Acts 5

CHAPTER V.

The hypocrisy of Ananias and his wife Sapphira, and their

awful death, 1-11.

The apostles work many miracles, and the Church of God is

increased, 12-16.

The high priest and the Sadducees, being incensed against the

apostles, seize and put them in prison, 17, 18.

The angel of God delivers them, and commands them to go to the

temple, and proclaim the Gospel, 19, 20.

The high priest, having gathered the council together in the

morning, sends to the prison to have the apostles brought

before him, 21.

The offers return, and report that they found the prison shut,

and the watch set, but that the men had got out, 22, 23.

A messenger arrives in the meanwhile, and says that the

apostles are preaching in the temple, 24, 25.

The captain and officers go and bring than before the council,

who expostulate with them, 26-28.

The apostles defend themselves, and charge the council with the

murder of Christ; and assert his resurrection from the dead

and ascension to the right hand of God, 29-32.

The council are confounded, and purpose to slay the apostles,

33.

Gamaliel gives them seasonable and prudent advice, 34-39.

The council agree to it, but, before they discharge the

apostles, beat them, and command them not to teach in the name

of Jesus, 40.

They depart rejoicing in their persecution, and continue to

preach Jesus Christ, 41, 42.

NOTES ON CHAP. V.

Verse 1. But a certain man named Ananias] Of these unhappy

people we have no farther account than what is recorded here. In

reference to birth, connections, &c., their names are written in

the dust. The import of his name, chananiyah, the grace or

mercy of the Lord, agrees very ill with his conduct.

Verse 2. Kept back part of the price] Ananias and Sapphira were

evidently persons who professed faith in Christ with the rest of

the disciples. While all were making sacrifices for the present

necessity, they came forward among the rest, pretending to bring

all the money they had got for a possession, κτημα, (of what

kind we know not,) which they had sold. A part of this price,

however, they kept back, not being willing to trust entirely to

the bounty of Providence, as the others did; thinking probably,

that, as the whole was their own, they had a right to do with it

as they pleased. And so they had: they were under no necessity to

sell their possession; but the act of selling it for the

ostensible purpose of bringing it into the common stock, left them

no farther control over it, nor property in it; and their

pretense, that the money which they brought was the whole produce

of the sale, was a direct lie in itself, and an attempt to deceive

the Holy Spirit, under whose influence they pretended to act. This

constituted the iniquity of their sin.

Verse 3. Why hath Satan filled thine heart] The verb πληροειν,

which we translate to fill, Kypke has showed by many examples to

signify, to instigate, excite, impel, &c., and it was a common

belief, as well among the heathens as among the Jews and

Christians, that, when a man did evil, he was excited to it by the

influence and malice of an evil spirit. It is strange that, by the

general consent of mankind, sin against God has been ever

considered so perfectly unnatural, and so evil in itself, that no

man would commit it unless impelled to it by the agency of the

devil. The words of St. Peter here prove that such an agency is

not fictitious: if there had been no devil, as some wish and

perhaps feel it their interest to believe, or if this devil had no

influence on the souls of men, Peter, under the agency of the Holy

Spirit, would not have expressed himself in this way; for, if the

thing were not so, it would have been the most direct means to

lead the disciples to form false opinions, or to confirm them in

old and absurd prejudices.

To lie to the Holy Ghost] υευσασθαιτοπνευματοαγιον, To

deceive the Holy Spirit. Every lie is told with the intention to

deceive; and they wished to deceive the apostles, and, in effect,

that Holy Spirit under whose influence they professed to act.

Lying against the Holy Ghost is in the next verse said to be lying

against God; therefore the Holy Ghost is GOD.

To keep back part of the price] νοσφισασθαιαποτηςτιμης. The

verb νοσφιζειννοσφιζεσθαι, is used by the Greek writers to

signify purloining part of the public money, peculation. The word

is used here with great propriety, as the money for which the

estate was sold was public property; as it was for this purpose

alone that the sale was made.

Verse 4. Whiles it remained, was it not thine own?]

