The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Acts 8

Act 8:1

"Everyone who kills you will think he is doing God service" (Joh 16:2).

AND SAUL WAS THERE, GIVING APPROVAL TO HIS DEATH: Prob Saul was one of the judges, and thus was excluded from actually and literally executing the judgment (cp Deu 17:4-7,12). Cp Acts 26:10: "When they were put to death, I cast my vote against them."

...SCATTERED...: Gr "diaspeiro" -- from which is derived the English "diaspora" or dispersion: this describes a scattering of seed, as done by a farmer -- and thus, symbolically, the scattering of the "seed" of the gospel (Mat 13:3). The persecution of the early church led to its dispersion; and this became the means by which Christ's promise was to be fulfilled -- that his disciples would preach in all nations. (The fruits of this are soon obvious, as seen later in this very chapter: with Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.)

"For here we do not have an enduring city" (Heb 13:14). Those who were driven away from the earthly Jerusalem went forth to preach a heavenly Jerusalem!

Act 8:2

GODLY MEN: Prob Christian sympathizers among the Jews, but not themselves Christians -- or else they would have been called "brethren". (Simeon was so called in Luk 2:25.)

MOURNED: Lit, a beating, ie of the chest.

Act 8:3

See Act 26:10... indicating Paul, though young, was a member of the Sanhedrin. (Cp Acts 22:4,19; 1Ti 1:13,15; Gal 1:13.)

DESTROY: "Made havock" (KJV). A similar word in Gal 1:13: "to destroy it". Used in Psa 80:13 LXX, of a wild boar in a vineyard.

GOING FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE: Thorough and meticulous.

Act 8:4

The beneficial effect of persecution: a wider dispersion of the gospel message.

Act 8:5

PHILIP: The deacon (Act 6:5), not the apostle. If this were the apostle, he would not have needed the presence of Peter and John to convey Holy Spirit to others (v 15). Philip was first apostolic preacher to go beyond walls of Jerusalem. He built upon previous work of Christ (Joh 4).

WENT DOWN: The classic language of theophany, or Yahweh-manifestation. Occurs often in Acts in the context of gospel preaching, as if the witness to the gospel were another manifestation of the Yahweh-Name: Act 8:5; 10:21; 13:4; 14:25; 15:30; 16:8; 18:22.

Act 8:6

THE MIRACULOUS SIGNS HE DID: The Holy Spirit witnessed to preaching of the apostles: Mark 16:17,18; Gal 3:4; 1Co 2:4,5. Power of healing: Acts 3:6; 5:15,16; 14:8-10; 28:8. Holy Spirit witnessed to preaching of Jesus: Acts 2:22. (See Lesson, Holy Spirit gifts, available today?)

Act 8:9

SORCERY: Such wizards and conjurers were numerous at this time, taking advantage of the general Messianic expectations of the people.

HE BOASTED THAT HE WAS SOMEONE GREAT: He was preaching the "god" "Self"! Not the first, nor the last, to do such a thing!

Act 8:10

THE GREAT POWER: A false Christ, essentially: Mar 13:6,22.

Act 8:11

Witchcraft -- absolutely forbidden by Jewish law (Exo 22:18; Lev 20:27), among works of flesh (Gal 5:20).

Act 8:12

See Lesson, Acts, conversions.

BAPTIZED: From Gr word used of dyeing of fabrics.

BOTH MEN AND WOMEN: "There is neither... male nor female" (Gal 3:2i). Men and women, but no children!

"The thoughtful reader will ask, 'What are the things concerning the kingdom of God?' The Bible definitely points out six things that concern the kingdom of God: (1) The King: all will agree that this is Christ; (2) the Territory: The Lord shall be king over all the earth (Zec 14:9); (3) Christ's helpers: a royal household of kings and priests (Rev 5:10); (4) Subjects: the mortal nations, all dominions (Dan 7:27); (5) Seat of government: Jerusalem, 'the city of the great King' (Psa 48:2); (6) Laws: the law shall go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Mic 4:2).

"Note carefully that in apostolic days the people believed the things of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ BEFORE they were baptized. Is such a belief necessary today? Before Pentecost the kingdom was preached; after Pentecost the name was added. Is the name important? We read in Luke 24:46: 'Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.' And Acts 4:12: 'For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved' " (OLD).

Act 8:13

Baptism always follows belief in the gospel: Acts 2:37-41: Jews on Pentecost; Acts 8:12,13: Samaritans at preaching of Philip; Acts 8:36-39: Ethiopian eunuch; Acts 9:18: Saul of Tarsus; Acts 10:47,48: House of Cornelius; Acts 16:14,15: Lydia and her house; Acts 16:30-33: Philippian jailer and his house; Acts 18:8: Crispus, many Corinthians; 1Co 1:14: Gaius; 1Co 1:16: Household of Stephanas.

Cp Gen 7:1: only 8 saved, and only by water (1Pe 3:21). 1Co 10:1,2: Israel baptized in Red sea and in cloud: the first act of obedience, beginning a period of probation, during which continuous obedience is required.

Act 8:14

SAMARIA: The country, not the city. The first extension of Christianity beyond limits of Judaism.

JOHN: The same John only a few years previously had wanted to call down "fire from heaven" on a village in Samaria (Luk 9:51-56).

Vv 14,15: Philip was unable to give Holy Spirit to others. Apostles were sent to Samaria (v 17), laying on hands. No case where Holy Spirit was granted where an apostle was not present. Was Paul an exception (Acts 9:17)? No. Paul was also an apostle: Rom 1:1; 1Co 9:1,2; 2Co 11:5. Ultimate purpose of the Holy Spirit: Acts 2:21.

Act 8:15

ARRIVED: Or "came down" -- usual description for leaving Jerusalem (Luk 2:51; Joh 7:8).

