Sunday, January 31, 2010



Some scholars believe that 3:1-5:16 is a "doublet" of ch. 2, plus 5:17-42, and represents an earlier and more reliable tradition about "the birth of the church." For a fuller discussion see pp. 69-70, 72-73; on this theory 4:31 would be the simplest and most primitive version of the Pentecost story.
Peter's healing of a lame man and his provocative speech which follows lead to the first serious clash with the Jewish authorities. The account of the healing should be compared with that by Paul of a lame man at Lystra (14:8-11)--one of the best illustrations of the alleged parallelism between the two halves of Acts. According to our author, the power to work miracles was the supreme proof that the apostles had inherited the mission and authority of their Master. In Acts, as in the Gospels, we note a twofold attitude to miracles: (a) faith is necessary in order that a miracle may be worked (vs. 16; 14:9); (b) conversely, miracle is the supreme way of awakening faith (4:16, 21-22). The presence of a miraculous element in the narrative must therefore not be regarded as evidence either against the Lukan authorship or against the writer's dependence on a quite primitive tradition. There can be no question that the first Christians lived in daily expectation of "miracles," and may therefore well have experienced them; and Luke is just as likely as any alleged later editor to record miracles in full good faith.
Peter's speech follows very much the same lines as his first one. Again the language is strongly messianic; and we have the same emphasis on the rejection of Jesus by his own people, on his rehabilitation as Christ through the Resurrection, and on the consequent need of repentance if the blessings of the messianic era are to be enjoyed. It is again alleged that this speech, like the first, is full of ideas which can be paralleled in I Peter; e.g., vss. 20-21 are compared with I Pet. 1:10-11. But the ideas are all such as were common to primitive Christianity in general, and the parallelism is hardly sufficient to prove conclusively either the Petrine origin of the speech or the Petrine authorship of the First Epistle of Peter. This speech possibly reflects an even more primitive viewpoint than that in ch. 2 (as being derived from the better of the two sources?). Here the return of Jesus is the chief hope and central message (vs. 20); there the central place is given to the gift of the Spirit, the bestowal of which is the chief work of the ascended Jesus. This speech is also written in much less polished Greek than most of Acts, which may indicate a translation from an Aramaic source.
3:1. John, generally assumed to be the son of Zebedee, is, as in the Gospels, closely associated with Peter; but in Acts he takes a quite subordinate position (see 8:14 if.)--which is strange if he was really so prominent a figure in the early church as tradition asserts. If, as some hold, the source from which this section comes (Jerusalem Source A) is a continuation of the original Marcan narrative, Lake's suggestion would be attractive --that the John who accompanied Peter was not the apostle but John Mark, who was traditionally "the interpreter of Peter" (so Papias; Eusebius Church History III. 39). This would certainly better explain his lack of prominence.
2. The gate ... Beautiful of the temple is usually identified with either (a) the Shushan Gate, which was the eastern external gate to the temple area. This would be on the outside of "the portico called Solomon's" (vs. 11), and would better suit our ("Neutral") text, according to which the apostles "entered the temple" (vs. 8), or rather the temple area, presumably through the "Beautiful Gate," and inside it were surrounded by a crowd in Solomon's Portico, which was a colonnade, probably on the east side of the temple area. Or (b) the gate in question is the Nicanor Gate, the eastern gate of the temple buildings proper, the special magnificence of which is described both in the Mishnah and by Josephus. This suits the Western text which reads: "When Peter and John were going out, he went with them, holding on to them, and they [the people] stood astonished in the portico called Solomon's"; this would seem to indicate that the "Beautiful Gate" was farther in than Solomon's Portico. Lake and Cadbury suggest that the reason why the apostles entered from the east, rather than by the usual great southern entrance, may have been that they were still coming in daily from the Bethany district. True, 1:13 seems to regard the upper room in Jerusalem as their home; but, if Harnack's source analysis is true, that verse comes from Jerusalem Source B, while the present passage belongs to Jerusalem Source A.
6-7. In the name: The use of "the name" in religious formulas and practice springs from the identification of a name with the person to whom the name belongs and the belief that the qualities and powers of that person are inherent in his "name," so that by invoking the "name" his power and authority are called into operation. For the use of "the name" in the N.T. see Mark 9:38 ff.; Matthew 7:22; Luke 10:17; Phil. 2:9-11, and the common baptismal formula (e.g., I Cor. 6:11); for Acts in particular see 2:38; 3:16; 4:12; 5:41; 9:14; 16:18; 19:13. Note that while others work miracles in the power of "the name," Jesus does so by his own "authority" (Mark 1:27). Vs. 7 is a favorite passage with those who seek proof from his technical language that the author of Acts was a medical man.
