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Stephen disputes with the


Libertines, Cyrenians, &c.

A.M.cir. 4035.
A. D. cir. 31.

8 1 And Stephen, full of faith and which is called the synagogue of the 4. M. cir: 4035. Ap. Olymp. power, did great wonders and mira-1, Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alex. An. Olymp. eir. ccii. s. cles among the people.

andrians, and of them of Cilicia and cir. ccii. 3. 9 Then there arose certain of the synagogue, of Asia, disputing with Stephen.

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sion. 1. The grace of Christ Jesus can save even a muro publicam non latet conscientiam. Unity is there : all the derous Jewish priest : his death is a grand atonement for all world knows it. From these two passages it appears, that crimes, and for the worst of sinners. 2. In the twenty-four there was in Lybia a town or district called Libertina, whose courses of priests, there was not a multitude merely, but mul- inhabitants bore the name of Albeçtivo Libertines, when titudes : indeed the number of ecclesiastics at Jerusalem was Christianity prevailed there. They had an episcopal see enormous. A great company out of these might be con among them, and the above mentioned Victor was their verted, and yet multitudes be left behind.

bishop at the council of Carthage, in the reign of the EmVerse 8. Stephen, full of faith and power] Instead of peror Honorius. And from hence it seems probable that the faith, T:15ews; xapitos grace, is the reading of ABD. several ' town or district, and the people, existed in the time of which others, the Syriac of Erpen, the Coptic, Armenian, Vulgate, Luke is here speaking. They were Jews (no doubt), and and some of the Fathers. This reading Griesbach has ad- came up as the Cyrenian and Alexandrian Jews did, to bring mitted into the text. Some MSS. join both readings. Ste- ! their offerings to Jerusalem, and to worship God in the temphen was full of faith, gave unlimited credence to the pro-ple there. Cunæus, in his Rep. Hebr. ii. 23. says, that the mises of his Lord : he was full of grace ; receiving the ful-|Jews who lived in Alexandria and Lybiu, and all other Jews filment of those promises, he enjoyed much of the unction who lived out of the Holy Land, except those of Babylon of the Divine Spirit; and much of the favour of his God; and its neighbourhood, were held in great contempt by the and in consequence, he was full of power, duranews, of the Jews who inhabited Jerusalem and Judea; partly on acdivine energy, by which he was enabled to work great won count of their quitting their proper country, and partly on ders and miracles among the people.

account of their using the Greek language, and being quite Verse 9. The synagogue-of the Libertines, &c.] That ignorant of the other. For these reasons it seems probable Jews and proselytes from various countries had now come up that the Libertines, Cyreniuns, and Alexandrians, had a to Jerusalem to bring offerings, and to attend the feast of separate synagogue (as perhaps the Cilicians and those of pentecost, we have already seen, chap. ii. The persons Asia had); the Jews of Jerusalem not suffering them to be mentioned here, were foreign Jews, who appear to have had present in their synagogues, or they not choosing to perform a synagogue peculiar to themselves at Jerusalem, in which their public service in synagogues where a language was used, they were accustomed to worship when they came to the pub- / which they did not understand.” lic festivals.

It is supposed also, that these synagogues had theological, Various opinions have been entertained concerning the if not philosophical schools attached to them; and that it was Libertines mentioned here : Bp. Pearce's view of the subject | the disciples or scholars of these schools who came forward appears to me to be the most correct.

to dispute with Stephen; and were enraged, because they “ It is commonly thought, that by this name is meant the were confounded. For it is not an uncommon custom with sons of such Jews as had been slaves, and obtained their those who have a bad cause, which can neither stand the test freedom by the favour of their masters : but it is to be ob- of scripture nor reason, to endeavour to support it by physical, served, that with these Libertines, the Cyrenians, and Aler- when logical force has failed; and thus andrians, are here joined, as having one and the same syna

« Prove their doctrine orthodox, gogue for their public worship. And it being known that

