Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 18 June 2018; Revised 16 September 2021
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 three centuries BC and the first century AD. Online DSS Bible.
● 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.
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. Parsing data for Greek words is from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament. 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 Introduction to Acts for background information on Luke and the book of Acts. For a suggested timeline of Acts see the dating chart of George Edmundson. All dates given for the narrative of Acts are estimates.
Chapter Eight Luke recounts persecution instigated by Sha'ul (Saul, aka Paul), the scattering of Messianic disciples from Jerusalem, and the proclamation of the good news away from Jerusalem. Luke particularly highlights the ministry of Philip the Deacon (typically called "the Evangelist"), first in Samaria and then in Judea. The apostles Peter and John followed up Philip's work in Samaria and Luke records the appointment of leaders and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Luke also introduces Simon the sorcerer who would become a significant adversary of Peter. The chapter closes with Philip being sent to proclaim the good news to an Ethiopian Jew and government official returning to his homeland from Jerusalem.
Persecution of Messiah's Followers, 8:1-3
Philip's Mission in Samaria, 8:4-8
Simon of Samaria, 8:9-13
Peter and John in Samaria, 8:14-17
Apostolic Confrontation and Warning, 8:18-25
Divine Direction for Philip, 8:26-33
Good News for Ethiopia, 8:34-40
Rome: Caesar Tiberius (AD 14-37)
Prefect of Judea: Pontius Pilate (AD 26-36)
Jewish High Priest: Joseph Caiaphas (AD 18-37)
Persecution of Messiah's Followers, 8:1-3
1 And Saul was there consenting to the killing. And it came to pass on that day a great persecution against the congregation which was in Jerusalem, and all were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and of Samaria, except the apostles.
And: 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 third meaning applies here. Saul: Grk. Saulos, a Grecized version of the Heb. Sha'ul (lit. "asked for" or "prayed for"). The name Saulos occurs 15 times in the Besekh, all in Acts. The name does not occur in the LXX at all. In Greek culture saulos was not a name, but an adj. descriptive of gait and manner of walking, such as the gait of the tortoise, the loose, wanton gait of courtesans or revelers, and also the prancing horse (LSJ). Saulos as a name does not appear in Greek literature or earlier Jewish literature.
Luke, being a Hellenized Jew, recognized in the spelling the potential as a Jewish name with "Sa'ul" transliterating "Sha'ul" and the suffix "os" making it a masculine name. When Josephus wrote his Antiquities 35 years after the book of Acts he chose to use Saulos predominately for the biblical characters with the Heb. name of Sha'ul. Luke uses Saulos in third person narrative to identify the future apostle, but none after 13:9. Saul was born in Tarsus of Cilicia (Acts 9:11; 21:39) of the tribe of Benjamin (Php 3:5). He was "set apart from his mother's womb" (Gal 1:15) for a sacred life. Saul received advanced education under Gamaliel the Elder (Acts 5:34; 22:3), a leader in the Sanhedrin and a preeminent scholar. Saul was a devout Pharisee (Acts 23:6; 26:5).
Gill suggests that he was a member of the synagogue of Cilicia in Jerusalem at which Stephen had spoken. Saul's presence and actions at the stoning of Stephen indicate that he had a formal position among the Judean and temple leaders (cf. Acts 9:1-2). In his last defense speech the apostle comments that he "cast a vote against" the Messianic believers (Acts 26:10). The verbal phrase does not mean simple concurrence with a vote, but membership in a group which makes decisions by voting. This group could be the Great Sanhedrin (which Stern favors), but considering his age ("young man," 7:58) and his work for the high priest and chief priests, it could be the Small Sanhedrin or the Temple ruling council. To have such an important position Saul would have been at least thirty. For a biographical summary see my web article The Apostle from Tarsus.
was there: Grk. eimi, impf., 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). Almost all versions connect eimi with the next verb to describe Saul's attitude, but eimi just as likely intended to emphasize his presence at the stoning of Stephen (Biblos Interlinear). NEB has "was among those." consenting: Grk. suneudokeō, pres. part., to join in approving, here used of endorsing someone's activity. to the killing: Grk. ho anairesis (from anaireō, to take away a human life, to slay, to kill), putting to death, killing, slaying. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh.
Danker inexplicably says that defining the term as "murder" would be too strong a rendering, since Saul was involved in a forensic process. The fact remains that whether the stoning of Stephen was sanctioned by the ruling authorities, the act still violated the sixth commandment (cf. Jer 22:3; Lam 4:13). Moreover, the "forensic process" was not conducted according to Jewish law. The deliberative decisions of an authoritative body cannot sanctify the act of breaking God's commandments. This principle was affirmed by the Nuremburg Trials in which the judges rejected the argument by Nazis that they were only following orders. Paul would later acknowledge his complicity in the stoning of Stephen (Acts 22:20) and describe himself as a "violent aggressor" (1Tim 1:13 NASB).
And: Grk. de. it came to pass: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., to transfer from one state or condition to another, which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being 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 third meaning applies here. In the LXX ginomai translates Heb. hayah (SH-1961; BDB 224), to fall out, come to pass, become, be (first in Gen 1:3).
The Greek construction egéneto dè, which begins in the sentence, is a peculiar characteristic of Luke's writing style, appearing in the Besekh only in his writings, 17 times in his narrative of Yeshua and 20 times in Acts. The phrase may be considered a Hebraism because it imitates the frequent use of Heb. v'hayah, "and it came to pass" in the historical narratives of the Tanakh (185 times; first in Gen 4:8). The phrase is used to signal a change in the narrative and often introduces some significant action by individuals in the narrative.
on: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, lit. "in" or "within." Here the preposition marks a temporal period and may be rendered "in, on, at, or during" (Thayer). that: Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun used to refer to a noun (person or thing) immediately preceding in the Greek text; that, that one there. 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 meaning primarily applies here, but the fourth meaning may also be applied to the events described in verses 3-4.
a great: Grk. megas, adj., large or great in extent and used (1) of any extension in space in all directions; or (2) fig. of measure, whether of age, quantity, intensity, importance or social position (BAG). The adjective is used here to emphasize intensity and scope as described in verse 3. persecution: Grk. diōgmos (from diōkō, "follow, pursue"), a program of systematic harassment, especially because of differing belief or expression, persecution. Here the noun indicates trying to suppress or punish religious convictions (HELPS). against: Grk. epi, prep., with the root meaning of "upon," used here of a hostile aim, thus "against."
the congregation: Grk. ho ekklēsia means assembly, gathering, meeting, or congregation. This is the third use of the term in Acts. The first use was in regards to the assembly of Yeshua's disciples in Jerusalem (5:11) and the second use was in regards to the nation of Israel in the wilderness (8:38). 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 translates 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," whereas Messianic Jewish versions prefer "community." Since the strict definition of "community" does refer to a group who share a government (such as a village, town or city), I prefer to translate ekklēsia with "congregation," since its definition incorporates both organic and organizational characteristics and is more neutral in tone than "church." See my explanatory note on Ekklēsia.
which was: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. in: Grk. en, used here to mark a location. 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 being Ierousalēm, used in verse 26 below. See the note on "Jerusalem" and the two spellings in 1:4. The persecution against the disciples of Yeshua erupted in spite of the advice of Gamaliel, Saul's former teacher, to leave the Yeshua movement alone (Acts 5:38-39).
The persecution did not have the sanction of the Sanhedrin, and was no doubt fueled by the hatred of men from the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Acts 6:9), of which Saul was likely a member. Yet, the Sanhedrin did nothing to prevent mistreatment of members of Yeshua's congregation. Of interest is that a record of the seventy apostles by Dorotheus, bishop of Tyre (ca. 255 – 362), says that 2,000 believers died the day Stephen was killed. Descriptions of specific adversarial actions taken in the persecution may be found in verse 3 below (cf. Acts 9:1, 21; 22:4; 26:9-11; Gal 1:13; 1Tim 1:13).
and: Grk. de. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. "All" does not mean every single person of the Messianic population, well over ten thousand, since the number reference is qualified by the last clause of this verse and the narrative of the next two verses. A substantial percentage is intended. were scattered: Grk. diaspeirō, impf., scatter (like seed), disperse. The verb occurs only three times in the Besekh, all in Acts (8:4; 11:19). In other words, those that escaped arrest by Saul fled the city.
throughout: Grk. kata, prep., properly "down from," i.e. from a higher to a lower plane, with special reference to the terminus or end-point (Thayer). The preposition illustrates the descent from the higher elevation of Jerusalem to surrounding locales. the regions: pl. of ho chōra may refer to (1) a stretch of territory as contrasted with owned property or open country contrasted with city, region, area; or (2) an area under a proprietor, landed property or fields. The first meaning applies here.
of Judea: Grk. ho Ioudaia, a transliteration of the Latin provincial name of Iudaea. In the LXX Ioudaia translates Heb. Y'hudah ("praised," SH-3063), Judea or the Kingdom of Judah, first in Ruth 1:1. The territorial name of Ioudaia has two uses in Acts: (1) the historic territory of that lay between Samaria on the north and Idumea on the south. Judea was bounded on the west by the Mediterranean Sea and the east by the Jordan River (Acts 1:8). (See the map.) (2) the Roman province of Judaea formed in AD 6, which comprised Samaria, Judea and Idumea with its capital at Caesarea (Acts 2:9; 10:37). (See the map.) The first meaning is intended here.
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.
of Samaria: Grk. Samareia, for Heb. Shomron, 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." In the Tanakh Shomron 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 BC) (1Kgs 16:23-28; 22:37-39; 2Kgs 6:24-30). The region was successively dominated by the Assyrians, then the Babylonians and the Persians. During that time the population included many people imported from various foreign locations (see 2Kgs 17:5-6, 23-24; Ezra 4:9-10; Ant. IX, 14:1). Later, the Greeks conquered the region (331 B.C.) and spread Hellenistic language and culture.
Then the Hasmoneans, under the Jewish high priest John Hyrcanus, destroyed the city c. 120-119 B.C. as part of his effort to remove Syrian hegemony from the land (Ant. XIII, 10:2). After a long period without inhabitants, the city of Samaria lived again under Pompey and the Romans (63 B.C.). Finally, Herod the Great obtained control of Samaria in 30 B.C. and made it one of the chief cities of his territory. He built a temple there in honor of Caesar and renamed the city Sebaste, using the Greek word for Augustus, the emperor (see Ant. XIV, 4:4; 5:3; Wars I, 7:7; 8:4. Given the specific geographical description of "region," Samaria refers to the territory that lay between Judea and Galilee. except: Grk. plēn, adv. introducing a modifying or incremental clause in a statement or narrative; except. The adverb limits the adjective "all."
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, but it is grounded in Jewish culture in the office of shaliach. In first century Judaism a shaliach acted as an official messenger or a proxy for and with the full authority of the sender (Ber. 5:5). The shaliach's mission was "limited in scope and duration by definite commission and terminating on its completion" (DNTT 1:128).
The apostles of Yeshua were so named because they had "seen the Lord," i.e., they were witnesses of his resurrected form (John 20:25; Acts 9:27; 1Cor 9:1; 15:5-9; 1Jn 1:1). All the apostles were Jewish. An apostle serving the Messiah and King of Israel was no minor office. The apostles had been personally sent by Yeshua with 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). The apostles referred to here are of the Twelve, either all of them or their principal members.
The fact that the apostles remained in Jerusalem is a testimony of their courage not to be intimidated. In addition, they had already gone through a "judicial review" and incarceration and been released. Moreover, their performance of signs and wonders combined with the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira had resulted in a holy fear of them. For the time being the apostles had a kind of political immunity.
2 And devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him.
And: Grk. de, conj. devout: Grk. eulabēs, adj., reverent or devout. The term describes the outward response someone gives to what they feel is truly worthy of respect (HELPS). men: pl. of Grk. anēr, an adult man without regard to marital status. In the LXX anēr translates 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). In 2:5 Luke employs the term "devout men" to describe the Ioudaioi ("Jews") who came to Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot in accordance with the Torah requirement.
buried: Grk. sugkomizō, aor., 3p-pl., bear away together with, as in carrying away a corpse for burial. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. Stephen: Grk. Stephanos, a personal name meaning, "crown." He is first identified in 6:5 as one of seven men selected to manage the charity for widows and is described as "full of faithfulness and of the Holy Spirit." In 6:8 Stephen performed great signs and wonders and proclaimed Yeshua in synagogues of Diaspora pilgrims. No other biographical information is provided for the first martyr.
Burial of a dead body was not delayed in Jewish culture and generally the same day as death (cf. Deut 21:23; Luke 7:11-12; Acts 5:6-10). In Hebrew culture burial of the dead was as urgent a duty as visitation of the sick. After all, God visited the sick (Gen 18:1) and buried the dead (Deut 34:6), leaving an example for His people to follow (Sotah 14a).The mention of men, perhaps close friends rather than fellow deacons, taking responsibility for the burial highlights custom. Women had no part in anointing a naked male body before being placed in a tomb. It was customary for women to take care of women and men to take care of men in the matter of preparing a corpse for burial. In addition, Jews did not embalm their corpses before burial.
In Bible times corpses were typically placed in natural caves (Gen 23:19; 49:30-31), other above-ground tombs cut into soft rock (Jdg 8:32; Matt 27:60; Acts 2:29), or in the ground (Gen 35:8, 19; 2Kgs 23:6; Jer 26:23; Matt 27:5-10). The burial places would be outside but near the town where the person lived. The rock tombs sometimes contained chambers or a single room with shelves on three sides of the chamber, the entrance being closed by a large flat stone rolled or pushed into position. The Sanhedrin maintained tombs for burying executed persons (Sanh. 6:7), but the friends of Stephen made their own arrangements for burial.
and: Grk. kai, conj. made: 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 translates 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. great: Grk. megas, adj. See the previous verse. lamentation: Grk. kopetos, elaborate expression of grief, a beating of the head and breast; lamentation. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. over: Grk. epi, prep.
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. The Mishnah prohibited public lamentation for an executed person (Sanh. 6:7). This legal provision may argue against the stoning of Stephen being the result of a judicial decision. On the other hand, "great lamentation" was an act of the righteous drawing attention to the criminality of the stoning. Even the Mishnah affirms that God is grieved over the spilling of the blood of the righteous.
3 But Saul began ravaging the congregation, entering from house to house, dragging off both men and women, he was delivering into jail.
But: Grk. de, conj. Saul: See verse 1 above. began ravaging: Grk. lumainomai, impf. mid., to treat shamefully or with injury, to ravage, devastate, or ruin. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. the congregation: Grk. ekklēsia. See verse 1 above. entering: Grk. eisporeuomai, pres. mid. part., to go in, to come in, to enter, whether a locality or a structure. from: Grk. kata, prep., lit. "down." See verse 1 above. In this construction the preposition has a distributive sense. house to house: pl. of oikos may mean (1) a structure for habitation; house, home; or (2) persons inhabiting a house; household, family. The first meaning is intended, although the impact of the verb is felt by the household. It's important to remember that members of the congregation met in many different homes (Acts 2:46; 5:42).
The word oikos occurs only once in the verse but the plural form with the preposition kata gives the sense of Saul's hostility being felt in every household of the body of Messiah. Liberman includes synagogues in the meaning of "houses." dragging off: Grk. surō, pres. mid. part., cause to move by dragging. The verb depicts forcible removal from homes and transport. both: Grk. te, conj. used to denote both connection and addition. men: Grk. anēr. See the previous verse. and: Grk. kai, conj. women: pl. of Grk. gunē, an adult female person, without respect to age, marital or social status except as defined in the context. In the LXX gunē translates the Heb. ishshah ("woman, wife"). The plural noun would include wives and widows.
he was delivering: Grk. paradidōmi, impf., to convey from one position to another, in general "to hand over," used here in reference to subjecting someone to arrest and a judicial process. into: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit; to, into, toward. jail: Grk. phulakē, a place for detaining a law-breaker, not a place for carrying out a specified period of detention. Most versions render the noun as "prison," but we should remember that imprisonment for a specified period of time was not a form of punishment under Jewish law as it is in modern times. The place of confinement was only to keep someone until disposition was made of his case. In modern English "jail" would be a better choice than "prison" for this purpose.
Stern notes that this verse and 9:1–2, along with the background of 7:58 and 8:1, show that Saul in his zeal for traditional Judaism was a formidable persecutor of Messianic Jews (cf. Acts 22:3; Gal 1:13–14; Php 3:6), possibly their worst persecutor (cf. 1Tim 1:13–16). Even though the verbs in this verse are singular, Saul could not have carried out his persecution alone. The singular verbs emphasize that he was personally responsible and was willing to take charge of the campaign with at least the tacit approval of the ruling authorities. However, he would need assistance to physically drag people from their homes and imprison them. In Judean culture of the time the only police was the Roman military under the procurator and the Levitical Temple police under the Deputy High Priest (Aram. Segan Ha-Kohanim; Grk. stratēgos, "commander, captain").
The Romans would not have cared about the internal religious conflict. The chief officer of the temple is mentioned in Acts 4:1 and 5:24. Josephus twice refers to him (Ant. XX, 6:2; Wars VI, 5:3). Saul thus relied on Temple personnel with the complicity of the Deputy High Priest (cf. Acts 9:1-2; 26:13) to carry out his campaign of terror.
Philip's Mission in Samaria, 8:4-8
4 So indeed those having been scattered went about proclaiming the word.
So: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which is used here to indicate a conclusion connected with data immediately preceding, 'so, therefore, consequently, then. indeed: Grk. mén, a particle of affirmation; indeed, verily, truly. Many versions do not translate the particle. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having been scattered: Grk. diaspeirō, aor. part. See verse 1 above. went about: Grk. dierchomai (from dia, "through," and erchomai, "to come or go"), aor., to go through, go about, to spread.
proclaiming: Grk. euangelizō, pres. mid. part. (from eú, "good, well" and angellō, "announce, herald"), to announce the good message, and is used to mean (1) pass on information that provides good news to the recipient, and (2) spread good news of God's beneficial concern, specifically of a proclamation with focus on God's saving action in connection with Yeshua. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX euangelizō stands for Heb. basar, to publish or bring news or a report, whether good or bad (DNTT 2:108-109).
