An excerpt from The Acts of the Apostles
by Archbishop Averky (Taushev)

In this excerpt, the edi­to­r­i­al staff of Ortho­dox Life Online offers you a glimpse into a new­ly pub­lished vol­ume in the series Com­men­tary on the Holy Scrip­tures of the New Tes­ta­ment by Arch­bish­op Averky (Tau­shev). This work stands apart in an intel­lec­tu­al cli­mate that prizes inno­va­tion over tra­di­tion, head­lines over the Truth, and intel­lec­tu­al­ism over divine rev­e­la­tion. Writ­ing in the tra­di­tion of bib­li­cal exegetes, such as St John Chrysos­tom, Blessed Theo­phy­lact of Bul­gar­ia, and St Theo­phan the Recluse, the work of Arch­bish­op Averky (Tau­shev) pro­vides a com­men­tary that is firm­ly ground­ed in the teach­ing of the Church, man­i­fest­ed in its litur­gi­cal hymnog­ra­phy and the works of the Holy Fathers.


Arch­bish­op Averky dis­cuss­es the apos­tles’ tri­al before the San­hedrin who then pro­hib­it­ed them from preach­ing in the name of Jesus Christ.

These events from the com­men­tary lead into the excerpt:

  • Apos­tle Peter’s mirac­u­lous heal­ing of the man lame from birth (3:1–11).
  • St Peter’s ser­mon to the crowd that just wit­nessed the heal­ing and his call to repen­tance (3:12–26).
  • The Impris­on­ment of the Apos­tles Peter and John as a reac­tion by the San­hedrin to their preaching.
  • The con­se­quences of Peter’s ser­mon: five thou­sand are con­vert­ed to Christ (4:1–4).

Arch­bish­op Averky writes:

*****

Acts Chapter Four

Questioning by the Sanhedrin, Prohibition to Preach in the Name of Jesus. The Apostles Are Released (4:5–22).

On the next day, the meet­ing of the San­hedrin took place. This was obvi­ous­ly a for­mal and full ses­sion of the San­hedrin, as this judg­ment over the apos­tles was con­sid­ered very impor­tant. Among them was the retired High Priest Annas as well as Caiaphas, who had con­demned Jesus Christ to death. Also present were the hereto­fore-unknown (in the Gospel nar­ra­tive) John and Alexan­der, mem­bers of the high priest’s fam­i­ly, who most like­ly had sig­nif­i­cant author­i­ty in the San­hedrin at the time, being relat­ed to the high priest. Hav­ing placed the accused “in the midst,” as was cus­tom­ary (see John 8:3), they asked, “By what pow­er or by what name have you done this?”

The mem­bers of the San­hedrin, of course, knew that the apos­tles per­formed the mir­a­cle by the Name of Jesus Christ, but they want­ed the apos­tles to incrim­i­nate them­selves in heresy, blas­phe­my, or even sedi­tious inten­tions, or per­haps they hoped that the apos­tles would sim­ply recant in fear.

Icon of Saint Peter from first half of the 7th century, Mt Sinai.

Icon of Saint Peter from first half of the 7th cen­tu­ry, Mt Sinai.

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spir­it, said to them …” He was filled with the Holy Spir­it to defend the just cause, as Jesus Christ promised to His dis­ci­ples before (see Matt 10:19–20). St Peter answered the ques­tion with unique pow­er, direct­ness, and bold­ness. Still giv­ing respect to the law­ful authority—even though it was unworthy—he began with the rev­er­en­tial address to the “rulers of the peo­ple and elders of Israel.” His sub­se­quent word choice—“If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a help­less man”—trenchantly and unmis­tak­ably demon­strat­ed the unfair­ness of the judg­ment to which the apos­tles were sub­ject­ed. Indeed, they showed mer­cy to an unfor­tu­nate per­son: was this a rea­son to bring them before a tri­bunal? At the same time, the apos­tle tri­umphant­ly and bold­ly wit­nessed before them all that the mir­a­cle indeed did hap­pen and more­over was per­formed “by the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you cru­ci­fied, whom God raised from the dead.”

