Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 23 April 2017; Revised 11 November 2018
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Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. See my web article The Jewish New Testament. Scripture quotations may be taken from different versions. Click here for abbreviations of Bible versions. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important Jewish sources include the following:
● DSS: Citations marked as "DSS" are from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last two centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. Online DSS Bible and DSS Docs. Click here for DSS abbreviations.
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C. Online.
● Josephus: Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
● MT: The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism. Work on developing a uniform Hebrew Bible began in the 2nd century under Rabbi Akiva, but completed by Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D. The oldest extant manuscripts date from around the 9th century. Online.
● Targums: The targums are early Aramaic translations of the Hebrew text with commentary: Targum Jerusalem (1st c. AD), Targum Neofiti (1st c. AD), Targum Onkelos (c. 35–120 AD) and Targum Jonathan (2nd c. AD). See an index of targum texts here.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Vocabulary: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms ADONAI (for 'LORD' when quoting a Tanakh source), Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).
Nisan 17−Iyar 26, A.D. 30
Promise of the Spirit, 1:4-8
The Ascension, 1:9-11
Days of Prayer, 1:12-14
The Tragedy of Judas, 1:15-20
Appointment of Matthias, 1:21-26
Rome: Caesar Tiberius (AD 14-37)
Prefect of Judea: Pontius Pilate (AD 26-36)
Jewish High Priest: Joseph Caiaphas (AD 18-37)
1 Indeed the first narrative I composed, O Theophilus, about all things which Yeshua began both to do and to teach,
Indeed: Grk. mén, a particle of affirmation; indeed, verily, truly. Many versions do not translate the particle. the first: Grk. prōtos. The basic idea has to do with 'beforeness.' The term is used in two ways: (1) having primary position in a temporal sequence; first, earlier, earliest; and (2) standing out in significance or importance; first, most prominent, most important, first of all. The first meaning fits best here.
narrative: Grk. logos, vocalized expression of the mind, as communication ranging broadly in extent of content and variety of form; word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar (SH-1697), which has a similar range of meaning: saying, speech, word, message, report, tidings, discourse, story, command, advice, counsel, promise, thing, or matter, whether of men or God (Gen 29:13; BDB 182) (DNTT 3:1087). Rienecker says that logos was the customary name for a division of the work which covered more than one roll of papyrus. Longenecker says that each narrative would have filled an almost equal-sized papyrus roll.
I composed: Grk. poieō, aor. mid., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition; do, act, perform, work. The first meaning applies here, lit. "I did." The middle voice is the usual construction for mental acts (Robertson). In the LXX poieō renders chiefly Heb. asah (SH-6213), accomplish, do, make, work (first in Gen 1:7), and used of a wide range of human and divine activity. The "first account" refers to the narrative of Yeshua the Messiah, from his birth to his death and resurrection, identified as "Luke" in our Bibles.
The book known as Acts of the Apostles was authored by Luke, a physician and Hellenized Jew. According to Hippolytus (170-236; On the Seventy Apostles) Luke was one of the seventy disciples Yeshua recruited for a special mission (Luke 10:1). During the growth of the Yeshua movement in the Diaspora Luke became a companion and fellow-worker of Paul. Acts may have began as a personal journal so that Luke recorded events after they happened. The book ends with Paul still in custody in Rome, so it was completed not later than c. 62 A.D. Please see the article Witnesses of the Good News for more information on Dr. Luke and his two literary works.
O: Grk. Ō, exclamatory particle used when the address is intended to carry special force (DM 71). In the Besekh the letter omega is used 17 times with a vocative case noun in rhetorical address (BAG). Only some versions translate the particle here (ASV, AMP, DRA, ESV, JUB, KJV, LEB, NKJV, OJB, RSV). Theophilus: Grk. Theophilos, voc. case, a proper name meaning "friend of God." Bruce says the name means "dear to God." The name occurs only here and in Luke 1:3, where Luke applies to him the title "most excellent" (Grk. kratistos). LSJ says the title is a superlative of agathos ("good") and in Greek literature is used colloquially of the aristocracy, and specifically used as a title or mode of address, of a woman of the equestrian order, and of Senators. Paul used the same title in addressing Felix (Acts 23:26; 24:3) and Festus (Act 26:25). Thus, the honorary title would indicate that the recipient of the narrative was of some prominence.
Bruce believes the honorific title argues against the name being used to designate the "Christian reader." Similarly, Longenecker argues against Theophilus being a symbolic name for either an anonymous person or a class of people, because the name occurs as a proper name at least three centuries before Luke, and the practice of dedicating books to distinguished persons was common in his day. He may have also been a patron of the Yeshua movement (Levine 97), perhaps in high social and/or political standing. Gilbert suggests that Theophilus might have been Luke's benefactor (199). Stern suggests that Theophilus was probably an upper-class Greek (103).
Scholars ignore the fact that there was a famous Jew by the name of Theophilus who served as high priest AD 37-41 and is mentioned by Josephus (Ant. XVII, 4:2; XVIII, 5:3; XIX, 6:2; XX, 9:7) (Jeremias 194, 378). It's not impossible that the Theophilus to whom Luke wrote was a relative of the high priest. Also, including Theophilus in the use of "us" in Luke 1:1-2 would support Theophilus being Jewish. The verb "having been taught" (Grk. katēcheō, 'to instruct orally') in Luke 1:4 implies that Theophilus had been introduced to the Messianic proclamation on a prior occasion. There is no reason to assume that Theophilus was unsaved. This same verb is used of Apollos who had some teaching about the Messiah before he went to Ephesus, but Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and explain the truth more accurately (Acts 18:24-26). Luke's task was to explain the truth about Yeshua more accurately to Theophilus.
about: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near or having to do with something; about, concerning. all things: Grk. pas, adj., n. pl., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. which: Grk. hos, n. pl., relative pronoun used to give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that.
Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). The English rendering of "Jesus" originated with the Mace New Testament in 1729. For more information on the meaning our Lord's name, his identity, and the history of translation of the name see my web article Who is Yeshua?
began: Grk. archō, aor. mid., can mean either (1) in the active voice 'to rule,' or (2) in the middle voice (as here) 'to begin' something. The verb had wide Jewish usage, including Aristeas, Philo and Josephus (BAG). All three writers used the verb with the first meaning and Josephus frequently used the verb with the second meaning. Bruce says the verb carries a certain emphasis and not to be regarded merely as a "Semitizing auxiliary." He refers to the fact that in late Jewish usage this verb is often superfluous to the context. BAG notes that the verb as used here means that the person in question has been doing something else, and that he activity now takes a new turn. both: Grk. te, conj. used to connect an idea closely to another in a manner that is tighter than with kai; both.
to do: Grk. poieō, pres. inf. The second usage defined above applies in this instance. and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. See my note on the significance of conjunctions in the Besekh.
to teach: Grk. didaskō, pres. inf., to teach or instruct. Thayer defines the verb as "to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses." Mounce adds "to speak in a public assembly; to direct or admonish." In the LXX didaskō is used to translate nine different verbs (DNTT 3:760). In contrast with Greek education Jewish teaching since the time of Moses has been more concerned with communicating God's ethical demands than imparting information (DNTT 3:766).
"Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught." (Luke 1:1-4 ESV)
Luke's greeting creates a continuity with his narrative about Yeshua. As the first narrative tells about what Yeshua began to do and teach all the land of Israel, so Acts tells us what he continued to do through the Holy Spirit (Bruce 30).
2 until the day, having given a command through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he chose, he was taken up.
until: Grk. achri, prep., a function word signifying an interval between two points with focus on continuity, here of an extension in time; until. the day: Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). The first and third meanings have application here. having given a command: Grk. entellō, aor. mid. part., to give instruction with magisterial claim; instruct, command, order. Many versions translate the verb as plural (CJB, ESV, HCSB, KJV, NAB, NASB, NEB, NET, NIV, NIRV, NJB, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, REV, TLV) when it is actually singular.
through: Grk. dia, prep. (from duo, "two"), the basic sense is 'between' or 'through' (DM 101). Here the preposition conveys instrumentality, 'by means of.' the Holy: Grk. Hagios has two distinctive uses in Scripture: (1) as an adj. of things dedicated to God (e.g., the temple, Jerusalem), of persons consecrated to God (e.g., prophets), then of angels, of Messiah, and of God (Lev 19:2); (2) as a pure substantive in the neuter form hagion, used of the name of God (Luke 1:44), and then of what is set apart for God to be exclusively His, e.g., sacred places as the temple (Num 3:38; Matt 24:15), the holy land (2Macc 1:29; 2:18), Jerusalem (Matt 4:5), sacrifices (Lev 22:14; Rom 12:1), and angels (Zech 14:5; 1Th 3:13) and human persons (Isa 4:3; Acts 9:13). In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadosh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy. Qadosh is first used of God in Leviticus 11:44.
Spirit: Grk. pneuma (for Heb. ruach, Resh-Vav-Chet), wind, breath or spirit; here referring to the Holy Spirit. Pneuma is used for the human spirit and transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14), particularly the Spirit as God's self-expression (Gen 1:2; Mark 1:10). In Scripture "holy" is only used as an adjective of "spirit" to refer to the Holy Spirit, a name or face of God. "Holy Spirit" is not the title of a separate being, because God is Spirit (pneuma ho theos, John 4:24), just as God is the Word (John 1:1). The specific name "Holy Spirit" occurs only three times in the Tanakh (Ps 51:11; Isa 63:10, 11) given as Ruach Qodesh.
The Holy Spirit is identified by three other forms in the Tanakh (Ruach Elohim, Gen 1:2; Ruach YHVH, Jdg 3:10; and Ruach Adonai YHVH, Isa 61:1). The Greek text of this verse does not have the definite article for either "Holy" or "Spirit," corresponding to the lack of the definite article in the three passages of Ruach Qodesh. The command to the apostles "through the Holy Spirit" alludes to the command of Yeshua in his post-resurrection appearance when he "breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (John 20:22).
to the apostles: pl. of Grk. apostolos was used in Greek and Roman culture for a delegate, ambassador, envoy, messenger, emissary or official representative. Apostolos occurs one time in the LXX where it translates shaluach, Qal pass. part. of the verb shalach (SH-7971), "sent," in 1Kings 14:6 of Ahijah the prophet. Josephus also uses apostolos one time of a group of Jewish ambassadors sent to Rome to complain about the appointment of Archelaus (Ant. XVII, 11:1). Apostolos appears in no other early Jewish literature. First century Judaism institutionalized the office of shaliach, who acted as an official messenger or a proxy for and with the full authority of the sender. Jastrow defines the title as messenger, agent or deputy (1579).
The Mishnah says, "the agent [Heb. shaliach] is as the one who sends him" (Ber. 5:5). The shaliach’s mission was "limited in scope and duration by definite commission and terminating on its completion" (DNTT 1:128). In the Besekh the term "apostle" is specifically applied to the original Twelve (Matt 10:2), then Mattathias (verse 26 below), Paul (Acts 14:14), Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Jacob (the brother of Yeshua, Gal 1:19), and Andronicus and Junia (Rom 16:7). The apostles of Yeshua were so named because they had "seen the Lord," either during his earthly ministry or after his resurrection (John 20:25; Acts 9:27; 1Cor 9:1; 15:5-9; 1Jn 1:1) and were approved to speak with authority on His behalf.
Messianic Jewish versions avoid using the English "apostle," because of its association with Christianity. However, the men Yeshua appointed clearly chose this Greek word to identify themselves and elevated its meaning at the same time. An apostle of the King of Israel is no minor office. In the Besekh the term "apostle" is first applied to the original Twelve (Matt 10:2). All the apostles named in Acts were Jewish. The apostles had the authority to proclaim the good news, determine orthodox doctrine, impose requirements based on application of Torah ("bind and loose," Matt 16:19; 18:18), and shepherd the congregations they founded (cf. 1Cor 14:37).
whom: Grk. hos, m. pl., relative pronoun. he chose: Grk. eklegomai, aor. mid., to pick out for oneself; choose or select as the recipients of special favor and privilege. The verb indicates a highly deliberative choice between alternatives or a selection out of a larger group. In the LXX eklegomai nearly always renders forms of the Heb. verb bachar (SH-977), 'choose,' 'select,' or 'prefer' (DNTT 1:537). In the Tanakh the verb bachar is used a small number of times for man's choice, but primarily it is used of God's choice. In the case of God's choice the purpose of His choosing is some commission or service, and can only meaningfully retain its validity in its fulfillment. The verb is used several times in the apostolic narratives, as here, to refer to the Twelve men Yeshua chose to be his apostles (cf. Luke 6:13; John 6:70; 13:18; 15:16, 19).
he was taken up: Grk. analambanō, aor. pass., to cause movement in an upward direction; take up. The verb depicts the ascension of Yeshua to heaven. Indeed many versions add "to heaven," to clarify the point of the verb, even though "heaven" is not in the Greek text. An important point of the verb is that Yeshua did not take himself up.
3 to whom also he presented himself alive after his suffering with many proofs, being seen by them throughout forty days and speaking things concerning the kingdom of God.
to whom: Grk. hos, m. pl., relative pronoun. also: Grk. kai, conj. he presented: Grk. paristēmi, aor., to place beside, present, put at one's disposal, make available. himself: Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun of the third person to denote that the agent and the person acted on are the same. alive: Grk. zaō, be in the state of being alive; living. after: Grk. meta, prep. used to mark association or accompaniment; with, amid, among. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun used to distinguish a person or thing from or contrast it with another, or to give him (it) emphatic prominence. The pronoun may mean (1) self, (2) he, she, it, or (3) the same. suffering: Grk. paschō, aor. inf., to experience something, but often with a negative connotation in association with physical pain; suffer.
with: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, lit. "in" or "within," but used here as a marker of means or agency; by, with. many: Grk. polus, n. pl., extensive in scope, here as an adj. indicating a high number. proofs: Grk. tekmērion, n. pl., something that validates; proof, but not of an argumentative type. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh, but it is found in the Apocrypha (Wis. 5:11; 3Macc. 3:24). Yeshua presented concrete, objective irrefutable proof. being seen: Grk. optanomai, pres. pass. part., appear in the sense of being visible. The verb does not refer to a vision. The verb is found only here in the Besekh, but it is found in the LXX (1Kgs 8:8 for Heb. ra'ah, to see) and Tobit 12:19. by them: Grk. autos, m. pl.
throughout: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 1 above. The preposition is used here of continued time; during, throughout. forty: Grk. tesserakonta, the numeral forty. days: Grk. hēmera, f. pl. See the previous verse. The number is not an estimate, but a literal span of time. Counting from the resurrection day, Sunday Nisan 17, then forty days concluded on Thursday, Iyar 26. Coincidentally, the forty days were days of "counting the omer," which began on the Sabbath following Passover (Lev 23:15-16). The apostolic narratives provide scant information on where Yeshua spent the 40 days following his resurrection. Yeshua must have remained initially in the vicinity of Jerusalem, perhaps in Bethany, since he appeared to all the apostles, including Thomas, eight days after his resurrection (John 20:26-29).
The location was presumptively in Jerusalem, perhaps at the house of John Mark where the last supper was held (cf. Luke 24:33). From there Yeshua and his disciples traveled separately to Galilee where he met with his apostles and other disciples at a mountain (Matt 28:7, 10, 16-20; 1Cor 15:6-7) and by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-22) and gave proofs of his resurrection. Luke was very likely among the 500 witnesses. As Lightfoot notes, after his resurrection Yeshua did not walk around in public as he did during his earthly ministry, but simply appeared wherever he wanted to be.
and: Grk. kai, conj. speaking: Grk. legō, pres. part., to make a statement or utterance, whether mentally, orally or in writing, often used to introduce quoted material. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative; answer, ask, declare, enjoin, order, say, speak, tell, told, refer to, talk about. In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, shew, command or think. things: ho, n. pl., definite article used as a demonstrative pronoun.
concerning: Grk. peri, prep. the kingdom: Grk. basileia. BAG gives three meanings (1) as abstract 'act of ruling' and thus 'kingship, royal power, royal rule, or kingdom; (2) a territory ruled over by a king; kingdom; or (3) the royal reign of God or kingdom of God as a chiefly eschatological concept, appearing in the Hebrew prophets and Jewish apocalyptic literature. The term appears widely in Jewish literature of Aristeas, Philo, Josephus, the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs and the LXX, especially the Apocrypha.
In the LXX basileia renders Hebrew noun derivatives of the verb malak (SH-4427, become a king; reign), some 400 times (DNTT 2:373). It's important to note that the Hebrew words are used first and foremost for the reign of earthly rulers and only secondarily of God's kingship. The concept of God's kingly rule is only presented in connection with the Israelite monarchy. Even in the eschatological kingdom the ruler will be a Jewish descendant of David (Jer 23:5; 33:15; Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Hos 3:5; Zech 12:7-10).
of God: Grk. theos, God or god, which must be determined from the context. In the LXX theos primarily renders the name of the Creator God Elohim (2568 times), but sometimes YHVH (300 times) (DNTT 2:67-70). Given the plural nature of Elohim the full triunity of God must be represented in theos. The only God in existence is the God who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (Gen 1:1) and who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth for a covenantal relationship (Ex 19:5; Isa 44:6; 45:5-6; 46:9). In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel. The God of Israel is the only God there is. The deities of all other religions and cults are the product of Satan-inspired imagination.
