WHO WERE THE “LIBERTINES?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
The title is found a single time in the Authorized Version, Acts 6:9: “Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.” Exactly who are these “Libertines?”
As their name implies, they are liberated. In Latin, they are known as “libertini,” meaning “freedmen.” According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Libertines “were probably Jews who, having been taken prisoners by Pompey [106–48 B.C.] 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.”
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon supplies additional insight concerning Libertines: “Jews who had been made captives by the Romans under Pompey but were afterward set free; and who, although they had fixed their abode at Rome, had built at their own expense a synagogue at Jerusalem which they frequented when in that city. The name Libertines adhered to them to distinguish them from the free-born Jews who had subsequently taken up their residence at Rome.”
Ironically, the Libertines were physically free but spiritually bound—captive to sin and Satan. Instead of listening to Stephen and converting to Jesus Christ, they argued with him and conspired to get him in trouble with the common Jewish people in Jerusalem! They blasphemed against the Holy Ghost. Unfortunately, apostate (unbelieving) Israel subsequently killed Stephen and contributed to their fall in Acts chapter 7. (See our related studies linked below.)
» What does “suborned” mean in Acts 6:11?
» Why did Jesus Christ stand in Acts 7:55-56?
» Did Acts 7:60 predict the Dispensation of Grace?
» Have I blasphemed against the Holy Ghost?
» Is Israel “cast away,” or not? Has Israel “fallen,” or not?