Libertines

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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

Both the construction and the contents of  Acts 6:9 are difficult. It consists, as Hort says, of ‘a long compound phrase,’ the Greek of which is ‘not smooth and correct on any interpretation’ ( Judaistic Christianity , p. 50). An expositor can, therefore, lay claim to no more than a reasonable probability for his exegesis of the verse. St. Luke’s statement is generally believed to have been derived from a written source. Thus, Harnack, although he argues persuasively in favour of St. Luke’s having obtained a large part of the knowledge he committed to writing in Acts 1-12 from St. Philip at Caesarea (cf.  Acts 21:8-9), yet thinks that he had a written (Antiochean) source for his narrative of St. Stephen’s trial, speech, and death ( The Acts of the Apostles , pp. 175, 188, 245). And Ramsay, writing on the ‘Forms of Classification in Acts’ ( Expositor , 5th ser ii. 35), explains the exceptional form of the list in  Acts 6:9 as ‘due to Luke’s being here dependent on an authority whose expression he either transcribed verbatim or did not fully understand.’ But it appears to the present writer possible that the form of the list is due to its having come to St. Luke in the way of oral communication. Its style may be termed colloquial: it looks as if the narrator were quoting from memory, or reporting the very words of a speaker with whom he had been conversing. May not the speaker have been St. Paul? The mention made of Cilicia in the list is in favour of this conjecture. Was there a synagogue in Jerusalem of which it is more likely that Saul of Tarsus had been a member or a leader than that which Cilician Jews frequented? The Apostle had, in the days of his unbelief, been one of the bitterest opponents of the Christian movement, and the part he had taken in St. Stephen’s death was a subject of life-long self-reproach ( Acts 22:20). The depth of his feeling may have prevented him from referring to this often in preaching or otherwise, but would not have debarred him from doing so in conversation with a trusted friend like St. Luke.

Should this conjecture be well founded, it would help to settle the vexed question of whether five synagogues are specified in the list, or two, or only one. The present writer agrees with Hurt ( loc. cit.  ; cf. Swete, The Appearances of our Lord after the Passion , 114) that only one synagogue is mentioned, that of the Libertines, and that the following names are simply descriptive of origin, the members of the synagogue being partly from Cyrene and Alexandria, partly from Cilicia and Proconsular Asia. Possibly St. Stephen and St. Paul both belonged to this synagogue, but of this we cannot be sure.

The synagogue of the Λιβερτῖνοι doubtless consisted, at least in the first instance, of Jews who had been prisoners of war, and had afterwards been set free and admitted to Roman citizenship (Chrysostom, Hom. on Acts  : οἱ Ῥωμαίων ἀπελεύθεροι). Philo tells us ( Leg. ad Caium , 23) that most of the Jews of Rome were enfranchised captives, and the passages usually quoted from Tacitus ( Ann. ii. 85) and Suetonius ( Tiberius , 36) agree with this. Those freedmen who had returned to Palestine, and their descendants, must have formed a synagogue to which they gave their name, and most probably Jews from other parts of the world came in time to be affiliated to them. Although this statement is not supported by independent historical evidence, it may be regarded as a just inference from the text, when conjoined with other known facts. A large part of the population of Jerusalem consisted of foreign Jews, who had come to reside permanently there, that they might be near the Temple, and might be buried in the land of their fathers. Others came for their education, like St. Paul. Those Jews were most zealous in fulfilling their ritual obligations, and attached themselves to ‘the straitest sect’ of the Jews of Palestine ( Acts 26:5,  Galatians 1:14; cf. Zahn, Introduction to the NT , i. 39f., 60f.; J. Moffatt in Encyclopaedia Biblica iv. 4788; J. Patrick in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) iii. 110). The first accusation brought against our Lord was based upon a misrepresentation of words of His about the Temple ( John 2:19,  Mark 14:58), and in  Acts 6:13-14;  Acts 7:48-50 we see that St. Stephen had not kept off this dangerous ground.

