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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

Acts 5

 

 

Verse 1

1.] ἀνανίας, עֲנַנְיָה, Nehemiah 3:23, or חֲנַנְיָה, Daniel 1:6, in LXX: also 1 Chronicles 3:21, al.= The cloud of God, or The mercy of God.

σαπφείρῃ, perhaps from the Greek σάπφειρος, sapphire, or from the Syriac שפירא, beautiful (Grot.).

The crime of these two is well described by Meyer: ‘By the sale of their field, and the bringing in of the money they in fact professed to give the whole price as a gift of brotherly love to the common stock: but their aim was to get for themselves the credit of holy love and zeal by one portion of the price, whereas they had selfishly kept back the other portion for themselves. They wished to serve two masters, but to appear to serve only One.’


Verses 1-11

1–11.] THE HISTORY OF ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA. This incident, though naturally connected with the end of the last chapter, forms an important independent narrative.


Verse 3

3.] The διὰ τί implies the power of resistance to Satan—Why hast thou allowed Satan to fill, &c.?


Verse 4

4.] While it remained, did it not remain thine own? i.e. was it not in thine absolute power? and when sold, was it not (i.e. the price of it) in thine own power, to do with it what seemed good to thee?

τί ὅτι, i.e. τί ἐστιν ὅτι: see reff.

ἔθου ἐν τ. καρδ., = שׂוּם עַל־לֵב, Daniel 1:8 ; Malachi 2:2. Satan suggested the lie, which Ananias ought to have repelled: instead of that, he put it in his heart,—placed it there where the springs of action are, and it passed out into an act.

οὐκ ἐψ. ἀνθ., ἀλλὰ τ. θ.] This οὐκ, ἀλλά, is not always an absolute and exclusive negation and assertion, see Mark 9:37; John 12:44. But here it seems to be so, and to imply, ‘Thine attempt to deceive was not to deceive us, men; but to deceive the Holy Ghost,—God, abiding in His church, and in us its appointed superintendents.’ This verse is of weighty doctrinal import, as proving the Deity of the Holy Spirit; unless it be held, that the Holy Spirit whom (Acts 5:3) Ananias attempted to deceive, and God to whom he lied, are different. ‘Hæc est sententia: Ananias mentitus est Deo et ejus Spiritui, non hominibus et Petro. Aude si potes, Sociniane, ita dicere: mentitus est non Spiritui Sancto et Petro, sed Deo.’ Bengel.


Verse 5

5.] The deaths of Ananias and Sapphira were beyond question supernaturally inflicted by Peter, speaking in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the only honest interpretation of the incident. Many, however, and among them even Neander, attempt to account for them on natural grounds,—from their horror at detection, and at the solemn words of Peter. But, in addition to all other objections against this (see on ἐξοίσουσιν, Acts 5:9),—it would make man and wife of the same temperament, which would be very unlikely. We surely need not require any justification for this judicial sentence of the Apostle, filling as he did at this time the highest place in the church, and acting under the immediate prompting of the Holy Spirit. If such, however, be sought, we may remember that this was the first attempt made by Satan to obtain, by hypocrisy, a footing among Christ’s flock: and that however, for wise reasons, this may since then have been permitted, it was absolutely necessary in the infancy of the church, that such attempt should be at once, and with severity, defeated. Bengel remarks: ‘Quod gravitati pœnæ in corpore accessit, in anima potuit decedere.’

κ. ἐγέν. φόβ. κ. τ. λ.] The ἀκούοντες can hardly be (Meyer) those present, who (De W.) not only heard, but saw: the remark is proleptical, and = that in Acts 5:11.


Verse 6

6.] Were οἱ νεώτεροι a class in the congregation accustomed to perform such services,—or merely the younger men, from whom they would naturally be expected? Meyer and Olshausen (also Mosh. and Kuin.) maintain the former; Neander and De W. the latter. We can hardly assume, as yet, any such official distinctions in the congregation as would mark off οἱ νεώτεροι from οἱ πρεσβύτεροι, which latter are first officially mentioned ch. Acts 11:30. Besides which, we have no such ecclesiastical class as οἱ νεώτεροι. And the use of οἱ νεανίσκοι in Acts 5:10, as applying to these same persons, seems to decide that they were merely the younger members of the church, acting perhaps in accordance with Jewish custom,—perhaps also on some hint given by Peter.

