Acts 4:13
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
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(13) When they saw the boldness of Peter and John.—John, so far as we read, had not spoken, but look and bearing, and, perhaps, unrecorded words, showed that he too shared Peter’s courage. That “boldness of speech” had been characteristic of his Lord’s teaching (Mark 8:32; John 7:13). It was now to be the distinctive feature of that of the disciples: here of Peter; in Acts 28:31, 2Corinthians 3:12; 2Corinthians 7:4, of St. Paul; in 1John 4:17; 1John 5:14, of the beloved disciple. It is, perhaps, characteristic that the last named uses it not of boldness of speech towards men, but of confidence in approaching God. The Greek word for “when they saw” implies “considering” as well as beholding; that for “perceived” would be better expressed by having learnt, or having ascertained. The Greek verb implies, not direct perception, but the grasp with which the mind lays hold of a fact after inquiry. In Acts 25:5, it is rightly translated “when I found.”

Unlearned and ignorant.—The first of the two words means, literally, unlettered. Looking to the special meaning of the “letters” or “Scriptures” of the Jews, from which the scribes took their name (grammateis, from grammata), it would convey, as used here the sense of “not having been educated as a scribe, not having studied the Law and other sacred writings.” It does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The second word means literally, a private person, one without special office or calling, or the culture which they imply: what in English might be called a “common man.” It appears again in 1Corinthians 14:16; 1Corinthians 14:23-24, with the same meaning. Its later history is curious enough to be worth noting. The Vulgate, instead of translating the Greek word, reproduced it, with scarcely an alteration, as idiota. It thus passed into modem European languages with the idea of ignorance and incapacity closely attached to it, and so acquired its later sense of “idiot.”

They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.—Better, they began to recognise. The tense is in the imperfect, implying that one after another of the rulers began to remember the persons of the two Apostles as they had seen them with their Master in the Temple. These two, and these two alone, may have been seen by many of the Council on that early dawn of the day of the Crucifixion in the court-yard of the high priest’s palace (John 18:15).




Acts 4:13

Two young Galilean fishermen, before the same formidable tribunal which a few weeks before had condemned their Master, might well have quailed. And evidently ‘Annas, the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest,’ were very much astonished that their united wisdom and dignity did not produce a greater impression on these two contumacious prisoners. They were ‘unlearned,’ knowing nothing about Rabbinical wisdom; they were ‘ignorant,’ or, as the word ought rather to be rendered, ‘persons in a private station,’ without any kind of official dignity. And yet there they stood, perfectly unembarrassed and at their ease, and said what they wanted to say, all of it, right out. So, as great astonishment crept over the dignified ecclesiastics who were sitting in judgment upon them, their astonishment led them to remember what, of course, they knew before, only that it had not struck them so forcibly, as explaining the Apostles’ demeanour- viz.,’that they had been with Jesus.’ So they said to themselves: ‘Ah, that explains it all! There is the root of it. The company that they have kept accounts for their unembarrassed boldness.’

Now, I need not notice by more than a word in passing, what a testimony it is to the impression that that meek and gracious Sufferer had made upon His judges, that when they saw these two men standing there unfaltering, they began to remember how that other Prisoner had stood. And perhaps some of them began to think that they had made a mistake in that last trial. It is a testimony to the impression that Christ had made that the strange demeanour of His two servants recalled the Master to the mind of the judges.

I. The first thing that strikes us here is the companionship that transforms.

The rulers were partly right, and they were partly wrong. The source from which these men had drawn their boldness was their being with Christ; but it was not such companionship with Christ, as Annas and Caiaphas had in view, that had given them courage. For as long as the Apostles had His personal presence with them, there was no perceptible transforming or elevating process going on in them; and it was not until after they had lost that corporeal presence that there came upon them the change which even the prejudiced eyes of these judges could not help seeing.

The writer of Acts gives a truer explanation with which we may fill out the incomplete explanation of the rulers, when he says, ‘Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them.’ Ah, that is it! They had been with Jesus all the days that He went in and out amongst them. They had companioned with Him, and they had gained but little from it. But when He went away, and they were relegated to the same kind of companionship with Him that you and I have or may have, then a change began to take place on them. And so the companionship that transforms is not what the Apostle calls ‘knowing Christ after the flesh,’ but inward communion with Him, the companionship and familiarity which are as possible for us as for any Peter or John of them all, and without which our Christianity is nothing but sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.

