Acts 6:9
Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.
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(9) Certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines.—The structure of the sentence makes it probable that the Libertines, the Cyrenians, and the Alexandrians attended one synagogue, those of Cilicia and Asia another. Each of the names has a special interest of its own. (1) The Libertini. These were freed-men, emancipated Roman Jews, with probably some proselytes, descendants of those whom Pompeius had led captive, and who were settled in the trans-Tiberine district of Rome in large numbers, with oratories and synagogues of their own. When Tacitus (Ann. ii. 85) describes the expulsion of the Jews under Claudius, he speaks of “four thousand of the freed-men, or Libertine class,” as banished to Sardinia. From this class, we have seen reason to believe, Stephen himself had sprung. Andronicus and Junias were probably members of this synagogue. (See Note on Romans 16:7.)

Cyrenians.—At Cyrene, also, on the north coast of Africa, lying between Egypt and Carthage, there was a large Jewish population. Strabo, quoted by Josephus, describes them as a fourth of the whole (Jos. Ant. xiv. 7, § 2). They were conspicuous for the offerings they sent to the Temple, and had appealed to Augustus for protection against the irregular taxes by which the provincial governors sought to intercept their gifts (Jos. Ant. xvi. 6, § 5). In Simon of Cyrene we have had a conspicuous member, probably a conspicuous convert, of this community. (See Note on Matthew 27:32.) Later on, clearly as the result of Stephen’s teaching, they are prominent in preaching the gospel to the Gentiles of Antioch. We may think of Simon himself, and his two sons Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21), as probably members of this society.

Alexandrians.—Next to Jerusalem and Rome, there was, perhaps, no city in which the Jewish population was so numerous and influential as at Alexandria. Here, too, they had their own quarter, assigned to them by Ptolemy Philadelphus, and were governed, as if they were a free republic, by an ethnarch of their own (Jos. Ant. xiv. 7, § 2). They were recognised as citizens by their Roman rulers (Ibid. xiv. 10, § 1). From Alexandria had come the Greek version of the Old Testament, known from the legend of the seventy translators who had all been led to a supernatural agreement, as that of the Septuagint, or LXX., which was then in use among all the Hellenistic Jews throughout the empire, and largely read even in Palestine itself. There, at this time, living in fame and honour, was the great teacher Philo, the probable master of Apollos, training him, all unconsciously, to be the preacher of a wisdom higher than his own. The knowledge, or want of knowledge, with which Apollos appears on the scene, knowing only the baptism of John, forbids the assumption that he had been at Jerusalem after the Day of Pentecost (Acts 18:25), but echoes of the teaching of Stephen are found in that of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and it is not improbable that thoughts had been carried back to Alexandria by those who had thus been brought under his influence.

Of them of Cilicia.—Here we feel at once the interest of the name. The young Jew of Tarsus, the disciple of Gamaliel, could not fail to be among the leading members of this section of the second synagogue, exercising, in the fiery energy of his zeal, a dominant influence even over the others.

And of Asia.—The word is taken, as throughout the New Testament, in its later and more restricted sense, as denoting the pro-consular province so called, including the old Lydia and Ionia, and having Ephesus as its capital. Later on in the history, we find Jews of Asia prominent in their zeal for the sacredness of the Temple (Acts 21:27).

Disputing with Stephen.—The nature of the dispute is not far to seek. The tendency of distance from sacred places which are connected with men’s religion, is either to make men sit loose to their associations, and so rise to higher and wider thoughts, or to intensify their reverence. Where pilgrimages are customary, the latter is almost invariably the result. Men measure the sacredness of what they have come to see by the labour and cost which they have borne to see it, and they resent anything that suggests that they have wasted their labour, as tending to sacrilege and impiety. The teaching of Stephen, representing as it did the former alternative, guided and perfected by the teaching of the Spirit, was probably accepted by a few in each community. The others, moved by their pilgrim zeal were more intolerant of it than the dwellers in Jerusalem, to whom the ritual of the Temple was a part of their every-day life. Those who were most familiar with it, the priests who ministered in its courts, were, as we have seen (Acts 6:7), among the first to welcome the new and wider teaching.

