Acts 26:8
Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) Why should it be thought a thing incredible . . .?—Some MSS. give a punctuation which alters the structure of the sentence: What! is it thought a thing incredible . . . ? The appeal is made to Agrippa as accepting the sacred books of Israel, in which instances of a resurrection were recorded (1Kings 17:17-23; 2Kings 4:18-37), and which ought to have hindered him from postulating the incredibility of the truth which St. Paul preached, and which included (1) the doctrine of a general resurrection, and (2) the fact that Christ had risen. The Greek use of the present tense, that God raiseth the dead, gives prominence to the first thought rather than the second. Agrippa, as probably allied, as the rest of his kindred had been, with the Sadducean high priests, not a few of whom he had himself nominated, was likely to reject both.

Acts 26:8-11. Why should it be thought a thing incredible — (It was thought so by Festus, Acts 25:19, to whom Paul answers as if he had heard him discourse;) that God — A Being of infinite perfections, and the original author of the human frame; should raise the dead — And continue their existence in a future state? Will not his Almighty power enable him to do it? and will not the honour of his moral attributes be hereby illustrated and vindicated? And if it be credible, is it not important enough to deserve the most attentive regard? I verily thought, &c. — That is, when I was a Pharisee; that I ought to do many things (which he now enumerates) contrary to the name — Destructive of the cause and religion; of Jesus of Nazareth — Or, Jesus the Nazarene, whom under that title I once impiously derided, esteeming all his pretences to be the Messiah at once false and contemptible. He now proceeds to give an account of the extraordinary scenes through which he had passed, and which had occasioned a change in his views and conduct. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem — Where many, now living, were witnesses of my rage against the Christians; and many of the saints — Persons not only innocent, but just, good, and holy; I shut up in prison Φυλακαις, in prisons; having received authority from the chief priests to do it; and when they were put to death — Were condemned to die; I gave my vote against them — I joined with those who condemned them. It does not appear that Paul had any vote in the sanhedrim: and we do not certainly know that, before Paul’s conversion, any more than Stephen were put to death for Christianity, in whose condemnation there was no voting at all. But the meaning plainly is, that he instigated the people against them as much as he could, in that instance, and in others which possibly might occur, whether at Jerusalem or elsewhere, though not recorded in the New Testament. Accordingly the Syriac renders it, I joined with those that condemned them; and Grotius observes, that the original phrase, κατηνεγκα ψηφον, has evidently sometimes this general signification. And I punished them oft in every synagogue — Wherever I met with them; and — When I could possibly effect it, I compelled them to blaspheme — The name of the Lord Jesus, and openly to renounce all faith in him, and subjection to him. This was the most dreadful of all the sinful acts which he committed; and, it seems, grieved him most: and no guilt can lie heavier upon persecutors, than that of forcing men’s consciences, and triumphing over them, by putting them to the torture, and thereby compelling them to abjure their religion. How light soever they may make of such guilt, and even rejoice in the proselytes they gain by their acts of violence and cruelty, awful, sooner or later, will be the condition of all such! For if Spira, who was compelled, suffered so terribly, what will become of those who compel like Saul, but do not repent like him? And being exceedingly mad against them Περισσως εμμαινομενος, beyond measure furious; I persecuted them even unto strange cities — To which some of them had fled, to avoid or escape my outrageous cruelty, pursuing and hunting out the poor refugees, and endeavouring to drive them, not only out of their country, but out of the world.26:1-11 Christianity teaches us to give a reason of the hope that is in us, and also to give honour to whom honour is due, without flattery or fear of man. Agrippa was well versed in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, therefore could the better judge as to the controversy about Jesus being the Messiah. Surely ministers may expect, when they preach the faith of Christ, to be heard patiently. Paul professes that he still kept to all the good in which he was first educated and trained up. See here what his religion was. He was a moralist, a man of virtue, and had not learned the arts of the crafty, covetous Pharisees; he was not chargeable with any open vice and profaneness. He was sound in the faith. He always had a holy regard for the ancient promise made of God unto the fathers, and built his hope upon it. The apostle knew very well that all this would not justify him before God, yet he knew it was for his reputation among the Jews, and an argument that he was not such a man as they represented him to be. Though he counted this but loss, that he might win Christ, yet he mentioned it when it might serve to honour Christ. See here what Paul's religion is; he has not such zeal for the ceremonial law as he had in his youth; the sacrifices and offerings appointed by that, are done away by the great Sacrifice which they typified. Of the ceremonial cleansings he makes no conscience, and thinks the Levitical priesthood is done away in the priesthood of Christ; but, as to the main principles of his religion, he is as zealous as ever. Christ and heaven, are the two great doctrines of the gospel; that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. These are the matter of the promise made unto the fathers. The temple service, or continual course of religious duties, day and night, was kept up as the profession of faith in the promise of eternal life, and in expectation of it. The prospect of eternal life should engage us to be diligent and stedfast in all religious exercises. Yet the Sadducees hated Paul for preaching the resurrection; and the other Jews joined them, because he testified that Jesus was risen, and was the promised Redeemer of Israel. Many things are thought to be beyond belief, only because the infinite nature and perfections of Him that has revealed, performed, or promised them, are overlooked. Paul acknowledged, that while he continued a Pharisee, he was a bitter enemy to Christianity. This was his character and manner of life in the beginning of his time; and there was every thing to hinder his being a Christian. Those who have been most strict in their conduct before conversion, will afterwards see abundant reason for humbling themselves, even on account of things which they then thought ought to have been done.Why should it be thought ... - The force of this question will be better seen by an exclamation point after why τί ti. "What! is it to be thought a thing incredible?" etc. It intimates surprise that it should be thought incredible, or implies that no reason could be given why such a doctrine should be unworthy of belief.

