Acts 5:33–39 (NA28)

33Οἱ δὲ ἀκούσαντες διεπρίοντο καὶ ἐβούλοντο ἀνελεῖν αὐτούς.

And now (when) they heard this they were infuriated(cut to the heart, sawn in two, etc.) and were wanting(wishing?) to execute them

  • Were cut to the heart (διεπριοντο [dieprionto]). Imperfect passive of διαπριω [diapriō] old verb (δια, πριω [dia, priō]), to saw in two (δια [dia]), to cut in two (to the heart). Here it is rage that cuts into their hearts, not conviction of sin as in Acts 2:37. Only here and Acts 7:54 (after Stephen’s speech) in the N. T. (cf. Simeon’s prophecy in Luke 2:35). [1]
  • here it was disobedience to the command of the Sanhedrin which was not a capital offence. “They were on the point of committing a grave judicial blunder” (Furneaux).[2]
  • Most manuscripts read ἐβουλεύοντο (they deliberated), but this verb, which occurs elsewhere in Acts only in 27:39, seems to have arisen accidentally through a copyist’s error. The verb ἐβούλοντο (which occurs 13 times elsewhere in Acts) fits the context better, for the members of the Sanhedrin, being enraged, were not in a mood quietly to take counsel.[3]
    • Interesting, a suspected copyist error. No change in meaning.

34ἀναστὰς δέ τις ἐν τῷ συνεδρίῳ Φαρισαῖος ὀνόματι Γαμαλιήλ, νομοδιδάσκαλος τίμιος παντὶ τῷ λαῷ, ἐκέλευσεν ἔξω βραχὺ τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ποιῆσαι

But a certain man in the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee by name Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, gave orders to put the men outside for a short time.

  • Gamaliel (Γαμαλιηλ [Gamaliēl]). The grandson of Hillel, teacher of Paul (Acts 22:3), later president of the Sanhedrin, and the first of the seven rabbis termed “Rabban.” It is held by some that he was one of the doctors who heard the Boy Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:47) and that he was a secret disciple like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, but there is no evidence of either position. Besides, he appears here as a loyal Pharisee and “a doctor of the law” (νομοδιδασκαλος [nomodidaskalos]). This word appears already in Luke 5:17 of the Pharisaic doctors bent on criticizing Jesus, which see. Paul uses it of Judaizing Christians (1 Tim. 1:7). Like other great rabbis he had a great saying: “Procure thyself a teacher, avoid being in doubt; and do not accustom thyself to give tithes by guess.” He was a man of judicial temper and not prone to go off at a tangent, though his brilliant young pupil Saul went to the limit about Stephen without any restraint on the part of Gamaliel so far as the record goes. Gamaliel champions the cause of the apostles as a Pharisee to score a point against the Sadducees. He acts as a theological opportunist, not as a disciple of Christ. He felt that a temporizing policy was best. There are difficulties in this speech of Gamaliel and it is not clear how Luke obtained the data for the address. It is, of course, possible that Saul was present and made notes of it for Luke afterwards.[4]
  • Gamaliel I (who is confused in Jewish tradition with his grandson Gamaliel II) was a leading Pharisaic teacher who belonged to the more moderate ‘school’ founded by Hillel and who was renowned for his piety. He moved that the court should go into closed session.[5]
  • This verse provides a clear example of a growing text. Various copyists were not satisfied with the simple account that Judas the Galilean “drew away some of the people after him,” so they attempted to intensify the account by adding the adjective “many” (πολύν or ἱκανόν) before or after λαόν. It is significant that the Latin text of Codex Bezae agrees with the earlier and shorter reading.[6]
    • Perhaps another copyiest addition. No change in meaning
      • Panti – many
    • Textus Receptus notes apostles which is incorrect
    • One wonders how much of a part politics played in the Sanhedrin’s decision on this particular occasion. Josephus said that the Sadducean officials usually yielded to the recommendations of the Pharisees because the latter enjoyed the support of the masses. Gamaliel may have used this occasion as another opportunity to assert this Pharisaic ascendancy over the Sadducees. As a Pharisee he would have had more sympathy with the Christians theologically.126 Pharisees believed in a coming Messiah, in the resurrection, and in a life after death, none of which the Sadducees accepted. The Pharisees also had an oral tradition of interpretation of the Torah that gave them considerable flexibility and openness to change. Not so the Sadducees, who accepted only the written Torah and were far more rigid and conservative in attitude. Such differences must have contributed considerably to Gamaliel’s more tolerant stance toward the apostles[7]
    • The Gamaliel in question here was Gamaliel I, who is referred to in several places in the rabbinic literature, though surprisingly sparsely for a man of his stature. He was the son or grandson of the famous Hillel and seemed to have been at the prime of his influence from about d. 25–50. Rabbinic tradition gives him the title of Nasi, or president of the high court, and has his son Simeon follow him in that role. His grandson Gamaliel II held the presidency after a.d. 90, when the court met at Jamnia. Perhaps nowhere is the esteem in which he was held better expressed than in the following statement of the Mishna: “When Rabban Gamaliel the Elder died, the glory of the Law ceased and purity and abstinence died.” For Christians he is best known through his pupil, Paul (Acts 22:3).[8]

