Acts Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 8
1. and Sha’ul gave his approval to his murder. Starting with that day, there arose intense persecution against the Messianic Community in Yerushalayim; all but the emissaries were scattered throughout the regions of Y’hudah and Shomron.
Sha'ul gave his approval, apparently through his vote in the Sanhedrin. See 7:58&N, 26:10&N. 

2. Some godly men buried Stephen and mourned him deeply.
3. But Sha’ul set out to destroy the Messianic Community — entering house after house, he dragged off both men and women and handed them over to be put in prison.
This verse and 9:1-2, along with the background of 7:58 and 8:1, show that Sha'ul in his zeal for traditional Judaism (Ro 10:2&N; Ga 1:13-14&NN, 4:18) was a formidable persecutor of Messianic Jews (Pp 3:6), possibly their worst persecutor (1 Ti 1:13-16&NN). 

4. However, those who were scattered announced the Good News of the Word wherever they went.
For the Messiah's stated purposes (1:8) the scattering of the believers (v. 1), which seemed a disaster, proved a blessing; because they announced the Good News of the Word, telling about Yeshua, wherever they went. As Yosef said to his brothers after an earlier persecution, "You intended evil for me, but God meant it for good" (Genesis 50:20). Compare Ro 8:28. 

5. Now Philip went down to a city in Shomron and was proclaiming the Messiah to them;
Philip. Not the emissary but the Greek-speaking Jew (6:5). because the emissaries remained in Yerushalayim (v. 1). Shomron. See Yn 4:9N. 

6. and the crowds were paying close attention to what Philip said, as they heard and saw the miraculous signs he was doing.
7. For many people were having unclean spirits driven out of them, shrieking; also many paralytics and crippled persons were being healed;
8. so that there was great joy in that city.
9. But there was a man named Shim‘on in the city who for some time had been practicing magic and astonishing the nation of Shomron, claiming to be somebody great.
10. Everyone gave heed to him, from the lowest to the highest, saying, “This man is the power of God called ‘The Great Power’.”
This man is the power of God called "The Great Power." Shim'on may have been just a magician who liked having powers and controlling people. Or he may have been the leader of a heretical Jewish Gnostic sect. Gnostics usually postulated various spiritual entities in a hierarchy leading to God and prescribed ascetic or orgiastic practices as means for attaining higher spiritual levels in the hierarchy. "The Great Power" would have been one of the levels in his doctrinal system. He may well have been in touch with the supernatural; but it would have been with demons, not the power of God. Shim'on's sin (vv. 18-23) confirms his ungodliness. 

11. They followed him because for a considerable time he had amazed them with his magic.
12. But when they came to believe Philip, as he announced the Good News concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Yeshua the Messiah, they were immersed, both men and women.
13. Moreover, Shim‘on himself came to believe; and after being immersed, he attached himself closely to Philip; and he was amazed as he saw the miraculous signs and great works of power that kept taking place.
Shim'on... came to believe and was immersed. Some would say he had "believed" only intellectually and had not been truly born again (see Ya 2:14—26), so that, having fooled Philip, he was immersed by mistake. Others would regard him as genuinely saved but still "carnal"; that is, he had not yet renounced obviously sinful behavior patterns. One's opinion on this might affect one's attitude toward v. 24&N. 

14. When the emissaries in Yerushalayim heard that Shomron had received the Word of God, they sent them Kefa and Yochanan,
15. who came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Ruach HaKodesh.
16. For until then he had not come upon any of them; they had only been immersed into the name of the Lord Yeshua.
17. Then, as Kefa and Yochanan placed their hands on them, they received the Ruach HaKodesh.
18. Shim‘on saw that the Spirit was given when the emissaries placed their hands on them, and he offered them money.
19. “Give this power to me, too,” he said, “so that whoever I place my hands on will receive the Ruach HaKodesh.”
20. But Kefa said to him, “Your silver go to ruin — and you with it, for thinking the free gift of God can be bought!
21. You have no part at all in this matter; because in the eyes of God, your heart is crooked.
22. So repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord. Perhaps you will yet be forgiven for holding such a thought in your heart.
23. For I see that you are extremely bitter and completely under the control of sin!”
24. Shim‘on answered, “Pray to the Lord for me, so that none of the things you have spoken about will happen to me.”
It is not clear whether Shim'on's words sprang from genuine repentance or were themselves only more sham, deception and hypocrisy. See v. 13&N. 

25. Then, after giving a thorough witness and speaking the Word of the Lord, Kefa and Yochanan started back to Yerushalayim, announcing the Good News to many villages in Shomron.
26. An angel of Adonai said to Philip, “Get up, and go southward on the road that goes down from Yerushalayim to ‘Azah, the desert road.”
See Paragraph (2) of 7:4N.
The road that goes down from Yerushalayim to 'A/a. '/\/;i Road is an important thoroughfare in modem Jerusalem; the ancient road continued toward the sea west-southwestward below Manahat (1 Chronicles 8:6), where I now live, through 'Emek Refayim (the Valley of Rephaim). There the Philistines assembled against King David before he defeated them (1 Chronicles 14:8-16). 

