King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Acts 4

Peter and John imprisoned. (1-4) The apostles boldly testify to Christ. (5-14) Peter and John refuse to be silenced. (15-22) The believers unite in prayer and praise. (23-31) The holy charity of the Christians. (32-37)

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Peter and John imprisoned

1 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,

2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.

4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.

The apostles boldly testify to Christ

5 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,

6 And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.

7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,

9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;

10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.

11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.

12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

14 And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.

Peter and John refuse to be silenced

15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,

16 Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.

17 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.

18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.

19 But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.

20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.

21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.

22 For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed.

The believers unite in prayer and praise

23 And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.

24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:

25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?

26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.

27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,

28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.

29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,

30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.

31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

The holy charity of the Christians

32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.

33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.

34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,

35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,

37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. The officer[1] (of the guard) of the temple: lit. the magistrate of the temple. But this magistrate, by the Greek, was an officer over soldiers; we may presume, over those who were to guard the temple. Wi.

Ver. 2. The resurrection. This vexed particularly the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection: and they had great power among the Jews. Wi.

Ver. 4. Five thousand. Not that hereby is meant the whole number of the believers, but five thousand, by this miracle and preaching, were added to those that believed before. Wi. — Here again we remark the visible increase of the Catholic Church, by the preaching of the word.

Ver. 5. Their rulers, &c. The chief of them, and Annas, the high priest; perhaps he had lately succeeded Caiphas, high priest of the year before. Wi.

Ver. 7. By what authority? Is it by your own authority, or that of some other, you have healed this lame man? They wished to know if it was a true miracle, or the effects of some secret magic or enchantment. The knowledge of this kind of affairs belonged to them. It was their duty to repress the attempts of false prophets, seducers, and magicians. But they might easily discover that the apostles were far removed from any thing of this kind. The simple narration of the fact was enough to acquit them. Calmet.

Ver. 10. Name of our Lord Jesus. From this, S. Chrysostom takes occasion to make several pathetic exhortations against swearing and profaning this adorable name. What profit do you propose to yourselves by abusing this name? Is it to gain credit to your discourse? So you will tell me; but, believe me, you are mistaken: if people saw you respected oaths, and were afraid to make free with them, then they would believe you. Not when you give them to understand that you undervalue them, by your frequent abuse of them. Break then so profane a custom. It will cost you neither money nor labour to do so: you are not required to part with any gratification for this purpose. Use only at the beginning a little diligence, and you will easily overcome so idle a practice. Wish, and it is done. S. Chrys. super Act. sparsim. A. — Whom you crucified. S. Peter, without fear or apprehension, openly and boldly tells them of their heinous crime: that Christ is the head corner stone, which they had rejected, as Christ himself had told them, (Matt. xii. 10.) and that there is no other name under heaven given to men to be saved by. Wi.

Ver. 13. The constancy of Peter and John, surprised the council very much. They admired their knowledge of the Scriptures, seeing them men without learning or letters,[2] and (as they are called idiots) they could not find how to contradict the fact, the man that was healed, being there present. Wi. — Here, with the Jewish people, you may admire the constancy, wisdom, and learning of the apostles, after the coming of the Holy Ghost, who, before that event, were simple, unlettered, and timorous men. See v. 19; and again, C. v. 29.

Ver. 16. What shall we do to these men? They were perplexed, says S. Chrys. and in greater fear than the apostles. They saw they could do nothing but threaten and charge them to speak no more of Jesus. Wi.

Ver. 19. But Peter and John stopped their mouths, by asking them, if it was reasonable for them to hearken to men rather than to God. For we, say they, (v. 20.) cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. Wi.

Ver. 20. We have seen and heard. From these words, S. Chrysostom makes some important remarks on the conduct of Christians. On returning from the theatre, or any public meeting, each can relate what he has seen and heard. This is the fruit they reap from attending at public places of amusement; and would to God it were merely pleasure unmixed with poison. But on returning from Church, where they have been for instruction, they remember nothing, speak of nothing they have seen or heard. All is silence. Not even a thought is turned on what has been performed. Hom. x. in Act. — It is a curious fact, which the apologists for the innocence of modern plays would do well to attend to, that the theatre has always been avoided by the good and the virtuous of every age. When one of the ancient Fathers was exorcising a female demoniac, who had been possessed at the theatre, and bade the devil to depart; No, replied he, I had a right to take possession of her, for I found her in my own house. A.

