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In Acts 4:22 (NIV) one reads

For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.

What was the purpose of mentioning the age in this context?

I understand that it may be a way to note the duration of his disease, but would appreciate your help interpreting this verse.

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In my view when it says that the man was over fourty years of age with blindness, it possibly tells us that even in an advanced age, he could be healed by Christ, for in that time it could be that:

  • a man could be healed by doctors when younger with that disease;

as it's confirmed by Barnes and Clarkes respectively:

For the man ... - The age of the man is mentioned to show the certainty and greatness of the miracle. If it had been a man who had been lame but a few years, or if it had been a child or a very young man, the case would not been so remarkable. But after a continuance of 40 years, all hope of healing him by any ordinary means must have been abandoned, and all pretence that this was jugglery or deception must have been absurd.

The man was above forty years old - The disease was of long standing, and consequently the more inveterate; but all difficulties, small or great, yield equally to the sovereign power of God. It is as easy with God to convert a sinner of forty or four-score, as one of ten years old. (...)

Even though, I think there must be many more explanations in the Bible that are hidden from me, I hope someone can provide more on this theme.

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To get the answer, it's necessary to go back to Acts 3:1 and read through to verse 11. There's too much to copy here, so in summary this was Peter and John going into the temple in Jerusalem. At the gate a man born lame lay there begging. The apostles did not give him alms but got him to look at them while those magnificent words was said to him, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk."

Instantly, the man born crippled leaped up "and walked and entered with them into the temple, leaping and praising God." This commotion attracted huge attention in the temple, and the ire of the religious leaders who hated the name of Jesus being invoked for this miracle. Yet they could not deny it had happened - in public, and to a man 40 years of age. Now, if it had been a woman, they might have tried to shoo her out of the temple fast. Or if it had been a youth or even a young man in his 20s - they could have been made to bow to the religious leaders' demands. But they could not dismiss a man aged 40!

Further, there were many people present who could testify to him having been crippled for 40 years, for all of his life, so there was no getting away from the astounding miracle performed with the power of Jesus' name. That was what infuriated and ham-strung the religious leaders. They tried to shut up the apostles yet failed. They wanted to shut up the 40 years old man who was leaping about and praising God loudly. They could do nothing against him. So they carted the apostles off to prison and threatened them. But it was too late! Everybody knew what had happened, and no way could they imprison or threaten the 40 year old man who had been miraculously cured.

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We are not told. All we can assume is that the man was like all during the entire ministry of Jesus coming and going from the temple. That is, depite Jesus presumably passing the man several times, Jesus never healed the man.

Thus, it might be possible to understand this as a fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy to the disciples:

  • John 14:12 - Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I am doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
  • John 5:20 - The Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does. And to your amazement, He will show Him even greater works than these.
  • John 1:50 - Jesus said to him, “Do you believe just because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”
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For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.What does Acts 4:22 mean by referring to the age of the man that was healed?

The above verse refers to the beggar, at Acts 3:1-10, when he saw Peter and John began asking for a charitable gift.

Acts 3:1-10 NASB

Healing the Beggar Who Was Unable to Walk

3 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the [a]ninth hour, the hour of prayer. 2 And a man who had been unable to walk from [b]birth was being carried, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order for him to beg for charitable gifts from those entering the temple grounds. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple grounds, he began asking to receive a charitable gift. 4 But Peter, along with John, looked at him intently and said, “Look at us!” 5 And he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I do not have silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!”

7 And grasping him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God; 10 and they recognized him as being the very one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg for charitable gifts, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Possible reasons for mentioning the age .

1/ The fact that he was lame for 40 years, caused the crowd watching to be filled with wonder and amazement.

2/ Such a miracle could only be performed with divine backing.

3/ People at the time and today are given the opportunity to repent and walk with God.

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What does Acts 4:22 mean by referring to the age of the man that was healed?

As OzzieOzzie's answer points out, the man was "lame from birth". (Acts 3:2) There is another similar incident that we can reference that has additional insight.