They were ‘with Jesus,’ as each of us may be. Their communion was in no respect different from the communion that is open and indispensable to any real Christian. To be with Him is possible for us all. When we go to our daily work, when we are compassed about by distracting and trivial cares, when men come buzzing round us, and the ordinary secularities of life seem to close in upon us like the walls of a prison, and to shut out the blue and the light-oh! it is hard, but it is possible, for every one of us to think these all away, and to carry with us into everything that blessed thought of a Presence that is not to be put aside, that sits beside me at my study table, that stands beside you at your tasks, that goes with you in shop and mart, that is always near, with its tender encircling, with its mighty protection, with its all-sufficing sweetness and power. To be with Christ is no prerogative, either of Apostles and teachers of the primitive age, or of saints that have passed into the higher vision; but it is possible for us all. No doubt there are as yet unknown forms and degrees of companionship with Christ in the future state, in comparison with which to be ‘present in the body is to be absent from the Lord’; but in the inmost depth of reality, the soul that loves is where it loves, and has whom it loves ever with it. ‘Where the treasure is, there will the heart be also,’ and we may be with Christ if only we will honestly try hour by hour to keep ourselves in touch with Him, and to make Him the motive as well as the end of the work that other men do along with us, and do from altogether secular and low motives.

Another phase of being with Christ lies in frank, full, and familiar conversation with Him. I do not understand a dumb companionship. When we are with those that we love, and with whom we are at ease, speech comes instinctively. If we are co-denizens of the Father’s house with the Elder Brother, we shall talk to Him. We shall not need to be reminded of the ‘duty of prayer,’ but shall rather instinctively and as a matter of course, without thinking of what we are doing, speak to Him our momentary wants, our passing discomforts, our little troubles. There may be a great deal more virtue in monosyllabic prayers than in long liturgies. Little jets of speech or even of unspoken speech that go up to Him are likely to be heart-felt and to be heard. It is said of Israel’s army on one occasion, ‘they cried unto God in the battle, and He was entreated of them.’ Do you think that theirs would be very elaborate prayers? Was there any time to make a long petition when the sword of a Philistine was whizzing about the suppliant’s ears? It was only a cry, but it was a cry; and so ‘He was entreated of them.’ If we are ‘with Christ’ we shall talk to Him; and if we are with Christ He will talk to us. It is for us to keep in the attitude of listening and, so far as may be, to hush other voices, in order that His may be heard, If we do so, even here ‘shall we ever be with the Lord.’

II. Now, note next the character that this companionship produces.

Annas and Caiaphas said to each other: ‘Ah, these two have been with that Jesus! That is where they have got their boldness. They are like Him.’

As is the Master, so is the servant. That is the broad, general principle that lies in my text. To be with Christ makes men Christlike. A soul habitually in contact with Jesus will imbibe sweetness from Him, as garments laid away in a drawer with some preservative perfume absorb fragrance from that beside which they lie. Therefore the surest way for Christian people to become what God would have them to be, is to direct the greater part of their effort, not so much to the acquirement of individual characteristics and excellences, as to the keeping up of continuity of communion with the Master. Then the excellences will come. Astronomers, for instance, have found out that if they take a sensitive plate and lay it so as to receive the light from a star, and keep it in place by giving it a motion corresponding with the apparent motion of the heavens, for hours and hours, there will become visible upon it a photographic image of dim stars that no human eye or telescope can see. Persistent lying before the light stamps the image of the light upon the plate. Communion with Christ is the secret of Christlikeness. So instead of all the wearisome, painful, futile attempts at tinkering one’s own character apart from Him, here is the royal road. Not that there is no effort in it. We must never forget nor undervalue the necessity for struggle in the Christian life. But that truth needs to be supplemented with the thought that comes from my text-viz. that the fruitful direction in which the struggle is to be mainly made lies in keeping ourselves in touch with Jesus Christ, and if we do that, then transformation comes by beholding. ‘We all, reflecting as a mirror does, the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image.’ ‘They have been with Jesus,’ and so they were like Him.

But now look at the specific kinds of excellence which seem to have come out of this communion. ‘They beheld the boldness of Peter and John.’ The word that is translated ‘boldness’ no doubt conveys that idea, but it also conveys another. Literally it means ‘the act of saying everything.’ It means openness of unembarrassed speech, and so comes to have the secondary signification, which the text gives, of ‘boldness.’

Then, to be with Christ gives a living knowledge of Him and of truth, far in advance of the head knowledge of wise and learned people. It was a fact that these two knew nothing about what Rabbi This, or Rabbi That, or Rabbi The Other had said, and yet could speak, as they had been speaking, large religious ideas that astonished these hide-bound Pharisees, who thought that there was no way to get to the knowledge of the revelation of God made to Israel, except by the road of their own musty and profitless learning. Ay! and it always is so. An ounce of experience is worth a ton of theology. The men that have summered and wintered with Jesus Christ may not know a great many things that are supposed to be very important parts of religion, but they have got hold of the central truth of it, with a power, and in a fashion, that men of books, and ideas, and systems, and creeds, and theological learning, may know nothing about. ‘Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, are called.’ Let a poor man at his plough-tail, or a poor woman in her garret, or a collier in the pit, have Jesus Christ for their Companion, and they have got the kernel; and the gentlemen that like such diet may live on the shell if they will, and can. Religious ideas are of little use unless there be heart-experiences; and heart-experiences are wonderful teachers of religious truth.

