Acts 8:1
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
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(1) And Saul was consenting unto his death.—The word seems carefully chosen to convey the fact that he did not himself take part in stoning, but contented himself with guiding and directing the murder. He “kept the garments” of the witnesses who flung the stones (Acts 22:20). The statement came, we can scarcely doubt, from St. Paul’s own lips, and in his use of the same word in the passage just referred to, and in Romans 1:32, we may see an indication that he had learnt to see that his guilt in so doing was greater, and not less, than that of the actual murderers.

There was a great persecution against the church.—It is clear that this involved much suffering, imprisonment, as in Acts 8:3, perhaps the spoiling of men’s goods, the being made “a gazing stock by reproaches and afflictions” (Hebrews 10:33-34). In St. James’s description of the sufferings of the brethren (James 2:6-7), we may see at once the measure of the violence of the persecution, and the prominence in it (though Saul, the Pharisee, was for the time the chief leader) of the priesthood and the rich Sadducean aristocracy.

Throughout the regions of Judæa and Samaria.—Jerusalem was naturally the chief scene of the persecution, and the neighbouring towns, Hebron, and Gaza, and Lydda, and Joppa, became places of refuge. It was probably to this influx of believers in Christ that we may trace the existence of Christian communities in the two latter cities. (See Notes on Acts 9:32; Acts 9:36.) The choice of Samaria was, perhaps, suggested by the hatred of that people to the Jews. Those who were fleeing from a persecution set on foot by the priests and rulers of Jerusalem were almost ipso facto sure of a welcome in Neapolis and other cities. But the choice of this as a place of refuge indicated that the barriers of the old antipathy were already in part broken down. What seemed the pressure of circumstances was leading indirectly to the fulfilment of our Lord’s commands, that the disciples should be witnesses in Samaria as well as in Judæa (Acts 1:8). It seems probable, as already suggested (see Note on Acts 7:16), that there was some point of contact between the Seven, of whom Stephen was the chief, and that region.

Except the apostles.—The sequel of the history suggests two reasons for their remaining. (1) The Twelve had learnt the lesson which their Master had taught them, “that the hireling fleeth because he is an hireling” (John 10:13), and would not desert their post. A tradition is recorded by Clement of Alexandria (Strom. vi. 5, § 43) and Eusebius (Hist. v. 13), that the Lord had commanded the Apostles to remain for twelve years in Jerusalem lest any should say “We have not heard,” and after that date to go forth into the world. (2) The persecution which was now raging seems to have been directed specially against those who taught with Stephen, that the “customs” on which the Pharisees laid so much stress should pass away. The Apostles had not as yet proclaimed that truth; had, perhaps, not as yet been led to it. They were conspicuous as worshippers in the Temple, kept themselves from all that was common and unclean (Acts 10:14), held aloof from fellowship with the Gentiles (Acts 10:28). They may well have been protected by the favour and reverence with which the great body of the people still looked on them, and so have been less exposed than the Seven had been to the violence of the storm. It was probable, in the nature of the case, that the Hellenistic disciples, who had been represented by Stephen, should suffer more than others. It was from them that the next great step in the expansion of the Church in due course came.



Acts 8:1 - Acts 8:17

The note of time in Acts 8:1 is probably to be rendered as in the Revised Version, ‘on that day.’ The appetite for blood roused by Stephen’s martyrdom at once sought for further victims. Thus far the persecutors had been the rulers, and the persecuted the Church’s leaders; but now the populace are the hunters, and the whole Church the prey. The change marks an epoch. Luke does not care to make much of the persecution, which is important to him chiefly for its bearing on the spread of the Church’s message. It helped to diffuse the Gospel, and that is why he tells of it. But before proceeding to narrate how it did so, he gives us a picture of things as they stood at the beginning of the assault.