6:8-15 When they could not answer Stephen's arguments as a disputant, they prosecuted him as a criminal, and brought false witnesses against him. 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. Wisdom and holiness make a man's face to shine, yet will not secure men from being treated badly. What shall we say of man, a rational being, yet attempting to uphold a religious system by false witness and murder! And this has been done in numberless instances. But the blame rests not so much upon the understanding, as upon the heart of a fallen creature, which is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Yet the servant of the Lord, possessing a clear conscience, cheerful hope, and Divine consolations, may smile in the midst of danger and death.Then there arose - That is, they stood up against him, or they opposed him.

Of the synagogue - See the notes on Matthew 4:23. The Jews were scattered in all parts of the world. In every place they would have synagogues. But it is also probable that there would be enough foreign Jews residing at Jerusalem from each of those places to maintain the worship of the synagogue; and at the great feasts, those synagogues adapted to Jewish people of different nations would be attended by those who came up to attend the great feasts. It is certain that there was a large number of synagogues in Jerusalem. The common estimate is, that there were four hundred and eighty in the city (Lightfoot; Vitringa).

Of the Libertines - There has been very great difference of opinion about the meaning of this word. The chief opinions may be reduced to three:

1. The word is Latin, and means properly a "freedman," a man who had been a slave and was set at liberty. Many have supposed that these persons were manumitted slaves of Roman origin, but who had become proselyted to the Jewish religion, and who had a synagogue in Jerusalem. This opinion is not very probable; though it is certain, from Tacitus (Ann., lib. 2:c. 85), that there were many persons of this description at Rome. He says that 4,000 Jewish proselytes of Roman slaves made free were sent at one time to Sardinia.

2. A second opinion is, that these persons were Jews by birth, and had been taken captives by the Romans, and then set at liberty, and were thus called "freedmen" or "liberties." That there were many Jews of this description there can be no doubt. Pompey the Great, when he subjugated Judea, sent large numbers of the Jews to Rome (Philo, In Legat. a.d. Caium). These Jews were set at liberty at Rome, and assigned a place beyond the Tiber for a residence. See Introduction to the Epistle to the Romans. These persons are by Philo called "libertines," or "freedmen" (Kuinoel, in loco). Many Jews were also conveyed as captives by Ptolemy I. to Egypt, and obtained a residence in that country and the vicinity.

3. Another opinion is, that they took their name from some "place" which they occupied. This opinion is more probable from the fact that all the "other" persons mentioned here are named from the countries which they occupied. Suidas says that this is the name of a place. And in one of the fathers this passage occurs: "Victor, Bishop of the Catholic Church at Libertina, says, unity is there, etc." from this passage it is plain that there was a place called "Libertina." That place was in Africa, not far from ancient Carthage. See Dr. Pearce's Commentary on this place.

Cyrenians - Jews who dwelt at "Cyrene" in Africa. See the notes on Matthew 27:32.

Alexandrians - Inhabitants of Alexandria in Egypt. That city was founded by Alexander the Great, 332 b.c., and was populated by colonies of Greeks and Jews. It was much celebrated, and contained not less than 300,000 free citizens, and as many slaves. The city was the residence of many Jews. Josephus says that Alexander himself assigned to them a particular quarter of the city, and allowed them equal privileges with the Greeks (Antiq., Romans 14:7, Romans 14:2; Against Apion, Romans 2:4). Philo affirms that of five parts of the city, the Jews inhabited two. According to his statement, there dwelt in his time at Alexandria and the other Egyptian cities not less than "ten hundred thousand Jews." Amron, the general of Omar, when he took the city, said that it contained 40,000 tributary Jews. At this place the famous version of the Old Testament called the "Septuagint," or the Alexandrian version, was made. See Robinson's Calmet.