Again, to be with Christ frees from the fear of man. It was a new thing for such persons as Peter and John to stand cool and unawed before the Council. Not so very long ago one of the two had been frightened into a momentary apostasy by dread of being haled before the rulers, and now they are calmly heroic, and threats are idle words to them. I need not point to the strong presumption, raised by the contrast of the Apostles’ past cowardice and present courage, of the occurrence of some such extraordinary facts as the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Descent of the Spirit. Something had happened which revolutionised these men. It was their communion with Jesus, made more real and deep by the cessation of His bodily presence, which made these unlearned and non-official Galileans front the Council with calmly beating hearts and unfaltering tongues. Doubtless, temperament has much to do with courage, but, no doubt, he who lives near Jesus is set free from undue dependence on things seen and on persons. Perfect love casts out fear, not only of the Beloved, but of all creatures. It is the bravest thing in the world.

Further, to be with Christ will open a man’s lips. The fountain, if it is full, must well up. ‘Light is light which circulates. Heat is heat which radiates.’ The true possession of Jesus Christ will always make it impossible for the possessor to be dumb. I pray you to test yourselves, as I would that all professing Christians should test themselves, by that simple truth, that a full heart must find utterance. The instinct that drives a man to speak of the thing in which he is interested should have full play in the Christian life. It seems to me a terribly sad fact that there are such hosts of good, kind people, with some sort of religion about them, who never feel any anxiety to say a word to any soul concerning the Master whom they profess to love. I know, of course, that deep feeling is silent, and that the secrets of Christian experience are not to be worn on the sleeve for daws to peck at. And I know that the conventionalities of this generation frown very largely upon the frank utterance of religious convictions on the part of religious people, except on Sundays, in Sunday-schools, pulpits, and the like. But for all that, what is in you will come out. If you have never felt ‘I was weary of forbearing, and I could not stay,’ I do not think that there is much sign in you of a very deep or a very real being with Jesus.

III. The last point to be noted is, the impression which such a character makes.

It was not so much what Peter and John said that astonished the Council, as the fact of their being composed and bold enough to say anything.

A great deal more is done by character than by anything else. Most people in the world take their notions of Christianity from its concrete embodiments in professing Christians. For one man that has read his Bible, and has come to know what religion is thereby, there are a hundred that look at you and me, and therefrom draw their conclusions as to what religion is. It is not my sermons, but your life, that is the most important agency for the spread of the Gospel in this congregation. And if we, as Christian people, were to live so as to make men say, ‘Dear me, that is strange. That is not the kind of thing that one would have expected from that man. That is of a higher strain than he is of. Where did it come from, I wonder?’ ‘Ah, he learned it of that Jesus’-if people were constrained to speak in that style to themselves about us, dear friends, and about all our brethren, England would be a different England from what it is t-day. It is Christians’ lives, after all, that make dints in the world’s conscience.

Do you remember one of the Apostle’s lovely and strong metaphors? Paul says that that little Church in Thessalonica rung out clear and strong the name of Jesus Christ-resonant like the clang of a bugle, ‘so that we need not to speak anything.’ The word that he employs for ‘sounded out’ is a technical expression for the ringing blast of a trumpet. Very small penny whistles would be a better metaphor for the instruments which the bulk of professing Christians play on.

‘Adorn the doctrine of Christ.’ And that you may, listen to His own word, which says all I have been trying to say in this sermon: ‘Abide in Me. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in Me.’Acts 4:13-14. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John — Observed with what courage and freedom they spoke, and pleaded their Master’s cause, and to what a high degree they extolled him in the very presence of those magistrates who had so lately condemned him to the most shameful death; and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant — Or rather, illiterate and uneducated men, or men in private stations in life, as Dr. Doddridge renders the latter word, ιδιωται, observing, that the expressions literally signify, “that they were not scholars, nor in any public rank of life, as the priests and magistrates were; but that they import no want of natural good sense, or any ignorance of what was then the subject of debate: so that our translation seems very unhappy here.” They marvelled — Were greatly astonished; and took knowledge of them — Greek, επεγινωσκον, they knew, or were persuaded, namely, upon further recollection or consideration; that they had been with Jesus — Had been his disciples, and from him had received their knowledge and their courage. They themselves, it is probable, had seen these two disciples with him in the temple, or on the night when he was taken, led to the house of Caiaphas, and examined: and they now recollected that they had seen them with him. Or some of the servants of these rulers, or those about them, informed them of it. And when they understood that they had been with Jesus, had been conversant with him, attendant on him, and trained up under him, they knew what to impute their boldness to; nay, their boldness in divine things was enough to show with whom they had associated, and from whom they had had their education. Observe, reader, those that have been with Jesus, that have had converse and communion with him, should conduct themselves in every thing so that those who converse with them may take knowledge of them that they have been with him; and, therefore, are made so holy and heavenly, spiritual and cheerful; so raised above this world, and inspired with hopes of, and desires after, another. And, beholding the man who was healed — As they were obliged to acknowledge he was; standing with them — With Peter and John, perfectly recovered; they could say nothing against it — Against the fact, though they were unwilling to own the doctrine which it tended so strongly to prove.4:5-14 Peter being filled with the Holy Ghost, would have all to understand, that the miracle had been wrought by the name, or power, of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, whom they had crucified; and this confirmed their testimony to his resurrection from the dead, which proved him to be the Messiah. These rulers must either be saved by that Jesus whom they had crucified, or they must perish for ever. The name of Jesus is given to men of every age and nation, as that whereby alone believers are saved from the wrath to come. But when covetousness, pride, or any corrupt passion, rules within, men shut their eyes, and close their hearts, in enmity against the light; considering all as ignorant and unlearned, who desire to know nothing in comparison with Christ crucified. And the followers of Christ should act so that all who converse with them, may take knowledge that they have been with Jesus. That makes them holy, heavenly, spiritual, and cheerful, and raises them above this world.Boldness - This word properly denotes "openness" or "confidence in speaking." It stands opposed to "hesitancy," and to "equivocation" in declaring our sentiments. Here it means that, in spite of danger and opposition, they avowed their doctrines without any attempt to conceal or disguise them.

