Acts Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 5
1. But there was a man named Hananyah who, with his wife Shappirah, sold some property
2. and, with his wife’s knowledge, withheld some of the proceeds for himself; although he did bring the rest to the emissaries.
The sin of Chananyah and Shappirah was not that they reserved some of the proceeds for themselves but that they tried to create the impression that they had not (v. 4). 

3. Then Kefa said, “Why has the Adversary so filled your heart that you lie to the Ruach HaKodesh and keep back some of the money you received for the land?
The Adversary, Satan. See Mt 4:1N. 

4. Before you sold it, the property was yours; and after you sold it, the money was yours to use as you pleased. So what made you decide to do such a thing? You have lied not to human beings but to God!”
You lie to the Ruach HaKodesh.... you have lied... to God. The Holy Spirit is ihus identified with God. 

5. On hearing these words, Hananyah fell down dead; and everyone who heard about it was terrified.
One sometimes hears presented as Christian doctrine the second-century heresy of Marcion that the New Testament preaches a superior God of love, while the Old Testament God is an inferior deity concerned with judgment, wrath, justice and the carrying out of the details of the Law. In the present incident and at vv. 10-11 we see that the New Testament is, so far as justice and judgment are concerned, the same as the Tanakh. God is One. He cannot abide sin. Fraud is sin, and it is punished. Sometimes the punishment for sin is delayed, but in this instance the immediacy of the judgment showed everyone that God is real and means business (compare 1С 5:5, although the context is very different). New Testament love is not a feeling but right action, as Judaism has always taught. "Children, let us not love with words and talk, but with actions and in reality!" (1 Yn3:18) 

6. The young men got up, wrapped his body in a shroud, carried him out and buried him.
7. Some three hours later, his wife came in, unaware of what had happened.
8. Kefa challenged her: “Tell me, is it true that you sold the land for such-and-such a price?” “Yes,” she answered, “that is what we were paid for it.”
9. But Kefa came back at her, “Then why did you people plot to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The men who buried your husband are at the door. They will carry you out too!”
10. Instantly she collapsed at his feet and died. The young men entered, found her there dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
11. As a result of this, great fear came over the whole Messianic community, and indeed over everyone who heard about it.
12. Meanwhile, through the emissaries many signs and miracles continued to be done among the people. United in mind and purpose, the believers met in Shlomo’s Colonnade;
13. and no one else dared to join them. Nevertheless, the people continued to regard them highly;
14. and throngs of believers were added to the Lord, both men and women.
15. They went so far as to bring the sick into the streets and lay them on mattresses and stretchers, so that at least Kefa’s shadow might fall on them as he passed by.
What sounds to modern ears like a charlatan's stunt not only retlected genuine faith but was rewarded by complete healing success. Does God heal miraculously today? Some people suppose that all healing ministries are run by fakers pursuing easy money. But even physicians who believe neither in God nor in miracles will attest to extraordinary and inexplicable cures for which they deserve no credit, and they will agree that the label "psychosomatic" will go only so far in accounting for them. In other words: yes, God still heals. 

16. Crowds also gathered from the towns around Yerushalayim, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits; and every one of them was healed.
17. But the cohen hagadol and his associates, who were members of the party of the Tz’dukim, were filled with jealousy.
18. They arrested the emissaries and put them in the public jail.
19. But during the night, an angel of Adonai opened the doors of the prison, led them out and said,
20. “Go, stand in the Temple court and keep telling the people all about this new life!”
21. After hearing that, they entered the Temple area about dawn and began to teach. Now the cohen hagadol and his associates came and called a meeting of the Sanhedrin (that is, of Isra’el’s whole assembly of elders) and sent to the jail to have them brought.
22. But the officers who went did not find them in the prison. So they returned and reported,
23. “We found the jail securely locked and the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened it, we found no one inside!”
24. When the captain of the Temple police and the head cohanim heard these things, they were puzzled and wondered what would happen next.
25. Then someone came and reported to them, “Listen! The men you ordered put in prison are standing in the Temple court, teaching the people!”
26. The captain and his officers went and brought them, but not with force; because they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
27. They conducted them to the Sanhedrin, where the cohen hagadol demanded of them,
28. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name! Look here! you have filled Yerushalayim with your teaching; moreover, you are determined to make us responsible for this man’s death!”
29. Kefa and the other emissaries answered, “We must obey God, not men.
30. The God of our fathers (Exodus 3:15) raised up Yeshua, whereas you men killed him by having him hanged on a stake (Deuteronomy 21:22–23)
Stake, Greek xulon, which KJV renders "tree" here and at four other places (10:39, 13:29; Ga 3:13; 1 Ke 2:24), all referring to what Yeshua was hanged on until he died. Yeshua was not hanged on a tree, but on a stavros, usually translated "cross" and in the JNT translated "execution-stake," as explained in Mt IO:38N. The word "xulon" is used instead of siavros in these five places because all of them quote or allude to Deuteronomy 21:22-23, where the Hebrew word is '"etz" normally rendered into Septuagint Greek as "xulon." Both Hebrew 'etz and Greek xulon can mean "tree, wood, stake, stick," depending on context. In Deuteronomy 21:22-23, where the subject is hanging, an 'etz is any piece of wood on which a person can be hanged, i.e., a stake (perhaps if metal gallows had existed, a different word would have been used). If Luke had meant a tree and not a stake, the Greeks had a word for it, "dendron" which he could have used but didn't. Therefore, while at Mt 26:47 and Mk 14:48 xulon means "stick," at Lk 23:31 and Rv 18:12 it means "wood," and at Rv 2:7 it has to mean "tree," here it means "stake." See also Ga 3:13N and 1 Ke 2:24N.

