Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
Then said the high priest, Are these things so?Chap. 7:1.] On the H. P.’s question, see Chrys. just quoted. It is parallel with Matthew 26:62, but singularly distinguished from that question by its mildness: see above.
2-53:] Stephen’s defence. In order to understand this wonderful and somewhat difficult speech, it will be well to bear in mind, (1) that the general character of it is apologetic, referring to the charge made against him: but (2) that in this apology, forgetting himself in the vast subject which he is vindicating, he every where mixes in the polemic and didactic element. A general synopsis of it may be thus given: (1) He shews (apologetically) that, so far from dishonouring Moses or God, he believes and holds in mind God’s dealings with Abraham and Moses, and grounds upon them his preaching; that, so far from dishonouring the temple, he bears in mind its history and the sayings of the prophets respecting it; and he is proceeding,—when (interrupted by their murmurs or inattention? but see note, ver. 51) he bursts forth into a holy vehemence of invective against their rejection of God, which provokes his tumultuary expulsion from the council, and execution. (2) But simultaneously and parallel with this apologetic procedure, he also proceeds didactically, shewing them that a future Prophet was pointed out by Moses as the final Lawgiver of God’s people,—that the Most High had revealed His spiritual and heavenly nature by the prophets, and did not dwell in temples made with hands. And (3) even more remarkably still does the polemic element run through the speech. “It is not I, but you, who from the first times till now have rejected and spoken against God.” And this element, just appearing ver. 9, and again more plainly vv. 25-28, and again more pointedly still in ver. 35, becomes dominant in vv. 39-44, and finally prevails, to the exclusion of the apologetic and didactic, in vv. 51-53.
That other connected purposes have been discovered in the speech, as e.g. that so ably followed out by Chrys. Hom. xv.-xvii. (similarly Grot. and Calv.), of shewing that the covenant and promises were before the law, and sacrifice and the law before the temple,—is to be attributed to the wonderful depth of words uttered like these under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit, presenting to us, from whichever side they are viewed, new and inimitable hues of heavenly wisdom. Many of these will be brought out as we advance.
The question, from what probable source Luke derived his report of this speech, so peculiar in its character and citations as to bear, even to the most prejudiced, decisive evidence of authenticity, can be only conjecturally answered: but in this case the conjecture can hardly be wrong. I have discussed the point in the Prolegg. to this vol. ch. i. § ii. 12 (a). Another question has been, in what language the speech was delivered. (1) It is a hardly disputable inference from ch. 6:9, that Stephen was a Hellenist: (2) his citations and quasicitations for the most part agree with the LXX version. Hence it seems most probable that he spoke in Greek, which was almost universally understood in Jerusalem. If he spoke in Hebrew, (Syro-Chaldaic), then either those passages where the LXX varies from the Hebrew text (see below) must owe their insertion in that shape to some Greek narrator or to Luke himself,—or Stephen must have, in speaking, translated them, thus varying, into Hebrew: either supposition being in the highest degree improbable.
2. ἄνδρ. ἀδ. κ. πατ.] So Paul, ch. 22:1, before a mixed assembly of Jews. The ἄνδρ. ἀδ. would embrace all: the πατ. would be a title of respect to the members of the Sanhedrim, in this case, but hardly in ch. 22:1.
The words τῷ πατρὶ ἡμῶν decide nothing as to Stephen’s genuine Hebrew extraction. Any Jew would thus speak.
ὤφθη … πρὶν ἢ κατ. αὐτ. ἐν Χαῤ.] This was the Jewish tradition, though not asserted in Genesis. Thus Philo (de Abrah. § 15 end, vol. ii. p. 12), having paraphrased the divine command, says, διὰ τοῦτο τὴν πρώτην ἀποικίαν ἀπὸ τῆς Χαλδαίων γῆς εἰς τὴν Χαῤῥαίων λέγεται ποιεῖσθαι. But he accurately distinguishes between the λόγιον which he obeyed in leaving Chaldæa, and the θεὸς ὤφθη afterwards, adding a reason after his manner, why God could not be seen nor apprehended by him while he was yet χαλδαΐζων and an astrologer. The fact of his having left Ur by some divine intimation is plainly stated in Genesis 15:7, and referred to in Nehemiah 9:7. It was surely both natural and allowable to express this first command in the well-known words of the second. But we can hardly suppose that Stephen adopted the pluperfect rendering of וַיֹּאמֶר in Genesis 12:1, as the LXX has εἶπεν. (Josephus, ordinarily cited as relating the same tradition, throws, as he often does, the whole history into confusion, saying, it is true, Antt. i. 7. 1, καταλείπει τ. Χαλδαίαν … τοῦ θεοῦ κελεύσαντος εἰς τὴν Χαναναίαν μετελθεῖν, but omitting entirely the sojourn in Haran, and connecting the migration with an outbreak of the Chaldæans against him for teaching the worship of the true God.)
Χαῤῥάν] So the LXX for חָרָן, Genesis 11:31, &c.; 4 Kings 19:12; Ezekiel 27:23,—Κάῤῥαι τῆς Μεσοποταμίας, Herodian iv. 13 (Ptol. v. 18. 12. Strabo, xvi. p. 747),—‘Carras cæde Crassi nobiles,’ Plin. v. 24,—‘Miserando funere Crassus Assyrias Latio maculavit sanguine Carras,’ Lucan i. 104. It lay on an ancient road, in a large plain surrounded by mountains; it was still a great city in the days of the Arabian caliphs. See Winer, Realw.
4. μετὰ τὸ ἀποθανεῖν τὸν πατ. αὐτ.] In Genesis 11:26, we read that Terah lived 70 years and begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran; in 11:32, that Terah lived 205 years, and died in Haran; and in 12:4, that Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. Since then cir. 70 + 75 = cir. 145, Terah must have lived cir. 60 years in Haran after Abram’s departure.
