J. A. Alexander on Acts 2:22-36
In Peter’s address to the Jews on Pentecost, he showed from the Scriptures that Jesus is the promised Messiah who would reign on the throne of David, because he rose from the dead. Since the One who was promised would reign forever, he must be immortal. David was still in his grave, Peter said, so he was not speaking of himself, when he wrote of the one who would not remain in the grave or see corruption. The following is Joseph Addison Alexander’s commentary on Acts 2:22-36, [from The Acts of the Apostles Explained, Vol 1. pp. 66-83] the section of his address in which Peter refers to Psalm 16:8-11 to prove that Jesus is the Messiah.
22. Ye men of Israel, hear these words. Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know;
It is universally agreed that Peter here introduces a new topic, or in other words, that this is the beginning of a new division of his speech, namely that in which he asserts and proves the Messiahship of Jesus. It seems to be commonly assumed, however, that the transition is abrupt and arbitrary as if he had merely taken advantage of the charge against him and his brethren, to bring forward an entirely different subject. This view of the passage, however it may favour the idea, that a rational coherence is not to be looked for in the sacred writers, may be easily refuted by a simple statement of the true connection. Having met the charge of drunkenness, first briefly and negatively, by a flat denial and the suggestion of a single reason why it could not possibly be true (v. 15); then fully and affirmatively by representing what was thus ascribed to wine as the work of the Spirit promised ages before by an inspired prophet (16-18), he quotes from the same context a warning and a promise well adapted to excite the fears and hopes of those who heard him, and to turn their thoughts upon the practical question of their own salvation (19-21.) Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. But what Lord? Not the absolute Elohim, or the half-revealed Jehovah, of the old economy, as they might naturally have supposed. What Lord was meant then? Why the very man whom they had crucified, and whom, in the remainder of this sermon, he proves to be the true Messiah. This analysis is certainly as simple and natural as any other, while it gives a perfect continuity and unity to the discourse. According to it, the leading thoughts of the Apostle are as follows. This is not drunkenness but inspiration–it was predicted centuries ago–on the fulfilment of that promise is suspended your personal salvation–and the promised Saviour is the man whom you have crucified. No wonder that in introducing such a doctrine, the apostle takes a new start, and conciliates afresh the indulgence of his hearers. Men of Israel is not a merely local or genealogical description, but a formal recognition of their national and ecclesiastical character as representatives of the chosen people. As if he had said: ‘Thus far I have addressed you as natives of Judea and professors of the true religion; but I now appeal to you still more emphatically, as belonging so the Israel of God, and in that capacity entreat you still to hear me.’ Hear these words is one of those expressions which are almost universally slurred over in the reading, as mere expletives, unmeaning forms of speech, affording a transition from one topic to another, or intended to impart a sort of finish and completeness to the composition. But in multitudes of cases, these neglected formulas are pregnant and emphatic clauses, upon which depends the force, if not the meaning, of the context. In the case before us, the Apostle again intimates (as in the opening of the whole discourse, v. 14) that he expected contradiction and impatience upon their part. ‘Who then is the true and only Saviour, by invoking whom you may escape destruction? In answering this question, I am under the necessity of shocking your most cherished prepossessions and convictions; but nevertheless hear me, inasmuch as this is a matter, not of idle speculation, but of life and death, a question of salvation and perdition.’ Having thus prepared them for the introduction of an unexpected or at least unwelcome topic, he delays no longer, but with fine rhetorical effect, if not design, immediately names Jesus, as the theme of what he further has to say. Jesus of Nazareth (or from Nazareth) is the literal translation of a phrase used by the same apostle on a subsequent occasion. (See below, on 10, 38.) But here, and in every other case where it occurs in this book (3, 6. 4, 10. 6, 14. 22, 8. 