A thing incredible - A doctrine which cannot be credited or believed. Why should it be regarded as absurd?

With you - This is in the plural number, and it is evident that Paul here addressed, not Agrippa alone, but those who sat with him. There is no evidence that Agrippa doubled that the dead could be raised, but Festus, and those who were with him, probably did, and Paul, in the ardor of his speech, turned and addressed the entire assembly. It is very evident that we have only an outline of this argument, and there is every reason to suppose that Paul would dwell on each part of the subject at greater length than is here recorded.

That God should raise the dead - Why should it be regarded as absurd that God - who has all power, who is the creator of all, who is the author of the human frame should again restore man to life and continue his future existence? The resurrection is no more incredible than the original creation of the body, and it is attended with no greater difficulties. And as the perfections of God will be illustrated by his raising up the dead; as the future state is necessary to the purposes of justice in vindicating the just and punishing the unjust, and as God is a righteous moral governor, it should not be regarded as an absurdity that he will raise up those who have died, and bring them to judgment.

8. Why should it be thought a thing incredible … that God should raise the dead?—rather, "Why is it judged a thing incredible if God raises the dead?" the case being viewed as an accomplished fact. No one dared to call in question the overwhelming evidence of the resurrection of Jesus, which proclaimed Him to be the Christ, the Son of God; the only way of getting rid of it, therefore, was to pronounce it incredible. But why, asks the apostle, is it so judged? Leaving this pregnant question to find its answer in the breasts of his audience, he now passes to his personal history. This St. Paul seems to have spoken in regard of Festus, and many others there present, who were heathens; or to any of the Sadducees, if any such were amongst them: as for Agrippa, He believed the prophets, Acts 26:27, and had out of them learned and observed this promise, Acts 26:7. However, God did not leave himself without a witness to testify so much unto all, as should make the doctrine of the resurrection credible, whensoever it should be revealed unto them. The works of creation evidence it; for he that can give life unto that which had it not, can restore it unto that which had it: and the works of providence attest it; in every spring there is a resurrection of such plants or trees as seemed dead; nay, the bread which we daily feed on, was made of that grain, which was not quickened except it died, 1 Corinthians 15:36. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you,.... You Heathens and Sadducees; for the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was thought an incredible doctrine by the Heathens in general, and therefore was laughed at by the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers at Athens, when preached by the apostle there; and by a particular sect among the Jews, the Sadducees; and the apostle may be thought either to address himself to Festus, the Roman governor, and to the chief captains, who were present, and, being Heathens, disbelieved this doctrine; or else to King Agrippa, who might be a Sadducee, and to such of the Sadducees as were in court, and expostulate with them, why it should be looked upon as a thing by no means to be credited,

that God should raise the dead; which may be understood both of the particular resurrection of Christ from the dead, which was not believed, neither by the Romans nor by the Jews, and neither by Pharisees nor Sadducees; or of the general resurrection of the dead, which was judged from the nature of things to be impracticable, and impossible by the latter, as well as by the Heathens: but since God is omniscient and omnipotent, and just and true, knows where every particle of a dead body lies, and can gather all together, and inspire with life; which he can as easily do, as to form all things out of nothing, as he did; and his justice and veracity seem to require, that the same bodies which have been partners with their souls in sinning, or in sufferings should share with them in woe or in happiness; it can neither be absurd, unreasonable, nor incredible, to suppose that God will raise them from the dead.

{4} Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?

