Acts of Apostles: The Greek title Praʹxeis A·po·stoʹlon is found in some manuscripts going back to the second century C.E., though there is no evidence that this book originally had a title. The book is a continuation of the Gospel written by Luke. (See study note on Ac 1:1.) It covers primarily the activities of Peter and Paul, not those of all the apostles. The book provides a reliable and comprehensive history of the spectacular beginning and rapid development of the Christian congregation, first among the Jews, next among the Samaritans, and then among the Gentiles. (See study note on Mt 16:19.) The book also provides a historical background for the inspired letters of the Christian Greek Scriptures.
The first account: Luke here refers to his Gospel account of Jesus’ life. In his Gospel account, Luke focused on “all the things Jesus started to do and to teach.” In the book of Acts, Luke picks up where he left off and records what Jesus’ followers said and did. The accounts are similar in style and wording, and both are addressed to Theophilus. Whether Theophilus was a disciple of Christ is not stated explicitly. (See study note on Lu 1:3.) Luke begins the book of Acts by summarizing many of the events recorded at the end of his Gospel, clearly indicating that this second account is a continuation of the first. In this summary, however, Luke uses somewhat different wording and provides extra details.—Compare Lu 24:49 with Ac 1:1-12.
Theophilus: Both Luke’s Gospel and Acts of Apostles are addressed to this man. At Lu 1:3, his name is preceded by the title “most excellent.”—For more information on the use of this expression and the background of Theophilus, see study note on Lu 1:3.
the Kingdom of God: The overriding theme of the entire Bible, Jehovah’s Kingdom, dominates the book of Acts. (Ac 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:31) The book emphasizes that the apostles bore “thorough witness” concerning that Kingdom and fully accomplished their ministry.—Ac 2:40; 5:42; 8:25; 10:42; 20:21, 24; 23:11; 26:22; 28:23.
times or seasons: Two aspects of time are mentioned here. The plural form of the Greek word khroʹnos, rendered times, may refer to an unspecified period of time, long or short. The Greek word kai·rosʹ (sometimes rendered “appointed time[s]”; the plural form is here rendered seasons) is often used with reference to future time periods within God’s arrangement or timetable, particularly in relation to Christ’s presence and his Kingdom.—Ac 3:19; 1Th 5:1; see study notes on Mr 1:15; Lu 21:24.
in his own jurisdiction: Or “under his own authority.” This expression indicates that Jehovah has reserved for himself the right to set “the times or seasons” for the fulfillment of his purposes. He is the Great Timekeeper. Before Jesus died, Jesus said that even the Son did not then know the “day and hour” when the end would come but “only the Father” knew.—Mt 24:36; Mr 13:32.
the holy spirit: Or “the holy active force.” In the book of Acts, the expression “holy spirit” occurs 41 times, and there are at least 15 other occurrences of the term “spirit” (Greek, pneuʹma) that refer to God’s holy spirit. (For examples, see Ac 2:4, 17, 18; 5:9; 11:28; 21:4; see also Glossary, “Spirit.”) Thus, this Bible book makes it clear again and again that the international preaching and teaching work to be performed by Jesus’ followers could be accomplished only with the aid of God’s active force.—Compare study note on Mr 1:12.
witnesses of me: As faithful Jews, Jesus’ early disciples were already witnesses of Jehovah, and they testified that Jehovah is the only true God. (Isa 43:10-12; 44:8) Now, though, the disciples were to be witnesses of both Jehovah and Jesus. They were to make known Jesus’ vital role in sanctifying Jehovah’s name by means of His Messianic Kingdom, a new feature of Jehovah’s purpose. With the exception of John’s Gospel, Acts uses the Greek terms for “witness” (marʹtys), “to bear witness” (mar·ty·reʹo), “to bear thorough witness” (di·a·mar·tyʹro·mai), and related words more times than any other Bible book. (See study note on Joh 1:7.) The idea of being a witness and bearing thorough witness about God’s purposes—including his Kingdom and Jesus’ vital role—is a theme that runs through the book of Acts. (Ac 2:32, 40; 3:15; 4:33; 5:32; 8:25; 10:39; 13:31; 18:5; 20:21, 24; 22:20; 23:11; 26:16; 28:23) Some first-century Christians bore witness to, or confirmed, historical facts about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection from their firsthand knowledge. (Ac 1:21, 22; 10:40, 41) Those who later put faith in Jesus bore witness by proclaiming the significance of his life, death, and resurrection.—Ac 22:15; see study note on Joh 18:37.
to the most distant part of the earth: Or “to the ends (extremity) of the earth.” The same Greek expression is used at Ac 13:47 in a prophecy quoted from Isa 49:6, where the Greek Septuagint also uses the term. Jesus’ statement at Ac 1:8 may echo that prophecy, which foretold that Jehovah’s servant would be “a light of nations” so that salvation would reach “the ends of the earth.” This harmonizes with Jesus’ previous statement that his followers would perform “works greater” than his. (See study note on Joh 14:12.) The statement is also in line with Jesus’ description of the worldwide scope of the Christian preaching work.—See study notes on Mt 24:14; 26:13; 28:19.
