Acts 1

Verse 31. That ye might believe] What is here recorded is to

give a full proof of the Divinity of Christ; that he is the

promised Messiah; that he really suffered and rose again from the

dead; and that through him every believer might have eternal life.

Life] Several MSS., versions, and fathers read eternal life, and

this is undoubtedly the meaning of the word, whether the various

reading be admitted or not.

GROTIUS has conjectured that the Gospel, as written by St. John,

ended with this chapter, and that the following chapter was added

by the Church of Ephesus. This conjecture is supported by nothing

in antiquity. It is possible that these two last verses might have

formerly been at the conclusion of the last chapter, as they bear

a very great similarity to those that are found there; and it is

likely that their true place is between the 24th and 25th verses

of the succeeding chapter; Joh 21:24, 25; with the latter of

which they in every respect correspond, and with it form a proper

conclusion to the book. Except this correspondence, there is no

authority for changing their present position.

After reading the Gospel of John, his first Epistle should be

next taken up: it is written exactly in the same spirit, and keeps

the same object steadily in view. As John's Gospel may be

considered a supplement to the other evangelists, so his first

Epistle may be considered a supplement and continuation to his

own Gospel. In some MSS. the epistles follow this Gospel, not

merely because the transcribers wished to have all the works of

the same writer together, but because there was such an evident

connection between them. The first Epistle is to the Gospel as a

pointed and forcible application is to an interesting and

impressive sermon.


-Usherian year of the world, 4033.

-Alexandrian aera of the world, 5531.

-Antiochian year of the world, 5521.

-Constantinopolitan year of the world, 5537.

-Year of the aera of the Seleucidae, 341.

-Year of the Spanish aera, 67.

-Year of the Christian aera, 29.

-Year of the Paschal Cycle, 30.

-Year of the Jewish Cycle, 11.

-Golden Number, 8.

-Solar Cycle, 10.

-Dominical Letter, B.

-Jewish Passover, April 15.

-Epact, 20.

-Year of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius Caesar, 18.

-Year of the CCII. Olympiad, 1.

-Year of Rome, 782.

-Consuls, from Jan. 1, to July 1, L. Rubellius Geminus, and C.

Rufius Geminus; and, for the remainder of the year, Aulus

Plautius and L. Nonius Asprenas.

For an explanation of these aeras, see the Advertisement

prefixed to the Comment on the Gospel of St Matthew.


St. Luke's prologue, containing a repetition of Christ's

history from his passion till his ascension, 1-9.

Remarkable circumstances in the ascension, 10, 11.

The return of the disciples to Jerusalem, and their employment

there, 12-14.

Peter's discourse concerning the death of Judas Iscariot, 15-20,

and the necessity of choosing another apostle in his place,

21, 22.

Barnabas and Matthias being set apart by prayer, the apostles

having given their votes, Matthias is chosen to succeed Judas,



Verse 1. The former treatise] The Gospel according to Luke,

which is here most evidently intended.

O Theophilus] See Clarke on Lu 1:3.

To do and teach] These two words comprise his miracles and

sermons. This introduction seems to intimate that, as he had

already in his Gospel given an account of the life and actions

of our Lord, so in this second treatise he was about to give an

account of the lives and acts of some of the chief apostles,

such as Peter and Paul.

Verse 2. After that he, through the Holy Ghost, &c.] This clause

has been variously translated: the simple meaning seems to be

this-that Christ communicated the Holy Spirit to his disciples,

after his resurrection, as he had not done before. In Lu 24:45,

it is said that he opened their understanding, that they might

understand the Scriptures; and in Joh 20:22, that

he breathed on them, and said, receive ye the Holy Ghost.

Previously to this, we may suppose that the disciples were only on

particular occasions made partakers of the Holy Spirit; but from

this time it is probable that they had a measure of this

supernatural light and power constantly resident in them. By this

they were not only able to proclaim the truth, but to discern the

meaning of all the Old Testament Scriptures which referred to

Christ; and to appoint whatever rites or ordinances were necessary

for the establishment of his Church. There were many things which

the apostles said, did, and decreed, for which they had no verbal

instructions from our Lord, at least, none that are recorded in

the Gospels; we may therefore conclude that these were suggested

to them by that Holy Spirit which now became resident in them, and

that it is to this that St. Luke refers in this verse, After that

he, through the Holy Ghost, had given commandments unto the


Verse 3. To whom-he showed himself alive-by many infallible

proofs] πολλοιςτεκμηριοις; by many proofs of such a nature, and

connected with such circumstances, as to render them indubitable;

for this is the import of the Greek word τεκμηριον. The proofs

were such as these: 1. Appearing to several different persons at

different times. 2. His eating and drinking with them. 3. His

meeting them in Galilee according to his own appointment. 4. His

subjecting his body to be touched and handled by them. 5. His

instructing them in the nature and doctrines of his kingdom. 6.

His appearing to upwards of five hundred persons at once,

1Co 15:6. And, 7. Continuing these public manifestations of

himself for forty days.

The several appearances of Jesus Christ, during the forty days

of his sojourning with his disciples, between his resurrection and

ascension, are thus enumerated by Bishop Pearce: The first was to

Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, Mt 28:1-9. The

second, to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, Lu 24:15.

