Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 6:8-15 for Monday of the Third Week of Easter
Posted by Dim Bulb on April 15, 2012
Text in red are my additions.
Act 6:8 And Stephen, full of grace and fortitude, did great wonders and signs among the people.
Full of grace and Fortitude. In Acts 6:5 Stephen was described as full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and in Acts 7:55 he is described as full of the Holy Spirit as well. In the present verse the translation grace follows the better manuscripts, others read “faith”. Fortitude (δυναμεως) would be better translated as “power.” The reference is to the force by which he worked the wonders and signs. The meaning of fortitude is not absent however, and St Stephen will display it in the opposition he faces and, most especially, in his martyrdom.
Did great wonders and signs marks St Stephen as a prophet (see Acts 2:19, Acts 2:22; Acts 2:43; Acts 4:16; Acts 4:22; Acts 4:30; Acts 5:12). There is here and allusion to Pentecost and the prophecy of Joel St Peter invokes on that occasion (compare Acts 2:19 with Joel 2:30).
The phrase that St Stephen did these things among the people is ominous, since this or similar phrasing is often associated with the rise of anger and jealousy on the part of some, especially the Jewish leaders (see Acts 2:12-13; Acts 4:1-3; Acts 4:10-16).
Act 6:9 Now there arose some, of that which is called the synagogue of the Libertines and of the Cyrenians and of the Alexandrians and of them that were of Cilicia and Asia, disputing with Stephen.
Synagogue. See on Matthew iv. 22,. The Talmud speaks of about as many as four hundred and eighty Synagogues in the city of Jerusalem at this time.
Libertines. These were liberated Roman slaves. They were probably descendants of those Jews whom Pompey brought to Rome in 63 B.C.
The Cyrenians were inhabitants of Cyrene, the capital of Libya, in northern Africa. Jews lived there in great numbers.
Alexandrians, i.e., inhabitants of Alexandria, where the Jews were still more numerous and very wealthy.
Cilicia was a province of Asia Minor, where St. Paul was bom.
Asia was in the west of Asia Minor with Ephesus as its capital.
It is not certain whether all these different groups of Hellenists belonged to one Synagogue, or whether each group had its own. The Greek text seems to favor the opinion which divides them into two groups: (a) the Libertines, the Cyrenians, and the Alexandrians, who had their own synagogue; (b) those from Cilicia and Asia, who also had a synagogue of their own.
Act 6:10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit that spoke.
They were not able to resist. These words prepare for his coming trial speech in which he says to his listeners “you always resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51). Stephen, in anticipation of his trial is, like Peter and John before him, being shown as fulfilling prophecies of Jesus. Jesus said…And when they shall bring you into the synagogues and to magistrates and powers, be not solicitous how or what you shall answer, or what you shall say. For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what you must say (Luke 12:11-12). They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and into prisons, dragging you before kings and governors, for my name’s sake. And it shall happen unto you for a testimony. Lay it up therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before how you shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist and gainsay (Luke 21:12-15).
Act 6:11 Then they suborned men to say they had heard him speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.
They suborned men. Not able to answer the arguments of Stephen, these enemies resorted to calumny, and tried to influence the people and the rulers against him by saying that he had blasphemed against God and against Moses, God’s legislator.
Act 6:12 And they stirred up the people and the ancients and the scribes. And running together, they took him and brought him to the council.
These false witnesses are said to have stirred up the people, ironically becoming guilty of the charge which was falsely laid upon Jesus (Luke 23:5).
And running together; i.e., suddenly coming upon him they brought him before the Sanhedrim.
Act 6:13 And they set up false witnesses, who said: This man ceaseth not to speak words against the holy place and the law.
Act 6:14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place and shall change the traditions which Moses delivered unto us.
They set up false witnesses who said…We have heard him say, etc. Very probably they had heard Stephen repeat or refer to the prophecy of our Lord (Matt 24:2 ff.) regarding the destruction of Jerusalem. Perhaps, too, he had spoken quite openly about the New Kingdom, the New Law, the New Sacrifice, etc., which were to supersede the old. From all this they falsely tried to make a case against Stephen, and condemn him as guilty of blasphemy.
Act 6:15 And all that sat in the council, looking on him, saw his face as if it had been the face of an angel.
The face of an angel. Those who looked on St. Stephen’s face doubtless hoped to see guilt reflected there; but they saw, on the contrary, the innocence and heavenly beauty of an angel.