It is uncertain whether we should read τῆς λεγομένης (TR [Note: Textus Receptus, Received Text.]) or τῶν λεγομένων (Tisch.) in  Acts 6:9; but, whichever reading be preferred, the sense is not affected. The absence of various readings in the substance of the text bars the way to any attempt to reconstruct it. Certain Armenian VSS[Note: SS Versions.]and Syriac commentaries seem to have read Λιβύων (cf. the unique NT reference to Libya,  Acts 2:10), and this paved the way for the most famous conjectural emendation-that of Λιβυστίνων for Λιβερτίνων. J. Rendel Harris, in his articlein the Expositor , 6th ser. vi. 378f., has traced the history of this emendation in an interesting manner from Beza (1559) to Blass (1898) From Beza’s Annotationes he quotes the following sentence, in which the main difficulty of the text is well stated: ‘Neque enim video qua ratione Lucas istos [Libertinos] appellet ex conditione, caeteros vero ex gente ac patria.’ Blass, in his Philology of the Gospels , 69f., was not aware that the emendation had been proposed by anyone before himself, and he expressed his certainty that Λιβυστίνων was the true reading. This word, which is used by Catullus (lx. 1, montibus Libystinis ), would have been quite suitable for designating the towns lying westwards from Cyrene, had it been supported by good manuscriptauthority (cf. Encyclopaedia Biblica iii. 2793, 2794; Expository Times ix. 437b). The derivation of Libertini from a town Libertnm in N. Africa is much less plausible, as no town of that name seems to have been known in the 1st century.

Among the older expositors, Bengel ( Gnomon of NT ) strongly maintains that the whole description of  Acts 6:9 is that of one flourishing synagogue, composed of Europeans, Africans, and Asiatics, to which Saul belonged. His note is still worth reading.

Literature.-J. A. Bengel, Gnomon of NT , ed. Berlin, 1860, p. 287; Th. Beza, Annotationes , 1559; Fr. Blass, Philology of the Gospels , London, 1898, p. 69f.; Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , article‘Libertines’ (J. Patrick); Encyclopaedia Biblica , articles ‘Libertines,’ ‘Libya’ (W. J. Woodhouse), ‘Stephen’ (J. Moffatt); Expositor , 5th ser. ii. [1895] (W. M. Ramsay), 6th ser. vi. [1902] (J. Rendel Harris); Expository Times ix. [1897-98] 437b; Thayer Grimm’s Gr.-Eng. Lexicon of the NT, tr. Thayer2, 1890, s.v. λιβερτῖνος; A. Harnack, Luke the Physician , Eng. translation, London and New York, 1907, p. 153, The Acts of the Apostles , Eng. translation, do. 1909, pp. xxxiv, 70, 71 n.[Note: . note.], 120, 175, 188, 192, 196, 219, 245; F. J. A. Hort, Judaistic Christianity , London, 1894, p. 50; H. A. W. Meyer, Com. on Acts , Eng. translation, Edinburgh, 1877, i. 173f.; E. Schürer, History of the Jewish People (Eng. tr. of GJV).] , Eng. translation, ii. ii. [do. 1885] 276; H. B. Swete, The Appearances of our Lord after the Passion , London, 1907, p. 114; Th. Zahn, Introd. to the NT , Eng. translation, Edinburgh, 1909, i. 39f., 60ff.

James Donald.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [2]

Mention is made of the synagogue of the Libertines,  Acts 6:9; concerning whom there are different opinions, two of which bid fairest for the truth. The first is that of Grotius and Vitringa, that they were Italian Jews or proselytes. The ancient Romans distinguished between libertus and libertinus. Libertus was one who had been a slave, and obtained his freedom; libertinus was the son of a libertus. But this distinction in after ages was not strictly observed; and libertines also came to be used for one not born, but made free, in opposition to ingenuus, or one born free. Whether the libertini, mentioned in this passage of the Acts were Gentiles, who had become proselytes to Judaism, or native Jews, who having been made slaves to the Romans were afterward set at liberty, and in remembrance of their captivity called them recites libertini, and formed a synagogue by themselves, is differently conjectured by the learned. It is probable the Jews of Cyrenia, Alexandria, &c, built synagogues at Jerusalem at their own charge, for the use of their brethren who came from those countries; as the Danes, Swedes, &c, build churches for the use of their own countrymen in London; and that the Italian Jews did the same; and because the greatest number of them were libertini, their synagogue was therefore called the synagogue of the Libertines. The other opinion, which is hinted by OEcumenius on the Acts, and mentioned by Dr.

