Acts 8:25–29 (NA28)
25Οἱ μὲν οὖν διαμαρτυράμενοι καὶ λαλήσαντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ κυρίου ὑπέστρεφον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα, πολλάς τε κώμας τῶν Σαμαριτῶν εὐηγγελίζοντο.
So when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord they turned back toward Jerusalem, and were proclaiming the good news to many villages of the Samaritans
- Same words used as v.4(Greek only).
- This concludes a narrative
- May not be evident in all translations
- Truthfully testified to the gospel
- The word, diamarturamenoi, is to testify based on personal knowledge
- The word spoken and heading home
- The good news had taken root-this does not indicate that all who heard believed
- The most important aspect of this sentence is that they had truthfully testified and were heading home.
- The Samaritans proclaiming the good news is secondary
- They? Is Philip with them?
- The reference to the apostles evangelizing the Samaritan villages is significant. Not only did they endorse the Samaritan mission, but they also enthusiastically participated in it. A new stage in the Christian mission had been reached—the witness to Samaria. Begun by the Hellenist Philip, it was embraced by the entire church. The “they” of v. 25 is ambiguous. It certainly refers to Peter and John but may include Philip as well. If so, Philip would have been returning to Jerusalem and would have been set for his call still further south to encounter the Ethiopian eunuch.
- The story concludes with a note of how the apostles themselves preached to the people and evangelized many Samaritan villages on their way back to Jerusalem. The subject of the verse is vaguely expressed, but no doubt includes Philip, and thus prepares the way for the next story about him. The comment too is very general, but is meant to show that the Samaritan mission, begun by Philip, was carried on further by the leaders of the church at Jerusalem. The reception of the Samaritans into the church was thus firmly endorsed, and in 9:31 the presence of Samaritans in the one church is taken for granted by the narrator.
- They therefore (οἱ μεν οὐν [hoi men oun]). Demonstrative οἱ [hoi] with μεν [men] (no following δε [de]) and the inferential οὐν [oun] (therefore) as often in Acts (1:6, etc.). Returned (ὑπεστρεφον [hupestrephon]). Imperfect active picturing the joyful journey of preaching (εὐηγγελιζοντο [euēggelizonto], imperfect middle) to the Samaritan villages. Peter and John now carried on the work of Philip to the Samaritans. This issue was closed.
26Ἄγγελος δὲ κυρίου ἐλάλησεν πρὸς Φίλιππον λέγων· ἀνάστηθι καὶ πορεύου κατὰ μεσημβρίαν ἐπὶ τὴν ὁδὸν τὴν καταβαίνουσαν ἀπὸ Ἰερουσαλὴμ εἰς Γάζαν, αὕτη ἐστὶν ἔρημος.
Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “get up and go toward the south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, this is a desert (road)
- De, now – after Peter and John had left
- Philip is still in Samaria
- The angel comes and tells him where to go
- The story of Philip and the eunuch falls into three natural parts: the preparation (vv. 26–29), the witness (vv. 30–35), and the commitment (vv. 36–40).
- Toward the South (κατα μεσημβριαν [kata mesēmbrian]). Old word from μεσος [mesos] and ἡμερα [hēmera], midday or noon as in Acts 22:6, the only other example in the N. T. That may be the idea here also, though “towards the South” gets support from the use of κατα λιβα [kata liba] in Acts 27:12. The same is desert (αὑτη ἐστιν ἐρημος [hautē estin erēmos]). Probably a parenthetical remark by Luke to give an idea of the way. One of the ways actually goes through a desert. Gaza itself was a strong city that resisted Alexander the Great five months. It was destroyed by the Romans after war broke out with the Jews.
- Philip also figures in a second story which is again concerned with the missionary expansion of the church. Where the preceding story was concerned with Samaria and a mass movement, here there is a single convert, who comes from the far south. In the former story, there was no special divine guidance leading to the evangelistic venture, but here at every stage the Spirit can be seen overruling what happens. The story is concerned with the conversion of a Gentile; whether he was a proselyte is not certain. Since, however, the man returned to his own, distant country, the episode evidently aroused no immediate problems for a church that had not yet clarified its attitude to Gentile converts. The issues raised came to a head only at a later stage as a series of events forced the church to recognize and come to terms with what was going on. The story is included here both because it is about Philip and because it forms part of the gradual progress of the church towards the Gentiles. Historically it shows that the Hellenists, rather than Peter, took the lead in bringing the gospel to the Gentiles. The actual conversion is interesting, since the Ethiopian is led to faith by the realization that the prophetic Scriptures are fulfilled in Jesus. Philip is able to act without any need for his efforts to be supplemented by the apostles.
