Acts Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 1
1. Dear Theophilos:
In the first book, I wrote about everything Yeshua set out to do and teach,
The first book is the Gospel of Luke, also addressed to Theophilos (see Lk 1:1&N). This "second book" could be called "Luke, Part II."
Everything Yeshua set out to do and teach is the content of the Gospel of Luke. Luke's subject in the present book is the accomplishments of the early believers, in particular how they succeeded in bringing Gentiles into the framework of Messianic faith without their having to convert to Judaism, so that trust in Yeshua would not be for Jews only. Today the problem is exactly the opposite: the cultural and religious superstructure of faith in Yeshua the Jewish Messiah has become so "Gentilized" that most Jews find it hard to believe that the New Testament is as much for them as for Gentiles; see 11:18&N. 15:1&N. On the name "Yeshua" ("Jesus") see Mt 1:1N. 

2. until the day when, after giving instructions through the Ruach HaKodesh to the emissaries whom he had chosen, he was taken up into heaven.
See Lk 24:44-51. Emissaries. See Mt 10:2-4&N. 

3. After his death he showed himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. During a period of forty days they saw him, and he spoke with them about the Kingdom of God.
He... gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. See 1С 15:3-8&NN; also Mattityahu 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and Yochanan 20-21.
He spoke with them about the Kingdom of God. This was the central topic of Yeshua's post-resurrection teaching. See vv. 6-7&N, also Mt 3:2N on "the Kingdom of Heaven." 

4. At one of these gatherings, he instructed them not to leave Yerushalayim but to wait for “what the Father promised, which you heard about from me.
5. For Yochanan used to immerse people in water; but in a few days, you will be immersed in the Ruach HaKodesh!”
Immerse or "baptize." See Mt 3:1 N. Yochanan's water immersion accomplished ritual purification of the body for chozrim bitshuvah ("persons who turn from sin to God in repentance"). Yeshua's promised immersion in the Holy Spirit would give power from God to continue living a holy life and to bring the Gospel effectively to others. This verse condenses Lk 3:16. 

6. When they were together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore self-rule to Isra’el?”
7. He answered, “You don’t need to know the dates or the times; the Father has kept these under his own authority.
8. But you will receive power when the Ruach HaKodesh comes upon you; you will be my witnesses both in Yerushalayim and in all Y’hudah and Shomron, indeed to the ends of the earth!”
Self-rule. According to Arndt and Gingrich's A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Greek ten basileian here means "the kingship, royal power, royal rule," and not "the kingdom" in the sense of the territory ruled by a king.

Lord, are you at this time going to restore self-rule to Israel? The expectation of virtually all Jews was that when the Messiah came he would deliver Israel from Roman oppression and become king over a Jewish nation reunited and sovereign as it had been under Kings Saul, David and Solomon, and again under the Maccabees (see Yn 10:22N)

and their Hasmonean descendants (164-63 B.C.E.). This is seen clearly at Yn 6:15, when "they were on the point of coming and seizing [Yeshua]. in order to make him king," to force God's promise concerning the Messiah that "the government shall be upon his shoulders" (Isaiah 9:5-6(6-7), Lk 1:79N). No one grasped Yeshua's teaching that he had not come this first time to rule, but to die "a ransom for many" and be resurrected the third day (Mk 10:33-34, 45). Even his talmidim misunderstood and continued to do so after the predicted events had taken place. At vv. 7-8 Yeshua filled this gap in their knowledge, focussing their attention not on his return but on their task; and we learn later (3:21) that Kefa got the point.

Nevertheless, there is a different point which many Christians need to learn from Yeshua's answer, namely, that God will indeed restore self-rule to Israel. There is an ancient, widespread and pernicious Christian teaching that the Church is the "New" or "Spiritual" Israel, having replaced the Jews as God's people. In this view — known variously as Replacement theology. Covenant theology. Kingdom Now theology, Dominionism, Reconstructionism and (in England) Restorationism — God's promises to Israel were nullified when "the Jews" refused to accept Jesus (never mind that all the first believers were Jews). This false theology, impugning the character of God by suggesting that he will welch on his promises, has provided apparent justification for many antisemitic acts in the Church. It also lies behind most Christian protestations that the present-day regathering of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel is without theological or biblical significance.

