Saturday, December 5, 2009

ACTS - Chapters One and Two

I. FROM JERUSALEM TO ANTIOCH (1:1-12:25)

ActsExeg.11

A. DAYS OF EXPECTATION (1:1-26)

1. INTRODUCTORY PREFACE (1:1-5)

The introductory verses, both of his Gospel and of Acts, stamp Luke as a typical man of letters of his day. Such prefaces were used neither by ancient Greek nor ancient Semitic writers, but came into fashion in the Hellenistic age among both Greeks and Romans. They usually followed conventional lines. References would be made to earlier writers on the same subject--often with unflattering comparisons with the author's own work--claims put forward to special knowledge, and an explanation given of the author's purpose in writing. When the work was divided into several logoi or books, the whole work began with a general preface or prooimion setting forth the author's method and aim. This we have at the beginning of Luke's Gospel. At the beginning of each subsequent volume came a subsidiary preface or proekthesis linking this volume with the preceding one and noting the stage reached in the work. This we have here; and the natural deduction is that the two books are by the same author. A good example of the proekthesis is found at the beginning of the fourth book of Polybius' Histories: "In the preceding book, after pointing out the causes of the second war between Rome and Carthage, I described the invasion of Italy by Hannibal. ... I shall now give an account of the contemporary events in Greece. ..." True, the proekthesis of Acts is incomplete: we have a summary of the first logos, but not the usual sketch of the contents of the second. This suggests to some critics that the preface has been mutilated by a later editor, who at the same time has introduced a second and discordant account of the Ascension, an incident already narrated in the Gospel, and alluded to in vs. 2--until the day when he was taken up. It is surely better to recognize that Luke is not slavishly bound by literary convention, and that the opening sentence is in fact balanced by the whole succeeding narrative.

1:1. There is no reliable tradition about Theophilus, and it has even been suggested that the name, "lover of God," means merely "Christian reader." But the title "most excellent" (Luke 1:3) suggests a real person. It is thrice used in Acts (23:26; 24:3; 26:25), always of persons of high official rank. B. H. Streeter (The Four Gospels [New York: The Macmillan Co., 1925], p. 539) suggests that Theophilus may have been the secret Christian name of Flavius Clemens, cousin and heir of Domitian. His wife Domitilla was secretly an adherent of the church, and he himself at least an inquirer. He was put to death by Domitian in A.D. 96. Acts would thus be the first of those "apologies" addressed by the church to prominent members of the Imperial House. The Clementine Recognitions speaks of Theophilus as a wealthy resident of Antioch, the probable birthplace of Luke. Later Christian writers transform him into a bishop, and finally confound him with the apologist of the same name at the end of the second century, Bishop Theophilus of Antioch. First (prw'ton, not pro6teron) in the Greek of Luke's day need not imply that the author had written, or intended to write, more than two books in the present series. Began to do in Semitic idiom means little more than "did." The first book narrates Jesus' activities "from the beginning" (Luke 1:2) till the Ascension. The idea that Acts narrates what the ascended Christ continued to do is true. but too subtle.

2. The order of the Greek words shows that through the Holy Spirit should be taken with given commandment rather than with had chosen. The text here is doubtful; and after he had given commandment, without any explanatory object, is left curiously vague. Possibly dia6 ("through") is here used to translate an Aramaic preposition meaning "in the case of," and the original sense may have been "when he had given commandment concerning the Holy Spirit"--a reference forward to vss. 4-5.

3. The Greek word for appearing to them occurs only here in the N.T., but is used in the LXX in Num. 14:14 of Yahweh's self-manifestation in the wilderness. These appearances occurred during forty days--a number traditional in sacred history (Exod. 34:28; I Kings 19:8; Matthew 4:2). In Luke's Gospel there is nothing to indicate that the Ascension did not take place on the same day as the Resurrection--a view perhaps shared by Paul who seems to regard the two as synonymous. The acceptance of the longer period by church tradition was probably due to the desire to make room for the imparting of secret instruction to the inner circle of his disciples by the risen Jesus, in particular concerning the kingdom of God. The kingdom in Acts is much more closely identified with the church than is the case in the Synoptic Gospels, though nowhere in Acts is the earlier eschatological meaning excluded by the context (see 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31).

4. While staying with them is the translation of a difficult Greek word (sunalizo6menov) variously taken as meaning (a) being assembled together--a rare word from the root aJlh6v, "crowded"; (b) "eating salt together"--presumably with reference to Luke 24:42; (c) "lodging together"--a spelling variant of sunaulizo6menov, and on the whole the most probable rendering. The word might even mean "camping with them in the open"-it is a military term, to "bivouac"--as according to Luke 21:37, he had done during the week before the Crucifixion. The disciples are charged not to depart from Jerusalem--the suggestion being that it had been their intention to do so. Is Luke deliberately contradicting the variant "Galilean tradition," according to which Jesus' first appearances took place at a distance from Jerusalem? According to our author, it is in Jerusalem that they are to wait for the promise of the Father, i.e., for the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise, says Jesus, you heard from me (in Luke 24:49), and to its fulfillment at Pentecost Peter makes reference in 2:33. For the promise of the Spirit see also Gal 3:14; Eph. 1:13.

