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- STEPHEN IS ACCUSED OF BLASPHEMY-CHAP. IX.
Julian Pe: and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia, and of Asia, Jerusalem.
riod, 4746, disputing with Stephen.
33 or 34.
of such persons, was an adjective belonging to the name of
some city or district; while others on mere conjecture, have
proposed to alter the term itself. But the whole difficulty is
removed by a passage in the second book of the “Annals of
Tacitus,” from which it appears that the persons, whom that
historian describes as being libertini generis, and infected (as he
calls it) with foreign, that is, with Jewish superstition, were so
numerous in the time of the Emperor Tiberius, that four thou-
sand of them, who were of age to carry arms, were sent to the
island of Sardinia; and that all the rest of them were ordered,
either to renounce their religion, or to depart from Italy before
a day appointed. This statement of Tacitus is confirmed by
Suetonius, wbo relates that Tiberius disposed of the young
men among the Jews then at Rome, (under pretence of their
serving in the wars,) in provinces of an unhealthy climate; and
that he banished from the city all the rest of that pation, or
proselytes to that religion, under penalty of being condemned
to slavery for life, if they did not comply with bis commands. We
can now therefore account for the number of Libertini in Judea,
at the period of which Luke was speaking, which was about
fifteen years after their banishment from Italy. Bishop Marsh
bas, however, omitted to observe, that these four thousand
Libertini were sent to the Island of Sardinia as soldiers-coer-
cendis illic latrociniis ; and they were not expected to escape
from that place-et si ob gravitatem cæli interissent, vile
Bishop Pearce looks for the Libertines in Africa. He observes
that the Libertines, the Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, are here
joined, as having one and the same synagogue for their public
worship. And it being known that the Cyrenians (chap. ii. 10.)
lived in Lybia, and the Alexandrians in the neighbourhood of it,
it is most natural to look for the Libertines also in that part of
the world. Accordingly we find Suidas, in his Lexicon, saying
upon the word Λιβερτίνοι, that it is όνομα το έθνος, the name of
a people. And in Gest. Collationis Carthagini babitæ inter
Catholicos et Donatistas, published with Optatus's works,
Paris, 1679 (No. 201. and p. 57.) we have these words :- Victor
episcopus Ecclesiæ Catholicæ Libertinensis dixit, Unitas est
illic; publicam non latet conscientiam. From these two pas-
sages Bishop Pearce thioks that there was in Lybia a town or
district called Libertina, whose inhabitants bore the name of
Albeprivoi, Libertines, when Christianity prevailed there. They
had an episcopal see among them, and the above-mentioned
Victor was their bishop at the council of Carthage, in the reign
of the Emperor Honarius. And from hence it seems probable
that the town or district, and the people existed in the time of
which Luke is here speaking. They were Jews, no doubt, and
came up as the Cyrenian and Alexandrian Jews did, to bring
their offerings to Jerusalem, and to worship in the temple there.
Cunæus, in his Rep. Heb. ii. 23. says, that the Jews who lived
in Alexandria and Lybia, and all other Jews who lived out of
the Holy Lapd, except those of Babylon and its neighbour.
hood, were held in great contempt by the Jews who inhabited
Jerusalem and Judea, partly on account of their quitting their
proper country, and partly on account of their using the Greek
language, and being quite ignorant of the other. For these
reasons it seems probable that the Libertines, Cyrenians, and
Alexandrians, bad a separate synagogue (as perhaps the Cili-
Julian Pe 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and Jerusalem. riod, 4746, the spirit by which he spake. or 4747. Volgar Æra,
11 Then they suborned men, which said, We have 33 or 31. heard bim speak blasphemous words against Moses, and
12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council,
13 And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:
14 For we have heard him say, That this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.
Stephen defends himself before the Sanhedrim.
ACTS vi. 15. vii. 1-51.
15 And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly
on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.
1 Then said the high priest, Are these things so ?
cians and those of Asia had,) the Jews of Jerusalem pot suffer-
ing them to be present in their synagogues, or they not choos-
ing to perform their public service in synagogues where a lan-
guage was used which they did not understand.-Annal. lib. ii.
c. 85. Marsh's Lect. part vi. p. 70. In Tiberio, c. 36. Horne's
Addenda to the 2nd edit. p. 743. and Dr. A. Clarke in loc.