“ By apostolic blows and knocks." the Cyrenians (ch. ii. 10.) lived in Lybia, and the Aleran In the reign of Queen Mary, when popery prevailed in this drians in the neighbourhood of it; it is most natural to look country, and the simplest women who had read the Bible for the Libertines too in that part of the world. Accord were an overmatch for the greatest of the popish doctors; as ingly we find Suidas, in his Lexicon, saying, upon the word they had neither scripture nor reason to allege, they burned Aubaprīvou, that it is ovoua toữ čoves, the name of a people. them alive, and thus terminated a controversy which they And in Gest. Collationis Carthagini habitæ inter Catholicos were unable to maintain. The same cause will ever produce et Donatistas; published with Optatus's works, Paris, 1679, the same effect: the Libertines, Cicilians, Cyrenians, and (No. 201. and p. 57) we have these words : Victor episcopus Alexandrians, pursued this course : Stephen confounded them Ecclesiæ Catholicæ LIBERTINENSIS dixit, Unitas est illic; l by Scripture and reason; and they beat his brains out with

The Jews suborn false


witnesses against Stephen.

A. M.cir. 4035.
A. D. cir. 31.

A. D. cir. 31. cir. CCII. 3.

cir. CCII. 3.



10 And “they were not able to re- This man ceaseth not to speak blas- A.M.cir.1035. An. Olymp. sist the wisdom and the spirit by phemous words against this holy place, An. Olymp. which he spake.

and the law : Then they suborned men which said, Wel 14

14 · For we have heard him say, that this have heard him speak blasphemous words against Jesus of Nazareth shall "destroy this place, Moses, and against God.

and shall change the customs which Moses de12 And they stirred up the people, and the livered us. elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and 15 And all that sat in the council, looking caught him, and brought him to the council, stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the 13 And set up false witnesses, which said, | face of an angel.

a Luke 21. 15. ch. 5. 39. See Exod. 12. Isai. 34. 17. 1 Kings 21.

10, 13. Matt. 26. 59, 60. ch. 25. 8.

_. Dan. 9. 26.

Le Or, rites.

stones! This was the most effectual way to silence a dispu- | to conduct it, who thus made themselves one with the beasts tant, whose wisdom they could not resist. In the same way of the people, whom they collected ; and then, all together, were the Protestants treated, when by Scripture and reason

without law or form of justice, rushed on the good man, they had shewn the absurdity and wickedness of that anti-seized him, and brought him to a council, who, though christian system, which the fire and the sword were brought they sat in the seat of judgment, were ready for every evił forth to establish. These persecutors professed great concern work. at first for the souls of those whom they variously tortured, Verse 13. Against this holy place] The temple, that it and at last burned: but their tender mercies were cruel, and shall be destroyed. when they gave up the body to the flames, they most heartily And the law] That it cannot give lise, nor save from consigned the soul to Satan. Scires e' sanguine natos: their death. It is very likely that they had heard him speak words conduct proclaimed their genealogy.

to this amount, which were all as true as the Spirit from Verse 10. They were not able to resist the wisdom, &c.] which they proceeded; but they gave them a very false coHe was wise, well exercised, and experienced in divine louring, as we see in the succeeding verse. things; and, as appears by his defence, in the following Verse 15. Saw his face, as it had been the face of an angel.] chapter, well versed in the Jewish history. The spirit by Sayings like this are frequent among the Jewish writers, who which he spake, was the Holy Spirit, and its power was ir represent God as distinguishing eminent men, by causing a resistible. They were obliged either to yield to its teach- glory to shine from their faces. Rabbi Gedalia said, that ings, or were confounded by its truth. Several MSS. add to 6 when Moses and Aaron came before Pharaoh, they apthis verse, because he reproved them with boldness, they could peared like those angels which minister before the face of the not resist the truth. This reading is not genuine, though it Lord: for their stature appeared greater, and the splendour exists (but in different forms) in some good MSS.