13. The words glorified his servant Jesus read like an echo of Isa. 52:13, whence it has been deduced that Peter and the early Jerusalem community already identified Jesus with the "righteous servant" of Second Isaiah (see also 4:27-30). The word servant (pai'v) is ambiguous in the Greek, and may mean either "child" or "servant"; there is no such ambiguity in the Hebrew, and from this it has been argued that its use as a title for Jesus is more likely to have begun among Greek-speaking Christians. The only passage in Acts which quite clearly identifies Jesus with "the servant" of Isaiah is 8:32, which, according to Harnack, comes from a source connected with Caesarea, and would reflect the view of the Hellenistic-Jewish circle to which Philip belonged. But if Jesus himself, as seems highly probable, identified himself with the servant (cf. Luke 4:17 ff.; Mark 10:45), there seems no good reason why Peter and the earliest disciples should not have bestowed the title upon him. The servant was glorified first by the sign just performed in his name, but chiefly through the Resurrection (vs. 15).
14-15. The Holy and Righteous One likewise seems an echo of Isa. 53:11. The "Just One" is again used as a title for Jesus in 22:14. The only evidence that it was a Jewish title of the Messiah is in Enoch 38:2. Wisd. Sol. 2 speaks of the persecution of the "righteous one" by the wicked, but without any messianic reference. But it was evidently one of the earliest titles given to Jesus. Have we an echo of it in Matthew 27:19; Luke 23:47; Jas. 5:6; I Pet. 3:18? And was the title passed on to James the Lord's brother, who was also called "the Just"? (See also 7:52; 22:14.) The Author of life: Except in Acts, the word (ajrchgo6v) occurs in the N.T. only in Heb. 2:10; 12:2, and in both those passages means, as here, "originator" rather than "captain," which, however, seems to be the meaning in Acts 5:31. Bengel remarks on the magnificum antitheton which calls Barabbas a murderer and Jesus the Author of life.
16. The language here is intolerably awkward, and the text must surely be confused. Torrey (The Composition & Date of Acts [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1916]) suggests that an original Aramaic phrase meaning "[God] made him strong" has been misread and mistranslated as if it were another phrase meaning "his name has strengthened." This is perhaps his most ingenious and convincing proof from mistranslation of the existence of an Aramaic original. Alternatively, Burkitt alters the punctuation to read: "To this we are witnesses, and to faith in his name; this man ... did his name make strong" (Journal of Theological Studies, XX [1919], 320 if.). The faith in question is either the lame man's or, perhaps more probably, the apostles' faith in Jesus which enables them to work miracles in his name (cf. vs. 6).
17. Note I Cor. 2:8: However, there "the rulers of this age" are probably to be understood, not as the civil authorities, but as the demonic "principalities and powers."
18-19. Strictly speaking, the prophets neither in the original passages nor in Jewish interpretation of them foretold ... that his Christ should suffer; for even the suffering Servant prophecies were never interpreted messianically. But Christian interpretation soon came to apply to Christ all references to suffering both in the Psalms and the Prophets. Lake and Cadbury remark that "the assumption ... that the Christian interpretation was recognized and accepted by Jews in Jerusalem is difficult to reconcile with the view that the speech is authentic" (Beginnings of Christianity, IV, 37; see also on 17:3; 26:23). The context shows that by times of refreshing is meant the coming of the messianic age, though the Greek word appears never to be technically so used in Jewish writings.
21-23. The time for establishing: The Greek word ought properly to mean "restoration"; but "in relation to prophecy it may mean the establishment of what was predicted rather than the restoration of an earlier condition" (ibid. IV, 38). The quotation in vss. 22-23 is a combination of Deut. 18:15 and Lev. 23:29, possibly taken from some collection of testimonia or proof texts, where they were already run together. The Jews distinguished this prophet from the Messiah (see John 1:20-21; 7:40-41), but Christian interpretation, as here and in 7:37, united them in the person of Jesus.
25. Note Gen. 12:3; 22:18, and the use made by Paul of the latter verse in Gal. 3:16.
26. Having raised up apparently echoes the quotation in vs. 22, and means "caused to appear," with reference to Jesus' ministry. But the Greek word is used regularly of the Resurrection, and 4:2 (as well as 26:22-23, where many of the same ideas as here reappear) suggests that here too the reference may be to the Resurrection: in Pentecost and the miracle of healing God has sent the risen Jesus on a new ministry. In that case should first be taken as an adjective agreeing with his servant, as in 26:23, where Christ is "the first to rise from the dead," and in Col. 1:18 where he is "the first-born from the dead"?

According to vs. 4, the number of persons belonging to the new Christian community had now risen to about five thousand. Such a statement some scholars feel "defies every resemblance to truth" (Maurice Goguel, Introduction au Nouveau Testament, "Le Livre des Actes" [Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1922], III, 179). It is true that the verse reads like an editorial summary, so that the figure may not have stood in the source. On the other hand, though most of these notes about the growth of numbers are very vague (see 2:47; 5:14; 6:1; 9:31), and almost certainly editorial, in other cases specific numbers are given (so 1:15--"about a hundred and twenty"; 2:41--"about three thousand"; 4:4--"about five thousand"), which suggests the possibility that in these cases Luke may be quoting from his sources, and that the figures are not merely the result of his own idealization of early history. In any case the growth of the community was evidently extremely rapid; and it was probably alarm at this that prompted the authorities to take action. Hitherto they had not thought it worth while to do so; that the Christians were still proclaiming a gibbeted malefactor as Messiah merely stamped them as deluded fanatics; and that they never questioned the validity of the Jewish law, and were in no sense revolutionaries against either church or state, would disarm suspicion. This would be the situation until the steady increase of their numbers attracted hostile attention.