Three points are noted: the flight of the Church except the Apostles, the funeral of Stephen, and Saul’s eager search for the disciples. We need not press ‘all,’ as if it were to be taken with mathematical accuracy. Some others besides the Apostles may have remained, but the community was broken up. They fled, as Christ had bid them do, if persecuted in one city. Brave faithfulness goes with prudent self-preservation, and a valuable ‘part of valour is discretion.’ But the disciples who fled were not necessarily less courageous than the Apostles who remained, nor were the latter less prudent than the brethren who fled. For noblesse oblige; high position demands high virtues, and the officers should be the last to leave a wreck. The Apostles, no doubt, felt it right to hold together, and preserve a centre to which the others might return when the storm had blown itself out.

In remarkable contrast with the scattering Church are the ‘devout men’ who reverently buried the martyr. They were not disciples, but probably Hellenistic Jews {Acts 2:5}; perhaps from the synagogue whose members had disputed with Stephen and had dragged him to the council. His words or death may have touched them, as many a time the martyr’s fire has lighted others to the martyr’s faith. Stephen was like Jesus in his burial by non-disciples, as he had been in his death.

The eager zeal of the young Pharisee brought new severity into the persecution, in his hunting out his victims in their homes, and in his including women among his prisoners. There is nothing so cruel as so-called religious zeal. So Luke lifts the curtain for a moment, and in that glimpse of the whirling tumult of the city we see the three classes, of the brave and prudent disciples, ready to flee or to stand and suffer as duty called; the good men who shrunk from complicity with a bloodthirsty mob, and were stirred to sympathy with his victims; and the zealot, who with headlong rage hated his brother for the love of God. But the curtain drops, and Luke turns to his true theme. He picks up the threads again in Acts 8:4, telling of the dispersal of the disciples, with the significant addition of their occupation when scattered,-’preaching the word.’

The violent hand of the persecutor acted as the scattering hand of the sower. It flung the seeds broadcast, and wherever they fell they sprouted. These fugitives were not officials, nor were they commissioned by the Apostles to preach. Without any special command or position, they followed the instincts of believing hearts, and, as they carried their faith with them, they spoke of it wherever they found themselves. A Christian will be impelled to speak of Christ if his personal hold of Him is vital. He should need no ecclesiastical authorisation for that. It is riot every believer’s duty to get into a pulpit, but it is his duty to ‘preach Christ.’ The scattering of the disciples was meant by men to put out the fire, but, by Christ, to spread it. A volcanic explosion flings burning matter over a wide area.

Luke takes up one of the lines of expansion, in his narrative of Philip’s doings in Samaria, which he puts first because Jesus had indicated Samaria first among the regions beyond Judaea {Acts 1:8}. Philip’s name comes second in the list of deacons {Acts 6:5}, probably in anticipation of his work in Samaria. How unlike the forecast by the Apostles was the actual course of things! They had destined the seven for purely ‘secular’ work, and regarded preaching the word as their own special engagement. But Stephen saw and proclaimed more clearly than they did the passing away of Temple and ritual; and Philip, on his own initiative, and apparently quite unconscious of the great stride forward that he was taking, was the first to carry the gospel torch into the regions beyond. The Church made Philip a ‘deacon,’ but Christ made him an ‘evangelist’; and an evangelist he continued, long after he had ceased to be a deacon in Jerusalem {Acts 21:8}.

Observe, too, that, as soon as Stephen is taken away, Philip rises up to take his place. The noble army of witnesses never wants recruits. Its Captain sends men to the front in unbroken succession, and they are willing to occupy posts of danger because He bids them. Probably Philip fled to Samaria for convenience’ sake, but, being there, he probably recalled Christ’s instructions in Acts 1:8, repealing His prohibition in Matthew 10:5. What a different world it would be, if it was true of Christians now that they ‘went down into the city of So-and-So and proclaimed Christ’! Many run to and fro, but some of them leave their Christianity at home, or lock it up safely in their travelling trunks.

Jerusalem had just expelled the disciples, and would fain have crushed the Gospel; despised Samaria received it with joy. ‘A foolish nation’ was setting Israel an example {Deuteronomy 32:21; Romans 10:19}. The Samaritan woman had a more spiritual conception of the Messiah than the run of Jews had, and her countrymen seem to have been ready to receive the word. Is not the faith of our mission converts often a rebuke to us?