συνέστειλαν] So περιστέλλω, Ezekiel 29:5; Tobit 12:13; Sirach 38:16, wrapped the body up,—probably in their own mantles, taken off in preparing to curry him out. The context will not permit any more careful enfolding of the body to be understood.

The speedy burial of the dead, practised among the later Jews, was unknown in earlier times, see Genesis 23. It was grounded on Numbers 19:11 ff. The practice was to bury before sunset of the same day. The immediate burial in this case adds to the probability that the young men obeyed an intimation from the Apostle.


Verse 7

7.] The construction is, ἐγένετο δέ‚ … καί, It happened, that: and ὡς ὡ. τ. διάστ. is parenthetical, not the nom. to ἑγένετο. See a precisely similar construction, Luke 9:28; and Winer, edn. 6, § 62. 2.


Verse 8

8.] ἀπεκρ., perhaps to her salutation: or, it may be, to her manner, challenging a reply. The word must at any rate be taken as implying some previous communication, to which an answer was to be given.

τοσούτ., naming the sum: or perhaps pointing to the money lying at his feet. The sense tantilli (Born.) is implied of course, but not expressed by τοσούτου.

No stress on ἀπέδοσθε as referring to the smallness of price: it is the ordinary word for selling, see reff.


Verse 9

9.] To try the omniscience of the Spirit then visibly dwelling in the Apostles and the church, was, in the highest sense, to tempt the Spirit of God. It was a saying in their hearts ‘There is no Holy Spirit:’ and certainly approached very closely to a sin against the Holy Ghost. Peter characterizes the sin more solemnly this second time, because by the wife’s answer it was now proved to be no individual lie of a bad and covetous man, but a preconcerted scheme to deceive God.

οἱ πόδες] Not that Peter heard (Olsh.) the tread of the young men outside (they were probably barefooted), but it is an expression common in the poetical or lively description of the Hebrews, and indeed of all nations (see Isaiah 52:7; Nahum 1:15; Romans 10:15; Eurip. Hippol. 656; Soph. Œd. Col. 890, al. freq.), making the member whereby the person acts, the actor. I take the words to mean, that the time was just at hand for their return: see James 5:9. The space of three hours was not too long: they would have to carry the corpse to the burying-ground, at a considerable distance from the city (Lightf.), and when there, to dig a grave, and bury it.

ἐξοίσουσιν] This word, spoken before her death, decisively proves that death to have been not a result merely of her detection, but a judicial infliction.


Verse 10

10.] εἰσελθόντες, when they came in: not implying that they immediately entered, but leaving room for some interval of time: see above.


Verse 12

12.] δέ is merely transitional, and does not imply any contrast to the φόβος just mentioned, q. d. ‘notwithstanding this fear, the Apostles went on working, &c.’ See ch. Acts 2:43.

ἅπαντες, the Apostles only, not all the Christians. It does not follow, from πάντες referring to all the believers in ch. Acts 2:1 (see note there), that ἅπαντες necessarily refers to the same here also. The Apostles are the subject of the paragraph: and it is to set forth their unanimity and dignity that the description is given. They are represented as distinct from all others, believers and unbelievers (both which I take to be included under the term οἱ λοιποί): and the Jewish people itself magnified them. The further connexion see on Acts 5:14.

στ. σολ.] See ch. Acts 3:11; John 10:23, note.


Verses 12-16

12–16.] PROGRESS OF THE FAITH MIRACULOUS POWER AND DIGNITY OF THE APOSTLES.


Verse 13

13.] τῶν λοιπῶν, all else, whether believers or not: none dared to join himself to (see reff.), as being one of, or equal to, them: but (so far was this from being the case that) the very people (multitude) magnified them.


Verse 14

14.] And (not parenthetical, but continuing the description of the dignity of the Apostles) the result of this was that believers were the more added to the Lord (not πιστ. τῷ κυρίῳ, but προσετ. τῷ κυρ., as decided by ch. Acts 11:24), multitudes of men and women.


Verse 15

15.] ὥστε now takes up afresh the main subject of Acts 5:12-13, the glorification of the apostolic office, insomuch, that.… It is connected not only with ἐμεγάλυνεν αὐτ. ὁ λ., but also with Acts 5:12.

κατὰ τὰς πλ.] down the streets, i.e. in the line of the streets,—see Winer, edn. 6, § 49, d.

κλιν. κ. κραβ.] Kuinoel’s distinction, that the latter is a poor and humble bed, the former a couch of richer character, appears to be unfounded. (So also Bengel.)