See Clarke on Ac 5:2, and

See Clarke on Ac 2:44.

Verse 5. Fell down, and gave up the ghost] πεσωνεξεψυξε,

Falling down, he expired, breathed his last: "Gave up the ghost"

is a very improper translation here. See Clarke on Ge 25:8,

and See Clarke on Mt 27:50. Two things may be remarked here: 1. That

the sin of this person was of no ordinary magnitude, else God would not

have visited it with so signal a punishment. 2. That Peter must

have had the power to discern the state of the heart, else he had

not known the perfidy of Ananias. This power, commonly called the

discernment of spirits, the apostles had as a particular gift,

not probably always but at select times, when God saw it necessary

for the good of his Church.

Verse 6. The young men arose] Some of the stout young men

belonging to the disciples then present, who were the fittest to

undertake a work of this kind, which required considerable bodily

exertion.

Buried him.] This was on the same day in which he died. It was a

clear case that he was dead, and dead by a judgment of God that

would not be revoked. As therefore it was no case of suspended

animation, there was no reason to delay the burial.

Verse 9. To tempt the Spirit of the Lord?] So the Holy Ghost,

God, and the Spirit of the Lord, are the same person.

Verse 10. Yielded up the ghost] See Ac 5:5. It was not by

Peter's words, nor through Peter's prayers, nor through shame,

nor through remorse, that this guilty pair died, but by an

immediate judgment of God. The question of the salvation of

Ananias and Sapphira has not been a little agitated; and most seem

inclined to hope that, though their sin was punished by this awful

display of the Divine judgment, mercy was extended to their souls.

For my own part, I think their sin was what the apostle,

1Jo 5:16, calls

a sin unto death; a sin which must be punished with temporal

death, or the death of the body, while mercy was extended to the

soul. It was right in this infant state of the Church to show

God's displeasure against deceit, fraud, and hypocrisy: had this

guilty pair been permitted to live after they had done this evil,

this long-suffering would have been infallibly abused by others;

and, instead of leading them who had sinned to repentance, might

have led them to hardness of heart by causing them to presume on

the mercy of God. That hypocrisy may be afraid to show her face,

God makes these two an example of his justice; but, because they

had not the ordinary respite, we may presume that God extended

mercy to them, though cut off almost in the act of sin. Their

case, however, cannot become a precedent, allowing them to have

received mercy; because those who have seen in this case the

severity of God must expect much sorer punishment, if, with such

an example before their eyes, they should presume on the mercy of

their Maker: this would be doing evil that good might come, and

the perdition of such would be just.

Verse 11. Great fear came upon all the Church] This judgment

answered the end for which it was inflicted; a deeply religious

fear occupied every mind, and hypocrisy and deception were

banished from this holy assembly. On the word Church, see the

observations at the end of Matt. 16. See Clarke on Mt 16:28 It has

been properly observed that we have in this place a native specimen of

a New Testament Church: 1. Called by the Gospel; 2. grafted into

Christ by baptism; 3. animated by love; 4. united by all kinds of

fellowship; 5. and disciplined by the exemplary punishment of

hypocrites. See Dodd.

Verse 12. By the hands of the apostles] This verse should be

read with the 15th, to which it properly belongs. Ac 5:15

Solomon's porch.] See Clarke on Joh 10:23.

Verse 13. And of the rest, durst no man join him self to them]

Who were these called the rest, τωνλοιπων? Dr. Lightfoot thinks

the 120 are intended, of which he supposes Ananias to have been

one; who, all seeing such wonders wrought by the apostles, were

afraid to associate themselves with them in any way of equality,

as they saw that God put peculiar honour upon them. Calmet more

rationally observes, that the Jewish nation was then divided into

many different sects, who entertained widely different opinions on

various articles. The apostles adopted none of these jarring

sentiments, and none of the different sects dared to join

themselves to them; neither Pharisees, Sadducees, nor Herodians,

as such, were found in this simple, holy Church. The people felt

the force and power of the apostles' doctrine, and magnified them,

no more attending to the teaching of the others: the apostles

taught them as men having authority, and not as the scribes and

Pharisees. This irritated the high priest and his Sadducean

council, and led them to adopt the measures mentioned below,

Ac 5:17.

