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Bible Commentaries

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

Acts 26

 

 

Verses 1-32

§ II. Paul publicly defends himself before Festus and Agrippa, and, indeed, so successfully, that his address makes a deep impression, and produces a general conviction of his innocence

Acts 26:1-32

1Then [But] Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for [concerning[FN1]] thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: 2I think [esteem] myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall [that I can, μέλλων] answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the [by] Jews: 3Especially because I know thee to be expert in [Especially as thou art acquainted with] all customs and questions which are among [questions of] the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee[FN2] to hear me patiently 4 My manner of life [, then, (μὲν οὖν)] from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; 5Which [Who] knew me from the beginning, if they would [were willing to] testify, that after the most straitest [the strictest] sect [αἵρεσιν] of our religion I lived [as] a Pharisee 6 And now I stand and am judged for [concerning] the hope of the promise made of [by] God unto[FN3] our fathers: 7Unto which promise [unto which] our twelve tribes [the twelve tribes of our nation], instantly [intently] serving God day and night,[FN4] hope to come. For which [this] hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the[FN5] [by] Jews 8 Why should it be thought a thing [Why is it judged among you to be] incredible with you [here om. with you], that God should raise the [whether (εἰ) God raises (ἐγείρει) them that are dead? 9I verily thought [I thought indeed (μὲν οὖν)] with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary [in opposition] to the name of Jesus of Nazareth 10 Which thing [Which] I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in[FN6] prison, [prisons (φυλακαῖς), after] having received [such, τὴν] authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them [I assented to it]. 11And I punished them oft in every synagogue [all the synagogues, πάσας τ. σ.] and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad [furious] against them, I persecuted them even unto strange [foreign] cities 12 Whereupon as [Amid which (ἐν οἶς χαὶ[FN7]) also] I went [journeyed] to Damascus with authority and commission from[FN8] the chief priests, 13At midday, O king, I saw in the way [. And on the way, I saw, O king, at midday] a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about [around] me and them which [those who] journeyed with me 14 And when we were [had] all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying[FN9] in the Hebrew tongue [dialect], Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks [against goads]. 15And [But] I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he [But the Lord[FN10]] said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest 16 But rise [arise], and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make [employ] thee [as] a minister [servant, ὑπηρέτην], and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which [and of those in which] I will [yet] appear unto thee; 17Delivering [And I rescue] thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto [among] whom now I send thee,[FN11] 17[In order] To open their eyes, and to turn them [eyes, so that they may turn] from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and [an] inheritance among them which [who] are sanctified by faith that is in me [faith in me]. 19Whereupon [Wherefore], O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: 20But shewed [proclaimed] first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout [in] all the coasts [region, χώραν] of Judea, and then [and also] to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn [back] to God, and do works meet for [worthy of] repentance 21 For these causes [On this account] the Jews caught [seized] me in the temple, and went about [attempted] to kill me. 22Having therefore [However (οὖν), having] obtained help of [from] God, I continue unto this day, [unto this day I stand] witnessing[FN12] both to small and great, saying none [no] other things than those [of] which the prophets and Moses did say should come [said that they would come to pass, μελλόντων γίνεσθαι]: 23That Christ should [Whether (εἰ) the Messiah ( Χριστός) was to] suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew [suffer, whether Hebrews, as the first of the resurrection of the dead, was to proclaim a] light unto the people,[FN13] and to the Gentiles.

24And [But] as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad [is leading thee to madness, εἰς μανἰαν]. 25But he[FN14] said, I am not mad [I am not beside myself], most noble Festus; but speak [utter] forth the [om. the] words of truth and soberness [saneness]. 26For the king knoweth of these things, before [to, πρὸς] whom also I speak freely [gladly address myself]: for I am persuaded [convinced] that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner 27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest 28 Then [But] Agrippa said[FN15] unto Paul, Almost [With little (effort)] thou persuadest me to be[FN16] [become (γενέσθαι)] a Christian. [!] 29And [But] Paul said[FN17], I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that [who] hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether [day, would, through little or great[FN18] (means), become] such as I Amos, except these bonds 30 And when he had thus spoken, the [om. And when he had thus spoken[FN19]] king [Then the king] rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them: 31And when they were gone aside [had withdrawn], they talked between themselves [conversed among themselves], saying, This man doeth nothing [that is] worthy of death or of bonds 32 Then said Agrippa [But Agrippa said] unto Festus, This man might [could, ἐδύνατο] have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Cesar [to the emperor].

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Acts 26:1. Thou art permitted.—It is Agrippa, not Festus, who grants Paul permission to speak in defence of himself; as a king, he held the highest rank in the assembly, and, moreover, as the guest of the Procurator, enjoyed the honor of acting as the presiding officer. Hence he opens the proceedings, precisely as, according to Acts 26:30, if he does not formally close, he at least abruptly arrests them. At the same time, he says, with great consideration, not: ἐπιτρὲπω σοι, but: ἐπιτρέπεται, in order not to derogate from the honor due to the governor. Paul immediately begins his address, stretching forth his arm (to which a chain was attached, Acts 26:29); it was a gesture frequently made by those who delivered formal addresses before courts of justice.

Acts 26:2-5. a. I think myself happy.—Paul was influenced to employ such courteous terms chiefly by the fact that Agrippa was well acquainted with Jewish customs and questions; the Talmud, indeed, mentions several events in his life, which furnished him with opportunities to exhibit his knowledge of the Mosaic law; (see Schoettgen: Horæ Hebr. on Acts 25.). Μάλιστα can scarcely, with Meyer, be connected with γνώστην, in the sense of: “best of all (better than all others) acquainted with;” it properly belongs to the main proposition: ἤγημαι ἐμ. μακ., as assigning the chief reason for which Paul esteems himself happy in being permitted to speak in his own defence precisely before Agrippa. It was an additional pleasure to the apostle that he had found an opportunity to deliver his testimony in the presence of a king (comp. Acts 9:15); hence he gives the latter his proper title, and repeats it ( Acts 26:7; Acts 26:19; Acts 26:26-27), in order to show that he ascribes special importance to the circumstance.—The participial clause in the accusative, γνώστην ὄντα, is occasioned by looseness in the construction, as after σοῦ in Acts 26:2, the genitive should, strictly speaking, have reappeared. [“The accusative, γν. ὄντα is undoubtedly to be regarded as anacoluthic … a case which often occurs when participles are also introduced.” (Winer: § 327, and § 632. d.).—For instances in classic authors, see Viger. (ed. Herm.). cap6. sect1. § 12.—Tr.]

b. My manner of life [, then,].—Οὖν exhibits inferentially the reasons for which the speaker at once commences his defence, namely, the confidence which he derives from Agrippa’s acquaintance with the general subject, and the hope which he entertains that he will be heard with favor and patience.—At the first, ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς; this expression is even more emphatic than: “from my youth.” Paul states, first, how long the Jews had known him; secondly, where they learned to know him; and, thirdly, what they knew of him, namely, as a Pharisee, [“Most straitest is an anomalous pleonasm, not found in the original, but handed down from Tyndale through the later English versions. Straitest, i.e., strictest, etc. (Alexander).—Tr.].—If they would [were willing, ἐὰν θέλωσι, to] testify, that is: they would, perhaps, not be sufficiently candid and honorable to do so. They might apprehend that such an admission on their part would confer additional honor on Paul.

