the Greek-speaking Jews: Lit., “the Hellenists.” The Greek word Hel·le·ni·stesʹ is not found in Greek or Hellenistic Jewish literature, but the context supports the rendering “Greek-speaking Jews,” as is true of many lexicons. At the time, all the Christian disciples in Jerusalem, including those who spoke Greek, were of Jewish descent or were Jewish proselytes. (Ac 10:28, 35, 44-48) The term rendered “Greek-speaking Jews” is used in contrast with a term rendered “Hebrew-speaking Jews” (lit., “Hebrews”; plural form of the Greek word E·braiʹos). Therefore, “the Hellenists” were Jews who communicated with one another in Greek and who had come to Jerusalem from various parts of the Roman Empire, perhaps including the Decapolis. In contrast, most Hebrew-speaking Jews were probably Judeans and Galileans. These two groups of Jewish Christians likely had somewhat different cultural backgrounds.—See study note on Ac 9:29.
the Hebrew-speaking Jews: Lit., “the Hebrews.” The Greek word E·braiʹos (singular) refers in general to an Israelite, a Hebrew. (2Co 11:22; Php 3:5) In this context, though, the term refers to Hebrew-speaking Jewish Christians in contrast with Greek-speaking Jewish Christians.—See study note on the Greek-speaking Jews in this verse and study note on Joh 5:2.
in the daily distribution: Or “in the daily service (ministry).” The Greek word di·a·ko·niʹa, often rendered “ministry,” is here used for an aspect of the ministry that involves caring materially for needy brothers and sisters inside the congregation.—See study note on Ac 6:2, where the related verb di·a·ko·neʹo is rendered “to distribute food”; see also study note on Lu 8:3.
right: Lit., “pleasing.” It would not have been pleasing either to God or to the apostles to neglect “the ministry of the word” of God.—Ac 6:4.
to distribute food: Or “to minister; to serve.” The Greek word di·a·ko·neʹo here describes an aspect of the ministry that involves caring materially for needy but deserving fellow believers inside the congregation.—See study note on Ac 6:1, where the related noun di·a·ko·niʹa is rendered “distribution”; see also study note on Lu 8:3.
reputable men: Or “men who are well-reported-on; men with a good reputation.” Here the passive form of the Greek verb mar·ty·reʹo (“to bear witness”) is used. Qualified men were needed because the work likely involved not only serving food but also handling money, purchasing supplies, and keeping careful records. These men were said to be full of spirit and wisdom, showing evidence of being guided by God’s spirit and godly wisdom in their lives. The situation here was a sensitive one. Difficulties and differences already existed in the congregation, so experienced men who showed good judgment, discretion, and understanding were needed. One of these men was Stephen, and his defense before the Sanhedrin indicates that he was well-qualified.—Ac 7:2-53.
the ministry of the word: The same Greek word for “ministry” (di·a·ko·niʹa) is used at Ac 6:1 and 6:4. It is therefore obvious that two kinds of ministry are involved here—the impartial distribution of food supplies for those in need and the supplying of spiritual food from God’s Word. The apostles discerned that it would not be proper for them to devote their time to distributing physical food instead of focusing on their primary ministry, that of providing the congregation with spiritual food by means of prayerful study, research, teaching, and shepherding. They knew that caring for the physical needs of the destitute widows in the congregation was a necessary part of a Christian’s ministry. Later, Jehovah inspired James to write that those who want to worship God acceptably must “look after orphans and widows in their tribulation.” (Jas 1:27) However, the apostles also recognized that their priority was to care for the spiritual needs of all the disciples, including the widows.
Stephen, . . . Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus: All seven of these names are Greek, raising the possibility that from among all the qualified men available in the Jerusalem congregation, the apostles selected Greek-speaking Jews or proselytes. However, Nicolaus is the only one called a proselyte of Antioch, which suggests that he may have been the only non-Jew of the group. The Greek names of the others were common even among natural Jews. Still, the apostles, acting as a governing body, seem to have chosen these particular men out of consideration for the feelings of the Greek-speaking Jews.—Ac 6:1-6.
Antioch: This city, mentioned here for the first time in the Bible, lay some 500 km (300 mi) N of Jerusalem. Antioch became the capital of the Roman province of Syria in 64 B.C.E. By the first century C.E., it was the third-largest city in the Roman Empire, after Rome and Alexandria. While Antioch of Syria was admired for its beauty and its extensive political, commercial, and cultural influence, the city also acquired a reputation for moral corruption. A sizable population of Jews in Antioch reportedly made many proselytes among the Greek-speaking people there. Nicolaus became such a proselyte and later converted to Christianity. Barnabas and the apostle Paul spent a year teaching in Antioch, and Paul used that city as the base from which he launched his missionary tours. It was first in Antioch that Christ’s followers “were by divine providence called Christians.” (See study notes on Ac 11:26.) This Antioch is not to be confused with Antioch in Pisidia, mentioned at Ac 13:14.—See study note on Ac 13:14 and App. B13.
they laid their hands on them: In the Hebrew Scriptures, the laying on of hands was done either to a person or to an animal and had a variety of meanings. (Ge 48:14; Le 16:21; 24:14) In connection with humans, it was usually a gesture to indicate that the person was being recognized in a special way or designated for a special purpose. (Nu 8:10) For example, Moses laid his hand on Joshua as a way to acknowledge him as Moses’ successor. As a result, Joshua became “full of the spirit of wisdom” and was able to lead Israel properly. (De 34:9) In the account recorded here at Ac 6:6, the apostles laid their hands on the men whom they appointed to positions of responsibility. The apostles did so only after praying about the matter, showing that they wanted God’s guidance. Later, the members of a body of congregation elders appointed Timothy to a special position of service by laying their hands on him. (1Ti 4:14) Timothy too was authorized to appoint others by laying his hands on them, but only after he had carefully considered their qualifications.—1Ti 5:22.
wonders: Or “portents.”—See study note on Ac 2:19.
Synagogue of the Freedmen: During Roman rule, a “freedman” was a person who had been set free from slavery. It has been suggested that those who belonged to this synagogue were Jews who had been taken captive by the Romans and then later were emancipated. Another view is that these were freed slaves who had become Jewish proselytes.
elders: See study note on Mt 16:21.
the Nazarene: See study note on Mr 10:47.
like an angel’s face: Both the Hebrew and the Greek terms rendered “angel” mean “messenger.” (See study note on Joh 1:51.) Since angels bear messages from God, they have reason to be fearless and serene, confident that they have divine backing. Similarly, Stephen’s facial expression was that of a messenger of God. It gave no indication of guilt. Instead, he was serene, and his expression showed that he had confidence in the backing of Jehovah, “the God of glory.”—Ac 7:2.