Verse 14. And believers were the more added to the Lord]

Believers: 1. Those who credited the Divine mission of Christ. 2.

That he was the Messiah. 3. That he died for their sins. 4. That

he rose again. 5. That he ascended into heaven. 6. That he sent

down the gift of the Holy Spirit. 7. That he ever appeared in the

presence of God for them. 8. That it was he who gives repentance

and remission of sins. And, 9. He by whom the world is to be

judged. These were simple articles, of the truth of which they had

the fullest evidence.

Verse 15. Insomuch that they brought forth the sick] This verse

is a continuation of the subject begun in the 12th. Ac 5:12 The

following is the order in which all these verses should be read,

from the 11th to the 15th. Ac 5:11-15

Verse 11. And great fear came upon all the Church, and upon as

many as heard these things.

Verse 13. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them; but

the people magnified them:

Verse 14. And believers were the more added to the Lord, both

men and women.

Verse 12. (last clause.) And they were all with one accord in

Solomon's porch.

Verse 12. (first clause.) And by the hands of the apostles were

many signs and wonders wrought among the people;

Verse 15. Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the

streets, and laid them on beds and couches, &c., &c.

How these different verses and clauses of verses, got so

intermingled and confounded as they are now in our common text, I

cannot tell; but the above will appear at once to be the natural

order in which they should be placed.

That-the shadow of Peter passing by] I cannot see all the

miraculous influence here that others profess to see. The people

who had seen the miracles wrought by the apostles pressed with

their sick to share the healing benefit: as there must have been

many diseased people, it is not likely that the apostles, who

generally addressed such persons, prayed and used imposition of

hands, could reach all those that were brought to them, as fast as

the solicitude of their friends could wish. As, therefore, they

could not get Peter or the other apostles, personally, to all

their sick, they thought if they placed them on that side of the

way where the shadow was projected, (the sun probably now

declining, and consequently the shadow lengthening,) they should

be healed by the shadow of the man passing over them, in whose

person such miraculous powers were lodged. But it does not

appear that the persons who thus thought and acted were of the

number of those converts already made to the faith of Christ; nor

does it appear that any person was healed in this way. The sacred

penman simply relates the impression made on the people's minds;

and how they acted in consequence of this impression. A popish

writer, assuming that the shadow of Peter actually cured all on

which it was projected, argues from this precarious principle in

favour of the wonderful efficacy of relics! For, says he, "if the

shadow of a saint can do so much, how much more may his bones, or

any thing that was in contact with his person, perform!" Now,

before this conclusion can be valid, it must be proved: 1. That

the shadow of Peter did actually cure the sick; 2. That this was a

virtue common to all the apostles; 3. That all eminent saints

possess the same virtue; 4. That the bones, &c., of the dead,

possess the same virtue with the shadow of the living; 5. That

those whom they term saints were actually such; 6. That miracles

of healing have been wrought by their relics; 7. That touching

these relics as necessarily produces the miraculous healing as

they suppose the shadow of Peter to have done. I think there is

not sufficient evidence here that Peter's shadow healed any one,

though the people thought it could; but, allowing that it did, no

evidence can be drawn from this that any virtue is resident in the

relics of reputed or real saints, by which miraculous influence

may be conveyed. It was only in rare cases that God enabled even

an apostle to work a miracle.

After the words, might overshadow some of them, the Vulgate

adds, et liberarentur ab infirmitatibus suis; a Greek MS. (E) has

nearly the same words, καιρυσθωσιναποπασηςασθενειαςηςειχον,

and that they might be freed from all the infirmities which they

had: a few other MSS. agree in the main with this reading.

Verse 16. Sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean

spirits] Here it is evident that sick people are distinguished

from those who were vexed with unclean spirits; and therefore they

were not one and the same thing. The same distinction is made

Mt 4:24; 10:1; Mr 1:32, 34; 16:17, 18; and Lu 4:40, 41; 7:21.

