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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Acts 22

 

 

Verses 1-21

SECTION II

EVENTS WHICH OCCURRED DURING THE IMPRISONMENT OF THE APOSTLE PAUL IN JERUSALEM. HIS DEFENCE BEFORE THE PEOPLE, AND THE GREAT COUNCIL

Acts 22:1 to Acts 23:11

A.—THE APOSTLE’S DEFENCE BEFORE THE JEWISH PEOPLE

Acts 22:1-21

1Men, brethren, and fathers [Ye brethren and fathers], hear ye my defence which I make [om. which I make] now unto [before] you [you——] 2([Om. parenth. marks] And [But] when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue [dialect] to them, they kept the more silence [they became the more silent]: and he saith,)

3I am verily[FN1] a man which am a Jew [I am a Jewish, man], born in Tarsus, a city [Tarsus] in Cilicia, yet [and] brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught [city, taught at the feet of Gamaliel,] according to the perfect manner [the strictness] of the law of the fathers [of the paternal law], and was zealous toward [was a zealot for] God, as ye all are [yet] this day 4 And I persecuted this way unto the [unto, ἄχρι θαν.] death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women 5 As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders [and all the eldership]: from whom also I received [from whom I received also] letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to [that they might] be punished 6 And [But] it came to pass, that, as I made my journey [was on my journey], and was come [drew] nigh unto Damascus about noon [mid-day], suddenly there shone [flashed] from heaven a great light round about [around] me 7 And I fell[FN2] unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 8And [But] I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest 9 And [But] they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid [affrighted];[FN3] but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me 10 And [But] I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into [to] Damascus; and there it shall [will] be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do [which it is appointed that thou shalt do]. 11And [But] when I could not see for the glory [brightness] of that light, being led [I was led] by the hand of them that were with me, [and thus] I came into [to] Damascus 12 And one [But a certain] Ananias, a devout[FN4] man according to the law, having a good report of [among] all the Jews which [who] dwelt there [in the city], 13Came unto me, and [om. and] stood [approached], and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight [look up!]. And the same hour I looked up upon him 14 And [But] he said, The God of our fathers hath [before] chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that [the, τὸν] Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of [his voice from (ἐχ)] his mouth 15 For thou shalt be his witness [be a witness for him] unto all men of what [concerning that which] thou hast seen and heard 16 And now [,] why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord [on his name[FN5]]. 17And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in [fell into, γενέσθαι με] a trance; 18And saw him saying [as he said] unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for [because, διότι] they will not receive thy testimony concerning me 19 And I said, Lord, they know [themselves, αὐτοὶ] that I imprisoned and beat [scourged] in every synagogue [in the synagogues, χατὰ τὰς συν.] them that believed on thee: 20And when the blood of thy martyr [witness] Stephen[FN6] was shed[FN7], I also was standing by, and consenting unto [and had pleasure therein] his death [om. his death[FN8]], and kept [guarded] the raiment [garments] of them that slew him 21 And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles [among the nations].

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Acts 22:1-2. Men, brethren, and fathers.—The word ἀδελφοί expresses the love which the speaker bears to his own people, and πατέρες his respect for their eminent rulers, of whom some may have been present. [See Exeg. note on Acts 7:2-3. a.—Tr.]. The circumstance, moreover, that he addressed his hearers in their mother tongue, disposed them to listen with the more favor, as many of the number had not supposed that the man before them, whom they did not personally know, understood the Aramæan language.

Acts 22:3-5. a. I am verily a man which am a Jew.—[Even if μέν is not cancelled (see note1, appended to the text), it is here equivalent simply to the word indeed, as the translators often render it.—Tr.]. The full account which Paul gives of himself, Acts 22:3-5, is intended to remove the suspicion with which he was regarded ( Acts 21:28); he states that he is an Israelite by birth, that he had from early youth been connected with the city of Jerusalem, that he had, at a former period, been governed by a strictly Pharisaical zeal for the law, and had even been an enemy of Christianity. Γεγενν. ἐν T.—ἀνατεθρ. δὲ, i.e., born, it was true, in a foreign country, but brought up in Jerusalem; ἀνατρέφω is used in reference to the rearing or education of children.—The words παρὰ τ. πόδας Γαμ. are far more appropriately connected with πεπαιδ. than with ανατεθρ., as they cannot refer to children who are brought up, but to scholars or disciples who receive instruction, while they sit on the floor or on benches before the feet of the teacher [who occupies an elevated seat.—Tr.]. Such was the Jewish custom; both Philo and the Talmud testify that the Rabbi occupied a cathedra or teacher’s chair, and that his pupils found seats partly on the floor, and partly on benches placed before him. [Lechler here adopts the punctuation preferred by Kuinoel, Grotius, Knapp, Lach, Tisch, de Wette, Hackett, etc, and places the comma after ταὐτῃ, cancelling the one which is placed after Γαμαλιὴλ in the usual editions of the text. rec., and which, as in the Engl. version, is recognized by Calvin, Grotius, Bornemann, Meyer, Alford, etc.—For Gamaliel, see Exeg. note on Acts 5:34.—Tr.].—Κατὰ ἀκρίβ. τ. πατρ. νόμου, i.e., the instructions corresponded to very strict views of the law; the term ἀκρίβεια is not intended to describe the character of the law per se, but refers to the character of the instructions, which are, accordingly, represented as being marked by pharisaic rigor. And, indeed, ἀκριβής and its derivatives are specially employed to describe the peculiarities of the Pharisaical tendency, e.g., ἀκριβεστάτη αἴρεσις, Acts 26:5; certain Jews ἐπ̓ ἀκριβώσει μέγα φρονοῦν τοῦ πατρῴου νόμου, Jos. Antiq. xvii24; Φαρισαῖοι οἱ δοκοῦντες μετὰ ἀκριβείας ἐξηγεῖθαι τὰ νόμιμα, Bell. J. ii814.

b. And was zealous.—In consequence of such an education and such instructions, Paul became a zealot for the honor of God; he expresses this thought in terms which are not open to censure. [Ὑπάρχων, on account of its combination with participles in the perfect tense, acquires the meaning of the imperfect tense. (de Wette).—Tr.]. The apostle, at the same time, remarks: “I was once what ye are; ye are still today, indeed, at this very moment, what I too was, at a former period.” As an evidence of the truth of his declaration that he had once been a zealot, he mentions his persecution of Christianity, to which latter, at this stage, he gives, with great judgment, only a general name. [Ταύτην τὴν ὁδὸν, see Exeg. note on Acts 9:2.—Tr.]. The statement that he had once entertained a deadly hatred against the Christians, he establishes by appealing to the testimony of the high priest [ch. Acts 9:2] and all the elders, which they could easily furnish. The ἀδελφοί, in Acts 22:5, as in Acts 22:1, art his brethren—Jews by birth—Jews who held the views which then prevailed in the Sanhedrin, and with whom he fully concurred in sentiment at that early period.

Acts 22:6-11. And it came to pass.—The apostle proceeds to give a narrative of his conversion; he first describes ( Acts 22:6-11) the appearance of Jesus on the road to Damascus. His statements are identical in essential points with those which are found in Acts 9:3-8. See the Exegetical notes on that passage. The minor details that are peculiar to the present narrative, are introduced with a reference to the circumstances under which, at that moment, Paul and his hearers meet together. He appends, for instance, Ναζωραῖος to the name of Jesus, Acts 22:8; that appellation does not occur either in Acts 9:5, or Acts 26:15, but is very appropriately employed when Paul addresses an assemblage of unconverted Jews, to whom he mentions Jesus for the first time. Other details are chiefly intended to demonstrate the truth and reality of the appearance of Jesus Christ, e.g., περὶ μεσημβρἰαν, Acts 22:6 (ἡμέρας μέσης, Acts 26:13), which is not found in Acts 9:3. The fact that the appearance occurred in the bright light of day, affords a pledge that the whole statement did not proceed simply from the self-delusion of a dreamer. The circumstance that Paul’s attendants saw the light, Acts 22:9, which is not expressly mentioned either in Acts 9:7, or Acts 26:14, also tends to prove the truth and reality of the appearance, which was thus observed by several persons; he adds that they did not understand the words of Jesus, in order, possibly, to explain the inability of those attendants to confirm his statements respecting the great object of the Lord’s appearance. He also adduces ( Acts 22:11) the circumstance that he had been blinded by that extraordinary light, no doubt, with the intention of furnishing additional evidence of the reality and overwhelming power of that appearance. The words ὦν τέτακταί σοι, Acts 22:10, imply that from that moment Paul was no longer the master of his own determinations, but was guided by the divine will. [Lechler says above: “he adds that they did not understand the words of Jesus.” The Engl. version says: “they heard not,” while Luke asserts, Acts 9:7, that they heard a voice. To this apparent contradiction Lechler does not specially refer, as he had already explained it in Exeg. note on Acts 9:7. Dr. J. A. Alexander adopts the same view. He says, for instance ( Acts 22:8-9): “There is “a distinction between hearing a voice speak and hearing what it says, as nothing is more common in our public bodies than the complaint that a speaker is not heard, i.e., his words are not distinguished, though his voice may be audible and even loud. … It might be said, with equal truth, that Paul’s companions heard the voice, i.e., knew that it was speaking, and that they did not hear it, i.e., did not know what it said.”—Tr.].

Acts 22:12-16. And one Ananias.—Paul shows here that the work of his conversion was perfected through the agency of Ananias in such a manner, that his conversion and his call to be a witness of Christ, evidently proceeded from God, and fully harmonized with the old covenant. He describes Ananias, in Acts 22:12, by specially referring to the well-known legal features of his character—a point which is not prominent in Acts 9:10. His restoration to sight through the word of Ananias is very distinctly represented as a miracle, by which the divine mission of Ananias to him was attested. [̓ Ανάβλεψον—ἀνέβλεψα, Acts 22:13. “Receive thy sight, and, looked up, are imperative and indicative forms of the same Greek word, and ought to have been so translated. … Ananias says: ‘Look up,’ which he (Paul) could not do unless his sight had been restored, and therefore when it is added that he did immediately look up, it is the strongest way of saying, though by implication, that his eyes were opened.” (Alexander).—There is an analogy presented in the case of the man with the withered hand, to whom the Lord said: “Stretch forth thine hand.” Matthew 12:10; Matthew 12:13.—Tr.]. In the address of Ananias, names which are directly taken from the Old Testament, are given to God and to Christ, Acts 22:14, namely, θεος τ. πατέρων ἡμῶν, and, δίκαιος; the latter, the Just One, is employed in a peculiar, or the most perfect sense of the term. The appearance of Christ, moreover, resembles an enlarged revelation granted by God to a prophet; the ministry in the wide world (πάντας ἀνθρ.), to which Paul is appointed, is the testimony which he is to bear as one who had alike seen with his eyes, and heard with his ears—a testimony which he can, under no circumstances, refuse to bear, Acts 22:14-15. Finally, the exhortation that he should receive baptism and call on Jesus, demonstrates that he did not act with precipitation, but, on the contrary, needed an urgent call, addressed to him in the name of God, before he took the decisive step. [Βάπτισαι καὶ ἀπόλουσαι, both 1 aor. imper. mid.—“Be baptized, is not a passive, as in Acts 2:38, but the middle voice, strictly meaning, baptize thyself, or rather, cause thyself to be baptized, or, suffer (some one) to baptize thee.” (Alexander). The force of the middle voice would be expressed in Latin by curare, and in German by sich lassen; see Winer: Gram. N. T., § 383.—Tr.]

