Acts xii.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Herod. Agrippa, made king by the emperor Caius. See Josephus vi. 18. Jewish Antiquities, chap. viii. and lib. xix. chap. 5. put to death James the great, brother to John. (Witham) — This man was the same as Agrippa, by which name he is most commonly known. He was brother to the famous Herodias, who was the cause of St. John the Baptist’s decollation, (Calmet) and son-in-law of Herod the Great, by his father Aristobulus. (Bible de Vence)

Ver. 2. St. James the elder, brother of St. John the evangelist.

Ver. 3. The days of the azymes. By this we may know about the time when St. James was executed. Peter was to be reserved till after the Pasch, because it was not usual for the Jews to put any one to a violent death on a festival day. They would not damp the joy of the solemnity by such actions. (Menochius) — Nothing can be more illiberal, nothing more unfounded, and unjust, than the accusation advanced by the translators of the Bible dedicated to King James. In their preface they say, that the Catholics keep the words, azymes, holocaust, pasch, &c. in their version, purposely “to darken the sense, that since they must needs translate the Bible, yet by the language thereof, it may be kept from being understood.” See the splendid Oxford edit. an. 1770. — So far from this, we open the window, to let in the light; we break the shell, that the kernel may be eaten: we put aside the curtain, that a sight may be had into the holy place; we remove the cover of the well, that the good and humble may get to the water of life. If we retain certain words in the original tongue, it is for the same reason as our adversaries retain others, such as Amen, Sabaoth, Alleluia, Jehova, &c.

Ver. 4. To four files of soldiers.[1] To four times four soldiers, or to sixteen soldiers, each band or file consisting of four.

Ver. 6. With these two chains, according to the Roman custom, St. Peter must have been fastened to the two soldiers, that guarded him. Yet Peter slept secure, trusting in that Providence which sleepeth not.

Ver. 7. An Angel. This was probably his Angel guardian. It has always been the constant belief of the Church, that each individual is put under the protection of a tutelar Angel. (Haydock) — St. Bernard, on these words of the psalm, he has given his Angels charge over thee, thus expresses himself: Wonderful condescension! and truly great love! He has given his Angels charge over thee, to guard thee in all thy ways. What is man, O God, that thou shouldst thus be mindful of him, or the son of man, that thou shouldst look upon him! What reverence, devotion, and confidence, should this word inspire in us! Reverence their presence, be grateful for their good will; have confidence in their protection; walk with circumspection; your Angel is present. In every abode, in every place, respect his presence. Let us love them too, destined to be in future our co-heirs; in the mean time, our guardians and patrons. What have we to fear under such guides? They cannot be overcome nor seduced; much less can they lead us astray. They are faithful, they are prudent, they are powerful. Why do we fear? Let us follow them; let us stick close to them; and we shall dwell under the protection of the God of heaven. If a grievous temptation urges; if great tribulation hangs over you; call upon your leader your helper in opportunities, in tribulations; call upon him, and say, save us, or we perish, &c. (St. Bernard, Serm. in Psalm. Qui. habitat.) — A light shined in the room. To Peter only; not to the rest. (Witham)

Ver. 11. Peter coming to himself. Being now sensible that all was true. (Witham)

Ver. 12. And considering or reflecting, what was best to be done. (Witham)

Ver. 15. Thou art mad, or talkest idly. — Then said they, it is his Angel. It seems ridiculous to translate here a messenger. Does a messenger speak with the very voice of him that sends him? St. Chrysostom[2] and others on this place observe, that they believed that every one, at least of the faithful, hath a good Angel. (Witham) — “If proper Angels,” saith St. Chrysostom, (T. iii. hom. 7. in laud. Paul.) “be deputed by our Lord to such as have only charge of their own existence, (as Israel said, Genesis xlviii. 16. the Angel that delivereth me from all evils, bless these boys) much more are super-human spirits at hand to help those unto whom the charge and burden of the world is committed.” Such persons as can believe that God permits evil spirits to tempt us, can find no difficulty surely in believing that the same good, just, and merciful Creator will permit good spirits to guide, protect, and assist us. Repeated proofs of both are found in holy writ. The learned Protestant commentator, Polus, on this text, says: Hujusmodi visis assueverat eo tempore Ecclesia, quę etiam novit fideles pręsidio angelorum esse circumseptos. The Church at that period had been accustomed to similar apparitions, nor is she ignorant that the faithful are secured by the protection of Angels. (T. iv. p. 1494.)

