Acts 6:9

The synagogue of the Libertines (ek th sunagwgh th legomenh Libertinwn). The Libertines (Latin libertinus, a freedman or the son of a freedman) were Jews, once slaves of Rome (perhaps descendants of the Jews taken to Rome as captives by Pompey), now set free and settled in Jerusalem and numerous enough to have a synagogue of their own. Schuerer calls a Talmudic myth the statement that there were 480 synagogues in Jerusalem. There were many, no doubt, but how many no one knows. These places of worship and study were in all the cities of the later times where there were Jews enough to maintain one. Apparently Luke here speaks of five such synagogues in Jerusalem (that of the Libertines, of the Cyrenians, of the Alexandrians, of Cilicia, and of Asia). There probably were enough Hellenists in Jerusalem to have five such synagogues. But the language of Luke is not clear on this point. He may make only two groups instead of five since he uses the article twn twice (once before Libertinwn kai Kurhnaiwn kai Alexandrewn, again before apo Kilikia kai Asia). He also changes from the genitive plural to apo before Cilicia and Asia. But, leaving the number of the synagogues unsettled whether five or two, it is certain that in each one where Stephen appeared as a Hellenist preaching Jesus as the Messiah he met opposition. Certain of them "arose" (anesthsan) "stood up" after they had stood all that they could from Stephen, "disputing with Stephen" (sunzhtounte twi Stepanwi). Present active participle of sunzhtew, to question together as the two on the way to Emmaus did ( Luke 24:15 ). Such interruptions were common with Jews. They give a skilled speaker great opportunity for reply if he is quick in repartee. Evidently Stephen was fully equipped for the emergency. One of their synagogues had men from Cilicia in it, making it practically certain that young Saul of Tarsus, the brilliant student of Gamaliel, was present and tried his wits with Stephen. His ignominious defeat may be one explanation of his zest in the stoning of Stephen ( Acts 8:1 ).