(4) He proves the resurrection of the dead, first by the power of God, then by the resurrection of Christ, of which he is a sufficient witness.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 26:8. The circumstance that Paul made the resurrection of Jesus the foundation of his preaching of the Messianic kingdom, had specially provoked the hatred of the Jews. This resurrection they would not recognise (Acts 25:19), and therefore he continues—in his impassioned address breaking away from what had gone before, and in the person of the Jewish king addressing the Jews themselves as if present (παρʼ ὑμῖν)—with the bold inquiry: Why is it esteemed as incredible with you? etc. Beza and others (also de Wette and Lange) place after τί a note of interrogation: How? Is it incredible? etc. But it tells decisively against this view that the mere τί is not so used; τί γάρ, τί οὖν or τί δέ would be employed.

εἰ ὁ Θεὸς νεκρ. ἐγείρει] if God (as He has done in the instance of Jesus) raises the dead. Comp. Vulgate, Erasmus, and others, εἰ is neither equivalent to ὅτι (Luther, Beza, Grotius, and others), nor is it the problematic whether (de Wette and others); the more especially as the matter under discussion is not that of doubt or uncertainty on the part of the Jews, but that of their definite unbelief, which is absurd.Acts 26:8. R.V. gives more clearly the significance of the original, “Why is it judged incredible with you, if God (as He does) raises the dead?” εἰ with indicative assumes that the hypothesis is true, Vulgate “si Deus mortuos suscitat?” cf. Luke 16:31. It has sometimes been thought that St. Paul here makes a special appeal to the Sadducean part of his audience—παρʼ ὑμῖν—including among them Agrippa, with his indifference and practical Sadduceism (Alford), with his policy favouring the Sadducees in the appointment of the high priests (Felten): others have seen in the words a reference to the general resurrection with which the Apostle’s Messianic belief was connected, or to cases of resurrection in the history of Israel, as, e.g., 1 Kings 17, 2 Kings 4, as if the speaker would ask: Why is it judged a thing incredible in your judgment when you have instances before you in the sacred books accepted by Agrippa and the Jews? But it is far better to consider the words in connection with the great truth to which the whole speech was meant to lead up, Acts 26:23, viz., that Jesus, although crucified, had risen again, that He was at this moment a living Person, and by His resurrection had been proved to be the Messiah, the fulfiller of the hope of Israel. Zöckler regards the question as forming a kind of transition from the general hope of the Jews in a Messiah to the specific Christian hope in Jesus.—ἄπιστον: only here in Acts, twice in Luke’s Gospel, but frequent in St. Paul’s Epistles of those who believed not. See further Nestle, Philologica Sacra, p. 54, 1896, and Wendt, p. 391 and note (1899). Nestle proposes to place the verse as ou of connection here between Acts 26:22-23, with a full stop at the end of the former; and Wendt commends this view.8. Why should it be thought a thing incredible … that God, &c.] More literally (with Rev. Ver.) “Why is it judged incredible with you if God doth raise the dead.” The last clause is not to be understood hypothetically, but “If God doth, as he hath done in the case of Jesus.” So that it is equivalent to “Why should you not believe that Jesus has been raised from the dead?”Acts 26:8. Ἄπιστον, incredible) The ancients called poetic fables incredible: See Chrysost. de Sacerd. § 226, 590: So Festus esteemed the resurrection an incredible thing: ch. Acts 25:19.—ὑμῖν, to you) An Apostrophe [sudden turning of the address to others than those with whom he began], in respect of the Jews (for Agrippa was not a Jew: Acts 26:3; Acts 26:7 (“our twelve tribes”), where the ἡμῶν forms an antithesis to the proselytes, especially those of them who were such as Agrippa was, according to my note on ch. Acts 25:19); and boldness of speech, towards the hearers then present. He so replies to Festus, as if he had heard his speech: ch. Acts 25:19.Verse 8. - Why is it judged incredible with you, if for why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that, A.V.; doth for should, A.V. Why is it judged, etc. The use of d is somewhat peculiar. It cannot stand for ὅτι, but it is nearly equivalent to "whether," as in ver. 23. The question proposed to the mind is here whether God has raised the dead; and in ver. 23 whether Christ has suffered, whether he is the first to rise. In the latter case St. Paul gives the answer by his witness to the truth, affirming that it is so. In the former case he chides his hearers for giving the answer of unbelief, and saying that it is not so. That God should raise the dead (εἰ ὁ Θεὸς νεκροὺς ἐγείρει)

Much better, as Rev., if God raises the dead. He does not put it as a supposition, but as a fact: if God raises the dead, as you admit that he has the power to do, and as your own writings tell you that he has done.

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