It is significant that it was not the Pharisees who first took action, but the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees. Although Judea had been a Roman province under a procurator since A.D. 6, external affairs were left to the Jewish authorities in the persons of the high priest and the seventy members of the Sanhedrin drawn from the rulers, or actual holders of political office, the elders, who owed their position not to office but to blood or wealth or religious prestige, and the scribes or teachers of the law. But political power was concentrated in the hands of "the high priest ... and all who were with him, that is, the party of the Sadducees" (5:17). Theologically the hierarchical aristocracy represented a rationalistic and skeptical tendency; for example they denied the resurrection and the existence of spirits (23:8). But their religious views were subordinated to policy. Their one aim was to maintain their own ascendancy and to prevent this being endangered by any popular restlessness that might provoke the Romans to place restrictions on local self-government (cf. especially John 11:48). Hence their suspicion of any undue religious enthusiasm, especially of the messianic order such as was being manifested by the new Christian sect. Thus Luke is undoubtedly right in representing the first opposition as coming from the Sadducees rather than from the Pharisees, who would have had no reason for proceeding against such consistent Jews. The apostles almost certainly were arrested, not as teachers of false doctrine, but as potential disturbers of the public peace. For Luke is probably wrong in the reason which he gives for the hostility of the Sadducees--because they were ... proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. The Sadducees were tolerant to a fault, and never sought to silence those who merely differed from them theologically. But for Luke it is a postulate that the Sadducees "say that there is no resurrection" (Luke 20:27; Acts 23:8), and it may well be that he ignores the real reason because of his concern throughout the book to demonstrate that the Christians were never politically suspect in the eyes of the Roman authorities.
On the ground that the account of the arrest is so vague, and that so little is said of any definite charge, some scholars (e.g., Loisy) think that the disciples were merely warned, and that no formal proceedings can have been taken before the Sanhedrin. But for Luke at least the trial provides the dramatic climax to which the story of the cure is introductory. A few weeks before, Jesus himself had been arraigned before the same court; he had warned his disciples that "they will deliver you up to councils" (Mark 13:9); and here is the fulfillment of the prophecy.
4:1-2. The captain of the temple is either (a) the zAghAn who held rank next to the high priest and was his chief executive officer; he is called "captain" in the LXX; or (b) a lesser official in charge of the temple guard, to whom Josephus gives the same title. Proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection, i.e., in Jesus they found proof of the doctrine denied by the Sadducees.
5-6. The rulers are presumably the office-holding priests of vs. 1. Compare the usual collocation, as here, with elders and scribes of "chief priests" in Luke 9:22; 20:1; etc., the latter being not only those who had actually held office as high priest, but also their priestly relatives--all who were of the high-priestly family. Annas had been high priest from A.D. 6 to 14, but as five of his sons and his son-in-law Caiaphas (now the legal high priest) had followed him in the office, he was still the power behind the throne (cf. John 18:13). Did Luke believe that Annas and Caiaphas both held office at the same time, as seems implied by the words "in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas" (Luke 3:2)? For John Codex Bezae (D) reads "Jonathan"; if this is correct, he may be the son of Annas who succeeded Caiaphas as high priest in A.D. 36. Of Alexander we know nothing.
8-9. Filled with the Holy Spirit: Another very primitive touch, the action of the Spirit, as often in the O.T., being still regarded as intermittent (e.g., I Sam. 19:20, 23; Judg. 11:29; 15:14; see on 4:31). By what means this man has been healed: The Greek word for healed is the same as that for "saved" (vs. 12), but the play on the word cannot be reproduced in English.
11. This is the stone refers of course to Jesus. The quotation is from Ps. 118:22. In Luke 20:17 (following Mark 12:10) it is quoted verbatim from the LXX; but here we have a free paraphrase from the original Hebrew, again perhaps from some collection of testimonia (see on 3:22). The head of the corner may be either (a) a stone in the foundation, which suits the reference in Isa. 28:16 (quoted in Rom. 9:33) and in Eph. 2:20; or (b) a stone at the top of a corner, binding the walls together where they meet, which better suits the word head. (See also I Pet. 2:7.)
13. Uneducated, common men (ajgra6mmato6i ... ijdiw'tai): The first word means properly "unable to write," but here probably implies that they had not been educated in the rabbinical schools. The ijdiw6thv is properly the layman as opposed to the professional in any field. The implication is that the apostles belong to the Amhaarez, the "people of the land," of whom the Pharisees say in John 7:49 that "this crowd, who do not know the law, are accursed." They recognized that they had been with Jesus: Does this imply that up to this point the authorities had not actually associated the apostles with Jesus? Possibly so; and the longer Western text makes this even more evident. But Luke may mean rather that the authorities, already knowing that they were followers of Jesus, now put two and two together and deduced that it was just because they were Christians that they possessed such marvelous powers.
