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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
Ver. 1. S. Luke, who was the author of this history, alludes, in this verse, to his gospel, which he calls his first discourse. In that he informs us, not only of the actions, but also the doctrines of our Saviour. These words, to do and to teach, are the abridgment of the whole gospel: here he gives us the Acts of the Apostles, that is, an history of their travels and preaching. In the beginning of this work he speaks of all the apostles, and what they did before their dispersion. As soon as he comes to the mention of S. Paul, he takes notice of no one else, but is entirely taken up with the narrative of his actions. He addresses his book to Theophilus, which signifies a friend of God, or one who loves God, as if he intended to dedicate it to all the faithful, who believed in, and loved God. But it is more probable that this was some distinct person, well known to S. Luke, and illustrious for his birth, because he gave him the title of kratiste, most excellent. Calmet.
Ver. 2. Until the day on which, giving commandments by the Holy Ghost to the apostles whom he had chosen, he was taken up. As the Scripture was written without distinction of verses, and without any stops, or commas, which were added afterwards) the construction, and joining of the words in this verse, is ambiguous. The question is, with what part of the verse these words, by the Holy Ghost, are to be joined. The sense might be, 1. that he was taken up by the Holy Ghost: but this is generally rejected. 2. That he gave his commandments by the Holy Ghost to his apostles; that is, says S. Chrys. that he gave them spiritual commands, that came from the Holy Ghost, or from his holy Spirit. 3. The most probable exposition seems to be, that he gave his special commandments to his apostles, or to those whom he chose to be his apostles, by the Holy Ghost, or by his holy and divine spirit. Wi. — The power to preach, to baptize, to remit sins, and generally the whole commission and charge of the government of his Church after him in his name, and with his authority; which government was given them, together with the Holy Ghost, to assist them therein for ever. B.
Ver. 3. Appearing, &c. Why did he not appear to all, but only to his disciples? Because to many of them, who did not know the mystery, he would have seemed a phantom. For if the disciples themselves were diffident, and terrified, and required to touch him with their hands, how would others have been affected? But we know from their miracles, the truth of the resurrection, which is made evident to all succeeding generations. Perhaps the apostles did not perform miracles. How then was the world converted? This is a fact which cannot be denied, and that it should have been brought about by twelve poor illiterate fishermen, without miracles, would be the greatest of all miracles, far beyond the reach of all human means. S. Chrys. hom. i. c. 1. on Acts. — "And speaking of things pertaining to the kingdom of God," as we read in the Greek, and in the Protestant version, that is, pertaining to the Church, which is the kingdom of God, ta peri thV basileiaV tou qeou, which plainly makes for unwritten tradition. Estius.
Ver. 4. And eating with them. This is a literal translation from the vulgar Latin. But the Prot. translation from some Greek copies, would have it, And being assembled together, he commanded them, &c. Mr. Bois defends the Latin Vulg. and even by the authority of S. Chrys. who doubtless understood the Greek text, as well as any one, and who takes the Greek word here to signify eating: for he observes that the apostles elsewhere prove Christ's resurrection by his eating and drinking with them. Acts x. 4. S. Jer. also says, the derivation of the Greek word, is from eating salt together. Wi.
Ver. 5. Baptized with the Holy Ghost, that is, cleansed, and sanctified by the plentiful graces he shall pour upon you. Wi.
Ver. 6-7. Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom of Israel? Some of them, as S. Chrys. observes, had still their thoughts upon a temporal kingdom of the Messias. Christ, to divert them from such imaginations, tells them, their business is to be witnesses of his doctrine and miracles, particularly of his resurrection, even unto the utmost bounds of the earth, to all the nations of the world. Wi.
Ver. 9. He was raised up. Raised himself up, and ascended, &c. Wi.
Ver. 10. Behold two men, that is, two angels, stood by them in white apparel. Wi.
