A Bewildered Crowd: Acts 2:5–8

bewildered crowd

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c) Acts 2:5–8: Here the scene shifts to those outside the building where the disciples gathered (Acts 1:12–14; Acts 2:1–4).[1]

Luke reported, “And there were in Jerusalem Jewish people residing, devout men (aner) from all the nations under heaven. When this sound occurred, the crowd gathered, and they were bewildered because each one was hearing them speaking in his own language.”

The verb which Luke employed (katoikeō) can mean “to live in a locality for any length of time.”[2]

Therefore, the people mentioned here could fall into several categories.[3] Some resided there permanently after returning from the nations where their ancestors had been exiled (Cf. Acts 6:9).[4]

Pious retirees often wished to live their last days in Jerusalem and be buried there.[5] Supporting this, Greek inscriptions appear on one-third of the burial boxes found in that city.[6]

As one of the three required feasts (Exod 23:14–17), a significant number of visitors celebrated Pentecost in Jerusalem.[7] Some scholars estimate that approximately a million pilgrims attended that festival each year.[8]

Only in Jerusalem could they participate in the rites which God commanded (Num 28:26–31; Deut 12:10–14).[9]

Among New Testament authors, only Luke used the word translated as “devout” (eulabēs) (Luke 2:25–32; Acts 8:1–2; Acts 22:12).[10] It seems to refer to those who kept the Mosaic law.[11]

Although the widespread inclusion of gentiles did not occur until later (Acts 10), these pious Jewish men in Jerusalem represented the known world (Acts 2:9–11).[12]



A crowd gathered when the people heard Christ’s disciples speaking their local languages.[13]

According to Luke, “They were amazed and astonished (syncheō), saying, ‘Behold, are not all these speaking Galileans? How are we hearing each one his own language in which we were born?’

Luke used the same word (syncheō) to describe the reaction at Pentecost which appears in the Greek translation of Gen 11:7.[14]

This allusion—coupled with the abundance of people-groups with various languages and dialects—points to an intentional linkage with Gen 10–11:9.[15]



Israelites easily recognized a Galilean accent (Luke 22:59).[16] People from Galilee tended to drop certain letters, which could lead to difficult communication.[17] That contributed to the perception of that region as a backwater.[18]

Yet, the disciples expressed themselves clearly in tongues known only in far-off parts of the world.[19]

Even today, God continues to use those whom society devalues to accomplish great things by his Spirit (1 Cor 1:26–31).[20]

During the seventh century BC, Aramaic became the language of Israel, Syria, and Mesopotamia. It remained the primary spoken tongue of Israel through the period of the early church.[21]

Alexander the Great’s army introduced Koine Greek throughout the Ancient Near East as far as the Indus River in the latter half of the fourth century BC.[22]

Those living closer to Rome, from Spain to France, spoke Latin.[23]

Except for merchants and international traders, people expected those native to Jerusalem to understand only Hebrew, Aramaic, and perhaps Greek (Acts 21:37–40).[24]

At Pentecost, worshipers from far-flung parts of the world heard relatively uneducated people proclaim God’s great deeds in their local tongues (Cf. Acts 4:13).[25]

Peter declared that this miraculous speech resulted from the Lord granting the gift of prophecy to his disciples (Acts 2:16–18).[26]



The Lord suddenly removed the communication barriers which he erected in Babel (Gen 11:1–9).[27]

In Shinar, confusion reigned because the speech of others became indecipherable. At Pentecost, bewilderment arose due to a clear transmission of information.[28]

This event led to the formation of a new segment of humanity, the church of God.[29] The Lord had begun to fulfill his promise to Abraham (Gen 12:1–3).[30]

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Read Acts 2:5–8. Who was in Jerusalem? Why were people shocked by this event? How does it relate to what happened in Babel?





Go to Babel Reversed (Acts 2:9–11)

[Related posts include The Spirit Descends (Acts 2:1–3); Speaking Other Tongues (Acts 2:4); Babel Reversed (Acts 2:9–11); A Plain in Shinar (Gen 11:1–2); Let Us Bake Bricks (Gen 11:3); A Stairway to Heaven (Gen 11:4); A Deity Descends (Gen 11:5–7); Dispersed over the Face of the Earth (Gen 11:8–9); Greek Translation of the Old Testament; and Intertestamental History]

[Click here to go to Chapter 12: Scattered to the Ends of the Earth (Gen 11:1–9)]


[1]Schnabel, Acts, Acts 2:5.

[2]Arndt, Danker, and Bauer, “κατοικεω” (katoikeō), BDAG, 534.

[3]Schnabel, Acts, Acts 2:5.

[4]Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles: a Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 135.

[5]Fernando, Acts, 88–9.

[6]James D. G. Dunn, Beginning from Jerusalem: Christianity in the Making (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 246, note 21.

[7]Bruce, The Book of the Acts, 53.

[8]Schnabel, Acts, Acts 2:5.

[9]Bruce, The Book of the Acts, 54.

[10]Result of Logos 7 word study on “εὐλαβης” (eulabēs).

[11]Schnabel, Acts, Acts 2:5.

[12]Bruce, The Book of the Acts, 55.

[13]Bruce, The Book of the Acts, 54.

[14]Result of Logos 7 word study on συγχέω (syncheō).

[15]Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, 202.

[16]Bruce, The Book of the Acts, 54.

[17]Larkin, Acts, Acts 2:5.

[18]Fernando, Acts, 89.

[19]Bruce, The Book of the Acts, 54.

[20]Fernando, Acts, 97.

[21]Stephen A. Kaufman, “Languages: Aramaic,” ABD 4:173–8, 173.

[22]Gerald Mussies, “Languages: Greek,” ABD 4:195–203, 197.

[23]F. F. Bruce, “Languages: Latin,” ABD 4:220–2, 220.

[24]Schnabel, Acts, Acts 2:7–8.

[25]Schnabel, Acts, Acts 2:7–8.

[26]Keener, IVPBBCNT, Acts 2:4–13.

[27]Fernando, Acts, 90.

[28]Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 136.

[29]Fernando, Acts, 90.

[30]Hays, From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race, 164.