Acts 26:6-8. And now I stand and am judged.—Here the apostle rapidly passes from the earliest period of his life to which he had referred, to the present moment; he testifies that, however widely his present position and sentiments might seem to differ from those of that earlier period, he was, nevertheless, accused and subjected to a trial, not on account of apostasy from the Israelitic religion, but, on the contrary, on account of his adherence to the common and genuine faith and hope of Israel. And this hope—he continues—rests on the express promise and the revelation which God had granted to the fathers; it is a hope which the whole nation sincerely and earnestly entertains. Paul mentions the twelve tribes [δωδεκάφυλον—a theocratic honorable designation of the totality of the people; comp. James 1:1.—The word is analogous in form to δεκάφυλος, Herodot. V:66. (Meyer).—Tr.], without referring to any localities in which at that time individuals belonging to the nation might dwell; hence the descendants of the ten tribes, possibly still in the regions of their exile, are included. Now this hope can be no other than the Messianic hope; hence Paul here intends to say that all devout Israelites hoped for the Messiah whom God had promised, and that he himself, moreover, believed that the divine promise had been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, who had appeared, and had risen from the dead. This latter thought leads him to ask the question, Acts 26:8, which directly assails doubt and unbelief. He addresses it to all who are present (ὑμῖν), including Agrippa and Festus, and assumes that, with respect to this point, they are unbelievers. [“Τί ἄπιστον κρίνεται—a question introduced with much animation. Quid? incredibile judicatur apud vos? So Beza, Griesb, Kuin, and others. But the Greek note of interrogation (;) after τι is omitted, on the contrary, by Grotius, Calovius, Knapp, Matthaei, Lachm, Meyer, who point and interpret; Cur incredibile, etc.” (de Wette). Alexander seems to prefer the former punctuation, i.e., “What! Is it judged incredible, etc.” and Howson (Conyb. and H. II:303) adopts the same view. Hackett, like Lechler in his translation, prefers the latter, and agrees with Meyer, who says that τι standing alone, is never so employed (as a question), and that if Paul had introduced the pronoun as an exclamation or interrogation, he would have said, τί γαρ or τί οὖν, or τί δέ.—Tr.]. The expression ἐιἑγείρει refers interrogatively to the object, in so far as he who deems it incredible, denies its reality. Hence εἰ is here equivalent to “whether,” precisely as in Acts 26:23. It cannot mean “that,” which would be ungrammatical. This objection does not apply to the translation “if” (Meyer, in accordance with the Vulgate and Erasmus), which, however, does not seem to correspond to the frame of mind either of Paul, or of those who doubted.—The tense of ἐγείρει is significant—not preterite, referring to the resurrection of Jesus, nor future, as referring to the general resurrection—but present, in order to indicate that the question does not refer to a special historical event, but to a conception of a general character, or, in other words, to an abiding attribute or power of God.

Acts 26:9-11. I verily thought.—Here Paul resumes the subject which he had for a moment dropped (in Acts 26:6-8), and again refers to his personal history; οὖν does not connect the statement that follows, as an inference, with the unbelief to which Paul had adverted in Acts 26:8 (Meyer) [who interprets thus: ‘In consequence of this unbelief (μὲν οὖν), I myself was once an avowed enemy of the name of Jesus.’ Alexander thus interprets οὖν: ‘Well, then, as I was saying, being such a Pharisee, I thought, etc.’—Tr.].—That I ought to do. i e., ‘I considered it to be clearly my duty to oppose the name of Jesus, and prevent the confession of it.’ Here Paul gives to the Christians the name of saints, which he had avoided in his address to the people at Jerusalem, Acts 22:4; but on the present occasion he designedly employs the term in the presence of hearers who were unbiassed, and it is his object at the same time, both to bear witness for Christ and His church by using it, and to confess his own guilt. [De Wette, on the contrary, says: “He unconsciously employs an expression which could be intelligible to none but Christians.” It is of very frequent occurrence in the Pauline epistles.—Tr.].—When they were put to death, I gave my voice against them [I assented to it].—Hence it may be inferred that Stephen was, in truth, not the only one who suffered martyrdom during the persecution to which reference is here made. The phrase ψῆφον καταφέρειν, strictly speaking, means: to deposit the calculus or pebble used as a ballot; here, however, it can as little designate literally the act of a judge and lawful assessor in a court, as our own [German] word “beistimmen,” which originally had the same meaning [but is now used in the sense: to agree or concur with, to assent or consent.—Tr.]. Paul indicates by the word only a moral assent and approval.

Acts 26:12-14. With authority and commission; that Isaiah, he went as the authorized agent and representative of the chief priests. Four peculiarities may be observed in the narrative which follows, and which refers to the appearance of Jesus in the vicinity of Damascus:—1. Some traits which give prominence to the overpowering effect of that appearance; for instance, the light which shone around, exceeded the brightness of the sun, Acts 26:13, whereas the language in Acts 9:3 is simply, φῶς ἀπὸ τοῦ οὑρανοῦ, and in Acts 22:6, φῶς ἱκανόν; moreover, all the attendants of Paul fell to the earth, Acts 26:14, whereas this circumstance is not mentioned in Acts 22:7, and the statement Isaiah, apparently, even contradicted in Acts 9:7, (on which verse, see the Exeg. note, above).—2. The remark that the voice spoke in the Hebrew, that Isaiah, the Aramæan dialect, which is not made in the two parallel passages; in Acts 22:7, it was the less needed, as Paul himself spoke on that occasion in the Aramæan [ch. Acts 21:40].—3. The addition in Acts 26:14, namely, σκληρόνλακτίζειν, which, in Acts 9:5, is to be rejected for critical reasons, and, in Acts 22:7 is exhibited only in a single uncial manuscript [E], and in a few versions [but not in the Vulg.—Tr.]. The image itself is derived from the peculiar mode in which the ox was employed. The oriental farmer followed the plough [furnished with only one handle], and guided it with his left hand. In his right he held a rod which was six or eight feet long, to the end of which a goad was attached. When the animal was refractory and kicked, the driver applied the goad, which, in consequence of the violent movement of the animal, inflicted on it additional pain. The figurative expression implied that Paul’s own will, Which offered resistance, would necessarily be subdued by the express command of the Redeemer, who appeared to him in overwhelming glory. [The proverb πρὸς κέντρα λακτὶζειν was familiarly employed by the Hebrews, the Greeks and the Romans. For numerous passages in the Latin and Greek classics, see Kuinoel on Acts 9:5-6, and Grotius on Acts 26:14.—Tr.].—4. The circumstance that the revelation concerning both the calling of Paul as the apostle of the Gentiles, and also concerning the protection which he would enjoy amid dangers that threatened him (a revelation received by Paul in Damascus through Ananias, according to Acts 9:10 ff, and Acts 22. ff.), is here represented as an immediate and direct revelation received from Jesus on the way—as an integral part of the Redeemer’s personal revelation. There were two reasons, a negative and a positive, which influenced Paul in making this statement. It was, on the one hand, important, when he addressed Jewish hearers, to give prominence to the fact ( Acts 22:12 ff.) that a Jew, who was “a devout Prayer of Manasseh, according to the law,” had been the medium of communication; whereas this circumstance could have had no weight in the judgment of Agrippa and the other hearers whom Paul now addresses. (Baumgarten very judiciously directs attention to this fact). On the other hand, Paul was led to make his statement in this form, because it was important to him that this Revelation, which, it is true, he received through the medium of Ananias, should also be distinctly understood to be one which he had received from Christ himself. Hence he here takes the liberty to make a statement in a form which does not, in a servile manner, observe the mere letter and the special circumstances. And it is by no means necessary, for the purpose of removing any apparent discrepancy, to assume that Jesus had actually, at his first appearance, given Paul a general view of his subsequent labors, which Baumgarten (II:2. p295) represents as having been possibly the case, although he does not positively and explicitly adopt this hypothesis.—It was just as little necessary for Stier “to despair, in view of the misconduct of the learned theologians,” and to exhibit the warmth of feeling which appears in his protest against our interpretation of the passage before us (in his Reden d. Ap. II:301 ff.—[Discourses of the Apostles, 2d ed.—Stier introduces these words in a note, p302, as here quoted by Lechler, whom he mentions by name. He dissents from Lechler, and regards the statements as having been actually made by the Saviour when he appeared to Paul.—Stier’s merits as a learned, orthodox, devout, and skilful expositor of the divine word, are conceded by all; but his manner of speaking of his contemporaries, seems at times to be arrogant and contemptuous, and has given offence to many of them.—Tr.].—For we have by no means assumed that, in Acts 26:16-18, he represents “his own thoughts as having been expressed in words by the Lord;” we maintain, on the contrary, that Paul here quotes words actually spoken to him by the Lord through Ananias. For the words in Acts 9:15-16, demonstrate that the exalted Lord did really reveal precisely these thoughts to Ananias. And the only question that can here arise, is this: Did Ananias at once repeat to Paul all that the Lord had said to him? However probable it is per se that an affirmative answer would accord with the truth, the language in Acts 9:17, nevertheless, awakens a doubt: but the testimony of the apostle himself, in Acts 22:15, decides the point in the affirmative, although he here very summarily repeats the words of Ananias. Hence we do not consider our opinion [stated in Lechler’s first edition, to which Stier referred.—Tr.] as successfully refuted, that, in Acts 26:16-18, the apostle combines words of Christ which He spoke through the mouth of Ananias, with those which the Redeemer personally and directly addressed to him in the vicinity of Damascus. And here we think that we are as little guilty of “learned misconduct” as Stier himself Isaiah, when, in commenting on the words in Matthew 19:5, he openly avows that the words which (not an apostle of the Lord, but) the Redeemer Himself quotes as words of God, were not spoken directly by God, but were spoken by God “through Adam.” (Reden, etc, [Discourses of the Lord Jesus, according to Matthew]. II:2662d ed.). [Alford fully sustains Lechler, without, however, naming him, and adds: “It would be not only irreverent, but false, to imagine that he (Paul) put his own thoughts into the mouth of our Lord; but I do not see, with Stier, the necessity of maintaining that all these words were actually spoken to him at some time by the Lord. The message delivered by Ananias certainly furnished some of them … the commission which he received is not followed into its details, but summed up as committed to him by the Lord himself, etc.”—Tr.]