Peter and John - It was they only who had been concerned in the healing of the lame man, Acts 3:1.

And perceived - When they knew that they were unlearned. This might have been ascertained either by report or by the manner of their speaking.

Unlearned - This word properly denotes "those who were not acquainted with letters, or who had not had the benefit of an education."

Ignorant men - ἰδιῶται idiōtai. This word properly denotes "those who live in private, in contradistinction from those who are engaged in public life or in office." As this class of persons is commonly also supposed to be less learned, talented, and refined than those in office, it comes to denote "those who are rude and illiterate." The idea intended to be conveyed here is, that these men had not had opportunities of education (compare Matthew 4:18-21), and had not been accustomed to public speaking, and hence, they were surprised at their boldness. This same character is uniformly attributed to the early preachers of Christianity. Compare 1 Corinthians 1:27; Matthew 11:25. The Galileans were regarded by the Jews as particularly rude and uncultivated, Matthew 26:73; Mark 14:17.

They marvelled - They wondered that men who had not been educated in the schools of the rabbis, and accustomed to speak in public, should declare their sentiments with so much boldness.

And they took knowledge - This expression means simply that riley knew, or that they obtained evidence that they had been with Jesus. It is not said in what way they obtained this evidence, but the connection leads us to suppose it was by the miracle which they had performed, by their firm and bold declaration of the doctrines of Jesus, and perhaps by the irresistible conviction that none would be thus bold who had not been personally with him, and who had not the firmest conviction that he was the Messiah. They had not been trained in their schools, and their boldness could not be attributed to the arts of rhetoric, but was the native, ingenuous, and manly exhibition of a deep conviction of the truth of what they spoke, and that conviction could have been obtained only by their having been with him, and having been satisfied that he was the Messiah. Such conviction is of far more value in preaching than all the mere teachings of the schools; and without such a conviction, all preaching will be frigid, hypocritical, and useless.

Had been with Jesus - Had been his followers, and had attended person ally on his ministry. They gave evidence that they had seen him, been with him, heard him, and were convinced that he was the Messiah. We may learn here:

(1) That if men wish to be successful in preaching, it must be based on deep and thorough conviction of the truth of what they deliver.

(2) they who preach should give evidence that they are acquainted with the Lord Jesus Christ; that they have imbibed his spirit, pondered his instructions, studied the evidences of his divine mission, and are thoroughly convinced that he was from God.

(3) boldness and success in the ministry, as well as in everything else, will depend far more on honest, genuine, thorough conviction of the truth than on the endowments of talent and learning, and the arts and skill of eloquence. No man should attempt to preach without such a thorough conviction of truth; and no man who has it will preach in vain.

(4) God often employs the ignorant and unlearned to confound the wise, 1 Corinthians 1:27-28. But it is not by their ignorance. It was not the ignorance of Peter and John that convinced the Sanhedrin. It was done in spite of their ignorance. It was their boldness and their honest conviction of truth. Besides, though not learned in the schools of the Jews, they had been under a far more important training, under the personal direction of Christ himself, for three years; I and now they were directly endowed by the Holy Spirit with the power of speaking with tongues. Though not taught in the schools, yet there was an important sense in which they were not unlearned and ignorant men. Their example should not, therefore, be pled in favor of an unlearned ministry. Christ himself expressed his opposition to an unlearned ministry by teaching them himself, and then by bestowing on them miraculous endowments which no learning at present can furnish. It may be remarked, further, that in the single selection which he made of an apostle after his ascension to heaven, when he came to choose one who had not been under his personal teaching, he chose a learned man, the apostle Paul, and thus evinced his purpose that there should be training or education in those who are invested with the sacred office.

(5) yet in the case before us there is a striking proof of the truth and power of religion. These men had not acquired their boldness in the schools; they were not trained for argument among the Jews; they did not meet them by cunning sophistry; but they came with the honest conviction that what they were saying was true. Were they deceived? Were they not competent to bear witness? Did they have any motive to attempt to palm a falsehood onto people? Infidelity must answer many such questions as these before the apostles can be convicted of imposture.