The third, to Simon Peter, Lu 24:34. The

fourth, to ten of the apostles, Thomas being absent, Lu 24:36,

and Joh 20:19. (All these four appearances took place on the day

of his resurrection.) The fifth was to the eleven disciples,

Thomas being then with them, Joh 20:26. The

sixth, to seven of the apostles in Galilee, at the sea of

Tiberias, Joh 21:4. The

seventh, to James, 1Co 15:7, most probably in Jerusalem, and

when Jesus gave an order for all his apostles to assemble

together, as in Ac 1:4. The

eighth, when they were assembled together, and when he led them

unto Bethany, Lu 24:50, from whence he ascended to heaven. But

See Clarke on Joh 21:14, for farther particulars.

Pertaining to the kingdom of God] Whatever concerned the

doctrine, discipline, and establishment of the Christian Church.

Verse 4. And, being assembled together] Instead of

συναλιζομενος, being assembled together, several good MSS. and

versions read συναυλιζομενος, living or eating together, which

refers the conversation reported here to some particular time,

when he sat at meat, with his disciples. See Mr 16:14:

Lu 24:41-44. See the

margin. But probably the common reading is to be preferred; and

the meeting on a mountain of Galilee is what is here meant.

The promise of the Father] The HOLY SPIRIT, which indeed was the

grand promise of the New Testament, as JESUS CHRIST was of the

Old. And as Christ was the grand promise of the Old Testament,

during the whole continuance of the old covenant; so is the Holy

Ghost, during the whole continuance of the new. As every pious

soul that believed in the coming Messiah, through the medium of

the sacrifices offered up under the law, was made a partaker of

the merit of his death, so every pious soul that believes in

Christ crucified is made a partaker of the Holy Spirit. Thus, as

the benefit of the death of Christ extended from the foundation of

the world till his coming in the flesh, as well as after, so the

inspiration of the Holy Spirit has been, and will be continued

through the whole lapse of time, till his coming again to judge

the world. It is by this Spirit that sin is made known, and by it

the blood of the covenant is applied; and indeed, without this,

the want of salvation cannot be discovered, nor the value of the

blood of the covenant duly estimated. How properly do we still

pray, and how necessary is the prayer, "Cleanse the thoughts of

our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may

perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy name, through

Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen." Communion Service.

Ye have heard of me.] In his particular conversations with his

disciples, such as those related Joh 14:16-26; 15:26; 16:7-15; to

which passages, and the notes on them the reader is requested to

refer: but it is likely that our Lord alludes more particularly to

the conversation he had with them on one of the mountains of


Verse 5. Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days

hence.] This must refer to some conversation that is not

distinctly related by the evangelists; as these identical words do

not occur in any of the preceding histories. The Codex Bezae reads

this passage thus: but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost,

which ye shall receive not many days hence. John baptized with

water, which was a sign of penitence, in reference to the

remission of sin; but Christ baptizes with the Holy Ghost, for the

destruction of sin, the illumination of the mind, and the

consolation of the heart. John's baptism was in reference to the

spiritual kingdom; but Christ's baptism established and maintained

that kingdom. From this passage we may also learn that baptism

does not always mean being plunged or immersed in water; for as

this promise most evidently refers to the communication of the

Holy Spirit on the following pentecost, and then he sat upon each

as a cloven tongue of fire, this certainly has more affinity to

sprinkling than to plunging. However, the mode of administering

the sign is of very little consequence; and which is the best mode

is exceedingly dubious: the stress should be laid on receiving the

thing signified-the Holy Ghost, to illuminate, regenerate, refine,

and purify the heart. With this, sprinkling or immersion are

equally efficient: without this, both are worth nothing.

Verse 6. When they therefore were come together] It is very

likely that this is to be understood of their assembling on one of

the mountains of Galilee, and there meeting our Lord.

At this time restore again the kingdom] That the disciples, in

common with the Jews, expected the Messiah's kingdom to be at

least in part secular, I have often had occasion to note. In this

opinion they continued less or more till the day of pentecost;

when the mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit taught them the

spiritual nature of the kingdom of Christ. The kingdom had now for

a considerable time been taken away from Israel; the Romans, not

the Israelites, had the government. The object of the disciples'

