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with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Acts 2

The descent of the Holy Spirit at the day of Pentecost. (1-4) The apostles speak in divers languages. (5-13) Peter’s address to the Jews. (14-36) Three thousand souls converted. (37-41) The piety and affection of the disciples. (42-47)

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The descent of the Holy Spirit at the day of Pentecost

1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.

4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The apostles speak in divers languages

5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?

8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,

10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,

11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?

13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.

Peter’s address to the Jews

14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:

15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.

16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;

17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:

19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:

20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come:

21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:

23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

25 For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:

26 Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:

27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

28 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.

29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.

30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;

31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.

32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.

33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.

34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,

35 Until I make thy foes thy footstool.

36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

Three thousand souls converted

37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.

40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.

41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

The piety and affection of the disciples

42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.

44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;

45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

46 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,

47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Altogether in one[1] place. The Greek signifies, were all of one mind. Wi.

Ver. 2. A sound, &c. Perhaps this was a kind of thunder, accompanied with a great wind, which filled with terror and awe the whole company, and disposed them to receive the gift of heaven with humility and fervour. This noise appears to have been heard over a great part of the city, and to have gathered together a great crowd, who came to learn the cause. This noise and wind were symbols of the divinity. It was thus also that formerly on Mount Sinai, thunder and lightning, the dark cloud, the smoking mountain, &c. marked the majesty of God. Calmet. — Jesus Christ, our Pasch, to answer perfectly the figure, was offered on the day of the great Jewish passover; so fifty days after, for accomplishing the like figure of the law given on Mount Sinai, He sent down the Holy Ghost on the day of their Pentecost, which meaneth fifty. But our feasts, as S. Augustin remarks, besides the remembrance of benefits past, contain great mysteries also of the life to come. Ep. cxix. c. 16.

Ver. 3. Tongues . . . of fire. The Hebrews use the name tongue, for almost any thing pointed. Thus they say, a tongue of the earth, for a promontory. Josue xv. 5. A fiery tongue for a flame in shape of a tongue. Isa. v. 24. The expression, therefore, in this place, may mean noting more than sparks, or rather flames, which appeared above all who were in the house. — Sed et Latinis quod extremum et acutum est lingua dicitur, quare scopulos summos & invios linguas dixit Cæsar. P. — By the fiery tongues is signified the efficacy of the apostles’ preaching, and the gift of tongues bestowed upon them. M.

Ver. 4. Began to speak divers tongues. Perhaps the apostles spoke only their own tongue, and the miracle consisted in each one’s understanding it as if they spoke it in his language. S. Greg. Nazianzen. orat. xliv. — But S. Augustin and most others, understand the text literally; though the apostles had not this gift on all occasions, nor on all subjects, and therefore sometimes stood in need of interpreters. Vide S. Aug. in Psalm xvii. Expos. 2. and Serm. 188. — The same Father observes, that the conversion of all nations to the Church, and their being united in one faith, all having one language or confession, is a perpetuation of the same miracle in the Church.

Ver. 14. But Peter standing up, &c. A wonderful change which the Holy Ghost, at his coming, in a moment wrought in the apostles, as we see in the person of S. Peter, who before, when questioned by a silly girl, denied his master, now he values not all the Sanhedrim of the Scribes, Pharisees, and magistrates; he boldly and publicly charges them with the murder of Jesus, their Lord, and their Christ. v. 36. Wi. — As the prince of the apostolic college, and head of the Church, under Jesus Christ, hence Peter speaks in the name of the other apostles also, gives an account of the miracle, and promulgates the evangelical law. M. — Newly replenished with all knowledge and fortitude, and full of the holy Spirit, he here maketh his first sermon. B.

Ver. 15. About nine in the morning. On festival days, the Jews did not eat till the morning devotions were finished, about mid-day. V.

Ver. 17. In the last days, or the latter days, meaning the time of the Messias, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, that is, all persons. See Joel ii. 28. Wi.

