Acts

5:17-42

1. The early church in Jerusalem, 1:1-5:42

xv] The disciples before the Sanhedrin

Synopsis

In chapter 5, Luke records the apostle's confrontation with the membership of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. In v17-42 we read of the apostles' arrest, their miraculous escape from prison, their rearrest, and Peter's defense of their actions before the Sanhedrin. Luke records how the apostles, under the Lord, have no need to step back from their preaching mission.

 
Teaching

The powers of darkness may rant and rave, but they are left befuddled before God's mighty hand; the gospel cannot be muffled.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 1:1-11.

 

ii] Structure: This passage, The disciples before the Sanhedrin, presents in the following scenes

The apostles are arrested for preaching in the temple, v17-18;

The apostles breakout of prison, v19-20;

Back in the temple preaching again, v21-26;

Back before the Sanhedrin again, v27-33;

 

iii] Interpretation:

It is quite possible that Luke has no other intent in Acts than simply recording the advance of the gospel from Jerusalem to the center of world, Rome, and the important part played in this advance by his hero Paul, apostle to the Gentiles. This is certainly his overarching concern, but there are many other points he want's to communicate as he details the advance of the gospel from Jerusalem to the center of the world. In this passage, Luke tells us that the apostles, under the Lord, do not give ground on their preaching mission in the temple and that although the authorities may rant and rave, they are left befuddled before God's mighty hand. The simple fact is that the gospel cannot be muffled by the powers of darkness - truth will out.

What then do some of the commentators have to say on this passage?

Dunn identifies the pointed critique of the Sadducees and their repression of the gospel.

Tannehill also thinks Luke focuses on the opposition of the Sadducees, particularly as they represent the temple authorities who plotted Jesus' death and continue in their persecution of his flock. He also notes the link between the Sadducees' opposition and the apostles' preaching on the resurrection; the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.

Johnson notes that this second trial before the Sanhedrin is filled with irony; pomp and circumstance is pitted against the powerful will of God revealed in the miraculous release of the apostles from prison. "God is at work in the apostles, and they will not be stopped."

Barrett agrees on "the uselessness of fighting against God", and adds that Luke is also about identifying the apostle's representative role, the independence of Christianity from Judaism, the authoritative foundation of the gospel as a message concerning "the God of our fathers", and of the positive approach, at least at this point of time, of the Pharisees.

 

iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 5:17

The disciples before the Sanhedrin, v17-42: i] Luke begins his account with the custodians of temple worship taking action against the apostles for flouting their instruction to cease preaching in the temple precincts, v17-18.

anastaV (anisthmi) aor. part. "then" - having stood up. Attendant circumstance participle identifying an action that accompanies the main verb "they arrested"; "the high priest rose up ..... and arrested the apostles." Possibly adverbial, temporal, as NIV. Usually regarded as redundant and only serving to link the Sadducees' action with the preceding verse, so NIV. Possible variant, "Annas stood up." "Thereupon", Bruce.

oiJ "[all his] associates" - [all] the ones [with him]. The article serves as a nominalizer and with the preposition sun, "with", gives the sense "associates".

ousa (eimi) "who were [members]" - being [the sect of the Sadducees]. The participle of the verb to-be is adjectival, attributive, limiting the noun "the party", usually translated as a relative clause, as NIV. Possibly a technical use meaning "current", so "local" as of "the local party (school) of the Sadducees", Barrett.

twn Saddoukaiwn gen. "the Sadducees" - The genitive is adjectival, of identification; "members of the party known as the Sadducees."

zhlou (oV) gen. "[full of] jealousy" - zeal, jealousy. The genitive is adjectival, descriptive, particularly of content, what they were full of; "envy", Bruce, although a positive sense is possible, "a holy sense of the truth as they believed it to be", cf. Barrett.

 
v18

epebalon (epiballw) aor. "they arrested [the apostles]" - they laid, threw [the hands upon the apostles]. The use of "apostles" here may indicate a more extensive roundup and arrest than just Peter and John.

dhmosia/ adj. or adv. "public [jail]" - Bruce thinks the word is used as an adjective, as NIV, describing something about the prison, possibly just "city jail", CEV, or "public" in the sense of a jail for the riffraff; "the common jail", Williams. As an adverb it means "put them in prison publically", Barrett, that is, in such a way as to shame them.