Ver. 17. He went into another place. Did not think fit to stay in the city of Jerusalem. St. Chrysostom takes notice, that upon another occasion, when he was delivered by an Angel out of prison, he went boldly the next day, and preached in the temple. (chap. v. 19.) but there he was ordered by an Angel so to do; now to stay without such orders, would have been rashly to expose himself, and in a manner tempting God. (Witham) — Peter retired to another place, that he might not rashly expose himself to future danger. It is not just to depend on supernatural assistance, when human means are adequate to the effect. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xxvi.) — St. Peter desires they will announce his miraculous deliverance to James, the then bishop of Jerusalem, and to the Christians, that they might see the effect of their prayers for him. St. James had, beyond a doubt, ordered general supplications to be made by all the brethren for St. Peter. (Bristow)

Ver. 19. Should be led[3] away to punishment or death, according to the sense both of the Latin and Greek text. (Witham)

Ver. 20. In the Greek, he was preparing to make war against them. These applied not to agriculture, but drew their support from Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. (Bible de Vence)

Ver. 23. Struck him. Josephus relates, that when Herod saw he must die, he replied to the flatteries of the people, “See, he whom you call a god, is snatched out of life, in spite of himself. The necessity of suffering death proves the falsity of your words; but we must submit to the will of God.” (Jewish Antiquities, lib. xvii. chap. 9. and The Jewish War, lib. i. chap. 21.) — Princes may take warning from this example, not to take delight in the praises and flatteries of their subjects, so as to forget themselves to be men, and the God of heaven to be the supreme Lord of all, to whose just tribunal princes and subjects are equally amenable. (Haydock) — Eaten up by worms. A visible judgment of God, for his pride and vanity. (Witham)

Ver. 25. Returned from Jerusalem, to Antioch, the capital of Syria. (Witham) — This John Mark, the companion of Sts. Paul and Barnabas, was not the evangelist who bore that name; but a cousin of Barnabas, son of Mary, in whose house the apostles generally assembled at Jerusalem. (Calmet)


[1] Ver. 4. Quatuor quaternionibus, tessarsi tetradiois stratioton.

[2] Ver. 15. It is his Angel. St. Chrysostom on these words, hom. xxvi. Ex hoc verum est quod unusquisque Angelum habet; alethes oti ekastos Aggelon echei.

[3] Ver. 19. Jussit eos duci, apachthenai.

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Herod’s persecution. Peter’s deliverance by an Angel. Herod’s punishment.

1 And *at the same time, Herod, the king, stretched forth his hands, to afflict some of the church.

2 And he killed James, the brother of John, with the sword.

3 And seeing that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to apprehend Peter also. Now it was in the days of the azymes.

4 Whom when he had apprehended, he cast into prison, delivering him to four files of soldiers, to be kept, intending after the Pasch to bring him forth to the people.

5 Peter, therefore, was kept in prison. But prayer was made without ceasing, by the church, to God, for him.

6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, that very night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the guards before the door kept the prison.

7 And behold an Angel of the Lord stood by him: and a light shined in the room: and he striking Peter on the side, raised him up, saying: Arise quickly. And the chains fell off from his hands.

8 And the Angel said to him: Gird thyself, and put on thy sandals. And he did so. And he said to him: Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.

9 And going out, he followed him, and knew not that what was done by the Angel was true: but thought he saw a vision.

10 And having passed through the first and the second ward, they came to the iron gate that leadeth to the city, which of itself opened to them. And going out, they passed on through one street: and immediately the Angel departed from him.

11 And Peter coming to himself, said: Now I know truly, that the Lord hath sent his Angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.

12 And considering he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John, who was surnamed Mark, where many were assembled, and praying.

13 And when he knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhode.

14 And as soon as she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for joy, but running in, she told that Peter stood before the gate.

15 But they said to her: Thou art mad. But she affirmed that it was so. Then said they: It is his Angel.

16 But Peter continued knocking. And when they had opened, they saw him, and were astonished.

17 But he beckoning to them with his hand to hold their peace, told how the Lord had brought him out of prison, and he said: Tell these things to James and to the brethren. And going out, he went into another place.

18 Now as soon as it was day, there was no small confusion among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.

19 And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not; having examined the keepers, he commanded they should be led to execution: and going down from Judea to Cęsarea, he abode there.

20 And he was angry with the Tyrians and the Sidonians. But they with one accord came to him, and having gained Blastus, who was the king’s chamberlain, they desired peace, because their countries were nourished by him.

21 And upon a day appointed, Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on the judgment-seat, and made an oration to them.

22 And the people with acclamations cried out: It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.

23 And forthwith an Angel of the Lord struck him, because he had not given the honour to God: and eaten up by worms, he expired.*

24 But the word of the Lord increased and multiplied.

25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, *having fulfilled their ministry, taking with them John, who was surnamed Mark.



1: about the year A.D. 42.

23: about the year A.D. 42.

25: Acts xi. 30.