Lardner, as more lately advanced by Mr. Daniel Gerdes, professor of divinity in the university of Groningen, is this, that the Libertines are so called from a city or country called Libertus, or Libertina, in Africa, about Carthage. Suidas, in his Lexicon, on the word λιβερτινος , says it was ονομα εθνους , nomen gentis. [The name of a nation.] And the glossa interlinearis, of which Nicolas de Lyra made great use in his notes, hath over the word libertini, e regione, denoting that they were so styled from a country. In the acts of the famous conference with the Donatists at Carthage, A.D. 411, there is mentioned one Victor, bishop of the church of Libertina: and in the acts of the Lateran council, which was held in 649, there is mention of Januarius gratia Dei episcopus sanctae ecclesiae Libertinensis; [Januarius by the grace of God bishop of the holy church of Libertine;] and therefore Fabricius, in his "Geographical Index of Christian Bishoprics," has placed Libertine in what was called Africa Propria, or the proconsular province of Africa. Now, as all the other people of the several synagogues, mentioned in this passage of the Acts, are denominated from the places from whence they came, it is probable that the Libertines were so too; and as the Cyrenians and Alexandrians, who came from Africa, are placed next to the Libertines in that catalogue, it is probable they also belonged to the same country. So that, upon the whole, there is little reason to doubt of the Libertines being so called from the place from whence they came; and the order of the names in the catalogue might lead us to think, that they were farther off from Jerusalem than Alexandria and Cyrenia, which will carry us to the proconsular province in Africa about Carthage.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

LIBERTINES.   Acts 7:8 brings the Libertines forward as a group or synagogue amongst the Hellenistic Jews concerned in the prosecution of Stephen. There is no sufficient reason for emending the text. And, the text standing as it is, the conclusion at once follows that the men in question came from Rome. The ‘Libertines,’ or ‘Freedmen’ of Rome, were a considerable class. Among the vast bodies of slaves composing the imperial and aristocratic households, emancipation was a common occurrence. The Freedmen frequently held positions of great influence, and sometimes played a noble, oftener an ignoble, part. Amongst the Libertines were found many Jews, not a few of them being the descendants of the Jerusalemites, carried away by Pompey. Some of these latter, having bought their freedom and returned to the Holy City, would probably be men of more than average force and earnestness. Hence they were natural leaders in the opposition to Stephen’s destructive criticism of Jewish institutionalism.

Henry S. Nash.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [4]

 Acts 6:9 . This word is from the Latin libertinus, which signifies a freedman, that is, one who, having been a slave, either by birth or capture, has obtained his freedom; or one born of a parent who was a freedman. The "synagogue of the Libertines" stands connected with the Cyrenians and Alexandrians, both of whom were of African origin; it is therefore supposed by some, that the Libertines were of African origin also. It is, however, most probable that this word denotes Jews who had been taken captive by the Romans in war, and carried to Italy; and having there been manumitted, were accustomed to visit Jerusalem in such numbers as to erect a synagogue for their particular use; as was the case with Jews from other cities mentioned in the context. They originated the persecution against Stephen, which resulted in his martyrdom. See Synagogue

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [5]