In this name... this man's death. The name of Yeshua is not mentioned in the direct quote from the cohen hagadol. Today some Orthodox Jews refuse to speak the names "Yeshua," "Jesus," or even "Yeshu," but say only "that man." See Mt 1:21N. 

31. God has exalted this man at his right hand (Psalm 110:1) as Ruler and Savior, in order to enable Isra’el to do t’shuvah and have her sins forgiven.
32. We are witnesses to these things; so is the Ruach HaKodesh, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Kefa never wastes an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. Here he knows he must be brief (as at 4:8-12), for the Sanhedrin will not patiently endure a sermon. Yet his message always, even to these determined opponents, is one of hope, one which offers salvation.
We must obey God, not men. See 4:19N.
You... killed him. See 2:22-23N. 

33. On hearing this, the members of the Sanhedrin were infuriated and wanted to put the emissaries to death.
34. But one of the members of the Sanhedrin rose to his feet, a Parush named Gamli’el, a teacher of the Torah highly respected by all the people. He ordered the men put outside for a little while
Gamli'el (Gamaliel) I, known in Jewish history as Rabban Gamli'el the Elder. He was the first to carry the title "Rabban" ("our master, our great one") rather than the more common "Rahbr ("my master, my great one"). His name means "God is also for me." He is "the Elder" because he was the first of six Gamli'els, of whom his grandson Gamli'el II was best known.

Gamli'el I was the grandson of Hillel and the leader of his school of disciples, Beit-Hillel (see Mt 19:3N). At one point, as may be inferred from his title, "Rabban" he was head of the Sanhedrin, although at the time of the present verse he was only a member. He was a Parush ("Pharisee"; see Mt 3:7N) and A teacher of the Torah (Greek nomodidaskalos, "law teacher"), at whose feet Sha'ul of Tarsus (Paul) sat (22:3&N). That he was highly respected by all the people is confirmed in the Mishna:

"When Rahban Gamli'el the Elder died, the glory of the Torah came to an end; and purity and holiness [Hebrew/? 'rishut, "separation," related to Parush] came toanend."(Sotah9:15)

While the Second Temple still stood Gamli'el laid the groundwork for the triumph of liberal Pharisaism under Rabbi Yochanan ben-Zakkai after the Second Temple's destruction. Among his takkanot (Rabbinic regulations modifying and applying the written Torah; literally, "improvements, repairs") were decrees allowing greater movement to certain groups on Shabbat (Mishna, Rosh HaShanah 2:5), forbidding a husband to annul divorce proceedings without his wife's knowledge (Gittin 4:2), and permitting a widow to remarry after only one witness (rather than two) testifies to her husband's death (Yevamot 16:7). He was in close touch with Diaspora Jews, for three of his letters to various communities outside Israel are preserved in the Talmud.

Gamli'el's counsel for moderation (vv. 35-39) was accepted this time (vv. 39-40) but abandoned under what was perceived as greater provocation (7:51-58). His moderation may have been due to a generous spirit, a desire to protect the Pharisees from Sadducean hostility, or a genuine sensitivity to God's spirit at work, even though he himself was not a believer. Christian apocryphal literature, seizing on his relatively sanguine treatment of the Messianic Jews, reports that he came to faith in Yeshua, but there is no independent evidence for it. 