Acts 22:17-21. When I was come again to Jerusalem.—Paul speaks in these verses of a revelation of Jesus, which is not mentioned in Acts 9:26 ff.; he states the substance of that revelation—that he was to proceed to Gentiles dwelling at a great distance from Jerusalem—in order to explain and justify his labors in heathen lands. For the purpose of removing the suspicion from the minds of his hearers, that he is an enemy of Israel, of the law, and of the temple ( Acts 21:28), he specially mentions the circumstance that this second appearance of Christ to him occurred in Jerusalem, in the temple, while he was engaged in prayer. Thus it appeared that his conversion to Christ, had neither caused him to forget Jerusalem ( Psalm 137:5), nor estranged him from the temple, the place of prayer. So little, indeed, was he prejudiced against his people, that when the Redeemer directed him to depart with haste from Jerusalem, because the Jews would not receive his testimony concerning Jesus, he had objected to such a course, and could not abandon the hope that the word of Christ would yet find an entrance among his people. He now repeats to his hearers, with great judgment, the answer which he returned to Jesus who appeared to him, Acts 22:19-20. Its general purport was the following:—That precisely his well known former hostility to the Christians, and the change which had now taken place in him, would make an impression, and open an avenue for his word to the Jews. And nothing but the repeated and peremptory command of Jesus, who had (Paul implies) determined to send him to the Gentiles, could prevail over the tenacity of his own purpose, which proceeded from a warm love to his people. [Μο ὑποστρέψαντι, in Acts 22:17, belongs, as in Acts 22:6, to ἐγένετο; another construction, viz, that of the Gen. absolute, is then introduced in καὶ προςευχομένου μου; (Winer, § 3110. obs2, and § 443, last note).—“Martyr ( Acts 22:20, Engl, version) is itself a Greek word meaning witness, and repeatedly occurring in the book before us (e.g., Acts 22:15 of the present chapter), but in English having the specific sense of one who dies for his religion. … The transition from the general sense of witness to the specific sense of martyr is traced by some in this verse and in Revelation 2:13; Revelation 11:3; Revelation 17:6. Our translators would, however, have done better to retain the usual term witness, which is found in all the older English versions” (Alexander).…Tr.]

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. This defence of the apostle of the Gentiles beams with the light of Christ. While he vindicates his own course, and, apparently, speaks only of himself, he bears witness, in the most unequivocal manner, to the Redeemer—to His grace towards sinners, and His heavenly glory and power—to Christ’s fellowship with His lowly and persecuted disciples ( Acts 22:7-8)—and to His plan of salvation, which embraces all mankind ( Acts 22:15; Acts 22:21). The whole exhibits a wisdom which the Spirit of Christ alone can impart; the apostle combines a thoughtful, tender, and winning love for his hearers, with the utmost candor and boldness in confessing his faith.

2. Paul, who repeats the words of Ananias, styles Jesus “the Just One.” In this name the old and the new covenant, the law and the Gospel, are united. The aim of the law is righteousness. While Saul was a “zealot,” he sought righteousness by the law, but could not find it. Israel seeks righteousness by works, but cannot attain to it. Legal righteousness was the ideal of Pharisaism. But Christ is preëminently, and, indeed, exclusively, the Just [or Righteous] One [Δίκαιος is rendered just between thirty and forty times in the Engl. N. Test, and as often righteous.—Tr.]. In Him righteousness is personally, peculiarly, and perfectly, exhibited. He is the Just One, and He justifies all who believe in His name.

3. Baptism, a means of grace. It confers purification from sins, the forgiveness of sins. The invocation of the name of Jesus essentially belongs to it, as a confession of the Redeemer and a prayer for His atoning and justifying grace. [“Ἀπόλουσαι τὰς ἁμαρτ. σου. Let thyself be baptized, and (thereby) wash off thy sins. Here, too, Baptism is the medium through which the forgiveness of sins committed during the pre-Christian life is obtained. Comp. Acts 2:38, and 1 Corinthians 6:11.” (Meyer, ad Acts 22:16).—Tr.]

4. The objection which the apostle made, when he received the command of the Redeemer ( Acts 22:19-20) may, perhaps, have also [see Exeg. note, Acts 22:17-21.—Tr.] proceeded from his sincere desire to atone, at least in some degree, for his previous opposition to Christ, by confessing his transgression precisely in Jerusalem, in the very place in which he had once persecuted the disciples of Jesus—by demonstrating in his conduct his entire change of mind—and by serving Christ through the boldness of his words and of the testimony which he would bear for Him. But although his wish might be well meant and sincere, it was not granted. He was required to depart from Jerusalem at once, and was sent to the pagans.—This fact not only shows how much higher the thoughts and ways of God are, than the thoughts and ways—even the purest and most noble—of men, but it also, specially, demonstrates that our sins are forgiven solely through God’s free grace, which we are to accept in all humility, without even remotely expecting to make an atonement or satisfaction ourselves—and that all that is expected of the sinner who has received grace, is unconditional obedience. (See the admirable exhibition of this subject in Da Costa, Apgsch., etc, ΙΙ. 172ff.).

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Acts 22:1. Men, brethren, and fathers.—It is the spirit of Christian gentleness that speaks. Although Paul saw none but persecutors and murderers before him, he nevertheless regarded them as brethren and fathers, on account of the covenant and the promises of God, and hence addressed them in these terms. Such a disposition cannot be acquired by man’s own power, but is wrought in him solely by the grace of Jesus, who prayed to the Father for his murderers, even in the hour of death. It is one of the characteristic features of the servants of Jesus. (Ap. Past.).—It is a striking proof of the strength and support which the peace of God imparted to Paul, that, amid the storm, he could address the Jews with such composure and kindness. (Rieger.).

Acts 22:2. And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence.—It is often the fault of preachers themselves, when men do not listen with attention to their words. They do not express themselves intelligibly, but adopt a style which betrays affectation, or is above the comprehension of the hearers. A teacher who is sincerely desirous of edifying, will always endeavor to set forth tie truth in the plainest and most intelligible language, and to apply it to the hearts of his hearers. The Saviour’s mode of teaching affords a blessed and most perfect example. (Ap. Past.).—None could take it amiss of the Jews that they should so highly value their language, in which God himself had spoken to the fathers. And yet, they no longer understood their own language; when God addressed them in it, their hardened hearts could no longer comprehend it.—God be praised for having, since the day of Pentecost, sanctified all the languages of men, and for making himself more and more widely known through them, wherever men are willing to hear his voice. (Williger).

Acts 22:3. I am … a Jew, etc.—Paul seems, in the whole address, to speak only of himself; but in reality he shows forth the praises of Him who had called him out of darkness into his marvellous light [ 1 Peter 2:9]. (Rieger).—Taught according to the perfect manner of the law, … and zealous toward God.—It is not enough to be well instructed in our religion; it Isaiah, besides, our duty to be zealous in its service; for Christ will spew the lukewarm out of His mouth [ Revelation 3:16]. (Starke).—We see in the case of Paul, that a man may be learned, acquainted with the Scriptures, and zealous toward God, and, at the same time, be an enemy and persecutor of Christ. Human science enlightens no man; titles and offices, even in the church, of themselves afford no evidence of true fellowship with Jesus. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 22:4. And I persecuted this way unto the death.—It was, doubtless, not without godly sorrow that Paul spoke of his former enmity against the Gospel. (Rieger).—A faithful witness of Jesus will not be ashamed to confess his former sins, if he can, by that course, contribute to the honor of his Saviour, or gain the confidence and strengthen the religious hopes of humble believers. Such a confession is of special value, when it is made in the presence of men who are committing the same sins, and who may the more easily be induced by such an example to change their course. (Ap. Past.).—So when Luther combated the Romish doctrine of merit acquired by works, he could appeal to his own practices of a former day; for if monkish austerity could have ever saved the soul, he would have by such means obtained salvation.—Binding … men and women.—The chains which bound the apostle at that moment, no doubt reminded him of the time when he bound the disciples with chains. When we are afflicted, let us penitently ask ourselves, whether we did not perhaps ourselves bind the rods together, with which the Lord chastises us. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 22:5-6. From whom also I received letters, etc.—With what accuracy Paul relates, after the lapse of so many years, all the circumstances connected with his extraordinary conversion! It shows not only that, at the time, he was fully conscious of all that occurred, but also that the grace which was then manifested, had made an indelible impression on his soul. Surely he who has passed from death unto life, can never forget what the Lord has done for him. The recollection and narration of these gracious ways of salvation, will afford pleasure to the redeemed in the mansions of heaven. (Ap. Past.).—Important changes of opinion and of convictions, in matters of religion, should be founded on an honest zeal for God. But many of those who in our day change their religion, could not abide such a test; they sport with religion, as boys play with dice, and thus betray themselves—in their hearts they believe nothing! 1 Timothy 3:7 : (Starke).—About noon.—A light which could attract attention at such an hour, must indeed be regarded as one out of the common course of nature. (Williger).

Acts 22:7. And I fell unto the ground.—Let him who desires to hear the voice of God, fall down, and humble himself in the presence of His majesty! (Starke.)—Saul, Saul, etc.—God begins the work of conversion by administering a rebuke to the inner Prayer of Manasseh, Romans 2:15; 2 Timothy 2:25. (id.).—The Lord now says to Jerusalem, by the mouth of his servant: “Why persecutest thou me? O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me.” Micah 6:3. (Besser).

Acts 22:8. Who art thou, Lord? etc.—Before our conversion, we do not know Jesus, but in conversion we begin to know him. 1 John 2:4. (Starke).

