Father MacEvily’s Commentary on Acts of the Apostles 2:14, 22-33
Posted by Dim Bulb on April 7, 2012
Text in red, if any, are my additions.
Act 2:14 But Peter standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke to them: Ye men of Judea, and all you that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known to you and with your ears receive my words.
Peter, the divinely constituted visible head of the church, representing her invisible founder, with characteristic ardour, now comes forward to defend the Apostles and our Lord himself, who commissioned them, from so foul a calumny. He stands up in order to make himself heard, with the eleven who also very, likely, stood up with him, in token of their respect, and in order to express their concurrence in what he was divinely inspired to utter. What the idiom or language he employed was, is, a subject of controversy. It is supposed by many eminent Interpreters, that he addressed them in the vernacular of the country The Syro-Chaldaic or Aramaic of Palestine, so that almost all understood him. Likely, the foreign Jews retained still, with their knowledge of the language of the countries of their abode, a knowledge of the language of the country of their origin also. It may be too that the miracle of tongues was continued here, God so disposing it, that his hearers, foreigners as they were, understood his words, though strange to them; or, the words having the sound of his native tongue for each, the one language spoken became diversified and transformed in the ears of each into his own native tongue. Of this we have an example in the life of St. Francis Xavier, wno speaking one tongue was understood by different peoples as if he were speaking their own language.
This address of St. Peter is composed of two parts. In the first part, taking advantage of the circumstances, to defend the miracle and the Apostles against calumnies and ridicule, he shows from the wonderful event, which was, the subject of scorn that the times of the Messiah had now arrived. In the second part, he shows from our Lord’s miracles, that he was the long-expected Messiah.
Ye men of Judea. Native born Jews, and all you that dwell in Jerusalem, all you besides native born Jews proselytes or strangers who now dwell in Jerusalem. These comprised the whole assembly.
Receive my words. Listen attentively to what I am about to say to you.
Act 2:22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him, in the midst of you, as you also know:
In order to escape these calamities, invoke the name of the Lord, embrace the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom I now mean to make known to you.
Men of Israel. Their natural, and, therefore, honourable appellation. He had already addressed them, as Jews (v. 14).
Jesus of Nazareth. The name by which our Lord was commonly known; often applied to Him by the Jews in scorn and reproach.
Approved of God. Accredited as His envoy. Among you for your sakes, for your benefit.
Miracles, wonders, &c. The same stupendous miraculous works performed by our Lord during His life, publicly and privately, among the Jews, are here regarded under a threefold aspect.
Miracles in proof of Omnipotent power. Wonders, as stupendous portents and departure from the Laws of Nature, calculated to beget astonishment. Signs as a means of accrediting an envoy from heaven, or in any way manifesting the Divine Will. It is in this lastmentioned relation they are regarded here by St. Peter, as proofs of the Divine mission of Jesus.
It is remarked here by commentators that it is only as an envoy from God St. Peler here regards our Lord, without formally propounding, though by no means questioning, His Divinity, in which light his hearers were as yet unprepared to regard Him.
In the midst of you, &c. These miracles were incontestable, wrought publicly, so as not to be denied or gainsayed.
Act 2:23 This same being delivered up, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you by the hands of wicked men have crucified and slain.
St. Peter now following up the chief subject of his discourse, proceeds to treat of the terrible crime of the Jews, in subjecting to the death of the cross Him whose Divine mission was so clearly proved. This delicate subject he treats, however, with wonderful prudence, avoiding, as much as possible, giving offence or creating prejudices. Without extenuating their guilt, he puts forward, in the first instance, the foreknowledge of God and His Eternal Decree, determining on the death of His Son as the means marked out, in His Infinite Wisdom, for accomplishing the salvation of mankind. Hence, foreseeing from Eternity that in abandoning His Son to the fury of the Jews, they would subject Him to the death of the cross, He, therefore, by a permissive Decree, determined on doing so, thus securing the ends of Redemption This, however, did not diminish the crime of those wretches, who acted all along as free agents. Delivered does not refer to the treason of Judas. It has the meaning of the words of St. Paul (Romans 8:32) sed pro nobis omnibus tradidit ilium (but for us all did deliver him up), delivered over to His enemies, being sent round from one tribunal to another. St. Peter so puts it, that they might be regarded as the agents in carrying out God’s Eternal Decree. Joseph acted similarly, in order to assuage the grief of his afflicted brethren (Genesis 40:5).