Acts 26:15-17. I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.—Jesus informs Paul of the purpose for which He appeared, namely, that he should become a minister and witness of Jesus, especially with a view to the conversion of Gentiles; the apostle receives an assurance of the Redeemer’s protection, whenever his mission exposes him to danger. Προχειρίσασθαι primarily means: to appoint, to elect; such, however, cannot here be the sense of the word; the only meaning which is appropriate, and in which, moreover, the word occurs in Polybius, is: to take in hand, to employ for a certain purpose. Paul was to be a witness of that which he already had seen, and of that which he would yet see. The latter is so expressed (ὦν ὀφθήσομαι), as to imply that Jesus himself would personally be the sole or main object of these future visions, as he was (according to ὤφθην) of all that Paul so far saw (ὦν είδες). [For the construction, etc, see Winer: Gram. N. T., § 393, obs1.—Tr.]. The participle ἐξαιροὐμενος grammatically belongs to ὀφθήσομαι, but in point of fact to προχειρίσασθαι. Ἐξαιρεῖσθαι cannot here mean: to choose or elect (Kuinoel [whose word is eligere.—Tr.]), because Saul was not chosen from the Gentiles, but from Israel, and because the participle refers, as the construction shows, to a circumstance which followed, not to one which preceded, the mission to the Gentiles; hence the word can have no other meaning here, except that of forcibly extricating, rescuing from dangers. The mission of Paul refers, primarily, to Israel ( λαός, Acts 26:17); the Gentiles are mentioned only in the second place: it is precisely in this manner that Paul likewise expresses himself in his Epistles.

Acts 26:18. But the purpose of his mission is stated in such a manner, that it can be understood only as referring to Gentiles. Paul was required to open their eyes, that Isaiah, to open the mind and awaken it for the reception of the truth; and the object of this was, in order that they might turn, etc, (τοῦ ἐπιστρέψαι is here used intransitively [for which use of the active, see Robinson: Lex. N. T., p285, and, therefore, not ut convertas.—Tr. ], and indicates the object or purpose of ἀνοῖξαι. The change is described by means of two antithetical propositions, the first referring to light and darkness, and the second to the controlling power of Satan and the (liberating) communion with God. [“Darkness and light are common figures in the New Testament, not only for ignorance and knowledge, especially of spiritual things, but for the several states or characters, of which these are necessary incidents, a state of sin and one of holiness.” (Alex.).—Tr.]. Finally, the last gracious purpose of God in their conversion (τοῦ λαβεῖν), is represented as referring to the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of an inheritance, i.e., of a share in the glory of the sanctified. But both of these,—forgiveness, and salvation—can be obtained solely by faith in Jesus (τοῦ λαβεῖνπίστει τῇ εἰς ἐμέ). [“The words πίστει - - ἐμέ belong to λαβεῖν.” (Meyer).—“Our English translators and some others join πίστει - - ἐμέ with ἡγιασμένοις; but the words specify evidently the condition by which believers obtain the pardon of sin and an interest in the heavenly inheritance; ἡγιασμ. is added merely to indicate the spiritual nature of the κλῆρον.” (Hackett).—Tr.]

Acts 26:19-23. a. Whereupon—I was not disobedient.—Paul now speaks of his resolution to obey the divine call, and of the labors in which he subsequently engaged, Acts 26:19-20. As that call—he says—was accompanied by a heavenly appearance which with great power convinced him, he did not refuse to obey (as the Jews no doubt thought that he should have done). The words οὐκ ἐγενόμην ἀπειθὴς indicate that, in truth, the point in question was, whether he would obey or resist the will of God. But ὅθεν is not to be understood as referring exclusively to the promise of such a field of labor, as is described in the words which immediately precede (Meyer) [as being the ground of Paul’s prompt obedience], but refers to the whole character of the appearance, as described in Acts 26:13 ff. All the work which Paul performed, from the time of his conversion to the present day, he comprehensively describes in Acts 26:20 as a proclamation, in which he had insisted on a change of mind (also on the part of the Jews) and a return to God (on the part of the Gentiles), and had required as an evidence of sincerity such acts as proceed from a change of heart. And he specifies as his fourfold field of labor, first, the two cities of Damascus and Jerusalem, then the whole region of Judea, and, lastly, the heathen world.