The focus of this verb from its first use in the nativity narratives (Luke 1:19; 2:10-11), next in the message of Yochanan the Immerser (Luke 3:18), and then by Yeshua who proclaimed the good news to the poor (Matt 11:5; Luke 4:18) was the arrival of the Kingdom of God in the person of Yeshua (Mark 1:1). The verb occurs 15 times in Acts (5:42; 8:12, 25, 35, 40; 10:36; 11:20; 13:32; 14:7, 15, 21; 15:35; 16:10; 17:18), always in reference to proclaiming Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel. Liberman notes that the description means that the Messianic Jews did not hide in secrecy and fearful silence.
the word: Grk. logos, vocalized expression, word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar, which has a range of meaning "speech, word, report, command, advice, counsel, thing, matter" (Gen 29:13; BDB 182) (DNTT 3:1087). The verb phrase "proclaiming the word" is used specifically of sharing the good news of Messiah Yeshua, as stated in the next verse. The persecution was thus the impetus for the spread of the salvation message to the uttermost parts of the world. The description does not mean that every person who fled Jerusalem, which likely numbered in the thousands, served as an evangelist in public settings. The average disciple would no doubt have shared with extended family and new neighbors their experiences in Jerusalem and what they had come to believe (cf. 1Pet 3:15).
Luke mentions only a few individuals who offered midrashim on the Messianic message in public settings. A midrash or drash (lit., "search") is a homiletical application of a text. Stern explains that the normal form for a drash in the midrashic period (100 B.C. to A.D. 500) was: (1) introduction, consisting of a biblical verse with illustrations and parables, leading up to (2) the particular text to be explained, now expanded by stories, allegories and associations with other texts, and (3) conclusion, consisting of exhortations and words of comfort and ending with the Kaddish prayer (286).
5 And Philip having gone down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Messiah.
And: Grk. de, conj. 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. There are four men named Philip in the Besekh, including one of the twelve apostles of Yeshua (John 1:43). The Philip mentioned here is not the apostle since the apostles remained in Jerusalem. Hippolytus (170-236) includes Philip in his list of the seventy apostles whom Yeshua chose and sent on an evangelistic mission in Luke 10:1 (On the Seventy Apostles).
Luke introduced Philip in Acts 6:5 as one of the seven deacons. Eventually Philip made his home in Caesarea and had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses (Acts 21:8-9). Later tradition says that he became the beloved bishop of Tralles in Asia Minor (Barker 285). having gone down: Grk. katerchomai, aor. part., to go down or to come down, generally of moving in a geographical context. The verb graphically illustrates descending from the higher elevation of Jerusalem.
to: Grk. eis, prep. the: Grk. ho, definite article. See the textual note below. city: Grk. polis, a population center whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly, a city or town. of Samaria: Grk. Samareia. See verse 1 above. Some commentators interpret the phrase "city of Samaria" to mean the city called Shômrôn or "Samaria" (Gilbert; Liberman; Robertson). However, in verse 1 Samaria is the region, and the ancient city of Samaria no longer bore this name, but had been renamed "Sebaste" by Herod the Great (Josephus, Wars I, 2:7; 21:2). Surely, Luke would have used the current name if he had meant Sebaste.
Bruce suggests the city could have been Gitta, which according to Justin Martyr (Apology I, 26), was the birthplace of Simon mentioned in verse 9 below (177). In my view (also Lightfoot 4:94) "the city of Samaria" more likely means Sychar, the city of Samaria that Yeshua visited (John 4:5). Sychar was the ancient Shechem located within a couple of miles of Mount Gerizim and the religious headquarters of the Samaritans. Josephus called Shechem the metropolis of the Samaritans (Ant. XI, 8:6).
and: Grk. kai, conj. proclaimed: Grk. kērussō, aor., to make a public announcement in the manner of a herald, to proclaim. The verb always contains the suggestion of formality, gravity, and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed (Thayer). In the LXX kērussō occurs 29 times, mostly to translate Heb. qara (SH-7121), to call, proclaim or read (DNTT 3:50). In translating qara the verb kērussō usually occurs in settings of making a public announcement requiring compliance (e.g., Gen 41:43; Ex 32:5; 2Chr 20:3; Neh 6:7; Esth 6:9; Joel 1:14; 2:15; 3:9; Jon 1:2; 3:1, 4-5).
Kērussō also translates Heb. rua (SH-7321), to cry out, raise a shout, give a blast with a horn, in settings of proclaiming an important message from ADONAI (Hos 5:8; Joel 2:1; Zeph 3:14; Zech 9:9). In the Besekh the use of kērussō combines the primary elements of the Hebrew verbs of proclaiming a message from God that demands an obedient response. to them: 3p-pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The plural pronoun refers to the residents of the city or Samaritans. See the Additional Note below concerning the Samaritans.
the Messiah: Grk. ho Christos (from chriō, "anoint with olive oil"), the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Messiah. The English "Christ" transliterates the Greek title, but does not translate it. In Greek culture christos had no religious connotation at all. As an adjective christos described someone smeared with whitewash, cosmetics or paint, and was anything but an expression of honor. As a personal reference it even tended toward the disrespectful (DNTT 2:334).
Jewish translators of the LXX chose Christos to render Heb. Mashiach (SH-4899), anointed, Anointed One, and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. Mashiach is used in the Tanakh for the Messiah (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25-26) and this usage defined the term among Jews in the first century. For a discussion of Jewish hope and expectation of the Messiah see my article The Messiah.
Luke does not explain the content of Philip's public teaching, but the "good news" being the "the message of the Messiah" would include specific assertions of interest to Jews as found in the sermons of Peter, Stephen and Paul to Jewish audiences.
• The promises of the Messiah God made to the fathers have now been fulfilled with the coming of Yeshua (Acts 2:30; 3:19, 24; 13:23, 32-33; 26:6-7, 22).
• Yeshua conducted a ministry of doing good and performing mighty works by the power of God (Acts 2:22).
• Yeshua was rejected by Israel's leaders (Acts 2:23; 3:13; 4:11; 7:52; 13:27-28).
• Yeshua was crucified according to the purpose of God (Acts 2:23; 3:13-15, 18; 4:11; 13:28-29; 26:23).
• God raised Yeshua from the dead and he appeared afterwards to his disciples (Acts 2:24, 31-32; 3:15, 26; 13:30-31; 26:23).
• Yeshua was exalted to the right hand of God and given the name "Lord" (Acts 2:25-29, 33-36; 3:13; 5:31).
• Yeshua gave the promised Holy Spirit to cleanse and empower his disciples (Acts 1:8; 2:14-18, 33, 38-39; 5:32; 15:8).
• Yeshua will come again for judgment and the restoration of all things (Acts 3:20-21).
• There is salvation in no one else, so all who hear the message should repent for the forgiveness of sins and be immersed (Acts 2:21, 38; 3:19; 5:31; 13:38; 26:18, 20).
For a modern version of the "Jewish gospel" see The Five Jewish Laws.
Additional Note: The Samaritans
The Samaritans are commonly thought of as non-Jews or "half-Jews" (so Stern 168). In the first century the definition of "Jew" was not just biological, but religious. Just as modern Chasidic or Orthodox Jews do not consider Reformed or Karaite Jews as truly "Jewish" so the Judean Jews in Yeshua's time did not accept others as "Jews" simply based on biology. The Samaritan Jews could not be genuinely "Jewish" since they did not live according to the religion prescribed and regulated by the Sanhedrin or more precisely the Pharisees. It would be the Pharisees who would eventually define Rabbinic Judaism as it came to be articulated in the Talmud. In addition, modern non-Messianic Jewish groups generally do not accept Messianic Jews as true Jews.
In the Talmud the Samaritans are referred to frequently with the slur "Cuthean," an allusion to the Cutheans (Heb. Kutim) were among those brought by the Assyrians from their native land to Israel to live in Israel (2Kgs 17:24). The narrative of the Samaritan woman and Yeshua in John 4 demonstrates the Jewishness of the Samaritans. The woman and Yeshua shared the same biological ancestry (cf. John 4:5, 12) and much of the same religious values. The Samaritans had a four-fold creed (Lizorkin-Eyzenberg 46):
(1) One God, the God of Israel; they did not worship the gods of the nations.
(2) One prophet, Moses; only he was their spiritual guide, not the priests and leaders in Jerusalem.
(3) One book, the Torah; like the Sadducees the Samaritans recognized only the five books of Moses as Scripture. They shared the values and practices of mainstream Judaism of the day and reverenced holy traditions set forth in the Torah.
(4) One place for worship, Mt. Gerizim. The Samaritan Jews venerated Mount Gerizim (first mentioned in Deut 11:29 and then Deut 27:11-14) as the holiest of mountains because they believed that in the days of Uzzi the high priest (1Chr 6:6); the ark and other sacred vessels were hidden there by God's command (Ant. XVIII, 4:1). In the Samaritan Pentateuch an altar was commanded to be set up on Mount Gerizim, but the MT has the altar being set up on Mount Ebal (cf. the two texts at Deut 27:4-6). Like the Essenes who are not mentioned in the Besekh, the Samaritans did not participate in Temple ceremonies in Jerusalem.
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). The use of "Samaritan" by apostolic writers (Luke 9:52; 17:16; John 4:39, 40; Acts 8:25) and Yeshua (Matt 10:5; Luke 10:33) instead of "Cuthean" demonstrates their respect for the people as well as the belief that they were descendants of the northern tribes. For more discussion on this subject see my web article Who Were the Samaritans?
Greek texts place the definite article "the" before "city" in brackets, even though the external MS evidence for its presence is quite strong. Metzger points out that since Samaria here refers to the region, then the phrase eis tēn polin tēs Samareias means "to the [main] city of Samaria" (311), which TLV adopts as its translation. The reason for the uncertainty over the definite article is because of the assumption that Luke failed to identify the actual city. In addition, the Textus Receptus (the basis for the KJV) lacks the definite article. A few versions have "a city" (CJB, CSB, MSG, NIV, RSV), but most versions have "the city" (ESV, GW, KJV, MW, NASB, NCV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, OJB).
6 And the crowds were paying attention with one accord to the things being spoken by Philip, during hearing them and seeing the signs that he was doing.
And: Grk. de, conj. the crowds: pl. of 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 and whom the ruling classes and religious elite despised as ignorant masses accursed for not knowing and keeping Torah (John 7:49) (DNTT 2:800f). were paying attention: Grk. prosechō, impf., be on the alert, which may be used of (1) putting up one's guard; beware, take heed; or (2) of giving attention to personal obligation; take care, pay attention to. The second usage applies here. The verb indicates a readiness for the message that likely had its roots in the visit of Yeshua and his ministry in Sychar (John 4:39-42).
with one accord: 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).'" to the things: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun. being spoken: Grk. legō, pres. mid. 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, order, say, speak, tell, told, refer to, talk about. In the LXX legō translates Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, show, command or think.
by: Grk. hupo, prep. with the root meaning of "under," and used here as a marker of agency or cause. Philip: See the previous verse. during: Grk. en, prep, lit. "in," but used here with the notion of time. hearing: Grk. akouō, pres. inf., 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 dominates 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). them: 3p-pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun, referring to "the things spoken."
and: Grk. kai, conj. 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) to have inward or mental sight. The second meaning has application here. the signs: pl. of Grk. sēmeion usually refers to an extraordinary phenomenon, a portent or a miracle (Mounce). In the LXX sēmeion is predominately a translation of the Heb. word oth (SH-226), "sign, pledge, token, standard or miracle" (DNTT 2:626). Most of the usages of "sign" in the Tanakh are related to miraculous wonders that only the Creator could perform, especially the many miracles for Israel's benefit.
that: 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. he was doing: Grk. poieō, impf. See verse 2 above. The performance of signs, typically miraculous, by messengers of Yeshua served to confirm, corroborate or authenticate the message of the Messiah. Luke's narrative then describes the particular kind of signs performed by Philip.
7 For many of those having unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, were coming out of them, moreover many having been paralyzed and lame were healed.
For: Grk. gar, conj., a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that; for." The conjunction has four uses: (1) explanatory, (2) expressive of astonishment, (3) causal and, (4) inferential. The first use is intended here. many: pl. of Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, here indicating a high number. of those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun. having: Grk. echō, pres. part., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application: e.g., (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 (BAG). The third meaning applies here. unclean: Grk. akathartos, adj., unclean or impure, used generally in a religious sense of isolating one from contact with deity.
spirits: pl. of Grk. pneuma, wind, breath or spirit, used generally for the human spirit and transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14). Here pneuma is used in reference to a demonic spirit being. The terms "demon" and "unclean spirit" are essentially synonymous in Scripture (Luke 9:42). The reference to an unclean spirit first occurs in Zech 13:2 and then 22 times in the Besekh. The term "unclean" does not pertain to physical hygiene, but rather alludes to the Torah standard of clean and unclean. A spirit or demon would be considered unclean because of being part of the Satanic organization opposed to God. Uncleanness is a state that makes one unfit to enter the presence of God. An unclean spirit contrasts with Holy Spirit in a number of ways. For every characteristic of the Holy Spirit an unclean spirit is the radical opposite.
crying: Grk. boaō, pres. part., use one's voice at high volume; call, cry out, shout. with a loud: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 1 above. The adjective is used to describe intensity or volume. voice: Grk. phōnē can mean (1) an auditory impression, sound, noise defined in the context; (2) the faculty of producing speech, voice; or (3) a system of communication, language (1Cor 14:10; 2Pet 2:16). The first meaning applies here. The word often is used in the Besekh of articulated sound from a human mouth. In the LXX phōnē generally translates Heb. qôl (sound, voice, BDB 876), the first usage of which is God's voice (Gen 3:8), and second the human voice (Gen 3:17), and these usages occur frequently in the Tanakh with various kinds of expression (DNTT 3:113).
were coming out of them: Grk. exerchomai, impf., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out. The verb is appropriate for departing a person. In the narratives of Yeshua's ministry unclean spirits came out upon his command to leave (Mark 1:25; 5:8; 9:25). Scripture offers no explanation of how people came to be afflicted by unclean spirits, but such omission is common to all the stories of demon possession. In these stories the individual is never blamed for being afflicted with a demon. They were victims, not offenders. There is NO evidence that the demonic oppression resulted from personal misconduct.
The many mentions of demons and demon-possessed people in the apostolic narratives indicate a Satanic invasion coincidental with the revelation of the Messiah. The demonic activity was unprecedented in Israelite history, and the evidence indicates that the victims were random targets. Many scholars attribute the accounts of demons to ancient superstition and it is true that ancient people attributed some misfortune and suffering to unseen spirits. After all, they had the story of Job and a few other accounts in the Tanakh of adversarial spirit activity (Judg 9:23; 1Sam 16:14-16, 23; 18:10; 19:9; 1Kgs 22:21-24). However, the apostles clearly present all the stories of demon-afflicted people as true life accounts. Yeshua and his messengers did not cast out superstitions, but actual demons.
moreover: Grk. de, conj. many: pl. of Grk. polus. having been paralyzed: Grk. paraluō, perf. pass. part., cause to be in a weakened condition; weakened, paralyzed. and: Grk. kai, conj. lame: Grk. chōlos, adj., crippled in the feet, limping, halting, lame (Mounce). The adjective covers a variety of structural problems that could limit or prevent mobility. This is the same term used of the man healed at the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:2). It's very possible that these physical afflictions were caused by demonic attack. were healed: Grk. therapeuō, aor. pass. may mean (1) to offer helpful service, help out, serve; or (2) the specific service of restoring a person to health. The second meaning applies here. Like Stephen before him Philip had a powerful impact on the bodies and souls of people in the city where he ministered.
8 And much joy took place in that city.
And: Grk. de, conj. much: Grk. polus. See the previous verse. joy: Grk. chara, joy as an emotional response that may be experienced in a variety of circumstances or of sharing in a celebration. took place: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 1 above. in: Grk. en, prep. that: Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun. city: Grk. polis. See verse 5 above. The description of this verse may be an understatement, as the scope of miracles performed by Philip would have had a transformative effect on the community. The sheer number of miracles was a strong testimony of God's love for a people considered by Judean Pharisees to be devoid of spiritual value.
9 Now a certain man named Simon was previously practicing sorcery in the city and amazing the people of Samaria, declaring himself to be someone great.
Now: Grk. de, conj. a certain: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun; a certain one, someone, anyone, anything. man: Grk. anēr. See verse 2 above. 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. Simon: Grk. Simōn, a transliteration of the Heb. Shimôn ("Shee-mown"), meaning "he has heard." There are nine men in the Besekh with the name "Simōn," so Luke adds a descriptive reference to distinguish this Simon from the others. This name does not occur in the LXX at all. In the Tanakh the Heb. name Shimôn appears for the first time as the second son of Jacob and Leah (Gen 29:33) and then the tribe descended from him (Num 1:22-23). His name is translated in the LXX as Sumeōn and in English "Simeon."
was previously: Grk. prouparchō, impf., exist earlier in a state or condition; be before, have been already, have been previously. practicing sorcery: Grk. mageuō, pres. part., to practice sorcery or the magical arts (Mounce). The verb is not known in previous Jewish literature and occurs only here in the Besekh. LSJ says that in Greek culture the verb also meant "to bewitch." Most versions translate the verb as "practice magic," but the use of "magic" could be misleading to modern readers. Simon did not put on a magic show like a Vegas act. The verb here really describes occultic practice with the aid of demons. Some versions do have "practice sorcery" (ASV, CSB, CEB, KJV, NIV, NKJV). Luke does not explain the nature of the sorcery practiced by Simon, for good reason. See verse 11 below.
According to Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.), the birthplace of Simon was in Gitta (Apology I, 26), about 30 miles northwest of Sychar. In his practice of sorcery Simon became well known throughout the territory of Samaria. In church tradition he is known as Simon Magus (Church History, Book II, 1:10-12). The title "Magus," the Latin form of Grk. magos, originally referred to a Median tribe and more particularly to one of the priests and wise men in Persia who interpreted dreams. However, the term magos commonly carried a negative connotation in Greek literature as an enchanter or wizard, especially an impostor or charlatan (LSJ). Giving Simon the title "Magus" was an unfortunate choice since the wise men who sought the baby Yeshua were also called magos (Matt 2:1), and they were certainly not sorcerers.
in: Grk. en, prep. the city: Grk. polis. See verse 5 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. amazing: Grk. existēmi, pres. part., 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 people: Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group as defined by language and culture. Being singular the noun has a corporate application. In the LXX ethnos generally translates Heb. goy (SH-1471; pl. goyim), "nation, people" (DNTT 2:790). The term ethnos is first used in Genesis 10 to describe the list of seventy nations and is also used for descendants of Isaac and Jacob and the nation of Israel (cf. Gen 12:2; 17:4; 18:18; Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1; 42:1, 6; Jer 5:15; Ezek 4:13; 36:13-14; Mic 4:2-3).