 
v19

ii] The breakout, v19-20. The religious authorities, particularly the Sadducees, were obviously planning some serious retribution, but the apostles are mysteriously freed and are again preaching "in the temple courts." Their mysterious escape at least implies that they had support in high places, so the authorities take care how they proceed. Luke tells us that the apostles were not freed because of a political conspiracy, but rather by the direct hand of God; a messenger (an "angel") from God had set them free and told them to continue to preach. Luke does not focus on the miracle, but on the apostles continued proclamation of the gospel and the Sadducees distress.

dia + gen. "during" - through in time = during.

nuktoV "night" - A variant has the article, thus "the night in question."

aggeloV "an angel" - A messenger of the Lord, one who attends to God's divine will.

kuriou (oV) gen. "of the Lord" - The genitive may be ablative of source, "an angel from the Lord", although the lack of the article with both "angel" and "Lord" is typical of the LXX and usually indicates a possessive genitive, as of "belonging to the Lord." The actual identity of "the Lord" is not spelled out, either Jesus, or God.

exagagwn (exagw) aor. part. "brought [them] out" - having led out, brought out. As with anoixaV, "having opened", an attendant circumstance expressing action accompanying the main verb "he said."

 
v20

Continued proclamation is the order of the day.

staqenteV (iJsthmi) aor. pas. part. "stand" - [go and] having stood. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "go". As usual, best translated by a finite verb joined by "and", here taking its imperatival force from the imperative "go"; "go and stand in the temple", Moffatt.

panta "[the] full [message]" - all [the words]. They must proclaim "all" the words, hold nothing back.

thV zwhV gen. "of [this] new life" - [all the words] of [this] life. The genitive is probably adverbial, of reference / respect; "the full message with respect to / with reference to this life." Bruce notes that the words "life" and "salvation" are interchangeable when used of the Christian message (the gospel), cf. 13:26. So, probably a shorthand way of saying "this way of life" = the gospel, although most translators opt for "new life", as NIV.

 
v21

iii] The apostles are back at preaching again, a story told with a definite touch of irony, v21-26. The Sanhedrin was doing its thing, but the Lord was doing his thing. This possibility is later acknowledged by the Pharisees, particularly Gamaliel with his comment, "if it is from God, you will not be able to destroy them." For Luke, the focus is on "the impotence of human authorities to control the course of events", Tannehill, or more particularly, the impotence of human authorities to hinder the communication of the gospel; the message of God's grace in Christ cannot be hindered by any powers or authorities.

akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "-" - having heard. The participle is adverbial, temporal; "after receiving these instructions", Phillips.

uJpo + acc. of time "at [daybreak]" - under [the early morning]. This preposition followed by an accusative would normally be translated "under", but it is rather awkward to describe the apostles entering the temple "under the dawning sun", although the construction is classical for "at daybreak", as NIV. Culy suggests the construction may imply stealth.

paragenomenoV (paraginomai) aor. part. "when .... arrived" - having come. The participle is adverbial, temporal, as NIV. Obviously they didn't arrive where the apostles were preaching, but "arrived at the place where the Sanhedrin was to meet", Barrett.

kai "-" - Bruce suggests the conjunction here is epexegetic, introducing an explanation of the makeup of the "Sanhedrin"; "the Sanhedrin, that is, the whole Jewish senate", Barclay.

twn uiJwn (oV) gen. "of the elders [of Israel]" - of the sons [of Israel]. The genitive is adjectival, possibly of material; "the full assembly consisting of the elders of Israel."

acqhnai (agw) aor. pas. inf. "for" - [sent to the jail] to be brought, led, driven [to them]. The infinitive expresses purpose, "the authorities sent word to the jail in order to have the apostles brought to them."

 
v22

paragenomenoi (paraginomai) aor. part. "on arriving" - having come, appeared. The participle is adjectival, attributive, "the arriving servants" = "the servants who arrived", although a temporal sense makes better sense, "when the officers arrived at the prison", NJB.

oiJ uJphretai (hV ou) "the officers" - the assistants. "Probably Levities of the temple watch", Bruce.

anastreyanteV (anastrefw) aor. part. "so they went back" - having returned. The participle is possibly attendant circumstance, expressing action accompanying the verb "reported", so translated as a finite verb, "they returned and told their story", Barclay, but also possibly temporal, "afterward they went back and reported", or even consecutive expressing result, "with the result that they went back and reported", as NIV, NAB, REB, NJB .....