It seems evident, that the Jewish chronology, which Stephen follows, was at fault here, owing to the circumstance of Terah’s death being mentioned Genesis 11:32, before the command of Abram to leave Haran;—it not having been observed that the mention is anticipatory. And this is confirmed by Philo having fallen into the same mistake, de Migr. Abrah. § 32, vol. i. p. 464, πρότερον μὲν ἐκ τῆς Χαλδαϊκῆς ἀναστὰς γῆς Ἀβραὰμ ᾤκησεν εἰς Χαῤῥάν· τελευτήσαντος δὲ αὐτοῦ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖθε καὶ ἐκ ταύτης μετανίσταται. It is observable that the Samaritan Pentateuch in Genesis 11:32, for 205, reads 145, which has most probably been an alteration to remove the apparent inconsistency. The subterfuge of understanding the spiritual death of Terah, who is, as a further hypothesis, supposed to have relapsed into idolatry at Haran, appears to have originated with the Rabbis (see Kuinoel ad loc. and Lightf. Hor. Heb.) on discovering that their tradition was at variance with the sacred chronology. They have not been without followers in modern Christendom. It is truly lamentable to see the great Bengel, warped by the unworthy effort of squaring at all hazards, the letter of God’s word in such matters, write thus: ‘Abram, dum Thara vixit in Haran, domum quodammodo paternam habuit in Haran, in terra Canaan duntaxat peregrinum agens; mortuo autem patre, plane in terra Canaan domum unice habere cœpit.’ (This alteration of relation in the land being expressed by μετῴκισεν αὐτὸν εἰς!) The way in which the difficulty has been met by Wordsworth and others, viz. that we have no right to assume that Abram was born when Terah was 70, but may regard him as the youngest son, would leave us in this equally unsatisfactory position:—Terah, in the course of nature, begets his son Abram at 130 (205-75): yet this very son Abram regards it as incredible that he himself should beget a son at 99 (Genesis 17:1, Genesis 17:17); and on the fact of the birth of Isaac being out of the course of nature, most important Scriptural arguments and consequences are founded, cf. Romans 4:17-21, Hebrews 11:11, Hebrews 11:12. We may fairly leave these Commentators with their new difficulty: only remarking for our instruction, how sure those are to plunge into hopeless confusion, who, from motives however good, once begin to handle the word of God deceitfully. μετ. αὐτ. εἰς] In these words Stephen clearly recognizes the second command, to migrate from Haran to Canaan: and as clearly therefore made no mistake in ver. 2, but applied the expressed words of the second command to the first injunction, the λόγιον of Philo.
5. οὐκ ἔδωκεν] There is no occasion here to wrest our text in order to produce accordance with the history. The field which Abraham bought for the burial of his dead surely did not come under the description of κληρονομία, nor give him any standing as a possessor in the land. To avoid this seeming inconsistency, Schöttgen and Bengel lay a stress on ἔδωκεν, ‘agrum illum … non ex donatione divina accepit Abraham, sed emit, ipsa emtione peregrinum eum esse docente’ (Bengel). Kuinoel and Olshausen take οὐκ for οὔπω.
καί before ἐπηγγ. is not ‘yet’ (Beza), nor is ἐπηγγ. to be construed pluperfect (id.); and he promised is the simple rendering of the words, and the right one. The following καί is by Kuin. rendered ‘nimirum:’ but again it is only the simple copula, וּלְזַרְעֲךָ.
6, 7.] A free citation from the LXX, with the words καὶ λατρ. μοι ἐν τ. τόπ. τούτῳ adapted and added from Exodus 3:12. The shifts of some Commentators to avoid this plain fact are not worth recounting: but again, the student who would not handle the word of God deceitfully should be here and every where on his guard against them.
7.] ὁ θεὸς εἶπεν is inserted by Stephen in passing from the narrative form (τὸ σπ. αὐτοῦ) into the direct (κρ. ἐγώ).
8.] On the institution of circumcision, it is called a διαθήκη, Genesis 17:10, and the immediate promise of that covenant was δώσω σοι κ. τῷ σπέρματί σου μετά σε τὴν γῆν ἣν παροικεῖς, πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν Χαναὰν εἰς κατάσχεσιν αἰώνιον· καὶ ἔσομαι αὐτοῖς εἰς θεόν, id. ver. 8.
οὕτως, thus, ‘in this new covenant state;’—or, ‘in fulfilment of the promise of seed implied in the above words.’ In this word οὕτως lies hid the germ of the subsequent teaching of the Holy Spirit by St. Paul, Gal_3.
9.] Here we have the first hint of the rebellious spirit in Israel, which the progress of the history brings out.
10.] Observe (Mey.) the simple coupling of the clauses by καί, as characteristic or this speech.
χάριν κ. σοφ.] No Hendiadys: favour, so that he was acceptable to Pharaoh (see reff.): and wisdom, so that Ph. consulted him and followed his suggestion, especially in the important case recorded Genesis 41:38.
κατέστησεν] viz. Pharaoh: a change of subject: see reff. Gen.