The hope that God would establish His reign as King over all the earth, with all idolatry banished, is expressed frequently in Scripture (e.g., Ex 15:18; Ps 22:28; 29:10; 93-99; 103:19; 145:10-13; Isa 34:23; 52:7; Dan 2:44; 4:3; 7:27; Micah 4:7; Obad 1:21; and Zech 14:9). Stern says, "The concept of the Kingdom of God …refers neither to a place or time, but to a condition in which the rulership of God is acknowledged by humankind, a condition in which God’s promises of a restored universe free from sin and death are, or begin to be fulfilled" (16). Ancient Jewish prayer liturgy, such as Aleinu and Kaddish, include the phrase that "God may establish His Kingdom speedily." It was even laid down by the Sages that no benediction would be effective without reference to the Kingdom (Berachot 12a).
In the covenant with Israel God expressed His will for a kingdom, "you shall be to Me a kingdom [Heb. mamlakah; LXX basileios] of priests and a holy nation" (Ex 19:6). Of interest is that the LXX conveys the meaning of mamlakah here with an adjective meaning "kingly" or "royal" thereby signifying that as priests they would have the dignity and character of kings. Then, God promised David,
"When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever." (2Sam 7:12-13 ESV)
So, here are two kinds of kingdom: a priestly kingdom and a Davidic kingdom. Which kingdom did Yeshua announce? Yochanan the Immerser prepared the way for the Kingdom of God by calling the Jewish people to genuine repentance (cf. Matt 3:2; 11:12; Luke 16:16). The message of Yochanan was of both kingdoms, but he saw them occurring simultaneously. The immersion of Spirit would be the inauguration of the priestly kingdom and the immersion of fire would be the judgment on the wicked and victory of the Davidic kingdom (cf. Matt 3:7-12). Yeshua then declared that the Kingdom had arrived in his person (Mark 1:15; Luke 10:9, 11). The Kingdom of God in the present age is the reign of the Jewish Messiah in human hearts (Luke 17:21), as Yeshua told Pilate "My Kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).
Clarke interprets the subject of Yeshua's instruction concerning the kingdom as "whatever concerned the doctrine, discipline, and establishment of the Christian Church." Indeed most Christian interpreters treat the message of Acts as if it were "The Birth of the Church," as Bruce titles the first chapter of his commentary on Acts (28). This viewpoint actually originated with the church fathers, when they determined that God had rejected Israel (contradicting Romans 11:1-2) and replaced Israel with the Church. In the patristic era the Church became the Kingdom of God (so Augustine, City of God). Yeshua would never have countenanced the founding of a religious organization that rejected the Jewish people and the Torah, nor embraced philosophies of the world and adopted doctrines that contradict the Bible.
Indeed, the Bible says nothing of Christianity as it was developed by the church fathers. Luke's narrative in Acts is about the proclamation of Yeshua as the Messiah, the fulfillment of promises made to the people of Israel (Acts 2:22-24, 31-36, 39; 3:12-25; 4:10-11, 26; 5:30-31; 9:15-20; 10:36; 13:23, 26-33; 15:13-18; 18:5; 20:20-25; 21:20; 24:10-21, 24-25; 26:6-7, 16-18, 22-23; 28:20, 23-28). Biblically defined there is no kingdom without Israel at its center. Paul declared that the Body of Messiah is a commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2:12), which alludes to the promise God made to Jacob that he would be a company of nations (Gen 35:11).
In the time between the resurrection and the ascension Yeshua taught his disciples more about the Kingdom of God, that is, the kingdom centered in the Jewish Messiah. The disciples understood that the good news of the Kingdom was first for the house of Israel (Matt 2:6; 10:6; 15:24; Luke 1:68; Rom 1:16). They would not understand until later that the Gentiles have been grafted into that nation (Rom 11:17). The kingdom to come of which Yeshua spoke in his Olivet Discourse (Matt 24:14; 25:1; Luke 21:31) and during the last supper (Mark 14:25) will be inaugurated in Israel when Yeshua returns to Jerusalem. The land of Israel will be the center of his millennial kingdom (Zech 14).
In the meantime the disciples needed to understand that the kingdom was a present reality and not merely something to anticipate in the future (cf. Matt. 11:12; 12:28; 16:19). The kingdom was not to be associated with ecclesiastical organization, a political ideology or living in heaven. Rather, the kingdom would be Yeshua himself working through his messengers and disciples empowered by the Holy Spirit to bring healing and hope to suffering humanity, the same purpose he had in the first mission given to the apostles (Matt 10:8). This was a spiritual movement that would turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6).
Promise of the Spirit, 1:4-8
4 and eating together, he instructed them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father, "Which," he said, "you heard of me;
and: Grk. kai, conj. eating together: Grk. sunalizō, pres. part., bring together, collect, gather. However, the verb can have a sense of being in company with someone for fellowship, because the verb was also used in Greek culture to mean "to eat salt with" or "eat at the same table with" (LSJ). The verb occurs only here in the Besekh, but it is found in Josephus (Ant. VIII, 4:1; Wars III, 7:36). Bruce argues persuasively that the verb alludes to the meeting of Yeshua and the disciples described in Luke 24. Eating was one of the actions Yeshua performed to prove that he was alive (Luke 24:41-43; John 21:12-15; Acts 10:41). Lightfoot places this gathering in Galilee, but Bruce and Gill set the meeting in Bethany or Mount Olivet, which seems more likely.
he instructed: Grk. parangellō, aor., to give authoritative direction; order, instruct, direct. In the Besekh the verb is used of a wide variety of instructions, often practical or ethical. In the LXX parangellō renders Heb. shama (SH-8085), to hear, and meaning to cause to hear, assemble, proclaim, or summon (DNTT 1:340). It is used of the authoritative proclamations of leaders, generals and kings (Josh 6:7; Jdg 4:10; 1Sam 10:17; 15:4; 23:8; 1Kgs 15:22; 2Chr 36:22; 1Macc 5:58; 2Macc 13:10). them: The conversation and instructions contained through verse 8 were given to the Eleven apostles, likely a part of the instructions given in Luke 24:36-49, since this verse repeats the specific instruction of Luke 24:49.
not: Grk. mē, a particle of qualified negation, not. It differs from the other standard negative particle, oú, in that oú is objective, dealing only with facts, while mē is subjective, involving will and thought (DM 265). to depart: Grk. chōrizō, pres. mid. inf., may mean (1) to cause to be apart by space between or (2) sever connection by departure. The second meaning applies here with the sense of physical movement. from: Grk. apo, prep. used generally as a marker of separation; from. Jerusalem: Grk. Hierosoluma, a rough transliteration of the Heb. Yerushalayim (SH-3389), which means "possession" or "foundation of peace" (BDB 436). Hierosoluma is one of two forms of Jerusalem in Greek, the other (Ierousalēm) being used in verse 8 below. Hierosoluma occurs 62 times in the Besekh, 4 of which are in Luke and 22 of which are in Acts. This spelling is found in the Apocrypha, Philo and Josephus (BAG).
Longenecker calls Hierosoluma the Hellenized version of "Jerusalem," saying it "breaks the usual pattern in Acts where Ierousalēm appears exclusively in chapters 1−7 and always on the lips of those whose native tongue was Aramaic" [sic]. He says this because he assumes Ierousalēm to be a transliteration of Aramaic Yerushalem. NASBEC on the other hand says Ierousalēm is from the Heb. Yerushalaim. In reality this is a distinction without a difference. Hierosoluma cannot be more Hellenized than Ierousalēm. Luke was a Hellenized Jew and it may well be that the spelling of Ierousalēm, which he uses more frequently, was more familiar to Theophilus. BAG says that no certain conclusions can be drawn concerning the use of the two Greek spellings of the name. In any event, the primary conversational language of Jews in Judea was Hebrew, not Aramaic as commonly supposed (Flusser 11). (See my web article The Jewish New Testament for more discussion of this subject.)
What a precious name is Jerusalem! The city is situated some 2500 feet above sea level and eighteen miles west of the northern end of the Dead Sea, is renowned as the capital of all Israel, afterwards of the Kingdom of Judah and the seat of central worship in the temple. At the time of the Exodus the city was inhabited by the Jebusites (Josh 15:8), but then captured by the tribe of Judah (Jdg 1:8). The city was also known as the City of David (2Sam 5:7).
By the end of David's reign the city had expanded to cover seven mountains: Mount Zion, Mount Ophel, Mount Moriah, Mount Bezetha, Mount Acra, Mount Gareb, and Mount Goath (Neil 289). Jeremias estimated the resident population of the city in the time of Yeshua at about twenty–five to thirty thousand (252). For the faithful Jew the city of Jerusalem represented all that was dear in the covenant relationship with God. David spoke of Jerusalem "as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord" (Ps 122:3–4 ESV). Another psalmist expressed his affection thus, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill, may my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy" (Ps 137:5–6 NASB).
Jerusalem is the city God favors above all other cities and the focus of His covenantal faithfulness (Ps 135:21; 147:2; Ezek 5:5; Zech 2:8). Jerusalem was the center of Jewish worship (Deut 16:16; John 4:20; Acts 8:27; 24:11), but it figured prominently in Messianic expectation (Isa 59:20; 62:11; Zech 9:9). Jerusalem is the "city of the great king" (Matt 5:35). It was the city in which the Messiah was to be killed and raised to life. It was also the city from which the message of God's salvation would go forth (Isa 2:3; 40:9; 41:27; Mic 4:2). In the millennial kingdom Jerusalem will be the capital and center of the Messiah's government (Zech 14:16; Rev 20:9). It's no wonder Yeshua told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem.
but: Grk. alla, conj., adversative particle used adverbially to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, on the other hand. to await: Grk. perimenō, pres. inf., to stay in a position in expectation; wait for. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh, but it is found in Josephus (Ant. XII, 2:11) and Wisdom of Solomon 8:12 (BAG). the promise: Grk. epangelia, promise, especially associated with God. A promise from God is a guaranteed assurance.
of the Father: Grk. patēr, normally of a male biological parent or ancestor, but frequently in reference to God, which emphasizes both his activity as creator and sustainer. In the LXX patēr renders ab ("av"), which generally occurs in the human sense, but also of God as father in relation to Israel (Ex 4:22) (DNTT 1:616f). In the Besekh the capitalized "Father" is a circumlocution for the God of Israel. While God gave physical life to mankind (cf. Acts 17:28), he is only Father in a spiritual and covenantal sense in relation to Israel. God's paternal relationship to Israel is affirmed many times in the Tanakh (e.g., Ex 4:22; Deut 1:31; 8:5; 32:6; Isa 43:6; 63:16; 64:8; Jer 3:19; 31:9; Hos 1:10: Mal 1:6; cf. 2Cor 6:18).
Which: Grk. hos, relative pron. you heard: Grk. akouō, aor., may mean (1) to hear, with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said; (2) hear with comprehension, understand; (3) receive information aurally, hear, hear about; or (4) a legal term of hearing a case. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). Thus, in Hebrew usage to hear implies a readiness, even an eagerness to know and obey. of me: Grk. egō, 1p-pron.; i.e., Yeshua. Many versions translate the genitive case of the pronoun as "from me," but "of me" is the normal translation of the genitive and here emphasizes that the promise of the Father is connected to Messianic expectation.
Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., observes, "Almost every New Testament use of the word promise (epangelia) points back to the Old Testament" (Back Toward the Future, Hints for Interpreting Bible Prophecy, Wipf & Stock Pub., 2003; p. 102). The Father’s promise of the Holy Spirit was prophesied by Isaiah (32:15; 44:3), Ezekiel (39:29), Joel (2:28) and Zechariah (12:10). The quotation of "which you heard of me" refers to Yeshua's own teaching and predictions about the work of the Holy Spirit, found almost exclusively in John's narrative. Yeshua told Nicodemus that a person must be born of water and Spirit (John 3:5) and that the Father gives the Spirit without measure (John 3:34).
At the Feast of Booths (Sukkot) Yeshua invited the worshippers to come to him to receive the Spirit (John 7:37ff). At the last supper in the upper room Yeshua gave the most detailed description of the ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16f; 26; 16:5-15) and after the resurrection he urged them to "receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). In the Synoptic narratives the only pronouncement Yeshua makes regarding the Spirit is the promise that when persecution came and the disciples stood before rulers and tribunals the Holy Spirit would tell them what to say (Luke 12:12).
5 for Yochanan indeed immersed in water, but you will be immersed in the Holy Spirit after not many of these days."
for: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. The fourth usage applies here. Yochanan: Grk. Iōannēs attempts to transliterate the Heb. Yōchanan ("the Lord is gracious"), an apt description of the one who would prepare the way of the Messiah (Stern 15). The Mace New Testament (1729) was the first to use the spelling of "John."
Yochanan was a cousin (degree unknown) of Yeshua, born in Hebron just six months before Yeshua (cf. Luke 1:26, 36, 56-57). Only Luke provides dating information on Yochanan's birth and the commencement of his ministry (Luke 1:5; 3:1-3). Yochanan was most likely born in March, 3 BC. (See my nativity commentary on Luke 1.) Yochanan's ministry began in autumn of A.D. 26 (Edersheim 183; Santala 125). For the purposes of this commentary the name "Yochanan" will be used for the Immerser and "John" for the apostle.
indeed: Grk. mén, conj. immersed: Grk. baptizō, aor., means to dip, soak, or immerse into a liquid. The verb baptizō is derived from baptō (immerse or plunge) and means that what is dipped takes on qualities of what it has been dipped in—such as cloth in dye or leather in tanning solution. Christian versions translate the verb as "baptized" whereas Messianic Jewish versions render the verb as "immersed." In the LXX baptō translates the Heb. taval (to dip) 13 times. Baptizō occurs only four times in the LXX: in Isaiah 21:4; 2 Kings 5:14 (re: Naaman); Sirach 34:25; and Judith 12:7. While baptizō in the Isaiah passage speaks of being overwhelmed by a vision, the other three passages report incidents of self-immersion in water (DNTT 1:144).
The immersion ministry of Yochanan is described in all the apostolic narratives (Matt 3:1-11; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-20; John 1:6-7, 19-28; 3:22-36). Stern says Yochanan’s water immersion accomplished ritual purification of the body for chozrim bitshuvah ("persons who turn from sin to God in repentance"). Contrary to Christian interpretation and practice the use of baptizō in Scripture never means a rite performed by sprinkling or pouring and never of infants. G.R. Beasley-Murray offers this concurring analysis of the biblical term.
"Despite assertions to the contrary, it seems that baptizō, both in Jewish and Christian contexts, normally meant "immerse," and that even when it became a technical term for baptism, the thought of immersion remains. The use of the term for cleansing vessels (as in Lev 6:28; Mark 7:4) does not prove the contrary, since vessels were normally cleansed by immersing them in water. The metaphorical uses of the term in the NT appear to take this for granted…. The Pauline representation of baptism as burial and resurrection with Christ is consonant with this view, even if it does not demand it." (DNTT 1:144)
The use of the verb "immersed" does not mean that Yochanan (or anyone else) personally put his hands on the immersion candidates and pushed them under the water as occurs in the Christian ritual. Three important elements define Jewish immersion. First, Jewish immersion was (and is) self-immersion. No one touches the one immersing and no one needs to put the penitent under for it to be valid. Second, Jewish immersion is gender-specific. That is, men are not present when women immerse and vice versa. Third, among Jews ablutions of all kinds are not performed by people under bar/bat mitzvah age when a boy or girl became fully accountable to the Torah. In Yochanan's ministry, only those who repented, i.e. adults, immersed themselves.
Delitzsch captures the true sense in his Hebrew translation of this verse, using the Hiphil form of Heb. tabal, "caused to be immersed." That is, the verb here depicts the superintending of the immersion of all who came and expressed repentance and insured that each person completely immersed himself. In all likelihood several people immersed at the same time. In one fascinating piece of evidence, there is an ancient drawing from a Roman catacomb which depicts Yochanan and Yeshua at Yeshua's immersion. Yochanan is standing on the bank of the Jordan River extending a hand to Yeshua assisting him from the water (R. Steven Notley, John's Baptism of Repentance, Jerusalem Perspective Online, 2004; see also Ron Moseley, The Jewish Background of Christian Baptism).