Acts 22:9. And they that were with me, saw indeed the light, and were afraid.—When the natural man sees a ray of the divine glory, he is alarmed, and has indeed reason to tremble, for God is a consuming fire to all them that do evil. (Starke).—But they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.—We learn from Acts 9:7, that Paul’s attendants heard a sound, but here we are informed that they did not understand it. There is a difference between hearing and understanding. Our hearers may listen to the sound of the words, but those alone who hear [and understand, Matthew 13:19; Matthew 13:23], the voice of the Son of God, shall live. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 22:10. And I said, What shall I do, Lord?—Paul distinctly remembers that although he was miraculously converted, Jesus had directed him to obey the word which one of His servants would proclaim to him. The Lord awakens him in a direct and immediate manner, but nevertheless subjects him to the guidance and pastoral care of one of the least of the brethren, and conducts him simply in the ordinary way of salvation, in which others are commanded to walk. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 22:11. Being led by the hand.—Here a certain mystery is also indicated, Isaiah 40:11. We are supported, on the road to heaven, by leading-strings, like children. (Starke).

Acts 22:12. Ananias, a devout man according to the law.—As Ananias was not only a devout Prayer of Manasseh, but also, specially, held in great esteem by the Jews, he was, accordingly, well adapted to be employed as an agent by the Lord, in winning Paul, who had labored so zealously for Judaism, and in conferring a blessing on him. The Lord knows all his servants, and judges wisely respecting the work in which he can, with most advantage, employ any one among them. (Ap. Past.).—When these words were uttered, the silence of the hearers became the more profound. (Besser).

Acts 22:13. Brother Saul, etc.—Paul cannot forget the gentleness, candor, and brotherly kindness with which Ananias came to his aid, at a time when his soul was greatly alarmed and distressed. This case animates us to pray for grace, that we may know how to speak a word in season to feeble and dispirited souls, and, with fraternal pity, to lead the sorrowing and distressed to Jesus for comfort; such is the great object and the most glorious work of the evangelical ministry. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 22:14. The God of our fathers hath chosen thee.—Those who are to render special services to the Church, must receive their commission from heaven. (Starke).

Acts 22:14-15. Know his will … see that Just One … be his witness unto all men.—Hence it appears that before we are properly qualified to be teachers and witnesses of the truth, a twofold preparation is necessary—first, to acquire a thorough knowledge of the will of God, derived from His word and from personal experience; secondly, to have seen Jesus Himself by faith, and to have felt the power of His word in our own souls. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 22:16. Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins.—We have here a noble testimony to the value which was assigned to holy Baptism by the pure apostolical church. It was not a mere external ceremony, but a means of grace for washing away sins, and was the first actual entrance into the church of Jesus. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 22:17. I prayed in the temple.—The illumination and the grace imparted in a direct and immediate manner to the apostle, had not the effect of estranging him from the temple. Precisely those prayers which he offered in the temple, were crowned by the Lord with a special revelation. And thus the example of the apostle rebukes all separatists, even when appearances seem to be in their favor. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 22:18. Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem.—A mournful state of things exists, and a heavy judgment is indicated, when the divine voice says: “Hasten! Depart quickly!” Hosea 9:12. (Starke).

Acts 22:19. And I said, Lord, they know, etc.—It often occurs that faithful servants of God imagine that a special blessing would attend their labors in a particular place, rather than elsewhere. But God says: “Nay, thou errest!”, and sends them away from the spot where they wished to remain. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 22:20. And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed.—As the apostle had sinned most grievously among the Jews, he now ardently desired to engage in labors that would be useful to them, and remove the offence which he had given, by serving as the instrument of the conversion of large numbers. Truly converted persons will always manifest such a zeal. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 22:21. And he said unto me, Depart.—The counsel of God will always prevail, although men may honestly, but ignorantly, object to it. (Starke).

On the whole section, Acts 22:1-21; comp. also Acts 9:1 ff.—The sketch which Paul gives of his own life, or, The view which a servant of God takes of the course of his life: he looks back, I. With a grateful remembrance of human benefactors, Acts 22:3; II. With a penitent confession of his own errors, Acts 22:4 ff.; III. With humble praise of the guidance of divine grace, Acts 22:6 ff.; IV. With a distinct consciousness of the work to which his life is to be consecrated, Acts 22:18 ff.—Paul’s confession: “By the grace of God I am what I am,” ( 1 Corinthians 15:10),illustrated in the history of his life: I. The advantages of birth and education which divine grace granted to him at the beginning, Acts 22:3. II. The ways of folly and sin, from which he was subsequently rescued by divine grace, Acts 22:4 ff. III. The ministry of peace and salvation, for which he was, ultimately, chosen and qualified by divine grace, Acts 22:14 ff.—The self-examination of a servant of God, a tribute of praise to divine grace; for, I. He possesses no merit of his own, Acts 22:1-5; II. He owes all to the grace of the Lord, Acts 22:6-21.—The heavenly light near Damascus, illustrating our own path through life: it sheds light, I. On the dark path of sin in which we have walked; II. On the blessed path in which the grace of the Lord met us; III. On the Christian path of duty, in which the hand of the Lord guides us.—Paul’s ordination by Ananias, a mirror for preachers, Acts 22:12-16; it exhibits, I. The necessary qualifications of the preacher on assuming his office—knowledge of the divine will, and personal experience of divine grace, Acts 22:14. II. The official duties of the preacher—to be a witness unto all men—by words and acts—of that which he has seen and heard, Acts 22:15. III. The divine aid on which the preacher can confidently depend—that grace which chose him, and which sustains him as an evangelical witness, Acts 22:14-16.—Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, an impressive illustration of that divine wisdom which says:My thoughts are not your thoughts” [ Isaiah 55:8]: I. The thoughts of men would be adverse to his appointment; (a) his position in life—a Jew by birth, a Pharisee by education, Acts 22:4; (b) his views and feelings—before his conversion, a zealot for the law, Acts 22:3-4; after it, devoted to his people, Acts 22:17 ff.; (c) the will of men—the rage of the Jews, Acts 22:22; the anxiety of the brethren, Acts 21:20. II. These hinderances were triumphantly overcome by the wisdom of God; (a) it chose Paul from all eternity as the apostle of the Gentiles, Acts 22:10; Acts 22:14; (b) it fitted him for his office by internal and external experiences, Acts 22:6 ff, Acts 22:17 ff.; (c) it attested his call by the noble results of his labors, Acts 9–ch21.—The Lord’s mode of replying to the objections of His servants, Acts 22:17-21 : I. Even upright servants at times object to the commands of their Lord—from fear, (Jonah), or from modesty (Moses, Jeremiah), or from conscientiousness (Peter, Acts 10:14), or from sympathy (Abraham—Sodom; Paul—Israel). II. Notwithstanding all these objections, the Lord repeats his command: “Depart”, and at length men praise Him, and confess: “The Lord hath done all things well!”—[Paul’s address at Jerusalem, Acts 22:1-21, (illustrating the prominent features of the Christian’s mode of replying to undeserved reproaches): I. Calmness, Acts 22:1; II. Kindness of feeling, Acts 22:1; Acts 22:3; III. Consciousnesss of his own human infirmities, Acts 22:4 : IV. Candid statement of his opinions and motives; V. Appeal to facts, Acts 22:3 ff.; VI. Arguments derived from the word of God, Acts 22:6 ff.; VII. Firmness in obeying the call of duty; VIII. Faith.—Tr.]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - μέν, of text. rec., before εἰμι is omitted in A. B. D. E. and Cod. Sin. (which reads: εγω ανηρ ειμι), and is dropped by Lach, Born, and Tisch.; it occurs in G. H, and Isaiah, in accordance with the opinion of Meyer, retained by Alf. See Winer: Gram. § 615. on the passage.—Tr.]

FN#2 - ἔπεσόν, of text. rec. in D. G.; ἔπεσά in A. B. E. H. and Cod. Sin.; ἐπεσάν in H. The second form is adopted by Lach, Tisch, Alf, and several other editors; the third, by Scholz. See Winer, § 131.—Here E. alone adds: σκληρόν --- λακτίζειν. See Exeg. note on Acts 26:12-14—Tr.]

FN#3 - Acts 22:9, The words καὶ ἔμφοβοι ἐγένοντο, are wanting in three uncial manuscripts [A. B. H, also Cod. Sin, and Vulg. and Syr. Ver.]; three others [D. E. G.] exhibit it. They seem to have been regarded [by copyists] as superfluous, and as interfering with the narrative, and, on that account, to have been dropped; for this very reason they should be regarded as genuine, and the more Song of Solomon, as ἔμφοβ. γεν. is a favorite expression of Luke. [Lach. and Tisch. reject the words, but Alf, who adopts Meyer’s view, retains them; de Wette also is disposed to receive them as genuine.—Tr.]

FN#4 - Acts 22:12. The word εὐλ. or εὐσ. is entirely wanting in Cod. Alex. [A. and in Vulg.]; in E. (Laud’s Cod.), [Codex Laudianus] εὐσεβής [of text. rec.] occurs. The strongest testimony, namely, that of B. G. H. [and Cod. Sin.] is in favor of ἐλαβής, a predicate which Luke is very apt to employ, Acts 2:5; Acts 8:2 [see Exeg. note on Acts 8:2], and Acts 2:25 of his Gospel. The latter word is accordingly preferred by Lach. and Tisch. [and Alford. Tischendorf omitted it in the edition of1849.—Tr.]

FN#5 - Acts 22:16. αὐτοῦ is better supported [by A. B. E, Cod. Sin. Vulg. (ipsius)] than κυρίου, which is sustained by only the two latest uncial manuscripts.

FN#6 - Acts 22:20. a. Στεφάνου is wanting in one manuscript of the first rank [A.], and in one of the second, but is sufficiently attested [by B. E. G. H. Cod. Sin. Vulg.] in order to be received as genuine. [It is retained by recent editors generally.—Tr.]

FN#7 - Acts 22:20. b. [For ἐξεχεῖτο, of text. rec. with G. H. (“a correction to the more usual form.” Alf.), Lach, Tisch. and Alf. read ἐξεχύνετο (ἐξεχυννετο), with A. B. E. and Cod. Sin.—Tr.]

FN#8 - of text. rec.], are supported by only two uncial manuscripts [G. H.], and were introduced [by copyists] into the text from Acts 8:1. [They are omitted in A. B. D. E. Cod. Sin. and Vulg.; and are cancelled by most of the recent editors.—Tr.]


