6:1 At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. 3 Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, 4 whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5
The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. 7 The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith. 8
Now Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, 10 but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke. 11 Then they instigated some men to say, “We have heard him speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes, accosted him, seized him, and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13
They presented false witnesses who testified, “This man never stops saying things against (this) holy place and the law. 14 For we have heard him claim that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.” 15 All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
7:1 Then the high priest asked, “Is this so?” 2 And he replied, “My brothers and fathers, listen. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was in Mesopotamia, before he had settled in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Go forth from your land and (from) your kinsfolk to the land that I will show you.’ 4 So he went forth from the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. And from there, after his father died, he made him migrate to this land where you now dwell. 5 Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but he did promise to give it to him and his descendants as a possession, even though he was childless. 6
And God spoke thus, ‘His descendants shall be aliens in a land not their own, where they shall be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years; 7 but I will bring judgment on the nation they serve,’ God said, ‘and after that they will come out and worship me in this place.’ 8 Then he gave him the covenant of circumcision, and so he became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day, as Isaac did Jacob, and Jacob the twelve patriarchs. 9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into slavery in Egypt; but God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his afflictions. He granted him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, who put him in charge of Egypt and (of) his entire household. 11
Then a famine and great affliction struck all Egypt and Canaan, and our ancestors could find no food; 12 but when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there a first time. 13 The second time, Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. 14 Then Joseph sent for his father Jacob, inviting him and his whole clan, seventy-five persons; 15 and Jacob went down to Egypt. And he and our ancestors died 16 and were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor at Shechem. 17
“When the time drew near for the fulfillment of the promise that God pledged to Abraham, the people had increased and become very numerous in Egypt, 18 until another king who knew nothing of Joseph came to power (in Egypt). 19 He dealt shrewdly with our people and oppressed (our) ancestors by forcing them to expose their infants, that they might not survive. 20 At this time Moses was born, and he was extremely beautiful. For three months he was nursed in his father’s house; 21 but when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 Moses was educated (in) all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds. 23
“When he was forty years old, he decided to visit his kinsfolk, the Israelites. 24 When he saw one of them treated unjustly, he defended and avenged the oppressed man by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He assumed (his) kinsfolk would understand that God was offering them deliverance through him, but they did not understand. 26 The next day he appeared to them as they were fighting and tried to reconcile them peacefully, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why are you harming one another?’ 27 Then the one who was harming his neighbor pushed him aside, saying, ‘Who appointed you ruler and judge over us? 28 Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 Moses fled when he heard this and settled as an alien in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons. 30
“Forty years later, an angel appeared to him in the desert near Mount Sinai in the flame of a burning bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look at it, the voice of the Lord came, 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.’ Then Moses, trembling, did not dare to look at it. 33 But the Lord said to him, ‘Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. 34 I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to rescue them. Come now, I will send you to Egypt.’ 35 This Moses, whom they had rejected with the words, ‘Who appointed you ruler and judge?’ God sent as (both) ruler and deliverer, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the desert for forty years. 37
It was this Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you, from among your own kinsfolk, a prophet like me.’ 38 It was he who, in the assembly in the desert, was with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai and with our ancestors, and he received living utterances to hand on to us. 39 “Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him; instead, they pushed him aside and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will be our leaders. As for that Moses who led us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’ 41 So they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifice to the idol, and reveled in the works of their hands. 42
Then God turned and handed them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: ‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings for forty years in the desert, O house of Israel? 43 No, you took up the tent of Moloch and the star of (your) god Rephan, the images that you made to worship. So I shall take you into exile beyond Babylon.’ 44
“Our ancestors had the tent of testimony in the desert just as the One who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern he had seen. 45 Our ancestors who inherited it brought it with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out from before our ancestors, up to the time of David, 46 who found favor in the sight of God and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the house of Jacob. 47 But Solomon built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says: 49 ‘The heavens are my throne, the earth is my footstool. What kind of house can you build for me? says the Lord, or what is to be my resting place? 50 Did not my hand make all these things?’ 51
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. 52 Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. 53 You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it.” 54 When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. 58
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep. 8:1 Now Saul was consenting to his execution.