In the Besekh ethnos in the singular may refer generally to any people distinguished by language and culture (Matt 24:7; Acts 10:35; Rev 5:9). The use of ethnos here does not identify the Samaritans as "Gentiles," but merely points to the residents of the area. of Samaria: See verse 1 above. The location is of the region, not the city. declaring: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 6 above. himself: Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun of the third person to denote that the agent and the person acted on are the same. to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 1 above. someone: Grk. tis. great: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 1 above. Scripture provides no other information about Simon than what Luke provides in this chapter.
10 To whom all were paying attention, from small to great, saying, "This one is the power of God that is called Great."
To whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. all: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 1 above. were paying attention: Grk. prosechō, impf. See verse 6 above. from: Grk. apo, prep. used generally as a marker of separation, here with a partitive function to identify the first of two groups; from. the small: Grk. mikros, adj., relatively limited in extent, used (1) of persons as a measure of physical height, age and social position relative to importance, influence or power; (2) of things whether in size, number, significance or time; and (3) as a substantive to mean a short time, a little while (BAG). The first usage is intended here. In the LXX mikros (in its neuter form mikron) frequently translates Heb. qatan (SH-6996), small, young, unimportant (first in Gen 19:11) (DNTT 2:428).
to: Grk. heōs, prep., a particle marking a limit, here as a terminal marker; as far as, to. the great: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 1 above. The phrase "the small and the great" is a Hebrew idiomatic expression for the "young and old" (BAG 498). Josephus uses the same expression in describing masters of slaves (Ant. XII, 4:8). The idiomatic phrase also occurs at Acts 26:22; Heb 8:11; Rev 11:18; 13:16, 19:5, 18 and 20:12. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 6 above. The Greek verb "say" functions here as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation.
This one: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this. Since the pronoun has the masculine form many versions have "this man." is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 9 above. the power: Grk. dunamis, generally inherent power or power residing in a thing or person by virtue of its nature. The noun is used here specifically of the power to do wondrous things or perform miracles.
God: Grk. ho theos, properly, God, the Creator and owner of all things (John 1:1-3). The definite article probably signifies "the one called." In the LXX the singular theos translates the plural Heb. Elohim (SH-430), when used of the true God, the God of creation (Gen 1:1). In Hebrew thought the plural form represents fullness (DNTT 2:67), which excludes the possible existence of any other deity (Isa 44:6; 45:5-6; 46:9). Also, theos is not a philosophical construct for monotheism. God is a Person, and in the apostolic narratives He is particularly the God of the patriarchs and Israel (Matt 22:32; Luke 1:68).
that: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. is called: Grk. kaleō, pres. part., to identify by name or give a term to. The verb was omitted in late MSS (upon which the Textus Receptus was based) and thus is not found in a few versions (BRG, KJV, MEV, NKJV). Great: Grk. megas. The adjective is used here as a superlative. Positioned at the end of the Greek sentence it is not immediately clear from the syntax whether the adjective describes houtos ("this man") or theos ("God"). The definite article ho decides the matter since hos ("who") would have been used if the adjective modified "God." Some versions make the interpretation explicit with the translation, "This man is called the great power of God" (e.g., CSB). Stern comments:
"Shim'on may have been just a magician who liked having powers and controlling people. Or he may have been the leader of a heretical Jewish Gnostic sect. Gnostics usually postulated various spiritual entities in a hierarchy leading to God and prescribed ascetic or orgiastic practices as means for attaining higher spiritual levels in the hierarchy. 'The Great Power' would have been one of the levels in his doctrinal system. He may well have been in touch with the supernatural; but it would have been with demons, not the power of God. Shim'on’s sin (vv. 18–23) confirms his ungodliness."
Against this view is the fact that Gnostic cults did not come into being until the second century, although Simon was viewed by patristic writers as the father of Gnosticism (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.23). Simon's followers had to have been deceived by Satan to believe that Simon's sorcery made him an agent of the God of Israel. The Greek phrase "hē dunamis tou theou" could be rendered "the power of a god," i.e., Satan, the god of this world (2Cor 4:4; 1Jn 5:19). The description likely alludes to veneration of Simon comparable to idolatry.
11 And they were paying attention to him on account of a considerable time he had amazed them with sorcery.
And: Grk. de, conj. they were paying attention: Grk. prosechō, impf. See verse 6 above. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. on account of: 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 second usage applies here. a considerable: Grk. hikanos, adj., of a quality or extent that is quite enough; rather large, considerable number. 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 often yôm, "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 referenced time period could have been many weeks or months.
he had amazed: Grk. existēmi, perf. inf. See verse 9 above. them: pl. of Grk. autos. with sorcery: Grk. mageia, magic arts, sorcery. The noun does not occur in the LXX or earlier Jewish literature and occurs only here in the Besekh. A parallel term in the Besekh is pharmakeia, which is drug-related sorcery (Gal 5:20; Rev 18:23). Josephus uses mageia in reference to the sorcery of the priests of Pharaoh who turned their rods into serpents (Ant. II, 13:3; Ex 7:12). In that passage the terms "sorcerers" (Heb. kashaph; LXX pharmakos) and "magicians" (Heb. chartom; LXX epaoidos) are used to describe the Egyptian priests. Kurt Koch defines magic as follows:
"Magic is the much disputed art of or at least attempt at knowing and ruling the spirit, human, animal and plant worlds, together with the world of dead matter, through extrasensory means with the aid of the mystical and accompanying ceremonies." (Between Christ and Satan 58).
Magic is thus the pursuit of knowledge and power through supernatural means. The roots of magic may be found in the temptation of the Serpent that the first couple could "be like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen 3:5). Scripture condemns all forms of occultic practice, such as clairvoyance, divination, fortune-telling, soothsaying, spiritism and witchcraft (Ex 20:4-5; Lev 19:26; Deut 7:26; 13; 18:10-14; Jer 27:9; Mic 5:12; 1Cor 10:1-22; 2Cor 6:14-18; Gal 5:20). Magic or sorcery can take many forms: the criminal use of hypnosis and suggestion, mesmerism, black magic, and white magic. The forms of magic can be employed to heal, foster love or hate, defend against an adversary, take revenge against an adversary or persecute someone of a different viewpoint. Koch provides many true-life examples in his book.
Now: Grk. de, conj. when: Grk. hote, temporal adv., at which time. they believed: Grk. pisteuō, aor. (derived from pistis, trust, faithfulness), to have confidence in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. In the Besekh the verb often has the sense of a personal trust in God's power and His nearness to help. In the LXX pisteuō translates Heb. aman (SH-539), to be reliable, to stand firm, trust, believe, be faithful, first used in Genesis 15:6 where it describes Abraham's response to God. Philip: See verse 5 above. "Believing Philip" does not minimize the trust of people for God's forgiveness, but simply affirms their acceptance of the message.
proclaiming the good news: Grk. euangelizō, pres. mid. part. See verse 4 above. about: Grk. peri, prep with an orientational aspect relating to being near or having to do with something; in behalf of, about, concerning. the kingdom: Grk. basileia is used to mean (1) an 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 the time.
In the LXX basileia translates Hebrew noun derivatives of the verb malak (SH-4427, become a king; reign), some 400 times (DNTT 2:373). The Hebrew words are used primarily for the reign of earthly rulers and only secondarily of God's kingship. of God: Grk. theos. See verse 10 above. In the Tanakh the concept of God's kingly rule is presented in connection with the Israelite monarchy, particularly in relation to the promise made to David (2Sam 7:12-14). 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). 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; 93:1; 99:2; 103:19; 145:10-13; Isa 52:7; Dan 2:44; 4:3; 7:27; Micah 4:7; and Zech 14:9).
The angel Gabriel announced to Miriam that the promise made to David would be fulfilled in her son (Luke 1:30-33). Yochanan the Immerser then prepared the way for the Kingdom of God (cf. Matt 11:12; Luke 16:16). When Yeshua began his ministry he made the public announcement, "the kingdom of heaven has drawn near" (Matt 4:17 BR). When Yeshua commissioned his apostles for their first mission experience he instructed them to make the same announcement (Matt 10:7). The kingdom was manifest in the person of Yeshua, who is the king of Israel (John 1:49). The Kingdom of God functions in the present age by God's reign in human hearts (Luke 17:21). Yet, Yeshua also spoke of the kingdom in an eschatological sense in his Olivet Discourse (Matt 24:14; 25:1; Luke 21:31) and during the last supper (Mark 14:25).
and: Grk. kai, conj. the name: Grk. onoma. See verse 9 above. The mention of "name" does not allude to a ritual formula, such as developed later for Christian baptism, but a declaration of the authority behind the mission of Philip and the response expected to his message. of Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua, "Jesus" in Christian Bibles. The English spelling of "Jesus" was introduced by the Mace New Testament in 1729. 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, "you shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matt 1:21 TLV). For more information on the meaning of his name and his titles, see my article Who is Yeshua?
the Messiah: Grk. Christos. See verse 5 above. they were immersing: Grk. baptizō, impf. mid., 3p-pl., means to dip, soak, or immerse into a liquid. In the LXX baptizō translates Heb. taval (SH-2881), to dip, immerse, but only in 2Kings 5:14 (re: Naaman). Baptizō also occurs in Sirach 34:25; and Judith 12:7. These three passages report incidents of self-immersion in water (DNTT 1:144). Christian versions translate the verb as "baptized" whereas Messianic Jewish versions have "immersed." Yeshua expected that those choosing to be identified with him would be immersed (Matt 28:19; Mark 16:16; John 4:1-2). The middle voice the verb, which depicts the subject performing the action so as to participate in its results (DM 157), accurately depicts Jewish custom. See my Additional Note on Immersion.
both: Grk. te, conj. men: pl. of Grk. anēr. See verse 2 above. and: Grk. kai. women: pl. of Grk. gunē. See verse 3 above. The mention of "men" and "women" may denote a change from the practice of Yochanan, since there is no mention of women immersing under his ministry. However, women are regarded as joint heirs of the kingdom (Acts 2:18; 5:14; 17:4, 12; Php 4:3; 1Pet 3:7), and thus participate equally in the rites and ministries of the body of Messiah.
13 And Simon himself also believed, and having been immersed he was following Philip. Also seeing signs and great miracles happening, he was amazed.
And: Grk. de, conj. Simon: See verse 9 above. himself: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. also: Grk. kai, conj. believed: Grk. pisteuō, aor. See the previous verse. Luke probably intends the same construction as the previous verse "believed Philip." Bruce comments that Simon was impressed by the actions and words of Philip and "like the magicians of ancient Egypt he recognized that the messenger of the true God had access to a source of power that outstripped his own." Eusebius says that Simon "feigned and counterfeited faith" in the Messiah (Church History, Book II, 1:11). Some modern interpreters accept "believed" as reflecting genuine salvation, yet lacking complete spiritual transformation, such as the "carnal" believers in Corinth (1Cor 3:1-3). But, the narrative offers no evidence of genuine repentance.
Simon is not unlike Judas Iscariot who "believed," followed Yeshua with a hidden agenda, manifested greed by embezzling the treasury of the disciples, at last surrendered himself to the will of Satan and then betrayed his master. and: Grk. kai. having been immersed: Grk. baptizō, aor. pass. part. See the previous verse. he was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. following: Grk. proskartereō, pres. part., attend to with continuing resoluteness, used of carrying out religious obligation, persist in, tend to, persevere, be devoted. Thayer has "to give constant attention, to adhere to one, be an adherent; to be devoted or constant to one." Philip: See verse 5 above. The devotion of Simon may have been based on viewing Philip as possessing superior powers that could be learned.
Also: Grk. te, conj. seeing: Grk. theōreō, impf., may mean (1) pay attention to; look at, observe, watch, behold; (2) conclude on the basis of personal experience; consider, infer, see; or (3) have awareness in depth; perceive, experience. The first meaning has primary application here. signs: pl. of Grk. sēmeion. See verse 6 above. and: Grk. kai. great: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 1 above. miracles: pl. of Grk. dunamis. See verse 10 above. happening: Grk. ginomai, pres. part. See verse 1 above. he was amazed: Grk. existēmi, impf. mid. See verse 9 above. Simon had amazed people with his sorcery, and now it was his turn to be amazed by Philip's demonstration of power. Unfortunately, Simon viewed these signs through the lens of his experience and not with true understanding of their spiritual significance.
Peter and John in Samaria, 8:14-17
14 Now the apostles in Jerusalem having heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John,
Now: Grk. de, conj. the apostles: pl. of Grk. apostolos. See verse 1 above. in: Grk. en, prep. Jerusalem: Grk. Hierosoluma. See verse 1 above. having heard: Grk. akouō, aor. part. See verse 6 above. 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. Samaria: See verse 1 above. had received: Grk. dechomai, perf. pass., to receive, frequently with the connotation of enthusiastic acceptance. the word: Grk. logos. See verse 4 above. of God: Grk. theos. See verse 10 above. The phrase "word of God" alludes to the message proclaimed by Philip (verse 5 above).
they sent: Grk. apostellō, aor., to cause to move from one position to another, but often to send as an authoritative personal representative; send, send away/out/off. In the LXX apostellō translated Heb. shalach ("to stretch out or to send"), often in contexts of commissioning and empowering a messenger (DNTT 1:128). to them: 3p-pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. 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), which was given to him by Yeshua (John 1:42).
Petros does not occur at all in the LXX or earlier Jewish literature, which suggests that Peter is the first Jewish man to bear the name. Peter was married (Mark 1:30; 1Cor 9:5) and had a home in Capernaum (Mark 1:21, 29). Before becoming a disciple of Yeshua he engaged in a business of fishing from the Sea of Galilee with his brother Andrew (Luke 5:2-3; John 21:3), including working in partnership with the sons of Zebedee (Luke 5:10). Peter 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.
and: Grk. kai, conj. John: Grk. Iōannēs attempts to transliterate the Heb. Yōchanan and means "the Lord is gracious." John's father was Zebedee (Matt 4:21) and he and had a brother Jacob (aka "James"). 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). He may have been younger since he is almost always mentioned second after Jacob, but this is not certain. It is generally thought that Salome was John's mother (cf. Matt 27:56; Mark 15:40). In addition, Salome may have been the sister of Yeshua's mother mentioned in John 19:25, and in that case John would have been a blood cousin of Yeshua.
Bible scholars agree that 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, Miriam. John was a passionate evangelist to Jews and Gentiles alike, one whom Yeshua knew would outlive the other apostles (John 21:20-23). The fact that John is listed second after Peter several times in Acts (1:13; 3:1, 3; 4:13, 19) indicates his prominence among the apostles. For more on the background of John see my article Witnesses of the Good News.
Peter and John were mission-minded and thus gave leadership to spreading the good news among Samaritan Jews (Acts 8:14-25). The earlier ban on the apostles entering any city of the Samaritans (Matt 10:5) was effectively ended. Bruce comments that John's participation with Peter contrasts with the time he once suggested that Yeshua should call down fire from heaven on a Samaritan community for its inhospitable behavior toward them (Luke 9:52-54). Gilbert notes that in the ministry of Philip and the apostles, Yeshua's last instructions concerning Samaria (Acts 1:8) were fulfilled.
15 who having come down prayed concerning them in order that they might receive the Holy Spirit,
who: Grk. hostis, relative pronoun used as a generalizing reference to the subject of a verb, 'anyone,' or 'whoever.' having come down: Grk. katabainō, aor. part., to proceed in a direction that is down; go down, come down, descend. The verb illustrates the descent from the higher elevation of Jerusalem to surrounding locales. prayed: Grk. proseuchomai, aor. mid., 3p-pl., to petition deity for some personal desire. The verb is plural, which implies the united and intensive prayer of Peter and John. In the LXX proseuchomai translates Heb. palal (SH-6419), to intervene, mediate, intercede or pray; used first in Genesis 20:7 of Abraham interceding for Abimelech. The verb refers to involving oneself in the lives of others by petitioning God for His help with respect to an urgent need. Luke then explains the focus of the apostolic prayer.
concerning: Grk. peri, prep. See verse 12 above. Most versions translate the preposition as "for," which may be misleading. Peter and John prayed privately. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Some versions insert "the Samaritans" or "Samaritan believers" to explain the plural pronoun. in order that: Grk. hopōs, conj. used to indicate purpose, objective or an end in view; in order that, so that. they might receive: Grk. lambanō, aor. subj., 3p-pl. 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. The verb expresses the apostolic desire for experiencing maximum spiritual blessing and empowerment.
the: the Greek text lacks the definite article, but is assumed for translation purposes. Holy: Grk. hagios, adj., set apart for dedication to the interests or expectations of deity. The term is used of sacred things, places, people, angels and God. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadôsh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy. Qadosh is first used of God in Leviticus 11:44. Spirit: Grk. pneuma (for Heb. ruach), 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 Hebrew forms never appear with the definite article.
16 for he was not yet fallen upon any of them, but only they were being immersed into the name of the Lord Yeshua.
for: Grk. gar, conj. he was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. The subject of the verb is the Holy Spirit not yet: Grk. oudepō, neg. adv. excluding any action up to the narrative moment; not yet. SECB adds "never before." fallen upon: Grk. epipiptō (derived from epi, "upon," and piptō, "fall or cast"), perf. part., come upon with sudden movement; fall upon. Metaphorically the verb means to seize or to take possession of (Thayer). In the LXX epipiptō occurs first in Genesis 14:15 to translate a Hebrew construction that depicts Abraham and his company falling upon the enemy armies that had attacked Sodom where Lot lived.