question seems to have been this: to gain information, from their

all-knowing Master, whether the time was now fully come, in which

the Romans should be thrust out, and Israel made, as formerly, an

independent kingdom. But though the verb αποκαθιστανειν signifies

to reinstate, to renew, to restore to a former state or

master, of which numerous examples occur in the best Greek

writers, yet it has also another meaning, as Schoettgen has here

remarked, viz. of ending, abolishing, blotting out: so Hesychius

says, αποκαταστασις is the same as τελειωσις, finishing, making an

end of a thing. And Hippocrates, Aph. vi. 49, uses it to signify

the termination of a disease. On this interpretation the disciples

may be supposed to ask, having recollected our Lord's prediction

of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the whole Jewish

commonwealth, Lord, Wilt thou at this time destroy the Jewish

commonwealth, which opposes thy truth, that thy kingdom may be set

up over all the land? This interpretation agrees well with all the

parts of our Lord's answer, and with all circumstances of the

disciples, of time, and of place; but, still, the first is most


Verse 7. The times or the seasons] χρονουςηκαιρους. Times here

may signify any large portion of a period, aera, or century-such

as an Olympiad, lustrum or year; and seasons, the particular

part, season, or opportunity in that period, &c., in which it

might be proper to do any particular work. God has not only fixed

the great periods in which he will bring about those great

revolutions which his wisdom, justice, and mercy have designed,

but he leaves himself at full liberty to choose those particular

portions of such periods as may be best for the accomplishment of

those purposes. Thus God is no necessary agent-every thing is put

in his own power, εντηιδιαεξουσια, under his control and

authority; nor will he form decrees of which he must become the

necessary executor. The infinite liberty of acting or not

acting, as wisdom, justice, and goodness shall see best, is

essential to God, nor can there be a point in the whole of his

eternity in which he must be the necessary agent of a fixed and

unalterable fate. Infinite, eternal liberty to act or not to act,

to create or not create, to destroy or not destroy, belongs to God

alone, and we must take care how we imagine decrees, formed even

by his own prescience, in reference to futurity, which his power

is from the moment of their conception laid under the necessity of

performing. In every point of time and eternity, God must be free

to act or not to act, as may seem best to his godly wisdom.

Verse 8. But ye shall receive power] ληψεσθεδυναμιν.

Translating different terms of the original by the same English

word is a source of misapprehension and error. We must not

understand δυναμις which we translate power in this verse, as we

do εξουσια, translated by the same word in the preceding verse. In

the one, God's infinite authority over all times and seasons, and

his uncompellable liberty of acting or not acting in any given

case, are particularly pointed out: in the other, the energy

communicated by him to his disciples, through which they were

enabled to work miracles, is particularly intended; and δυναμις,

in general, signifies such power, and is sometimes put for that of

which it is the cause, viz. a miracle. See Mt 7:22; 11:20-23;

Mt 13:54, 58; Mr 6:5; Lu 10:13; and Ac 2:22.

The disciples were to be made instruments in the establishment of

the kingdom of Christ; but this must be by the energy of the Holy

Ghost sent down from heaven; nevertheless, this energy would be

given in such times and seasons, and in such measures, as should

appear best to the infinite wisdom of God. Christ does not

immediately answer the question of the disciples, as it was a

point savouring too much of mere curiosity; but he gave them such

information as was calculated to bring both their faith and hope

into action. St. Chrysostom has well observed, "that it is the

prerogative of an instructer to teach his disciple, not what he

wishes to learn, but what his master sees best for him:"



Ye shall be witnesses-in all Judea, &c.] Though the word earth,

ηγη, is often used to denote Judea alone, yet here, it is

probable, it is to be taken in its largest extent. All the

inhabitants of the globe might at that period be considered

divisible into three classes. 1. The JEWS, who adhered to the law

of Moses, and the prophetic writings, worshipping the true God

only, and keeping up the temple service, as prescribed in their

law. 2. The SAMARITANS, a mongrel people, who worshipped the God

of Israel in connection with other gods, 2Ki 17:5, &c., and who

had no kind of religious connection with the Jews. See on

Mt 10:5. And, 3. The GENTILES, the

heathens through all other parts of the world, who were addicted

to idolatry alone, and had no knowledge of the true God. By the

terms in the text we may see the extent to which this commission

of instruction and salvation was designed to reach: to the Jews;

to the Samaritans, and the uttermost part of the earth, i.e. to

the Gentile nations, thus, to the whole human race the Gospel of

the kingdom was to be proclaimed. When the twelve disciples were

sent out to preach, Mt 10:5, their commission was very

limited-they were not to go in the way of the Gentiles, nor

enter into any city of the Samaritans, but preach the Gospel to

the lost sheep of the house of Israel: but here their commission

is enlarged, for they are to go into all the world, and preach the

Gospel to every creature. See Mt 28:18.

Verse 9. He was taken up] He was speaking face to face with

them, and while they beheld he was taken up; he began to ascend to

heaven, and they continued to look after him till a cloud received

him out of their sight-till he had ascended above the region of

the clouds, by the density of which all farther distinct vision

was prevented. These circumstances are very remarkable, and should

be carefully noted. They render insupportable the theory that

states, "that our Lord did not ascend to heaven; that his being

taken up signifies his going into some mountain, the top of

which was covered with clouds, or thick vapours; and that the two

men in white garments were two priests, or Levites, who simply

informed the disciples of his revisiting them again at some future

time." One would suppose that an opinion of this kind could hardly

ever obtain credit among people professing Christianity; and yet

it is espoused by some men of considerable learning and ingenuity.

But the mere letter of the text will be ever sufficient for its

total confutation. He that believes the text cannot receive such a

miserable comment. Foreign critics and divines take a most sinful

latitude on subjects of this kind.

Verse 10. Looked steadfastly] Keeping their eyes intensely fixed

on their ascending Lord; continuing to look even after he had

ascended above the region of the inferior clouds.

Two men stood by them] Doubtless, angels in human shape.

In white apparel] As emblematical of their purity, happiness,

and glory.

Verse 11. Gazing up into heaven] Not to the top of a mountain,

to which an unbridled fancy, influenced by infidelity, would

intimate he had ascended, and not to heaven.

This same Jesus] Clothed in human nature. shall so come in like

manner-with the same body, descending from heaven by his sovereign

and all-controlling power, as ye have seen him go into heaven.