Act 8:16

Notice: the bestowal of the Holy Spirit, with any gifts, was not automatic at baptism.

Act 8:17

See Lesson, Laying on of hands.

Act 8:18

The apostles only could convey Holy Spirit to others. These, in turn, could not pass along Holy Spirit gifts to next generation.

Act 8:20

Peter himself had no money (Act 3:6), and was not swayed by bribes. Man is not redeemed by money (1Pe 1:18,19; cp Isa 55:1,2; Rev 3:18).

Act 8:21

NO PART OR SHARE: A proverbial phrase: Deu 10:9; Num 18:20.

Act 8:23

FULL OF BITTERNESS: "The gall of bitterness" (RSV): Deu 29:18 -- a root that bears gall = serving other gods. Thus, the bitter results (for followers as well as leaders) of serving other "gods": cp Heb 12:15.

Act 8:24

An unfinished story: we are told nothing further about Simon. Did he repent, or perish?

Act 8:26

Acts 8:26 to end of Book: "To the uttermost parts of the earth" -- thus fulfilling Acts 1:8: (1) towards Africa (Act 8:26-40); (2) towards Asia (Acts 9:1-16:5); (3) towards Europe (Acts 16:6-18:7); (4) in Asia (Acts 18:18-26:32); and (5) in Europe (Acts 27:1-28:31).

SOUTH: "Mesembria" = lit, "middle-day", or noon (so rendered in Act 22:6, only other usage). From "mesos" (middle) and "hemera" (day) (Vine).

THE DESERT ROAD: There being several different roads from Jerusalem to Gaza.


GAZA: A flourishing city of trade at this time (Spk).

Act 8:27

Firstfruits of "uttermost parts of earth" (Act 1:8).

EUNUCH: Not always to be taken literally (cp Gen 37:36 / 39:1). May perhaps only sig an official. However, see Isa 56:3-5 and cp with his question (v 33). By tradition, his name was Theophilus (SB 62).

CANDACE: A title, not a name. Borne by several successive queens.

HAD GONE TO JERUSALEM TO WORSHIP: He was a Gentile proselyte.

Act 8:28

AND ON HIS WAY HOME: The new persecutions (and scattering of disciples) would make it unlikely that a visitor to Jerusalem would now hear the gospel preached.

Act 8:30

AND HEARD HIM READING: In ancient times, people generally read aloud.

Act 8:31

...UNLESS SOMEONE EXPLAINS...: Mysteries are revealed to the meek. And Jesus is the "key" to unlock the OT: Luk 24:25-27,44-47.

EXPLAIN: Gr "hodegeo": to lead, or guide, in the road. As Christ was "led" (v 32) to his death, so the Ethiopian was "led" to believe in him!

Act 8:32

Isa 53 cited in ref to Christ in Mat 8:17 and 1Pe 2:23. This passage is quoting from the LXX; cp (a) Isa 53:7: ewe... her... shearers; (b) Acts 8:32: lamb... his or its or the (different versions)... shearer (singular); and (c) Isa 53:7 LXX: lamb... the... shearer.

Act 8:33

Jesus was a "eunuch" too -- having no natural offspring (Isa 53:8); yet he was still to have a succeeding "generation" (Isa 53:10,11; 56:3-5)! This idea, and prospect, excited the feelings of the Ethiopian. Learning the gospel, he went his way rejoicing (v 39), and proceeded to create his own future "generations", by sharing that gospel with others!

Act 8:34

WHO IS THE PROPHET TALKING ABOUT?: "It needs to be recognised, specially by those who write themselves off as incompetent in this field, that even the most ill-equipped among us are capable of Bible study of the best sort. For this is not a matter of erudite commentaries and lots of Greek and Hebrew. It consists, quite simply, of developing the faculty, which we all have, of asking questions. One of the first mathematicians in Britain, a man with an international reputation, once said to me, 'The way to make advances in mathematics is to find problems that need answering. Once you realise you are faced with a problem that no one else has yet dreamed of tackling, then you are on the way to extending the boundaries of the subject.' He did not know that he was, in effect, enunciating a wholesome principle for much rewarding Bible study. There is no block of three or four verses in the Bible which when read with care does not provoke questions. And often, though not always, the search for answers leads to wider understanding" (Tes 50:218).

HIMSELF: From tradition of Isaiah's violent death at hands of Manasseh.

Act 8:35

BEGAN: Lit "opened his mouth" -- indicating a solemn pronouncement (as in Mat 5:2).

Act 8:36

Baptism = a complete immersion in water: v 39.
John baptizes near "much water" (Joh 3:23). Belief: an absolute prerequisite to baptism: Mark 16:15,16; 1Pe 3:21.

Act 8:38

See Lesson, Acts, conversions.

INTO THE WATER: V 38: "Into" the water = Greek "eis" = in the interior! Complete immersion. Purpose of baptism: forgiveness of sins: Acts 2:38. Paul's baptism: Acts 22:16.

To fulfill Psa 68:31: "Ethiopia shall stretch out her hands unto God."

Act 8:39

SUDDENLY TOOK: Sw 1Th 4:17: "caught away".

DID NOT SEE HIM AGAIN: No further mention of Philip for 20 years (Act 21:8).

WENT ON HIS WAY: One "way" (v 36) has been exchanged for another "way"!

REJOICING: "These [ie eunuchs: v 4, and foreigners: v 6] I will bring to my holy mountain [Jerusalem] and give them joy [the eunuch rejoicing!] in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations [the gospel is now preached to Ethiopia]" (Isa 56:7).

Act 8:40

Act 8:40

AZOTUS: Ashdod (Jos 11:22; 1Sa 5:3).

ALL THE TOWNS: Ekron, Rama, Joppa, Lydda -- where many Jews lived.

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