35. and then addressed the court: “Men of Isra’el, take care what you do to these people.
36. Some time ago, there was a rebellion under Todah, who claimed to be somebody special; and a number of men, maybe four hundred, rallied behind him. But upon his being put to death, his whole following was broken up and came to nothing.
Todah (English versions: "Theudas"). Not the Todah mentioned by Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 20:5:1), since this would imply a double error by Luke the careful historian, for that Todah lived after Y'hudah HaG'lili (v. 37) and after Gamli'el was speaking. The Todah mentioned in this verse, otherwise unknown to history, led one of the many uprisings during the years following the death of Herod the Great in 4 B.C.E. 

37. After this, Y’hudah HaG’lili led another uprising, back at the time of the enrollment for the Roman tax; and he got some people to defect to him. But he was killed, and all his followers were scattered.
Y'hudah HaG'lili, "Judas the Galilean"; according to Josephus, he was known as Judas of Gamla on the Golan Heights. In consequence of his revolt at the time of the enrollment for the Roman tax, which took place in 6 C.E. (see Lk 2:2&N), the Zealot Party (Mt 10:4N) formed itself and became a major provocation leading to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 66-70 C.E. Or, as F. F. Bruce wrote in The Acts of the Apostles, "Gamaliel was unduly optimistic if he thought it [Y'hudah's revolt] had come to naught" (p. 148). According to Josephus (Wanof the Jews 7:8:1) Y'hudah HaG'lili was the grandfather of El'azar ben-Ya'ir, defender of Matzada (73 C.E.) — evidently revolution ran in the family. 

38. So in the present case, my advice to you is not to interfere with these people, but to leave them alone. For if this idea or this movement has a human origin, it will collapse.
39. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them; you might even find yourselves fighting God!” They heeded his advice.
At the time of Herod Agrippa all but three of the seventy members of the Sanhedrin were Tz'dukim. Therefore in suppressing the Gospel the Sanhedrin was judging it by two Sadducee criteria:
(1) it proclaimed resurrection, which the Tz'dukim denied, and
(2) it proclaimed "another king, Yeshua" (17:7), which, if true (compare Yn 18:33-38), would be politically subversive, as well as destructive of the cozy working relationship the Sadducees had with the occupying Romans. The Gospel is political in other ways too — it says to love your enemies, to return good for evil, and to go to war (but our weapons are not carnal, 2C 10:3-5; and our adversaries are not human but demonic, Ep 6:10-17).

Christian polemicists have used these verses to show that the mere fact of the Church's survival and growth is a fulfillment of Gamli'el's prophecy. Jewish polemicists, on the other hand, assert that the Jewish community's survival under pressure and persecution for two thousand years proves that the Jews are God's people. Of course, mere survival of a group of people does not prove it is from God; but I believe that in fact both are right. At least one Christian writer applies these verses — midrashically, one may say — lo today's Messianic Judaism:

"It is too early to assess the full significance of this growing movement. The Jewish community inevitably sees it as a threat and, coming at a time of insecurity in so many other ways, it has created a certain amount of unease. Some Gentile Christian churches and groups who would normally be very much in support of Jewish Christians have found this new development equally disturbing. Some have felt it right to attack the new movement, others to accept it with a certain amount of reluctance. One thing is certain: nothing quite like it has been seen since the days of the Acts of the Apostles. Gamaliel's advice to the leaders of the Jewish people (Acts 5) might be equally good advice for Gentile Christians at this time: 'If this undertaking is of men it will fail, but if it is of God you will not be able to overthrow them.'"(Walter Barker, A Fountain Opened: A Short History of the Church's Ministry Among the Jews, 1809-1982, London: Olive Press, 1983, p. 4) 

40. After summoning the emissaries and flogging them, they commanded them not to speak in the name of Yeshua, and let them go.
41. The emissaries left the Sanhedrin overjoyed at having been considered worthy of suffering disgrace on account of him.
On account of him, literally, "over the name," and therefore, alternatively, "for the sake of HaShem." HaShem ("the Name") is a euphemism for YHVH. Alternatively, "the name" here stands for Yeshua; see w. 28-29&N. See also 3 Yn 7&N. Suffering for the sake of God is discussed at 7:59-60N. 

42. And not for a single day, either in the Temple court or in private homes, did they stop teaching and proclaiming the Good News that Yeshua is the Messiah.

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