For it is written in the book of Psalms - The places usually referred to are Psalm 69:25; : Let their habitation be desolate, and let none dwell in their tents. And Psalm 109:8; : Let his days be few, and let another take his office, פקדתו pekudato, his overseership, his charge of visitation or superintendence, translated by the Septuagint, την επισκοπην, Vulgate, episcopatum; and We, following both, bishopric, but not with sufficient propriety, for surely the office or charge of Judas was widely different from what we call bishopric, the diocess, estate, and emoluments of a bishop. Επισκοπος, episcopos, which was corrupted by our Saxon ancestors into biscop, and by us into bishop, signifies literally an overseer or superintendent, from επι, over, and σκεπτομαι, I see, a person who had the inspection, overseeing, or superintendence of others. The ancient επισκοποι were persons who had the care of different congregations of the Church of Christ; who traveled, preached, enforced the discipline of the Church, and took care to prevent false doctrines, heresies, etc. Those who still deserve this title, and it is an august and noble one, walk by the same rule, and mind the same thing. Επισκοπος, episcopus, or bishop, is a scriptural and sacred title; was gloriously supported in the primitive Church; and many to the present day are not less ornaments to the title, than the title is ornamental to them. The best defenses of the truth of God, and the Protestant faith, are in the works of the bishops of the British Churches.
The words quoted from the Psalms were originally spoken against the enemies of David; and as David, in certain particulars, was a type of Christ, the words are applied to him in an especial manner who had sinned against his own soul and the life of his Master.
For it is written - See Psalm 69:25. This is the prediction doubtless to which Peter refers in Acts 1:16. The intermediate passage in Acts 1:18-19, is probably a parenthesis; the words of Luke, not of Peter. So Calvin, Kuinoel, Olshausen, DeWette, and Hackett understand it. It is not probable that Peter would introduce a narrative like this, with which they were all familiar, in an address to the disciples. The Hebrew in the Psalm is, “Let their habitation (Hebrew: fold, enclosure for cattle; tower, or palace) be desolate, and let none dwell in their tents.” This quotation is not made literally from the Hebrew, nor from the Septuagint. The plural is changed to the singular, and there are some other slight variations. The Hebrew is, “Let there be no one dwelling in their tents.” The reference to the tents is omitted in the quotation. The term “habitation,” in the Psalm, means evidently the dwelling-place of the enemies of the writer of the Psalm. It is an image expressive of their overthrow and defeat by a just God: “Let their families be scattered, and the places where they have dwelt be without an inhabitant, as a reward for their crimes.”
If the Psalm was originally composed with reference to the Messiah and his sufferings, the expression here was not intended to denote Judas in particular, but one of his foes who was to meet the just punishment of rejecting, betraying, and murdering him. The change, therefore, which Peter made from the plural to the singular, and the application to Judas especially “as one of those enemies,” accords with the design of the Psalm, and is such a change as the circumstances of the case justified and required. It is an image, therefore, expressive of judgment and desolation coming upon his betrayer - an image to be literally fulfilled in relation to his habitation, drawn from the desolation when a man is driven from his home, and when his dwelling-place becomes tenantless. It is not a little remarkable that this Psalm is repeatedly quoted as referring to the Messiah: Psalm 69:9, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up,” expressly applied to Christ in John 2:17, John 2:21, “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” - the thing which was done to Jesus on the cross, Matthew 27:34.
The whole Psalm is expressive of deep sorrow of persecution, contempt, weeping, being forsaken, and is throughout applicable to the Messiah; with what is remarkable, not a single expression necessarily limited to David. It is not easy to ascertain whether the ancient Jews referred this Psalm to the Messiah. A part of the title to the Psalm in the Syriac version is, “It is called a prophecy concerning those things which Christ suffered, and concerning the casting away of the Jews.” The prophecy in Acts 1:25 is not to be understood of Judas alone, but of the enemies of the Messiah in general, of which Judas was one. On this principle the application to Judas of the passage by Peter is to be defended.
And his bishopric let another take - This is quoted from Psalm 109:8, “Let his days be few, and let another take his office.” This is called “a Psalm of David,” and is of the same class as Psalm 6:1-10; Psalm 42:1-11; This class of Psalms is commonly supposed to have expressed David‘s feelings in the calamitous times of the persecution by Saul, the rebellion of Absalom, etc. They are all also expressive of the condition of a suffering and persecuted Messiah, and many of them are applied to him in the New Testament. The general principle on which most of them are applicable is, not that David personated or typified the Messiah which is nowhere affirmed, and which can be true in no intelligible sense - but that he was placed in circumstances similar to the Messiah; was encompassed with like enemies; was persecuted in the same manner. They are expressive of high rank, office, dignity, and piety, cast down, waylaid, and encompassed with enemies.
