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Deconstructing Acts 4:13

Robert C Hendrix
Deconstructing Acts 4:13

Deconstructing KJV Acts 4:13

Matthew 13:54-56a, And when he had come to his own country he taught them in their congregation, so that they were astonished** and said, “Where did this one get this wisdom and miracles? Is this not the son of the carpenter? Is not his mother called Miryam? And his brothers Ya’acov and Yosef and Shi’mon and Yehudah? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this one get all this?” And they stumbled* at him (The Scriptures 2000).

* σκανδαλίζω (verb) transliteration: skandalizo (Strong’s G4624)

Its cognate means, properly, set a snare (“stumbling-block”); figuratively, “to hinder right conduct or thought; to cause to stumble”; literally, “to fall into a trap” (Abbott-Smith).

** KJV also reads with this word “astonished” Strong’s G1605, which has the emotional meaning “to inflict (with calamity), to strike with panic”

What is your immediate take on these verses? Is Messiah causing some hearers of his teachings to stumble, or are there those among them who would use his own teachings in attempts to ensnare him? Or, yet another explanation? Why was the question from “Where?” did Yeshua learn the Tanakh so significant to the religious authorities? Let us look deeper, determined not only to translate the Greek words as accurately as possible into English but also to understand the context and circumstances in which those words were recorded!

Background to Acts 4:13

Matthew 22:15-17a, Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to trap* him in his words. And they sent to him their taught ones with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of Elohim in truth, and it does not concern you about anyone, for you are not partial to any man. Then say to us, what do you think?” 22, … And having heard, they marveled, and left him and went away. 34-35, But the Pharisees, having heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, were gathered together, and one of them, one learned in the Torah, did question, trying** him, and saying… 46, And no one was able to answer him a word, and from that day no one was bold enough to ask him any more questions (The Scriptures 2000).

* τινα ἐν λόγῳ – of the attempt to elicit from someone any remark which can be turned into an accusation against him

** πειράζω – (in a bad sense) to test someone maliciously, craftily, to put to a proof his feelings or judgment

Summary

  1. Yeshua read and taught “in truth” from the Tanakh:
  2. His hearers “marveled” at this and at his responses to questions; some were pleasantly “amazed,” others disturbingly “astonished,” with his wisdom.
  3. The religious authorities attempted “tripping him up,” publicly challenging his interpretations; but
  4. Yeshua “turned the tables” on them, becoming a “stumbling block” to their Temple-worship.
  5. The religious authorities were “scandalized” by his exposing their hypocrisies.

am ha’erets, “people of the land”

The following is lifted from an article in Wikipedia:

Use of the term am ha’aretz in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) has little connection to usage in the Hasmonean period and hence in the Mishnah. The Talmud applies “the people of Land” to uneducated Jews, who were deemed likely to be negligent in their observance of the commandments due to their ignorance, and the term combines the meanings of “rustic” with those of “boorish, uncivilized, ignorant.”

In antiquity (Hasmonean to the Roman era, 140 BCE – 70 CE) the am ha’aretz were considered the uneducated rustic population of Judea, Samaria, the Galilee, as opposed to the learned factions of the Pharisees or Sadducees.

The am ha’aretz were of two types, the am ha’aretz le-mitzvot, Jews disparaged for not scrupulously observing the commands, and the am ha’aretz la-Torah, those stigmatized as ignoramuses for not having studied the Torah at all.

[ see also https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200003433 ]

Acts 4:13 (Greek-English Interlinear)

Definitions from the Tables

παρρησίαν “boldness” G3954: unreservedness in speech; i.e., “boldly speaking, without ambiguity or circumlocution”

καταλαβόμενοι “perceived” G2638:  to lay hold of with the mind; specifically, “to seize upon”

ἀγράμματοί “unlettered” G62: without learning; specifically, “unversed in the learning of the Jewish schools”

ἰδιῶται “private” G2399: a “private” person, as opposed to a magistrate or ruler (that is, a “public” person); e.g., a common soldier, as opposed to a military officer

ἐθαύμαζον “marveled” G2296: to be had in admiration; specifically, “a condition giving cause for wondering at another matter”; e.g., Acts 2:7, And they were all amazed, and marveled, saying to each other, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans?” also, Revelation 13:3, And I saw one of its heads, as having been slain to death, and its deadly wound was healed. And all the earth marveled after the beast. also, Luke 2:33, And Yosef and his mother were marveled at what was said about him [Yeshua haMashiach].