 Acts 6:9. Descendants of Jews who, having been taken prisoners by Pompey and other Roman generals in the Syrian wars, were enslaved and afterward emancipated, and who returned to their native land. Many Jews at Rome were freedmen allowed by Augustus to settle beyond the Tiber. Four thousnd freedmen were expelled to Sardinia, others were to leave Italy unless they game up Judaism (A.D. 19 under Tiberius (Tacitus, Annals ii. 85; Josephus, Ant. 18:3, section 5; Philo Legat. ad Caium). Humphrey conjectures that, having made their way to Jerusalem, they naturally were Stepben's bitterest opponents as having suffered so much for that religion which Christianity was supplanting. They had a synagogue at Jerusalem.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [6]

Lib'ertines. This word, which occurs once only in the New Testament -  Acts 6:9 - is the Latin libertini , that is, "Freedmen". They were probably Jews who, having been taken prisoners by Pompey and other Roman generals in the Syrian wars, had been reduced to slavery and had afterward been emancipated, and returned, permanently or for a time, to the country of their fathers.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [7]

Libertines ( Lĭber-Tĭnes ). The descendants of Jewish freedmen at Rome, who had been expelled, 19 a.d., by Tiberius.  Acts 6:9. They might very well have a synagogue of their own at Jerusalem, as they were numerous, and as there are said to have been not fewer than 460 or 480 synagogues in that city.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [8]

These are supposed to have been Jews who after having been captured by the Romans had been set at liberty: hence their name. It is well known that there were such. They formed a party at Jerusalem, and were among those who persecuted Stephen.  Acts 6:9 .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [9]

THE, or as they called themselves, Spiritualists, were a Pantheistic and Antinomian sect of the Reformation days. They appeared first in the Netherlands as an ultra division of the "Brethren of the Free Spirit." They spread into France, and, by the interest they manifested in political affairs, gained considerable influence also in Switzerland, especially in Geneva. The impulse given to thought by the Reformation gave rise also to many errors, which flourished by the side of evangelical truth. "Lofty as our ideas of the Reformation should be, we must not be blind to the fact that.... Protestantism [referring especially to the Continent] bears sad evidence of early mismanagement" (Hurst, Hist. of Rationalism, page 37). Foremost among the heretics of this period were the Brethren of the Free Spirit, who, although hotly persecuted, had never been entirely exterminated, and who were yet numerous in Germany and the Netherlands. They now suddenly emerged from the secrecy in which they had lately hidden themselves, as soon as the power of the Church began to wane. Luther clearly saw, however, that not to Romanism, but to Protestantism as well, the influence of the Libertines must be baneful, and he took an early opportunity to warn the Christians of those countries against them (Gieseler, Kirchenlesch. 3 [1], 557). Calvin also had to contend against the influence of these Rationalists, and, in speaking of them, mentions a certain Coppin, of Lille, as the first who attempted to introduce, as early as 1529, the doctrines of the Free Spirit in his native city.

This Coppin was soon eclipsed by his disciple Quintin, of Hennegaui, who, with his companions Bertrand, became the leader of the sect in France in 1534, and with whom a priest called Plocquet (Pocques) connected himself. These two, for Bertrand soon died, are represented as uneducated but shrewd men, who made religion a means of securing earthly goods, and who were very successful in the attempt. They openly professed to have found the principle of "moral falsehood" (or mental reservation) inculcated in the Scriptures, and, in consequence, thought it but right to profess Roman Catholicism when among Roman Catholics, and Protestantism when with Protestants. They are said to have made 4000 proselytes in France alole. They did not, moreover, confine their attempts at deceit to the lower classes, but, on the contrary, endeavored to gain proselytes among the learned and in the higher walks of society; they succeeded even in gaining the ear of the queen Margaret of Navarre, sister of Francis I, who received them, as also a certain Lefevre d'Etaples and others, at her court, and daily consulted with them. They made great use of allegory, figures of speech, etc., taking their authority from the precept, "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."