13-17. perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men—that is, uninstructed in the learning of the Jewish schools, and of the common sort; men in private life, untrained to teaching.

took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus—recognized them as having been in His company; remembering possibly, that they had seen them with Him [Meyer, Bloomfield, Alford]; but, more probably, perceiving in their whole bearing what identified them with Jesus: that is, "We thought we had got rid of Him; but lo! He reappears in these men, and all that troubled us in the Nazarene Himself has yet to be put down in these His disciples." What a testimony to these primitive witnesses! Would that the same could be said of their successors!

They were unlearned; not wholly unlearned, but such as were without any polite learning, or more than ordinary education, such as every one amongst them had.

Ignorant men; idiots, so the Greek word, from whence ours come, signifying such as were brought up at home, and never acted in a larger sphere than the walls of their own house; having never been magistrates, or teachers of the law, or any way public persons; and spake only their mother tongue.

They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus; which these rulers might easily take notice of, many of them frequenting his company too, Matthew 21:23 Luke 18:18 John 12:42. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John,.... With what courage and intrepidity they stood before them, the presence of mind they had, and the freedom of speech they used, as the word properly signifies: they observed their elocution, the justness of their diction, the propriety of their language, and the strength and nervousness of their reasoning; as well as their great resolution, constancy, and firmness of mind; not being afraid to profess the name of Christ, or to charge them with the murder of him; and that they seemed to be determined to abide by him, at all events; to assert him to be the true Messiah, though rejected by the Jewish builders; and that he was risen from the dead; and not only to ascribe unto him the miracle now wrought, but the salvation of men; and to declare, that there was none in any other but him: the Syriac version renders it, "when they heard the word of Simeon and John, which they spoke openly": and freely, without any reserve: they answered readily to the question, that it was by the name of Jesus of Nazareth that they had done this miracle; they dealt freely with the Jewish sanhedrim, and told them in so many words, that they were the crucifiers of Christ, and the rejecters of that stone, which God had made the head of the corner, and that there was no salvation for them in any other: it appears from hence, that John spoke as well as Peter, though his words are not recorded:

and perceived that they were unlearned ignorant men; not by what they now said, but by what they heard and understood of them before: they were informed that they were "unlearned" men, or who did not understand letters; not but that they had learned their mother tongue, and could read the Scriptures; but they had not had a liberal education; they had not been brought up at the feet of any of the doctors, in any of the schools and universities of the Jews; they were not trained up in, and conversant with, the nice distinctions, subtle argumentations, and decisions of the learned doctors, in the interpretation of the law of Moses, and the traditions of the elders: and understood that they were also "ignorant" men, "idiots", or private men; for men might be unlearned, and yet not be such; it seems the high priests themselves were sometimes unlearned men: hence, on the day of atonement,

"they used to read before him, in the order of the day, and say to him, Lord high priest, read thou with thine own mouth; perhaps thou hast forgot, or it may be, , "thou hast not learned" (c).''

The Jews have adopted the word here used into their language; and express by it, sometimes a man that is mean, abject, and contemptible: thus instead of "children of base men", or "without a name", the Targumist on Job 30:8 reads, , "the children of idiots", or "private men": and in the Targum on 1 Samuel 18:23 it is used for one lightly esteemed, and comparable to a flea: it sometimes designs persons in a private life, though men of learning and knowledge, in distinction from those that are in office; so we read (d), that

"three kings, and four "private" persons, have no part in the world to come; the three kings are Jeroboam, Ahab, and Manasseh; the four "idiots", or private men, are Balaam, Doeg, Ahithophel, and Gehazi.''

And so a bench of idiots, or private men, is distinguished from a bench of authorized and approved judges (e); and sometimes the word is used of such, as are distinguished from doctors, or wise men; so when it is said (f),

"the command of plucking off the shoe, is done before three judges, and though the three are "idiots";''

the note of Maimonides upon it is,

"not wise men, but that know how to read the language,''

the Hebrew language: and such were the disciples, in every sense of the word; they were mean and abject, poor fishermen, men of no name and figure, that were in no office, and exalted station of life, nor versed in Jewish learning, but common private men: so that

they marvelled; the sanheddrim were astonished to hear them talk with so much fluency and pertinence:

and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus; looking wistly upon them, they knew them again, and remembered that; they were persons that were the disciples of Jesus, and whom they had seen in company with him; not in the high priest's palace, when Jesus was arraigned, examined, and condemned there; though Peter, and some think John was there at that time, yet not to be observed and taken notice of by the sanhedrim; but in the temple where Jesus taught, and where the chief priests, Scribes, and elders came, and disputed with him about his authority, and cavilled at him, Matthew 21:15.

(c) Misn. Yoma, c. 1. sect. 3.((d) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 11. sect. 2.((e) T. Bab. Bava Metzia, fol. 32. 11. (f) Misn. Yebamot, c. 12. sect. 1.

