Acts 20:8
And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.
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(8) And there were many lights in the upper chamber.—We learn from Acts 20:9 that it was on the third floor of the house. In the high narrow streets of Eastern towns the upper storey is often chosen for social or devotional purposes, partly as more removed from the noise of the street, partly as giving access to the roof of the house. Such a room in a good sized house might well hold two or three hundred people. It is a fair inference also that the vividness and minuteness of the account indicate that we have the narrative of an eye-witness. The lamps or torches (see Notes on Matthew 5:15; Matthew 25:3; John 5:35) are probably mentioned, partly as accounting for the sleep of Eutychus by the heat and closeness of the room, partly, perhaps, as an indirect answer to the calumny loudly asserted afterwards (Tertull. Apol. c. 8), and probably even then whispered, that at the meetings of the Christians the lamps were extinguished and free scope given for deeds of shameless licence. There is no ground for assuming that the lamps at this early period had any distinctive ritual or symbolic character, though it would be a natural expression of respect that two or more should be placed in front of the Apostle, or other presiding elder, at such a meeting, on either side of the loaf which was to be broken, and the cup which was to be blest. The position of the celebrant (to use a later, but convenient term) may have been, as in the original institution of the Supper, recumbent on the triclinium, or couch, which was at this time used by both Greeks and Romans. It is obvious, however, that this would be an inconvenient posture for distribution to a large assembly, and the special mention of “the Lord’s table” in 1Corinthians 10:21, leads to the conclusion that there was a separate high table (to borrow the familiar language of a college or Inn of Court) at which the celebrant and other ministers sat, their backs to the wall, their faces to the people, and that from that table they distributed the bread and wine, either by taking them, or sending them by the deacons or other ministers, to those who sat in the body of the room, or by giving it to the congregation as they came up to the table in detachments. The later practice of the Church, and the absence of any indication in patristic writings that there was an abrupt change, makes the latter the more probable alternative. The table, so placed, served as a transition stage between the triclinium and the altar of the later basilica. The primitive arrangement in which the priest faces the congregation and stands behind the altar, it may be noted, was at first retained in most of the basilicas, and survives to the present day in some of the churches of that type in Rome—as, for example, in that of S. Clemente. This, therefore, and not any eastward or southward position, may claim to be, as has been well said, “at once the most primitive, the most Catholic, the most Protestant” of Eucharistic usages.

20:7-12 Though the disciples read, and meditated, and prayed, and sung apart, and thereby kept up communion with God, yet they came together to worship God, and so kept up their communion with one another. They came together on the first day of the week, the Lord's day. It is to be religiously observed by all disciples of Christ. In the breaking of the bread, not only the breaking of Christ's body for us, to be a sacrifice for our sins, is remembered, but the breaking of Christ's body to us, to be food and a feast for our souls, is signified. In the early times it was the custom to receive the Lord's supper every Lord's day, thus celebrating the memorial of Christ's death. In this assembly Paul preached. The preaching of the gospel ought to go with the sacraments. They were willing to hear, he saw they were so, and continued his speech till midnight. Sleeping when hearing the word, is an evil thing, a sign of low esteem of the word of God. We must do what we can to prevent being sleepy; not put ourselves to sleep, but get our hearts affected with the word we hear, so as to drive sleep far away. Infirmity requires tenderness; but contempt requires severity. It interrupted the apostle's preaching; but was made to confirm his preaching. Eutychus was brought to life again. And as they knew not when they should have Paul's company again, they made the best use of it they could, and reckoned a night's sleep well lost for that purpose. How seldom are hours of repose broken for the purposes of devotion! but how often for mere amusement or sinful revelry! So hard is it for spiritual life to thrive in the heart of man! so naturally do carnal practices flourish there!And there were many lights - Why this circumstance is mentioned is not apparent. It, however, meets one of the slanders of the early enemies of Christianity, that the Christians in their assemblies were accustomed to extinguish all the lights, and to commit every kind of abomination. Perhaps the mention of many lights here is designed to intimate that it was a place of public worship, as not only the Jews, but the Gentiles were accustomed to have many lights burning in such places.

In the upper chamber - See the notes on Acts 1:13.

8. there were many lights in the upper chamber—not a mere piece of graphic detail by an eye-witness [Hackett, Howson], but mentioned, probably, as increasing the heat and contributing to drowsiness [Webster and Wilkinson], as the next clause seems to show. There were many lights; there being many present; and it being in the night, because of the persecution that the Christians met with. Lest they should be reproached for doing any thing indecently, they by this means exposed themselves, and all that was done amongst them, to the common view and notice of all.

In the upper chamber; where it is supposed they did ordinarily meet; as Acts 1:13.

And there were many lights in the upper chamber,.... Which were lighted up, both for necessary uses, to see by, to read the word, and to administer the ordinance of the supper, and for the comfort and pleasure of the whole company, both preacher and hearers; as well as to remove all ground of suspicion, or occasion of reproach, as if it was a midnight society met for wicked practices: but this no ways countenances the use of lamps and wax candies in the daytime at divine worship, since this was in the night; of the upper chamber, in which it was usual to meet for religious exercises, see Mark 2:4, where they were gathered together; the Alexandrian copy, Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions read, "where we were gathered together". {4} And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.

(4) The devil, taking care to trouble the Church with a great offence, gives Paul a singular occasion to confirm the Gospel

Acts 20:8-10. Ἦσαν δὲ λαμπ. ἱκ.] therefore the fall of the young man could at once be perceived. The lamps served for the lighting up of the room, for it was night; but perhaps at the same time for heightening the solemnity of the occasion. According to Ewald, Luke wished to obviate the evil reports concerning the nocturnal meetings of the Christians (comp. Calvin and Bengel); but they remained withal nocturnal and thereby exposed to suspicion.

