2. The gospel spreads into Palestine, 6:1-12:25

v] Samaria accepts the gospel


The murder of Stephen leads to a general persecution of Hellenistic Jewish believers led by Saul / Paul. The apostles are spared, probably along with Aramaic speaking believers from Judea and Galilee, but Greek speaking Jewish believers are either arrested and thrown into jail, or hounded out of Judea. One such member of the Jerusalem church, Philip, on reaching Samaria, begins proclaiming the gospel, both in word and sign. Many locals are converted, and are baptized.


The good news of the coming kingdom is not just for Jews.


i] Context: See 6:1-7. It is unclear where Luke intends the beginning of his next section, 8:1a, 8:1b, or 8:4. 8:1b-40 is a popular division, so Bruce Gk. Yet, as Dunn notes, those who originally divided the chapters of Acts "had the right instinct." The focus of the story now switches to Paul. Luke's account of the gospel at work in Samaria, covering v1-40, introduces us to the Hellenist Philip. The unit summarises Saul's / Paul's pogrom in Jerusalem, v1-3; Philip's early mission work in Samaria, v4-8; Philip's encounter with Simon the magician / spiritualist, v9-13; the visit of Peter and John to confirm the validity of Stephen's gospel mission, v14-17, 25; Peter's confrontation with Simon the magician, v18-24; the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch through the testimony of Stephen, v26-39; Philip's continued gospel ministry, v40.


ii] Background: See The movement of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, 1:1-11; The theological structure of the gospel message; 3:11-26; Prophecy in the New Testament and Signs and Wonders in Acts, 4:23-31.


iii] Structure: Samaria accepts the gospel:

Persecution of believers in Jerusalem, v1-3;

Philip evangelises Samaria, v4-8;


iv] Interpretation:

Luke is only summarising the persecution of the church in Jerusalem, so it seems unlikely that the apostles are the only members of the church caught up in the troubles. In the church itself, there were tensions between the Hellenists and the "Hebrews", a tension magnified in the wider community. Antagonism soon developed Stephen and his fellow Hellenists and the members of the synagogue of the Freedmen, all of whom are identified as Jews of the dispersion, Hellenists, and obviously intent on proving their Jewish credentials. It may well be that Saul / Paul was a member of this group, and with his associates, happily leads the pogrom against the blasphemers, those who are threatening the purity of Israel's religious traditions.

So, in all likelihood, the pogrom is against Hellenist believers, rather "the Hebrews", Aramaic speaking Jewish believers. For the moment, kosher believers present as a sect of Judaism and are nowhere near as threatening as the Hellenists with their disregard for the distinctive nature of Judaism. This will become even more confronting when the Hellenists seek to pollute Judaism with Samaritan converts. Even the apostles themselves will have to face this issue.

Luke goes on to mark the first step in the movement of the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth / Jew to Gentile, with an account of the evangelisation of Samaria. Luke's account focuses on Philip, one of the Hellenist believers driven from Jerusalem. The account makes an initial important point: the proclamation of the gospel, both in word ("Jesus", "the messiah", "the kingdom of God"), and sign (the casting out of unclean spirits and miraculous healings), achieves amazing results.

In the following section, v9-25, Luke develops a second important point, namely that pagan ideology is convincingly defeated when confronted with the gospel (Simon was baptized and "was amazed" at the signs and wonders) - hostile spiritual forces retreat in the presence of those who possess God's Spirit.


Source theories. Bock notes Schneider's theory that there were possibly three sources: a tradition of Philip's ministry, including the Simon incident and the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch; a Simon tradition; and a tradition about Peter and John's ministry in Samaria. Bock states that "it is hard to be certain about such details." Bock gives more weight to oral tradition than written accounts. So, Luke may have used written accounts of the Christian mission circulating at the time, but given the historical nature of his Acts of the Apostles, it is more likely that he interviewed the players themselves, or those who personally knew them, see Witherington, p280.