5. Here, as also in 11:16, Luke puts on Jesus' lips words elsewhere ascribed, not to Jesus, but to John the Baptist (Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16). The idea, evidently here present, that this promise was fulfilled, quite apart from any specifically Christian baptismal rite, by the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, is genuinely primitive. Later the words were understood as referring to a Christian baptism with water which differed from John's baptism, not because it was Spirit-baptism rather than water-baptism, but because though still water-baptism it also bestowed the Spirit, as John's baptism did not (see on 19:1-6 and a fuller note on 2:37-41).

2. THE ASCENSION (1:6-11)

For the first Christians the two cardinal events after the Crucifixion were the Resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Ascension holds a peculiar middle position. There is little reference to it in the earliest Christian teaching, and it was probably not felt to mark so complete a break in Jesus' earthly fellowship with his disciples as it is now often regarded as doing. Paul, for example, in 1 Cor. 15, enumerates the resurrection "appearances" without any reference to the Ascension, and evidently felt no radical difference between the appearances to the eleven before the Ascension and that to himself later on the Damascus road. For Paul the risen Christ, even when he appeared to the eleven, was already clothed in a "spiritual" or "glorified" body; and the Ascension, as symbolical of his passage to heaven, was in fact identical with the Resurrection. But with the growth of the tradition of the "forty days," the Resurrection implied first a temporary renewal of earthly intercourse with the disciples, followed by the Ascension as a separate event. Acts gives us the only explicit account of the Ascension in the N.T., apart from the Marcan appendix (Mark 16:19), for Luke 24:51-52 is textually suspect and the best texts bracket the words "and carried up into heaven" (KJV). Yet the exaltation of Jesus at the right hand of God quickly became an integral part of the earliest Christian creed; and this, given ancient cosmic ideas, presupposes an "ascension." Such a happening would also help to explain the cessation of appearances of the risen Jesus. But the silence of Matthew and Mark, apart from the appendix, suggests that the Ascension, as an event separate from the Resurrection, had no place in the most primitive tradition.

6. The disciples are pictured as misunderstanding the meaning of the "promise" (vs. 4). They still connect it with the expected restoration of the national theocracy and therefore ask, Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? It is quite likely that the disciples' earliest expectations would in fact take this line. They would be looking for the personal return of Jesus as the herald of the kingdom. In the Gospels Jesus speaks much of the coming of the kingdom, but little of the Holy Spirit. But by the time Acts was written the church had realized that the truest return of Jesus was in the manifest power of the Holy Spirit.

7-8. The Western text here reads "no one can know," which makes the parallel closer with Mark 13:32, a verse which Luke omits in his Gospel. It has been noted that Acts not infrequently thus compensates for an omission of Marcan material from Luke's Gospel (cf. 5:15; 6:13; 12:4). Power implies the ability to work miracles, and such ability, according to contemporary ideas, was the chief evidence expected of witnesses of Jesus. Mark 16:17-18 reads like a later elaboration of this promise, which is itself the Lukan form of the universal commission in Matthew 28:19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (RSV). The widening circle--Jerusalem ... Judea ... Samaria ... the end of the earth--suggests the plan of Acts. Note again how in place of the promise in Matthew 28:20, that Jesus in person will be "with you always," we have here a promise of the Spirit. If Jesus had in actual fact commanded such a universal Gentile mission, would the apostles have shown the hesitation which is so evident in the first half of Acts? (See on Matthew 28:20, Vol. VII.)

9. A cloud took him out of their sight may be understood metaphorically; but the spiritual reality could not be better conveyed pictorially to Luke's readers. Daniel speaks of one like a Son of man who "came with the clouds of heaven" (Dan. 7:13); in the O.T. the incomprehensibleness of Yahweh is represented by the cloud that hides him from view; now Jesus is received into the same cloud of the Shekinah or divine glory.

10-11. In the message of the men in white robes, the garb of angels (Mark 16:5), the belief in Christ's personal return, which is one of the central tenets of the earliest creed, is set in the very forefront of Acts.

3. FILLING UP OF THE NUMBER OF THE TWELVE (1:12-26)

The first act of the new community was to appoint one of their number to take the place of the traitor Judas. The filling up of the number of the twelve was evidently considered of great importance. This is the more remarkable in that the twelve as such play a small part in the rest of the book, only three of them being again mentioned (Peter, James, and John), and Matthias never at all. At their original appointment the number twelve certainly had a symbolic reference to the twelve tribes, and in some ancient lists a tribe is assigned to each apostle. In the kingdom the twelve are to "sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:30). The disciples presumably wished to preserve this national symbolism by keeping the number intact. It is interesting that later no successor was appointed to James, possibly because it was felt that the martyr, unlike the traitor, would still judge the tribe allotted to him. At this time the disciples anticipated neither an apostolate to the Gentiles, which would deprive the symbol of its significance, nor such a long delay of the Parousia as would make it impossible to keep the number twelve intact.