Ver. 19. I will shew wonders, &c. These prodigies are commonly expounded of those that shall forerun the last day; or of the prognostics of the destruction of Jerusalem, which was a figure of the destruction of the world. Wi. — Blood, fire, &c. These prodigies were accomplished at our Saviour’s death, or before the destruction of Jerusalem. We must not expect in these prophecies, where the descriptions are so grand, pathetic, and hyperbolical, to find that the accomplishment of them is literal, and precisely according to terms. The sun shall suffer an eclipse, the moon turn red, like blood, &c. Calmet.

Ver. 22-23. Jesus, . . . a man, who suffered as man, though he was both God and man. — Delivered by the determinate decree, or counsel; to wit, by that eternal decree, that the Son of God should become man. He mentions this decree, and foreknowledge of God, to signify that Christ suffered not by chance, nor unwillingly, but what God, and he as God, had decreed. Wi. — By the determinate, &c. God delivered up his Son; and his Son delivered up himself, for the love of us, and for the sake of our salvation: and so Christ’s being delivered up was holy, and was God’s own determination. But they who betrayed and crucified him, did wickedly, following therein their own malice, and the instigation of the devil; not the will and determination of God, who was by no means the author of their wickedness; though he permitted it; because he could, and did draw out of it so great a good, viz. the salvation of man. Ch.

Ver. 24. Having loosed the sorrows[2] of hell, &c. In the ordinary Greek copies, of death. As to the sense of this place, 1. It is certain Christ suffered the pains and pangs of a violent death. 2. That his soul suffered no pains after death, nor in any place called hell. 3. We believe, as in the Apostles’ Creed, that his blessed soul descended into hell, that is, to that place in the inferior parts of the earth, (Ephes. iv. 9.) which we commonly call Limbus Patrum, not to suffer, but to free the souls of the just from thence. — As it was impossible he should be held there, either by death, or hell, his soul being always united to the divine person: and his rising again being foretold in the Psalms, in the words here cited. Wi. — Having overcome the grievous pains of death, and all the power of hell. Ch. — Not that Jesus suffered any thing after his death; that was impossible. But these pains were loosed in his regard, because he was preserved from them, as the bird is preserved from the nets of the fowlers, which are broken before it is taken in them. S. Aug. ep. ad. Olimp. xcv. — Moreover he loosed others of those pains. Idem, l. xii, c. 13. de Gen. ad lit.

Ver. 27. Thou wilt not leave[3] my soul in hell. This is also the Prot. translation; and the manner in which Beza translates it, is both very false and ridiculous, thou shalt not leave my carcass in the grave. For allowing that the Latin and Greek word, which is here translated hell, may signify sometimes, the grave; yet no excuse can be made for putting carcass, where the Greek, as well as Latin, signifies the soul. And for the doctrine of Christ’s descending into hell, even the learned Dr. Pearson on the Creed, observes with Catholics, that the article of the creed, wherein we say, he descended into hell, cannot be the same as to say, his body descended into the grave, because in the foregoing words we profess that he was dead and buried. Wi. — Beza plainly confesseth that he translateth the text thus: Thou shalt not leave my carcass in the grave, against the doctrine of purgatory, and Christ’s descending into hell, although he alloweth, that most of the ancient Fathers were in that error. Thus opposing himself to plain Scripture and to the ancient Fathers, perverting the former, and contemning the latter, to overthrow an article of the apostles’ creed. He descended into hell. New Test. in 1556.

Ver. 31. Foreseeing he (David) spoke of the resurrection of Christ. S. Peter shews them that the prophetical words of the Psalm, agree not to David in person, he being dead, and his body having remained in the grave, without rising from the dead. Wi.

Ver. 33. He hath poured forth this, which we see, and hear, by the effects, by the noise, as it were of thunder, by our speaking languages, &c. Wi. — It does not appear that the holy Spirit was visible to the multitude, whom S. Peter addressed. But they perceived sensible marks of his presence, in the great noise, which had called them together, and the divers tongues spoken by illiterate men, who had never studied. A.

Ver. 37. They had compunction in their heart, with sorrow for their sins, especially against their Messias. Wi.