The manner of baptism in Christianity has the practical effect of the clergy controlling the "means of grace," since from the time of the church fathers baptism has been viewed as necessary to salvation. The Jewish method is clearly to be preferred since it follows the biblical practice and preserves modesty for women. In my view, men putting their hands on women to immerse them should be banned in Christianity.
in water: Grk. hudōr (for Heb. mayim) water as a physical element. In Greek classical works hudōr was rarely used of sea-water (LSJ). Ordinarily, hudōr was potable water (suitable for drinking). The addition of "water" seems to be unnecessary, but Luke is making a contrast with Spirit-immersion. We know from the Synoptic narratives that the "water" was the Jordan River. There is no preposition in the Greek text so the noun hudōr could be intended as an adjective "water-immersed." According to Jewish law the water used for ritual washings could not be combined with any other liquid.
but: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also," sometimes with emphasis, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). you will be immersed: Grk. baptizō, fut. pass. The second mention of the verb reinforces the meaning of immersion. in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, lit. "in" or "within." With the dative case of the noun following the preposition can denote (1) position ("in," "within") or (2) means, "with" or "by means of." Most versions have "with" but some have "in" (CJB, JUB, MSG, MW, OJB, TLV). The word "in" is a better choice because of the contrast with Jewish water immersion (being fully submerged) and the nature of the verb.
the Holy Spirit: See verse 2 above. The Spirit does not immerse "with" something else. The Pentecost experience denotes becoming "in Spirit" much like Paul's metaphor of being "in Messiah." The Greek word order suggests another possible meaning: "but in spirit you will be immersed holy." In other words Yeshua prophesies that the spirits of his disciples will be made holy. It's no accident that Peter will later describe the Pentecost experience as purification of hearts (Acts 15:9). Yeshua's promise of immersion in the Holy Spirit was first uttered by Yochanan the Immerser (Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16).
after: Grk. meta, prep. The root meaning is "in the midst of," but in composition it is used to mark either (1) association and a genitive case word following, "with;" or (2) a temporal sequence and an accusative case word following, "after" (DM 107f). The second meaning applies here. not: Grk. ou, particle of strong negation. many: Grk. polus, f. pl. See verse 3 above. of these: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this. days: Grk. hēmera, f. pl. See verse 2 above. The idiomatic expression of "not many of these days" alludes generally to the days of counting the omer, from Passover to Shavuot, and specifically the ten days that transpired between the time of the ascension of Yeshua (cf. verse 3 above) and Pentecost. Of course, the disciples did not know in advance how many days would elapse before Yeshua's promise was fulfilled, but "these days" should have been a hint.
6 Indeed, therefore, those having come together, were asking him, saying, "Lord, if in this time you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?"
Indeed: Grk. mén, conj. therefore: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which may (1) indicate a conclusion connected with data immediately preceding, 'so, therefore, consequently, then;' (2) indicate that one takes account of something in the narrative immediately preceding, 'then;' or (3) simply indicate a stage in the narrative, 'so, then.' The first application fits here. those: Grk. ho, m. pl., definite article used as a demonstrative pron. having come together: Grk. sunerchomai, aor. part., to come together as a collection of persons.
were asking: Grk. erōtaō, impf., can mean (1) to ask with the focus on querying for information; or (2) to ask in the sense of making a request, frequently with the effort to soften the tone for what might sound peremptory. The first meaning applies here with perhaps a nuance of the second. The imperfect tense indicates continuous or repetitive action in past time. him: Yeshua. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 3 above. The Greek verb "say" functions here as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation.
Lord: Grk. kurios, voc. case., may mean either (1) one in control through possession, and therefore owner or master; or (2) one esteemed for authority or high status, thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, the great majority to translate Heb. words for God, principally the name YHVH, translated in Christian versions as upper case LORD and in Messianic Jewish versions as ADONAI. Kurios also occurs a number of times to identify men of higher rank to whom respect is owed (DNTT 2:511). Kurios is the principal title by which disciples and members of the public addressed Yeshua during his earthly ministry. The frequent use of kurios to address Yeshua in the flesh would not have considered deity. The apostles meant kurios in the sense of Heb. adôn, because Yeshua is the owner-master of his disciples.
if: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker used here to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. in: Grk. en, prep. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. time: Grk. chronos may mean (1) a span or period of time, or (2) a point or definite moment in time. In the LXX chronos occurs about 100 times and translates seven different Hebrew words, most yōm, "day, days" (DNTT 3:841). The Hebrews did not conceive of time in the abstract, but used yom overwhelmingly in the sense of ordinary measurable time. The apostles could have meant "time" either in the sense of the immediate present or within their generation.
you are restoring: Grk. apokathistēmi, pres., to change back and so effect an improved condition, here of reestablishing a political condition. kingship: Grk. basileia. See verse 3 above. BAG and Thayer note that the term refers here to royal power with all its dignity rather than a specific territory. Stern translates the noun as "self-rule" in the CJB to stress the point of what restoration meant to the apostles. to Israel: Grk. Israēl, a transliteration of the Heb. Yisrael, which means "God prevails" (BDB 975). The name first appears in Genesis 32:28 where the heavenly being with whom Jacob struggled said, "From now on, you will no longer be called Ya'akov, but Isra'el; because you have shown your strength to both God and men and have prevailed" (CJB). The name change was reaffirmed in Genesis 35:9-12, along with the covenantal promise of the land.
The name of Israel was then given to the land God bequeathed to the descendants of Jacob (Gen 49:7) and used of the whole people regarded as one person (Num 24:5). The reader should note that the apostles said "Israel" and not "Palestine." Contrary to the erroneous labeling on Christian Bible maps and usage by Christian commentators there was no Palestine in Bible times. There is no Palestine now and to use the term in any biblical context can only be described as antisemitic. (See my web article The Land is Not Palestine.) Regardless of what names governments have placed on the land, to God the land was and is "Israel" (cf. Matt 2:20-21; 10:23; Luke 4:27; 7:9). The name Israel is also not code language for the "New Israel," a title that the Church later claimed for itself when it adopted Replacement Theology. (See my web article Scripture vs. Supersessionism.)
Bruce sees the apostolic interest in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God realized in the restoration of Israel's national independence. Certainly the apostles would have had an interest in their people gaining deliverance from Roman tyranny. But Yeshua was the King. They expected the establishment of his reign over the earth (cf. Hag 2:5-9; Matt 24:3; Luke 1:33; 19:11; 1Cor 15:25). By "kingdom" the apostles did not mean just a political reshuffling that would give them independence in their own land surrounded by enemies, such as existed for a time under the Maccabees and their Hasmonean descendants (164–63 BC). They wanted more than that.
The question of the apostles implied a political theocracy in which they would be leaders as Yeshua promised (cf. Matt 19:28; Luke 22:30). The apostolic attitude is reflected in John 6:15 when people "were about to come and seize him that they might make a king." After all, God had promised through Isaiah concerning the Messiah that "the government will be upon His shoulder" (Isa 9:5 TLV; Luke 1:32-33). In addition, their question assumed the return of Jews to the land. God had promised their eventual return. They would come from the north, south, east and west to take up residence in the land of their ancestors and be united again as a nation (Deut 30:4-5; Isa 11:11-12; 43:6; 49:8-12, 22; 51:11; 66:18-21; Jer 16:14-16; 23:3-8; 30:3; 31:1-14; 32:36-37; Ezek 28:25f; 31:7-8; 36:24−37:28; 38:8, 12; Amos 9:14-15; Zech 8:7f; cf. Matt 8:11; 24:30; Luke 21:24).
The apostles knew, as did Amos, that "the Lord ADONAI will do nothing unless He has revealed His counsel to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7 TLV; cf. Isa 44:7; 46:9-10; Dan 2:28-29).God had in the past given prophecies of times and seasons. He informed Noah that His grace would be extended 120 years (Gen 6:3) and then He would bring an end to all life on the planet (except Noah and his family) by a deluge (Gen 6:13, 17). God told Abraham that his descendants would be oppressed for four hundred years and then in the fourth generation would be delivered and brought back to the land of Canaan (Gen 15:13-16).
God encouraged David with the news of an heir that would establish his kingdom forever (2Sam 7:12-16). God revealed to Jeremiah that seventy years of judgment would transpire before Israel was restored to the land from Babylon (Jer 25:11-12; 29:10; cf. Dan 9:2; Zech 1:12). God then gave Daniel an overview of the future succession of human empires leading up to the final divine empire (Dan 2:36-45) and then a specific prophecy of the time from the rebuilding of the city to the coming of the Messiah (Dan 9:24-27).
In light of what God did in the past, the question of the apostles is legitimate. Longenecker comments that in Jewish expectations, the restoration of Israel's fortunes would be marked by the revived activity of God's Spirit, which had been withheld since the last of the prophets. Yeshua's talk of the Father fulfilling his promise of the Holy Spirit raised the hopes of the apostles for a new age for Israel. The apostles still did not understand that Yeshua had not come this first time to rule, but to die as "a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). The time for the Messianic reign on the earth lay in the future. Ironically, when God eventually unveiled the future to John in the book of Revelation, no dating information was provided as given to Daniel.
7 But, he said to them, "It is not of yours to know times or seasons which the Father has appointed by His own authority;
But: Grk. de, conj., used here for contrast. he said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 3 above. to them: the disciples. It is: Grk. eimi, pres., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). not: Grk. ou, conj. yours to know: Grk. ginōskō, aor. inf., to know, including (1) to be in receipt of information; know, learn, find out; (2) form a judgment or draw a conclusion; think, understand, comprehend, perceive, notice, realize, conclude; or (3) have a personal relationship involving recognition of another's identity or value; make acquaintance, recognize. The first meaning applies there.
In the LXX ginōskō renders Heb. yada, which has a similar wide range of meaning, but in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning from a teacher (DNTT 2:395). times: Grk. chronos, m. pl. See the previous verse. or: Grk. ē, conj. used to denote an alternative. seasons: Grk. kairos, m. pl., may refer to (1) an appropriate or set temporal segment of time; or (2) a period, definite or approximate, in which an event tales place; time, period. Kairos is used here of a God-appointed or predestined time (e.g., Rom 5:6; Eph 1:10; 2Th 2:6; 1Tim 2:6; 6:15; Rev 1:3; 11:18; 22:10).
In the LXX kairos translates five different Hebrew words, primarily Heb. eth (SH-6256), 'time,' of an event or an appointed time (first in Gen 18:10), but also moed (SH-4150), appointed time, point of time (first in Gen 1:14), iddan (SH-5732), 'time' (e.g., Dan 2:8), qets (SH-7093), 'end' (Gen 6:13),and yom (SH-3117), 'day' (Gen 17:23) (DNTT 3:835). The breadth of usage in the LXX indicates the versatility of the word. Often there is no substantive difference in meaning between kairos and chronos.
The combined use of chronos and kairos occurs in six other passages (LXX Eccl 3:1; Dan 2:21; 7:12; 9:12, 1Th 5:1; Titus 1:2-3). These passages can provide clues as to the relative distinction between the terms. For the apostles these two terms may correlate to their own question that instigated the Olivet Discourse: "when will these things be, and what is the sign of your coming, and the consummation of the age?" (Matt 24:3 BR). Yeshua then answered their question with specific information about the end of the age, but he warned them then that his coming in power would happen at an unexpected time (Matt 24:36-44). So, in this instance Yeshua addresses the dual aspect of schedule and events.
which: Grk. hos, relative pron. the Father: Grk. patēr. See verse 4 above. has appointed: Grk. tithēmi, aor. mid., may mean (1) to arrange for association with a site or (2) arrange for creation of role or status. The second meaning applies here in reference to God's sovereign control of events. by: Grk. en, prep. His own: Grk. idios, adj., belonging to oneself, one's own. authority: Grk. exousia, the right to speak or act in a situation without looking or waiting for approval; authority, right, jurisdiction. BAG, Mounce and Thayer identify a second meaning as ability to do something, capability, might, power, which proceeds from having authority. We should note that Yeshua does not say that the desires of the apostles won't happen, but it won't happen in the time frame the disciples have in mind. Also note that the times are set by the Father, not by the Son and not by the Spirit.
While God gave a prophecy of "times" of the future to Noah, Abraham, Jeremiah and Daniel there was far more that He kept concealed. After all, the secret things belong to God (Deut 29:29). How could Yeshua tell them that almost two thousand years would pass before Israel would be restored to its own sovereignty? The apostolic expectation would be fulfilled in the modern age when Jews began to make aliyah ("going up") to Israel beginning in the 1800s until culminated in the reestablishment of the nation of Israel in 1948. Moreover, Yeshua knew they were not ready for such knowledge. It took time for the apostles to understand that the "last days" began with the first advent (Heb. 1:2). Yeshua's coming into the world fulfilled the Father's promise to the ancients that, in reality, the Kingdom would be found in the person of His Son.
Therefore, the date on the human calendar when certain things happen is not as important as the fact that the sovereign God was faithful to His covenant with Israel and had already established His kingdom. Yeshua's answer did not mean, as many Christian interpreters have assumed, that God's plan no longer included Israel or that His covenantal promises had been canceled. Paul speaks in Romans 9─11 not only of a remnant within Israel responding to God but also of the nation of Israel still being involved in God's redemptive program (Rom 11:15-16). Paul's affirmation of God's continuing covenant with Israel (Rom 9:1-5; 11:1-2, 28-29) does not stand in opposition to Yeshua's words here. Longenecker comments that Yeshua's answer lays stress on the fact that the disciples were to revise their thinking about the divine program for history, leaving to God the matters that are His concern and taking up the things entrusted to them.
8 but you will receive power, the Holy Spirit having come upon you; and you will be witnesses of me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and as far as the end of the earth."
but: Grk. alla, conj. you will receive: Grk. lambanō, fut. mid. The verb marks the transit of something from a position to another person who is the agent with the latter being also the receptor; to take or receive. In this context the verb indicates receiving, because taking would be impossible. power: Grk. dunamis, from dunamai, the quality or state of being capable. The verb may mean either (1) the ability to function effectively; power, might; or (2) express the exhibition of a singular capability. The prophecy continues to define the nature of the power given. This power is not to transform humans into super-humans, but divine enablement to be different in character. This is power that changes the nature and makes the person a fit dwelling place for God.
the Holy Spirit: See verse 1 above. having come: Grk. eperchomai, aor. part., to come on or upon, in the sense of moving over a space. upon: Grk. epi, prep. used primarily as a marker of position or location; 'on, upon, over.' The verb plus preposition gives increased emphasis to the action. you: The plural pronoun denotes all gathered in the place with the action achieving an individual and corporate benefit. and you will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See the previous verse. We should note that "being" comes before "doing."
witnesses: Grk. martus, m. pl., one who attests the fact or truth of something, often used in a legal context of who testifies before a legal proceeding regarding first hand knowledge (cf. Matt 18:16; Acts 7:5). The nature of the witness is of course what they have seen and heard and touched (1Jn 1:1). We should note that Yeshua offers a prophecy not a command of "you shall witness." To be a martus is being willing to speak for God and explain one's own personal knowledge and experience (cf. 1Pet 3:15). Eventually the term came to be associated with those who forfeited their lives for God, i.e. martyrs.
of me: Grk. egō, 1p-pron. Most versions have "my witnesses," but egō is not an adjective. There is an important difference between being "my witnesses" and "witnesses of me." The grammar emphasizes not the apostles functioning as agents, but the proclamation of Yeshua as the Messiah. N.T. Wright comments that Yeshua intended that the apostles "go out as heralds, not of someone who may become king at some point in the future, but of the one who has already been appointed and enthroned" (9).
both: Grk. te, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. Jerusalem: Grk. Ierousalēm, a transliteration of the Aramaic Yerushalem (SH-3390), which occurs only in the Aramaic portions of Ezra (4:8 + 22t) and Daniel (5:2 +2t). See the note on "Jerusalem" in verse 4 above. Due to the exile experience the spelling of Yerushalem was absorbed into the Hebrew language of the Jewish people. The Greek spelling of Ierousalēm appears 77 times in the Besekh, 65 of which are Luke's writings. Chapters 1−7 of Acts chronicle the ministry of the apostles in Jerusalem, AD 30−31/32.
and: Grk. kai, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. all: Grk. pas, adj. Judea: Grk. Ioudaia, transliterates the Latin provincial name of Iudaea and corresponds to the Heb. name Y'hudah, which means "praised" or "object of praise" (Gen 29:35; BDB 397). The territorial name of Ioudaia had two uses: (1) the historic territory of that lay between Samaria on the north and Idumea on the south (Matt 2:1; 3:5; 4:25; 24:16; Mark 3:7; 13:14; Luke 2:4; John 4:3, 47, 54; Acts 8:1; 9:31). Judea was bounded on the west by the Mediterranean Sea and the east by the Jordan River. (See the map.) (2) the Roman province of Judaea, which comprised Samaria, Judea and Idumea (Luke 1:5; 23:5; Acts 2:9; 10:37; 11:1, 29). The Roman province was governed at this time by Pontius Pilate. He would remain in power until AD 36. The first usage is intended here. Ministry in Judea (AD 31−41) is described in Acts 8−12.
and: Grk. kai, conj. Samaria: Grk. Samareia, for Heb. Shômrôn, a place name of a mountain and the city built on it (1Kgs 16:24), as well as a territory (Obad 1:19), meaning "mountain of watching," and the residents thereof. In the Tanakh Shômrôn refers primarily to the city of Samaria, 42 miles north of Jerusalem, which was the capital, residence, and burial place of the kings of Israel from the time of Omri, the sixth king of Israel (885-874 B.C.) (1Kgs 16:23-28; 22:37-39; 2Kgs 6:24-30). With the mention of Judea Yeshua apparently meant the territory of Samaria. Yeshua had conducted ministry in Samaria and told his disciples that the field was "white for harvest" (John 4:35). The inclusion of Samaria in the commission is striking because he had forbidden his disciples to go to any city of Samaria on their first mission trip (Matt 10:5; cf. Luke 10:1). The mission to Samaria (AD 31) is recounted in Chapter Eight.