Verse 17. The high priest-and-the sect of the Sadducees] αιρεσις

τωνσαδδουκαιων, The heresy of the Sadducees. In this place, as

well as in several others, the word αιρεσις, heresy, has no evil

meaning in itself; it is a word of distinction, and may receive

either a good or bad colouring from the persons or opinions

designated by it. It signifies a sect or party, whether good or

bad, distinguished from any other sect. αιρεσις, heresy, comes

from αιρεω, I choose, and was anciently applied to the different

sects of the heathen philosophers, the members of each sect having

chosen their own in preference to all the others. It has been

applied among ecclesiastical writers in the same way-when a man

chooses one party of Christians, in preference to others, to be

his companions in the way of salvation; and he chooses them and

their creed and Christian discipline, because he believes the

whole to be more consistent with the oracles of God than any of

the rest. The Church of Rome has thought proper to attach a very

bad meaning to this innocent word, and then apply it to all

those who can neither credit her transubstantiation, depend on her

purgatory, nor worship her relics. A heretic, in her

acceptation, is one who is not a papist, and, because not a

papist, utterly out of the way and out of the possibility of being

saved. These persons should recollect that, by a then persecuting

brother, St. Paul, all the apostles, and the whole Church of

Christ, were termed ναζωραιωναιρεσις, the heresy of the

Nazarenes, Ac 24:5; and it was

after the way which the persecuting Jews called heresy that St.

Paul and the rest of the apostles worshipped the God of their

fathers, Ac 24:14; and it was according to the

strictest HERESY in the Jewish Church, ακιριβεστατηναιρεσιν,

that St. Paul lived before his conversion, Ac 26:5; and we find,

from Ac 28:22, that the

whole Church of Christ was termed this heresy, ταυτηςαιρεσεως,

and this by persons who intended no reproach, but wished simply to

distinguish the Christians from scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, &c.

Heresy therefore, in its first acceptation, signifies simply a

choice: afterwards it was applied to designate all those persons

who made the same choice; and hence the word sect and it became

synonymous: in process of time it was applied to those professing

Christianity who made, in some cases, a different choice as to

some article of faith, or form of worship, from those which had

obtained in that part of the Church with which they had been

before connected. The majority, from whom they became thus

separated, spoke evil of them, and treated them ill, because they

presumed to choose for themselves on the foundation of the Holy

Scriptures; and because they would take nothing for the truth of

God that was not accredited from heaven. Thus, when the people now

called Protestants, began to examine their creed according to the

Holy Scriptures, and, in consequence of this examination, left out

auricular confession, indulgences, the priests' power to forgive

sins, adoration of saints, angels, and relics, purgatory, and the

doctrine of transubstantiation, because they could not find them

in the word of God, the papists called them heretics, by which

they meant, in opposition to the meaning of the word, persons

holding damnable errors; and, as such, they persecuted, burnt, and

destroyed them wherever they had power. Now be it known to these

persecutors, that the Protestants still choose to reject opinions

and practices which they know to be unscriptural, absurd, and

superstitious; and which they have a thousand times demonstrated

to be such: and, on this ground, may they still be HERETICS!

Were filled with indignation.] ζηλου, With zeal. ζηλος,

from ζεω, to be hot, and λα or λιαν, very much,

signifies a vehement affection or disposition of the mind, which,

according to its object, is either good or bad, laudable or

blamable. Its meaning in this place is easily discerned; and not

improperly translated indignation, in our version. We need not be

surprised that the Sadducees were filled with indignation, because

the apostles proclaimed the resurrection of Christ, and, through

that, the general resurrection, which was diametrically opposed to

their doctrine; for they denied the possibility of a resurrection,

and believed not in the being of either angel or spirit; nor did

they allow of the existence of a spiritual world.

See Clarke on Ac 4:2.

