|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:15-24 St. Paul was wonderfully brought to the knowledge and faith of Christ. All who are savingly converted, are called by the grace of God; their conversion is wrought by his power and grace working in them. It will but little avail us to have Christ revealed to us, if he is not also revealed in us. He instantly prepared to obey, without hesitating as to his worldly interest, credit, ease, or life itself. And what matter of thanksgiving and joy is it to the churches of Christ, when they hear of such instances to the praise of the glory of his grace, whether they have ever seen them or not! They glorify God for his power and mercy in saving such persons, and for all the service to his people and cause that is done, and may be further expected from them.
Verse 19. - But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother (ἔτερον δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων οὐκ εϊδον εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ Κυρίου); but no one besides of the apostles saw I, unless it were James the Lord's brother. The words," unless it were," are here proposed as a rendering of εἰ μή, as betokening a certain degree of hesitancy on the apostle's part as to the perfect justness of the exception which he makes. The reason of this will appear if we consider that "James the Lord's brother" was not really one of the apostles; but nevertheless, through the position which he held in the Church of Jerusalem, and through various circumstances attaching to him, stood in general estimation so near to the revered twelve, that St. Paul felt he was required, in connection with his present statement, to make this reference to him, when affirming so solemnly that Cephas was the only apostle that he then saw. For a fuller discussion of the personality of "James the Lord's brother," the reader is referred to the additional note at the end of this chapter. How it came about that St. Peter was the only one of the twelve that St. Paul then saw, there are no certain grounds for determining. The intimation in Acts 8:1 that, in the persecution which ensued upon the martyrdom of Stephen, the apostles still remained at Jerusalem when they of the Church there were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, relates to a period two or three years previous. The state of things was no doubt now quite different; the Church had come together again; but the apostles may for the most part have been absent in the country, engaged in their apostolic labours, as St. Peter himself is soon after described as being (cf. Acts 9:31, 32). The surmise that this was the cause appears more probable than the view which supposes them to have continued distrustful, now that the two great leaders, Cephas and James, had been won over to frankly and publicly recognize the new convert. A difficulty has been thought to result from a comparison of these words of St. Paul with St. Luke's statement in Acts 9:15, 16, that Barnabas took and brought him to "the apostles," and that he "was with them" going in and out at Jerusalem. That he was not with them for long was a fact not unknown to St. Luke, as we may, gather from what we read in Acts 22:18. There is, therefore, no discrepancy in that respect between the two representations. But is there no discrepancy between St. Luke's mention of "the apostles" as then admitting Paul into partnership with them in public work, and St. Paul's so emphatically affirming that it was Cephas alone of the apostles that he saw? We must acknowledge that there is - the same kind and the same amount of discrepancy as e.g. obtains between St. Matthew saying that those who were crucified with Jesus reviled him, and St. Luke specifying that one did so, but that the other rebuked him. In all such cases, the more vague and general statement must in all fairness be accepted, but with the modification supplied by the one which is the more particular and definite. It seems to the present writer that there is a way of quite naturally accounting for the form in which St. Luke states the circumstances. It is as fellows. St. Paul had been two years in imprisonment at Rome when St. Luke compiled the Acts; that is, St. Luke wrote the book about A.D. or 64, twenty-two or twenty-three years after St. Paul made this first visit of his to Jerusalem. Barnabas appears in the story as a disciple (Acts 4, fin.) some years apparently before even the conversion of Saul. Considering, therefore, the lapse of time, it would seem a not at all improbable supposition that, when the Acts was written, he was no longer alive. And the tone in which he is spoken of in the book, whose author, as we know, was in close association with St. Paul, and no doubt both drew from the apostle's inspiration many of the particulars he relates and reflected his feelings, is generally so kindly and respectful as to accord well with the supposition of Barnabas's decease, and even of his then recent decease. The pensive, touching reference to his character in Acts 11:24, introduced in the narrative in so unwonted a manner as it is, betokens this. Carefully does the historian indicate that Barnabas was the new convert's sponsor with the at first distrustful brethren at Jerusalem; also that it was he that went and fetched Saul from his distant retirement at Tarsus to co-operate with him at Antioch; also that he linked him to himself in the eleemosynary journey to Jerusalem, and again under Divine direction in their great evangelistic tour in Asia Minor, - in both of which expeditions Barnabas at the first appears as the leading figure of the two; after which comes the mournful disruption recorded at the close of the fifteenth chapter, the last reference to Barnabas in the Acts. That, however, this interruption of their brotherly attachment did not last long is shown by the respectful and sympathetic manner in which St. