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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 36: Acts, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

Acts 13:27-31

27. For those which dwelt in Jerusalem, and their rulers, seeing that they knew him not, neither the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day; when they had condemned him, they fulfilled them. 28. And when they found no cause of death in him, they desired Pilate that he would crucify him. 29. And after that they had fulfilled all things which were written of him, when they had taken him down from the tree, they put him in a tomb. 30. But God raised him up from the dead. 31. Who appeared many days to those which went up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses to the people.


27. He doth wisely, and in due time, prevent an offense which might have been a great hindrance to their faith, [men’s faith.] For Jerusalem was God’s sanctuary, the king’s seat, the fountain of truth, and the light of the whole world; but Christ was put to death there. Furthermore, nothing could seem more absurd to look to than to receive him who was cast out of the temple of God; and to seek the doctrine of salvation any where else than there whence God himself had testified it should come. Moreover, by believing in Christ, they seemed to make a departure from the Church; and, therefore, this one objection was strong enough to refute all Paul’s sermon, Why dost thou force upon us, under color of God’s covenant, a man whom the principal part of the holy people condemned? This objection doth Paul answer, lest it hinder the course of the gospel; and not that only, but he turneth it also to the contrary part; for seeing that the author of life was despised and rejected at Jerusalem, Paul exhorteth the men of Antioch, at least those who among them feared God, that they receive him so much the more joyfully; for this doth the causal word declare, as if he should have said, Seeing that Jerusalem knew not her good, it behoveth you to be the more awakened and inflamed, lest the same unthankfulness and forwardness be found in you.

But he useth another reason to remove the offense, to wit, that their ungodliness was so far from diminishing any whit of Christ’s divine excellency, that it ought rather to serve to prove and establish the same, for whereby doth Christ better appear than because all that was fulfilled in him which had been foretold in the law and prophets? (Luke 24:25, 26.) Furthermore, what got the enemies of Christ, save only that in him shined the plain truth of the Scripture? It must needs be that Christ should be rejected of the chief, for it was so foretold,

“The stone which the builders refused hath
God made the head of the corner,” (Ps 118:22.)

Christ must needs have been condemned among the wicked, that he might acquit us before God; it was expedient that sins should be laid upon him, that he might make satisfaction for the same; that he should be offered upon the cross, that the shadowish sacrifices of the law might cease; for even the Scripture contained these things, (Isa. 53:4, 5; Da 9:26.)

Therefore, the more violently the captains of the people sought to extinguish Christ, they did in very deed prove him to be Christ, and the Lord did wonderfully deceive [frustrate] them, so that their obstinate impiety doth more edify the faith of the godly than destroy it. Of the same sort are almost all offenses which lead away weak and inconstant souls from Christ; for if they would thoroughly ponder the whole process of the work of God, there should be matter of confirmation where they faint. Therefore it cometh to pass, for the most part, that  802 we be troubled with offenses and stumbling-blocks, because, whilst we behold those things which belong to Christ with purblind eyes,  803 we imagine that to be black which is white; and we see how far Paul is from dissimulation, and how freely  804 he professeth the truth of the matter, that Christ was hated not only of the common sort, but also of the chief chieftains; and that he was not hissed at by a few, but oppressed by the wicked conspiracy of all the people. That was hard and hateful at the first conflict; but Paul opposeth a more strong engine, that God used them against their wills as a touchstone, whereby he might try his Son. Seeing that the gospel standeth in the same state at this day, let us not be ashamed, with Paul, to confess that the proud princes of the world, and those who bear the greatest sway in the Church, are the deadly enemies of Christ, seeing that doth rather turn to Christ’s praise than reproach; for by this means is the Scripture fulfilled.

Seeing they knew him not. Though deliberate malice did enforce the rulers to oppress Christ, yet doth Paul truly impute it to ignorance,  805 because otherwise they would never have crucified the Lord of glory, (1Co 2:8.) For the malice of the wicked is like to raging madness, and in seeing it doth not see. Undoubtedly, we need not doubt of this, that they were deprived of a sound mind and the light of the Spirit, who were not afraid to fight against God to their own destruction. Again, he hitteth them in the teeth with ignorance of the Scripture; and lest any should object that he speaketh of some dark and unknown manner; he addeth also, that he doth speak of no other prophecies than of those which are read every Sabbath day; as if he should say, that the oracles of Scripture are most plain and known to the most ignorant, and yet they knew them not. Thus doth Paul teach how monstrous their unbelief was, that he may make the hearers loathe it; and by this example are we taught, that although the Lord appears to us by the Scripture, yet all men have not eyes. After that also the blockishness of the nation waxed more gross, as Paul saith elsewhere, that there is a veil put before their face, that they cannot see Moses when he is present, (2Co 3:15.) In the mean season, we must note that we are recalled to the Scripture, lest the authority of great men deceive us, neither is there any cause why any man, inventing to himself a prejudice according to the wicked meaning of other men, should think that he is acquitted; for Paul exhorteth the men of Antioch to judge out of the Scripture against the visored governors of the Church;  806 for this cause is it given, that it may be read; and reading is not appointed in vain by the Lord; but that all godly men may thereby profit and judge what is right.