of their face was like the sun, and their eyes like the wheels Verse 11. Then they suborned men] Trebalov' they made of the sun ; their beard like clusters of grapes, and their under-hand work; got associated to themselves profligate words like thunder and lightning; and that through fear of persons, who for money would swear any thing.

them, those who were present fell to the earth.” Blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.] This The like is said of Moses, in Debarim Rabba, fol. 75. was the most deadly charge they could bring against him. that " when Sammael (Satan) came to Moses, the splendour We have already seen, Matt. ix. 4. that blasphemy, when of his face was like the sun ; and himself resembled an angel against GOD, signifies speaking impiously of his nature, at- of God." The Reader may find several similar sayings in tributes, or works; and when against men, it signifies speak- Schoettgen. ing injuriously of their character, blasting their reputation, It appears that the light and power of God which dwelt &c. These false witnesses came to prove that he had blas- in his soul, shone through his face; and God gave them this phemed Moses, by representing him as an impostor, or the proof of the falsity of the testimony which was now before like; and GOD, by either denying his being, his provi- them: for as the face of Stephen now shone as the face of dence, the justice of his government, &c.

Moses did when he came down from the Mount, it was the Verse 12. And they] The Libertines, &c. mentioned be- fullest proof that he had neither spoken blasphemous words, fore, stirred up the people ; raised a mob against him; and, either against Moses or God; else this splendour of heaven to assist and countenance the mob, got the elders and scribes I had not rested upon him.

He is summoned before the council


to answer for himself.

The history of the apostolic church is a series of wonders. overthrow it. Is it possible to look at this, without seeing Every thing that could prevent such a church from being the mighty hand of God in the whole! He permits devils established, or could overthrow it when established, is and wicked men to work, to avail themselves of all their brought to bear against it. The instruments employed in its advantages ; yet counterworks all their plots and designs, erection and defence, had neither might nor power, but what turns their weapons against themselves, and promotes his came immediately from God. They work, and God works cause by the very means that were used to destroy it. How with them : the church is founded and built up, and its ad true is the saying, there is neither might nor counsel against versaries, with every advantage in their favour, cannot the Lord.


Stephen being permitted to answer for himself relative to the charge of blasphemy brought against him by his accusers, gives a circumstantial relation of the call of Abraham, when he dwelt in Mesopotamia, in Charran, &c. 148. The history of Jacob and Joseph, 9–17. The persecution of their fathers in Egypt, 18, 19. The history of Moses and his acts till the E.rodus from Egypt, 20—37. The rebellion and idolatry of the Israelites in the wil. derness, 38—43. The erection of the tabernacle of witness, which continued till the time of David, 44–46. Of the temple built by Solomon for that God, who cannot be confined to temples built by hands, 47–50. Being probably interrupted in the prosecution of his discourse, he urges home the charge of rebellion against God, persecution of his prophets, the murder of Christ, and neglect of their own lux, against them, 51–53. They are filled with indignation, and proceed to riolence, 54. He sees the glory of God, and Christ at the right hand of the Father; and declares the glorious vision, 55, 56. They rush upon him, drag him out of the city, and stone him, 57, 58. He invokes the Lord Jesus, prays for his murderers, and expires, 59, 60.

WHEN said the high priest, * Are | and fathers, hearken ; The God of A. M.cir. 4035. An. Olymp. these things so?

glory appeared unto our father An. Olymp. 2 And he said, Men, brethren, | Abraham, when he was in Mesopo

A. D. cir. 31.


A. D. cir. 31.

cir. CCII. 3.

cir. CCII. 3.

a Ch. 6. 13, 13.- John 9. 22. ch. 22. 1.