On that day, there broke out a severe persecution of the church in Jerusalem, and all were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made a loud lament over him. 3 Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the church; entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment. 4 Now those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. 5
Thus Philip went down to (the) city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. 6 With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed and crippled people were cured. 8 There was great joy in that city. 9
A man named Simon used to practice magic in the city and astounded the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great. 10 All of them, from the least to the greatest, paid attention to him, saying, “This man is the ‘Power of God’ that is called ‘Great.'” 11 They paid attention to him because he had astounded them by his magic for a long time, 12 but once they began to believe Philip as he preached the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, men and women alike were baptized. 13 Even Simon himself believed and, after being baptized, became devoted to Philip; and when he saw the signs and mighty deeds that were occurring, he was astounded. 14
Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, 15 who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the holy Spirit, 16 for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them and they received the holy Spirit. 18
When Simon saw that the Spirit was conferred by the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me this power too, so that anyone upon whom I lay my hands may receive the holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your money perish with you, because you thought that you could buy the gift of God with money. 21 You have no share or lot in this matter, for your heart is not upright before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness of yours and pray to the Lord that, if possible, your intention may be forgiven. 23 For I see that you are filled with bitter gall and are in the bonds of iniquity.” 24
Simon said in reply, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” 25 So when they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem and preached the good news to many Samaritan villages. 26
Then the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, “Get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.” 27 So he got up and set out. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, that is, the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury, who had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and was returning home. Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29
The Spirit said to Philip, “Go and join up with that chariot.” 30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him. 32 This was the scripture passage he was reading: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 33 In (his) humiliation justice was denied him. Who will tell of his posterity? For his life is taken from the earth.” 34 Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply, “I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this? About himself, or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him. 36
As they traveled along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look, there is water. What is to prevent my being baptized?” 37 38 Then he ordered the chariot to stop, and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 When they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, but continued on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip came to Azotus, and went about proclaiming the good news to all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
This talk is by Jerre Roberts.
We bring our own biases and understanding to any interpretation of events – so too with Luke and the events of the early church. “What really happened?”
In these chapters Luke weaves events of the early church together with the narrative of all of Jewish history – setting things into context as it were. Shaped by his concerns. Told from a later time vantage point, looking back at events.
Context for events is hard to obtain when we are enmeshed in the day-to-day events. “Remember who you are and where you came from….there is a plan.”
The early Christians in Jerusalem continued to worship at the temple and to consider themselves Jews. Added the “agape” meal.
Acts 6:1: “At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.”
Hellenists – Greek speaking Jews from the diaspora
Hebrews – Hebrew / Aramaic speaking Jews from the region
These were not really the first deacons (though that is often asserted). Their role was to be serving the community with food distribution. Soon they are seen testifying. All had Greek names.
Stephen first martyr.
“The Christian courage to meet the dangerous situation, the Christian power to cope with life more than adequately, the Christian eloquence when eloquence is needed, the Christian joy which is independent of circumstances are all ascribed to the work of the Spirit.” William Barclay
Stephen’s speech begins with Abraham; Joseph and brothers; Moses; Golden Calf.
He charges them with persecution of the prophets and Jesus. They have squandered their destiny. They have no exclusive privilege to God’s mercy.
From this point persecution for all the disciples. Some go to Samaria.
Hostility between Jews and Samaritans had existed for over 500 years. Northern Kingdom (Israel) conquered in 727BC. Most inhabitants carried off.
“The city I rebuilt – I made it greater than it was before. People of lands which I had conquered I settled therein.” Sargon, King of Assyria The mix of foreign peoples with their gods and Jews left behind led to a version of Judaism that was considered heretical / unacceptable to Jews in the South (Judea).
Philip went to Samaria and was well received. In Jerusalem the disciples were skeptical. They went to see. When laying hands on them they received the Holy Spirit.
Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch closes chapter 8. He continues his journey rejoicing. Joy as one of the fruits of the H.S.
G. K. Chesterton: “There would be more Christians if they sang better songs and looked more joyful.” (Pope Francis has said the equivalent.)
Bruce, F F. The Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary. Third Revised and Enlarged Edition. (William B Eerdmans, Grand Rapids MI, 1990).
Fitzmeyer, Joseph A. The Acts of the Apostles: A new translation with introduction and commentary. Part of the Anchor Yale Bible Series edited by David Noel Freedman. (Yale University Press, New Haven, 1998).
Pelikan, Jaroslav. Acts. Part of the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series edited by R. R. Reno. (Brazos Press, Grand Rapids MI, 2005)
The need for assistants
Tension between Jews from the diaspora / Greek speakers and the “locals” who spoke Hebrew.
“seven reputable men” chosen to serve at tables / laid hands upon them. They next appear proclaiming the gospel. So, there is some inconsistency here. Diakonos = service. This is the biblical foundation for a male diaconate (despite some evidence to the contrary elsewhere), for a combination of service and preaching roles. Ministry of the cup at Eucharist (table).
Pelikan p. 91ff discusses the ambiguity and fluidity in the NT and ancient texts with regards to episcopos (bishop, overseer), presbuteros (priest, presbyter, elder), and diakonos (deacon, server). It took a long time for the church to sort it all out, was different in different places. Many other roles (teachers, prophets, interpreters of tongues etc.) also existed. Who could serve, what they did, and more. Initially – it was apostle/bishop and deacon, priests being a somewhat later invention.