πέτρου] As the greatest, in pre-eminence and spiritual energizing, of the Apostles. Now especially was fulfilled to him the promise of Matthew 16:18 (see note there):—and even the shadow of the Rock (Isaiah 32:2, Heb., and E.V., spoken primarily of His divine Master) was sought for. We need find no stumbling-block in the fact of Peter’s shadow having been believed to be the medium (or, as is surely implied, having been the medium) of working miracles. Cannot the ‘Creator Spirit’ work with any instruments, or with none, as pleases Him? And what is a hand or a voice, more than a shadow, except that the analogy of the ordinary instrument is a greater help to faith in the recipient? Where faith, as apparently here, did not need this help, the less likely medium was adopted.

See, on the whole, ch. Acts 19:12, and note: and remark that only in the case of our Lord (Luke 8:46 (39)) and His two great Apostles in the N. T.,—and of Elisha in the O. T., have we instances of this healing virtue in the mere contact with or accessories of the person. But what a fertile harvest of superstition and imposture has been made to spring out of these scanty examples!


Verse 16

16.] Keep, in both verbs, συνήρχετο and ἐθεραπεύοντο, the imperfect sense; ‘the multitude, &c., was coming together, bearing, &c.,—for all such (quippe qui) were being healed:’ viz. when the next incident, ἀναστὰς δὲ κ. τ. λ., happened [which forms a contrast to this waxing prosperity of the Church].


Verse 17

17.] ἀναστάς is not redundant, but implies being excited by the popularity of the Apostles, and on that account commencing a course of action hostile to them: see reff. (‘Non sibi quiescendum ratus est.’ Beng. διηγέρθη κινηθεὶς ἐπὶ τοῖς γενομένοις, Chrys.) To suppose that the H. P. ‘rose up’ after a council held (Meyer) is far-fetched, and against the ἐπλήσθησαν ζήλου, which points to the kindling zeal of men first stirred up to action.

ὁ ἀρχ.] Annas,—ch. Acts 4:6, and note on Luke 3:2.

οἱ σὺν αὐτῷ] those who were with him (see ch. Acts 4:13; Acts 19:38; Acts 22:9). Not the members of the Sanhedrim: but the friends and kindred (ch. Acts 4:6) of the H. P.: see Acts 5:21; Kuinoel’s ‘qui a partibus ejus stabaut’ is too definite (De W.): it was so, but this meaning is not in the words.

ἡ οὖσα] attr., but implying more than οἱ ὄντες ἐξ αἱρέσεως τ. σ.:—the movement extended through the whole sect. On αἵρ. τ. σ., see Matthew 3:7, note. The passage of Josephus, Antiq. xx. 9. 1, is worth transcribing: πέμπει δὲ καῖσαρ (Nero) ἀλβῖνον εἰς. τὴν ἰονδαίαν ἔπαρχον, φήστου τὴν τελευτὴν πυθόμενος. ὁ δὲ βασιλεὺς ἀφείλετο μὲν τὸν ἰώσηπον τὴν ἀρχιερωσύνην, τῷ δὲ ἀνάνου παιδί, καὶ αυτῷ ἀνάνῳ λεγομένῳ, τὴν διαδοχὴν τῆς ἀρχῆς ἔδωκε. τοῦτον δέ φασι τὸν πρεσβύτατον ἄνανον εὐτυχέστατον γενέσθαι· πέντε γὰρ ἔσχε παῖδας, καὶ τούτους πάντας συνέβη ἀρχιερατεῦσαι τῷ θεῷ, αὐτὸς καὶ πρότερον τῆς τιμῆς ἐπὶ πλεῖστον ἀπολαύσας, ὅπερ οὐδενὶ συνέβη τῶν παρʼ ἡμῖν ἀρχιερέων. ὁ δὲ νεώτερος ἄνανοςθρασὺς ἦν τὸν τρόπον, καὶ τολμητὴς διαφερόντως· αἵρεσιν δὲ μετῄει τῶν σαδδουκαίων, οἵπερ εἰσὶ περὶ τὰς κρίσεις ὠμοὶ παρὰ πάντας τοὺς ἰουδαίους, καθὼς ἤδη δεδηλώκαμεν. This shews that the family of Annas, if not he himself, were connected with the sect of the Sadducees. They (see ch. Acts 4:1, note) were the chief enemies of the Apostles, for teaching the resurrection.


Verses 17-42

17–42.] IMPRISONMENT, MIRACULOUS LIBERATION, EXAMINATION BEFORE THE SANHEDRIM, AND SCOURGING OF THE APOSTLES.