• Gen. 11. 27, 28. & 12. 1--3.


consenting to his death, and kept the clothes of them who Verse 1. Are these things so?] Hast thou predicted the stoned him. See chap. vii. 58. vii. 1. and xxii. 20. destruction of the temple ? And hast thou said that Jesus of Verse 2. Men, brethren, and fathers] Rather, brethren Nazareth shall change our customs, abolish our religious rites and fathers, for aydpes should not be translated separately and temple-service? Hast thou spoken these blasphemous | from abenço.. Literally it is men-brethren, a very usual things against Moses, and against God. Here was some form in Greek; for every person knows that arogaç A 170.104 colour of justice ; for Stephen was permitted to defend him and ανδρες Περσαι should not be translated men-Athenians self. And in order to do this, he thought it best to enter and men-Persians, but simply Athenians and Persians. See into a detail of their history from the commencement of their Acts xvii. 22. So in Luke ii. 15. QTSWTOI TOILEVes should nation; and thus shew how kindly God had dealt with them, be translated shepherds, not men-shepherds. And 0:5 €wTos and how ungraciously they and their fathers had requited Batineus, Matt. xviii. 23. should not be translated man-king, Him. And all this naturally led him to the conclusion, that but king, simply. By translating as we do, men, brethren, God could no longer bear with a people, the cup of whose and fathers, and putting a comma after men, we make Steiniquity had been long overflowing ; and therefore they l phen address three classes, when in fact there were but two, might expect to find wrath, without mixture of mercy. the elders and scribes, whom he addressed as fathers; and

But how could St. Luke get all this circumstantial ac the common people, whom he calls brethren. See Bp. Pearce, counti 1. He might have been present, and heard the and see chap. viii. 27. whole; or, more probably, he had the account from St. The God of glory appeared, &c.] As Stephen was now Paul, whose companion he was, and who was certainly pre- vindicating himself from the false charges brought against sent when St. Stephen was judged and stoned, for he was him, he shews that he had uttered no blasphemy, either against

Stephen in his defence


relates the call of Abraham,

A. D. cir. 31.

A. D. cir. 31.
An. Olymp.

A.M.cir.4036. tamia, before he dwelt in Charran, sion, and to his seed after him, when A. M.cir. 4035. 3 And said unto him, a Get thee out as yet he had no child.

An. Olymp. cir. CCII. S. of thy country, and from thy kin 6 And God spake on this wise, cir. CCII. S. dred, and come into the land which I shall That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; shew thee.

and that they should bring them into bondage, 4 Then came he out of the land of the Chal- and entreat them evil ® four hundred years. deans, and dwelt in Charran : and from thence, 7 And the nation to whom they shall be in when his father was dead, he removed him into bondage will I judge, said God: and after that this land, wherein ye now dwell.

shall they come forth, and 'serve me in this 5 And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, place. not so much as to set his foot on: ‘yet he pro

8 5 And he gave him the covenant of circummised that he would give it to him for a posses- cision : "and so Abraham begat Isaac, and cir

Gen. 12. 1.

Gen. 11. 31. & 12. 4, 5.- Gen. 12. 7. & 13. 15. & 15.

3, 18. & 17. 8. & 26. 3.

& Gen. 15. 13, 16.—Exod. 12. 40. Gal. 3. 17.- Exod.3. 12.

17. 9, 10, 11.- Gen. 21. 2, 3, 4.

* Gen.