Yeshua's answer to his disciples' question as to whether he will now restore self-rule to Israel is, "You don't need to know the dates or the times; the Father has kept these under his own authority." From this we learn, contrary to the teaching of Replacement Theology, that the kingdom certainly will be restored to Israel. The only question is when, and that is not presently ours to know. "The secret things belong to Adonai our God" (Deuteronomy 29:28(29)). For a modern presentation of the Replacement theology heresy see David Chilton, Paradise Restored (Fort Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1985). A book by a popular Christian author refuting Reconstructionism and revealing its antisemitism is Hal Lindsey, The Road to Holocaust (New York: Bantam Books, 1989); another refutation is H. Wayne House and Thomas Ice, Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse? (Portland, Oregon: Multnomah Press, 1988).

To be Yeshua's witnesses in both word and deed means communicating the verbal content of the Gospel and living God's way and not our own (Lk 9:23-25&N). This is the central task of the people of God, but it can be accomplished only with power from the Ruach HaKodesh. Compare the Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20, Mk 16:15-18, Lk 24:47^9, Yn 20:21-23).

The talmidim are to start evangelizing where they are, in Yerushalayim. the center of the Jewish people. Then they are to move out into all Y'hudah (Judea, the Jewish countryside) and Shomron (Samaria, populated by half-Jews; see Yn 4.9N), and finally, in fact, to go to the ends of the earth, that is, to reach Gentile peoples. The verse serves as a table of contents for the book of Acts. Chapters 1-6 deal with Yerushalayim, 6:1-8:3 shows how the Yerushalayim community was forced into the surrounding area, and Chapters 8-9 include several instances of ministry in Y'hudah and Shomron. Beginning with Chapter 10 we are introduced to the gradual spread of the Gospel among the Gentiles, first through Kefa but especially through Sha'ul. Numerous successes are reported, and the book concludes with Sha'ul's successfully communicating the Gospel in the very heart and center of Gentile civilization, Rome.

The Body of the Messiah has for the most part not taken seriously Yeshua's injunction to communicate the Gospel first to the Jewish people; see Ro 1:16&N. In one sense the Gospel has already reached the ends of the earth — the Bible, or at least parts of it, have been translated into some 2,000 languages. Yet this does not excuse what has been, by and large, the Messianic Community's failure to reach the Jewish people with the Gospel. The Church, instead of developing mistaken theology to excuse its neglect (Yn 14:6N) or becoming exasperated when Jews reject their message, should communicate God's love and truth while seeking his wisdom on how to address issues Jewish people raise in connection with Yeshua, the New Testament, Christianity and religion in general. My own books, including this one, aim to forward the endeavor. 

9. After saying this, he was taken up before their eyes; and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10. As they were staring into the sky after him, suddenly they saw two men dressed in white standing next to them.
11. The men said, “You Galileans! Why are you standing, staring into space? This Yeshua, who has been taken away from you into heaven, will come back to you in just the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
A cloud hid him.... Yeshua... will come back in just the same way, fulfilling Daniel 7:13 and Yeshua's predictions (Ml 26:64; Mk 14:62; Lk 21:27; Rv 1:7. 13; 14:14). In the Tanakh a cloud often expresses God's glory (e.g., the pillar of cloud, Exodus 13:21), his Sh 'khinah ("manifest presence," MJ I:2-3N). The reply of the two men dressed in white, evidently angels (see 7:53N, MJ 13:2N), supports our hope (Ti 2:13) that Yeshua is coming back and at the same time implies a partial answer to the disciples' question in v. 6: Yeshua will restore self-rule to Israel and bring peace to the earth when he comes back to you in just the same way as you saw him go into heaven. 

12. Then they returned the Shabbat-walk distance from the Mount of Olives to Yerushalayim.
The Shabbat-walk distance from the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is east of what is today called the Old City, which corresponds (very approximately) to what was meant anciently by Yerushalayim. The rabbinic rules for Shahbat, with certain exceptions, limit walking outside a walled city to 2,0(X) cubits (about 0.57 mile). According to Lk 24:50-51 Yeshua left his talmidim and ascended into heaven from Beit-Anyah. which is on the mount's south slope. The olive grove in the garden of Gat-Sh'manim. on its west slope, has trees that may have been living in Yeshua's time. Jewish tradition, based on Zechariah 14:3-5, says that the Messiah will appear on the Mount of Olives; vv. 9-12 tie Yeshua's first coming and his departure with his reappearance in a manner that will fulfill that expectation. 

13. After entering the city, they went to the upstairs room where they were staying. The names of the emissaries were Kefa, Ya‘akov, Yochanan, Andrew, Philip, T’oma, Bar-Talmai, Mattityahu, Ya‘akov Ben-Halfai, Shim‘on “the Zealot,” and Y’hudah Ben-Ya‘akov.
The upstairs room where they were staying, possibly the same as in Lk 22:12, possibly another house or apartment in the city (2:2 below), or possibly a room in the Temple complex made available for meeting (Lk 24:53).