But the Gospel met new foes as well as new friends on the new soil. Simon the sorcerer, probably a Jew or a Samaritan, would have been impossible on Jewish ground, but was a characteristic product of that age in the other parts of the Roman empire. Just as, to-day, people who are weary of Christianity are playing with Buddhism, it was fashionable in that day of unrest to trifle with Eastern magic-mongers; and, of course, demand created supply, and where there was a crowd of willing dupes, there soon came to be a crop of profit-seeking deceivers. Very characteristically, the dupes claimed more for the deceiver than he did for himself. He probably could perform some simple chemical experiments and conjuring tricks, and had a store of what sounded to ignorant people profound teaching about deep mysteries, and gave forth enigmatical utterances about his own greatness. An accomplished charlatan will leave much to be inferred from nods and hints, and his admirers will generally spin even more out of them than he meant. So the Samaritans bettered Simon’s ‘some great one’ into ‘that power of God which is called great,’ and saw in him some kind of emanation of divinity.

The quack is great till the true teacher comes, and then he dwindles. Simon had a bitter pill to swallow when he saw this new man stealing his audience, and doing things which he, with his sorceries, knew that he only pretended to do. Luke points very clearly to the likeness and difference between Simon and Philip by using the same word {‘gave heed’} in regard to the Samaritan’s attitude to both, while in reference to Philip it was ‘the things spoken by’ him, and in reference to Simon it was himself to which they attended. The one preached Christ, the other himself; the one ‘amazed’ with ‘sorceries,’ the other brought good tidings and hid himself, and his message called, not for stupid, open-mouthed astonishment, but for belief and obedience to the name of Jesus. The whole difference between the religion of Jesus and the superstitions which the world calls religions, is involved in the significant contrast, so inartificially drawn.

‘Simon also himself believed.’ Probably there was in his action a good deal of swimming with the stream, in the hope of being able to divert it; but, also, he may have been all the more struck by Philip’s miracles, because he knew a real one, by reason of his experience of sham ones. At any rate, neither Philip nor Luke drew a distinction between his belief and that of the Samaritans; and, as in their cases, his baptism followed on his profession of belief. But he seems not to have got beyond the point of wondering at the miracles, as it is emphatically said that he did even after his baptism. He believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but was more interested in studying Philip to find out how he did the miracles than in listening to his teaching. Such an imperfect belief had no transforming power, and left him the same man as before, as was soon miserably manifest.

The news of Philip’s great step forward reached the Apostles by some unrecorded means. It is not stated that Philip reported his action, as if to superiors whose authorisation was necessary. More probably the information filtered through other channels. At all events, sending a deputation was natural, and needs not to be regarded as either a sign of suspicion or an act necessary in order to supplement imperfections inherent in the fact that Philip was not an Apostle. The latter meaning has been read-not to say forced-into the incident; but Luke’s language does not support it. It was not because they thought that the Samaritans were not admissible to the full privileges of Christians without Apostolic acts, but because they ‘heard that Samaria had received the word,’ that the Apostles sent Peter and John.

The Samaritans had not yet received the Holy Ghost-that is, the special gifts, such as those of Pentecost. That fact proves that baptism is not necessarily and inseparably connected with the gift of the Spirit; and Acts 10:44, Acts 10:47, proves that the Spirit may be given before baptism. As little does this incident prove that the imposition of Apostolic hands was necessary in order to the impartation of the Spirit. Luke, at any rate, did not think so; for he tells how Ananias’ hand laid on the blind Saul conveyed the gift to him. The laying on of hands is a natural, eloquent symbol, but it was no prerogative of the Apostles {Acts 10:17; 1 Timothy 4:14}.

The Apostles came down to Samaria to rejoice in the work which their Lord had commanded, and which had been begun without their help, to welcome the new brethren, to give them further instruction, and to knit closely the bonds of unity between the new converts and the earlier ones. But that they came to bestow spiritual gifts which, without them, could not have been imparted, is imported into, not deduced from, the simple narrative of Luke.

