Acts

2:1-13

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

iv] The coming of the Spirit at Pentecost

Synopsis

Following Christ's ascension the disciples gathered each day at the Temple for prayer. On the feast of Pentecost they experienced a rather strange occurrence. They heard the sound of something like wind echoing through the Temple colonnades. They knew only too well that the wind was a symbol of God's Spirit - his breath, Ezk.37:9-14. The disciples also saw something like streams of fire, or light, pouring down onto each member of the fellowship. Immediately they began praising God in a miraculous way. The commotion caused a crowd to gather, and those in the crowd heard the disciples speaking in their own native language, or dialect. All heard and understood as one and all were amazed.

 
Teaching

The outpouring of the Spirit serves to fulfill Jesus' promise to his disciples that they will be "clothed with power from on high" to enable them to serve as witnesses to Christ's saving work and to call for "repentance and the forgiveness of sins", Lk.24:46-49.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 1:1-11.

 

ii] Structure: This passage, The coming of the Spirt at Pentecost, presents as follows:

Setting, v1;

The outpouring of the Spirit, v2-4;

The reaction of the crowd, v5-13:

 

iii] Interpretation:

The disciples have gathered in the temple for prayer and are miraculously endowed with the divine presence and power, a presence in fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham, and a power to realize the fulfillment of these promises.

Luke's acts of the apostles begins at the feast of Pentecost. The festival of Pentecost (Feast of Weeks, Lev. 23:15-21) was originally an agricultural festival held 50 days after the Passover. By this time the focus of the festival was on the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, focusing particularly on the Covenant established between God and his people - the coming down of God to make a people for himself. Luke doesn't draw out this theme, yet there are thematic links. God's coming down upon Mount Sinai, in the midst of his people, and his coming down upon the disciples in the upper room thematically align. The revelationary nature of both comings also thematically align. Yet, from Luke's perspective, the event's importance lies in its fulfillment of a promise, Lk.24:49, and thus the enabling of the disciples to fulfill the mission assigned to them. The giving of the Spirit to the gathered disciples fulfills this meaning of Pentecost. They are now God's new-covenant people with the law written on their heart, commissioned and empowered to make known to broken humanity God's saving purposes in Christ.

 

Filled with the Spirit, v4: Luke tells us that the disciples were "filled", or washed, with the Spirit, and in response, they spoke in tongues. This giving of the Spirit is best understood as a personal coming of the Spirit of Christ to be with his people. It is a fulfillment of the expectations of Israel. The Prophets had spoken of the day when God would again visit his people and reside with them - pitch his tent with them. Pentecost is the fulfillment of this day, cf. Zech.2:10-13. In this sense it is the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus to his disciples that he would not leave them comfortless, but would return to them, John.14:15-18. Many want to interpret this filling as a "baptism" - an empowering of the Spirit for service. Without a doubt there is power in the presence of the Spirit of God in a believers life so enabling ministry. This is in line with Jesus' promise that the disciples would be "clothed with power from on high" so enabling them to serve as "witnesses" for Christ. This promise is evidenced when the disciples miraculously proclaim the "mighty works of God" to the amazed crowd. Yet, this is but a consequence of the gift of the Spirit whose presence empowers the disciples service to Christ.

 

Speaking in tongues: The phenomena of "tongues" is not easily explained. Even those who were witnesses on the day of Pentecost were "amazed and perplexed." Here was a single word understood by people of different language groups in much the same sense as all those at Mount Sinai heard the law from the mouth of God. It is, in the fullest sense, a reversal of the curse of Babel. The disciples were therefore prophesying as foretold by the prophet Joel. The form of their prophecy is ecstatic - abnormal, mysterious and not easily understood. Those who heard the disciples prophesy heard in their own languages, or at least, in their own dialects. This miracle was repeated with Cornelius, Acts 11:15, and possibly also occurred on those other significant moments when the gospel moved beyond Israel to Samaritans, to God fearers, and finally to Gentiles. It does not seem to have become a standard evidence of the gift of the Spirit. The Corinthian phenomena, ICor:12-14, although a form of ecstatic utterance, is not a miraculous communication event.

See notes on The Baptism of the Holy Spirit; Filled with the Spirit; Tongues.