Verse 18. Put them in the common prison.] It being too late in

the evening to bring them to a hearing. To this verse the Codex

Bezae adds, καιεπορευθηειςεκαστοςειςταιδια, And each of them

went to his own house.

Verse 19. But the angel of the Lord-opened the prison doors]

This was done: 1. To increase the confidence of the apostles, by

showing them that they were under the continual care of God; and,

2. To show the Jewish rulers that they were fighting against Him

while persecuting his followers, and attempting to prevent them

from preaching the Gospel. This was another warning graciously

given them by a good and merciful God, that they might repent, and

so escape the coming wrath.

Verse 20. All the words of this life.] All the doctrines of life

eternal, founded on the word, death, and resurrection of Christ

Jesus. This is another periphrasis for Gospel. Go to the

temple-the most public place, and speak to the people-who come

there to worship according to the law, the words of this life-the

whole doctrine of salvation from sin and death; and show that the

law is fulfilled in the sacrifice of Jesus, and that, by his

resurrection, he has brought life and immortality to light.

Verse 21. Called the council together] συνεδριον The sanhedrin,

all the senate; τηνγερουσιαν, the elders, or what we would call

the aldermen. How these differed from the πρεσβυτεριον,

presbytery, if they did differ, is not now known.

Verse 23. The prison truly found we shut] All the doors were

properly bolted, and the keepers at their post; but when we had

opened, for it appears they were alone in possession of the keys;

how much must this have increased their astonishment when they

found that the doors were not broken open, the guards properly

posted, and every thing as they left it, for they themselves had

put the apostles in prison; but, when they had opened, there was

no man within!

Verse 24. They doubted of them whereunto this would grow.] They

did not know what to think of the apostles, whether they had saved

themselves by magic, or whether they were delivered by a real

miracle; and they were at a loss to tell what the issue of these

things would be.

Verse 25. Then came one and told them] While they were in the

perplexity mentioned above, a messenger surprised them with the

information that the very men whom they had imprisoned the

preceding night were standing in the temple and teaching the

people!

Verse 26. Brought them without violence] On receiving the

information mentioned above, proper officers were sent to seize

and bring them before the council. The officers, on reaching the

temple, found the multitude gladly receiving the doctrine of the

apostles, and so intent on hearing all the words of this life that

they were afraid to show any hostility to the apostles, lest the

people should stone them; we may therefore conclude that the

officers entreated them to accompany them to the council; and that

they felt it their duty to obey every ordinance of man for the

Lord's sake, and so cheerfully went with them, trusting in the

Lord their God.

Verse 28. Did not we straitly command you] ουπαραγγελια

παρηγγειλαμεν, With commanding did we not command you; a

Hebraism-another proof of the accuracy and fidelity of St. Luke,

who seems always to give every man's speech as he delivered it;

not the substance, but the very words. See Ac 4:17.

Not teach in this name?] That is, of JESUS as the Christ or

Messiah. His saving name, and the doctrines connected with it,

were the only theme and substance of their discourses.

Intend to bring this men's blood upon us.] You speak in such a

way of him to the people as to persuade them that we have

crucified an innocent man; and that we must on that account fall

victims to the Divine vengeance, or to the fury of the people,

whom, by your teaching, you are exciting to sedition against us.

Verse 29. We ought to obey God rather than men.] The same answer

they gave before, Ac 4:19, founded on the same reason, which

still stood good. We have received our commission from GOD; we

dare not lay it down at the desire or command of men.

See Clarke on Ac 4:19.

Verse 30. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus] It was well to

introduce this, that the council might at once see that they

preached no strange God; and that he who so highly honoured the

patriarchs, Moses, and the prophets, had yet more highly honoured

Jesus Christ in raising him from the dead and seating him at his

right hand, and proclaiming him as the only giver of salvation and

the repentance which leads to it.

Whom ye slew] They charge them again with the murder of Christ,

as they had done before, Ac 4:10-12, where see the notes.

