King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Acts 8

Saul persecutes the church. (1-4) Philip’s success at Samaria. Simon the sorcerer baptized. (5-13) The hypocrisy of Simon detected. (14-25) Philip and the Ethiopian. (26-40)

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Saul persecutes the church

1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.

3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.

Philip’s success at Samaria. Simon the sorcerer baptized

5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.

6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.

7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.

8 And there was great joy in that city.

9 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:

10 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.

11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.

12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

The hypocrisy of Simon detected

14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:

15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:

16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)

17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.

22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the LORD for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.

25 And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.

Philip and the Ethiopian

26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.

27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,

28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.

29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.

30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?

31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.

32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:

33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.

34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?

35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.

40 But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Were dispersed. During this great persecution of the Church, those who could not conceal themselves, were dispersed into different countries. Thus did the Almighty make use of the malice of his enemies, to the greater exaltation and glory of his own name. For those who fled, carried with them the light of the gospel, wherever they went. Tirinus. — They were burning torches, which communicated of their holy fire to every place, in which they were scattered. S. Aug. Serm. cxvi. — Thus was the gospel disseminated from Jerusalem into all Judea and Samaria. — And Samaria. Though our Saviour in his life time had forbid them to preach to the Samaritans, (Matt. x. 5.) they now knew that the time of that precept was past. Wi.

Ver. 2. Took care. In an ancient work, which gives the history of the finding of S. Stephen’s body, generally considered authentic, and printed at the end of the 7th vol. of S. Augustin’s works, we find the following account. “Stephen having been stoned without the northern gate, lay there without burial one day and a night, according to the order of the Jewish rulers, that his body might become a prey to birds and beasts, but God did not suffer either to touch it.” — “Then I, Gamaliel, compassionating these servants of Jesus Christ, and desiring to have some share in the faith and religion of this holy man, sent among the Jews some Christians who feared God, dwelling at Jerusalem, to take away privately the body, and bring it in my chariot to my country house, where it was deposited in my tomb towards the east, and we mourned over it for forty days,” &c. It is an injury to pray for a martyr, who ought to assist us by his prayers. S. Aug. Serm. xvii. — We see great devotion used in burying his body, and four centuries afterwards, at the finding and translating thereof. Very many miracles were performed on that occasion, as S. Augustin witnesses in his work de Civitate Dei. l. xxii. c. 8. and Serm. de S. Steph. T. viii.

Ver. 10. This man is the power of God, which is called (that is, which is truly) great. Simon pretended to be God, and the great God. See S. Iræn. l. i. c. 20.

Ver. 11. He had bewitched them with his sorceries,[1] or magic: he had put them out of their wits, turned their heads, charmed them, stupefied them. Wi.

Ver. 13. Simon himself believed. That is, pretended to believe, that he might obtain the power of speaking tongues, and working miracles, which was frequently imparted to the faithful at baptism. Menochius. — He was filled with pride and presumption, says S. Aug. He wished to imitate the prodigies of the apostles, but loved not their justice, nor the truth they preached. He entered into the Church, and desired baptism, not to obtain the grace of justification, but to have an occasion of extolling himself. He wished to walk in wonders above himself. In Psalm cxxx.

Ver. 15. The Holy Ghost, which the apostles came to give the Samaritan Neophytes, was not the spirit of grace, of justice, and of sanctity, for that they had received at baptism; but the spirit of strength, to confess with confidence and freedom the name of Jesus, and the supernatural and miraculous graces, usually at that time granted to the faithful, by the imposition of hands. Philip did not administer the sacrament, because he could not; he was not a bishop. Hence now in the Church, we see only the chief pastors do it, præcipuos et non alios videmus hoc facere. See S. Chrysost. hom. xviii. in Acta. — There is no mention here, it is true, of unction, but the most venerable antiquity clearly specifies it. S. Cyprian, in the third age, says: “it is moreover necessary, that he who has been baptized, should be anointed, that having received the chrism, that is, the unction, he may be the anointed of God.” Ep. lxx. — In the next age, S. Pacianus writes: “Do you say that this (the power of remitting sins) was granted only to the apostles? Then I say, that they alone could baptize, and give the Holy Spirit, for to them alone was the command of doing it given. If, therefore, the right of conferring baptism, and of anointing, descended to their successors, to them also has come the power of binding and loosing.” Ep. i. ad Sym. Bibl. Max. T. iv. p. 307.

Ver. 17. They received the Holy Ghost. Not but that they had received the grace of the Holy Ghost at their baptism; but not that plentitude of grace, and those gifts, which they received from bishops in the sacrament of confirmation. This sacrament, as S. Chrys. observes,[2] S. Philip, the deacon, had not power to give. Wi.

Ver. 18. Simon . . . offered them money. From hence it is called the sin of simony, to but, sell, or give money for benefices, and spiritual things. It was vanity that made Simon desire this power. Wi. — Hence to give or receive money in exchange, or as a price for any spiritual good whatever, is justly esteemed sinful. It is called simony, from the name of the person, who was first engaged in this sin. A. — Simon acts the part of a tempter to the apostles, and wishes to draw them into prevarication, by offering money for what was above all price, and of what they were not the proprietors, but the dispensers. S. Clement. Rom.