What was the significance attached to the twelve in the most primitive tradition? Apparently they held no "official" position, nor were they commissioned with authority to govern the whole church. It was not the twelve as a "college" who headed the Jerusalem church, but certain individuals--Peter, and John, and later James the Lord's brother. Matthias is here appointed, not as an office-bearer, but as a witness to his resurrection (vs. 22). An "apostle" was a shelîah--the Aramaic word for one "sent out" by Jesus, of which "apostle" is the Greek translation (cf. Luke 6:13, "whom he named apostles"). The title was perhaps originally confined to the twelve. But very quickly it was extended to others like Paul and Barnabas, who worked as traveling missionaries without necessarily holding any "official" position in the churches. Indeed, even in the case of the twelve we have a hint here that they were "apostles" primarily as missionaries. They have been commanded to wait in Jerusalem (vs. 4), not permanently as resident officials, but until they "receive power" to become "witnesses."

But a later conception of the significance of the twelve soon becomes apparent in Acts. Already they are beginning to be thought of as constituting an "apostolic college" which remained in being for some years at Jerusalem, had in its hands the first organization of the church, and provided the official heads, not only of local congregations, but of the church at large (cf. 6:2; 8:14; 11:1; and vs. 20, his office let another take). But such a conception is out of accord with the facts even as they appear in Acts, and will not square with what we know from Paul's epistles concerning the Jerusalem church.

12-13. The disciples then returned to Jerusalem in expectation that Jesus was about to appear as the triumphant Messiah. The list of the eleven agrees with that in Luke's Gospel (Luke 6:14-16), save that John now ranks next to Peter, as throughout the following narrative, while Thomas is coupled with Philip, perhaps because both are prominent in the resurrection stories. The eleven are regarded as the nucleus of the new community, and they have their rendezvous in the upper room, probably the scene of the Last Supper (Luke 22:12), and perhaps in the house of Mary the mother of Mark (12:12).

14. Devoted themselves to prayer: Probably in the temple, where it was expected that the Messiah would appear (Mal. 3:1). But the Greek may mean "attended the place of prayer," i.e., the synagogue (cf. 16:13, 16). But the similar phrase in 2:42 seems rather to mean "attended the service of prayer," presumably in the temple. With the women may be purely general--"with their wives," rather than a reference to "the women" mentioned in Luke 8:2; 24:10.

15. It is noteworthy that from the first, Peter, in spite of his cowardly denial, takes the leadership. The obvious explanation of this rapid recovery of authority is that it was to Peter that the risen Lord first appeared (Luke 24:34; I Cor. 15:5), and that his sturdy faith had rallied the others from despair. Jesus' words that "upon this rock" he would build his church (Matthew 16:18) had found literal fulfillment.

How much of the content of these first speeches in Acts rests on an earlier tradition is debatable. Attention has often been called to the primitive Christology of the sermons attributed to Peter. But generally speaking there is doctrinally no essential difference between Peter's speeches and Paul's. Nor should we look for it; for Luke can hardly have had any idea of an "evolution of theology." No doubt he sometimes skillfully adapts thought and language both to the occasion and to the speaker. The present speech certainly reflects a primitive stage of Christian thought, such as might be expected in Peter's teaching. If vss. 17-19 are regarded as an insertion of the author, there remains nothing that might not fittingly have been said by Peter. But on the whole it is safer to assume that the theology underlying the speeches is neither Peter's nor Paul's, but Luke's own--the average point of view of the Gentile Christianity of Antioch.

In all, ejpi6 to; aujto6: see note on 2:47. A hundred and twenty: Is it a coincidence that the tract Sanhedrin (1:6) states that the number of officers in a community (here the twelve) shall be one tenth of the membership?

16.The scripture had to be fulfilled, i.e., presumably that freely quoted in vs. 20 (Pss. 69:25; 109:8). The tense in the Greek implies that the prophecy had already been fulfilled.

18-20. A field: or perhaps better "a farm" or "estate" in the country. Reward of his wickedness: Or, by a common Semitic idiom (cf. Luke 16:8-9; 18:6; II Pet. 2:15), simply "with his unjust reward." There are three traditions concerning the death of Judas: (a) the account here in Acts; (b) Matthew 27:3-10, according to which he hanged himself; (c) the story preserved by Papias that, on account of a loathsome disease, he suffered from excessive swelling (prhsqei6v) and was crushed by a wagon in a narrow place where it could normally have passed him (see J. A. Cramer, Catenae in Evangelia S. Matthaei et S. Marci [Oxford: Typographeo Academico, 1844], on Matthew 27:1). It has been suggested that Papias is really dependent on the same tradition as Acts, and that the somewhat strange phrase prhnh;v geno6menov, falling headlong, is an obscure medical term with the same meaning as prhsqei6v (see The Beginnings of Christianity, ed. F. J. Foakes Jackson and Kirsopp Lake [London: Macmillan & Co., 1933], V, 22-30). His habitation is presumably the estate Judas had bought, while his office is his commission as apostle.