Verse 31. Him hath God exalted with his right hand] By a

supereminent display of his almighty power, for so the right hand

of God often means; he has raised him from the dead, and raised

his human nature to the throne of his glory. Instead of δεξια, the

right hand, the Codex Bezae has δοξη, to glory.

A Prince] The leader or director in the way. See the notes on

Ac 3:15, 19.

And a Saviour] σωτηρα, A deliverer or preserver. The word

σωτηρ comes from σωω to save, deliver, preserve, escape from

death or danger, bring into a state of security or safety. JESUS

and SAVIOUR are nearly of the same import.

See Clarke on Joh 1:17. He alone

delivers from sin, death, and hell: by him alone we escape

from the snares and dangers to which we are exposed: and it is by

and in him, and in connection with him, that we are preserved

blameless and harmless, and made the sons of God without rebuke.

He alone can save the soul from sin, and preserve it in that state

of salvation.

To give repentance] See this explained, Mt 3:2.

Forgiveness of sins.] αφεσιντωναμαρτιων, The taking away of

sins. This is not to be restrained to the mere act of

justification; it implies the removal of sin, whether its power,

guilt, or impurity be considered. Through Jesus we have the

destruction of the power, the pardon of the guilt, and the

cleansing from the pollution, of sin. And was Jesus Christ

exalted a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance and remission of

sins to ISRAEL? Then none need despair. If such as were now before

the apostles could be saved, then the salvation of the very worst

of transgressors, of any or all on this side perdition, is

gloriously possible. Yes, for he tasted death for every man; and

he prayed for his murderers, compared to some of whom JUDAS

himself was a saint.

The two words in Italics, in this text, to be, are impertinently

introduced; it reads much better without them.

Verse 32. We are his witnesses] The word αυτου, his, is

omitted by AD, and several others of good note; the Syriac, all

the Arabic, AEthiopic, and Vulgate. It does not seem to be

necessary.

Of these things] τωνπηματωντουτων, Of these transactions:

i.e. of Christ's life and miracles, and of your murderous

proceedings against him.

And so is also the Holy Ghost] In the gift of tongues lately

communicated; and by his power and influence on our souls, by

which we are enabled to give irresistible witness of our Lord's

resurrection.

To them that obey him.] We obey GOD, not you; and therefore God

gives us this Spirit, which is in us a fountain of light, life,

love, and power. The Spirit of God is given to the obedient: in

proportion as a man who has received the first influences of it

(for without this he cannot move in the spiritual life) is

obedient to those influences, in the same proportion the gifts and

graces, the light, life, and power, of the Holy Spirit, are

increased in his soul.

Verse 33. They were cut to the heart] διεπριοντο, Literally,

they were sawn through, from δια through, and πριω, to

saw. They were stung to the heart, not with compunction nor

remorse, but with spite, malice, and revenge: for, having the

murder of Christ thus brought home to their consciences, in the

first feelings of their malice and revenge, they thought of

destroying the persons who had witnessed their nefarious conduct.

Verse 34. A Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law]

"This," says Dr. Lightfoot, "was Rabban Gamaliel the first;

commonly, by way of distinction, called Rabban Gamaliel the elder.

He was president of the council after the death of his own father,

Rabban Simeon, who was the son of Hillel. He was St. Paul's

master, and the 35th receiver of the traditions, and on this

account might not be improperly termed νομοδιδασκαλος, a doctor of

the law, because he was one that kept and handed down the Cabala

received from Mount Sinai. He died eighteen years before the

destruction of Jerusalem, his son Simeon succeeding him in the

chair, who perished in the ruins of the city." Though probably no

favourer of Christianity, yet, for a Pharisee, he seems to have

possessed a more liberal mind than most of his brethren; the

following advice was at once humane, sensible, candid, and

enlightened.

Verse 35. What ye intend to do] τιμελλετεπρασσειν, What ye are

about to do: they had already intended to destroy them; and they

were now about to do it.

Verse 36. Rose up Theudas] Josephus, Ant. lib. xx. cap. 4, sect.

