They said, “What should we do with these men? For it’s obvious to everybody living in Jerusalem that an unmistakable sign has been done by them, and we can’t deny it. But to keep it from spreading any further among the people, let us warn them never again to speak to anyone in this name.”Acts 4:16-17
Peter and John recalled and threatened:
So they called them in and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “You must decide whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than God, for we cannot stop talking about what we have seen and heard.” So they threatened them even more and then let them go. They couldn’t find any way to punish them, because all the people continued to praise God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing had been performed was more than forty years old. [ISV]Acts 4:18-22
What did the members of Council mean by “not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again” and later, “commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus”?
It seems an extraordinarily strong prohibition. The warning the council gave the disciples was a strict command from the Supreme Jewish Court – more serious than “contempt of court” in this day and age. The command was strict and permitted no exception of any kind. The present infinitives indicate they were to stop doing something they had been doing up to when the statement was made. It was linear and applied for all time. Doesn’t that seem a little excessive? Just look at the English translation of the statement.
- We must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.
- Commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.
The strength of this prohibition is as I told you above and in the last Gem – a strict, binding command from the Supreme Jewish Court, more serious that “contempt of court” in this day. There were to be no exceptions, no exemptions. They were to stop now and continue to desist for all time –for always and forever. Or to put it with the negative connotation, “they were never again to speak or teach in Jesus name forever more“.
But what does not speaking in His name mean? The Pharisees and Sadducees and the teachers of the law were masters at tying up the people with red tape, so that the Law spelled out clearly what was meant. In numbers of countries where evangelism or proselytizing is forbidden, it is spelled out as to what is meant. Notice the elements of what I have boldened above. We could imagine people asking:
- Is the ban on large gatherings?
- Is the ban on the place where the speaking is done, like in the temple area?
- Is the manner of delivery what is at issue? Teaching, preaching, evangelistic meetings?
- Is it a matter of the quantity of people involved as hearers, no public address system? Can I tell my friend individually?
- Is the ban related to the time of the day, daytime meetings, night time meetings?
- Is the ban more related to content of what is said? The main issue here appears to be using “the name of Jesus”.
Simply, it is all those factors. Don’t speak, teach, preach to ANYONE in that name ever again.
The section begins with two words [kaleo] and [paraggello]. The first [kaleo] means “to call” or “to summons” somebody, while the second [paraggello] has the sense to charge, to give a command, to insist on something, to forbid someone to do something. The first term is used in a general way but can have a legal quality of meaning to it – i.e. “to summons”. The second term is very legal and is a binding term – I.e to charge, to place a prohibition on someone or some action or intent. They were to stop immediately and forever. To never do that action again as long as they should live. Then there is a third word involved [phtheggomai] meaning, not to speak, call out loudly, to proclaim.
So the sense of the prohibition could be:
- not use their voice at all
- not to be involved in public speaking or speaking in a loud voice to numbers of people
- not to speak the name in the context of miracles
Furthermore, take note of the implications of “we must warn them” followed by “The council then threatened them further . . .”. There was very clear warning given in the first instance that this was an edict that was binding. Before it was delivered to the two disciples, the council discussed the nature and severity of the warning behind closed doors. Then they came out with the warning. As it is recorded above it is clear this was “Don’t speak, teach, preach to ANYONE in that name ever again.” But then notice in verse 21 they warn the disciples again but in this case Luke does not record for us the words used. However it is clear that the council warned Peter and John again with threats of what would happen if they refused to heed the warnings. We don’t have the words the council used but we know clearly the intent and how strongly they meant their prohibition to be carried out.