The verb epipiptō is also used to translate Heb. naphal (SH-5307), to fall or lie, which depicts being overwhelmed, first of Abraham being overwhelmed by a deep sleep just prior to receiving a visionary revelation (Gen 15:12). The Hebrew verb is used to describe the Spirit falling upon Ezekiel (Ezek 11:5) and there it is translated in the LXX with piptō epi. The verb epipiptō is used elsewhere in Acts of the extraordinary visitation of the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:44; 11:15). The verb "fallen upon" could be comparable to verbs used previously to describe an extraordinary experience with the Holy Spirit: "come upon" (Luke 1:35; Acts 1:8), "immerse" (Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5), "filled" (Luke 1:41, 67; Acts 2:4; 4:8) and "receive" (John 7:39; 20:22; Acts 2:38).
any: Grk. oudeis, adj., a marker used to indicate negation of a person or thing as actually existing at a given place or moment; lit. not one, no one, nobody. The adjective rules out by definition, i.e. "shuts the door" objectively and leaves no exceptions (HELPS). of them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun, i.e., the Samaritans. Luke's explanation is not meant to imply that the Spirit had not been active in bringing about spiritual life in Samaritan believers. It is the work of the Spirit to convince of truth, to convict of sin, to foster trust in God's faithfulness and to regenerate spiritual death into life (cf. John 6:63; 14:26; 16:8, 13; 1Cor 6:11; Heb 3:7).
Marshall notes that the story presupposes that it can be known whether or not a person has received the Spirit (167). He also suggests that the delay of the Spirit "falling upon" the Samaritans until the arrival of Peter and John was so that the Samaritans might be fully incorporated into the community of Jerusalem disciples. I would add that the delay was also for the Samaritan disciples to recognize the authority of the apostles over them. The delay of the Spirit's falling on Samaritans is similar to the experience of the apostles. Yeshua in his upper room discourse had said the Spirit had been "abiding with" his disciples, but he promised that soon the Spirit would become "resident in" them (John 14:17; cf. 1Cor 3:16; 6:19).
Three facts may be noted about those who received the Spirit. First, as stated in Yeshua's promise the purpose of the Holy Spirit "coming upon" someone was to empower the recipient to be a bold witness for the Messiah (Acts 1:8; 2:4; 4:31; 6:10). Second, sinful desires were eliminated by the Spirit's cleansing and personal desires were subordinated to the desire of the Spirit to live fully according to the will of God (Acts 15:8-9; cf. Jer 31:31-33; 32:37-40; Ezek 11:17-21; Rom 8:4; 1Pet 4:6). Third, by becoming resident the Spirit effectively took control of the person in order to provide guidance for ministry (cf. Acts 8:29; 11:12; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6-7; 19:21; Rom 8:14; Gal 5:18).
but: Grk. de, conj. only: Grk. monon, adv. marking a narrow limitation; merely, just, only. they were being: Grk. huparchō, impf, to function or be in a state as determined by circumstance, here of condition; be. immersed: Grk. baptizō, perf. mid. part. See verse 12 above. The middle voice points to self-immersion. into: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." See verse 3 above. Only four versions have "into" (ASV, AMPC, CJB, and NTE). the name: Grk. onoma. See verse 9 above. 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 in the overwhelming majority of instances (over 6,000 times), it translates the sacred name YHVH. 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 and intended in the sense of Heb. adôn, because Yeshua is the owner-master of his disciples.
Yeshua: See verse 12 above. Immersing "into the name" does not connote a ritual formula as the translation "in the name" implies. By immersion those who had repented entered into a personal relationship with the Messiah and became citizens of Messiah's Kingdom. Water immersion "into the name" is also the outward sign of receiving the salvation that is only provided by Yeshua (cf. Acts 4:12). Salvation by "the name" is qualified by three factors:
(1) There is no genetic guarantee of salvation (John 1:12-13; Rom 9:6), but the salvation through Yeshua is available to everyone (Rom 10:9–13).
(2) Yeshua and the apostles set no precondition for salvation except turning from sin to the one true God. In particular it does not require Gentiles to stop being Gentiles or Jews to stop being Jews.
(3) Salvation through Yeshua is God's one true path and it exists for the good of mankind. Opponents should be thankful that God provided a simple solution to the sin problem.
Once a person has been immersed into Yeshua God wants the person who has chosen to be identified with the Messiah to be immersed in the Spirit (Acts 1:5). Yochanan the Immerser had prophesied that just as he had called for immersion in water to demonstrate repentance, so the Messiah would immerse penitents in the Holy Spirit (Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16). Substituting "Spirit" for "water" evokes a powerful image of what it means to be immersed in the Spirit. Paul will later develop the idea in Romans 6:3-4 of water immersion representing the death and burial of Yeshua. In a literal sense such immersion would be equivalent to drowning. Immersion in the Spirit means death to self. In this verse "immersed" is used synonymously with "fallen upon," so the "not yet" means that the Spirit had yet to take full control of the Samaritan's lives.
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 were laying: Grk. epitithēmi, impf., 3p-pl., to put, place or lay upon. The imperfect tense denotes continuous action in past time. A few versions have "began laying" to emphasize the beginning point of the action (EXB, ICB, NASB, NCV, TLV). their hands: pl. of Grk. cheir, the anatomical limb of the hand. The verbal phrase is used first in the apostolic narratives of Yeshua employing physical touch to heal (Matt 9:18) and to convey blessing (Matt 19:18). upon: Grk. epi, prep. The preposition emphasizes close physical contact. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The pronoun is masculine, implying that men were the recipients of the action.
The idiomatic expression of "laying on of hands" (from Heb. s'mikhah, "leaning" or "laying"), meaning to consecrate, dedicate or ordain to an office, has a strong history in Scripture and Jewish culture. The practice began at Sinai. Just as animals were dedicated for sacrifice by hand-laying (Ex 29:10; Lev 4:15), so the appointment to an office in the same manner effectively made the candidate a "living sacrifice." Israelites dedicated Levites for service (Num 8:10) and Moses transferred his authority to Joshua by this method (Num 27:18-23; Deut 34:9). This ritual may have been followed for ordaining the seventy elders to their office by Moses (Num 11:16–17, 24–25).
In Jewish culture the ordination ceremony for a judge, elder or rabbi was accomplished by laying on of hands. This symbolic act confers or transfers an office, along with its duties and privileges, by dramatizing God's bestowal of the blessings and spiritual gifts needed for the work. A rabbinic candidate was ordained by a board of three elders, at least one of whom had also received s'mikhah (Stern 64). In the Besekh the first mention of appointment to an office by laying on of hands is found in Acts 6:6 in which seven men were appointed as deacons to administer the charitable ministry for widows. We may assume that the appointment of Mattathias to apostolic office (Acts 1:26) was accomplished in the same manner, just as the Twelve and the Seventy had previously been appointed by Yeshua (Mark 3:14; Luke 10:1).
and: Grk. kai, conj. they were receiving: Grk. lambanō, impf., 3p-pl. See verse 15 above. the Holy Spirit: See verse 15 above. In church tradition the receipt of the Holy Spirit by Samaritan disciples was dubbed the "Samaritan Pentecost" and the sixth Sunday after Easter on the church calendar commemorates the event. Bruce comments, "the context leaves us in no doubt that their reception of the Spirit was attended by external manifestations such as had marked his descent on the earliest disciples at Pentecost." However, there is plenty of room for doubt, since Luke makes no mention of external manifestations as he does in later texts of persons receiving the fullness of the Spirit (Acts 10:44-46; 19:1-6).
The important manifestations of the Spirit at Pentecost were not the extraordinary signs of fire, wind and languages, but empowerment for witnessing (Acts 1:8) and heart cleansing (Acts 15:8-9). The combination of signs at Pentecost emphasized its singular and non-repeatable occurrence. The work of the Spirit here in conjunction with the laying of hands is obviously a reference to equipping with spiritual gifts for the ministry. Relevant to the text here is that Paul makes reference to Timothy receiving spiritual gifts for ministry through laying on of hands (1Tim 4:14; 2Tim 1:6). Also, there is no evidence that women were included in the hand-laying ritual and the context is clear that Simon of Samaria was not included among the men so ordained.
Apostolic Confrontation and Warning, 8:18-25
18 Now Simon, having seen that the Spirit was being given through the laying on of the hands of the apostles, he brought money to them,
Now: Grk. de, conj. Simon: See verse 9 above. having seen: Grk. horaō, aor. part., to perceive physically with the eye, or in a fig. sense to experience something or to have extraordinary mental or inward perception. The verb denotes a personal experience. that: Grk. hoti, conj. the Spirit: See verse 15 above. was being given: Grk. didōmi, pres. pass., generally to give something to someone, often with the focus on generosity, but may be used to mean bestow, hand over, impart, entrust, yield, put, or sacrifice (BAG). In the LXX didōmi generally translates Heb. natan (SH-5414, first in Gen 1:29), to give, put or set, with the same range of meaning (DNTT 2:41). through: Grk. dia, prep. the laying on: Grk. epithesis, placing or laying on, often of a ceremonial rite.
of the hands: pl. of Grk. cheir. See verse 17 above. of the apostles: pl. of Grk. apostolos. See verse 1 above. The plural noun refers to Peter and John. he brought: Grk. prospherō, aor., to cause movement of something or someone to a person or place, to bring or to present. money: pl. of Grk. chrēma, that which is a resource for well-being, here referring to money. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun; the apostles Peter and John. Simon obviously viewed the apostolic power as a commodity to be sold, and considering the value he placed on such power he probably brought a substantial amount of money.
19 saying, "Give also to me this power, so that on whom if I should lay my hands, he might receive the Holy Spirit."
saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 6 above. Give: Grk. didōmi, aor. imp. See the previous verse. The imperative mood is used here to indicate an entreaty. also to me: Grk. kagō, conj. formed from combining kai ("and") and egō ("I"), and serves to link in parallel a personal affirmation by way of addition to or confirmation of a preceding statement. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. power: Grk. exousia may mean (1) the right to speak or act in a situation without looking or waiting for approval; authority, right, jurisdiction; (2) the ability to do something; capability, might, or power; (3) absolute power and authority, such as given by commission of higher authority; or (4) the power exercised by rulers or others in high position by virtue of their office (BAG). The second meaning is intended here.
In the LXX exousia translates only Heb. mimshal (SH-4474), dominion, ruler, (2Kgs 20:13; Isa 39:2; Dan 11:3, 5) (DNTT 2:607). However, the term occurs frequently in Greek books of the Apocrypha with all four meanings (BAG 277f). so that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed; in order that, so that, that. on whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. if: Grk. ean, conj. that serves as a conditional particle and produces an aspect of tentativeness by introducing a possible circumstance that determines the realization of some other circumstance. Bible versions leave the conjunction untranslated, but it is important in establishing the conditional nature of the proposition.
I should lay: Grk. epitithēmi, aor. subj. See verse 17 above. my hands: pl. of Grk. cheir, lit. "the hands." See verse 17 above. he might receive: Grk. lambanō, pres. subj. See verse 15 above. the Holy Spirit: See verse 15 above. Simon's request clearly treats Peter as if he were a greater sorcerer and the conveyance of spiritual gifts an occultic art. Since Simon had not received the Holy Spirit, he would not have had any conception of the Holy Spirit as a personality of the almighty God.
20 But Peter said to him, "May your silver be with you to Destruction, because you thought to acquire the gift of God through money!
But: Grk. de, conj. Peter: See verse 14 above. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 6 above. to: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing" and conveys motion toward (DM 110); to, toward. Here the preposition denotes speaking face to face. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. May your: Grk. su, sing. pronoun of the second person. silver: Grk. argurion (from arguros, silver as a metal) may mean (1) the precious metal silver and fig. of wealth; (2) silver as a medium of exchange, money in general; or (3) specifically a silver coin. The second meaning applies here. be: Grk. eimi, pres. opt. See verse 1 above. The optative mood denotes what is conceivable and therefore is used to indicate a wish. with: Grk. sún, prep. used to denote association or close identification. you: Grk. su. into: Grk. eis, prep. See verse 3 above.
Destruction: Grk. apōleia (from apollumi, "cut off entirely, destroy"), destruction, ruin, loss. The noun is primarily used in the Besekh of causing someone to be completely severed, cut off entirely from what could or should have been (HELPS). The noun frequently stresses the eternal aspect of loss. Some versions inaccurately translate the noun as a verb with "perish" (ESV, KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, OJB, TLB) or "destroyed" (AMP, CSB, GW, NCV, NIRV, NOG, WE). Peter could be treating the noun as a condition, a destination or, as I have translated, a personification. In LXX apōleia translates several different Hebrew words that signify loss or destruction, the first being Heb. abedah (SH-9), "a lost thing" (Ex 22:9; Lev 6:3; Deut 22:3).
In Deuteronomy apōleia is sometimes appears with the verb apollumi in translating the double use of abad (SH-6), to perish, thus "perish utterly." The graphic word picture is used to describe the consequence of removal from the land for disobeying covenantal expectations (Deut 4:26; 8:19; 30:18). The noun often involves loss of life. In most of the writings of the Tanakh apōleia is understood in the sense of earthly calamity or death. However, some texts use apōleia to translate the noun abaddôn (SH-11), "destruction," in which the noun functions as a personification in connection with the concepts of Hades and eternal death (Job 26:6; 28:22; Prov 15:11; 27:20).
Peter's use of apōleia may imply a personality. The personification of abaddôn in Job and Proverbs is later explained to John on Patmos when he witnesses the fifth trumpet plague of pit locusts (Rev 9:1-12), "They have a king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he has the name Apollyon" (Rev 9:11 BR). The place of fiery punishment was prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41; 2Pet 2:4). In that place the imprisoned demonic spirits are under the command of one mighty angel, Abaddon-Apollyon, lit., "the destroying one." The personality of the destroyer is first mentioned in Exodus 12:23 as the agent of ADONAI that brought death to the firstborn of Egypt. Simon's corrupt heart made him a "son of destruction."
because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 14 above. you thought: Grk. nomizō, aor., 2p-sing., to determine on the basis of ordinary reasoning, to conclude or to suppose. to acquire: Grk. ktaomai, pres. mid. inf., to gain possession of, here of a commercial transaction; acquire, obtain, procure, purchase. the gift: Grk. dōrea, gift or bounty with the focus on liberality. BAG identifies dōrea as a loanword in rabbinic literature. The word occurs frequently in late Jewish literature, but in the canonical books always in the adverbial form dōrean (gift, gratis, without payment) and corresponds in meaning to the Heb. term chinnam (SH-2600), "for nothing without payment, or without recompense," (Gen 29:15; Ex 21:2, 11; Num 11:5, 2Sam 24:24; Jer 22:13) (DNTT 2:41). A "gift" is the opposite of wages, since it cannot be earned.
of God: See verse 10 above. It is no coincidence that the expression "gift of God" is first used by Yeshua in speaking to the woman of Samaria,
"If you knew the gift of God, and who is the one saying to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water. … 14 whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up into eternal life" (John 4:10, 14 BR; cf. Rom 6:23).
Then, on the last day of Sukkot Yeshua declared, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink! The one believing in me, just as the Scripture said, from within him will flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37-38 BR). John clarified what Yeshua meant by saying, "But he said this concerning the Spirit, whom the ones believing in him were about to receive" (John 7:39 BR). So the "gift of God" is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. This is no doubt what Peter meant when he declared in his Pentecost sermon, "Repent and be immersed every one of you on the authority of Yeshua the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38 BR). The gift of the Holy Spirit is not speaking in "tongues," but the Spirit Himself, and experiencing His empowerment, cleansing and guidance for life.
through: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 11 above. The preposition denotes instrumentality. money: Grk. chrēma. See verse 18 above. Peter treated Simon's proposition as a grave insult to the Holy Spirit, perhaps equivalent to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, for which there is no forgiveness (Matt 12:31). Since Simon couldn't actually take his money with him after death, Peter's point is that Simon had condemned himself to Destruction by his wicked proposition and whatever property he had would be lost.
21 "There is no part to you nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.
There is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. no: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. part: Grk. meris, receive as portion, an allotted portion, share or part. This accusation is tantamount of telling Simon that he was acting like an unbeliever. Paul will use this term in his second letter to the Corinthians where he says that it is impossible for a believer to have a part or share with an unbeliever (2Cor 6:14-15). to you: Grk. su, sing. pronoun of the second person. nor: Grk. oude, conj., negative particle that links a negative statement as complementary to a preceding negative; neither, not even, nor. lot: 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.
The term is first used in Acts in describing Judas Iscariot as having a share in apostolic ministry (1:17). The same word is then applied to Mattathias who was selected by the casting of lots to replace Judas (1:26). Telling Simon that he had no "lot" meant that God had not chosen him to have an office of ministry within the congregation of Samaria. in: Grk. en, prep. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. matter: Grk. logos. See verse 4 above. The noun alludes to the "gift of God" in the previous verse. The use of logos might also hint that Peter and John had received a "word" from the Lord concerning on whom to lay their hands and Simon was not included.
Peter's declaration is based on the theological concept that God apportions spiritual gifts to individuals according to their spiritual readiness and the discretion of the Holy Spirit, as Paul will later explain (cf. Rom 12:3-6; 1Cor 12:11). In the matter of spiritual gifts faithfulness works two ways. First, God shows trust and faithfulness by granting these treasures of divine power to his disciples. Second, the disciple is expected to be faithful to use the gift according to God's will and with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, which is what makes a gift "spiritual" (cf. 1Cor 2:4, 14; 12:7).
for: Grk. gar, conj. your: Grk. su. heart: Grk. kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation, used fig. of selfhood or the combination of character, emotion, intelligence and the will. In the LXX kardia translates Heb. lebab (SH-3824), inner man, mind, heart, will (DNTT 2:181). is: Grk. eimi, pres. not: Grk. ou. right: Grk. euthus, adj., straight of direction, as opposed to crooked, and thus has a fig. meaning of being upright in character, which Simon was not. before: Grk. enanti, adv., before, in the presence of, in the sight of. The word occurs only twice in the Besekh, the other in Luke 1:8. God: See verse 10 above. Peter essentially means "God sees you for what you are and you are not worthy of receiving anything from the Holy Spirit."
22 "Therefore, turn back from this wickedness of yours, and ask of the Lord, if possible, the intention of your heart will be forgiven you.
Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. turn back: Grk. metanoeō, aor. imp., to have a serious change of mind and heart about a previous point of view or course of behavior, generally translated as "repent." In the LXX metanoeō almost always translates Heb. nacham (SH-5162), to be sorry, change one's mind or repent, sometimes used of God (1Sam 15:29; Jer 4:28; 18:8; Amos 7:3, 6; Jon 3:9, 10; 4:2; Zech 8:14) and other times of humans (Jer 8:6, 10; 31:19; Joel 2:13, 14). In Greek culture metanoeō did not fully convey the intent of the biblical concept. In the Tanakh repentance is best represented by the word shuv (SH-7725), bring back to mind, to return, turn back, turn around (DNTT 1:357).