26, 9), the original expression, though equivalent in sense, is somewhat different in form, and might be more exactly rendered, Jesus the Nazarene. The avoidance of this form by our translators is without apparent reason, and, though unimportant in itself, has the unfortunate effect of hiding or obscuring from the merely English reader the direct and intimate connection of this title with a difficult but interesting statement of Matthew (2, 23), which seems most probably to mean, that all or many of the prophecies of Christ’s humiliation were summed up, as to substance, in his reputed birth and real residence at an obscure town of a despised province, and as to form or expression, in his being habitually called The Nazarene. Some suppose that there can here be no allusion to its reproachful or contemptuous import, because used by an apostle. But even when employed by Christ himself (as in 22, 8), the allusion to this usage is not only evident but prominent. ‘I am that Nazarene, whose very home is a reproach to him, and whom thou Paul hast often cursed and scoffed at, by that hated name.’ Thus too it is used by the Apostles, who appear to have delighted in recalling this opprobrious description and applying it to their master’s highest exaltation, so that he reigns and triumphs by the very name which was expected to consign him to eternal infamy. In the case before us, it is not to be lost sight of, that the great Apostle, in propounding the unwelcome theme of his remaining argument, propounds it under this offensive form, not merely Jesus, but Jesus of Nazareth, the Nazarene. As if he had said: ‘I may well entreat you still to hear me while I name the true and only Saviour; for the one whom I intend to name, is he whose name is already a proverb of reproach among you, and whom perhaps you have this very day reviled and derided as the Nazarene.‘ Having named him, as a person whom they well knew, he describes him as one, with whose pretensions and credentials they were all familiar. He speaks of him, not as an adventurer, or one whose character was yet to be established, but as one already proved (to be) from God. This is most probably the true sense of the phrase ambiguously rendered in our Bible, approved of God. The word approved, like the approbatum of the Vulgate, from which it seems to have been copied, was once used as a synonyme of proved. Webster quotes two instances from one line of Milton. “Wouldst thou approve thy constancy? Approve first thy obedience.” But this sense is now obsolete, and the only idea which the word conveys here to a modem reader, is a false one, namely, that of moral approbation or approval. The idea meant to be conveyed is that of proof or attestation. This is not essentially affected by the different grammatical constructions which have been proposed. ‘A man from God, attested (or accredited) by miracles, etc.’ ‘A man accredited from (i. e. by) God through miracles, etc.’ ‘A man accredited (or proved to be) from God by miracles, etc.’ The words from God do not refer to the divinity of Christ, which would be otherwise expressed, and would here be out of place, at the beginning of a series of expressions all relating to our Lord’s humiliation. From God expresses his divine legation, the commission or authority under which he acted as the teacher of mankind and the founder of a new religion. This commission was attested by his miracles, to which, besides the two terms used in v. 19 (wonders and signs), the Apostle here applies one meaning powers, forces, i. e. exhibitions or exertions of a power above that of man. The translation miracles, although it designates the proper objects, fails to distinguish the three terms applied to them, expressive of their source, their use, and their intrinsic quality, as powers, signs, and wonders. These miracles are then ascribed to God as the efficient cause, and to Christ as the instrumental agent, which God did by him. For the true sense of the preposition (διά), see above, on v. 16. This representation is entirely consistent with the proper deity of Christ, since he is really included under both descriptions, his human instrumentality being subject to his own divine agency, as well as to the Father’s. It is also in keeping with that true subordination of the Son to the Father, which the Scriptures teach, and which the Church has always held first, even when tempted to abjure it by the hope of leaving heresy without excuse. It is rendered necessary, in the case before us, by the speaker’s purpose to exhibit our Lord in “the form of a servant” and a messenger from God. Observe the confidence with which Peter here appeals to the knowledge and the memory of his hearers. The attestations or credentials of Christ’s ministry and mission had not been presented at a distance, or in a corner, but in the midst of you (ἐν μέσῳ ὑμῶν), sent or addressed directly to you (εἰς ὑμᾶς), as the parties to be convinced and satisfied. This last idea is less clearly expressed in the common version, among you. It is again suggested in the last words of the verse, where the appeal is a direct one to themselves, as ye yourselves do know (or also know.)
23. Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.
Him, i. e. the person thus described; a method of resumption not unusual after so long an interruption of the syntax. Delivered, not bestowed, as some explain the Greek word (ἔκδοτον), but in violation of its usage, which requires the meaning given up, surrendered. Some refer this to the treachery of Judas, but most readers and interpreters suppose it to express the divine act of giving Christ up to the mercy of his enemies, or, in other words, permitting him to suffer. The word translated counsel properly means will, as appears both from etymology and usage. Determinate is not determined, in the moral sense of resolute, intrepid, but determined, in the physical or proper sense of bounded, defined, settled, as opposed to what is vague, contingent, or indefinite. The dative may be either one of cause, by the will, or of rule and measure, according to the will, most probably the latter. The same relation of Christ’s death to the divine decree is formally asserted in the prayer of the Apostles (4, 28), and less distinctly by our Lord himself (Luke 22, 22), in both which cases the expressions, although not identical, are very similar to those here used. Ye have taken might be more exactly rendered ye took, or rather ye received, as the correlative of given up, and not as denoting the original or independent act of taking. God gave him and they took him. What God permitted they performed. By wicked hands might seem to mean no more than with wicked hands, i. e. your own, which adds no new idea to the general one of murder expressed in the next clause. But as the word translated wicked (ἀνόμων), and which properly means lawless, is applied by Paul (1 Cor. 9, 21), in its primary etymological sense, to the heathen as without law or a written revelation of the divine will, some have understood the phrase to mean either lawless (i. e. Gentile) hands, or hands of lawless ones (i. e. Gentiles.) It seems no sufficient reason for preferring this construction, that the language is otherwise too harsh for the Apostle’s purpose of conciliation, if not inconsistent with his own concession in 3, 17 below. The main design of his discourse was to convince them of their own guilt, and nothing tending to promote that end can be inconsistent with it. But a stronger reason for referring these expressions to the Gentiles is afforded by the fact that the oldest manuscripts and latest editors read hand (χειρὸς) for hands (χειρῶν), thus requiring the construction, by the hand of lawless men, and suggesting the idea of some secondary agency, through which the malice of the Jews was gratified. Now such an agency was that of Pilate and the Roman soldiers, the use of which was certainly a fearful aggravation of the crime of Israel, because they not only rejected and murdered their Messiah, but gave him up to the power of the Gentiles. (See below, on 4, 27.) The word translated crucified means properly transfixed, and is applied in the classics to impalement and to the fastening of human heads on poles or stakes. It may here be understood in the specific sense of nailing to the cross, and is perhaps contemptuously used, to aggravate the suicidal folly of the Jews, who, instead of welcoming their long expected Prince, took him and nailed him to a tree. We have here a curious instance of the variations even in the authorized editions of the Latin Vulgate. Those published in the last years of the sixteenth century translate this word affligentes, while those of later date expunge the interpolated letter and read affigentes. The original construction is, having nailed (or crucified) ye slew. This last verb (ἀνείλετε, ἀνείλατε) is a favourite with Luke, occurring twenty times in his two books, and only twice in the rest of the New Testament. It does not mean directly to kill, but to despatch, to make away with, English phrases which are constantly applied to murder, though they do not necessarily express it. It is clear from this verse that the guilt of those who murdered Christ was neither caused nor nullified by God’s determinate counsel and foreknowledge. Even Chrysostom refers to the analogy of Joseph’s case (comparing Gen. 45, 8 with 50, 20), as showing how consistent, both in scripture and experience, are the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and that of human freedom and responsibility.
24. Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
With their treatment of the Saviour he contrasts that of God himself. When God gave him up, they took him; but when they crucified him, God raised him. This is a favourite antithesis with Peter, and repeatedly recurs in his discourses. (See below, on 3, 14. 15. 4, 10. 5, 30. 31. 10, 39. 40.) The Greek verb (ἀνέστημι), in its active tenses, always means to raise up; from what or to what is determined by the context. It is applied to raising from the dead by Homer in the last book of the Iliad (551). Loosing pains is an unusual combination, perhaps arising from the use of the second word (ὠδῖνας) in the Septuagint, to represent a Hebrew one, which has the double sense of cord and sorrow. (Compare Isai. 13, 8. with Ps. 18, 5.) Thus the two Greek nouns may have become associated, and their corresponding verbs convertible. The very combination here used appears also in the Septuagint version of Ps. 39, 2. It is the less unnatural because the verb to loose has a figurative sense (relax) no less appropriate to pains than its proper sense (untie) to cords. The Greek noun strictly means the pains of parturition, which are often used as figures of intense but temporary suffering. (See Isai. 26, 17. John 16, 21, etc.) Impossible, both physically, as a condition inconsistent with his deity, and morally, because the divine plan and purpose made his resurrection necessary. The verb (κρατεῖσθαι) which in classical Greek denotes conquest or superiority, in the New Testament always means to hold or to be holden fast, either in a literal or figurative sense, but never perhaps without some trace of its original and proper import, as for instance in the case before us, where the sense is that he could not be permanently held fast by death as a captive or a conquered enemy.
25. For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face; for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved.
The alleged impossibility is now confirmed by the testimony of David, which is also cited as a further proof of our Lord’s messiahship. Besides the evidence afforded by his miracles (22) and resurrection (24), he was the only subject in which a certain signal prophecy had been or could be verified (25-32.) For the sake of the connection the Apostle quotes the entire passage (Ps. 16, 8-11,) but the proof of his position is contained in the last part of it. This may account lor some apparent incoherence of the clauses beginning with the word for. The first of these, however, has respect co the assertion at the end of the preceding verse. It could not be, for he had said it should not be. The passage is quoted in the Septuagint version, almost without variation. The sixteenth Psalm, here ascribed to David, is so described also in the title of the Psalm itself, nor is there any internal evidence of later date. Concerning him, literally, to or towards him, i. e. in reference or relation to him. The Greek phrase (εἰς αὐτόν) has the same sense in Luke 19, 9. Eph. 5, 32. Foresaw, in English, has respect to time, and means saw beforehand; but the verb here has respect to place and means saw before me, which idea is also expressed by the next phrase (ἐνώπιόν μου.) This repetition is not found in the Hebrew, where the verb means to set or place. The general sense, in either case, is that of constant recognition or remembrance. At the right hand is not only a post of honour, but a position of defence or protection. (See Ps. 73, 23. 121, 6.) That I should not be moved is a slight modification of the simple future used in the original. The Greek verb (σαλευθῶ) is applied both to bodily and mental agitation (17, 13. 2 Thess. 2, 2.)
26. Therefore did my heart rejoice and my tongue was glad; moreover also, my flesh shall rest in hope.
Therefore, on account of this assurance of divine protection. My tongue corresponds to my glory in Hebrew, and may be regarded as a very ancient exposition of that phrase preserved in the Septuagint version, and according to which the tongue (i. e. the faculty of speech) is regarded as the glory of the human frame, or as the instrument of the divine praise. Moreover also introduces an emphatic addition, as in v. 18. Not only this, but more, my very flesh, etc. Flesh seems here to mean the body as distinguished from the soul. The verb translated rest originally means to pitch a tent, encamp, and then to sojourn for a time; that mode of life being constantly opposed to permanent abode in houses. Hope is hardly an adequate equivalent to the Hebrew word …, which in this connection denotes confident security. The consecution of the tenses, did rejoice, was glad, shall rest, is closely copied from the Hebrew.
27. Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Because, or that, introducing the ground or subject of the confidence expressed in the preceding verse. In hell, literally, to or into, corresponding to a Hebrew phrase, which means not merely to leave in but to abandon or give up to. The Geneva Bible has in grave. Hell, in its old and wide sense of the unseen world (hades), the world of spirits, the state of the soul separated from the body, without any reference to happiness or misery. The essential meaning is, thou wilt not leave my soul and body separate. Suffer, literally, give, grant, permit, a use of the verb also found in Xenophon and Homer. (See below, on 10, 40.) Holy One answers to a Hebrew word which properly denotes an object, of the divine favour, but suggests the idea of a corresponding character. In both senses, it is peculiarly appropriate to Christ. See corruption, or experience dissolution. Compare the phrase see death, Luke 2, 26. There are two Hebrew nouns of the same form … but of different derivation, one denoting the grave and the other putrefaction. The first would here be false, if not unmeaning.
28. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.
The gist of the quotation was contained in the preceding verse. The conclusion of the psalm is added to express the same idea still more strongly by contrast. There is but one verb in the Hebrew of this verse, and that a future, thou shalt make me know. Instead of the second verb, the Hebrew has an abstract noun, satiety or fulness, which may either be governed by the verb at the beginning, or construed with the verb is, as in the English version (of Ps. 16, 11.) With thy countenance is a literal translation of a phrase which means, however, in thy presence. The last clause of the psalm is omitted, as unnecessary to the speaker’s purpose. It is also to be borne in mind, that as all devout Jews were familiar with the passage, and could easily supply what was omitted, it mattered less to what length the quotation was extended.
29. Men (and) brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the Patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.
The respectful and conciliatory compellation, men and brethren (see above, on 1, 16), does not indicate a change of subject here, the connection with what goes before being as close and intimate as possible. But this form of address implies again that he had need of their indulgence, or had something to say which might offend their prejudices. The same thing is suggested by what follows, let me speak, or retaining the form of the original, (it is or let it be) permitted (lawful or allowable) to say to you with boldness (παρρησίας) or freedom of speech, implying that what he said might be considered too free, or not entirely consistent with becoming reverence for the patriarch or founder of the royal family. The same title is applied in the New Testament to Abraham (Heb. 7, 4) and to the sons of Jacob as the fathers of the twelve tribes (Acts 7, 8.) The Rhemish version of the next clause is much better, that he died and was buried. There is then no tautology in adding that his sepulchre, memorial or monument, is with us, or among us, i. e. in the city and not merely in the suburbs, or more generally, in the country, near us, and in our possession. It could be still identified in the reign of Adrian, if not in the days of Jerome, but has since been lost sight of. But wherein lay the boldness or presumption of asserting this familiar and notorious fact? How could any one deny, that David had died and been buried, or be shocked by hearing it affirmed? This question is connected with the drift and structure of the whole passage. It was not the fact of David’s death and burial, at which Peter expected them to stumble, but at the conclusion which he meant them to draw from it, and which is not expressed. That conclusion was, that this remarkable prediction, which they were no doubt accustomed to apply to David, could not apply to him at all, but must have reference to another. This was a doctrine sufficiently at variance with their prepossessions to account for Peter’s so respectfully asking leave to state it. But what is the reasoning by which he reaches this conclusion? It is this, that as the prophecy declares that the speaker’s soul should not continue separate from his body, nor his body itself experience dissolution, it could not apply to David, for he did die and was buried, and had long since mouldered in the grave, still designated by a well-known monument among them. Precisely the same argument, but more concisely stated, is employed by Paul in his first apostolical discourse on record. (See below, on 13, 35-37.) This express and argumentative denial, that the words can be applied to David, excludes not only the typical but also the generic method of interpretation, which was adopted in 1, 20 above. At all events, the words cannot be understood of both in one and the same sense, consistently with Peter’s declaration; and the only sense in which they are true of David, that of future resurrection, was wholly irrelevant to Peter’s proof, that Jesus was the Messiah of the prophecies. In order to preserve what seems to be the obvious allusion of the Psalmist to his own case, some eminent interpreters suppose the words to be appropriate to David only as he was in Christ, represented by him and a member of his body. But how could it be said, even on this hypothesis, that David’s soul and body were not permanently severed, and that his body did not see corruption? Whereas this, as Peter afterwards affirms, was literally true of Jesus and of him alone.