the sky: The Greek word ou·ra·nosʹ that occurs three times in this verse can refer to the physical heavens, that is, the sky, or to the spiritual heavens.
will come in the same manner: The Greek word for “come” (erʹkho·mai) is used frequently in the Scriptures in a variety of ways. In some contexts, it refers to Jesus’ coming as Judge to pronounce and execute judgment during the great tribulation. (Mt 24:30; Mr 13:26; Lu 21:27) However, this Greek word is used regarding Jesus on other occasions. (Mt 16:28–17:2; Mt 21:5, 9; 23:39; Lu 19:38) Therefore, the context determines in what sense the term “come” is used here. The angels said that Jesus would “come,” or return, in the same “manner” (Greek, troʹpos) as he departed. The term troʹpos does not refer to the same form, shape, or body but to the same way. As the context shows, Jesus’ manner of departure was not observed by the world in general. Only the apostles were aware that Jesus left the vicinity of the earth to return to his Father in heaven. Jesus had indicated that his return as King of “the Kingdom of God” would not be in a way that was obvious to all—only his disciples would know it had taken place. (Lu 17:20; see study note.) The “coming” mentioned at Re 1:7 is different. On that occasion, “every eye will see him.” (Re 1:7) So in the context of Ac 1:11, the term “come” apparently refers to Jesus’ invisible coming in Kingdom power at the beginning of his presence.—Mt 24:3.
a sabbath day’s journey: That is, the distance an Israelite was allowed to travel on the Sabbath. The term is here connected with the distance between the Mount of Olives and the city of Jerusalem. The Law restricted travel on the Sabbath but did not specify the distance that could be covered. (Ex 16:29) Over time, rabbinic sources defined the distance a Jew could travel on that day as being about 2,000 cubits (890 m; 2,920 ft). That interpretation was based on Nu 35:5: “You should measure outside the city 2,000 cubits” and on the statement found at Jos 3:3, 4 that instructed the Israelites to keep a distance of about 2,000 cubits from “the ark of the covenant.” Rabbis reasoned that an Israelite was permitted to travel at least that far on the Sabbath to worship at the tabernacle. (Nu 28:9, 10) Possibly because of reckoning from two different starting points, Josephus gives the distance between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives one time as five furlongs (925 m; 3,034 ft) and another time as six furlongs (1,110 m; 3,640 ft). Either way, the distance is approximately the same as the distance that the rabbis had defined as a sabbath day’s journey, and it harmonizes with Luke’s comment in this verse.
the zealous one: A designation distinguishing the apostle Simon from the apostle Simon Peter. (Lu 6:14, 15) The Greek word used here and at Lu 6:15, ze·lo·tesʹ, means “zealot; enthusiast.” The accounts at Mt 10:4 and Mr 3:18 use the designation “the Cananaean,” a term thought to be of Hebrew or Aramaic origin that likewise means “Zealot; Enthusiast.” While it is possible that Simon once belonged to the Zealots, a Jewish party opposed to the Romans, he may have been given this designation because of his zeal and enthusiasm.
his brothers: That is, Jesus’ half brothers. The four Gospels, Acts of Apostles, and two of Paul’s letters mention “the Lord’s brothers,” “the brother of the Lord,” “his brothers,” and “his sisters,” naming four of the “brothers”—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. (1Co 9:5; Ga 1:19; Mt 12:46; 13:55, 56; Mr 3:31; Lu 8:19; Joh 2:12) These siblings were all born after the miraculous birth of Jesus. Most Bible scholars accept the evidence that Jesus had at least four brothers and two sisters and that all were offspring of Joseph and Mary by natural means.—See study note on Mt 13:55.
the brothers: At times, a male Christian believer is distinguished as “a brother” and a female as “a sister.” (1Co 7:14, 15) At other times, as in this context, the Bible uses the term “brothers” to refer to both males and females. (Ac 1:13, 14) Generally, the term “brothers” was the accepted greeting to mixed groups and was not restricted to males. (Ro 1:13; 1Th 1:4) The term “brothers” is used in this sense in most of the inspired Christian letters. In the preceding verse (Ac 1:14), the plural form of the Greek word a·del·phosʹ is used with regard to Jesus’ half brothers, the younger sons of Joseph and Mary.—See study notes on Mt 13:55; Ac 1:14.
number of people: Lit., “crowd of names.” In this context, the Greek word for “name” (oʹno·ma) refers to a person. It is used in the same way at Re 3:4, ftn.
Men, brothers: Unlike the preceding verse, here the term “brothers” is used together with the Greek word for “men; males” (a·nerʹ). In the context of determining who should replace Judas Iscariot as an apostle, this combination may indicate that only male members of the congregation were being addressed.
falling headfirst, his body burst open: Matthew’s account of Judas’ death says that Judas “hanged himself,” showing how he committed suicide. (Mt 27:5) But here Luke’s account describes the result. A comparison of the two accounts indicates that Judas hanged himself near a cliff. At some point, the rope or the tree limb broke, so that he plunged down and his body burst open on the rocks below. The steep and rocky topography around Jerusalem allows for drawing such a conclusion.