27. So he got up and went. On his way, he caught sight of an Ethiopian, a eunuch who was minister in charge of all the treasure of the Kandake, or queen, of Ethiopia. He had been to Yerushalayim to worship;
An Ethiopian, from Greek aethein ("to bum") and ips ("face") — a "burnt-face." The New Testament lakes special note of this prominent black man, who was Jewish (see below).

Eunuch. Throughout the ancient Near East men in positions of power were often castrated. The Tanakh has a number of examples including 'Eved-Melekh the Cushite (Ethiopian) at Jeremiah 38:7. The term may also refer generally to a high official.

The Kandake (KJV "Candace," without "the"). Like "Pharaoh" or "Caesar," this is a title not a name; it means "queen" or "queen mother." The monarchy of Ethiopia claims to trace its genealogy from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10) through their son Menelik I to King Haile Selassie, who was deposed in 1974, some three thousand years later. Ethiopian Jews, who call themselves "Beta Israel" ("house of Israel") but are also known as Falashas (the Amharic word for "exiles"), consider themselves descended from Jews who came with Menelik I. This is legend, but "Ethiopian chronicles show that Judaism was widespread before the conversion to Christianity of the Axum dynasty during the fourth century" (Encyclopedia Judaica 6:1143).

He had been to Yerushalayim to worship. Chapter 8 deals with two categories of persons in one sense joined to and in another sense separated from the Jewish people. The Samaritans (vv. 4-24) were not Jews but had Jewish ancestry (Yn 4:9N); they did not worship in Jerusalem (Yn 4:20-21). This Ethiopian was born Jewish or a Jewish proselyte, since the first full Gentile was not reached with the Gospel until Chapter 10 below. But because he was a eunuch he was prohibited from worshipping in the congregation of God's people (Deuteronomy 23:1). His travelling so far to worship, even though debarred, attests to his godliness. In later Scriptures God took special note of godly eunuchs (Isaiah 56:4-5, Mt 19:10-12). 

28. and now, as he was returning home, he was sitting in his chariot, reading the prophet Yesha‘yahu.
Reading from Yesha'yahu the prophet. God is having this man read from one of the key Messianic prophecies pointing to Yeshua, Isaiah 52:11-53:12. 

29. The Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot, and stay close to it.”
30. As Philip ran up, he heard the Ethiopian reading from Yesha‘yahu the prophet. “Do you understand what you’re reading?” he asked.
31. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” And he invited Philip to climb up and sit with him.
Do you understand what you're reading? It is amazing how one can read and reread the Bible without seeing in it the reality of God and his son Yeshua; that was my own experience until age 37. It is my hope that the Jewish New Testament and this commentary will aid Jews and Gentiles everywhere to understand better what they are reading. My special concern is for sincere seekers whose response to the question, like that of the Ethiopian eunuch, is: How can I unless someone explains it to me? 

32. Now the portion of the Tanakh that he was reading was this: 'He was like a sheep led to be slaughtered; like a lamb silent before the shearer, he does not open his mouth.
33. He was humiliated and denied justice. Who will tell about his descendants, since his life has been taken from the earth?' (Isaiah 53:7–8)
Who will tell about his descendants? That is. since he is dead, as we can all see from the previous quoted lines, he will have no progeny, no posterity. This is a lament. But the lament proves unwarranted in Yeshua's case, because he is raised from the dead, and in him are many spiritual sons, as Isaiah foretold a few verses later (Isaiah 53:11), "He shall see his seed." God does the unexpected, providing seed for one who died with neither wife nor children.

The quotation conforms to the Septuagint. The book of Acts has already referred to Yeshua four times as the servant of God (3:13, 26; 4:27, 30). Four passages in Isaiah 42-53 mention God's suffering servant. Much modern Jewish interpretation understands this servant to be the people of Israel, not the Messiah; although this seems to me to be defensive theology (3:22-23N), since many of the earlier Jewish expositors did not see it that way. Polemics have been exchanged over this question, and especially over the fourth "servant" passage, Isaiah 52:11-53:12.

My view is that the passage points both to Israel and to Yeshua, and that any interpretation that excludes either is inadequate. At Mt 2:15N I explained how Mattityahu's quotation of Hosea 11:1, the p 'skat ("simple sense") of which clearly refers to Israel, could be "fulfilled" by Yeshua. In my book Messianic Jewish Manifesto, in a section entitled "Yeshua Is Identified With the People of Israel," which deals with individual and corporate aspects of the Gospel, I explained how Israel and Yeshua the Messiah can both be the suffering servant. The rest of this note is largely quoted from there.