b. At length Paul reaches, by a rapid transition, the present moment. I continue unto this day, i.e., I stand (ἔστηκα) unharmed, and continue to discharge the duties of my office, as I was rescued by divine aid from the hands of murderers. Μαρτυρόμενος [from the depon. verb μαρτύρομαι] (not μαρτυρούμενος) [from μαρτυρέω; see note12, appended to the text, above.—Tr.], refers to μάρτυς in Acts 26:16. The sense is: “I bear witness before small and great,” i.e., before men of high and of low rank. The interpretation according to which the passive participle μαρτυρούμενος means: “well-reported of by small and great” (Meyer), does not suit the connection [it would represent Paul as misstating well-known facts, as claiming that all testified in his favor]; for the very circumstance that he is at the moment delivering an address in defence of himself, shows that opponents and accusers are near him; moreover, the context indicates that μαρτυρόμενος, like λέγων in the same verse, is descriptive of Paul’s personal acts. The participial proposition then explains that the testimony which he delivered in the presence of all persons, was nothing else than a proclamation of the actual fulfilment of the promises made by the prophets and Moses respecting things that should come to pass. The object of the scriptural promise and of the fulfilment, of which Paul bore witness, is introduced by him interrogatively in Acts 26:23, as it was controverted by the Jews [so that εἰ should be translated, not, affirmatively, “that,” as in the English version, but “whether” or “if” (Meyer, de Wette, Alford, Alexander, Hackett, etc.—Tr.]. The questions are virtually three in number: 1. Whether the Messiah was παθητός, i.e., not only capable of suffering [so the Vulgate translates, passibilis, Tr.], but also subject or liable to suffering, necessitate patiendi obnoxius; this is the constant use of the word in the classics [Winer: § 163, c. a.—Tr.]. 2. Whether the Messiah would rise, and be the first in the domain of the resurrection [comp. “the firstborn from the dead,” Colossians 1:18, and also 1 Corinthians 15:23 (Meyer).—Tr.]. 3. Whether the Messiah would proclaim light (salvation) not only to the people of Israel, but also to the Gentiles. The last two thoughts are grammatically blended together, and appear as a single question, but the two points in it are to be carefully distinguished.

Acts 26:24. Paul, thou art beside thyself.—This exclamation of Festus interrupted the address of Paul. [Videbat Festus, naturam non agere in Paulo: gratiam non vidit; quare furorem putat esse Judaicum, etc. (Bengel).—Tr.]. He does not, however, refer exclusively to the concluding words of the apostle, but rather to the whole address, especially to that part which described the appearance of Jesus. Such a statement seemed to the Roman to be perfect folly. He unquestionably spoke seriously, and did not mean to say jestingly: “Thou art an enthusiast!” For, in that case, he would not have spoken with that “loud voice,” which indicated emotion. He imagined that the man before him had injured his mind by severe study. (The word γράμματα, in accordance with the usual interpretation, means learning, not “books,” as Kuinoel and others understand it [for, in that case, he would have said βιβλία or βίβλοι. (Meyer).—Tr.]

Acts 26:25-27. I am not mad [not beside myself].—[“Most noble, excellent, or honorable—an official title, not a personal description; Acts 24:3.” (Alex.).—Tr.]. The apostle denies, with perfect calmness and due respect, but in the most positive terms, that such a reproach is deserved, and declares that his language was (objectively) the language of truth, and (subjectively), that of soberness [self-consciousness, sanity]. Σωφροσύνη here means, presence of mind, a sound mind, which is self-possessed, as contradistinguished from a disordered mind.—As an evidence that his statements are objectively true (γάρ), Paul appeals in Acts 26:26 to Agrippa, who was necessarily acquainted with the facts. The words: none of these things [τι τούτων οὐ] refer principally to those facts connected with the life of Jesus and the history of the Christian church, which Paul had mentioned in his discourse. With these—he says—the king is necessarily acquainted, as they were attended with the utmost publicity. [Ἐν γωνίᾳ, in angulo, i. e, clam, occulte, id. quod ἐν κρυπτῷ, John 18:20; Matthew 10:27; Luke 12:3. (Kuinoel).—Tr.]. However, he endeavors to win Agrippa for the cause of the truth, not only by appealing to his knowledge, which was derived from public report, but also by appealing to his conscience and heart, Acts 26:27; he takes hold of Agrippa's faith in the prophets with such tenacity, that the latter can scarcely escape.

Acts 26:28-29. It is indeed possible that for a moment a serious impression was made on the king; still, he immediately replies in derisive terms: With little effort (with feeble means) thou persuadest me to become [γενέσθαι] a Christian! [“The king’s reply was: ‘Thou wilt soon persuade me to be a Christian.’ The words were doubtless spoken ironically and in contempt.” (Contb. etc. II:306.)—Tr.]. Ἐν ολίγῳ does not mean: “in a short time” (Calvin; Wetstein; de Wette [Kuin.; Ols.; Neander; Lange; with, or without, χρόνῳ (Meyer).—Tr.]. Nor does it mean; “almost” (Chrysostom; Luther; Grotius: [Engl. vers.; Beza; i.e, propemodum, parum abest, quin.]. It cannot mean the former, on account of ἐν μεγάλῳ, since ἐν μεγάλῳ should, for critical reasons, be preferred [to ἐν πολλῷ of text. rec.; see note18, appended to the text above.—Tr.]. The latter sense [“almost”] would necessarily have been expressed with the genitive ὀλίγου, or with παρʼ ὀλίγον [or ὀλίγου δεῖ.]. The correct meaning is given by Oecumenius: [ἐν ὀλίγῳ τουτέστι] διʼ ὀλίγων ῥημάτων [, Ἐν βραχέσι λόγοις, ἐν ὀλίγῃ διδασκαλίᾳ] χωρὶς πολλοῦ πόνου [καὶ δυνεχοῦς διαλέξεως.]. See Meyer: [Com. ad. loc.].—[“It is held at present to be unphilological to translate ἐν ὀλίγῳ, almost.” (Hackett).—“I understand the words of Agrippa thus:—‘I am not so easily to be made a Christian of as thou supposest.’ Most of the ancient commentators take the words as implying some effect on Agrippa’s mind, and as spoken in earnest; but this think is hardly possible, philologically or exegetically.” (Alford). If a note of interrogation is placed after γενέσθαι, the sense, in accordance with Lechler's and Alford’s interpretation of ἐν ὀλίγῳ, will be: ‘Canst thou furnish no stronger argument than this appeal to my faith, to induce me to become a Christian?’—Tr.]. This is the second passage in the Acts (see Acts 11:26), in which the name Christian occurs; it is here contemptuously pronounced by one who is not a Christian. But Paul replies with great earnestness and holy ardor: εὐξαίμην ἂν τῷ θεῷ κ. τ. λ., literally: “I could indeed pray to God (namely, if I should follow the impulse of my heart.). [So Winer: Gram. N. T. § 421. b.—Tr.].—καὶ ἐν ὀλ. καὶ ἐν μεγάλῳ, that is: “through little or great means.” [Meyer adds the following note, on p485 of his Com. “Those interpreters who take ἐν ὀλίγῳ in the sense of brevi tempore, here translate, in accordance with the reading πολλῷ: ‘whether it be in a shorter or a longer time’ (de Wette). Those who take ἐν ὀλ. in the sense of propemodum, translate: non propemodum tantum, sed plane (Grot.). According to our interpretation (i.e., ‘Thou persuadest me with little effort (ἐν instrum.) to become a Christian!’), the sense is not affected, whether we read ἐν πολλῷ or ἐν μεγάλῳ.”—Tr.].—Except these bonds, says Paul, pointing to the chain by which he had been attached to the soldier who guarded him, but which now hung from his arm.