14. ἐν ψυχαῖς ἑβδομηκονταπέντε] In the Hebrew text, Genesis 46:27; Exodus 1:5; Deuteronomy 10:22, seventy souls are reckoned, viz. sixty-six born of Jacob, Jacob himself, Joseph, and his two sons born in Egypt. So also Josephus, Antt. ii. 7. 4; vi. 5, 6. But the LXX, whom Stephen follows, insert in Genesis 46:20 an account of the children and grandchildren of Manasseh and Ephraim, five in number: and in ver. 27 read υἱοὶ δὲ Ἰωσὴφ οἱ γενόμενοι αὐτῷ ἐν γῇ Αἰγ., ψυχαὶ ἐννέα. πᾶσαι ψυχαὶ οἴκου Ἰακὼβ αἱ εἰσελθοῦσαι μετὰ Ἰακὼβ (om μετὰ Ἰακώβ, and ψυχαί below, A, but obviously without any effect on the general statement) εἰς Αἴγυπτον, ψυχαὶ ἑβδομηκονταπέντε:—reckoning, as it appears, curiously enough, among the sons of Joseph, Joseph himself, and his wife Asenath; for these are required to make up the nine, according to their ver. 20. And similarly in Exodus 1:5, and in Deuteronomy 10:22 A. (Wordsw., who is careful to note that A omits μετὰ Ἰακώβ in Genesis 46:27, omits the fact that it reads πέντε here, by stating “seventy” as the LXX testimony.) With regard to the various attempts to solve the difficulty (66 + 12 wives, minus (Joseph and his wife, and Judah’s wife who died in Canaan) = 75, Seb. Schmid and Wolf:—that Stephen spoke of those who were invited,—Moses of those who went, Krebs and Loesner:—that πάντες should be read for πέντε, Beza:—&c.), see above on vv. 6, 7. The remarks of Jerome are curious:—he is arguing, on Gen. l. c., that the number really was seventy,—and adds, ‘Quod si e contrario nobis id opponitur, quomodo in Actibus Apostolorum in concione Stephani dicatur ad populum, septuaginta quinque animas ingressas esse Ægyptum, facilis excusatio est. Non enim debuit sanctus Lucas, qui ipsius (istius?) historiæ scriptor est, in gentes Actuum Apostolorum volumen emittens, contrarium aliquid scribere adversus eam scripturam, quæ jam fuerut gentibus divulgata.’ Philo, de Migr. Abr. § 36, vol. i. pp. 467 f., mentions both numbers (reading 75 in Gen. and 70 in Deut., see above), and gives allegorical reasons for both: and really Wordsworth’s solution, that Stephen includes those born of Jacob’s line in Egypt to shew that they “were equally children of the promise with those born in Canaan,” is hardly better. When we come to understand μετεκαλέσατο … πᾶσαν τὴν συγγένειαν ἐν ψυχαῖς ἑβδομηκονταπέντε, as represented by including, for a purpose, those already in Egypt, it seems to me that a stigma is cast on St. Stephen far more serious than that of mere numeral inaccuracy.
16.] μετετέθησαν, viz. αὐτὸς καὶ οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν, not the latter only,—as Kuin., Olsh., and Wordsw., to evade part of the difficulty of the verse.
The facts, as related in the O. T., were these: Jacob, dying in Egypt, was (Genesis 50:13) taken into the land of Canaan, and buried in the cave of Machpelah, before Mamre (on the rest of the verse see below): Joseph, dying also in Egypt, was taken in a coffin (Genesis 50:26) at the Exodus (Exodus 13:19), and finally buried (Joshua 24:32) at Shechem. Of the burial of the other patriarchs the sacred text says nothing, but rather by the specification in Exodus 13:19, leaves it to be inferred that they were buried in Egypt. Josephus, Antt. ii. 8. 2, relates that they were taken and buried in Hebron, and adds, B. J. iv. 9. 7, ὧν καὶ τὰ μνημεῖα μέχρι τοῦ νῦν ἐν τῇδε τῇ πολίχνῃ (Hebron) δείκνυται, πάνυ καλῆς μαρμάρου καὶ φιλοτίμως εἰργασμένα:—the Rabbinical traditions mentioned by Wetst. and Lightf. report them to have been buried in Sychem: and Jerome (Ep. ad Eustochium: Epitaph. Paulæ, 108 (27) 13, vol. i., p. 703) relating the pilgrimages of Paula to the sacred places, says: “transivit Sichem, … atque inde divertens vidit duodecim Patriarcharum sepulchra.” These traditions probably Stephen followed; and, in haste or inadvertence, classed Jacob with the rest.
ᾧ ὠνήσατο Ἀβραάμ] The burying-place which Abraham bought was not at Sychem, but (Genesis 23:3-20) at Hebron, and was bought of Ephron the Hittite. It was Jacob who (Genesis 33:19) bought a field where he had pitched his tent, near Sychem, of the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father: and no mention is made of its being for a burying-place. The two incidents are certainly here confused: and no ingenuity of the Commentators has ever devised an escape from the inference. The mention of a few such attempts may suffice.—(1) The omission of Ἀβραάμ (Beza, Valck., Kuin., Schött., al.) against all manuscript evidence (not excepting E, the reading of which, variously stated by Meyer and Tischendorf, has been ascertained by inspection),—and against the construction also; for after μετετέθησαν, Ἰακώβ could hardly be the subject to ὠνήσατο:—(2) rendering, against all grammar, while omitting Ἀβραάμ, ὠνήσατο ‘emptum erat’ (Kuin.):—(3) construing Ἀβραάμ, Abrahamides, i.e. Jacob (Surenhus. al.):—(4) that of Wordsworth, made up of—omitting Jacob from the grammatical construction (see above);—proving, from Jerome and (without any allusion to the passage of Josephus above cited!), that the other patriarchs were buried at Shechem:—a priori reasons why Stephen should have chosen to bring forward Shechem and not Hebron; reasons (see Wordsw.’s note) not very creditable, if they existed: &c. &c.
The fact of the mistake occurring where it does, will be far more instructive to the Christian student than the most ingenious solution of the difficulty could be, if it teaches him fearlessly and honestly to recognize the phænomena presented by the text of Scripture, instead of wresting them to suit a preconceived theory. I entirely agree with Wordsworth, that “there is nothing in these difficulties which invalidates the claims of St. Stephen to Inspiration,” any more than those expressions in Scripture “invalidate its inspiration,” which imply that the sun revolves round the earth. But as Wordsw. lives in days when men are no longer burnt for asserting that the earth moves, he surely might abstain from railing in such unmeasured terms (see his Acts, p. 35, Col_1) at those who in contending for common fairness and honesty find it necessary to carry somewhat further the same canon of reasonable interpretation. Humble searchers after divine truth will not be terrified by being charged with “assumption and conceit,” or being told that their exegesis can produce no result but “degeneracy, degradation, disbelief, and demoralization.” But they will deeply feel it to be their duty, to caution the student against all crooked and disingenuous ways of handling the word of God. “Non tali auxilio, nec defensoribus istis.”
17.] καθώς, not ‘when’ (as E. V., Beza, Kuin.), but as, ‘in proportion as.’ See ref.
19. τοῦ ποιεῖν] so that they exposed, see ref. Meyer maintains that the inf. of the purpose is not to be departed from,—‘in order that they might expose:’ but I do not see that this meaning would express the fact. The purpose is afterwards expressed, εἰς τὸ κ.τ.λ.
