What does “suborned” mean in Acts 6:11?


by Shawn Brasseaux

The term appears a solitary time in the King James Bible, Acts 6:11: “Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.” What does “suborned” mean?

Let us read the verse in context to get the thought: “[8] And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. [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. [10] And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. [11] Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. [12] And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, [13] And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: [14] For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. [15] And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.”

What we have here is yet another example of Satan fighting against God. The Holy Ghost is working through Stephen, but the flesh is operating in apostate Jews to resist God’s work. (After he preaches to them, they ultimately stone Stephen to death in the following chapter!) Unbelieving Jews argue with Stephen, but they are unable to match the wisdom and power of God evident in him. Therefore, they seek outside help in silencing him—and this is where the concept of “suborned” emerges. Simply put, they secretly entice some evildoers to join them in their rebellion or blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. (See our related studies linked at the end of this article.) These bribed men then lie about Stephen to the common Jewish people and leaders, intending on getting him executed. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Exodus 20:16). “Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Deuteronomy 5:20).

Our English word “suborn” is from the Latin “subornare” (“secretly furnish or equip”). The  “sub-” is also the origin of the words “surreptitious” and “suspect”—carrying the idea of craftiness or secrecy. In the Greek New Testament, “suborn” is “hypoballo,” meaning “to throw in stealthily.”

Also see:
» Who were the “Libertines?”
» 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?