We have said above that the system of the Libertines was pantheistic; it was, in fact, pure pantheism. They held that there is one universal spirit, which is foundi in every creature, and is the Spirit of God. This one spirit and God is distinguished from itself according as it is considered in heaven or on earth. "Deum a se ipso diversum esse, quod alius omnino in hoc mundo sit quam in coelo" (Calvin, Instr . adv. Libert. 100:11). All creatures, angels, etc., are nothing in themselves, and have no real existence aside from God. Man is preserved only by the Spirit of God, which is in him, and exists only luntil that spirit again departs from him; instead of a soul, it is God himself who dwells in man, and all his actions, all that takes place in the world, is direct from him, is the immediate work of God ("Quiduid in mundo lit, opus ipsius [Dei] directo censendum esse," c. 13). Everything else, the world. the flesh, the devil, souls, etc., are by this system considered as illusions, mere suppositions (opinatio). Even sin is not a mere negation of right, but, since God is the active agent of all actions, it can be but an illusion also, and will disappear as soon as this principle is recognized ("Peccatum non solum aiunt boni privationem esse, sed est illis opinatio, quae evanescit et aboletur, cum nulla habetur ejus ratio," c. 12. Pocquet says, in regard to that, "Et quia omnia quae fiunt extra Deum, nihil sunt quam vanitas," c. 23).

There is, therefore, but one evil, and that evil is this very illusion, this imagination of evil, of a distinction between it and the right. Thus the original fall or sin was nothing else than a separation of man from God, or rather the result of man's desire to be something by himself, separating himself from sunion and identity with God. Thus unintentionally man subjected himself to the world and to Satan, and became himself an illusion, a smoke which passes away and leaves nothing behind. So Pocquet says. "Ideo scriptuim est (?), 'Qui videt peccatum, peccatum ei manet et veritas in ipso non est'" (in Calvin, c. 23). From the Libertine point of view the nature of Christ did not materially differ from ours; he consisted, like other human beings, in divine spirit, such as dwells in us all, and in the sacrifice only the illusionary, or worldly part, was lost. However considered the whole history of Christ, and especially his crucifixion, death, and resurrection, had for them but a symbolical significance; his passion, etc., was, according to Calvin's strong expression, only "une farce on moralite jouee pour nous figurer le mystere de notre salut" only a type of the idea that sin was effaced and atoned for, while in reality, and in God's view, it was of no account in itself ("Chr. solum velut typus fuit, in quo contemplamur ea, quae ad salutem nostram requirit scriptura; e.g. cum aiunt, Christum abolevisse peccatum, sensus eorum est, Christum abolitioneem illam in persona sua representasse," c. 17).

But in so far as we are one in spirit with Christ, all that he underwent is as if we had undergone it; his exclamation, "It is finished," is true as well for us as for himself; sin has lost all significance so far as we are concerned, and the fight against sin, repentance, mortification of the flesh, etc., are no longer necessary. Neither can nor should the spirituialist be any longer subject to suffering, since Christ has suffered all. Here the idea and the reality, however, are in conflict ("Nam scriptum est: Factus sum totus homo. Cum factus sit totus homo [tout homme, in a twofold sense], accipiens naturam humanam, ac mortuus sit, potestne adhuc in his inferioribus locis mori? Magni esset erroris hoc credere," etc., ibidem, c. 23). Of course man should be born anew, but this new birth is secured when he regains the state of innocence of Adam before the fall; when in absolute filial unity with God, he neither sees nor knows sin, or, in other words, when he is no longer able to distinguish it from righteousness (modo ne amplius opinemur), and when able to follow the dictates of God's Spirit by virtue of natural impulse ("Sed si adhuc committamus delictum et ingrediamur hortum voluptatis, qui adhuc nobis prohibitus est, ne quid velimus facere, sed sinamus nos duci a vohulttate Dei. Alioqui non essemus exuti veteri serpente, qui est primus parens noster Adam, et videremus peccatum, sicut ipse et uxor ejus, etc. Nunc vivificati sumus cum sectundo Adamo; qui est Christus, non cernendo amplius peccatum, quia est mortuum," etc. ibidem; compare c. 18). Such a twice-born one is Christ, is God himself, to whom the Libertine returns after death, to be absorbed in him ("Hoc enim imaginantur, animam hominis, quae est Deus, ad seipsam redire, cum ad mortem ventum est, non ut tanquam anima humana, sed tanquam Deus ipse vivat, sicuti ab initio," c. 3 and 22).