Acts 8:1-2. And Saul was consenting Ην συνευδοκων τη αναιρεσει αυτου, was consenting with delight; to his death — Or, more literally, was well pleased with his slaughter; for he was so full of rage and malice against the Christian name, that he thought no severities were too great to be exercised on those who thus zealously endeavoured to propagate it. And at that time Εν εκεινη τη ημερα, in that day, in the very day in which this inhuman murder was committed on Stephen, who leads the van in the glorious army of martyrs; there was a great persecution — Which continued to rage for some time; against the church at Jerusalem

Which was no sooner planted than it was persecuted, as Christ had often intimated, signifying that tribulation and persecution would arise, because of the word, particularly at Jerusalem, that city having been formerly famous for killing the prophets, and stoning them that were sent to it, Matthew 23:37. And now the adversaries of the Christians, having tasted blood, were the more eager to shed it. And they were all scattered abroad — Not all the church, for if so, who would have remained for the apostles to teach, or Saul to persecute? but all the teachers, except the apostles, who, though in the most danger, stayed with the flock. And devout men — Who feared God more than persecution; carried Stephen to his burial — Having the courage to show themselves openly as the friends of that holy man, whose blood had been so unrighteously shed; and made great lamentation over him — Mourning that the church had lost so excellent an instrument of usefulness, though he himself was so much a gainer by it, as to be the object of congratulation, rather than condolence.

8:1-4 Though persecution must not drive us from our work, yet it may send us to work elsewhere. Wherever the established believer is driven, he carries the knowledge of the gospel, and makes known the preciousness of Christ in every place. Where a simple desire of doing good influences the heart, it will be found impossible to shut a man out from all opportunities of usefulness.And Saul was consenting ... - Was pleased with his being put to death and approved it. Compare Acts 22:20. This part of the verse should have been connected with the previous chapter.

And at that time. - That is, immediately following the death of Stephen. The persecution arose on account of Stephen, Acts 11:19. The tumult did not subside when Stephen was killed. The anger of his persecutors continued to be excited against all Christians. They had become so embittered by the zeal and success of the apostles, and by their frequent charges of murder in putting the Son of God to death, that they resolved at once to put a period to their progress and success. This was the first persecution against Christians; the first in a series that terminated only when the religion which they wished to destroy was fully established on the ruins of both Judaism and paganism.

The church - The collection of Christians which were now organized into a church. The church at Jerusalem was the first that was collected.

All scattered - That is, the great mass of Christians.

The regions of Judea ... - See the notes on Matthew 2:22.

Except the apostles - Probably the other Christians fled from fear. Why the apostles, who were particularly in danger, did not flee also, is not stated by the historian. Having been, however, more fully instructed than the others, and having been taught their duty by the example and teaching of the Saviour, they resolved, it seems, to remain and brave the fury of the persecutors. For them to have fled then would have exposed them, as leaders and founders of the new religion, to the charge of timidity and weakness. They therefore resolved to remain in the midst of their persecutors; and a merciful Providence watched over them, and defended them from harm. The dispersion extended not only to Judea and Samaria, but those who fled carried the gospel also to Phenice, Cyprus, and Antioch, Acts 11:19. There was a reason why this was permitted. The early converts were Jews. They had strong feelings of attachment to the city of Jerusalem, to the temple, and to the land of their fathers. Yet it was the design of the Lord Jesus that the gospel should be preached everywhere. To accomplish this, he suffered a persecution to rage; and they were scattered abroad, and bore his gospel to other cities and lands. Good thus came out of evil; and the first persecution resulted, as all others have done, in advancing the cause which was intended to be destroyed.


Ac 8:1-4. Persecution Continued, in Which Saul Takes a Prominent Part—How Overruled for Good.

1. Saul was consenting unto his death—The word expresses hearty approval.

they were all scattered abroad—all the leading Christians, particularly the preachers, agreeably to their Lord's injunctions (Mt 10:23), though many doubtless remained, and others (as appears by Ac 9:26-30) soon returned.

except the apostles—who remained, not certainly as being less exposed to danger, but, at whatever risk, to watch over the infant cause where it was most needful to cherish it.Acts 8:1-8 The disciples being dispersed by reason of a great

persecution at Jerusalem, a church is planted by

Philip in Samaria.