In the Vatican edition of the Vulgate (A.D. 1598) for crucified it is afflicting. But the Greek reading προσπηξαντες, affixing Him to the cross, is the most probable reading.
And slain. If some of those present had no hand in our Lord’s crucifixion and likely many of them were present their nation had.
Hands of wicked men. The Greek ανομων, lawless men, who had no law, is allusive to Pilate and the other Romans, pagans who were not under the law. Although our Lord was condemned and crucified by the Romans, it was the Jews that handed Him over to them. It was they planned and arranged His condemnation. Although fixed by the Decree of God, it was their own free act. The foreknowledge of God no more interferes with man s free agency than remembrance interferes with a fast act or vision with the present. God foresees a future act just as it takes place, or as it is performed viz., by the free will of man (see Gospel, John 12:39, Commentary).
Act 2:24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the sorrows of hell, as it was impossible that he should be holden by it.
God raised up. Our Lord, who was God, raised himself up from the dead, as He had repeatedly promised. His resuscitation was the act of the Adorable Trinity. In condescension to the intelligence and feelings of his hearers who were not in a mood to admit his Divinity, St. Peter speaks of Him as a great distinguished Prophet, without denying his Divinity.
Having loosed the sorrows of hell. There is a diversity of reading here. In the Greek it is, having loosed the sorrows of death. There is, however, no great difference as to sense; for by hell is meant the receptacle of the souls of men who died before Christ. The body was consigned to the tomb, the soul to the region called hell and kept there, as expressed in the words because Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, &c. (v. 27). Some understand the Greek word for sorrows (ωδυνας) to mean cords or cables. This accords well with the word loosing, or having loosed. The phrase, loosing cords, which kept our Lord bound in the embraces and arms of death is more intelligible than loosing sorrows, though this, too, will make sense, if understood, of the great pains our Lord endured, which were put an end to by being raised to a new life in His Resurrection. It would thus be allusive to the pains of parturition conveyed by the word ωδυνας, and our Lord’s birth into a new life in His Resurrection (Acts 13:33).
The original Hebrew word is sometimes rendered ωδινας in the Septuagint, even when it is meant for cords (see note below). The meaning of the words in our version is, that in raising Himself up from the dead, God over came the empire of death and hell, dissolving, destroying, putting an end to all the pains and dolours that usually accompany death and follow it. Hell or death is here personified, as appears from the words holden by it.
Note: In these last two paragraphs the focus has been on two similarly spelled words ωδινας (pang or throe, as in birth-pang or death throe), and ωδυνας (grief, sorrow). Both express or at least imply the idea of something encompassing or restricting, retraining, hence the Bishop’s words “It would thus be allusive to the pains of parturition.” The sense of restraint overcome or defeated is brought out in the words of Scripture: “it was impossible that he should be holden by it” (i.e., held by death).
Because it was impossible, &c. Considering the Divine nature of our Lord, the author of life (Acts 3:17 ; John 5:26), and especially the prophecies regarding the Son of God, which argument St. Paul employs (Acts 13:33). It is to this prediction of His Resurrection, and all its circumstances, St. Peter here refers. These prophecies could not possibly be frustrated, God made a liar, and the end of His mission frustrated, which would be the result, if he did not fully overcome death and rise to a glorious and immortal life.
Act 2:25 For David saith concerning him: I foresaw the Lord before my face: because he is at my right hand, that I may not be moved.
For David saith, in Psalm 16. The first portion of this Psalm literally refers to David himself as a type of Christ. But, in the latter part (Ps 16:8-11) the Psalmist, like one transported beyond himself, literally and primarily refers to Christ. To him only can this latter part of the Psalm literally refer. Of himself, David could not say with truth, that his body would not see corruption.
I foresaw the Lord, &c. In all the actions, sufferings and incidents of my life, I looked to the Lord, as my protector who would rescue me from every tribulation, and bestow on me a glorious and immortal life.
Because He is at my right hand, always by me to guard and protect my human nature.
That I may not be moved, may suffer no injury.
Act 2:26 For this my heart hath been glad, and my tongue hath rejoiced: moreover my flesh also shall rest in hope.
My heart, &c., expresses very great interior joy, which was also exteriorly expressed.
The Hebrew for my tongue is, “my glory”. It means, “I myself”, the word, “glory”, being an honourable epithet. Thus we say of a man, “your Majesty,” “your Highness,” meaning himself.
