And when James, Cephas, and John
These are the persons all along designed, though not till now named. James was the brother of our Lord, the son of Alphaeus, who wrote the epistle that goes by his name, made that famous speech in the synod at Jerusalem, ( Acts 15:13 ) , presided in that church, was a man of great holiness, and much esteemed of by the saints, and had a good report of them that were without. Cephas is Simon Peter. This name was given him by Christ, ( John 1:42 ) and in the Syriac language signifies a "stone", as Peter does in the Greek, to which our Lord alludes, ( Matthew 16:18 ) . John was the evangelist, and the same that wrote the epistles, was the beloved disciple, and who outlived all the rest:
who seemed to be pillars;
not as the Arabic version, "who thought themselves such", but were esteemed so by others, and very rightly. They were pillars among the apostles of the highest note and greatest eminence among them; they were the very chief of the apostles; for though they were all in the same office, and had the same commission, and were employed in the same work, yet there were some who made a greater figure than others, as these did, and are therefore called pillars; they were more conspicuous, and to be observed, and taken notice of, than the rest; they were pillars in the church, set in the highest place there, and the ornaments of it; see ( Proverbs 9:1 ) ( Revelation 3:12 ) . They are called so for their constancy and stability in preaching the Gospel, and suffering for the sake of Christ; they were steadfast and immoveable in his work, nor could they be shaken or deterred from it by the menaces, reproaches, and persecutions of men; and they were the means of supporting others that were feeble minded, and of defending and maintaining the truths of the Gospel; and were set, as Jeremiah was, as a defenced city, an iron pillar, and brazen walls against all the enemies of Christ, and his Gospel; and were, as the church is said to be, "the pillar and ground of truth". The apostle may have respect to the titles of this kind which were bestowed on the Jewish doctors. It is said F4,
``when R. Jochanan ben Zaccai was sick, his disciples went in to visit him; and when he saw them, he began to weep; his disciples said to him, lamp of Israel, (ynymyh dwme) , "the right hand pillar" why dost thou weep?''So another of their Rabbins is said F5 to be
``one of the walls, (ydwmew) , "and pillars" of the school.''The character better agrees with these eminent apostles, who when they
perceived the grace that was given unto me;
meaning not so much the grace of the Spirit of God that was wrought in him, or the good work of grace upon his soul, with which the church at Jerusalem, and the apostles there, had been made acquainted some years before; but the grace and high favour of apostleship, which was conferred upon him, and all those extraordinary gifts of grace, whereby he was qualified for the discharge of it; and particularly the efficacy and success of his ministry through the grace of God which went along with it, and was so visible in it:
they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship;
as a token of a covenant or agreement between them; they took them, as it were, into partnership with them, admitted them as apostles into their society, and gave their full consent, particularly to this article,
Paul and Barnabas,
should go unto the Heathen,
preach among the Gentiles;
Peter, and those that were with him,
unto the circumcision,
and discharge their office among the Jews; and, to show their joint agreement, used the above rite; and which ceremony was used as among other nations F6, so with the Jews, when covenants were made, or partnership was entered into; see ( Leviticus 6:2 ) where the phrase, (ey tmwvtb) , "in putting of the hand", and which we render in fellowship, is, both by Onkelos, and Jonathan ben Uzziel, rendered (aky twptwvb) , "in fellowship of the hand", or "by the right hand of fellowship"; that being given in token of their agreement and consent to be partners together, to which the allusion seems to be here; or to the making of proselytes, to whom they "stretch out the hand" to bring them under the wings of the Shekinah F7, or in token of their being proselytes.
F4 T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 28. 2.
F5 Ganz Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 46. 1.
F6 Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 2. c. 19. Cormel. Nepos, l. 2. c. 8. Gale's Court of the Gentiles, part 2. book 2, c. 6. sect. 9. & c. 9. sect. 3.
F7 Vajikra Rabba, sect. 2. fol. 147. 4.