Ver. 11. So shall he come, as you have seen him going. This word going, says S. Chrys. sufficiently intimates, that he ascended by his own power: for so will he come by his own power to judge the world. Wi. — Jesus Christ shall come on the last day, in the same body, in the same majesty, to judge the living and the dead. This he had likewise promised, in more than one place of the gospel, speaking of the vengeance, which he will exercise on the city of Jerusalem. S. Jerom, S. Hilary, and many other ancients, have believed that the Son of God will appear again on Mount Olivet, and that all people shall be assembled to judgment. S. Jerom. super Joel iii. 2. S. Hilary, super Matt. xxiv. 32. — And that same body, which thus ascended to heaven, and which will thus descend, is given us in the blessed Sacrament. "O miracle! exclaims S. Chrysostom, He that sitteth with his Father above, is at the same time handled by men below. Jesus Christ ascending to heaven, both hath his flesh with him above, and hath left it with us below. Elias being taken up, left his disciple, Eliseus, his mantle and double spirit, but the Son of Man ascending, left his own flesh for us." L. iii. de Sacerd. hom. 2. ad pop. Ant. hom. de divit. et paup. — Sulpicius Severus, and S. Paulinus, assure us, that the marks of the feet of our Saviour were imprinted in the place off which he rose to heaven; and S. Aug. informs us, that many in his time went to Judea, to venerate these sacred marks. Ven. Bede testifies the same in the eighth age. In the time of Constantine the great, the empress Helen built a church on the place. Calmet.
Ver. 12. Sabbath-day's journey. It cannot now be precisely determined what this distance was, but it is most probable, that it was about a mile. On particular occasions, it perhaps was allowed to exceed a little. Calmet.
Ver. 13-14. Into an upper room, to be more retired in prayer. There they were persevering with one mind in prayer. These few words denote to us three dispositions to receive the Holy Ghost. 1. Prayer. 2. Perseverance in it. 3. To be of one mind, perfectly united in charity, and the love of one another. Wi. — This is the last mention that is made in Scripture of the blessed Virgin Mary. She lived the rest of her time with the Christians (as here she is particularly named and noted amongst them) and especially with S. John, the apostle, to whom our Lord recommended her. S. John xix 26. 27. She undoubtedly communicated to the evangelists many circumstances relative to the actions, words, and mysteries of her divine Son.
Ver. 15. Peter, rising up, &c. Peter, says S. Chrys. on this place, who was prince, or chief of the apostolical college, who had authority over them all, who by his place and dignity, might, without them, have chosen, and appointed a new apostle to succeed Judas, (Christ having said to him, confirm thy brethren,) &c. yet he consults them. Wi. — Here Peter acts and ordains in virtue of his supremacy, and the other apostles agree to his appointment.
Ver. 18. Possessed a field. Judas is here said to have done, what was done by others, with the thirty pieces of money, the reward of his iniquity. And being hanged, that is, as S. Matt. says, (c. xxvii. 5.) having hanged himself, he burst asunder. The Greek has it, falling headlong, as perhaps he did, by the judgment of God, from the place or tree where he hanged himself. Wi. — Judas did not possess the potter's field, but he furnished the price to buy it, giving back the thirty pieces of silver. Menochius. — We often say in common, that we have done what happens in consequence of any action of ours, though it was not in our first intention. Calmet.
Ver. 20. His bishoprick. The words were prophetically spoken in the Psalms, of the traitor Judas. Wi. — Let their habitation. In some MS. copies, in both Greek and Syriac, we read his. In the Psalms, the text was written against the Jews, the persecutors of Christ in general; but in this place, Peter applies it to Judas in particular. Estius in dif. loca.
Ver. 21. Came in, and went out among us. That is, conversed with us. Wi.
Ver. 25. To his own place of perdition, which he brought himself to. Wi.
Ver. 26. And he gave them lots, which they might lawfully do, when they knew that both of them were fit, and every way qualified for the office. Wi. — Lots. This method of deciding the election of ministers by lots, is one of those extraordinary methods which was inspired by God; but can seldom or ever be imitated. Where both candidates appeared equally worthy, as in the present case, and human judgment cannot determine which is to be preferred, it cannot be said that it was wrong to decide it by lots. Thus were avoided any of the evil consequences which might have happened by one party being preferred before the other. S. Augustin observes, that in a doubtful case, where neither part is bad, to decide by lots is not in itself wrong. Sors enim non aliquid mali est, sed res est in dubitatione humana divinam indicans voluntatem. In Psalm xxx. A.