Verses 22-29

B.—THE APOSTLE IS INTERRUPTED BY THE PASSIONATE CRIES OF THE PEOPLE, AND IS IN DANGER OF BEING SCOURGED BY ORDER OF THE MILITARY AUTHORITY, BUT IS PROTECTED BY HIS ROMAN CITIZENSHIP

Acts 22:22-29

22 And [But] they gave him audience [listened to him] unto this word, and then lifted up their voices [voice, τ. φωνὴν αὑτῶν], and said, Away with such a fellow [such a one, τὸν τοιοῦτον] from the earth: for it is [was[FN9]] not fit that he should live 23 And [But] as they cried out, and cast off [tossed up] their clothes [garments], and threw dust into the air, 24The chief captain [tribune] commanded him to be brought into[FN10] the castle [barracks], and bade [said, εἰπὼν] that he should be examined [tortured] by scourging; that he might know wherefore [ascertain for what reason] they cried so [thus, ὅυτως] against him 25 And as they bound him with thongs [But when they[FN11] stretched him out before the thongs], Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman [a Roman citizen], and uncondemned? 26When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain [tribune], saying, Take heed what thou doest; [saying, What art thou about to do?][FN12] for this man is a Roman [a Roman citizen]. 27Then the chief captain came [the tribune went to him], and said unto him, Tell me, art thou[FN13] a Roman [citizen] ? He said, Yea 28 And the chief captain [tribune] answered, With a great [For a considerable] sum obtained I this freedom [this right of citizenship]. And [But] Paul said, But I was free born [But I was such already by birth]. 29Then [Therefore, οὖν] straightway they departed [withdrew] from him which should have examined [who were about (οἱ μέλλοντες) to torture[FN14]] him: and the chief captain [tribune] also [om. also] was afraid, after he knew [had ascertained] that he was a Roman [citizen], and [om. and] because he had bound him.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Acts 22:22-23. And they gave him audience unto this word.—Paul’s word that Christ had sent him to the Gentiles, aroused anew the fanatical zeal of his hearers. [“This word, not the word Gentiles … for it is not the last word in the Greek sentence … but the last part of Paul’s discourse, in which he undertook to justify his mission to the Gentiles on the ground of an express divine command, etc.” (Alexander).—Tr.]. They interrupted him at this point by loud cries, which were intended to drown the sound of his voice (ἐπῆραν τ. φων.). Τὸν τοιοῦτον, i.e, a man of such a character. Meyer understands the imperfect καθῆκεν [see note1, appended to the text, above.—Tr.] as referring to the circumstances mentioned in Acts 21:31, when Paul was in danger of being killed; the sense would then be: “He should not have been rescued,—his life should not have then been saved.” [“He should have long since been killed; non debebat, or, debuerat vivere.” (Winer, Gram. § 41. a2.).—“Claudius Lysias should not have rescued him.” (Conyb. and H. ΙΙ. 266, and n5.).—“The sense will then be, ‘We were right at first, it was not fit that he should live, as we declared before.’ ” (Alex.).—Tr.]. But the meaning rather seems to be: “He forfeited his life long ago.” Κραυγάζειν indicates inarticulate cries which the multitude uttered. [Ῥιπτ. τ. ἱματ., “not throwing off their garments, as a preparation for stoning Paul (Grot, Mey.), for he was now in the custody of the Roman captain; but throwing them up, tossing them about, as a manifestation and an effect of their incontrollable rage.” (Hackett).—Tr.]. They tossed up their clothes, and threw dust into the air; by these wild gestures, which indicated their fury, they implied that they would themselves gladly accomplish all that they meant, when they cried: “Away with him from the earth!”

Acts 22:24-25. a. The chief captain commanded.—The Roman commander was now satisfied that he could accomplish nothing under present circumstances, and, accordingly, gave directions that the prisoner should be conducted from the stairs ( Acts 21:39) on which he had stood while he was speaking, into the barracks, that Isaiah, into the interior of the tower of Antonia. [The tribune, who was unacquainted with the language of the country, did not understand the apostle, and could not comprehend the cause of the exasperation of the people. (de Wette).—Tr.]. He concluded that the fury of Paul’s hearers must have been aroused by some crime which he had committed, but not yet confessed; hence he commanded that the apostle should be beaten with a scourge, as an instrument of torture, in order to compel him to confess his crime (ἀνετάζειν, to put to the question). [Judicial torture, for the purpose of eliciting a confession, has acquired a euphemistic name, the application of the rack, etc, being known in history as putting men to the question. (Alexander).—Flagra in habendis quæstionibus apud Romanos usitata erant, e. g., Tac. Hist. IV:27. Ἀνετάζειν, ut ἐτάζειν, proprie significat inquirere, percontari, quocunque modo hoc fiat … deinde notat per tormenta habere quæstionem de aliquo, ut hoc loc.; hinc torquere, ut Sap. (Σοφ. Σαλ. Apocr.) Acts 2:19, βασάνῳ ἐτάσωμεν αὐτὸν. (Kuinoel).—Tr.]. In consequence of this command, the apostle was at once tied to a post, in order to be exposed to the blows of the scourge. Προέτ. τοῖς ἱμᾶσι cannot mean: “they bound him with thongs” (Luther, and others [Calvin, Vulg, Engl. version, etc.—Tr.], as there would have, in that case, been no reason for prefixing the definite article to ἱμᾶσι; these ἱμάντες must necessarily be assumed to be identical with the μάστιγες mentioned in Acts 22:24, the scourge being, in fact, made of thongs. According to this interpretation, the definite article is very appropriately employed. They stretched him before the thongs (already mentioned), as the object towards which these were to be directed. [The προ in the verb, alludes to the position of the prisoner—bent forward, and tied with a sort of gear made of leather to an inclined post. (Alford).—“They stretched him out for the whips, i. e., in a suitable position for receiving them.” (Alex.).—Tr.]. The plural, προέτειναν, refers to the soldiers who were ordered to inflict the punishment.

b. Is it lawful for you, etc.—Before the order was executed, the apostle offered a protest in the form of a question, addressed to the centurion who superintended the proceedings. The question implies, as Chrysostom has already remarked, that the law would be violated in two respects, if the scourging which had been ordered, should actually take place. They would, in the first place, punish the prisoner before he had been tried and sentenced (ἀκατάκριτον—μαστίζειν), for the scourging was actually a punishment, and not simply a feature belonging to the trial; hence the beginning of the trial would have been the infliction of the punishment. In the second place, Paul asserts his privilege as a civis Romanus; the Roman citizen was exempted, according to the lex Porcia and the leges Semproniæ, from the punishment of scourging, even if he was convicted of a crime; scourging was the punishment of a slave. [On Paul’s Roman citizenship, see Exeg. note on Acts 16:35-40 a.—Tr.].

Acts 22:26-29. When the centurion heard that.—The commander, after receiving the report of the centurion, came forward himself in order to inquire personally respecting the fact that his prisoner was a Roman citizen. [“Lysias was both astonished and alarmed. He knew full well that no man would dare to assume the right of citizenship if it did not really belong to him.—Such pretensions were liable to capital punishment. Suet. Claud. 25.” (Conyb. and H. II:267, 268).—“The chiliarch was probably surprised that one of Paul’s appearance should possess the right at all,” etc. (Alexander).—Tr.]. Σὺ ̔Ρωμ. εἶ; full of wonder, he asks in an emphatic manner: “Thou art a Roman citizen?” Κεφάλαιον literally means a capital. [“We learn from Dio Cassius, that the civitas of Rome was, in the early part of the reign of Claudius, sold at a high rate, and afterwards for a mere trifle.” (Conyb. loc. cit.).—Tr.]. The alarm of the tribune arose from the circumstance that the act of fettering a Roman citizen was punishable by law, when it was done with violence, and before the proof was furnished that a penal act had been committed.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. It was not so much Paul’s open and fearless confession of Jesus, viewed in itself, as his call to be the apostle of the Gentiles, that led to the interruption of his discourse, and to this outbreak of deadly fury on the part of the people. It is precisely the prominent and peculiar feature of his mission, that subjects him to suffering.

2. A Roman privilege protects the apostle of Christ; it had autonomically grown up in the way in which God suffered the Romans to walk ( Acts 14:16). Such a privilege, enjoyed by a particular class, was altogether pagan and aristocratic in its character; still, it is now employed as the means for rendering a service to a messenger of God.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Acts 22:22. And they gave him audience unto this word.—The envy of the Jews now vents itself; they were unwilling themselves to enter the kingdom of God, and violently opposed the entrance of others—of the Gentiles [ Matthew 23:13]. (Rieger).—Paul had delivered a very instructive and powerful discourse; nevertheless, he accomplished nothing. Its results were madness and fury, revenge and malice, on the part of his hearers, This case teaches us to form our opinion of a sermon with great caution, and not to measure its value by its visible fruits. (Ap. Past.).—Away with such a fellow from the earth.—These were words of madness, which Jesus Himself heard from His people. We plainly see that the apostle did not exaggerate, when he said of himself and his brethren that they were regarded as the filth of the world, and as the off-scouring of all things [ 1 Corinthians 4:13]. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 22:23. Cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air.—These were alarming preparations for the process of stoning [but see the Exeg. note on this passage.—Tr.]. They still present, even in our day, an image of Prayer of Manasseh, when the madness of passion controls him. He rends his clothes, casts off the last remnant of shame and modesty, and exhibits himself, without disguise, in his brutal nakedness; he throws up dust, in order to sully all that is bright and beautiful, to pollute all that is noble, and to delude himself.—“It is dangerous to awaken the lion; the tiger’s tooth is destructive; but the most terrible of all terrors, is—man in his delusion.” (Schiller).

Acts 22:24. Bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know, etc.—During a tumult, the infliction of the punishment is usually the beginning of the trial. At such times, even wise men may commit serious errors. To scourge, and only afterwards investigate the case—such is the practice of the world. It condemns that which it does not understand, and passes sentence on him whom it has not convicted. But be of good cheer, O Christian, when this is thine own experience. Another day of judgment awaits thee, when God Himself will Judges, and when He will review and annul all those unrighteous sentences and decrees, which had here been passed. A very different decision will then be proclaimed. (Wisd. of Song of Solomon 6:4-5).—But thou, O earthly Judges, consider the case well, and adopt every precaution, if thou wouldst not have the burden of innocent blood on thy conscience. (Starke).