The Samaritans are commonly thought of by Bible scholars as non-Jews, as Stern referred to the woman of Samaria (168), but here Stern refers to them as "half-Jews." N.T. Wright refers to Samaritans as "hated semi-foreigners" (9). This tendency is due to a variety of factors. First, they are not called "Jews," so they must not be Jews. This mistake owes to the failure of recognizing that the term Ioudaios (pl. Ioudaioi), "Jew(s)," refers to Judean Jews as either a territorial or a religious expression. Ioudaioi is never used as a label for Samaritan Jews. Of course, Herodians, Pharisees, Sadducees and Zealots are also never called "Ioudaioi," but they were clearly Jewish. Richard Coggins writes, "The Samaritans are best understood as a conservative group within the total spectrum of Judaism. This rather clumsy definition is necessary because of the ambiguity of the word "Judaism" (OCB 671).
Second, there is the failure to accept at face value the claim of the Samaritan woman who referred to Jacob as "our father" (John 4:12). Yeshua did not dispute the fact. Yeshua said that he came only for the lost house of Israel (Matt 10:6; 15:24) and so he ministered in Samaria (John 4:39-43), healed a Samaritan leper (Luke 17:16), honored a Samaritan for his neighborliness (Luke 10:30-37), and praised a Samaritan for his gratitude (Luke 17:11-18). He also rebuked his disciples for their hostility toward the Samaritans (Luke 9:55-56). The Samaritans shared the beliefs and practices of mainstream Judaism of the day and reverenced holy traditions set forth in the Torah.
Third, there is the failure to understand that the apostles interpreted the Great Commission to "make disciples out of all nations" (Matt 28:19) solely in terms of making disciples of people descended from Jacob. The beginning point, Jerusalem, and the next place Judea would certainly be Jewish, so the rest of the itinerary of Samaria and the end of the earth must likewise focus on Jews. The Good News did not go to the Gentiles until God specifically commanded Peter to go to Cornelius and it was such a "big deal" that Peter was called before the elders in Jerusalem to explain himself (Acts 10:28; 11:2-3). There was no such concern about witnessing to the Samaritans, because they were Jewish.
An important new piece of evidence is that modern DNA studies have demonstrated a common ancestry of Samaritan and Jewish patrilineages (Peidong Shen, et. al., Reconstruction of Patrilineages and Matrilineages of Samaritans and Other Israeli Populations From Y-Chromosome and Mitochondrial DNA Sequence Variation, Human Mutation 24:248-260, Wiley-Liss, Inc.: 2004; accessed 9 June 2014) See also my commentary on John 4.
and: Grk. kai, conj. as far as: Grk. heōs, prep., a particle marking a limit, here of position or place; to, as far as. the end: Grk. eschatos, adj., coming at the end or after all others; end, last. The adj. is used of place, of position, of rank/status, and of time. In the LXX eschatos renders three different Heb. words: acharon (SH-314), coming after or behind, first in Gen 33:2; acharith (SH-319), the after-part, end, first in Gen 49:1; and qatseh (SH-7097), end (of a thing, a place or time) first in Deut 28:49. Some versions translate the adj. as plural, which may offer a misleading interpretation (AMP, CJB, GNB, GW, HCSB, MSG, NIV, NLT, NRSV).
of the earth: Grk. gē can mean soil (as in receiving seed), the ground, land as contrasted with the sea, and the earth in contrast to heaven. The LXX uses gē more than 2,000 times and translates the Heb. word erets (DNTT 1:517). In the Tanakh erets designates either (a) the earth in a cosmological sense, or (b) "the land" in the sense of a specific territorial area, primarily the Land of Israel (BDB 75). The contrast of the specific territorial regions indicates that the territories of the Diaspora are intended by "earth."
Idiomatically the expression "end of the earth" (Grk. eschatou tēs gēs) would mean the horizon. In the LXX the idiomatic expression occurs in only isolated cases (Deut 28:49; Ps 135:7; Isa 8:9; 45:22; 48:20, 49:6; 62:11; Jer 6:22; 10:13; 25:32; 31:8; 50:41; 51:16; 1Macc 3:9) (DNTT 2:55). All of these passages indicate a physical distance in relation to the land of Israel. The practical meaning for Yeshua's directive is that the mission would continue indefinitely because the "end of the earth" could never be reached.
While the intent of the phrase "end of the earth" would incorporate Gentiles, as did the reference to "the nations" (Matt 28:19) and "all the world" (Mark 16:15) in the Great Commission, the apostles interpreted the command of Yeshua as only applicable to Jewish people. The good news would be taken to Gentiles only upon the specific command of the Spirit in Chapter Ten. Luke records the gradual spread of the good news into the Diaspora with mention of a congregation in Damascus (9:1), and then outreach in Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch (11:19). The spread of the good news in the Diaspora dominates the rest of Acts.
The routing plan set forth in Yeshua's instruction represented God's desire to draw His covenant people back to Himself. God wanted to heal the divisions among the Jews and bring together the common people, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes, the Hellenistic Jews, and the Hellenized Jews into one flock with one shepherd. Israelites had been scattered among the nations in the past, but God wanted all His people to experience the promise of the New Covenant. The mission began in Jerusalem because Yeshua wanted pardon and reconciliation offered first to his enemies and so fulfill his command to "love your enemies."
There is one other matter that needs consideration. Since many Christian interpreters believe the instruction of Yeshua on the Kingdom of God refers to the birth and establishment of the Christian Church, why has the Church failed to fulfill the expectation of this verse? After all, how can you have a Kingdom when the subjects refuse to obey the King? The King said, "Take the Good News to the Jews." What did the Church do? Rather than show Jews the love of the Father, the Church pursued evangelism among Jews with antagonism. Conversion by coercion. Evangelism among Jews utterly failed due to institutional antisemitism. In the present time it is important for Christians and churches to consider what they should do to support evangelism among Jews and in Israel. After all, the King directed such ministry. It's a matter of obedience.
Friday, Iyar 27, A.D. 30
On the Christian calendar Ascension Day is celebrated on the fortieth day from the day of Yeshua's resurrection. Luke does not state the actual day Yeshua ascended, although verse 12 below hints at the day. The forty days mentioned in verse 3 above concluded on Thursday, Iyar 26, so the ascension would have at the earliest occurred the next day.
The Ascension, 1:9-11
9 And having said these things, they beholding, he was lifted up and a cloud hid him from their eyes.
And: Grk. kai, conj. having said: Grk. legō, aor. part. See verse 3 above. these things: Grk. houtos, n. pl., dem. pron., a reference to the content of verse 7-8. they: Grk. autos, m. pl., pers. pron. beholding: Grk. blepō, pres. part., may mean (1) possess the physical ability to see; (2) use one's eyes to take note of an object; (3) be looking in a certain direction; or (4) to have inward or mental sight. The second and third meanings have application here. Luke then describes two miracles. he was lifted up: Grk. epairō, aor. pass., to raise up over, used here of physical action describing the miracle of overcoming gravity. and: Grk. kai, conj. a cloud: Grk. nephelē, cloud, referring to the atmospheric phenomenon consisting of a suspended collection of water particles.
Clouds occur in multiple layers and various altitudes, as high as 280,000 feet above ground level (85 km.). The lowest clouds form about 6500 feet above ground level (2 km.). However, in Israel clouds only occur at the earliest hours of morning, just previous to and at the time of sunrise. There is a total absence of clouds at all other parts of the day (Neil 44). Thus, this cloud was a divinely produced miracle for this occasion. hid: Grk. hupolambanō, aor., take in a manner that conceals; remove, hide. Some versions translate the verb as "received" or "took," which makes the noun "cloud" a poetic personification instead of a straightforward description. Perhaps the cloud parted to allow Yeshua to pass through, and then closed again.
him: Grk. autos. from: Grk. apo, prep. their eyes: pl. of Grk. ophthalmos, the physical organ of sight; eyes. The ascension of Yeshua was clearly a creation-type miracle, on the same order as the ascensions of Enoch (Gen 5:24) and Elijah (2Kgs 2:11). The disciples witnessed Yeshua traversing the sky for some distance before encountering the cloud. Yeshua did not continue traveling to the edge of the atmosphere and into interstellar space. No sooner was he hid than he was in the presence of God. The proximity of the cloud implies that Paradise is not very far from us.
10 And while they were gazing intently toward heaven as he was departing, behold, also two men in white clothing stood beside them.
And: Grk. kai, conj. while: Grk. hōs, adv. with the primary function of connecting narrative components; used here in a temporal sense; while, as long as. they were: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 7 above. gazing intently: Grk. atenizō, pres. part., to look intently, to gaze. Mounce adds to fix one's eyes upon, look steadily. The verb occurs in the Besekh with the object of interest normally being a person. One other time the object was the sky (Acts 7:55). toward: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit, here relating to a place that was in the line of sight; into, toward.
heaven: Grk. ouranos refers to the area above the earth that encompasses the sky, interstellar space and associated phenomena or the transcendent dwelling-place of God. In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. hashamayim (lit. "the heavens") (DNTT 2:191). The Hebrew and Greek words for "heaven" are used in Scripture to refer to three different places (Ps 148:1-4). In terms of direction from the ground level of the earth the first heaven is the atmosphere in which birds fly (Gen 1:20; Rev 19:17). The second heaven is interstellar space (Gen 1:1, 8; Matt 24:29) and the third heaven is the location of the throne of God and the home of angels (1Kgs 8:30; Matt 6:9; 2Cor 12:2).
In Scripture ouranos is always "up" as a direction from the surface of the earth, and so the apostles looked upward. Many versions translate the noun as "sky" but "heaven" seems a better translation since Yeshua had told them he was returning to the Father. Luke probably meant to convey that their thoughts were on Yeshua's destination. as he: Grk. autos, pers. pron.; i.e. Yeshua. was departing: Grk. poreuomai, pres. mid. part., to move from one area or place to another; go, make one's way, travel, depart. HELPS says the verb properly means to transport, moving something from one destination to another. In the LXX poreuomai renders Heb. halak (SH-1980), to go, come or walk (first in Gen 3:14; 8:3). The present tense of the verb in this verse emphasizes Yeshua's leaving coincidental with the gazing of the apostles.
behold: Grk. idou, demonstrative interjection (the aor. mid. imp. of eidon, "to see"), that arouses the attention of hearers or readers. The Greek particle, like its corresponding Heb. word hinneh (SH-2009, e.g., Gen 1:29), serves to enliven divine monologues and narratives, particularly as a call to closer consideration and contemplation of something, to introduce something new or to emphasize the size or importance of something; (you) see, look, behold (BAG).
also: Grk. kai, conj. two: Grk. duo, the numeral two. men: Grk. anēr, m. pl., an adult man without regard to marital status. In the LXX anēr renders several Heb. words: (1) ish, man; (2) enosh, men, people; (3) ba'al, lord, husband, head of a household; (4) gibbor, hero, warrior; (5) zaqen, elder; (6) nasi, prince; and (7) adon, lord (DNTT 2:562). The two "men" are obviously angels, but the reader may wonder why they are described as men. Angels figure prominently in Scripture and in individual appearances they are always seen as male (Gen 18:2; Jdg 13:3, 6; Dan 9:21; 10:16, 18; Zech 2:1-3). Angels are far different from the Hollywood depiction and popular assumptions. They are certainly not glorified humans that earn status in heaven by doing good works on earth.
in: Grk. en, prep. white: Grk. leukos, adj., of quality expressing impressive brightness, bright, gleaming, shining or of a color shade ranging from white to grey. In the LXX leukos translates Heb. laban, white, though white in the Tanakh may include half-yellow (DNTT 1:204). clothing: Grk. esthēs, clothing, apparel or vesture. stood beside: Grk. paristēmi, plperf., may mean (1) to place beside; present; or (2) be in a position beside; stand near or stand by. The second meaning applies here. The pluperfect tense indicates action in the past that is complete and the results of the action in existence at some point in past time as indicated by the context. them: Grk. autos, m. pl., used of the apostles. The presence of two angels was no doubt indicative of the biblical principle of facts being demonstrated on the evidence of two or three witnesses (Deut 17:6; 19:5).
11 who also said, "Men, Galileans, why stand looking toward heaven? This One, Yeshua, the One having been taken up from you into heaven, will come thus in that manner you beheld him going into heaven."
who: Grk. hos, rel. pron., m. pl. The pronoun refers to the two angels. also: Grk. kai, conj. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 3 above. Men: Grk. anēr, voc. (the case of direct address). See the previous verse. Galileans: Grk. Galilaios, voc., m. pl., inhabitant of the Galil or Galilee; Galilean. "Galilean" refers to persons of Jewish descent living in Galilee. In the time of Yeshua Galilee was a Roman province measuring about 40 miles north to south and about 30 miles east to west. Galilee was bounded by the Province of Syria on the west and north, the River Jordan and Sea of Galilee on the east and the Province of Judea on the south. For Jews the region of the Galil included territory around the Sea of Galilee. At this time, Herod Antipas governed Galilee.
Yeshua himself is called a Galilean (Matt 26:69; Luke 23:6-7). Also, Peter is identified as a Galilean (Mark 14:70). Apparently Judas was the only one of the original apostles who originated from Judea (Luke 22:3; John 13:2) and the rest of the Eleven all came from Galilee. Of the Eleven only about half are identified by their city in Galilee. Yeshua, of course, originally came from Nazareth, but settled in Capernaum (Matt 4:13). Philip, Andrew and Peter originally came from Bethsaida (John 1:44), but Andrew and Peter made Capernaum their home for their fishing business, as did Jacob and John (Matt 4:18-21). Matthew was also called from Capernaum (Matt 9:1, 9).
why: Grk. tís, interrogative pron. indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. stand: Grk. histēmi, perf., may mean (1) cause to be in a place or position; or (2) be in an upright position, used of bodily posture. The second meaning applies here. looking: Grk. blepō, pres. part. See verse 9 above. toward: Grk. eis, prep. heaven: Grk. ouranos. See the previous verse. This: Grk. houtos, dem. pron. One: Grk. ho, definite article used as a dem. pron. Yeshua: See verse 1 above. the One: Grk. ho. having been taken up: Grk. analambanō, aor. pass. part. See verse 2 above. The passive voice indicates that Yeshua did not take himself up. from: Grk. apo, prep. you: Grk. humeis, 2p-pl. pers. pron. into: Grk. eis, prep. heaven: Grk. ouranos.
will come: Grk. erchomai, fut. mid., 'to come or arrive' with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place. thus: Grk. houtōs, adv., thus, so, in this manner. in that: Grk. hos. manner: Grk. tropos may mean (1) mode or procedure in which something takes place; way, manner; or (2) a person's manner of living; conduct, way of life. The first meaning applies here. you beheld: Grk. theaomai, aor. mid., look upon with special interest; see, look at, behold, take notice of. him: Grk. autos, referring to Yeshua. going: Grk. poreuomai, pres. mid. part. See the previous verse.
into: Grk. eis, prep. heaven: Grk. ouranos. The reader might wonder why Yeshua made such an exit. He had appeared and disappeared following the resurrection. The ascension demonstrated that he was really gone. The ascension also became a teaching point to emphasize his return. In a sense the angels answered the disciples' question about Yeshua restoring Israel's kingdom. It will happen when Yeshua returns. The manner of the Second Coming characterized by traversing the atmosphere as a glorious King contrasts with the first advent that occurred by humble birth as a baby. When the angels said that Yeshua would return as he left, they could have made appropriate comparisons.
1. Yeshua left by a cloud and will return in clouds (Matt 24:30).
2. Yeshua left from Mt. Olivet and he will return to Mt. Olivet with all his holy ones (Zech 14:4). Nothing in the Besekh contradicts this prophecy. Yeshua's teaching in the Olivet Discourse assumes it.
3. Yeshua left by physically moving through the air, visible to his disciples. He will return publicly, not secretly (Matt 24:27; Rev 1:7; cf. Matt 24:23).
Days of Prayer, 1:12-14
12 Then they returned into Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, having a journey of a Sabbath.
Then: Grk. tote, temporal adv. that focuses on a time or circumstance that is closely associated with what precedes in the narrative; at that time, then, thereupon. they returned: Grk. hupostrephō, aor., to go back to a position, to return. to: Grk. eis, prep. Jerusalem: Grk. Ierousalēm. See verse 8 above. from: Grk. apo, prep. the mountain: Grk. oros means "mountain," "hill," or "hill-country." The corresponding Heb. word, har, is given in Scripture to a comparatively large ridge, a collection of small hills and to many hogbacks in Israel.