 
v23

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle, pleonastic (redundant).

oJti "-" Introducing a dependent statement of direct speech.

en + dat. "securely" - with/in [all safety/security]. Here adverbial, modal, forming an adverbial phrase expressing the manner in which the door was locked. "locked tight", CEV.

kekleismenon (kleiw) perf. pas. part. acc. "locked" - having been closed, locked, shut. The perfect tense expressing an action completed with ongoing consequences, so "incarcerated". The substantive participle serves as an object complement, complement of the noun, "jail", forming a double accusative object-complement construction, cf. Wallace p182. "We found (verb) the prison (accusative object) securely locked (accusative complement)."

eJstwtaV (iJsthmi) perf. part. acc. "standing" - [and (we found) the guards] having stood [at the door]. The participle serves as an object complement, as above; "we found (verb) the guards (accusative object) standing (accusative complement)."

anoixanteV (anoigw) aor. part. "when we opened them" - having opened. Temporal participle as NIV. "When we unlocked the door we found no one inside", NJB.

 
v24

wJV "on [hearing]" - when [.... heard]. Here serving as a temporal conjunction rather than comparative.

dihporoun (diaporew) imperf. "were puzzled / were at a loss" - were thoroughly perplexed, baffled. Note again how the focus of this episode is not so much on the miraculous escape, but rather the confused response of the authorities as they are faced with their incapacity to muzzle the gospel. If the escape were all about escaping arrest then they wouldn't have been sent back to the temple to commence their preaching and so be arrested again. The story highlights the impotence of those who would muzzle the gospel. "Were quite at a loss", Moffatt.

peri "-" - about [them]. Reference; "concerning them."

ti (tiV) "what" - certain. Here the particle is most likely interrogative, as NIV. Possibly best translated as a direct quote of what they thought; "they wondered 'what will happen because of this?'", NCV.

an + opt. "-" - Probably an example of an oblique optative, a construction used only by Luke in the NT., expressing what is merely thought in indirect discourse, much the same as a deliberative subjunctive, but stronger, BDF#386. Wallace, on the other hand, does not regard it as oblique since the clause is formed with the particle an and is thus a potential optative functioning in an incomplete (always so in NT.) conditional sentence 4th class where the stated condition, which must be supplied, has a vague possibility of occurring in the future. So, the authorities "were puzzled" in the terms of something like: "if these men have somehow vanished from a jail cell which was locked and properly guarded (unstated protasis), "what could be happening?", NJB (apodosis). The "wondering", not in the Gk. but deduced from the use of the optative, is possibly akin to "being amazed", that is, troubled by a divine mystery; something unnatural had occurred. "They were completely mystified at the apostles' disappearance and wondered what further developments there would be", Phillips.

 
v25

paragenomenoV (paraginomai) aor. part. "then [someone] came" - having come, arrived, appeared. Usually treated as an adverbial participle, temporal, as NIV., but properly attendant circumstances and so translated as a finite verb joined to the verb it attends with "and"; "however, someone came and reported to them", Moffatt. (James is the expert when it comes to participles!).

autoiV dat. pro. "said" - [reported] to them. Dative of indirect object.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of direct speech.

eisin .. estwteV + pres. part. "are standing [in the temple]" - The present tense of the verb to-be with the perfect participle forms a periphrastic perfect construction. The verb to-be also links to the present participle "teaching" forming a present periphrastic construction. Both serve to underline the durative nature of the action.

 
v26

tote "at that" - then, at that moment. Temporal.

oJ strathgoV "the captain" - a commander of a military unit. Here referring to the captain of the temple guard.

apelqwn (apercomai) aor. part. "went" - The participle is adverbial, forming a temporal clause with tote.

meta + gen. "they did [not] use [force]" - not with force. Here functioning adverbially, modal, forming an adverbial phrase expressing manner modifying the verb "were leading"; "not with force." The sense here is that the officers led the apostles as if escorting them rather than as if they had arrested them; "they dared not use any violence", Phillips.

gar "for" - Expressing cause/reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why the officers did not use force.

efobounto (fobew) imperf. "they feared" - they feared. The imperfect tense expressing durative action, ongoing fear.