God, Moses, or the temple; but states, that his accusers, obliged to buy a burying place in Canaan Gen xxiii. it is ob. and the Jews in general, were guilty of the faults with vious he had no inheritance there. which they charged him. That they had from the beginning And to his seed after him] See Gen. xii. 7. and xiii. 15. rejected and despised Moses, and had always violated his and the note there. laws. He proceeds to state that there is no blasphemy in Verse 6. That his seed should sojourn in a strange land] saying that the temple shall be destroyed : they had been See Gen. xv. 13, 14. without a temple till the days of David ; nor does God ever Four hundred years.] Moses says, Exod. xii. 40. that confine himself to temples built by hands, seeing he fills both the sojourning of the children of Israel in Egyptwas 430 heaven and earth ; that Jesus is the prophet of whom Moses years. See the note there. St. Paul has the same number, spoke; and whom they had persecuted, condemned, and at Gal. iii. 17. and so has Josephus Ant. lib. ii. cap. 1. sect. 9. last put to death ; that they were wicked and uncircumcised in Bell. lib. v. cap. 9. sect. 4. St. Stephen uses the round numin heart and in ears; and always resisted the Holy Ghost as ber of 400, leaving out the odd tens, a thing very common their fathers did. This is the substance of St. Stephen's de- not only in the sacred writers, but in all others, those alone fence as far as he was permitted to make it: a defence which excepted, who write professedly on chronological matters. they could not confute; containing charges which they most Verse 7. Will I judge] Kpovw syw. I will punish, for in glaringly illustrated and confirmed, by adding the murder of this sense the Greek word is frequently taken. (6 When" this faithful disciple, to that of his all glorious master. says Bp. Pearce, “a malefactor is brought before a judge;

Was in Mesopotamia] In that part of it where Ur of the the judge does three things : 1. he tries or judges him ; 2. Chaldees was situated, near to Babel, and among the rivers he then gives his judgment or sentence; and 3. he puts the (Tigris and Euphrates) which gave the name of Mesopotamia law in execution, and punishes him. Hence repiw at different to the country. See the note on Gen. xi. 31.

times, signifies each of these things; and the sense of the Before he dwelt in Charran] This is called Haran in' word is to be determined by the context. Here it signifies to our translation of Gen. xi. 31 ; this place also belonged to punish, as xpipa is used for punishment, in Rom. xiii. 2. Mesopotamia, as well as Ur, but is placed west of it, on the 1 Cor. xi. 29. compared with ver. 30, 31.” The Egyptians maps. It seems most probable that Abraham had two calls, to whom the Israelites were in bondage, were punished by one in Ur and the other in Haran. He left Ur, at the first the ten plagues described Exod. vii, viii, ix, x, xi, xii. call, and came to Haran; he left Haran at the second call, Verse 8. He gave him the covenant of circumcision] That and came into the promised land. See these things more is, he instituted the rite of circumcision, as a sign of that coparticularly stated in the notes on Gen. xii. 1.

denant which he had made with him and his posterity. See Verse 4. When his father was dead] See the note on Gen. xvii. 10, &c. Gen. xi. 26.

And so Abraham begat Isaac] Kai outws and thus, in this Verse 5. Gave him none inheritance] Both Abraham covenant, he begat Isaac: and as a proof that he was born unand Jacob had small parcels of land in Canaan; but they had der this covenant, was a true son of Abraham and inheritor of them by purchase, not by God's gift; for as Abraham was the promises, be circumcised him the eighth day: and this

Stephen gives an abstract


of the history of Joseph.

A. D. cir. 31.

A. D. cir. 31

cir. CCII. 3.

cir. CCII. 3.

A. M. cir. 4035. cumcised him the eighth day: ‘and 12 6 But when Jacob heard that there A.M.cir. 4035.

Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob be- was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fa An. Olymp. gat the twelve patriarchs.

thers first : 9 I And the patriarchs, moved with envy, 13 " And at the second time Joseph was made sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, || known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred

10 And delivered him out of all his afflictions, was made known unto Pharaoh. ·and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight | 14 ' Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jaof Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him cob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and governor over Egypt and all his house.

fifteen souls. 11 Now there came a dearth over all the land 15 'So Jacob went down into Egypt, * and of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction : and died, he, and our fathers, our fathers found no sustenance.

16 And "were carried over into Sychem, and

+Gen. 25. 26.-- Gen. 29.31, &c. & 30.5, &c. & 35. 18, 23. Gen. 37. 4, 11, 28. Ps. 105, 17, & Gen. 39.2, 21, 23. - Gen. 41. 37. & 42. 6. Li Gen. 41, 54.