19. So Socrates, in Plato Apology 29. D: "I shall obey God rather than you."
21. Because of the people: The Pharisees, not the Sadducees, were the party in favor with the people, and the Sadducees had therefore carefully to watch public opinion (cf. 5:26; Matthew 21:26; 26:5).

The key verse of this section is 4:31, describing a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This reads so like a repetition of the Pentecost experience that it is convenient at this point to call attention to the remarkable parallelism between the two blocks of material represented by (a) 2:1-47 plus 5:17-42, and (b) 3:1-5:16, corresponding respectively to Harnack's two sources, Jerusalem Source B and Jerusalem Source A. The "doublets" may be set in parallel columns, the passages attributed by Harnack to Jerusalem Source A being in boldface type. If it is conceded that we have in fact two parallel accounts of the same series of events, which the author has set down consecutively, there is a general inclination to prefer that derived from Jerusalem Source A as being a simpler and therefore more authentic account of the church's infancy. The series of parallels is certainly most striking, and in particular the duplication of "summaries of progress" is somewhat suspicious (cf. 2:43a with 5:5b; 2:43b with 5:12a; 2:46a with 5:12b; 2:47a with 5:13b; 2:47b with 5:14). It is of course not impossible that events did thus repeat themselves. If, on the other hand, we accept the theory of two accounts of the same series of happenings, then the very closeness of the parallelism, quite unconsciously reproduced by our author, is surely a proof of the historicity of the sequence of events.
2:1-13 Outpouring of the Spirit.
2:14-21 Peter's speech at Pentecost.
2:42-47 Summary: the communal life of the church.
2:43a "Fear came upon every soul."
2:43b "Many wonders and signs were done through the apostles."
3:1-11 Healing of the lame man.
3:12-26 Peter's speech in Solomon's Portico.
4:1-7 Arrest of the apostles.
4:4 "Many of those who heard the word believed."
4:8-12 Peter's speech to his accusers.
4:13-17 The council deliberates.
4:18-22 The apostles are warned and freed.
4:23-30 The community rejoices.
4:31a Outpouring of the Spirit.
4:31b "They ... spoke the word of God with boldness."
4:32-35 Summary: the communal life of the church.
4:36-5:11 Two examples of communism: Barnabas, Ananias.
5:5b "Great fear came upon all who heard it."
5:11 "Great fear came upon the whole church."
5:12a "Many signs and wonders were done ... by the hands of the apostles."
5:12b-16 Typical healings.
5:12b "They were all together in Solomon's Portico."
5:17-18 Arrest of the apostles.
5:19-28 The apostles escape and preach the word (vs. 20).
5:29-32 Peter's speech to his accusers.
5:33-39 The council deliberates (Gamaliel).
5:40 The apostles are warned and freed.
5:41-42 "Rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer."
The passages 2:42-47 and 4:32-35 may either be ascribed to Jerusalem Source B and Jerusalem Source A respectively, or may be regarded as editorial summaries not derived from either source. The passage 4:36-5:11 is not regarded by Lake as part of Jerusalem Source A, on the ground that logically 5:12 ff. is a continuation of 4:31, so that all the intervening verses (and not merely 4:32-35) must be an intrusion from elsewhere (see Beginnings off Christianity, V, 142). But 5:12b-16 provides the same prelude to the arrest of the disciples in 5:17-18 as does the healing of the lame man to their arrest in 4:1 ff. It is tempting therefore to transfer 5:12b-16 to Jerusalem Source B, to which the sequel belongs, or to suppose that the verses are Luke's own composition. Vs. 12a should surely be combined with vs. 11 to form a summary conclusion to Jerusalem Source A parallel to 2:43, which provides an exactly similar conclusion to Jerusalem Source B. The two sets of doublets would then be complete; and if ch. 2 were transposed to follow ch. 5, we should have from Jerusalem Source B a complete narrative parallel in detail to that from Jerusalem Source A in 3:1-5:12a. Whereas, with ch. 2 in its present position, there is nothing to lead up to Pentecost, we might now assume that in both sources the first outpouring of the Spirit followed the first public appearance of the apostles as miraculous healers and their first encounter with the Jewish authorities. The result of the gift of the Spirit shows itself in a new boldness in witness-bearing in the face of persecution, thereby illustrating the fulfillment of the promise given by Jesus (Luke 12:11-12).
The prayer of thanksgiving (vss. 24-30) is a lyric comparable with the songs and prayers of Luke's nativity storyú It is quite in the style of the O.T. to insert such lyrics in the middle of narrative, good examples being the prayer of Jonah "out of the fish's belly" (Jonah 2:1), and the song of the three children "in the burning fiery furnace" (Dan. 3:1, in the Greek). Luke here with great skill reproduces the O.T. flavor, and if, as seems likely, the lyric is his own composition, it illustrates how well he conforms to the conventions of his twofold literary inheritance--Greek in the case of the speeches, Hebrew in this characteristically Hebraic section.