mh liqasqwsin (liqazw) aor. pas. subj. "that [the people] would stone them" - lest they should be stoned. A particular usage of the subjunctive with this negation used after the verbs expressing "warning, caution or anxiety", Wallace. The officers are probably anxious about their own safety, rather than the safety of the apostles.

 
v27

iv] The apostles before the Sanhedrin again, v27-33. In the presence of the Sanhedrin the apostles are reminded that they were given strict instructions not to teach the people about "that man." In fact, they have done the opposite. The Sadducees interpret the apostles' actions as an attempt to hold them responsible for the death of Jesus in the eyes of the populous. Peter, on behalf of the other apostles, answers the charge by resting his case on divine authority. The authority of the Sanhedrin is substantial, but the apostles must submit to God rather than the authority of man. In v30-31. Peter goes on to restate the substance of the apostolic gospel. cf. 2:22-36, 3:13-26, 4:10-12.

• "God raised Jesus up", in the sense of establishing him as messiah, in the same sense as God "raised up David", cf. 3:26, 13:33. So, God has anointed Jesus as Israel's long-awaited prophet, priest and king.

• "You killed by hanging him on a tree." As prophesied, God's people set upon his "suffering servant", cursing him with an ignominious death - "he that is hanged on a tree is cursed of God", Deut.21:23. The people of Israel have inflicted disgrace on their messiah, disgrace on the innocent one.

• "God exalted him." Here the reference is probably to Jesus' resurrection and ascension. Jesus is now Lord and Savior, possessing glory, authority and power.

• "To grant repentance and forgiveness of sins." Therefore, Jesus is authorized to provide for his people a time to repent, along with the blessing of forgiveness (peace with God).

Peter ends his address in v32 by making the point that the apostles are witnesses of these truths - they "beheld his glory", they are witnesses to Christ's life, death, resurrection and ascension. This witness is confirmed by the Holy Spirit, whose power is active in the apostles' ministry.

agagonteV (agw) aor. part. "having brought" - having brought [them they stood in the council]. The participle is probably attendant circumstance; "they brought them in and placed them before", Barclay, but possibly adverbial, temporal; "when they brought them in to face the Sanhedrin", NJB.

en + dat. "before [the Sanhedrin]" - in. Expressing space/sphere.

oJ arciereuV - iJreuV "the High Priest" - Note the possible alternate reading "priest", or even "temple manager"

 
v28

legwn (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle; "the high priest questioned them and said."

ou "-" - no. Variant. This negation is used in a question where the answer is positive; "did we not strictly order you ..?", Barclay.

paraggelia/ (a) dat. "strict [orders]" - [didn't we command you] with a command. A dative of association / accompaniment is sometimes used to strengthen a verbal idea; "didn't we command you with a command ..." Possibly an imitation of a Hebrew infinitive absolute, so Barrett. The apostles, having previously been commanded to be silent, are in a sense, now in contempt of court.

mh didaskein (didaskw) pres. inf. "not to teach" - The infinitive is used to form a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what the authorities originally told the apostles not to do, namely, to teach.

epi tw/ onomati toutw/ "in this name" - upon/on the name this/that. Presumably "in the name of Jesus", cf. 4:18, but the authorities don't want to mention Jesus' name. Usually in the sense of "under the authority of Jesus." "We gave you strict orders not to go on teaching in that name", NCV.

peplhrwkate (plhrow) perf. "you have filled" - The perfect tense (an aorist variant exists) is probably extensive (consummative), emphasizing the completed past action of filling Jerusalem with their teaching which has now produced ongoing disturbing consequences.

thV didachV (h) gen. "with [your] teaching" - of the teaching [of you]. The genitive is adjectival, of content; "you have filled Jerusalem full of your teaching."

epagagein (epagw) aor. inf. "[determined] to make" - [are determined] to bring. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to bring."

tou anqrwpou toutou gen. "of this man's" - [the blood] of this man. The genitive is adjectival, possessive. "The expression is disparaging", Barrett.

to aiJma (a atoV) "blood" - Referring to Jesus' execution. The authorities feel they are being accused of playing a part in a sham trial and execution. The apostles certainly hold the Jewish authorities responsible, rather than the Roman authorities. "Whom you crucified", is fairly pointed, and Peter goes on to restate the charge in 5:30. It is unlikely that the authorities feel any shame for their actions, but they certainly would be concerned if the populous begin to hold them responsible for a miscarriage of justice. "You are determined to fasten the guilt of that man's death upon us", Phillips.

 
v29

PetroV kai oiJ apostoloi "Peter and the other apostles" - The order in the Gk. suggests that it was Peter who actually spoke and did so with the agreement of, and on behalf of, the other apostles.

