Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,Chap. 10:1-48.] Conversion (by special divine prearrangement) and baptism of the Gentile Cornelius and his party. We may remark, that the conversion of the Gentiles was no new idea to Jews or Christians, but that it had been universally regarded as to take place by their reception into Judaism. Of late, however, since the Ascension, we see the truth that the Gospel was to be a Gospel of the uncircumcision, beginning to be recognized by some. Stephen, carrying out the principles of his own apology, could hardly have failed to recognize it: and the Cyprian and Cyrenæan missionaries of ch. 11:20 preached the word πρὸς τοὺς Ἕλληνας (not -ιστάς), certainly before the conversion of Cornelius. This state of things might have given rise to a permanent schism in the infant church. The Hellenists, and perhaps Saul, with his definite mission to the Gentiles, might have formed one party, and the Hebrews, with Peter at their head, the other. But, as Neander admirably observes (Pfl. u. Leit. p. 111), ‘The pernicious influence with which, from the first, the self-seeking and one-sided prejudices of human nature threatened the divine work, was counteracted by the superior influence of the Holy Spirit, which did not allow the differences of men to reach such a point of antagonism, but enabled them to retain unity in variety. We recognize the preventing wisdom of God,—which, while giving scope to the free agency of man, knows how to interpose His immediate revelation just at the moment when it is requisite for the success of the divine work,—by noticing, that when the Apostles needed this wider development of their Christian knowledge for the exercise of their vocation, and when the lack of it would have been exceedingly detrimental,—at that very moment, by a remarkable coincidence of inward revelation with a chain of outward circumstances, the illumination hitherto wanting was imparted to them.’
1. Καισαρείᾳ] As this town bears an important part in early Christian history, it will be well to give here a full account of it. Cæsarea (Palestinæ, Καισάρεια τῆς Παλαιστίνης, called παράλιος, Jos. B. J. iii. 9. 1; vii. 2. 2; Antt. xiii. 11. 2, or ἡ ἐπὶ θαλάττῃ K., Jos. B. J. vii. 1. 3; 2. 1, or Stratonis (see below),—distinguished from Cæsarea. Philippi, see note Matthew 16:13) is between Joppa and Dora, 68 Rom. miles from Jerusalem according to the Jerus. Itinerary, 75 according to Josephus (i.e. 600 stadia, Antt. xiii. 11. 2. B. J. i. 3. 5),—36. miles (Abulfeda) from Ptolemais (a day’s journey, ch. 21:8),—30 from Joppa (Edrisi);—one of the largest towns in Palestine (Jos. B. J. iii. 9. 1), with an excellent haven (Jos. Antt. xvii. 5. 1, Σεβαστὸς λιμήν,—ὅν κατασκευάσας Ἡρώδης πολλῶν χρημάτων ἐπὶ τιμῇ τῇ Καίσαρος καλεῖ Σεβαστόν. It was, even before the destruction of Jerusalem, the seat of the Roman Procurators (see ch. 23:23 ff.; 24:27; 25:1), and called by Tacitus (Hist. ii. 79) ‘Judææ caput.’ It was chiefly inhabited by Gentiles (Jos. B. J. iii. 9. 1; ii. 14.4), but there were also many thousand Jewish inhabitants (Jos. B. J. ii. 18. 1; Antt. xx. 8.7; Life, 11). It was built by Herod the Great ( xiv. 8; p. 29, Bipont. Beforetime there was only a fort there, called Στράτωνος πύργος, Jos. Antt. xv. 9. 6 al.; Strabo, xvi. 758; Plin. v.14)—fortified, provided with a haven (see ch. 9:30; 18:22; Joseph. above), and in honour of Cæsar Augustus named Cæsarea (at length Καισάρεια Σεβαστή, Jos. Antt. xvi. 5. 1). Vespasian made it a Roman colony (Plin. v. 13). Abulfeda (Syr. p. 80) speaks of it as in ruins in his time (a.d. 1300). At present there are a few ruins only, and some fishers’ huts. (From Winer, Realw.)
ἑκατοντάρχης] The subordinate officer commanding the sixth part of a cohort = half a maniple. See Dict. of Gr. and Roman Antt.
