Acts of the Apostles

Chapter 12

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Published 18 December 2018 (in progress)

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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.

Talmud: Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. The Jerusalem Talmud, identified with "TJ," may be found here. Click here for Talmud abbreviations.

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 and pronunciation of Greek words. 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.

Terminology: 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).

See the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on Acts. See a suggested timeline of Acts at BibleHub.com. All dates are estimates.

Outline

Persecution of the Apostles, 12:1-5

Escape from Prison, 12:6-11

At the House of Miriam, 12:12-17

Disturbance at the Prison, 12:18-19

Death of King Herod, 12:20-23

Return to Antioch, 12:24-25

A.D. 44

Rulers

Rome: Caesar Claudius (AD 41-54)

Prefect of Judaea: King Herod Agrippa I (AD 41-44)

Jewish High Priest: Simon Kantheras, son of Boethus (AD 41-44)

Persecution of the Apostles, 12:1-5

1 Now about that time Herod the king put forth hands to mistreat some of those from the congregation.

Now: 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). The second meaning applies here. about: Grk. kata, prep., the root meaning is "down," but with the noun following denoting time, the resultant meaning is 'about' or 'during' (Thayer). 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.

time: Grk. kairos 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. The second meaning applies here. Bruce suggests that the temporal reference "about that time" refers to the events narrated in 11:27-30 and the events of 12:1-23 fell between the prophecy of Agabus (11:28) and the Jerusalem visit of Barnabas and Saul (11:30). However, the opening phrase could be an allusion to the phrase "Now in these days" (11:27), which itself alludes to the year Barnabas and Saul were ministering in Antioch. Luke's narrative conflates time considerably so that the account of Herod functions as an interlude to the narrative of the apostolic ministry that will resume in verse 24 below.

Herod: Grk. Hērōdēs, a personal name perhaps meaning "son of a hero." The Herod mentioned here is Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great, and son of Aristobulus IV and Berenice. the king: Grk. basileus, king or chief ruler. In the LXX basileus appears frequently to translate Heb. melek (SH-4428). In the Tanakh the title "king" was not associated with the size of territory governed (often a city), but the authority wielded. The executive and judicial functions (and sometimes legislative) of government were vested in one person. In AD 37 Caesar Caligula made Agrippa governor of the territories of Batanaea and Trachonitis that his cousin Herod Philip I had held. He was then appointed to the tetrarchy of Lysanias, with the title of "king."

In 39 Agrippa returned to Rome and secured the banishment of his uncle Antipas, whose tetrarchy of Galilee and Perea he was then granted. After the accession of Caesar Claudius in 41, Agrippa was given the government of Judea. As king Agrippa was noted among Jews for his zeal for Pharisaic Judaism, as recorded by Josephus (Ant. XVIII, Chap. 5−8; XIX, Chaps. 4−9); Philo of Alexandria (On the Embassy to Gaius, 55, 56), and the rabbinic Sages (Sotah 7:8; 41a). The Jewish Encyclopedia relates that, in Rome: "The evil consequences of a ruler's unbridled passions and tyranny... had taught him moderation and strict self-control. His people regarded him with love and devotion, because he healed with a tender hand the deep wounds inflicted upon the national susceptibilities by brutal Roman governors. He ruled his subjects with compassion and friendliness."

The above Jewish sources indicate that Agrippa honored the Torah and Jewish customs. He personally carried his sacrificial basket of first-fruits to the Temple of Jerusalem and celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles with the common people. He devoted to the sanctuary a golden chain with which Caligula had honored him. On one occasion, while in the street, he met a bridal procession which drew up to let him pass, but he halted and bade it take precedence. He also sought to lighten taxation, and on the coins minted by him he carefully avoided placing any idolatrous symbols which could offend religious sentiment. However, against Messianic Jews he took an adversarial stance.

put forth: Grk. epiballō, aor., to move something so as to put it over or on something; put on, lay on; frequently with a suggestion of violence by grasping with "the hand." hands: pl. of Grk. ho cheir, the anatomical limb of the hand. to mistreat: Grk. kakoō, aor. inf., to abuse or mistreat. The verbal phrase probably denotes subordinates whom Herod directed to begin a campaign of physical bullying. The period of mistreatment could have lasted for some weeks before the events of the next two verses. some: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun; a certain one, someone, anyone, anything. of those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. from: Grk. apo, prep. with the root meaning of "off, away from" (DM 101), generally used to denote separation or a point of origin; from.

the congregation: Grk. ekklēsia, assembly, gathering, meeting, or congregation. This is the sixth use of the term in Acts for the corporate organization of Yeshua's disciples. In Greek culture ekklēsia referred to a political body or a public meeting of citizens (Acts 19:32, 39, 41), but it primarily occurs in the Besekh for a religious body. In the LXX ekklēsia renders the Heb. qahal (DNTT 1:292-295), which means assembly, convocation, or congregation (BDB 874). In the Tanakh qahal denotes the people of God in a corporate sense, often in the context of being gathered for worship or instruction (Deut 4:10; 31:30; Ps 35:18).

Christian Bibles almost unanimously translate ekklēsia in this verse as "church." The word "church" is clearly an ecclesiastical term of Christianity. (See my background note on this subject here.) A few Christian versions opt for a different translation: "assembly" (DARBY, WEB, YLT), and "congregation" (JUB, NMB). Messianic Jewish versions (CJB, MW and TLV) have "community." I prefer to translate ekklēsia with "congregation," since its definition incorporates both organic and organizational characteristics and is more neutral in tone than "church."

2 Moreover, he killed Jacob the brother of John with a sword.

Moreover: Grk. de, conj. The conjunction emphasizes an escalation of hostilities, this time targeting Messianic leaders. killed: Grk. anaireō, aor., lit. "to take up," and used here to mean to remove by causing death; kill, slay. This verb is also used in describing the intention of the chief priests to kill Yeshua (Luke 22:2), whereas Matthew, Mark and John use apokteinō, to murder or end someone's life by force (Matt 26:4; Mark 14:1; John 7:1). Jacob: Grk. Iakōbos is a Grecized form of Iakōb ("Jacob"), which transliterates the Heb. Ya'akov ("Jacob"), "James" in Christian versions. He was the son of Zebedee and engaged in the business of fishing from the Sea of Galilee until called to be a disciple by Yeshua (Matt 4:21).

The first Jacob in Scripture was the son of Isaac, ancestor of Yeshua (Matt 1:2) 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: also Jacob the son of Alphaeus (Mark 3:18); Jacob the Less (Mark 15:40); Jacob the father of Judas (aka 'Thaddaeus,' Luke 6:16; John 14:22) and Jacob the half-brother of Yeshua (Matt 13:55). (For more on the background of the name and the first "Jacob" see my web article Our Father Jacob.) 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 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).

the brother: Grk. adelphos, 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). of John: Grk. Iōannēs attempts to transliterate the Heb. Yōchanan and means "the Lord is gracious." In the Besekh there are four other men with the name Iōannēs: (1) Yochanan the Immerser (Matt 3:1), (2) the father of Simon Peter (John 1:42); (3) a relative of the high priest, Caiaphas, Acts 4:6; and (4) the son of Miriam (verse 12 below). This John was the son of Zebedee (Matt 4:21) and he and had a brother Jacob (aka "James").