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "[replied]" - having answered [Peter and the apostles said]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "said", redundant.

peiqarcein (peiqarcew) pres. inf. "We [must] obey" - to obey [is necessary]. The infinitive functions as the subject of verb "is necessary." The sense is that where there is a conflict between the authority of God and the authority of man (secular or religious powers), "we must obey the orders of God rather than the orders of men", Phillips.

qew/ (oV) dat. "God" - Probably best classed as a dative of reference "to obey is necessary with respects / reference to God." "Man" is also dative being the complement of "God".

 
v30

twn paterwn (hr roV) gen. "of [our] fathers" - Genitive of relationship where Peter ties the apostles and the authorities together under the same God, Yahweh. "The Christian faith is the fulfillment, not the contradiction of Judaism", Barrett.

hgeiren (egairw) aor. "raised [Jesus] from the dead" - raised, lifted up. The NIV, as do most commentators, assumes that Luke is referring to the resurrection of Jesus, but it is possible that Luke has in mind the establishing of Jesus as messiah, in the same sense as God "raised up (exalted) David", cf. 3:26, 13:33. God anointed Jesus as Israel's long-awaited prophet, priest and king. NRSV has "raised up", but gives the game away with a tense change to the perfect, "had killed" for "killed", similarly aorist. "It was the God of our fathers who raised Jesus, who you murdered by hanging him on a cross of wood. God has raised this man to his own right hand as prince and saviour", Phillips.

dieceirisasqe (dieceirizw) aor. "you had killed" - you sized and killed. "Murdered".

kremasanteV (krennanumi) aor. part. "by hanging him [on a tree]" - having hung [upon a tree/wood/post + gallows, cross]. The participle is instrumental, Jesus was murdered "by means of" crucifixion. The reference is to Deut.21:22-23.

 
v31

uJywsen (uJyow) aor. "[God] exalted" - lifted up, exalted. It does seem logical that if "exalted" is intended here, in terms of Christ's ascension and glorification, then the previous "raised/lifted up" in v30 refers to the resurrection, but none-the-less it probably refers to Christ's resurrection and ascension.

th/ dexia/ dat. "to [his] right hand" - The dative is possibly local, as NIV, but instrumental seems better, "by/with his right hand."

archgon kai swthra "Prince and Savior" - Best treated as a double accusative, "exalted him as Prince and Savior", Culy, so NIV., but possibly as compound accusatives that are predicative, "exalted him to be Prince and Savior", Barrett. The term "Prince" probably equates with "Lord" = the glorified messiah, Bruce. "Savior", a not-so-common title for Jesus, but an obvious one in that he is the one who rescues us from sin and death.

tou dounai (didwmi) aor. inf. "that he might give / bring" - to give, grant. The genitive article is a variant producing an articular infinitive expressing purpose. With, or without the article, the infinitive is adverbial, probably expressing purpose, "in order to give", Williams.

metanoian (a) "repentance / [Israel] to repentance" - The gift of a time of repentance, an opportunity to repent, rather than repentance itself.

aJmartiwn (a) gen. "[forgiveness] of sins / [forgive] their sins". The genitive is usually treated as verbal, objective.

tw/ Israhl dat. "to Israel" - Dative of indirect object. The gift is to Israel first, and then to all flesh.

 
v32

hJmeiV "we" - Emphatic by position and use.

twn rJhmatwn toutwn "of these things" - of these words. The genitive is probably adverbial, of reference / respect; "we are witnesses with respect to these matters, that is, the glorification of the messiah / Jesus through his death, resurrection and ascension."

kai "and so is [the Holy Spirit]" - and. Here establishing a coordinate relationship. The apostles' witness "is only possible in the power and at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit", Dunn.

toiV peiqarcousin (peiqarcew) pres. part. "to those who obey" - to the ones who obey. The participle serves as a substantive. An unusual word, obviously meaning something less mechanical than "practice obedience / obey his commands." "Commitment" is more likely; "full commitment to Christ's cause", Dunn. So, something akin to faith is intended.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - to him. Dative of direct object.

 

Acts Introduction

Exposition

 

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