- The place of witness was the road to the south of Jerusalem that leads to Gaza, the last watering place before the desert on the route to Egypt. Obeying the divine directive, Philip started out and on his way encountered an unusual prospect for witness. He was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, an official in charge of the queen’s treasury (v. 27). The Ethiopia referred to is in all probability the ancient kingdom of Meroe, the ancient Nubian empire that lay south of Aswan between the first and sixth cataracts of the Nile. It is not to be confused with modern Ethiopia, or Abyssinia, which is in the hill country to the east of the upper Nile. The ancient kingdom of Meroe was a flourishing culture from the eighth century b.c. until the fourth century a.d. Referred to in the Old Testament as the Kingdom of Cush, its population consisted of blacks. This remote, advanced culture was an object of endless curiosity for the Greeks and Romans and represented for them the extreme limits of the civilized world.132 Their kings were viewed as incarnations of the sun god and held a primarily ceremonial role. The real administration of the kingdom was in the hands of powerful queen mothers who had the title of “the Candace.”
27καὶ ἀναστὰς ἐπορεύθη. καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ Αἰθίοψ εὐνοῦχος δυνάστης Κανδάκης βασιλίσσης Αἰθιόπων, ὃς ἦν ἐπὶ πάσης τῆς γάζης αὐτῆς, ὃς ἐληλύθει προσκυνήσων εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ,
And he got up and went, and behold a man, an Ethiopian eunuch a court official of Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasury, who had come to worship in Jerusalem.
- Idou – behold – SEE!
- Notice that the angel did not tell him why to go
- Philip recognized and responded to the command/order
- Obviously(?) the information about the man is after the fact
- Ie – there is no indication of divine knowledge that gave this info to Philip
- The man was a jewish believer -he had been in Jerusalem to worship
- He was important as a court official of Candace(a term used for the queen mothers) and was in charge of the treasury
- A eunuch of great authority (εὐνουχος δυναστης [eunouchos dunastēs]). Eunuchs were often employed by oriental rulers in high posts. Dynasty comes from this old word δυναστης [dunastēs] used of princes in Luke 1:52 and of God in 1 Tim. 6:15. Eunuchs were not allowed to be Jews in the full sense (Deut. 23:1), but only proselytes of the gate. But Christianity is spreading to Samaritans and to eunuchs. Candace (Κανδακης [Kandakēs]). Not a personal name, but like Pharaoh and Ptolemy, the title of the queens of Ethiopia. This eunuch apparently brought the gospel to Ethiopia. Treasure (γαζης [gazēs]). Persian word, common in late Greek and Latin for the royal treasure, here only in the N. T. For to worship (προσκυνησων [proskunēsōn]). Future active participle expressing purpose, a common idiom in the ancient Greek, but rare in the N. T. (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1128).
- Ethiopia was considered “the end of the earth” by the Greeks and Romans, and Philip’s witness to the Samaritans and the Ethiopian comprises a “foretaste” of the completion of Christ’s commission (1:8) by the whole church in the subsequent chapters of Acts.
- In modern terminology the Ethiopian whom Philip encountered would perhaps be called the Minister of Finance. Whether he was an actual physical eunuch is not certain. In the ancient world slaves were often castrated as boys in order to be used as keepers of the harem and the treasury. Eunuchs were found to be particularly trustworthy and loyal to their rulers. So widespread was the practice of placing them over the treasury that in time the term “eunuch” became a synonym for “treasurer” and did not necessarily imply that the one bearing the title was castrated. In the present passage it is likely that Philip’s Ethiopian was an actual physical eunuch, however, since the terms “eunuch” and “official over the treasury” are both given. His physical status was then highly significant for the story. He had been on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was in all probability, like Cornelius, one of those “God-fearing” Gentiles who believed in the God of Israel but had not become a proselyte, a full convert, to Judaism. In his case, as a eunuch, full membership in the congregation of Israel was not even possible because of his physical blemish (cf. Deut 23:1). He could visit the temple in Jerusalem, as he had done; but he could never enter it.