Immediately after the prayer of thanksgiving they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (vs. 31). Acts is particularly full of references to the activity of the Spirit. Men are variously spoken of as in it, under it, filled with it, baptized with it, anointed with it, instructed by it. They speak through it, or it through them. Sometimes it is called the Spirit of the Lord, or the Spirit of Jesus, and is in fact almost indistinguishable from the risen Jesus himself. All this is of course not peculiar to Luke, whose special outlook is shown (a) in his emphasis on the materiality of the Spirit: at Jesus' baptism it descends "in bodily form, as a dove" (Luke 3:22); Jesus casts out devils "by the finger of God" (Luke 11:20; Matthew 12:28 has "by the Spirit of God"); at Pentecost we have the actual sound of "wind" and the tongues of "fire"; and the idea of "filling" and "pouring," almost as of some kind of material fluid, is especially frequent. Is Luke showing the characteristic interest of the physician in the tangible and corporeal? (b) Noticeable too is the definiteness with which Luke marks the arrival of the Spirit; there are outstanding moments when the Spirit manifests itself quite apart from the normal spiritual experience of Christians. Here Luke certainly reflects a point of view much more primitive than Paul's. For Paul the Spirit is the active moving power in normal Christian living; the life of every true Christian is "spiritual" in the fullest sense. But the primitive view saw the highest expression of the Spirit's activity, not in the everyday faith and piety of the common disciple, but in the abnormal and unusual in character, word, or work. To see visions, speak with tongues, preach with more than ordinary power was a proof of possession by the Spirit, of which the ordinary disciple was expected to show no striking evidence. Thus the community as a whole could be "filled with the Spirit" only on special ecstatic occasions such as the present. Nevertheless in the case of some saints such possession by the Spirit, attainable by others only spasmodically, was regarded as habitual and characteristic, and they are called men "full of the Spirit" (6:3). Stephen (6:5) and Barnabas (11:24) are specifically so called. Such were men whose religious power was so pre-eminent that only the permanent indwelling of the Spirit of God could account for it. It was not the least of Paul's achievements that he transcended this somewhat artificial distinction between the man whose religious fervor manifested itself in striking outward effects, and the saint in whom the Spirit expressed itself in the depth of his personal devotional life. (On the Spirit in the primitive church see also article "The Gospel in the New Testament," in Vol. VII of this work, especially pp. 8-10.)
24. The only other place where Luke uses the title Sovereign Lord (despo6thv) of God is Luke 2:29, where also the word "slave" (dou'lov, the word translated "servants" in vs. 29) is used in antithesis. Is a similar antithesis implied by the use in vs. 27 of the phrase "thy holy servant [pai'da] Jesus"--our Lord being thus identified with the "servant of Yahweh" of Isa. 52:13, etc.? (See on 3:13.)
25. Though the RSV probably gives the intended sense, the Greek here is "an incoherent jumble of words" (Torrey). The text is almost certainly corrupt, though Torrey suspects a mistranslation of an original Aramaic sentence meaning, "That which our father, thy servant David, said by command of the Holy Spirit." The quotation is from Ps. 2:1-2.
27. Whom thou didst anoint, i.e., "make Christ," "make Messiah." Did Luke think of this anointing as taking place at Jesus' baptism? Herod represents "the kings" of the quotation, and Pontius Pilate represents "the rulers."
31. An earthquake would be considered an outward sign of divine activity, and it is the only one of the four signs in the divine manifestation to Elijah (I Kings 19:11-12) which was not reproduced in the account of Pentecost in ch. 2. Boldness, as illustrated in vs. 8 above, is the result of the possession of the Spirit. The phrase almost means "without inhibition"; cf. its use of Jesus in Mark 8:32 ("he said this plainly"), and for the thought in general cf. Luke 12:11-12.
b) THE SHARING OF GOODS (4:32-5:10)
Immediately after the notice of the outpouring of the Spirit there follows once again (as in 2:42-47 after the story of Pentecost) a summary giving a little tableau of life within the primitive community. Those who regard the two summaries as doublets are inclined to give priority to the present passage. In both stress is laid upon the apostles' teaching and upon the community of goods, practiced not as a compulsory system but as a voluntary means of meeting the common need.
The two illustrations given of "communism"--the cases of Barnabas and Ananias--show that there can have been no absolute or even general rule. The special liberality of Barnabas had no reason to be mentioned if vs. 32 is to be taken with strict literalness. Similarly 5:4 makes it clear that Ananias was perfectly at liberty to keep his possessions if he so wished. His sin was not that he withheld part of his goods, but that he lied to the Holy Spirit (5:3) by retaining part of the proceeds of the sale, and thereby pretending to be more generous than in fact he was. Whatever may have been the extent of this "communistic" experiment at Jerusalem, it appears very soon to have broken down, first, perhaps on account of the dissension between "Hellenists" and "Hebrews" (6:1), and second, because the administrators who had been appointed as a result of the dispute had been driven from the city by the Jews. Probably also the eager expectation of the Parousia led to improvidence for the future, so that the Jerusalem community was always poor. Accordingly we find the selling of local possessions superseded by the sending of alms to the mother church by the richer daughter churches. Antioch sent relief by Barnabas and Paul (11:30); Paul was asked "to remember the poor," presumably of Jerusalem (Gal. 2:10); and later he brought a contribution from the Gentile churches (Rom. 15:25 ff.; II Cor. 8:1 ff.).
