Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.—The words indicate with sufficient clearness the nature of Stephen’s teaching. The charge was a false one, but its falsehood was a distortion of the truth, as that against our Lord had been. He was accused of blasphemy in calling Himself the Son of God; making Himself equal with God (Matthew 26:63; John 5:18); threatening to destroy the Temple (Matthew 26:61)—each of the counts in the indictment resting on words that He had actually spoken. And Stephen, in like manner, was charged with offences for which there must have seemed colourable ground. He had taught, we must believe, that the days of the Temple were numbered; that with its fall the form of worship of which it was the representative would pass away, that the Law given by Moses was to make way for the higher revelation in Christ, and the privileges of the elect nation to be merged in the blessings of the universal Church. In this case, accordingly, the antagonism comes, not only or chiefly, as in the previous chapters, from the Sadducean high priests and their followers, but from the whole body of scribes and people. Pharisees and Sadducees, Hebrews and Hellenistæ, are once more brought into coalition against the new truth.Acts 6:11-14. Then they suborned men — As they found they were incapable of defending themselves by fair argument, they had recourse to a most mean and dishonest fraud; they suborned men to bear false witness against him, and depose that they had heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses — Their great and divinely-commissioned lawgiver; and against God — The great author of that law which Moses delivered by command from him. They were right in supposing that they who blasphemed Moses, if they meant the writings of Moses, which were given by inspiration of God, blasphemed God himself. They that speak reproachfully of the Scriptures, and ridicule them, reflect upon God himself, and do despite to him. But did Stephen blaspheme Moses? By no means; he was far from it. Christ and the preachers of his gospel never said any thing that looked like blaspheming Moses; they always quoted his writings with respect; appealed to them, and said no other things but what Moses foretold should come. Very unjustly, therefore, is Stephen indicted for blaspheming Moses. “On such terms,” says Baxter, “we dispute with malignant men: when they cannot resist the truth, they suborn men to swear to false accusations. And it is next to a miracle of Providence, that no greater number of religious persons have been murdered in the world, by the way of perjury and pretence of law, when so many thousands hate them, who make no conscience of false oaths.” And they stirred up the people and the elders — They incensed both the government and the mob against him, that if they could not prevail by the one, they might by the other; that if the sanhedrim should still think fit, according to Gamaliel’s advice, to let him alone, yet they might prevail against him by popular rage and tumult; or, if the people should countenance and protect him, they might effect his destruction by the authority of the elders and scribes. And came upon him, and caught him — Greek, επισταντες συνηρπασαν, rushing on him, they seized him, and brought him to the council; which, it seems, was then sitting; and there, in the presence of their highest court of judicature, they set up false witnesses — Witnesses that they themselves knew to be false; who said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words — These suborned witnesses, being brought together, imboldened one another in bearing a false testimony. Against this holy place — Meaning the temple, where they then were; and the law — The divinely- inspired law, as one that has no reverence at all for its authority. For we have heard him say, that Jesus shall destroy this place — Perhaps they had, but that did not prove that he had been guilty of blasphemy. Thus Christ was condemned as a blasphemer, for words which were thought to reflect upon the temple, for the honour of which they seemed to be greatly concerned, at the very time when by their wickedness they were profaning it; making it not only a house of merchandise, but a den of thieves. And shall change the customs which Moses delivered us — It is not probable that Stephen knew the mystery of the abolition of the Mosaic law, which even the apostles do not seem to have had now any idea of. And it is much less probable that he openly taught what Paul himself, many years after, only insinuated, and that with very great caution. Compare Galatians 2:2. This therefore seems to have been merely an inference drawn by them from what he taught concerning the destruction coming on the Jews, if they continued in their unbelief: but it was a very precarious inference, as the city and temple had been destroyed before, without any repeal of the law, and therefore they were false witnesses. And they were still more so in affirming that in saying these things he had spoken blasphemous words against that holy place, and against the law — What blasphemy was it against that holy place, which they at once profaned and idolized, to say that it should not be perpetual, any more than Shiloh was? And that the just and holy God would not continue the privileges of his sanctuary to those that abused them? Had not the prophets given the same warning to their fathers, of the destruction of that holy place by the Chaldeans? Nay, when the temple was first built, did not God himself give the same warning? This house, which is high, shall be an astonishment, 2 Chronicles 7:21. And with respect to the law, which they charged him with blaspheming, that law of which they made their boast, and in which they put their trust, even then, when, through breaking it, they dishonoured God, (Romans 2:23,) how was Stephen’s saying, (if he really did say,) that Jesus would change the customs which Moses had delivered to them, blaspheming it or its glorious Author? Was it not foretold by the prophets, and therefore to be expected, that in the days of the Messiah, the old customs should be changed, and that the shadows should give place when the substance was come? This, however, was no essential change of the law, but the perfecting of it: for Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it; and if he changed some customs that Moses delivered, it was to introduce and establish those that were much better.Matthew 26:60-61.