When used for repentance shuv means to turn away from evil in the sense of renouncing and disowning sin, and to turn toward the good or becoming obedient to God’s will as expressed in the commandments (TWOT 2:909, e.g., 1Kgs 8:33, 35, 48; 2Chr 7:14; Isa 30:15; 59:20; Ezek 18:21; Hos 6:1; Jon 3:8). In the LXX metanoeō is used one time to render Heb. shuv: "Remember this, and show yourselves men; bring again [Heb. shuv] to mind, you transgressors" (Isa 46:8 mine). The use of metanoeō by Luke to translate Peter's message is obviously meant to express the force of shuv by emphasizing the first step with a decision of the will to turn away from evil thinking in order receive forgiveness. The command was necessary since there is no indication that Simon repented of his occult practices when he believed.
from: Grk. apo, prep., lit. "from, away from." Bible versions translate the preposition as "of." However, the use of apo, rather than ek ("of, out of") depicts Simon on a journey away from God and Peter was entreating him to turn around before it was too late. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. wickedness: Grk. kakia, moral offensiveness, whether as a general disposition or having malicious attitude toward others. In the LXX kakia is used to render Heb. ra (SH-451), bad, evil, or wicked, first in Genesis 6:5 for the evil inclination that pervaded the antediluvian culture. of yours: Grk. su, sing. pronoun of the second person. Peter's description of Simon hints at the Jewish belief that Adam was created with has a good inclination and an evil inclination, and this duality was passed on to his descendants. In Simon the evil inclination was dominant. (For more discussion on the two inclinations see my commentary on Romans 5:12.)
Repentance in Scripture always implies a commitment to stop sinning (cf. 2Cor 12:21; Rev 2:21; 9:20-21). A number of people in Scripture were specifically cautioned to "sin no more," such as the man healed at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:14), the woman caught in adultery (John 8:11), and the congregation at Corinth (1Cor 15:34). The fact that a disciple may be instructed to cease sinning or to avoid sinning (cf. Eph 4:26; 1Tim 5:20) contradicts the assumption by some Christians that they must sin in thought, word and deed every day. John is unequivocal when he says, "No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him" (1Jn 3:6 NASB). The verbs in that declaration are present participles, which indicate both a continuing lifestyle and the character of the individual.
and: Grk. kai, conj. ask: Grk. deomai, aor. pass. imp., direct a request with focus on appeal for assistance, the nature of which is nuanced by the context; ask, beseech, petition, pray, plead, request. In the LXX deomai translates four Hebrew words, first the particle na (SH-4994), used in prayers of entreaty (Gen 19:18); bi (SH-994), another particle of entreaty (Gen 43:20); then chalah (SH-2470), to appease or seek the favor of in order to placate God's anger (Ex 32:11); and finally chanan (SH-2603), to beseech, plead for mercy (1Kgs 8:33). Peter did not propose that Simon engage in liturgical prayer, but to earnestly seek God in personal, heartfelt petition.
of the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 16 above. The noun is in the genitive case, which is normally translated with "of." Most versions render the verbal phrase as "pray to the Lord." if: Grk. ei, a contingency marker, generally used to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. possible: Grk. ara, conj., a marker of inference based on a preceding matter; then, so. Combined with ei, the construction could mean "in the hope that" (Danker). In reality Peter was not certain of the outcome. Only God would know if the prayer was sincere. the intention: Grk. epinoia, thinking, used of the direction in which one's mind is moving; thought, purpose, design, intent. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. of your: Grk. su. heart: Grk. kardia. See the previous verse.
will be forgiven: Grk. aphiēmi, fut. pass., to release or let go with a range of meaning: (1) release from one's presence; (2) release from an obligation, cancel, forgive; (3) let remain behind; (4) leave standing or lying; and (5) permissive sense of let, let go, allow or tolerate. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX aphiēmi us used relatively seldom in the sense to forgive. Where it is, it usually translates the Heb. nasa (SH-5375), to release from guilt or punishment (Gen 18:26; Ps 25:18; Isa 33:24), or salach (SH-5545), to forgive, or pardon (Lev 4:20ff; Isa 55:7). Sometimes it stands for kaphar, (SH-3722), to cover, or make atonement (Isa 22:14). Upon repentance the forgiveness of God reconstitutes the relationship which has been broken by sin (DNTT 1:698).
you: Grk. su. It is noteworthy that Peter puts the focus of forgiveness not on the proposal made by Simon, but on the intention that preceded the request. Simon's purpose was purely selfish. He wanted to add to his greatness. The axiom that "pride goes before a fall" (Prov 16:18) could certainly be applied to Simon.
23 For I see you being in the gall of bitterness and the bond of unrighteousness."
For: Grk. gar, conj. I see: Grk. horaō, pres. See verse 18 above. The verb is used here of inward perception. The Spirit gave Peter a sudden insight into the character of Simon. you: Grk. su, sing. pronoun of the second person. being: Grk. eimi, pres. part. See verse 1 above. in: Grk. eis, prep. the gall: Grk. cholē, bile or gall, used of a bitter substance. In Greek classical literature cholē was proverbial of giving one a disgust for a thing, from the custom of mothers putting gall to the nipple when the child was to be weaned (LSJ). In the LXX cholē is used to translate Heb. rôsh (SH-7219), which refers to a poisonous plant, variously called hemlock or poppy (Deut 29:18; Ps 69:21; Jer 8:14; 23:15; Hos 10:4; Amos 6:12) (BDB 912).
of bitterness: Grk. pikria, bitterness experienced as a hostile emotion; bitterness, animosity. Bruce treats pikria as an adjective and interprets the diagnosis as the "bitter gall-root of superstition and magic." However, pikria is a noun that refers to a resentful spirit (SECB) or bitterness of spirit (Mounce). Resentment refers to negative feelings toward some significant person (perhaps even God) over some perceived or actual hurt experienced in the past. Simon had locked up these hateful feelings in his heart and refused to forgive. That resentment was the root of his rebellion against God. The danger of not forgiving is that God will not forgive as long as unforgiveness remains in the heart (Mark 11:26).
and: Grk. kai, conj. the bond: Grk. sundesmos, that which holds something together, used of an anatomical part as a ligament and figuratively of a uniting bond. of unrighteousness: Grk. adikia may mean (1) the quality or characteristic of violating a standard of uprightness; wrongdoing, unrighteousness, injustice, partiality; or (2) the act of violating a standard of uprightness, wrongdoing. The noun pictures the unjust man as opposite of the just man. 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 is used to render 36 different Hebrew words, indicating 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. 1Jn 5:17). The unrighteousness of Simon was previously manifested in violating the Torah code prohibiting occultic practices and in the present of a mercenary attitude toward things of the Spirit.
Additional Note: The Danger of Resentment
Medical research has documented that many physical maladies are caused or aggravated by feelings of resentment or hostility against another person. Dr. James A. Stringham, a Christian psychiatrist and medical missionary to India documented the physical effects of resentment in an article, "Resentment: Bitterness, Hostility and Hate, Symptoms and Treatment," published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry (1969, No. 11). Dr. Stringham chronicled the results of many clinical studies which linked resentment, hostility and suppressed aggression to hypertension, coronary disorders, stomach ulcers, psychosomatic pain, arthritis and rheumatic conditions, alcoholism and accidents. He also developed an instrument called "Spiritual Checkup," which he administered to many Christian groups.
The Spiritual Checkup instrument revealed the presence of resentment, unforgiveness, bitterness or hostility in about half the members of every tested group. Dr. Stringham states forthrightly in the introduction to his article that "the human personality is so constituted that it is unable to contain, over prolonged periods of time, hatred, bitterness or resentment and remain healthy." In the book, What the Bible Says About Healthy Living (Regal Books, 1996), Dr. Rex Russell states in similar fashion, "The only personality trait that has been shown to be detrimental to health is hostility or bitterness" (p. 249). [I personally met Dr. Stringham in 1987 and received a copy of his journal article.]
24 But answering Simon said, "You pray on behalf of me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have spoken might come upon me."
But: Grk. de, conj. answering: Grk. apokrinomai, aor. pass. part., to answer or reply to someone, whether to a question, request, exhortation, command, etc. (BAG). In the LXX apokrinomai translates Heb. anah (SH-6030), to answer or respond to something said in conversation (Gen 18:27); to respond to an occasion and speak in view of circumstances (Dan 2:15) or to testify or respond as a witness in a legal proceeding (1Sam 12:3) (BDB 772). Simon: See verse 9 above. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 6 above. You: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. The plural pronoun is used of both Peter and John. pray: Grk. deomai, aor. pass. imp. See verse 22 above. The imperative mood denotes an entreaty.
on behalf of: Grk. huper, prep., lit. "over, above," used to express a stance of concern or interest relating to someone or something, here emphasizing a supportive aspect; for, in behalf of, in the interest of. me: Grk. egō, sing. pronoun of the first person. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 20 above. the Lord: See verse 16 above. that: Grk. hopōs, conj. See verse 15 above. nothing: Grk. mēdeis, adj. (from mē, "not" and heis, "one"), not even one, nothing. of what: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. you have spoken: Grk. ereō, perf., inform through utterance, here denoting speech completed. might come: Grk. erchomai, aor. subj., to come or arrive' with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place. upon: Grk. epi, prep. me: Grk. egō.
Simon clearly viewed the message of Peter as a threat of divine judgment. His answer does not reflect humility and repentance. He did not confess or admit any wrongdoing. Rather, Simon attempted to shift responsibility to the apostles to remedy the threat. This is the last reference to Simon in Acts and the Besekh.
Additional Note: Simon in Patristic Writings
A fuller account of Simon's later activities may be found in Eusebius, Church History, Book II, Chap. 13 and Chap. 14. The rebuke of Peter apparently left Simon even more embittered and he later traveled from Samaria to other lands spreading his antagonism against the Messianic faith. Simon eventually arrived in Rome where he became a cult leader (Church History, II, 13:1). Eusebius reports that in the reign of Caesar Claudius, Simon performed some mighty acts of magic by the art of demons, and was considered a god, and as a god was honored by the Romans with a statue, which was erected in the river Tiber, between the two bridges, and bore this inscription in the Latin tongue, Simoni Deo Sancto, that is, "To Simon the Holy God" (Church History, II, 14:3).
Peter would later travel to Rome in AD 42 in order to counteract the influence of Simon among disciples (Church History, II, 14:1-5; Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men, Chap. I; Edmundson 50ff). The apocryphal work Acts of Peter describes Simon's cultic activities in Rome and Peter's confrontation of him. For the modern view of commentators that reject Peter's ministry in Rome see my rebuttal here.
25 Therefore they indeed having earnestly testified and having spoken the word of the Lord, were returning to Jerusalem, and proclaiming the good news to many villages of the Samaritans.
Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. they: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun in reference to Peter and John. indeed: Grk. mén. See verse 4 above. having earnestly testified: Grk. diamarturomai, aor. mid. part. (from dia, "thoroughly" and marturomai, "witness, testify"), an emphatic declaration establishing the importance of what is stated, giving full, clear testimony. The middle voice emphasizes witnessing done with a high level of strong personal interest motivating it (HELPS). In the LXX diamarturomai occurs 30 times and translates mainly Heb. ha-êd (SH-5749), repeat, bear witness, testify or warn, used especially of Moses testifying to or warning Israel regarding God's instruction (Ex 19:21, 23; 21:29; Deut 4:26; 8:19; 30:19; 31:28) and later of the admonishment of the prophets (Neh 9:26, 29-30, 34).
The usage of the diamarturomai in the LXX hints that the apostles included warning against Simon in their parting instruction, no doubt similar to Paul's later farewell warning to the congregation in Ephesus (Acts 20:28-30). and: Grk. kai, conj. having spoken: Grk. laleō, aor. part., make an oral statement, to speak or talk about something; often used of public speaking; proclaim, report, say, speak, or talk about. the word: Grk. logos. See verse 4 above. of the Lord: See verse 16 above. The "word of the Lord" may imply further instruction that the apostles had received from Yeshua by the Spirit for the good of the congregation. were returning: Grk. hupostrephō, impf., 3p-pl., to go back to a position, to return or turn back. The verb occurs 35 times in the Besekh and all but three times in Luke-Acts.
to: Grk. eis, prep. Jerusalem: Grk. Hierosoluma. See verse 1 above. and: Grk. te, conj. See verse 3 above. The conjunction connects the two verbs together as coincidental activities. proclaiming the good news: Grk. euangelizō, impf. See verse 4 above. to many: pl. of Grk. polus, adj. See verse 7 above. villages: pl. of Grk. kōmē, village, smaller and less prestigious than a city (Grk. polis). of the Samaritans: pl. of Grk. Samaritēs, Samaritan, meaning one whose place of origin is the territory of Samaria. The term is used in the Apocrypha (1Macc 10:30; 11:28) and Josephus (Wars III, 3:1, 4-5) for the territory of Samaria. See my Additional Note on verse 5 above. The referenced villages would be those that lay between Sychar and Jerusalem, at least 20 on a straight line route.
Divine Direction to Philip, 8:26-33
26 Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, "Arise and go toward the south upon the road descending from Jerusalem into Gaza." This is desert.
Now: Grk. de, conj. an angel: Grk. angelos means one sent, a messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). In the LXX angelos translates 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: See verse 16 above. "Lord" is probably means Yeshua, who has access to many angels for personal service (Matt 26:53). spoke: Grk. laleō, aor. See the previous verse. to: Grk. pros, prep.; in other words, face to face. Philip: See verse 5 above. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 6 above.
Arise: 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; arise, rise, or stand. In the LXX anistēmi translates Heb. qum (SH-6965), to arise, stand up, or stand, first in Genesis 4:8. The verb may indicate that the angel roused Philip from sleep. and: Grk. kai, conj. go: Grk. poreuomai, pres. mid. imp., may mean (1) to move from one area to another, to go or to make one's way or (2) in an ethical sense, to conduct oneself, live, walk. In the LXX poreuomai translates mainly Heb. halak (SH-1980), to go, come, walk, first occurring in Genesis 3:14 (DNTT 3:946). The verb often has the literal sense of going, journeying or traveling (e.g., Gen 12:4). In contrast to the LXX usage poreuomai in the Besekh seldom mentions the physical act of walking.
toward: Grk. kata, prep., lit. "down," can be used in reference to time ("about, during"), but used here in the sense of direction, thus "by way of" or "toward" (Thayer). The preposition does hint at the change of elevation of traveling from Sychar to the coastal plain. the south: Grk. mesēmbria is used (1) of time, the noon hour when the sun reaches its zenith; and (2) of place, the direction of south. In classical Greek literature the first usage occurs a dozen times, and the second usage appears five times (LSJ). The Jewish literature of Josephus and Philo also have both usages (BAG). However, in the LXX mesēmbria occurs 25 times and is only used in reference to midday (e.g., Gen 18:1; 43:16, 25; Deut 28:29). Danker interprets mesēmbria here as a temporal reference and a few Bible versions have "noon" (CEB, MSG, TLB). Against this view is that the command of the angel implied immediate obedience, so "south" is the predominate translation.
upon: Grk. epi, prep. the road: 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; journey, way, trip. The LXX uses hodos to translate Heb. derek (way, road, journey). descending: Grk. katabainō, pres. part. See verse 15 above. from: Grk. apo, prep. Jerusalem: Grk. Ierousalēm, which transliterates Heb. Yerushalaim (SH-3389), 660 times in the LXX, first in Joshua 10:1 (DNTT 2:324). See the note on "Jerusalem" in verse 1 above. See the road map here.
into: Grk. eis, prep. Gaza: Grk. Gaza, which transliterates the Heb. Azzah, originally the southernmost city of five Philistine towns. Gaza is mentioned 19 times in the Tanakh (Gen 10:19; Zech 9:5) and one time in the Besekh. It was originally part of the territory allocated to the tribe of Judah (Josh 15:47). Gaza is the location where Samson gained victory over the Philistines (Jdg 16:21-30) and where the Philistines assembled against King David before he defeated them (1Chr 14:8–16). Gaza fell to foreign invaders of the great empires as did other parts of the land. At this time Gaza was a Hellenistic city (Skarsaune 32). The town of Gaza lay some 50 miles southwest of Jerusalem, which was 40 miles south of Sychar. The total distance 90 miles would mean at least three days of walking if Philip went all the way to Gaza.
This: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun, probably referring to Gaza, which is the nearest antecedent. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. desert: Grk. erēmos may refer to (1) a lonely or solitary place; or (2) devoid of population (LSJ). The term does not merely mean "sparse vegetation" or "arid climate." In Scripture, a "desert" is ironically also where God richly grants His presence and provision for those seeking Him (HELPS). In the LXX erēmos often translates Heb. midbar (SH-4057), which refers to tracts of land used for pasturage or uninhabited land (BDB 484), first in Genesis 14:6, and then the territory through which Israel wandered for 40 years. Commentators differ over whether the mention of erēmos here refers to the road on which Philip traveled from Jerusalem or the town of Gaza.
A number of versions favor the former by rendering erēmos as "desert road" (AMP, CSB, CEB, CEV, CJB, GW, NASB, NCV, NET, NIV, NLT, NOG, RSV, TLV). Barclay, Bruce and Gill note that the older city of Gaza had been destroyed by the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus in 93 BC, and thereafter was known as Old Gaza or Desert Gaza after a new city of Gaza was built nearer the sea in 57 BC by Aulus Gabinius, the Roman consul of Syria. Some Bible versions leave the translation of erēmos simply as "desert" (JUB, KJV, MW, NKJV, OJB, WEB), which could take in both the road and the town.
The description "this is desert" seems almost superfluous, but it must be important. Philip was traveling from an area that received about 30 inches of precipitation annually to a region extending from Gaza on the coast to the hill country of Judah with only about 15 inches of precipitation annually (Atlas 51). Yet, surely, the point was not the semi-arid condition of the meeting-place. The location could have reflected the spiritual condition of the Ethiopian, but it could also continue the biblical pattern of significant revelations being given in solitary wilderness locations. Consider the experiences of Hagar (Gen 16:7), Moses (Ex 3:1), Elijah (1Kgs 19:4-5), Yochanan the Immerser (Matt 3:1-3) and Yeshua (Matt 4:1). This meeting with Philip would enable the Ethiopian to hear the message of salvation and to be appointed a messenger for Yeshua to his people.