John was also a fisherman when first called by Yeshua to discipleship (Matt 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-19). John and Jacob had a close working relationship with Simon Peter in fishing (Luke 5:10). It is generally thought that Salome was John's mother (cf. Matt 27:56; Mark 15:40). John was "the disciple whom Yeshua loved" and who reclined next to Yeshua during the last supper (John 13:23-26). John was the only apostle to stand by Yeshua at his crucifixion and then accepted responsibility for Yeshua's mother (John 19:27). John had been a partner with Peter in ministry from the time of Pentecost (Acts 3:1, 3, 4, 11; 4:13, 19; 8:14), but Luke does not mention his presence again after the mission to Samaria. He was apparently absent from Jerusalem when his brother was killed. For more on the background of John see my article Witnesses of the Good News.

with a sword: Grk. machaira refers to a relatively short weapon with a sharp blade, mainly used for stabbing. The term is used for a dagger and the Roman short sword. Jewish law provided four methods of capital punishment, stoning, burning, slaying with the sword and strangling (Sanhedrin 7:1). Under the Empire the Romans practiced various forms of execution, especially beheading by the axe after flogging (Tacitus, Annals of Imperial Rome, II:32; Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, VI:49). Beheading by the sword was also common. The Sage R. Judah stigmatizes beheading by the sword as a Roman practice, and preferred the axe instead (Sanh. 52b). However, for someone that drew people away to the worship of other gods (Deut 13:14), beheading by the sword was particularly preferred (Sanh. 111b).

However, the lack of a mention of a trial and the murder of Jacob resulting from Agrippa's decision and the type of sword used, killing Jacob could have been a summary execution after arrest, or even possibly the act of an assassin. As King and Prefect of Judaea Agrippa did not need to consult the Sanhedrin. Lightfoot notes that the death of Jacob fulfilled the prophecy of Yeshua, "The cup that I drink you shall drink" (Mark 10:39). Of interest is that there was no effort to appoint a successor to Jacob after his death, as was done to replace Judas. Barnabas could have been considered a de facto replacement by virtue of his appointed ministry in the previous chapter.

3 And having seen that it was pleasing to the Judean authorities, he proceeded also to arrest Peter. Now these were the days of Unleavened Bread.

And: Grk. de, conj. having seen: Grk. horaō, aor. part., to perceive physically with the eye, or in an extended sense to experience something or to have extraordinary mental or inward perception. The verb implies that Agrippa had been congratulated on his action against Jacob. that: 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 second usage applies here.

it was: 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). pleasing: Grk. arestos, adj., pleasing, gratifying, desirable. to the Judean authorities: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios, Judean, Jew, Jewish or Jewess (BAG). Danker notes that the term may be used as an adjective (Judean, Jewish) or a noun (Jew, Judean). Ioudaios designates a person by belief and practice (cf. John 4:9). In the first century the term had on a particular sectarian meaning to distinguish "devout" (Hebrew-speaking Torah/tradition-observant) Jews from non-observant Jews (Acts 2:5). For more discussion on the background of Ioudaios see my comment on 9:22.

The majority of Bible versions translate the noun as "Jews," which is misleading, because there were hundreds, if not thousands, of Messianic Jews in the city. Luke uses the term for the temple rulers or members of the Sanhedrin who opposed the Messianic movement. A few versions recognize this meaning with "Jewish [or Judean] leaders" (EXB, TLB, TLV, TPT, WE). These Jewish leaders heartily approved of the administration of Agrippa, but Luke does not explain why the execution of Jacob son of Zebedee should be pleasing to them. Perhaps it was because of general animus against the apostles. Bruce speculates that the attitude resulted from disapproval of Peter's visit to Cornelius, but considerable time had elapsed since that event.

he proceeded: Grk. prostithēmi, aor. mid., to put to or to add to, i.e., to join to or gather with. Danker notes that Hebrew influence is apparent in the use of this verb followed by a verb in the infinitive, thus signifying that some action or procedure is repeated. What Agrippa did to Jacob he purposed to repeat for other Messianic Jewish leaders. also: 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. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh. See my note on the significance of conjunctions in the Besekh.

to arrest: Grk. sullambanō, aor. inf., to take possession of by capture, here in the legal sense of seizing or apprehending. Peter: Grk. Petros, the translation of the Hebrew name Kêfa ("rock"), a name given to him by Yeshua (John 1:42). Peter, formerly the owner of a fishing business, was appointed an apostle early in Yeshua's ministry (Luke 6:13) and became the chief leader of the apostles. For a summary of Peter's life and ministry see my article Simon Peter: Fisherman-Apostle. Now: Grk. de. these were: Grk. eimi, impf., 3p-pl. the days: pl. of 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 or time period for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life (BAG). The third meaning applies here.

of Unleavened Bread: pl. of Grk. azumos, adj. (formed from alpha "neg. prefix" and zumē, "leaven"), unfermented, free from leaven. The plural form emphasizes the multiple days in which unleavened bread was consumed. In the LXX azumos renders Heb. matzah (SH-4682), unleavened bread or cake, first in Genesis 19:3 of the bread that Lot prepared for the two angelic visitors. Thereafter, the term is used of the bread prescribed for Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. Matzah was also consumed as part of the ordination ceremony of priests (Ex 29:2; Lev 8:2) and presented in grain offerings (Lev 2:4) and peace offerings (Lev 7:12) and eaten by priests (Lev 6:16).

Many versions insert the word "feast" or "festival" before "Unleavened Bread." The word "festival" (Grk. heortē) does not occur in the Greek text of this verse (cf. Luke 22:1), although it is implied. The festival (called Heb. Hag Matzah) began on Nisan 14 (March/April) with the removal from dwellings of all leaven and leavened products and concluding on Nisan 21 (Num 28:17). During the festival bread served at meals could only be unleavened. The calendar reference is significant for three reasons. First, Peter had returned from his year-long mission trip into the Diaspora, including Rome, in order to observe the pilgrim festival as an observant Jew. (See my note here regarding this trip.) Second, the calendar reference provides the reason for the delay of killing Peter. Third, the calendar reference also implies that Jacob was killed some days or even weeks before Passover.

4 whom also having seized, he put into prison, having delivered him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.

whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. also: Grk. kai, conj. having seized: Grk. piazō, aor. part., to physically lay hold of or take under control, used here in the sense of arrest. he put: Grk. tithēmi, aor. mid., may mean (1) to arrange for association with a site, place or put; or (2) arrange for creation of role or status, make or appoint. The first meaning applies here. into: Grk. eis, prep. with the root meaning of "within" focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit, and in composition may be translated as into, in, to, towards, or for (DM 103). prison: Grk. phulakē may mean (1) a place for detaining a law-breaker, not a place for carrying out a specified period of detention; (2) a sentry station with a contingent of guards; or (3) a period of time for mounting guard, watch. The first meaning applies here.