Thus shall he come again to judge the quick and the dead. It was a

very ancient opinion among Christians, that when Christ should

come again to judge the world he would make his appearance on

Mount Olivet. Some think that his coming again to destroy the

Jewish nation is what the angels refer to. See a connected account

of the different appearances of Christ at the end of this chapter.

Verse 12. A Sabbath day's journey.] See the difficulties in this

verse explained in Clarke's note on "Lu 24:50". A Sabbath day's journey

was seven furlongs and a half. Olivet was but five furlongs from

Jerusalem; and Bethany was fifteen. The first region or tract of

Mount Olivet, which was called Bethany, was distant from the city

a Sabbath day's journey, or seven furlongs and a half; and the

same distance did that tract called Bethphage extend from the

city. When, therefore; our Lord came to the place where these two

tracts touched each other, he there ascended, which place was

distant from Jerusalem a Sabbath day's journey, as St. Luke here

remarks. See the notes referred to above.

Verse 13. They went up into an upper room] This was either a

room in the temple, or in the house of one of the disciples, where

this holy company was accustomed to meet. In Lu 24:53, it is said

that, after their return from Mount Olivet, they were continually

in the temple, praising and blessing God: it is probable,

therefore, that the upper room mentioned in this verse is that

apartment of the temple mentioned above. But still it is not

certain that this place should be so understood; as we have the

fullest proofs that the upper rooms in private houses were used

for the purpose of reading the law, and conferring together on

religious matters. See several proofs in Lightfoot. Add to this,

that the room here mentioned seems to have been the place where

all the apostles lodged, ουησανκαταμενοντες, and therefore most

probably a private house.

Verse 14. These-continued-in prayer and supplication] Waiting

for the promise of the Father, according to the direction of our

Lord, Lu 24:49. The words καιτηδεησει,

and in supplication, are omitted by ABC*DE, both the Syriac, the

Coptic, AEthiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, Itala, and some of the

primitive fathers. On this evidence, Griesbach has left them out of

the text; and others contend for the propriety of this omission,

because, say they, τηπροσευχη and τηδεησει, prayer and

supplication, mean the same thing. Whether the reading be genuine

or spurious, this inference is not just. Prayer may simply imply

any address to God, in the way of petition or request; supplication,

the earnest, affectionate, and continued application to God for the

blessing requested from him by prayer. Prayer asks, supplication

expostulates, entreats, urges and re-urges the petition.

With the women] Probably those who had been witnesses of his

resurrection, with the immediate relatives of the apostles. Peter

we know was married, Mt 8:14, and so might others of the

disciples; and therefore the wives of the apostles, as well as of

other pious men, may be here intended.

Verse 15. In the midst of the disciples] μαθητων; but instead of

this, αδελφων, brethren, is the reading of ABC, a few others, with

the Coptic, AEthiopic, Armenian, and Vulgate. This seems the best

reading, because of what immediately follows; for it was not among

the disciples merely that he stood, but among the whole company,

which amounted to one hundred and twenty. It is remarkable that

this was the number which the Jews required to form a council in

any city; and it is likely that in reference to this the disciples

had gathered together, with themselves, the number of one hundred

and twenty, chosen out of the many who had been already converted

by the ministry of our Lord, the twelve disciples, and the

seventy-two whom he had sent forth to preach, Lu 10:1, &c., thus

they formed a complete council in presence of which the important

business of electing a person in the place of Judas was to be


Verse 16. The Holy Ghost by the mouth of David] Thus is a strong

attestation to the Divine inspiration of the book of Psalms. They

were dictated by the Holy Spirit, and spoken by the mouth of


Verse 17. Obtained part of this ministry.] ελαχετονκληρον, He

obtained the lot of this ministry-not that he or any of the twelve

apostles, was chosen to this ministry by lot, but as lot signifies

the portion a man has in life, what comes to him in the course of

the Divine providence, or as an especial gift of God's goodness,

it is used here, as in many other parts of the sacred writings, to

signify office or station. On this subject the reader is referred

to the notes on Le 16:8, 9; Jos 14:2: see also Ac 1:26.

Verse 18. Purchased a field with the reward of iniquity]

Probably Judas did not purchase the field himself, but the money

for which he sold his Lord was thus applied, see Mt 27:6-8. It is

possible, however, that he might have designed to purchase a field

or piece of ground with this reward of his iniquity, and might

have been in treaty far it, though he did not close the bargain,

as his bringing the money to the treasury proves: the priests,

knowing his intentions, might have completed the purchase, and, as

Judas was now dead, applied the field thus bought for the burial

of strangers, i.e. Jews from foreign parts, or others who,

visiting Jerusalem, had died there. Though this case is possible,

yet the passage will bear a very consistent interpretation without

the assistant of this conjecture; for, in ordinary conversation,

we often attribute to a man what is the consequence of his own

actions, though such consequence was never designed nor wished for

by himself: thus we say of a man embarking in a hazardous

enterprise, he is gone to seek his death; of one whose conduct has

been ruinous to his reputation, he has disgraced himself; of

another who has suffered much in consequence of his crimes, he has

purchased repentance at a high price, &c., &c. All these, though

undesigned, were consequences of certain acts, as the buying of

the yield was the consequence of Judas's treason.

