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in the former instance. The whole story of the lame man, and of the subsequent examination of Peter and John, bears the appearance of the warm and coloured representation of the partisan, rather than the cool account of an impartial observer. The length and vigour of the speeches ascribed to Peter, who is said to be filled with the Holy Ghost, compared with the tameness and want of argument on the part of his opponents, shews too evidently a disposition to set off the Apostle to advantage. Even though the man who had been healed were present, such men as Annas and the rulers would surely have been clever enough to find something to say against it; but they send the Apostles aside, and confer among themselves, saying, “What shall we do to these men ? for, indeed, that a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.”. This is more than a candid admission on the part of Annas and the council; it is the exaggeration of a zealous defender of the Apostles: for the miracle could not be manifest to all in Jerusalem; and that it was a real miracle, no one was obliged to say, or could say properly, until the man had been further examined, and the nature of his previous lameness as well as the reality of his cure had been better ascertained. The confident and unaltered tone of Luke in relating what was said in the secret council, shews that he is here using the dramatic historian's privilege of attributing thoughts and speeches to his characters; and, as was to be expected, he turns it to good account on behalf of the Apostles. This appears in nearly all the speeches. The first question of the rulers is, “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this ?” which is no more than a good introduction to Peter's oration concerning the power of the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. This conclusion, “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved,” betrays rather the enlarged notions concerning Christ's dominion belonging to a companion of Paul, writing long after the admission of the Gentiles, than to Peter at such an early period, when he had as yet no idea that the Gentiles were to receive the word of God. The same thing appears more plainly in the former speech attributed to Peter, “Unto you first (i. e. the Jews), God having raised up his son Jesus, hath sent him to bless you,” &c. Luke here evidently forgets that he had not yet arrived at that part of his history, where Peter, to the astonishment of himself and of those with him (Acts x. 34, 45), first found that others besides the Jews were to receive the word of God.
Since Luke thus appears to embellish so freely in his account of the speeches,* it is unavoidable to infer that he does so, in some degree, in that of the facts; especially as they were, in this case, such as he had probably not witnessed himself.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira may be Ananias accounted for, in great part, by the effect which
Sapphira. spiritual terrors have been known to have upon persons both religious and weak-minded. The same ardour of faith, arising from the expectation of the coming of the Lord, which led the early church to acknowledge the necessity of giving up all temporal possessions, would render such terrors amongst them peculiarly strong; and upon minds which had undergone a struggle between conscience and the natural love of property, and remaining oppressed with the consciousness of duplicity, we can imagine that the menaces of the Apostle must have fallen with tremendous effect. This, however, would hardly
* In these speeches, Acts iii. iv., occur many of the most forcible testimonies to the resurrection of Jesus. The above criticism confirms the view that these are to be considered rather as the testimonies of Luke, than of Peter himself.
explain the death and burial of both parties within a few hours of Peter's speech; but here there may be an exaggeration similar to that in the case of Herod. Their death, happen when it might, would be supposed by the believers to be in punishment of their fraud upon the church, and the story would soon be told in such a way as to make the connexion clear.
The attempt to obtain the merit and privileges attached to an unqualified surrender of property, without honestly performing the condition, was such a dangerous example to a society living in common, that Ananias and Sapphira would appear fully to deserve their heavy doom, and the narrator would feel interested in depicting it in the most fearful colours.
The release of the Apostles from the com
mon prison bears the appearance of fiction, from prison.
its being a perfectly useless miracle. It cannot be imagined that an angel, on releasing the Apostles, would have the simplicity to send them to the temple, where they were so likely to be taken again, as we are told they were the next morning. The effect of the miracle is, that the Apostles are not found where they had been left, but in another place. It is unworthy of the divine power to suppose that it would choose to display itself by such a mere hide-and-seek affair.
A more finished story of the same kind is told of Peter alone, Acts xii. But the disposition to do honour to the Apostles might have suggested this story as well as the former. With the exception of the escape of the child from Herod, and of Christ's passing through the crowd on the brow of the hill, it is the only instance in the New Testament of deliverance from enemies by miraculous means; and it seems the more improbable, as Christ is never represented as expecting such deliverance for himself or his disciples; but, on the contrary, as warning them frequently that he and they must be delivered into the hands of men.
The important miracle of Paul's conver- Conversion sion is related thus :
of Paul. Acts ix. 3—19, “ And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus, and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest : it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing
And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man : but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias ; and he said, Behold I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus; for behold he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how uch evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem : and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way; for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel : for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. And Ananias' went his way,
and entered into the house; and, putting his hands on him, said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales;
and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.”
The important point, that the men with Paul heard the voice, is contradicted in the speech attributed to Paul, Acts xxii. 9, for there he only says that they saw the light; “And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid ; but they heard not the voice of him that spoke to me.” In this place, as well as the above, Paul is told to go into Damascus, where he will be told what to
do, and Ananias there gives him his apostolic commission; but in the speech before Agrippa, xxvii. Jesus gives him this commission at once from the sky. The story is told thus in the latter place, no doubt to avoid a repetition of the minute details; yet, strictly, the facts thus become at variance with the foregoing accounts, which shews at least carelessness in the manner of narrating. These inaccuracies of Luke, in his own repetitions of his story, lead us to suspect that there may be some inaccuracies in his first story itself, and that he has represented as real what Paul himself only intended to relate as a vision, adding a few particulars which he found necessary to make the account complete. The recovery of Paul's sight, ver. 17, 18, might be related almost in the same words if understood of spiritual blindness. The light from heaven, and the remonstrance of Jesus, also require but little alteration to restore them to a merely spiritual sense. But as Luke was not with Paul at the time, the chief merit of his version of the matter may belong to Barnabas, who appears to have been the first who related the story, ix. 27, and that on an occasion when he had a sufficient motive to lead him to strain the real facts into an evident miraculous interposition, viz. his desire to prove to the church at Jerusalem that his friend Paul had been duly commissioned by Jesus himself, and might therefore properly be introduced by him as a fellow-labourer with the other Apostles. The testimony of Barnabas was readily received concerning a matter so honourable to the church, and probably somewhat improved afterwards by Paul's other adherents, who were naturally anxious to meet the objection that their leader had not seen Jesus. And from one of these we have the present story.
The change in Paul's mind seems not unnatural. His first indignation against the innovating sect was appeased by the death of Stephen, and the subsequent persecution. On the road to Damascus he had leisure to reconsider