{5} Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and {i} ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

(5) The good liberty and boldness of the servants of God does yet this much good, that those who lay hidden under a mask of zeal at length betray themselves to indeed be wicked men.

(i) The word used here is idiot, which signifies a private man when it is used in reference to a magistrate: but with reference to sciences and studies, it signifies one that is unlearned, and with regard to honour and estimation, it implies one of base degree, and of no estimation.

Acts 4:13-15. Θεωροῦντες] “Inest notio contemplandi cum attentione aut admiratione.” Tittmann, Synon. N. T. p. 121.

καὶ καταλαβόμενοι] and when they had perceived (Acts 10:34; Ephesians 3:18; Plat. Phaedr. p. 250 D; Polyb. viii. 4. 6; Dion. Hal. ii. 66), when they had become aware. They perceived this during the address of Peter, which was destitute of all rabbinical learning and showed to them one γραμμάτων ἄπειρον (Plat. Apol. p. 26 D). ἀγράμματοι (Xen. Mem. iv. 2. 20; Plat. Crit. p. 109 D) denotes here the want of rabbinic culture. Ἰδιῶται is the same: laymen, who are strangers to theological learning. See Hartmann in the Stud. u. Krit. 1834, I. p. 119 ff. The double designation is intended to express the idea very fully; ἄνθρωποι has in it, moreover, something disparaging: unlearned men. Comp. Lys. acc. Nicom. 28, and Bremi in loc. On ἰδιώτης, which, according to the contrast implied in the connection, may denote either a private man, or a plebeian, or an unlearned person, or a common soldier, or one inexperienced in gymnastic exercises, one not a poet, not a physician, and other forms of contrast to a definite professional knowledge, see Valcken. in loc; Hemsterhuis, ad Lucian. Necyom. p. 484; Ruhnken, ad Long. p. 410. Here the element of contrast is contained in ἀγράμματοι: hence the general meaning plebeians (Kuinoel and Olshausen, comp. Baumgarten) is to be rejected. They were μωροὶ τοῦ κόσμου, 1 Corinthians 1:27. Comp. John 7:15.

ἐπεγίνωσκόν τε αὐτοὺς, ὅτι κ.τ.λ.] and recognised them (namely) that they were (at an earlier period) with Jesus. Their astonishment sharpened now their recollection; and therefore Baur and Zeller have taken objection to this remark without sufficient psychological reason. ἐπεγίνωσκ. is incorrectly taken (even by Kuinoel) as the pluperfect. See Winer, p. 253 [E. T. 337]. The two imperfects, ἐθαύμαζ. and ἐπεγίνωσκ., are, as relative tenses, here entirely in place.

τὸν δὲ ἄυθρωπ.] emphatically put first.

