Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 6:1-6

Acts 6:1 AND in those days, the number of the disciples increasing, there arose a murmuring of the Greeks against the Hebrews, for that their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

“And in these days.” When the Apostles, after having been liberated from prison, were intrepidly preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 5:42), whereby the number of the faithful was increased.

“There arose a murmur.” The Greek word, γογγυσμος—means secret or whispering complaints. “Of the Greeks against the Hebrews,” by “the Greeks,” or Hellenists are meant, as opposed to “the Hebrews,” not Christian proselytes from among the Gentiles—there is no evidence that the Gentiles were as yet admitted into the Church—but converted Jews born and living outside Palestine, using the Greek language in their daily social intercourse with one another, and employing the Septuagint in their synagogues and public worship. These came up to Jerusalem for the Great Festivals.

“Hebrews,” natives of Palestine, who, in the ordinary concerns of life and public worship, used the Aramaic dialect of Palestine, termed in Scripture, the Hebrew language.

“For that their widows,” destitute widows were, specially marked out among the poor, in the infant Church, for special care and consideration.

“Were neglected,” overlooked, not treated impartially, or, as liberally as the Hebrew widows.

“In the daily ministration,” distribution of alms, contributed in common, according to the usage of the time, to provide the indigent with food, clothing and other necessaries of life.

Acts 6:2 Then the twelve, calling together the multitude of the disciples, said: It is not reason that we should leave the word of God and serve tables

“The twelve” Apostles. Matthias had been associated with the eleven.
“The multitude,” of the murmurers.

“It is not reason,” fitting or becoming. “Leave the word of God,” give up the preaching of the Gospel, which might be interrupted by their having charge of temporal affairs.

“And serve tables,” occupied with temporalities, money, food, clothing, &c.

Acts 6:3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

“Wherefore,” to put an end to complaints, “look ye out among you,” select from among yourselves, from your own body, as to leave no ground for suspicion or complaint.

“Seven, men,” &c., who bear a well-known character for integrity.

“Full of the Holy Ghost,” as far as can be seen from external conduct men distinguished for piety emanating from the Holy Ghost.

“Wisdom,” prudence in the management of the duties appertaining to the office to be assigned to them.

“Whom we may appoint over this business,” of impartially distributing the alms destined for the relief of the poor—The people select or recommend; but, the Apostles retain the right of appointing.

Acts 6:4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.

“Continually.” The Greek word means, persevering assiduity, “to prayer.” The article, prefixed in the Greek, would show there is question of public liturgical prayer, of which the chief part was, the Holy and Eucharistic sacrifice. Prayer is a very necessary part of a Pastor’s duty, in order to secure for his labours the blessing of God, from whom must come the success and fruit of his labours. Manent itaque (says St. Bernard, Ep. cc. 1.) verbum, exemplum, oratio, major autem his est oratio nam et operi and voci gratiam et efficaciam promeretur.

Acts 6:5 And the saying was liked by all the multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip and Prochorus and Nicanor, and Timon and Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch.

“The saying,” advice or injunction. “Stephen,” who proved himself in every way fitted for this office. He was the first afterwards to seal with his blood, his testimony of Jesus Christ. Hence, regarded, as the first martyr, and deservedly placed first on the list. “Nicolas” is said by some, to have been the founder of the sect of Nicolaites, referred to in terms of condemnation (Revel. 2:6, 15.) This however, is denied by others.

“A proselyte of Antioch,” born of Gentile parents, he embraced Judaism, thus becoming a Jewish Proselyte. He afterwards became a Christian. The names are all Greek. But, as the Hebrews at this time, assumed Greek names, likely, some of the seven selected were from among the Hebrews at this time, assumed Greek names, likely, some of the seven selected were from among the Hebrew Christians.

Acts 6:6 These they set before the apostles: and they praying, imposed hands upon them.
“And they praying,” &c. By prayer and imposition of hands, the Apostles conferred on them the Sacred Order of Deaconship Although not de fide, it is theologically certain, that Deacons receive the Sacrament of Orders. The Council of Trent defines (ss. xxiii can. vi.) that besides Bishops and Priests, Ministers also (surely, these mean Deacons), belong to the divinely instituted Hierarchy of the Catholic Church. The qualities required in Deacons by the Apostles, “full of the Holy Ghost, wisdom,” &c., would show that their destination was something higher than mere secular ministrations. The same ceremonies are employed in their regard, as in the ordination of Bishops and Priests, viz.: imposition of hands and prayer. Deacons exercised spiritual functions, Stephen preached, Philip baptized, c. 8. Whenever St. Paul speaks of Deacons, he does so, in connexion with Bishops.

St. Luke, no doubt, does not distinctly state, that Deaconship was a Sacred Institution. He only makes the exercise of the ministry of relieving widows, the occasion of describing the institution of Deacons. However, he does not confine their functions to this exclusively, though, indeed, it was a great exercise of Christian charity.

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One Response to Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 6:1-6

  1. Pingback: Commentaries and Resources for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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