What about Acts 5:42?
Acts 5:42 And daily in the temple and from house to house [kat'
oikon, Gk.], they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the
This sentence is one of the two outstanding prooftexts for Jehovah's Witnesses
door-to-door evangelism. What manner of home visitation were those early
disciples engaged in?
But before we examine the how, let us think about the who.
Just who "kept right on teaching and preaching"? Check back in
the previous verse and you quickly discern there is a problem with using
this verse to justify the JW understanding that ALL Jehovah's Witnesses
must preach door-to-door. The ones preaching, according to v.41,
are the same ones who had appeared before the Sanhedrin, under arrest for
preaching in the temple area (v.21). According to the previous account,
those arrested for this public preaching were the apostles only
(see verses 18-29).
If you go back further in chapter 5, you also see that, rather than evangelizing
house-to-house, the apostles were doing their preaching and healing in
Solomon's portico (vv.12-16), a precinct of the temple. People from the
whole city and beyond were bringing their loved ones to that location to
be healed. They were NOT waiting for the apostles to arrive at their doors.
THIS "public witnessing", not a canvassing campaign, antagonized
the religious establishment (vv.17-18).
The chapter 5 arrest followed a previous arrest in chapter 4 (the narrative
actually begins in chapter 3). Here it was simply Peter and John who were
under arrest for preaching, again in Solomon's colonnade (3:1,11; 4:1).
Although at this point in Acts there is no record that the apostles had
preached anywhere but in the temple area, the Jewish council is rightly
afraid their work is "apparent to all who live in Jerusalem"
(4:16). The leaders fear that their work will spread among all the people
(v.17). And with justification -- there were now about 5000 disciples,
and without the apostles getting beyond the temple (4:4)! After
their release, we read that "with great power the apostles were giving
witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus". (4:33, NASB). This
"great power" was sufficient to accomplish the Lord's work in
Jerusalem. It was also the Lord's way of answering the prayer of v.29:
And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Thy bond-servants
may speak Thy word with all confidence, while Thou dost extend Thy hand
to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Thy Holy
Servant Jesus. (4:29,30, NASB)
The book of Hebrews confirms that it was the apostles who both performed
signs and also preached the message which established the
divine source of the gospel:
This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to
us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs,
wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed
according to his will. (Heb.2:3,4; NIV)
This is the pattern established in Acts 1. The apostles, "those who
had heard him [Jesus]", allow none to join their rank but others who
meet the same qualifications:
Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us
the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from
John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one
of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection. (1:21,22;
Thus the qualification of a WITNESS was that he must have SEEN the Lord,
and seen Him from the beginning of His ministry to its end, the resurrection
and ascension (Acts 1:8 -- "YOU will be my witnesses"; see also
Luke 24:33-53). They, and they only, would qualify to witness. This was
in accord with Jewish legal precedent (Deut.17:6). A witness, for his testimony
to be valid and legally acceptable, must have seen -- experienced
personally -- the event about which he testified.
Thousands had seen Jesus, but very few among those witnesses had also witnessed
the resurrection and ascension. No more than a few hundred had seen the
risen Christ, and these only, according to Peter, were qualified to testify
Him God raised up the third day, and granted that He should become visible,
not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God,
that is, to us, who ate and drank with him after He arose from the dead.
And He ordered US to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that
this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and
the dead. (Acts 10:40-42; NASB, emphasis added)
Therefore it is beyond dispute that those who preached the word in Acts
5 were the apostles. Where did they preach? "... in the temple and
from house to house". But from the reports in Acts 3 and 4 we see
that there is no support for a work such as Jehovah's Witnesses do. Rather,
as F.F. Bruce understands this verse, kat' oikon should in context
be rendered "in their own homes" [Eng p.126]. Ernst Haenchen
renders kat' oikon "in home gatherings" [p.254], Richard
Rackham "at home, i.e. in their own meetings" [p.75]. A.T. Robertson,
in his famous Word Pictures in the New Testament (Vol.3, p.70),
acknowledges that the Greek may be rendered "from house to house",
but understands it to have the force of "at home". I. Howard
Marshall suggests why the reference to homes is coupled with another reference
to the temple activity:
The Sanhedrin could probably do little to stop them evangelizing in their
William Jacobson is specific as to the verse's intent:
In the temple. To casual listeners; in every house, to avowed believers.
The same marginal rendering, at home, might have been given here, as in
2:46. [The Bible Commentary, ed. F.C. Cook, John-Acts p. 391]
Jacobson's reference to Acts 2:46 is telling, as that is the only other
place in Acts where the exact phrase kat' oikon occurs.
Were the Apostles Really 'Jehovah's Witnesses'?
As outlandish as that question may seem, Jehovah's Witnesses
take pride in the claim that they -- and they only are imitators
of the method of evangelism practised by the early church. But did 1st
century believers -- even the apostles -- go door-to-door, or does the
book of Acts present a different picture of preaching work of the early