συνέβαλον] they conferred among themselves. Comp. Acts 17:18; Plut. Mor. p. 222 C.Acts 4:13. θεωροῦντες δὲ, cf. Acts 3:16, not merely βλέπ., as in Acts 4:14, but “inest notio contemplandi cum attentione aut admiratione,” Tittm., Synon. N. T., p. 121. The present participle marks this continuous observation of the fearless bearing of the Apostles during the trial (Rendall).—παρρησίαν: either boldness of speech, or of bearing; it was the feature which had characterised the teaching of our Lord; cf. Mark 8:32, and nine times in St. John in connection with Christ’s teaching or bearing; and the disciples in this respect also were as their Master, c. Acts 4:29; Acts 4:31 (Acts 2:29); so too of St. Paul, Acts 28:31, and frequently used by St. Paul himself in his Epistles; also by St. John four times in his First Epistle of confidence in approaching God: “urbem et orbem hac parrhesia vicerunt,” Bengel. Cf. παρρησιάζεσθαι used of Paul’s preaching, Acts 9:27-28, and again of him and Barnabas, Acts 13:46, Acts 14:3, of Apollos, Acts 18:26, and twice again of Paul, Acts 19:8, Acts 26:26; only found in Acts, and twice in St. Paul’s Epistles, Ephesians 6:20, 1 Thessalonians 2:2, of speaking the Gospel boldly. For παρρησία, see LXX, Proverbs 13:5, 1Ma 4:18, Wis 5:1 (of speech), cf. also Jos., Ant., ix., 10, 4, xv., 2, 7.—Ἰωάννου: even if St. John had not spoken, that “confidence towards God,” which experience of life deepened, 1 John 4:17; 1 John 5:14, but which was doubtless his now, would arrest attention; but it is evidently assumed that St. John had spoken, and it is quite characteristic of St. Luke’s style thus to quote the most telling utterance, and to assume that the reader conceives the general situation, and procedure in the trial, Ramsay’s St. Paul, pp. 371, 372.—καὶ καταλαβόμενοι: “and had perceived” R.V., rightly marking the tense of the participle; either by their dress or demeanour, or by their speech (cf. Acts 10:34, Acts 25:25, Ephesians 3:18, Blass, Grammatik des N. G., p. 181).—ὅτιεἰσιὅτι σὺν τῷ Ἰ. ἦσαν in dependent clauses where English usage would employ a past tense and a pluperfect, N.T. usage employs a present and an imperfect “perceived that they were … that they had been …,” Blass, and see Salmon on Blass’s Commentary, Hermathena, xxi., p. 229.—ἄνθρωποι: Wendt sees in the addition something depreciatory.—ἀγράμματοι: lit[153], unlettered, i.e., without acquaintance with the Rabbinic learning in τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα (2 Timothy 3:15), the Jewish Scriptures (lit[154], letters, hence γραμματεύς), cf. John 7:15, Acts 26:24, where the word is used without ἱερά, so that it cannot be confined to the sacred Scriptures of the O.T., and includes the Rabbinic training in their meaning and exposition. In classical Greek the word = “illiterati,” joined by Plato with ὄρειος, ἄμουσος, see also Xen., Mem., iv., 2, 20; by Plutarch it is set over against the μεμουσωμένος, and elsewhere joined with ἄγροικος, Trench, N. T. Synonyms, ii., p. 134, and Wetstein, in loco, cf. Athenæus, x., p. 454 B., βοτὴρ δʼ ἐστὶν ἀγράμματος.—ἰδιῶται: the word properly signifies a private person (a man occupied with τὰ ἴδια), as opposed to any one who holds office in the State, but as the Greeks held that without political life there was no true education of a man, it was not unnatural that ἰδιώτης should acquire a somewhat contemptuous meaning, and so Plato joins it with ἀπράγμων, and Plutarch with ἄπρακτος and ἀπαίδευτος (and instances in Wetstein). But further: in Trench, u. s., p. 136, and Grimm, sub v., the ἰδιώτης is “a layman,” as compared with the ἰατρός, “the skilled physician,” Thuc. ii. 48, and the word is applied by Philo to the whole congregation of Israel as contrasted with the priests, and to subjects as contrasted with their prince, cf. its only use in the LXX, Proverbs 6:8 (cf. Herod., ii., 81, vii., 199, and instances in Wetstein on 1 Corinthians 14:16). Bearing this in mind, it would seem that the word is used by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 14:16; 1 Corinthians 14:23-24) of believers devoid of special spiritual gifts, of prophecy or of speaking with tongues, and in the passage before us it is applied to those who, like the ἀγράμματοι, had been without professional training in the Rabbinical schools. The translation “ignorant” is somewhat unfortunate. ἰδιώτης certainly need not mean ignorant, cf. Plato, Legg., 830, A., ἀνδρῶν σοφῶν ἰδιωτῶν τε καὶ συνετῶν. St. Paul uses the word of himself, ἰδιώτης ἐν λόγῳ, 2 Corinthians 11:6, in a way which helps us to understand its meaning here, for it may well have been used contemptuously of him (as here by the Sadducees of Peter and John) by the Judaisers, who despised him as “unlearned” and a “layman”: he would not affect the Rabbinic subtleties and interpretations in which they boasted. Others take the word here as referring to the social rank of the Apostles, “plebeians” “common men” (Kuinoel, Olshausen, De Wette, Bengel, Hackett), but the word is not so used until Herodian, iv., 10, 4. See also Dean Plumptre’s note on the transition of the word through the Vulgate idiota to our word “idiot”: Tyndale and Cranmer both render “laymen”.—ἐπεγίνωσκόν τε: if we take those words to imply that the Sanhedrim only recognised during the trial that Peter and John had been amongst the disciples of Jesus, there is something unnatural and forced about such an interpretation, especially when we remember that all Jerusalem was speaking of them, Acts 4:16; Acts 4:21, and that one of them was personally known to the high priest (John 18:15). In Codex [155] (so [156]) an attempt is apparently made to meet this difficulty by reading τινες δὲ ἐξ αὐτῶν ἐπεγίνωσκον αὐτοὺς. Others have pointed out that the same word is used in Acts 3:10 of the beggar who sat for alms, and that here, as there, ἐπεγίν. implies something more than mere recognition (see especially Lumby’s note on the force of ἐπί); thus the revisers in both passages render “took knowledge of”. But here as elsewhere Professor Ramsay throws fresh light upon the narrative, St. Paul, p. 371. And however we interpret the words, St. Chrysostom’s comment does not lose its beauty: ἐπεγίν. τεἦσαν, i.e., in His Passion, for only those were with Him at the time, and there indeed they had seen them humble, dejected—and this it was that most surprised them, the greatness of the change; Hom., x.—The τε after ἐπεγίν., and its repetition at the commencement of Acts 4:14 (so R.V., W.H[157], Weiss), is very Lucan (see Ramsay’s paraphrase above); for this closely connecting force of τε cf. Weiss’s commentary, passim. With σύν κ.τ.λ. Weiss compares Luke 8:38; Luke 22:56.

[153] literal, literally.

[154] literal, literally.