1, mentions one named Theudas who was the author of an

insurrection; about whom there has been much controversy whether

he were the person spoken of here by Gamaliel. Every circumstance,

as related by Josephus agrees well enough with what is referred to

here, except the chronology; for the Theudas mentioned by Josephus

made his insurrection when Fadus was governor of Judea; which was

at least ten years after the time in which the apostles were

brought before this council. Much labour has been thrown away in

unsuccessful attempts to reconcile the historian and the

evangelist, when it is very probable they speak of different

transactions. Bp. Pearce thinks "the whole difficulty will

disappear if we follow the opinion of Abp. Usher, who imagined

that Luke's Theudas was the same with that Judas of whom Josephus

gives this account, Ant. lib. xvii. cap. 12, sect. 5; and War,

lib. ii. cap. 4, sect. 1: 'that a little after the death of Herod

the Great, he raised an insurrection in Galilee, and aimed at

getting the sovereignty of Judea,' and that he was defeated and

put to death, as is implied in sect. 10, of the same chapter. That

Theudas and Judas might be names for the same person, Bp.

Pearce thinks probable from the consideration, that the same

apostle who is called Judas in Joh 14:22, and Lu 6:16, and

called Jude in Jude 1:1, is, in Mr 3:18, called

Thaddeus; and, in Mt 10:3, is also called

Lebbeus. This apostle having the names Judas and Thaddeus and

Lebbeus given to him, two of these must have been the same;

because no Jew had more than two names, unless when a patronymic

name was given to him, as when Joseph surnamed Justus was called

Barsabas, i.e. the son of Saba. It is no unreasonable thing to

suppose that Thaddeus and Theudas are the same name; and that

therefore the person called Theudas in Luke is probably the same

whom Josephus, in the places above quoted, calls Judas."

Dr. Lightfoot thinks that "Josephus has made a slip in his

chronology;" and rather concludes that the Theudas mentioned in

the Ant. lib. xx. cap. 4, sect. 1, is the person referred to in

the text. I confess the matter does not appear to me of so much

consequence; it is mentioned by Gamaliel in a careless way, and

St. Luke, as we have already seen, scrupulously gives the Lords of

every speaker. The story was no doubt well known, and there were

no doubts formed on it by the Jewish Council. We see plainly the

end for which it was produced; and we see that it answered this

end most amply; and certainly we have no farther concern with

Gamaliel or his story.

Boasting himself to be somebody] λεγονειναιτιναεαυτον, Saying

that he was a great personage, i.e., according to the supposition

of Bp. Pearce, setting himself up to be king of the Jews: see the

preceding note. After εαυτον, himself, μαγαν, great one, is

added by several very respectable MSS. and versions.

Verse 37. Judas of Galilee] Concerning Judas of Galilee, Rabbi

Abraham, in Jucasin, fol. 139, writes thus: "In this time there

were three sects: for, besides the Pharisees and Sadducees, Judas

of Galilee began another sect, which was called Essenes. They

caused the Jews to rebel against the Romans, by asserting that

they should not obey strangers; nor call any one Lord (or

Governor) but the holy blessed God above." Rabbi Abraham makes a

mistake here: the Essenes existed long before the days of Judas of

Galilee; but it is very possible that he might have been one of

that sect. Josephus mentions the insurrection made by Judas of

Galilee, Ant. lib. xviii. cap. 1, and says it was when Cyrenius

was governor of Syria: See Clarke on Lu 2:2. Bp. Pearce

supposes that there were two απογραφαι, taxations or enrolments;

and that the one mentioned here took place ten years after that

mentioned in Lu 2:1-5. He observes also, in conformity with the

note on the preceding verse, that the Judas mentioned here, was

not only different from that Judas or Theudas spoken of before,

but that his pretence for rebellion was different; the former

wished to have the empire of Judea; the latter only maintained

that it was base and sinful to obey a heathen governor.

Verse 38. Refrain from these men] Do not molest them, leave them

to God; for if this counsel and work be of man it will come to

nought, like the rebellion of Theudas, and that of Judas of

Galilee: for whatever pretends to be done in the name of God, but

is not of him, will have his curse and not his blessing. He whose

name is prostituted by it will vindicate his injured honour, and

avenge himself.