 

 

35εἶπέν τε πρὸς αὐτούς· ἄνδρες Ἰσραηλῖται, προσέχετε ἑαυτοῖς ἐπὶ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις τούτοις τί μέλλετε πράσσειν.

And he said to them, ” men Israelites, take care for yourselves to these men what you are about to do

  • Take care, take heed, hold your mind – in other words, be careful with what you are about to do
  • As in 4:15–17 the problem arises as to whether Luke had access to reports of what was said in the Sanhedrin behind closed doors; we cannot expect a word-for-word account of the proceedings although it is remarkable how easily secret information can become public property. Essentially, however, Gamaliel was making a plea for restraint and caution in deciding what to do about the apostles. He claimed, by citing two examples, that movements of human origin would come to nothing without any interference by the Jewish authorities; whereas, if the movement were inspired by God, it would be dangerous to take action against it. More precisely, he contended that once the leaders of mass movements had been killed, their followers soon lost enthusiasm for their cause; now that Jesus was dead, there was no need to take action against his disciples.[9]
  • Considering that the death penalty had just been suggested, he was implying that this might be a bit rash and bring unfortunate results down on them, particularly given the Christian popularity with the masses. There was a better way. Simply leave the movement alone.[10]

36πρὸ γὰρ τούτων τῶν ἡμερῶν ἀνέστη Θευδᾶς λέγων εἶναί τινα ἑαυτόν, ᾧ προσεκλίθη ἀνδρῶν ἀριθμὸς ὡς τετρακοσίων· ὃς ἀνῃρέθη , καὶ πάντες ὅσοι ἐπείθοντο αὐτῷ διελύθησαν καὶ ἐγένοντο εἰς οὐδέν.

For before these days Theudas rose up saying he was somebody, to whom a number of men joined, about four hundred.  Who was executed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing.

  • Theudas (Θευδας [Theudas]). Luke represents Gamaliel here about d. 35 as speaking of a man who led a revolt before that of Judas the Galilean in connection with the enrolment under Quirinius (Cyrenius) in a.d. 6. But Josephus (Ant. XX. 5, 1) tells of a Theudas who led a similar insurrection in the reign of Claudius about a.d. 44 or 45. Josephus (Ant. XVIII. 1, 6; XX. 5, 2; War ii. 8, 1 and 17, 8) also describes Judas the Galilean or Gaulonite and places him about a.d. 6. It is not certain that Josephus and Luke (Gamaliel) refer to the same Theudas as the name is an abbreviation of Theodosus, a common name. “Josephus gives an account of four men named Simon who followed each other within forty years, and of three named Judas within ten years, who were all instigators of rebellion” (Hackett). If the same Theudas is meant, then either Josephus or Luke (Gamaliel) has the wrong historical order. In that case one will credit Luke or Josephus according to his estimate of the two as reliable historians. [11]
  • Were dispersed (διελυθησαν [dieluthēsan]). First aorist passive indicative (effective aorist) of διαλυω [dialuō], old verb to dissolve, to go to pieces. Here only in the N. T.[12]
  • There is, therefore, much to be said for the suggestions either that Josephus got his dating wrong or (more probably) that Gamaliel is referring to another, otherwise unknown Theudas. Since there were innumerable uprisings when Herod the Great died, and since Josephus describes four men bearing the name of Simon within forty years and three that of Judas within ten years, all of whom were instigators of rebellion’ (cited by Knowling, p. 158), this suggestion should not be rejected out of hand.[13]

37μετὰ τοῦτον ἀνέστη Ἰούδας ὁ Γαλιλαῖος ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς ἀπογραφῆς καὶ ἀπέστησεν λαὸν ὀπίσω αὐτοῦ· κἀκεῖνος ἀπώλετο καὶ πάντες ὅσοι ἐπείθοντο αὐτῷ διεσκορπίσθησαν.