Barnabas is here mentioned for the first time. For a considerable period, until Paul later took the leadership, he must have been the most prominent figure in Hellenistic Jewish-Christian circles. In the calendar of the Anglican church he is given the title of "apostle," and is the only saint outside the twelve, except Paul and the evangelists, to be honored with a red-letter day. By birth he was a Cypriote; but he probably had connections with Jerusalem, for John Mark was his cousin. Originally named Joseph, he received the surname "Barnabas" possibly to mark his admission to the function of prophet or teacher--if we accept the traditional derivation of the name from bar-nebhû)Ah, "son of prophecy." This might also give the meaning "Son of exhortation" (ASV). Alternatively, an Aramaic derivation from bar-newahâ) ("rest" or "refreshment") would give "son of consolation" (KJV). Luke's Greek (uiJo;v paraklh6sewv) might at a stretch bear either meaning. A "paraclete" is properly a person called in to one's side to help; hence in I John 2:1 it is translated "advocate"; in John 14:16 it is used of the Holy Spirit and is translated "Comforter" (KJV) or "Counselor" (RSV). Here a good translation is Son of encouragement, which includes both ideas. In Acts Barnabas lives up to his name (see e.g., 11:23 ff.). Adolf Deissmann (Bible Studies [Edinburgh: T. g: T. Clark, 1901], pp. 307-10) and others prefer a derivation from Nebo, apparently a heathen demon-god, in which case Luke's translation seems quite arbitrary, though curiously, as Lake and Cadbury note, it would fit Manaen, who appears with Barnabas in 13:1. Can there have been some confusion? A similar problem arises in connection with the meaning of the name Elymas in 13:8.
For the extreme punishment meted out to Ananias and Sapphira we may compare Paul's words in I Cor. 5:5, "You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." Some may prefer to believe that the account has been somewhat "written up": the coincidence of the sudden death of the guilty pair was put down to a direct visitation of the Spirit--cf. lie to the Holy Spirit (5:3); tempt the Spirit of the Lord (5:9)--and the actual agency of Peter in causing the deaths was introduced later. But more important than the accuracy of the story in detail is the light it throws on the ideas of the primitive community--the constant oversight of the Spirit whom none can deceive; the odiousness of hypocrisy, which Jesus had treated as the chief of all sins; the love of money as the root of all evil. Indeed, greed for gain or trust in the power of money lies behind most of the sins or failures recorded in Acts: Judas' betrayal (1:18), the sin of Simon (8:18), the opposition of the "owners" of the mediumistic slave girl at Philippi (16:16 ff.) and of the silversmiths at Ephesus (19:23 ff.), and even the procrastination of Felix (24:26). The sin of Ananias was that he tried "to make the best of both worlds."
32. The company of those who believed means the whole body of Christians and is practically synonymous with "the church" (cf. 6:2, 5; 15:12, 30).
35. Laid it at the apostles' feet may reflect an old legal convention by which property was transferred by placing it at or under the feet of the recipient.
5:1-2. Ananias, not an uncommon name (9:10; 23:2), means "Yahweh is gracious." Sapphira means "beautiful." Kept back some of the proceeds: The Greek verb is somewhat obscure, but is regularly used of appropriating something that is held in trust; the implication is that the proceeds of the sale, having already been dedicated to the community, were no longer at Ananias' own disposal. Lake and Cadbury well translate: "embezzled part of the price." The word is used in Josh. 7:1 of Achan who "took of the accursed thing," i.e., "retained part of the consecrated spoil." The word may well have been chosen with that story in view, for the enormity of Ananias' sin, like Achan's, was that through it sin entered into the community.
3. Lie to [or "cheat"] the Holy Spirit: The essential "sin against the Holy Spirit" is always to confound evil with good. In Mark 3:29 to ascribe Jesus' good deeds to the Devil's agency is to "blaspheme the Holy Spirit"; here the lie to the Holy Spirit is for a miserly man to pose as generous--a piece of willful hypocrisy. Note that this "lie to the Spirit" is equivalent to lying to God (vs. 4), and to tempting the Spirit of the Lord (vs. 9).
6. The young men: Literally "the younger men," possibly in distinction from the "elders"; but it is questionable whether even the latter yet existed as officials, and most unlikely that "the younger men" were an official "body of men devoted to such offices as burying" (Rackham). In vs. 10 they are called simply "young men," the Greek word having no such official flavor.
9. To tempt the Spirit of the Lord: The primitive idea of seeing how far one can go without provoking retaliation; cf. the common O.T. phrase of "tempt the Lord" (e.g., Exod. 17:2), and notice how, as in I Cot. 10:9, the idea, and indeed the very title "Lord," is transferred from God to Christ.
c) SUMMARY (5:11-16)
Vss. 11-12a probably go together to form a summary conclusion to Jerusalem Source A parallel to 2:43, which provides an exactly similar conclusion to Jerusalem Source B. In the following verses (12b-16) the idea of signs and wonders is developed into a generalizing summary which provides a fitting climax to the whole section. This was probably composed by Luke himself. Or did he take over these verses also from one or other of his sources? (See Exeg., above on p. 70.)
