Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 4

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Acts iv.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. The officer[1] (of the guard) of the temple: literally, the magistrate of the temple. But this magistrate, by the Greek, was an officer over soldiers; we may presume, over those who were to guard the temple. (Witham)

Ver. 2. The resurrection. This vexed particularly the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection: and they had great power among the Jews. (Witham)

Ver. 4. Five thousand. Not that hereby is meant the whole number of the believers, but five thousand, by this miracle and preaching, were added to those that believed before. (Witham) --- Here again we remark the visible increase of the Catholic Church, by the preaching of the word.

Ver. 5. Their rulers, &c. The chief of them, and Annas, the high priest; perhaps he had lately succeeded Caiphas, high priest of the year before. (Witham)

Ver. 7. By what authority? Is it by your own authority, or that of some other, you have healed this lame man? They wished to know if it was a true miracle, or the effects of some secret magic or enchantment. The knowledge of this kind of affairs belonged to them. It was their duty to repress the attempts of false prophets, seducers, and magicians. But they might easily discover that the apostles were far removed from any thing of this kind. The simple narration of the fact was enough to acquit them. (Calmet)

Ver. 10. Name of our Lord Jesus. From this, St. Chrysostom takes occasion to make several pathetic exhortations against swearing and profaning this adorable name. What profit do you propose to yourselves by abusing this name? Is it to gain credit to your discourse? So you will tell me; but, believe me, you are mistaken: if people saw you respected oaths, and were afraid to make free with them, then they would believe you. Not when you give them to understand that you undervalue them, by your frequent abuse of them. Break then so profane a custom. It will cost you neither money nor labour to do so: you are not required to part with any gratification for this purpose. Use only at the beginning a little diligence, and you will easily overcome so idle a practice. Wish, and it is done. (St. Chrysostom, super Act. sparsim.) (Haydock) --- Whom you crucified. St. Peter, without fear or apprehension, openly and boldly tells them of their heinous crime: that Christ is the head corner stone, which they had rejected, as Christ himself had told them, (Matthew xii. 10.) and that there is no other name under heaven given to men to be saved by. (Witham)

Ver. 13. The constancy of Peter and John, surprised the council very much. They admired their knowledge of the Scriptures, seeing them men without learning or letters,[2] and (as they are called idiots) they could not find how to contradict the fact, the man that was healed, being there present. (Witham) --- Here, with the Jewish people, you may admire the constancy, wisdom, and learning of the apostles, after the coming of the Holy Ghost, who, before that event, were simple, unlettered, and timorous men. See ver. 19; and again, Chap. v. 29.

Ver. 16. What shall we do to these men? They were perplexed, says St. Chrysostom, and in greater fear than the apostles. They saw they could do nothing but threaten and charge them to speak no more of Jesus. (Witham)

Ver. 19. But Peter and John stopped their mouths, by asking them, if it was reasonable for them to hearken to men rather than to God. For we, say they, (ver. 20.) cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. (Witham)

Ver. 20. We have seen and heard. From these words, St. Chrysostom makes some important remarks on the conduct of Christians. On returning from the theatre, or any public meeting, each can relate what he has seen and heard. This is the fruit they reap from attending at public places of amusement; and would to God it were merely pleasure unmixed with poison. But on returning from Church, where they have been for instruction, they remember nothing, speak of nothing they have seen or heard. All is silence. Not even a thought is turned on what has been performed. (Hom. x. in Act.) --- It is a curious fact, which the apologists for the innocence of modern plays would do well to attend to, that the theatre has always been avoided by the good and the virtuous of every age. When one of the ancient Fathers was exorcising a female demoniac, who had been possessed at the theatre, and bade the devil to depart; No, replied he, I had a right to take possession of her, for I found her in my own house. (Haydock)

Ver. 21. Threatening them. Here commences the history of the first persecution of religious opinion, which the passions of men have continued, and swelled to such a frightful length. But on this, as on all other occasions, it has defeated its own purpose, by adding firmness and constancy to the persecuted. Truth is not to be overpowered by violence. In vain have the kings and princes of the earth risen up against the Lord, and against his Christ. --- When will men learn, that charity is the principle of conversion! --- That is an unheard-of kind of preaching, said the great Pope, St. Gregory, which exacts belief by stripes. He was on this occasion reprehending the false zeal of certain indiscreet Christians at Rome, who were for compelling the Jews to become converts. (Haydock) --- The amiable Fenelon, in a letter to Prince Charles, the son of our James the Second, says: "No human power can force the impenetrable intrenchments of the human mind. Compulsion never persuades---it only makes hypocrites. When kings interfere in matters of religion, they do not protect it; they enslave it. Give civil liberty to all; not by approving all religions, as indifferent, but, by permitting in others, what God permits."

Ver. 23. Being let go, they came to their own[3] company, relating with simplicity all that had happened.

Ver. 24. With one accord. With one mind, as in the Greek, and with one voice, being inspired by the Holy Ghost, they fell to prayer. (Witham)

Ver. 30. That thou stretch forth thy hand.[4] Literally, in this that thou stretch forth thy hand to cures, &c. They pray to God, that he would continue to confirm their preaching by miracles. (Witham)

Ver. 31. The place was shaken. Much in the same manner, as at the first coming of the Holy Ghost. --- They were all filled with the Holy Ghost. Their hearts were inflamed and excited by a new motion of grace. (Witham)

Ver. 32. All things were common. Happy would it be for society, if the rich of the present day were to imitate, in some degree, this charity of the first disciples, by distributing to those that want. Both would hereby become more happy; nor would the rich derive less pleasure from such actions, than the poor. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xi. in Acts.) --- That cold and fatal word, mine, and thine, which has caused so many misfortunes and wars, was banished from among them. (Id. hom. de St. Philogon.) --- Some take this to be the origin of a monastic life: but according to the Fathers, it is rather its progress and increase; for it began in the family of Jesus Christ. The apostles, indeed, may be said to institute here that common life, which they led under Christ, our Lord, and of which Peter speaks: behold, we have left all. This life, by St. Augustine and others, is called apostolic, and there among all, wives are particularly specified. Cajetan thinks no vow was required: St. Augustine is of a different sentiment. (Serm. x. de diversis & alibi.)

