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Bible Commentaries
Acts 4

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

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Verses 1-37

Arrest of Peter and John

1-22. Arrest of Peter and John. Peter’s speech before the Sanhedrin. The proceedings of the Apostles displeased the authorities, (1) because they taught the people (Acts 4:2) without having received the education and ordination of rabbis (cp. Acts 4:13); (2) because they preached the Resurrection, a doctrine particularly distasteful to the Sadducees, the dominant party among the influential members of the priesthood; (3) because they feared that the people would become inflamed with enthusiasm, and that this would lead to collisions with the Romans. It is a mark of historic truth that the chief opposition to the Apostles is here assigned to the Sadducees, who denied the Resurrection. The Pharisees, who affirmed it, were comparatively friendly (Acts 5:34; Acts 23:6), and not a few of them became Christians (Acts 15:5).

1. As they spake] Clearly John also addressed the people. The captain of the temple] a priest next in dignity to the high priest, having under him a body of priests and Levites, who maintained order in the Temple.

The Sadducees] Most of the chief priests belonged to this party. They denied the oral traditions of the elders, the existence of angels and spirits, predestination and fate, the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection of the body: see Matthew 3:7; Matthew 16:1.; Matthew 22:23; Acts 5:17; Acts 23:6.

5. Their rulers] A full and important meeting of the Sanhedrin was summoned. ’Rulers’ = chief priest; ’scribes’ = rabbis or ’lawyers,’ professional teachers of the Law. Most of the scribes were Pharisees. ’Elders’ = such members of the Sanhedrin as were neither chief priests nor scribes.

6. Annas the high priest] see on John 18:13. John] An unknown person. But D reads ’Jonathan.’ This is probably correct, for Jonathan was son of Annas, and succeeded Caiaphas.

Alexander] is unknown.

8. Filled with the Holy Ghost] in fulfilment of the promise Luke 12:11.

11. This is the stone] In Psalms 118:22 the stone is Israel, which the heathen builders of the world’s great empires reject and despise, but which nevertheless is destined to play the chief part in the world’s history. In the NT. the stone is interpreted as the Messiah, and the builders as the rulers of the Jews: see Matthew 21:42 cp. also Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-8.

12. Neither is there salvation in any other] Though salvation is offered to men through Jesus, and Jesus alone, it does not follow that those who are ignorant of His name are lost. God can save, through Christ, those who have never heard the gospel, if they respond to the degree of grace and enlightenment vouchsafed to them.

13. Unlearned and ignorant men] This rendering gives a false impression. What is meant is that the Apostles had not received the training of rabbis, and were consequently unskilled in rabbinical traditions, and had no authority to teach. ’Ignorant’ should be translated ’private persons,’ or, ’laymen.’

23-31. Prayer of the Apostles on their release. 24. With one accord] The prayer was probably led by St. Peter, the others repeating the words after him.

25. Who by the mouth] RV ’who by the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of our father David, didst say,’ etc.

Why did the heathen rage? etc.] verbatim from Psalms 2:1; (LXX). This Ps. is directly Messianic, though it may have been suggested by the historical circumstances of some actual Davidic king, e.g. Solomon. The people] RV ’the peoples,’ i.e. the Jews, regarded either as consisting of twelve tribes, or as dispersed in different nations. Vain things] vain, because, though the enemies of Jesus seemed to triumph at His Crucifixion, God raised Him from the dead, and placed Him at His right hand in heaven.

27. Child] or, ’servant’: see on Acts 3:13. Were gathered together] add ’in this city’ (RV).

28. Thy counsel] There is a theological difficulty here. God is said to have foreordained the iniquitous proceedings of the scribes and Pharisees who condemned Jesus. The explanation is that God is said to foreordain what he foresees and permits. God permitted the death of Jesus, intending by it to redeem the world, and to destroy the works of the devil: cp. Acts 2:23; Acts 3:18.

29. That with all boldness they may speak thy word] rather, ’that with all boldness we may speak thy word.’

30. By stretching] RV ’while thou stretchest forth thy hand to heal.’

31. The place was shaken, etc.] The physical phenomena of Pentecost (see Acts 2:3) were partly reproduced. They spake the word] They continued their public preaching to the people, and their private exhortations to the disciples, in spite of the opposition of the Jewish authorities.

32—C. Acts 5:16. The communism of the Church of Jerusalem. Barnabas, Ananias, and Sapphire.

32. Neither said any of them] This expression shows that the Church of Jerusalem recognised the principle of private property. A disciple’s property really was his own, but he did not say that it was his own; he treated it as if it were common property. The Anabaptist principle that private property is unlawful, finds no real support in the Acts. The communism was voluntary.

33. With great power] The expression suggests that the preaching was supported by miracles.

36. Joses] RV ’Joseph.’ Barnabas] lit. ’the Son of Prophecy.’ We learn from Acts 13:1 that he was a prophet; and he probably gained his name ’Barnabas’ from some specially comforting or consoling prophecy which he delivered to the Church of Jerusalem, soon after his conversion. A Levite] By the Mosaic Law Levites were forbidden to hold land in Palestine, but the regulation had been long in abeyance. Cyprus] from the time of Alexander the Great many Jews had settled in this fertile island. It is likely that Barnabas had been educated at the neighbouring university of Tarsus, and had there made the acquaintance of St. Paul: cp. Acts 9:27.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Acts 4". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/acts-4.html. 1909.
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