11. The word church (ejkklhsi6a) is here used for the first time as a name for the Christian community. At first any such name would be unnecessary, for Christians were still within the Jewish community, though marked out as "those who called on this name" (i.e., of Jesus; 9:21). Then vague phrases like "the Way" (9:2), "this Life" (5:20), "this salvation" (13:26) were perhaps used. The Christians, as a sect within Judaism, were probably called "Nazarenes," and their synagogue in Aramaic would be "the Kenîshta) [Hebrew Kenézeth] of the Nazarenes." Among themselves they were known as "saints" or "brothers," the name "Christian" being regarded as a mere nickname (11:26) and not used till well on in the second century. As the rift with Judaism widened, "the church" was accepted as a distinctive title. The usage has its roots in the LXX, where ejkklhsi6a (ecclesia) is one of two words used to describe the "congregation" or "assembly" of Israel, the other being sunagwgh6, "synagogue." The Hebrew words used to describe the people assembled for acts of public worship, deliberation, and judgment are (edhAh (ASV "congregation") and qAhAl (ASV "assembly"). Both words seem sometimes to be used in exactly the same sense; but the distinction is that (edhAh can denote all Israelites as a community, while qAhAl is rather the "assembly" called for a specific purpose. In the LXX the distinction becomes clearer: sunagwgh6 is often used to translate both Hebrew words in the more general sense. But there was ready at hand another Greek word ejkklhsi6a, with the technical sense of a specially convoked public assembly "called out" by trumpet or otherwise. When the qAhAl in question is a formal assembly for solemn religious purposes (e.g., on Sinai, Ebal, and Gerizim, at the dedication of the temple, or at Hezekiah's and Josiah's Passovers), the regular LXX translation is ejkklhsi6a. Hence Israel as God's "called" community might be spoken of as "the ecclesia, or church, of the Lord," and the use of the word by the Christians certainly implies the claim that they, rather than the Jews, were the true "people of God." The Jews appear to have preferred to use sunagwgh6 in the same sense; e.g., Ps. 74:2 in the LXX runs, "Remember thy synagogue which thou hast purchased and redeemed of old"--for which Paul significantly substitutes "church" when he echoes the verse (Acts 20:28). In short the Christians appropriated the word ejkklhsi6a; over against the Jewish "synagogue" stands the Christian "church." As in the Pauline epistles, the use of the word "church" in Acts is threefold: (a) The whole church as a religious community; 20:28 comes nearest to this "catholic" use; cf. also 5:11; 9:31; I Cor. 10:32. (b) The local Christian body: e.g., 13:1, "the church at Antioch," or 11:26, where the local community at the same place is called "the church"; so both in Paul and Acts we have "the churches" with reference to the local bodies; this is much the most common usage. (c) The original use with reference to the people in actual assembly. So throughout I Cor. 14 ejn ejkklhsi6a almost means, as we would say, "in church," and in 14:23 kat! ejkklhsi6an may mean "at church," just as in 2:46 kat! oi\kon means "at home." An extension of this usage would be the application of the word to the church building, as with the word "synagogue." A possible, but unlikely, example might be I Cor. 11:22, where oijki6av (homes) and ejkklhsi6av (church building?) may be in antithesis.
12b-14. These verses are very obscure. The all who were together in Solomon's Portico are presumably the apostles and their immediate following, or possibly the whole Christian community, in which case the rest will be other interested spectators who still hesitated to identify themselves thus publicly with the Christians, even though the people in general held them in high honor. But vs. 14 seems a contradiction unless we suppose that dared loin them means not merely to join the community but to co-operate in courageous public witness. It is suggested that join them (kolla'sqai, "be cemented to") is a mistranslation of an Aramaic word meaning "interfere with."
15-16. So that: The connection is obviously with 12a rather than with the immediately preceding words, which suggests that the obscure intervening sentences may be a misplaced editorial summary. Note the close parallel between vss. 15-16 and Mark 6:56, which is part of a Marcan section omitted by Luke's Gospel (see on 1:7). For the healing power of Peter's shadow compare the faith in Paul's "handkerchiefs" (19:12).
The second encounter of the apostles with the Sanhedrin is very much like that recorded in 4:1-22, and, as we have seen, there is some reason for regarding the two accounts as "doublets." There is also a close resemblance to the account of Peter s escape from prison in 12:6-11, though the present narrative has none of the vivid circumstantial details of the later story. If we are dealing with doublets, then we should recall that the present account is, according to Harnack, from Jerusalem Source B, the less satisfactory of the two parallel Jerusalem sources. It is perhaps significant that the section contains what appears to be the worst historical error in Acts. In 5:36 Gamaliel refers to a rebellion of Theudas which, according to Josephus (Antiquities XX. 5), took place ten or twelve years after the time when he is speaking. He also makes it appear that Theudas rebelled at an earlier date than Judas, who in fact led a revolt in A.D. 6-8. This notorious anachronism has been made the basis for the argument that the author of Acts had read Josephus' Antiquities; for the latter, after narrating the rebellion of Theudas, goes on to tell of the subsequent execution of the sons of Judas. The two names thus occur in reverse order, and it is suggested that Luke's anachronism is due to a careless reading of Josephus. The importance of this is that it would necessitate a later date for Acts, as Josephus did not publish his Antiquities till about A.D. 93. Two other passages are quoted as proving Luke's dependence on Josephus--Luke 3:1; Acts 21:38. But it must be granted that all three passages "fall just short of demonstration," and in the case of the present passage "there is always the possibility that Luke and Josephus were using a common source in which the events were arranged in the order given by Josephus" (Beginnings of Christianity, II, 357). There is in fact no need to assume any acquaintance on Luke's part with the works of Josephus.