And falling headlong, he burst asunder] It is very likely that

the 18th and 19th verses Ac 1:18, 19 are not the words of

Peter, but of the historian, St. Luke, and should be read in a

parenthesis, and then the 17th and 20th verses Ac 1:17, 20 will

make a connected sense. (ln the case of Judas, and the manner of

his death, see the observations at the end of this chapter.

See Clarke on Ac 1:26.

Verse 19. It was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem] The

repentance of Judas, his dying testimony in behalf of our Lord's

innocence, and his tragical death, were publicly known, as was

also the transaction about the purchase of the field, and hence

arose the name by which at was publicly known. These circumstances

must have lessened the credit of the chief priests, and have

prepared the public mind to receive the Gospel of the kingdom,

when preached to them after the day of pentecost.

That field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama] This

proper tongue was not the Hebrew; that had long ceased to be the

proper tongue in Palestine: it was a sort of Chaldaio-Syriac which

was commonly spoken. The word in the Syriac version is [Syriac]

chacal-demo, and literally signifies the field of blood; because

it was bought by the price of the life or blood of the Lord Jesus.

Verse 20. For it is written in the book of Psalms] The places

usually referred to are Ps 69:25:

Let their habitation be desolate, and let none dwell in their

tents. And Ps 109:8:

Let his days be few, and let another take his office,

pekudato, his overseership, his charge of visitation or

superintendence, translated by the SEPTUAGINT, τηνεπισκοπην,

VULGATE, episcopatum; and WE, following both, bishopric, but not

with sufficient propriety, for surely the office or charge of

Judas was widely different from what we call bishopric, the

diocess, estate, and emoluments of a bishop. επισκοπος, episcopos,

which was corrupted by our Saxon ancestors into [Anglo-Saxon],

biscop, and by us into bishop, signifies literally an overseer

or superintendent, from επι, over, and σκεπτομαι, I see,

a person who had the inspection, overseeing, or superintendence of

others. The ancient επισκοποι were persons who had the care of

different congregations of the Church of Christ; who travelled,

preached, enforced the discipline of the Church, and took care to

prevent false doctrines, heresies, &c. Those who still deserve

this title, and it is an august and noble one, walk by the same

rule, and mind the same thing. επισκοπος, episcopus, or bishop,

is a scriptural and sacred title; was gloriously supported in the

primitive Church; and many to the present day are not less

ornaments to the title, than the title is ornamental to them. The

best defenses of the truth of God, and the Protestant faith, are

in the works of the bishops of the British Churches.

The words quoted from the Psalms were originally spoken against

the enemies of David; and as David, in certain particulars, was a

type of Christ, the words are applied to him in an especial manner

who had sinned against his own soul and the life of his Master.

Verse 21. Which have companied with us] They judged it necessary

to fill up this blank in the apostolate by a person who had been

an eye witness of the acts of our Lord.

Went in and out] A phrase which includes all the actions of


Verse 22. Beginning from the baptism of John] From the time that

Christ was baptized by John in Jordan; for it was at that time

that his public ministry properly began.

Must one be ordained] This translation misleads every reader who

cannot examine the original text. There is no term for ordained in

the Greek: γενεσθαι, to be, is the only word in the verse to which

this interpretation can be applied. The New Testament printed at

London, by Robert Barker, the king's printer, in 1615, renders

this and the preceding verse more faithfully and more clearly than

our common version: Wherefore of these men who have companied with

us, all the time that the Lord Jesus was conversant among us,

beginning from the baptism of John, unto the day he was taken up

from us, must one of them BE MADE a witness with us of his

resurrection. The word ordained would naturally lead most readers

to suppose that some ecclesiastical rite was used on the occasion,

such as imposition of hands, &c., although nothing of the kind

appears to have been employed.

Verse 23. They appointed two] These two were probably of the

number of the seventy disciples; and, in this respect, well fitted

to fill up the place. It is likely that the disciples themselves

were divided in opinion which of these two was the most proper

person, and therefore laid the matter before God, that he might

decide it by the lot. No more than two candidates were presented;

probably because the attention of the brethren had been drawn to

those two alone, as having been most intimately acquainted with

our Lord, or in being better qualified for the work than any of

the rest; but they knew not which to prefer.

Joseph called Barsabas] Some MSS. read Joses Barnabas, making

him the same with Joses Barnabas, Ac 4:36. But the person

here is distinguished from the person there, by being called


Verse 24. Thou Lord, which knowest the hearts] συκυριε

καρδιογνωστα. The word καρδιογνωστης, the searcher of hearts,

seems to be used here as an attribute of God; he knows the hearts,

the most secret purposes, intentions, and dispositions of all men;

and because he is the knower of hearts, he knew which of these men

he had qualified the best, by natural and gracious dispositions

and powers, for the important work to which one of them was now to

be appointed.

Verse 25. That he may take part of this ministry, &c.] Instead

of τονκληρον, the lot, which we translate part, τοντοπον,

the place, is the reading of ABC*, Coptic, Vulgate, and the

Itala in the Codex Bezae, and from them the verse may be read

thus, That he may take the place of this ministry and apostleship,

(from which Judas fell) and go to his own place; but instead of

ιδιον, own, the Codex Alexandrinus, and one of Matthai's MSS.,

read δικαιον, just-that he might go to his just or proper


This verse has been variously expounded: 1. Some suppose that

the words, that he might go to his own place, are spoken of Judas,

and his punishment in hell, which they say must be the own place

of such a person as Judas.

