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 1:15-17, 20-26

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 13, 2011

Text in red are my additions.

15. In those days Peter rising up in the midst of the brethren said: (now the number of persons together was about an hundred and twenty:)

In those days; i.e., between the Ascension and Pentecost, while they were persevering in prayer, Peter rising up, thus assuming his position as chief of the Apostles. Cf. Matth 16:16-19; Luke 22:31, 32; John 21:15-17.

Now the number of persons together was about an hundred and twenty. According to some ancient Jewish writing 120 people were necessary to start a synagogue in a city.  The event narrated in these verses is very much concerned with the theme of numbers (see verse 17); though the generic word ὄχλος (ochlos) is used here rather than κατηριθμημενος (katarithmenos). See my note on verse 17.

16. Men, brethren, the scripture must needs be fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who was the leader of them that apprehended Jesus:

The scripture, which is quoted in verses 19, 20.

17. Who was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.

Who was numbered, etc.; i.e., who was among the Apostles chosen by our Lord, and to whom had been allotted (κληρον) a place in the ministerial work which Christ had freely given them.

The Greek κατηριθμημενος (katarithmenos = numbered) is meant to recall the reference to Judas’ treachery in Luke 22:3 (And Satan entered into Judas, who was surnamed Iscariot, one [αριθμου = arithmos] of the twelve). The events leading to the choice of Matthias were intended to reestablish “the Twelve” who would judge the “twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 22:30)

20. For it is written in the book of Psalms: Let their habitation become desolate, and let there be none to dwell therein. And his bishopric let another take,

It is written, etc. ; i.e., in Psalms 69:26 and 109:8. Most of the Greek MSS., the Itala and the Syriac versions, as well as some of the Fathers, have ” his habitation,” instead of ” their habitation.” This would make clearer the application to Judas. The Psalms, of course, refer directly to the punishments in store for the enemies of the Psalmist, and only indirectly to the treason and punishment of Judas.

His bishopric; i.e., his office of an Apostle. Literally the word επισκοπην means an ”inspector,” an “overseer.”

21. Wherefore of these men who have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus came in and went out among us,
22. Beginning from the baptism of John, until the day wherein he was taken up from us, one of these must be made a witness with us of his resurrection.

Of these men, etc. St. Peter understood from the prophecy cited that it was necessary to choose another to fill the place of Judas. Thie qualifications for such an office were that the candidate should have been familiar with the whole public life of our Lord. The men referred to were perhaps the seventy-two, spoken of in Luke 10:1.

Of his resurrection. It was necessary that the Apostles should be witnesses, not alone of the public life of our Lord, but in a special manner of His Resurrection. This latter miracle was the greatest argument for our Lord’s divinity, and the one to which He Himself made particular appeal. See 1 Cor. 15:12-22; Acts 3:15; 10:40; Matt 12:39, 40; John 2:19. Thus from the first days of the Apostolic preaching down to the present day the Resurrection of
Christ has been the great argument in favor of the divinity and truth of the Christian Revelation. The Resurrection is a manifest proof of the Divinity of Jesus, of the divine authority of His teachings, and of the Church which He established. Likewise the miracles performed by the Apostles and first disciples according to the prediction of Christ, and in confirmation of their preaching, were most convincing proofs of the truth of the doctrines they taught.

23. And they appointed two, Joseph, called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.

They appointed two; i.e., those present took part with the Apostles in selecting the two to be voted on. In the early Church the faithful were thus often consulted in selecting Bishops, but the appointment, as in the present instance (verse 24) was always from God. Barsabas means the son of Sabas. Matthias is the same name as Matthew, which means “gift of God.” As it was necessary that these candidates should be familiar with the public life of Jesus, the opinion of Eusebius {Hist. Eccl i. 12) seems probable, which says that the two here mentioned were the Joseph and Matthias of the seventy-two disciples.

24. And praying, they said: Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,

The disciples knew that it belonged to Christ to appoint His Apostles; they also knew that He had already made His choice, and now they prayed that He should manifest it.

25. To take the place of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas hath by transgression fallen, that he might go to his own place.

That he might go, etc. ; i.e., to the abode of the damned, the place of punishment, which his sin and unrepentance deserved.

26. And they gave them lots, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

They gave them lots; i.e., they gave their lots. This was done probably by writing the names of the two on small tablets to be cast into an urn, the first drawn of which would be regarded as God’s choice. This method of ascertaining God’s will in important matters was often used in the Old Testament (Lev 16:8, 9; Num 26:55; Joshua 7:14; 1 Kings 10:20; 1 Chron 25:8).

4 Responses to “Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 1:15-17, 20-26”

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