Then there arose certain of the synagogue
Being filled with indignation at the doctrine of Stephen, and with envy at his miracles, they rose up in great wrath, and warmly opposed him: and they be longed to that synagogue
which is called the synagogue of the libertines;
or free men: it is a Roman name, and signifies the sons of free men; and these were either the sons of such Jews, who of servants, or slaves, had been made (Myrrxwvm) , "free men"; or rather such Jews whose parents were born free, or had obtained their freedom at Rome, or in some free city under the Roman government, as Paul at Tarsus; since it is not so easy to account for it, that there should be a peculiar synagogue for the former, whereas there might be for the latter, seeing they could not speak the language of the native Jews. The Arabic version reads, "of the Corinthians", as if they were the Jews from Corinth: and some have thought the word "Libertines" to be the name of a nation or people, as well as the names that follow; and some think it designs the Lybians or Lybistines in Africa; but neither of these is likely:
natives of the city or country of Cyrene, from whence were many Jews; see ( Acts 2:10 ) ( 11:20 ) such as Simon the Cyrenian, the father of Alexander, and Rufus, who carried the cross of Christ after him, ( Mark 15:21 ) these, with those that follow, either belonged to the same synagogue with the Libertines, or rather they severally had distinct synagogues: and this will not seem strange, when it is said F7, that there were in Jerusalem four hundred and eighty synagogues; though it is elsewhere said F8 four hundred and sixty:
for that there were a peculiar synagogue of these at Jerusalem is certain; for there is express mention made of it in Jewish writings F9.
``It happened to R. Eleazar bar Tzadok, that he bought (tonkh) (tyb Myyrdnokla lv) "the synagogue of the Alexandrians", which was at Jerusalem, and he did with it whatever he pleased.''And that they should have a synagogue at Jerusalem need not be wondered at, when there was such an intercourse and correspondence between Jerusalem and Alexandria: it is said F11,
``the house of Garmu were expert in making of the shewbread, and they would not teach it; the wise men sent and fetched workmen from Alexandria in Egypt, and they knew how to bake as well as they.----The house or family of Abtines were expert in the business of the incense, and they would not teach it; the wise men sent and fetched workmen from Alexandria in Egypt, and they knew how to mix the spices as well as they.''Again it is said F12,
``there was a brass cymbal in the sanctuary, and it was cracked, and the wise men sent and brought workmen from Alexandria in Egypt, and they mended it---and there was a mortar in which they beat spices, and it was cracked, and the wise men sent and fetched workmen from Alexandria, and they mended it.''Hence many of them doubtless settled here, and had a synagogue of their own:
and of them of Cilicia;
the metropolis of which country was Tarsus, ( Acts 21:39 ) ( 22:3 ) . I make no doubt of it, that Saul of Tarsus was among them, or belonged to this synagogue, and was one of the fierce disputants with Stephen; at least violently opposed him, since he afterwards held the clothes of those that stoned him; we read F13 of (Myyorj lv tonkh tyb) , which I should be tempted to render, the "synagogue of the Tarsians", the same with the Cilicians here; but that it is elsewhere said F14, that
``it happened to the synagogue of the Tursians, which was at Jerusalem, that they sold it to R. Eliezer, and he did all his business in it.''Where the gloss explains the word "Tursians" by "brass founders"; and it seems to design the same synagogue with that of the Alexandrians, who may be so called, because many of them wrought in brass, as appears from a citation above. There was a synagogue of these Tarsians at Lud, or Lydda F15: it is added, and of Asia; that is, the less; which joined to Cilicia, and in which were great numbers of Jews; see ( Acts 21:27 ) this clause is left out in the Alexandrian copy: at Jerusalem, there were synagogues for the Jews of different nations; as here in London, are places of worship for protestants of several countries; as French, Dutch, Germans, Danes, Swedes Now several persons out of these synagogues, met together in a body,
disputing with Stephen;
about the doctrine he preached, and the miracles he wrought, and by what authority he did these things.
F7 T. Hieros, Megilla. fol. 73. 4. Echa Rabbati, fol. 52. 1.
F8 T. Hieros, Cetubot. fol. 35. 3.
F9 Juchasin, fol. 26. 2. e Talmud. Hieros. Megilla, fol. 73. 4.
F11 T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 38. 1. & Hieros. Yoma, fol. 41. 1.
F12 T. Bab. Erachin, fol. 10. 2.
F13 T. Hieros. Shekalim, fol. 47. 1.
F14 T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 26. 1.
F15 Vajikra Rabba, sect. 35. fol. 175. 3.