F. F. Bruce p. 183: “All seven have Greek names. This in itself does not prove that they were Hellenists, but since they were appointed in the interest of the Hellenists it was natural that they themselves should be Hellenists. One of them (Nicolaus) was not even a Jew by birth, but a proselyte. The Seven were probably recognized by the Hellenists in the church as their leaders; their recognition by the church as a whole and their confirmation by the apostles may have been regarded by Luke as a step forward toward the equality of Jew and Gentile in the church, although at this stage there could be no question of admitting Gentiles who were not already proselytes.”
Laying on of hands in Acts frequently associated with healing and with the Holy Spirit. In Numbers 8:9-14:
Bringing the Levites before the tent of meeting, you shall assemble also the whole community of the Israelites. When you have brought the Levites before the LORD, the Israelites shall lay their hands upon them. Aaron shall then present the Levites before the LORD as an elevated offering from the Israelites, that they may perform the service of the LORD. The Levites in turn shall lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, offering one as a purification offering and the other as a burnt offering to the LORD, to make atonement for the Levites. Then you shall have the Levites stand before Aaron and his sons, and you shall present them as an elevated offering to the LORD; thus you shall separate the Levites from the rest of the Israelites, and the Levites shall belong to me.
Accusation against Stephen
Synagogue of Freedmen. It is suggested in some resources that this is a synagogue of Greek speakers, that the deacons were Greek speakers (names, resolve the Greek widow problem), that the discussion would have been in Greek.
Stephen is falsely accused of blasphemy (trial of Jesus)
His face becomes “like an angel” – also attributed to Moses on descent from the mountain and talking with the LORD. Exodus 34: 29-30:
“As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he spoke with the LORD. When Aaron, then, and the other Israelites saw Moses and noticed how radiant the skin of his face had become, they were afraid to come near him.”
Stephen’s discourses and conclusion
Stephen begins at the beginning of the story – not with creation / God as creator but with Abraham / God of our Fathers, maker of promises. This is a story of people, forefathers – and how all of them and we are connected together.
Fitzmyer p. 365ff. – Luke has reshaped and adapted an inherited tradition in this piece. It is an important speech because in it we see how the early church was defining itself vis-à-vis the Jewish tradition.
Fitzmyer p. 364 – not a defense speech but “… a polemic and apologetic purpose; (b) didactic, as it interprets the Scriptures for Jewish religious authorities who listen to it; and (c) accusatory, as it indicts those listening and condemns those who are trying Stephen with “resisting the Holy Spirit” and with being as intolerant of prophets sent to them as were their ancestors of old. More than halfway through, it becomes an open attack on their Temple-centered cult (and implicitly on the law).”
Outline of the speech:
- Appeared to Abraham with the command to “go to the land I will show you”
- Abraham went first to Haran and then from there to “this land where you dwell”
- God made a promise to him – “to him and to his descendants, as a possession”
- His descendants will be aliens and oppressed for 400 years, but then will emerge and worship me here
- Covenant of circumcision (Stephen circles back here to Abraham – a good technique to use when people are listening to you, to make sure that they are following, to allow them to get back on your train of thought)
- Fathers Isaac, Isaac fathers Jacob, Jacob the 12 patriarchs
- Story of Joseph sold into slavery – coupled with how the rest of the brothers ended up there as well. (A concise re-telling, but is equal in length to whole story of Abraham up to them as well.)
- God fulfills his promise to Abraham to rescue the people, Moses is born and then brought up in the house of Pharaoh
- At the age of 40 Moses is rejected by the Egyptians and forced to flee to Midian, fathers two sons. (This is clever foreshadowing – as they had rejected Moses they will reject Jesus.)
- After 40 more years – Moses encounters the burning bush. “I am the God of your Fathers, the “God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.” I will send you to Egypt. (Moses will then live 40 more years in the desert for a grand total of 120 years of life.)
- Moses, whom you rejected, is sent to Israelites as ruler and deliverer.
- Moses brings them out, performs signs and wonders. Moses foretells a future leader (Moses referring to Joshua), met with God. Moses is at the heart of the living tradition.
- Rejecting Moses again, they create the golden calf. God responds to them with a future punishment of captivity in Babylon. (A huge leap forward in actual time here but the story would not be advanced much by dwelling on historical figures in the meantime.)
- Tent of Meeting / Testimony replaced by the Temple built by Solomon – but God does not dwell in houses made by human hands. (Through the whole speech the point is made that God was with them no matter where they were, didn’t need the Temple.)
- You / We are a stiff necked people who resisted the prophets and the Spirit, put to death those who foretold the righteous one as well as the righteous one himself.
