Acts 4:1-4

1 Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them,

2 being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.

4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

as they spoke (v.1) — they were interrupted

priests (v.1) — There were 24 groups of priests which took turns performing the temple rites for a week each. These were those who were on duty this week. (1 Chronicles 24 and 25; see Luke 1:5, 8-9).

captain of the temple (v.1) — captain of the temple guard, a Levite, probably a priest — an authority with rank near that of the high priest responsible for keeping order in the temple with a small body of Levite guards (temple police)

came upon them (v.1) — with violence to arrest them. They didn’t just happen upon the crowd by accident.

disturbed (v.2) = thoroughly pained (Acts 5:17)

that they taught the people (v.2) — The priests thought they alone had the right to give religious instruction, and especially when, like Peter, those speaking were uneducated.

in Jesus (v.2) — preaching resurrection from the dead as exemplified in the case of Jesus Christ

resurrection (v.2) — The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection from the dead.

until the next day (v.3) — It was against Jewish law to hold trials at night, after sunset (twelfth hour). Three hours had passed since Peter and John went to the temple (Acts 3:1).

five thousand (v.4) — not counting women and children — it’s not clear if this refers to 5,000 more or 2,000 in addition to the 3,000 from Pentecost. This is the last time the believers are numbered. The 5,000 believing men still made up a tiny minority of the nation and did not include the government.

We begin to see in chapter four that the Jewish leaders would not believe and so the kingdom would not come at this time.

The Jewish leaders thought their problems ended with the resurrection. They weren’t happy that the apostles were teaching in Jesus’ name.

The Sadducees had the same evidence of Jesus’ resurrection as everyone else. But they were the party in power, and if they admitted the resurrection, they would be admitting that they had been wrong all along. To passively allow the apostles to teach resurrection would have meant much the same thing. Either way, they surely felt their authority and position was on the line.

The Sadducees were an important and influential sect comprised, largely of the priestly nobility in the time of Christ and His apostles … The origin of the name is to be sought in the fact that they were descendants of Zadok, the famous high priest of the days of David and Solomon (2 Samuel 8:17; 1 Kings 2:35), though some refer them to another and little known Zadok, a disciple of Antigonus of Socho. We know that the posterity of the great Zadok held the office of high priest down to the era of the Exile, as also that main body of the post-exilic priests were sons of Zadok (Ezekiel 40:46; 43:19; 48:11). The chief priests down to the close of the Greek period are known to have been drawn from their ranks; and, under the Romans, the Sadducees both held the high-priesthood and had also a distinct preponderance in the Sanhedrin. Thus, though forming only a small minority of the Jews, they were a sort of priestly aristocracy, possessing great political influence. They were not nearly so popular as the Pharisees or strictly religious party. The Sadducees cared chiefly for maintenance of the State, and were largely indifferent to religion except in so far as it was a matter of custom and expediency. They play a conspicuous part in the history of the Acts, because the progress of the Gospel threatened their influence and interests.

As to doctrine, they held, in opposition to the Pharisees, a) that only the written Law was binding, and not the oral traditions of the elders; b) that there is no resurrection of the body, or system of future rewards and punishments; c) that the existence of angels and spirits, i.e., of a supermundane world, is a myth; d) that man is master of his own destiny, and that his own free will must guide him, without any supposed influence of divine predestination and grace. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Thomas Walker, pages 85-86.

It had been the Pharisees who had led the opposition to Christ before His death and resurrection. Now the Sadducees had taken the lead. The reason is clear when we take into account the beliefs of these two sects.

From Matthew 22:23 we learn that “the Sadducees … say that there is no resurrection,” while in Acts 23:8 we find their teaching as to this contrasted to that of the Pharisees: “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.”

Necessarily, therefore, the multiplied testimonies to the resurrection of Christ were embarrassing the Sadducees even more than the Pharisees — Acts Dispensationally Considered, by C.R. Stam, page 155.

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