Verse 18

18. τηρ.] see ch. Acts 4:3.


Verse 20

20.] τῆς ζωῆς ταύτης, an unusual expression, seems to refer to the peculiar nature of the enmity shewn towards them by the Saddueees, for preaching the ἀνάστασις ζωῆς—‘of this LIFE, which they call in question.’ Or perhaps τ. ζ. τ. may import the religion of Jesus having its issue in life. A similar expression, ὁ λόγος τῆς σωτηρίας ταύτης, occurs ch. Acts 13:26. See also Romans 7:24. But beware of assuming in either of these passages the use of the figure called by the grammarians hypallage, so that τὰ ῥ. τῆς ζ. ταύτης = τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα τῆς ζωῆς: for thus the sense is enervated, and the peculiar reference in each case lost. The indiscriminate application of these supposed figures of speech has been, and continues to be, one of the worst foes of sound exegesis.

The deliverance, here granted to all the Apostles, was again vouchsafed to Peter in ch. 12, and is there related more in detail. It is there a minute touch of truth, that he should mistake for a dream (Acts 5:9) what he saw: having lain so long in prison, and his mind naturally dwelling on this his former miraculous liberation.


Verse 21

21.] ὑπὸ τ ὄρθρ., at daybreak: see reff.

παραγενόμενος] to the ordinary session chamber in the Temple, on the south side of it (Winer, Realw.): and therefore, if the Apostles were teaching in Solomon’s porch (Acts 5:12), not in their immediate vicinity. Perhaps the παραγενόμενοςσυνεκάλεσαν …, implying that the summons was not issued till after the arrival of the H. P. and his friends, may point to a meeting of the Sanhedrim hurriedly and insufficiently called, for the purpose of ‘packing’ it against the Apostles. If so, they did not succeed, see Acts 5:40; perhaps on account of the arrival of some who had been listeners to the Apostles’ preaching.

πᾶσαν τ. γερουσίαν] Probably the πρεσβύτεροι, including perhaps some who were not members of the Sanhedrim; the well-known foes of Jesus and his doctrine. The expression π. τ. γερους. τῶν υἱ. ἰσραήλ, common in the LXX, is perhaps translated from the form of words in which they were summoned. γερουσία, being the ordinary word for the πρεσβύτεροι, would be the Hellenistic formal expression.


Verse 23

23. ἐν πάς. ἀσφ.] Not, as Vulg., ‘cum omni diligentia’ (so Luth.), nor as E. V. ‘with all safety’ (?); but in all security—‘in a state of perfect safety.’


Verse 24

24.] If the ἱερεύς of the rec. be genuine, it must designate the High Priest; not that the word itself can bear the meaning (compare 1 Maccabees 15:1-2), but that the context points out the priest thus designated to be the H. P. (Meyer.)

On ὁ στρατ. τ. ἱερ., see note, ch. Acts 4:1. He appears to have been summoned to meet the Sanhedrim, perhaps as the offence had taken place within his jurisdiction. But he was probably one of the ἀρχιερεῖς (see Winer, Realw., Tempel, end). These latter were the titular High Priests, partly those who had served the office, partly the presidents of the twenty-four courses, partly the kindred of the H. P. (see Matthew 2:4.)

αὐτῶν] ‘The Apostles,’ the αὐτούς of Acts 5:22; not ‘these words,’ as would appear at first sight.

τί ἂν γέν. τοὺτο] To what this would come; ‘whereunto this would grow,’ E. V.:—not ‘quomodo factum sit,’ as Kuin.,—nor ‘quid hoc esset rei’ ( τί ὂν εἴη, as ch. Acts 10:17), as Grot. and others.


Verse 26

26.] [ ἵνα] μὴ λιθ. depends upon οὐ μετὰ βίας, not upon ἐφοβ. If, however, ἵνα be omitted, then this latter is the case.


Verse 28

28.] δέον ἐρωτῆσαι πρῶτον, πῶς ἐξήλθετε; ὡς οὐδενὸς γενομένου, ἐρωτῶσι λέγοντες· κ. τ. λ. Chrys. The same shyness of open allusion to the names or facts connected with Jesus and the spread of his doctrine may be traced in the ὀνόματι τούτῳ, and the ἀνθρώπου τούτου, and is a strong mark of truth and circumstantiality. ‘Fugit appellare Jesum: Petrus appellat et celebrat, Acts 5:30-31.’ Bengel.