In John chapter 9, we read about Jesus' miracle of restoring sight to a man born blind. When the man is being questioned by the Pharisees, he mentions something notable:

32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (NIV)

Barnes' Notes on the Bible makes this observation:

Since the world began - Neither Moses nor any of the prophets had ever done this. No instance of this kind is recorded in the Old Testament. As this was a miracle which had never been performed, the man argued justly that he who had done it must be from God. As Jesus did it not by surgical operations, but by clay, it showed that he had power of working miracles by any means.

So we see that miraculously removing a malady or affliction from birth is possible by Jehovah God. But why mention the age of the man in Acts? Looking back at the blind man from John 9, the parents mention something about his age:

But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself. (verse 21)

What age was the man? The study note for John 9:21 from the New World Testament says:

He is of age: Or “He is old enough.” The expression might refer to the age at which men qualified for military service under the Mosaic Law, which was 20. (Nu 1:3) This fits with the fact that he is called “a man” (Joh 9:1), not a child, and that he had been a beggar (Joh 9:8). Some consider the expression as referring to the age of legal maturity in Jewish society, which was 13.

So the man could have been as old as 20 years of age; the man from Acts is over 40 years of age. This gives us more perspective on the miracle itself. Not only was the lame man afflicted from birth but had suffered for over 40 years. The author of Acts is generally regarded to be physician Luke. So as a physician, Luke would see the miracle being notable because it was "from birth" and that no one of that age had been healed before.

[Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

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Providing the man's age functions to add two elements to the miracle.

  • Magnify the nature of the miracle.
  • Add symbolic meaning to the miracle.

Magnify the Miracle
The man had been in the condition since birth:

1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. (Acts 3 ESV)

The man had been born with the condition. Giving an age amplifies the ailment. Since he was 40-years old, it is likely his parents were no longer alive or able to care for him. It was also likely he was not married or had other family members to provide for him. His means of support was to beg at the Temple gate.

This was the "daily" routine. Adding the age, 40-years old, implies this was an "established" routine, something which had been going on for years and explains the impact on others:

9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (Acts 3)

Obviously the man had not been begging since birth and we are not told how many years he had been begging at the gate, but adding the detail of his age, means this was probably something which had been going on for quite some time. Certainly long enough for "all the people" to recognize him.

Symbolic Meaning
There are two periods of "about" 40-years in the history of Israel to which this miracle has parallels:

  • The Exodus from Egypt
  • The length of the Davidic kingship in Jerusalem before the Temple was finished

The first parallel is to the Exodus; the man had to "wait" about 40-years before he was able to walk as the nation of Israel waited 40-years in the wilderness before entering the promised Land. Just as the man had his needs met by other during this time, the nation had their needs met by the LORD:

I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet. (Deuteronomy 29:5)

The second parallel is more subtle and pertains to the Temple:

10 Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David. 11 And the time that David reigned over Israel was forty years. He reigned seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established. (1 Kings 2)

37 In the fourth year the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid, in the month of Ziv. 38 And in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, the house was finished in all its parts, and according to all its specifications. He was seven years in building it. (1 Kings 6)

The Temple was completed in the 44th year the Davidic kingship ruled the nation from Jerusalem (33 under David and 11 under Solomon). The period is not exactly 40-years, but is close enough to be considered "about" 40-years.

The miracle takes place outside the Temple where the man would beg for alms from those going into the Temple. The implication is what took place inside the Temple failed to provide the support the man needed. In other words, since the people provided financial support for the Temple, the leaders failed to use a portion to help the invalid man and as a result, he had to beg from individuals for support.

Ideally, the man's needs should have been met so his friends could take him inside the Temple where he could join the others in prayer. However, because "the Temple" failed to provide for the man's needs, his friends had to leave him outside to beg alms from those going inside for prayer.

Now all of this could have been accomplished by describing the man's age in general terms. So adding a number invites considering symbolism of the event.

The healing reveals the inefficacy of the Temple to either provide for the man's needs or to heal his affliction. It also implies a lack of concern from the leadership both for the man's daily needs and for his ability to participate in the Temple activities. One could say adding the period of about 40-years which recalls both the Exodus and the construction of Solomon's Temple, foreshadows the destruction of the Second Temple to remove the potential to confuse the Temple in Jerusalem with the Temple which is Christ's body:

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (John 2)

This too references a period of "about" 40-years.

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