Then, cit­ing the same prophe­cy that the Lord used con­cern­ing Him­self, that is, Psalm 117:22 in Matthew 21:42, the apos­tle called the Lord Jesus Christ “the stone which was reject­ed by you builders, which has become the chief cor­ner­stone.” Then he added, “Nor is there sal­va­tion in any oth­er.” He meant that Jesus, Whom they cru­ci­fied, became the cor­ner­stone of the new edi­fice of the king­dom of God on earth, and only by His Name can any­one attain sal­va­tion, because He alone is the Redeemer of mankind from sin, the curse, and death.

These words made such a strong impres­sion on the mem­bers of the San­hedrin that they did not know how to judge the apos­tles. They were amazed first of all by the unusu­al bold­ness of Peter’s con­fes­sion of Christ before the whole San­hedrin. Effec­tive­ly, he had switched roles with them, no longer the accused but the accuser, charg­ing them with the death of Christ. They won­dered at his bold­ness and his ora­to­ry, see­ing that both he and John were “une­d­u­cat­ed and untrained men.” They rec­og­nized in them the dis­ci­ples of Christ and were assured that they were con­tin­u­ing the work of Jesus, which was so abhor­rent to them. At the same time, the pres­ence of the healed man placed a seal of silence on their lips. They could say noth­ing to con­tra­dict the real­i­ty of the mir­a­cle per­formed by the apostles.

We must never go against God’s law... merely to curry favor with earthly rulers.

Hav­ing been placed in this dif­fi­cult posi­tion, they sent out the apos­tles to con­fer among them­selves about the best way of deal­ing with these unpleas­ant mir­a­cle-work­ers. They were seized with inde­ci­sion, evi­dent­ly as a result of every­thing that had occurred recent­ly, begin­ning with the res­ur­rec­tion of Christ. It is pos­si­ble that among them were peo­ple like Joseph of Ari­math­ea and Nicode­mus, and for that rea­son their deci­sion was quite mild: all they did was for­bid the apos­tles to “speak at all [or] teach in the name of Jesus.”

Clear­ly, this was the deci­sion of peo­ple much dis­con­cert­ed by cir­cum­stances. “O the fol­ly!” St John Chrysos­tom com­ments on this, and continues:

Per­suad­ed that He was risen, and hav­ing received this proof of it, they expect­ed that He whom death could not hold, could be cast into the shade by their machi­na­tions. What can match the fol­ly of this! Such is the nature of wicked­ness: it has no eyes for any­thing, but on all occa­sions it is thrown into per­tur­ba­tion.1

With amaz­ing courage and bold­ness, the apos­tles both answered, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to lis­ten to you more than to God, you judge.” More­over, they open­ly said that they could not stop preach­ing about events to which they were eye­wit­ness­es. The Sanhedrin’s fear of the peo­ple fur­ther pre­vent­ed them from harm­ing the apos­tles, and Peter and John were set free. Here we see the obvi­ous moral vic­to­ry of the apos­tles, but also the threat­en­ing signs of immi­nent per­se­cu­tion for their faith, which was to befall the apos­tles them­selves and the first gen­er­a­tion of Chris­tians. The apos­tles’ answer to the San­hedrin gives us a clear indi­ca­tion of how to act when earth­ly pow­ers require us to do some­thing con­trary to the divine law and our con­science: we must nev­er go against God’s law or the guid­ance of our con­science mere­ly to cur­ry favor with earth­ly rulers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Arch­bish­op Averky (Tau­shev) (1906–1976) was the fourth abbot of Holy Trin­i­ty Monastery in Jor­danville, New York. Born in Impe­r­i­al Rus­sia before the Bol­she­vik rev­o­lu­tion, he went on to become one of the lead­ing voic­es and teach­ers of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church, which he served in both Bul­gar­ia and the USA. Wide­ly regard­ed for con­sis­tent­ly uphold­ing tra­di­tion­al Chris­t­ian teach­ing and expo­si­tion of the New Tes­ta­ment, he is best known for his com­men­tary on the Book of Rev­e­la­tion, The Apoc­a­lypse: In the Teach­ing of Ancient Chris­tian­i­ty.

GET THE BOOK
Cover of Acts of the Apostles by Archbishop Averky (Tauchev)

You may pur­chase your own copy of
Arch­bish­op Averky’s The Acts of the Apos­tles
from Holy Trin­i­ty Bookstore.

Buy now


Did you find this arti­cle edifying? 
Please help us cre­ate sim­i­lar con­tent by becom­ing a Patron:


Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save