ἐπαγ. ἐφʼ ἡμᾶς] not meaning, that divine vengeance would come on them for the murder of Jesus: but with a stress on ἡμᾶς—that the people would be incited to take vengeance on them, the Sanhedrim, for that murder. The preceding clause ( πεπληρ. κ. τ. λ.) shews this to be their thought. Compare the pointed address of Peter to the Sanhedrim, ch. Acts 4:8-12, and the distinction between them and the people in Acts 4:21. This being so, the resemblance between this expression and the imprecation of the people in Matthew 27:25 must not be too closely pressed, though the coincidence is too striking to escape notice.


Verse 29

29.] Peter, by word of mouth; the Apostles, as a body, by assent, implied in his own utterance and their silence. There is no ellipse of ἄλλοι before ἀπόστ.

This defence of Peter divides itself into the propositions of an ordinary syllogism—(1) The statement of the general truth that we must obey God rather than men: (2) The reduction of the present circumstances under that general truth, as being the work of the God of their Fathers—shewn in his having raised and glorified Jesus, for a definite purpose, to give, &c. (3) The identification of themselves with the course of action marked out by the πειθαρχεῖν δεῖ in that they were bearing witness to God’s work, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit given them as men obedient to God.

The whole is a perfect model of concise and ready eloquence, and of unanswerable logical coherence; and a notable fulfilment of the promise, δοθήσεται ὑμῖν ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ τί λαλήσητε (Matthew 10:19).

πειθαρχεῖν] much stronger than ἀκούειν, ch. Acts 4:19,—as their conduct, in persisting after prohibition, had been more marked and determined. That was a mere ‘listening to’ the proposition then made to them: this, a course of deliberate action, chosen and entered on.

θεῷ—opposed to τῆς διδ. ὑμῶν of the H. P.; and to ἀνθρώπου τούτου. In the background, there would be the command of the angel, Acts 5:20; but it is not alleged: the great duty of preaching the Gospel of Christ is kept on its highest grounds.


Verse 30

30. τῶν πατ. ἡμ.] thus binding on Christ and his work, to the covenant whereof all present were partakers.

ἤγειρεν] both from the emphatic position of the verb, and from the context, it must refer to the resurrection, not merely, as in Matthew 11:11, Luke 1:69, Judges 3:9, to raising up in the ordinary sense.

ὑμεῖς, answering to the ἐφʼ ἡμᾶς of the H. P.

ἐπὶ ξύλου] compare reff. and the similar contrast in ch. Acts 3:14-15. The manner of death is described thus barely and ignominiously, to waken compunction in the hearers, to whom the expression was well known as entailing curse and disgrace on the victim.


Verse 31-32

31, 32.] ἀρχηγ. κ. σωτ., not, ‘to be a Prince and a Saviour:’ but the words are the predicate of τοῦτονas a P. and a S.

ἀρχηγόν, as ch. Acts 3:15, which see. κ. σωτ. not = τῆς σωτηρίας. Jesus was to be King and Captain of Israel, and also their Saviour. The two offices, though inseparably connected in fact, had each its separate meaning in Peter’s speech: a Prince, to whom you owe obedience—a Saviour, by whom you must be saved from your sins.

τῇ δεξιᾷ, by (not to) His right hand, as in ch. Acts 2:33, where see note. The great aim here, as there, is to set forth God as the DOER of all this.

δοῦναι, in his Kingly prerogative; μετ. κ. ἄφ. ἁμ., to lead to salvation ( εἰς σωτηρίαν, as 2 Corinthians 7:10; εἰς ζωήν, as ch. Acts 11:18) by him as a Saviour. Somewhat similarly Bengel: ‘ μετ., qua Jesus accipitur ut Princeps: ἄφες. qua accipitur ut Salvator.’

The key to this part of the speech is Luke 24:47-49, where we have, in our Lord’s command to them, the same conjunction of μετ. κ. ἄφες. ἁμ.—and immediately follows, as here, ὑμεῖς μάρτυρες τούτων, appointing them to that office which they were now discharging,—and, corresponding to τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγ. of our text, ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐξαποστέλλω τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν τοῦ πατρός μου ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς. By conjoining the Holy Ghost, as a witness, with themselves,—they claim and assert the promise of John 15:26-27; see also the apostolic letter of ch. Acts 15:28. When we remember, how much of the apostolic testimony was given in writing, as well as by word of mouth, this declaration of Peter becomes an important datum for judging of the nature of that testimony also. See a very similar conjunction, 1 John 5:9.