21-23. The baptism of John: The more natural meaning would be "from Jesus' baptism by John till his ascension"; but the parallel in 10:37 suggests "from the time when John was baptizing" (cf. 13:24). They put forward: According to the Western text it is Peter, and not the community, who makes the nomination. Of Joseph called Barsabbas (to be distinguished from Judas Barsabbas in 15:22) all that we know is that Eusebius numbers him, like Matthias, among the seventy, while Papias is said to have related that, according to Jesus' promise in Mark 16:18, he drank poison and came to no harm. Matthias means the "gift of Yahweh"; about him also there is no trustworthy tradition. He was later constantly confused with Matthew; Clement of Alexandria identifies him with Zacchaeus, and the Clementinc Recognitions with Barnabas.

24. Lord, who knowest the hearts would more naturally refer to God. But the word for chosen is the same as that used in vs. 2 of the original choice by Jesus of the apostles (Luke 6:18), and this would seem to indicate that the prayer is addressed to Jesus.

26. Cast lots: The story strikes a very primitive O.T. note. There is no mention yet of ordination by the laying on of hands. The method of "casting lots" would be to put stones with names written on them into a vessel and shake it until one fell out. But the natural verb would be e[balon, not e[dwkan, and it is just possible that the phrase here means "gave their votes."

B. BIRTH OF THE CHURCH (2:1-47)



ActsExeg.21

In 2:1-40 we have, according to Harnack, the first of several sections derived from Jerusalem Source B (see Intro., p. 18 and note on p. 69). Vss. 41-47 are more probably a summary by Luke himself. The story of Pentecost falls into four parts: a description of the descent of the Spirit and the accompanying phenomena (vss. 1-13); an explanatory speech by Peter (vss. 14-36); a description of the effects produced (vss. 37-41); and an account of the beginnings of communal life (vss. 42-47).

1. GIFT OF THE SPIRIT (2:1-13)

The conviction that shortly after the Resurrection the Christian community "received the Holy Spirit" is a constant factor in N.T. writings; but there appear to have been more than one tradition concerning the time and circumstances of the gift. In the Fourth Gospel the Spirit is bestowed by Jesus himself on the day of Resurrection: "He breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (John 20:22). According to Acts, the Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the Resurrection. But both traditions bear witness to the fact that, as a result of the Resurrection, the disciples became conscious of a new inward power which completely transformed their whole outlook; and this they attributed to the possession by the Spirit of God. It is indeed this new sense of power that is the significant factor in the experience of Pentecost. For Pentecost can hardly have been the first occasion when the little community felt the presence of the Holy Spirit; it must have been through the Spirit's enlightening influence that they had already reached the conviction that Jesus had risen. But now they became conscious of the Spirit as power--in accordance with the promise of 1:8--wherein they might go forth to their work of witness-bearing. Accordingly the great central fact of the day was not that on it the Spirit was given for the first time, but that it marked the beginning of their active missionary work (cf. 4:31).

But this is not the conception of our author, for whom Pentecost does mark the first descent of the Holy Spirit. The accompanying miraculous phenomena are set forth as evidence that this was a completely new and strange gift, marking the birthday of a new community. Even the gift of "speaking with tongues," apparently a common enough experience in the later Pauline churches, is described as if it were something abnormal and unique, and is given quite another significance than it has in the epistles. There this glossolalia quite clearly means the outpouring of inarticulate sounds under the stress of an overpowering religious emotion, a phenomenon to which there are many parallels in the history of all religious revivals down to our own day. It was evidently regarded as a supreme proof of possession by the divine Spirit and as such was earnestly coveted. But it is a gift to which Paul gives no very high place in his list of charismata (see I Cor. 12:4-11 and ch. 14 throughout), because it did not edify unbelievers, tended to disorder, and could be easily counterfeited. It is among the "childish things" which are to be put away while we "earnestly desire the higher gifts" (I Cor. 13:11; 12:31).

The "speaking with tongues" at Pentecost was almost certainly the same common phenomenon, and not something unique as is suggested by Luke, who undoubtedly intends us to understand that the disciples were miraculously endowed with the power to speak foreign languages. But this idea is quite inconsistent with the evidence elsewhere, even of Acts itself. There is, of course, no hint elsewhere that the apostles ever made use of such a gift in their missionary labors; nor would it have been necessary in a world where the Greek Koine was almost universally understood. In 10:46 and 19:6 glossolalia is mentioned in the true Pauline sense with no hint of misunderstanding. Even in the present context the impression produced is that they are filled with new wine, which exactly suits the known phenomena, but not Luke's conception. In the following speech Peter draws a comparison with the expected messianic outpouring of the Spirit foretold by Joel, and makes no reference to foreign tongues, even in his defense against the charge of drunkenness. We must probably assume that the glamour surrounding the birth of the church has, either for Luke or for the compiler of his source, invested even familiar occurrences with unique marvel and mystery, so that to add to the wonders of "wind" and "fire" he creates a similar unique miracle out of the everyday phenomena with which the church of his day was familiar.

2:1. Pentecost is the Hellenistic name for the Hebrew feast of Weeks, the institution of which is described in Lev. 23:15-21. They were all together: Either all the Christians (the 120 of 1:15?); or all the apostles, if it is held that vs. 4 implies that it was upon the apostles only that the Spirit fell.

3. The tongues ... of fire are distributed so that one rests on each disciple. The promise of baptism "with the Holy Spirit and with fire" is fulfilled (Luke 3:16). The word tongues is chosen probably to suit the glossolalia that follows; and if the twelve only are involved, the suggestion may be that each apostle spoke one of the languages.

