The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 8:1-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 10, 2011

Text in red represent my additions to these notes.

1. And at that time there was raised a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all dispersed through the countries of Judea, and Samaria, except the apostles.

Immediately after the death of St. Stephen there arose a general persecution of the Christians of Jerusalem; and those who were better known, who had exercised the ministry of preaching there, were all dispersed, except the Apostles, who remained to comfort the faithful.

The dispersion from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria indicates the beginning of the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy concerning the spread of the Gospel: But you shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). 

2. And devout men took order for Stephen’s funeral, and made great mourning over him.

Devout men took order, etc.; i.e., they took care, etc. (συνεκομισαν), which here means they buried his body. This parallels the account of Joseph of  Arimathea, a good and devout man who approached Pilate in order to take possesion of Jesus’ body in order to bury it (Acts 23:50-53).

And made great mourning over him. See Acts 23:27, 48.

3. But Saul made havock of the church, entering in from house to house, and dragging away men and women, committed them to prison,

Made havoc.  The Greek word λυμαίνομαι (lumainomai) is used by Philo in his EMBASSY TO GAIUS to refer to the Gentile’s persecution of Jews.  The word implies both physical and verbal abuse and is found in the Greek OT in Ps 79:13; 2 Chron 16:10.

Dragging away. Like λυμαίνομαι, this word (συρων) implies an intensity.

4. They therefore that were dispersed, went about preaching the word of God.

Persecution cannot stop the spread of the Gospel, a fact witnessed to by the imprisoned Paul: Be mindful that the Lord Jesus Christ is risen again from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel: Wherein I labour even unto bonds, as an evildoer. But the word of God is not bound (2 Tim 2:8-9). Now, brethren, I desire you should know that the things which have happened to me have fallen out rather to the furtherance of the gospel: So that my bands are made manifest in Christ, in all the court and in all other places.  And many of the brethren in the Lord, growing confident by my bands, are much more bold to speak the word of God without fear (Philippians 1:12-14).

5. And Philip going down to the city of Samaria, preached Christ unto them.

Philip, the deacon (One of the seven deacons introduced in Acts 6:1-7). To the city of Samaria,—rather, “to a city of Samaria”—there is no article in the Greek of most MSS. It is uncertain whether this city was the one then called Sebaste, the capital of Samaria, or some other city of that province. Very
probably it was the capital city, since in the best MSS. (N, A, B) we find the article prefixed to the noun (την πολιν). Patrizi, however, thinks there is question here, not of the city, but of the country of Samaria.  For linguistic reasons Luke Timothy Johnson is of the same opinion as Patrizi.

6. And the people with one accord were attentive to those things which were said by Philip, hearing, and seeing the miracles which he did.

The Greek word here translated as attentive is προσέχω (prosechō), it is used two more times in the account of of Simon the Magician’s preaching (verses 10-11), not part of today’s reading. Philip and Simon are portrayed as being dueling preachers of different doctrines. Simon will be converted by Philip and become attentive to him (verse 13, using the Greek προσκαρτερέω = proskartereō, a synonym of προσέχω = prosechō).  He will later fall into error again (verses 18-24).

7. For many of them who had unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, went out.
8. And many, taken with the palsy, and that were lame, were healed.

Philip is here being portrayed as continuing the excorcising and healing ministries of Jesus and the apostles (e.g., Luke 4:33, 36; 5:17-26; 6:18; 7:22; Acts 3:1-10; 5:15-16).

3 Responses to “Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 8:1-8”

  1. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Today’s First Reading (Acts 8:1-8). […]

  2. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on the Lesson (Acts 8:5-8). On verse 1-8. […]

  3. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 8:1-8. […]

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