Acts 6:1

(1) And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied.--Better, were being multiplied, as by an almost daily increase. The length of the interval between this and the previous chapter is left uncertain. The death of Stephen is fixed by most writers in A.D. 38.

The Grecians.--The English version always carefully uses this word, and not Greeks, for the Hellenistae or Greek-speaking Jews. These were known also as "the dispersion among the Gentiles" (John 7:35), or generally as "the dispersion," the "sojourners of the dispersion," those that were "scattered abroad" (James 1:1; 1Peter 1:1). Many of the converts of the Day of Pentecost must have belonged to this body; so, probably, did Barnabas and the others named in the Note on Acts 4:37. Now they were becoming a prominent section of the Church, perhaps more numerous than the Hebrews, or Jews of Palestine. They, as their name implies, spoke Greek habitually, and as a rule did not read the older Hebrew or speak the current Aramaic. They read the Septuagint (LXX.) version of the Old Testament. They were commonly more zealous, with the zeal of pilgrims, for the sanctity of the holy places than the Jews of Jerusalem itself, who had been familiar with them from infancy (Acts 21:27).

Because their widows were neglected.--The words imply something like an organised administration of the common fund: widows and their children being the chief objects of relief. The rules of 1Timothy 5:3-16, were probably the growth of a more mature experience; and here we have to think of a clamorous crowd of applicants besieging the house at which the Apostles held their meeting at the times appointed for giving relief in money, or, as seems more probable, in kind. The Twelve--singly, or in groups--sat at the table, and gave as they were able. It was like the dole of alms at the gate of a convent. Under such circumstances, jealousies and complaints were all but in- evitable. The Twelve were all of them Galileans, and were suspected of favouring the widows of Palestine rather than those of the Dispersion. It was the first sign that the new society was outgrowing its primitive organisation.

Verse 1. - Now in these for and in those, A.V. (it is not ἐκείναις, answering to בַּיָמַים הָהֵם, but ταύταις); multiplying for multiplied, A.V.; Grecian Jews for Grecians, A.V. The Grecian Jews; the Hellenists, for this is the appellation of them in the Greek; it means properly those who spoke Greek or otherwise followed Greek usages, applied to foreigners, here of course to Jews. Of a similar form and meaning is the word "to Judaize," translated "to live as do the Jews" (A.V., Galatians 2:14), and the forms "to Demosthenize," "to Platonize," "to Atticize," etc. The Hellenists were those Jews of the dispersion who lived in countries where Greek was spoken, and who themselves spoke Greek. It was for the sake of such that the Alexandrine Version of the Scriptures, commonly called the LXX., was made. Hebrews; Palestinian and other Jews, who spoke Aramean (2 Corinthians 11:21; Philippians 3:5; Acts 21:40), as opposed to the Hellenists. Their widows. We learn incidentally by this phrase that one of the earliest Christian institutions was an order of widows, who were maintained at the common cost. We find them in the Church of Joppa (Acts 9:41), and in the Church of Ephesus (1 Timothy 5:3, 9, 10, 11, 16). They gave themselves to prayer and to works of mercy. Daily; καθημερινός only occurs here in the New Testament, and rarely in Greek writers; ἐφημερινός, of a daily fever, is used by Hippocrates, and may possibly have suggested the use of this rare word to Luke the physician.

6:1-7 Hitherto the disciples had been of one accord; this often had been noticed to their honour; but now they were multiplied, they began to murmur. The word of God was enough to take up all the thoughts, cares, and time of the apostles. The persons chosen to serve tables must be duly qualified. They must be filled with gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, necessary to rightly managing this trust; men of truth, and hating covetousness. All who are employed in the service of the church, ought to be commended to the Divine grace by the prayers of the church. They blessed them in the name of the Lord. The word and grace of God are greatly magnified, when those are wrought upon by it, who were least likely.And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied,.... From an hundred and twenty to three thousand more, from thence to five thousand more, and after that a multitude of men and women were added, and still they were increasing; see Acts 1:15 Acts 2:41. This increase of the disciples agrees with what Maimonides says (z), before observed, that

"in the days of Gamaliel, , "the heretics were multiplied in Israel".''

The word "disciples" was a common name to all Christians, to all that believed in Christ, and was the name they went by, before they were called Christians, Acts 11:26

there arose a murmuring of the Grecians, or Hellenists, against the Hebrews; by the Hebrews are meant the Jews that dwelt in Judea, and were the inhabitants of that country, and chiefly of Jerusalem, who spoke the Hebrew, or rather the Syriac language; and by the Grecians, or Hellenists, are meant, not the Greeks that were proselyted to the Jewish religion, though there might be some few among them; but Jews who were born, and had dwelt, in some parts of Greece, and spoke the Greek language, and used the Septuagint version of the Bible; between these two a murmuring arose, a complaint was made by one against the other: so that, as it appears from the instance of Ananias and Sapphira, that this first and pure Gospel church was not free from hypocrites; it is also manifest, that though they were at first so united and harmonious in their affections and judgments, yet they were not always clear of feuds, animosities, and contentions; Satan bestirred himself, and got footing among them, as he commonly does where the Gospel is preached, and there is an increase of it: the reason of this uneasiness was,

because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration; that is, they had not that distributed which was necessary for them, nor so much as the Hebrew widows; they complained of partiality, as if because the Hebrew widows were the natives of the country, and might be nearly related to many of the community, that therefore they were more regarded and better supplied every day, than their widows were, whose husbands had dwelt in foreign lands, and were not so well known, and had fewer acquaintance and relations; for it seems the ministration or distribution was made every day: and such a practice obtained among the Jews in common, who used to collect every day for the poor, and give it daily to them. Maimonides (a) speaks of it in this manner;

"they appoint collectors, who receive "every day", from every court, a piece of bread, or any sort of food, or fruit, or money, from whomsoever that offers freely for the time; and they divide that which is collected, "in the evening", among the poor, and they give to every poor person of it "his daily sustenance"; and this is called "Tamchui", or "the alms dish".''

And from hence the apostles might take up this custom, and follow it. The Ethiopic version renders it, "because they saw their widows minister", or "employed daily"; as if the complaint was, that their widows were too much made use of, and obliged to more frequent and to harder service in taking care of the poor, the sick, and helpless, than the other widows were, who had not their share of labour with them, but lived more at ease. Though others rather think the murmur was, because the Grecian widows were not taken into the number, and employed in taking care of the poor, as the Hebrew widows were; but the sense first given, of not having so good a share in the distribution, seems to be the best.

(z) Hilchot Tephilla, c. 2. sect. 1.((a) Hilchot Mattanot Annayim, c. 9. sect. 2.

Acts 5:42
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