30. Therefore, being a Prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
Since David, then, was not and could not be himself the subject of this prophecy, who was? A person altogether different and posterior by many ages. This of itself was not incredible to those who knew that David was a Prophet, in the strict as well as in the wider sense, i. e. endowed by inspiration with a knowledge of the future. This general description is then followed by a reference to a specific promise, that contained in 2 Sam. 7, 12-16, and repeated in Ps. 89, 3. 4, 132, 11, forming the basis of all the Messianic Psalms, and frequently referred to in the other prophecies. Its lowest sense is that of mere unbroken succession; but this is evidently not the whole, from the extraordinary gratitude expressed by David, and from his singular language in 2 Sam. 7, 19 (compared with 1 Chr. 17, 17), where it seems to be implied, if not expressed, that this was not a personal, nor even a national assurance, but a universal one concerning the whole race. The same thing is clear from the fact that this promise constitutes a link, which would otherwise be wanting, in the chain of Messianic Prophecies, by applying specifically to the house of David, what had been successively applied to those of Seth, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah. Several of the oldest manuscripts and latest critical editions omit the words, according to the flesh would raise up Christ, so that the clause reads, knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his loins (one) should sit upon his throne. Besides the external evidence in favour of this reading, it relieves the text from an enfeebling and embarrassing anticipation of what follows in the next verse. There the Apostle finally identifies the person of whom David wrote. Here he is only showing, in the general and in the way of introduction, that David might, without absurdity, be understood as speaking of a person different from himself and long posterior, because he was a prophet, and because he had received a most explicit promise, sanctioned by the oath of God, that he should have perpetual succession on the throne, a promise which had been already broken, if restricted to his natural descendants.
31. He seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
Having shown that David could not mean himself, and that he might mean one who was to live long after him, the Apostle positively and authoritatively tells them whom he did mean. He referred not to his own still future resurrection–the only sense in which he could have said this of himself–but to another resurrection, future when he wrote, but now already past, and therefore furnishing at once the explanation and fulfilment of the prophecy. This was the resurrection of Christ, not as a personal but as an official title, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Prophet, Priest, and King of Israel, of whom the ancient prophets, priests, and kings were merely representatives, filling his place until he came, and for whose coming the whole race had been impatiently looking for a course of ages. Not content with saying simply that he spoke of the Messiah’s resurrection, Peter shuts out all evasion and mistake by repeating the ipsissima verba of the prophecy in question and applying them to Christ, of whom alone it was predicted, and of whom alone it is historically true, that his soul was not left disembodied after death, and that his body, though it died, was not corrupted.
32. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses.
But one more step was wanting to complete this process of triumphant argument, and that step is here taken. It was not enough to show, as Peter had done, that the prophecy could riot relate to David, or that it might relate to one long after him, or even that it did relate to the Messiah, unless he could identify the individual. The importance of distinguishing between our Lord’s personal name and his official title is peculiarly apparent here, where the neglect of it converts into a mere tautology the last link of a concatenated argument. What he said m the preceding verse was, that David spake of the Messiah’s resurrection. What he here says is, that this Messiah was no other than the Jesus whom they crucified. Why so? Because in him, and him alone, the prophecy has been fulfilled. The Messiah was to rise from the dead — Jesus of Nazareth has risen from the dead — therefore the two must be identical. But where is the proof that Jesus rose? The evidence is twofold, human and divine. God bore witness in the very act of raising him. This Jesus hath God raised up. We bear witness of the same thing, not only the Apostles, whose primary function was to testify of this event (1, 8. 22), but a multitude of others who had seen him since his resurrection (1 Cor. 15, 6.)
33. Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear.