20. ἀστ. τῷ θεῷ] add to reff. (Meyer), Hesiod, Op. 825, ἀναίτιος ἀθανάτοισιν,—and Æsch. Agam. 352, θεοῖς ἀναμπλάκητος. The expression here seems borrowed from tradition: Josephus calls the infant Moses παιδα μορφῇ θεῖον. Philo de vita Mos. § 3, vol. ii. p. 83, says, γεννηθεὶς οὖν ὁ παῖς εὐθὺς ὄψιν ἐνέφῃνεν ἀστειοτέραν ἢ κατʼ ἰδιώτην.
22.] That Moses was instructed in the wisdom of the Egyptians, is not found in the O. T., but derived from tradition, and following as a matter of course from his adopted station as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. This wisdom of the Egyptians, celebrated by so many ancient writers (see Wetst. ad loc), consisted mainly in natural philosophy, medicine, and mathematics, and its teachers were the priests. Philo de vita Mos. § 5, p. 84, enters into minute detail: ἀριθμοὺς μὲν οὖν κ. γεωμετρίαν, κ. τήν τε ῥυθμικὴν κ. ἁρμονικὴν κ. μετρικὴν θεωρίαν, κ. μουσικὴν τὴν σύμπασαν, διά τε χρήσεως ὀργάνων, κ. λόγων τῶν ἐν ταῖς τέχναις, κ. διεξόδοις τοπικωτέραις, Αἰγυπτίων οἱ λόγιοι παρέδοσαν. κ. προσέτι τὴν διὰ συμβόλων φιλοσοφίαν, ἣν ἐν τοῖς λεγομένοις ἱεροῖς γράμμασιν ἐπιδείκνυνται, κ. διὰ τῆς τῶν ζώων ἀποδοχῆς, ἃ καὶ θεῶν τιμαῖς γεραίρουσι. τὴν δὲ ἄλλην ἐγκύκλιον παιδείαν Ἕλληνες ἐδίδασκον· οἱ δʼ ἐκ τῶν πλησιοχώρων, τά τε Ἀσσυρίων γράμματα, κ. τὴν τῶν οὐρανίων Χαλδαϊκὴν ἐπιστήμην.
δυνατὸς ἐν λόγοις] So Josephus calls Moses πλήθεσιν ὁμιλεῖν πιθανώτατος, but late in his course, during the journey through the wilderness;—when the divine Spirit, as the book of Deuteronomy abundantly testifies, had turned his ‘slowness of speech’ into the most fervid eloquence. That he was so thus early, during his Egyptian course, was probably reported by tradition, but hardly seems to agree with Exodus 4:10-16.
23. τεσσερακονταετὴς χρ.] μέγας γενόμενος , Exodus 2:11, LXX. The exact age was traditional, see Lightf.
ἀνέβη] No nominative (as διαλογισμός, Kuin.) must be supplied: it is impersonal; see reff.
24.] τὸν Αἰγύπτιον, from the history being so universally known, that the agent in the ἀδικία would be readily supplied: see Winer, edn. 6, § 67. 1, d.
25.] The present, δίδωσιν, sets forth the work of liberation as already begun by the act just related, see reff.
Here we have again the resistance to the Holy Spirit hinted: see ver. 51, and note on ver. 2.
26.] αὐτοῖς, to them, two of them, taken as representing his brethren the children of Israel.
συνήλασεν, not imperf., ‘he endeavoured to unite:’ the aorist will not bear this sense: nor is it needed:—the act, on Moses’ part, was complete;—not ‘he would have set them at one’ (E. V.), but, he set them at one. If the explanatory reading συνήλλασσεν be taken, we then have the imperfect force—“he was reconciling,” or “attempted to reconcile,” them.
ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί should be taken together, as in Genesis 13:8, ἄνθρωποι ἀδελφοί ἐσμεν ἡμεῖς. See also ch. 2:14 (De W.).
27.] The further progress of resistance to the Spirit on the part of Israel.
29. Μαδιάμ] So LXX, Exodus 2:15, for מִדְיָן. Winer (Realw. ‘Midian’) supposes this Madian to have been a nomad detachment of the more settled Midianites,—which at that time was encamped in the neighbourhood of Sinai and Horeb. For Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, is not found there, in Exodus 18:1 ff., but comes to visit Moses from a distance. See also Numbers 10:29 ff.
30. ἐτ. τεσς.] This follows from the tradition of ver. 23, combined with Exodus 7:7, ‘Moses in palatio Pharaonis degit XL annos, in Midiane XL annos, et ministravit Israel XL annos.’ Bereshith Rabba, f. 115. 3. (Mey.)
Σινᾶ] Horeb, Exodus 3:1. But both were points of the same mountain range, and the names were convertibly used. In Exod., Levit., and Numb., the law is said to have been given from Sinai; in Deut. from Horeb. ‘The desert of Mount Sina’ is the desert in which Mt. S. is situated. So ‘the Peak of Derbyshire,’ originally no doubt some single hill, has come to mean the whole district in which that hill is situated.
ἄγγελος] Here, as continually in the O. T., the angel bears the authority and presence of God Himself: which angel, since God giveth not his glory to another, must have been the great Angel of the covenant, the מַלְאַךְ פָּנָיו of Isaiah 63:9, ‘the Angel of His Presence,’—the Son of God. See below on εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων, ver. 53.
Stier remarks, that this second appearance of God, to Moses (see ver. 2), introduces the legal dispensation, as the first, to Abraham, the patriarchal.
The readings of the LXX, as well as of our text, vary between πυρὶ φλογός (B) and φλογὶ πυρός (A). The Heb. is בְּלבַּת־אַשׁ. The construction is, in the fiery flame (or, the flaming fire) of a bush.
32.] The order of Exodus 3:6, is here somewhat varied. The command to put off the shoe was given on the approach of Moses, and before these words were spoken.
οὐκ ἐτόλμ. καταν. = εὐλαβεῖτο κατεμβλέψαι, LXX.
33.] See Joshua 5:15. Putting off the sandals was a mark of reverence. The priests performed all their ministrations barefooted. The Arabs to this day continue the practice: they always enter their mosques barefooted. Among the Pythagoreans it was a maxim, ἀνυπόδητος θῦε κ. προσκύνει, Iamblich. vita Pythag 105 (Mey.). So Juvenal, Sat. vi. 158, ‘Observant ubi festa mero pede sabbata reges.’
