Acts 4:1-12

Peter preaches Jesus Christ to the Sanhedrin

Background: In the previous chapter Peter and John healed a lame man and Peter preached a sermon explaining that the miracle was accomplished through faith in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, whom the Jews had ignorantly crucified and whom God had subsequently resurrected. Therefore, the reasonable conclusion is that Jesus is Messiah and all men should turn to him.

1 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,
2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.

[Priests] Assigned by God to be representitives of himself. During the Roman occupation they became default rulers of the people (representatives of Rome.) Rome had appointed secular officials to govern Israel but the priests had so much influence and were so willing to acommodate Rome that the Roman governors largely kept hands off. The priests vigorously defended their turf and so became avowed enemies of Jesus of Nazareth whom they saw as a challenger.
We recommend a quick study of New Testament references to priests. If you click "Mat." on the left column of the results page the search results will be displayed beginning with those found in Matthew..

[Sadducees] One of the two major sects (equivalent to denominations today) of Jewish religious thought. The Sadducees did not believe in miracles and especially in resurrection of the dead. Here were two miracle workers preaching resurrection to an awed crowd. They were quick to join forces with the priests to suppress this teaching. As we will see later, the other major sect, Pharisees, were strict literalists in their approach to the Scriptures. They also opposed Jesus.

[Captain of the Temple] The Levites were assigned by God to be responsible for the physical assets of the tabernacle, including security. Numbers 1:50-53. When the permanent temple was built the Levites continued to provide the same service. One task was to provide 24 hour guard duty at the entrances of the temple for the purpose of preventing entry by those regarded as unclean.
In the eyes of the priests and Saducees Peter and John were teaching heresy so the priests summoned the captain of the temple guard..

[And put them in hold ] The Jewish court system consisted of Sanhedrins (often referred to as councils) in most major cities. The "Great Sanhedrin", which met in Jerusalem, was the approximate equivalent of a supreme court. It consisted of seventy one respected elders who met daily, excepting Sabbath and holidays, to judge and administer Jewish law. Jewish law was based upon the Torah, the five books of Moses, and members of the Sanhedrin were required to be expert in the Torah to the point that they were required to pass an examination and be ordained as Rabbi (teacher). A Rabbi was not necessarily a menber of the Sanhedrin but a member of the Sanhedrin was required to be a Rabbi.

One of the rules of the Sanhedrin was that deliberations and, in most cases, verdicts must be accomplished during the daytime. Peter and John were jailed overnight to await examination the following morning.

4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.

[Many...believed,] Before the temple rulers could interrupt and suppress Peter's sermon, many heard and believed.

5 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,
6 And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.

[On the morrow] The next morning Peter and John were called before the Sanhedrin.

[Annas the high priest] Annas was retired from the position of high priest but was highly regarded and continued to be addressed by the title much the same as United States ex presidents continue to be addressed as Mr. President.

[Caiaphas] The current high priest, the son in law of Annas.

[John, and Alexander] Apparently highly regarded gentlemen whom Luke felt deserved specific mention. They are not further identifiable in the Bible but the commentator Adam Clarke suggests that John may have been Jonathan Ben Zaccai, a very famous rabbi who enjoyed favor with Caesar, and Alexander may have been Alexander Lysimachus, one of the richest Jews of his time, who made great presents to the temple.

[Rulers, elders and scribes] Various members of the Sanhedrin and support staff. Scribes were much like the lawyers of today. They were literate and served the public by creating written documents, (letters, contracts and so on) and also read and interpreted documents for others requesting the service. They were highly esteemed intellectuals and had much influence on public opinion.

7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?

[By what power] No question that a miracle had been accomplished, but by what power? Magic? Witchcraft? Satan? Demons? If so, the Sanhedrin had a responsibility to make the determination and punish the sinners. Deuteronomy 18:9-12.

However, the possibility nibbled at their minds that the miracle could be a legitimate sign from God. It was accepted that miracles came from God and identified true prophets of God. John 3:1-2.

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,

[Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost] This is a clear fulfillment of Jesus prediction in Matthew 10:17-20. The promise extends beyond the apostles to all of their spiritual descendents, including born again Christians of today.

[Ye rulers of the people and elders of Israel.] What an intimidating situation. This is about the same as testifying before the combined US congress and the supreme court. Yet, in the Lord's eyes those dignitaries were simply people with the same need for salvation as any other. The Holy Spirit gave Peter courage and clarity.

9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;

[The good deed done] Unless you have an ulterior motive, I take it that you sincerely want to know the source of this miracle.

10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.

[By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth] Jesus was his human name. Christ, the annointed one, was the name by which people referred to God's promised Messiah. Peter joined the two.

[Whom ye crucified,] By crucifying Jesus they had crucified God's chosen one.

[Whom God raised from the dead,] God countermanded their evil intent and certified that Jesus Christ was indeed his annointed one by resurrecting him.

[By him doth this man stand before you whole.] And as further proof to you of God's will, this miracle was accomplished by the power of Jesus Christ.

11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.

[This is the stone] A quotation from Psalm 118:22-23. The Jewish leadership was also well aware of Jesus' application of the same scripture. Mark 12:1-12.

12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

[Neither is there salvation in any other] When Noah and his family left the Ark we suppose that every human alive on earth believed in the God of Noah. As time passed various descendents of Noah began revising their views regarding supernatural power (undoubtedly urged on by Satan) and soon the world was replete with religions worshipping almost every form of God (or Gods) imagineable. Sincere though they may be, any religion that depends upon someone or something other than Jesus Christ will not provide accurate information to its followers.
Exodus 20:3, John 14:6, 1 Timothy 2:5.

Unfortunately, this also includes modern day Jews who are depending upon their "Jewishness" for their salvation. Make sure you understand this. The time will come when the Jews who are at that time alive will enjoy a 1000 year kingdom under Christ as promised in the Old Testament, but, when it comes to the subsequent eternal heaven, the matter is individual, not corporate. Only those who have personally committed themselves to Jesus Christ during their lifetime will be there. The Jew (or follower of any other religion in the world which does not honor Jesus Christ as the Son of God) who dies without having faith in Jesus Christ will see neither the kingdom nor heaven. Read Romans chapter 3.

References to John and Alexander are found in Adam Clarke's Commentary, 2nd edition published in New York by Lane and Scott, 1850. More recent editions may be purchased from


This page updated 10/28/2007

Copyright (C) 2007 Robert C. Denig. All rights reserved