Acts 22:25. Is it lawful, etc.?—A Christian is at liberty to appeal to the law and to his rights, in order to escape unjust and violent treatment. When Christians are obliged to reside in the Roman empire—or in Turkey—they may, with a good conscience, appeal for protection to the laws of such countries, as far as these are sanctioned by God, and by nature, 1 Thessalonians 5:21. (Starke).—If such a privilege as citizenship, in any earthly kingdom, possesses this great value, how precious the privilege of the children of God must be, who have, in consequence of their new birth, become the citizens of heaven! [Πολίτευμα, Philippians 3:20.—Tr.]

Acts 22:28. And Paul said, But I was free born.—Nor should the Christian despise the privileges and advantages of birth, but conscientiously avail himself of them, in promoting the honor of God, and the welfare of his neighbors, 1 Corinthians 10:33. (Starke).

Acts 22:29. And the chief captain also was afraid, etc.—The whole multitude had cried: “Away with such a fellow, etc.” ( Acts 22:22), and yet the apostle now inspires the chief captain himself with fear. Thus the Lord exalts his servants, even when they seem to have been crushed. While they bear the image of the cross in humility and ignominy, the image of the Saviour, which decorates them, invests them with such honor and authority, that even ungodly men are alarmed, and withdraw from them. (Ap. Past.).

ON THE WHOLE SECTION, Acts 22:22-29.—The apostle’s danger, and his deliverance: I. The danger (a) originated in his testimony to the truth, Acts 22:22, and comp. Acts 22:18; Acts 22:21; (b) was caused by the intolerant pride of the Jews; and (c) threatened a fatal issue, Acts 22:22-23. II. The deliverance, was effected because (a) the Roman commander was governed by a sense of justice, (b) the apostle possessed the privileges of a citizen, and (c) a new opportunity for vindicating himself was afforded, Acts 22:30. (Lisco.)

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people [ Proverbs 14:34]. (id.).

Paul, a model as a noble sufferer: I. By the manner in which he endures unavoidable sufferings; (a) he observes silence, Acts 22:22 ff.; (b) he forgives, Acts 22:23; (c) he calmly suffers, Acts 22:24. II. By the manner in which he averts an unnecessary humiliation; (a) he does not seek martyrdom; (b) he cautions the magistrate not to abuse his power; (c) he retains, in its integrity, the consciousness of his dignity as a man. (id.).

The infuriated people of Jerusalem, an impressive illustration of fanaticism: showing that fanaticism, I. Dishonors God, in whose service it claims to be zealous; II. Maltreats the innocent, whom it has selected as its victims; III. Degrades itself, by converting men into wild beasts, Acts 22:22-23.

Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?—a word proceeding from the mouth of God, as a warning addressed to tyrants; it reminds them, I. Of the inalienable rights of man; II. Of the sacred honor of the citizen; III. Of the inviolable dignity of the Christian.

The sacred character of a servant of God: I. When he is violently assailed, he may protest, with gentleness and humility, Acts 22:25; comp. John 18:23. II. When he is exposed to external ill treatment, the inner man remains inviolate, Acts 6:15. III. When he is trodden in the dust, he shall be crowned with eternal honor, Matthew 5:11-12,

The inalienable nobility of the children of God: it Isaiah, I. Acquired through regeneration, Acts 22:28; II. Attested by the Spirit of God, who bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God [ Romans 8:16]; III. Proved in trials and temptations, Acts 22:23 ff.; IV. Renewed in heaven, where they shall appear with Christ in glory, Colossians 3:4.

The exalted privileges of a citizen in the kingdom of God: I. He has no reason to fear the powers of the world; (Paul entertains no fear in the presence of the Roman officer; the latter, on the contrary, fears him, Acts 22:29). II. The blows which the world attempts to inflict, cannot reach him; (a citizen of Rome could not be legally scourged; a citizen of Christ is not exempt, it is true, from the strokes of affliction and the scourge of persecution, but these neither pain nor dishonor him). III. He is not bound by the judgment of the world; (Paul appeals from the commander, when governed by false impressions, to the same Prayer of Manasseh, when he possesses a knowledge of the facts, and, ultimately, appeals to the emperor himself. The Christian appeals from the judgment of the world to the tribunal of his heavenly King.)

The Christian values, but does not overvalue his civil rights: I. He does not scorn to avail himself of the advantages connected with his birth, Acts 22:28, but he knows that they are of no value without nobility of soul. II. He does not sacrifice the rights which the law recognizes, Acts 22:25, but he claims them in a gentle and an humble spirit. III. He demands the protection of the government, Acts 22:25, but his confidence is primarily fixed on the Lord of lords, and King of kings, Acts 22:21.

Footnotes:

FN#9 - Acts 22:22. All the uncial manuscripts without exception [A. B. C. D. E. G. H, also Cod. Sin.] exhibit the imperfect, viz.: καθῆκεν. The participle, καθῆκον [of text. rec.] is found only in minuscules, and is a later correction, as the meaning of the imperfect was not apprehended.

FN#10 - For ἄγεσθαι, of text. rec., with G. H, many recent editors read εἰςάγεσθαι, with A. B. C. D. E. Cod. Sin. Vulg. (induci.).—Tr.]

FN#11 - Acts 22:25. The plural προέτειναν, or προέτεινον [for which forms see Winer, § 131], is doubtless genuine; [found in A. B. C. D. E. G. Cod. Sin. Vulg.]. The singular, προέτεινεν [of text. rec.], occurs only in some minuscules. [H. exhibits προςέτεινεν. The singular was substituted, as better suited to χιλίαρχος of Acts 22:24. (Meyer). The plural is adopted by recent editors generally.—Tr.]

FN#12 - Acts 22:26. ̔́Ορα, [of text. rec.] before τί, is not so well attested, that it could be regarded as any thing else than a gloss. [It is found in D. G. H, but not in A. B. C. E. Cod. Sin. Vulg. (Quid acturus es?); it is dropped by recent editors.—Tr.]

FN#13 - Vulg. si tu. etc.—Tr.]

FN#14 - In Acts 22:24, μάστιξιν ἀνετάζεσθαι is rendered by the English translators: that he should be examined by scourging; in the present verse, the 29 th, ἀνετάζειν (act.), without μάστ., is rendered: which should have examined. Here they propose in the margin the word tortured for examined. See the Exeg. note on the verse, below.—Tr.]


Verse 30

C.—PAUL IS BROUGHT BEFORE THE GREAT COUNCIL; HE MAKES HIS DEFENCE; THE COMFORTING PROMISE WHICH THE LORD GIVES HIM

Acts 22:30Acts 23:11

[ Acts 22:30]. On the morrow, because he would have known [But on the following day, wishing to know] the certainty wherefore [of that of which] he was accused of [by] the Jews, he loosed him from his bands [he released him[FN15]], and commanded the chief priests and all their [the] council to appear [assemble], and brought Paul down, and set him before them.

[ Acts 23:1.] And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until [I have walked before God with all good conscience unto] this day 2 And [But] the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth 3 Then said Paul unto him, God shall [will, μέλλει] smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou [wall: thou sittest] to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law [me, in violation of the law, to be Smitten]? 4And [But] they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest? 5Then said Paul [And (τε) Paul said], I wist [knew] not, brethren, that he was , ἐστὶν] the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people 6 But when Paul perceived [But as Paul knew] that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee [a son of Pharisees[FN1]]: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question [for the sake of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am judged!]. 7And [But] when he had so said [said this, τοῦτο], there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees: and the multitude was divided 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, [and] neither[FN2] angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess9 both 9 And [But] there arose a great cry: and the scribes[FN3] that were of the Pharisees’ part [cry: and scribes 4 of the party of the Pharisees] arose, and strove [contended], saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God [man: but if a spirit hath spoken to him, or an angel?[FN4]]. 10And when [But as] there arose a great dissension, the chief captain [the tribune], fearing lest Paul should have been [might be] pulled in pieces of [by] them, commanded the soldiers to go [that the soldiers should come] down, and to take him by force [and snatch him] from among them, and to [om. to] bring him into the castle [barracks]. 11And [But in] the night following the Lord stood by [came to] him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul [om. Paul]:[FN5]for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Acts 22:30. On the morrow.—Τὸ ἀσφαλές, i.e., that which is certain or sure; Lysias wished to obtain information on which he could rely; the words: τὸ τίἸουδαίων, are in apposition with the former [“referring epexegetically to τὸ ἀσφαλές.” (Meyer).—Tr.]. Lysias did not investigate the facts themselves, but wished to ascertain the precise charge which the Jews brought, against Paul. He had hitherto learned nothing that was definite; he had only perceived that the Jews were excessively excited, and spoke of Paul with the utmost exasperation. The hierarchical authority of the Jews could, as he hoped, enable him to accomplish his design. His command that a meeting of the Sanhedrin should be held, demonstrates that the independence of the Jews, even in matters referring to the internal concerns of their religion, had been seriously impaired. The word συνελθεῖν implies that the members assembled in the ordinary council-room, whereas the reading ἐλθεῖν, which is not well attested [note1, appended to the text—Tr.], assumes that they were required to meet at the abode of the Roman. Besides, καταγαγών (with which compare καταβάν, Acts 23:10), indicates a locality in the city itself, and not one in the interior of the tower of Antonia, which commanded the city. From the word ἔλυσεν it appears that, although Lysias had at first felt some alarm, because he had illegally fettered a Roman citizen, he had, nevertheless, not freed Paul from his bonds, until he presented him to the Sanhedrin. [“Although he had been alarmed, he determined, in a spirit of defiance, to exhibit no signs of weakness to the Jews, by the immediate release of the prisoner.—Καταγαγών, i.e., brought him down from the tower to the council-room of the Sanhedrin.”(Meyer).—Tr.].

Acts 23:1. And Paul, earnestly beholding the council.—The apostle was now placed before the Sanhedrin, like the Redeemer himself, in the night which preceded his crucifixion, and like the first apostles, Acts 4:7 ff; Acts 5:27 ff. Ἀτενίσας, i.e., he steadfastly surveyed the assembly before him, with a calm and undaunted spirit. The address, ἄνδρ. ἀδελφοι, without πατέρες (as in Acts 22:1), demonstrates that he felt himself to be the equal of the persons before him. He commences the proceedings himself, for he had not been cited by the assembly, but had been placed before them by the Roman commandant. Hence they waited until the latter made his own statement; the apostle, on his part, speaks with great composure. He testifies that he had a good conscience, inasmuch as he had always fulfilled his duty to God in every respect; πάσῃ συνειδήσει ἀγαθῇ, in every respect, in every case, with a good conscience. Πολιτεύομαι (which is equivalent to rempublicam gero, fungor magistratu in repub.) here implies: “I have performed my office with a good conscience τῷ θεῷ;” the latter is dativus commodi, namely, “for God.” [“I have lived unto God, i. e., for his service and glory; See Romans 14:8; Galatians 2:19.” (Hackett).—Tr.]. The usus loquendi furnishes no authority whatever for taking πολιτεύομαι in an entirely abstract sense, as if it were equivalent to vitam instituere, or, se gerere.