σπ. τ. καλ. Ἰταλ.] A cohort (σπ.) levied in Italy, not in Syria. Mr. Humphry quotes from Gruter, Inscr. i. p. 434, ‘Cohors militum Italicorum voluntaria, quæ est in Syria.’ Biscoe (Hist. of the Acts, pp. 217-221) maintains that this was an independent cohort, not one attached to a legion. The legio Italica (Tacit. Hist. i. 59, 64; ii. 100; iii. 22) was not raised till Nero’s time.
2. εὐς. κ. φοβ. τ. θ.] i.e. he had abandoned polytheism, and was a worshipper of the true God: whether a proselyte of the gate, or not, seems uncertain. That he may have been such, there is nothing in the narrative to preclude: nor does Meyer’s objection apply, that it is not probable that, among the many thousand converts, no Greek proselyte had yet been admitted by baptism into the church. Many such cases may have occurred, and some no doubt had: but the object of this providential interference seems to have been, to give solemn sanction to such reception, by the agency of him who was both the chief of the Apostles, and the strong upholder of pure Judaism. It is hardly possible that μαρτυρούμενος ὑπὸ ὅλου τοῦ ἔθνους τῶν Ἰουδαίων (ver. 22) should have been said of a Gentile not in any way conformed to the Jewish faith and worship. The great point (ch. 11:3) which made the present event so important, was, that Cornelius was ἀνὴρ ἀκροβυστίαν ἔχων. Doubtless also among his company (ver. 24) there must have been many who were not proselytes.
δεόμενος τ. θεοῦ διὰ π.] From Cornelius’s own narrative, ver. 31, as well as from the analogy of God’s dealings, we are certainly justified in inferring, with Neander, that the subject of his prayers was that he might be guided into truth, and if so, hardly without reference to that faith which was now spreading so widely over Judæa. This is not matter of conjecture, but is implied by Peter’s οἴδατε τὸ γενόμ. δῆμα καθʼ ὅλης τῆς Ἰουδαίας. Further than this, we cannot infer with certainty; but, if the particular difficulty present in his mind be sought, we can hardly avoid the conclusion that it was connected with the apparent necessity of embracing Judaism and circumcision in order to become a believer on Christ.
3. ἐν ὁράμ. φανερῶς] not in a trance, as ver. 10, and ch. 22:17,—but with his bodily eyes: thus asserting the objective truth of the appearance.
ὡσεὶ περὶ ὥρ. ἐν.] It here appears that C. observed the Jewish hours of prayer.
4. εἰς μνημ.] Not instar sacrificii (Psalm 141:2) as Grot.: but, as E. V., for a memorial, ‘so as to be a memorial.’
There has been found a difficulty by some in the fact that Cornelius’s works were received as well pleasing to God, before he had justifying faith in Christ. But it is surely easy to answer, with Calvin and Augustine, ‘non potuisse orare Cornelium, nisi fidelis esset.’ His faith was all that he could then attain to, and brought forth its fruits abundantly in his life: one of which fruits, and the best of them, was, the earnest seeking by prayer for a better and more perfect faith.
7. ἀπῆλθεν] So in Luke 1:38:—another token of the objective reality of the vision: εἰσελθόντα (ver. 3) and ἀπῆλθ. denoting the real acts of the angel, not the mere deemings of Cornelius.
λαλῶν must be regarded as the imperfect participle, as in John 9:8.
9.] By δῶμα, Jerome, Luther, Erasm., al., understand an upper chamber. But why not then ὑπερῷον, a word which Luke so frequently uses? It was the flat roof, much frequented in the East for purposes of exercise (2Samuel 11:2; Daniel 4:29, marg.),—of sleeping in summer (1Samuel 9:26, by inference, and as expressed in LXX),—of conversation (ib. ver. 25),—of mourning (Isaiah 15:8; Jeremiah 48:38),—of erecting booths at the feast of tabernacles (Nehemiah 8:16),—of other religious celebrations (2Kings 23:12; Jeremiah 19:13; Zephaniah 1:5),—of publicity (2Samuel 16:22; Matthew 10:27; Luke 12:3. Jos. B. J. ii. 21. 5),—of observation (Judges 16:27; Isaiah 22:1),—and for any process requiring fresh air and sun (Joshua 2:6). (Winer, Realw., art. Dach.)
ἕκτην] The second hour of prayer: also of the mid-day meal.
The distance was thirty Roman miles, part of which they performed on the preceding evening, perhaps to Apollonia,—and the rest that morning.
10. γεύς.] see reff. ἐκείνων is more likely to have been a correction of αὐτῶν as applying better to the people of the house, than the converse.