34 In this address of St. Stephen to the Jews, he seems desir-
ons to prove to them by a reference to the lives of their venerat.
ed ancestors, the error of their prevailing expectations and opi.
nions. From the promise given to Abraham (Gen. xvii. 8.) they
expected that God would put them in possession of the land of
Canaan, that is, the enjoyment of this present world. As this
prediction had never been entirely fulfilled, (Numb. xxxiii. 55,
56 ) the Jews were led to suppose it would receive its full com-
pletion in the person of the Messiah ; and to this notion per-
haps may be attributed their deep-rooted and preconceived
ideas of the temporal nature of Christ's kiogdom. When our
blessed Lord, therefore, rejected all earthly power and distinc.
tion, and left them still under the dominion of the Romans, they
concluded he could not be the predicted Son of David.
St. Stephen begins by endeavouring to convince them of their misapprehension on this point of the sacred promise, by demonstrating to them through a recapitulation of the history of the Patriarchs, that such could not have been the meaning of the prediction ; for even their Father Abraham (he argues) to whom the land was first promised, “ had none inheritance in it, no not so much as to set his foot on." The other Patriarchs in the same manner passed a life of pilgrimage and affliction, and never attained to the blessed inheritance. Abraham, the Father of the Faithful, and the friend of God, had no possession till his death; then only he began to take possession of his purchase, clearly intimating the spiritual signification of the promised
Julian Pe 2 And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; Jerusalem. riod, 4746, The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham or 4747. VulgarÆra,
when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, 33 or 34.
Canaan. Moses bad a prospect of that land, but he died before
he could attain to it, and all those who came out of Egypt with
him, without even a glimpse of it, fell through unbelief in the
wilderness. The righteous only hath hope in his death. The
eminent characters here brought forth by Stephen, may be con-
sidered (as Mr. Jones of Nayland remarks,) as signs so exactly
suited to the thing sigaified, as if the truth itself had been acted
beforehand. In Joseph we see a man wise, innocent, and great,
hated by bis brethren, and sold for a slave to heathen Egyp-
tiads. In his humiliation he was exalled. Heathens to whom be
had been given over, bowed the knee before him his own family
were preserved from perishing—he became the saviour of all
administering to them bread, the emblem of life and to him
every knec bowed, both of bis own kindred and strangers. He was
templed and triumphed; he was persecuted and imprisoned un.
der a malicious and false accusation; he was not actually cruci.
fied, but he suffered with two malefactors, and promised life to
one of them, and delivered himself by the Divine Spirit that was
given to him. He was seen twice by his brethren ; the first time
they knew him not, but the second he was made known unto
them. And thus we trust it will be at some future day, when
the brethren of Jesus Christ shall become like the brethren
of Joseph, sensible of their crime, and say with them in the
bitterness of their souls, “ We are very guilty concerning our
brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he besought
us, and we would not bear; therefore have all our evils come
The parallel between Moses and Christ is so exact, and has been so fully proved, note 20, p. 26, even from their very birth, that it is here unnecessary to make any further allusion to it. It is evident the Jews considered the arguments of St. Stephen in this light, otherwise they would not have been so violently exasperated against the speaker. Having thus demonstrated from these typical characters, that thus it behoveth Christ to suffer, and having accused the Jews of following the same persecuting and rebellious conduct which led their ancestors to refuse Moses, saying, “ who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?". St. Stephen, in the next place, notices anotber opinion, of which they were more particularly tenacious, their own exclusive privileges, which persuaded them into the belief that it was utterly impossible that the Gentiles should ever be admitted into the same covenant with themselves. From the history of the past the inspired disciple now deduces the possibility of this event, and illustrates it by recalling to their memory the fact that the tabernacle of witness, the first Church of the Jews which was appointed in the wilderness, had been given to the Gentiles, for Joshua bad carried it with him into Canaan, when the latter were in possession of the Holy Land. A significant action, testifying that both Jew and Gentile, througb the Captain of their salvation, should be made partakers of the same temporal and spiritual blessings. Afterwards, in allusion to the idea ihey entertained, that their temple and law were of perpetual duration, to continue even unto the end of the world, st. Stea phen declares to them that God does not dwell in temples made with hands, and immediately reproaches them for not understanding the spiritual signification of their appointed worsbip and ordinances,
It is evident, then, through every part of this discourse, that
Jalian Pe 8 And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and Jerusalem.
niod; 1746, from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall
Vulgar Æra, shew thee.