There is one more element I need to spell out for you Gems readers, connected with all of this. I told you in the last Gem that there is a difference between verses 4:17 and 4:18. Was it meant to be “in the name of Jesus” or “in this name”? As I indicated to you, 5 out of the 34 versions I have loaded in E-Sword translate ‘Jesus’ in verse 17. Those five versions are, GNB, GW, MSG and NLT, along with one Indonesian version, BIS. All other versions translate “in this name”. But when it comes to verse 18, all 34 versions translate ‘Jesus’ for this verse. Why the difference? It is clear when you look at the original Greek text that the name ‘Jesus’ is not included in verse 17 but included in verse 18. You will note in this Gem I have used another translation [ISV] to make it clear. In Gem 1432 I used the NLT, one of the translations which uses “Jesus” and not “in this name”. In the Greek New Testament “Jesus” is recorded in verse 18 in all 34 versions whereas in verse 17 “in this name” is used by 29 out 34 versions – only the five mentioned above (GNB, GW, MSG NLT and BIS) use “in the name of Jesus”.
What is going on here? It sounds so complicated. Is there any point to this Ian or is this just a small matter with no importance attached to it? Note that in verse 17 the words are found in direct speech; in verse 18 the words are indirect speech. The words in verse 17 are those which the council themselves uttered: – namely, “warn them never again to speak to anyone in this name”. The words in verse 18 are those recorded by Luke himself and is by definition not necessarily the actual words used: – namely – ‘so they called them in and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.’ These are not the words of the council themselves, they are Luke’s summation of what they in fact meant. What the council actually said was “In this name”. The explanation by many commentators is that the Sanhedrin had to make the name specific in order to state the bounds of the prohibition. So that is why the name of Jesus had to be mentioned, in order to make the nature of command clear. But that is not what the Greek text tells us. The Greek text leaves the name out in verse 17 but includes it in verse 18. The explanation is in conflict with the textual evidence. Verse 18 is Luke’s addition. In the quoted words of the council, the name is not mentioned.
Why? It is clear the council said “in this name”. Luke reinterprets their words “in this name” to mean “in the name of Jesus”. He makes it clear that “this name” the council referred to is none other than the name of the One who is the Cornerstone. The Name of Jesus. In verse 17 it is highly likely that “in this name” is used rather than for them to have to utter the name of Jesus. The likelihood is that the council would not take the name they despised on their lips and so instead, in it’s place they use “in this name”.
The tendency of most translations is to preserve any mention of the name of Jesus or Christ in the original text and replicate it in any translation. But in this case most translations translate “in this name” and only the 5 versions mentioned above use “in Jesus name”. They wish to make it clear which name was in focus. But it is more likely that the council use the term “in this name” or “in that name” in order to belittle the Name of Jesus and reduce it to being worthless. They cannot even bring themselves to allow “that name” on their lips.
What do you conclude were the prime concerns of the Council? They were driven by their theological biases and were incensed by the fact that this rural fisherman was scoring theological points against them by the clarity of his arguments. Furthermore, Peters’ words were bitingly critical of the religious leaders themselves. Often people who are insecure about who they are and wish to appear greater than they are in reality, will attack the people who are their biggest threat. If they can’t be better than the person who is a threat then they will seek to pull down the threat to their level or lower. That is exactly what is happening here. The council have an inflated view of themselves and perceive these ignorant, untrained men to be worthless. Speaking in the name of Jesus (with Christ’s authority) or speaking on or about the name of Jesus is something these puffed up, self-proclaimed, experts in the Law abhor. What must have irked them to the extreme, was that first the leader of these men (Christ) continually confounded the council with his answers to their questions and He had been doing it since He was twelve. It riled them that that the Master had now passed the baton to His trainees and now they too were confounding these leaders with their arguments. Not only that, but they can’t afford to allow these upstarts to use the name of their rebel master as they please. Note that the council are typical of those who have a self-serving attitude, and are more worried about public opinion. In verse 21 we are told, “They couldn’t find any way to punish them, because all the people continued to praise God for what had happened.” The only thing the Council are worried about is what the people think. They are more concerned about public opinion than truth.
Time to leave it there for the moment. There is more but this Gem has grown too long.
I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don’t have as many people that believe it.George Carlin
When you judge a person by their appearance it doesn’t define them; it defines you.Anon
Life is like photography. You need the negatives to develop!Rick Godwin
The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything.Herbert Swope