Foreground to Acts 4:13

Acts 4:5-6, “And it came to be, on the next day, that their rulers and elders and scribes assembled… as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, Yochanan [relative of Annas], and Alexander and the many as were of high priestly descent.” Notice what follows in verses 14-20: 1) these religious authorities sent Peter and John outside their council 2) they then consulted together about how to silence them 3) they summoned Peter and John back, strongly threatening them “not to speak at all nor to teach in the name of Yeshua.”

After speaking publicly “with boldness” under Solomon’s Porch1 in the Temple, having quoted from Deuteronomy, Psalms, Joel, Zechariah, and referring to “all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those following who have also announced these days” (Acts 3:24), will John and Peter then cower before their oppressors, trembling before their “higher education” and “high-sounding” moralism? No way! Acts 4:19, But Peter and John answering them, said, “Whether it is right in the sight of Elohim to listen to you more than to Elohim, you judge.” Then, they paraphrase Jeremiah’s experience, “Because you speak this word, see, I am making My words fire in your mouth”: verse 20, “For it is impossible for us not to speak of what we saw and heard!”

As specified in the literal Greek text, it's obvious that in Matthew chapter 13 the "caveat" to Messiah's ministry - and in Acts chapter 4 the "caveat" to John and Peter's testimony - was not what they lacked in knowledge and in words. The religious authorities were making it known publicly how they disdained each of them for their lacking a formal (rabbinical school) education, for being what they derisively termed am ha'aretz.  

Conclusion

Be assured that the talmiydim (taught-ones) of Messiah – especially those in his “inner circle,” memorized his Torah and Prophets teachings (Matthew 5:16-20), discussed them at length and in depth with him and among themselves, taught them to others, and walked them out (haliykah, “the walk, the Way”). We are thankful to Dr Miles Jones for reminding us what Yehovah Elohiym required of an obedient ancient Hebrew: Deuteronomy chapter 6, specifically verses 6-7, “And these Words which I am commanding you today shall be in your heart, and you shall impress them upon your children, and shall speak of them when you sit in your dwelling, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up… .”

We are Blessed to have opportunities exploring Hebrew manuscripts of B’rit Chadashah (the “New Testament”), discovering how near to or how far from Greek manuscripts so long thought to have primacy. Oh, and lest we fail to mention, how often so very far with their accuracy they can be from English versions such as the “Nearly Inspired Version” or the King James “Perversion.”

And what better example of “far from the Greek” than the KJV Acts 4:13: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”

1Also known as “Solomon’s Colonnade” or “Solomon’s Portico,” Solomon’s Porch was a long, covered but open gallery created by two parallel rows of columns supporting a long wooden roof. Solomon’s Porch ran along the eastern edge of the Temple area, overlooking the Kidron Valley and facing the Mount of Olives to the east. It was centrally located and one of the few public places in Jerusalem that was large enough to accommodate a large crowd. It was also where people passed through or gathered to socialize and discuss before or after their sacrifices and prayers at the temple, and therefore a good place to share the Besorah (“Gospel”).

About the Author

Personnel Chief, Sergeant E-5, USMC; Automotive Machinist; Vocational Skills Instructor, Work-Activity Center; Lead Floor Supervisor, Sheltered Workshop; Manager, Residential Training Facility; Wood mill worker; Sawyer; Lead Bank Teller; Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA); Co-founder, Guarding The Way Fellowship (an Aviv fellowship)

B.S. English; B.S. Secondary Education, Special Education; Accepted, Master’s Degree Program, Psychology; Secondary English Teacher, District 549C; Special Education Teacher, District 9; Officer/Spokesperson, Eugene Veterans Advocacy Council; Executive Board Member, Churchill Area Neighbors Association; Participant, Lane Transit District’s Accessible Transportation Committee; Member, NLC Housing & Homelessness Subcommittee

Co-author, Cohort, “State of Jefferson” Consort “Move The Borders!”

Hobbies include: reading, writing, loud music, chinaware collection, home improvement, repairing yard care machinery & tools, martial arts, the out-of-doors.

Your diet is not only what you eat: it’s what you watch, what you listen to, what you read, the people you choose to be around. Be mindful of the things you allow into your body – emotionally, physically, spiritually. “Do not deceive yourselves (since Elohiym is not deceived) or be led astray: for what humans sow, they will also reap,” Galatians 6:7.

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