In ancient times imprisonment for a specified period of time was not a form of punishment prescribed by the Torah or Jewish law. The place of confinement was only to keep someone until disposition was made of his case. The earliest mentions of imprisonment in Scripture occurred in Egypt (Gen 39:20; 40:3–4, 7; 42:16–19) and in the Philistine territory (Jdg 16:21). Later Biblical references to imprisonment are cases of detaining a transgressor until delivery and execution of judgment (Lev 24:12; Num 15:34) and as an administrative measure (1Kgs 22:27; 2Chr 16:10; Jer 37:15–16; 38:4–14). After the exile King Artaxerxes directed Ezra to appoint judges and gave them the right to impose imprisonment as one of the means that could be employed to compel obedience to God's law or the law of the king (Ezra 7:25–26). In Jerusalem the Romans used the Tower of Antonia as a prison (Acts 23:10).

having delivered him: Grk. paradidōmi, aor. part., to convey from one position to another, in general "to hand over," used here in reference to subjecting someone to arrest and being held for a judicial process. to four: pl. of Grk. tessares, adj., the numeral four, a cardinal number. squads: pl. of Grk. tetradion, a group of four, and in this case a guard mount. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. The English word "squad" is used commonly of a group of soldiers or police officers. of soldiers: Grk. stratiōtēs, soldier in the military sense. The term is used in the Besekh of Roman soldiers. The Greek term is broad in scope and included ranks below Centurion.

to guard: Grk. phulassō, pres. inf., may mean (1) serve as sentinel; guard, watch; (2) ensure that something remains intact; keep safe, preserve, watch; (3) 'be on guard against' or 'be on the alert against;' avoid (4) 'keep something from being violated;' keep, observe. The first meaning is primarily in view. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, which may be used to (1) distinguish a person from or contrast it with another, or to give him emphatic prominence; himself, herself (2) express the force of a simple personal pronoun of the third person; he, him, she, her, them, it, or (3) with the article function as an adjective of identity; the same. The second meaning applies here.

Agrippa as Prefect of Judea would have a contingent of Roman soldiers in Jerusalem for security purposes. The selection of four squads of four soldiers each indicates the rotation of shifts and may allude to the four watches of the night that ran from sundown to sunrise with three hours per watch. Agrippa took these special precautions, because Peter was the leader of the Messianic movement and his partisans might attempt a "jail-break." The night would be the most likely time for such an attempt.

intending: Grk. boulomai, pres. mid. part., may mean (1) have in one's mind; wish, want, desire; or (2) reach a decision upon deliberation; intend, decide, plan, will. The first meaning applies here. after: Grk. meta, prep., may be used (1) as a marker of association or accompaniment; with, among; or (2) as a sequential or positional marker; after, behind. The second usage is intended here to allude to a chronological sequence of events.

the Passover: Grk. pascha, the Passover. In the LXX pascha renders Heb. pesakh (derived from a verb pasach, to pass or spring over, BDB 820). The term is used in Scripture, both the Tanakh and Besekh, to mean (1) the Israelite festival, Nisan 14–21, celebrating deliverance from Egypt; (2) the young sheep slaughtered on Nisan 14 to begin the celebration; (3) the special communion–meal at sunset of Nisan 14 (Lev 23:5), which is the beginning of Nisan 15; and (4) the festival sacrifices (Heb. chagigah) of lambs and bulls on Nisan 15–21 (cf. Num 28:16–25; Deut 16:1–3; 2Chr 30:24; 35:8–9). The first meaning is intended here.

The Passover has been celebrated by Jews since God commanded the observance and gave instructions to Moses (Ex 12:1—13:16). The purpose of Passover observance was to celebrate God’s great work of redemption (Ex 23:14-15; Lev 23:4-8; Num 28:16-25; Deut 16:1-8). The miraculous deliverance from Egypt made salvation distinctly national in scope and truly set Israel apart as a special people. For a historical summary of the institution of Passover and its observance in biblical times see my web article The Passover.

to bring: Grk. anagō, aor. inf., to conduct from a lower place to a higher, to lead or bring up. him: Grk. autos. to the people: Grk. laos, a group of humans, understood geographically or ethnically, and often in the apostolic narratives of people groups associated with the God of Israel. Often in Scripture laos is viewed in contrast with the ruling class. The term corresponds to the Heb. am-ha'aretz, "people of the land," i.e., the people of Israel. Trials for capital cases were not to be held during a festival (Sanh. 4:1). It's noteworthy that Agrippa had no intention of bringing Peter before the Sanhedrin. He already knew he would have their approval. Bringing Peter into a public venue would mimic Pilate's trial of Yeshua.

Textual Note: Passover, NOT Easter

Two modern versions read "Easter" instead of "Passover" (BRG, KJ21), based on the usage of most early English versions (Tyndale, 1525; Coverdale, 1535; Bishop's, 1568; KJV, 1611; Mace, 1729; AKJV, 1769). Of the early versions only the Geneva Bible (1587) and Wesley's New Testament (1755) have "Passover." On the Christian calendar Easter is a festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Yeshua from the dead, as the conclusion of the arrest, trial and execution of Yeshua (Good Friday). The observance is preceded by Lent, a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance. The week preceding Easter is referred to as "Holy Week." In Western Christianity, the Easter season begins on Easter Sunday and lasts seven weeks, ending on Pentecost Sunday fifty days later.

However, the English name "Easter" is a substitution for Grk. pascha, not a translation, and as such is an obvious effort to deny the Jewish roots of the faith. Easter is deliberately scheduled so as not to coincide with Passover. In simple terms Easter is set as the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs next after the vernal equinox. Easter can never occur before March 22 or later than April 25. The First Council of Nicaea (325) declared Easter to be independent of the Jewish calendar and to be celebrated on the same day by all Christians in the world. Moreover, Christians were prohibited from participating in the observance of Passover.

Sadly, the commemoration of Easter has not only been divorced from the festival Yeshua celebrated, but has historically added customs with no biblical basis. Easter traditions include coloring eggs, hiding and hunting for eggs, egg-knocking, the Easter bunny, Easter basket, fashion parades, sunrise services, and Easter ham. The origin of Easter eggs has been documented from the practice of ancient pagan rituals associated with death and rebirth, so the Church inexplicably decided the egg to be a symbol of resurrection. In medieval times the rabbit was a symbol of fertility and the idea that a hare could reproduce without loss of virginity led to an association with the Virgin Mary. The tradition of the Easter hare bringing Easter eggs to children began in the 17th century. Eating ham on Easter, which dates from the 6th century, is an affront to Yeshua who never ate from an unclean animal in his life.

Christians should acquaint themselves with Passover because Yeshua promised that he would celebrate Passover with his disciples when he returns (Matt 26:29; cf. Isa 66:22-23; Ezek 46:1-11; Zeph 3:18; Zech 14:16). A minimal observance would include reading the Scriptural background for the feast, reflecting on how the festival reveals the ministry of Yeshua, and praying that unbelieving Jews would recognize their Messiah in their celebration of the feast. Even better would be to observe the festival along with Messianic Jews.

5 Therefore indeed Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer was fervently being made by the congregation to God concerning him.

Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. indeed: Grk. mén, a particle of affirmation; indeed, verily, truly. Many versions do not translate the particle. Peter was kept: Grk. tēreō, impf. pass., may mean (1) to maintain in a secure state with a focus on personal interest or obligation; keep; or (2) to be in compliance in regard to instruction; keep, observe. The first meaning applies here. in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, lit. "in" or "within," and in composition may be translated "in, on, at, by, or with." the prison: Grk. ho phulakē. See the previous verse.

but: Grk. de, conj. 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 (SH-8605, occurring numerous times in the Psalms) a derivative of the verb palal (DNTT 2:863). Palal (SH-6419), 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. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 3 above. fervently: Grk. ektenōs, adv., constancy in refusal to give in; earnestly, fervently, steadfastly.

being made: Grk. ginomai, pres. pass. part., to transition from one state or condition to another; which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being by birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. The second meaning applies here. by: Grk. hupo, prep. may be used as (1) a marker of agent or cause; by; or (2) as a marker of a position that is relatively lower; below, under. The first meaning applies here. the congregation: Grk. ekklēsia. See verse 1 above. to: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing" (DM 110), which may be translated as 'at,' 'to,' 'towards' or 'with.' Here the preposition denotes the direction of personal petition.