5. There is some textual evidence for the omission of the word Jews. It is omitted by Codex Sinaiticus, and the fact that in vs. 10 Jews and proselytes are treated as merely component parts of the crowd suggests that it is not wholly composed of Jews.

It would then follow that the crowd at Pentecost represents the whole world, Jewish and heathen alike, and Luke presumably considers this as the beginning of the worldwide mission entrusted to the disciples in 1:8.

6. The multitude here apparently means the whole company of devout men just mentioned, rather than the entire Christian community or the general populace. There are undoubtedly signs of confusion in the language, due possibly to the author's having written up the earlier source--perhaps transferring the scene from the house to the open air, and converting the glossolalia into the novel phenomenon of speaking in foreign languages. As Lake says: "The facts would be adequately covered if it were supposed that the original source ran 'and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance, and when this voice arose the populace came together, and they were all astonished and perplexed, one saying to another, "What does this mean?" But others jeered and said, "They are full of sweet wine"'"(Beginnings of Christianity, ed. F. J. Foakes Jackson and Kirsopp Lake [London: Macmillan & Co., 1920-33], V, 119).

9-11. The list of people is intended to cover every nation under heaven (vs. 5). Parthians and Medes and Elamites represent Eastern races outside the Roman Empire. Then come the residents of the districts around the eastern Mediterranean, followed by visitors from Rome (i.e., temporarily resident in Jerusalem), and Cretans and Arabians, who perhaps represent the two extremes of West and Southeast. But the classification may be one of language rather than geography, Judea perhaps meaning Aramaic--speaking Palestine and Syria.

2. PETER'S SPEECH (2:14-36)

Peter's speech at Pentecost appears to be derived from a very primitive tradition concerning, if not his own teaching, at any rate that of the earliest community. The Christology is very elementary, and there is little trace of Pauline ideas which must have been current in the environment in which Luke wrote. For example, any reference to faith as a necessary condition of sharing in the blessings of the messianic age is noticeably absent. Only once in these early speeches does Peter mention it: in 3:16, where it is stated to be the ground of the healing of the lame man--a close resemblance to the view of faith characteristic of the Synoptic Gospels. As Christianity for Luke and his contemporaries was above all the proclamation of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, the absence of such ideas in the early Petrine speeches argues strongly for the use of primitive documentary sources.

In this speech numerous parallels have been traced with the thought and language of I Peter. Foreknowledge occurs in the N.T. only here (vs. 23) and in I Pet. 1:2. The following ideas are prominent both here and in the epistle: that Christ is Lord (vs. 36; I Pet. 3:15); his rejection by his own (vs. 23; I Pet. 2:4, 7); his ascension and session at the right hand of God (vs. 33; I Pet. 3:22); the promised gift of the Spirit (vs. 33; I Pet. 1:12; 4:14); the glory that follows upon suffering (vs. 36; I Pet. 1:11; 4:12-14); salvation and baptism (vs. 38; I Pet. 3:21). E.G. Selwyn (The First Epistle of St. Peter [London: Macmillan & Co., 1946], p. 12) has suggested that the echoes of I Peter which are heard in Acts may be due partly to the fact that Silvanus, who was the joint author with Peter of the epistle (I Pet. 5:12), was also a friend and companion of Luke.

The speech may be said to be the earliest Christian apology. The first aim of the Christian preacher was to show to his fellow countrymen that Jesus was the promised Messiah. The Crucifixion seemed to have given the lie to Jesus' claims to be the revealer of God, and till this impression was dispelled all preaching of the Christian message was futile. Hence the defense of the gospel rather than its exposition is the need of the hour, and the stress is not so much on the content of the gospel as on the evidence of its truth. To judge by these early sermons the first preachers contented themselves with the demonstration of the messiahship, and did not ask what the messiahship involved for Jesus himself. There is no reason to suppose that at first their idea of messiahship differed greatly from that of their fellow Jews. It was only when the original messianic expectations had somewhat waned that Christians began to fill in or add to the picture with its original Jewish content, probably by drawing on their recollection of Jesus' own words, the full meaning of which they had at the time missed. Only when it dawned upon them that Jesus' work was something more than the founding of a national messianic kingdom did they begin to speculate upon the person of Jesus himself. Hence the complete absence here of any developed Christology.

The supreme argument for the messiahship was the Resurrection, for it effaced the impression left by a disgraceful death, proved that Jesus was no impostor, and vindicated all his claims. Hence the effort, so well illustrated in this speech, to show that such a resurrection, though no part of common messianic expectation, had nevertheless been foretold in Scripture. To a Jewish audience no other argument would be necessary; that an event had been prophesied was sufficient reason for believing in its truth and its divine significance. So Peter (vss. 25-28) appeals to Ps. 16 and claims that it foretells the resurrection of the Messiah. This would both make Jesus' resurrection credible and be convincing proof that he was Christ. Peter argues also (vss. 32-35) that the Messiah must be exalted to the right hand of God, and Jesus' ascension becomes yet further proof of his claims. Such an exaltation is evidenced by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which in turn is a final proof, after Joel, that the messianic age has arrived; for the gift of the Spirit is the work of the glorified Jesus and shows him to be Lord and Christ (vs. 36).