[155] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[156] R(omana), in Blass, a first rough copy of St. Luke.

[157] Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.13–22. The Apostles are dismissed unpunished

13. the boldness] The word implies freedom and readiness of speech such as would not be expected from the unlearned.

of Peter and John] Here we have evidence that not all the speeches which were made are reported by St Luke, for we have no record of any word spoken by John, yet his boldness of speech, no less than St Peter’s, is observed by the council. Christ’s speeches had produced a like effect (John 7:15).

ignorant men] The Greek signifies plebeian, as opposed to noble men. Render, common.

they took knowledge of them] These words have been interpreted as though they meant that the members of the Sanhedrin now for the first time discovered the relation in which the two Apostles stood to Jesus. Those who press such a rendering must overlook the force of the very same verb as used in Acts 3:10, “They knew that it was he which sat for alms.” The men of whom this is said had known the cripple for years, but now observed in addition that he was a cripple no longer, though still the same man whom they had so long seen begging. Just so with the Jewish authorities; they could hardly fail to have known the connection of the preachers with Jesus after the sermon on the day of Pentecost and the events which followed it, and now they further (ἐπὶ) notice that as the Master’s words had been powerful, so there was like power in the language of those who had been with Him. We are told (John 18:15) of one disciple, taken always to be St John himself, who was known to the high-priest before the Crucifixion.Acts 4:13. Θεωροῦντες) beholding.—παῤῥησίαν, the freedom of speech) The noun παῤῥησία, and the verb παῤῥησιάζομαι, both very frequently used in this book of Acts, inasmuch as being appropriate to its subject, express the characteristic of true religion. It was by this boldness of speech that they overcame both city and world (urbem et orbem).—καταλαβόμενοι, having perceived) now, or even before.—ἄνθρωποι, men) This is a more humble designation than ἄνδρες.—ἀγράμματοι, unlearned) who could scarcely read or write, having hardly made further progress even in sacred learning.—ἰδιῶται, untutored men) Private persons, viz. fishermen; and therefore not endued with those accomplishments on which political and eloquent men depend. The ἀγράμματος is unaccomplished; the ἰδιώτης, still more so. See the remarks which we have made concerning this word, on Chrysost. de Sacerd., § 413. “It is by men of this kind, despised in the eyes of the world, that God has ALWAYS caused His word to be preached.”—Justus Jonas.—ἐπεγίνωσκόν τε, and they knew or recognised) now at last: for a little before they had paid less attention to them.Verse 13. - Beheld for saw, A.V.; had perceived for perceived, A.V. The boldness; literally, free or outspokenness (παῥῤησία), and properly used with words signifying to speak (see Acts 2:29; Acts 4:29, 31; Acts 28:31; John 7:13, etc.), and so the verb (παρρησιάζεσθαι) means "to speak freely and boldly" (Acts 9:27, 29; Acts 13:46; Acts 14:3; Acts 18:26; Acts 19:8; Acts 26:26; elsewhere in the New Testament only in Ephesians 6:20; 1 Thessalonians 2:2). St. Peter had shown his free-spokenness in so boldly proclaiming the resurrection and mighty power of him whom the rulers he was addressing had crucified. Boldness of speech, when combined with charity and moderation, is a most important grace for a minister of Christ. Unlearned and ignorant men. The term unlearned (ἀγράμματος) means that they had no "knowledge of Jewish culture" beyond the Scriptures. Ignorant men (ἰδιῶται) was a technical term for those who had not studied in rabbinic schools. The word hediot occurs frequently in the Talmud (Farrar's 'Life of St. Paul,' vol. 1. p. 106). They took knowledge, etc. Annas and Caiaphas or some of their people, it is likely, had seen them in the high priest's palace (John 18:15-18). Boldness

See on freely, Acts 2:29.

Perceived (καταλαβόμενοι)

The word, meaning originally to seize upon or lay hold of, occurs frequently in the New Testament in different phases of this original sense. Thus, to apprehend or grasp, Ephesians 3:18; Philippians 3:12, Philippians 3:13; Romans 9:30 : of seizure by a demon, Mark 9:18 : of something coming upon or overtaking, John 12:35; 1 Thessalonians 5:4 : of comprehending, grasping mentally, as here, Acts 10:34; Acts 25:25.

Unlearned (ἀγράμματοι)

Or, very literally, unlettered. With special reference to Rabbinic culture, the absence of which was conspicuous in Peter's address.

Ignorant (ἰδιῶται)

Originally, one in a private station, as opposed to one in office or in public affairs. Therefore one without professional knowledge, a layman; thence, generally, ignorant, ill-informed; sometimes plebeian, common. In the absence of certainty it is as well to retain the meaning given by the A. V., perhaps with a slight emphasis on the want of professional knowledge. Compare 1 Corinthians 14:16, 1 Corinthians 14:23, 1 Corinthians 14:24; 2 Corinthians 11:6.

Took knowledge (ἐπεγίνωσκον)

Or recognized. See on Acts 3:10.

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