ἔκστασις] The distinction of this appearance from the ὅραμα above (though the usage is not always strictly observed) is, that in this case that which was seen was a revelation shewn to the eye of the beholder when rapt into a supernatural state, having, as is the case in a dream, no objective reality: whereas, in the other case, the thing seen actually happened, and was beheld by the person as an ordinary spectator, in the possession of his natural senses.
11. τέσς. ἀρχ.] not, ‘by the four corners,’ which would certainly require the article, as in reff.,—but by four rope-ends. This meaning of ἀρχή justified by Diod. Sic. i. p. 104, who, speaking of harpooning the hippopotamus, says, εἶθʼ ἑνὶ τῶν ἐμπαγέντων ἐνάπτοντες ἀρχὰς στυπίνας ἀφίασι μέχρις ἂν παραλυθῇ. The ends of the ropes were attached to the sheet, and, in the vision, they only were seen.
At all events, as Neander observes (Pfl. u. L. p. 126, note), these four ἀρχαί (whether ends of ropes attached to the corners, or those corners themselves) are not without meaning, directed as they are to the four parts of heaven, and intimating that men from the North, South, East, and West, now were accounted clean before God, and were called to a share in his kingdom: see Luke 13:29. The symbolism is, as usual, fancifully exaggerated by Wordsw. in his note. The four ἀρχαί are the four gospels, because the word ἀρχή occurs somewhere near the beginning of each, &c., &c. Who can wonder, after this, at the distrust of all Scripture symbolism by intelligent, but unspiritual minds?
I have retained the words δεδ. καί doubtfully, because it seems difficult to account for their insertion, but they may have been omitted to assimilate our text to ch. 11:5.
12. πάντα τὰ τετ.] literally: not ‘many of each kind,’ nor ‘some of all kinds,’ in which case the art., the sense of which is carried on from τὰ τετρ. to the subsequent words (see ch. 11:6), would be omitted:—in the vision it seemed to Peter to be an assemblage of all creation.
τετρ., ἑρπ., πετ.] In ch. 11:6, from which our text has been corrected, Peter follows the more strictly Jewish division: see there.
14.] Peter rightly understands the command as giving him free choice of all the creatures shewn to him. We cannot infer hence that the sheet contained unclean animals only. It was a mixture of clean and unclean,—the aggregate, therefore, being unclean.
κύριε] So Cornelius to the angel, ver. 4. It is here addressed to the unknown heavenly speaker.
On the clean and unclean beasts, &c., see Lev_11.
15.] These weighty words have more than one application. They reveal what was needed for the occasion, in a figure: God letting down from heaven clean and unclean alike, Jew and Gentile,—represented that He had made of one blood all nations to dwell on the face of all the earth: God having purified these, signified that the distinction was now abolished which was ‘added because of transgressions’ (Galatians 3:19),—and all regarded in his eyes as pure for the sake of His dear Son. But the literal truth of the representation was also implied;—that the same distinctions between the animals intended for use as food were now done away, and free range allowed to men, as their lawful wants and desires invite them, over the whole creation of God: that creation itself having been purified and rendered clean for use by the satisfaction of Christ. The same truth which is asserted by the heavenly voice in Peter’s vision, is declared Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:20; 1Timothy 4:4, 1Timothy 4:5. Only we must be careful not to confound this restitution with the ἀποκατάστασις πάντων of ch. 3:21; see notes there.
16. ἐπὶ τρίς] denoting the certainty of the thing revealed: see Genesis 41:32.
17. Valcknaer and Stier understand ἐν ἑαυτῷ, as ch. 12:11, where γενόμενος is expressed (see D in var. readd. here),—‘when he came to himself,’ but without γενόμενος this is very harsh, and it surely is better not to force from its obvious meaning so natural a conjunction of words as ἐν ἑαυτῷ διηπόρει.
18. φωνήσαντες having called out (some one), they were enquiring.
The present, ξενίζεται is a common mixed construction between the direct and the indirect interrogation.
19.] See ch. 8:29, note.
20. ἀλλά] ‘make no question as to who or what they are,—but:’—so also ch. 9:6.
ἐγώ] The Holy Spirit, shed down upon the Church to lead it into all the truth, had in His divine arrangements brought about, by the angel sent to Cornelius, their coming.