On the sanctity of the place, Chrys. remarks,—οὐδαμοῦ ναός, κ. ὁ τόπος ἅγιος τῇ ἐπιφανείᾳ κ. ἐνεργείᾳ τοῦ χριστοῦ.
34.] ἰδὼν εἶδον, LXX. Emphatic, to express the רָאֹה רָאִיתִי of the Heb., as often elsewhere. The instances commonly cited from the classics, of the phrase φεύγων ἐκφεύγειν, Herod. v. 95; Aristoph. Acharn. 177; Nub. 168; Eur. Phœn. 1231, &c., do not apply: for, as Porson observes, ‘in his locis simplici verbo conatus, composito effectus indicatur.’
ἀποστείλω] aorist subjunctive, as LXX, Exodus 3:10. See Winer, edn. 6, § 41. a. 4. a.
35.] The second τοῦτον is repeated emphatically. So οὗτος again, vv. 36, 37, 38 [to impress on them God’s choice of one whom they rejected].
ἠρνήσαντο, ver. 27. The rejecter of Moses there is regarded as the representative of the nation: see note on αὐτοῖς, ver. 26. In this express mention of the rejection of Moses by the Jews and his election and mission by God, the parallel of Jesus Christ is no doubt in Stephen’s mind, and the inference intended to be drawn, that it does not follow that God rejects those whom THEY REJECTED.
The difficulty of ἀπέσταλκεν has caused it to be altered into the historic tense, ἀπέστειλεν. But the perf. sets forth not only the fact of God’s sending Moses then, but the endurance of his mission till now—him hath God sent: with a closer reference than before, to Him whom God had now exalted as the true ἄρχοντα κ. λυτρωτήν. See ch. 5:31.
37.] See ch. 3:22, notes. Our text has probably been altered to agree verbally with the former citation.
38.] γίνομαι μετά is not a Hebraism, as Kuin.: see reff.
That Moses conversed with both the Angel of the covenant and our fathers, implies that he was the mediator between them, as indeed ὃς ἐδέξατ. λόγ. ζ. more plainly declares.
ἐκκλησίᾳ probably, the assembly held (Exo_19) for the promulgation of the law at Mt. Sinai, not ‘the Church’ generally: but the article does not determine this: it would be expressed, whichever meaning we take. Wordsw. observes on the meaning which the words ἡ ἐκκλησία ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ carry for the student of Christian prophecy, Revelation 12:1-6.
λόγια ζῶντα] living, see reff., not = ζωοποιοῦντα (Grot., Kuin.), ‘life-giving:’ still less to be understood ‘given vivá voce’ (Pisc. Alberti). So Soph. Tyr. 482, τὰ μεσόμφαλα γᾶς ἀπονοσφίζων " μαντεῖα· τὰ δʼ αἰεὶ " ζῶντα περιποτᾶται.
39.] Another instance, brought home again by the words οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν, of rejection of God’s appointed messenger and servant.
ἐστράφησαν] they turned back in their heart to Egypt: not, ‘they wished to return to Egypt,’ of which in Exo_32 there is no trace (but later, in Numbers 14:4), and which would hardly suit προπορεύσονται; but ‘they apostatized in heart to the Egyptian idolatries.’ The very title by which Aaron proclaims his idol, is, ‘These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt,’ Exodus 32:4. See also Nehemiah 9:18.
40. προπορ.] As God had done in the pillar of the cloud and fire. The plural is not (as Kuin.) put for θεόν, but is used categorically: not perhaps without implying also, that the only two religions were, the worship of Jehovah, and that of idols, a multitude. The plural is used by Aaron, see above.
In the οὗτος may be implied, as Meyer suggests, ‘who was the strong opponent of idolatry.’
41. ἐμοσχοποίησαν] apparently in imitation of Apis, a bull worshipped at Memphis as the living symbol of Osiris. Herod. iii. 28. Diod. Sic. i. 21. Strabo, xvii. 805 (Winer, Realw. ‘Kalb’). The ox was a common symbolic form of idols in the East; it was one of the cherubic forms, Ezekiel 1:10; and the most recent discoveries at Nineveh have brought to light colossal bulls. Sir Gardiner Wilkinson (second series, ii. 97, Winer) thinks the golden calves of Israel to have been imitations of Mnevis, a bull kept at Heliopolis (Diod. Sic. i. 21. Strabo, xvii. 803) as a living symbol of the sun. Jeroboam afterwards set up golden calves at Bethel and Dan, and with the same proclamation: see 1Kings 12:28.
42. ἔστρεψεν] neuter, changed,—turned, as ἀναστρέψω, ch. 15:16. No word, as ἑαυτόν, or τὴν γνώμην, or τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ, need be supplied: nor must ἔστρ. κ. παρ. be rendered ‘again delivered them’ (Vitring., De Dieu, al.), a Hebraism which has no place in the N. T. (Mey.): nor must we understand αὐτούς (as C in var. readd.),—God turned them; for, though philologically there is no objection to this, the sense requires that ἔστρεψεν should form an introduction to παρέδωκεν—God, who had hitherto watched over them for good, now provoked by their rebellion, turned, and delivered them up to their own ways.
παρέδωκεν—not ‘suffered them to fall into:’ all these explainings away of the strong expressions of Scripture belong to the rationalistic school of interpreters (which is not modern merely: even Chrysostom has here εἴασε): it was a judicial delivering up, not a mere letting alone, see reff.
τῇ στρ. τ. οὐρ.] This fact is not mentioned in the Pentateuch, but may refer to the worship of Baal. In aftertimes we have frequent traces of star-worship: see 2Kings 17:16; 2Kings 21:3, 2Kings 21:5; 2Kings 23:4, 2Kings 23:5; Jeremiah 19:13; Zephaniah 1:5. See also Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 17:3; Job 31:26.
βίβλ. τ. προφ.] The book of the prophets, regarded as a whole. The citation (ref.) is from the LXX.