They were God’s witnesses, in the things which they had seen and heard as men: the Holy Ghost in them was God’s Witness, in purifying and enlarging by His inspiration that their testimony to facts, and in unfolding, from (and as inseparable from) these witnessed facts,—the things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard. And in the Scripture THESE SAME TESTIMONIES are conjoined; that of the Apostles, holy men under the guidance and reminding of the Holy Spirit, faithfully and honestly reporting those things which fall under human observation: and that of God the Spirit Himself, testifying, through them, those loftier things which no human experience can assure, nor human imagination compass.

ῥημάτων] histories, things expressed in words: see note on Luke 1:4.

τοῖς πειθ.] Not ἡμῖν, which might make an unreal distinction between the Apostles and the then believers, and an implied exclusion of the hearers from this gift,—but generally, to all the πειθαρχοῦσιν αὐτῷ, by this word recalling the opening of the speech and binding all together. So that the sense of the whole is, ‘We are acting in obedience to God, and for the everlasting good of our common Israel: and otherwise we cannot do.’ And a solemn invitation is implied. ‘Be ye obedient likewise.’ It is remarkable that a similar word, ὑπήκουον τῇ πίστει, is used of the multitude of converted priests, ch. Acts 6:7.


Verse 33

33. διεπρίοντο] sc. ταῖς καρδίαις as ch. Acts 7:54. From its conjunction there with ἔβρυχον τ. ὀδόντας, it does not appear to have any connexion with the phrase πρίειν or διαπρίειν τ. ὀδ. with which Hesych(40) and Wetst. identify it. They were cut asunder (in heart). So Persius, iii. 8, ‘turgescit vitrea bilis: Findor, ut Arcadiæ pecuaria rudere credas.’ And Plautus, Bacch. ii. 3. 17, ‘Cor meum et cerebrum, Nicobule, finditur, Istius hominis ubi fit quaque mentio.’ And Euseb. H. E. Acts 5:1 (in Suicer, sub voce, where he cites other authorities also), ἐχαλέπαινον κ. διεπρίοντο καθʼ ἡμῶν.

ἐβουλεύοντο] they were purposing, ‘taking counsel with the intent,’ see reff.


Verse 34

34.] γαμαλιήλ = גַּמְלִיאֵל, (see Numbers 1:10 ; Numbers 2:20,) is generally, and not without probability, assumed to be identical with the celebrated Rabban Gamaliel, הַזָּקֵן (the old man), one of the seven, to whom, among their Rabbis, the Jews give this title Rabban (= ῥαββουνί, John 20:16), a wise and enlightened Pharisee, the son of Rabban Symeon (traditionally the Symeon of Luke 2:25) and grandson of the famous Hillel. His name often appears in the Mischna, as an utterer of sayings quoted as authorities. He died eighteen years before the destruction of the city. (See Lightf. Centuria Chorogr. Matth. præmissa, ch. 15) He was the preceptor of St. Paul (ch. Acts 22:3). Ecclesiastical tradition makes him become a Christian and be baptized by Peter and John (Phot(41) cod. 171, vol. iii. p. 118 b. Winer, Realw.), and in the Clementine Recognn. (i. 65, p. 1242), he is stated to have been at this time a Christian, but secretly. The Jewish accounts do not agree, which make him die a Pharisee, with much more probability. Nor is the least trace of a Christian leaning to be found in his speech: see below [on Acts 5:39]. And considering that he was a Pharisee, opposing the prevalent faction of Sadducæism in a matter where the Resurrection was called in question,—and a wise and enlightened man opposing furious and unreasoning zealots,—considering also, that when the anti-pharisaical element of Christianity was brought out in the acts and sayings of Stephen, his pupil Saul was found the foremost persecutor,—we should, I think, be slow to suspect him of any favouring of the Apostles as followers of Jesus. (See particulars respecting Gamaliel collected in Conybeare and Howson’s St. Paul, edn. 2, vol. i. p. 69, f.) He does not here appear as the president of the Sanhedrim, but only as a member.

ἔξω ποιῆσαι] see reff. to put out—‘cause to withdraw.’ They are recalled in Acts 5:40.


Verse 35

35.] The words ἐπὶ τ. ἀνθρ. τούτ. may be joined either with προσέχ. ἑαυτ., or with τί μέλ. πράσς. The latter would give the more usual construction: and the transposition of words is not unexampled in the Acts, see ch. Acts 1:2; Acts 19:4.