Acts 23:2-3. a. The high priest Ananias.—He is also mentioned by Josephus (Antiq. xx52; 62 f.). He was the son of Nebedæus, and was appointed high priest by Herod, the king of Chalcis, in the year A. D. Acts 48: he probably retained his high office till towards the year60, when Ismael, the son of Phabi, was made the high priest, shortly before the departure of the procurator Felix (Jos. Ant. xx88).—Ananias was sent to Rome, in the year A. D52, by Quadratus, the governor of Syria, in order to defend himself before the emperor Claudius, in reference to certain acts of violence of which the Samaritans accused the Jews (Jos. Ant. xx62). This circumstance led interpreters, at an earlier period, to believe that Ananias had, on that occasion, been deposed, and that, when Paul appeared before him, he was only temporarily administering the office, or, possibly, merely retained the honorary title of an Exodus -high priest (Eichhorn; Kuinoel). But Ananias pleaded his cause with entire success when he was in Rome, and then returned to Jerusalem, where he was, no doubt, allowed to retain his office without interruption. This is the opinion, among other recent writers, of Winer (Realwört.), Wieseler (Chronol. d. apost. Zeitalters, 1848, p76 f. note), Meyer (Com.), and Ewald (Ap. Zeitalter, p500). Thus, other historical records establish the fact that Ananias was at that time unquestionably the ruling high priest—a fact indicated by the designation ἀρχιερεὺς, Acts 23:2; Acts 23:4.

b. Commanded them that stood by him, etc.—[Τοῖς παρεστ. αὐτῷ, those who stood at his (the high priest’s) side—servants, or officers of the court; comp. Luke 19:24. (Meyer).—Tr.]. Scarcely had Paul uttered the first words, when the high priest, to whom they seemed to betray audacity or hypocrisy, commanded those who stood by (probably officers of justice), to smite him on the mouth. But Paul replied to him with righteous indignation, and announced a divine retribution for that blow. [“Observe the position, (at the beginning of the reply) of the word τύπτειν, which, in a higher sense, returns to the high priest the blow that had just been received. It is an arbitrary assumption (Baumg.), that the command of the high priest was not executed.” (Meyer).—Tr.]. The words τύπτειν σὲ μελλει, do not constitute an imprecation, as Kuinoel supposes. [“Shall smite, literally, is (or is about) to smite, the first verb denoting simple futurity … the idea of a (human) curse or imprecation is at variance with the very form of the original.” (Alex.).—Tr.]. The expression τοῖχε κεκονιαμένε exposes the hypocrisy of Ananias; it contrasts the external splendor of the paint or lime on the surface of the wall with the interior parts, which consist of filthy clay. [“A whited wall is a familiar figure for a fair outside, behind which, or within which, all is foul and filthy. Our Saviour uses the still stronger image of a whited sepulchre, Matthew 23:27.” (Alex.).—Tr.]. Great prominence is given to the inconsistency of the high priest, who professes to judge according to the rule of the Mosaic law, and yet personally violates it, by illegally subjecting Paul to ill treatment. Καὶ σύ, i.e, Thou too, as well as the rest, whereas, thou, as a Judges, art specially bound to observe the law with strictness and conscientiousness. [“Κάθῃ, for κάθησαι” (Winer § 144).—Tr.]—That prophetical announcement was fulfilled ten years afterwards, when Ananias, as one of the leaders of the loyal imperial party, was murdered, at the beginning of the Jewish war, by the insurgents [the sicarii]; Jos. Jewish War, ii179.

Acts 23:4-5. Revilest thou, etc.?—To the charge that when Paul addressed such abusive language to the high priest of God, he offered an insult to the holy God himself, he replied, (for the purpose of justifying his course,) that he knew not that the person so addressed was the high priest. This answer has received various artificial interpretations, and its meaning has often been distorted. In some of these cases, the words “that he is the high priest” (ὄτι ἐστὶν ἀρχ.), in others “I knew not” (οὐκ ᾔδειν), have served as the basis of the explanation. The former have, by a forced interpretation, been represented as meaning that the apostle denied that Ananias was really the high priest, either because he had procured the office by money (Grotius), or because he really was not at that time the true high priest (Lightfoot). The meaning of the other words, in which Paul speaks of his want of knowledge of the fact, has also been perverted by commentators, as if Paul intended to say: ‘I did not reflect that he is the high priest’ (Wetstein, Olshausen, Ewald). According to this view, Paul really retracts his words, as having been too hastily uttered, or, he means by οὐκ ᾔδειν: ‘I do not admit that it is so’ (Augustine), or “I could not know—could not think that he is the high priest, since he has acted in a manner so unpriestly, and so entirely unworthy of a high priest” (Calvin, Meyer, Baumgarten). [Calvin says: Ego Augustino subscribens non dubito quin hæc ironica sit excusatio, etc.—Tr.]. The cause which has led to these far-fetched explanations, was the apparent impossibility of believing that the words, if taken in their plain and direct sense, conveyed the truth, namely, that the apostle actually did not know that he who had given that unbecoming command, was in truth the high priest in office. There have, however, been interpreters, who adhere to the literal sense of the words—for instance, Chrysostom; Beza. They appeal to the fact that the apostle had long been absent from Jerusalem, and hence could not personally know the high priest. If Ananias had been invested with the office at the time when Paul proceeded with the letters of the “high priest” ( Acts 9:1-2) to Damascus, in order to persecute the Christians, it would be inconceivable that Paul should not now know the same man. But it has already been fully demonstrated that Ananias did not obtain the office until the year48, whereas the latest date that can possibly be fixed as that of Paul’s conversion, is the year40 or41. [See Exeg. note on Acts 9:2.—Tr.]. Besides, the high priest could not be recognized by his apparel, when he was not engaged in performing his official duties in the temple. It is also quite possible that Ananias was not, at that moment, the presiding officer of the meeting, for the whole occurred, not at a regular session of the Sanhedrin, but at one which had been unexpectedly appointed by the Roman tribune. Or, if Ananias even did act as the presiding officer, Paul could not know from that circumstance that he was also the high priest, for the latter was not always or necessarily the nasi (president of the Sanhedrin). [“It should be remembered that the intricacy and confusion on these points—the many High Priests who had been successively put up and down by Roman intervention, etc.—is not necessarily the fault of the historian, but arises from the actual irregularities existing at this crisis of the Jewish history, etc.” (Alex.).—Tr.].—Paul refers, in this connection, to a commandment of God ( Exodus 22:28 [quoted verbatim from the LXX. Exodus 22:27.—Tr.]), as one which he well knew and also revered—but without retracting his words [“The quotation—is simply tantamount to saying, ‘I know the law that you refer to, but I am not guilty of its violation.’ ” (Alex.).—Tr.]

Acts 23:6. I am a Pharisee.—At this point the apostle quickly changes the course which he had hitherto pursued; a calm defence, such as he had begun in Acts 23:1, found no favorable hearing. [“He had seen enough to be convinced that there was no prospect before this tribunal of a fair inquiry and a just decision.” (Conyb. and H. II:270).—Tr.]. The method which he now adopted in defending himself, and by which at least one party in the assembly before him might be won for his cause—the cause of Christian truth—was that of openly declaring that he was himself a Pharisee, and that his faith was allied to the Pharisaic doctrine. [“Paul’s declaration that he was still a Pharisee, is as little untrue, as it was when he made it in Philippians 3:5. He describes himself as a Jew, who, as such, belonged to no other religious society than that of the Pharisees, and who, especially with regard to the doctrine of the resurrection, adhered to the creed of the Pharisees (in opposition to the whole system of Sadduceeism), after its truth had been so fully established in the Person of Christ Himself. His opposition to the doctrine of righteousness by the law, to the hypocrisy, etc, of the Pharisees, and his anti-Pharisaic labors, did not refer to the sect per se, but to its moral and other errors. As a Jew, he continued to be a Pharisee, and, as such, was an orthodox Jew, in opposition to the Naturalism of the Sadducees.” (Meyer).—Tr.].—When he calls himself “a son of Pharisees,” he refers to his father and ancestors, and implies that he was not the first of his family who adopted Pharisaic views and sentiments, but had already received them by inheritance. [A son of Pharisees, see note2, appended to the text.—Tr.]. He adds, that he was in reality placed before the tribunal for the sake of the hope and resurrection. The words περὶ ἐλπίδος καὶ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, are commonly explained as an hendiadys, equivalent to “hope of the resurrection;” this is the opinion of Bengel, Meyer, Baumgarten. But a better and more complete sense may be obtained by taking each of the terms separately, thus: ‘for the sake of the hope,’ that Isaiah, the hope of redemption—of the Messianic promise given to Israel, ‘and for the sake of a resurrection of the dead.’ The latter words may then be directly referred to the resurrection of Jesus, whereas, if they are inseparably connected with ἐλπὶς, the future resurrection only can have been meant; and yet the resurrection of Jesus was, no doubt, the subject which primarily presented itself to the mind of the apostle.