Acts 8:9-13 Simon the sorcerer is baptized, with many others.

Acts 8:14-17 Peter and John are sent thither, who by prayer and

imposition of hands give the Holy Ghost.

Acts 8:18-25 Simon offereth money for the like power, is sharply

reproved by Peter for his wickedness and hypocrisy,

and admonished to repent: the apostles return to

Jerusalem, having preached the word.

Acts 8:26-40 Philip is sent by an angel to convert and baptize an

Ethiopian eunuch.

Consenting unto his death; well pleased with it, (as the word implies), and did approve it in thought, word, and deed, Acts 22:4,20; which is here noted in the beginning of the narrative concerning this great apostle, that we might consider oiov ex oiou, what a great change the grace of God did make; which was by him, and is by us the more to be acknowledged and magnified.

A great persecution against the church; not, as heretofore, against the apostles only; but now it was against the whole church.

All scattered abroad; the multitude of believers, at least as many as could flee; which was allowed, or rather commanded, Matthew 10:23, when they were persecuted in one city, to flee unto another; especially such as were teachers amongst them (besides the apostles) were forced to remove from Jerusalem, and by this means did publish the gospel in all places whither they came; so that what was intended for the hinderance, God did overrule towards the furtherance, of the gospel; as he did afterwards, Philippians 1:12, and still does, and ever will do.

Except the apostles; who were commanded to stay at Jerusalem, Acts 1:4; there they were to make their beginning, Luke 24:47, and from thence to proceed unto other parts, Isaiah 2:3; and whilst God had any work for them to do at Jerusalem, they knew that God could and would defend and maintain them in the midst of their enemies, as he had done the bush in the fire, Exodus 3:3.

And Saul was consenting unto his death,.... This clause, in the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic and Ethiopic versions, stands at the close of the preceding chapter, and which seems to be its proper place; and so it does in the Alexandrian copy: that Saul consented to the death of Stephen, and approved of that barbarous action, is evident from his taking care of the clothes of the witnesses that stoned him; but the word here used signifies not a bare consent only, but a consent with pleasure and delight; he was well pleased with it, it rejoiced his very heart; he joined with others in it, with the utmost pleasure and satisfaction; this, and what is before said concerning his having the clothes of the witnesses laid at his feet, as well as what follows, about his persecuting the saints, are, the rather mentioned, because this violent persecutor was afterwards converted, and became an eminent preacher of the Gospel; and these accounts serve to set off and illustrate the grace of God, which was abundant towards him.

And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem: it began "on that day", as the words may be rendered, on which Stephen was stoned. As soon as they had put him to death, these bloodthirsty wretches were the more greedy after the blood of others; and being now in great numbers, and filled with rage and fury, fell upon the members of the church wherever they met them, and killed them; for that more, besides Stephen, were put to death, seems plain from Acts 26:10 and, according to some accounts, though they cannot be depended on, two thousand persons suffered at this time: and if this was the case, it might be called a great persecution:

and they were all scattered abroad; not all the members of the church, nor perhaps any of the private ones; for we afterwards read of devout then that carried Stephen to his grave; and of the church being made havoc of by Saul; and of men and women being haled out of their houses, and committed to prison by him; but all the preachers of the word, except the apostles; for they that were scattered, went about preaching the word, Acts 8:4 They seem to be the seventy disciples, and other ministers of the word, on whom the Holy Ghost fell at the day of Pentecost, or was since bestowed; among who were Philip, who went to Samaria; and Ananias, who was at Damascus; and others that went as far as Phenice, Cyprus, and Antioch: and particularly they are said to be dispersed

throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria; where their ministry was so greatly blessed, to the conversion of souls, that there were quickly many churches planted and formed in these parts, as appears from Acts 9:31 so that this persecution was for the furtherance and spread of the Gospel: that upon this dispersion any of them came into France and England, or into any other parts of Europe, is not probable; since the particular places they went to are mentioned; and since they preached to Jew only: and this scattering by reason of the persecution, was of all the preachers,