God: Grk. theos, God or god, which must be determined from the context. In the LXX theos primarily renders Heb. El and Elohim ("God," over 2500 times), but also 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 only God there is. The deities of all other religions and cults are the product of Satan-inspired imagination.

concerning: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near or having to do with something; in behalf of, about, concerning. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Some of them would remember the prayer of the congregation after Peter and John had been arrested, threatened and then released. On that occasion the place of prayer was shaken and the Holy Spirit came in power (Acts 4:24-30). This narrative of prayer illustrates the principles of praying specifically, boldly and persistently in unity to the God of Israel. The fact of prayer indicates the congregation was confident God would answer, but they couldn't imagine how. For more information on prayer see my PowerPoint presentation Principles of Effective Prayer.

Escape from Prison, 12:6-19

6 Now when Herod was about to publicly try him, that night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, having been bound with two chains, guards also in front of the door were guarding the prison.

Now: Grk. de, conj. when: Grk. hote, temporal adv., at which time. The time reference indicates that the festival of Passover had concluded. Herod: See verse 1 above. was about to: Grk. mellō, impf., a future oriented verb with a pending aspect, being in the offing, be about to, be going to. publicly try: Grk. proagō, fut., may mean (1) to bring from one position to another by taking charge, to lead out; or (2) to go or come before, to precede. The first meaning is intended here as a judicial term of bringing one from detainment to trial. Some versions add "trial" as the purpose of the verb (CEV, CJB, CSB, GW, NIV, NLT). him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, referring to Peter. that: Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 1 above. night: Grk. nux, night as a chronological period, sunset to sunrise.

Peter: See verse 3 above. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 3 above. sleeping: Grk. koimaō, pres. mid. part., to sleep or cease being awake. Nighttime is the normal time for sleeping (cf. 1Th 5:7). The fact that Peer was sleeping meant he had no anxiety about what he might have to face the next day. between: Grk. metaxu, prep. used to denote a point at which one entity is separate from another, here as a spatial reference. two: Grk. duo, the numeral two. soldiers: pl. of Grk. stratiōtēs. See verse 4 above. having been bound: Grk. deō, perf. pass. part., to bind, used of physical restraint. with two: Grk. duo. chains: pl. of Grk. halusis, a chain, specifically used of a manacle or handcuff. The royal prisons in those days were doubtless managed after the Roman fashion, and chains, fetters and stocks were used as means of confinement. Chains were heavy and cumbersome enough to make escape or flight extremely difficult.

guards: pl. of Grk. phulax, guard, keeper, sentinel. also: Grk. te, conj. used to denote both connection and addition, as well as connect an idea closely to another in a manner that is tighter than with kai; and, also, both. in front of: Grk. pro, prep. indicating precedence, either (1) spatially, 'ahead, before, in front of' (2) temporally, 'earlier than, before' or (3) in rank, before or above. The first usage applies here. the door: Grk. ho thura, a device for opening and closing an entranceway; door, gate. There would have been only one entry point. were guarding: Grk. tēreō, impf. See verse 5 above. the prison: Grk. phulakē. See verse 4 above. The extraordinary measures for keeping Peter in custody illustrate the difficulty for him to be freed by violent or even surreptitious means.

7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood near and a light shone in the cell; then having struck the side of Peter he woke him, saying, "Get up quickly." And his chains fell off his hands.

And: Grk. kai, conj. behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp., demonstrative interjection (derived from eidon, "to see"), that arouses the attention of hearers or readers. The Greek verb, 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). an angel: Grk. angelos, 'one sent,' a messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). In the LXX angelos renders Heb. malak, which means messenger, representative, courier or angel (DNTT 1:101f). The decision to translate malak or angelos as angel or messenger (i.e., human) relies primarily on the context. The term is used here to mean a heavenly messenger. See my web article The Host of Heaven.

of the Lord: Grk. kurios 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 and is used primarily to translate the sacred name of God, YHVH. Kurios also occurs a number of times to identify men of higher rank to whom respect is owed (DNTT 2:511). Luke probably intends the title as a reference to Yeshua. Kurios is the principal title by which disciples addressed or referred to Yeshua during his earthly ministry, over twice as many times as any other title. Yeshua remarked on the occasion of his arrest that legions of angels were available to serve him (Matt 26:53).

stood near: Grk. ephistēmi, aor., to come or stand near. and: Grk. kai. a light: Grk. phōs, that which serves as a revealing or disclosing medium; light. shone: Grk. lampō, aor., to emit rays of light. in: Grk. en, prep. the cell: Grk. ho hoikēma, a place within a building complex, contextually determined as punitive. then: Grk. de, conj. having struck: Grk. patassō, aor. part., to hit with a sharp blow; strike. There is no mention of the angel striking with an object, so he could have used his hand or foot. the side: Grk. pleura, the side of a person's body. of Peter: See verse 3 above. he woke: Grk. egeirō, aor., to rise or raise, is used with a variety of meanings, here to arouse from sleep, to awaken. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun.

saying: 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. In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, shew, command or think. Get up: Grk. anistēmi, aor. imp., 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 renders Heb. qum (SH-6965), to arise, stand up, or stand, first in Genesis 4:8. quickly: Grk. en tachei, which is equivalent to the adverb tacheōs, putting into effect with rapidity; quickly, at once, without delay.

And: Grk. kai. his: Grk. autos. chains: pl. of Grk. halusis. See the previous verse. fell: Grk. ekpiptō, aor., to fall off. off: Grk. ek, prep., used to denote exit or separation from something with which there has been a close association, lit. "out of, from within" (Thayer). his hands: pl. of Grk. ho cheir. See verse 1 above. Luke clarifies the location of the manacles on Peter's body. To anyone observing this action it would seem like magic, but it does illustrate the power of angels.

8 Then the angel said to him, "Gird yourself and put on your sandals." And he did so. And he said to him, "Put on your cloak and follow me."

Then: Grk. de, conj. the angel: See the previous verse. said: Grk. legō, aor. See the previous verse. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 5 above. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., Peter. Gird yourself: Grk. zōnnumi, aor. mid. imp., put a belt on, gird. The verb describes pulling a belt tightly around the waist to assure freedom of movement. Of interest is that the verb occurs only three times in the Besekh, the other two in John 21:18 where Yeshua says to Peter,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself, and walked where you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish."

The command of the angel hinted that Peter's imprisonment by Agrippa was of the type Yeshua prophesied, but someday he would be imprisoned and there would be no deliverance from execution. and: Grk. kai, conj. put on: Grk. hupodeō, aor. mid. imp., to tie on so as to support from below in reference to footwear. your: Grk. su, possessive pronoun of the second person. sandals: pl. of Grk. sandalion (for Heb. na'al, Josh 9:15; Isa 20:2), flat footwear, a sole made of wood or leather, covering the bottom of the foot and bound on with thongs.

