Full Text for Sermon Study on Acts 5:34-42 (Text)

Qtnnrnr~tu ml}tnlngital flnnt41y Continuing LEHRE UND VVEHRE MAGAZIN FUER Ev.-LUTH. HOMILETIK THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY-THEOLOGICAL MONTHLY Vol. IX July, 1938 No.7 CONTENTS Page A Course in Lutheran Theology. Th. Engelder . _______ .... _ .... _____ . __ .. _. __ .____ 481 Kleine Danielstudien. L. Fuerbringer ______________________ . __ . __ .. __ .. ___ ... . __ __ ... ..... 495 Sermon Study on Acts 5:34-42. Th. Laetseh ._ . . _ .... .. _ .. _ ...... ____ ._____ 506 Miscellanea __________ ._ . . ___ . ____ . _____ . ____ .._____ . _______ .. _____________________ . __ . __ . ___ __ .. _ .. _. __________ .. 519 Theological Observer. - Kirchlich-ZeitgeschichtIiches . . ____ ._ ._ .. _ ._. ____ 530 Book Review. - Literatur _ . _________ .. ______ .. _. ______ ... ____ . ______ . __ . .. .. ... . _ .. _____ . 553 BIn Predlger mUSII nleht aDeln lOel- den, also d888 er die Schafe unter- welle. wle s1e reehte Chr1lten 80llen RIn, IIOndem auch daneben den Woe1- fen lOeh1'4m, daM s1e dle Schafe nlcht ansreifen und mlt faIscher Lehre ver- fuehren und Irrtum elnfuehren. Luthn Es 1st keln Ding, das dle Leute mehr bel der KJrche behaelt denn die gute Predlgt. - Apologia, An. 24. If the trumpet give an uncerta1D sound who shaD prepare himself to the batUe? - 1 COT.14, B. PnbIisbed for the BY. Loth. Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States CONCOBDIA PUBLISIIIN'G BOUSE, St. LouJs, Mo. .ARCI:I V 506 Sermon Study on Acts 5: 34-42 fneuten unb berftecl'ten ~ttifef mit hen ernften, hlaljren ~otten: "Ili the case of Daniel, Daniel is with us, Christ is with us. Caveat cri- ticus!" 6) ~oer hlie hleit hie moherne mioeHritif audj fdjon in hie ame~ rifanifdj~rutljerifdje ~b:dje eingebrungcn iff, aeigt her neue im ~reife her United Lutheran Church erfcljienene New Testament Commen- tary, Herbert C. Alleman, Editor. ~ott fagt \l3rof. !)'t.;it. ~tamm bom ~eminar in ®ettt)~liurg, \l3a., in hem ~a\Ji±er "The Historical Rela- tionships of Christianity" un±er anherm: "The Book of Daniel was a tract written for these troublous times when King Antiochus, enraged by the failure of his plans to conquer Egypt, determined to punish the Jews for the trouble they had been making him." "Antiochus Epiphanes was the Darius of the Book of Daniel. He was also the Nebuchadnezzar with the golden image and the fiery furnace, the king whose very fury to compel the Jews to abandon their religion was self-defeating." "As we have already seen in our study of the Book of Daniel, apocalyptic is essentially past history written in the future tense. The apocalyptist wrote history in the form of prediction. This does not mean that he deceived his readers by writing under the assumed name of some ancient worthy such as Daniel or Enoch or Ezra. The writers of the apocalypses and their first readers understood the literary device. It was only the succeeding generations, for whom their works were not imme- diately intended, who began to misunderstand them."7) ~m ~djru13 be£i ~a\Jiter~ hlirb nodj ljerborgeljoben, baf3 ~anier gana i:lllljingenoUlmen luat unh meljrere ;Q:'age fang fran! rag, 10 etgtiffen hlar cr bon hiefer Dffenbarung. ~a~ flinnen hlir hloljI berfteljen. nD hlerdj eine ;itiefe bes 81eicljtum~ I n 810m. 1 L 33-36. moller meriuuni:letUng luat er ubet ba~ ®efidj±, abet niemanb erfuljt es, unh et berridjtete hleiter f cinen ~ienf± am fOnigIidjen ~ofe. 2. IT i1 r Ii ri n get Sermon Study on Acts 5:34-42 Eisenach Epistle for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity The time of peaceful, undisturbed spreading of the Gospel was past. The words of the Savior Matt.l0:17 had begun to be fulfilled. The Apostles Peter and John had been imprisoned and forbidden to teach in the name of Jesus, Acts 4: 3, 18. Hearkening unto God more than unto the enemies, v. 19, they continued to preach salvation through the name of Jesus, performing many miracles, 5: 12,15,16, and great multitudes both of men and women were added to the number of believers, v. 14. Viewing with alarm 6) Princeton Theological Review, 22 (1924), 401. 7) ~jJriI~eft biefer ,8eitfdjrift, 6. 