& Gen. 42. 1.- Gen. 45. 4, 16.-Gen. 45. 9, 27.-Gen. 46. 27. Dent. 10. 22. Gen. 46. 5. mm Gen. 49. 33. Exod. 1. 6. - Exod. 13. 19. Josh. 24. 32.

rite being observed in the family of Isaac, Jacob and his field of Machpelah before Mamre. And in Josh. xxiv. 32. and twelve sons were born under the covenant; and thus their | Exod. xiii. 19. it is said that the bones of Joseph were carried descendants the twelve tribes, being born under the same co out of Egypt by the Israelites, and buried in Shechem, which Tenant, and practising the same rite, were, by the ordinance Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem. of God, legal inheritors of the promised land, and all the se- || As for the eleven brethren of Joseph, we are told by Josecular and spiritual advantages connected with it.

phus, Ant. lib. ii. cap. 8. sect. 2. that they were buried in HeVerse 9. And the patriarchs] The twelve sons of Jacob | bron, where their father had been buried. But since the thus called, because each was chief or head of his respective | books of the Old Testament say nothing about this, the aufamily or tribe.

thority of Stephen (or of Luke here) for their being buried Moved with envy] Znawcastes; we translate Graos vari- || in Sychem, is at least as good as that of Josephus for their ously-real, or fervent affection, whether its object be good being buried in Hebron.” Bp. Pearce. or bad, is its general meaning; and (you signifies to be indig We have the uniform consent of the Jewish writers that nant, envious, &c. See the note on chap. v. 17. The breth all the patriarchs were brought out of Egypt, and buried in ren of Joseph hearing of his dreams, and understanding them Canaan, but none, except Stephen, mentions their being buried to portend his future advancement, filled with envy, (with || in Sychem. As Sychem belonged to the Samaritans, prowhich no ordinary portion of malice was associated,) sold bably the Jews thought it too great an honour for that people Joseph into the land of Egypt, hoping by this means to pre-to possess the bones of the patriarchs; and therefore have rent his future grandeur : but God, from whom the portents carefully avoided making any mention of it. This is Dr. came, was with him; and made their envy, the direct means | Lightfoot's conjecture; and it is as probable as any other. of accomplishing the great design.

That Abraham bought for a sum of money] Two acVerse 10. Gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pha- | counts seem here to be confounded; 1. the purchase made by raoh] God gave him much wisdom, in consequence of which, || Abraham of the cave and field of Ephron, which was in the he had favour with the king of Egypt. See the whole of this field of Machpelah: this purchase was made from the chilremarkable history explained at large, Gen. xli-xlv. dren of Heth, Gen. xxiii. 3, 10, 17. 2. The purchase made

Verse 14. Threescore and fifteen souls.] There are seve- || by Jacob from the sons of Hamor or Emmor, of a sepulchre ral difficulties here, which it is hoped the Reader will find sa in which the bones of Joseph were laid; this was in Sychem tisfactorily removed in the note on Gen. xlvi. 20. It is well or Shechem, Gen. xxxiii. 19. Josh. xxiv. 32. The word known that in Gen. xlvi. and in Deut. x. 22. their number is Abraham therefore, in this place, is certainly a mistake ; and said to be threescore and ten; but Stephen quotes from the the word Jacob, which some have supplied is doubtless more Septuagint, which adds five persons to the account, which are proper. Bp. Pearce supposes that Luke originally wrote i not in the Hebrew text.. Machir, Gilead, Sutelaam, Taham, | wyroato tiuums apyupsou, which he bought for a sum of money: and Edem; but see the note referred to above.

i. e. which Jacob bought, who is the last person of the singuVerse 16. And were carried over into Sychem] “It is | lar number, spoken of in the preceding verse. Those who said, Gen. 1. 13. that Jacob was buried in the cave of the saw that the word wrrraro bought, had no nominatide case

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