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Word Pictures in the New Testament
(Acts: Chapter 6)

6:1 {When the number of the disciples was multiplying}
(\plēthunontōn tōn mathētōn\). Genitive absolute of \plēthunō\,
old verb from \plēthos\, fulness, to increase. The new freedom
from the intercession of Gamaliel was bearing rich fruit. {A
murmuring of the Grecian Jews}
(\goggusmos tōn Hellēnistōn\).
Late onomatopoetic word (LXX) from the late verb \gogguzō\, to
mutter, to murmur. The substantive occurs also in Joh 7:12; Php
2:14; 1Pe 4:9. It is the secret grumblings that buzz away till
they are heard. These "Grecian Jews" or Hellenists are members of
the church in Jerusalem who are Jews from outside of Palestine
like Barnabas from Cyprus. These Hellenists had points of contact
with the Gentile world without having gone over to the habits of
the Gentiles, the Jews of the Western Dispersion. They spoke
Greek. {Against the Hebrews} (\pros tous Ebraious\). The Jewish
Christians from Jerusalem and Palestine. The Aramaean Jews of the
Eastern Dispersion are usually classed with the Hebrew (speaking
as distinct from the Grecian Jews or Hellenists. {Were
(\paretheōrounto\). Imperfect passive of
\paratheōreō\, old verb, to examine things placed beside (\para\)
each other, to look beyond (\para\ also), to overlook, to
neglect. Here only in the N.T. These widows may receive daily
(\kathēmerinēi\, late adjective from \kath' hēmeran\, only here
in the N.T.)
help from the common fund provided for all who need
it (Ac 4:32-37). The temple funds for widows were probably not
available for those who have now become Christians. Though they
were all Christians here concerned, yet the same line of cleavage
existed as among the other Jews (Hebrew or Aramaean Jews and
. It is not here said that the murmuring arose among
the widows, but because of them. Women and money occasion the
first serious disturbance in the church life. There was evident
sensitiveness that called for wisdom.

6:2 {The multitude} (\to plēthos\). The whole church, not just
the 120. {Fit} (\areston\). Pleasing, verbal adjective from
\areskō\, to please, old word, but in the N.T. only here and Ac
12:3; Joh 8:29; 1Jo 3:22. _Non placet_. {Should forsake}
(\kataleipsantas\). Late first aorist active participle for usual
second aorist \katalipontas\ from \kataleipō\, to leave behind.
{Serve tables} (\diakonein trapezais\). Present active infinitive
of \diakoneō\ from \diakonos\ (\dia\ and \konis\, dust), to raise
a dust in a hurry, to serve, to minister either at table (Joh
, or other service (Joh 12:25f.), to serve as deacon
(1Ti 3:10,13). "Tables" here hardly means money-tables as in
Joh 2:15, but rather the tables used in the common daily
distribution of the food (possibly including the love-feasts, Ac
. This word is the same root as \diakonia\
(ministration) in verse 1 and \diakonos\ (deacon) in Php 1:1;
1Ti 3:8-13. It is more frequently used in the N.T. of ministers
(preachers) than of deacons, but it is quite possible, even
probable, that the office of deacon as separate from bishop or
elder grew out of this incident in Ac 6:1-7. Furneaux is clear
that these "seven" are not to be identified with the later
"deacons" but why he does not make clear.

6:3 {Of good report} (\marturoumenous\). Present passive
participle of \martureō\, to bear witness to. Men with a good
reputation as well as with spiritual gifts (the Holy Spirit and
. {We may appoint} (\katastēsomen\). Future active
indicative of \kathistēmi\, we shall appoint. The action of the
apostles follows the choice by the church, but it is promised as
a certainty, not as a possibility. The Textus Receptus has a
first aorist active subjunctive here (\katastēsōmen\).