23. ἐξένισεν] This was his first consorting with men uncircumcised and eating with them (ch. 11:3): though perhaps this latter is not necessarily implied.
τινες τῶν ἀδ.] Six, ch. 11:12: in expectation of some weighty event to which hereafter their testimony might be required, as indeed it was, ib.
24. ἀναγκαίους] his intimate friends. So Jos. Antt. xi. 6. 4, φίλος ἀναγκαιότατος τῷ βασιλεῖ and Xen. Mem. ii. 1. 14, φίλους πρὸς τοῖς ἀναγκαίοις καλουμένοις ἄλλους κτῶνται βοηθούς. These, like himself, must have been fearers of the true God, or at all events must have been influenced by his vision to wait for the teaching of Peter.
25. τοῦ εἰσελθ.] This, the most difficult and best supported reading, is a harshness of construction hardly explicable (see Winer, edn. 6, § 44. 4) on any principles. It probably arose from taking the so frequent τοῦ with the infin. almost as one word, and equivalent to the infin. itself.
τοὺς πόδας] viz. those of Peter. Kuinoel’s rendering ‘in genua provolutus’ is clearly inadmissible.
προσεκύν.] “Adoravit; non addidit Lucas, ‘eum.’ Euphmia.” (Bengel.)
May not the same reason have occasioned the omission of αὐτοῦ after πόδας? the one αὐτ. would almost require the other. It was natural for Cornelius to think that one so pointed out by an angel must be deserving of the highest respect; and this respect he shewed in a way which proves him not to have altogether lost the heathen training of his childhood. He must have witnessed the rise of the custom of paying divine honours first to those who were clothed with the delegated power of the senate (Suet., Octav.52, mentions, “templa etiam proconsulibus decerni solere”), and then κατʼ ἐξοχήν to him in whom the imperial majesty centered.
26. καὶ ἐγὼ αὐτ. ἄνθρ. εἰμι] This was the lesson which Peter’s vision had taught him, and he now begins to practise it:—the common honour and equality of all mankind in God’s sight.
Those who claim to have succeeded Peter, have not imitated this part of his conduct. See Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:8, in both which cases it is ἔμπροσθ. τῶν ποδῶν τοῦ ἀγγ., supporting the above rendering of ἐπὶ τ. πόδας. (See the gloss in D, ver. 25, digest.)
27.] The second εἰσῆλθεν [see ver. 25] betokens the completion of his entering in; or (as De W. and Meyer) the former, his entering the house,—this latter, the chamber.
28. ὑμεῖς, you, of all men, (best) know: being those immediately concerned in the obstruction to intercourse which the rule occasioned.
ὡς ἀθέμιτον …] that it is unlawful, … or ‘how unlawful it is:’ better the former, because in the order of the words, ἀθέμιτον has the stress on it: the other rendering would more naturally represent ὡς ἔστιν ἀθέμιτον. In both the reff. the ambiguity is the same.
There is some difficulty about this unlawfulness of consorting with those ἀλλόφυλοι who, like Cornelius, worshipped the true God. It rests upon no legal prohibition, and seems, at first sight, hardly consistent with the zeal to gain proselytes predicated of the Pharisees, Matthew 23:15,—with Jos. Antt. xx. 2. 3 (Ἰουδαῖός τις ἔμπορος, Ἀνανίας ὄνομα, πρὸς τὰς γυναῖκας εἰσιὼν τοῦ βασιλέως (Monobazus, of Adiabene) ἐδίδασκεν αὐτὰς τὸν θεὸν εὐσεβεῖν), and with the Rabbinical comment Schemoth Rabba on Exodus 12:4, “Hoc idem est quod scriptum dicit Jes. Lev_3. Et non dicet filius advenæ qui adhæsit Domino, dicendo: separando separavit me Dominus a populo suo.” But whatever exceptions there may have been, it was unquestionably the general practice of the Jews to separate themselves in common life from uncircumcised persons. We have Juvenal testifying to this at Rome, Sat. xiv. 103, ‘non monstrare vias, eadem nisi sacra colenti: Quæsitum ad fontem solos deducere verpos.’ And Tacitus, Hist. v. 5, ‘adversus omnes alios hostile odium, separati epulis, discreti cubilibus,’ &c.…
κἀμοί], not, ‘but God hath shewed me,’ as E. V.: καί can never have this meaning, and in all cases where it is so rendered we may trace the significance of the simple copula if we examine. Here, for instance:—the two parties concerned are ὑμεῖς, κἀγώ. ‘Ye, though ye see me here, know, how strong the prejudice is which would have kept me away: and I, though entertaining fully this prejudice myself, yet have been taught &c.’