μὴ σφάγ. κ. θ.] A question usually preceding a negative answer, see Matthew 7:9; Romans 11:1; 1Corinthians 9:8 al.: but not always: see Matthew 12:23 (26:22); John 4:29; John 8:22. Winer, edn. 6, § 57. 3, b. There is no stress on μοί (‘Is it to Me that ye offered, &c. (i.e. to me only?’) as Rosenm., Heinr., Olsh., Kuin., Stier: the position of μοί in the sentence will not allow of this). I should take the question here according to the usual construction, and understand it as a reproach, implying that God does not receive as offered to Him, sacrifices in which He has been made to share with idols:—it is not true that ye offered to Me (but no stress on Me) sacrifices, &c.; ‘I regard it as never having happened.’
43.] The answer, by God Himself: Yea, ἀνελάβετε, ye [took up, i.e.] carried about with you, (not My tabernacle as your sole or chief holy place, but) the tabernacle (סִכּוּת, the portable tent for the image: Diod. Sic. xx. 65, mentions the ἱερὰ σκηνή] in the Carthaginian camp) of M., &c.
Stephen was not the sole dishonourer, if a dishonourer, of the holy place—their fathers had done it before.
Μολόχ] So the LXX: the Heb. has מַלְכְּכֶם, ‘of your king;’—the LXX probably followed another reading (מלכם is actually found in 577 Kennicot and 4401 De Rossi), or perhaps explained the expression by the cognate name of this god. Moloch (Winer, Realw.) was the Phœnician Saturn: his image was of brass with the head of an ox, and outstretched arms of a man, hollow; and human sacrifices (of children) were offered, by laying them in these arms and heating the image by a fire kindled within. The rigid prohibitions of the worship of Moloch (Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2-5) were openly transgressed by Ahaz, 2Kings 16:3; by Manasseh, ib. 21:6; see also 23:10; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 32:35. In the kingdom of Israel this abomination had been long practised, see 2Kings 17:17; Ezekiel 23:37. We find traces of it at Carthage (Diod. Sic. xx. 14), among the Phœnicians (Q. Curt. iv. 3. 23. Euseb. laud. xiii. 4. Porpbyr. de Abstin. ii. 56),—among the Cretans and Rhodians (Porphyr. ibid.), and the Assyrian colonists at Sepharvaim, 2Kings 17:31.
τὸ ἄστρον τοῦ θ. Ῥεφάν] Heb. כִּיּוּן, Chiún; but what the meaning of either this or Ῥαιφάν (LXX) is, we have nothing but conjecture to inform us. The principal opinions have been (1) that of Kircher, who maintains Ῥεφάν (Ῥηφάν) to be a Coptic word, signifying the planet Saturn, and answering to the Arabic ‘Kewan:’ (2) that of Hengstenberg, Authentie des Pentat. 110 ff., who entirely repudiates Kircher’s interpretation, and supposes Ῥηφάν to have arisen from a misreading of ריון for כיון. But Winer (Realw.) prefers the former opinion, and supports it by the authority of eminent modern Coptic and Arabic scholars.
De Wette and Hengstenberg believe כִּיּוּן to be an appellative noun, and would render it, Gestell, the carriage or frame, on which the star or image was carried: ‘imaginem idolorum vestrorum,’ Vulg. Amos. l. c. Wordsw. after alex. in Catena, supposes ῥεφάν to signify σκότισμα, or blindness, and suggests that the name may have been one given by the Jews in contempt, like Beelzebub, to the god of the Ekronites. See Smith, Bibl. Dict., art. Remphan.
Βαβυλῶνος] Δαμασκοῦ, LXX and Heb. The fulfilment of the prophecy would make it very natural to substitute that name which had become inseparably associated with the captivity.
44. ἡ σκ. τ. μαρτ.] In opposition to the σκ. just mentioned: but also in pursuance of one of the great aims of the speech, to shew that holiness is not confined to locality or building. This part of his subject Stephen now enters on more particularly. The words ἡ σκ. τ. μαρτ. are the LXX rendering of אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד (Numbers 16:18, Numbers 16:19 al.) ‘the tabernacle of the assembly’ (or ‘congregation,’ E. V.). They apparently derived the latter word from עוּד, ‘testatus est,’ instead of יָעַד, ‘constituit.’
τύπον] (ref.): another contrast, cf. τύπους οὓς ἐποιήσατε, ver. 43.
45. εἰσήγ.] absolute: introduced, viz. εἰς τὴν γῆν:—not connected with ἐν τῇ κατασχ.,—see below.
διαδεξ.] Having inherited it, i.e. succeeded to its custody and privileges. The sense of ‘successores,’ ‘qui majores exceperunt,’ is ungrammatical; as also is that of ‘postea,’ ‘deinceps.’
ἐν τῇ κατασχέσει] at (or ‘in’) their taking possession. The Vulg. rendering, ‘in possessionem gentium,’ is philologically inadmissible; ‘in terram a gentibus occupatam’ (Calvin, De Dieu, Grot., Kuin.) is still worse. The passage of the LXX, Numbers 32:5, δοθήτω ἡ γῆ αὕτη τοῖς οἰκέταις σου ἐν κατασχέσει, brought forward to justify these renderings, is directly against them. The word is one of those examples of verbal nouns in -σις where the meaning hovers uncertainly between the act of doing and the thing done. Such is often the case with καύχησις in St. Paul. Cf. for a very near approach to the concrete meaning of this word, Numbers 27:4, Numbers 27:7. But, abstract or concrete, it always, as might be expected from the very composition of the word, is used of that final and settled possession which Israel took of the land, not of that transitory possession from which the gentes were driven out. So that Wordsw.’s rendering, “the portion, or possession of the Gentiles,” is out of the question.
The martyr combines rapidly a considerable period, during which this κατάσχεσις and this expulsion was taking place (for it was not complete till the time of David) in order to arrive at the next great event of his history, the substitution of the temple of Solomon for the tabernacle.
46. ᾐτήσατο] asked permission, see 2Samuel 7:2 ff., in which this request is made through Nathan the prophet, and at first conceded by Nathan, though afterwards, on a revelation made from God, denied:—not ‘wished’(Grot., Kuin.: ‘desired,’ E. V.). The vow (a species of prayer) here referred to, is defined by the words εὑρεῖν σκήνωμα, to be that mentioned Ps. 131:1-5 (LXX).
