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1. There are, first, the many miracles which the apostles wrought at Jerusalem (Acts 2: 43). They thus gradually so filled the neighboring regions with their fame, that “there came a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks and them which were vexed with unclean spirits, and they were healed every one" (Acts 5:16).
2. Luke makes several pauses or interruptions in the narration, which allow us to infer a long separation of the occurrences :
In chapter ii. he relates the descent of the Holy Spirit and the founding of the church. From verse 42 he now describes its life: “ And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
In the 3d chapter Luke goes on further to sketch the growth of the church and the miracles of the apostles : “ Once" (Gr. està rò aùtó), it is stated, “ Peter and John went into the temple," and now follows the healing of the lame man.
From the word used, “ once" (English Tr.,"now"), we might conclude that the event stood in no very near connection with the foregoing. This is yet more evident from the fact that, at the time of the healing of the lame man, Caiaphas was no longer high-priest, but Annas, before whom the Apostles were brought (Acts 3: 6). If now too we suppose that Annas succeeded Caiaphas immediately in his office of high-priest (a supposition which, indeed, is not necessary), then it is clear that the healing of the lame man did not take place directly after the Pentecost, but in the next year. Luke now, with a new interruption, goes on to sketch the life or internal condition of the church. Especially he here sets forth that they who believed sold their property, and even “ their houses and lands,” and paid over the money to the apostles. From Acts 4: 36, we see that foreigners also, fellow-members, as for example Joseph the Levite from Cyprus, sold their more distant possessions in their own country, and paid over the money. Nothing is more certain than that a measure so vigorously carried out on a large scale, in a church of many thousands, could not be executed in a few months ; that it required years; for, to sell houses and lands, especially in distant countries, in such numbers, and to collect the money, cannot be done in a few months.
In chapter v. Luke gives the history of Ananias and Sapphira in immediate connection with the foregoing. Afterward follows a new interruption, in which the growth of the church (verse 14), the further numerous miracles of the apostles, their wide-spread fame, the streaming in of the inhabitants of the regions round about to Jerusalem, are mentioned. Then follows (verse 17 and on) the imprisonment of the apostles by the Sadducees, and their wondrous deliverance from prison.
From chapter vi. it is evident that the church was grown so large that the apostles could no more attend upon its domestic economy. Simply for the care of the widows, the seven deacons were now chosen. By nothing more than by this circumstance, is the magnitude of the church evidenced, whose growth to such an extent was certainly not the work of a few months, particularly among the stiffnecked Jews at Jerusalem.
Among the seven deacons was Stephen. Luke describes his death in chapter vii. The idea that he was put to death immediately after his consecration to office, is in the highest degree arbitrary and has everything against it. Let us see :
Luke, after his account of the choice of deacons, makes a new break (Acts 5: 7): “ And the word of God increased, and
Acts 4: 4. After the healing of the lame man there were added at once as men bers 5000 men.
the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith."
This, surely, did not take place in a few weeks. Luke, with a new interruption, now passes over to Stephen. “ Stephen," he states, “ did great wonders and miracles among the people;' and thus excited the hatred of the Jews. This too was not, certainly, the work of a few days or weeks ; indeed, a series of public addresses may have preceded it.
After this narration of events, no one can object to our assuming, that from the Pentecost to Stephen's death, some years at least must have elapsed, and that Stephen was not put to death before a. D. 35 or 36, though we may not agree with the opinion of the Alexandrian Chronicle, according to which he died in the first year of the reign of Claudius, and so in a. D. 41.
Stephen's death appears to have been the beginning of the great persecutions of the Christians by the Jews. Luke mentions this Acts 8: 1, and yet more clearly verse 3. Now we know from Tacitus (Annals ii. 85), Suetonius (in Tib. 36), and Josephus (xviii. c. 4, 5), that the emperor Tiberius was the declared enemy of the Jews, while on the contrary, as Tertullian says, he showed a friendly feeling towards the Christians, on account of his high veneration for Christ. It cannot, therefore, properly be supposed, that he allowed the Jews not only in Jerusalem and Palestine, but also in Syria, at Damascus, so to rage as Luke describes. Hence we justly conclude that the persecution of the Christians, in which Paul was so furious, did not take place under the reign of Tiberius, and so not before A. D. 37; for it was in this year that Tiberius died. As, according to Luke's account (Acts 8: 1), Saul began his persecution of the Christians directly after Stephen's death, we also conclude that Stephen's death, at the earliest period, may have taken place at the close of A. d. 37. How long, now, was it to Paul's
'Apol. c. 5. Tertullian says: Tiberium comminatum fuisse periculum accusatoribus Christianorum, ad annuntiata sibi ex Syria et Palestina.