And: Grk. kai. he did: Grk. poieō, aor., 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 second meaning applies here. 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. so: Grk. houtōs, adv., used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done or to be done; thus, in this manner, way or fashion, so. And: Grk. kai. he said: Grk. legō, pres. to him: Grk. autos. Put on: Grk. periballō, aor. mid. imp., to cover around, i.e., to throw an article of clothing around one's self; put on. The verb alludes to the robe-like design of ancient clothing.

your: Grk. su. cloak: Grk. himation, a covering for the body, generally refers to clothing or apparel, but in this context it means an outer garment without reference to its quality. In the LXX himation rendered the Heb. beged, meaning both the outer garment and the clothes as a whole (DNTT 1:316). For the average Jewish man the beged was a simple rectangular cloak or robe, typically made of wool, with openings for the head and arms, and worn loosely over the under-tunic. and: Grk. kai. follow: Grk. akoloutheō, pres. imp., may mean (1) to be in motion in sequence behind someone; (2) to be in close association with someone, especially as a disciple. The first meaning of the verb applies here. me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. The instruction of the angel implies that the guards had partially undressed Peter and his personal items were nearby.

9 And having gone out he was following, and he knew not that what was happening through the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.

And: Grk. kai, conj. having gone out: Grk. exerchomai, aor. part., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out. he was following: Grk. akoloutheō, impf. See the previous verse. and: Grk. kai. he knew: Grk. oida, aor., properly to see with the physical eyes and as a result may mean (1) to have information about or (2) have discernment about. The verb "know" is used for experiential knowledge (BAG). In the LXX oida occurs frequently to render Heb. yada (SH-3045; e.g., Num 11:16; Deut 1:39), which in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether knowing by experience or by learning (DNTT 2:395). not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used for an unqualified denial or negation of an alleged fact or proposition.

that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 3 above. what: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. was happening: Grk. ginomai, pres. pass. part. See verse 5 above. through: Grk. dia, prep. used as a prefix to a statement, which may express (1) instrumentality; through, by means of; or (2) causality; on account of, because of. The first usage applies here. the angel: See verse 7 above. was: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. real: Grk. alēthēs, adj., unconcealed, and so 'true.' In composition the adjective may be translated as real, genuine, trustworthy, or true. but: Grk. de, conj. thought: Grk. dokeō, impf., the basic idea of receptivity to the intellect; to entertain an idea or form an opinion about something on the basis of what appears to support a specific conclusion; think, opine, regard.

he was seeing: Grk. blepō, pres. inf., 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) fig. to have inward or mental sight. The second meaning applies here. a vision: Grk. horama, something that is seen by virtue of a transcendent or revelatory experience; vision. The term refers to a pictographic image seen with the eyes, not a mental insight. In the LXX horama translates six different Hebrew words that mean "vision," generally in regard to divine revelatory experiences of the patriarchs and the prophets. Previously in Acts visions were experienced by Moses (7:31), Ananias (9:10), Saul (9:12), Cornelius (10:3) and Peter (10:17). So, since being freed by an unknown man was impossible, Peter thought he was having another vision.

10 Then having passed a first guard and a second, they came to the iron gate leading into the city, which opened to them by itself; and having gone out they went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.

Then: Grk. de, conj. having passed: Grk. dierchomai, aor. part. (from dia, "through," and erchomai, "to come or go"), to go through, go about. a first: Grk. prōtos, adj., having to do with beforeness, whether (1) indicating primary position in sequence; first, earlier, earliest; (2) standing out in significance or importance, or (3) adverbially denoting first of all, at the first. The first meaning applies here. guard: Grk. phulakē. See verse 4 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. a second: Grk. deuteros, adj., second, in the second place. The angel apparently put a cloak of invisibility about Peter as they left the prison. they came: Grk. erchomai, aor., 'to come or arrive' with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place.

to: Grk. epi, prep., lit. "upon," used mostly as a marker of position or location; and in composition may be translated 'at, by, near, on, to, upon, or over.' the iron: Grk. sidēros, adj., made of iron, one of the most abundant metals on earth. Iron metal has been used since ancient times, though lower-melting copper alloys were used first in history. Pure iron is soft (softer than aluminum). The material is significantly hardened and strengthened by impurities from the smelting process. gate: Grk. pulē, a large door; an entrance-gate to a city or fortress; a door-gate. The term typically refers to the exit people use to go out (HELPS). leading: Grk. pherō, pres. part., may mean (1) to move an entity from one position to another by physical transport or guidance; or (2) direct something that is of a cognitive nature. The first meaning applies here with the sense of "providing access."

into: Grk. eis, prep. the city: Grk. ho polis, a population center whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly, a city or town. which: Grk. hostis, relative pronoun used as a generalizing reference to the subject of a verb or a preceding entity; who, which. opened: Grk. anoigō, aor. pass., to open, often used of doors and gates. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. by itself: Grk. automatos, adj., without external agency, of its own accord. The adjective denotes what Peter observed. The angel exerted his own power to open the gate. and: Grk. kai. having gone out: Grk. exerchomai, aor. part. See the previous verse. they went along: Grk. proerchomai, aor., to take an advanced position in the course of going, to go forward or go before.

one: Grk. heis, the numeral one. street: Grk. rhumē, a tract of way in a town shut in by buildings on both sides; thus a narrow street or lane in a town or city (Thayer). and: Grk. kai. immediately: Grk. eutheōs, adv., immediately, forthwith, or right away. The adverb is a dramatic device that energizes the narrative, often shifting the reader's attention to another scene. the angel: See verse 7 above. departed: Grk. aphistēmi, aor., may mean (1) cause to move from a reference point; or (2) withdraw oneself from a person or thing. The second meaning applies here. from: Grk. apo, prep. him: Grk. autos. One second the angel was with Peter and the next second he had disappeared.

11 And Peter having come to be within himself, said, "Now I know truly that the Lord has sent forth his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and all the expectation of the people of the Judeans."

And: Grk. kai, conj. Peter having come to be: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part. See verse 5 above. within: Grk. en, prep. himself: Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun of the third person to denote that the agent and the person acted on are the same. Many versions render the verbal phrase as "came to himself." Gill notes that having been awakened out of a comfortable sleep, seeing his manacles fall off, and being led out of the prison by some strange person with no one noticing, Peter was so filled with amazement, that he was not himself. He could not tell whether he was in the body or not, and whether he was in a visionary state, but upon the angel disappearing he came to himself. The amazement wore off, and he found himself thoroughly awake, and perfectly in his senses, and that the deliverance was real.

said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 7 above. Now: Grk. nun, adv., marker of time in the present; now or just now. I know: Grk. oida, pres. See verse 9 above. truly: Grk. alēthōs, adv., corresponding to what is really so; truly, really, actually. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 3 above. the Lord: See verse 7 above. Peter probably used the title as a reference to Yeshua. has sent forth: Grk. exapostellō, aor., send, which may focus on (1) moving persons from one place to another, send out/away/forth; or (2) dismissal, send away. The first usage is intended here. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. angel: Grk. angelos. See verse 7 above. In Scripture angels appear as male humans, so only when Peter came to himself did he realize his rescuer was no ordinary human.