This they fulfilled. So that we see that not only creatures void of understanding, but even the very devil, and also the wicked, are subject to the power  807 of God, that he may execute by them that which with himself he hath decreed. The same had we in the third and fourth chapters, (Ac 3:23; Ac 4:28,) that when the enemies of Christ did most of all rage to destroy him, yet could they not obtain their purpose; but rather they brought that to pass with their own hands which God had in his counsel determined; which thing maketh not a little for commendation of God’s truth, because he is not only of sufficient power to perform those things which he hath promised; but also those who go about to bring his counsels to nought do their endeavor to establish them, though it be against their will. For how should not the truth of God stand which the chiefest enemies are enforced to fulfill? Yet wisdom is necessary here, lest we join God and Satan together.

For the Jews are not therefore excusable, because they fulfilled the Scriptures; because we must consider their wicked will, and not the event, which they did not look for, yea, which ought to be counted a miracle. If we look into their work by itself, it is quite contrary to God; but as God doth, in the sun and other planets, by wonderful cunning, temper contrary motions, and such as strive among themselves, so he directeth the perverse endeavors of the wicked, by his secret power, unto another end than they thought upon and did desire, lest they should do any thing but that which he would. They, indeed, as touching themselves, do contrary to his will; but it falleth out according to the will of God after an incomprehensible manner. Forasmuch as this course is contrary to nature, no marvel if the wisdom of the flesh see it not. Therefore, it must be discerned with the eye of faith, or rather it must be reverenced; and those dogs who bark against it must be despised with their wantonness.  808

28. When as they found no cause of death. It was very pertinent to the matter that they should know that Christ was put to death guiltless, for we could not have been justified by his death, if he had suffered death for his own evil deeds; therefore it was requisite that he should be guiltless, that his death might be a satisfaction for the sins of the world. And, undoubtedly, I think that Paul did plainly declare that Pilate condemned Christ, not according to the office of a judge, but that he consented that he should be put to death after that he was overcome with the ungodly requests of the people; and also that the Jews were driven by lust, and not enforced by reason, to desire Christ’s death.: For it stood him upon to terrify the hearers, that they might not couple themselves  809 to so wicked a fact. But Luke doth now in few words set down, after his common custom, those things which Paul did then more at large declare.

29. When they had fulfilled all things; to wit, which it pleased God should be done by them. For they did so handle Christ that there was nothing of the prophecies of the Scripture left unfulfilled. By this means is the stumbling-block (which the understanding of the flesh conceiveth by reason of the ignominy of the cross) taken away, that the Son of God was not laid open to the furious fury of the wicked; but he obeyed his fathers decree. Furthermore, it doth also in Scripture appear what condition was appointed for him in times past. Whereas he saith that Christ was buried by the same which had slain him, it seemeth contrary to the history of the gospel; but it may be that Luke did take the word buried indefinitely. And if it please you to refer it unto the same, it shall be synecdoche. For he was buried with Pilate’s leave; and at the appointment and pleasure of the priests there were watchmen set to watch the grave. Therefore, though Joseph and Nicodemus did bury Christ, (Mt 27:57,) that is ascribed improperly, and yet not absurdly, to the Jews; because it is not Paul’s drift in this place to commend the good deed, but to prove Christ’s resurrection; because God took him out of the grave whom his enemies had shut up there. Therefore he giveth us to understand that the body of Christ was not taken thence privily or by stealth, but that it was laid in a place both famous and known to the adversaries; and so, consequently, that even they were set to watch it; and yet for all this it was not found: whence we may gather the certainty of the resurrection.

30. God hath raised him up. The death of Christ was the salvation of the godly, yet joined with the resurrection; therefore doth Paul stand longer upon this second point. For he should never have persuaded his hearers that they were to seek salvation in Christ’s death, unless the power of Almighty God had appeared in raising Christ from death.

31. After that he hath said that Christ came out of the grave, which was beset with the hired ministers of the adversaries, he addeth now that he appeared to many of the disciples, which bare faithful witness to the people. And he calleth them witnesses, either in respect of their office; because they were chosen for this purpose, as we have already said in the first chapter, (Ac 1:8;) or else declaring simply that they professed openly and freely that which they knew concerning Christ. Whereupon it followeth that the matter was made known openly  810 at Jerusalem. And the proof was not so light; because, in the fearful power of the enemies, who were ready and bent to resist, and did omit nothing, there were, notwithstanding, such as did openly affirm that Christ rose again, and were also such as saw that thing with their eyes; for if there had been any refutation in readiness, the scribes would not have neglected it.



Nostra socordia,” by our sluggishness.


Torvis aut lusciosis,” with stern or purblind eyes.


Ingenue,” ingenuously.


Sicut alibi, quum dicit, absconditam esse mundi principibus evangelii sapientiam,” as elsewhere, when he says, That the wisdom of the gospel was hid from the princes of the world, omitted.


Larvatos Ecclesiae praesules,” pretended prelates of the Church.


Providentiae,” the providence.


Petulantla,” petulance.


Se adjungerent socios,” join themselves as associates.


Probe fuisse testatem,” was well attested.

Next: Acts 13:32-37