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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Acts 6



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Verse 1

When the number of the disciples was multiplying (πλητυνοντων των ματητωνplēthunontōn tōn mathētōn). Genitive absolute of πλητυνωplēthunō old verb from πλητοςplēthos fulness, to increase. The new freedom from the intercession of Gamaliel was bearing rich fruit.

A murmuring of the Grecian Jews (γογγυσμος των ελληνιστωνgoggusmos tōn Hellēnistōn). Late onomatopoetic word (lxx) from the late verb γογγυζωgogguzō to mutter, to murmur. The substantive occurs also in John 7:12; Philemon 2:14; 1 Peter 4:9. It is the secret grumblings that buzz away till they are heard. These “Grecian Jews” or Hellenists are members of the church in Jerusalem who are Jews from outside of Palestine like Barnabas from Cyprus. These Hellenists had points of contact with the Gentile world without having gone over to the habits of the Gentiles, the Jews of the Western Dispersion. They spoke Greek.

Against the Hebrews (προς τους Εβραιουςpros tous Ebraious). The Jewish Christians from Jerusalem and Palestine. The Aramaean Jews of the Eastern Dispersion are usually classed with the Hebrew (speaking Aramaic) as distinct from the Grecian Jews or Hellenists.

Were neglected (παρετεωρουντοparetheōrounto). Imperfect passive of παρατεωρεωparatheōreō old verb, to examine things placed beside (παραpara) each other, to look beyond (παραpara also), to overlook, to neglect. Here only in the N.T. These widows may receive daily (κατημερινηιkathēmerinēi late adjective from κατ ημερανkath' hēmeran only here in the N.T.) help from the common fund provided for all who need it (Acts 4:32-37). The temple funds for widows were probably not available for those who have now become Christians. Though they were all Christians here concerned, yet the same line of cleavage existed as among the other Jews (Hebrew or Aramaean Jews and Hellenists). It is not here said that the murmuring arose among the widows, but because of them. Women and money occasion the first serious disturbance in the church life. There was evident sensitiveness that called for wisdom.

Verse 2

The multitude (το πλητοςto plēthos). The whole church, not just the 120.

Fit (αρεστονareston). Pleasing, verbal adjective from αρεσκωareskō to please, old word, but in the N.T. only here and Acts 12:3; John 8:29; 1 Jo John 3:22. Non placet.

Should forsake (καταλειπσανταςkataleipsantas). Late first aorist active participle for usual second aorist καταλιπονταςkatalipontas from καταλειπωkataleipō to leave behind.

Serve tables (διακονειν τραπεζαιςdiakonein trapezais). Present active infinitive of διακονεωdiakoneō from διακονοςdiakonos (διαdia and κονιςkonis dust), to raise a dust in a hurry, to serve, to minister either at table (John 12:20), or other service (John 12:25.), to serve as deacon (1 Timothy 3:10, 1 Timothy 3:13). “Tables” here hardly means money-tables as in John 2:15, but rather the tables used in the common daily distribution of the food (possibly including the love-feasts, Acts 2:43-47). This word is the same root as διακονιαdiakonia (ministration) in Acts 6:1 and διακονοςdiakonos (deacon) in Philemon 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-13. It is more frequently used in the N.T. of ministers (preachers) than of deacons, but it is quite possible, even probable, that the office of deacon as separate from bishop or elder grew out of this incident in Acts 6:1-7. Furneaux is clear that these “seven” are not to be identified with the later “deacons” but why he does not make clear.

Verse 3

Of good report (μαρτυρουμενουςmarturoumenous). Present passive participle of μαρτυρεωmartureō to bear witness to. Men with a good reputation as well as with spiritual gifts (the Holy Spirit and wisdom).

We may appoint (καταστησομενkatastēsōmen). Future active indicative of κατιστημιkathistēmi we shall appoint. The action of the apostles follows the choice by the church, but it is promised as a certainty, not as a possibility. The Textus Receptus has a first aorist active subjunctive here (καταστησωμενkatastēsōmen).

Verse 4

But we (εμεις δεhemeis de). In contrast to the work given the seven.

The ministry of the word (τηι διακονιαι του λογουtēi diakoniāi tou logou). The same word διακονιαιdiakoniāi employed in Acts 6:1, but here about preaching as the special ministry with which the apostles were concerned. For “continue steadfastly” (προσκαρτερησομενproskarterēsomen) See note on Acts 2:42.