The reference "his angel" means the Messiah's own personal emissary, perhaps an angel of the status of an aide-de-camp to a modern commanding general of military forces. The reference to "his angel" occurs only a few times in Scripture so it is possible that this same unnamed angel is the one who led Abraham's servant to find a bride for Isaac (Gen 24:7, 40), protected the Hebrews in the fire (Dan 3:28), protected Daniel in the lion's den (Dan 6:22) and delivered the revelation to John (Rev 1:1; 22:6). and: Grk. kai. rescued: Grk. exaireō, aor., may mean (1) remove from a place, e.g., bodily organ, take out, extract; or (2) in an extended sense of removing from peril, deliver or rescue. The second meaning applies here. me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person.

from: Grk. ek, prep., lit. "out of." See verse 7 above. the hand: Grk. cheir. See verse 1 above. The noun is likely intended in the figurative sense as a reference to judicial power. of Herod: See verse 1 above. and: Grk. kai. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. the expectation: Grk. ho prosdokia, state of expectation with the affective aspect defined in context, whether apprehensiveness or anticipation. The noun occurs only two times in the Besekh (also Luke 21:26). In context the noun does not refer to something desired, but something anticipated by virtue of the circumstances.

of the people: Grk. laos. See verse 4 above. The noun is used as a contrast to the ruling authorities. of the Judeans: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios. See verse 3 above. The noun refers to the residents of Judea, especially within the vicinity of Jerusalem. MSG offers a pejorative translation with "Jewish mob." However, the people of Judea held the apostles in high esteem (Acts 2:47; 5:13). Peter's point is that the people had no expectation of a miracle to deliver him from the sword. The circumstance does raise the age-old question of why God allows some to suffer and die and others to be delivered. Unfortunately, the answer is sealed in the secret counsels of God. Whether we live or die we must still bless the name of the God of Israel (Job 1:21; Ps 103:1; 145:17-21).

At the House of Miriam, 12:12-17

12 Also, having comprehended it he came to the house of Miriam, the mother of John, the one called Mark, where were many having gathered together and were praying.

Also: Grk. te, conj. having comprehended it: Grk. sunoraō, aor. part., having a full insightful grasp; comprehend, perceive, understand. The verb alludes to the mental reflection of the previous verse. he came: Grk. erchomai, aor. See verse 10 above. to: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 10 above. The preposition is used here to denote vicinity. the house: Grk. oikia may mean either (1) a habitable structure, house; or (2) fig. a group within a house, household or family. The first meaning applies here. of Miriam: Grk. Maria, fem. name, which is intended to stand for Heb. Miryam ("Miriam" in English). 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 and Moses (Ex 15:20) and with such a negative meaning its unlikely that the parents would have given this name to their daughter at birth. The best interpretation I've found is at BehindtheName.com which says that Miriam "was originally an Egyptian name, perhaps derived in part from mry "beloved" or mr "love." The use of Grk. Maria in the apostolic writings is inexplicable since it does not appear in any ancient Jewish writings. The LXX transliterates Heb. Miryam with Mariam. There are seven (or eight) women identified as "Miriam" in the Besekh.

Besides this Miriam there is (1) Miriam of Nazareth, mother of Yeshua (Matt 1:16), (2) Miriam of Magdala (Matt 27:56), (3) Miriam, mother of Jacob and Joseph (Matt 27:56), (4) Miriam of Bethany, sister of Lazarus (John 11:1); (5) Miriam, wife of Clopas (John 19:25), and (6) Miriam of Rome (Rom 16:6). (NOTE: most scholars think #3 and #5 refer to the same person.) The use of the English "Mary" in Christian Bibles for these women began with the Tyndale New Testament (1525) and Christians have called these Jewish women by this name ever since. The choice of English translators to use "Mary" instead of the Hebrew name "Miriam" can only be to minimize their Jewish identity.

Church tradition assigned the house of Miriam as the location of Yeshua's last supper (Geldenhuys 556). In that event the house would be well known to Peter. Of historical interest is that when Yeshua's followers who had fled to Pella shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70) were again allowed to inhabit the south-western portion of the city they rebuilt the ruins of this house into a building for holding religious meetings.

the mother: Grk. mētēr (for Heb. ima) refers to a biological female parent, although occasionally the word is used for someone who served as a surrogate mother or was like a mother (Matt 12:49; Mark 3:35; John 19:27; Rom 16:13). The mention of the mother probably indicates that the father was deceased. of John: Grk. Iōannēs, for Heb. Yochanan. See verse 2 above. The Hebrew name emphasizes his Jewish lineage. Thayer commits the faux pas of saying "she was perhaps converted to Christianity by Peter." First, Christianity was invented by the church fathers, not by Yeshua and the apostles. Second, the Jews mentioned in Acts did not have to "convert;" they simply accepted Yeshua as their prophesied Messiah and Lord.

the one: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. called: Grk. epikaleō, pres. pass. part., may mean (1) to give a name or nickname to; call, name; or (2) call upon for help, aid or intercession; invoke, appeal to, call upon for oneself. The first meaning applies here. Luke clarifies the identity of this John, due to its common use. Mark: Grk. Markos, is a common Roman name. His name occurs only eight times in the Besekh, the first mention here. How and why this John (Yochanan) assumed a Roman name is unknown. Mark was a cousin of Barnabas (Col 4:10), and like him the family probably came originally from Cyprus (cf. Acts 4:36; 15:39).

Mark was already a disciple at this point and may have accepted Yeshua through Peter's personal influence (cf. 1Pet 5:13). Church tradition identified Mark as the young man who accompanied Yeshua and the Twelve to the Garden of Gethsemane after the last supper and then fled naked from the garden when Yeshua was arrested (Mark 14:51-52). He is also the author of the Yeshua narrative bearing his name. According to patristic records Mark accompanied Peter when he went to Rome during the reign of Claudius, c. 42/43 A.D. (Eusebius, Church History, II, 14:1-6; 15:1-2). For more on the background of Mark see my article Witnesses of the Good News.

where: Grk. hou, adv. of place; in what place. were: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 3 above. many: pl. of Grk. hikanos, adj., of a quality or extent that is quite enough, and may mean (1) sufficient, adequate, large enough; (2) large or much of number and quantity; or (3) fit, appropriate, competent, qualified (BAG). The second meaning applies here. The adjective suggests a very large house. having gathered together: Grk. sunathroizō, perf. pass. part., cause to be in a place together; assemble, bring together, gather. The early disciples met in private homes for fellowship, prayer and worship (Acts 2:46; 8:3). and: Grk. kai, conj.

were praying: Grk. proseuchomai, pres. pass. part., to petition deity for some personal desire. In the LXX proseuchomai renders Heb. palal (SH-6419), to intervene, mediate, intercede or pray. The verb refers to earnestly petitioning God for His help regarding an urgent need. Luke does not explain the content of the praying as he does elsewhere, but the immediate concern would be to spare Peter's life. They might also have been praying that God would do justice for the murder of Jacob (see my comment on Rev 6:10).