27 And having risen he went. And, "Behold," a man, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a royal official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasure, who had come to Jerusalem to worship.
And: Grk. kai, conj. having risen: Grk. anistēmi, aor. part. See the previous verse. he went: Grk. poreuomai, aor. pass. See the previous verse. And: Grk. kai. 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). The interjection could have been spoken by the angel and would be equivalent to "look at him!"
a man: Grk. anēr. See verse 2 above. The noun introduces an identification similar to other occurrences in Acts (2:14, 22, 29; 3:12; 5:35; 7:2). Some versions don't translate the word, but the noun is important or Luke would not have mentioned it. It likely hints at his physical condition and not being a woman removes any impropriety of a private meeting. an Ethiopian: Grk. Aithiops, (from aithō, "to burn" and ōps "face" or "swarthy"), a resident or citizen of Ethiopia, a country of the northeastern Africa, south of Egypt and including present-day Sudan. LSJ says the noun properly means "burnt face." The noun occurs only in this verse in the Besekh. Longenecker says the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia lay between Aswan and Khartoum and corresponds to Nubia (not Abyssinia as Thayer says). The capital was at Napata, located on the west bank of the Nile River, at the site of modern Karima in Sudan.
In the LXX Aithiops translates Heb. Kush (SH-3568), a proper name for Cush, the grandson of Noah (Gen 10:6), the territory (Isa 11:11; Ezek 29:10; Zeph 3:10) and the people (Ps 68:31; Ezek 38:5), as well as Heb. Kushi (SH-3569), adj., Cushite (Num 12:1; 2Sam 18:21; 2Chr 12:3). Josephus says the Ethiopians were known as Cushites in his day (Ant. I, 6:2). Two notable Cushites appear early in Israel's history. The second wife of Moses was a Cushite woman (Num 12:1). Miriam and Aaron strongly opposed the marriage, but God defended Moses with an eloquent declaration (Num 12:6-8) and judgment on Miriam. During the reign of King David a Cushite served in his army as Joab's adjutant and he was chosen to take the news to Absalom's defeat and death to his father (2Sam 18:19-32). Then the adj. "Cushite" appears in the well-known adage, "Can the Cushite change his skin or the leopard his spots?" (Jer 13:23 CSB).
The later history of Ethiopia often shared the history of Egypt. During the reign of Rehoboam, Ethiopia fought with Egypt against Judah (2Chr 12:3). In the reign of Asa, a very large force of Ethiopians was defeated by Judah (2Chr 14:9-13; 16:7-9). Later, Tirhakah, a powerful Ethiopian king of a dynasty that had subjected Egypt itself, came against Hezekiah of Judah but was driven back by the Assyrians (2Kgs 19:9; Isa 37:9; Ant. X, 1:1, 4). Because of the hostility of Ethiopia toward Israel, many prophecies dealt with their coming ruin (e.g. Isa 18:1; 20:3-5; 43:3; Jer 46:9-10). After the Assyrians, Ethiopia was conquered successively by the great empires of Persia (Esth 1:1) and Greece (Dan 11:2-3, 40-43). The Romans took no interest in Ethiopia, so it was an independent country in the first century.
a eunuch: Grk. eunouchos, properly, "alone in bed," i.e. without a marriage partner (HELPS). Originally in Greek literature the term meant a castrated male employed to take charge of the women in a harem and act as chamberlain (LSJ). Eventually the term took on two additional meanings: (a) a man naturally impotent and incapable of begetting children; and (b) a man who voluntarily abstains from marriage for some special purpose without being impotent (BAG, Thayer). In the LXX eunochos translates Heb. saris (SH-5631), which can refer to (a) a castrated male, (b) an impotent male, or (c) the title of a high military officer or a royal official (BDB 710). The term saris is applied to Potiphar who was married (Gen 39:1, 7), and the chief cupbearer and the chief baker of Pharaoh (Gen 40:2). The Testament of Joseph mentions the chief eunuch of Pharaoh as having wives, children and concubines (XI:13).
Saris is also used to identify government officials or military leaders who served Israelite kings (1Sam 18:15; 1Kgs 22:9; 2Kgs 8:6; 9:32; 25:19). Saris is given to the keeper of the king's harem in Susa (Esth 2:3, 14-15; 4:4-5), but also to other high-ranking officials who served the Babylonian king (Dan 1:7-11, 18) and later the Persian king (Esth 1:10; 2:21; 6:2). When King Hezekiah foolishly showed all his treasure to a Babylonian visitor, Isaiah warned Hezekiah that some of his descendants would be taken away in captivity and become officials (Heb. saris) in the Babylonian palace (2Kgs 20:18; fulfilled in 2Kgs 24:12-14). Josephus explained the meaning of this prophecy that these Israelite men would be made eunuchs and lose their manhood (Ant. X, 2:2). The Talmud speculates that Daniel and his three friends were made literal eunuchs in fulfillment of this prophecy (Sanhedrin 93b), but there is no evidence in the book of Daniel to support this belief.
The Torah has a few relevant regulations. Having testicles that are bruised, crushed, torn or cut, disqualified a man from service as a priest (Lev 21:21; 22:24). This rule seems to be expanded in Deuteronomy 23:1 for entering the assembly gathered for worship. However, the restriction was probably not intended to bar those whose testicles had been damaged by birth, accident or illness (cf. Isa 56:3-5). The rule was intended for the self-castrated, who carried on their bodies the sign of their recognition of another god (Craigie 297).
In the Talmud the term "eunuch" (Heb. saris) is used only to mean one who is physically unable to beget child. The Sages distinguished two kinds of eunuchs: (1) "saris-adam," a eunuch made by man, whether accidental or purposeful; and (2) "saris-cḥamma," a eunuch from the first time he saw the sun; i.e., incapable of reproduction from birth (Yebamoth 8:5). A saris of either type was restricted in marriage to a proselyte or emancipated slave (Yeb. 8:2). The Talmud mentions a saris-adam living in Jerusalem who was married (Yeb. 79b). The saris-adam was restricted from religious assemblies, but unlike the saris-chamma was permitted to contract a levirate marriage (Yeb. 20b; 80b). The inability to procreate and fulfill the divine mandate to propagate the human race (Gen 1:28; 9:1) was considered a great tragedy (Yeb. 6:7). It was also considered a sin to cause one to become a eunuch (Shab. 111a).
Yeshua himself affirmed three definitions of "eunuch" in the Jewish vernacular:
"For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were emasculated by men; and there are eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 19:12 BR)
The use of the present tense in speaking of three kinds of eunuchs could indicate a contemporary phenomenon, but it also functions as a historical present, giving vividness to past events. The third definition constitutes a play on words, meaning that men denied themselves the right of marriage and begetting children in order to serve God. A pagan might submit to castration, but no Jewish man would voluntarily defile his body in such a manner. Some Hebrew prophets apparently refrained from marriage in perilous times (cf. 1Cor 7:26), such as Elijah and Elisha. Jeremiah was specifically told to remain unmarried (Jer 16:2). Daniel and his three friends, who had no physical defect (Dan 1:4), apparently remained single to avoid defilement among their captors.
Similarly, Yochanan the Immerser was likely unmarried due to the nature of his prophetic vocation. A large number of Essenes refrained from marriage for religious reasons (Josephus, Ant. XVIII, 1:5). Yeshua, as well, could be considered a "eunuch" by his third definition, since he did not take a wife during his life on earth. The apostle Paul was likely a widower (Grk. agamos, 1Cor 7:8, 11, 34), but once called by Yeshua chose to remain unmarried for the sake of ministry (1Cor 9:5, 15).
a royal official: Grk. dunastēs, one who has authority to command or someone mighty in power; court or royal official, ruler. This is not the first Ethiopian eunuch in a high government office mentioned in Scripture. When Jeremiah had been cast into a cistern by his adversaries a Ethiopian eunuch (Heb. saris) by the name of Ebed-Melech (lit. "servant of a king"), appealed to King Zedekiah for Jeremiah's release and the King gave Ebed-Melech orders to rescue Jeremiah (Jer 38:6-12). of Candace: Grk. Kandakē, a dynastic title of the female rulers of Ethiopia. queen: Grk. basilissa, a female monarch, queen. of the Ethiopians: pl. of Grk. Aithiops. The queen ruled on behalf of her son the king, since the king was regarded as the child of the sun and therefore too holy to become involved in the secular functions of the state (Longenecker).
who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. over: Grk. epi, prep. all: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 1 above. her: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. treasure: Grk. gaza, treasure or treasury, a Persian loanword. The Ethiopian worshipper was not a keeper of a harem, but held a very important government post. Ethiopia was a source of the precious stone topaz (Job 28:19) and the treasure of Ethiopia could refer to more than currency (cf. Isa 45:14; Dan 11:43).who: Grk. hos. had come: Grk. erchomai, plperf. See verse 24 above. to Jerusalem: Grk. Ierousalēm. See the previous verse.
to worship: Grk. proskuneō, fut. part. (derived from pros, 'toward' and kuneō, 'to kiss'), may mean either (1) to recognize another's prestige by offering special honor, ordinarily through a gesture of prostration; do obeisance to, pay homage to, bow down; or (2) to demonstrate honor and adoration to transcendent beings or deity, ordinarily in a religious sense; worship. In the LXX proskuneō principally translates Heb. shachah (SH-7812), to bend down, which is used both of bowing down before men and of worship toward deity (Gen 18:2; 22:5; BDB 1005). It occurs without Heb. equivalent in the apocryphal books and occasionally in canonical writings (DNTT 2:876). Biblical worship involved honoring God with a sacrificial offering or service of some nature. In the Besekh proskuneō continues the Hebrew meaning.
The reader may note that the verb "worship" is in the future tense, but being a participle the verb expresses purpose (Rienecker). According to the next verse the purpose to worship had been fulfilled. There are two passages regarding the worship of eunuchs worth noting:
"Blessed also is the eunuch whose hands have done no lawless deed, and who has not devised wicked things against the Lord; for special favor will be shown him for his faithfulness, and a place of great delight in the temple of the Lord." (Wisdom of Solomon 3:14 RSV).
"Do not let a son of a foreigner who has joined himself to ADONAI say, 'ADONAI will surely exclude me from His people." Nor let the eunuch say, 'Behold, I am a dry tree.'" 4 For thus says ADONAI, "To the eunuchs who keep My Shabbatot, who choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant: 5 I will give to them in My House and within My walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off. 6 Also the foreigners who join themselves to ADONAI, to minister to Him, and to love the Name of ADONAI, and to be His servants— all who keep from profaning Shabbat, and hold fast to My covenant— 7 these I will bring to My holy mountain, and let them rejoice in My House of Prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar. For My House will be called a House of Prayer for all nations." 8 ADONAI Elohim, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, "I will gather still others to him, to those already gathered." (Isa 56:3-5 TLV)
The promise of Isaiah would have had particular meaning to this Ethiopian given that he was both a eunuch and a foreigner, as well as perhaps one who was among the dispersed of Israel. Nevertheless, the mention of a eunuch worshipping in Jerusalem may seem perplexing. N.T. Wright assumes that the Ethiopian was a castrated eunuch and as such could not be Jewish and not a proselyte to Judaism (133). He was thus an outsider who would not be permitted to enter the Temple for religious celebrations. Bruce comments in a similar vein:
"It is questionable whether a eunuch could have been admitted to the commonwealth of Israel as a full proselyte. At an earlier time eunuchs were excluded from religious privileges in Israel (Deut 23:1), although Isaiah 56:3ff foreshadows the removal of this ban. At any rate, this man had visited Jerusalem as a worshipper, perhaps at the time of one of the great pilgrimage festivals."
Given the three usages of the term eunouchos, caution needs to be exercised in declaring both the Ethiopian's physical condition and his religious standing. Yeshua and Paul were spiritual eunuchs, but still very much Jewish. Max Muller (1862-1919), a German archaeologist and Egyptologist, wrote that the eunuch treasurer was probably "no black proselyte but a Jew who had placed the business ability of his race at the service of the Nubian woman" (Aethiopien, 1904, cited by Cobern). Longenecker observes:
"The word eunuch (eunouchos) frequently appears in the LXX and in Greek vernacular writings for high military and political officials; it does not have to imply emasculation (TDNT, 2:766). Therefore, we are probably justified in taking "eunuch" to be a governmental title in an Oriental kingdom and in emphasizing two facts when considering the Ethiopian's relation to Judaism: (1) he had been on a religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem and (2) he was returning with a copy of the prophecy of Isaiah in his possession, which would have been difficult for a non-Jew to get." (Longenecker concludes the Ethiopian was a proselyte.)
Coke declares the Ethiopian to be a proselyte, but Gill and Clarke say that he was either a Jew or a proselyte. Both Liberman and Stern contend that this Ethiopian was either born Jewish or a Jewish proselyte. According to Ethiopian tradition the Jews of Ethiopia descended from Menelik I, the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. In addition, Ethiopian chronicles show that Judaism was widespread before the Christian conversion of the Axum dynasty during the fourth century A.D. (Encyclopedia Judaica 6:1143; quoted by Stern). Three more facts should be noted.
First, worship in Jerusalem was associated with the Temple, not the synagogue. Second, proselytes are clearly identified in the apostolic narratives (Matt 23:15; Acts 2:10; 6:5; 13:43) and Luke does not attach this label to the eunuch. Third, Luke does not record the good news going to a bona fide uncircumcised Gentile until Chapter Ten. When it happened a great controversy resulted in Jerusalem. Indeed, there is nothing in the context of Luke's narrative that requires this Ethiopian to have been castrated nor precludes him from being Jewish.
28 and he was returning, and sitting on his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
and: Grk. te, conj. See verse 3 above. he was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. returning: Grk. hupostrephō, pres. part., to go back to a position, to return. The Ethiopian was traveling back toward his homeland and was on the road somewhere between Jerusalem and Gaza. In my view the Ethiopian had not traveled to Jerusalem for any festival. Luke surely would have mentioned one. Considering the following narrative he likely went to the Temple on a personal pilgrimage. He was hungry for God and hoped to find answers to his questions at the sacred sanctuary. and: Grk. kai, conj. sitting: Grk. kathēmai, pres. part., be at rest on the haunches, to sit down or to take a seat. on: Grk. epi, prep. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The pronoun implies personal ownership. chariot: Grk. harma, a traveling chariot.
In the LXX harma translates Heb. merkabah (SH-4818), chariot, used of the chariot in which Joseph rode (Gen 41:43); but primarily Heb. rekeb (SH-7393), chariot, first in Genesis 50:9 of the chariots of Pharaoh. In ancient times, three types of vehicles were used: the two-wheeled cart, the four-wheeled wagon, and the two-wheeled chariot. Two-wheeled carts were made of wood or woven basket material. Oxen, donkeys or even people pulled them. Carts were used to transport goods, baggage, and supplies. Four-wheeled wagons hauled large items such as building supplies. Chariots were drawn by horses. The chariot was little more than a floor with a waist-high guard at the front and sides. Originally chariots were used by ancient armies as transport or mobile archery platforms, but by the first century chariots had lost their military importance.
Bruce calls the Ethiopian's chariot a "covered wagon" and Rienecker suggests an "ox wagon." However, the Greek word for a vehicle of four wheels is rhedē, which appears only in Revelation 18:13. Since the Ethiopian was a prominent government official he had his own personal chariot. He could afford the best. Also, the chariot was large enough to hold three people (cf. verses 31 and 38 below). We should consider that while the narrative focuses on the Ethiopian treasurer, he would not have traveled from Napata to Jerusalem alone. He would have been accompanied by servants and guards in other vehicles.
and: Grk. kai. he was reading: Grk. anaginōskō, impf., to know again, here to recognize written characters, and so 'read.' the prophet: Grk. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. In ancient Greek culture the word-group always had a religious meaning and referred to one who predicts or tells beforehand (DNTT 3:76). In the LXX prophētēs translates Heb. nabi (SH-5030), spokesman, speaker, or prophet; first in Genesis 20:7.
In Scripture a prophet is one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling or forth-telling. The record of the Tanakh indicates considerable variance in the activity and ministry of Hebrew prophets. The Hebrew prophets were a diverse group with different personalities, vocations and manner of ministry, but they all spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21). The literary works of the prophets in the Tanakh are authoritative Scripture (Matt 5:17-19; Luke 24:44-45; 2Tim 3:16-17).
Isaiah: Grk. Ēsaias, a Graecized form of Heb. Yesha'yahu ("YHVH is salvation"). Isaiah was the son of Amoz of the tribe of Judah and perhaps related to the royal house. He lived during the reigns of the Judean kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and probably the first years of Manasseh. He married a prophetess and had two sons (Isa 7:3; 8:3). Jewish tradition says that Isaiah was put to death by King Manasseh by being sawn in half (Yebamoth 49b; Ascension of Isaiah 1:9; 5:2; cf. Heb 11:37). Isaiah received his call to ministry in a dramatic fashion c. 740 BC (Isa 6:1), and prophesied for forty years during which he was an adviser (court prophet) to King Ahaz and King Hezekiah.
He was contemporary with the prophets Micah and Hosea. He left a monumental literary work of 66 chapters, the longest of the prophetic books, containing almost half of the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh. Isaiah wrote mostly warnings in the first half of his book and mostly comfort and promise in the second half. Various scholars have proposed that some unknown author wrote the second half of the book of Isaiah (40─66) and a few scholars have actually suggested a Third Isaiah (56─66). Against this viewpoint are these arguments:
• For 25 centuries no one doubted that Isaiah was the author of all 66 chapters;
• There is no evidence whatever that the two (or three) parts of the book ever existed separately;
• The same style, vocabulary, and figures of speech occur in both sections;
• Quotations in the Besekh from parts of Isaiah labeled as "Second" and "Third Isaiah" attribute those passages to Isaiah the prophet (Luke 3:4-6=Isa 40:3-5; Matt 8:17=Isa 53:4; Matt 12:17-21=Isa 42:1-4; Luke 4:17-21=Isa 61:1-2; Rom 10:16=Isa 53:1; Acts 8:32-33=Isa 53:7-8; Rom 10:20=Isa 65:1); and
• One of the Dead Sea Scrolls includes the entire text of Isaiah, with no break between chapters 39 and 40.