After this one rose up Judas the Galiliean  in the days of the census and caused the people to revolt after him. And that one perished and all who followed him were scattered

  • Judas the Galilean was a rebel against the new taxation arrangements which came into force when Archelaus was deposed in ad 6 and the Romans took over direct rule of Judea (Jos., 18:4, 23; 20:102). Only in Acts is it recorded that he was put to death, which is entirely probable. On the relation of the census taken for taxation purposes mentioned here with that mentioned in Luke 2:1f.[14]
  • He referred to Judas the Galilean who arose “in the days of the census.” This is almost surely the same Judas who is referred to by Josephus in both his Jewish War and his He started a major rebellion in protest of the census under Quirinius (a.d. 6–7), which was undertaken for purposes of taxation. Josephus did not mention his death, but Gamaliel referred to his being killed and all his followers being scattered. Although the original rebellion under Judas was stifled by the Romans, such was not the case with the general movement begun by Judas. According to Josephus, he laid the foundations of the Zealot movement within Judaism, a movement that would grow to such proportions that in less than twenty-five years after Gamaliel’s speech, it would initiate all-out war with the Romans.[15]

38καὶ τὰ νῦν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀπόστητε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων τούτων καὶ ἄφετε αὐτούς ὅτι ἐὰν ᾖ ἐξ ἀνθρώπων ἡ βουλὴ αὕτη ἢ τὸ ἔργον τοῦτο, καταλυθήσεται,

And now I tell you, keep away from these men and leave them (alone).  Because if this plan or this matter  is from people it will be overthrown,

  • Apostete apo – keep away from/hands off
  • Gamaliel draws the moral from his two examples. The Sanhedrin should take no action against the Christians. Haenchen (p. 257) doubts the probative value of the examples: the followers of Theudas and Judas needed to be put down by the Romans! But Gamaliel’s point may be that the Sanhedrin should leave such measures to the Romans. For if the Christian movement is merely of human origin, it will come to nothing. This plan will mean the apostles’ plan to disobey the Sanhedrin, while this undertaking will be the whole Christian action in preaching and healing.[16]

39εἰ δὲ ἐκ θεοῦ ἐστιν, οὐ δυνήσεσθε καταλῦσαι αὐτούς, μήποτε καὶ θεομάχοι εὑρεθῆτε. ἐπείσθησαν δὲ αὐτῷ

But if it is from God, (you will) not be able to overthrow them, lest you be found fighting against God so by him.

  • But if it is of God (εἰ δε ἐκ θεου ἐστιν [ei de ek theou estin]). The second alternative is a condition of the first class, determined as fulfilled, εἰ [ei] with the present indicative. By the use of this idiom Gamaliel does put the case more strongly in favor of the apostles than against them. This condition assumes that the thing is so without affirming it to be true. On the basis of this alternative Gamaliel warns the Sanhedrin that they cannot “overthrow” (καταλυσαι [katalusai]) these men for they in that case must “overthrow” God, [17]
  • On the other hand, if the Christian movement has its origin in God, it will overcome human opposition. Worse still, the Sanhedrin may find itself in the position of opposing God and thus standing under his judgment. It has been noted that the Greek constructions in the two parallel clauses in verses 38b and 39a are slightly different, and this raises the question whether there is a subtle difference in force between the two conditional sentences. According to Bruce, the first ‘if’ clause has the force ‘if it turn out to be’, but the second ‘if’ clause expresses what Luke considers more likely and therefore puts more directly: however, ‘we cannot argue that Gamaliel regarded the second alternative as the more probable; the interplay of conditional constructions belongs to Luke’s Gk., not to Gamaliel’s Aram.’ (Acts, p. 149).[18]
  • Gamaliel’s advice was sound and yet also a bit ironical. Already his counsel was finding fulfillment—in the growing Christian community, in their signs and wonders, in their escape from jail just the night before. It had become obvious whose side God was on. Already the Council were finding themselves fighters against God.[19]

[1] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Ac 5:33). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

[2] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Ac 5:33). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

[3] Omanson, R. L., & Metzger, B. M. (2006). A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament: an adaptation of Bruce M. Metzger’s Textual commentary for the needs of translators (pp. 229–230). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.

[4] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Ac 5:34). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

[5] Marshall, I. H. (1980). Acts: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 5, p. 128). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[6] Omanson, R. L., & Metzger, B. M. (2006). A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament: an adaptation of Bruce M. Metzger’s Textual commentary for the needs of translators (p. 230). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.

[7] Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, pp. 170–171). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[8] Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 171). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[9] Marshall, I. H. (1980). Acts: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 5, p. 128). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[10] Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 171). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[11] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Ac 5:36). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

[12] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Ac 5:36). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

[13] Marshall, I. H. (1980). Acts: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 5, p. 129). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[14] Marshall, I. H. (1980). Acts: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 5, p. 130). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[15] Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 173). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[16] Marshall, I. H. (1980). Acts: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 5, p. 130). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[17] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Ac 5:39). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

[18] Marshall, I. H. (1980). Acts: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 5, p. 130). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[19] Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, pp. 173–174). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.