13 Then he having knocked on the door of the gate, a maidservant named Rhoda came to answer.

Then: Grk. de, conj. he: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., Peter. having knocked on: Grk. krouō, aor. part., to knock to gain admittance. the door: Grk. thura. See verse 6 above. of the gate: Grk. pulōn, an entrance to the forecourt of a building. HELPS says the term denotes 'the passage which led from the street through the front part of the house to the inner court,' closed by a heavy gate at the street. The mention of the gate indicates that the house of Miriam was large.

a maidservant: Grk. paidiskē, a young girl or maiden with focus on obligations or work within a family context; bondmaid, maidservant. In the LXX paidiskē renders three different words: (1) Heb. shiphchah (SH-8198), maidservant, used of servants given to Abraham by Pharaoh (Gen 12:16), of Hagar (Gen 16:1), of Zilpah (Gen 29:24), and of Bilhah (Gen 29:29); (2) Heb. amah (SH-519), maidservant, used of Hagar (Gen 21:10); and (3) Heb. na'arah (SH-5291), young girl or maiden, used of Ruth (Ruth 4:12). The mention of a maidservant suggests a family of wealth. named: Grk. onoma 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.

Rhoda: Grk. Rhodē, a personal name. The name appears only here in the Besekh. It is possible that like Hagar, Zilpah and Bilhah, Rhoda had been a concubine of Mark's father, since polygamy was still practiced among Jews at this time (Josephus, Ant. XVII, 1:2; 1:3; Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, §134). came: Grk proserchomai, aor., to approach from a point to a person or place; come, go to, approach. to answer: Grk. hupakouō, aor. inf., to be in compliance, to obey. The verb is formed from the preposition hupo, 'under,' and akouō, 'to hear.' In Hebrew culture "to hear" is "to obey." So, hearing the knocking obedience required Rhoda to answer.

14 And having recognized the voice of Peter, from the joy she opened not the gate, but having run in he announced Peter to be standing in front of the gate.

And: Grk. kai, conj. having recognized: Grk. epiginōskō, aor. part., 'to know about,' which may be used (1) of familiarity with something/ someone through observation , experience or receipt of information; (2) of awareness or recognition based on previous knowledge; (3) in an increasing measure, really know, know well; or (4) with focus on acquisition of knowledge, find out. The first usage fits here. the voice: Grk. phōnē can mean (1) an auditory impression or sound defined in the context; (2) the faculty of producing speech, voice; or (3) a system of communication, language. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX phōnē generally renders Heb. qôl (SH-6963), sound, voice; first of God's voice (Gen 3:8), and second the human voice (Gen 3:17) (DNTT 3:113). of Peter: See verse 3 above.

The gate would have been locked, so Peter likely yelled in order to get the attention of someone in the house. When Rhoda came out she probably said something like "who is it?" and or "what can I do for you?" Peter responded to whatever her query was. Luke clarifies that Rhoda did not recognize Peter from sight, probably because the gate was a solid structure, but she knew his voice from long familiarity. from: Grk. apo, prep. See verse 1 above. the joy: Grk. chara, joy as an emotional response that may be experienced in a variety of circumstances or of sharing in a celebration. she opened: Grk. anoigō, aor. See verse 10 above. not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 9 above. the gate: Grk. pulōn. See the previous verse.

but: Grk. de, conj. having run in: Grk. eistrechō, aor. part., rapidly enter an area; run in. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. she reported: Grk. apangellō, aor., may mean (1) to report back in response to a directive ; or (2) to relate as the result of personal experience, observation or other source of information; relate, report, declare. The second meaning applies here. Peter to be standing: Grk. histēmi, perf. inf., may mean (1) cause to be in a place or position; (2) to be in an upright position; (3) to set or place in a balance; (4) fig. to stand ready, to be of a steadfast mind. The first meaning applies here. in front of: Grk. pro, prep. See verse 6 above. the gate: Grk. pulōn. Rhoda's reaction injects humor into the narrative.

15 And they said to her, "You are confused!" But she kept insisting thus, holding fast, and they were saying, "It is his messenger."

And: Grk. de, conj. they said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 7 above. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 5 above. her: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The opening clause describes a face-to-face encounter. You are confused: Grk. mainomai, pres. mid., 2p-sing., may mean (1) to rave, full of inner rage or fury; or (2) to act as though out of one's senses (HELPS). Danker has "utter in a manner suggesting derangement; rave, be delirious. The word is a verb describing behavior, but most all versions translate it as an adjective describing an extreme psychological condition, such as "crazy," "insane," "mad," or "out of your mind." In context the disciples in the house probably meant that to them she was being irrational or not making any sense. They were not accusing her of having a psychotic break with reality.

But: Grk. de. she kept insisting: Grk. diischurizomai, impf. mid., assert positively, insist. The verb means to assert emphatically, especially in the face of opposition. thus: Grk. houtōs, adv. See verse 8 above. holding fast: Grk. echō, pres. inf., to have, with a wide range of application: e.g., (1) having something under one's control or at one's disposal; (2) bear an article on one's person; (3) be in a position to do something; (4) to view something in a particular way; consider, hold to, hold fast, keep or (5) to experience a condition or situation. The fourth meaning applies here. The point is that Rhoda would not change her testimony in the face of unbelief. and: Grk. de. they were saying: Grk. legō, impf. It is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. his: Grk. autos. messenger: Grk. angelos. See verse 7 above.

Commentators suggest that the use of angelos alludes to the Jewish belief that every person has a guardian angel (Berachot 60b; Chagigah 16a; Sanhedrin 94a; cf. Gen 48:16; Ps 91:11; Matt 18:10; Heb 1:14). Bruce comments that Jews regarded the guardian angel as even capable of assuming the bodily appearance of the human being whom he protected. The role of Raphael in Tobit 5:4-16 probably reflects this view. However, such a metamorphosis is pure fantasy and has no biblical support. While angels do act in the interests of God's people the more natural meaning of the objection is that a human messenger had come to the house on Peter's behalf. After all, why would an angel stand outside the gate and knock? Wouldn't an angel just appear inside the house as the angel who rescued Peter appeared inside the prison? Of all the Bible versions, the YLT is the only one to translate the noun as "messenger." Obviously, they reasoned, Peter couldn't be standing outside.

16 But Peter continued knocking; then having opened the gate, they saw him and were amazed.

But: Grk. de, conj. Peter continued: Grk. epimenō, impf., may mean (1) persist in a local position; remain, stay; or (2) continue a state or activity; continued, persist. The second meaning applies here. knocking: Grk. krouō, pres. part. See verse 13 above. then: Grk. de. having opened the gate: Grk. anoigō, aor. part. See verse 10 above. they saw: Grk. horaō, aor. See verse 3 above. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. and: Grk. kai, conj. were amazed: Grk. existēmi, aor., expresses the idea of causing or undergoing a psychological change outside normal expectation. In this context the verb means to make a profound impression on by astonishing, to be amazed. The disciples were in a state of shock. They certainly believed in miracles and had probably witnessed miracles, but after the death of Jacob, John's brother, their confidence in the deliverance of Peter had been shaken.

17 But having motioned to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. Also he said, "Report these things to Jacob and the brothers." And having gone out he went to another place.