The narrative does not say whether the Ethiopian was reading from a Hebrew scroll or the LXX. We might be inclined to the latter since Luke's translation of the Scripture quoted in verses 32-33 is in Greek. However, Luke may have provided the translation merely as a convenience to the reader. The Hebrew scroll of the Prophets begins with Isaiah (Stern 87), but Luke may intend that the scroll contained only Isaiah. Scrolls of Scripture for private use were not common and expensive to purchase. Owning and reading a scroll of Isaiah would strengthen the argument that the Ethiopian was Jewish.
29 Now the Spirit said to Philip, "Approach and join this chariot."
Now: Grk. de, conj. the Spirit: See verse 15 above. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 6 above. This is the first report in the Besekh of the Holy Spirit speaking directly to someone. In the Tanakh this direct speaking is only reported of the prophet Ezekiel (2:2; 3:24; 11:5). to Philip: See verse 5 above. Approach: Grk. proserchomai, aor. imp., to approach from a point to a person or place; come, go to, approach. and: Grk. kai, conj. join: Grk. kollaō, aor. pass. imp., adhere to, stick to, attach to, join closely with, or keep company with. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. chariot: See the previous verse. The narrative is unclear about where Philip intercepted the Ethiopian.
The voice of the Spirit is primarily reported as the source of inspiration for the Hebrew prophets (2Sam 23:2; Isa 59:12; Acts 1:16; 4:25; 25:28; 2Pet 1:21). The book of Acts also records several times the Spirit inspiring the communication of certain individuals (2:4; 4:8; 6:10; 11:15, 17; 13:9-10). As here Scripture records occasions when the Holy Spirit spoke directly to individuals: Ezekiel (Ezek 3:24; 11:5), Peter (Acts 10:19; 11:12), Antioch elders (Acts 13:2), Agabus (Acts 11:28; 21:11) and Paul (Acts 16:6-7; 20:23). In Revelation the Spirit has a message for each of the seven congregations (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).
The biblical narrative raises the question of how these individuals knew that it was the Holy Spirit speaking. How does the Spirit communicate? The certainty of knowledge would have been derived in both the manner and content of the communication. The Spirit may not employ an audible voice, such as Philip would have heard from the angel in verse 26 above. For the Holy Spirit, having taken up residence in a person (John 14:17), the basic method is communicating to the person's spirit (Rom 8:16; 9:1). In other words, the person may hear an inner voice in his mind that he knows is not his own thoughts.
There are three tests that may be applied to any perceived message from the Spirit. First, a message from the Spirit will be consistent with God's will revealed in Scripture (John 16:13). Second, a message from the Spirit can be confirmed by its acceptance by other believers (Acts 13:1-3; 15:28; 20:23). Ask yourself: "if I were to announce my message from the Spirit in the congregation how would people react?" Third, a message from the Holy Spirit has the purpose of fulfilling a spiritual goal or advancing the work of God's kingdom.
30 And having run to him Philip heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, "So then, are you understanding what you are reading?"
And: Grk. de, conj. having run to: Grk. prostrechō, aor. part., to run to or toward. The verb implies Philip had been some distance away when he spotted the man in the chariot and the Spirit said, "Approach." Running indicates that Philip was in no doubt concerning the message of the Spirit and was quick to obey the voice of the Spirit. him: The pronoun is assumed. Philip: See verse 5 above. heard: Grk. akouō, aor. See verse 6 above. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. reading: Grk. anaginōskō, pres. part. See verse 28 above. Reading aloud to oneself was the universal practice in the ancient world (Longenecker). Isaiah the prophet: See verse 28 above. Philip recognized the passage being read aloud. and: Grk. kai, conj. asked: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 6 above.
So: Grk. ge, particle. then: Grk. ara, inferential particle, then, therefore, since. Ara intimates that 'under these circumstances, something either is so, or becomes so' The construction of ara ge means "surely then, so then" (Thayer). are you understanding: Grk. ginōskō, pres., to know, including (1) to be in receipt of information; (2) form a judgment or draw a conclusion; or (3) have a personal relationship involving recognition of another's identity or value. The second meaning applies there. In the LXX ginōskō translates 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).
what: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. you are reading: Grk. anaginōskō, pres. See verse 28 above. Bruce notes that there is a play on words with ginōskō followed by anaginōskō. Ordinarily reading should produce understanding, but that is not always the case with Scripture. Philip follows a sound principle for sharing the good news. He knew the passage and what it meant. So, begin with a standard rabbinic technique, ask a question. In advanced Jewish study of Scripture a rabbi would engage a student by asking a question; the student would respond in kind with a related question, showing he understood what the rabbi was asking and thereby advancing the discussion (Pryor 25).
31 And he said, "For how would I be able unless someone will guide me?" And he urged Philip, having come up, to sit with him.
And: Grk. de, conj. he said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 6 above. For: Grk. gar, conj. how: Grk. pōs, interrogative adv., how, in what manner. would: Grk. an, disjunctive particle that nuances a verb with contingency or generalization; would, ever, might, in that case, anyhow. HELPS says the particle indicates what could occur under certain conditions, and the context determines the limits of those conditions. The particle is often not translated. I be able: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid. opt., to be capable of doing or achieving, to have power. unless: Grk. ean mē, lit. "if not." The combined particles introduce a condition for the futurity of something and essentially means "except" or "unless." someone: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 9 above.
will guide: Grk. hodēgeō, fut., be of help in reaching a destination, whether in a physical sense (Matt 15:14) or in a metaphorical sense relating to instruction, as here. me: Grk. egō, sing. pronoun of the first person. The question of the Ethiopian revealed the heart of a genuine seeker and acknowledged the truth that spiritual things must be spiritually interpreted (1Cor 2:14-15). The depth of meaning in Scripture is often hidden from those who do not personally know the Lord (cf. Isa 48:6). Revelation of the hidden treasures of Scripture comes from God (cf. Luke 24:45; John 14:26).
And: Grk. te, conj. he urged: Grk. parakaleō (from para, "beside," and kaleō, "to call"), aor., may mean (1) call to be at one's side or summon to one's aid, with a connotation of urgency; invite, entreat, urge; (2) hearten in time of trouble; comfort, console; or (3) to motivate performance; exhort, encourage. The first meaning applies here. Of interest is that the first meaning of parakaleō appears regularly in Greek literature but not the LXX in which the second meaning dominates. Philip: See verse 5 above. having come up: Grk. anabainō, aor. part., to proceed in a direction that is up. The verb depicts Philip climbing into the chariot.
to sit: Grk. kathizō, aor. inf., to sit, to take one's seat. with: Grk. sún, prep. See verse 20 above. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The chariot obviously had room for two people. The narrative illustrates that biblical learning can take place anywhere. One's car can be turned into a sanctuary of God.
32 Now the passage of Scripture that he was reading was this: "He was led as a sheep to slaughter and as a lamb is silent before the one having sheared him, so he opens not his mouth.
Source: Isaiah 53:7
LXX: "And he, because of his affliction, opens not his mouth: he was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth." (Isaiah 53:7 Brenton)
Now: Grk. de, conj. the passage: Grk. ho periochē, may mean (1) a containing or enclosing; compass, circumference; or (2) a marked off portion, used in reference to a section of a book (LSJ). The second meaning applies here in reference to the specific word content. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. of Scripture: Grk. ho 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.
that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. he was reading: Grk. anaginōskō, impf. See verse 28 above. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. Luke then quotes the passage being referenced in the conversation between Philip and the Ethiopian, Isaiah 53:7-8. Except for one word the quotation conforms exactly to the LXX. The passage, from the section of servant prophecies (Isaiah 49–57), is part of the fifth servant prophecy found in Isaiah 52:13–53:12 (Delitzsch vii). Luke omits the first clause of the verse ("He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth" ESV), perhaps to avoid redundancy.
Modern Jewish interpretation of the servant prophecies is that they refer to Israel. While much in these prophecies do pertain to Israel, there are also elements that can only indicate a person, the Messiah. Stern believes the passage quoted points both to Israel and to Yeshua. Some of the Sages did recognize that Isaiah 53 spoke of the Messiah (Sanh. 98b). However, the Sages never connected the Messiah of Isaiah 53 with the Davidic Messiah of Isaiah 11 or the Son of Man of Daniel 7. Yochanan the Immerser alluded to Isaiah 53:7 when he called Yeshua "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." See my commentary on John 1:29.
He was led: Grk. agō (for Heb. yabal, conduct, bear along), aor. pass., to cause movement by taking the lead; lead, bring, carry, take. as: Grk. hōs, adv. with the primary function of connecting narrative components; used here with focus on the idea of a pattern or model, often to introduce a simile; as, just as, like, similar to. a sheep: Grk. probaton (for Heb. seh), sheep, whether ram, male sheep or ewe, an animal in the care of a shepherd. In the LXX probaton primarily translates Heb. tson (SH-6629), a word for small livestock (sheep, goats, flock) and means primarily the sheep as a useful and gregarious animal (Gen 4:2; 30:38) (DNTT 2:412). In some passages (as Isa 53:7) probaton translates Heb. seh (SH-7716), sheep or lamb (Gen 22:7; Ex 12:3). The sheep is a ruminant mammal, exclusively herbivorous, classified as clean in the Torah suitable for sacrifice and food (Lev 22:19-30).
to slaughter: Grk. sphagē (for Heb. tebach), slaughter for food or sacrifice. In Greek literature the noun was also used of the throat where the animal was struck (LSJ). The sheep as a class of animal (whether lamb or ram) featured in the voluntary sacrifices by individual Israelites: burnt offering (Lev 1:10), peace offering (Lev 3:6), sin offering (Lev 4:32), and guilt offering (Lev 5:6). All the sacrifices, except the peace offering, accomplished atonement and made it possible for God to dwell in the midst of His people. The attributive phrase "as a sheep" alludes to Yeshua's submissive calm bearing in the midst of physical suffering (Delitzsch 512). During his trial he did not become agitated or anxious. He was brutally scourged, had nails driven through his hands and feet and then had his side pierced with a spear. By the time the Romans finished with him Yeshua's body was a bloody mess.
and: Grk. kai, conj. as: Grk. hōs. a lamb: Grk. amnos (for Heb. rachel, ewe), a young sheep, a lamb. The term amnos occurs only four times in the Besekh, all in reference to Yeshua (John 1:29, 36; and 1Pet 1:19). In the LXX amnos primarily translates Heb. kebes ("lamb," SH-3532; BDB 461) and is used chiefly in passages concerning the sacrificial system (DNTT 2:410). The lamb especially featured in the daily burnt offering (Ex 29:38-39; Num 28:3). Heb. rachel (SH-7353) occurs only four times in the Tanakh (Gen 31:38; 32:14; SS 6:6; Isa 53:7), but is translated with Grk. amnos only in Isaiah. Perhaps relevant to this context is that Abraham gave seven ewe lambs to Abimelech to establish a covenant of peace with him and in the Sinaitic covenant a ewe lamb was sacrificed as a sin offering in certain ceremonies (Lev 14:10; Num 6:14).
However, the important element here is not the gender of the lamb, but how the lamb responds to the following described treatment. is silent: Grk. aphōnos (for Heb. alam, to bind, be dumb) not making use of vocal cords; soundless, voiceless or speechless. before: Grk. enantion, prep. (for Heb. panim, before, faces), 'in front of,' 'before,' especially in the sense of being subject to scrutiny. the one having sheared: Grk. ho keirō (for Heb. gazaz, to shear), aor. part., to cut off the hair, to shear. Shearing refers to cutting the wool or fleece off a lamb or an adult sheep, usually done once a year. A sheep's wool is the most widely used animal fiber, and shearing is mentioned in the Bible (Gen 31:19; 38:12; 1Sam 25:7). The LXX has the present participle form. Luke may have substituted the past tense to emphasize the completed act.
him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The description should not be taken literalistically to assume someone cut Yeshua's hair. Rather the description does fit Yeshua being crucified without his clothes, which had been confiscated by the Roman soldiers (John 19:23-24). so: Grk. houtōs, adv., particle used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done, is expressed or to be done; in this manner, in this way, in accordance with this description. he opens: Grk. anoigō (for Heb. pathach, appear, open), pres., to open, used of doors and objects. not: Grk. ou, adv. (for Heb. lo, not).
his: Grk. autos. mouth: Grk. stoma (for Heb. peh, mouth) the bodily organ used for speaking, tasting, eating and drinking; mouth. Yeshua appeared before Ananias, Caiaphas, the temple ruling council, Herod Antipas and Pilate. Only before Herod was Yeshua truly silent (Luke 23:9). This description of the suffering servant means that he does not respond with negative words (cf. 1Pet 2:22-23).
Source: Isaiah 53:8
LXX: "In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken away from the earth: because of the iniquities of my people he was led to death." (Isaiah 53:8 Brenton)
In: Grk. en, prep. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. humiliation: Grk. tapeinōsis (for Heb. otser, restraint, coercion, oppression) may mean (1) modest in one's manner or expression; or (2) in a relatively low level in circumstance or status. The second meaning applies here in the sense of abasement. Gill interprets the "humiliation" as referring to Yeshua's assumption of human nature. However, the description has a more proximate meaning of being arrested and bound late at night, being maligned and mocked, and suffering physical abuse from the Judean authorities (Matt 26:67-68; Mark 14:65; Luke 22:63-64; John 18:22).
his: Grk. autos. justice: Grk. krisis (for Heb. mishpat, judgment or justice) most often refers to the activity of judging, especially in a legal context, or its conclusion of judgment. The noun is also used to mean (1) a board of judges and (2) 'right' in the sense of justice or righteousness (BAG). The last meaning applies here in that the judgment to which Yeshua was subjected did not result in justice for him. In the LXX krisis translates primarily Heb. mishpat (SH-4941), which may to the act of deciding a case, the decision itself, the execution of the judgment and the "rightness" of all these (e.g., Gen 18:19, 25; Ex 15:25; 23:6; Lev 19:15, 35; Num 35:12; Deut 1:17; 4:5; 32:4). See my web article Biblical Justice.
was taken away: Grk. airō (for Heb. laqach, to take), aor. pass., may mean (1) to cause to move upward; raise up, lift; or (2) move by lifting or taking from one position to another; take away, remove, carry off. The second meaning applies here in a fig. sense. The verb describes being deprived of the legal right of due process. Bruce notes that the Septuagint translators had difficulty with this prophecy and their rendering is less easy to translate than the Hebrew text. The Hebrew phrase could be translated "After restraint [of arrest] and judgment [sentence] he was taken away [to be executed]." In explaining this passage to the Ethiopian (verse 35 below), Philip probably reviewed the sufferings of Yeshua instigated by his adversaries in Jerusalem.
In the series of hearings to which Yeshua was subjected before the Judean authorities, they violated at least a dozen rules of jurisprudence as set forth in the Torah and Mishnah of the Tractate Sanhedrin.
• Yeshua was not tried by the full Sanhedrin as required for a supposed false prophet or claim of heresy (Sanhedrin 1:1; cf. Matt 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; John 18:13-24). Yeshua's supporters on the Sanhedrin were purposely excluded.
• Jesus was tried at night by the Judean authorities when Jewish law permitted only daylight proceedings (Sanh. 4:1). Holding the hearings before sunrise insured no one would be available to testify on Yeshua's behalf.
• The judges failed to present the arguments for acquittal at the beginning of the hearing as required by law (Sanh. 4:1).
• Jewish law did not permit the trial of a capital offense to begin on any Sabbath (Sanh. 4:1).
• Yeshua's trial was concluded in less than one day. Jewish law says required two days to be devoted to a capital case so that any defense witnesses could be heard (Sanh. 5:1).
• The Judean hearings permitted hearsay testimony, as well as contradictory testimony (Mark 14:56-59), in violation of Torah instruction for giving evidence (Ex 20:16; Deut 5:20; 19:18). There was no effort by the high priest to instill "awe" in the witnesses to speak the truth (Sanh. 3:5; 4:3)
• The merits of Yeshua's defense were not considered. The Torah required the high priest to "inquire, search, and ask diligently" (Deut 13:14; Sanh. 5:1) to determine the truth.
• The sentence was pronounced in a place forbidden by law. The trial took place at the house of the high priest (Luke 22:54). According to the law, a death sentence could be pronounced only in the court's appointed place (Sanh. 10:4).
• The judges were legally disqualified to try Yeshua since they were his known adversaries. Torah required that cases be tried by impartial judges (Deut 16:18-19).
• When the Judean leaders took Yeshua to Pilate, they switched the charges from blasphemy to three charges that would violate Roman law and together constitute treason (Luke 23:2). Thus, the Romans would be responsible for His death. No evidence was presented (John 18:29-30). Pilate, after a brief interview, saw that Yeshua was not guilty (John 18:38, 19; Matt. 27:18). Fearing the crowd, however, he allowed the crucifixion of an innocent man. Pilate did not even pronounce Yeshua guilty; he merely turned Him over to the soldiers.
Of interest is that according to the Mishnah the king could not be judged by the Sanhedrin or testified against in a Sanhedrin hearing (Sanh. 2:1). Yeshua was the King of the Jews (Matt 2:2; John 19:19) and the King of Israel (John 1:49). In reality the judgment of the Judean leaders constituted insurrection and treason against the king, rightfully deserving divine wrath for their injustice.
Who: Grk. tís (for Heb. mi, who), interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. will describe: Grk. diēgeomai (for Heb. siach, to talk of), fut. mid., relate in full, describe, narrate. his: Grk. autos. generation: Grk. genea (for Heb. dor, generation), a kinship term that is used to mean (1) persons with common interests; (2) people linked as contemporaries; (3) a span of time loosely equal to a generation or succession of generations; or (4) a family line, posterity. The nature of the question and its answer in Isaiah 53:8 supports the fourth meaning. Stern treats the question as a lament that the one being sacrificed would have no progeny and no posterity, yet he notes,
"But the lament proves unwarranted in Yeshua’s case, because he is raised from the dead, and in him are many spiritual sons, as Isaiah foretold a few verses later (Isaiah 53:11), 'He shall see his seed.' God does the unexpected, providing seed for one who died with neither wife nor children."