29. τίνι λόγῳ] on what account: the dative of the cause: see reff.: and cf. Hes. Theog. 626: γαίης φραδμοσύνῃσιν ἀνήγαγεν,—Winer, edn. 6, § 31. 6. c, and Bernhardy, Syntax, ch. iii. 14.
30. ἀπὸ τετ. ἡμ.] The rendering of Meyer and others, ‘From the fourth day (reckoned back) down to this hour have I been fasting,’ is ungrammatical; for (1) this would require τῆσδε τῆς ὥρας, and (2) ἤμην cannot possibly reach to the present time, but is the historical past: I was fasting. This being so, ἀπὸ τετάρτης ἡμέρας must indicate the time denoted by ἤμην—‘quarto abhinc die’—four days ago; see reff. (2), which fully justify this rendering. De Wette’s and Neander’s rendering, ‘For four (whole) days was I (i.e. had I been) fasting up to this hour (i.e. the hour in which he saw the vision),’ does not satisfy ταύτης τῆς ὥρας, which must in that case be ἐκείνης, if indeed such an expression could be at all used of ‘the time when the following incident took place.’ The only legitimate meaning of ταύτ. τ. ὥρ. I take to be this hour of the day: and this meaning is further established by the omission of ὥραν after ἐνάτην.
The hour alluded to is probably the sixth, the hour of the mid-day meal, which was the only one partaken by the Jews on their solemn days. (Lightf.)
λαμπρᾷ] bright. In Luke (ref.) the brightness was in the colour: here, probably, in some supernatural splendour. The garment might have been white (as in ch. 1:10), or not,—but at all events, it was radiant with brightness.
31.] The two are separated here, which were placed together in ver. 4, and each has its proper verb: εἰσηκ … ἡ προσευχὴ κ. αἱ ἐλ … ἐμνήσθ.
33.] The reading ἐνώπ. σου, for ἐνώπ. τοῦ θεοῦ, is remarkable, and had it more manuscript authority, would seem as if it might have been genuine. It was much more likely to have been altered into τ. θεοῦ (as making the expression more solemn), than the converse: and the sense, ‘We are all here present before thee,’ follows better on the two preceding verses.
τὰ προστ.] Not doubting that God, who had directed him to Peter, had also directed Peter what to speak to him.
34. ἀνοίξας τὸ στ.] Used (see reff.) on occasions of more than ordinary solemnity.
ἐπʼ ἀληθείας κατ.] ‘For the first time I now clearly, in its fulness and at a living fact, apprehend (grasp by experience the truth of) what I read in the Scripture (Deuteronomy 10:17; 2Chronicles 19:7; Job 34:19).’
35.] ἀλλά gives the explanation,—what it is that Peter now fully apprehends: but as opposed to προσωπολήμπτης in its now apparent sense.
ἐν παντὶ ἔθνει κ.τ.λ.] It is very important that we should hold the right clue to guide us in understanding this saying. The question which recent events had solved in Peter’s mind, was that of the admissibility of men of all nations into the church of Christ. In this tense only, had he received any information as to the acceptableness of men of all nations before God. He saw, that in every nation, men who seek after God, who receive His witness of Himself without which He has left no man, and humbly follow His will as far as they know it,—these have no extraneous hindrance, such as uncircumcision, placed in their way to Christ, but are capable of being admitted into God’s church though Gentiles, and as Gentiles. That only such are spoken of, is agreeable to the nature of the case; for men who do not fear God, and work unrighteousness, are out of the question, not being likely to seek such admission. It is clearly unreasonable to suppose Peter to have meant, that each heathen’s natural light and moral purity would render him acceptable in the sight of God:—for, if so, why should he have proceeded to preach Christ to Cornelius, or indeed any more at all? And it is equally unreasonable to find any verbal or doctrinal difficulty in ἐργ. δικαιοσύνην, or to suppose that δικ. must be taken in its forensic sense, and therefore that he alludes to the state of men after becoming believers. He speaks popularly, and certainly not without reference to the character he had heard of Cornelius, which consisted of these very two parts, that he feared God, and abounded in good works.
