For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)This Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place.—The accusation rested in part on the words of John 2:19, partly on the prediction of Matthew 24:2, which Stephen must have known, and may well have reproduced. It would seem to the accusers a natural inference that He who had uttered the prediction should be the chief agent in its fulfilment.
And shall change the customs.—The words seem to have been used in a half-technical sense as including the whole complex system of the Mosaic law, its ritual, its symbolism, its laws and rules of life, circumcision, the Sabbath, the distinction of clean and unclean meats (Acts 15:1; Acts 21:21; Acts 26:3; Acts 28:17).
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).Jeremiah 26:12-16; Daniel had prophesied of the destruction both of the city and the sanctuary, Daniel 9:26; and yet these were in great respect amongst them: and none could speak more plainly of the calling of the Gentiles than Malachi, Acts 1:11: and yet when the apostles came to apply these very things more home and close, they could not endure them.
that this Jesus of Nazareth; Stephen spoke of, and whom they so called by way of contempt:
shall destroy this place; meaning the temple, as the Ethiopic version renders it; and is the same charge, the false witnesses at Christ's examination brought against him:
and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us; that is, the rites, ceremonies, institutions, and appointments of the Mosaic dispensation; and yet this is no other, than what the Jews themselves say will be done, in the times of the Messiah; for they assert (p), that
"awbl dytel, "in time to come" (i.e. in the days of the Messiah) all sacrifices shall cease, but the sacrifice of thanksgiving.''For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Acts 6:14. ὁ Ναζ. οὗτος: not part of the words of Stephen, but of the witnesses—see however Blass, in loco.—καὶ καταλύσει: the closest similarity to the words in Mark 14:58 (cf. Matthew 26:61), and in both passages the same verb καταλύειν is used. It is also found in all three Synoptists in our Lord’s prophecy of the destruction of the Temple, Matthew 24:2, Mark 13:2, Luke 21:6, and we find it again in the bitter scorn of the revilers who passed beneath the cross (Mark 15:29, Matthew 27:40). The prophecy, we cannot doubt, had made its impression not only upon the disciples, but also upon the enemies of Jesus, and if St. Stephen did not employ the actual words, we can easily understand how easily and plausibly they might be attributed to him.—ἀλλάξει τὰ ἔθη, cf. Ezra 6:11, Isaiah 24:5. ἔθος is used by St. Luke seven times in Acts, three times in his Gospel, and it is only found twice elsewhere in the N.T., John 19:40, Hebrews 10:25; in the Books of the Maccabees it occurs three or four times, in Wis 4:16 (but see Hatch and Redpath), in Bel and the Dragon Acts 6:15, in the sense of custom, usage, as so often in the classics. Here it would doubtless include the whole system of the Mosaic law, which touched Jewish life at every turn, cf. Acts 15:1, Acts 21:21, Acts 26:3, Acts 28:17. For the dignity which attached to every word of the Pentateuch, and to Moses to whom the complete book of the law was declared to have been handed by God, see Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. i., p. 307, E.T., and Weber, Judische Theologie, p. 378 (1897). We have moreover the testimony of Jewish literature contemporary with the N.T. books, cf., e.g., Book of Jubilees, placed by Edersheim about 50 A.D., with its ultra-legal spirit, and its glorification of Moses and the Thorah, see too Apocalypse of Baruch, e.g., xv., 5; xlviii., 22, 24; li., 3; lxxxiv., 2, 5.14. for we have heard him say] No doubt there was some handle afforded by Stephen’s words for their statement.
that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place] What the tenor of Stephen’s language must have been may be gathered from Acts 7:48, “The Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” And to Jewish people at this time to sever worship from Jerusalem was the same thing as to destroy the Temple. The attempt which has been made to shew that the charge against Stephen is merely a reproduction of that made against Jesus is seen to be futile when we observe that in Stephen’s case the witnesses know nothing of “the raising up again of the temple,” and that Stephen himself, by not contradicting but explaining their accusation, in his defence points out that their statement had a widely different origin from that which gave cause to the accusation of Jesus.Acts 6:14. Γὰρ, for) Observe the inference unfairly drawn from the best words, Acts 6:13.—οὗτος, this Jesus) Demonstrative, as in Deuteronomy 9:3, Κύριος ὁ Θεός σου οὗτος προπορεύσεται, but used by the adversaries of Stephen in bitterness, and contemptuously. With this comp. Luke 15:30, note (the elder son applies οὗτος contemptuously to the younger, the prodigal).—καταλύσει, shall destroy) Every calumny lays hold of some portion of truth. Stephen, inasmuch as it was now mature time, had intimated something of those things which were about to come to pass. And he seems almost to have seen farther into the truth concerning the abrogation of legal rites, than Peter did before the reply of the Spirit, ch. Acts 10:19, with which comp. what precedes, Acts 6:15.Verse 14. - Unto us for us, A.V. We have heard him say, etc. These false witnesses, like those who distorted our Lord's words (Matthew 26:61; John 2:19), doubtless based their accusation upon some semblance of truth. If Stephen had said anything like what Jesus said to the woman of Samaria (John 4:21) or to his disciples (Mark 13:2), or what the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews wrote (8. 13), or what St. Paul wrote to the Colossians (Colossians 2:16, 17), his words might easily be misrepresented by false witnesses, whose purpose it was to swear away his life. This Jesus of Nazareth. The phrase is most contemptuous. This (οῦτος), so often rendered in the A.V. "this fellow" (Matthew 26:61, 71; John 9:29, etc.), is of itself an opprobrious expression (comp. Acts 7:40), and the ὁ Ναζωραῖος, the Nazarene, is intended to be still more so.
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