Ver. 21. Threatening them. Here commences the history of the first persecution of religious opinion, which the passions of men have continued, and swelled to such a frightful length. But on this, as on all other occasions, it has defeated its own purpose, by adding firmness and constancy to the persecuted. Truth is not to be overpowered by violence. In vain have the kings and princes of the earth risen up against the Lord, and against his Christ. — When will men learn, that charity is the principle of conversion! — That is an unheard-of kind of preaching, said the great Pope, S. Gregory, which exacts belief by stripes. He was on this occasion reprehending the false zeal of certain indiscreet Christians at Rome, who were for compelling the Jews to become converts. A. — The amiable Fenelon, in a letter to Prince Charles, the son of our James the Second, says: “No human power can force the impenetrable intrenchments of the human mind. Compulsion never persuadesit only makes hypocrites. When kings interfere in matters of religion, they do not protect it; they enslave it. Give civil liberty to all; not by approving all religions, as indifferent, but, by permitting in others, what God permits.”

Ver. 23. Being let go, they came to their own[3] company, relating with simplicity all that had happened.

Ver. 24. With one accord. With one mind, as in the Greek, and with one voice, being inspired by the Holy Ghost, they fell to prayer. Wi.

Ver. 30. That thou stretch forth thy hand.[4] Lit. in this that thou stretch forth thy hand to cures, &c. They pray to God, that he would continue to confirm their preaching by miracles. Wi.

Ver. 31. The place was shaken. Much in the same manner, as at the first coming of the Holy Ghost. — They were all filled with the Holy Ghost. Their hearts were inflamed and excited by a new motion of grace. Wi.

Ver. 32. All things were common. Happy would it be for society, if the rich of the present day were to imitate, in some degree, this charity of the first disciples, by distributing to those that want. Both would hereby become more happy; nor would the rich derive less pleasure from such actions, than the poor. S. Chrys. hom. xi. in Acts. — That cold and fatal word, mine, and thine, which has caused so many misfortunes and wars, was banished from among them. Id. hom. de S. Philogon. — Some take this to be the origin of a monastic life: but according to the Fathers, it is rather its progress and increase; for it began in the family of Jesus Christ. The apostles, indeed, may be said to institute here that common life, which they led under Christ, our Lord, and of which Peter speaks: behold, we have left all. This life, by S. Augustin and others, is called apostolic, and there among all, wives are particularly specified. Cajetan thinks no vow was required: S. Augustin is of a different sentiment. Serm. x. de diversis & alibi.

Ver. 33. And great grace was in them all. All of them were present, were replenished with extraordinary graces of charity, zeal, &c. Wi.

Ver. 36-37. Joseph . . . surnamed Barnabas, the son of consolation, &c. He seems to be mentioned as the first that sold all he had, and brought the price, and laid it at the feet of the apostles. Wi. — There was at that time a great number of Jews established in this city. V.

Ver. 37. Sold it, &c. It is probable, that the faithful of Palestine disposed of all their property, because they knew that presently Judea would be delivered up to its enemies, and they would be obliged to fly, to avoid the persecution of their countrymen, as well as of strangers. D. Thomas ad Galatas. xi. — At the feet of the apostles, out of respect. Thus, the Sunamitess fell down and embraced Eliseus’s feet. Many that asked favours of Christ, fell down at his feet, and Mary kissed his feet. Such are signs of reverence paid both to Christ, and to other sacred persons, prophets, apostles, popes. See in S. Jerom, how the people of Jerusalem flocked together to the venerable bishop Epiphanius, in Cyprus, presenting their children for his blessing, kissing his feet, plucking the hem of his garment, so that he could not move for the throng. S. Jer. Ep. lxi. c. 4. contr. error. Jovin.

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[1] V. 1. An officer of the guard of the temple. Magistratus templi, strategos tou ierou.

[2] V. 13. Sine literis, agrammateis. Idiotæ, idiotai, plebeii.

[3] V. 23. Ad suos, pros tous idious.

[4] V. 30. In eo quod extendas, en to ekteinein, by stretching forth, &c.