 

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

 
Text - 2:1

The coming of the Spirit, v1-13; i] Setting, v1. It is the feast of Pentecost and the disciples have come together "in one place" - most likely the Temple court.

en tw/ + inf. "When" - This construction forms either a temporal, or an instrumental clause expressing means, rarely result, possibly causal; "since it was the day of pentecost, they were all together." Temporal seems likely: "during", Moffatt; "on", CEV; although most opt for "when".

thn hJmeran (a) "the day" - Accusative subject of the infinitive sumplhrousqai, "to be fulfilled" = "came".

thV penthkosthV (h) gen. "of Pentecost" - The genitive is adjectival, of identification; "the day known as Pentecost."

sumplhrousqai (sumplhrow) pres. pas. inf. "came" - [when the day of Pentecost] draws near, comes, is fulfilled. The present tense may express ongoing action (durative), "was running its course", NEB, but probably not with the infinitive. "Had come", REB.

oJmou adv. "[all] together" - Possibly the apostles (there is a variant that actually reads "the apostles"), but more likely the 120.

epi + acc. "in [one place]" - in [the same]. Spacial. As Culy notes, the adverbial phrase "all together" and the prepositional phrase "in one place", together form the complex predicate of the imperfect verb to-be h\san, "they were."

 
v2

ii] The outpouring of the Spirit, v2-4. The disciples are then overwhelmed by the Spirit of God, described in the terms of a blowing wind and a washing fire. Both these are Old Testament images of the Spirit of God, particularly of his power. cf. Ex.3:2, Matt.3:11. Luke's description of the event shows that he is not pushing the idea of an actual wind and fire, but is rather symbolically describing the Spirit's outpouring. None-the-less, there is nothing to hinder the Spirit's coming with such physical elements.

afnw adv. "suddenly" - unexpectedly. Helping to emphasize the miraculous; "All of a sudden", Barclay.

hcoV (oV) "a sound" - a noise, roar. In Luke 21:25 the noise is of a roaring sea, wind-like, vibrating, roaring.

w{sper "like" - as, like. Comparative.

feromenhV (ferw) gen. pres. part. "the blowing" - rushing (expressing movement from one place to another). The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "wind"; "a mighty wind which was driving in on them", genitive in agreement with "wind." "Wind" serves as an ablative genitive, of comparison; "suddenly there came a sound like (of) a blowing/rushing wind which was ....." See Culy for another take.

ek + gen. "[came] from [heaven]" - [there was, there came] from [heaven]. Expressing source / origin.

eplhrwsen (plhrow) aor. "filled" - it filled. The subject is unclear, is it "sound" or "wind"?

ton oikon (oV) "the house" - house, room, dwelling. Given they were "sitting" and not "dwelling", the meaning here is possibly "the room." Given the general nature of the word, it is quite possible that it was somewhere in the temple precinct. "It filled the room where they were meeting", CEV.

ou| adv. "where" - Serving to form a local clause.

nsan kaqhmenoi (kaqhmai) pres. part. "they were sitting" - A periphrastic imperfect construction, possibly emphasizing durative aspect.

 
v3

wfqhsan (oJraw) aor. pas. "they saw" - [and tongues] appeared. The passive is probably theological, a divine passive, God does the revealing, so "suddenly there came from heaven ..... and tongues were revealed to them." The glwssai, "tongues / languages", here specifically of a divine gift which enables the disciples to communicate to people with different dialects and languages, so "the spiritual gift of tongues"; see below.

autoiV dat. pro. "-" - to them. Dative of indirect object. "Suddenly there came from heaven ...... and the disciples witnessed a manifestation of the spiritual gift of tongues."

wJsei "what seemed to be" - as, like. Comparative. Not, "looked like tongues / seemed to be tongues of fire", but rather, "a manifestation of tongues which looked like ....."

puroV (ur uroV) gen. "of fire" - The genitive is ablative, of comparison; "as of fire" = "looked like fire."

diamerizomenai (diamerizw) pres. pas. part. "that separated" - being parted, divided. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "fire", "a fire which parted"; "the disciples witnessed a manifestation of the spiritual gift of tongues which looked like a spreading flame."

ekaqisen (kaqizw) aor. "[and] came to rest" - [and] it sat. A flickering flame over the head of an important person was a common image of the time.

eJna ekaston "each" - each one. The Spirit came on each one of them; they all received the gift just as all were forgiven. The Spirit is for all believers, just as forgiveness is for all believers.

autwn gen. pro. "of them" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive. "And (it) settled on each one of them", Phillips.

 
v4

panteV adj. "all of them" - all, every. All those present received the Spirit.

eplhsqhsan (pimplhmi) aor. pas. "were filled" - were filled, fulfilled. The action is punctiliar. Clearly realizing 1:5 where the gift of the Spirit is expressed in the terms, "will be baptized."

pneumatoV aJgiou gen. "with the Holy Spirit" - of Holy Spirit. The genitive is adjectival, of content.

