Acts 5:22

Bedroom of Sgt York, Tennessee

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, Acts 5:22

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

It was just noted that the high priest and those with him, the council, and all the elders of Israel had sent to have the apostles brought from prison. With that noted, Luke next says, “But when the officers came.”

Luke’s thoughts are progressing through the sequence of time – “when…came.” The officers were dispatched. In coming to the place where they were sent, they got a big surprise. As Luke next records, “and did not find them in the prison.”

The word for “prison” now reverts to the term used in verse 5:19. To see the progression of his use of different words to show what is going on, the three different terms can be placed side by side –

5:18 – They were put in public custody.
5:19 – The angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison.
5:21 – The leaders sent to the dungeon to have them brought.
5:22 – The officers did not find them in the prison.

To get an idea of this, we could use the booking of someone today. “Sam was taken to the county jail. While he was in there, Tom opened the door of the cell. The police came to bring Sam from his confinement. But the cops didn’t find him in the cell.”

Luke is carefully recording what took place as if he was an eyewitness from a distance, like a spectator. Each word and each thought reflects what he had been told as he investigated the matter concerning this time of incarceration of the apostles. Because of this, his words are credible and there is no reason at all to not take them as they are written. With the officers not finding the apostles in the prison, Luke next says, “they returned and reported.”

Like the first clause, this is an aorist participle. It reads, “and having turned back.” Luke is still in the process of his careful annotation of each detail in the sequence of time in which it occurred. The text is alive and exciting as it reveals what occurred. With their having turned back, it closes with, “they reported.”

With the action of the events concerning the sending of the officers now coming to a logical point of conclusion, Luke sums up what transpired by noting that they gave their report. The details they will present in that report will be seen in the next verse.

Life application: Although you don’t need to read the Bible in the original languages, it is good to have a translation that at least reflects the original. But translations are a lot of work and even the best will erringly translate things at times. However, if you take the time to learn the basics of what various verbs mean, when someone says, “that is an aorist participle,” you can at least have an idea of what the text should say.

So, when you read a commentary and come across something you don’t understand, take a moment and do a general search on “What does aorist mean?”, “what does participle mean?”, and “What does aorist participle mean?” From there, you will find something like (using quotes from sources highlighted by Google) –

Aorist – “Aorist Tense. The aorist tense is the Greek grammarian’s term for simple past tense.”
Participle – “The Greek grammarians called a participle a μετοχή [metékhō] ‘participation, share’, because it shares the properties of a verb and of an adjective. Latin calqued the word as participium, from which English gets participle.”
Aorist Participle – “When an aorist participle is used adverbially, you will often find it appropriate to translate into English using the word ‘after,’ or perhaps ‘when,’ with the auxiliary verb ‘had’ (e.g., ‘when he had looked up’), or simply the auxiliary verb ‘having’ (e.g., having looked up).”

In doing a quick search like this, you still might not have any idea of how it all fits together, but you will slowly begin to get a sense of what is going on. And a lot of this is just a way of being more precise in relation to the original, but the difference between “they returned” and “they, having returned…” is not that great. The sense is still understandable. To know that one is more precise than the other may or may not even be something you really want to know. If not, then press on and continue to enjoy whatever commentary you are reading.

In the end, the words of Solomon tell us what is really important –

“Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.
13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.” Ecclesiastes 12:12, 13

Sometimes one can study the details and miss the big picture. We are to love the Lord our God, fear Him, and keep His commandments (in the context of the dispensation in which we live). If knowing the minutest details of the word is a part of your fearing God, that is great. If a simple knowledge of the gospel is all you know and that leads you to fear God, then that is sufficient. Each person will deal with the Lord on the level that is suitable, but be sure to fear God always, at whatever level you are on. He is the great God after all!

Lord God, You are great and all that You do is marvelous! Amen.