Acts 2:22-23 Commentary

Act 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—
Act 2:23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;

Acts 2:22-23 takes place in a speech from Peter to the “men of Judea”. In this speech, Peter draws on Biblical texts to place the events of Jesus’ life as fulfillment of prophecy. In this context Peter claims Jesus was “delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God”.

This verse has been various used to prove omniscience, predestination, Calvinistic sovereignty, and well as Aseity:

Independence (Aseity) God is independent of all things. He is perfectly self-sufficient, not depending on anything outside himself for anything, and is therefore the eternal, foundational being, the source of life and sustenance for all other beings. The following list presents scriptural evidence for God’s aseity:

7.   His counsel is the basis of everything (Ps. 33: 10– 11; Prov. 19: 21; Isa. 46: 10; Matt. 11: 25– 26; Acts 2: 23; 4: 27– 28; Eph. 1: 5, 9, 11).
MacArthur, John; Mayhue, Richard. Biblical Doctrine (Kindle Locations 4233-4235). Crossway. Kindle Edition.


God’s Foreknowledge in the New Testament. From the history of the Greek verb proginōskō (the word behind the New Testament concept of God’s foreknowledge) and the biblical evidence of God’s omniscience, theologians extend the concept of foreknowledge to cover his intimate and intentional knowledge of all things before they become actual in time and space. As proof of this more general foreknowledge, one could point to predictive prophecy (e.g., Isa. 41: 22– 26; 42: 9; 43: 9– 12; 44: 7; 46: 10).

However, when used to depict God’s foreknowledge, the verb proginōskō and the noun prognōsis are used of God’s perfectly purposed relational knowledge of everyone who is in his redemptive plan before they exist in time and space. Understood in this way, especially from the New Testament, God’s foreknowledge is soteriological. foreknew elect Israelites as his covenant people (Rom. 11: 2); Jesus Christ as crucified and resurrected (Acts 2: 23– 24; 1 Pet. 1: 18– 20); and all Christians as predestined, chosen, called, believing, sanctified, justified, and glorified (Rom. 8: 29; 1 Pet. 1: 2). God’s foreknowledge is not passive, dependent on foresight of what humans would do. Rather, it is eternally purposed by God. Paul asserted that God “foreknew” (Gk. proginōskō) only those whom he also “predestined,” “called,” “justified,” and “glorified” (Rom. 8: 29– 30). It is important to note that in Romans 8: 28, these people were “called according to his purpose.” In this context, God’s foreknowing is divinely purposed, foreknowing only those who would be effectually called in time to saving faith in Christ. When the New Testament speaks of God foreknowing, the object is always people rather than facts, and these people are always objects of his redemption.
MacArthur, John; Mayhue, Richard. Biblical Doctrine (Kindle Locations 4438-4446). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

There are obvious problems with taking “foreknowledge” of one event and claiming it proves foreknowledge of all events. This is a fallacy of composition.

Other questions arise. What exactly was foreknown and when? During the heated presidential race in 2016, hours before the voting closed, Donald Trump was foreknown to be the clear winner. This knowledge was based on unfolding facts, and was not known previously. The exact number of votes for Trump were not known, only the broader outcome. Using Act 2:23 as a prooftext (designed to prove a concept) of eternal foreknowledge of all events in detail (such as the exact number of coughs the Roman soldiers would make on that certain day) is not warranted by the text.

Biblical Scholar Bart Ehrman takes Acts 2:23 to be a general claim that Jesus’ death is going according to God’s plan as opposed to happenstance. Peter is confronting the idea that the death of Jesus subverted God’s purposes. Ehrman takes the stance that Peter does not seem to have “thought rigorously about the problem of determinism and free will”.

The same word for foreknowledge is ascribed to normal humans in the Bible. In 2Pe 3:17 the word references a concept people have been taught before the letter was written. In Act 26:5 the word is used of Jews who “knew Paul from the beginning”. Neither use is in reference to the beginning of time, but a prior familiarity before the current point in time.

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