But: Grk. de, conj. having motioned: Grk. kataseiō, aor. part., a gesturing or waving motion for attention. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. with his hand: Grk. ho cheir. See verse 1 above. to be silent: Grk. sigaō, pres. inf., may mean (1) refrain from speaking or (2) refrain for a time from revealing something publicly. The first meaning applies here. The group of disciples had apparently begun exclaiming in their amazement. Such noise in the night might attract the attention of soldiers, so Peter did his best to shush them. He must have then entered the house where he could address the entire group that had gathered for prayer.

he described: Grk. diēgeomai, aor. mid., relate in full, describe, narrate. to them: pl. of Grk. autos. how: Grk. pōs, adv., adv. introducing a query concerning manner, way, or reason in respect to a matter; how? in what manner/way? The adverb implies that the disciples asked these questions and Peter answered. the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 7 above. Peter probably means Yeshua, because the angel belonged to him. had led: Grk. exagō, aor., to bring, lead or take out. him: Grk. autos. out of: Grk. ek, prep. the prison: Grk ho phulakē. See verse 4 above. Also: Grk. te, conj. he said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 7 above.

Report: Grk. apangellō, aor. imp. See verse 14 above. these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this. to Jacob: Grk. Iakōbos. See verse 2 above. This "Jacob" is the son of Joseph and half-brother of Yeshua who had become a leader in the Jerusalem congregation. Contrary to the Catholic mythology with its devotion to the cult of Mary that Yeshua was an only child, Yeshua had four half-brothers: Jacob, Judah, Joseph and Simon (Matt 13:55), as well as at least two half-sisters (Matt 13:56). Jacob apparently was not in attendance at the prayer meeting. Peter's instruction indicates his recognition of Jacob's leadership of the congregation in Jerusalem. and: Grk. kai, conj. the brothers: pl. of Grk adelphos. See verse 2 above. The plural noun probably refers here to lay leaders who assisted Jacob.

And: Grk. kai. having gone out: Grk. exerchomai, aor. part. See verse 9 above. he went: Grk. poreuō, aor., may mean (1) to physically move from one area to another; go, make one's way; or (2) in an ethical sense regarding a manner of life; conduct oneself, live, walk (Luke 1:6). The first meaning applies here. to another: Grk. heteros, adj., a distributive pronoun that may (1) distinguish one item from another in a numerical sense, other, another; or (2) express dissimilarity of one item relative to another, whether generically or qualitatively; other, another or different. The second meaning applies here. place: Grk. topos, a spatial area, generally used of a geographical area. Luke does not give the location, but probably Antioch (cf. Gal 2:11).

Additional Note: Jacob, Shepherd in Jerusalem

None of the apostolic narratives identify Jacob, son of Joseph, as a disciple of Yeshua during his earthly ministry nor do they describe at what point Jacob accepted his half-brother as the Messiah. Jacob may have initially shared the opinion of his siblings and mother that Yeshua had "lost his senses" (Mark 3:21). The apostle John reports that on the eve of Sukkot in the Autumn of 29 Yeshua's brothers (no mention of number or names) encouraged him to reveal himself (John 7:3-5).

By this time the brothers must have heard many reports of Yeshua's miracles and appear ready to believe if he would be more open about his identity. As other Jews of the time they would welcome the Messiah to end Roman rule. The statement "his brothers were not believing" does not necessarily connote uniformity. There is a Jewish saying that illustrates this point: "If five sons are faithful and two are not, you may cry, ‘Woe is me, for my sons are unfaithful!’" (Stern 386).

A significant piece of evidence that points to Jacob coming to that belief is the record of the church father Hippolytus (170-236), On the Seventy Apostles. In the Winter of 29-30 Yeshua sent out seventy men (Luke 10:1-11) to announce the Kingdom and gave them the same instructions that he had given the Twelve for their first mission (Matt 10:5-15). Jacob, the half-brother of Yeshua, is named first in the list of Hippolytus. There is no reason to dispute this record. We know that Yeshua made a personal appearance to Jacob after his resurrection (1Cor 15:7) and that Jacob joined with the eleven apostles and the other believers in Jerusalem to await empowerment by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14). In time, Jacob assumed the leadership of the Jerusalem congregation and became a prominent leader of the Body of Messiah (Acts 12:17; 15:1, 13; 21:18; 1Cor 9:5; Gal 1:19; 2:9, 12).

Jacob, the Lord's brother, perceived his calling as to the "circumcised" (Gal 2:9). While commentators normally take the term to mean Jews in general, it is more likely a technical term for Hebraic Jews aligned with the Pharisees (Acts 15:5; cf. the use of the term in Acts 10:45; 11:2; 15:1; Rom 4:12; 15:8; Gal 2:12; Col 4:11; Titus 1:10). Other than his contribution to the Jerusalem meeting of apostles and other leaders (Acts 15), the Besekh says nothing more of Jacob's ministry or death.

The earliest church father to write about Jacob was Hegesippus (of Jewish parentage, AD 110-180) and he records that Jacob was a holy man who took the vow of the Nazirite, performed numerous healings and exorcisms and prayed extensively at the Temple. Hegesippus said that the skin of Jacob's knees became "horny like that of a camel’s, by reason of his constantly bending the knee in adoration to God, and begging forgiveness for the people" (Memoirs, Book V).

Hegesippus goes on to say that Jacob's martyrdom came about by a group of scribes and Pharisees who, upset over the success of the good news in the city, took Jacob to a tower of the Temple and threw him off, but as he was not killed by the fall, he was then stoned and finally killed by a blow to the head from a fuller's staff. The narrative continues by saying that shortly afterwards Vespasian besieged Judaea (AD 67), which would make Jacob's death about 66. Both Clement of Alexandria (Church History II, 1:4) and Eusebius (Church History II, 23:3) accepted the account of Hegesippus.

Josephus records that the death of Jacob was at the instigation of Ananus, who was the high priest.

"Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity … so he assembled the Sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned." (Ant. XX, 9:1)

Jeremias lists the term of Ananus as AD 62 (378), so the date of Jacob's death by this account would be 62-63 A.D. Between the two accounts the record of Josephus seems much more plausible than Hegesippus for dating purposes. The church father Jerome adds this final comment on the life and death of Jacob:

"And so he ruled the church of Jerusalem thirty years, that is until the seventh year of Nero, and was buried near the temple from which he had been cast down. His tombstone with its inscription was well known until the siege of Titus and the end of Hadrian’s reign. Some of our writers think he was buried in Mount Olivet, but they are mistaken." (Lives of Illustrious Men, II)

Works Cited

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.

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 Acts. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1954.

Clarke: Adam Clarke (1762–1832), Commentary on the Holy Bible. 6 vols. J. Emory and B. Waugh, 1831. 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.

Davies: W.D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology. rev. ed. Harper Torchbooks, 1967.

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.

Flusser: David Flusser, Jewish Sources in Early Christianity, Adama Books, 1987.

Geldenhuys: Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1951. (NICNT)

Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.

Hamp: Douglas Hamp, Discovering the Language of Jesus: Hebrew or Aramaic? CreateSpace, 2005.

HBD: Trent C. Butler, ed., Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991. Online.

HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)

Jastrow: Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of Targumim, Talmud and Midrashic Literature. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1903, 1926. Online.

JE: Jewish Encyclopedia, Funk and Wagnalls, 1906. 12 vols., gen. ed. Isidore Singer. Website HTML, 2002-2011. Online.

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.

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Metzger: Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. United Bible Societies, 1994.

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OCB: The Oxford Companion to the Bible. ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan. Oxford University Press, 1993.

Polhill: John B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters. B&H Academic, 1999.

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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Copyright © 2018 Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.