An interesting way to think about the Gospel as simultaneously individual and corporate is to consider the ways in which the Messiah Yeshua stands for and is intimately identified with his people Israel. Just as the individual who trusts Yeshua becomes united with him and is "immersed" (baptized) into all thai Yeshua is. including his death and resurrection — so that God regards his sin nature as dead, and his new nature, empowered by the Holy Spirit, as alive —just as this intimate identification with the Messiah holds for the individual, so the Messiah similarly identifies with and embodies national Israel.

In the New Testament one encounters this notion first at Mt 2:15&N. The idea that one stands for all can be found throughout the Bible, sometimes for weal and sometimes for woe — in the story of Achan's sin (Joshua 7). in the relationship between Israel and her king (many places in the Tanakfi. for example, 1 Kings 9:3-9), in the relationship between Adam and Yeshua on the one hand and all humanity on the other (Ro 5:12-21, 1С 15:45-49), and in the debate over the "servant passages" (Isaiah 42:1-9, 49:1-13, 50:4-11, 52:11-53:12). Consider, for example, these phrases from Isaiah 49:1-6: "Adonai... said to me, 'You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.'
... And now Adonai says,... 'It is too light a thi ng that you should be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Ya'akov and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.'"

Does "Israel" restore "the preserved of Israel"? Who is the "light to the nations"? Judaism understands this as a goal to be fulfilled by the Jewish people. Christians think at once of Yn 8:12, where Yeshua said of himself, "I am the light of the world." I believe that the Jewish people will be the light to the nations that we ought to be only when we have in us him who is the light of the world, Yeshua.

This concept, that the Messiah embodies the Jewish people, should not seem strange to Christians, for the New Testament teaches precisely that about Yeshua and the Church. What else does it mean to talk of the Church as a body of which the Messiah is the head (Co 1:18)? Or a temple of which he is the chief cornerstone (Ep 2:20-22)? The concept of one standing for all is familiar. But the Church has not clearly grasped that the Holy One of Israel, Yeshua, is in union not only with the Church (Yochanan 17), but also with the Jewish people. When Christians have fully digested this and can communicate to Jews that through Yeshua the Messiah, by virtue of his identification with Israel, the Jewish people will achieve their destiny (2C 1:20&N), then the Jewish people will have been presented a less alien and more attractive Gospel. And the Church will have become more faithful to it.

Nor have Jews reading the New Testament grasped this concept any better. If they had, the controversy over whether Isaiah 53 was referring to the Jewish people or to a then unborn Messiah would dissolve, because it would be understood that Israel's Messiah embodies his people and the people of Israel are epitomized in their Messiah.

The above paragraphs are addressed to Christians estranged from their Jewish roots and from the Jewish people. However. Philip told the Ethiopian eunuch not about the interrelationship between Israel and Yeshua, but simply what he needed to know at that point, namely, "the Good News about Yeshua" (v. 3S&N). 

34. The eunuch said to Philip, “Here’s my question to you — is the prophet talking about himself or someone else?”
Is the prophet talking about himself or someone else? Isaiah himself does not meet the requirements of the passage, even though he is a servant of God. See vv. 32-33N. 

35. Then Philip started to speak — beginning with that passage, he went on to tell him the Good News about Yeshua.
Philip is called an evangelist (21:8), and, like any wise evangelist, he began communicating the Good News about Yeshua at the point of interest and concern of his hearer. Unwise evangelists, like unwise salespeople, sometimes use a prepared "pitch" that does not speak to the concerns of their "customer"; their message proves irritating, like scratching where it doesn't itch. 

36. As they were going down the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Here’s some water! Is there any reason why I shouldn’t be immersed?”
On immersion and Yeshua's command that talmidim be immersed see Mt 3:1N, 28:19&N;Mk 16:16&N. 

37. Some manuscripts include verse 37: And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” He answered, “I believe that Yeshua the Messiah is the Son of God.”

38. He ordered the chariot to stop; then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and Philip immersed him.
39. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch saw no more of him, because he continued on his way — full of joy.
The Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away, evidently miraculously, as suggested by the ensuing words. Philip showed up at Ashdod. Ashdod today is one of Israel's three port cities, along with Haifa and Eilat; it is located about 25 miles south of Tel Aviv. 

40. But Philip showed up at Ashdod and continued proclaiming the Good News as he went through all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
Philip continued doing the work of an evangelist as he went through all the towns of the coastal plain northward until he came to Caesarea, some 40 miles north of Tel Aviv. There he married and settled down (21:8-9).

An old city rebuilt by Herod the Great, with a harbor, Caesarea became the capital city of the Roman procurators. Riots between Jews and Gentiles here marked the start of the Jewish war with Rome in 66 C.E. Partly unearthed by archeologists, the only inscription with the name of Pontius Pilate was found here. Today its amphitheater, built by Herod, is used for concerts; while nearby have been built homes for the well-to-do. 

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