Cilicia - This was a province of Asia Minor, on the seacoast, at the north of Cyprus. The capital of this province was Tarsus, the native place of Paul, Acts 9:11. As Paul was of this place, and belonged doubtless to this synagogue, it is probable that he was one who was engaged in this dispute with Stephen. Compare Acts 7:58.

Of Asia - See the notes on Acts 2:9.

Disputing with Stephen - Doubtless on the question whether Jesus was the Messiah. This word does not denote "angry disputing," but is commonly used to denote "fair and impartial inquiry"; and it is probable that the discussion began in this way, and when they were overcome by "argument," they resorted, as disputants are apt to do, to angry criminations and violence.

9, 10. synagogue of the Libertines—Jewish freedmen; manumitted Roman captives, or the children of such, expelled from Rome (as appears from Josephus and Tacitus), and now residing at Jerusalem.

Cyrenians—Jews of Cyrene, in Libya, on the coast of Africa.

them of Cilicia—amongst whom may have been Saul of Tarsus (Ac 7:58; 21:39).

and of Asia—(See on [1958]Ac 16:6).

Certain of the synagogue; synagogues were as colleges in our universities, being used for instruction and learning; and were distinguished according to the persons that frequented them.

Libertines; some think these were natives of a certain country in Africa, from whence they were so called; but more probably they were such as were manumitted or made free, (as the word is commonly used for such), and in a middle condition between such as were free born and such as were bond slaves, and might desire to frequent with those of their own rank.

Cyrenians, &c.; the Jews spake of no less than four hundred and eighty synagogues at Jerusalem; a vast number, and probably increased by them: though several places are called Cyrene, this (from whence they took their name) was in Africa in all likelihood, it being joined with that of the Alexandrians. So God pleased to sever the Hellenists, (or Jews by traduction), for the Gentiles were not yet called, that they might all hear the gospel in the language they understood best. Then there arose certain of the synagogue,.... Being filled with indignation at the doctrine of Stephen, and with envy at his miracles, they rose up in great wrath, and warmly opposed him: and they be longed to that synagogue

which is called the synagogue of the libertines; or free men: it is a Roman name, and signifies the sons of free men; and these were either the sons of such Jews, who of servants, or slaves, had been made "free men"; or rather such Jews whose parents were born free, or had obtained their freedom at Rome, or in some free city under the Roman government, as Paul at Tarsus; since it is not so easy to account for it, that there should be a peculiar synagogue for the former, whereas there might be for the latter, seeing they could not speak the language of the native Jews. The Arabic version reads, "of the Corinthians", as if they were the Jews from Corinth: and some have thought the word "Libertines" to be the name of a nation or people, as well as the names that follow; and some think it designs the Lybians or Lybistines in Africa; but neither of these is likely:

and Cyrenians: natives of the city or country of Cyrene, from whence were many Jews; see Acts 2:10 such as Simon the Cyrenian, the father of Alexander, and Rufus, who carried the cross of Christ after him, Mark 15:21 these, with those that follow, either belonged to the same synagogue with the Libertines, or rather they severally had distinct synagogues: and this will not seem strange, when it is said (g), that there were in Jerusalem four hundred and eighty synagogues; though it is elsewhere said (h) four hundred and sixty:

and Alexandrians; for that there were a peculiar synagogue of these at Jerusalem is certain; for there is express mention made of it in Jewish writings (i).

"It happened to R. Eleazar bar Tzadok, that he bought "the synagogue of the Alexandrians", which was at Jerusalem, and he did with it whatever he pleased.''

And that they should have a synagogue at Jerusalem need not be wondered at, when there was such an intercourse and correspondence between Jerusalem and Alexandria: it is said (k),

"the house of Garmu were expert in making of the shewbread, and they would not teach it; the wise men sent and fetched workmen from Alexandria in Egypt, and they knew how to bake as well as they.----The house or family of Abtines were expert in the business of the incense, and they would not teach it; the wise men sent and fetched workmen from Alexandria in Egypt, and they knew how to mix the spices as well as they.''