Verse 39. But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it] Because

his counsel cannot fail; and his work cannot be counteracted. If

he be determined that this doctrine shall prevail, it is vain for

us to attempt to suppress it.

Lest haply ye be found-to fight against God.] μηποτεκαι

θεομαχοιευρεθητε. Some have thought that they saw a parallel to

these words in the speech of Diomede, when, seeing Mars,

associated with Hector, oppose the Grecians, he judged farther

opposition vain, and desired his troops to retire from the battle.

τωδαιειπαραειςγεθεωνοςλοιγοναμυνει.

καινυνοιπαρακεινοςαρηςβροτωανδριεοικως.

αλλαπροςτρωαςτετραμμενοιαιενοπισσω

εικετεμηδεθεοιςμενεαινεμενιφιμαχεσθαι.

Iliad, lib. v. 603.

Protected always by some power divine;

And Mars attends this moment at his side,

In form a man. Ye therefore still retire,

But facing still your foes: nor battle wage,

However fierce, yet fruitless, with the gods.

COWPER.

Verse 40. To him they agreed] That is, not to slay the apostles,

nor to attempt any farther to imprison them; but their malevolence

could not be thus easily satisfied; and therefore they beat

them-probably gave each of them thirty-nine stripes; and, having

commanded them not to speak in the name of Jesus, they let them

go. It was of JESUS they were afraid: not of the apostles. They

plainly saw that, if the doctrine of Christ was preached, it must

prevail; and, if it prevailed, they must come to nought. It was a

wise saying of the popish bishops in the time of Queen Mary-If we

do not put down this PRINTING, it will put us down: They laboured

to put down the printing, but they could not; and, under God, the

printing, by exposing the wickedness of their doctrine and

practices, and especially by multiplying copies of the New

Testament, did most effectually put them down.

Verse 41. Rejoicing that they there counted worthy, &c.] The

whole verse may be read thus: But they departed rejoicing from the

presence of the sanhedrin, because they there deemed worthy to be

dishonoured on account of THE NAME. The word, αυτου, his, is

omitted by ABCD, several others; Erpen's Syriac, and the Coptic.

THE NAME, probably, by this time, distinguished both the author of

salvation and the sacred system of doctrine which the apostles

preached. To rejoice in persecution, and triumph in the midst of

pain, shame, disgrace, and various threatened deaths, is the

privilege of the New Testament. Nothing of this kind, as far as I

can recollect, appears even in the choicest saints under the Old

Testament dispensation. Some of them fretted and mourned, and

sometimes even murmured; some merely possessed their souls in

patience; Christians exulted and triumphed in the God of their

salvation. This is no mean proof of the additional light and

evidence which the New Testament dispensation affords.

Verse 42. Daily in the temple] That is at the hours of morning

and evening prayer; for they felt it their duty to worship God in

public, and to help others to make a profitable use of the

practice. Every man that professes Christianity should, in this

respect also, copy their conduct: nor can any man be considered to

have any religion, let his sentiments be what they may, who does

not attend on the public worship of his Maker.

They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus.] Far from desisting,

they became more zealous, yea, incessant, in their work. They took

advantage of the public assemblies in the temple, as well as of

all private opportunities, to teach all the truths of their holy

religion; and to preach, proclaim Jesus as the only Messiah, that

he who was crucified rose from the dead, and was exalted a Prince

and a Saviour at the right hand of God. How little must these men

have regarded their lives, who in the midst of such danger could

pursue a line of conduct which, to all human views, must terminate

in their ruin. They loved their Master, they loved his work, they

loved their thankless countrymen, they loved their present

wages-persecution and stripes, and hated nothing but their own

lives! These men were proper persons to be employed in converting

the world. Preachers of the Gospel, look at those men, and learn

at once your duty, your employment, and your interest. Live and

preach like apostles, and God will crown your labours with similar

success.

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