28ἦν τε ὑποστρέφων καὶ καθήμενος ἐπὶ τοῦ ἅρματος αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀνεγίνωσκεν τὸν προφήτην ʼΗσαΐαν.
And was returning and sitting in his chariot and reading aloud the prophet Isaiah
- The eunuch was heading home
- Studying the scripture
- Was reading (ἀνεγινωσκεν [aneginōsken]). Imperfect active descriptive, not periphrastic like the two preceding verbs (was returning and sitting). He was reading aloud as Philip “heard him reading” (ἠκουσεν αὐτον ἀναγινωσκοντος [ēkousen auton anaginōskontos]), a common practice among orientals. He had probably purchased this roll of Isaiah in Jerusalem and was reading the LXX Greek text. See imperfect again in verse 32.
- The man came from the country now known as Sudan (rather than modern Ethiopia) where he was a eunuch employed in the court service of the queen mother, who was known by the hereditary title of Candace and was the effective ruler of the country. The term eunuch normally indicates a person who has been castrated; such people were forbidden entry to the temple by the Jewish law (Deut. 23:1), although Isaiah 56:3–8 offered them a better deal in the future. If the man was a eunuch in this sense, he could not have been a proselyte. The term could also be used, however, to refer simply to a court official. This may be the sense here, but the piling up of terms in the sentence suggests that the word is meant to have some independent meaning alongside minister, and Luke’s use of Old Testament language suggests that he may well have intended his readers to see a fulfilment of Isaiah 56:3–8. In the same way he may also have seen a fulfilment of Psalm 68:31. The high position of the official as the royal treasurer is emphasized: this was no insignificant convert! He had come to Jerusalem in order to worship there; he was, therefore, at least a ‘God-fearer’ (see 10:2 note). Even if he could not be a full proselyte, he served God to the best of his ability. He had probably been in Jerusalem on the occasion of one of the pilgrim festivals and was now on his way home, riding, as befitted his status, in a chariot and beguiling the journey by reading from a scroll containing part of the Jewish Scriptures.
29εἶπεν δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα τῷ Φιλίππῳ· πρόσελθε καὶ κολλήθητι τῷ ἅρματι τούτῳ.
And the Spirit said to Philip, “approach and join this chariot
- Again – Philip responding to the Spirit, 2nd time
30προσδραμὼν δὲ ὁ Φίλιππος ἤκουσεν αὐτοῦ ἀναγινώσκοντος ʼΗσαΐαν τὸν προφήτην καὶ εἶπεν· ἆρά γε γινώσκεις ἃ ἀναγινώσκεις;
So Philip ran up and heard him reading aloud Isaiah the prophet and said, “so then do you understand what you are reading(or reading aloud)?
- Assuming that the ethiopian was reading from the Septuagint as it is unlikely that he would have known Hebrew
- Greek was the language of the trade routes
- Greek was more common than hebrew
- And Philip understood what he could hear the Ethiopian say from the scripture
- Understandest thou what thou readest? (Ἀρα γε γινωσκεις ἁ ἀναγινωσκεις; [Ara ge ginōskeis ha anaginōskeis?]) The interrogative particle ἀρα [ara] and the intensive particle γε [ge] indicate doubt on Philip’s part. The play (παρανομασια [paranomasia]) upon the words in the Greek is very neat: Do you know what you know again (read)? The verb for read (ἀναγινωσκο [anaginōsko]) means to know the letters again, recognize, read. The famous comment of Julian about the Christian writings is often quoted: Ἀνεγνων, ἐγνων, κατεγνων [Anegnōn, egnōn, kategnōn] (I read, I understood, I condemned). The keen retort was: Ἀνεγνως, ἀλλʼουκ ἐγνως, εἰ γαρ ἐγνως, οὐκ ἀν κατεγνως [Anegnōs, all’ouk egnōs, ei gar egnōs, ouk an kategnōs] (You read, but did not understand; for if you had understood, you would not have condemned).
- We may presume that in normal circumstances an ordinary person would not accost a traveller of higher social rank, and therefore Philip needed the inward assurance that this was what he must do. The chariot would have been in fact an ox-drawn wagon and would not have moved at much more than walking pace, so that it would cause no difficulty for Philip to run alongside it and call out to the occupant. As he approached the chariot Philip heard the voice of somebody reading—whether of a slave reading aloud to his master or of the eunuch himself.