The consequences of such principles are obviolus: they lead naturally to sensuality, to the emacipation of to flesh and the laying aside of all restrictions; make men look upon propriety or ownership as a wrong, as opposed to the principles of love, and, in fact, a theft, though this principle was not carried into practice. Calvin called its principal advocates "doctores passivae caritatis." Ordilnary or legal marriage comes to be looked upon as a mere carnal bond, and therefore dissoluble; true marriage, such as satisfies both body and mind, being a union of each to each; communion of saints extended not merely to the worldly possessions, but also to the very bodies of the saints. In short, spiritualism soon degenerated into open and avowed sensualism and materialism. But this is the very feature which gave it its influence with some classes in Geneva. The example of their bishops and of the cathedral canons had excited their imagination by inclining them to self-indulgence and licentiousness, and political circumstances operated in favor of the same result. Soon, however, the real principles of the Libertines appeared in their full light, and created a reaction, some women having gone so far as to quote Scripture to authorize their excesses, insisting especially on the fact of God's first command to our first parents having been "to increase and multiply" ("Crescite et multiplicamini super terram. En prima lex, quam ordinavit Deus, qua vocabatur lex nature," c. 23). (See Communism); "Free Love" in the article MARRIAGE (See Marriage).

As Calvin had favored political libertinism, those who considered themselves aggrieved by the practice of the spiritualists turned also against him, and this politico- religious reaction went as far as irreligion and atheism, as in the case of Jacob Gruet, whose ultraradical principles in politics and rationalism in religion led to his trial before the courts of Geneva July 27, 1547. Yet no one really did more to counteract the principles of the Libertines than did Calvin himself. First, in 1544, he brought all their secret principles to light in one of his works (see Instit. 3:3, § 14). Afterwards, in 1547, he warned the faithful of Rhouen against an ex-Franciscan monk who was inculcating libertine doctrines, and who met with some success, especially among women of the higher classes. Under Calvin's influence Farel also took up the pen against the Libertines (Le glaive de la parole veritable, tire contre le bouclier de defense, duquel un cordelier s'est voulu servir pour approuver ses fausses et damnables opinions [Geneva, 1550; see Kirchhofer, Theol. Studien und Krit. 1831]). The queen of Navarre was highly offended at Calvin for denouncing the leaders of the Libertines who were then at her court; he therefore wrote to her a letter which is a remarkable specimen of respectful remonstrance (August 28, 1545; in French, see J. Bonnet, Lettres de J. Calvin, 1:111 sq.; Latin, Epist. et Resp. ed. Amst. page 33). It is, in fact, due to his efforts that this sect, this baneful curse, left France to take refuge in its native country, Belgium, and that it finally disappeared altogether. Against the Libertines of Geneva the attacks were for a long time unavailing; they cannot be considered to have been successfully ended until after the insurrection of May 15, 1555, when the principal leaders were either exiled or imprisoned. See Calvin, Aux ministres de l'eglise de Neufchatel contre la secte fanatique et furieuse des Libertins qui se nomment Spirituels (Genesis 1544, 8vo; 1545, and other editions); Contre un Franciscain, sectateur des erreurs des Libertins, adresse a l'eglise de Rouen (20 Aout, 1547 [both these have been published together in 1547, in the Opluscules, page 817 sq., and by P. Jacob, page 293 sq.; Lat. by Des Gallars, in Opusc. onmn. Genesis 1552; Opp. ed. Amst. 8:374 sq.]); Picot, Hist. de Geneve; Gieseler, Kirchengesch. 3:1, page 385; Hundeshagen, in the Theol. Stude. ud Krit. (1845); Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 8:374-380. (J.H.W.)