2. Others refer them to the purchase of the field, made by the

thirty pieces of silver for which he had sold our Lord. So he

abandoned the ministry and apostolate, that he might go to his own

place, viz. that which he had purchased.

3. Others, with more seeming propriety, state that his own place

means his own house, or former occupation; he left this ministry

and apostleship that he might resume his former employment in

conjunction with his family, &c. This is primarily the meaning of

it in Nu 24:25:

And Balaam returned to HIS OWN PLACE, i.e. to his own country,

friends, and employment.

4. Others think it simply means the state of the dead in

general, independently of either rewards or punishments; as is

probably meant by Ec 3:20:

All go unto ONE PLACE: all are of the dust, and all turn to dust


But, 5. Some of the best critics assert that the words (as

before hinted) belong to Matthias-his own place being the office

to which he was about to be elected. Should any object, this could

not be called his own place, because he was not yet appointed to

it, but hell might be properly called Judas's own place, because,

by treason and covetousness, he was fully prepared for that place

of torment, it may be answered, that the own or proper place of a

man is that for which he is eligible from being qualified for it,

though he may not yet possess such a place: so St. Paul, Every man

shall receive HIS OWN reward, τονιδιονμισθον, called there his

own, not from his having it already in possession, for that was

not to take place until the resurrection of the just; but from his

being qualified in this life for the state of glory in the other.

See the observations at the end of the chapter. See Clarke on Ac 1:26.

Verse 26. They gave forth their lots] In what manner this or any

other question was decided by lot, we cannot precisely say. The

most simple form was to put two stones, pieces of board, metal, or

slips of parchment, with the names of the persons inscribed on

them, into an urn; and after prayer, sacrifice, &c., to put in the

hand and draw out one of the lots, and then the case was decided.

I have considered this subject at large on Le 16:8, 9; and

Jos 14:2.

He was numbered with the eleven apostles.] The word

συγκατεψηφισθη, comes from συν, together with, κατα,

according to, and ψηφος, a pebble or small stone, used for

lots, and as a means of enumeration among the Greeks, Romans,

and Egyptians; hence the words calculate, calculation, &c., from

calculus, a small stone or pebble. From this use of the word,

though it signifies in general to sum up, associate, &c., we may

conjecture that the calculus or pebble was used on this occasion.

The brethren agreed that the matter should be determined by lot;

the lots were cast into the urn; God was entreated to direct the

choice; one drew out a lot; the person whose name was inscribed on

it was thereby declared to be the object of God's choice, and

accordingly associated with the disciples. But it is possible that

the whole was decided by what we commonly call ballot, God

inclining the hearts of the majority to ballot for Matthias.

Nothing certain can, however, be stated on this head. Thus the

number twelve was made up, that these might be the fountains under

God of the whole Christian Church, as the twelve sons of Jacob had

been of the Jewish Church. For it has already been remarked that

our Lord formed his Church on the model of the Jewish.

See Clarke on Joh 17:1, &c. As the Holy Ghost, on the day of

pentecost, was to descend upon them and endue them with power from

on high, it was necessary that the number twelve should be filled

up previously, that the newly elected person might also be made

partaker of the heavenly gift. How long it was found necessary to

keep up the number twelve, we are not informed: the original

number was soon broken by persecution and death.

ON the death of Judas there is a great diversity of opinion

among learned men and divines.

1. It is supposed, following the bare letter of the text, that

Judas hanged himself, and that, the rope breaking, he fell down,

was burst with the fall, and thus his bowels gushed out.

2. That, having hanged himself, he was thrown on the dunghill,

and, the carcass becoming putrid, the abdomen, which soonest

yields to putrefaction burst, and the bowels were thus shed from

the body, and possibly torn out by dogs.

3. That, being filled with horror and despair, he went to the

top of the house, or to some eminences and threw himself down; and

thus, failing headlong, his body was broken by the fall, and his

bowels gushed out.

4. That Satan, having entered into him, caught him up in the

air, and thence precipitated him to the earth; and thus, his body

being broken to pieces, his bowels gushed out. This is Dr.

Lightfoot's opinion, and has been noticed on Mt 27:5.

5. Others think that he died or was suffocated through excessive

grief; and that thus the terms in the text, and in Mt 27:5, are

to be understood. The late Mr. Wakefield defends this meaning with

great learning and ingenuity.

6. Others suppose the expressions to be figurative: Judas having

been highly exalted, in being an apostle, and even the

purse-bearer to his Lord and brother disciples, by his treason

forfeited this honour, and is represented as falling from a state

of the highest dignity into the lowest infamy, and then dying

through excessive grief. The Rev. John Jones, in his Illustrations

of the four Gospels, sums up this opinion thus: "So sensible

became the traitor of the distinguished rank which he forfeited,

and of the deep disgrace into which he precipitated himself, by

betraying his Master, that he was seized with such violent grief

as occasioned the rupture of his bowels, and ended in suffocation

and death." P. 571.