Text - 8:1

Samaria accepts the gospel, v1-13: i] The persecution of believers in Jerusalem, v1-3. It seems likely that the persecution of believers, led by Saul / Paul, was aimed at the Hellenists, although not all commentators agree. Longenecker argues that the whole church is attacked, but only the Hellenists are dispersed, so also Bruce. The fact that andreV eulabeiV, "devout men" (a term used of believers by Luke), buried Stephen, indicates that at least some members of the church are able to undertake normal activities. As to the persecution led by Saul / Paul, he set out to elumaineto the church, "to ravage, harass, ruin" it. The word is used both of physical and psychological harassment. Saul / Paul was driven by "a different kind of religious zeal", Marshall.

de "and" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

suneudokwn (suneudokew) pres. part. "approved of" - [saul] was approving to. With the verb to-be h\n, the participle forms a periphrastic construction, possibly emphasising durative aspect, "an attitude of some duration", Haenchen, so also Bock, although as Culy notes, in terms of narrative discourse, "the periphrastic construction pushes the narrative forward, foreshadowing the importance of this new figure", Porter Gk., 1989.

th/ anairesei (iV ewV) dat. "killing" - the murder. Dative of direct object after the sun prefix participle "giving approval to."

autou gen. pro. "him" - of him. The genitive is adjectival, verbal, objective, "the execution which was carried out upon him."

egeneto de en "on [that day]" - but/and it happened on [that day]. Transitional; see 5:7.

epi + acc. "against [the church]" - [a great persecution] upon [the church]. The preposition is local, expressing space, "upon, toward", or opposition, "against", as NIV.

thn "in" - the [in jerusalem]. The article serves as an adjectivizer, turning the prepositional phrase "in Jerusalem", into an attributive modifier of the noun "church".

plhn + gen. "except" - [but/and all] except [the apostles]. Used here to introduce an exception, as NIV, rather than as an adversative.

kata + acc. "throughout" - [was scattered] according to [the regions of judea and samaria]. Used here as a distributive; "throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria", ESV.


Barrett notes that loud lamentation for a criminal was not permitted, possibly indicating that Stephen's murder was at the hand of a lynch-mob rather than an officially sanctioned execution by the Sanhedrin.

ep (epi) + dat. "for [him]" - [and devout, pious men buried stephen and they made loud mourning = lamentation] upon [him]. Spatial, "upon" = "over him." As indicated above, "devout men" is probably used here for "believers"


It is likely that Saul / Paul is going after Christian house-churches rather than individuals. So, he is probably breaking up congregational meetings, arresting those in attendance and incarcerating them. As Culy notes, the verb lumainw, "to harass, mistreat", may extend to "to destroy"; "he was trying to destroy the church."

eisporeuomonoV (eisporeuomai) aor. part. "going" - [but/and saul was harassing the church] entering. Along with the participle surwn, "dragging", attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to deliver over"; "Saul began a merciless attack upon the church. He went from house to house, seizing both men and women, and committing them to prison", Barclay.

kata + acc. "[house] to [house]" - according to [the house]. Distributive use of the preposition, "house by house"; "entering house after house", ESV.

te .... kai "both [men] and [women]" - [dragging off] both [men] and [women, delivering over into jail]. Forming a coordinating construction; "both ..... and ...."


ii] Philip evangelises Samaria, v4-8. Luke now describes the first step in the gospel's move to the ends of the earth / Jew to Gentile. There is open hostility between Jew and Samaritan, but Luke now records Philip, a Hellenist Jew, evangelising Samaritans (khrussw, "to preach, proclaim", v5). We are not told the town where Philip is witnessing; what's important is that he is in Samaria preaching the gospel - the message concerning ton Criston, "the Christ, Messiah", v5, peri thV basileiaV tou qeou, "about / concerning the kingdom of God", and tou onomatoV Ihsou Cristou, "about / concerning the name = person of Jesus Christ", v12. Philip's proclamation is not just in words, but also signs - exorcisms and healings. These signs are often viewed as if confirming the validity of the message, but they are actually the message in visible form; "If I drive out demons by the finger of God then the kingdom of God has come upon you", Lk.11:20. Just as the news concerning the coming kingdom was enthusiastically received by many Jews in Jerusalem, now also, in Samaria, "the city is full of rejoicing", v8.

oun "-" - therefore. Transitional, establishing a logical connection / conclusion, particularly with v1b, "a great persecution broke out ........... And so it was that ..........."

oun .... de "-" - on the one hand ...... (v5) but/and on the other hand. This adversative comparative / coordinative construction is used here to related two elements of the narrative - the dispersed Hellenists who are preaching the gospel, and Philip in Samaria who is preaching the gospel.

oiJ .... diasparenteV (diaspeirw) aor. pas. part. "those who had been scattered" - the ones having been scattered about. The participle serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb "to pass through."

euaggelizomenoi (euaggelizw) pres. mid. part. "preached" - [passed through = went about] preaching [the word of god = the gospel]. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their passing through, ie., their moving from place to place.