Acts 26:30-32. a. The king rose up.—Agrippa closed the proceedings by arising from his seat; the procurator and the others, in regular order, followed his example. After they had withdrawn to another apartment, (for ἀναχωρ. does not mean that they simply went aside in the same “place of hearing,” Acts 25:23), they discussed the case of Paul, and came to the conclusion that the man [ ἄνθρωπος οὖτος, which again is contemptuous (Con. and Howson, etc. ΙΙ. 307, n2.)—Tr.] was certainly not engaged in any criminal designs. (Πράσσει is not to be taken in the sense of the aorist or perfect, as Kuinoel supposed, but expresses a judgment respecting his general character and whole life, including the present period.). Agrippa declared, in substance, that Paul could with propriety have been acquitted and discharged (ἀπολελ.), namely at an earlier stage of the proceedings, if he had not appealed to the emperor; as such an appeal at once arrested all judicial proceedings, arid removed a case from the jurisdiction of an inferior court.

b. The address of Paul in the presence of Agrippa is one of the longest which Luke has reported; it Isaiah, like that which he made on the stairs of the tower of Antonia in Jerusalem, a defence of himself against unjust accusations. On this occasion, however, he does not address a highly excited Jewish audience, but the most eminent persons of the country—king Agrippa, and the imperial procurator, together with various officers. Hence, the circumstances do not, in Paul’s view, require him to demonstrate his personal innocence; he accordingly proceeds to vindicate his mission and labors as an apostle, and, at the same time, to defend Christianity itself.—The present discourse is distinguished, from beginning to end, by a peculiarly joyful spirit, a lofty tone, and a boldness which was certain of ultimately obtaining the victory. Although it assumes the form of a defence, it Isaiah, nevertheless, essentially aggressive in the noblest sense of that term; whereas the address in Acts 22was, strictly speaking, defensive in its character. Da Costa, with great felicity, describes the present discourse as a truly royal word of the apostle, pronounced in the presence of hearers to whom the world assigned a royal rank, whereas the defence made at Jerusalem was the word of an humble sinner, whose love urged him to exhort his fellow-sinners to practise the duty of love—the word of one who had formerly been a zealot, addressed to those who still remained blind zealots (Acts, II. p231.).—But on both occasions he exhibits Christianity in its unity with the old covenant; and on both, too, his own conversion to Christ and the appearance of Jesus on the way to Damascus, which led to that conversion, are the prominent topics of his discourse. The only difference is found in the circumstance that in Acts 22he assigns a special value to the communications which he received at Damascus from Ananias, a devout man according to the law, Acts 26:12, while, in the present case, he does not mention this Prayer of Manasseh, but speaks of the message received from the Lord through him, as simply a revelation of Christ.—We have here the last public testimony which the apostle delivered on the soil of Palestine; it was, moreover, delivered before the most distinguished assembly, in a secular point of view, in the presence of which he had ever appeared—the king, who then ruled over a part of Canaan, the procurator of the Roman emperor, and many military officers and civil magistrates, who occupied the highest positions in social life.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. The apostle assumes the offensive, in Acts 26:8, against doubt and unbelief. Instead of restricting himself to a defence of his personal Acts, or (in accordance with his usual custom, which, for wise reasons, he observed), of testifying positively to the truth, and addressing his confession to the conscience of his hearers, he suddenly changes his mode, and assails their understanding and all their doubts. He transfers the war to the enemy’s country, and demands that doubt or unbelief should justify itself on rational grounds, if it claims regard. It is true that he does not minutely investigate the subject, but contents himself with a question to which no answer is returned. But Hebrews, nevertheless, shows the proper mode in which, when the circumstances are favorable, Christianity may vindicate itself. For doubt and the denial of the truth often proceed merely from prejudices and pretentious axioms, which, when closely examined, are found to be altogether worthless.

2. Paul gives us, in Acts 26:18, an admirable description of the operations of divine grace. His mission had a twofold object: 1. Illumination, or the imparting of knowledge respecting both sin and salvation; 2. Conversion, i.e., a turning of the will from misery to divine aid, from darkness to light, from the dominion of Satan to God. The result of conversion, then, is: 1. Forgiveness of sins, or Justification; 2. The imparting, by grace, of a title to salvation. The personal means by which forgiveness and the inheritance are received, the ὄργανον ληπτικὸν (τοῦ λαβεῖν αὐτοὺς) Isaiah, faith in Christ—nothing more, but also, nothing less. [There is here an allusion to the doctrine thus stated in the Formula of Concord, p687 ult.: “Ad justificationem enim tantum haec requiruntur atque necessaria sunt: gratia Dei, meritum Christi, et fides, etc.” The first is called causa (justificationis) efficiens (impellens interna); the second: causa meritoria (impellens externa), i.e., plenaria Christi satisfactio; the third: causa apprehendens (ληπτικὴ, organica), i.e., fides salvifica.—Tr.]. And when we view the forgiveness of sins in the light in which it is here exhibited, we perceive that Paul distinctly sets forth the doctrine of justification by faith. It should, besides, be noticed that it is only the act of enlightening which is here ascribed to the apostle (ἀποστέλλω, ἀνοῖξαι ὀφ. αὐτ.), whereas the conversion itself is the act of the hearers (ἐπιστρέψαι, intransitive). But even in this aspect a great work is assigned to the human action of a teacher; he is the organ of the redeeming grace of God.

3. The apostle, in this discourse, delivers his testimony in an indirect manner, it is true, but, nevertheless, clearly and emphatically, respecting the freedom of the human will, or, in other words, respecting the resistibility of the operations of divine grace. This thought may already be found in the passage to which allusion has just been made, Acts 26:18 (and comp. Acts 26:20), in so far as conversion in general is represented as a personal act—as the unconstrained act of the will of the individual. This truth Isaiah, however, still more distinctly set forth in Paul’s remarks ( Acts 26:19, comp. with Acts 26:13 ff.) on his own conversion. While he declares that he was not disobedient(οὐκ ἀπειθὴς) to the Redeemer who appeared from heaven, he indirectly indicates that it would have been possible to refrain from obeying the divine will, and to resist it. This possibility is even included in the words addressed to him by the Redeemer, Acts 26:14, although they have in appearance an opposite meaning: “It is hard for thee to kick against goads!” For this proverbial language is by no means intended to convey the meaning that it had been made absolutely impossible for Saul to offer resistance to the Lord, but only that very painful experiences would inevitably result from any act of resistance which he would commit. That heavenly light was ineffably brilliant; that divine glory humbled human pride; the fulness of power in which the exalted Saviour appeared to Saul, was deeply felt; all these circumstances naturally added to the glory of the grace of God which sought to win a human soul without restricting its personal liberty, without a single trace of constraint and violence; for that divine grace asked for nothing but a voluntary love, an unconstrained obedience, and a willing surrender of the soul.

4. A threefold question occurs in Acts 26:23, which is of deep interest in its relation to the Christology of the Old Testament. The question is first proposed: Whether the Messianic prophecy recognizes a suffering [as well as a triumphant] Messiah; i.e., whether, in accordance with the promises of the Old Testament, the Messiah was not only capable of suffering, but also was actually subjected to suffering in his walk and labors—or whether the contrary was the case. The latter—the negative—accorded with the traditional opinions of the Jews. But the former—the affirmative—was asserted from the beginning in the predictions of Jesus concerning his sufferings ( Matthew 16:21, and elsewhere, ὅτι δεῖ—παθεῖν), and in his discourses after the resurrection (e. g., ἔδει παθεῖυ τὸν Χριστόν, Luke 24:26, and comp. Luke 24:46).—Secondly: Whether the Messiah would be the first of the resurrection of the dead; comp. Luke 24:46. The word πρῶτος here claims special attention; it cannot be understood in its full meaning unless we connect with it the view which Paul himself more fully develops in 1 Corinthians 15:20 ff.; Luke 24:45 ff.; Romans 5:17-18, namely, that Christ, the second Adam, begins a series of developments of life and resurrection for the benefit of mankind. This circumstance is another indication of the Pauline genuineness of the discourses ascribed in the Acts to the apostle, although it has hitherto been scarcely noticed.—Thirdly: Whether the Messiah, as the suffering and risen One, would proclaim salvation both to Israel and to the Gentiles. This thought very forcibly reminds us of those which the risen Saviour expressed in Luke 24:47, compared with the preceding verse. There can be no doubt that the universality of Christianity is here primarily set forth, and that, as far as the Messianic prophecies are concerned, it is supported by a number of passages in the prophets.