The traditional English names of the eleven emissaries named are Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Thomas. Bartholomew. Matthew, James the son of Alpheus. Simon the Zealot and Judas the brother (or son) of James. 

14. These all devoted themselves single-mindedly to prayer, along with some women, including Miryam (Yeshua’s mother), and his brothers.
Singlemindedly. Greek omothumadon, used 10 times in Acts. The community of believers must be united in heart and mind in order to have power in prayer. The word is used in the Septuagint at Exodus 19:8, where the people of Israel "answered together [Hebrew yachdav, Greek omothumadon], 'All that Adonai has said we will do.'"

Along with the women. Judaism always granted an important place to women; however, in the synagogue men and women are traditionally separated by a dividing wall or curtain (m 'chitzah; see Ep 2:14N). The reason given is that it diminishes sexual attention and passion, which interfere with prayer. But in a powerful prayer meeting such concerns vanish as all turn to God. Moreover, this group functioned more like a family than a congregational assembly. Nevertheless, it is not clear that the phrase, "along with the women," implies that women and men were together.

Miryam (Yeshua's mother), and his brothers. See Mt 1:16-2:11, Lk 1:26-2:52, Yn 2:4,7:3-5 and notes there. Yeshua's family, however uncertain they may have been before, were convinced of Yeshua's Messiahship after his resurrection. 

15. During this period, when the group of believers numbered about 120, Kefa stood up and addressed his fellow-believers:
16. “Brothers, the Ruach HaKodesh spoke in advance through David about Y’hudah, and these words of the Tanakh had to be fulfilled. He was guide for those who arrested Yeshua —
17. he was one of us and had been assigned a part in our work.”
18. (With the money Y’hudah received for his evil deed, he bought a field; and there he fell to his death. His body swelled up and burst open, and all his insides spilled out.
Fell to his death (or: "swelled up"). At Mt 27:3-10 we read that the cohanim bought the field and used it as a cemetery for foreigners, hence its name (v. 19), and that Y'hudah from K'riot died by hanging himself. The differences between the two accounts can be resolved thus: the cohanim considered the money Y'hudah returned as his and bought the field in his name. The Greek for "fell to his death" means, literally, "having become prone." Augustine harmonizes by suggesting he hanged himself and then fell. 

19. This became known to everyone in Yerushalayim, so they called that field Hakal-D’ma — which in their language means “Field of Blood”).
Chakal-D'ma is Aramaic.
Their language. People spoke both Aramaic and Hebrew; the New Testament quotes words from both languages.
Field of Blood, bought with blood-money, where Y'hudah spilled his own blood, and/or where foreigners were buried. All three explanations are apposite. 

20. “Now,” said Kefa, “it is written in the book of Psalms, 'Let his estate become desolate, let there be no one to live in it' (Psalm 69:26(25)); and 'Let someone else take his place as a supervisor' (Psalm 109:8).''
21. Therefore, one of the men who have been with us continuously throughout the time the Lord Yeshua traveled around among us,
22. from the time Yochanan was immersing people until the day Yeshua was taken up from us — one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.”
23. They nominated two men — Yosef Bar-Sabba, surnamed Justus, and Mattityahu.
Yosef Bar-Sabba, surnamed Justus. Like many Jews today he had both a Gentile name (Latin), meaning "righteous," and a Jewish one (Aramaic), meaning "son of the elder"; or possibly it should be rendered "Bar-Shabba," "son of Shabbat." 

24. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen
Lord. See Mt 1:20&N. 7:20&N. 

25. to take over the work and the office of emissary that Y’hudah abandoned to go where he belongs.”
26. Then they drew lots to decide between the two, and the lot fell to Mattityahu. So he was added to the eleven emissaries.
They drew lots. This was a recognized way of ascertaining God's will. Proverbs 16:33 says, "The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole decision is from Adonai" which means that what is attributed to chance, fate, luck or coincidence is determined by God. As Albert Einstein put it in objecting to quantum theory's use of probability mathematics, "God does not play dice with the universe."

This second Mattityahu (the first we encounter at Mt 9:9), was added to the eleven emissaries, not Sha'ul (Paul), as some Christians suppose. Sha'ul was indeed an emissary (see the first verse in most of his letters), but not one of the Twelve because he did not meet the requirements (vv. 21-22). 

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