The deeper truth, that the preparation of the heart itself in such men comes from God’s preventing grace, is not in question here, nor touched upon.
36. τὸν λόγον] The construction is very difficult. Several ways have been proposed of connecting and rendering this accusative. (1) Erasm., Wolf, Heinrichs, Kuin., &c., τὸν λόγον with οἴδατε, and understand τὸ γεν. ῥῆμ. κ.τ.λ. as in apposition with it. “The word which, &c., ye know, viz. the γεν. ῥ.” But this immediate connexion of λόγ. and οἴδ. is hardly consistent with the interruption of the sense by οὗτος … κύριος. (2) Meyer, and Winer, edn. 6, § 62. 3 end, adopt virtually the same construction, but understand ὑμ. οἴδ. to be a taking up of the sense which was broken by (in this case) the two parentheses εὐαγγ … χριστοῦ, and οὗτος … κύριος. This also is the rendering of E. V. But it does not sufficiently account for the two clauses parenthesized. Besides, it is an objection to both these, that the hearers did not know the λόγος—‘noverant auditores historiam de qua mox, non item rationes interiores, de quibus hoc versu.’ Bengel. (3) Rosenm. and others understand κατά, ‘secundum eam doctrinam quam Deus tradi jussit Israelitis,’ or (4) take it as an accusativus pendens, ‘ad sermonem filiis Israel missum quod attinet’.… But an accusative is never found thus standing alone, unless there be an anacoluthon, which (3) precludes, and which would, if assumed in (4), give us a construction of unexampled harshness. (5) Grot. and Beza take τὸν λόγον ὅν, for ὃν λόγον ‘quem nuncium,’ justifying it by Matthew 21:42, and so nearly (6) Kypke, ‘verbum quod misit … illud in omnes habet potestatem,’ a rendering altogether out of all N. T. analogy, as is also (7) that of Heinsius, who understands λόγος as personal, ‘Verbum quod misit Deus, omnium est Dominus,’ a usage confined in the N. T. to the writings of St. John, and, even if admissible, most harsh and improbable here. (8) I agree in the main with De Wette, who joins τὸν λόγον with καταλαμβάνομαι,—and regards ver. 36 as exegetic of ὅτι … δεκτὸς αὐτῷ ἐστι. Of a truth I perceive, &c.… (and recognize this as) the word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace (see reff.) through Jesus Christ: (then, for the first time, ἐπʼ ἀληθείας καταλαμβανόμενος this also, on the mention of Jesus Christ, he adds οὗτός ἐστιν πάντων κύριος,) He is Lord of all men; with a strong emphasis on πάντων. I the more incline to this, the simplest and most forcible rendering, from observing that so far from ὑμεῖς οἴδατε being (Meyer’s objection) a harsh beginning to a new sentence, it is the very form in which Peter began his address to them ver. 28, ὑμεῖς ἐπίστασθε, &c.: and, as there it answers to κἀμοί, so here also (ver. 39) to καὶ ἡμεῖς.
διὰ Ἰης. χρ. belongs to εὐαγγελ., not to εἰρήνην.
37. τὸ ῥῆμα] the matter: not the thing, here or any where else: but the thing said, the ‘materies’ of the proclamation, in this case perhaps best ‘the history.’
γενόμενον] Not ‘which took place,’ but, which was spoken, ‘published,’ as E. V. See reff. This meaning, which ῥῆμα itself renders necessary, is further supported by καθʼ ὅλης τ. Ἰουδ., which can only be properly said, and is used by Luke (only, see reff.) of a publication, or spreading of a rumour, not of the happening of an event or series of events relating to one person.
ἀρξ. ἀπ. τ. Γαλ.] It was from Galilee first that the fame of Jesus went abroad, as Luke himself relates, Luke 4:14, Luke 4:37 (44 v. r.); 7:17; 9:6 (23:5). Galilee also was the nearest to Cæsarea, and may have been for this reason expressly mentioned. ἀρξάμενος is an unexpected transference of the case and gender into that of the prime agent, a construction common enough in the Apocalypse (4:1 reff.), but surprising in St. Luke.
μετὰ τὸ βάπτ.] So also Peter dates the ministry of our Lord in ch. 1:22. (See note there.)
38. Ἰησοῦν τ. ἀπὸ Ναζ.] The personal subject of the γενόμενον ῥῆμα, q. d. ‘Ye know the subject which was preached … viz. Jesus of Nazareth.’