Shall rest securely, in the sepulchre for some time, in hope, with the certain hope of my near resuscitation and the glory in store for me.
Act 2:27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell: nor suffer thy Holy One to see corruption.
Leave my soul, which after its separation from the body, shall descend to the regions of the dead, it shall not be permitted to remain there. It shall be united to my body, reposing in the tomb, so that both united may enjoy a glorious and immortal life. It is quite certain, that our Lord, after death, descended to the “Limbo of the Fathers,” where the just of old were detained until the gates of Heaven, so long closed, were thrown open by the death of Christ, Thy holy
One, our Lord, the author and source of holiness itself, was Himself pre-eminently holy.
Act 2:28 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life: thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.
Hast made known. A prophetical past, on account of the certainty of accomplishment. The Hebrew has the future, “Thou shalt make known or teach me, the ways of life,” the way of returning to life in my resurrection, so as to point it out to others, viz., the Patriarchs and Saints, who are to rise with me, and all who are to be raised up on the last day. My resuscitation is to be a model of their Resurrection which is the way to life and glory eternal.
Make me full of joy, &c. In the Hebrew it is, “the abundance of joy shall be for me before thy countenance.” My soul in the interval between my death and Resurrection shall see the joy of thy countenance and my body, though the same soul, in its resuscitation, gifted with the qualities of glorification, shall also be filled with all joy. Clearly these words are not applicable to David.
Act 2:29 Ye men, brethren, let me freely speak to you of the patriarch David: that he died and was buried; and his sepulchre is with us to this present say.
He here shows that the quotation from Psalm 16 cannot apply to David, who was dead, buried and subject to putrefaction; but, only to our Lord risen, after being three days in the grave.
Men, brethren. Words of affectionate regard, to avoid all offence in what he was about telling them. Instead of saying at once and directly that the passage regarded Christ and not David, the Apostle adopts a conciliatory form of language; some among them, who held David in the greatest veneration might possibly understand the words of Psalm 16 to refer to him directly. He styles him a Patriarch,- a term of honor and veneration being the head of the Royal line, to which the promises regarding the Messiah were made, was buried ; and his sepulchre, where his remains, after being subjected to putrefaction, are
Is with us, may be seen in our midst here in Jerusalem till the present day. Hence, the words, shall not see corruption, cannot apply to him.
Josephus testifies (Antiqu., xvi. 7, i) that David s Mausoleum was an object of veneration in his day. St. Jerome bears witness, that it might be seen in the days of the Emperor Adrian (Hadrian), when it fell to pieces. Ep, xviii.
Cornelius a Lapide observes that St. Peter says nothing of David’s body or soul, which by this time had mounted on High, ascending glorious with the band of Patriarchs, &c., whom, at his ascension, our Lord had to accompany him, as so many trophies, to grace his glorious triumph.
Act 2:30 Whereas therefore he was a prophet and knew that God hath sworn to him with an oath, that of the fruit of his loins one should sit upon his throne.
A prophet inspired by God s holy spirit (Matthew 22:43), he knew from Divine Revelation that by God s unchangeable Decree, sanctioned by a solemn oath, one of his posterity would occupy his throne. The following words found in the Greek, but omitted in the Vulgate, according to the flesh he would raise up Christ, are omitted in several versions and MSS., and are regarded by most eminent critics, as of dubious authenticity. The passage makes sense without them.
Act 2:31 Foreseeing this, he spoke of the resurrection of Christ. For neither was he left in hell: neither did his flesh see corruption.
Foreseeing this to occur at a future day, he predicted the Resurrection of Christ, in the words, thou shalt not leave my soul, &c. These words were fulfilled in him, For neither was he left in Hell, &c.
Act 2:32 This Jesus hath God raised again, whereof all we are witnesses.
The prophecy regarding Christ’s Resurrection has been fulfilled. We, Apostles, who saw Him, and conversed with him are witnesses of His Resurrection as an incontrovertible fact, that cannot be gainsayed or called in question.
Act 2:33 Being exalted therefore by the right hand of God and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath poured forth this which you see and hear.
The effect or consequence of this resuscitation was, that He was taken up by the power of God into Heaven, and having received from His Father the Holy Spirit whom He promised His Apostles (John 14:6, John 16:7), He abundantly poured forth the manifold and varied gifts, which bring under your sense of hearing in the various tongues spoken, and the sense of seeing in the fiery forms of these tongues, His visible presence amongst you.