5. To the reproach that he manifests extravagance and madness, Paul replies with the assurance that he is speaking words marked by truth and self-consciousness. The truth of divine revelation is demonstrated, in addition to other evidences, by the just proportions and the sound judgment which the form in which it is conveyed, assumes—truth, not without soberness [of judgment], but also, soberness, not without truth. If we should regard sobriety of judgment and due or rational proportions as the sole and unconditional criteria of truth, we would soon, in an arbitrary manner, curtail and dilute the truth itself.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Acts 26:1. Thou art permitted to speak for [concerning] thyself.—Although the apostle was permitted to speak in his own defence, he availed himself of the opportunity to defend the honor of Jesus Christ alone. He here furnishes an important criterion by which the servants of Christ may be distinguished from false teachers. It is the sole object of the latter, in all their public discourses, to speak for themselves, to display their skill, to gain popular favor. But the sentiments of an upright Prayer of Manasseh, such as John was, are thus expressed: “Christ must increase, but I must decrease.” [ John 3:30]. (Ap. Past.).—Then Paul stretched forth his hand, and answered for himself.—May Paul, who, with the chain hanging from his arm, stretches forth his hand, and bears witness of the grace which he had received, open the mouth of every preacher, and the ear of every hearer! (Williger).—While Paul stretched forth his hand, he approached the king, and sought to reach his heart. (Besser).

Acts 26:2. I think myself happy, king Agrippa, etc.—Paul gladly availed himself of this opportunity, and confidently hoped that a favorable result would be produced. The Christian does not solely look to the actual and future result, but gratefully avails himself of every opportunity which God affords, for performing a present duty. (Rieger).—The apostle was very happy when he received permission to speak in the presence of king Agrippa; but the reason is also distinctly stated. He rejoiced, not on account of the honor of addressing a king, nor because an opportunity was afforded for assailing his enemies and taking revenge, but because he was thus enabled to proclaim the truth of Jesus in a public manner, and solemnly bear witness to it in the presence of Agrippa, to whom the circumstances of the Jewish nation, the promises made to the fathers, and the history of Christ were not unknown. Hence it appears not only that Paul’s happiness consisted in preaching Christ on every occasion, and that this privilege made even bondage or imprisonment welcome, but also that he very diligently and judiciously availed himself of every opportunity which was offered for proclaiming and glorifying the name of Jesus. (Ap. Past).

Acts 26:3. Wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.—The introduction, like the whole discourse, is characterized by a spirit of humility which exhibits no trace of servility, by a fearlessness which is without arrogance, by vigor without passion and resentment, by gentleness without weakness, by prudence without cunning, and by simplicity without awkwardness.

Acts 26:4-5. My manner of life … I lived a Pharisee.—It was observed above, on Acts 22:3 [Homilet.], that a man might do the works of the law, and suppose that he was zealous toward God, and, nevertheless, might continue to be an enemy of Christ. But we may now remark, on the other hand, in answer to those who imagine that the best ministers are sometimes those who once were dissolute students, that Paul’s case by no means sanctions this view. Even if he was an enemy of Christ during the period of his unbelief, he was, nevertheless, a friend of virtue, as far as his knowledge extended, a member of the strictest Jewish sect, and, according to the law, blameless [ Philippians 3:6]. He did not sacrifice his youthful years and strength, in carnal lusts, to Satan. We have no authority for assuming that persons of this description are very readily converted. The rite of ordination does not change, nor does a black coat convert, the heart. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 26:6-7. The hope of the promise, etc.—When the apostle speaks of his former mode of serving God, as a Pharisee, he does not indeed conceal the unholy zeal by which he had then been controlled; still, he also distinctly mentions a pure element which he was able to retain, namely, the faith and hope of the resurrection. The Jews, on the other hand, by the rage with which they now assailed the Gospel of Christ, destroyed their own religion received from the fathers, and, in reality, rejected all the additional gifts which the God of their fathers was willing to bestow. (Rieger).

Acts 26:8. Why … incredible … that God should raise the dead?—This is a question addressed to the conscience of all who deny the resurrection, and is intended to urge them to examine the foundation, or, rather, the want of a foundation, of their unbelief.

Acts 26:9-12. I verily thought … that I ought to do many things contrary to, etc.—Paul must have perceived that a special blessing attended his practice of referring to his own case, as that of a grievous sinner, on whom, nevertheless, God had conferred abundant grace—and as that of a bloodthirsty persecutor, who had now become a joyful confessor of his Saviour. He had already referred to it in Acts 22:4 ff.; again he mentions it here, in the presence of Agrippa, and a third time speaks of it in 1 Timothy 1:12-14. Little as he was accustomed to speak of and for himself, he becomes copious when he recurs to this subject. The blessed change which Jesus had effected in his soul, was, to him, a perpetual miracle; he could not forget, the grace which had been granted to him. He tells to Jews and Gentiles, to kings and princes, all that God had wrought in him. He assigns in 1 Timothy 1:16 his reason for speaking of it to all men: “For a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” Blessed is that teacher, who not only by his words, but also by his example, teaches and preaches, guides and edifies his hearers. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 26:13. At midday … I saw a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun.—The first ray of light, with which our conversion began, is worthy of eternal remembrance and gratitude, 2 Corinthians 4:6. (Starke).—If the face of Christ ‘did shine as the sun’, even while he abode on earth in the state of humiliation, Matthew 17:2, how much more brightly it would shine, when he assumed all power and authority in heaven. Revelation 1:16. (id.).

[I am Jesus, etc.—It is hard for thee, etc.—On these words see the Hom. and Pract. remarks by Gerok, above, on Acts 9:5.—Tr.].

Acts 26:16-17.—But rise, etc.—‘The Lord killeth and maketh alive—he bringeth low, and lifteth up.—He raiseth them that are bowed down.’ 1 Samuel 2:6-7; Psalm 146:8. (Starke).—The same evangelical word was addressed to the three disciples on the holy mount, when they heard the voice out of the cloud, and fell on their face, Matthew 17:7. And Saul, too, arose, in order to stand, by the power of Jesus Christ, unto this day, Acts 26:22. (Besser).—To make thee a minister and witness, etc.—This is a glorious representation of a truly divine ordination to the ministry. Here observe: I. A genuine ordination is a divine work. Prayer, and the imposition of hands are not of themselves sufficient to change an unconverted and worldly-minded man into a faithful witness of Jesus. It Isaiah, first, necessary that the Lord should heal him internally, anoint, and ordain him; Jesus alone can impart the needed ability to stand, to witness, and to minister. II. Jesus does not appoint Paul to be an eminent bishop and an ecclesiastic of high rank, but, when He assigns to him the highest spiritual dignity of the apostolic office, makes him a witness and a servant [“minister,” ὑπηρέτην.]. The Lord promises him no comforts, no titles of honor, no riches; but, to bear witness of Him, to be His servant, amid toils and labors, persecutions and tortures—such is the apostolic office, the highest dignity of the disciples of Jesus. How unlike ecclesiastics of rank in our day are, in many cases, to this ordained witness of Jesus! III. Christ makes Paul a witness, not only of those things which he had now already seen, but also of those in which He would yet appear to him. Thus a faithful servant of Jesus should always make progress. Our earlier experience of the grace of Jesus must be daily renewed and Revelation -animated by new experiences of His saving grace, so that our witness may ever be active and vigorous. IV. The Lord Jesus, at the same time, bestows a safe-conduct or passport at the ordination, by promising that while Paul labors as a witness and servant, He will be a protector and “deliverer,” Acts 26:17. A faithful witness of Jesus may always entertain the assurance that when the Lord employs him, He always has the ability and the will to be a Protector. (Ap. Past).—The Lord faithfully remembered the promise which he gave to his apostle. The work to which He originally called Paul, and the words which He addressed to him at the beginning, have now, after twenty-four years of apostolical labors, been abundantly established, before many thousands of persons who were saved, and before still more numerous enemies who were subdued. (Besser).