In this way they express “general sentiments” as really applicable to the case of the Messiah as to David. They were placed in similar circumstances. The same help was needed. The same expressions would convey their feelings. The same treatment was proper for their enemies. On this principle it was that David deemed his enemy, whoever he was, unworthy of his office, and desired that it should be given to another. In like manner, Judas had rendered himself unworthy of his office, and there was the same propriety that it should be given to another. And as the office had now become vacant by the death of Judas, and according to one declaration in the Psalms, so, according to another, it was proper that it should be conferred on some other person. The word rendered “office” in the Psalm means the care, charge, business, oversight of anything. It is a word applicable to magistrates, whose care it is to see that the laws are executed; and to military men who have charge of an army, or a part of an army.
In Job 10:12 it is rendered “thy visitation.” In Numbers 4:16, “and to the office of Eleazar,” etc. In the case of David it refers to those who were entrusted with military or other offices who had treacherously perverted them to persecute and oppose him, and who had thus shown themselves unworthy of the office. The Greek word which is used here, ἐπισκοπὴν episkopēnis taken from the Septuagint, and means the same thing as the Hebrew. It is well rendered in the margin “office, or charge.” It means charge or office in general, without in itself specifying of what kind. It is the concrete of the noun ἐπισκόπους episkopouscommonly translated “bishop,” and means his office, charge, or duty. That word means simply having the oversight of anything, and as applied to the officers of the New Testament, it denotes merely “their having charge of the affairs of the church,” without specifying the nature or the extent of their jurisdiction.
Hence, it is often interchanged with presbyter or elder, and denotes the discharge of the duties of the same office: Acts 20:28, “Take heed (presbyters or elders, Acts 20:17) to yourselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers” - ἐπισκόπους episkopous- bishops; Hebrews 12:15, “Looking diligently,” etc. - ἐπισκοποῦντες episkopountes Philemon 1:1, “with the bishops and deacons”; “Paul called presbyters bishops, for they had at that time the same name” (Theodoret, as quoted by Sehleusner); 1 Peter 5:2, “Feed the flock of God (that is, you who are elders, or presbyters, 1 Peter 5:1), taking the oversight thereof” - ἐπισκοποῦντες episkopountesThese passages show that the term in the New Testament designates the supervision or care which was exercised over the church, by whomsoever performed, without specifying the nature or extent of the jurisdiction. It is scarcely necessary to add that Peter here did not intend to affirm that Judas sustained any office corresponding to what is now commonly understood by the term “bishop.”
Study the first and second chapters of Acts. Light has been given me that our work must be carried forward in a higher and broader way than it has ever yet been carried. The light of heaven is to be appreciated and cherished. This light is for the laborers. It is for those who feel that God has given them a message, and that they have a sacred responsibility to bear in its proclamation. FE 530.1
The message of present truth is to prepare a people for the coming of the Lord. Let us understand this, and let those placed in responsible positions come into such unity that the work shall go forward solidly. Do not allow any man to come in as an arbitrary ruler, and say, You must go here, and you must not go there; and you must do this, and you must not do that. We have a great and important work to do, and God would have us take hold of that work intelligently. The placing of men in positions of responsibility in the various conferences, does not make them gods. No one has sufficient wisdom to act without counsel. Men need to consult with their brethren, to counsel together, to pray together, and to plan together for the advancement of the work. Let laborers kneel down together and pray to God, asking Him to direct their course. There has been a great lack with us on this point. We have trusted too much to men's devisings. We cannot afford to do this. Perilous times are upon us, and we must come to the place where we know that the Lord lives and rules, and that He dwells in the hearts of the children of men. We must have confidence in God. FE 530.2
Wherever you may be sent, cherish in your hearts and minds the fear and love of God. Go daily to the Lord for instruction and guidance; depend upon God for light and knowledge. Pray for this instruction and this light, until you get it. It will not avail for you to ask, and then forget the thing for which you prayed. Keep your mind upon your prayer. You can do this while working with your hands. You can say, Lord, I believe; with all my heart I believe. Let the Holy Spirit's power come upon me. FE 530.3Read in context »