Verse 5

Pleased (ηρεσενēresen). Aorist active indicative of αρεσκωareskō like Latin placuit when a vote was taken. The use of ενωπιονenōpion before “the whole multitude” is like the lxx.

They chose (εχελεχαντοexelexanto). First aorist middle indicative of εκλεγωeklegō to pick out for oneself. Each one of the seven has a Greek name and was undoubtedly a Hellenist, not an Aramaean Jew. Consummate wisdom is here displayed for the murmuring had come from the Hellenists, seven of whom were chosen to take proper care of the widows of Hellenists. This trouble was settled to stay settled so far as we know. Nothing is here told of any of the seven except Stephen who is “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit” and Nicolas “a proselyte of Antioch” (who was not then born a Jew, but had come to the Jews from the Greek world).

Verse 6

They laid their hands on them (επετηκαν αυτοις τας χειραςepethēkan autois tas cheiras). First aorist active indicative of επιτιτημιepitithēmi Probably by the apostles who ratified the choice (Acts 6:3). The laying on of hands “was a symbol of the impartation of the gifts and graces which they needed to qualify them for the office. It was of the nature of a prayer that God would bestow the necessary gifts, rather than a pledge that they were actually conferred” (Hackett).

Verse 7

Increased (ηυχανενēuxanen). Imperfect active, kept on growing all the more because the apostles were now relieved from the daily ministration of the food.

Multiplied (επλητυνετοeplēthuneto). Imperfect passive. The two imperfects kept pace with each other.

Of the priests (των ιερωνtōn hierōn). Who were usually Sadducees. It was a sad day for Annas and Caiaphas and all the sect of the Sadducees (Acts 5:17).

Were obedient to (υπηκουονhupēkouon). Imperfect active of υπακουωhupakouō repetition, one after another.

The faith (τηι πιστειtēi pistei). Here meaning the gospel, the faith system as in Romans 1:5; Galatians 1:23; Judges 1:3, etc. Here the word means more than individual trust in Christ.

Verse 8

Wrought (εποιειepoiei). Imperfect active, repeatedly wrought. Evidently a man like Stephen would not confine his “ministry” to “serving tables.” He was called in Acts 6:5 ”full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” Here he is termed “full of grace (so the best MSS., not faith) and power.” The four words give a picture of remarkable attractiveness. The grace of God gave him the power and so “he kept on doing great wonders and signs among the people.” He was a sudden whirlwind of power in the very realm of Peter and John and the rest.

Verse 9

The synagogue of the Libertines (εκ της συναγωγης της λεγομενης Λιβερτινωνek tēs sunagōgēs tēs legomenēs Libertinōn). The Libertines (Latin libertinus, a freedman or the son of a freedman) were Jews, once slaves of Rome (perhaps descendants of the Jews taken to Rome as captives by Pompey), now set free and settled in Jerusalem and numerous enough to have a synagogue of their own. Schuerer calls a Talmudic myth the statement that there were 480 synagogues in Jerusalem. There were many, no doubt, but how many no one knows. These places of worship and study were in all the cities of the later times where there were Jews enough to maintain one. Apparently Luke here speaks of five such synagogues in Jerusalem (that of the Libertines, of the Cyrenians, of the Alexandrians, of Cilicia, and of Asia). There probably were enough Hellenists in Jerusalem to have five such synagogues. But the language of Luke is not clear on this point. He may make only two groups instead of five since he uses the article τωνtōn twice (once before Λιβερτινων και Κυρηναιων και ΑλεχανδρεωνLibertinōn kai Kurēnaiōn kai Alexandreōn again before απο Κιλικιας και Ασιαςapo Kilikias kai Asias). He also changes from the genitive plural to αποapo before Cilicia and Asia. But, leaving the number of the synagogues unsettled whether five or two, it is certain that in each one where Stephen appeared as a Hellenist preaching Jesus as the Messiah he met opposition. Certain of them “arose” (ανεστησανanestēsan) “stood up” after they had stood all that they could from Stephen, “disputing with Stephen” (συνζητουντες τωι Στεπανωιsunzētountes tōi Stephanōi). Present active participle of συνζητεωsunzēteō to question together as the two on the way to Emmaus did (Luke 24:15). Such interruptions were common with Jews. They give a skilled speaker great opportunity for reply if he is quick in repartee. Evidently Stephen was fully equipped for the emergency. One of their synagogues had men from Cilicia in it, making it practically certain that young Saul of Tarsus, the brilliant student of Gamaliel, was present and tried his wits with Stephen. His ignominious defeat may be one explanation of his zest in the stoning of Stephen (Acts 8:1).