Acts 23:7-9. And when he had so said.—The multitude [“the whole mass or body of the Sanhedrin itself, as distinguished from the parties into which it was divided” (Alex.).—Tr.] had previously united in assailing Paul; but it was now divided (ἐσχίσθη), so that the Pharisees and the Sadducees contended with each other. The contention grew louder and more violent (κραυγὴ μεγάλη, Acts 23:9; πολλή στάσις, Acts 23:10), insomuch that the Roman tribune, who was alarmed by the danger which threatened his prisoner, ordered the soldiers to conduct the latter away. Here Luke explains the difference between the doctrinal views of the Pharisees and those of the Sadducees, for the purpose of enabling his readers to comprehend the cause of the difficulty which had arisen between men, who had previously acted in concert. The latter denied, on the one hand, the resurrection, and, on the other, the existence of an angel or spirit. (The reading μηδὲ—μήτε should be retained, for critical reasons. [But see note3, appended to the text, above.—Tr.]. The former, μηδὲ, introduces a second class of conceptions, generically different from the preceding (ἀνάστασιν); the latter, μήτε, connects with it objects that are similar, in so far as πνεῦμα, an incorporeal spirit, and ἄγγελος are, essentially, homogeneous). The Pharisees, on the contrary, confess both. (Ἀμφότερα, i.e., in so far as the resurrection of the body, on the one hand, and the existence of a pure spirit, e. g., angels or departed souls, on the other, constitute two distinct categories). [On μηδὲ—μήτε in this passage, see Winer: Gram. N. T. § 556.—Alford, who differs from Lechler, says: “The former μήτε has been altered to μηδὲ to suit τὰ ἀμφότερα, because with ἀναστ. μήτε ἄγγ. μήτε πν. three things are mentioned;—whereas, if μηδέ is read, the two last are coupled, and form only one. But τὰ ἀμφ. is used of both things, the one being the resurrection, the other, the doctrine of spiritual existences; the two specified classes of the latter being combined generically.”—On the doctrines of the two sects, see Jos. Ant. xvii14. Bel. Jud. ii814.—Tr.]. Indeed, several scribes [see note4, appended to the text, above.—Tr.] of the Pharisaic party, espoused the cause of Paul. This party consisted both of learned, and of unlearned men; the former were the speakers. They spoke of Paul, personally, in favorable terms, as a man who could not be charged with any offence, and, moreover, expressed the opinion that it was quite possible that he had received a revelation. The sentence: εἰ - - ἄγγελος, terminates abruptly, [μὴ θεομαχῶμεν being cancelled by recent editors; see note5 appended to the text, above.—Tr.]; it either states, affirmatively, the condition, without adding the apodosis, or it is a question, the reply to which the opponents are expected to furnish. [“The question is an aposiopesis (comp. John 6:62; Romans 9:22,) implying, but not expressly saying, that if such are the facts, they are very serious.” (Meyer).—“Undoubtedly, a designed aposiopesis. A significant gesture or look towards the Sadducees expressed what was left unsaid.” (Hackett). Winer (Gram. § 64II.) does not decide whether the words were pronounced affirmatively or interrogatively, and adds that it is doubtful whether an aposiopesis is here to be assumed, or whether the sentence was simply left unfinished on account of a sudden interruption, comp. Acts 23:10.—“The sentence was left incomplete or unheard in the uproar.” (Conyb. and H. II:271). In all these cases the words μὴ θεομ. are assumed to be a later addition.—Tr.]. There can be no doubt that the words: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, refer to Paul’s statement in Acts 22:6 ff. respecting the appearance of Jesus, except that the Pharisees conceived of the appearance of an angel, or the manifestation of a spirit, in their own way.

Acts 23:10. And when there arose a great dissension.—The excitement continued to increase, until at length the tribune became apprehensive that Paul would be pulled in pieces by the parties (διασπασθῇ implies that while some took hold of him in order to protect him, others seized him in wrath, and thus he was dragged to and fro.). Hence he ordered that the military force which he commanded (στράτευμα) should descend from the tower, secure the person of the prisoner, employing even violent measures, if the assembly resisted, and Revelation -conduct him to the barracks. The commander, who did not desire to wound the feelings of the hierarchy, had, doubtless, directed the soldiery to remain in the tower, and had come to the meeting attended only by an orderly officer.

Acts 23:11. And the night following.—The revelation of Jesus Christ was probably made through the medium of a vision in a dream. Paul saw the Lord standing by him, and heard his cheering words of promise.—Εἰς Ἱερουσαλήμ—εἰς ̔Ρώμην, i.e., he was directed to go to both cities, and address his testimony to (εἰς) both—the one being the religious, the other, the political capital of the world, at that time.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. When the apostle declares that he has a good conscience, he does not so much refer personally to himself as an individual, as rather to his calling as an apostle of the Gentiles. He was bound more solemnly than ever, when he stood in the presence of the highest court of the hierarchy of Israel, not to be ashamed of his office; and he did, openly and gladly, acknowledge it. He appealed to God (τῷ θεῷ)—to that divine grace and that divine approbation, which were decisive, even though men should sternly condemn his conduct. He had, no doubt, chiefly those years of his life in view, which followed his conversion; still, his testimony does not refer exclusively to that period; he says in substance that, as a Christian, he served God as sincerely and zealously, as at any previous period.

2. The distinction between the office and the person who is invested with it, was placed by Paul in a very clear light, both when he so quickly addressed Ananias, on being subjected to such ill treatment, Acts 23:3, and when he justified the words which he had uttered, Acts 23:5. The office required the president and every member of the court to observe the law with the strictest conscientiousness; but here the person, the office-bearer, most grossly violated the law, Acts 23:3. His personal act unquestionably justified any one who refused to recognize him as the holder of such a sacred office. This is the decision of the Holy Ghost, who applies the standard of right and truth to the person, however exalted his position may be, and recognizes no man as infallible, whether found in cathedra, or in the midst of a general church council.

3. The declaration of the apostle, Acts 23:6, that he was a Pharisee, is frequently represented as having been dictated by worldly Wisdom of Solomon, as it enabled him to divide the assembly, and to derive personal advantage from party interests. Divide et impera. But it was assuredly not his object to secure himself and his personal interests; he was influenced solely by a regard for the sacred cause of the truth, and for the honor of Christ. He availed himself Of the party distinctions existing between the Pharisees and Sadducees, simply as the means of obtaining a hearing for the truth, to which the minds of all had hitherto been entirely closed. And he gained this object by declaring that he was himself a Pharisee, and was brought before the tribunal on account of a doctrine which constituted the centre of gravity in the Pharisaic system. He pursues here the same course which he adopted when he combated paganism [see the author’s Exeg. notes, and Doct. views, Acts 17:16-34.—Tr.]; he selects those principles which are allied to Christianity—Israel’s hope of a Messiah, and faith in the resurrection of the dead. The result, indeed, shows that the Pharisees approached more nearly to the truth, than their opponents.

4. How far was Paul justified in saying that he had not merely been, but that he still was, a Pharisee? It has been supposed by some that his language involved an untruth. But when we reflect on the relation in which he stood to the whole system of the Sadducees (and it is precisely in view of their adverse positions that he speaks), it is evident that he could, with entire truth, assert that he had not changed, that he still was a Pharisee, that he held strict views of that holiness and righteousness which availed before God, and that, as to the hope of Israel and the resurrection, he was a firm believer; indeed, the richest blessing which existence could afford him, was the fulfilment of that earnest hope which the devout Pharisee entertained. And with respect to the points in which he differed from the Pharisees, he says to them, as he had once said to the pagan Athenians: “That which ye seek, but do not understand, I have; I know it; I declare it unto you.” In this sense the remark may be appropriately repeated, which Bengel makes in another connection, on Acts 23:1 : [In pristino statu, quanquam in errore versabatur, conscientiæ fuerat obsecutus, neque quicquam commiserat, cur in foro externo reus fieret.] Nunc, quum bona vetera non abjecit, sed meliora accepit, ex præsenti statu lux in pristinum sese refundebat.

5. The revelation of Christ, Acts 23:11, alike comforted and strengthened Paul. Even while he is involved in very great danger, a most brilliant prospect is opened before him. It had long ago appeared to him to be the highest object of life, to be permitted to preach the Gospel in Rome, Acts 19:21; and that permission was now granted.—All the purposes of the Redeemer in reference to him, as revealed at the period of his conversion, through Ananias, were rapidly approaching their fulfilment, although under the sign of the cross, seeing that he would be required to suffer much for the sake of the name of Jesus ( Acts 9:15-16).

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Acts 23:1. And Paul, earnestly beholding the council.—Such a glance Solomon had already cast on places of judgment, where ungodly men and wickedness prevail, Ecclesiastes 3:16; and such expressive glances are mentioned in the history of the life of our blessed Saviour, Luke 20:17; Mark 3:5; Mark 11:11. Paul’s heart was, no doubt, deeply affected as he surveyed the scene before him; he thought of the fall of his brethren according to the flesh, whose Great Council was governed by such principles; he thought, too, on his own election and calling, by which he had been delivered from the bonds of darkness, and in consequence of which he would never again be obliged to apply for letters and a commission ( Acts 9:3) to such a council. (Rieger).—I have lived [walked] in all good conscience before God until this day.—Those who are rebuked by their own conscience, do not usually lift up their eyes, as Paul here does, but cast them down. (Starke).—A good conscience before God, proceeds, I. From true faith in Christ, by which the remission of sins is obtained; II. From the assurance of divine grace and eternal life; III. From the renewal of the Holy Ghost, unto a new life and walk; IV. From the faithful performance of the duties of our calling, (id.).—It is true that many appeal to their good conscience, because no man can actually look into it; many, too, mistake a sleeping for a good conscience. (id.).

Acts 23:2. To smite him on the mouth.—In this mode of suffering, too, Paul was an image of the suffering Jesus, who, in the days of his sorrow, was smitten on the cheek because he witnessed a good confession ( 1 Timothy 6:13) before the high priest ( John 18:22). (Ap. Past.).—How many shameful blows on the face devout believers still receive, partly, by beingreviled, partly, by not being allowed to speak the truth, and to rebuke the wicked ways of the world! Job 16:10; 1 Kings 22:24; Acts 5:28. (Starke).

Acts 23:3. God shall smite thee, thou whited wall.—Here was one of those whited sepulchres mentioned by the Lord Himself, Matthew 23:27.—We have here a striking instance of an unconverted teacher. Ananias held the sacred office of high priest, and, perhaps, when viewed externally, his gray hair and white priestly garments, gave him even a venerable appearance; but internally, his heart was full of rage and deadly hatred, of injustice and tyranny. Our sacred offices, ecclesiastical titles, and priestly dignities, are nothing else than a white lime which conceals the internal uncleanness of the carnal heart. But no attempt at concealment is of avail before God, and even in the presence of men the loose lime sometimes fails to adhere. (Ap. Past.).—No doubt when Paul’s conduct is compared with the calmness, gentleness, and self-denial of Jesus ( John 18:23), his warmth of temper becomes evident. Still, we ought not to be too rigid in forming a judgment respecting the apostle. It is true that in our excessively refined age, the servants of Christ cannot commit a greater sin than when they exhibit impetuosity; the remark is at once made that they should have been more circumspect. This may be true; but then, let it be considered that they have exposed themselves to every danger, and, weak as they are, chose their position at the front of the army. It is surely better to be unskilful advocates of the Lord, than, through excessive caution, to resign the whole work to others. It may be also remarked, that if Luther, for instance, had been in Paul’s place, he would have spoken with far more severity. (Williger).