hrxanto (arcomai) aor. ind. mid. "began" - they began. "The disciples now did something they had not done before", Barrett.

lalein (lalew) pres. inf. "to speak" - Complementary infinitive, completing the sense of the verb "began". "They began to forcefully speak."

eJteraiV dat. adj. "in other [tongues]" - in other kinds of [tongues]. Instrumental dative, expressing means. Note Isaiah 28:11, referred to by Paul in 1Cor.14:21. The translation "foreign languages" is possible, but some form of ecstatic prophecy, miraculously, or otherwise understood by the crowd, is more likely. See notes on Other Tongues. We are left to wonder why Luke gives us so little information about this phenomenon. "They began to forcefully prophesy ecstatically."

edidou (didwmi) imperf. "enabled" - was giving. The imperfect tense is durative; the "enabling" is ongoing. Possibly "gave each disciple the gift of tongues one after another", but unlikely. Luke does not clearly define the relationship between what is obviously a once only act whereby the Spirit is given to a believer for life, and the seeming action of the Spirit, at a specific time and for a specific purpose, to "fill" (empower?) a believer for ministry.

kaqwV "as" - Usually translated as a comparative, "even as", but possibly causal here, "because", BDF 236; "because the Spirit had granted them the power of utterance."

apofqeggesqai (apofqeggomai) pres. inf. "-" - to utter out aloud. The infinitive functions as the direct object of "enabled / was given." The word is used of forceful speech, even inspired speech, this adds weight to the idea that tongue-speaking had language content. Of course, we are left to wonder whether the Corinthian version of tongues had language content, in fact, whether it has bore any similarity to the Acts version.

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - Dative of indirect object

 
v5

iii] The reaction of the crowd - they were amazed and perplexed because they heard the disciples speaking in their native tongue, v5-13. Hearing the enthusiastic utterances of the disciples, a crowd gathers. Luke tells us that they "were amazed", a word often used of a pre-faith response by those who witness a messianic sign. As the crowd listens to the disciples they hear them speaking in their own language / dialect. In v9-11 Luke lists, in circular fashion, the different lands represented in the crowd, while at the same time noting that they are either Jews or converts to Judaism. It is as if Luke is telling us that the gospel is for all humanity, but that it derives from the children of Israel.

de "now" - but, and. Transitional - commonly used to indicate the next step in a narrative, as here.

hsan .... katoikounteV (katoikew) pres. part. "there were staying" - there were living, dwelling, settled. Periphrastic imperfect construction, possibly serving to emphasize durative aspect.

eulabeiV adj. "God-fearing" - devout, reverent, godly. The word is missing in some manuscripts.

Ioudaioi "Jews" - Also missing in some manuscripts. Considered by some as originally a marginal notation. "Jews" in the sense of either race or religion. Possibly Jewish pilgrims from the Roman provinces visiting Jerusalem for the festival.

apo + gen. "from" - Expressing source/origin.

twn gen. "[every nation under heaven]" - [every nation] which [is under heaven]. This genitive article serves to introduce an adjectival clause, attributive, limiting the genitive noun eqnouV, "nation".

 
v6

genomenhV (ginomai) aor. part. "when they heard" - having happened. The participle serves as a genitive absolute, and forms a temporal clause, as NIV. They heard the speaking, not the wind.

sunecuqh (sugcew) aor. pas. "in bewilderment" - [and] it was confounded, astonished, perplexed = they were. The word describes the total shock of those hearing the tongues; "they were astonished and amazed", Barclay.

oJti "because" - that. Expressing cause/reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why the crowd came together.

autwn gen. pro. "[each one]" - [each one] of them. This pronoun may go with ei|V ekastoV, "each one", serving as a partitive genitive, but more likely it goes with lalountwn, such that the partitive genitive must be assumed; "each one of them", Phillips.

hkouon (akouw) imperf. + gen. "heard" - heard [them speaking]. The imperfect is durative, commonly used for speech. This verb takes as its genitive direct object autwn, "them = these men", or possibly an assumed "them", see above, such that the genitive substantive participle lalountwn, "speaking", serves as an object complement; "each one of them heard these men speaking in his own language", Phillips.

th/ idia/ dialektw/ (oV) dat. "their own language" - by his own dialect. The dative is adverbial, modifying the verb "heard", probably instrumental, expressing means; "by means of his own dialect." At this point scholars divide. Was it different languages, different dialects, different accents? Bruce suggests "manner of speech". The word is unclear. Was this a miracle of speech, or hearing?

 
v7

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "[utterly amazed] they asked" - [they were amazed and were marveling] saying. Attendant circumstance participle.

ouc "aren't" - not. This negation is used in a question expecting an positive reply.

oiJ lalounteV (lalew) pres. part. "[all these] who are speaking" - [all these] the ones speaking. The participle serves as an adjective, attributive, limiting "all these."