Verse 10

They were not able to withstand (ουκ ισχυον αντιστηναιouk ischuon antistēnai). Imperfect active of ισχυωischuō to have strength, and ingressive second aorist active (intransitive) infinitive of αντιστημιanthistēmi They continued unable (without strength enough) to take a stand against. Stephen knocked them down, Saul included, as fast as they got up. Stephen was like a battery charged and in action.

The wisdom and spirit (τηι σοπιαι και πνευματιtēi sophiāi kai pneumati). Dative case. They stood up against Stephen‘s wisdom and the Holy Spirit “by whom he spoke” (ωι ελαλειhōi elalei). Instrumental case and the relative agrees with “Spirit.” He kept on speaking so (ελαλειelalei imperfect active). It was a desperate situation.

Verse 11

Then they suborned men (τοτε υπεβαλον ανδραςtote hupebalon andras). Second aorist active indicative of υποβαλλωhupoballō old verb, but here only in the N.T., to put under like a carpet, to bring men under one‘s control by suggestion or by money. One recalls the plight of Caiaphas in the trial of Jesus when he sought false witnesses. Subornaverunt. They put these men forward in an underhand way for fraud.

Blasphemous words against Moses and God (βλασπημα εις Μωυσην και τον τεονblasphēma eis Mōusēn kai ton theon). The punishment for blasphemy was stoning to death. See note on Matthew 12:31 for discussion of the word βλασπημια βλασπημεω βλασπημοςblasphēmiaβλαπτωblasphēmeōπημηblasphēmos all in the N.T. from βλαχblaptō to harm, and πημηphēmē speech, harmful speech, or blax stupid, and phēmē But the charge against Stephen was untrue. Please note that Moses is here placed before God and practically on a par with God in the matter of blasphemy. The purpose of this charge is to stir the prejudices of the people in the matter of Jewish rights and privileges. It is the Pharisees who are conducting this attack on Stephen while the Sadducees had led them against Peter and John. The position of Stephen is critical in the extreme for the Sadducees will not help him as Gamaliel did the apostles.

Verse 12

They stirred up the people (συνεκινησαν τον λαονsunekinēsan ton laon). They shook the people together like an earthquake. First aorist active indicative of συνκινεωsunkineō to throw into commotion. Old verb, but here only in the N.T. The elders and the scribes (Pharisees) are reached, but no word about the Sadducees. This is the first record of the hostility of the masses against the disciples (Vincent).

Came upon him (επισταντεςepistantes). Second aorist (ingressive) active participle of επιστημιephistēmi Rushed at him.

Seized (συνηρπασανsunērpasan). Effective aorist active of συναρπαζωsunarpazō as if they caught him after pursuit.

Verse 13

False witnesses (μαρτυρας πσευδειςmarturas pseudeis). Just as Caiaphas did with Jesus.

Ceaseth not (ου παυεταιou pauetai). Wild charge just like a false witness that Stephen talks in the synagogues against the law and the holy temple.

Verse 14

We have heard him say (ακηκοαμεν αυτου λεγοντοςakēkoamen autou legontos). The only direct testimony and evidently wrong. Curiously like the charge brought against Jesus before Caiaphas that he would destroy the temple and build it again in three days. Undoubtedly Stephen had said something about Christianity before as meant for others besides Jews. He had caught the spirit of Jesus about worship as shown to the woman at Sychar in John 4 that God is spirit and to be worshipped by men anywhere and everywhere without having to come to the temple in Jerusalem. It was inflammable material surely and it was easy to misrepresent and hard to clear up.

This Jesus of Nazareth (Ιησους ο Ναζωραιος ουτοςIēsous ho Nazōraios houtos). With contempt.

Verse 15

As if the face of an angel (ωσει προσωπον αγγελουhōsei prosōpon aggelou). Even his enemies saw that, wicked as they were. See Exodus 34:30 for the face of Moses when he came down from Sinai (2 Corinthians 3:7). Page quotes Tennyson: “God‘s glory smote him on the face.” Where were Peter and John at this crisis? Apparently Stephen stands alone before the Sanhedrin as Jesus did. But he was not alone for he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56). There was little that Peter and John could have done if they had been present. Gamaliel did not interpose this time for the Pharisees were behind the charges against Stephen, false though they were as Gamaliel could have found out.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Acts 6:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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