Again it is said (l),

"there was a brass cymbal in the sanctuary, and it was cracked, and the wise men sent and brought workmen from Alexandria in Egypt, and they mended it---and there was a mortar in which they beat spices, and it was cracked, and the wise men sent and fetched workmen from Alexandria, and they mended it.''

Hence many of them doubtless settled here, and had a synagogue of their own:

and of them of Cilicia; the metropolis of which country was Tarsus, Acts 21:39. I make no doubt of it, that Saul of Tarsus was among them, or belonged to this synagogue, and was one of the fierce disputants with Stephen; at least violently opposed him, since he afterwards held the clothes of those that stoned him; we read (m) of , which I should be tempted to render, the "synagogue of the Tarsians", the same with the Cilicians here; but that it is elsewhere said (n), that

"it happened to the synagogue of the Tursians, which was at Jerusalem, that they sold it to R. Eliezer, and he did all his business in it.''

Where the gloss explains the word "Tursians" by "brass founders"; and it seems to design the same synagogue with that of the Alexandrians, who may be so called, because many of them wrought in brass, as appears from a citation above. There was a synagogue of these Tarsians at Lud, or Lydda (o): it is added, and of Asia; that is, the less; which joined to Cilicia, and in which were great numbers of Jews; see Acts 21:27 this clause is left out in the Alexandrian copy: at Jerusalem, there were synagogues for the Jews of different nations; as here in London, are places of worship for protestants of several countries; as French, Dutch, Germans, Danes, Swedes, &c. Now several persons out of these synagogues, met together in a body,

disputing with Stephen; about the doctrine he preached, and the miracles he wrought, and by what authority he did these things.


{7} Then there arose certain of the {h} synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.

(7) Schools and universities in ancient times were addicted to false pastors, and were the instruments of Satan to spread abroad and defend false doctrines.

(h) Of the people and the school, as it were.