ὡς ἔχρ. αὐτ.] how that God anointed him …, not as Kuin. and Kypke, ‘how that God anointed Jesus of N.,’ taking αὐτόν as redundant by a Hebraism. See a construction very similar in Luke 24:19, Luke 24:20.
The fact of the anointing with the Holy Spirit, in His baptism by John, was the historical opening of the ministry of Jesus: this anointing however was not His first unction with the Spirit, but only symbolic of that which He had in His incarnation: so Cyril in Johan. lib. xi. vol. vii. p. 993, οὐ δήπου πάλιν ἐκεῖνό φαμεν ὅτι τότε γέγονεν ἅγιος ὁ κατὰ σάρκα χριστός, ὅτε τὸ πνεῦμα τεθέαται καταβαῖνον ὁ βαπτιστής· ἅγιος γὰρ ἦν καὶ ἐν ἐμβρύῳ καὶ μήτρᾳ … ἀλλὰ δέδοται μὲν εἰς σημεῖον τῷ βαπτιστῇ τὸ θέαμα:—which unction abode upon Him, John 1:32, John 1:33, and is alleged here as the continuing anointing which was upon Him from God.
Stier well remarks, how entirely all personal address to the hearers and all doctrinal announcements are thrown into the background in this speech, and the Person and Work and Office of Christ put forward as the sole subject of apostolic preaching.
καταδυναστ.] Subdued, so that he is their δυνάστς,—and this power used for their oppression. Here, it alludes to physical oppression by disease (see Luke 13:16) and possession: in 2Timothy 2:26, a very similar description is given of those who are spiritually bound by the devil.
ὁ θεὸς ἦν μετʼ αὐτ.] So Nicodemus had spoken, John 3:2; and probably Peter here used the words as well known and indicative of the presence of divine power and co-operation (see Judges 6:16): beginning as he does with the outer and lower circle of the things regarding Christ, as they would be matter of observation and inference to his hearers, and gradually ascending to those higher truths regarding His Person and Office, which were matter of apostolic testimony and demonstration from Scripture,—His resurrection (ver. 40), His being appointed Judge of living and dead (ver. 42), and the predestined Author of salvation to all who believe on Him (ver. 43).
39. καὶ ἡμεῖς] Answering to ὑμεῖς οἴδατε, ver. 37. ‘You know the history as matter of universal rumour: and we are witnesses of the facts.’ By this ἡμεῖς Peter at once takes away the ground from the exaggerated reverence for himself individually, shewn by Cornelius, ver. 25 (Stier): and puts himself and the rest of the Apostles in the strictly subordinate place of witnesses for Another.
ὃν καὶ ἀνεῖλ.] Whom also they killed. καί is not ‘yet,’ as Kuinoel, but merely introduces, in this case passing over it without emphasis, a new fact in this history. He even omits all mention of the actors in the murder, speaking as he did to Gentiles: a striking contrast to ch. 2:23; 3:14; 4:10; 5:30,—when he was working conviction in the minds of those actors themselves.
κρεμ. ἐπὶ ξ.] So also ch. 5:30, where see note.
41.] Bengel would understand συνεφ. κ. συνεπ. of previous intercourse during His ministry, and parenthesize οὐ παντὶ … αὐτῷ,—finding a difficulty in their having eaten and drunk with Him after His Resurrection. But this would make the significant οἵτινες (“people who”).… αὐτῷ very flat and unmeaning, especially after ver. 39: whereas the fact of their having eaten and drunk with Him after His Resurrection gives most important testimony to the reality and identity of His risen Body. And there is no real difficulty in it: Luke 24:41, Luke 24:43 and John 21:12 give us instances; and, even if συνεπίομεν is to be pressed, it is no contradiction to Luke 22:18, which only refers to one particular kind of drinking.
προκεχ. ὑπ. τ. θεοῦ] Had not Peter in his mind the Lord’s own solemn words,—οὓς δέδωκάς μοι ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου, John 17:6?
42. τῷ λαῷ] Here as elsewhere (ver. 2; John 11:50 al. fr.), the Jewish people: that was all which, in the apostolic mind, up to this time, the command had absolutely enjoined. The further unfolding of the Gospel had all been brought about over and above this first injunction. Ch. 1:8 is no obstacle to this interpretation; for although literally fulfilled by the leadings of Providence, as related in this book, they did not so understand it when spoken.