Verse 36

36.] A great chronological difficulty arises here. Josephus relates, Antt. xx. 5.1, φάδου δὲ τῆς ἰουδαίας ἐπιτροπεύοντος γόης τις ἀνὴρ θευδᾶς ὀνόματι πείθει τὸν πλεῖστον ὄχλον ἀναλαβόντα τὰς κτήσεις· ἕπεσθαι πρὸς τὸν ἰορδάνην ποταμὸν αὐτῷ· προφήτης γὰρ ἔλεγεν εἶναι, καὶ προστάγματι τὸν ποταμὸν σχίσας, δίοδον ἔφη παρέξειν αὐτοῖς ῥᾳδίαν. καὶ ταῦτα λέγων πολλοὺς ἠπάτησεν. οὐ μὴν εἴασεν αὐτοὺς τῆς ἀφροσύνης ὄνασθαι φάδος, ἀλλʼ ἐξέπεμψεν ἴλην ἱππέων ἐπʼ αὐτούς, ἥτις ἀπροσδόκητος ἐπιπεσοῦσα πολλοὺς μὲν ἀνεῖλε, πολλοὺς δὲ ζῶντας ἔλαβεν· αὐτόν τε τὸν θευδᾶν ζωγρήσαντες ἀποτέμνουσι τὴν κεφαλήν, καὶ κομίζουσιν εἰς ἱεροσόλυμα. But this was in the reign of Claudius, not before the year A.D. 44; and consequently at least twelve years after this speech of Gamaliel’s. On this difficulty I will remark, that we are plainly in no position (setting all other considerations aside) to charge St. Luke with having put into the mouth of Gamaliel words which he could not have uttered. For Josephus himself, speaking of a time which would accord very well with that referred to by Gamaliel, viz. the time when Archelaus went to Rome to be confirmed in the kingdom, says, ἐν τούτῳ δὲ καὶ ἕτερα μυρία θορύβων ἐχόμενα τὴν ἰουδαίαν κατελάμβανε, πολλῶν πολλαχόσε κατʼ οἰκείων ἐλπίδας κερδῶν καὶ ἰουδαίων ἔχθρας ἐπὶ τὸ πολεμεῖν ὡρμημένων. And among these there may well have been an impostor of this name. But all attempts to identify Theudas with any other leader of outbreaks mentioned by Josephus have failed to convince any one except their propounders: e.g. that cited in Biscoe from Usher, Ann., p. 797, who supposes him the same as Judas the robber, son of Ezechias, Jos. Antt. xvii. 10. 5,—of Sonntag, who tries to identify him with Simon, mentioned Jos. Antt. xvii. 10. 6; B. J. ii. 4. 2,—and of Wieseler, who would have us believe him the same with Matthias ὁ ΄αργαλώθου, Antt. xvii. 6. 2, 4. The assumption of Josephus having misplaced his Theudas is perhaps improbable; but by no means impossible, in a historian teeming with inaccuracies. (See this abundantly demonstrated in an article on ‘the Bible and Josephus,’ in the Journal of Sacred Literature for Oct. 1850.) All we can say is, that such impostors were too frequent, for any one to be able to say that there was not one of this name (a name by no means uncommon, see Cicero ad divers. vi. 10, and Grot. h. 1.) at the time specified. It is exceedingly improbable, considering the time and circumstances of the writing of the Acts, and the evident supervision of them by St. Paul, the pupil of Gamaliel, that a gross historical mistake should have been here put into his mouth.

The λέγων εἶναι of our text is curiously related to the ἔλεγεν εἶναι of Josephus.

ὡς τετρακοσίων hardly agrees with the τὸν πλεῖστον ὄχλον of Josephus above, and confirms the idea that different events are pointed at in the two accounts. But the Jewish historian speaks very widely about such matters: see note on ch. Acts 21:38.