48.] But, though Solomon built Him an house, we are not to suppose, for all that, that He is confined to earthly spots.
καθὼς ὁ πρ. λ.] We have in substance the same declaration by Solomon himself at the dedication of his temple, 1Kings 8:27; see also the beautiful prayer of David, 1Chronicles 29:10-19. The citation is freely from the LXX.
The student will not fail to be interested in observing the apparent reference to this declaration in Stephen’s apology, by St. Paul, ch. 17:24.
51.] I do not think there is any occasion to suppose an interruption from the audience to have occasioned this outbreak of holy indignation. At each separate recital (vv. 9, 25, 35, 39 ff.) he has dwelt, with continually increasing fervour, on the rebellions against and rejections of God by His people. He has now brought down the history to the establishment of the temple worship. From Solomon’s time to his own, he saw but a succession of apostasies, idolatries, rejection of God’s prophets:—a dark and loathsome catalogue, terminated by the betrayal and murder of the Just One Himself. It is not at all beyond probability, to believe that the zeal of his fervent spirit was by the view of this, the filling up of the measure of their iniquities, kindled into a flame of inspired invective. I find that this is also Neander’s view, in opposition to the generality of Commentators (P. u. L., p.92), as also that of Prof. Hackett, in his commentary on the Acts: and I cannot but think it far the most probable. ἐνταῦθα λοιπὸν καταφορικῶς τῷ λόγῳ κέχρηται. πολλὴ ἦν παῤῥησία μέλλοντος αὐτοῦ ἀποθνήσκειν· καὶ γὰρ καὶ τοῦτο οἶμαι αὐτὸν εἰδέναι, Chrysost.
σκληρ. κ. ἀπερ.] Words and figures familiar to the prophets in speaking of the rebellious Israel: see, besides reff., Deuteronomy 9:6, Deuteronomy 9:13; Nehemiah 9:16:—Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6 Heb. See also Romans 2:29.
ὠσίν] I should hardly think of any allusion to Psa_40 (39) 6,—because the LXX have rendered ‘mine ears hast thou opened’ by σῶμα κατηρτίσω μοι.
τῷ πν. τ. ἁγ. ἀντ.] Apparently a reference to Isaiah 63:10. The instances as yet had been confined to οἱ πατ. ὑμ.: now he has arrived at their own times. The two are taken up again in the next verse.
52. τίνα τ. προφ.] See Matthew 23:31 ff.: 2Chronicles 36:16: where the same general expressions are used of their persecuting the prophets. Such sayings are not to be pressed to the letter, but represent the uniform attitude of disobedience and hostility which they assumed to the messengers of God. See also the parable, Matthew 21:35.
τοὺς προκ.] The office of all the prophets, see ch. 3:18. The assertion is repeated, to connect them, by this title, with Him, whom they announced.
τοῦ δικαίου] Schöttg. vol. ii. p. 18, has shewn from the Rabbinical writings that this name was used by the Jews to designate the Messiah. See reff. and note on James 5:6.
προδόται] By Judas’s treachery, of which the Sanhedrists had been the accomplices; Matthew 26:14-16:—φονεῖς, by the hands of the Romans; ch. 2:23, note.
ἐγένεσθε is preferable not only on account of its manuscript authority, but as being the historical tense, like the rest. It was probably altered to the perfect, as suiting the time then present, better than the aorist.
53.] The use of οἵτινες, instead of οἱ, so very frequent in the Acts and Epistles, occurs when the clause introduced by it contains a further explanation of the position or classification of the person or persons alluded to, and not when the relative serves for simple identification. See Romans 1:25, Romans 1:32.
εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων] Many explanations have been given. Chrys. διαταχθέντα νόμον λέγει, τὸν ἐγχειρισθέντα αὐτῷ διʼ ἄγγελον τὸν ὀφθέντα αὐτῷ ἐν τῷ βάτῳ: and Œ νόμον λαβόντας διατάξεις ἔχοντα, αἵτινες ἰσάγγελον ἐποίουν πολιτείαν ἔχειν τοὺς τελοῦντας αὐτόν. Heinsius and Lightfoot understand by ἀγγέλ. the prophets: Grot., Calov., and Krebs, ‘præsentibus angelorum ordinibus,’ taking διαταγάς = διατάξεις in the sense of divisions of an army (Judith 8:36), in which it never occurs,—not to say that εἰς will not bear this: Beza, Calv., Pisc., Elsn., Hamm., Kuin., &c., ‘ab angelis promulgatum,’ which εἰς will not bear (ἐν): Winer, Gr., edn. 6, § 32. 4, b, ‘as commands of angels’ (but see below), which, however, was not the fact (Mey., who refers to Jos. Antt. xv. 5. 3, ἡμῶν τὰ κάλλιστα τῶν δογμάτων καὶ τὰ ὁσιώτατα τῶν ἐν τοῖς νόμοις διʼ ἀγγέλων παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ μαθόντων):—the Syriac version, ‘per mandatum angelorum:’—Vulg. and Calv., ‘in dispositione (or -onibus) angelorum:’ Schöttg., ‘per ministerium angelorum.’ These three last are precluded by the foregoing remarks. The key to the right rendering seems to be the similar expression in ref. Gal., ὁ νόμος διαταγεὶς διʼ ἀγγέλων. The law was given by God, but announced by angels. The people received God’s law then, εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων, at the injunction (a sense of διατ. amply justified, see Palm and Rost’s lex. διάταξις, and Polyb. iv. 19. 10; 87. 5: and preferred by Winer in his last edn., ut supra) of angels. So Matthew 12:41, μετενόησαν εἰς τὸ κήρυγμα Ἰῶνα, ‘they repented at the preaching of Jonas.’ The only other legitimate rendering, ‘as the injunctions of angels,’ comes under the objections made to Winer’s former view, above.
54-60.] Effect of the speech: stoning of Stephen.
54.] διεπρ., see note on ref.
55.] Certainly, in so far as the vision of Stephen was supernatural, it was not necessary that the material heavens should have been visible to him; but from the words ἀτενίσας εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν it would seem that they were. We are not told where the Sanhedrim were assembled. It does not seem as if they were convened in the ordinary session room: it may have been in one of the courts of the temple, which would give room for more than the members of the Sanhedrim to be present, as seems to have been the case.