κριτ. ζ. κ. νεκρ.] So also Paul, ch. 17:31, preaching to Gentiles, brings forward the appointment of a Judge over all men as the central point of his teaching. This expression gives at once a universality to the office and mission of Christ, which prepares the way for the great truth declared in the next verse.
It is impossible that the living and dead here can mean (as the Augsburg Catechism, and Olshausen) the righteous and sinners:—a canon of interpretation which should constantly be borne in mind is, that a figurative sense of words is never admissible, except when required by the context. Thus, in the passage of John 5:25 (where see notes), the sense of νεκροί is determined to be figurative by the addition of καὶ νῦν ἐστιν after ὥρα, no such addition occurring in ver. 28, where the literally dead, οἱ ἐν τοῖς μνημείοις, are mentioned.
43. πάντες οἱ προφ.] All the prophets, generically: not that every one positively asserted this, but that the whole bulk of prophetic testimony announced it. To press such expressions to literal exactness is mere trifling. See ch. 3:21, 24.
ἄφ. ἁμ. λαβ. κ.τ.λ.] The legal sacrifices, as well as the declarations of the prophets, all pointed to the remission of sins by faith in Him. And the universality of this proclamation, πάντα τὸν πιστ., is set forth by the prophets in many places, and was recognized even by the Jews themselves, in their expositions of Scripture, though not in their practice.
44.] Peter had spoken up to this point: and was probably proceeding (cf. ἐν τῷ ἄρξασθαί με λαλεῖν, ch. 11:15) to include his present hearers and all nations in the number to whom this blessing was laid open,—or perhaps beyond this point his own mind may as yet have been not sufficiently enlightened to set forth the full liberty of the Gospel of Christ,—when the fire of the Lord fell, approving the sacrifice of the Gentiles (see Romans 15:16): conferring on them the substance before the symbol,—the baptism with the Holy Ghost before the baptism with water: and teaching us, that as the Holy Spirit dispensed once and for all with the necessity of circumcision in the flesh, so can He also, when it pleases him, with the necessity of water baptism: and warning the Christian church not to put baptism itself in the place which circumcision once held. See further in note on Peter’s important words, ch. 11:16.
The outpouring of the Spirit on the Gentiles was strictly analogous to that in the day of Pentecost; Peter himself describes it by adding (ch. 11:15), ὥσπερ καὶ ἐφʼ ἡμᾶς ἐν ἀρχῇ. Whether there was any visible appearance in this case, cannot be determined: perhaps from ver. 46 it would appear not.
45.] We do not read that Peter himself was astonished. He had been specially prepared by the vision: they had not.
The λαλεῖν γλώσσαις here is identified with the λ. ἑτέραις γλ. of ch. 2:4, by the assertion of ch. 11:15, just cited;—and this again with the ἐλάλουν γλώσσαις of ch. 19:6:—so that the gift was one and the same throughout. On the whole subject, see note, ch. 2:4.
47.] One great end of the unexpected effusion of the Holy Spirit was entirely to preclude the question which otherwise could not but have arisen, ‘Must not these men be circumcised before baptism?’
τὸ ὕδωρ … τὸ πνεῦμα] The two great parts of full and complete baptism: the latter infinitely greater than, but not superseding the necessity of, the former. The article should here certainly be expressed: Can any forbid the water to these who have received the spirit?
The expression κωλῦσαι, used with τὸ ὕδ., is interesting, as shewing that the practice was to bring the water to the candidates, not the candidates to the water. This, which would be implied by the word under any circumstances, is rendered certain, when we remember that they were assembled in the house.
48. προσέταξεν] As the Lord Himself when on earth did not baptize (John 4:2), so did not ordinarily the Apostles (see 1Corinthians 1:13-17, and note). Perhaps the same reason may have operated in both cases,—lest those baptized by our Lord, or by the chief Apostles, should arrogate to themselves pre-eminence on that account. Also, which is implied in 1Corinthians 1:17, as compared with Acts 6:2, the ministry of the Word was esteemed by them their higher and paramount duty and office, whereas the subordinate ministration of the ordinances was committed to those who διηκόνουν τραπέζαις.
ἐν τῷ ὀν.] = ἐπὶ τῷ ὀν., ch. 2:38, where see note. Wahl compares ἀποκτείνειν ἐν τῇ προφάσει ταύτῃ, Lysias, p. 452.