33 or 34. 4 Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans, and
dwelt in Charran : and from thence, when his father was
dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now
5 And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so
much as to set
his foot on : yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.
6 And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land ; and that they should bring them into bondage, and intreat them evil four hundred years ".
the object St. Stephen had in view, was to represent to his
countrymen the nature of Christ's religion, and to set before
them in the most touching manner his sufferings, and their own
conduct, which was an aggravated completion of the crimes of
their ancestors. For which, says the martyr, with indignant
eloquence, which of the prophets have not your fathers perse,
cuted ? and they have slain them which shewed before of the
coming of the Just One; of whom ye bave been now the be-
trayers and murderers. The truth and justice of the dying Ste-
phen's appeal was too severely avenged, and too bitterly felt for
the Jews not to have had a perfect knowledge of its intention
and individual application; and unless it is considered in this
light, it will be difficult to account for the powerful sensation
it occasioned (a).
The destruction of the Jewish temple imparts this impressive
lesson to every Christian nation and individual, that the true.
ness of a Church does not constitute its safety, but that the con-
tinuance of the divine blessing is only secured by the mainte-
nauce of a pure faith and consistent conduct. The temple itself
was to be esteemed and valued as the babitation of the Divine
presence, making the building holy-in the same way that our
bodies are sanctified and purified, and are made the temples of
the Holy Ghost, by the indwelling spirit of grace within us. If
with the Jews, as individuals, we resist the holy influences of
God, bis presence will be withdrawn from us, and we shall bring
down upon our eartbly tabernacle the same fearful and inevita-
ble destruction, which was poured down upon the temple of Je-
rusalem. We shall be delivered over to the band of the enemy.
(a) See Jones's admirable letter to three converted Jews, vol. vi.
35 In Exodus xii. 40. it is said the Israelites were to be sojourners four hundred and thirty years, reckoning from Abrabam's leaving Chaldea, when the sojourning began; here four hundred years is mentioned, reckoning from the birth of Isaac, thirty years after Abraham's departure from Chaldea.-Seó Gen. xv. 13. and Josephus Antiq. ii. 152. and ix. 1.
Markland ap: Bowyer would read this verse in the following manoer-that his seed should sojourn in a strange land (and that they should bring them into bondage, and intreat them evil,) four hundred years. He observes it seems to be St. Stepben's purpose to relate how long they were to be sojourners, and in a foreign country ; rather than how long they were to
Julian Pe 7 And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage Jerasalem.
riod, 4746, will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come,
Valgarðra, forth, and serve me in this place.
33 or 34. 8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And
so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth
day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve
9 And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph
into Egypt: but God was with him,
10 And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.
11 Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction : and our fathers found no sustenance.
12 But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.
13 And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren ; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.
14 Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.
15 So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers,
16 And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem *.
be in bondage and affliction, wbich they were not four hun-
dred years : they were in Egypt only two hundred and fif-
teen. The parenthesis is the same as if it had been kai avrò
δουλωθήσεται, και κακωθήσεται, which is very cominon: δουλώ-
σουσιν relates to the Egyptian treatment of the Israelites ; κακώ-
covoiv, to that they met with in Canaan, previous to the famine
which compelled them to go into Egypt. The dovnúois is very
plainly distinguished from the kákwoic in the next verse.
This opinion incidentally corroborates the interpretation
given to Stephen's address. See last note.
36 Of the two burying places of the Patriarchs, one was in Hebron, which Abraham bought of Epbron, Gen. xxiii. 16. (not as here said of the sons of Emmor); the other in Sychem, which Jacob (not Abraham) bought of the children of Emmor, Gen, xxxiii. 19. Jacob was buried in the former, which Abrabam bought; the sons of Jacob in the latter, which Jacob bought. There are many ways of reconciling these discrepancies : Bishop Barrington would point the 15th and 16th verses thus-και ετελεύτησεν αυτός, και οι πατέρες ημών, και μετετέθησαν εις Συχέμ και ετέθησαν εν τω μνήματι, ο ωνήσατο Αβραάμ. κ. τ.λ. Markland is also of the same opinion. Dr. Owen states, the Old Testament history leads us to conclude that Stephen's account was originally this-“ So Jacob went down into Egypt, and there died, he and our fathers; and our fathers were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre," ò óvoato runs