Acts 6:9. ἀνέστησαν: in a hostile sense, cf. Luke 10:25, Mark 14:57, and see above on Acts 5:17.—τῆς συναγωγῆς: in Jerusalem, Alexandria, Rome and the larger towns there was no doubt a considerable number of synagogues, but the tradition that assigned no less than four hundred and eighty to Jerusalem alone is characterised by Schürer as a Talmudic myth (Jewish Temple, div. ii., vol. ii., p. 73, E.T., so too Edersheim, Jewish Social Life, pp. 83, 252, but see also Renan, Apostles, p. 113, E.T.). The number four hundred and eighty was apparently fixed upon as the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word for “full,” in Isaiah 1:21, a city “full of judgment”. The names which follow have been variously classified, but they have always proved and still prove a difficulty. Ramsay considers that the bad form of the list is due to the fact that St. Luke is here dependent on an authority whose expressions he either translated verbatim or did not understand, Expositor (1895), p. 35. One thing seems certain, viz., that Λιβερτίνων does not refer to any town Libertum in the neighbourhood of Carthage, which has been urged as an explanation of the close juxtaposition of Cyrene, also in Africa. The existence of a town or region bearing any such name is merely conjectural, and even if its existence could be demonstrated, it is improbable that many Jews from such an obscure place should have been resident in Jerusalem. There is therefore much probability that St. Chrysostom was correct in referring the word to the Libertini, Ῥωμαῖοι ἀπελεύθεροι. The Libertini here were probably Roman “freedmen” who were formerly captive Jews brought to Rome by Pompey, B.C. 63 (Suet., Tib., 36; Tac., Ann., ii., 85; Philo, Legat. ad Gaium, 23), and afterwards liberated by their Roman masters. These men and their descendants would enjoy the rights of Roman citizenship, and some of them appear to have returned to Jerusalem, where they had their own community and a synagogue called συναγ. Λιβερτίνων (according to Grimm-Thayer, sub v. Λιβερτ., some evidence seems to have been discovered of a “synagogue of the Libertines” at Pompeii), see Schürer, Jewish Temple, div. ii., vol. ii., pp. 57, 276, 277; O. Holtzmann, Neutest. Zeitgeschichte, p. 89; and Zöckler, Apostelgeschichte, p. 201 (second edition). But a further question arises as to the number of synagogues intended. Thus it has been maintained that they were five in number. This is Schürer’s decided view, Weiss, Meyer (in earlier editions), so Hackett, so Matthias, Handbuch zum N. T., V. Apostelgeschichte, 1897. By other writers it is thought that reference is made to two synagogues. This is the view advocated by Wendt as against Meyer. Wendt admits that as in the places named there were undoubtedly large numbers of Jewish inhabitants, so it is possible that in Jerusalem itself they may have been sufficiently numerous to make up the five synagogues, but his own view is based upon the ground that τῶν before ἀπὸ Κ. καὶ Ἀ. is parallel with the τῶν after τινες (so Holtzmann, Felten). So too Zöckler, who depends upon the simple καί before Κυρηναίων and Ἀλεξ. as pointing to one group with the Libertines; τῶν ἀπὸ Κ. καὶ Ἀσίας forming a second group. Dr. Sanday, Expositor, viii., p. 327 (third series), takes the same view of two synagogues only, as he considers that it is favoured by the Greeks (so too Dean Plumptre and Winer-Moulton, xix., 5a, note, but see also Winer-Schmiedel, p. 158; cf. critical note above). Mr. Page is inclined to think that three synagogues are intended: (1) i.e., of the Libertini, (2) another of the men of Alexandria and Cyrene, (3) another of the men of Cilicia and Asia; whilst many writers from Calvin, Bengel and others to O. Holtzmann and Rendall hold that only one synagogue is intended; so Dr. Hort maintains that the Greek suggests only the one synagogue of the Libertines, and that the other names are simply descriptive of origin—from the south, Cyrene, and Alexandria; from the north, Cilicia, and Proconsular Asia. On the whole the Greek seems, to favour the view of Wendt as above; καὶ Κυρην. καὶ Ἀλεξ. seem to form, as Blass says, a part of the same appellation with Λιβερτίνων. Blass himself has recently, Philology of the Gospels, p. 49 ff., declared in favour of another reading, Λιβυστίνων, which he regards as the correct text, Λιβερτίνων being corrupt although differing only in two letters from the original. In the proposed reading he is following Oecumenius and Beza amongst others; the same reading is apparently favoured also by Wetstein, who gives both the passages to which Blass refers, one from Catullus, lx., 1, “Leæna montibus Libystinis,” and the other from the geographical Lexicon of Stephanus Byzantinus. Λιβυστίνων would mean Jews inhabitants of Libya, not Libyans, and the synagogue in question bore the name of Λιβυσ. καὶ Κυρηναίων καὶ Ἀλεξ., thus specifying the African Jews in the geographical order of their original dwelling-places.