The view taken of Jesus' death is also very primitive. The Cross is an obstacle to faith, to be overcome by stressing the Resurrection; it has not become a central doctrine of the faith. The conception of a suffering Messiah was completely strange to contemporary Judaism, and there is little sign that the disciples saw at first in Jesus' death, as did Jesus himself, any positive contribution to the advancement of the kingdom of God. Such a development of thought may well have taken place before Paul, for one of the truths that Paul "received" was that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures" (I Cor. 15:3). But there is little trace of such a thought in these earliest days, and its absence here seems again to confirm the authenticity of the primitive tradition underlying the speech.

15-17. The third hour: about 9 A.M., the hour of morning prayer, before which a Jew would not customarily eat. The prophet is Joel 2:28-32. The Western text omits the name and also makes several alterations in the quotation to suit it to the occasion more exactly, and to suggest that the promise was made to all flesh and not only to the Jews: e.g., "your sons and daughters" becomes "their sons and daughters," and the "my" is omitted before "menservants and maidservants" (cf. the similar omission of "Jews" in vs. 5).

18-21. Do the words and they shall prophesy indicate that Luke thought that the "speaking with tongues" was such prophecy? In I Cor. 12:10 Paul of course clearly distinguishes between "prophecy" and glossolalia as he knew it. Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: omitted by the Western text, again presumably to make the quotation suit the circumstances. The manifest day is in the Hebrew original the "terrible day"; but owing to the confusion of similar Hebrew roots meaning respectively "fear" and "see," the LXX translation is ejpifanh6v, which may here mean "conspicuous" in the sense of notable (KJV) or "splendid." The Lord in Joel is of course Yahweh; but in Luke's thought the title, as in vss. 34-36, is transferred to Jesus as Messiah.

22. Jesus of Nazareth: literally "the Nazoraean." Two forms of the word are found in the N.T.: Nazwrai'ov (regularly in Acts), and Nazarhno6v (in Mark and Luke 4:34; 24:19). In spite of the attempt, based on Matthew 2:23, to make the words the name of a religious sect, there seems to be no decisive philological argument against deriving both forms of the adjective from the name of the town Nazareth (see on 24:5; also G. F. Moore in Beginnings of Christianity, I, 429). Attested: The Greek is ajpodedeigme6non, which would mean, as frequently in contemporary papyri, designatus, proclaimed or appointed to office. Jesus is the "elected Messiah," and was actual Messiah here on earth. The Western text reads dedokimasme6non--translated destinatum by Tertullian--which would suggest rather that Jesus was "Messiah-elect," and entered on his actual messiahship only at his ascension.

28-24. A hint, in spite of what was said above, that even thus early the Cross is seen to be part of the definite plan of God for salvation. Lawless men may mean either "wicked men" or merely those "outside the law," i.e., the heathen. Pangs (wjdi'nav) is also used in the LXX to translate a Hebrew word really meaning "cords" or "bands" (e.g., Ps. 18:4-5). Hence perhaps the somewhat strange expression loosed the pangs, a phrase which actually occurs in the LXX of Job 39:2.

25-28. Accurately quoted from Ps. 16:8-11 in the LXX which, as here, has my tongue rejoiced in place of the Hebrew "my glory rejoices." Curiously enough the latter phrase is the very one on the basis of which the Midrash gives the psalm a messianic interpretation. Elsewhere in rabbinical literature the psalm is not applied to the Messiah. My flesh will dwell in hope: The Hebrew has "shall dwell safely," i.e., with God's help the psalmist need have no fear of death. But for Luke the LXX variant in hope gives to the quotation its main point: Peter's whole argument is that this hope was not fulfilled in the person of David, but only in Jesus' resurrection.

29-30. The site of David's tomb is uncertain, but it was probably on the southeastern hill. It is only since the Crusades that it has been located on "Mount Zion" (southwestern hill). That he would set (RSV) is a more accurate translation than would raise up Christ to sit (KJV), and better suits the original in Ps. 132:11: "Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne."

32-33. Of that (i.e., the Resurrection) rather than "of whom" (i.e., Christ) suits better 1:22, where the function of an apostle is to be "a witness of his resurrection." Vs. 34 supports the translation at the right hand of God (RSV), rather than by the right hand (KJV), in spite of a curious Midrash on Ps. 118:16, which states that "the right hand of the Lord exalts."

34. Since the psalm quoted (110:1) cannot refer to David, who did not ascend to the heavens, it must refer to the Messiah; and Jesus in virtue of his ascension is proved to be that Messiah and also to have the right to the supreme divine title Lord. For a similar confession by Paul see I Cor. 12:3; Rom. 10:9; Phil. 2:11; and for Jesus' own treatment of the same verse from Ps. 110 see Mark 12:35 and parallels.