A variant has "the city", but rather than identify any particular city, it is possible that Luke is making the point that Philip is focused on preaching in urban centres.

katelqwn (katercomai) aor. part. "went down" - [but/and philip] having gone down. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to preach"; "Philip went down ....... and proclaimed .....", ESV, or adverbial, temporal, "after going down to a city of Samaria, ...", Culy, even possibly adjectival (although, being anarthrous, adverbial is more likely), "Philip, who had gone down to one of the cities of Samaria, ....", Knox.

thV SamariaV (a) gen. "[a city] in Samaria" - [to, into a / the city] of samaria. The genitive is adjectival, descriptive, idiomatic / local, "a city located in Samaria", as NIV.

autoiV dat. pro. "-" - [was preaching the christ, messiah] to them. Dative of indirect object; "told the people about the Messiah", TEV.


en tw/ + inf. "when [the crowds heard]" - [but/and,] in the [they to hear and in the to see the signs which he was doing]. This construction, the preposition en + the articular infinitives, "to hear" and "to see", introduces a temporal clause, contemporaneous time, although it can sometimes be causal, "because of what they heard ......", Cassirer. The accusative subject of the infinitives is autouV, "when they heard." The natural object of the infinitives is "signs", but given that hearing signs is somewhat unnatural, it is likely that the infinitive "to hear" carries an assumed object, "when they heard him, and saw the signs that he did", ESV.

toiV legomenoiV (legw) dat. pres. mid. part. "to what he said" - [were paying attention, with one accord,] to the things being said. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "to pay attention to." This verb is modified by the adverb of manner, "with one accord." The adverb is awkwardly placed in the text, but serves to identify "the uniformity and consistency of their response", Johnson; "Each member of the crowd hung on every word that Philip said, because of the power of his words and the miracles he performed."

uJpo + gen. "-" - by [philip]. Expressing agency.


Along with the proclamation about the coming kingdom, there are the signs of its arrival, namely, exorcisms and healings.

Again, we have evidence that the received text of Acts is unedited, since we have a major solecism (grammatical mistake), namely, the subject of the main verb exhrconto, "were coming out", is polloi, "many [of the ones having unclean spirits]." Obviously, it is the unclean spirits who are coming out of "the many", as NIV. Numerous textual variants exist which try to correct the problem.

gar "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why people are paying close attention to what Philip is saying.

bownta (boaw) pres. part. "-" - crying out. Technically, attendant circumstance, expressing action accompanying the main verb "to come out"; "were shouting in a loud voice and coming out."

fwnh/ (h) "with shrieks" - in a [loud] voice. The dative is adverbial, instrumental, expressing means, "by means of", or modal, expressing manner, "shrieking", Barclay.

twn econtwn (ecw) gen. pres. part. "[came out of many]" - [many] of the ones having [unclean spirits were coming out]. The participle serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, partitive. Barrett suggests that Luke begins to say, Many of those who had unclean spirits were relieved of them, but ends as if he has said, Many unclean spirits came out (of those who had been possessed by them). "With loud cries, evil spirits came out of those who had been possessed by them", Phillips.

paralelumenoi (paraluw) perf. mid. part. "[many] who were paralysed" - [but/and, many] having been disabled [and crippled were healed]. If we take the adjective polloi, "many", as a substantive, then the participle + the adjective "crippled", serve as attributive modifiers. Of course, "many" may be treated as an adjective, in which case the participle serves as a substantive, subject of the verb "were healed."


en + dat. "in [that city]" - [but/and there was great joy] in [that city]. Local, expressing space.


Acts Introduction

Exegetical Commentaries


[Pumpkin Cottage]