The historicity of Gamaliel's intervention has been commonly denied by radical critics, on account both of the anachronism in his speech and of the general line that he is alleged to have taken. But Gamaliel belonged to the more liberal school of Hillel, as opposed to the more rigid followers of Shammai; and it is quite likely that he may have counseled moderation for reasons of conviction as well as of policy. As a Pharisee he may well have had a bias in favor of the Christians as loyal observers of the law over against their Sadducean persecutors; and as a coolheaded statesman he may have believed that firm control would accomplish more than harsh repression, which might provoke a popular outbreak in support of a respected sect. It is entirely credible that Gamaliel, as indeed any other member of the Sanhedrin, may have taken up the attitude indicated by Luke. The Christians were in fact for some considerable time treated with just the kind of toleration that Gamaliel urged.
17. The party of the Sadducees: The Greek is hJ ou\sa ai{resiv--an odd use of the participle, for which cf. 13:1. Lake and Cadbury suspect a semitechnical usage, for which there is some evidence in the papyri, of a participle "referring to what was existent at the place mentioned or the time mentioned, for which our English equivalent would be 'local' and 'current' respectively" (Beginnings of Christianity, IV, 56). Here the meaning would be "the local party of the Sadducees." Would this explain the famous crux in Eph. 1:1, which might be translated "to the local saints and believers in Christ Jesus"?
19-20. An angel sometimes appears in the O.T. as a quite impersonal agent of God's purpose, as when, e.g., "an angel" (pestilence) smites Sennacherib's army (II Kings 19:35; cf. II Sam. 24:16) or protects Daniel from the lions (Dan. 6:22). Here some providential intervention is suggested, perhaps the connivance of a jailer or the help of a friend (see also 8:26; 12:7, 23). This Life: a unique expression, perhaps like "the Way," used by Christians to describe their gospel.
21. The council and all the senate are one and the same body, the Jewish Sanhedrin. Senate is an older name which well suits the archaic language, the senate of the children of Israel. It is, however, just possible that Luke thought that there was a deliberative body of "elders" in addition to the "council" or "Sanhedrin" as the judicial body.
28-29. We strictly charged: i.e., referring to 4:18, as we must obey God repeats 4:19. Rackham well compares Antigone's words in Sophocles' tragedy (Antigone 453-55; tr. E. H. Plumptre):
Nor did I deem thy edicts strong enough,
That thou, a mortal man, should'st over-pass
The unwritten laws of God that know not change.
30-32. The gist of Peter's speech is exactly the same as in the parallel in 4:8 ff.: the Jews are responsible for the crime of crucifying one whom God has vindicated by raising him from the dead and exalting him to the highest honor. Killed: The unusual Greek word has perhaps a semislang flavor, for which cf. 26:21; Lake and Cadbury translate "did away with." Hanging him on a tree; cf. Deut. 21:22 and see on 10:39. Leader: The same word translated in 3:15 as "the Author of life." To these things: Literally "words," probably one of Luke's deliberate Hebraisms, based on the similar use of the Hebrew word däbhär; cf. 10:37. So is the Holy Spirit, i.e., as demonstrated by the deeds of the apostles.
34. Gamaliel: The first of the famous rabbis of that name, he was a descendant of Hillel and is named in the traditional list as one of the successive "presidents of the council." His reputation is later attested by the saying, "Since Rabban Gamaliel the elder died, there has been no more reverence for the law" (quoted in Emil Schürer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1891], Div. II, Vol. I, p. 364). According to 22:3, he was Paul's teacher.
36-37. Theudas: There is no evidence of any Theudas other than the rebel mentioned by Josephus as having risen some years later than Gamaliel's speech. The argument is that if Jesus is, like Theudas and Judas, a mere impostor, his cause will as speedily collapse. The census in question in connection with Judas is that made by Quirinius in A.D. 6, and is not that of Luke 2:1, though there is a question that Luke may have confused them. Judas, according to Josephus (Jewish War II. 8. 1), was the leader of a much more serious uprising than is here implied and his followers, so far from being completely exterminated, became the origin of the "Zealots," who in turn were largely responsible for the movement which eventually led to the great rebellion and the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
41-42. For the phrase the name, without qualification, cf. the Greek of III John 7. Jesus as the Christ: Alternatively, we may have here the use of the double name--"telling the good news of Christ Jesus."