—Κυρηναίων, see on Acts 2:9, and below, Acts 11:20, Acts 13:1.—Ἀλεξ.: probably there was no city, next to Jerusalem and Rome, in which the Jewish population was so numerous and influential as in Alexandria. In his new city Alexander the Great had assigned the Jews a place: their numbers rapidly grew, and, according to Philo, two of the five districts of the town, named after the first five letters of the alphabet, were called “the Jewish,” from the number of Jews dwelling in them, one quarter, Delta, being entirely populated by them. Julius Caesar and Augustus confirmed their former privileges, and they retained them for the most part, with the important exception described by Philo, during subsequent reigns. For some time, until the reign of Claudius, they had their own officer to represent them as ethnarch (alabarch), and Augustus appointed a council who should superintend their affairs according to their own laws, and the Romans evidently recognised the importance of a mercenary race like the Jews for the trade and commerce of the city. Here dwelt the famous teacher Philo, B.C. 20–A.D. 50; here Apollos was trained, possibly under the guidance of the famous philosopher, and here too St. Stephen may have belonged by birth and education (Edersheim, Jewish Social Life, p. 253). St. Paul never visited Alexandria, and it is possible that the Apostle may have felt after his experience at Corinth, and the teaching of Apollos (1 Corinthians 1:12), that the simplicity of his own message of Christ Crucified would not have been acceptable to hearers of the word of wisdom and the lovers of allegory. On the causes which tended to produce a distinct form of the Jewish character and faith in the city, see B.D.2 “Alexandria,” and Hastings, B.D., sub v.; Stanley’s Jewish Church, iii., xlvii.; Hamburger, Real-Encyclopädie des Judentums, ii., 1, 47. We know that Alexandria had, as was only likely, a synagogue at Jerusalem, specially gorgeous (Edersheim, Jewish Social Life, p. 253); on the history of the place see, in addition to literature already mentioned, Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. ii., pp. 73, 228, 229, 244, E.T.; Jos., Ant., xiv., 7, 2; x., 1; xix., 5, 2.—Κιλικίας: of special interest because Saul of Tarsus would probably be prominent amongst “those of Cilicia,” and there is no difficulty in supposing with Weiss and even Spitta (Apostelgeschichte, p. 115) that he belonged to the members of the Cilician synagogue who disputed with Stephen. To the considerable Jewish community settled in Tarsus, from the time of the Seleucidæ, Saul belonged. But whatever influence early associations may have had upon Stephen, Saul by his own confession was not merely the son of a Pharisee, but himself a Pharisee of the Pharisees in orthodoxy and zeal, Galatians 1:14, Php 3:5. It would seem that there was a synagogue of the Tarsians at Jerusalem, Megilla, 26a (Hamburger, u. s., ii., 1, 148); see also B.D.2 “Cilicia,” Schürer, u. s., p. 222; O. Holtzmann, Neutest. Zeitgeschichte, p. 100. The “Jews from Asia” are those who at a later date, Acts 21:27, are again prominent in their zeal for the sacredness of the Holy Place, and who hurl against Paul the same fatal charge which he now directs against Stephen (Plumptre, in loco; Sabatier, L’Apôtre Paul, p. 20).—συνζητοῦντες: not found in LXX or other Greek versions of the O.T., or Apocrypha, although it may occur, Nehemiah 2:4, in the sense of request, but the reading is doubtful (see Hatch and Redpath). In the N.T. it is used six times by St. Mark and four times by St. Luke (twice in his Gospel), and always in the sense of questioning, generally in the sense of disputatious questioning. The words of Josephus in his preface (sect. 5), B. J., may help us to understand the characteristics of the Hellenists. The same verb is used by St. Paul himself, as in this same Jerusalem he disputed, possibly in their synagogue, with the Hellenists on behalf of the faith which he was now seeking to destroy, Acts 9:29. In modern Greek the verb has always the meaning to discuss, to dispute (Kennedy).9. Then there arose certain] It is better to render the connecting particle But, it is no note of time.