except the apostles; the twelve apostles, who stayed at Jerusalem to take care of the church; to encourage the members of it to suffer cheerfully for the sake of Christ and his Gospel; and to animate them to abide by him: and this was not only an instance of courage and constancy in them, and of the divine protection and preservation of them, in the midst of their enemies; but also of the timidity of their adversaries, who might be afraid to meddle with them; remembering what miraculous works were performed by them, and how they had been delivered out of prison, and especially the case of Ananias and Sapphira, who were struck dead by Peter. Beza's ancient copy adds, "who remained in Jerusalem".

And {1} Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

(1) Christ uses the rage of his enemies in the spreading forth and enlarging of his kingdom.

Acts 8:1. The observation Σαῦλοςαὐτοῦ[216] forms the significant transition to the further narrative of the persecution which is annexed.

ἦν συνευδοκῶν] he was jointly assenting, in concert, namely, with the originators and promoters of the ἀναίρεσις; comp. Luke 11:48, and on Romans 1:32. On ἈΝΑΊΡΕΣΙς, in the sense of caedes, supplicium, comp. Numbers 11:15; Jdt 15:4; 2Ma 5:13; Herodian. ii. 6. 1, iii. 2. 10. Here, also, the continuance and duration are more strongly denoted by ἦν with the participle than by the mere finite tense.

ἘΝ ἘΚΕΊΝῌ Τῇ ἩΜΈΡᾼ] is not, as is usually quite arbitrarily done, to be explained indefinitely illo tempore, but (comp. Acts 2:41): on that day, when Stephen was stoned, the persecution arose, for the outbreak of which this tumultuary stoning served as signal.

τὴν ἐν Ἱεροσ.] added, because now the dispersion (comp. Acts 11:19) set in.

ΠΆΝΤΕς] a hyperbolical expression of the popular mode of narration, Matthew 3:5; Mark 3:33, al. At the same time, however, the general expression τὴν ἐκκλησίαν does not permit us to limit ΠΆΝΤΕς especially to the Hellenistic part of the church (Baur, I. p. 46, ed. 2; comp. de Wette). But if the hyperbolical πάντες is not to be used against the historical character of the narrative (Schneckenburger, Zeller), neither are we to read withal between the lines that the church had been formally assembled and broken up, but that to dispersion into the regions of Judaea and Samaria (which is yet so clearly affirmed of the πάντες!), a great part of those broken up, including the apostles, had not allowed themselves to be induced (so Baumgarten).

Κ. ΣΑΜΑΡΕΊΑς] This country only is here mentioned as introductory to the history which follows, Acts 8:5 ff. For a wider dispersion, see Acts 11:19.

πλὴν τῶν ἀποστ.] This is explained (in opposition to Schleiermacher, Schneckenburger, and others, who consider these statements improbable) by the greater stedfastness of the apostles, who were resolved as yet, and in the absence of more special divine intimation, to remain at the centre of the theocracy, which, in their view at this time, was also the centre of the new theocracy.[217] They knew themselves to be the appointed upholders and πρωταγωνισταί (Oecumenius) of the cause of their Lord.

[216] Observe the climax of the three statements concerning Saul, Acts 7:59, Acts 8:1; Acts 8:3; also how the second and third are inserted antithetically, and how all three are evidently intended to prepare the way for the subsequent importance of the man.

[217] Quite inappropriately, pressing that πάντες, Zeller, p. 153, in opposition to this inquires: “Wherefore was this necessary, if all their followers were dispersed?”