After the most mature consideration of this subject, on which I

hesitated to form an opinion in the note, See Clarke on Mt 27:5, I

think the following observations may lead to a proper knowledge of the

most probable state of the case. 1. Judas, like many others, thought

that the kingdom of the Messiah would be a secular kingdom; and

that his own secular interests must be promoted by his attachment

to Christ. Of this mind all the disciples seem to have been,

previously to the resurrection of Christ. 2. From long observation

of his Master's conduct, he was now convinced that he intended to

erect no such kingdom; and that consequently the expectations

which he had built on the contrary supposition must be ultimately

disappointed. 3. Being poor and covetous, and finding there was no

likelihood of his profiting by being a disciple of Christ, he

formed the resolution (probably at the instigation of the chief

priests) of betraying him for a sum of money sufficient to

purchase a small inheritance, on which he had already cast his

eye. 4. Well knowing the uncontrollable power of his Master, he

might take it for granted that, though betrayed, he would

extricate himself from their hands; and that they would not be

capable of putting him either to pain or death. 5. That having

betrayed him, and finding that he did not exert his power to

deliver himself out of the hands of the Jews, and seeing, from

their implacable malice, that the murder of his most innocent

Master was likely to be the consequence, he was struck with deep

compunction at his own conduct, went to the chief priests,

confessed his own profligacy, proclaimed the innocence of his

Master, and returned the money for which he had betrayed him;

probably hoping that they might be thus influenced to proceed no

farther in this unprincipled business, and immediately dismiss

Christ. 8. Finding that this made no impression upon them, from

their own words, What is that to us? See thou to that, and that

they were determined to put Jesus to death, seized with horror at

his crime and its consequences, the remorse and agitation of his

mind produced a violent dysentery, attended with powerful

inflammation; (which, in a great variety of cases, has been

brought on by strong mental agitation;) and while the distressful

irritation of his bowels obliged him to withdraw for relief, he

was overwhelmed with grief and affliction, and, having fallen from

the seat, his bowels were found to have gushed out, through the

strong spasmodic affections with which the disease was

accompanied. I have known cases of this kind, where the bowels

appeared to come literally away by piece meal.

Now; when we consider that the word απηγξατο, Mt 27:5, which we

translate hanged himself, is by the very best critics thus

rendered, was choked, and that the words of the sacred historian

in this place, falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst,

and all his bowels gushed out, may be no other than a delicate

mode of expressing the circumstance to which I have alluded under

observation 6, perhaps this way of reconciling and explaining the

evangelist and historian will appear, not only probable, but the

most likely. To strengthen this interpretation, a few facts may be

adduced of deaths brought about in the same way with that in which

I suppose Judas to have perished. The death of Jehoram is thus

related, 2Ch 21:18, 19:

And after all this, the Lord smote him in his bowels with an

incurable disease: and it came to pass that, after the end of two

years, HIS BOWELS FELL OUT, by reason of his sickness; so he died

of sore diseases; bethachaluim, with inflammations,

or ulcers. The death of Herod was probably of the same kind,

Ac 12:23. That of

Aristobulus, as described by Josephus, WAR, book i. chap. 3, is

of a similar nature. Having murdered his mother and brother, his

mind was greatly terrified, and his bowels being torn with

excruciating torments, he voided much blood, and died in miserable

agonies. Again, in his ANTIQ. book xv. chap. 10., sect. 3, he thus

describes the death of Zenodorus: "His bowels bursting, and his

strength exhausted by the loss of much blood, he died at Antioch

in Syria."

Taking it for granted that the death of Judas was probably such

as related above, collating all the facts and evidences together,

can any hope be formed that he died within the reach of mercy? Let

us review the whole of these transactions.

I. It must be allowed that his crime was one of the most

inexcusable ever committed by man: nevertheless, it has some

alleviations. 1. It is possible that he did not think his Master

could be hurt by the Jews. 2. When he found that he did not use

his power to extricate himself from their hands, he deeply

relented that he had betrayed him. 3. He gave every evidence of

the sincerity of his repentance, by going openly to the Jewish

rulers: (1.) Confessing his own guilt; (2.) asserting the

innocence of Christ; (3.) returning the money which he had

received from them; and there (4.) the genuineness of his regret

was proved by its being the cause of his death.

But, II. Judas might have acted a much worse part than he did:

1. By persisting in his wickedness. 2. By slandering the character

of our Lord both to the Jewish rulers and to the Romans; and, had

he done so, his testimony would have been credited, and our Lord

would then have been put to death as a malefactor, on the

testimony of one of his own disciples; and thus the character of

Christ and his Gospel must have suffered extremely in the sight of

the world, and these very circumstances would have been pleaded

against the authenticity of the Christian religion by every

infidel in all succeeding ages. And, 3. Had he persisted in his

evil way, he might have lighted such a flame of persecution

against the infant cause of Christianity as must, without the

intervention of God, have ended in its total destruction: now, he

neither did, nor endeavoured to do, any of these things. In other

cases these would be powerful pleadings.

