Acts 3:15
And killed the Prince of life, whom God has raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) And killed the Prince of life.—The word translated “Prince” is applied to Christ here and in Acts 5:31. In Hebrews 2:10 we meet with it in “the Captain of their salvation;” in Hebrews 12:2, in “the Author and Finisher of our faith.” Its primary meaning, like that of prince (princeps), is one who takes the lead—who is the originator of that to which the title is attached. The “Prince of life,” the “Captain of salvation,” is accordingly He who is the source from which life and salvation flow. In the LXX. of the Old Testament it is used for the “chieftains” or “princes” of Moab and the like (Numbers 13:3; Numbers 24:17).

Whereof we are witnesses.—St. Peter falls back, as in Acts 2:32 (where see Note), on this attestation to the one central fact.

3:12-18 Observe the difference in the manner of working the miracles. Our Lord always spoke as having Almighty power, never hesitated to receive the greatest honour that was given to him on account of his Divine miracles. But the apostles referred all to their Lord, and refused to receive any honour, except as his undeserving instruments. This shows that Jesus was one with the Father, and co-equal with Him; while the apostles knew that they were weak, sinful men, and dependent for every thing on Jesus, whose power effected the cure. Useful men must be very humble. Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name, give glory. Every crown must be cast at the feet of Christ. The apostle showed the Jews the greatness of their crime, but would not anger or drive them to despair. Assuredly, those who reject, refuse, or deny Christ, do it through ignorance; but this can in no case be an excuse.And killed the Prince of life - The word rendered "prince" denotes properly "a military leader or commander." Hence, in Hebrews 2:10, it is translated "captain:" "It became him ...to make the "Captain of their salvation" perfect through sufferings." As a captain or commander leads on to victory and is said to obtain it, so the word comes to denote one who is the "cause," the "author," the "procurer," etc. In this sense it is used, Acts 5:31, "Him hath God exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel," etc. In Hebrews 12:2 it is properly rendered author, "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." The word "author," or "giver," would express the meaning of the word here. It also implies that he has dominion over life; an idea, indeed, which is essentially connected with that of his being the author of it. The word "life" here is used in a large sense, as denoting "all manner of life." In this sense it is used in reference to Christ in John 1:4, "In him was life." Compare John 5:26; 1 John 5:11; 1 Corinthians 15:45. Jesus is here called the Prince of life in contrast with him whom the Jews demanded in his place, Barabbas. He was a murderer Luke 23:19; Mark 15:7, one who had destroyed life, and yet they demanded that he whose character it was to destroy life should be released, and the Author of life be put to death.

Whom God hath raised ... - Acts 2:24, Acts 2:32.

15. killed the Prince of life—Glorious paradox, but how piercing to the conscience of the auditors. The Prince of life; as God, he is the Author of our temporal life too, in whom we live, and move, &c., and in whose hand is our breath; but Christ, as Mediator, is the guide and way to eternal life, John 14:6. These are said to have killed our Saviour, though neither Herod, nor Pilate, nor probably many (if any) of them that nailed him to the cross, were present; but it was done for their sakes, and at their desires, and therefore by their means; and it is here charged upon them, as done by them. And killed the Prince of life,.... Or author of life, natural, spiritual, and eternal; who not only is the living God, and has life in himself; and as man, had such a power over his own life, as no man ever had; but he is the author of a spiritual resurrection from the death of sin, to a life of grace, and has procured eternal life for his people, and gives it to them. Now this Lord of life and glory they crucified. His death is laid to them because it was at their request, and through their instigation, and at their earnest solicitations, that Pilate condemned him, and delivered, him to his soldiers to crucify him.

Whom God hath raised from the dead; notwithstanding all their spite and malice; so that they had not their whole will, and all their end, not being able to retain him under the power of death, and under the shame and reproach of the cross; and this the apostle the rather mentions, as being the reason why such gifts, and such power were bestowed on them to do the miracles they did.

Whereof we are witnesses; either of Christ, for it may be rendered, "whose witnesses we are"; they testifying of his person, office, grace, and righteousness; or of the resurrection of Christ, of which they were eyewitnesses; and of which they had the fullest proof, and were capable of bearing a sufficient testimony, and for which they were chosen and appointed.

And killed the Prince {c} of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.