Acts 8:1. Σαῦλος δὲ κ.τ.λ., R.V. joins these words to the conclusion of the previous chapter, and thus brings them into a close and fitting connection with Acts 7:58. So too Wendt, Blass, Nösgen, Zöckler.—ἦν συνευδοκῶν: for this characteristic Lucan use of the imperfect of the substantive verb with a participle, see chap. Acts 1:10. The formula here indicates the lasting and enduring nature of Saul’s “consent”. The verb συνευδοκέω is peculiar to St. Luke and St. Paul, and is used by the former in his Gospel as well as in Acts, cf. Luke 11:48, Acts 22:20 (by St. Paul himself with reference to his share in the murder of St. Stephen), Romans 1:32, 1 Corinthians 7:12-13. The word is also found in 1Ma 1:57 (Acts 4:28), 2Ma 11:24; 2Ma 11:35, signifying entire approval; it is also twice used by St. Clement, Cor[213], xxxv. 6; xliv. 3: “consent” does not express the force of the word—“was approving of his death” (Rendall).—ἀναιρέσει: used only here in N.T. (on St. Luke’s favourite word ἀναιρέω, see Friedrich, Das Lucasevangelium, p. 22); both verb and noun were frequent in medical language (Hobart, Zahn), see below on Acts 9:29, but the noun in LXX, Numbers 11:15, Jdt 15:4, 2Ma 5:13, and in classical Greek, e.g., Xen., Hell., vi., 3, 5.—ἐγένετο δὲ: another characteristic formula in St. Luke, Friedrich, u. s., p. 13; here introduces a new section of the history.—ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ: (R.V. “on that day” (A.V. “at that time”), cf. Acts 2:41; the persecution broke out at once, “on that very day” (so Wendt, Rendall, Hort, Hackett, Felten, Zöckler, Holtzmann), the signal for it being given by the tumultuous stoning of the first martyr (but see on the other hand Alford, in loco). Weiss draws attention to the emphatic position of ἐκείνῃ before τῇ ἡμέρᾳ.—ἐπὶ τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τὴν ἐν Ἱ.: hitherto as, e.g., Acts 5:11, the Church has been thought of as one, because limited in fact to the one city Jerusalem, but here we have a hint that soon there would be new Ecclesiæ in the one Ecclesia, as it spread throughout the Holy Land (Hort, Ecclesia, pp. 53–56, 227, and Ramsay, St. Paul, etc., pp. 41, 127, 377).—πάντες τε: “ridiculum est hoc mathematica ratione accipere” (Blass)—it is evident from Acts 8:3 that there were some left for Saul to persecute. In Acts 9:26 we have mention of a company of disciples in Jerusalem, but there is no reason to suppose (Schnecken-burger, Zeller, Overbeck) that Luke has made a mistake in the passage before us, for there is nothing in the text against the supposition that some at least of those who had fled returned again later.—διεσπάρησαν: only in St. Luke in N.T., here and in Acts 8:4, and in Acts 11:19. This use of the word is quite classical, and frequent in LXX, e.g., Genesis 9:19, Leviticus 26:33, 1Ma 11:47. Feine remarks that even Holtzmann allows that the spread of Christianity throughout Judæa and Samaria may be regarded as historical.—χώρας: here rendered “regions”: Blass takes the word as almost = κώμας, and see also Plummer on Luke 21:21, ἐν ταῖς χώραις “in the country,” R.V. The word is characteristic of St. Luke, being used in his Gospel nine times, and in Acts eight; it is used thrice by St. Matthew and by St. John, four times by St. Mark, but elsewhere in N.T. only once, Jam 5:4. It is found frequently in LXX and in 1, 2, 3 Macc.—τῆς Ἰουδαίας καὶ Σαμαρείας: thus the historian makes another step in the fulfilment of the Lord’s command, Acts 1:8, and see also Ramsay, St. Paul, etc., p. 41. St. Chrysostom remarks ὅτι οἰκουομίας ὁ διωγμὸς ἦν, since the persecution became the means of spreading the Gospel, and thus early the blood of the martyrs became the seed of the Church.—πλὴν τῶν ἀποστόλωνπλήν: characteristic of St. Luke, sometimes as an adverb, sometimes as a preposition with genitive as here and in Acts 15:28, Acts 27:22; elsewhere it is only found once as a preposition with genitive, in Mark 12:32, although very frequent in LXX. The word occurs at least thirteen times in the Gospel, four times in Acts, in St. Matthew five times, in St. Mark once, and in John 8:10; see Friedrich, Das Lucasevangelium, pp. 16, 91. This mention of the Apostles seems unlikely to Schneckenburger. Schleiermacher, and others, but, as Wendt points out, it is quite consistent with the greater steadfastness of men who felt themselves to be πρωταγωνισταί, as Œcumenius calls them, in that which concerned their Lord. Their position too may well have been more secure than that of the Hellenists, who were identified with Stephen, as they were held in favour by the people, Acts 5:13, and as regular attendants at the temple services would not have been exposed to the same charges as those directed against the proto-martyr. There was, too, a tradition (very old and well attested according to Harnack, Chronologie, i., 243) to the effect that the Apostles were commanded by Christ not to depart from Jerusalem for twelve years, so that none should say that he had not heard the message, Euseb., H. E., v., 18, 14; nor is there anything inconsistent with this tradition in the visit of St. Peter and St. John to Samaria, since this and other journeys are simply missionary excursions, from which the Apostles always returned to Jerusalem (Harnack). The passage in Clem. Alex., Strom., vi., 5, 43, limited the Apostles’ preaching for the time specified not to Jerusalem, but to Israel.—Σαμαρείας: our Lord had recognised the barrier between the Samaritan and the Jew, Matthew 10:5; but now in obedience to His command (Acts 1:8) both Samaritan and Jew were admitted to the Church, for although the Apostles had not originated this preaching they very plainly endorsed it, Acts 8:14 ff. (cf. Hort, Judaistic Christianity, p. 54). Possibly the very fact that Philip and others were flying from the persecution of the Jewish hierarchy would have secured their welcome in the Samaritan towns.