Modern science distinguishes hills from mountains by classifying a hill as being less than 1,000 feet above its surroundings, but the distinction may depend upon local interpretation. The noun oros is rendered here by many versions as "Mount," an old English literary form of "mountain." Some versions translate the noun with "hill" (AMPC, MRINT, NIRV, NIV, WE), reflecting the arbitrary standard of modern science, rather than recognizing that a single Hebrew and Greek word was used to refer to any natural topographical feature that rose above a valley, plain or other surroundings regardless of height.
called: Grk. kaleō, pres. pass. part., to identify by name or give a term to; call. In this context the verb means "called in Greek." Olivet: Grk. elaiōn, an olive orchard or olive grove. This spelling occurs only here in the Besekh. In other passages that refer to this location the name is spelled elaia (e.g., Mark 11:1). The Hebrew name for the mountain is Har HaZeitim, given for the olive groves that once covered its slopes. The Mount of Olives is located across the Kidron Valley, part of the two and a half mile-long mountain ridge that towers over the eastern side of Jerusalem, or more precisely, the middle of the three peaks forming the ridge. The ridge juts out in a north-south direction (like a spur) from the range of mountains running down the center of the region. The Mount of Olives rises 2,676 feet above sea level, but only about 175 feet higher than Jerusalem (NIBD 554, 731). In the days of the Israelite monarchy it provided a lookout base and signaling point for armies defending Jerusalem.
which: Grk. hos, rel. pron. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 7 above. near: Grk. engus, prep., near or close to, here in a spatial sense. Jerusalem: Grk. Ierousalēm. being considered: Grk. echō, pres. part., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application: (1) hold in one's hands, wear, preserve, seize; (2) have as one's own or at hand, possess; (3) have with oneself or in one's company; (4) experience a condition or situation; (5) view something in a particular way, consider, look upon, view; and (6) have the possibility, can, be able (BAG). With the noun following in the accusative case the fifth usage applies here.
a journey: Grk. hodos, with the focus on the concept of going the word typically has the sense of a route for traveling, hence a way, a road or a highway. It can also refer to the act of traveling as here; journey, way, trip. Then, hodos is used fig. of conduct or a way of life. The LXX uses hodos to translate Heb. derek (SH-1870), way, road, distance, or journey in a literal sense. The term also has the fig. meaning for a way or manner of life, which is hinted at in this context. of a Sabbath: Grk. sabbaton, a transliteration of Heb. shabbath (DNTT 3:405), which is derived from the verb shabath ("cease, desist, rest" BDB 991). Sabbaton occurs 68 times in the Besekh, generally of the seventh day of the week (e.g. Matt 12:5; Mark 2:27; Luke 4:16; John 19:31).
Sometimes the noun denotes another day considered a Sabbath, such as a festival day (e.g., Matt 12:2; 24:20; Luke 14:5; Col 2:16). There were twenty other days on the calendar treated as sabbaths regardless of the day of the week they occurred (Lev 23), because laborious work was prohibited on those days. For a list of these sabbaths see my web article God's Appointed Times. For the biblical background and Torah instruction for Sabbath observance see my web article Remember the Sabbath. The Pharisees, Essenes and Samaritan Jews all strictly observed sabbath days.
The official Sabbath limit was set at two thousand cubits (a thousand yards) from the boundary of any city or town (Sotah 5:3; Erubin 15a; 42b; 44b). Moses had stipulated in the wilderness that people were to remain in their "place" (Heb. maqom, 'a standing place') on the Sabbath (Ex 16:29). This rule was Moses' own interpretation of Sabbath rest, and it is not repeated elsewhere in the Tanakh. All other injunctions concerning the Sabbath focus on the rest from work, not the location. In the rule of Moses "place" meant the encampment of the Israelites, not individual dwellings. Moses did not provide a distance limit, but the Pharisees derived the arbitrary number from two passages (Num 35:5 and Josh 3:4). Thus, the Pharisees determined that "place" was equivalent to "town" or "city" and the starting point was the last hut at the extremity of the town (Erubin 21a, fn 10; 55a).
Stern comments that according to Luke 24:50–51 Yeshua left his disciples and ascended into heaven from Beit-Anyah ("house of the poor," or Bethany), which is on the mountain's south slope. However, the Greek text in Luke 24:50 says heōs ["up to'] pros ["toward," depicting motion] Bēthania [Bethany]. In other words, the event did not occur within the limits of Bethany. Bethphage, very near Bethany, was considered as a suburb of Jerusalem and the outer limit for a Sabbath day's journey (Menahoth 11:2; 63a; 78b; 96a; cf. Josephus, Ant. XX, 8:6). Yeshua probably did not go past that point, so that there would be no danger of his disciples breaking the travel rule on their way back to Jerusalem.
The mention of the distance from Jerusalem in terms of how far could be traveled on the Sabbath is a purposeful statement. It hardly seems appropriate if the ascension did not occur on Friday or Saturday. Stern says the distance reference implies the return to Jerusalem took place on the Sabbath, perhaps as the sun was going down. Actually, the ascension could have occurred at any time on the Sabbath. However, taking the reference to forty days in verse 3 above as an exact number, then that period concluded on Thursday, Iyar 26. There would be no reason for Yeshua to delay his departure until Saturday.
In my view it's seems more likely the ascension occurred the next day on Friday. Work was not permitted on Friday, being the day of preparation for the Sabbath (Grk. paraskeuē, "preparation," BAG 627). In fact, the rule of rest for the Sabbath actually began on Friday afternoon (Shabbath 117b). Long walks away from one's home on Friday were not approved (see "Sabbath," JE).
13 And when they had entered the city, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter and John and Jacob and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, Jacob of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judah of Jacob.
And: Grk. kai, conj. when: Grk. hote, temporal adv., when, at which time. they had entered the city: Grk. eiserchomai, aor., to go or enter into a geographical area, manufactured structure or other place defined in the context. The area intended by the verb is Jerusalem identified in the previous verse. they went up: Grk. anabainō, aor., to proceed in a direction that is up, go up. Normally the verb is used of traversing hilly terrain, but here it may be used of climbing stairs, which would have been on the outside wall of the building. into: Grk. eis, prep.
the upper room: Grk. huperōon, the upper story section of a house. The noun, which occurs only in Acts (4 times; 9:37, 39; 20:8) may have been the upper room Yeshua and the disciples used for the last supper, but Luke had used anōgeon for that room (Luke 22:12). Church tradition assigned the location of Yeshua's Passover to the house belonging to the parents of John Mark located in the southwestern part of the city in the Essene Quarter. (See my note on Mark 14:13-14). The house of John Mark may not have been large enough to hold the additional people described in verse 15 below, which would explain the change in terms. In addition, the house of this upper room was most likely within proximity of pilgrims visiting the Temple described in the next chapter.
So, it is more likely that this upper room was in a different building in the city (cf. Acts 2:2-3) or even a room in the temple area rented for the purpose. Luke had said that when the disciples returned to Jerusalem after the ascension they were continually in (Grk. en, lit. "inside, within") the temple praising God (Luke 24:53). The word for temple (Grk. hieron) refers to the entire complex. On the other hand, Luke may have only intended the Eleven in Luke 24:53 and "temple" referred to the morning and evening prayer services (cf. Acts 3:1).
where: Grk. hou, adv. used to introduce information about a location. they were: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 7 above. staying: Grk. katamenō, pres. part., to have lodging in a place; stay, remain. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. The temple had apartments for the priests when they came to perform their annual duty, which illustrates the fact that rooms were available. This was a time of relative peace in the city and the apostles were in no danger of being arrested.
Peter: Grk. Petros, personal name meaning 'a stone' (BAG, Mounce), although Thayer says the name signifies a stone, a rock, a ledge or a cliff, and Danker defines the name as "rockman." Petros translates the Hebrew name Kêpha ("rock"), a loanword in Hebrew (SH-3710; BDB 495). Peter first met Yeshua in Judea through the introduction of his brother Andrew (John 1:40-41), whereupon Yeshua announced that Simon would in the future be known as Kêpha (John 1:42). See the explanatory note there. We should note that even though Yeshua gave him a new name he only used "Simon" in directly addressing him (Luke 7:40; 22:31; Mark 14:37; John 1:42; and verses 15-17 below).
Peter was originally from Bethsaida (John 1:44), but when we meet him he is a resident of Capernaum (Mark 1:21, 29). Peter was married (Mark 1:30; 1Cor 9:5) and together with his brother Andrew engaged in a business of fishing from the Sea of Galilee (Luke 5:2-3; John 21:3), including working in partnership with the sons of Zebedee (Luke 5:10). Peter probably returned to his home and business in Galilee after the marriage celebration in Cana and there Simon later received his call to be a fisher of men. The name of Peter's father is given as John (John 1:42; 21:15-17). Little considered by commentators is Simon's family ancestry. Yeshua addressed him as "Simon Barjona" (Heb. bar Yona) (Matt 16:17), which means that Simon's family descended from the prophet Jonah. The listing of Peter's name first indicates his leadership position within the group.
and: Grk. kai, conj. John: Grk. Iōannēs for Heb. Yochanan. See verse 5 above. This John was the son of Zebedee (Matt 4:21). When Yeshua first called John to discipleship, he was engaged in mending fishing nets along with his father and brother (Matt 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-19). John and Jacob had a close working relationship with Simon Peter in fishing (Luke 5:10). Since John had priestly connections (cf. John 18:15-16) he may have made the arrangement for the room at the temple. Bible scholars agree that "the disciple whom Yeshua loved" who reclined with Yeshua during the last supper (John 13:23-26) was John.
Noteworthy is the fact that John stood at the cross with Yeshua's mother (John 19:25-27), ran with Peter to the empty tomb (John 20:2-10), and recognized the risen Lord after the great catch of fish (John 21:7). Yeshua also prophesied that John would outlive Peter (John 21:20-23). The fact that John is listed second indicates his prominence in the group. For more biographical information on John see my web article Witnesses of the Good News.
and: Grk. kai, conj. Jacob: Grk. Iakōbos is a Grecized form of Iakōb ("Jacob"), which transliterates the Heb. Ya'akov ("Jacob"), "James" in Christian versions. Barker commits the faux pas of saying, "Strangely, no one is named James in the Old Testament" (161). Actually, there is no one named "James" in the New Testament either. For the literary history of how "Jacob" came to be "James" see my note on Mark 1:19. The meaning of Jacob's name, "heel-catcher," had no negative connotation when first given by Isaac to his son. As indicated by Hosea 12:3, "heel-catcher" illustrated the strength and power he had with God. (For more on the background of the name and the first "Jacob" see my web article Our Father Jacob.) The son of Isaac held great honor among the people of Israel and so it is not surprising that five different men bear this name in the Besekh.
The Jacob mentioned here is usually distinguished from the others by the mention of his relation to John. Generally in the Synoptic narratives Jacob's name appears before John when listed together, suggesting that Jacob was older. As one of the twelve disciples, he, with Peter and John, formed Yeshua's innermost circle of associates and was present for some of Yeshua's more significant miracles, including the transfiguration and the raising of Jairus' daughter. He and he brother were known as "sons of thunder" (Grk. Boanērges, Mark 3:17). Commentators generally attribute the name to having a stormy temper. It's more likely that since thunder is often associated with God's wrath in Scripture, the brothers gained the name by their suggestion that a Samaritan village be destroyed by fire from heaven (Luke 9:54). Jacob was later martyred by King Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:1-2).
and: Grk. kai, conj. Andrew: Grk. Andreas, derived from andros the genitive case of anēr "of a man." Andrew is the brother of Simon Peter and apparently the first disciple to join Yeshua (John 1:40). Andrew, being a Greek name, may have been only a nickname or a translation of his real Hebrew name, which is not known. There is a Hebrew name Anêr ("boy") found twice in the Tanakh, once of an Amorite chieftain who aided Abraham in the pursuit of the four invading kings (Gen 14:13, 24) and once of a Levitical city west of the Jordan in Manasseh allotted to the Kohathite Levites (1Chr 6:70). "Andrew" could also have been chosen by his father because he liked the name or wished to honor someone important to the family.
According to John's narrative Andrew brought his brother Simon to meet Yeshua (John 1:43–51). At the feeding of the 5,000 Andrew called Yeshua's attention to the boy with the small lunch (John 6:5–9). All lists of the disciples name Andrew among the first four (Matt 10:2–4). Church fathers placed Andrew's later field of labor as Scythia, the region north of the Black Sea. According to tradition, he was martyred at Patrae in Achaia by crucifixion on an X–shaped cross.
Philip: Grk. Philippos, "fond of horses," composed etymologically from philia, "fondness, affection," and hippos, "horse." This was the name of five kings of Macedon, including Philip II the father of Alexander the Great. It might seem strange for Philip to have a name of Greek origin since there is no indication that he was anything other than a traditional Jew (John 1:45), but such a practice was not uncommon in Israel. There are four men named Philip in the Besekh. This Philip is mentioned 15 times in the Besekh, 11 of which are in the book of John.
Philip was the fourth to follow Yeshua and may have been a follower of Yochanan the Immerser previously. Immediately after his call from Yeshua, he informed Nathanael, his close friend, of the Messiah. He was not discouraged by Nathanael's cool response to the invitation, but insisted that Nathanael meet Yeshua in person (John 1:45–46). Philip was a practical man who later determined the cost of feeding the multitude (John 6:5–7). Philip also attempted to facilitate an introduction of Hellenistic Jews to Yeshua (John 12:21-22). At the last supper Philip asked Yeshua to see the Father (John 14:8–9). After the mention of his name in this passage the Besekh says no more of him. According to Polycrates, an early church writer Philip was "one of the great lights of Asia" (Barker 284).
and: Grk. kai, conj. Thomas: Grk. Thōmas, a transliteration of Heb. Toma (from Heb. toam, SH-8420, "twin"). This is the only person in the Bible named Thomas. He is called "Didymus" (John 11:16; 20:24; 21:2), meaning "double" or "twin," a name or appellation of Thomas. Some scholars think it was his actual surname because in the apocryphal work Acts of Thomas (3rd cent.) his name is given as "Judas [Heb. Judah] Thomas." All that is known of Thomas in the Besekh besides his inclusion in lists of apostles (Matt 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13) is found in the book of John where his name appears seven times. Plummer suggests that Thomas was probably a twin, possibly of Matthew with whom he is coupled in all three lists of the synoptic narratives.
Against this view is that Thomas is coupled with Philip in this verse. In addition, since "Thomas" is a transliteration of a Hebrew name then "Didymus" may only be a translation of Thomas, much as "Peter" translates "Kêfa" (John 1:42). Thomas took the lead in responding verbally to Yeshua's announcement that Lazarus had died (John 11:16), which is noteworthy, not being one of the inner circle. His recorded words there and elsewhere indicate an inquisitive and loyal personality (cf. John 14:5; 20:25). Thomas apparently had a scientific mind and is best known for his doubting Yeshua's resurrection without physical evidence (John 20:25), and his great reversal of belief afterwards (John 20:28).
Bartholomew: Grk. Bartholomaios a transliteration of bar-Talmai. Talmai is a biblical name occurring in 2 Samuel 3:3; 13:37 of the King of Geshur. Stern suggests that in this context Talmai is a Hebrew transliteration of "Ptolemy," the name given to several Egyptian kings after the Alexandrian conquests of 336–323 BC (118). It would not be strange for a Jew to have an Egyptian name. Bartholomew is generally thought to be the same person as Nathanael (John 1:45-48), since Bartholomew does not occur at all in the book of John and Nathanael does not occur at all in the Synoptic Narratives. "Nathanael" would be the proper name of the "son of Talmai." Nathanael is listed in the apostolic company in John 21:2.
and: Grk. kai, conj. Matthew: Grk. Matthaios, which transliterates the Hebrew name Mattityahu ("gift of YHVH"). The name Matthew hearkens back to a great Israelite hero, Matthias the Maccabean and Jewish priest, who rallied Jews against the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes. Matthias has a central role in the story of Hanukkah. Matthew also had another Hebrew name, Levi (Grk. Leui), and is identified as the son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14) and the brother of the apostle Jacob ("James") the Less. For more biographical information see my web article Witnesses of the Good News.