Whether Eutychus was a young man serving (Rosenmüller, Heinrichs), which at least is not to be inferred from the occurrence of the name among slaves and freedmen (Artem. iii. 38; Phaedr. 3, prol.), the text does not say.

ἐπὶ τῆς θυρίδ.] on the (open) window, i.e. on the window-seat. The openings of the windows in the East, having no glass, were sometimes with and sometimes without lattice-work (see Winer, Realw.). So they are still at the present day.

καταφερόμενος κ.τ.λ.] falling into a deep sleep. καταφέρεσθαι is the proper word for this among Greek writers (comp. also Aquila, Psalm 75:6), usually with εἰς ὕπνον (Lucian, Dial. mer. ii. 4; Herodian, ii. 1. 3, ii. 9. 6). Comp. Hom. Od. vi. 2 : ὕπνῳ κ. καμάτῳ ἀρημένος. Observe the logical relation of the participles: But as there sat (καθεζόμ., see the critical remarks) a young man, falling (in his sitting there) into deep sleep during the prolonged discourse of Paul, he fell, overpowered by the sleep, from the third story, etc.

As to ἐπὶ πλεῖον, comp. on Acts 4:17. The discourse continued for a longer time (Acts 18:20) than the young man had expected.

ἀπὸ τοῦ ὑπνοῦ] ἀπό denotes the proceeding from, the power producing the effect (Bernhardy, p. 222; Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 277 [E. T. 322]), and the article denotes the sleep already mentioned (Matthew 1:24).

ἤρθη νεκρός] he was taken up dead. The words affirm nothing else than that the young man actually fell down dead and was taken up dead (Chrys.: διὰ τοῦτο ἀποθανὼν, ἵνα Παῦλον ἀκούσῃ, Calvin, Beza, and others; recently Schneckenburger, Schwegler, Zeller, and Baumgarten); and only so understood has the fall, as well as the conduct of the apostle in Acts 20:10 and the result, the significance which can have induced its being narrated, namely, as a raising from the dead.[110] This we remark in opposition to the view which has become common, as if Ὡς ΝΕΚΡΌς were used (“apparently dead,” de Wette; comp. Ewald).

ἘΠΈΠΕΣΕΝ ΑὐΤῷ Κ.Τ.Λ.] not in order to examine him, but in order to revive him by his contact, in a way similar to the procedure of Elisha and Elijah, 2 Kings 4:34; 1 Kings 17:17 ff.

μὴ θορυβεῖσθε· ἡ γὰρ ψυχὴ κ.τ.λ.] Thus he speaks, obviating the consternation of those present (comp. on μὴ θορυβ., Dem. de cor. 35), when he had convinced himself of the successful intervention of his miraculous influence. His soul is in him, i.e. he is living! ἡ ψυχὴ αὐτοῦ (not ἘΝ ΑὐΤῷ) has the emphasis, not spoken without a lively feeling of victory. The young man had, in fact, been but now ἄψυχος. Accordingly there is no ambiguity of the words, in which Lekebusch asserts that we desiderate an added “again,” and would explain this ambiguity on the ground that the author himself was not quite convinced of the miraculous nature of the incident. See, on the other hand, Oertel, Paulus in d. Apostelgesch. p. 147.

[110] Baur’s criticism in the case, however, converts an event which was in itself natural into a parallel in a miraculous form with the raising of the dead narrated of Peter in chap. 9.

Acts 20:8. λαμπάδες ἱκαναὶ, see critical note and reading in D. The words have been taken to indicate clearly that the accident was not due to darkness coming on through Paul’s lengthy discourse (so Weiss and Wendt), whilst Meyer regards them as introduced to show that the fall of the young man was not perceived at once. Others (so Felten) hold that the words mark the joy at the Sacramental Presence of the Lord and Bridegroom of the Church (Matthew 25:1), and Nösgen sees in them a note of joy in the celebration of the Christian Sunday (see also Kuinoel). But it is also allowable to see in this notice the graphic and minute touch of one who was an eye-witness of the scene, and who described it, as he remembered it, in all its vividness (Hackett, Blass). We can scarcely see in the words with Ewald an intention on the part of the narrative to guard against any suspicion attaching to the night meetings of the Christians (so Calvin, Bengel, Lechler); the date, as Nösgen says, is too early (so too Overbeck). Lewin also takes Ewald’s view, but with the alternative that the lights may have been mentioned to exclude any suspicion in the reader’s mind of any deception with regard to the miracle.

8. And there were, &c.] Our thoughts go back to the upper room in Jerusalem where (Acts 1:13) the first preachers of Christianity waited for the promised gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 20:8. Λαμπάδες ἱκαναὶ, many lights) in order that all suspicion of scandal might be obviated.

Verse 8. - We for they, A.V. and T.R. It is not obvious why St. Luke mentions the many lights. Some say to mark the solemnity of the first day of the week (Kuinoel); some, to remove all possible occasion of scandal as regards such midnight meetings (Bengel); some, to explain how the young man's fall was immediately perceived (Meyer); others, to account for the young man's drowsiness, which would be increased by the many lights, possibly making the room hot (Alford); for ornament (Olshausen). But possibly it is the mere mention by an eye-witness of a fact which struck him. It is obvious that the room must have been lit for a night meeting - only perhaps there were more lights than usual. Acts 20:8Many lights

A detail showing the vivid impression of the scene upon an eye-witness. It has been remarked that the abundance of lights shows how little of secrecy or disorder attached to these meetings.

The upper chamber

See on Acts 1:13.

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