Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 3:1-10
Posted by Dim Bulb on April 22, 2014
Text in red are my additions.
In this chapter we have an account of the miraculous cure, by St. Peter, of a lame man, with several accompanying circumstances, which placed the reality of the miracle beyond all cavil or dispute, and elicited the wonder and amazement of the people (1–12). The address of Peter, showing that this miracle was brought about, not by human agency, but by the power of Christ and by faith in Him (12–17). His exhortation to penance recommended on several grounds (19–26).
1 NOW Peter and John went up into the temple at the ninth hour of prayer.
“Now,” immediately after the occurrences recorded in preceding chap. 2, St. Luke here specifies, in particular, one of the miraculous wonders wrought by the Apostles recorded in a general way, (Acts 2:43).
“Peter and John went up into the temple.” The Greek places here the words commonly found in the last verse of preceding chapter. “Together.” “Went up.” The Zorobabelic Temple rebuilt by Herod was situated on an elevated part of the city, Mount Moria, the site of the ancient Temple of Solomon. “At the ninth hour of prayer.” This was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The followers of our Lord made it a practice to resort to the Temple for devotional exercises. The ninth hour was the time fixed for evening sacrifice. The fixed hours for public prayer in the Temple among the Jews were the third, our 9 o’clock (2:15), sixth (our 12 o’clock), ninth (3 o’clock with us). Daniel “adored three times a-day” (Daniel 6:10). David, evening, morning, and mid-day (Ps. 55:18).
2 And a certain man who was lame from his mother’s womb was carried: whom they laid every day at the gate of the temple, which is called Beautiful, that he might ask alms of them that went into the temple.
“A man lame from his mother’s womb,” and well known as such. Hence, no fear of collusion or deception as to his ailment or subsequent miraculous cure.
“The gate of the temple called Beautiful.” It is not agreed upon among commentators what “the gate,” here termed, “beautiful” referred to. No gate of this name is spoken of by Josephus or other Jewish authors. It refers, according to some, to the gate of Nicanor, leading from the court of the Gentiles to that of the women. It was so called, because, according to a Jewish tradition, the hand of that furious enemy of God’s people was attached to it by Judus Machabæus, as a trophy of the glorious victory be achieved in a battle wherein Nicanor was slain. Josephus tells us (Bell. Ind., c. v. 5, 3), that it was made of Corinthian brass, or overlaid with it, equal in value to gold, and exquisitely wrought. It surpassed all the others in magnificence. Hence, called “Beautiful,” Others say, there is question of the gate called Susan, the principal gate on the east side. On it was sculptured in relief a representation of the city of Susa, the chief city of Persia, as expressive, from the days of Zorobabel, of the loyalty of the Jews to the Persian Powers. This was contiguous to the Portico of Solomon, whither the Apostles repaired after the miracle. Owing to the great concourse of people there it was a place advantageous for asking alms. Hence, some commentators say it was the gate here spoken of.
“That he might ask alms,” &c. From the earliest times it was quite a common practice with mendicants to plant themselves at the gates of churches.
3 He, when he had seen Peter and John, about to go into the temple, asked to receive an alms.
MacEvilly offers no comment on this verse. Almsgiving was a sacred duty within Judaism (see the Book of Tobit 1:3, 16; 2:14; 4:7-11). For more Jeiwsh background see “Alms” in the online Jewish Encyclopedia. See also The Catholic Encyclopedia article on “Alms and Almsgiving”.
4 But Peter with John, fastening his eyes upon him, said: Look upon us.
“Look upon us” in order to fix his attention on the subsequent miracle, and make him see that the miracle was performed by the Apostles.
5 But he looked earnestly upon them, hoping that he should receive something of them.
MacEvilly offers no comment on this verse. The primary particle δέ (de) used here usually serves as an adversative conjunctive (i.e., “but”, implying a contrast, rather than “and”, implying a connection). That such is the meaning here is confirmed by the word προσδοκων (prosdokon), translated above as “hoping.” The word would be better translated here as “expecting.”
The man clearly expects some sort of financial gift, however small, to help alleviate his beggarly condition which, the text suggests, was the result of his lame condition.
6 But Peter said: Silver and gold I have none; but what I have, I give thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk.
“I have none.” No private funds of his own for dispensing in charity. The common fund was not at his disposal for such purposes.
“What I have,” given me for the benefit of others. It was not from himself, but owing to the power promised by our Lord (Mark 16:17, 18) and given him, he performed the miracle.
“In the name,” by the power and authority “of Jesus Christ,” &c., whose instrument I simply am, “of Nazareth,” the title commonly given him, the name under which this man may have heard of him, as a crucified malefactor and seducer.
“Arise and walk.” The command conveyed the power of working the miracle by the Apostle.
I have none. The Apostles have not yet become administrators of the donations given for the alleviation of the poor (see Acts 4:32-5:11). The Apostle has shown his trustworthiness in administering true wealth (Luke 16:10-13). The power he and the rest of the Apostles posses is of incomparable value in relation to money (Acts 8:18-24).
In the name of Jesus Christ. The power of the name of the Lord will become a focal point in Peter’s speech to the people in Acts 3:11-26. The healing is the catalyst for that speech and should be seen in intimate connection with it. Concerning the name of Jesus see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, articles 340-345.
Arise and walk. There is an obvious allusion to the theme of Jesus’ resurrection here; it will become explicit in Peter’s speech (Acts 3:15-16).
7 And taking him by the right hand, he lifted him up: and forthwith his feet and soles received strength.
“Forthwith,” instantly. “His feet and soles.” “Soles” in the Greek means “ankle bones” owing to the weakness of which he could not support his body, “received strength.” All the circumstances point to an undoubted miracle. Commentators remark that in the use of terms connected with the human frame, the technical accuracy of Luke, the Physician, is observable.
8 And he leaping up, stood and walked and went in with them into the temple, walking and leaping and praising God.
“Leaping up” expresses the joy he felt. It may be also expressive of his first essay at walking. He next “stood,” then “walked,” regularly, like the rest. The fact of his walking, which he was not used to, having been a cripple from a child, is a clear proof of the miracle.
“Praising God,” to whom he knew he was indebted for his cure. For St. Peter did not even pretend that it came from himself. Here, we have a literal fulfilment of the Prophecy of Isaiah (35:6) “then, shall the lame man leap, as a hart.”
Regarding Isaiah 35:6: See the Greek text of Isaiah 35:6~”Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be free: for waters are broken out in the desert, and streams in the wilderness.” Note the staccato use of verbs here to emphasize the effect of the healing (“leaping,” “stood,” “walked,” “went in,” “walking,” “leaping,” “praising”). His act of “praising” suggests that he has become a member of the Church (Acts 2:47). With the word “praise” there also may be another allusion to Isaiah 35~And the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and shall come into Sion with praise, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away (Is 35:10).
9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God.
“All the people.” The very crucifiers of our Lord saw the miracle and its suddenness. There could be no collusion or fraud. The Apostles were strangers to the man that was cured. Some of them carried him to the place where he was daily placed to solicit alms from the passers by.
10 And they knew him, that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened to him.
“Filled with wonder,” &c. The effect of the miracle on their feelings.