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians (9.), six or seven years after, speaks of the oneness in sentiment subsisting between Barnabas and himself in labouring for the gospel at their own charges. Since the time that St. Paul sent that letter to the Corinthians as well as this to the Galatians, some five years had elapsed when St. Luke wrote the Book of the Acts. All these considerations taken together agree perfectly well with the conception that Luke had heard his master, perhaps repeatedly, make pensive reference to his old relations with Barnabas now gone to his rest. "When the apostles at Jerusalem," he might say, "looked upon me coldly and distrustingly, he it was that took me by the hand [the reader will note the pathos in the expression, ἐπιλαβόμενος αὐτὸν ἤγαγε] and led me into their presence, and told them what the Lord had done with me!" What more natural than that Luke had heard Paul speaking thus, Barnabas's dear venerated form looming in the far past before the apostle's view as the principal object just then of reminiscence, the surrounding figures in the scene more indefinitely realized! But when, years before this, the apostle, Barnabas being still alive, had been writing to the Galatians, and with solemn carefulness as speaking in the sight of God, had set himself agonistically to state the facts in their very exactness, of course there would result a precision which in those tender reminiscences uttered to his bosom associate was not to be looked for.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But other of the apostles saw I none,.... This is observed to show, that as he did not receive the Gospel from Peter, so neither from any of the other apostles, whom he did not so much as see, much less converse with;
save James the Lord's brother; not James the son of Zebedee, the brother of John, whom Herod slew with the sword; but James the son of Alphaeus, he who made the speech in the synod at Jerusalem, Acts 15:13 was the writer of the epistle which bears his name, and was the brother of Joses, Simon, and Judas, who are called the brethren of Christ, Matthew 13:55 and that because they were the kinsmen and relations of Christ according to the flesh, it being usual with the Jews to call such brethren. The relation came in and stood thus; this James was James the less, the son of Mary the wife of Cleophas, Mark 15:40 which Cleophas was the brother of Joseph, the husband of Mary the mother of our Lord, as Eusebius, from Hegesippus, relates; and so our Lord and this James were brothers' children, as was supposed: or else the wife of Cleophas the mother of James, was sister to Mary the mother of Christ, as she is called, John 19:25 and so they were sisters' children, or own cousins; and thus Jerom (t), after much discourse on this subject, concludes that Mary the mother of James the less was the wife of Alphaeus, (or Cleophas, which is the same,) and the sister of Mary the mother of the Lord, whom the Evangelist John surnames Mary of Cleophas; and persons in such a relation, and even uncles and nephews, were called brethren by the Jews; see Genesis 12:5 nor is James one of our Lord's disciples being called his brother, any contradiction to John 7:5 as the Jew (u) affirms, where it is said, "neither did his brethren believe in him"; since they might not believe in him then, and yet believe in him afterwards: besides, Christ had brethren or relations according to the flesh, distinct from his disciples and apostles, and his brethren among them; see Matthew 10:1 such as were James, Judas, and Simon; nor does the Evangelist John say, that none of Christ's brethren believed in him, only that they that came to him and bid him go into Judea did not. Some have been of opinion that a third James, distinct from James the son of Zebedee and James the son of Alphaeus, is here meant; who was not of the twelve apostles, and was surnamed James the just, and called the brother of Christ because of his faith, wisdom, and becoming conversation; but certain it is, that this James was of the number of the apostles, as appears from the exceptive clause, "other of the apostles saw I none, save James", &c. and from his being put with Cephas and John, who were pillars and the chief among the apostles; and besides it was James the son of Alphaeus, who was surnamed the "just", and Oblias (w), and presided over the church at Jerusalem, and was a man of great esteem among the Jews; and is by (x) Josephus, as here, called the brother of Jesus.
(t) Advers. Helvidium, Tom. II. fol. 4. M. (u) R. Isaac, Chizzuk Emuna, par. 2. c. 8. p. 469. (w) Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 2. c. 23. Hieron. Catalog. Script. Eccl. sect. 3. fol. 89. (x) Antiqu. l. 20. c. 8. sect. 1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
19. Compare Ac 9:27, 28, wherein Luke, as an historian, describes more generally what Paul, the subject of the history, himself details more particularly. The history speaks of "apostles"; and Paul's mention of a second apostle, besides Peter, reconciles the Epistle and the history. At Stephen's martyrdom, and the consequent persecution, the other ten apostles, agreeably to Christ's directions, seem to have soon (though not immediately, Ac 8:14) left Jerusalem to preach elsewhere. James remained in charge of the mother church, as its bishop. Peter, the apostle of the circumcision, was present during Paul's fifteen days' stay; but he, too, presently after (Ac 9:32), went on a circuit through Judea.
James, the Lord's brother—This designation, to distinguish him from James the son of Zebedee, was appropriate while that apostle was alive. But before Paul's second visit to Jerusalem (Ga 2:1; Ac 15:1-4), he had been beheaded by Herod (Ac 12:2). Accordingly, in the subsequent mention of James here (Ga 2:9, 12), he is not designated by this distinctive epithet: a minute, undesigned coincidence, and proof of genuineness. James was the Lord's brother, not in our strict sense, but in the sense, "cousin," or "kinsman" (Mt 28:10; Joh 20:17). His brethren are never called "sons of Joseph," which they would have been had they been the Lord's brothers strictly. However, compare Ps 69:8, "I am an alien to my mother's children." In Joh 7:3, 5, the "brethren" who believed not in Him may mean His near relations, not including the two of His brethren, that is, relatives (James and Jude) who were among the Twelve apostles. Ac 1:14, "His brethren," refer to Simon and Joses, and others (Mt 13:55) of His kinsmen, who were not apostles. It is not likely there would be two pairs of brothers named alike, of such eminence as James and Jude; the likelihood is that the apostles James and Jude are also the writers of the Epistles, and the brethren of Jesus. James and Joses were sons of Alpheus and Mary, sister of the Virgin Mary.
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