Because: Grk. hoti (for Heb. ki, because, for), conj. See verse 14 above. his: Grk. autos. life: Grk. zōē, the state of being alive in contrast with being dead. In the LXX zōē translates Heb. chay (SH-2416, alive, living) with both literal and figurative uses. is taken away: Grk. airō, pres. pass. The repetition of the verb emphasizes that Yeshua's execution completed the injustice against him. from: Grk. apo, prep. the Land: Grk. ho 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 (SH-776), first in Genesis 1:1 (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). Bible versions translate the noun with "earth," probably as contrast to "heaven." The phrase "from the earth" is used to describe death in some passages (Gen 7:23; Ex 9:15; 2Sam 4:11; Ps 21:10; 104:35). Yet, the lament seems to imply that the Messiah was cut off from the Land and people he loved.
Good News for Ethiopia, 8:34-40
34 And the eunuch having answered to Philip said, "I ask you, concerning whom does the prophet say this, concerning himself or concerning someone other?"
And: Grk. de, conj. the eunuch: Grk. eunouchos. See verse 27 above. having answered: Grk. apokrinomai, aor. pass. part. See verse 24 above. to Philip: See verse 5 above. The opening phrase alludes to the Ethiopian's response in verse 31 above, "For how would I be able unless someone will guide me?" said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 6 above. I ask: Grk. deomai, pres. mid. See verse 22 above. you: Grk. su, sing. pronoun of the second person. To advance the discussion, perhaps assuming Philip had knowledge, the Ethiopian counters Philip's query with his own question. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. See verse 12 above. whom: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. does the prophet: Grk. prophētēs. See verse 28 above. say: Grk. legō, pres. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun, alluding to the quoted Scripture.
concerning: Grk. peri. himself: Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun. or: Grk. ē, conj. concerning: Grk. peri. someone: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. other: Grk. heteros, 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. The Ethiopian asked an excellent question. He recognized that the suffering servant in the passage cannot be Israel. Isaiah himself does not meet the requirements of the passage, even though he was a servant of God. So, it must be someone else.
Then: Grk. de, conj. Philip: See verse 5 above. having opened: Grk. anoigō, aor. part. See verse 32 above. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. mouth: Grk. stoma. See verse 32 above. The phrase "opened his mouth" is a typical Hebraism that emphasizes the oral nature of instruction (e.g., Mal 2:6-7; Matt 5:2; Luke 1:64; Acts 10:34). and: Grk. kai, conj. having begun: Grk. archomai (from archō, to begin, to rule), aor. part., used here to denote the staring point. from: Grk. apo, prep. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun.
Scripture: Grk. graphē. See verse 32 above. The apostolic narratives with their excellent presentation of Yeshua as the Messiah were not available yet. However, Isaiah 53 is an appropriate place to begin. The narrative implies that Philip also used other passages from the Tanakh to explain the necessity of the death and resurrection of the Messiah, as Yeshua did for his disciples (Luke 24:27, 44-46). Philip's ministry with the Ethiopian illustrates the importance of answering a seeker's questions rather than being dependent solely on a memorized witnessing method.
proclaimed the good news: Grk. euangelizō, aor. mid. See verse 4 above. Also, see verse 5 above concerning the content of the good news, which included an appeal to repent and be immersed. to him: Grk. autos. Yeshua: See verse 12 above. Luke does not use a preposition before the name Yeshua, and in doing so makes the point that Yeshua himself is the good news, since his name means "salvation." The message would be successful because the Ethiopian was ready to hear. Philip acted on the principle he learned from Yeshua when he first sent out the Twelve and then the Seventy: "seek the worthy ones" (Matt 10:11, 13; cf. Matt 22:8; Acts 13:46). In other words, the seekers are worth the time because they have an interest in learning truth and knowing about God. This is also what Yeshua meant by the "fields are ripe for harvest" (John 4:35), which he spoke about Samaria.
36 Moreover as they were going by way of the road they came upon some water, and the eunuch declared, "Behold, water! What prevents me to be immersed?"
Moreover: Grk. de, conj. as: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 32 above. The adverb here introduces an activity. they were going: Grk. poreuomai, impf. mid. See verse 26 above. by way of: Grk. kata, prep., lit. "down." the road: Grk. ho hodos. See verse 26 above. The implication is travel toward Gaza. they came: Grk. erchomai, aor. See verse 24 above. upon: Grk. epi, prep. some: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 9 above. water: Grk. hudōr, water as a physical element, here referring to a body of water, probably a stream. and: Grk. kai, conj. the eunuch: Grk. ho eunouchos. See verse 27 above. declared: Grk. phēmi, pres., convey one's thinking through verbal communication, whether orally or in writing; say, declare. HELPS says the verb properly means to make effective contrasts which illuminate, literally, "produce an epiphany."
Behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. See verse 27 above. water: Grk. hudōr. The Ethiopian had an epiphany after comprehending the implications of Philip's message and seeing water. The water source may be the Wadi el-Hesi northeast of Gaza as claimed by modern tourist guides (Bruce). What: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. See verse 33 above. prevents: Grk. kōluō, pres., to stop someone from doing something; forbid, hinder, prevent. me: Grk. egō, sing. pronoun of the first person. to be immersed: Grk. baptizō, aor. pass. inf. See verse 12 above. This question may seem strange in the circumstances. Yet, the Ethiopian's point is that if immersion is an important act of discipleship, then it should be done as soon as possible. There is no need to return to Jerusalem to immerse in a mikveh at the temple when water deep enough for the purpose is available.
[37 And Philip said, "If you trust from all the heart, it is permitted." And having answered he said, "I believe Yeshua the Messiah to be the Son of God."]
[And: Grk. de, conj. Philip: See verse 5 above. said: Grk. epō, aor., to say, call or name (LSJ). SECB has "to answer." If: Grk. ei, conj. See verse 22 above. you trust: Grk. pisteuō, pres. See verse 12 above. from: 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). The prep. is used here to indicate point of origin. all: Grk. holos, adj., signifier of a person or thing understood as a complete unit and not necessarily every individual part; all, whole, entire. the heart: Grk. kardia. See verse 21 above. it is permitted: Grk. exesti, pres., it is allowable, permitted, right, or possible. Philip's supposed comment is actually strange given the fact that immersion was expected of followers of Yeshua and Philip would have used the same verb as the Ethiopian.
And: Grk. de. having answered: Grk. apokrinomai, aor. pass. part. See verse 24 above. he said: Grk. epō, aor. I believe: Grk. pisteuō, pres. Yeshua: See verse 12 above. the Messiah: See verse 5 above. to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 1 above. the Son: Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. In the LXX huios translates Heb. ben ("son," "son of"), which is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify direct paternity, as the son of his father (Gen 5). (2) to mean not the actual father but a more distant ancestor (e.g., Gen 32:32), as Yeshua is referred to as the son of David and Abraham (Matt 1:1); or (3) to mean in a broader sense of having the characteristics of (e.g., Ps 89:22; Dan 3:25; cf. 2Th 2:3), and this too applies here.
of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 10 above. The title "Son of God" occurs 43 times in the Besekh and all but one refer to Yeshua. For Jews during this time "son of God" was used as a title for a human descendant of King David, the Messiah, who would establish the promised Kingdom, as indicated in John 1:17, 41 and 49. "Son of God" was a title of the Davidic king inasmuch as the king functioned as God's regent on earth and was vested with God's authority. So when the Ethiopian employed the old title for the king of the House of David he likely meant "Son of God" as the Messiah of Israel, just as Nathanael (John 1:49) and Martha (John 11:27) intended when they called Yeshua "Son of God." In contrast Christian theology has traditionally restricted the meaning of the title "Son of God" to deity, the second person of the Trinity.]
This verse is not found in the earliest and best MSS, nor the majority of MSS. It appears in a few MSS of Acts, but not earlier than the 8th century (GNT 448). The verse is found in the Textus Receptus (15th cent.), and thus in the KJV and other versions based on the KJV. Most modern versions contain the verse in brackets with a marginal note as to its lack of early provenance. Metzger notes that the accusative form of Iēsoun Christon is not a Lukan expression. Marshall suggests that some scribe thought to improve Luke's narrative by including the additional verse (174). However, the profession of the Ethiopian as found in the verse was recorded by Irenaeus (AD 180) in his work Against Heresies (III, 12:8). The formulaic exchange likely reflects the baptismal ceremony in the patristic era.
38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they went down, both into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he immersed himself.
And: Grk. kai, conj. he commanded: Grk. keleuō, aor., give an authoritative order; command, direct, order. the chariot: Grk. ho harma. See verse 28 above. to stop: Grk. histēmi, aor. 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 second meaning applies here to indicate a halting position. Self-driving vehicles had not been invented, so the wording of the clause is a colloquialism. The Ethiopian was obviously not the driver of the chariot. The description indicates the chariot was large enough for three people.
and: Grk. kai. they went down: Grk. katabainō, aor., 3p-pl. See verse 15 above. both: Grk. amphoteroi, adj., both of two. into: Grk. eis, prep. the water: Grk. hudōr. See verse 36 above. Philip: See verse 5 above. and: Grk. kai. the eunuch: Grk. eunouchos. See verse 27 above. For ritual immersions at the temple no one accompanied the one immersing into the water. The practice of the one superintending immersions of repentance to be in the water with the ones immersing began with Yochanan the Immerser (Matt 3:6; Mark 1:5; Luke 3:7). These verses use the preposition hupo, whose root meaning is "under" (DM 112), yet the preposition is translated "by" to give the impression that Yochanan personally assisted the one immersing down under the water.
and: Grk. kai. he immersed: Grk. baptizō, aor., 3p-sing. See verse 12 above. The subject is unstated, but some versions interpret the subject as Philip and have "Philip baptized" (AMP, CEB, CEV, GNB, GW, MSG, NOG, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV, TLB). himself: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. See verse 2 above. The pronoun autos is in the accusative case, which "signifies that the object referred to is considered as the point toward which something is proceeding: that it is the end of the action or motion described" (DM 91). Here autos is in the position of a direct object indicating that the Ethiopian received the action described.
The last phrase does not mean that Philip laid hands on the Ethiopian to assist him down into the water as in later Christian practice. There are two alternative interpretations. First, since Jewish immersion was self-immersion, the phrase simply depicts Philip superintending the immersion of the Ethiopian, both to hear his profession of faith (cf. Matt 3:6; Mark 1:5; Rom 10:9) and to witness that he went completely under the water. Second, and more likely, is that the pronoun autos means "self," and with "eunuch" being the nearest antecedent the phrase should be translated, "he immersed himself."
39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip, and the eunuch saw him no more, for he was going his way rejoicing.
And: Grk. de, conj. when: Grk. hote, adv., at which time. they came up: Grk. anabainō, aor., 3p-pl., to proceed in a direction that is up. out of: Grk. ek, prep. the water: Grk. hudōr. See verse 36 above. the Spirit: Grk. pneuma. See verse 15 above. of the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 16 above. snatched: Grk. harpazō, aor., take away by seizure; take away, seize, snatch. This verb is used by Paul to describe his being taken to heaven in a vision (2Cor 12:4) and the gathering of God's people at the Second Coming (1Th 4:17). The verb is also used of the ascension of Yeshua (Rev 12:5).
Philip: See verse 5 above. Ezekiel (Ezek 3:14; 11:1; 43:5) and John (Rev 17:5; 21:10) reported similar experiences. and: Grk. kai, conj. the eunuch: Grk. eunouchos. See verse 27 above. saw: Grk. horaō, aor. See verse 18 above. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. no more: Grk. ouketi, adverb of cessation of an activity or condition, no longer, no more. The narrative implies that once Philip and the Ethiopian parted company they never saw each other again. for: Grk. gar, conj. he was going: Grk. poreuomai, impf. See verse 26 above. his: Grk. autos. way: Grk. hodos. See verse 26 above. The noun refers to the road the Ethiopian would take to Gaza and beyond to Africa.
rejoicing: Grk. chairō, pres. part., has two usages: (1) to be in a state marked by good feeling about an event or circumstance; and (2) an expression of greeting that is normally tantamount to assuring the other of one's good will, a kind of introductory social ointment. The first usage is intended here. Being redeemed and becoming a new creation produces an ebullient joy unmatched by any other experience, which is expressed in vocal praise.
Epilogue: Irenaeus says that the eunuch was also sent as an evangelist into the region of Ethiopia to proclaim what he had himself believed and that Yeshua had fulfilled the Messianic predictions of the Hebrew prophets (Against Heresies, III, 12:8).
40 But Philip was found at Azotus, and going about he was proclaiming the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
But: Grk. de, conj. Philip: See verse 5 above. was found: Grk. heuriskō, aor. pass., may mean (1) to come upon a person or thing by seeking; (2) to discover by inquiry, thought, examination, scrutiny, observation, or hearing; or (3) to find for oneself, to acquire, get, obtain, or procure (Thayer). The first meaning applies here. Some versions translate the verb as "found himself" (CEB, ESV, NASB, NLT, NRSV), implying that the Spirit teleported Philip to the new location, and it took a while for him to determine where he was. However, there is no pronoun "himself" in the verse. Actually the verb gives the impression that Philip had been missing and someone searched for him, finally locating him. Perhaps it was Luke who found him.
at: Grk. eis, prep. Azotus: Grk. Azōtos ("ungirt," LSJ), a coastal town halfway between Gaza and Joppa, known in the Tanakh as Ashdod ('stronghold or fortress") of ancient Philistia. The town was located in territory originally allocated to the tribe of Judah (Josh 15:4). Hebrew prophets later pronounced God's judgment on Ashdod for its idolatry and paganism (Amos 1:8; Zeph 2:4; Zech 9:6). In the Maccabean period Judas and Jonathan both took Ashdod and purified it of idolatry (1Macc 5:68; 10:84). In 1Maccabees the city is called Azotus, so the name change occurred in the Hellenistic period. It had been restored in the time of Herod the Great by the Roman general Gabinius, and was presented to Salome, the sister of Herod, by the emperor Augustus (ISBE). The wicked history of the city was no impediment to receiving the good news of Yeshua.
and: Grk. kai, conj. going about: Grk. dierchomai, pres. mid. part. See verse 4 above. he was proclaiming the good news: Grk. euangelizō, impf. See verse 4 above. to all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. the towns: pl. of Grk. polis. See verse 5 above. The phrase "all the towns" refers to cities within the Plain of Sharon, a coastal plain some ten miles wide extending from the southern border of Judaea to its northern border with the province of Syria. Philip may have traveled the main coastal highway, the Via Maris (see map here), the most direct route to his destination, or he could have taken a more meandering route using interior roads to visit other towns. Locales for proclamation of the good news could include synagogues and marketplaces.
until: Grk. heōs, adv., until, as far as. he came: Grk. erchomai, aor. inf. See verse 24 above. to: Grk. eis, prep. Caesarea: Grk. Kaisareia, a prominent coastal city located 23 miles south of Mt. Carmel. Originally called Strato's Tower the Hasmonean ruler Alexander Jannaeus brought it under Jewish control in 96 BC, but Pompey brought it under Roman rule in 63 BC. The city was home to a thriving Jewish community. Because of the lack of natural harbor Herod the Great undertook in 22 BC to build a fine port facility and support it by a new city. Great statues of Augustus and Roma were erected at the entrance. An inner harbor appears to have been dug into the land where mooring berths and vaulted warehouses were constructed. Josephus described the construction of the harbor and accompanying city in grandiose detail (Ant. XIV, 4:4; XV, 9:6).
Caesarea was Hellenistic in design and style and Herod renamed it honor of Caesar Augustus. In addition to the many buildings a platform was raised near the harbor upon which a temple was built for Caesar with a Colossus of Caesar. After the death of Herod the city became the capital of the province of Judaea and served as the official home of the procurators. The city is mentioned in the book of Acts 15 times as the location of apostolic visits and significant events. It was in this city that Philip married and settled down (Acts 21:8-9).
Ant.: Flavius Josephus (c. 37–100 A.D.), Antiquities of the Jews (Latin Antiquitates Judaicae). trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
Atlas: Oxford Bible Atlas, Second Edition. ed. Herbert G. May. Oxford University Press, 1974.
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.
Brenton: Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton (1807-1862), The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament with English Translation. Samuel, Bagster & Sons, 1851. Online.
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. 6 vols. J. Emory and B. Waugh, 1831. Online.
Coke: Thomas Coke (1747-1814), Commentary on the Holy Bible. 6 vols. Online.
Craigie: Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1976. (New International Commentary on the Old Testament)
Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
Delitzsch: Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890), Isaiah. Commentary on the Old Testament (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, 1866-1891), Vol. 7. Hendrickson Publishers, 2006.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
DNTT: Colin Brown, ed., Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
Edmundson: Charles Edmundson, The Church in Rome in the First Century. Longmans, Green and Co., 1913. Online.
Gilbert: Gary Gilbert, Annotations on "The Acts of the Apostles," Jewish Annotated New Testament, eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.
GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966. [NA25]
HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
ISBE: James Orr, ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1939. Website HTML, 2011. Online.
Jeremias: Joichim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Fortress Press, 1975.
Koch: Kurt E. Koch (1913-1987), Between Christ and Satan. Kregel Publications, 1962.
Liberman: Joel Liberman, The Acts of the Emissaries: Practical Sermons on the Spirit-filled Birth & Explosive Growth of Messianic Judaism. Tree of Life, Inc., 2014.
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.
Lizorkin-Eyzenberg: Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel. Jewish Studies for Christians (Tel Aviv), 2015.
Longenecker: Richard N. Longenecker, Acts. Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 9. Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp., 1989-1999.
Marshall: I. Howard Marshall, Acts. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. InterVarsity Press, 1980.
Metzger: Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. United Bible Societies, 1994.
Moseley: Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. Lederer Books, 1996.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
NA28: Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th edition. eds. Barbara and Kurt Aland, John Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce M. Metzger. German Bible Society and American Bible Society, 2012. [NA28 has the same Greek text as UBS-5.]
Neil: James Neil, Palestine Explored. James Nisbet & Co., 1882.
OCB: The Oxford Companion to the Bible. ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan. Oxford University Press, 1993.
Pryor: Dwight A. Pryor, Behold the Man: Discovering our Hebrew Lord, the Historical Jesus of Nazareth. Center for Judaic-Christian Studies, 2005.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. 2 Vol. Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 Vols. Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997) Online.
SECB: James Strong (1822–1894), Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (1890). Online.
Skarsaune: Oskar Skarsaune, In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity. InterVarsity Press, 2002.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
TDNT: Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 10 vols. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1967. Online.
TWOT: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 Vols. ed. R. Laird Harris. Moody Bible Institute, 1980.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer (1828-1901), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889. Website HTML 2011 by Biblesoft, Inc. 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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