Ver. 33. And great grace was in them all. All of them were present, were replenished with extraordinary graces of charity, zeal, &c. (Witham)

Ver. 36-37. Joseph ... surnamed Barnabas, the son of consolation, &c. He seems to be mentioned as the first that sold all he had, and brought the price, and laid it at the feet of the apostles. (Witham) --- There was at that time a great number of Jews established in this city. (Bible de Vence)

Ver. 37. Sold it, &c. It is probable, that the faithful of Palestine disposed of all their property, because they knew that presently Judea would be delivered up to its enemies, and they would be obliged to fly, to avoid the persecution of their countrymen, as well as of strangers. (St. Thomas Aquinas, ad Galatas. xi.) --- At the feet of the apostles, out of respect. Thus, the Sunamitess fell down and embraced Eliseus's feet. Many that asked favours of Christ, fell down at his feet, and Mary kissed his feet. Such are signs of reverence paid both to Christ, and to other sacred persons, prophets, apostles, popes. See in St. Jerome, how the people of Jerusalem flocked together to the venerable bishop Epiphanius, in Cyprus, presenting their children for his blessing, kissing his feet, plucking the hem of his garment, so that he could not move for the throng. (St. Jerome, Ep. lxi. chap. 4. contr. error. Jovin.)

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[1] Ver. 1. An officer of the guard of the temple. Magistratus templi, strategos tou ierou.

[2] Ver. 13. Sine literis, agrammateis. IdiotŠ, idiotai, plebeii.

[3] Ver. 23. Ad suos, pros tous idious.

[4] Ver. 30. In eo quod extendas, en to ekteinein, by stretching forth, &c.


Bible Text & Cross-references:

Peter and John are apprehended. Their constancy. The Church is increased.

1 And *as they were speaking to the people, the priests, and the officer of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,

2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead:

3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody till the next day: for now it was evening.

4 But many of them, who had heard the word, believed: and the number of the men was made five thousand.

5 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and ancients, and Scribes, were gathered together in Jerusalem:

6 And Annas, the high priest, and Caiphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the priestly race.

7 And setting them in the midst, they asked; By what power, or in what name, have ye done this?

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said to them; Ye rulers of the people, and ancients, hear:

9 If we this day are examined concerning the good deed done to the infirm man, by what means he hath been made whole,

10 Be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God hath raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you, whole.

11 *This is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders; which is become the head of the corner:

12 Nor is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name, under heaven, given to men, whereby we must be saved.

13 Now they, seeing the constancy of Peter and of John, knowing that they were illiterate and ignorant men, they wondered: and they knew them, that they had been with Jesus:

14 Seeing also the man standing with them, who had been healed, they could say nothing against it.

15 But they commanded them to go aside out of the council: and they conferred among themselves,

16 Saying; What shall we do to these men? for a notable miracle, indeed, hath been done by them, it is manifest to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: it is manifest, and we cannot deny it.

17 But that it may be no further divulged among the people, let us threaten them, that they speak no more in this name to any man.

18 And calling them, they charged them not to speak at all, nor teach in the name of Jesus.

19 But Peter and John answering, said to them; If it be just in the sight of God, to hear you rather than God, judge ye.

20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.

21 But they, threatening them, sent them away, not finding how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified what had been done, in that which had come to pass.

22 For the man was above forty years old, in whom that miraculous cure had been wrought.

23 And being let go, they came to their own company, and related all that the chief priests and ancients had said to them.

24 Who, having heard it, with one accord lifted up their voice to God, and said; Lord, thou art he that didst make heaven and earth, the sea, and all things that are in them:

25 Who, in the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of our father, David, thy servant, hast said; *Why have the Gentiles raged, and the people devised vain things?

26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the princes assembled together against the Lord, and against his Christ.

27 For of a truth there assembled together in this city, against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel,

28 To do what thy hand and thy counsel decreed to be done.

29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings, and grant to thy servants, with all confidence to speak thy word,

30 By stretching forth thy hand to cures, and signs, and wonders, to be done by the name of thy holy Son, Jesus.

31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken wherein they were assembled: and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spoke the word of God with confidence.

32 And the multitude of the believers had but one heart and one soul: neither did any one say, that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but all things were common to them.

33 And with great power did the apostles give testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord: and great grace was in them all.

34 For neither was there any one among them that wanted. For as many as were owners of lands, or houses, sold them, and brought the price of the things they sold,

35 And laid it down before the feet of the apostles. And distribution was made to every one, according as he had need.

36 And Joseph, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is by interpretation the son of consolation) a Levite, a Cyprian born,

37 Having land, sold it, and brought the price, and laid it at the feet of the apostles.

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*

1: about the year A.D. 33.

11: Psalm cxvii. 22.; Isaias xxviii. 16.; Matthew xxi. 42.; Mark xii. 10.; Luke xx. 17.; Romans ix. 33.; 1 Peter ii. 7.

25: Psalm ii. 1.