31ὁ δὲ εἶπεν· πῶς γὰρ ἂν δυναίμην ἐὰν μή τις ὁδηγήσει με; παρεκάλεσέν τε τὸν Φίλιππον ἀναβάντα καθίσαι σὺν αὐτῷ.
And he said, “so how could I unless someone will guide me?” and he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
- Reading without understanding
- The word needs to be taught and preached
- The Spirit allows true understanding
- Not just knowledge
- But the general principle which he annunciates is significant. The Old Testament cannot be fully understood without interpretation. It needs a key to unlock the doors of its mysterious sayings. Jesus had provided such a key for the disciples (Luke 24:25–27, 44–47). Now Philip was being called upon to help the eunuch in the same way.
- His response enunciates a basic principle that runs throughout Luke-Acts concerning the interpretation of the Old Testament prophetic texts—the need for a Christian interpreter. The disciples themselves had needed such guidance, and Christ had “opened … the Scriptures” for them (Luke 24:45). They in turn sought to explain the Scripture in light of Christ to the Jews in Jerusalem. How indeed would this Gentile pilgrim from a distant land understand the real meaning of Isaiah’s servant psalms without a guide?
32ἡ δὲ περιοχὴ τῆς γραφῆς ἣν ἀνεγίνωσκεν ἦν αὕτη· ὡς πρόβατον ἐπὶ σφαγὴν ἤχθη καὶ ὡς ἀμνὸς ἐναντίον τοῦ κείραντος αὐτὸν ἄφωνος, οὕτως οὐκ ἀνοίγει τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ.
Now the passage of scripture he was reading was this, “like a sheep to the slaughter he was led, and like a lamb before its shearer, silent, so he did not open his mouth.”
- Isaiah 53 was the passage
Isaiah 53:7 (Lexham LXX Int Swete)
7καὶ αὐτὸς διὰ τὸ κεκακῶσθαι οὐκ ἀνοίγει τὸ στόμα· ὡς πρόβατον ἐπὶ σφαγὴν ἤχθη, καὶ ὡς ἀμνὸς ἐναντίον τοῦ κείροντος ἄφωνος, οὕτως οὐκ ἀνοίγει τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ.
And on account of having been afflicted he not opens his mouth like a sheep which has been led to slaughter and a lamb before the one who shears it is dumb so he not opens his mouth
Isaiah 53:7 (BHS/WIVU)
7נִגַּ֨שׂ וְה֣וּא נַעֲנֶה֮ וְלֹ֣א יִפְתַּח־פִּיו֒ כַּשֶּׂה֙ לַטֶּ֣בַח יוּבָ֔ל וּכְרָחֵ֕ל לִפְנֵ֥י גֹזְזֶ֖יהָ נֶאֱלָ֑מָה וְלֹ֥א יִפְתַּ֖ח פִּֽיו׃
He was oppressed and he was afflicted and not yet opened his mouth, he was brought to slaughtering like a lamb(small livestock) and like a ewe to the face of her shearers it she is dumb and so not opened his mouth
33Ἐν τῇ ταπεινώσει [αὐτοῦ] ἡ κρίσις αὐτοῦ ἤρθη· τὴν γενεὰν αὐτοῦ τίς διηγήσεται; ὅτι αἴρεται ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ἡ ζωὴ αὐτοῦ.
In his humiliation justice was taken from him, who can describe his generation? For His life was taken away from the earth
- Was taken away (ἠρθη [ērthē]). First aorist passive indicative of αἰρω [airō], to take away. It is not clear what the meaning is here either in the Hebrew or the LXX. Knowling suggests that the idea is that justice was withheld, done away with, in his death, as it certainly was in the death of Christ.
- Philip heard him he was reading from a passage which was ideally suited as a starting-point for the Christian message. Isaiah 53:7f. comes from a passage of prophecy which refers to a Servant of God who suffers humiliation of all kinds and bears the consequences of the sin of others; he thus makes some kind of atonement for their sins and is finally exalted by God. It is much debated as to how first-century readers would have understood the text, and the eunuch’s uncertainty may well have been typical. The particular verses cited are obscure in their meaning. They describe how the Servant remains silent just as an animal may make no noise when confronted by the knife of the slaughterer or shearer. He makes no protest although he is humiliated and deprived of justice, and finally put to death.