Acts 23:5. I wist not that he was the high priest.—It ought to be observed that it was quite possible that, amid the tumult, Paul should not have known or recognized the person of the high priest; for, at that time, the office had been exposed to such vicissitudes, that it could not always be known who was really invested with it. Hence Paul might have regarded. Ananias as a Jewish elder and Judges, without actually knowing that he was at that time the presiding high priest. However, even if it should be assumed that Paul did know him, his words could not have been intended to imply more than that, while he revered the office, he rebuked the person who so unworthily administered it. (Ap. Past.).—It would, however, be an abuse to quote the conduct of Paul for the purpose of justifying violent human passions, or the maxims of a false political Wisdom of Solomon, Titus 1:7. (Starke).—If St. Paul in this manner assails the priest, who was appointed by the law of Moses, why should I hesitate to assail these painted bishops and masks that come from the pope, without any authority derived from God or from men? (Luther).

Acts 23:6. I am a Pharisee, etc.—Here Paul stands as a sheep in the midst of wolves; he Isaiah, therefore, wise as a serpent, Matthew 10:16. (Starke).—And yet, he did not renounce the harmlessness of the dove. He still belonged to the Pharisees, not only on account of his education and earlier life, but also on account of his present position as a believer, in so far as, in contradistinction from the frivolity of the Sadducees, he maintained, with the Pharisees, the authority of the divine law, and believed in the resurrection. This was the common ground occupied by them and by him, and he desired to guide them still further, until he had conducted them to the Gospel.—The hope of the fathers, fulfilled by the appearance of Christ; and, the resurrection of the dead, sealed by the resurrection of Christ—the two fundamental themes of the preaching of Paul. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 23:7. And the multitude was divided.—Here again we see the wisdom of God, in patiently permitting so many forms of religion to exist. If the whole world were of one mind, the truth would soon be crushed. But now, while one sect contends with another, divine truth finds an opportunity to speak. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 23:9. We find no evil in this man.—Human passions were violently inflamed; nevertheless the wisdom of God accomplished its great design. He rules in the midst of his enemies [ Psalm 110:2.]. Some—says Paul ( Philippians 1:16; Philippians 1:18),—preach Christ, who are influenced by hostile feelings; still, if Christ is preached, whatever the motive may be, I will rejoice. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 23:10. And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing, etc.—When the people of God are in great distress, He can always send them guardian angels, even though these should be heathen soldiers. (Starke).—It may easily be conceived how great a stumbling-block this division was to the heathen officer. (Rieger).—And still, in our day, when Christians, in their religious disputes, pull one another in pieces, their conduct must give offence to heathens.

Acts 23:11. And the night following, the Lord stood by him.—The danger was great, but the comfort, too, was great. (Starke).—The consolatory words of the Lord, must, on this occasion, have been of special value to the apostle. He may, himself, have felt but little satisfied with the witness which he had borne in Jerusalem, partly, on account of the result, and partly, on account of the manner of his defence. Such thoughts and doubts, to which, more than to any other cause, the sleepless nights of a servant of God are due, were dispelled by the words of the Lord: ‘Be of good cheer; I am satisfied with thy testimony; thou hast done what thou couldst do; the result did not depend on thee; thou hast not interfered with my ways and purposes; thy witness in Jerusalem is at an end; now go to Rome.’ (Williger).—The rest of the book, after Acts 23, is occupied with the apostolical testimony which Paul bore in Rome. Now if the defenders of the primacy of Peter could have found all these statements, or even only the half of them, made in reference to Peter, what a great stress they would lay on the circumstance! (Bengel).

On the whole section, Acts 23:1-11.

The enemies of the Gospel, condemning themselves: I. By the injustice of which they are guilty, Acts 23:2 ff.; II. By their internal disputes, Acts 23:6 ff. (Lisco).

The hope of the resurrection, the crown of Christianity: I. The force of Paul’s defence depends on the truth of the doctrine of the resurrection; II. That doctrine is sustained by the sure foundation of divine truth. (id.).

The excited feeling which Paul displayed before the council: I. The cause, Acts 23:1-2; II. The manner in which he controlled it, Acts 23:3-5. (id.).

The true mode of combining the simplicity of the children of God with the wisdom of the children of this world: I. The simplicity of the children of God, by a candid confession of our infirmities, Acts 23:3-5; II. The wisdom of the children of this world, by availing ourselves of those circumstances by which our object may be gained, Acts 23:6-10. (id.).

The comfort of a good conscience, Acts 23:1; I. The source from which it proceeds; (a) justification by faith; (b) earnestness in following holiness [ Hebrews 12:14]; II. The support which it affords: (a) it enables us to labor with diligence; (b) it enables us to suffer with hope and joy.

Paul’s defence before the council, or, The true spirit of a witness: a spirit, I. Of manly courage, Acts 23:1-3; II. Of childlike humility, Acts 23:4-5; III. Of calmness and prudence, Acts 23:6; and, at the same time, IV. Of candor and simplicity, Acts 23:6, (for Paul speaks nothing but the truth).

Even when a servant of God exhibits nothing but carnal zeal, he shows what manner of spirit he is of [ Luke 9:55]: I. By the cause which provokes his zeal (it is iniquity that arouses him, and justice and truth for which he is zealous). II. By the manner in which that zeal manifests itself (even in anger, he forgets neither his own dignity, nor his reverence for God). III. By the victory which he gains over it (he confesses it, when his composure is restored, and firmly controls it.—Parallel cases in Luther’s life and writings).

Jesus and Paul before the Great Council, or, The Master and the disciple before unjust Judges: I. The points of resemblance between them; (a) both are undeservedly exposed to shame, ( Acts 23:2, and comp. John 18:22); (b) both maintain the dignity which heaven had bestowed ( Acts 23:3, and John 18:23). II. The points in which the Master is above the disciple; (a) the holy self-consciousness of Jesus ( John 18:20-21), is more than Paul’s good conscience ( Acts 23:1); (b) the gentle reply of Jesus ( John 18:23), is more heavenly than Paul’s human vehemence ( Acts 23:3).

The best advocates of a servant of God before the tribunal of an unjust world: I. The comfort of a good conscience in his own breast, Acts 23:1; II. The curse of a bad cause in the ranks of his enemies, Acts 23:3; Acts 23:6-9; III. The sympathy of unprejudiced and honest men of the world, Acts 23:10; IV. The gracious testimony of a righteous Judges, in heaven, Acts 23:11.

The call from heaven: ‘Be of good cheer, Paul!’, a source of comfort for all the faithful servants of Christ: I. It consoles them when the world unjustly condemns. II. It indemnifies them, when their office exposes them to reproach; III. It soothes them when their own conscience is troubled; IV. It endows them with strength for future contests (‘Thou must bear witness also at Rome.’).

[ Acts 23:8. Faith in the invisible world: I. The invisible world; (a) the future judgment; (b) the eternal happiness of the redeemed; (c) the eternal misery of the impenitent. II. The grounds of our faith in it; (a) reason sustains it; (b) the word of God establishes it; (c) the resurrection of Christ confirms and illustrates it. III. The influence of that faith; (a) on the mind and heart; (b) on the conscience; (c) on the outward walk. —Tr.].

Footnotes:

FN#15 - Acts 22:30. ( Acts 22). [D. is deficient from ὁι μέλλοντες, Acts 22:29, to the end of the book.—Tr.] Ἀπὸ τῶν δεσμῶν, after ἔλυσεν αὐτὸν [of text. rec., with G. H.] is obviously a later addition; for the four oldest uncial manuscripts [A. B. C. E, also Cod. Sin, Vulg.] do not exhibit it.—Further, the same four manuscripts [A. B. C. E, with Cod. Sin, Vulg. (convenire)] exhibit the reading συνελθεῖν, whereas the others [G. H.] have the reading ἐλθεῖν [of text. rec.]. The latter is also a later correction, as it was supposed that the Jewish authorities had been directed to proceed to the quarters of the Roman commander. [See the Exeg. note.—In the same verse, ὅλον before τὸ συνέδ., of text. rec., with G. H, is changed into πᾶν by recent editors, on the authority of A. B. C. E, Cod. Sin, Vulg. (omne).—Αὐτῶν, after συνέδ., of text. rec. with G. H, is dropped by the same, on the same authority.—Tr.]

FN#1 - Ch23, Acts 23:6. The reading, υἱὸς Φαρισαίων, is found in the uncial manuscripts A. B. C. [also, Cod. Sin.], in seven minuscules, the Syr. and Vulg.; also in Tert.; the reading [of text. rec., found in E. G. H.], Φαρισαίου, Isaiah, without doubt, a correction, as it was assumed that Paul referred solely to his father. Griesbach preferred the plural form; it has been very properly adopted by Lach. and Tisch. [also Born. and Alf, while Scholz retains the singular.—Tr.]

FN#2 - The text. rec. reads: μηδὲ ἄγγελον, μήτε πνεῦμα. with G. H, some minuscules and fathers; Lach, Tisch, and Alf, change μηδὲ, before ἄγγ. into μήτε, on the authority of A. B. C. E (also Cod. Sin.)., some minuscules, etc. See the Exeg. note on the passage.—Tr.]

FN#3 - Acts 23:9. a. The reading of the two latest uncial manuscripts, G. H, and of five minuscules, namely, γραμματεῖς, without the article, seems to be genuine. Two uncial manuscripts [B. C (also Cod. Sin.).] read: τινες τῶν γραμματέων; in two others [A. E, and Vulg. (quidam Pharisæorum)] the reading is: τινες τῶν Φαρισαίων. All such alterations were probably intended to explain or improve the original words [which, according to Lechler’s translation, he assumes to have been those found in text. rec., excepting οἱ, which occurs in none of the uncials. This is the reading preferred by Tisch.; Lach. reads simply: τινὲς τῶν Φαρ. Alf. makes no change in the text rec. Meyer concludes with Born. that the genuine reading is probably the following: τινὲς τ. γραμματέων του μέρ. τῶν Φαρ.—Tr.]

FN#4 - Acts 23:9. b. The concluding words: μὴ θεομαχῶμεν, after ἄγγελος, [of text. rec., with C (second correction).G. H.] are wanting in the four most important manuscripts, of the first class [A. B. C (original). E, also Cod. Sin.], in three minuscules, and five of the oldest versions; they should, in accordance with the opinion of Erasmus, Griesb, and most of the recent critics, be cancelled, as being simply a gloss derived from Acts 5:39.

FN#5 - Acts 23:11. Παῦλε after θάρσει, Isaiah, according to external evidence, undoubtedly spurious. [It is found in C (second correction). G. H, but not in A. B. C (original). E, Cod. Sin, Vulg, etc.—Tr.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Acts 22:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/acts-22.html. 1857-84.

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