296. Sermon Study on Acts 5: 34-42 507 the rapid spread of the Word, the high priest, together with some of the other leaders of the Sadducees, again were filled with in- dignation, with fanatical zeal, and determined to put an end to this movement, 5:17,18; cpo Acts 4:1-3. Released by the angel, the apostles w:ent to the Temple and preached. Disturbed by this manifest interference of a higher authority and perplexed "where- unto this would grow," fearful of the people, who would certainly avenge any act of violence against the apostles, tormented by their own conscie:qce, v.28 (last words), the enemies make one more effort to stop at least the preaching of Jesus as the Messiah by bullying the apostles into silence. The Lord fulfilled His promise, Matt. 10: 19, 20. Before this august assembly the apostles boldly confessed Jesus of Nazareth as the only Savior, urged them who slew Jesus to repent and obtain forgiveness in His name, and pointblank refused to obey men rather than God, finally charging them indirectly with disobedience to God, 29-32. This bold, cou- rageous speech so enraged the Sanhedrin that they took counsel to put them to death, momentarily forgetting their fear of the people. At this critical moment, while the members of the coun- cil were deliberating, consulting together (note the imperfect), Gamaliel rose, and by his advice succeeded in preventing his colleagues from committing a rash act and its fatal consequences for themselves and in saving the apostles from an untimely death. V. 34: Then stood there up one in the Council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the Law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space. While, of course, there can be no absolute certainty in the matter, there is no reasonable doubt that the Gamaliel of our text and of Acts 22, 3 is identical with the renowned Gamaliel, who died about eighteen years before the destruction of Jeru- salem, A. D. 53.. What we know from other sources about the age, the character, the reputation, of Gamaliel the Elder, the grandson of the great Hillel, agrees so fully with what Luke tells us about the man, that practically all commentators identify the two. The school which his grandfather founded mediated between the rationalism, the worldliness, the epicureanism, of the Sadducees and the harsh, stern, literalistic legalism of the school of Shammai. Hillel was one of the most learned Rabbis of antiquity, a defender, in the main, of the old Jewish orthodoxy, yet able to adapt himself to changing circumstances, gifted with a flexibility altogether impossible to the school of Shammai, Hillel's great rival. Gamaliel seems to have inherited the intellectual power and the chief character traits of his grandfather. Luke tells us that he was "a Pharisee, a doctor of the Law, had in reputation among all the people." From other sources we learn that he was called the "Glory of the Law," and in the Mishnah his decisions are often 508 Sermon Study on Acts 5: 34-42 quoted, and usually favorably. In fact, he was the first of seven to be called Rabban, our teacher, a title conferring greater honor than the mere Rabbi, or Rab. The fixation of the annual calendar, of the new moons, the intercalary months, the festival days, was entrusted to him. The opinion and advice of such a man carried great weight, so that even his opponents did not dare to set it aside, partly because they saw the sanity, the reasonableness, of his posi- tion, partly because they feared to lose their prestige with the people if they would openly antagonize this influential man. At the same time Gamaliel was possessed of a broad-mindedness and toleration rarely met with in his sect. Many of his decisions and opinions as quoted in the Talmud lack the bigotry and sternness usually re- garded as characteristic of Pharisaism, and some seem to have been given for the very purpose of mitigating some of the harsher customs advocated by former teachers. His toleration in matters pertaining to religion went so far that in Ptolemais he bathed in a hall wherein stood a statue of the pagan goddess Aphrodite, an abhorring to the ordinary Jew, an abomination particularly to the Pharisee. His pupil Saul evidently did not imbibe from him his spirit of liberalism and toleration but only the veneration for the Law of the fathers. There is no foundation to the ancient tradition that Gamaliel became a convert to Christianity, was baptized by Peter and John, and that he was buried with Christian honors. Luke, writing after his death, would not have failed to mention his conversion if it had occurred. We shall see that our text gives not the slightest warrant for the belief that Gamaliel was a second