3. RESULTS OF PENTECOST (2:37-41)

Vss. 37-41 describe the immediate results of Pentecost and of Peter's speech, and summarize the requirements for membership in the new community. Special emphasis is given first to the need for repentance, which in the most primitive preaching means primarily repentance for the failure to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and for the consequent crime of the Crucifixion (cf. 3:17-19). If there is any more general idea of the necessity for repentance as a condition of God's blessing, this too is purely a Jewish conception. There is as yet no trace of the specifically Christian idea that every man is a sinner, and that repentance, as contrasted with the keeping of the law, is a universal precondition of salvation. Second, closely linked with repentance is baptism. Here too there is nothing essentially novel, for baptism as such was in line with Jewish rites of purification for the admission of proselytes, and John the Baptist--a great Jewish prophet, quite apart from his intimate connection with Jesus--had already associated baptism with repentance (Mark 1:4). But throughout Acts the conception of the significance of baptism, and in turn of its relationship to the gift of the Holy Spirit, varies to such an extent that we can only assume that several traditions have been inconsistently combined. There is no evidence that Jesus himself ever baptized--except in John 3:22, corrected in 4:2. The earliest idea seems to have been that the Christian equivalent of John's baptism was not a similar water-baptism, but rather a baptism with the Holy Spirit such as is pictured at Pentecost (see on 1:5). Later the distinction between Christian baptism and John's baptism--both alike being with water--was held to be that the former bestowed the Spirit as the latter did not (cf. 19:1-7). Similarly there is no consistent view of the part played by baptism in the gift of the Spirit. Perhaps in the beginning the Spirit is given before there is any question of baptism, which is added rather as a seal upon a gift already bestowed; so in the case of Cornelius (10:44-48). Later, baptism is regarded as a necessary condition of entrance into the community and an opportunity for public confession, but the gift of the Spirit is still distinct from it. So in 8:12-17 Samaritans are baptized, but they do not receive the Spirit until Peter and John, dispatched from Jerusalem for that very purpose, lay apostolic hands upon them. And finally the stage is reached when baptism with the Spirit becomes the direct consequence of baptism with water, so that Christian baptism becomes the essential condition of Christian spiritual experience (19:5-6). Although the present narrative is in general so primitive, 2:38 seems to reflect this final stage of development.

It has been suggested that baptism may have been adopted by the Christian community only as part of the Hellenistic mission which followed the appointment of the seven (6:1-6). It seems much more likely that with the beginnings of organization the fitness and indeed necessity of some such initiatory rite would be recognized, and baptism, at first simply as a rite of incorporation into the fellowship of those who professed "the name of Christ" and awaited his Parousia, would readily be adapted from the practice by which his forerunner had symbolized repentance in preparation for the coming kingdom. All that was necessary was the addition of the distinctively Christian formula in the name of Jesus Christ. This phrase (cf. 8:16; 10:48; 19:5) sometimes means "with the authority of" (e.g., Mark 9:38-39), but as a primitive baptismal formula the invocation of the name implies primarily recognition of Jesus as "Lord and Christ." There is as yet no trace of the trinitarian formula of Matthew 28:19, which is not to be taken as part of Jesus' original commission, but comes from later liturgical use.

38-40. Does our author hold that baptism not only confers the gift of the Holy Spirit but also conveys the forgiveness of your sins? Probably this latter thought should be linked up as closely with repent as with be baptized, for the ideas of repentance and forgiveness are constantly associated in Luke-Acts (Luke 3:3; 24:47; Acts 5:31). Far off may refer either to space or time, and mean either "to those who live far away" (for which cf. Isa. 57:19, quoted in Eph. 2:17; Acts 22:21), or "to you and to your children and to your distant descendants." Crooked generation: a proverbial phrase drawn from Deut. 32:5; Ps. 78:8.

41. So (me;n ou\n) is a regular formula in Acts summarizing what has just preceded and looking forward to a new section (cf. 1:6; 5:41; 8:25; 9:31; 11:19; 12:5; 13:4; 15:3, 30; 16:5). If Harnack's source division is accepted, it here marks the end of the first section extracted by Luke from Jerusalem Source B. Three thousand souls: The use of yuch6, "soul," in the sense of an "individual," comes from the LXX, where it is used to translate the Hebrew néphesh, which has the same meaning.

4. BEGINNINGS OF COMMUNAL LIFE (2:42-47)

The paragraph seems to be composite; vss. 42 and 46 read like two parallel summaries, and may be doublets. Possibly vss. 42 and 43 are Luke's summarizing link by which he joins his account of Pentecost with a more ancient fragment, vss. 44-47, describing the life of the primitive community. Four characteristic features of the early church are emphasized. First, concern with the apostles' teaching--chiefly, it may be supposed, their personal recollections of Jesus and his teaching. It would not be long before a comparatively fixed body of such teaching would take shape. Thus Paul speaks of the "standard of teaching" (Rom. 6:17) and the "pattern of the sound words" (II Tim. 1:13). Out of this would be formed the tradition which ultimately was reduced to writing in the logia, to which on one theory Papias refers, and which may supply the Q material in Matthew and Luke. Such "teaching" would no doubt also include renewed study of the O.T., especially such passages as appeared to foretell Jesus as the Christ--the testimonia, or "proof texts," of later days.