[213] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

Acts 8:1. And Saul was consenting unto his death] i.e. approving of all that was done. We have the same word, Luke 11:48, “Ye allow (i.e. praise and approve of) the deeds of your fathers.” St Paul says of himself (Acts 22:20), “When the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed I also was standing by and consenting unto his death.”

Acts 8:1-4. Persecution after Stephen’s Death

1. And at that time there was a great persecution] Better, And there arose on that day, &c. The persecution was in immediate succession to the death of Stephen. Having once proceeded to such a length, the rage of the people turned upon the whole Christian body.

against the church which was at Jerusalem] i.e. the congregation which had grown up since the day of Pentecost.

and they were all scattered abroad] Thus the rage of their enemies brought about the dispersion which Christ had foretold (Acts 1:8). By the word all we need not understand every member of the Christian body, but only those who had been most active and so were in special danger from the persecution. We find (Acts 8:3) that there were many left, both men and women, in the city, whom Saul seized upon as “disciples of the Lord” and carried to prison. Perhaps Ananias who visited Paul at Damascus (Acts 9:19; Acts 9:25) may have been among those now scattered abroad, but see Acts 9:2 note.

throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria] According to the order of extension indicated by Jesus. The teaching of the Apostles must have been with great power to break through the long-standing prejudices of their Jewish converts against the Samaritans.

except the apostles] Jerusalem would of necessity be looked upon as the headquarters of the Christian band. Thither all the wanderers would refer for guidance and help. The twelve therefore must remain at their post, in spite of all the persecution.

Acts 8:1. Σαῦλος, Saul) This is closely connected with what goes before. Is Stephen stoned? It is with Saul’s consent. Is there a persecution of the Church taking place? He, the same, is assisting in it: Acts 8:3.—ἡμέρᾳ on that day) The adversaries did not put it off a day.—διωγμὸς, persecution) The one wave is followed by more.—πάντες, all) the teachers: Acts 8:4-5. For others, and, for their sakes, the apostles, remained: Acts 8:2-3.—διεσπάρησαν, were scattered) So the Gospel was more widely propagated. The wind increases the flame: Acts 8:4.—πλὴν, except) On that account the apostles were in the greater danger; and yet they did not consider that they ought to consult for their safety above the rest. They ought to withstand (endure) dangers, who have attained a greater degree and measure of faith than the others: although much seems to depend on them (on their lives).

Acts 8:1Death (ἀναιρέσει)

Lit., taking off. See on Luke 23:32.

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