6:4 {But we} (\hemeis de\). In contrast to the work given the
seven. {The ministry of the word} (\tēi diakoniāi tou logou\).
The same word \diakoniāi\ employed in verse 1, but here about
preaching as the special ministry with which the apostles were
concerned. For "continue steadfastly" (\proskarterēsomen\) see on

6:5 {Pleased} (\ēresen\). Aorist active indicative of \areskō\
like Latin _placuit_ when a vote was taken. The use of \enōpion\
before "the whole multitude" is like the LXX. {They chose}
(\exelexanto\). First aorist middle indicative of \eklegō\, to
pick out for oneself. Each one of the seven has a Greek name and
was undoubtedly a Hellenist, not an Aramaean Jew. Consummate
wisdom is here displayed for the murmuring had come from the
Hellenists, seven of whom were chosen to take proper care of the
widows of Hellenists. This trouble was settled to stay settled so
far as we know. Nothing is here told of any of the seven except
Stephen who is "a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit" and
Nicolas "a proselyte of Antioch" (who was not then born a Jew,
but had come to the Jews from the Greek world)

6:6 {They laid their hands on them} (\epethēkan autois tas
. First aorist active indicative of \epitithēmi\.
Probably by the apostles who ratified the choice (verse 3). The
laying on of hands "was a symbol of the impartation of the gifts
and graces which they needed to qualify them for the office. It
was of the nature of a prayer that God would bestow the necessary
gifts, rather than a pledge that they were actually conferred"

6:7 {Increased} (\ēuxanen\). Imperfect active, kept on growing
all the more because the apostles were now relieved from the
daily ministration of the food. {Multiplied} (\eplēthuneto\).
Imperfect passive. The two imperfects kept pace with each other.
{Of the priests} (\tōn hierōn\). Who were usually Sadducees. It
was a sad day for Annas and Caiaphas and all the sect of the
Sadducees (5:17). {Were obedient to} (\hupēkouon\). Imperfect
active of \hupakouō\, repetition, one after another. {The faith}
(\tēi pistei\). Here meaning the gospel, the faith system as in
Ro 1:5; Ga 1:23; Jude 1:3, etc. Here the word means more than
individual trust in Christ.

6:8 {Wrought} (\epoiei\). Imperfect active, repeatedly wrought.
Evidently a man like Stephen would not confine his "ministry" to
"serving tables." He was called in verse 5 "full of faith and
the Holy Spirit." Here he is termed "full of grace (so the best
MSS., not faith)
and power." The four words give a picture of
remarkable attractiveness. The grace of God gave him the power
and so "he kept on doing great wonders and signs among the
people." He was a sudden whirlwind of power in the very realm of
Peter and John and the rest.

6:9 {The synagogue of the Libertines} (\ek tēs sunagōgēs tēs
legomenēs Libertinōn\)
. The Libertines (Latin _libertinus_, a
freedman or the son of a freedman)
were Jews, once slaves of Rome
(perhaps descendants of the Jews taken to Rome as captives by
, now set free and settled in Jerusalem and numerous
enough to have a synagogue of their own. Schuerer calls a
Talmudic myth the statement that there were 480 synagogues in
Jerusalem. There were many, no doubt, but how many no one knows.
These places of worship and study were in all the cities of the
later times where there were Jews enough to maintain one.
Apparently Luke here speaks of five such synagogues in Jerusalem
(that of the Libertines, of the Cyrenians, of the Alexandrians,
of Cilicia, and of Asia)
. There probably were enough Hellenists
in Jerusalem to have five such synagogues. But the language of
Luke is not clear on this point. He may make only two groups
instead of five since he uses the article \tōn\ twice (once
before \Libertinōn kai Kurēnaiōn kai Alexandreōn\, again before
\apo Kilikias kai Asias\)
. He also changes from the genitive
plural to \apo\ before Cilicia and Asia. But, leaving the number
of the synagogues unsettled whether five or two, it is certain
that in each one where Stephen appeared as a Hellenist preaching
Jesus as the Messiah he met opposition. Certain of them "arose"
(\anestēsan\) "stood up" after they had stood all that they could
from Stephen, "disputing with Stephen" (\sunzētountes tōi
. Present active participle of \sunzēteō\, to question
together as the two on the way to Emmaus did (Lu 24:15). Such
interruptions were common with Jews. They give a skilled speaker
great opportunity for reply if he is quick in repartee. Evidently
Stephen was fully equipped for the emergency. One of their
synagogues had men from Cilicia in it, making it practically
certain that young Saul of Tarsus, the brilliant student of
Gamaliel, was present and tried his wits with Stephen. His
ignominious defeat may be one explanation of his zest in the
stoning of Stephen (Ac 8:1).