They were not repentant as the crowds were on Pentecost Sunday but infuriated. They threw him out of the city and began to stone him, laying cloaks at the feet of Saul.
Fitzmyer p. 389: Part of the fury is due to the fact that if Jesus really is standing at the right hand of God then the Christians are right and they are not only wrong but killed the one that God did indeed send.
Can the tension between this description of capital punishment be reconciled with the tradition that the Romans alone could put someone to death? Fitzmyer p. 391 goes with “mob justice” and not an official trial / act.
The first three verses belong with chapter 7. Can’t just move them any longer without coordinating with thousands!
Did a high level and intense persecution break out? Perhaps this is related to events in the Roman destruction of the Temple, Jerusalem, and Jewish authorities / rebels (more than 100,000 were executed). Were Christians being turned over as rebels? Fitzmyer p. 396 says: “Actually, it is a continuation of what began with the opposition of Jerusalem religious authorities to the apostles Peter and John in Chap. 4. The effect is to make most of the Jerusalem Christians, especially the Hellenists, flee the city.”
Philip in Samaria
What he said and the signs he performed were persuasive to those in Samaria.
The apostle Philip does not have much of a role in the gospels of Matthew, Mark or Luke (he is only listed in the lists of apostles) but he does more in the gospel of John. He is called by Jesus with Andrew and Peter, was a fisherman and likely a follower of John the Baptist initially, he brings Nathaniel and later others to Jesus “Come and see”, he has a role at the feeding of the 5,000 – perhaps because his job amongst the disciples was distributing food?, and appears at the Last Supper.
The deacon Philip, like the deacon Stephen who was just martyred, is selected to wait on tables but is only depicted in Acts acting as an evangelist. At this point, and for another 100 years, roles and titles are fairly fluid, vary from place to place, and really cannot be much used to shed light on roles we have today. It is the deacon Philip who appears in Acts, not the apostle.
Simon the Magician
Simon himself converts (believes) and is astounded by the signs and mighty deeds.
We see an early disjoint in this text. At first Samarians are baptized only in the name of Jesus, the apostles come and baptize them with the Holy Spirit by laying on hands. (This is a part of the justification we have as Catholics for the bishops coming to parishes to do confirmations and doing so with oil and laying on of hands.)
Fitzmyer p. 400: “Baptism “in the name of the Lord Jesus” means only Christian baptism (not some other ritual washing, Jewish or Baptist). Rather, the episode brings out the Lucan teaching that the gift of the Spirit comes only through the apostles (or, in time, through those sent forth by them; (10:44-48, 18:25-27; 19:2-6, 20:29-30). This is an important Lucan teaching in this episode concerning the role of the Spirit-guided institutional church of Acts. Such a spiritual gift is mediated by the apostles.”
Acts 10:44-48: While Peter was still speaking these things, the holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word. The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also, for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God. Then Peter responded, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the holy Spirit even as we have?” He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Acts 19:1-6: While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the country and came (down) to Ephesus where he found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the holy Spirit when you became believers?” They answered him, “We have never even heard that there is a holy Spirit.” He said, “How were you baptized?” They replied, “With the baptism of John.” Paul then said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid [his] hands on them, the holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
Simon attempts to buy the ability to give the Holy Spirit by laying on hands. He is aware of the power that the Holy Spirit is giving to people. His attempt is rejected, he is castigated, and he appears to repent.
Fitzmyer p. 401 – in the Greek world at that time one could and did buy priestly offices in various religions
Philip and the Eunuch
Samaria was to the north and west of Jerusalem, Gaza is to the south and west of Jerusalem.
The Ethiopian eunuch is presented as a Jew or a God-fearer , is reading scripture / Isaiah. His response to Philip indicates not that he didn’t understand the text but that he was open to learning more about it should Philip be in a position to instruct him. Fitzmyer notes that the official move toward Gentiles is in Chapter 10 with Peter.
Pirke Avot 3:3
Rabbi Chanina ben Tradyon says:
If two sit together and there are no words of Torah between them, it is a session of scorners, as it is said: “In the session of scorners he does not sit” (Psalms 1:1).
But if two sit together and words of Torah are between them, the Divine Presence rests between them…” Note – Jesus teaches where two or more are gathered in my name …
Pirke Avot 3:5
Rabbi Chanina ben Chachinai says:
One who stays awake at night or travels alone on the road, but turns his heart to idleness – indeed, he bears guilt for his soul.
The eunuch asks Philip who the prophet is speaking about – a question that puzzles scholars to this day! Maybe himself, perhaps a contemporary, perhaps the nation of Israel itself, perhaps a future person (Jesus?). Philip (and the early church by then) understand the Suffering Servant of Israel to be Jesus.