And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)They that were of the circumcision contended with him.—The conversion of the Gentiles at Cæsarea had given a new significance to the name of “those of the circumcision.” From this time forth they are a distinct section, often a distinct party, in the Church, and here we have the first symptom of the line which they were about to take. They contended with Peter (the tense implies continuous or repeated discussion) because he had eaten with those who were uncircumcised, and therefore, from the Jewish point of view, unclean.
Contended with him - Disputed; reproved him; charged him with being in fault. This is one of the circumstances which show conclusively that the apostles and early Christians did not regard Peter as having any particular supremacy over the church, or as being in any special sense the vicar of Christ upon earth. If he had been regarded as having the authority which the Roman Catholics claim for him, they would have submitted at once to what he had thought proper to do. But the earliest Christians had no such idea of Peter's so-called authority. This claim for Peter is not only opposed to this place, but to every part of the New Testament.They that were of the circumcision; they were such Jews as conversed with them of the church, and argued against them for taking in the Gentiles into any fellowship with them. But it may be that the believing Jews might for a time be very weak, and offended at it, until they were further satisfied by the following relation of St. Peter: till then they disputed, and brought what arguments they could against it. Acts 25:1 because Jerusalem stood on higher ground, as well as was the metropolis of the country; and this was a journey of six hundred furlongs, or seventy five miles, for so far, according to Josephus (t), was Caesarea distant from Jerusalem:
they that were of the circumcision, which phrase designs not only the circumcised Jews that believed in Christ, for such were all they of the church at Jerusalem, or at least proselytes that had been circumcised, for as yet there were no uncircumcised Gentiles among them; but those of them, who were most strenuous for circumcision, and made it not only a bar of church communion, but even of civil conversation:
these contended with him; litigated the point, disputed the matter with him, complained against him, and quarrelled with him. Epiphanius says (u), that Cerinthus, that arch-heretic, was at the head of this contention.And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Acts 11:2. διεκρίνοντο, cf. Jude, Acts 11:9, with dative of the person (Polyb., ii., 22, 11). For similar construction as here see LXX, Ezekiel 20:35-36, see Grimm-Thayer, sub v. Otherwise in Acts 10:20.—οἱ ἐκ περιτομῆς, cf. Galatians 2:12; we can scarcely confine the term here to those mentioned in Acts 10:45 (although Dr. Hort takes this view as most probable), but how far there was a section of the Church at Jerusalem who could thus be described at this time it is difficult to say, see Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 44.2. they that were of the circumcision] This must have been the whole Church, at the time when the event occurred, for there were no Christians as yet except Jews and proselytes, but St Luke’s narrative was compiled at a time when “they that were of the circumcision” had become a distinct party, and when their influence had begun to work division in the Christian societies. He therefore employs a name which when he wrote was full of significance, although it had its origin only in the circumstances to which he here applies it. Those who had been born Jews and knew of Jesus as conforming to the Law, and who had not heard of Peter’s vision nor seen the gift of the Holy Ghost to Cornelius and his friends, as those who had been with Peter had done, were to be pardoned, if their scruples caused them to question the conduct of the Apostle at this time; yet when they heard his story they were satisfied (see Acts 11:18), but many Jewish Christians elsewhere continued to make this subject a cause of contention. See Acts 15:1.
contended with him] The verb is a very significant one. It is the same that is used with a negative in Acts 10:20, Acts 11:12, “nothing doubting,” and Acts 15:9, “making no difference.” The thought of these men who contended was that the difference between Jew and Gentile should still be maintained, and that any close fellowship (such as was involved in living at the same board) with those who accepted Christianity otherwise than through the gate of submission to the Mosaic Law, should be avoided. As the Jews in Caesarea had (Acts 10:22) behaved towards Cornelius, before he became a Christian, so would the Judaizing feeling have prompted the Church of Christ to deal with him still. And when we think on the prejudice which, by generations of ceremonial observance, had grown up among the Jews, we cannot wonder greatly at what they did. A whole nation is not brought to a change of feeling in a day.Acts 11:2. Διεκρίνοντο, discussed or contended) i.e. they showed that they had doubts as to that point.Verse 2. - They that were of the circumcision. At first sight this phrase, which was natural enough in Acts 10:45, seems an unnatural one in the then condition of the Church, when all the members of it were "of the circumcision," and there were no Gentile converts at all. But the explanation of it is to be found in the circumstance of St. Luke himself being a Gentile; perhaps also, as Alford suggests, in his use of language suited to the time when he wrote. It is an indication, too, of the purpose of St. Luke in writing his history, viz. to chronicle the progress of Gentile Christianity. Peter, having completed his rounds (Acts 9:32), returned to Jerusalem, which was still the abode of the apostles. He was, no doubt, anxious to commune with his brother apostles upon the momentous matter of the Gentile converts; but he was at once attacked by the bigotry of the zealous Jews.
See on Acts 10:45.
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