We have heard ... - When they alleged that they had heard this is not said. Probably, however, they referred to some of his discourses with the people when he performed miracles and wonders among them, Acts 6:8.
Blasphemous words - See the notes on Matthew 9:3. Moses was regarded with profound reverence. His laws they held to be unchangeable. Any intimation, therefore, that there was a greater Lawgiver than he, or that his institutions were mere shadows and types, and were no longer binding, would be regarded as blasphemy, even though it should be spoken with the highest professed respect for Moses. That the Mosaic institutions were to be changed, and give place to another and a better dispensation, all the Christian teachers would affirm; but this was not said with a design to blaspheme or revile Moses. "In the view of the Jews," to say that was to speak blasphemy; and hence, instead of reporting what he actually "did" say, they accused him of "saying" what "they" regarded as blasphemy. If reports are made of what people say, their very "words" should be reported; and we should not report our inferences or impressions as what they said.
And against God - God was justly regarded by the Jews as the giver of theft law and the author of their institutions. But the Jews, either willfully or involuntarily, not knowing that they were a shadow of good things to come, and were therefore to pass away, regarded all intimations of such a change as blasphemy against God. God had a right to change or abolish those ceremonial observances, and it was "not" blasphemy in Stephen to declare it.
and against God—This must refer to the supreme dignity and authority which he claimed for Christ, as the head of that new economy which was so speedily to supersede the old (compare Ac 7:56, 59, 60).blasphemous words were, we have, Acts 6:14; which show, that the veil was yet over their hearts, and that they could not endure to hear, that the shadows must flee away when the sun is risen, and the types be abolished when the substance of the things typified is exhibited; for this truth was all the blasphemy this holy martyr was guilty of.
which said, we have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God; that is, against the law of Moses, and so against God, who gave the law to Moses, as appears from Acts 6:13 the blasphemous words seem to be, with respect to the ceremonial law, and the abrogation of it, which Stephen might insist upon, and they charged with blasphemy; see Acts 6:14.Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Acts 6:11. ὑπέβαλον: only found here in N.T., not in LXX in this sense; sub-ornaverunt; Vulgate, submiserunt (Suet., Ner., 28), cf. Appian, B. C., i., 74, ὑπεβλήθησαν κατήγοροι, and Jos., B. J., v., 10, 41, μηνυτύς τις ὑπόβλητος.—ῥήματα βλασφημίας = βλάσφημα, Hebraism, cf. Revelation 13:1; Revelation 17:3, Winer-Schmiedel, p. 266.—εἰς Μωυσῆν καὶ τὸν Θεόν: Rendall draws a distinction between λαλοῦντος … εἰς and λαλῶν ῥήματα κατά in Acts 6:13, the former denoting charges of blasphemy about Moses, and the latter against, etc., cf. Acts 2:25, Hebrews 7:14, but it is doubtful whether this distinction can be maintained, cf. Luke 12:10; Luke 22:65. The R.V. renders both prepositions against: cf. Dan., LXX, Daniel 7:25, and Daniel 3:29 (96; LXX and Theod.).11. Then they suborned men] Suborn = to provide, but nearly always used in a bad sense. Subornation of perjury is the legal phrase for procuring a person who will take a false oath.
which said, &c.] The charge here laid against Stephen is afterwards defined. Blasphemous words against Moses and against God Was the construction which these witnesses put upon language which had probably been uttered by Stephen in the same way as Christ had said (John 4:21), “The time cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.”Acts 6:11. Τότε, then) The resource of those who prop up a falling cause.—εἰς, against or towards) The calumniators first speak here indefinitely; then definitely, Acts 6:13-14.—τὸν) God Himself. The article implies an ἐπίτασις (augmented force, as compared with Μωυσῆν, which has no article. See Append.)Verse 11. - Then they suborned, etc. The resource of those who are worsted in argument is violence or treachery. Blasphemous words against Moses. It must be remembered that at this time the whole Jewish people were in a state of ill-suppressed frenzy and most sensitive jealousy for the honor of the Mosaic institutions - feelings which broke out in constant revolts against the Roman power. The accusation against the apostles of speaking blasphemies against Moses was therefore the most likely one they could have pitched upon to stir up ill will against them.
Only here in New Testament. The verb originally means to put under, as carpets under one's feet; hence, to put one person in place of another; to substitute, as another's child for one's own; to employ a secret agent in one's place, and to instigate or secretly instruct him.
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