Ver. 20. May thy money perish with thee; or go with thee to perdition. This was a prophecy, says S. Chrys. of S. Peter who saw him incorrigible, and that he would not repent. Wi.

Ver. 21. Nor lot in this matter. Lit. in this saying. Wi.

Ver. 22. That perhaps this thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee. The word perhaps, as the interpreters commonly observe on this and other places, many times does not imply any doubt or uncertainty. There could be no doubt, says S. Chrys. only as to his repenting: if he repented, it is certain he would find remission of his sins. Wi. — S. Augustin (ep. cviii.) understands the text, metanoeson apo, &c. of penance done for heinous offences in the primitive Church, and teaches us to translate it thus, as it is in the Vulg. both here and 2 Cor. xii. 21. Apoc. ix. 21. and adds, that very good men do daily penance for venial sins, by fasting, prayer, and alms.

Ver. 23. In the gall of bitterness. In the bitter gall of hypocrisy, in the bonds, fetters, and chains of sin and iniquity. Wi.

Ver. 24. Pray . . . for me. Instead of following the advice of S. Peter, he begs them to pray, not that God would touch his heart, and give him repentance; but that the evils might not fall upon him. In this he is a true model of false penitents, who hate not the sin, but fear the punishment, which is the consequence of it. He afterwards left the East, and went to Rome, under the reign of Claudius. SS. Justin, Irenæus, and others say, the senate adored him as a divinity. Having undertaken to fly in the air, in the presence of the emperor and senate, when he had raised himself to a certain height, he was brought down by the prayers of SS. Peter and Paul, and died a few days after, of the wounds he received by the fall. Calmet. — See also Euseb. Theod. S. Aug. &c.

Ver. 26. This is desert. In construction, whether we regard the Latin or Greek, to be desert, may either agree to the way leading to Gaza, or the city itself, which formerly had been almost destroyed. Wi. — To the site of old Gaza, which was then a desert; above which was built the new Gaza, nearer the sea. V. — Beza frequently makes very free with S. Luke, and in his annotations, an. 1556, says the text is wrong; it cannot be so.

Ver. 27. An eunuch. It is likely a proselyte converted to the Jewish religion. He shews his zeal and devotion, says S. Chrys. not only by coming to Jerusalem, but by reading the prophets in his chariot. Wi.

Ver. 31. How can I, unless some one shew me,[3] or be a guide to me, as in the Greek. Let every one, and especially the unlearned, take good notice of these words, not to wrest the Scriptures to his own perdition. To follow his own private judgment, or his private spirit, is to make choice of a blind and incompetent guide, as to the sense of the Scriptures, and the mysteries of faith. See the preface to the gospel of S. John. Wi. — It appears this eunuch was not one of those, who are now so commonly seen, who think the Scripture is every where plain, and the sense open to every body. Such would do much better to acknowledge, that they stand in need of a guide. Grotius, hic. — S. Jerom, in his letter to Paulinus, printed at the head of the Latin Bibles, shews the necessity of an interpreter. The apostles themselves could not understand the Scriptures till Christ gave them the knowledge; tunc aperuit illis sensum ut intelligerent scripturas. Lu. xxiv. 45.

Ver. 32-33. As a sheep, or a lamb, &c. The eunuch, by divine Providence, was now reading the 53d chap. of Isaias, which is of Christ, and his sufferings. — In humility his judgment was taken away. The sense seems to be, that Christ having humbled himself, so as to undergo an unjust judgment, or condemnation to die on the cross, hath been again raised from the dead, and delivered from that judgment by his glorious resurrection, and ascension. Wi.

Ver. 36. Here is water. This shews, that baptism is to be given with water. Wi.

Ver. 37. If thou believest, &c. The Scripture many times mentions one disposition, when others no less necessary are supposed, as here a sorrow for sins, a firm hope, love of God, &c. Wi. — Faith is thus seen to be a necessary predisposition in the adult, for the reception of baptism. They must answer for themselves; but infants are baptized in the faith of the Church. Their sponsors, who receive them from the font, answer for them. D. Diony. Carthus. — And as the defilement was not personal, but that of others, so are they purified by the faith of others.

Ver. 38. We are not to suppose that in the administration of the sacraments in the primitive Church, nothing more was done than what we read, totidem litteris, in the Scripture. S. Augustin answers this, when he says: “insomuch that he saith, Philip baptized him, he would have it understood, that all things were done, which though in the Scripture, for brevity sake, they are not mentioned, yet by order of tradition we know were to be done.”

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[1] V. 11. Dementasset, exestakenai autous. So v. 15. Stupens admirabatur, the same word, existato.

[2] V. 17. S. Chrys. hom. xviii. oude gar eichen exousian.

[3] V. 31. Et quomodo possum, nisi aliquis ostenderit mihi? ean me tis odegese me.