Jacob: Grk. Iakōbos. of Alphaeus: Grk. Alphaios, an Israelite name Alphaius, lit. "of Alphaios." Some scholars associate him with Jacob ("James") the Less in Mark 15:40, but it seems unlikely that Mark would give a second name for the same man without explanation. The word for "son" does not appear in the Greek text, but the fact that his name follows that of Matthew (in Matt 10:3) suggests that Jacob was a brother of Matthew, since he is also "of Alphaeus" (Mark 2:14). However, the fact that Jacob and Matthew are never identified as brothers (as two other sets of brothers in the twelve) might suggest they had different mothers or Alphaeus was a more distant relation, such as grandfather. There is no other historical information on Alphaeus so the matter cannot be determined conclusively.
and: Grk. kai, conj. Simon: Grk. Simōn, a transliteration of the Heb. Shim'on. There are nine men in the Besekh with the name "Simōn," so Luke adds a reference to distinguish this Simon from the others. the Zealot: Grk. Zēlōtēs, one who is passionately devoted or earnestly committed. This term is used 8 times in the Besekh, but twice of this Simon, here and Luke 6:15. Elsewhere Simon the Zealot is identified with Grk. Kananaios, lit. "Cananean," a surname (Matt 10:4; Mark 3:18), but Bible versions translate Kananaios as "Zealot." The Zealots were a group that actively opposed Roman occupation and believed in the violent overthrow of the Roman government. They staged rebellions at various times, which all failed. Their provocations led in AD 66 to open rebellion, which was crushed by the Romans with enormous loss of life, destruction of the Temple in 70, and mass suicide of the last holdouts at Masada in 73 to avoid being captured and enslaved by the Roman army.
and: Grk. kai, conj. Judah: Grk. Ioudas, a transliteration of Heb. Y'hudah ("Judah") meaning "praise YHVH." The proper name Judas was very common in the time of Yeshua because it was not only the Greek form of one of the twelve patriarchs, but it was also made popular by the Jewish hero Judas Maccabaeus who led the nation in their fight for independence from Syria in 166 BC. The Besekh mentions seven men named Judas. Luke then uses a family name to identify him. of Jacob: Grk. Iakōbos, "James" in Christian versions (also in Luke 6:16). Scholars believe this Judah to be the same as Thaddaeus (Matt 10:3; Mark 3:18) (Barker 205). Thaddaeus is from Grk. Thaddaios ("gift of God"), a transliteration of the Hebrew name Taddai (Barker 205). The position of his name in the lists of apostles may indicate the minor role he played. The only other mention of Judah of Jacob is when he asked the question at the Last Supper on the subject of how Yeshua would revealed himself to them (John 14:22). There John identifies him simply as "not Iscariot."
Stern suggests that the reference to "Judah the son of Jacob" could be "Jude the brother of James," since the Greek text does not say specifically "son of." Since the next verse speaks of "his brothers," then "brother of" sounds more likely than "son of." On the contrary, the mention of Yeshua’s brothers comes at the end of verse 14, not the beginning. Luke is obviously giving the names of the Eleven apostles, not just ten of them.
14 These all were steadfastly committed unanimously to prayer, with the women, and Miriam the mother of Yeshua, and with his brothers.
These: Grk. houtos, m. pl., dem. pron., referring to the Eleven apostles. all: Grk. pas, adj., m. pl. See verse 1 above. The opening phrase stresses the unity of the Eleven apostles and their remaining together. were: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 7 above. steadfastly committed: Grk. proskartareō, pres. part., to attend to with continuing resoluteness, used of carrying out a religious obligation; persist in, tend to. HELPS defines the verb as "to continue to do something with intense effort." The verb depicts an unwavering attitude for an activity that is continued.
unanimously: Grk. homothumadon, adv., in spontaneous meeting of minds; of one mind, of one accord. Mounce adds "unanimously." HELPS says the word means lit. "of the same passion." The word is used in the LXX to translate Heb. yachdav (SH-3162, "unitedness") in Exodus 19:8, where it says the people of Israel "answered together, 'All that Adonai has said we will do (CJB).'" The verb-adverb combination describes the attitude the disciples delighting to obey their Master. Stern comments that the community of believers must be united in heart and mind in order to have power in prayer.
to prayer: Grk. proseuchē, a general word for prayer in the apostolic writings, appearing in contexts of worship, personal requests and intercession for others. In the LXX proseuchē renders Heb. tephillah (occurring numerous times in the Psalms) a derivative of the verb palal (DNTT 2:863). Palal lit. means "to intervene or to interpose" and has a wide range of usage in the Tanakh, including to arbitrate, to judge, to intercede or to pray. The context of palal in the Tanakh is pleading before a judge. The implication of this meaning is significant. What does it mean to approach the holy God in prayer? Biblical prayer requires self-judgment because prayer automatically invokes God's judgment (Punton 79).
Being committed to prayer at the very least meant attending the prayer services at the Temple. Prayer services were customarily held three times a day (cf. Ps 55:17; Dan 6:10), at the third hour (9:00 am), the sixth hour (noon) and the ninth hour (3:00 pm). Luke closes out his Yeshua narrative by saying the apostles were "were continually in the Temple, praising God" (Luke 24:53). In other words, their prayers were not focused on lament or repentance, but rather an expression of joy in all that Yeshua had accomplished and what God would accomplish by sending the Holy Spirit.
with: Grk. sun, prep. used to denote association or connection, in this case the former. the women: Grk. gunē, f. pl., an adult female person, without respect to age, marital or social status except as defined in the context. In the LXX gunē renders the Heb. ishshah ("woman, wife"). Luke does not further identify the women, other than the name of one woman. The plural noun could easily be translated as "their wives," since the apostles and brothers of the Lord were married (1Cor 9:5). The EXB version has a marginal note, "perhaps the wives of the apostles."
If Luke meant women in general, then the term would include the wives of the apostles, the women who followed Yeshua along with the men (Miriam of Magdala, Johanna and Susanna, Luke 8:2-3), and the women who witnessed the crucifixion and the empty tomb: Miriam the mother of Jacob the Less and Joseph, and Salome (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10). The women could also include Miriam and Martha, sisters of Lazarus (Luke 10:38-39; John 12:1-3). The presence of women is not unusual because Yeshua had many female disciples. Historically Jewish women heard the Torah read along with the men (Deut 31:12; Neh 8:2-3).
and: Grk. kai, conj. Miriam: Grk. Mariam, which transliterates Heb. Miryam used consistently in the LXX for Miriam, sister of Moses. The meaning of the name is not known for certain, although Thayer suggests the name means "rebelliousness or obstinacy," a theory favored in Christianity. The first Miriam in Scripture is the sister of Aaron (Ex 15:20) and with such a negative meaning it's unlikely that the parents would have given this name to their daughter at birth. The website BehindtheName.com says that Miriam "was originally an Egyptian name, perhaps derived in part from mry "beloved" or mr "love." The name is translated in Christian versions as "Mary." The use of the English "Mary" began with the Tyndale New Testament (1525). The choice of Christian translators to use "Mary" by dropping the last letter of the Greek name instead of the Hebrew name "Miriam" can only be to minimize her Jewish identity.
the mother: Grk. mētēr (for Heb. ima) refers to a biological female parent, although occasionally in the Besekh the word is used as a metaphor (Rom 16:13). There are seven women named "Miriam" in the Besekh, so Luke identifies this specific Miriam. of Yeshua: See verse 1 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. with: Grk. sun. his: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. brothers: Grk. adelphos, m. pl., lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant a male sibling; brother. In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites who are of the same blood by virtue of descent from Jacob. In the LXX adelphos is used for the Heb. ach, meaning (1) brother, a male sibling born of the same mother and father (Gen 4:2); also half-siblings (Gen 20:5); (2) indefinite of relative, of the same tribe, of the same people (Gen 13:18); or (3) another (Gen 9:5).
Here adelphos refers to Yeshua's half-brothers of whom he had four: Jacob, Judah, Joseph and Simon (Matt 13:55). Except for Jacob and Judah (who both penned letters included in the Besekh), nothing is known of these siblings but that they were the children of Miriam and Joseph and resided in Nazareth. The Catholic tradition that Yeshua was the only child Miriam ever bore contradicts the testimony of Scripture. Matthew (13:55), Mark (6:3), Luke (here) and Paul (Gal 1:19) use adelphos and not sungenēs ("connected by lineage, relative") to describe the relationship between Yeshua and his half-brothers. The plural noun in this verse indicates at least two, probably Jacob (to whom the resurrected Yeshua had appeared, 1Cor 15:7) and Judah, but all four might be implied.
The Tragedy of Judas, 1:15-20
15 and in these days Peter, having stood up in the midst of the brethren, said ─ and likewise a gathering of names being together about a hundred and twenty.
and: Grk. kai, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. these: pl. of Grk. haute, demonstrative pron. days: Grk. hēmera, f. pl. See verse 2 above. Luke refers to the time period between the Ascension and Shavuot (Pentecost), the days of continuing the omer count. Peter having stood up: Grk. anistēmi, aor. part., to rise, stand up or get up and in its ordinary use refers to the physical motion of transition from a sitting or prone position or simply standing. In the LXX anistēmi normally renders Heb. qum, to arise, stand up, stand, (BDB 877), which occurs with similar meanings as in the Besekh. in: Grk. en. the midst: Grk. mesos, adj., at a point near the center, midst, middle, in the midst of, among.
of the brethren: Grk. adelphos, m. pl. See the previous verse. Two versions translate the plural noun as "brothers and sisters" (AMP, TLV). Some versions opt for the generic "believers" (AMP, CEB, CJB, GNB, NCV, NET, NIRV, NIV, NLT, NRSV) and some versions have "disciples" (GW, JUB, KJV, NKJV, MW, NOG, WEB). However, if Luke had meant those translations he would not have used adelphos. The point of the term is that the persons Peter addressed were all fellow Jews, most likely the apostles named in verse 13 and other male disciples who were witnesses of the resurrection. These men essentially act as an executive committee to discuss the matter described below and propose a solution. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 3 above.
and likewise: Grk. te, conj. See verse 1 above. In its connecting function the conjunction conveys the idea of two things being coincidental and thus could be translated as "and likewise" or "at the same time." a gathering: Grk. ochlos, an aggregate of people or an assembled company of people; crowd, multitude, great number. In many passages the term is equivalent to the Heb. am ha–aretz, "people of the land," or crowds of common people who listened to Yeshua (DNTT 2:800f). Luke may have chosen ochlos to describe this group of men to contrast them with the Judean rulers. These men were not the important men of Jewish society and they had not gathered to act as a deliberative body. They had gathered for a spiritual purpose, to be empowered.
of names: Grk. onoma, n. pl., is used in its central sense of identifying someone with a proper name. In Hebrew literature "name" also carries the extended sense of qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. The use of onoma may imply that someone kept a written record of the proceedings. Many versions obscure this point by translating the word as "believers," "people" or "persons." A few versions translate the noun lit. as "names" (DLNT, MW, NKJV, TLV, WEB, YLT). The use of "names" hints at two ideas: (1) their names were written in Heaven (Luke 10:20) and (2) they were there by divine appointment to serve as representatives of all Yeshua's followers. They were the charter members of the Body of Messiah.
being: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 7 above. together: Grk. epi, prep. and Grk. autos, pers. pron. The accusative case of the pronoun following the preposition denotes a place and thus has the meaning of to be together, in the same place, assembled (Thayer). Many versions assume that adelphōn and ochlos are synonymous and Peter stood before the entire gathering. However, the conjunction could also imply that the two groups met independently in separate rooms in the building with Peter meeting with those who had been closest to Yeshua as disciples and family.
about: Grk. hōsei, adv. has two applications: (1) to denote a comparison; as, as if, like; or (2) when used with numbers and measures to mean, about or approximately. The adverb hōsei is used to describe the age of Yeshua at his immersion (Luke 3:23), the number of men at the feeding of the 5,000 (Luke 9:14; John 6:10), the number immersed after Peter's sermon (Acts 2:41), and the number of disciples who heard Paul's sermon (Acts 19:7). Edersheim says that in biblical usage the adverb before a numeral meant either a little more or a little less than the exact number (e.g., Midrash on Ruth 1:4) (183). Bruce notes that Luke regularly qualifies his numerical data by the particle hōs or hōsei.
a hundred: Grk. hekaton, the number 100. and twenty: Grk. eikosi, the number 20. The number is perhaps symbolic of the twelve tribes, but there is no reason not to take it literally. A couple of facts should be noted within the context. First, all the 120 were Jews. Second, all were present because of required attendance at the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot, Deut 16:16). We can also make some reasonable assumptions of the persons included. Besides the Eleven apostles, it's very likely the group included the 72 disciples whom Yeshua sent out (Luke 10:1). Luke was one of the 72 and would have been an eyewitness to and participant in the great miracle of Pentecost (cf. Luke 1:1-2). The two candidates for the apostolate probably came from this group.
Lightfoot points out that the remaining 36 persons would not have included the women mentioned in verse 14 above, since census data in Scripture normally denotes men (e.g., Matt 14:21; 15:38). There were probably many more than 36 followers of Yeshua in the city, but these are the ones God appointed to be anointed as messengers of the good news. Besides the half-brothers of Yeshua other local personalities could have been included, such as Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Lazarus, Zacchaeus, and Simon of Cyrene.
Additional Note on the Seventy (Two)
In Luke 10:1 the MS evidence is divided between "70" and "72." There are weighty authorities for each number. The earliest MSS (at least six from the 3rd century) have 72, but the majority of MSS, including very late MSS, have "70." The UBS committee gave the choice of "70" a "C" rating, meaning the committee had great difficulty deciding which variant to place in the text (Metzger 126). Bible versions reflect this difference of opinion with some versions choosing "70" (ASV, AMP, CJB, DHE, GW, HCSB, JUB, KJV, MSG, MW, NASB, NKJV, NLV, NRSV, RSV, TLV, WEB, YLT) and other versions choosing "72" (CSB, CEB, CEV, DLNT, ESV, EXB, GNB, LEB, MRINT, NCV, NEB, NET, NIV, NJB, NLT).
16 "Men, brothers, it was necessary for Scripture to have been fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold through the mouth of David concerning Judas, having become a guide to the ones having arrested Yeshua.
Men: pl. of Grk. anēr, voc. See verse 10 above. The address of "men" may indicate his fellow apostles, but the word emphasizes that those involved in making the following decision did not include the women. brothers: Grk. adelphos, voc., m. pl. See verse 14 above. A few versions add "and sisters" (AMP, CSB, CEB, ERV, EXB, NCV, NIRV, NIV), but this would not be appropriate for this context of the group discussing the problem to be solved. The use of "brothers" probably expresses Peter's acceptance of his fellow disciples even if there were differences in their background and customs. it was necessary for: Grk. dei, impf., impersonal verb from deō ('lack, stand in need of') and thus conveys the idea of something that's necessary, something that must or needs to happen.
Scripture: Grk. graphē, writing, and in the Jewish context meaning the sacred Hebrew Bible (24 books) referred to by the acronym Tanakh, corresponding to the Protestant Old Testament (39 books) and its translation into Greek, the Septuagint. The term "Scripture," which occurs over 50 times in the Besekh, summarizes the body of literature containing God's inspired, infallible, inerrant words penned by over 25 writers, from Moses to Malachi. This is the only Bible Yeshua and the apostles knew and as Scripture they upheld its authority over the traditions of men.
The formation of the Bible is a subject of many scholarly works. The traditional (and correct) viewpoint is that the practice of writing can be dated from antiquity. Content was based on contemporaneous records of the Hebrew people and divine dictation. The authors were the significant leaders or prophets of Israel (cf. Eph 2:20). Books were therefore in written form early, certainly within the lifetimes of the prophets credited with authorship, and the Holy Spirit superintended the whole process (2Tim 3:16; 2Pet 1:21).
Liberal scholars, relying on evolutionist assumptions, minimize, if not deny, supernaturalism and prophecy and attribute the formation of the Tanakh to a variety of causes, including dependence on surrounding pagan customs, dependence on literary works of other cultures, oral tradition for centuries, and anonymous sources, yet unremembered in Judaism. The final written form supposedly appeared in the time of Ezra and only reflects Jewish religious belief. The alternative would appear to be choosing between divinely inspired leaders of Israel’s history or a secret rabbinic publishing mill that cranked out the books and passed them off as God’s word. This repugnant distortion of truth deserves the condemnation of Paul (Gal 1:8-9).
to have been fulfilled: Grk. plēroō, aor. pass. inf., may mean (1) cause to abound in content to a maximum, fill; or (2) to bring to fruition or completion, complete, fulfill, fill up, carry out. The second meaning has application here in the sense of the prophesied event being accomplished. which: Grk. hos, relative pron. the Holy Spirit: See verse 2 above. foretold: Grk. proeipon, aor., may mean (1) to tell about something before it happens; foretell, tell beforehand; or (2) express something said before; say before. The first meaning applies here. through: Grk. dia, prep. the mouth: Grk. stoma, the bodily organ used for speaking, tasting, eating and drinking; mouth. The noun is used in a figurative sense, meaning that the Holy Spirit used a human to express spiritual truth.
of David: Grk. David, which transliterates the Heb. David ("dah-veed") perfectly. David is one of the most important figures in Israelite history. His name first appears in 1 Samuel 16:13 when God sent Samuel to anoint him as the next king. At that time David was only a shepherd. Yet, from that humble beginning he would eventually (after many difficulties) become the King of Israel at the age of 30 and reign 40 years (2Sam 5:4; 1Chr 3:4). David made a tremendous impact on the nation of Israel. In the military sphere he broke the power of all the pagan peoples in the land of Canaan and in the civil sphere he made Jerusalem his capital and solidified central authority.
