The horses at Las Colinas.
Thursday, 31 March 2022
Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. Acts 6:9
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen).
The previous verse referred to the faith and power of Stephen as he did great wonders and signs among the people. Now, another group is introduced. Luke states, “Then there arose some.”
Because of the wording, one can assume they either have arisen to join, or to argue against, Stephen. Stephen is the main character of the narrative, and these now to be mentioned are brought in to define the narrative further. Those who have arisen are said to be “from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen.”
A short explanation of who these men are is given by Vincent’s Word Studies –
“In Jerusalem, and probably in other large cities, the several synagogues were arranged according to nationalities, and even crafts. Thus we have in this verse mention of the synagogues of the Cyrenians, Alexandrians, Cilicians, and Asiatics. Libertines is a Latin word (libertini, freedmen), and means here Jews or their descendants who had been taken as slaves to Rome, and had there received their liberty; and who, in consequence of the decree of Tiberius, about 19 a.d., expelling them from Rome, had returned in great numbers to Jerusalem. They were likely to be the chief opponents of Stephen, because they supposed that by his preaching, their religion, for which they had suffered at Rome, was endangered in Jerusalem.”
However, Albert Barnes provides much more information on this designation –
- The word is Latin, and means properly a ‘freedman,’ a man who had been a slave and was set at liberty. Many have supposed that these persons were manumitted slaves of Roman origin, but who had become proselyted to the Jewish religion, and who had a synagogue in Jerusalem. This opinion is not very probable; though it is certain, from Tacitus (Ann., lib. 2:c. 85), that there were many persons of this description at Rome. He says that 4,000 Jewish proselytes of Roman slaves made free were sent at one time to Sardinia.
- A second opinion is, that these persons were Jews by birth, and had been taken captives by the Romans, and then set at liberty, and were thus called ‘freedmen’ or ‘liberties.’ That there were many Jews of this description there can be no doubt. Pompey the Great, when he subjugated Judea, sent large numbers of the Jews to Rome (Philo, In Legat. a.d. Caium). These Jews were set at liberty at Rome, and assigned a place beyond the Tiber for a residence. See Introduction to the Epistle to the Romans. These persons are by Philo called “libertines,” or ‘freedmen’ (Kuinoel, in loco). Many Jews were also conveyed as captives by Ptolemy I. to Egypt, and obtained a residence in that country and the vicinity.
- Another opinion is, that they took their name from some ‘place’ which they occupied. This opinion is more probable from the fact that all the “other” persons mentioned here are named from the countries which they occupied. Suidas says that this is the name of a place. And in one of the fathers this passage occurs: ‘Victor, Bishop of the Catholic Church at Libertina, says, unity is there, etc.’ from this passage it is plain that there was a place called ‘Libertina.’ That place was in Africa, not far from ancient Carthage. See Dr. Pearce’s Commentary on this place.
Whatever the exact meaning of the name, the group was comprised of “Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia.”
The Cyrenians are those who dwelt in Cyrene in Africa, a location west of Egypt. This is where Simon of Cyrene, who carried Jesus’ cross in Matthew 27:32 was from.
Alexandrians are those who dwelt in Alexandria in Egypt. A great deal of Jews lived there inhabiting large sections of the city. This is the location where the Greek translation of the Bible, the Septuagint or LXX, came from.
Cilicia was in Asia Minor, a province on the seacoast, located at Turkey’s south, north of Cyprus. Its capital, Tarsus, is where the Apostle Paul came from – as is recorded in Acts 9:11 (and as is noted elsewhere). As such, it makes it appear likely that Paul attended this synagogue and participated in what will be said in this verse.
Finally, Asia is noted. This is not Asia as we think of it today. Rather, it is the same as was referred to in Acts 2:9. It is a term that may refer to a jurisdiction according to the layout of the provinces of Rome. Of this location, Vincent’s Word Studies says –
“Not the Asiatic continent nor Asia Minor. In the time of the apostles the term was commonly understood of the proconsular province of Asia, principally of the kingdom of Pergamus left by Attalus III. to the Romans, and including Lydia, Mysia, Caria, and at times parts of Phrygia. The name Asia Minor did not come into use until the fourth century of our era.”
It is from this synagogue, filled with people from these various locations, that men arose “disputing with Stephen.”
The word translated as “disputing” essentially means “to examine together.” It is rendered as “question,” “debate,” “discuss,” “argue,” and so on. It does not necessarily indicate any animosity, but it can. Or it can be a debate that eventually leads to an argument. It is probable that Stephen voiced his words concerning Jesus, and they came back against him in a debate that will eventually lead to the forming of a charge against him. It is to be noted again (as stated in the previous verse) that Stephen was “full of faith and power,” and he “did great wonders and signs among the people.”
This is a key thought that certainly set in motion the debate.
Life application: In Christianity, there are Calvinists, there are Free Grace proponents, there are Baptists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians. In fact, there are so many sects and divisions within the church that it is almost impossible to know them all, much less what they all believe.
Because of this, there are obviously disagreements between them concerning valid points of doctrine. In the end, there can only be one completely correct idea about any particular point. Is Jesus God? Yes or No. Is salvation eternal? Yes or No. Does man have free will to choose Christ? Yes or No. And so on.
The Bible is the source of our knowledge of who Jesus is. It is where we are to build our doctrine from. Anything that is said about our theology and doctrine must find its source there or be in accord with what is said there. If it isn’t, then it is something that came out of the head of man.
The more one knows the Bible, the less likely it is that he will be duped into believing something incorrect. It is still possible, but it is less likely. For those who do not know Scripture, the probability is that they will be more easily led astray from what is sound.
Read your Bible. Think about what you have read. Study theology after you know your Bible. And set your doctrine in accord with the Bible. It is important.
Glorious God Almighty, You have provided us with a source of knowledge in order for us to know You, to know what You are doing, and to know why You have done those things. How can we neglect such a great and precious treasure? Help us, Lord, to make Your word our priority all the days of our lives. Amen.