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [10]

lib´ẽr - tinz , 51 - bûr´tinz ( Λιβερτῖνοι , Libertı́noi ): These were among Stephen's opponents: "There arose certain of them that were of the synagogue called (the synagogue) of the Libertines, and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and Asia, disputing with Stephen" (  Acts 6:9 ).

1. "Synagogue of the Libertines":

How many synagogues are denoted? The answer may aid in the interpretation of "Libertines": (1) The words may be read as denoting one synagogue (Calvin). However (a) the number of worshippers would be extremely large, (b) the bond of union is not obvious, (c) rabbinic tradition speaks of 480 synagogues in Jerusalem. (2) The double tṓn ("of them") seems to denote two parties, the one consisting "of them that were of the synagogue called (the synagogue) of Libertines and Cyrenians and Alexandrians," the other "of them of Cilicia and Asia", (Winer, Wendt, Holtzmann). But the second tṓn is dependent on synagogue. "As Cyrenians and Alexandrians both belong to towns ... a change of designation would be necessary when the Jews of whole provinces came to be mentioned: this being the case, the article could not but be repeated, without any reference to the tṓn before" (Alford). (3) There were three synagogues: (a) that of the Libertines, (b) that of the Cyrenians and Alexandrians and (c) that "of them of Cilicia and Asia" (Alford). There is no grammatical reason for this division, but it is based on an interpretation of "Libertines." There were "Libertines," Africans and Asiatics. (4) Each party had a separate synagogue (Schurer, Hausrath). The number of worshippers, their different origin and connections, and the number of synagogues in Jerusalem give weight to this view.

2. Interpretation of "Libertines":

(1) They are "freedmen," liberated slaves or their descendants. Against this it is held that the Greek equivalent ( apeleútheroi ) would have been used in this case. However, the Roman designation would be common all over the empire. In what sense were they "freedmen?" Various answers are given: (a) they were freedmen from Jewish servitude (Lightfoot); (b) they were Italian freedmen who had become proselytes; (c) they were "the freedmen of the Romans" (Chrysostom), the descendants of Jewish freedmen at Rome who had been expelled by Tiberius. In 63 Bc P ompey had taken prisoners of war to Rome. These, being liberated by those who had acquired them as slaves, formed a colony on the banks of the Tiber (Philo, Legat. ad Caium ). Tacitus relates that the senate decreed (19 AD) that a number of Jewish Libertines should be transported to Sardinia, and that the rest should leave Italy, unless they renounced, before a certain day, their profane customs ( Ann. ii, 85; see also Josephus, Ant. , Xviii , iii, 5). Many would naturally seek refuge in Jerusalem and build there a synagogue.

(2) They are an African community. There were two synagogues, one of which was Asiatic. In the other were men from two African towns (Cyrene and Alexandria), therefore the Libertines must have been African also, all forming an African synagogue. Various explanations are given: (a) They were inhabitants of Libertum, a town in Africa proper: an "Episcopus Ecclesiae Catholicae Libertinensis" sat in the Synod of Carthage (411 AD). (b) Some emend the text; Wetstein and Blass, following the Armenian VS, conjecture Libustı́nōn , "of the Libystines." Schulthess reads for "Libertines and Cyrenians" ( Libertı́nōn kaı́ Kúrēnaı́ōn ) "Libyans, those about Cyrene" ( Libúōn tṓn katá Kurḗnēn ) (compare   Acts 2:10 ).

These emendations are conjectural; the manuscripts read "Libertines." It seems, therefore, that 2, (1) (c) above is the correct interpretation.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [11]

'Certain of the synagogue, which is called (the synagogue) of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians,' etc., are mentioned in . There has been much diversity in the interpretation of this word. The most probable opinion, and that which is now generally entertained, is, that the Libertines were Jews, whom the Romans had taken in war and conveyed to Rome, but afterwards freed; and that this synagogue had been built at their expense. Libertini is, therefore, to be regarded as a word of Roman origin, and to be explained with reference to Roman customs. Further, we know that there were in the time of Tiberius many libertini, or 'freed-men,' of the Jewish religion at Rome.

References