Acts 26:18. To open their eyes, etc.—Behold here a complete plan or sketch of the New Testament office of the ministry. Its objects are: I. The instruction of men—“to open their eyes”; II. Their conversion—“to turn them,” etc.; III. Their forgiveness—“that they may receive forgiveness of sins;” IV. Their salvation—“inheritance among, etc.”; and, V. Faith is the means by which such results are produced—“by faith, etc.”

Acts 26:19. Whereupon … I was not disobedient.—Not even Paul’s conversion was irresistible. (Bengel).—Paul ascribes his obedience to the divine character of the appearance which he had seen, but especially, (if we also refer to the words which immediately precede), to the nature of the precious office which was intrusted to him. He could not resist this heavenly call—he says—because this precious office was conferred on him by divine authority—an office by which many thousands of benighted souls were to be enlightened and made partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light [ Colossians 1:12]. Surely, if all teachers would diligently consider what eternal glory they could give to God, and how great a salvation they could secure for themselves and for others, they would become more diligent, more faithful, and more obedient. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 26:20. But shewed first unto them of Damascus, etc.—Precisely where we may have given the greatest offence, we should begin to remove it (Starke).—The apostle brought forth such abundant fruits, because he began to labor as soon as he received the call. Our strength is impaired by delay. (Ap. Past.).—That they should repent and turn to God.—Without repentance, Christ avails us nothing; but, on the other hand, there can be no genuine repentance, without Christ. It is only the evangelical preaching of repentance, that produces fruit. (From Ap. Past.).

Acts 26:21. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple.—A teacher who desires to have the testimony of his own conscience that he is faithful to God, must at all times be ready even to die as a martyr for all the truths of the Christian religion, especially for the doctrine of repentance and conversion, and of works meet for repentance; let him never consent to suppress such truths for the sake of pleasing men. (Starke).

Acts 26:22. Having therefore obtained help of God.—Here was the triumph of the faith of a witness of Jesus, who dreaded no labors and no sufferings, in his zeal to obey the call of his Lord. Herein he gloried, amid the shame of his bonds. Who can, with truth, employ the same language? (Ap. Past.).—Continue unto this day, witnessing, etc.—Paul rejoices that he continues unto this day; but he also assigns the reason—that he might bear witness. It is right and just that we should thank the Lord for prolonging our lives, and sustaining us amid so many dangers and evils. But the continuance of our life could be no real benefit and joy, if it were devoted to any other purpose than that of diligently serving our Saviour. (id.).—Saying none other things than those which the prophets, etc.—He exhibited the same order of salvation to small and to great, to the lofty and the low, and taught nothing but that which was revealed in the word of God. He preached Christ, and set him forth alike in his humiliation and in his exaltation, Acts 26:23; he sought to gain both Jews and Gentiles, Acts 26:23. He exhibits, in every aspect, an image of a faithful teacher, which is worthy of imitation. (id.).

Acts 26:23. That Christ should suffer … should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto … the Gentiles.—These are the three chief points in the writings of the prophets: The sufferings of Christ—His resurrection,—and, The publication of these truths among all nations; and precisely these three were, most of all, unwelcome to the Jews. The first gave them offence; the second was denied by them; and the third awakened their envy. (Starke).

Acts 26:24. Paul, thou art beside thyself.—The world deems men to be prudent while they are mad, and to be mad when they cease to rave, and become prudent. As long as Saul raved and raged, he was regarded as a prudent and able man; but when he was made acquainted with his madness, and had become a Christian, men believed that he was a madman. A change will, however, yet take place, and worldly men will say of the righteous: “We fools accounted his life madness; how is he numbered among the children of God, and his lot is among the saints!” Wisdom of Song of Solomon 5:4-5. (Lindhammer).—Was this, then, all that Paul gained—to be regarded as a madman! Observe how a worldly-minded Prayer of Manasseh, such as Festus was, could not conceive that any one of sound mind would entertain such a faith, and venture his life in defence of it. When he cannot accuse a disciple of Christ of hypocrisy, because he too plainly perceives the evidences of sincerity, the only expedient that remains Isaiah, to ascribe the whole to a disordered mind. Festus professes to know even the causes of the latter: “Much learning doth make thee mad.” Charges of the same kind are still made in our day. When a preacher receives the gift of wielding the sword of the word with ability, the world is not unwilling to concede, that, to a certain extent, he does possess talent, but alleges that he preaches the Gospel only for the purpose of displaying his skill. And yet, we are surely not actors; and, as little is it madness, when, in the name of the living God, we speak of eternity, of a Saviour, or of the resurrection. Such words are rational and true, and are supported by the eternal truth of God; and nothing more unequivocally demonstrates their truth than precisely the opposition of the human heart. (Palmer).—flow often we hear, in the present day, the language of this wisdom of Festus, to which the preaching of the cross is foolishness. A childlike and simple faith in the whole revealed truth of the Scriptures, is represented as belonging to the narrow-mindedness of old times; the doctrine of justification by faith in the merits of Christ, is called a pagan, sanguinary, theology, etc. When any one begins to occupy himself earnestly and seriously with the duties of religion, and breaks the ties which had bound him to the world, he is pitied as a man whom religious melancholy has betrayed into extravagances, and whose mind has become affected by the excessive study of the Bible. Did they not blaspheme the gracious influences of the pentecostal Spirit, and accuse the disciples of being intoxicated ( Acts 2:13)? Did they not say even of Christ: ‘He hath a devil. and is mad’? ( John 10:20). (Leonh. and Sp.).

Acts 26:25-26. I am not mad, most noble Festus.—Paul did not reply to Festus in harsh and mocking terms, but modestly represented that the reproach was undeserved; he referred to the fact that the whole history of Jesus was generally known, as the events of His life had not occurred in a corner, but had been exhibited to the eyes of the world. He also appealed to the testimony and the conscience of Agrippa; he boldly spoke in the presence of Festus as a man in full possession of his senses and filled with the joy which his faith imparted. He taught, from the fulness of a heart which divine grace had convinced and blessed, that Christianity is no fable, and that faith is not madness. Faithful teachers should study this example, and imitate it, both when they encounter scoffers of religion in society, and when duty requires them to bear witness in their writings against scoffers and free-thinkers. (Ap. Past.).—I speak forth the words of truth and soberness (Luther’s version: “I speak true and rational words”). The words which he pronounced were true; the manner in which he pronounced them, was rational. (Besser).

Acts 26:27. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets?—Paul, who had studied psychology in the school of the Holy Ghost, at once perceived the secret spark of a tendency to believe the word, which glimmered in the heart of Agrippa. Impelled by hope, and by his love for the king of the Jews, he boldly addresses a question to the heart and conscience of the latter, not yet despairing of success in his attempt to conduct him, through the means of the predictions of the prophets to Christ, the true King of Israel. Those are the true court preachers who are not deterred by the star on the breast of the prince, from inquiring whether the heavenly morning star is also shining in his breast. (Leonh. and Sp.).