Ver. 38. Be baptized: believing and making profession to believe, and hope for salvation, by the merits of Jesus Christ. Thus you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, the grace of God, and perhaps those other gifts of speaking with tongues, working miracles, &c. Wi. — The gift of the Holy Ghost. That is, justifying grace, which is infused in our hearts by the laver of regeneration. The exterior gifts of the Holy Ghost, the gift of tongues, of miracles, prophecy, &c. were, in the beginning of the Church, more regularly the consequences of confirmation or imposition of hands. Calmet.

Ver. 39. The promise is to you. The good tidings of salvation were first announced to the Jew, then to the Gentile; first to the domestics, then to the strangers, who are far off. It is rather singular, that S. Peter, after here so clearly shewing that the Gentiles are called to the faith, should afterwards have made such objections to go to baptize Cornelius, because he was a Gentile. This can only be reconciled, by supposing, he did not know distinctly the time nor the manner of their vocation. Calmet.

Ver. 40. And with a great many other words did he testify and exhort them. S. Luke only gives an abridgment of those exhortations, which S. Peter, and the apostles frequently gave to all the people. S. Peter, as S. Chrys. observes, and as we see in these Acts, was the mouth of all the rest. And on this first day of Pentecost, about three thousand were converted. Wi.

Ver. 42. In the communication of the breaking of bread, by which some understand their ordinary meals, and eating together; others, of the celestial bread of the holy Sacrament, tou artou, panis illius, scilicet Eucharistiæ. The Eucharist is called both by S. Luke and S. Paul, the breaking of bread. M. in v. 42. and 46. — In the Syriac, for artou, is a term that means Eucharist, both here and in Acts xx. as the learned Joannes Harlemius remarks in Indice Bibliorum. — S. Luke also gives here some account of the manner of living of these first Christians. 1. They were together, united in perfect charity. 2. They were frequently in the temple, and praying together. 3. They had all possessions in common. 4. They went from house to house to convert souls, taking the food they found with joy, and simplicity of heart, their number daily increasing. 5. S. Luke says they were in favour, and esteemed by all the people. 6. The apostles did many prodigies and miracles, to confirm their doctrine, which struck others with great terror and horror for their past lives. Wi.

Ver. 44. This living in common is not a precept for all Christians, but a life of perfection and counsel, for such as are called to it by heaven. See S. Augustin in Psalm cxii. and ep. cix. the practice of which is a striking proof of the one true Church, which has come down from the apostles.

Ver. 46. In the temple. Although by the death of our Saviour, the ceremonies and sacrifices were abrogated, and the new alliance had succeeded to the old, still it was not in the design of God, that the faithful should separated themselves from the rest of the Jews, or entirely give up the observances of the law. They continued to observe them, as long as the utility of the Church required it, but they observed them not as Jews. Thus they avoided giving scandal to the weak, and driving them from submitting to the doctrines of the Church. They disposed them insensibly to a more pure and spiritual worship. S. Chrys. in Act. hom. vii. — This was burying the synagogue with honour.

Ver. 47. More and more he added daily to the Church, as it is clearly expressed in the Greek, prosetithei te ekklesia, that we may see the visible propagation and increase of the same. We may here, and throughout the whole book, observe a visible society of men joined in Christ, which visible society may be traced through ecclesiastical history, down to our days, and which will continue, in virtue of Christ’s promise, to the end of time, as the point of union, by which the true disciples of Jesus Christ are to be connected together in one body, and one spirit; “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Eph. iv. 5. This book can shew the true Church ever visible, and ever speaking with authority to all that do not willingly shut their eyes, as plainly as the gospel doth shew the true Christ. “Every where the Church proclaims the truth; she is the candlestick, with the seven lamps (Exod. xxv.); bearing the light of Christ, eptamukos,” says S. Irenæus; which light nothing can obscure. Hence S. Chrysostom says, “sooner shall the sun be extinguished, than the Church be obscured;” eukolioteron ton elion sbesthenai, e ten ekklesian aphanisthenai.


[1] V. 1. Pariter in eodem loco. omothumadon epi to auto, concorditer.

[2] V. 24. Solutis doloribus Inferni. lusas tas odinas adou, though in the common Greek copies, thanatou. See S. Chrys. hom vi.

[3] V. 27. My soul in hell. Animam meam in Inferno, ten psuchen mou eis adou.