of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines] Lit. of them that were of the synagogue called, &c. The number of synagogues in Jerusalem was very great. The Libertines were most likely the children of some Jews who had been carried captive to Rome by Pompey (b.c. 63), and had been made freedmen (libertini) by their captors, and after their return to Jerusalem had formed one congregation and used one synagogue specially. There is an interesting illustration of this severance of congregations among the Jews from a like cause in the description of the modern Jewish communities in Malabar and Cochin. It is in a MS. in the Cambridge University Library (Oo. 1. 47) which was written in 1781. “At this time are found in their dwelling-places about forty white householders, and in all the other places are black Jews found, and their forefathers were the slaves of the white Jews, and now the black Jews as found in all the places are about five hundred householders, and they have ten synagogues while the white Jews have only one. And the white Jews dwell all together and their ritual is distinct from that of the black Jews, and they will not count them [the black Jews] among the ten [necessary for forming a congregation] except a few families of them; but if any of the white Jews go to their [the black Jews’] synagogues, they will admit him as one of the ten.”

and Cyrenians] Read, and of the Cyrenians. On the Jews in Cyrene see Acts 2:10 note.

and Alexandrians] Read, and of the Alexandrians. There were in Christ’s time, and had been long before, as we learn from the account of the Septuagint translation, Jews resident in Alexandria. In the Talmud we are told that they were very numerous. Thus T. B. Succah 51 b it is said, “Rabbi Jehudah said: He that hath not seen the amphitheatre at Alexandria (apparently used for the Jewish worship) in Egypt has not seen the glory of Israel. They say it was like a great Basilica with gallery above gallery. Sometimes there were in it double the number of those who went out from Egypt, and there were in it seventy-one seats of gold corresponding to the seventy-one members of the great Sanhedrin, each one of them worth not less than twenty-one myriads of talents of gold, and there was a platform of wood in the midst thereof, and the minister of the synagogue stood upon it with flags in his hand, and when the time [in the service] came that they should answer Amen, then he waved with the flag and all the people answered Amen.” In spite of the exaggeration of the numbers in this story we may be certain from it that there was a very large Jewish population in Alexandria, and that they were likely to have a separate synagogue in Jerusalem. For another portion of this story see note on Acts 18:3.

and of them of Cilicia] Cilicia was at the S.E. corner of Asia Minor. One of its principal towns was Tarsus, the birthplace of St Paul, and there were no doubt many other Jews there, descendants of those Jews whom Antiochus the Great introduced into Asia Minor (Joseph. Antiq. xii. 3. 4), two thousand families of whom he placed there as well disposed guardians of the country.

and of Asia] See note on Acts 2:9.