(c) Who has life in himself, and gives life to others.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 3:15. τὸν δὲ ἀρχηγὸν τῆς ζωῆς: again the words stand in marked contrast not only to φονέα but also to ἀπεκτείνατε; magnificum antitheton, Bengel. The word is rendered “Author” in the margin of R.V. (Vulgate, auctorem) but “Prince” in the text and so in Acts 5:31 (Vulg., principem). In the two other passages in which the word occurs in the N.T., viz., Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 12:2, R.V. renders “Author,” “the author of their salvation,” “the author and perfecter of our faith,” margin “captain” (Vulgate, auctorem); see Westcott, Hebrews, pp. 49, 395. Christ is both the Prince of life and the Source (auctor) of life: “Vitam aliis dat Christus, opp[142] φονεύς qui adimit” (Blass). Grimm and others draw a distinction between the meaning attaching to the word here and in Acts 5:31. The use of the word in the LXX may help to justify such a distinction, for whilst it is found in the sense of a leader or a captain (Numbers 14:4, Jdt 14:2), or the chief of a family or tribe (R.V. renders it “every one a prince” in Numbers 13:2, but in the next verse “heads of the children of Israel”), it is also used to signify the author, or beginner, the source, cf. 1Ma 9:61; 1Ma 10:47, Micah 1:13 (although it was never used for a prince or to describe kingly attributes); but in many respects the rendering “Prince” may be compared with the Latin princeps, which signifies the first person in order, a chief, a leader, an originator, the founder of a family (in the time of the emperors it was used of the heir to the throne). So in classical Greek the word was used for a leader, a founder, Latin auctor, for the first cause, author, so God τῶν πάντων, Plat., and also for a prince, a chief, and, especially in later Greek, of the person from whom anything good or bad first proceeds in which others have a share, e.g., ἀρχηγὸς καὶ αἴτιος combined (antesignanus et auctor), Polyb., i., 66, 10; Hdian., ii., 6, 22, and as Alford points out in Hebrews 2:10, this later usage throws a light upon its meaning in Acts 3:15, cf. Chrys. on Hebrews 2:10, ἀρχηγὸν τῆς σωτηρίας τούτεστι τὸν αἴτιον τῆς σωτηρίας. Christ is the source of life, a life in which others share through Him; in this very place where St. Peter was speaking our Lord had spoken of Himself as the giver of eternal life, John 10:28, although doubtless the expression may include the thought that in Him was life in its fullest and widest sense—physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual. St. Chrysostom comments on the words “Prince of Life,” Hom., xi.: “It follows that the life He had was not from another, the Prince or Author of Life must be He who has life from Himself”. Theophylact and Oecumenius see in the words a contrast to the φονέα, in that Christ gives life, while the murderer takes it away—a contrast deepened by the words of St. Peter’s fellow-disciple whom he here associates with himself in his appeal to the people, cf. 1 John 3:15. In John 10:31 ἀρχ. in its rendering “Prince” of kingly dignity may be compared with the use of the word in Thuc., i., 132, Æsch., Agam., 259. Rendall sees in the expression both here and Acts 5:31 a reference to Jesus (the name used by St. Peter) as the second Joshua. As Joshua was the captain of Israel and led them across the Jordan into the land of promise, so Jesus was the Captain of the living army of the Resurrection; and for Saviour, Acts 5:31, he compares Matthew 1:21. Such associations may be included in St. Peter’s words, but they seem much more applicable to Acts 5:31. In modern Greek the word ἀρχηγός = leader, in the ordinary sense, Kennedy, Sources of N. T. Greek, p. 153; see Grimm, sub v.—οὗ may refer to ὅν, cf. Acts 1:8, Acts 13:31, or to the fact of the Resurrection, cf. Acts 2:32, Acts 5:32, Acts 10:39. R.V. reads “of whom” in the margin.

[142] opposite, opposition.15. the Prince of life] The same word applied to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) is rendered “author and finisher of our faith,” and in the same epistle (Acts 2:10) “the captain of their salvation.” It is probably in the latter sense that St Peter, whose thoughts are on the Resurrection, uses the word here, thinking of Christ as the firstfruits of them that slept (1 Corinthians 15:20), but the other sense, that “in him was life” (John 1:4), is also embraced in the word.

whom God hath raised] Better, whom God raised, i.e. once for all.

whereof we are witnesses] The relative is here better referred to Christ, “of whom we are witnesses.” Not merely did they bear witness of the Resurrection, though that was a most important portion of their testimony, but of all Christ’s teaching and deeds. Cp. Acts 1:22, where Matthias was chosen to be such a witness.Acts 3:15. Οὗ, of whom) viz. God. See ch. Acts 2:32, note.—μάρτυρες, witnesses) They had acted the part of witnesses, in Acts 3:6, with which comp. Acts 3:16.Verse 15. - Raised for bath raised, A.V. The Prince of life; a remarkable title here given to our Lord, to bring out the contrast between him whom they preferred and him whom they rejected. Barabbas was a murderer, one who took away human life for his own base ends; the other was the Prince and Author of life, who was come into the world, not to destroy men's lives, but to save them. This title, taken in connection with the preceding declaration, "God hath glorified his Servant Jesus," seems almost to be a reminiscence of our Savior's prayer," Father,... glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him" (John 17:1, 2). Jesus himself in very many places dwells upon his own great prerogative of giving life: "I am come that they might have life, and.., have it more abundantly" (John 10:10); "I am that Bread of life;" "I am the living Bread ... if any man cat of this bread, he shall live for ever;" "I give... my flesh for the life of the world;" "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life;" "They that hear shall live;" "As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;" "The Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should... have eternal life;" "The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." The word ἀρχηγός applied to Christ is found also in Acts 5:31, and in Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 12:2, rendered the "Author or Captain of their salvation," "of our faith." Whereof we are witnesses (see Acts 2:22, note). The marginal rendering of whom is equally literal, and may be defended by reference to Acts 1:8; Acts 13:31; but the rendering whereof is in accordance with the more frequent phrases (Acts 5:32; Acts 10:39, etc.). The meaning is practically the same. The Prince of life (ἀρχηγὸν τῆς ζωῆς)

The Greek brings out by the position of these words what Bengel calls "the magnificent antithesis" between a murderer and the Prince of life. "Ye demanded a murderer, but the Prince of life ye killed." This is the only place where the phrase occurs. Ἀρχηγός, though sometimes rendered prince, means, primarily, beginning, and thence originator, author. Better here as Rev., in margin, author, and so by Rev. at Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 12:2.

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