Nicodemus, a secret disciple of Jesus. Luke, the master historian, with a few strokes of the pen, pictures to us the authority, the prestige, the tolerance, the dip- lomatic astuteness, of this leader of the Jews. "Then stood there up one in the Council." Gamaliel recognizes that a critical moment has come. A decision of some kind must be made. He is not ready to go so far as the Sadducees, yet is not willing to oppose them in the presence of the apostles, since that would make them eye- and ear-witnesses of a possible dissension among the members of the Council. This must be prevented. First arrive at some unified course of action; then let the apostles hear their unanimous de- cision. He rises to his feet, drawing the attention of the apostles away from the discussions of the Sadducees and that of the Sad- ducees from their angry argumentations. All eyes and minds are fixed on him, the man whose authority was recognized and ac- knowleged by all. He makes use of this authority by command- ing that the apostles "be put forth a little space," or, as it also may be translated, a little while. On a former occasion, Acts 4: 15, the Council had commanded the apostles to "go aside out of the Coun- Sermon Study on Acts 5: 34-42 509 cil." Here Gamaliel personally commands the servants to remove the apostles from the council chamber. His command is carried out at once; no one questions his right to demand their removal even before he has stated any reason for his action. And now he turns to the Sadducees in an effort to win them over to a more tolerant view of the situation. In order to gain his point, he no longer commands, but uses the language of tactful persuasion. "Ye men of Israel," "men, Israelites," he addresses them. That was the theocratic name of the Jews, reminding them that they were members of the covenant people. They are Israelites, God's own chosen people. That very fact ought to induce them to listen carefully to what he has to tell them as men so highly honored. Note that Peter, Acts 2: 22; 3: 12, and Paul, 13: 16, make use of this same exalted title to gain the attention and good will of their audience. Cpo also 2 Cor. 11: 22 and Acts 21: 28. He did not call them by their party name. His purpose was not to stress the differ- ence between Sadducees and Pharisees, to use this occasion to deepen the rift between the two parties. In this crisis the council must present a united front, and for that reason he sought an opportunity to persuade the Sadducees not to be swayed by in- tolerant hatred and fanatical zeal but to adopt a policy of modera- tion, of watchful waiting, of suspended judgment, until matters would perhaps adjust themselves without their interference. Take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. One might place a comma after 'tOU'tOLC;, as does Luther, or after EUU'tOi:C;, as in the Authorized Version. We prefer the latter construction. "In favor of the latter it may be said that the construction :rtQa.GGELV 'tL e:rtt 'tLVL is very common, whereas :rtQOGEXELV EUU'tOLC; is never found in connection with E:rtt, and that this render- ing rightly marks the evidently emphatic position of 'these men.''' (Expositor's Greek New Testament.) Gamaliel asks his colleagues to guard themselves, the Greek phrase being used quite frequently in the Septuagint for "~~1' the Niphal expressing in the Hebrew the same reflexive use of the term as the Greek t\uu'toi:c;. They should give heed to their own interests and welfare. He assures them that he is not speaking from personal motives, from self- interest; that he is concerned only for their own welfare. His in- tention is to warn them before they have gone too far, before they decide on a way of action which might cause them bitter regrets, which they might vainly wish to undo. Consider carefully what ye are about to do; guard against undue hastiness in doing away with these men. There is really no need to hurry your decision; on the contrary, any rashness on your part may prove harmful to you. In order to calm them, he first calls their attention to the historical facts that other seemingly dangerous movements of a politico-religious nature came to naught without their interference, 510 Sennon Study on Acts 5: 34-42 in the natural order of events. Only after having shown them the needlessness of any hurried action does he speak of the evil consequences for themselves which might result from any overt act of violence against the apostles. Gamaliel was a master of diplomacy, and it need not surprise us that he gained his point. Vv. 36, 37: For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number at men, about four hundred, joined themselves; who was slain, and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered and brought to naught. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days at the taxing and drew away much people after him; he also perished, and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. Gamaliel reminds his col- leagues of a fact well known to all of them. This was not the first time that the populace had been caught up in a movement which threatened to become nation-wide and to disturb the peace and welfare of the Jewish state. In fact, the past four or five decades had been a time, as Josephus states, when there were ten thousand disorders in Judea, which were like tumults because a great num- ber assumed a warlike attitude. (Ant., XVII: 10, 4.) After naming several leaders who had "gotten together a multitude of men of a profligate character," Josephus continues: "And now Judea was full of robberies; and as the several companies of the seditious lighted upon anyone to lead them, he was created a king imme- diately, in order to do mischief to the public." (XVII: 10,8.) Gamaliel names two of these leaders, both of whom had come to grief after disturbing the nation's peace, Theudas and Judas. Josephus also speaks of a Theudas, a magician, who persuaded the greater part of the people to follow him but was finally de- feated and put to death by the Romans. According to Josephus this Theudas revolted under Emperor Claudius, ca. 45 A. D., while Gamaliel speaks of a. Theudas living prior to the "days of the tax- ing," v.37. This is not a historical inaccuracy on the part of Luke, as some critics hold, but Luke and Josephus quite evidently speak of two different men, both rebelling, both having the same name, but both living decades apart. The Theudas of Luke succeeded in gathering only four hundred men, which is a long way from "the greater part of the people," who followed the Theudas of Josephus. Theudas undoubtedly was one of the leaders in the ten thousand disorders of which Josephus speaks, and it is not surprising that he is not named by Josephus, who does not even mention Hillel and Gamaliel, although they were men of far greater fame than an obscure leader of four hundred dissatisfied people. Theudas rose up, proudly claiming that he was "somebody," a prophet perhaps or a special messenger of God. He succeeded in gathering about himself four hundred people, only to meet with an Sermon Study on Acts 5: 34-42 511 untimely end. He was slain, his band scattered, the "somebody" brought to naught. At some later time, in the days of the taxing, ca. 6 or 7 A. D., Judas of Galilee (whom Josephus once calls the Gaulonite, perhaps because Gaulon [Golan] was his birthplace, and more frequently Judas the Galilean, because Galilee was the seat of his activity) drew away much people after him, txC1vOV, sufficient, many, enough to cause serious disturbance. While Theudas seems to have been only a petty chief, the revolt of Judas undoubtedly assumed more dangerous proportions. Josephus tells us that even after his death and the scattering of his followers they again banded together and under the leadership of his sons again rebelled some years later, until the three sons were slain by the Romans. But whether the disorder was of nation-wide ex- tent or embraced only a few followers, both leaders were slain, their followers scattered, dispersed; both movements came to naught. The underlying reason, though not here expressed by Gamaliel, is of course, in his opinion the godless character of the leaders and the ungodly spirit of rebellion which motivated the people. Acts 5: 38, 39: And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men and let them alone; fO?· if this counselor this work be of men, it will come to naught; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. Gamaliel sees that the waves of excited fanaticism no longer are running so high. The Sadducees are listening attentively. The time is ripe to make the application. "And now," xu.t 'tu vilv, with respect to the present situation, "I tell you, Refrain from these men," with- draw from them, cease to vex them (cp. Luke 4: 23; Acts 22: 29), "and let them alone." The best manuscripts have a