His office of oversight: Or “His assignment as an overseer.” The Greek word used here, e·pi·sko·peʹ, is related to the Greek noun for “overseer,” e·piʹsko·pos, and the verb e·pi·sko·peʹo, rendered “carefully watch” at Heb 12:15. Peter quoted Ps 109:8 to support his recommendation that the place left vacant by the unfaithful apostle Judas be filled. In that passage, the Hebrew text uses the word pequd·dahʹ, which can be rendered with such terms as “office of oversight; oversight; overseers.” (Nu 4:16; Isa 60:17) At Ps 109:8 in the Septuagint (108:8, LXX), this Hebrew word is rendered by the same Greek word that Luke used here at Ac 1:20. From this inspired statement by Peter, it is clear that the apostles had an office, or assignment, as overseers. They had been directly appointed by Jesus. (Mr 3:14) So on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., the Christian congregation, which grew from about 120 members to about 3,000 in one day, started out with 12 overseers. (Ac 1:15; 2:41) Thereafter, others were appointed as overseers to help take care of the growing congregation. However, the apostles’ oversight remained special, since Jehovah apparently purposed to have the 12 apostles form the future “12 foundation stones” of New Jerusalem.—Re 21:14; see study note on Ac 20:28.
carried on his activities among us: Lit., “went in and went out among us,” which reflects a Semitic idiom that refers to carrying on activities of life in association with other people. It could also be rendered “lived among us.”—Compare De 28:6, 19; Ps 121:8, ftn.
Matthias: The Greek name Math·thiʹas is probably a shortened form of Mat·ta·thiʹas, derived from the Hebrew name rendered “Mattithiah” (1Ch 15:18), meaning “Gift of Jehovah.” According to Peter’s words (Ac 1:21, 22), Matthias was a follower of Christ throughout Jesus’ three-and-a-half-year ministry. He was closely associated with the apostles and was quite likely one of the 70 disciples whom Jesus sent out to preach. (Lu 10:1) After his selection, Matthias was “counted along with the 11 apostles” (Ac 1:26), and when the book of Acts immediately thereafter speaks of “the apostles” or “the Twelve,” Matthias was included.—Ac 2:37, 43; 4:33, 36; 5:12, 29; 6:2, 6; 8:1, 14.
Jehovah: Available Greek manuscripts use the term “Lord” (Greek, Kyʹri·os) here. However, as explained in App. C, there are good reasons to believe that the divine name was originally used in this verse and later replaced by the title Lord. Therefore, the name Jehovah is used in the main text.
who know the hearts of all: The Hebrew Scriptures frequently identify Jehovah God as the one with the ability to read hearts. (De 8:2; 1Sa 16:7; 1Ki 8:39; 1Ch 28:9; Ps 44:21; Jer 11:20; 17:10) It would have been natural in this context, then, for those Hebrew-speaking Jews to use the divine name when praying to God. The Greek word rendered “who know the hearts,” kar·di·o·gnoʹstes (lit., “knower of hearts”), occurs only here and at Ac 15:8, where it reads, “God, who knows the heart.”—See App. C3 introduction; Ac 1:24.
cast lots: When making decisions on a variety of issues, God’s servants in pre-Christian times cast lots to determine Jehovah’s will. (Le 16:8; Nu 33:54; 1Ch 25:8; Pr 16:33; 18:18; see Glossary, “Lots.”) In the Christian Greek Scriptures, there is only this one mention of lots being used by Jesus’ followers. Lots were cast to help the disciples decide which one of the two men proposed as candidates should replace Judas Iscariot. The disciples knew that they needed Jehovah’s direction. Each of the 12 apostles had been appointed directly by Jesus only after he spent a whole night in prayer to his Father. (Lu 6:12, 13) It is noteworthy, therefore, that before “the lot fell to Matthias,” the disciples reviewed several Scriptures and prayed specifically for Jehovah to “designate” his choice. (Ac 1:20, 23, 24) After Pentecost 33 C.E., however, there is no record in the Bible that lots were used to select overseers and their assistants or to decide matters of importance. This method was not needed once the holy spirit became active on the Christian congregation. (Ac 6:2-6; 13:2; 20:28; 2Ti 3:16, 17) Men were selected as overseers, not because they had been chosen by the casting of lots, but because they displayed the fruitage of the holy spirit in their lives. (1Ti 3:1-13; Tit 1:5-9) Other cultures also used lots. (Es 3:7; Joe 3:3; Ob 11) For example, the Roman soldiers cast lots over Jesus’ garments, as foretold at Ps 22:18. Apparently their motive was, not to fulfill Bible prophecy, but to get some personal gain.—Joh 19:24; see study note on Mt 27:35.
counted along with: Or “reckoned along with,” that is, viewed the same as the other 11 apostles. So when Pentecost arrived, there were 12 apostles to serve as the foundation of spiritual Israel. Matthias would have been one of “the Twelve” who later helped settle the problem concerning the Greek-speaking disciples (Ac 6:1, 2).