6:10 {They were not able to withstand} (\ouk ischuon
. Imperfect active of \ischuō\, to have strength, and
ingressive second aorist active (intransitive) infinitive of
\anthistēmi\. They continued unable (without strength enough) to
take a stand against. Stephen knocked them down, Saul included,
as fast as they got up. Stephen was like a battery charged and in
action. {The wisdom and spirit} (\tēi sophiāi kai pneumati\).
Dative case. They stood up against Stephen's wisdom and the Holy
Spirit "by whom he spoke" (\hōi elalei\). Instrumental case and
the relative agrees with "Spirit." He kept on speaking so
(\elalei\, imperfect active). It was a desperate situation.

6:11 {Then they suborned men} (\tote hupebalon andras\). Second
aorist active indicative of \hupoballō\, old verb, but here only
in the N.T., to put under like a carpet, to bring men under one's
control by suggestion or by money. One recalls the plight of
Caiaphas in the trial of Jesus when he sought false witnesses.
_Subornaverunt_. They put these men forward in an underhand way
for fraud. {Blasphemous words against Moses and God} (\blasphēma
eis Mōusēn kai ton theon\)
. The punishment for blasphemy was
stoning to death. See Mt 12:31 for discussion of the word
\blasphēmia, blasphēmeō, blasphēmos\, all in the N.T. from
\blaptō\, to harm, and \phēmē\, speech, harmful speech, or
\blax\, stupid, and \phēmē\. But the charge against Stephen was
untrue. Please note that Moses is here placed before God and
practically on a par with God in the matter of blasphemy. The
purpose of this charge is to stir the prejudices of the people in
the matter of Jewish rights and privileges. It is the Pharisees
who are conducting this attack on Stephen while the Sadducees had
led them against Peter and John. The position of Stephen is
critical in the extreme for the Sadducees will not help him as
Gamaliel did the apostles.

6:12 {They stirred up the people} (\sunekinēsan ton laon\). They
shook the people together like an earthquake. First aorist active
indicative of \sunkineō\, to throw into commotion. Old verb, but
here only in the N.T. The elders and the scribes (Pharisees) are
reached, but no word about the Sadducees. This is the first
record of the hostility of the masses against the disciples
(Vincent). {Came upon him} (\epistantes\). Second aorist
(ingressive) active participle of \ephistēmi\. Rushed at him.
{Seized} (\sunērpasan\). Effective aorist active of \sunarpazō\
as if they caught him after pursuit.

6:13 {False witnesses} (\marturas pseudeis\). Just as Caiaphas
did with Jesus. {Ceaseth not} (\ou pauetai\). Wild charge just
like a false witness that Stephen talks in the synagogues against
the law and the holy temple.

6:14 {We have heard him say} (\akēkoamen autou legontos\). The
only direct testimony and evidently wrong. Curiously like the
charge brought against Jesus before Caiaphas that he would
destroy the temple and build it again in three days. Undoubtedly
Stephen had said something about Christianity before as meant for
others besides Jews. He had caught the spirit of Jesus about
worship as shown to the woman at Sychar in Joh 4 that God is
spirit and to be worshipped by men anywhere and everywhere
without having to come to the temple in Jerusalem. It was
inflammable material surely and it was easy to misrepresent and
hard to clear up. {This Jesus of Nazareth} (\Iēsous ho Nazōraios
. With contempt.

6:15 {As if the face of an angel} (\hōsei prosōpon aggelou\).
Even his enemies saw that, wicked as they were. See Ex 34:30
for the face of Moses when he came down from Sinai (2Co 3:7).
Page quotes Tennyson: "God's glory smote him on the face." Where
were Peter and John at this crisis? Apparently Stephen stands
alone before the Sanhedrin as Jesus did. But he was not alone for
he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Ac 7:56). There
was little that Peter and John could have done if they had been
present. Gamaliel did not interpose this time for the Pharisees
were behind the charges against Stephen, false though they were
as Gamaliel could have found out.

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Word Pictures in the New Testament
(Acts: Chapter 6)