King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Acts 12

The martyrdom of James, and the imprisonment of Peter. (1-5) He is delivered from prison by an angel. (6-11) Peter departs, Herod’s rage. (12-19) The death of Herod. (20-25)

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The martyrdom of James, and the imprisonment of Peter

1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.

2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.

3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)

4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.

He is delivered from prison by an angel

6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.

7 And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.

8 And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.

9 And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.

10 When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.

11 And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the LORD hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.

Peter departs, Herod’s rage

12 And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.

13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda.

14 And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate.

15 And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.

16 But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.

17 But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.

18 Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.

19 And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode.

The death of Herod

20 And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king’s country.

21 And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.

22 And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.

23 And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.

24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.

25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Herod. Agrippa, made king by the emperor Caius. See Jos. vi. 18. Antiq. c. viii. and l. xix. c. 5. put to death James the great, brother to John. Wi. — This man was the same as Agrippa, by which name he is most commonly known. He was brother to the famous Herodias, who was the cause of S. John the Baptist’s decollation, (Calmet) and son-in-law of Herod the Great, by his father Aristobulus. V.

Ver. 2. S. James the elder, brother of S. John, the evangelist.

Ver. 3. The days of the azymes. By this we may know about the time when S. James was executed. Peter was to be reserved till after the Pasch, because it was not usual for the Jews to put any one to a violent death on a festival day. They would not damp the joy of the solemnity by such actions. Menoch. — Nothing can be more illiberal, nothing more unfounded, and unjust, than the accusation advanced by the translators of the Bible dedicated to King James. In their preface they say, that the Catholics keep the words, azymes, holocaust, pasch, &c. in their version, purposely “to darken the sense, that since they must needs translate the Bible, yet by the language thereof, it may be kept from being understood.” See the splendid Oxford edit. an. 1770. — So far from this, we open the window, to let in the light; we break the shell, that the kernel may be eaten: we put aside the curtain, that a sight may be had into the holy place; we remove the cover of the well, that the good and humble may get to the water of life. If we retain certain words in the original tongue, it is for the same reason as our adversaries retain others, such as Amen, Sabaoth, Alleluia, Jehova, &c.

Ver. 4. To four files of soldiers.[1] To four times four soldiers, or to sixteen soldiers, each band or file consisting of four.

Ver. 6. With these two chains, according to the Roman custom, S. Peter must have been fastened to the two soldiers, that guarded him. Yet Peter slept secure, trusting in that Providence which sleepeth not.

Ver. 7. An Angel. This was probably his Angel guardian. It has always been the constant belief of the Church, that each individual is put under the protection of a tutelar Angel. A. — S. Bernard, on these words of the psalm, he has given his Angels charge over thee, thus expresses himself: Wonderful condescension! and truly great love! He has given his Angels charge over thee, to guard thee in all thy ways. What is man, O God, that thou shouldst thus be mindful of him, or the son of man, that thou shouldst look upon him! What reverence, devotion, and confidence, should this word inspire in us! Reverence their presence, be grateful for their good will; have confidence in their protection; walk with circumspection; your Angel is present. In every abode, in every place, respect his presence. Let us love them too, destined to be in future our co-heirs; in the mean time, our guardians and patrons. What have we to fear under such guides? They cannot be overcome nor seduced; much less can they lead us astray. They are faithful, they are prudent, they are powerful. Why do we fear? Let us follow them; let us stick close to them; and we shall dwell under the protection of the God of heaven. If a grievous temptation urges; if great tribulation hangs over you; call upon your leader your helper in opportunities, in tribulations; call upon him, and say, save us, or we perish, &c. S. Bern. Serm. in Psalm. Qui. habitat. — A light shined in the room. To Peter only; not to the rest. Wi.

Ver. 11. Peter coming to himself. Being now sensible that all was true. Wi.

Ver. 12. And considering or reflecting, what was best to be done. Wi.

Ver. 15. Thou art mad, or talkest idly. — Then said they, it is his Angel. It seems ridiculous to translate here a messenger. Does a messenger speak with the very voice of him that sends him? S. Chrys.[2] and others on this place observe, that they believed that every one, at least of the faithful, hath a good Angel. Wi. — “If proper Angels,” saith S. Chrysostom, (T. iii. hom. 7. in laud. Paul.) “be deputed by our Lord to such as have only charge of their own existence, (as Israel said, Gen. xlviii. 16. the Angel that delivereth me from all evils, bless these boys) much more are super-human spirits at hand to help those unto whom the charge and burden of the world is committed.” Such persons as can believe that God permits evil spirits to tempt us, can find no difficulty surely in believing that the same good, just, and merciful Creator will permit good spirits to guide, protect, and assist us. Repeated proofs of both are found in holy writ. The learned Protestant commentator, Polus, on this text, says: Hujusmodi visis assueverat eo tempore Ecclesia, quæ etiam novit fideles præsidio angelorum esse circumseptos. The Church at that period had been accustomed to similar apparitions, nor is she ignorant that the faithful are secured by the protection of Angels. T. iv. p. 1494.

Ver. 17. He went into another place. Did not think fit to stay in the city of Jerusalem. S. Chrys. takes notice, that upon another occasion, when he was delivered by an Angel out of prison, he went boldly the next day, and preached in the temple. c. v. 19. but there he was ordered by an Angel so to do; now to stay without such orders, would have been rashly to expose himself, and in a manner tempting God. Wi. — Peter retired to another place, that he might not rashly expose himself to future danger. It is not just to depend on supernatural assistance, when human means are adequate to the effect. S. Chrys. hom. xxvi. — S. Peter desires they will announce his miraculous deliverance to James, the then bishop of Jerusalem, and to the Christians, that they might see the effect of their prayers for him. S. James had, beyond a doubt, ordered general supplications to be made by all the brethren for S. Peter. B.

Ver. 19. Should be led[3] away to punishment or death, according to the sense both of the Latin and Greek text. Wi.

Ver. 20. In the Greek, he was preparing to make war against them. These applied not to agriculture, but drew their support from Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. V.

Ver. 23. Struck him. Josephus relates, that when Herod saw he must die, he replied to the flatteries of the people, “See, he whom you call a god, is snatched out of life, in spite of himself. The necessity of suffering death proves the falsity of your words; but we must submit to the will of God.” Antiquit. lib. xvii. c. 9. et de Bello. lib. i. c. 21. — Princes may take warning from this example, not to take delight in the praises and flatteries of their subjects, so as to forget themselves to be men, and the God of heaven to be the supreme Lord of all, to whose just tribunal princes and subjects are equally amenable. A. — Eaten up by worms. A visible judgment of God, for his pride and vanity. Wi.

Ver. 25. Returned from Jerusalem, to Antioch, the capital of Syria. Wi. — This John Mark, the companion of SS. Paul and Barnabas, was not the evangelist who bore that name; but a cousin of Barnabas, son of Mary, in whose house the apostles generally assembled at Jerusalem. Calmet.


[1] V. 4. Quatuor quaternionibus, tessarsi tetradiois stratioton.

[2] V. 15. It is his Angel. S. Chrys. on these words, hom. xxvi. Ex hoc verum est quod unusquisque Angelum habet; alethes oti ekastos Aggelon echei.

[3] V. 19. Jussit eos duci, apachthenai.