Second, fellowship (koinwni6a)--first perhaps with the apostles, but also with reference to the wider fellowship of all believers. It is Paul's favorite word to describe the unity of believers with each other and with their Lord. In I Cor. 1:9 ("called into the fellowship of his Son") it seems almost to take on the concrete sense of "the body of believers." Its equivalent in Aramaic (habhûrA)) seems to have been in common use to describe a group of companions who shared a common life, particularly those who united to celebrate a common Passover meal. Thus there may possibly be a reference here to the tablefellowship which becomes more explicit in the breaking of bread. Again, this fellowship found practical expression in experiments in Christian communism (vss. 44-45; for a fuller discussion see on 4:32-37). The original habhûrA) of Jesus had shared a common life (cf. John 13:29), and the communism of Jerusalem was simply a continuation of that practice. The word koinwni6a sometimes has the sense almost of "almsgiving" or "relief" (cf. Rom. 15:26, "to make some contribution for the poor"). What is in view here is clearly not absolute communism, but a sharing of goods for the benefit of those in need. Nevertheless the motive was probably not mere charity, but the recognition that the claims of the Christian family are superior to those of the individual, and that brethren must have their share, not only because they are needy, but because they are brethren. No doubt the vivid expectation of the Parousia and the consequent undervaluing of possessions made this "communism" easier, but it does not explain it.



Third, we have mention of the breaking of bread, picked up in vs. 46 by the words breaking bread in their homes. The association of this in vs. 42 with teaching and prayers shows that it has a religious significance, and immediately following the reference to fellowship it appears as the peculiar symbol of that fellowship. For this same word koinwni6a is, of course, the word used of the "communion of the blood of Christ" and the "communion of the body of Christ" at the Lord's Supper (I Cor. 10:16), which is the central pledge and symbol of a common life and a common faith. At the same time the close conjunction in vs. 46 of breaking bread and they partook of food proves that the former, though already of religious significance, was still part of a regular nourishing meal. It may be indeed that the poorer members of the community found in it their chief means of subsistence. It was only later that the Eucharist became differentiated from the agape. The exact phrase breaking of bread occurs only in vs. 42 and in Luke 24:35; but the verbal phrase "to break bread" occurs also in Luke 24:30; Acts 2:46; 20:7-11; 27:35; and in connection with the feeding of the multitude, and the institution of the Lord's Supper. The phrase springs from the Jewish custom of beginning a meal with the prayer, "Blessed be thou, O Lord our God, that thou didst make bread to be on earth," followed by a ceremonial breaking of bread. In vs. 46 breaking bread in their homes seems to be contrasted with attending the temple together. Regular attendance at the public worship of the temple would mark the disciples as still being loyal Jews. It was the common religious meal in their own homes that provided them with the opportunity for distinctively Christian fellowship and worship.

Fourth, they devoted themselves to ... the prayers. So far as public worship is in view this would still be through attending the temple together, and in the regular meetings of the Jewish synagogue. As yet there was no idea of establishing separate places of public worship. But once again the specifically Christian side of this devotional life would find expression in family gatherings for prayer, and in daily intercourse in the homes of members of the new community. Christian public worship, when it did take shape, closely followed Jewish models, as is seen by a comparison of the prayers of the Didache with the Jewish liturgy. But meantime the emphasis would be on domestic family worship and private prayers at home (see references in 1:24; 4:23-30; 12:12).

43-44. The mention of fear at this point appears strange; but it suits the context exactly in 5:5; 5:11, where this "summary" reappears (see on 4:23-5:16 for the theory of possible "doublets"). Wonders and signs is a common O.T. description of miracles. It is frequent in the first half of Acts with its marked Aramaic background, but does not occur in the second half. Paul uses it in Rom. 15:19; II Cor. 12:12; II Thess. 2:9.

45-46. The tense of the verb sold is imperfect, "used to sell," not in one great sale, but occasionally as the need arose. Possessions and goods are properly "real estate" and "private possessions"; the meaning probably is that they sold the former and divided the proceeds, while they distributed the latter. In their homes may mean (a) merely "at home," in contrast with attending the temple, or (b) from house to house or "in separate houses," implying a possible contrast with the preceding together.

47. The phrase translated to their number (ejpi6 to; aujto6) has given much difficulty, as is evidenced by the confusion in the text. Usually it seems to mean "together" (Luke 17:35; Acts 1:15; 2:1; 2:44; 4:26); but here it is so awkward that Torrey suggests the mistranslation of an Aramaic adverbial compound meaning "exceedingly." The word has this meaning only in the Judean dialect, of which Luke may well have been ignorant, ú and is also regularly put at the end of a clause, as here. The Western text tried to solve the puzzle by adding ejn th' ejkklhsi6a, and the omission of the ejn gave us the KJV translation added to the church. Lake and Cadbury (Beginnings of Christianity, IV, 30) point out that in the papyri ejpi; to; aujto; is used in financial statements as being "in total," and wonder whether a number should follow it here as in 1:15. Saved is an echo of Peter's quotation (vs. 21) of Joel 2:32.

1 comment:

  1. Hello, can I ask what the source for your opening paragraphs is? I am trying to determine the meaning of "proekthesis" in Polybius 11.1, and your explanation is actually the clearest on the web! But where does this information come from?

    ReplyDelete