conversion? It is generally assumed that Paul's conversion was immediately after Stephen's death. But it might not have been so. Let us see:
Luke says (Acts 8: 3): « Saul made great havoc of the church, entering into every house and haling men and women, committed them to prison.” This kind of persecution, against so large a company, in so great a city as Jerusalem was, demands a period of some length.
Luke now relates how, during this fury of Saul, the Christians, feeing before him from Jerusalem, were scattered abroad to Samaria ; how Philip founded a church in Samaria ; how Peter and John, by the direction of the apostles, went there, imparted the Holy Spirit to the baptized, and then returned to Jerusalem ; how Philip, having come to Gaza, there converted the eunuch of queen Candace of Ethiopia, and afterward going about, preached the gospel, and finally came to Cæsarea. That all this took place during the persecution by Saul, is evident from Acts 9: 1, where Luke, returning to Saul, says: “ And Saul yet (Gr. ēti) breathing out threatenings and slaughter, went to the high-priest and desired of him letters to Damascus," etc.
Therefore after he had first satiated his rage against the Christians in Jerusalem, i. e. after a considerable time, in which the events mentioned in chapter wiii. had occurred, Saul began his journey to Damascus. On his way, he was converted to the Lord. This event could not, therefore, well have taken place before A. D. 39.
Some other striking points here deserve consideration :
1. When Saul was present at the murder of Stephen, he was a young man. While a youth, as he states, he was a scholar of Gamaliel. Now since Gamaliel, as is evident from Acts vi., was a decided opposer to all persecutions of the disciples and their followers, it is plain that Saul, when he began to rage against the Christians, had not been, for some time past, a pupil of Gamaliel.
2. He could not have been so very young at that time. To say nothing of the fact that Ananias, in Acts 9:13, calls him a man, it is not probable that the high-priest would have entrusted such weighty and extended authority to the hands of a mere youth. The word used in Luke (Gr. veaviav) must therefore designate a young man.
3. Luke relates that Paul, after his first journey to Jerusalem, which he undertook three years after his conversion, Gal. i., went to Tarsus (Acts 9: 30). Thence Barnabas brought him to Antioch, where he remained a year (Acts 11: 25, 26). During this abode there, he went with Barnabas to Jerusalem, to carry thither the alms of the church of Antioch, verse 30. This journey took place at the time of the imprisonment of Peter by Herod (as we shall hereafter see), during which, Paul and Barnabas were in Jerusalem (Acts 12: 25); and since this imprisonment was in A. D. 45 (as we shall by and by show), the journey was in this year, A. D. 45. Should we now assume, with Baronius and Natalis Alexander, that Paul was already converted in A. D. 34, and so for the first time went to Jerusalem in A. D. 38, and thence travelled to Tarsus, we must also assume, that from A. D. 37 or 38 up to A. D. 44, when Barnabas brought him to Antioch, i. e. six or seven years, Paul had sat down inactive in Tarsus; a supposition which no reasonable person will make. But if Paul's conversion be placed in a. d. 39, then his first journey to Jerusalem was in a. D. 42, the same year in which he went to Tarsus, whence Barnabas brought him to Antioch in A. D. 44, and thence they went to Jerusalem in A. D. 45, and were there during Peter's imprisonment. Thus everything harmonizes admirably. Therefore Paul's conversion was not before A. D. 39.
" It else matters not whether Paul's conversion be placed in A. D. 34 or 39. For if by the first supposition the possibility is gained that Peter might have travelled to Antioch in A. D. 38, yet from this possibility the reality of such a journey by no means follows; and as, according to those well-known views which rest on the statements of Eusebius, Peter must have gone to Jerusalem in the second year of Claudius, i. e. in A. D. 42, so the seven years of his pretended bishopric at Antioch can in no wise be deduced therefrom. Besides, that pretended journey to Antioch is so clearly a fiction that it throughout contradicts the Holy Scriptures, as we shall hereafter see.