His accomplishments in the religious sphere are especially noteworthy. He erected the Tabernacle on Mt. Zion, centralized religion in Jerusalem and established Levitical choirs. He wrote many psalms and 73 psalms are specifically ascribed to him. He was known as the "sweet psalmist of Israel" (2Sam 23:1). Especially important is that he compiled and organized psalms into what we now know as the Book of Psalms (2Chr 29:30). David was a true worshipper, a man imbued with the Holy Spirit (1Sam 13:14; 16:13; 2Sam 23:2). God chose David to be king because He "sought out for Himself a man after His own heart" (1Sam 13:14).
Then, God made a personal and everlasting covenant with him by which God promised that He would establish the throne of David forever, build a house for Himself and send forth a king from the loins of David to rule over his people Israel (2Sam 7:12-14; 23:5; Ps 89:3; Isa 55:3; Jer 23:5-6; 33:21). Jeremiah left a simple eulogy: "David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite" (1Kgs 15:5). The last comment on David's life in the Tanakh is from Ezra who twice refers to David as a "man of God" (2Chr 8:14; Neh 12:24).
concerning: Grk. peri, prep. See verse 1 above. Luke alludes to Psalm 41:9, which Yeshua had quoted in his last supper discourse (John 13:18). Bruce notes that even before the time of Yeshua much of the material in the Psalter (especially in the "royal psalms") was interpreted in a messianic sense (45). Judas: Grk. Ioudas. See verse 13 above. The name is used here of Iscariot. having become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part., to transfer from one state or condition to another, here meaning to undergo a change in his status or role. a guide: Grk. hodēgos, one who aids another in reaching a destination; guide. The noun is used here lit. of Judas leading a group of people. to the ones: Grk. ho, definite article, m. pl., but used here as a demonstrative pron. having arrested: Grk. sullambanō, aor. part., to take possession of by capture, here in the legal sense of seizing or apprehending. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous. See verse 1 above.
17 "For he was counted among us and was allotted a share of this ministry."
For: Grk. gar, conj. a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that." The conjunction has four uses: (1) explanatory, (2) expressive of astonishment, (3) causal and, (4) inferential. The first use is intended here. he was counted: Grk. katarithmeō, perf. pass. part., count in, include, to number among. In the LXX katarithmeō occurs three times and renders Heb. paqad (SH-6485), to number or muster (Num 14:29), and Heb. yachas (SH-3187), to enroll in a genealogy (2Chr 31:19); and occurs without Hebrew equivalent in Gen 50:3 for counting days. This verb occurs only here in the Besekh. among: Grk. en, prep. us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person
and was allotted: Grk. lagchanō, aor., may mean (1) to obtain by lot, referring to the end result; obtain by lot, receive by divine allotment; or (2) to cast lots, determine by lot (Thayer). The first meaning applies here. a share: Grk. klēros may mean (1) an object used in sortition (casting of lots) or the practice of deciding by use of a pebble, stick or other object; lot; or (2) specially assigned portion with focus on divinely conferred benefit; share. The second meaning applies here. of this: Grk. houtos, dem. pron. ministry: Grk. diakonia, service or ministration, especially in meeting the needs of others. Sometimes the term is used in the apostolic writings of dedication to a specific divine assignment, such as prayer and proclaiming the good news. Other examples include special ministrations like that of Martha (Luke 10:40) and the collection for famine relief (1Cor 16:15; 2Cor 8:4).
The phrase "this ministry" refers the ministry given to the apostles by Yeshua. Before Judas became a traitor he performed such tasks as assigned to him by Yeshua and perhaps made some kind of positive contribution, at least in the beginning. At some point he was given care of the group's treasury, which he embezzled (John 12:6). When he changed is never disclosed, but money was apparently his weakness. Perhaps Yeshua's teaching on the subject of money was partially aimed at Judas (cf. Matt 6:24; 10:9).
18 So this one indeed acquired a field out of the payment of unrighteousness, and having fallen headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines poured out.
So: Grk. oun, conj. this one: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. indeed: Grk. mén, a particle of affirmation; indeed, verily, truly. Most versions do not translate this particle, but it gives added emphasis to the preceding pronoun. acquired: Grk. ktaomai, aor. mid., gain possession of; acquire, possess. a field: Grk. chōrion, a relatively small area of land; piece of land, plot. out of: Grk. ek, prep. used to denote separation, lit. "out of, from within" (DM 102), used here to note the price is related, because the money is as it were, changed into that which is bought (Thayer). the payment: Grk. misthos, reciprocation for performance, as payment for labor, pay, wages. of unrighteousness: Grk. adikia, quality or characteristic of violating a standard of uprightness; wrongdoing, unrighteousness, wickedness or injustice.
Adikia covers all that offends against morals, custom or decency, all things that are unseemly, unspeakable or fraudulent and is what harms the order of the world (DNTT 3:573f). In the LXX adikia, occurring about 250 times and rendering 36 different Hebrew words, indicates that sin in ancient Israel was above all an offence against the sacred order of divine justice (1Sam 3:13f). Thus, it affects the community, whose existence is most intimately connected with the preservation of divine justice. Adikia is ultimately sin against God and the community (cf. 1John 5:17).
and having fallen: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part., lit. "came to be." See verse 16 above. The translation of "fallen" derives from the description that follows. headlong: Grk. prēnēs, adj., headfirst or headlong. The word occurs only here in the Besekh. Headlong equals "flat on the face." Matthew reports that Judas died by hanging himself (Matt 27:5). Augustine harmonizes by suggesting he hanged himself and then fell (Stern). According to the Mishnah (Sanh. 10:1) strangulation is the penalty for giving false testimony related to a capital crime. The betrayal of Judas was a testimony in the legal sense and as such it facilitated the false charge against Yeshua of blasphemy. Thus, Judas passed judgment on himself and carried out the prescribed punishment. By Luke's description the means of hanging was not secure and Judas fell to the ground.
he burst open: Grk. lakaō, aor., to burst open. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. in the middle: Grk. mesos, at a point in or near the center; used here in the spatial sense of the anatomy, i.e., the abdomen. and all: Grk. pas, adj., n. pl. See verse 1 above. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. intestines: Grk. splagchnon, n. pl., inner organs of the body; bowels, entrails, intestines. poured out: Grk. ekcheō, aor., cause to come out in a stream; pour out. Some versions translate the verb with more drama, "gushed out." Luke does not explain how the injury to the abdomen occurred. Perhaps the body fell on a sharp rock.
Additional Note on the Suicide of Judas
For Judas to hang himself may have resulted from a feeling of being cursed (Deut 21:22). The hypothesis that Judas wanted to play the hero gains support from the attempt to return the money (Matt 27:3). Santala suggests that when Judas arrived in the "marble council-room" to bring back the money he had received for betraying Yeshua it would appear that he wished to avail himself of the legal right to make an appeal for the accused (221). According to the Talmud, if the accused left the Beth Din guilty, and someone said: 'I have a statement to make in his favor,' he was to be brought back and the witness heard (Sanh. 6:2; 33b). Unfortunately, it was too late to do anything, as Yeshua had already been sent to Pilate.
If Judas was in his right mind perhaps he thought his own death could atone for his sin, since the Torah does not specifically prohibit suicide and he did confess his sin. The concept of one's own death being meritorious for atonement is well established in Judaism. The Siddur (Jewish book of liturgy and prayer) contains a confessional to be said on one's deathbed:
"if I die, may my death be an atonement for all the errors, iniquities, and willful sins that I have erred, sinned and transgressed before You. May You grant my share in the Garden of Eden, and privilege me for the World to Come that is concealed for the righteous." (The Complete ArtScroll Siddur, Mesorah Publications, 2001, p. 796)
The deathbed prayer of self-atonement follows the pattern of prayer found in the Talmud, which suggests a prayer to be offered upon entry into a bathhouse: "May it be Your will O Lord, my God, to deliver me from this and from the like of this, and let no humiliation or iniquity befall me; and if I do fall into any perversity or iniquity, may my death be an atonement for all my iniquities" (Ber. 60a).
The Mishnah also records a prayer to be said by one about to be executed and who has confessed his crime: "May my death be an expiation for all my sins" (Sanh. 6:3). The idea of capital punishment providing atonement for one who manifests a penitent spirit is based on the story of Achan who confessed his wrong after Joshua called him to "give glory to God" (Josh 7:19-20). Joshua said to Achan, "Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day" (Josh 7:25), which Rabbinic scholars interpreted as "This day are you to be troubled, but you shall not be troubled in the next world."
The Mishnah of Yoma in discussing the meritorious value of penitence, sin offerings and the Day of Atonement says, "death and the Day of Atonement procure atonement together with penitence" (Yoma 8:6). The rabbinic commentary goes on to speak of death as "finishing" the punishment for sin and quotes Isaiah 22:14, "Surely this iniquity shall not be atoned for until you die" (Yoma 86a).
Against the idea that the suicide of Judas might gain his atonement are the words of Yeshua in his high priestly prayer: "While I was with them, I kept them in Your name which You have given me; and I guarded them, and none of them perished except the son of destruction, so that the Scripture might be fulfilled" (John 17:12 BR). "Son of destruction" is the same label Paul uses to describe the Man of Lawlessness (2Th 2:3). Stern interprets "son of destruction" to mean "destined for doom" (627; cf. Rev 17:8). The use of the expression by both Yeshua and Paul suggest an affinity between Judas and the Antichrist.
To be a "son of" also says something of character. In the Bible a man is normally identified as the son of his father. However, the Hebrew word ben can be used in the broad sense of possessing the characteristics of someone. "Son of Destruction" may then may allude to Abaddon, the angel of the abyss (Rev 9:11). The Hebrew name Abaddon means destruction and the corresponding Greek title Apollyon means destroyer. Calling Judas and the Antichrist the "son of destruction" suggests a link with Abaddon. If the Antichrist will suffer the ultimate destruction of hell (cf. 2Th 2:8; Rev 19:20), then why not Judas? The apostles are circumspect on this point and make no final judgment. Peter refers to Judas as having gone "to his own place" (Acts 1:25). Judgment is ultimately in the hands of God.
19 And it became known to all the ones dwelling in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.
And: Grk. kai, conj. it became: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 16 above. known: Grk. gnōstos, adj. (from ginōskō, to know), perceived, understood, known, which may be used to mean (1) known, such as being known to someone; or (2) that which can be known or what can be known about something. The first usage applies here. to all: Grk. pas, m. pl. See verse 1 above. the ones: Grk. ho, definite article, m. pl., but used as a demonstrative pronoun. Many versions have "those who." dwelling: Grk. katoikeō, pres. part., to live or stay as a resident, to make a specific locale or area of residence, thus to dwell, reside or live in. in Jerusalem: Grk. Ierousalēm. See verse 8 above. so that: Grk. hōste, conj. used here to introduce a dependent clause of an actual result.
in their: 3p-pl. pronoun. own: Grk. idios, adj., belonging to oneself, one's own. language: Grk. dialektos, language or dialect used in a particular locality or by a specific ethnic group. This term occurs only in Acts. Luke makes a distinction between the primary language of the apostles, which was Hebrew, and his own, which was Greek. that: Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun typically used to refer to a noun (person or thing) immediately preceding in the Greek text; that, that one there. field: Grk. chōrion, a relatively small are of land; place, piece of land, plot. was called: Grk. kaleō, aor. pass. inf., to identify by name or give a term to; call. Akeldama: Grk. Hakeldamach, a place name that transliterates Hakal-D’ma (CJB), which lexicons consider Aramaic. Some versions insert "Aramaic" into the translation (AMP, EXB, NLT, PNT), even though the Greek word for Aramaic (Suristi) is not in the text. The name is most likely Hebrew, a construct derived from chelqah (SH-2513, 'field') and dam (SH-1818, 'blood').
that: Grk. houtos, dem. pron. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 7 above. Luke the translates the Hebrew name for Theophilus. Field: Grk. chōrion. of Blood: Grk. haima may refer to human or animal blood. The field gained this name due to the bloody death of Judas. Matthew says the field was formerly called the potter's field (Matt 27:8). Stern notes that Matthew records that the chief priests bought the field and used it as a cemetery for foreigners (Matt 27:3-10). The differences between the accounts of Matthew and Luke can be resolved thus: the chief priests considered the money Judas returned as his and bought the field in his name. By tradition the field was located south of the valley of Hinnom.
20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, 'Let his residence become desolate, and let there be not one dwelling in it'; and 'let another take his office.'
For: Grk. gar, conj. it is written: Grk. graphō, perf. pass., to write or inscribe as a physical act, generally in reference to a document. in the book: Grk. biblos, written account, here as a literary publication. of Psalms: Grk. Psalmos, m. pl., a celebratory poem, from psallō, "to pluck a stringed instrument." In the LXX Psalmoi is the name given to the book of Psalms, which among Jews of that day had canonical status (cf. Luke 20:42; 24:44; John 10:34; Acts 1:20; 13:33). Luke then quotes from Psalm 69:25. Let his residence: Grk. epaulis, roosting place, bivouac; residence. Thayer defines the noun as tent, place to pass the night in; hence, a country-house, cottage, cabin, fold, a farm; a dwelling. The noun appears only here in the Besekh. become: Grk. ginomai, aor. pass. imp. See verse 16 above.
desolate: Grk. erēmos, adj., may mean (1) unpopulated, lonely; (2) deserted; or (3) desolate as a state of loneliness. Danker says the first meaning applies here, but most versions opt for the third. and let there be: Grk. eimi, pres. imp. See verse 7 above. not: Grk. mē, negative particle. one: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. dwelling: Grk. katoikeō, pres. part. See the previous verse. in it: 3p-sing. pron. Luke next quotes from Psalm 109:28. and let another: Grk. heteros, a distributive pronoun, used here to distinguish one person from another; other or another of two. take: Grk. lambanō, aor. imp. See verse 8 above. his office: Grk. episkopē, a position of oversight or supervision.
Appointment of Matthias, 1:21-26
21 "Therefore it is necessary of the men having accompanied us in all the time the Lord Yeshua went in and out among us,
Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. it is necessary: Grk. dei, pres. See verse 16 above. of the men: Grk. anēr, m. pl. See verse 10 above. having accompanied: Grk. sunerchomai, aor. part. See verse 6 above. us: 1p-pl. pron. in: Grk. en, prep. all: Grk. pas, adj. the time: Grk. chronos. See verse 6 above. the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 6 above. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous. See verse 1 above. came in: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. See verse 13 above. and went out: Grk. exerchomai, aor., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out. among: Grk. epi, prep. us: 1p-pl. pron. The pronoun alludes to the disciples that were a part of Yeshua's traveling band.
Peter lays the foundation for the decision on replacement of Judas by pointing out that any replacement should be a disciple who had actively followed Yeshua during his earthly ministry. We know from the apostolic biographies of Yeshua that there were other disciples who accompanied Yeshua on his travels (Matt 5:1; John 4:1; 6:60). The apostolic authors refer to the "Twelve" to distinguish Yeshua closest followers from all the rest. Luke does not clarify whether the entire group of 120 men met this requirement or only a portion.
22 having begun from the immersion of Yochanan until the day that Yeshua was taken up from us, one of these to become a witness with us of his resurrection."
having begun: Grk. archō, aor. part. See verse 1 above. from: Grk. apo, prep. Peter means the phrase "having begun from" in a temporal sense. the immersion: Grk. baptisma (from baptizō, to submerge or immerse), ceremonial washing; plunging, dipping, immersing. Unlike the verb baptizō the noun baptisma does not occur in the LXX or other Jewish sources before the apostolic writings. However, the corresponding Hebrew word is tevilah, "dipping, immersing" (Jastrow). The translation of "immersion" rather than "baptism" is to be preferred as best representing Jewish culture.
of Yochanan: Grk. Iōannēs. See verse 5 above. Because of his immersing ministry Yochanan was given the title "the Immerser" (Matt 3:1; Mark 1:4; Luke 7:20). Peter refers to the immersion of Yochanan to mean something different than ritual washings. Ordinary ritual immersion took place privately in a mikveh ("ritual bath") at a synagogue or the Temple. Ritual washings, as prescribed in Leviticus, occurred on a variety of occasions, including (1) restoring the right to join in worship after a period of illness, menstruation or contact with a dead body (Niddah 29b; 30a); and (2) preparing for Temple ceremonies, including priests and Levites engaged in leading or conducting rituals, as well as pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for the annual feasts (Sanh. 39a; Yoma 88a).
In the first century there were many ritual pools that surrounded the Temple area for ritual purification. (See pictures at BibleWalks.com.) The Talmud tractate Tohoroth ("Cleansings”) explains the ritual procedures. Three important elements define Jewish immersion. First, Jewish immersion was (and is) self-immersion. No one touches the one immersing and no one needs to put the penitent under for it to be valid. Second, Jewish immersion is gender-specific. That is, men are not present when women immerse and vice versa. Third, among Jews ablutions of all kinds are not performed by people under bar/bat mitzvah age when a boy or girl became fully accountable to the Torah. Thus, Yochanan would not have put his hands on the immersion candidates and assisted them under the water as occurs in the Christian ritual.