disputing with Stephen] The original word is used frequently of the captious questionings of the Pharisees (Mark 8:11), and the scribes (Mark 9:14), with Jesus and His disciples.Acts 6:9. Ἐκ τῆς συναγωγῆςἈσίας, of the synagogue—of Asia) This whole description applies to one and the same synagogue, which was at Jerusalem, and was then in a most flourishing state, attracting the eyes of all to it, consisting of foreign nations, Europeans, Africans, and Asiatics: for instance, it had in it Saul of Cilicia. Whence furthermore it is very probable that Gamaliel, the famous teacher (doctor) of the law, as being the preceptor of Saul, presided over this very synagogue, and that this commotion was excited either without his privity, or against his will.—Λιβερτίνων, of the Libertines) A Roman term. For many Jews were at Rome; ch. Acts 18:2, Acts 28:17 : and of these, many who had been made captives in former wars, and had been brought to Rome, having readily recovered their liberty (for the Romans had no liking for Jews), had returned to Jerusalem, and perhaps had brought with them many proselytes in the same condition, that is Libertini. See Reineccii Annot. on this passage. Therefore, instead of Romans, they are called Libertines. Add the note on ch. Acts 2:10.—τῶν ἀπὸ) Construe, ἐκ τῆς συναγωγῆς τῶν ἀπὸ Κιλικίας.Verse 9. - But for then, A.V.; certain of them that were for certain, A.V.; of the Cyrenians and of the Alexandrians for Cyrenians and Alexandrians, A.V.; Asia for of Asia, A.V. Of the synagogue, etc. There were said to have been four hundred and eighty synagogues in Jerusalem alone in the time of our Savior (Olshausen, on Matthew 4:23). But this is probably a fanciful number; only it may be taken as an indication of the great number of such places of Jewish worship. Tiberias is said to have had twelve synagogues. Ten grown-up people was the minimum congregation of a synagogue. It seems by the enumeration of synagogues in our text that the foreign Jews had each their own synagogue at Jerusalem, as Chrysostom supposes, where men of the same nation attended when they came to Jerusalem; for the construction of the sentence is to supply before Κυρηναίων and again before Ἀλεξανδρέων the same words as precede Λιβερτίνων, viz. καὶ τῶν ἐκ τῆς συναγωγῆς τῆς λεγομένης, SO as to mean "and certain of them that were of the synagogue called of the Cyrenians," and so on. The very numerous Jews of Cyrene and of Alexandria would doubtless require each a synagogue for themselves. The Libertines were, as Chrysostom explains it, "freedmen of the Romans." They are thought to consist chiefly of the descendants of the Jews who were taken prisoners by Pompey, and deported to Rome, who were afterwards emancipated and returned to Judaea, though some (Meyer, 1:1) settled in Rome. Tacitus, under the year A.D. , speaks of four thousand Libertini, infected with Jewish or Egyptian superstitions, as banished to Sardinia ('Annal.,' 2. 85.). Many of these must have been Jews. Josephus, who tells the same story as Tacitus, though somewhat differently, says they were all Jews ('Ant. Jud.,' 18, 3:5). The Cyrenians. Cyrene was the chief city in North Africa, and a great Jewish colony. Numbers of Jews were settled there in the time of Ptolemy Lagus ('Cont. Apion.,' 2:4), and are said by Josephus (quoting Strabo) to have been a fourth part of the inhabitants of the city ('Ant. Jud.,'14. 7:2). Josephus also quotes edicts of Augustus and of M. Agrippa, confirming to the Jews of Cyrene the right to live according to their own laws, and specially to send money for the temple at Jerusalem (16. 6:5). Jews from "the parts of Libya about Cyrene" are mentioned in Acts 2:10; Simon, who bore our Savior's cross, was "a man of Cyreue;" there were "men of Cyrene" at Jerusalem at the time of the persecution that arose about Stephen (Acts 11:19); and "Lucius of Cyrene" is mentioned in Acts 13:1. It was natural, therefore, that the Cyrenians should have a synagogue of their own at Jerusalem. Of the Alexandrians. Alexandria had a Jewish population of 100,000 at this time, equal to two-fifths of the whole city. The famous Philo, who was in middle age at this time, was an Alexandrian, and the Alexandrian Jews were the most learned of their race. The Jews settled in Alexandria in the time of Alexander the Great and Ptolemy Lagus. The LXX. Version of the Scriptures was made at Alexandria primarily for their use. We may be sure, therefore, that they had a synagogue at Jerusalem. And of them of Cilicia. The transition from the African Jews to those of Asia is marked by changing the form of phrase into καὶ τῶν ἀπὸ Κιλικίας. There were many Jews in Cilicia, and this doubtless influenced St. Paul in preaching there, as well as the fact of its being his own native province (see Acts 15:23, 41; Galatians 1:21). Josephus makes frequent mention of the Jews in the wars between the Ptolemies and Antiochus the Great, with whom the Jews sided, and in consequence were much favored by him. And it is thought that many who had been driven out from their homes by the wars, and others who were brought by him from Babylonia, settled in his time in Cilicia, as well as other parts of his Asiatic dominions. Seleucus also encouraged the Jews to settle in the towns of Asia in his kingdom, by giving them the freedom of the cities and putting them on an equal footing (ἰσοτίμους) with Macedonians and Greeks ('Ant. Jud.,' 12. 3:1, 3). Asia; meaning the same district as in Acts 2:9 (where see note). Evidence of the abundance of Jews in Asia crops up throughout the Acts (8. 16, 24, 42, 45; 14:19; 16:13; 18:26, 28; 19:17; 20:21). That the Jews of Asia were very bigoted we learn from Acts 21:27 (see also 1 Peter 1:1). Synagogue

See on Church, Matthew 16:18.

Of the libertines

In Jerusalem, and probably in other large cities, the several synagogues were arranged according to nationalities, and even crafts. Thus we have in this verse mention of the synagogues of the Cyrenians, Alexandrians, Cilicians, and Asiatics. Libertines is a Latin word (libertini, freedmen), and means here Jews or their descendants who had been taken as slaves to Rome, and had there received their liberty; and who, in consequence of the decree of Tiberius, about 19 a.d., expelling them from Rome, had returned in great numbers to Jerusalem. They were likely to be the chief opponents of Stephen, because they supposed that by his preaching, their religion, for which they had suffered at Rome, was endangered in Jerusalem.

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