ἑστῶτα] A reason why the glorified Saviour was seen standing, and not sitting, has been pleasingly given by Chrysostom (in Cramer’s Catena): τί οὖν ἑστῶτα καὶ οὐχὶ καθήμενον; ἵνα δείξῃ τὴν ἀντίληψιν τὴν εἰς τὸν μάρτυρα· καὶ γὰρ περὶ τοῦ πατρὸς λέγεται “ἀνάστα ὁ θεός.” Similarly Gregory the Great, Hom. ii. 29, vol. i. p. 1572, ‘Stephanus stantem vidit, quem adjutorem habuit.’ So also Arator, i. 611 ff. p. 124, ed. Migne, ‘pro martyre surgit, Quem tunc stare videt; confessio nostra sedentem Cum soleat celebrare magis.’ (See also the collect for St. Stephen’s day.) But not perhaps correctly: for ‘help’ does not seem here to be the applicable idea, but the confirmation of his faith by the ecstatic vision of the Saviour’s glory at God’s right hand.
I should be rather disposed to think that there was reference in the vision to that in Zechariah 3:1, where Zech. sees Ἰησοῦν τὸν ἱερέα τὸν μέγαν, ἑστῶτα πρὸ προσώπου ἀγγέλου κυρίου. Stephen, under accusation of blaspheming the earthly temple, is granted a sight of the heavenly temple; being cited before the Sadducee High Priest who believed neither angel nor spirit, he is vouchsafed a vision of the heavenly High Priest, standing and ministering at the throne amidst the angels and just men made perfect.
56.] This is the only time that our Lord is by human lips called the Son of Man after His ascension (Revelation 1:13; Revelation 14:14, are not instances). And why here? I believe, for this reason. Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, speaking now not of himself at all (ver. 55), but entirely by the utterance of the Spirit, repeats the very words, Matthew 26:64, in which Jesus Himself, before this council, had foretold His glorification;—and assures them that that exaltation of the Son of Man, which they should hereafter witness to their dismay, was already begun and actual.
58. ἔξω τ. πόλ.] See Leviticus 24:14. ‘Locus lapidationis erat extra urbem: omnes enim civitates muris cinctæ paritatem habent ad castra Israelis.’ Babyl. Sanhedr. ad loc. (Meyer.) Cf. also Hebrews 13:12, Hebrews 13:13.
ἐλιθοβόλουν] they stoned him: an anticipation of the fact, the details of which follow: not, ‘they prepared to stone him:’ non ‘jam in itinere ad supplicii locum petulanter eum lapidibus lacessebant’ (Heinr.): nor need we conjecture ἐλιθολόγουν with Markland. Stoning was the punishment of blaspheming, Leviticus 24:16. The question whether this was a legal proceeding on sentence, or a tumultuary one, is not easy to answer. It would appear from John 18:31, that the Jews had not legally the power of putting any man to death (see note there). Certainly, from the narrative before us, and from the fact of a bloody persecution having taken place soon after it, it seems that the Jews did, by connivance of, or in the absence of the Procurator, administer summary punishments of this kind. But here no sentence is recorded: and perhaps the very violence and zelotic character of the execution might constitute it, not an encroachment on the power of the Procurator, as it would have been if strictly in form of law, but a mere outbreak, and as such it might be allowed to pass unnoticed. That they observed the forms of their own law, in the place and manner of the stoning, is no objection to this view.
οἱ μάρτυρες] See ref. [where it is enacted that the hands of the witnesses were to be first on the criminal to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people]. They disencumbered themselves of their loose outer garments, ὥστε εἶναι κοῦφοι καὶ ἀπαραπόδιστοι εἰς τὸ λιθοβολεῖν. Theophyl.
ἀπέθεντο] to keep them.
Such notices are deeply interesting, when we recollect by whom they were in all probability carefully inserted. See ch. 22:19, 20, and note on ch. 26:10:—from which it appears that Saul can certainly not have been less than thirty at this time. He was a member of the Sanhedrim, and soon after was despatched on an important mission with their authority.
59.] The attempt to escape from this direct prayer to the Saviour by making Ἰησοῦ the genitive, and supposing it addressed to the Father,—in the face of the ever-recurring words κύριος Ἰησοῦς (see Revelation 22:20 especially), and the utter absence of any instance or analogy to justify it,—is only characteristic of the school to which it belongs. Yet in this case it has been favoured even by Bentley and Valcknaer, who supposed θεόν to have been omitted in the text, being absorbed by the preceding -ον. But if any such accus. had been used, it would certainly have been τὸν θεόν.
δέξαι τὸ πν. μ.] The same prayer in substance had been made by our Lord on the cross (ref. Luke) to His Father. To Him was now committed the key of David. Similarly, the young man Saul, in after years: πέπεισμαι ὅτι δυνατός ἐστιν τὴν παραθήκην μου φυλάξαι εἰς ἐκείνην τὴν ἡμέραν, 2Timothy 1:12.
60.] The more accurate philological Commentators, De Wette and Meyer, deny that στήσῃς here can, as ordinarily explained, refer to weighing (reff. Matt.; Jer_39 (32) 10), since not the sin, but the punishment, would be the thing weighed out,—and it would be harsh to take the one for the other, in a sentence of this kind. Meyer would understand ἱστάναι as opposed to ἀφιέναι, τὴν ἁμαρτίαν, ‘Fix not this sin upon them:’ but De Wette, as seems to me more probably, renders it Reckon not this sin to them (‘lay not this sin to their charge,’ E. V.), supporting this by Romans 10:3.
This again was somewhat similar (though not exactly, see note there) to our Lord’s prayer, Luke 23:34.
ἐκοιμήθη] Not a Christian expression only: Wetstein, on Matthew 27:52, cites Jewish examples: and we have in the Anthology, iii. 1. 10, τῇδε Σάων ὁ Δίωνος Ἀκάνθιος ἱερὸν ὕπνον " κοιμᾶται· θνήσκειν μὴ λέγε τοὺς ἀγαθούς. But it became the usual Christian term for death. Its use here, when the circumstances, and the actors in them, are remembered, is singularly touching, from the contrast.