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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Acts 8

 

 

Verses 1-40


Philip in Samaria. Simon Magus

The graphic details of the ministry of Philip which follow, were doubtless obtained from Philip himself. St. Luke stayed at his house at Cæsarea, and made the acquaintance of his four virgin daughters, prophetesses (Acts 21:8). During St. Paul's three years' imprisonment at Caesarea, St. Luke doubtless had much intercourse with Philip, with whose liberal views he was in sympathy. The historical character of the following narratives stands upon a firm basis. In later years Philip migrated with his daughters to Tralles, in Asia Minor, of which he became the first bishop. Philip the Deacon and Evangelist is confused by some early writers with Philip the Apostle, who in his later years migrated to Hierapolis, and who also had daughters.

5. Philip] The deacon and evangelist, not the Apostle (see Acts 8:1 and Acts 8:14). The city of Samaria] doubtless the capital, called (like the district) Samaria, and also (since the time of Herod the Great) Sebaste, in honour of Augustus (Sebastos).

7. Unclean spirits] Whether the NT. demoniacs were really possessed, or were insane persons whose delusion took the form of a belief that they were possessed, is an open question. In either case the miracles of healing performed on them are remarkable (see on Matthew 4:24-25).

9. Simon] Justin Martyr (150 a.d.), himself a Samaritan, says that Simon belonged to the Samaritan village of Gitto. He is regarded as the father of heresy, and is the reputed author of a Gnostic work called 'The Great Revelation,' of which fragments remain. Bewitched] 'astounded' (also Acts 8:11).

10. The great power of God] RV 'that power of God which is called Great,' i.e. the chief emanation from the Deity, and so entitled to divine worship. According to Justin, he went even further, claiming to be the first or supreme God.

13. Believed] i.e. believed in the genuineness of Philip's miracles, but did not believe in God with a spiritual and saving faith. Simon as a sorcerer and conjurer was an excellent judge of alleged miracles.

14. By sending Peter and John the apostles formally sanctioned the reception of the Samaritans into the Church. The Samaritans, though observing the Law, were almost entirely heathen in origin, so that the incident marks an important step towards admitting pure Gentiles.

15-17. This is the fullest account of the apostolic laying on of hands after baptism, which is more briefly described, Acts 19:6, and alluded to, Hebrews 6:2. In later times the ordinance was administered by bishops, and was called Confirmation, the Seal, and the Chrism. The author of Hebrews speaks of it as one of the first principles of the doctrine of Christ (Hebrews 6:2).

18. Saw] It is probable that many upon whom the Apostles laid hands received miraculous gifts. That Simon, who made his living by working lying wonders, should have desired the power of working genuine ones, was natural enough.

26-40. Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. The eunuch, though a believer in the God of Israel, was a Gentile. Luke the universalist delights to record his admission into that wider communion in which all races and all conditions stand on an equality. This is the first example of a Gentile baptism. That it did not lead to the same disputes as the baptism of Cornelius, is due to the fact that it was private.

26. Toward the south] or, about midday. Gaza] The town is called desert, or deserted, because it had been destroyed, 96 b.c.

27. Candace] The Ethiopian kingdom of Meroë lay to the S. of Egypt, and was governed by queens, whose dynastic title was 'Candace.'

32. See Isaiah 53:7-8; (LXX). Isaiah is speaking of the suffering Servant of Jehovah, whom the Apostolic Church rightly identified with Jesus the Messiah.

33. In his humiliation his judgment was taken away] i.e. in the humiliation of His Passion, justice was denied Him by the Sanhedrin and by Pilate. And who shall declare his generation?] i.e. and what language is adequate to describe the wickedness of His contemporaries who unjustly crucified Him? For his life is taken from the earth] This refers not to the Ascension of Jesus (as some have thought), but to His violent death.

36. Baptized] 'Preaching Jesus' had clearly included instruction upon the nature and necessity of the Christian sacraments.

37. which the RV omits, is a very early and trustworthy marginal addition, which was ultimately incorporated into the text. The simplicity of the baptismal confession is a proof of its genuineness. 1 Peter 3:21 alludes to the baptismal profession of faith.

38. The eunuch was probably baptised by immersion, the usual practice of the early Church, though not held to be absolutely essential.

39. Caught away Philip] Probably the Holy Spirit prompted Philip to depart abruptly for Azotus (Ashdod). Rejoicing] According to Eusebius, the eunuch, on his arrival home, evangelised his countrymen. In his conversion was fulfilled Psalms 68:31, 'Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.'

40. Was found at Azotus] Azotus or Ashdod was one of the five Philistine cities, whose inhabitants were enemies of the Jews after the captivity (Nehemiah 4:7). It was distant over 20 m. (northwards) from Gaza.

All the cities] These would include Jamnia, Joppa and Lydda. Caesarea] see on Acts 10:1


Verses 4-18


The Extension of the Church to Judæa and Samaria (Acts 8:4 to Acts 11:18)

The Christians, scattered by persecution, preach everywhere through Judaea and Samaria. The places specially mentioned are Samaria, Azotus, Caesarea, Lydda, the Sharon valley, and Joppa.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Acts 8:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/acts-8.html. 1909.

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