel. etc. Herod. St. Luke (Luke 23:1-12) is the only one of the evangelists who records the part taken by Herod in conjunction with Pontius Pilate in the condemnation of Christ. Possibly the inference may be that St. Luke was led to record it in his Gospel front know-tug of this application of Psalm it. to him and Pilate. Peoples, in the plural, either because of the "many nations" (Acts 2:5) from which the Jews of the dispersion came to Jerusalem, or with reference to the twelve tribes (see Genesis 28:3, "Thou shalt be a multitude of peoples," Hebrew).
For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
Verse 28. - To do for for to do, A.V.; foreordained to come to pass for determined before to be done, A.V. To do (for the sentiment, comp. Acts 2:23; Acts 3:18). They were gathered together for the purpose of executing, their own will, as they thought, but really to fulfil the purpose of God (see also Isaiah 10:5-15; Isaiah 37:26, 27). See here the comfort to the Church of looking upon God as the δεσπότης of the whole earth.
And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,
Verse 29. - Look upon for behold, A.V.; to speak thy word with all boldness for that with all boldness they may speak thy word, A.V. Lord. This time Κύριε (Kyrie), the word in the LXX. for Jehovah, and the special designation of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:36, etc.), but here applied to God the Father. Look upon; a more forcible rendering than the A.V. Look upon, for the purpose of frustrating and punishing. The only other place in the New Testament where the word (ἑπείδειν) occurs is in Luke 1:25, where the Lord "looked upon" Elisabeth to confer a blessing upon her. In 2 Chronicles 24:22, "The Lord look upon it and require it," the LXX have the simple verb ἴδοι instead of ἐπίδοι. It is beautiful to notice how, in the heat of the unjust persecutions, the Church hands over her quarrel to her Lord, and is only careful that she be not stopped in her work by the threatenings of her enemies. To speak thy word with all boldness (for the word "boldness," see ver. 13, note).
By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.
Verse 30. - While thou stretchest for by stretching, A.V.; thy for thine, A.V.; through for by, A.V.; Servant for child, A.V., as in ver. 27 and Acts 3:13, 26. While thou stretchest, etc. The A.V. seems preferable. It was the fact that, while they preached the Word of God, the Lord confirmed the Word with signs following, which gave them such superhuman courage to persevere in the face of death and bonds. And this was God s method and means of encouraging them. And that signs and wonders may be done. But this clause is better rendered, as Beza and Bengel render it, in dependence upon ἐν τῷ, and by signs and wonders being done, as the consequence of the stretching out of the hand of Jesus. The other ways of construing the sentence are either to make the clause, "that signs and wonders may be done," dependent upon "grant," which seems to be the meaning of the A.V., or else to take it, as Meyer does, as an independent clause, expressing the aim of the stretching out of the hand.
And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
Verse 31. - Wherein they were gathered for when they were assembled, A.V. When they had prayed. When they had finished the preceding prayer. The place was shaken, perhaps by a mighty wind, as in Acts 2:2. The word σαλεύεσθαι is properly used of ships or of the sea agitated and tossed by the wind; so Matthew 11:7, "A reed shaken by the wind." But it is also applied to the rocking caused by an earthquake (Acts 16:26), which maybe the kind of shaking here meant. In this fresh outpouring or the Spirit, whereby they were enabled to speak the word of God with boldness, they had a direct and immediate answer to their prayer (see Isaiah 65:24).
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
Verse 32. - Soul for of one soul, A.V.; and not one of them said for neither said any of them, A.V. The great increase in the number of believers had been recorded in ver. 4. And the state of public feeling alluded to in ver. 21 makes it likely that yet more may have been converted to the faith. This was very important, no doubt; but it was scarcely less so that this great multitude were one in heart and soul, closely united in the bonds of Christian fellowship and love.
And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
Verse 33. - Their witness for witness, A.V. (τὸ μαρτύριον). Their witness. It was one of their chief functions as apostles to bear witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (see Acts 1:22, note). Great grace, etc. Some understand this of the singular favor with which the people regarded them. But it is better to take it of the grace of God which abounded towards them in spiritual gifts and abundant unction and rich blessing, crowning their labors with success.
Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
Verse 34. - For neither for neither, A.V.; among them any for any among them, A.V. One striking proof of the greatness of the Divine grace that was upon the Church at this time was that there was no such thing as want or poverty among them. The equality typified in the daily collection of manna was literally fulfilled among them (2 Corinthians 8:14, 15); for the rich sold their houses and lands, and laid the price of them at the apostles' feet, to be used for the common wants. The present participle in the Greek (πωλοῦντες... πιπρασκομένων) indicates the process as continuing (Meyer).
And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
Verse 35. - Laid them for laid them downs A.V.; unto each... as any one for unto every man... as he, A.V., a change without an improvement. Laid them at the apostles' feet. A significant token of the place occupied by the apostles (as later by the bishops of the Church) as the trustees and dispensers of the Church's funds as well as of the Church's doctrines. Compare "Ante pedes praetoris in fore expensum est auri pondo centum" (Cie. pp. Flacco, quoted by Alford). We have, too, here an instance of the way in which Church institutions rose gradually as occasion gave birth to them. So the institution of deacons (Acts 6:2, 3), of presbyters or priests (Acts 14:23), of bishops (1 Timothy 1-3.), of Confirmation (Acts 8:14-17), appear to have come about in each case pro re nata.
And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,
Verse 36. - Joseph for Joses, A.V., as Acts 1:23; Son of exhortation for The son of consolation, A.V.; a man of Cyprus by race for and of the country of Cyprus, A.V. Joseph. In the variation of manuscripts it is difficult to say which is right. Some (Grotius, Alford, etc.) consider the two forms as mere variations in writing the name Joseph. But it seems more probable that Joses is the same name as Josiah, only without the addition of the Divine Name (Jab) at the end (see Simon, 'Onomast.'). It is found as a proper name in the T.R. of Matthew 13:55; Matthew 27:56; Mark 6:3; Mark 15:40, 47; Luke 3:29 (Jose); and is not likely to have been substituted for the common name of Joseph. The Codex Sinaiticus has Joses only in Mark 15:40. The R.V. has Joseph in Matthew 13:55, and Joses in Matthew 27:56; Mark 6:3; Mark 15:40, 47. In Luke 3:29 the R.V. has Jesus. But Joses is probably right both here and in the above-cited passages. Barnabas; literally, son of prophecy; i.e. a prophet, as he is called in Acts 18:1. Probably his exhortations under the influence of the Holy Spirit in the Church assemblies were particularly stirring and edifying. The Greek version of the name, υἱὸς παρακλήσεως, should be rendered, as in R.V., Son of exhortation, for "son of consolation? is a meaning which can hardly be got out of the Hebrew. The apostles seem here to have followed our Lord's example in naming the sons of Zebedee, sons of thunder. A man of Cyprus by race. The A.V. is less accurate, but it gives the sense better. Cyprus was the country where he was born and lived, as, it is likely, his fathers had done before him. But he was hardly, in our sense of the words, a Cypriot by race. We know that a great many Jews were settled in Cyprus (Philo, 'Leg. ad Caium.,'§ 36; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 13:4; Alford, on Acts 11:19); and we learn from Acts 13:5 that in Salamis alone there were several synagogues.
Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
Verse 37. - A field for land, A.V.

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