Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The hypocrisy of Ananias and his wife Sapphira, and their awful death, Act 5:1-11. The apostles work many miracles, and the Church of God is increased, Act 5:12-16. The high priest and the Sadducees, being incensed against the apostles, seize and put them in prison, Act 5:17, Act 5:18. The angel of God delivers them, and commands them to go to the temple, and proclaim the Gospel, Act 5:19, Act 5:20. The high priest, having gathered the council together in the morning, sends to the prison to have the apostles brought before him, Act 5:21. The offers return, and report that they found the prison shut, and the watch set, but that the men had got out, Act 5:22, Act 5:23. A messenger arrives in the meanwhile, and says that the apostles are preaching in the temple, Act 5:24, Act 5:25. The captain and officers go and bring than before the council, who expostulate with them, Act 5:26-28. 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, Act 5:29-32. The council are confounded, and purpose to slay the apostles, Act 5:33. Gamaliel gives them seasonable and prudent advice, Act 5:34-39. The council agree to it, but, before they discharge the apostles, beat them, and command them not to teach in the name of Jesus, Act 5:40. They depart rejoicing in their persecution, and continue to preach Jesus Christ, Act 5:41, Act 5:42.
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, etc., their names are written in the dust. The import of his name, חנניה chananiyah, the grace or mercy of the Lord, agrees very ill with his conduct.
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.
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, etc., 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 - Ψευσασθαι το Πνευμα το Ἁγιον, 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 - Νοσφισασθαι απο της τιμης. The verb νοσφιζειν, νοσφιζεσθαι, 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.
Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? - See the note on Act 5:2, and see that also on Act 2:44 (note).
Fell down, and gave up the ghost - Πεσων εξεψυξε, Falling down, he expired, breathed his last: "Gave up the ghost" is a very improper translation here. See the notes on Gen 25:8, and on Mat 27:50 (note). 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.
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.
To tempt the Spirit of the Lord? - So the Holy Ghost, God, and the Spirit of the Lord, are the same person.
Yielded up the ghost - See Act 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, Jo1 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.
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 Matthew 16 (note). 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.
By the hands of the apostles - This verse should be read with the 15th, to which it properly belongs.
Solomon's porch - See the note on Joh 10:23.
And of the rest, durst no man join him self to them - Who were these called the rest, των λοιπων? 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 honor 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, Act 5:17.
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.
Insomuch that they brought forth the sick - This verse is a continuation of the subject begun in the 12th. The following is the order in which all these verses should be read, from the 11th to the 15th.
Act 5:11. And great fear came upon all the Church, and upon as many as heard these things.
Act 5:13. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them; but the people magnified them:
Act 5:14. And believers were the more added to the Lord, both men and women.
Act 5:12. (last clause.) And they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch.
Act 5:12. (first clause.) And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people;
Act 5:15. Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, etc., etc.
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 favor 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, etc., 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, και ῥυσθωσιν απο πασης ασθενειας ἡς ειχον, and that they might be freed from all the infirmities which they had: a few other MSS. agree in the main with this reading.
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 Mat 4:24; Mat 10:1; Mar 1:32, Mar 1:34; Mar 16:17, Mar 16:18; and Luk 4:40, Luk 4:41; Luk 7:21.
The high priest - and - the sect of the Sadducees - Αἱρεσις των Σαδδουκαιων, The heresy of the Sadducees. In this place, as well as in several others, the word αἱρεσις, 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. Αἱρεσις, heresy, comes from αἱρεω, 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 Ναζωραιων αἱρεσις, the heresy of the Nazarenes, Act 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, Act 24:14; and it was according to the strictest Hersey in the Jewish Church, ακριβεστατην αἱρεσιν, that St. Paul lived before his conversion, Act 26:5; and we find, from Act 28:22, that the whole Church of Christ was termed this heresy, ταυτης αἱρεσεως, and this by persons who intended no reproach, but wished simply to distinguish the Christians from scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, etc. 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 on Act 4:2 (note).
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, και επορευθη εἱς ἑκαστος εις τα ιδια, And each of them went to his own house.
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.
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.
Called the council together - Συνεδριον The sanhedrin, all the senate; την γερουσιαν, the elders, or what we would call the aldermen. How these differed from the πρεσβυτεριον, presbytery, if they did differ, is not now known.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Did not we straitly command you - Ου παραγγελιᾳ 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 Act 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.
We ought to obey God rather than men - The same answer they gave before, Act 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 the note on Act 4:19.
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 honored the patriarchs, Moses, and the prophets, had yet more highly honored 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, Act 4:10-12, where see the notes.
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 δεξιᾳ, the right hand, the Codex Bezae has δοξῃ, to glory.
A Prince - The leader or director in the way. See the notes on Act 3:15, Act 3:19.
And a Savior - 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 the note 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, Mat 3:2 (note).
Forgiveness of sins - Αφεσιν των ἁμαρτιων, 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 Savior 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.
We are his witnesses - The word αυτου, his, is omitted by AD, and several others of good note; the Syriac, all the Arabic, Ethiopic, and Vulgate. It does not seem to be necessary.
Of these things - Των ῥηματων τουτων, 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.
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.
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.
What ye intend to do - Τι μελλετε πρασσειν, What ye are about to do: they had already intended to destroy them; and they were now about to do it.
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 labor 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 Luk 6:16, and called Jude in Jde 1:1, is, in Mar 3:18, called Thaddeus; and, in Mat 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 - Λεγων ειναι τινα ἑαυτον, 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 ἑαυτον, himself, μεγαν, great one, is added by several very respectable MSS. and versions.
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 the note on Luk 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 Luk 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 pretense 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.
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 honor, and avenge himself.
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 - Μηποτε και θεομαχοι εὑρεθητε. 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.
Τῳ δ' αιει παρα εἱς γε θεων, ὁς λοιγον αμυνει·
Και νυν οἱ παρα κεινος Αρης, βροτῳ ανδρι εοικως.
Αλλα προς Τρωας τετραμμενοι αιεν οπισσω
Εικετε, μηδε Θεοις μενεαινεμεν ιφι μαχεσθαι.
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.
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 labored 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.
Rejoicing that they there counted worthy, etc. - The whole verse may be read thus: But they departed rejoicing from the presence of the sanhedrin, because they there deemed worthy to be dishonored 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.
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 Savior 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 labors with similar success.