Judas was indisputably a bad man; but he might have been worse:

we may plainly see that there were depths of wickedness to which

he might have proceeded, and which were prevented by his

repentance. Thus things appear to stand previously to his end. But

is there any room for hope in his death? In answer to this it must

be understood, 1. That there is presumptive evidence that he did

not destroy himself; and, 2. That his repentance was sincere. If

so, was it not possible for the mercy of God to extend even to his

case? It did so to the murderers of the Son of God; and they were

certainly worse men (strange as this assertion may appear) than

Judas. Even he gave them the fullest proof of Christ's innocence:

their buying the field with the money Judas threw down was the

full proof of it; and yet, with every convincing evidence before

them, they crucified our Lord. They excited Judas to betray his

Master, and crucified him when they had got him into their power;

and therefore St. Stephen calls them both the betrayers and

murderers of that Just One, Ac 7:52: in these respects they were

more deeply criminal than Judas himself; yet even to those very

betrayers and murderers Peter preaches repentance, with the

promise of remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost,

Ac 3:12-26. If, then,

these were within the reach of mercy, and we are informed that a

great company of the priests became obedient to the faith,

Ac 6:7, then certainly Judas was not in such a state as

precluded the possibility of his salvation. Surely the blood of

the covenant could wash out even his stain, as it did that more

deeply engrained one of the other betrayers and murderers of the

Lord Jesus.

Should the 25th verse be urged against this possibility, because

it is there said that Judas fell from his ministry and

apostleship, that he might go to his own place, and that this

place is hell; I answer, 1. It remains to be proved that this

place means hell; and, 2. It is not clear that the words are

spoken of Judas at all, but of Matthias: his own place meaning

that vacancy in the apostolate to which he was then elected.

See Clarke on Ac 1:25.

To say that the repentance of Judas was merely the effect of his

horror; that it did not spring from compunction of heart; that it

vas legal, and not evangelical, &c., &c., is saying what none can

with propriety say, but God himself, who searches the heart. What

renders his case most desperate are the words of our Lord,

Mt 26:24:

Wo unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been

good for that man if he had not been born! I have considered this

saying in a general point of view in my note on Mt 26:24; and,

were it not a proverbial form of speech among the Jews, to express

the state of any flagrant transgressor, I should be led to apply

it in all its literal import to the case of Judas, as I have done,

in the above note, to the case of any damned soul; but when I find

that it was a proverbial saying, and that it has been used in many

cases where the fixing of the irreversible doom of a sinner is not

implied, it may be capable of a more favourable interpretation

than what is generally given to it. I shall produce a few of those

examples from Schoettgen, to which I have referred in my note,

See Clarke on Mt 26:24.

In CHAGIGAH, fol. ii. 2, it is said: "Whoever considers these

four things, it would have been better for him had he never come

into the world, viz. That which is above-that which is below-that

which is before-and that which is behind; and whosoever does not

attend to the honour of his Creator, it were better for him had he

never been born."

In SHEMOTH RABBA, sect. 40, fol. 135, 1, 2, it is said:

"Whosoever knows the law, and does not do it, it had been better

for him had he never come into the world."

In VIYIKRA RABBA, sect. 36, fol. 179, 4, and MIDRASH COHELETH,

fol. 91, 4, it is thus expressed: "It were better for him had he

never been created; and it would have been better for him had he

been strangled in the womb, and never have seen the light of this


In SOHAR GENES. fol. 71, col. 282, it is said: "If any man be

parsimonious towards the poor, it had been better for him had he

never came into the world." Ibid. fol. 84, col. 333: "If any

performs the law, not for the sake of the law, it were good for

that man had he never been created." These examples sufficiently

prove that this was a common proverb, and is used with a great

variety and latitude of meaning, and seems intended to show that

the case of such and such persons was not only very deplorable,

but extremely dangerous; but does not imply the positive

impossibility either of their repentance or salvation.

The utmost that can be said for the case of Judas is this he

committed a heinous act of sin and ingratitude; but he repented,

and did what he could to undo his wicked act: he had committed the

sin unto death, i.e. a sin that involves the death of the body;

but who can say (if mercy was offered to Christ's murderers, and

the Gospel was first to be preached at Jerusalem that these very

murderers might have the first offer of salvation through him whom

they had pierced) that the same mercy could not be extended to the

wretched Judas? I contend that the chief priests, &c., who

instigated Judas to deliver up his Master, and who crucified

him-and who crucified him too as a malefactor-having at the same

time the most indubitable evidence of his innocence, were worse

men than Judas Iscariot himself; and that, if mercy was extended

to those, the wretched penitent traitor did not die out of the

reach of the yearning of its bowels. And I contend, farther, that

there is no positive evidence of the final damnation of Judas in

the sacred text.

I hope it will not displease the humane reader that I have

entered so deeply into the consideration of this most deplorable

case. I would not set up knowingly any plea against the claims of

justice; and God forbid that a sinner should be found capable of

pleading against the cries of mercy in behalf of a fellow culprit!

Daily, innumerable cases occur of persons who are betraying the

cause of God, and selling, in effect, Christ and their souls for

money. Every covetous man, who is living for this world alone, is

of this stamp. And yet, while they live, we do not despair of

their salvation, though they are continually repeating the sin of

Judas, with all its guilt and punishment before their eyes!

Reader! learn from thy Lord this lesson, Blessed are the merciful,

for they shall obtain mercy. The case is before the Judge, and the

Judge of all the earth will do right.

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