Having thus identified the subject of the sixteenth psalm, first negatively with a person different from the writer, then positively with the Messiah, and then personally with the Nazarene whom they had crucified, he now describes the present state and employments of the glorious though despised Redeemer. His humiliation being past, and its design accomplished, he is now exalted, lifted up, or raised on high, both in a local sense, i. e. in heaven, and in the sense of freedom from all suffering and superiority to all created powers, whether friendly or adverse. Compare the same Apostle’s language in 1 Pet. 3, 22, and that of Paul in Eph. 1, 20-22. The right hand is a scriptural figure for active power. In a local sense, it is the post of honour. Either of these ideas would be here appropriate, exalted by God’s right hand, as the instrument, or to his right hand, as the place of exultation. In favour of the former is the Greek usage of the dative case (δεξιᾷ) which rarely denotes place, but often means or instrument. In favour of the other is the use of right hand in the passage quoted in the next verse. After all that has been said against the assumption of a double sense, as contrary to nature and the very use of words, there are multitudes of phrases in all languages which, though intended to convey one idea directly, not only may but must suggest another. Thus the hearers of Peter, upon this occasion, could not, without a process of reflection, separate the two familiar senses of God’s right hand from each other. The only question is, which is the primary and which the secondary meaning; and this question is of little exegetical importance here, because both are so agreeable to fact and to the context. It was by as well as to God’s right hand that our Lord had been exalted, i.e. by the exertion of divine power, and to the enjoyment of divine honours. Besides this general participation in the honours of the Godhead, Peter mentions a specific gift bestowed by the Father on the Son as Mediator, and by him upon his Church. The promise may be put for the thing promised, as in 1, 4, but with this distinction, that the genitive in that case indicates the giver, but in this the gift itself. Or promise may be taken in its proper sense, and the performance sought in the ensuing clause. In favour of the first construction, though apparently less simple, is the fact that the Son, and not the Father, is the agent in the last clause. Having received of the Father the Holy Spirit previously promised, he has shed forth, i. e. poured out, a figure implying both abundance and descent from above, this (Spirit), or more probably, this (gift), as Cranmer renders it, this (influence), which ye now see and hear. The Rhemish version marks the reference to the Spirit by the singular combination, this whom, copied from the Vulgate (hunc quem.) Some refer the two verbs to the acts and gestures of the disciples and to the gift of tongues respectively. But why should the sight of the fiery tongues be excluded, which in all probability was not confined to the disciples? On the whole, however, such exact distinctions are superfluous, the two senses or perceptions being mentioned simply to include all that they had witnessed. Instead of now, some manuscripts and editors read both; without a change of sense. By thus ascribing the phenomenon, which had occasioned his discourse, to Jesus, Peter completes the picture of his master’s exaltation, and at the same time, comes back to the point from which he started, by a natural yet masterly transition, showing any thing but want of skill or helpless incoherence.
34, 35. For David is not ascended into the heavens, but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool.
Having shown the resurrection of Christ to be the subject of an ancient prophecy, he now proves the same thing of his exaltation. The argument is rendered still more parallel and uniform by drawing the proof from the same part of the Old Testament. The passage cited is the first verse of Psalm 110, which, like Psalm 16 above, is declared to be inapplicable to David. The same thing had been previously affirmed by Christ himself (Matt. 22, 41-46), but on a different ground, to wit, that David calls him Lord or Sovereign. Here the ground is the same as in the previous exposition of Ps. 16, to wit, that the prophecy never was fulfilled in David. It could only be fulfilled in one who had ascended into heaven and sat down on the right hand of God. But no one pretended or imagined that David had so done; whereas Christ did thus ascend and reign, as the Apostle had affirmed in the preceding verse. Here then were two signal Messianic Prophecies, universally recognized as such and universally ascribed to David, neither of which could be applied to David as its subject, both of which must have respect to the Messiah, and both of which had been fulfilled in Jesus! The apparent play upon words in the phrase. The Lord said to my Lord, is found only in the Greek and other versions. The original expression is, Jehovah said to my Lord. The strong expression in the last clause of v. 35 for total subjugation may be borrowed from an actual usage of ancient warfare. (See Josh. 10, 24.) The exact form of the original is copied in the Rhemish version, the footstool of thy feet.
36. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
This is the conclusion which the speaker draws from his whole argument, or rather which he leaves the house of Israel to draw for themselves. (See above, on v. 29.) The prefatory formula is not to be neglected, any more than in v. 22 above. It refers the decision of the question to the Jewish Church itself, but, by the use of the phrase, let it know, suggests that all dispute is at an end, that nothing now remains but to accept the only possible conclusion. This is indicated also by the qualifying adverb, assuredly, or most certainly (Wiclif), or for a surety (Tyndale). According to strict rule and usage, the phrase translated all the house means rather every house (or family) of Israel. But as there is great license with respect to the insertion of the article, which constitutes the difference of meaning here, the common version is substantially correct. The Greek word (ἀσφαλῶς) corresponds in etymology, and partly in its usage, to infallibly, i. e. without the fear or possibility of error. The common version follows Tyndale and Cranmer in a transposition of the last clause, which is not only needless, but injurious to the emphasis and beauty of the sentence. The Greek collocation, as retained by Wiclif, the Geneva Bible, and the Rhemish version, closes the sentence with the words, this Jesus whom ye crucified, which has been quaintly but expressively described as the sting in the end of the discourse. Besides the loss of this peculiar beauty, the inversion has occasioned the omission of a pronoun in the clause immediately preceding. The literal translation is, God made him Lord and Christ, or still more closely, both Lord and Christ him hath God made — this Jesus whom ye crucified. The him is commonly assumed to be superfluous (as in the Greek of Matt. 8, 1. 5.) But this is an hypothesis, seldom adopted now by the best writers, and only admissible in case of urgent exegetical necessity. Others go to the opposite extreme by making it mean Lord himself in allusion to the double Lord of v. 34 and Ps. 110, 1. ‘The Lord who said to David’s Lord, Sit thou, etc. has made Jesus himself to be that Lord.’ But this construction seems too artificial. A much more simple one, and intermediate between the omission and exaggeration of the pronoun, supposes the sense to be grammatically complete without the words this Jesus, etc., and these words to be superadded as an emphatic supplement or afterthought. God hath made him, (to be) both Lord and Christ — this Jesus whom ye crucified. Here, as in v. 27 and elsewhere, it is important to take Christ in its official pregnant sense, as distinguished from a mere name or personal designation. In the latter sense, it would have been absurd to say that God had made Jesus to be Christ, i. e. to be himself; but it is highly significant, and expressive of a most important fact, to say that God made Jesus to be the Christ or the Messiah. The verb made in this clause may be understood in two ways; as expressing the divine decree or constitution, which attached the office of Messiah (as explained above on v. 31) to the person of Jesus the Nazarene; or as a declaratory act, that of setting forth, exhibiting our Lord in this high character. While the latter is undoubtedly implied, as an actual effect of the Saviour’s exaltation, the former seems to be the thing immediately expressed, both by the verb made, which is never a mere synonyme of showed, declared, and by the whole connection, which requires that Peter should conclude by affirming, not only the divine attestation of our Lord’s Messiahship, but also its divine authority and constitution. If this be the correct construction, Lord cannot mean a divine person, in allusion to the first Lord (or Jehovah) of v. 34, for the Father did not make the Son to be God, but must mean a mediatorial sovereign. This Christ was made to be, as well as the Messiah, and because he was Messiah, the two characters or offices being indivisible. The second person, whom ye crucified, especially in Greek, where the pronoun (ὑμεῖς) is peculiarly emphatic, carries home the fearful charge of having disowned and murdered the Messiah to his hearers, both as individuals, so far as they had taken part in that great crime, and as the representatives of Israel, the ancient church, or chosen people. If those critics who consider it their duty to exalt the inspiration of the sacred writers, by denying them all intellectual and literary merit, can improve upon the logic or the rhetoric of this great apostolical discourse, or even on the force and beauty of this peroration, let them do it or forever after hold their peace.