Verse 37

37.] The decided μετὰ τοῦτον fixes beyond doubt the place here assigned to Theudas. This Judas, and the occasion of his revolt, are related by Josephus, Antt. xviii. 1. 1, κυρήνιος δὲἐπὶ συρίας παρῆν, ὑπὸ καίσαρος δικαιοδότης τοῦ ἔθνους ἀπεσταλμένος, κ. τιμητὴς τῶν οὐσιῶν γενησόμενοςπαρῆν δὲ καὶ κυρ. εἰς τὴν ἰουδαίων προσθήκην τῆς συρίας γενομένην ἀποτιμησόμενός τε αὐτῶν τὰς οὐσίας, κ. ἀποδωσόμενος τὰ ἀρχελάου χρήματα. οἱ δέ, καίπερ τὸ κατʼ ἀρχὰς ἐν δεινῷ φέροντες τὴν ἐπὶ ταῖς ἀπογραφαῖς ἀκρόασιν, ὑποκατέβησαν τοῦ εἰς πλέον ἐναντιοῦσθαιἰούδας δὲ γαυλανίτης ἀνὴρ ἐκ πόλεως ὄνομα γάμαλαἠπείγετο ἐπὶ ἀποστάσει. And, in returning to the mention of him as the founder of the fourth sect among the Jews (xviii:1. 6), he calls him ὁ γαλιλαῖος ἰούδας. From the above citation it is plain that this ἀπογραφή was that so called κατʼ ἐξοχήν, under Quirinus: see Luke 2:2 and note. His revolt took a theocratic character, his followers maintaining μόνον ἡγεμόνα καὶ δεσπότην τὸν θεόν (Jos. as above).

ἀπώλετο] Not related by Josephus.

διεσκορπίσθησαν] Strictly accurate—for they still existed, and at last became active and notorious again, under Menahem, son of Judas τοῦ καλουμένου γαλιλαίου, ὃς ἦν σοφιστὴς δεινότατος, καὶ ἐπὶ κυρηνίου ποτὲ ἰουδαίους ὀνειδίσας. (B. Jud. ii. 17. 7; see also Antt. xx. 5. 2.)


Verse 38

38.] ἐὰν ᾖ, εἰ ἐστίν: implying by the first, perhaps, the manifold devices of human imposture and wickedness, any of which it might be, (q. d. ὅτι ἂν ᾖ ἐξ ἀνθρώπ.,) and all of which would equally come to nought,—and, on the other hand, the solemnity and fixedness of the divine purpose, by the indicative, which are also intimated, in our text, by the pres. οὐ δύνασθε.

Or perhaps the indicative is used in the second place, because that is the case assumed, and on which the advice is founded [at all events the distinction ought to be preserved, which is not done in E. V.].

ἡ βουλή] The whole plan—the scheme, of which this ἔργον, the fact under your present cognizance, forms a part.


Verse 39

39.] The somewhat difficult connexion of μήποτε κ. θ. εὑρ. may be explained,—not by parenthesizing ὅτιαὐτούς, but by understanding ‘and ye will be obliged to give up your attempt’ (which thought is contained in οὐ δύνας. κατ. αὐτ.), lest ye be, &c.

καί] Opponents not only to them, but also to God:—‘even,’ in E. V., does not give the sense. As regards Gamaliel’s advice, we may remark that it was founded on a view of the issues of events, agreeing with the fatalism of the Pharisees: that it betokens no leaning towards Christianity, nor indeed very much even of worldly wisdom;—but serves to shew how low the supreme council of the Jews had sunk both in their theology and their political sagacity, if such a fallacious laissez-aller view of matters was the counsel of the wisest among them. It seems certainly, on a closer view, as if they accepted, from fear of the people (see Acts 5:26), this opportunity of compromising the matter, which Gamaliel had designedly afforded them.


Verse 40

40. δείραντες] See Deuteronomy 25:2,—for disobedience to their command.


Verse 41

41. τοῦ ὀν.] Not ‘this Name’ (as Beng. and Kuin. [nor, ‘his Name’ (as E. V.)]), but the Name, κατʼ ἐξοχήν, viz. of Christ. So the Heb. שֵׁם is used Leviticus 24:11; Leviticus 24:16; see reff. and compare τῆς ὁδοῦ, ch. Acts 9:2, and Euseb. H. E. Acts 5:18, κέκριται (sc. Alexander) … οὐ διὰ τὸ ὄνομα, ἀλλὰ διʼ ἃς ἐτόλμησε λῃστείας.


Verse 42

42. πᾶσαν ἡμ.] every day, not ‘all day long,’ which would be πᾶς. τὴν ἡμ.

On κατʼ οἶκον see note on ref.

τὸν χρις. ἰησ.] According to the true reading even more pointedly than in the rec., τὸν χριστ. is the predicate, and ἰης. the subject: preaching (that) Jesus (is) the Christ.

 


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Bibliography Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Acts 5:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/acts-5.html. 1863-1878.

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