Galilaioi "Galileans" - What identified them as Galileans? Some have suggested dress, but this is unlikely; more probably accent, which means it carried over into their tongue-speaking. Further supporting a language content to their words.

 
v8

kai "then" - and. Used here to introduce a question; "so how is it that we hear ....?"

pwV "how" - Interrogative. Serves to add a sense of confusion in the question.

en + dat. "in [our own native language]" - [by his own language of us] in [which we were born]. Expressing space/sphere. The whole clause is idomatic and takes the sense "in his own native tongue", Moffatt.

 
v9

The list of countries and races probably reflects common lists of the time which served to identify the extent of the Jewish dispersion, v9-11.

oiJ katoikounteV (katoikew) pres. part. "residents of [Mesopotamia]" - the ones dwelling in [Mesopotamia]. The participle serves as a substantive.

te kai .... kai. "and" - Coordinative, with te kai possibly being used to express a closer connection.

 
v10

thV LibuhV (h) gen. "[the parts] of Libya" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

thV "-" - which. The article serves to introduce an attributive adjectival prepositional phrase limiting the genitive noun "Libya", genitive in agreement with "Libya"; "parts of Libya which are adjacent to Cyrene."

kata + acc. "near [Cyrene]" - against, beside. Spacial.

oiJ epidhmounteV (epidhmew) pres. part. "visitors from [Rome]" - the ones sojourning in [Rome]. The participle serves as a substantive. "Roman citizens", Barrett.

 
v11

Ioudaioi te kai proshlutoi "both Jews and converts to Judaism" - both Jews and proselytes. The word "Jew" is generally felt to be an early attempt to sort out a textual problem. Barrett suggests that the clause is in apposition to "Roman citizens" and was intended to mean "temporarily resident in Jerusalem."

lalountwn (lalew) gen. pres. part. "[we hear them] declaring" - speaking. Object complement of the object "them" of the verb akouomen, "we hear", which often, as here, takes a genitive of direct object (a kind of ablative of source, "we hear from them"). Supporting the view that the miracle is one of speech, not hearing.

taiV hJmeteraiV glwssaiV dat. "in our own tongues" - by our own tongues. The dative is instrumental, expressing means; "by means of."

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the wonders] of God" - [the mighty acts] of God. The genitive is usually taken as verbal, subjective, "the mighty deeds that God has done", Culy, but ablative, source/origin is a possible classification. Again, emphasizing the language content of the tongues. The "mighty acts" are undefined, but given the context, they surely concern God's work of redemption recently completed in the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ.

 
v12

dihporoun (diaporew) imperf. "[amazed and] perplexed" - were perplexed, bewildered.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "they asked" - Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verbs "were amazed" and "were perplexed"; "they were all amazed and perplexed and said to one another." Possibly adverbial, consecutive, expressing result; "and so said to one another."

alloV troV allon "one another" - another to another. An idiomatic expression; "one to another."

ti "what" - what [can this wish to be]. Interogative. The form of the question is idiomatic.

qelei (qelow) pres. "[does this]" - [does this] wish. "What on earth can this mean", Phillips.

ei\nai (eimi) pres. inf. "mean" - to be. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb qelw, "I wish, will." The infinitive verb to-be here "bears the same sense as mean owing to the lack of a Semitic equivalent", Zerwick.

 
v13

e{teroi adj. "some" - others. In v12 we are told panteV, "all", were amazed and perplexed, but here "some" make fun of the situation. Barrett says it is "careless writing", while Culy argues that the "all" is hyperbole. The point is clear enough; the behavior of the disciples mystifies the crowd, some of whom go on to make fun of them.

de "however" - but, and. Here adversative; "but others made fun of them and said."

diacleuazonteV (diacleuazw) pres. part. "made fun of them" - ridiculing, mocking. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "said", as NIV, although Wallace classifies it as adverbial, modal, expressing manner; "some others sneered", Moffatt.

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

memestwmenoi eisin "they have had too much" - they have been filled. Periphrastic perfect expressing their complete state of fullness. It is interesting that on one side people understood the prophetic nature of the "tongues", while on the other there were people who put it down to intoxication - slurring of speech, mumbling? "They are drunk", CEV.

gleukouV (oV) "wine" - of new wine. The genitive is adjectival, of content; "filled full of wine." The word is used of partly fermented new wine, but this is obviously not intended here. Possibly wine preserved with honey, "sweet wine", Bruce.

 

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Exposition

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