The immersion ministry of Yochanan was distinctive for two reasons. First, as a priest Yochanan could have conducted his immersion ministry at a local mikveh, but instead he had people come to the Jordan River to immerse themselves in a public demonstration (Matt 3:6; John 1:28). For Yochanan the Jordan served as the most "kosher" mikveh with its continuous flow of fresh water, the most practical from the standpoint of handling large crowds and perhaps the most spiritual for its symbolic value.
Second, the immersion was representative of repentance and inner purification in order to obtain divine mercy and prepare for the coming Kingdom of God (Matt 3:2, 8, 11; Mark 1:4-5; Luke 3:3; John 1:6-7). In Yochanan's ministry there was no immersion of infants. Only those who repented, i.e. adults, were immersed. The Jewish method is clearly to be preferred since it follows the biblical practice and preserves modesty for women. See Ron Moseley, The Jewish Background of Christian Baptism).
until: Grk. heōs, adv. See verse 8 above. the day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 2 above. that: Grk. hos, relative pron. Yeshua was taken up: Grk. analambanō, aor. pass., cause movement in an upward direction, in this case with "to heaven" implied. Yeshua's name is not in the Greek text, but he is clearly the subject of the verb. from: Grk. apo, prep. us: 1p-pl. pron. one: Grk. heis, the numeral one. of these: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pron. to become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. inf. See verse 16 above. a witness: Grk. martus. See verse 8 above. with: Grk. sun, prep. us: Grk. hēmeis, 1p-pl. pronoun.
of his resurrection: Grk. anastasis, may mean either (1) rise, which may be bringing to a higher position in a physical sense or a higher status in a relational sense; or (2) resurrection from the condition of being dead (BAG). The second meaning is intended here. Anastasis is the principal Greek word in the Besekh for resurrection, with references divided between the resurrection of Yeshua and the resurrection at the end of the age. In the LXX anastasis occurs only three times, Psalm 66:1 (without Heb. equivalent), Lamentations 3:63 for Heb. qimah, "rising up," and Zephaniah 3:8 for Heb. qum, "to arise, stand up, stand" (BDB 877), which could be a Messianic prophecy of Yeshua's resurrection.
Peter proposes that the candidates for consideration to have been followers of Yeshua within specific time parameters, from the days of Yochanan's ministry to Yeshua's resurrection. He does not mean that the candidates had to have been disciples of Yochanan, only that they were acquainted with Yeshua and had begun following him during that period. Peter himself met Yeshua during Yochanan's ministry (John 1:40-42). The replacement for Judas must also be someone who had seen Yeshua after he was raised, whether in Jerusalem or in Galilee and thus be able to give eyewitness testimony to Yeshua's resurrection.
23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias.
And: Grk. kai, conj. they put forward: Grk. histēmi, aor. See the note on "stand" in verse 11 above. Many versions have "proposed" or "nominated," interpreting the verb as meaning to place the men under consideration. The verb does not mean that the candidates being considered were absent from the room. On the contrary, Peter likely had the candidates physically stand before the assembly before making the decision. two: Grk. duo, adj., the numeral two. The specific number might mean that only two out of the 109 men met Peter's requirements or out of the men who met the requirements only two agreed to be considered. We should note that the casting of lots (verse 26 below) was not done until the names were agreed upon.
Joseph: Grk. Iōsēph, a transliteration of Heb. Yosef, which is explained in Genesis 30:24 as meaning "he adds, increases." The name was significant in Jewish culture because the first Joseph in the Bible was the son of Jacob the patriarch. The first Joseph was regarded by many as a type of the Messiah, because through him deliverance came to the entire family of Jacob. Readers should note that there is no "J" letter in Greek or Hebrew. The English alphabet is derived from the Latin alphabet and originally the "J" was a vowel, simply a fancy "I." After the Renaissance (14th-17th century) "J" became a consonant with a hard sound. Since the 17th century the spelling of Bible names (people and places) in Christian versions has essentially taught Christians to mispronounce Bible names.
called: Grk. kaleō, pres. mid. part. See verse 12 above. Barsabbas: Grk. Barsabbas, a transliteration of Heb. Bar-Shabba, a surname. Barsabbas means "son of the Sabbath" (HBD), which may imply that he was born on the Sabbath. The difference in the Greek and Hebrew spelling is that Greek does not have a letter with the "sh" sound and the Greek name ends with a sigma to make it masculine. who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. was also called: Grk. epikaleō, aor. pass., to give a name or nickname to; call, name. The verb indicates the attribution of the name by others, but not the parents.
Justus: Grk. Ioustos, a common Jewish personal name (HBD). Lexicons note the similarity of the name to the Latin justus, meaning 'just.' Bruce says that 'Justus' was a well-known cognomen in Roman circles (cf. Acts 18:7; Col 4:11). The nickname recognized that Joseph was a righteous man. The church father Papias reported on the authority of Philip's daughters that this Joseph, when challenged by unbelievers, drank poison in the Lord's name and suffered no harm (Eusebius, Church History, III, 39:9). Nothing further in known about Joseph Bar-Shabba.
and Matthias: Grk. Matthias, a transliteration of Heb. Mattithyah ("given of Yah"). See verse 13 above. Eusebius reported that Matthias was one of the seventy-two Yeshua sent out (Luke 10:1, 17) (Church History, I, 12:3; II, 1:1). Matthias is not mentioned again in the apostolic record and so the location of his ministry and death are unknown. One tradition says that Matthias proclaimed the good news in Judea and another tradition holds that he worked in Ethiopia (NIBD 689). Only God knows.
24 And praying they said, "You, Lord, knower of the heart of all, show which one You have chosen of these two
And: Grk. kai, conj. praying: Grk. proseuchomai, aor. mid. part., to petition deity for some personal desire. The verb is plural, which could imply either the united prayer of the group or intensive prayer, or both. In the LXX proseuchomai renders Heb. palal, to intervene or interpose, i.e., judge. The verb has a variety of meanings, including arbitrate, judge, intercede and pray. The context of prayer in the Tanakh is addressing the Sovereign Judge of all people and thus prayer by its nature requires self-examination. The verb refers to petitioning God for His help or answer with respect to an urgent need. they said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 9 above. You: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person, voc. case. Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 4 above.
Longnecker believes that "Lord" would most naturally refer to Yeshua as in verse 21, "the Lord Yeshua." Yeshua had taught his disciples to pray to the Father (Matt 6:9; John 16:23), so it may seem strange for this prayer to be addressed to Yeshua. Indeed, it might create what Stern calls a "Jewish problem," because the Jewish apostles are praying in a manner that denies Judaism's correct doctrine that prayer should be to God alone. However, there is no contradiction, as Stern says,
"Yeshua taught that he is one with the Father, who is living in him and doing his own works through him (John 14:10–11; also John 10:30, 17:21–23); we also know that Yeshua does just what the Father tells him to do (John 5:17–30). So petitioning Yeshua is tantamount to petitioning the Father. Yeshua the divine Son is the divine agent of the Father, no less God than the Father, and therefore justifiably addressed in prayer." (199)
knower of the heart: Grk. kardiognōstēs, voc. case, combines kardia, "heart," and gnōstēs, "one that knows, one who is knowledgeable or well-informed." The noun occurs only two times in the Besekh (also Acts 15:8). The noun does not occur in the LXX or other Jewish literature. of all: Grk. pas, adj., m. pl. show: Grk. anadeiknumi, aor. imp., to show by lifting up; appoint, indicate, designate, show. The verb occurs only twice in the Besekh (also in Luke 10:1). The verb does appear in other Jewish literature (1Esdr 1:35; 8:23; 2Macc 9:14, 23, 25; 10:11; 14:12, 26). which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. one: Grk. heis, the numeral one.
You have chosen: Grk. eklegomai, aor. mid., to pick out for oneself; choose, select. The verb indicates a highly deliberative choice between alternatives or a selection out of a larger group. In the LXX eklegomai occurs about 150 times and nearly always renders Heb. bachar, choose, select, or prefer (DNTT 1:537). Primarily eklegomai is used of God's choice: of the patriarchs and their descendants (Deut 4:37; 7:7; Ps 78:68; Neh 9:7), of priestly office (Num 16:5; 17:5; Deut 18:5), of kings (Deut 17:15; 1Sam 10:24; 16:8-10; 1Chr 28:6), and of Jerusalem as His city and the place of sacrifice (Deut 12:14; 15:20). In the case of God's choice the purpose of His choosing is some commission or service, and can only meaningfully retain its validity in its fulfillment.
of these: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. two: Grk. duo, adj., the numeral two. The declaration alludes to the fact that Yeshua personally chose his apostles (Luke 6:13; John 13:18; 15:16). The apostles were personal ambassadors of the King, so he had the right to make the selection. Therefore, it would be appropriate to address Yeshua, now seated at the right side of the Father, concerning the matter. No explanation if offered as to why only Joseph and Matthias were considered. This selection could have followed a period of discussion and nomination of names by the Eleven and only Joseph and Matthias were willing to assume the office.
25 to take the place of this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place."
to take: Grk. lambanō, aor. inf. See verse 8 above. the place: Grk. topos, may mean (1) a spatial area as indicated in the context, (2) a position with obligation or responsibility, or (3) a circumstance that offers a chance to do something. The second meaning applies here. of this ministry: Grk. diakonia. See verse 17 above. Although the concept of service is set forth in the Torah, the only occurrence of diakonia in the LXX is in Esther 6:3, 5 and 1 Maccabees 11:58 in reference to servants in the royal court. In first century Judaism diakonia is found in both Philo and Josephus, the latter in describing the Essenes (DNTT 3:545). Josephus said that the Essenes refrained from marriage and keeping personal servants, but instead lived in mutual ministry to one another (Ant. XVIII, 1:5). Among the Yeshua followers diakonia was so important that it was elevated to an office (cf. Acts 6:1; Php 1:1; 1Tim 3:8).
and apostleship: Grk. apostolē, "a sending away," office or duty of one sent as a messenger or agent; office of an apostle, apostleship (Mounce). Appointment to this weighty office gave Matthias the authority to speak for Yeshua, to "bind and loose" (Matt 16:19; 18:18), and to share with the other apostles the oversight of the Body of Messiah. from: Grk. apo, prep. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. Judas turned aside: Grk. parabainō, aor., divert from a path, to step by the side of, fig. to transgress or violate. to go: Grk. poreuomai, aor. pass. inf. See verse 10 above. to his own: Grk. idios, adj. See verse 19 above. place: Grk. topos, used here to refer to a destination. Bruce comments that the words "went to his own place" is euphemistic and may well reflect the reticence with which the apostles referred to the fate of Judas after death (47).
26 And they gave lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
And: Grk. kai, conj. they gave: Grk. didōmi, aor., to give, used in a wide variety of situations, often with the focus on generosity and the context determining whether the focus is on generosity or some other rationale for the giving. In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan, to give, used in one of three settings (1) by men one to another; (2) by men to God; and (3) by God to men (DNTT 2:41). lots: Grk. klēros, m. pl., may mean (1) an object used in sortition (casting of lots) or the practice of deciding by use of a pebble, stick or other object; lot; or (2) specially assigned portion with focus on divinely conferred benefit; share. The first meaning applies here. Longenecker says that the verbal phrase "they gave lots" is a Hebrew idiom for "casting" or "throwing" down various kinds of marked objects in order to determine God's will.
Casting lots (the technical term is sortition) was a method of decision-making in all cultures of ancient times, particularly in the appointment of political and religious figures. The procedure involved objects of unknown shape and material. The rules governing the procedure were agreed upon in advance. The objects might be cast on the ground or drawn from a receptacle. The advantage of the procedure is that it protects the decision from the whim of the participants. Because of its apparent randomness it does not discriminate. The practice is mentioned many times in Scripture (e.g., Lev 16:8; Josh 18:6, 8, 10; 1Sam 14:42). For really important decisions people believed that God influenced the outcome of the lots (cf. Prov 16:33). Thus, casting lots was a way of determining the divine prerogative.
for them: Grk. autos, pers. pron., 3p-pl. Scripture records one other incident of casting lots to choose between two men (1Sam 14:42). and the lot: Grk. klēros. fell: Grk. piptō, aor., to drop from a relatively high position to a lower position. to: Grk. epi, prep. Matthias: See verse 23 above. and he was numbered: Grk. sugkatapsēphizomai, aor. pass., to be chosen as a member of a group; be counted. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. with: Grk. meta, prep. the eleven: Grk. hendeka, the numeral eleven. apostles: Grk. apostolos, m. pl. See verse 2 above. Bruce notes that there is no example of this procedure after the descent of the Holy Spirit.
Additional Note on Apostolic Replacement
Longenecker offers a valuable perspective on implications that may be drawn from the selection of Matthias. Firstly, the selection shows the necessity of having a normative method of making such an important decision that is consistent with Scripture. After all, there are admonitions of "search the Scriptures" (John 5:39) and to "know what is the will of the Lord" (Eph 5:17). The practice of casting lots was divinely directed in the Torah (Lev 16:8) and followed throughout Israelite history to determine God's will. Yet, there is no apostolic instruction to continue the practice for congregational decision-making. Secondly, the selection of Matthias suggests that decision-making in the Body of Messiah for high-level leadership includes (1) evaluating personal qualifications, (2) earnest prayer, and (3) appointment by Yeshua himself, which Longenecker qualifies as an appointment that may come in some culturally related fashion, but in a way clear to those who seek guidance.
In addition, we should note that it was the defection and loss of Judas that required his replacement. This story gives no justification for the necessity of an apostolic succession of office, as is sometimes claimed for it. The task of the twelve apostles was unique in that they were the guarantors of the message of the good news because of their personal companionship with Yeshua in his earthly ministry and their witnessing the risen Messiah (verses 21-22 above). Such criteria cannot be transmitted from generation to generation. Thus, when Jacob the son of Zebedee was executed by Herod Agrippa (cf. Acts 12:1-2), the apostles took no action to replace him. He had faithfully served as a witness of the living Messiah for some fifteen years and that ministry did not to be replaced.
Finally, and contrary to an oft-heard claim that the apostles should have waited God's choice of Paul to fill the vacancy, it should be pointed out that Paul had not been with Yeshua during his earthly ministry. Paul knew of Yeshua (2Cor 5:16), but he did not know him personally and acknowledges his dependence upon others with regard to Yeshua's work (e.g., 1Cor 15:3-5). There was also the necessity from the Jewish point of view of having exactly twelve apostles to symbolize representation of the twelve tribes, over whom the twelve apostles were to judge (Matt 19:28). Paul himself recognized the special nature of his apostleship, that he had been "abnormally born" (1Cor 15:7-8). While the core apostolic leaders certainly respected Paul as a fellow apostle (Gal 2:9; 2Pet 3:15-16), Paul's call and ministry were very different from those of the Twelve. I don't think we should expect to see Paul's name on one of the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:14).
Ant.: Flavius Josephus (c. 37–100 A.D.), Antiquities of the Jews (Latin Antiquitates Judaicae). trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Barker: William P. Barker, Everyone In the Bible. Fleming H. Revell Co., 1966.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Bruce: F.F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts. Rev. ed. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1988. (New International Commentary on the New Testament)
Clarke: Adam Clarke (1762-1832), Commentary on the Holy Bible: Acts (1826). Online.
Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
Delitzsch: Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890), Hebrew New Testament. Leipzig, 1877. Online. (Translation of the Greek New Testament into biblical Hebrew.)
DNTT: Colin Brown, ed., Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
Edersheim: Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. New Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1993. Online.
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Gilbert: Gary Gilbert, Annotations on "The Acts of the Apostles," Jewish Annotated New
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Testament, eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.
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HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
Jeremias: Joichim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Fortress Press, 1975.
JE: Jewish Encyclopedia, Funk and Wagnalls, 1906. 12 vols., gen. ed. Isidore Singer. Online at JewishEncyclopedia.com, 2002-2011.
Kaiser: Walter C. Kaiser, The Promise-Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Zondervan, 2008.
Levine: Amy-Jill Levine, Annotations on "The Gospel According to Luke," Jewish Annotated New Testament, eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Lightfoot: John Lightfoot (1602-1675), Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations upon the Acts, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (1859 ed.), Vol. 4. Hendrickson Pub., 1989.
Longenecker: Richard N. Longenecker, Acts. Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 9. Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp., 1989-1999.
LSJ: Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon. Revised and augmented by Sir Henry Stuart Jones. Clarendon Press, 1940. Online.
Metzger: Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. United Bible Societies, 1994.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
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Neil: James Neil, Palestine Explored. James Nisbet & Co., 1882.
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OCB: The Oxford Companion to the Bible. ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan. Oxford University Press, 1993.
Plummer: Alfred Plummer (1841-1926), The Gospel According to St. John. Cambridge University Press, 1882.
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Santala: Risto Santala, The Messiah in the New Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings. Trans. William Kinnaird. Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 1993.
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Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889.
Wars: Flavius Josephus (c. 37–100 A.D.), Wars of the Jews (Latin De Bello Judaico). trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
Wright: N.T. Wright, Acts for Everyone, Part One: Chapters 1-12 (The New Testament for Everyone). Westminster John Knox Press, 2008.
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