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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 6 - Verse 9
Verse 9. Then there arose. That is, they stood up against him; or they opposed him.
The Jews were scattered in all parts of the world. In every place they would have synagogues. But it is also probable that there would be enough foreign Jews residing at Jerusalem from each of those places to maintain the worship of the synagogue; and at the great feasts those synagogues, adapted to Jewish people of different nations, would be attended by those who came up to attend the great feasts. It is certain that there was a large number of synagogues at Jerusalem. The common estimate is, that there were four hundred and eighty in the city.—(Lightfoot, Vitringa.)
Of the Libertines. There has been very great difference of opinion about the meaning of this word. The chief opinions may be reduced to three;
(1.) The word is Latin, and means, properly, a freedman, a man who had been a slave and was set at liberty. And many have supposed that these persons were manumitted slaves, of Roman origin, but which had become proselyted to the Jewish religion, and who had a synagogue in Jerusalem. This opinion is not very probable; though it is certain, from Tacitus, (Annul. lib. il. c. 85,) that there were many persons of this description at Rome. He says that four thousand Jewish proselytes of Roman slaves made free were sent at one time to Sardinia.
(2.) A second opinion is, that these persons were Jews by birth, and had been taken captives by the Romans, and then set at liberty, and thus called freedmen, or libertines. That there were many Jews of this description there can be no doubt. Pompey the Great, when he subjugated Judea, sent large numbers of the Jews to Rome.— (Philo, in Legat. ad Caium.) These Jews were set at liberty at Rome, and assigned a place beyond the Tiber for a residence. See Introduction to the Epistle to the Romans. These persons are by Philo called libertines, or freedmen.—(Kuinoel, in loco.) Many Jews were also conveyed as captives by Ptolemy I. to Egypt, and obtained a residence in that country and the vicinity. But
(3) another and more probable opinion is, that they took their name from some place which they occupied. This opinion is more probable, from the fact that all the other persons mentioned here are named from the countries which they occupied. Suidas says that this is the name of a place. And in one of the Fathers this passage occurs: "Victor, bishop of the Catholic church at Libertina, says unity is there," etc. From this passage it is plain that there was a place called Libertina. That place was in Africa, not far from ancient Carthage. See Bishop Pearce's Comment on this place.
Alexandrians. Inhabitants of Alexandria in Egypt. It was founded by Alexander the Great, B.C. 332, and was peopled by colonies of Greeks and Jews. This city was much celebrated, and contained not less than three hundred thousand free citizens, and as many slaves. The city was the residence of many Jews. Josephus says that Alexander himself assigned to them a particular quarter of the city, and allowed them equal privileges with the Greeks. (Antiq. xiv. 7, 2; against Apion, ii. 4.) Philo affirms, that of five parts of the city the Jews inhabited two. According to his statement, there dwelt in his time at Alexandria, and the other Egyptian cities, not less than ten hundred thousand Jews. Amron, the general of Omar, when he took the city, said that it contained forty thousand tributary Jews. At this place the famous version of the Old Testament called the Septuagint, or the Alexandrian version, was made. See Robinson's Calmet.
Cilicia. This was a province of Asia Minor, on the sea-coast, at the north of Cyprus. The capital of this province was Tarsus, the native place of Paul, Ac 9:11. And as Paul was of this place, and belonged doubtless to this synagogue, it is probable that he was one who was engaged in this dispute with Stephen. Comp. Ac 7:58.
Disputing with Stephen. Doubtless on the question whether Jesus was the Messiah. This word does not denote angry disputing, but is commonly used to denote fair and impartial inquiry; and it is probable that the discussion began in this way; and when they were overcome by argument, they resorted, as disputants are apt to do, to angry criminations and violence.
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