Acts 26:28. Almost thou persuadest me. [With little effort (Luther: “Not much is wanting, etc.”).]—“With little effort thou persuadest me to become a Christian!” Agrippa means: ‘It seems that you expect to make a Christian of me by a short process; I should, however, think that something more is needed in order to persuade a king of the Jews to become a Christian.’ (Besser).—These words seem indeed to be uttered in a mocking tone; and yet, while the king jested, he was not easy at heart. He was inwardly moved, but, as a statesmen, wished to conceal his emotion. Such “Almost-Christians” are still numerous, even in our day. The world would willingly be saved, if it were not for the words: ‘Strive to enter in at the strait gate, etc.’ Luke 13:24. (Starke).—How often we, too, have been near the kingdom of heaven! We had almost passed from darkness to light, from unbelief to faith, from sin to repentance, from inward trouble to peace, from the world to God. The heart was touched, the mind enlightened, the will aroused; the hour was favorable—the hour of grace, which might have decided on our blessed eternity; not much was wanting. But the little that was wanting, we would not yield; we could not part from some object which we prized; there was some favorite sin, which we could not abandon. Our thoughts were again diverted from the subject, a temptation presented itself—and the hour of grace passed by; the treasure which we had almost grasped, was again lost, and again were we far from the Lord.

Acts 26:29. And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, etc.—When Agrippa had uttered the light jest, Paul replied with deep and holy earnestness.—What sorrow and pain, what holy zeal for the honor of the Lord, those bold words express! That love, which so ardently desired the salvation of all, sought to fan into a bright flame the feeble spark of faith which glimmered in the answer of Agrippa. Paul gives an assurance even to those who stood at a greater distance—to Festus and the other persons of rank—of his intercessory love, and kindly and urgently invites them not to allow the hour of grace to pass away unimproved. (Leonh. and Sp.).—What various sentiments with respect to the Gospel of Christ were entertained by those who were now assembled in this ‘place of hearing’ ( Acts 25:23)! Paul, living solely by the faith of the Son of God [ Galatians 2:20]—Agrippa, touched—Bernice, more indifferent—Festus, still less moved. How gladly Paul would have conducted them all to that blessedness, which he derived from his holy faith! (Rieger).—Much was wanting in the case of Festus—little, in that of Agrippa. But Paul teaches that the grace of God can remove every hinderance to faith, whether small or great; and he expresses his earnest desire that Festus, as well as Agrippa, and all who heard him, might surmount every obstacle, accept the offered grace, and enter into fellowship with Christ. Thus a witness of Jesus does not allow himself to be discouraged, but even in the case of the worst scoffers and the most hardened men, still hopes that they will be converted, and become partakers of the grace of God. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 26:30. And when he had thus spoken [see note19, appended to the text, above.—Tr.], the king rose up.—The king could listen no longer to the man before him, who spoke with increasing boldness; the smile died away on his lips, and he abruptly put an end to the proceedings. (Besser).—Faithful servants of Jesus are grieved when they perceive that their discourses produce no other fruit than that the hearers say: ‘The preacher is a good man—or—He is a devout man—or—He has spoken well.’ And yet, such is here the experience of the holy apostle. After he had testified of Jesus with the utmost sincerity, joy and power, and had with so much confidence opened his heart to all the hearers, whose salvation he earnestly desired, they all arose, conversed together, and at last said: ‘That is a good man.’ Should they not have learned much more, on far more important subjects, from his discourse? Such is the world. (Ap. Past.).

ON THE WHOLE .—The apostle Paul’s remarkable experience of life, Acts 26:1-18 : I. His conduct as a Jew, Acts 26:4-5; and, II. Now, the enmity of the Jews, Acts 26:6-8; III. His opposition to Jesus, Acts 26:9-12; and, IV. Now, his wonderful conversion, Acts 26:13-18. (Lisco).

The calling of Paul: I. The Lord overpowers the obdurate spirit of his enemy, Acts 26:5-15; II. He converts the subdued enemy into a blessed servant, Acts 26:15-18. (id.)

That the faith of those who are converted is even yet to bear fruit similar to that which appears in the conduct of the apostle Paul: I. By earnestly calling on the unconverted to repent, Acts 26:19-20; II. By boldly bearing witness of Christ, Acts 26:21-23. (id.).

The impressions which a Christian receives, when he surveys his life in the light of revelation: I. He looks back to the time spent in the service of sin; II. He looks upward to that grace which took away his sins; III. He looks forward to that glorious home, to which his renewed life aspires. (id.).

How does the power of the divine word manifest itself in the case of those who perish? I. By attracting them to itself. The word acts on them. (a) It reveals to the worldly-minded man a higher world, hitherto unknown to him, on which he gazes with astonishment. Festus exclaims: ‘Paul, thou art beside thyself!’ Acts 26:24. (b) Where the word of God discovers traces of an earlier divine life, it attaches itself to these, and calls up remembrances of a time when faith existed in the soul. ‘King Agrippa, believest thou—? I know that thou believest,’ Acts 26:27. It revives the earlier love, for the purpose of establishing anew, by its aid, the faith that had yielded, Acts 26:26-28. It inspires respect for all who are sincere believers, Acts 26:29; Acts 26:31-32.

II. By repelling them. They resist the influence of the word. (a) The worldly-minded man soon persuades himself that a fervid zeal in the cause of that which is exalted and divine, is only religious enthusiasm, or fanaticism. (Festus, Acts 26:24). (b) Better impulses and emotions are suppressed, and succeeded by levity and indifference. (Agrippa, Acts 26:28-32). (id.).

Paul and Agrippa: I. Paul’s holy zeal—Agrippa’s levity and mockery; II. Paul’s joyful assurance of faith—Agrippa’s lamentable want of decision; III. Paul’s apostolic and overflowing love—Agrippa’s affected indifference. (Leonh. and Sp.).

Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?’a question addressed to the conscience of all who deny the resurrection: I. Is it the pride of a mind of limited powers, which rejects all that it cannot comprehend? II. Is it the despondency of a faint heart, which will not believe in the infinite power of the Creator? III. Is it the agony of an evil conscience, which dreads eternity and the judgment?

The three narratives of Paul’s conversion, or, The visitations of divine grace are never forgotten by the children of God: the narrative is furnished thrice ( Acts 26:12-18; Acts 9:1-22; Acts 22:3-21), so that it may, I. Give eternal praise to the Lord—to his wonderful power, and his wonderful love; II. Furnish a salutary admonition to the children of God—reminding them of the sins which they committed, and of the grace which was granted to them; III. Be an abiding monitor for the world—rebuking sin, and inviting men to enter the way of salvation. (Compare the Hom. and Pract. remarks on Acts 9. and Acts 22).

The blessed work which the office of the ministry of the word performs for sinners, Acts 26:18 : I. To open their eyes to the light of truth; II. To turn their hearts from the works of darkness; III. To give peace to their conscience, by the forgiveness of sins; IV. To sanctify their walk, and prepare them to become partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.

Paul, a model, as a noble witness of God, Acts 26:22-23 : I. By whose aid he bears witness; by that of the Lord, whose strength is made perfect in his weakness [ 2 Corinthians 12:9]: ‘Having therefore obtained help of God, etc,’ Acts 26:22. II. In whose presence he bears witness; in that of all who have ears to hear: ‘witnessing both to small and great—a light unto the people (of the Jews), and to the Gentiles,’ Acts 26:22-23. III. To whom he bears witness; to Christ, who was promised and had come, who was crucified and is risen: ‘Saying none other things than, etc,’ Acts 26:22.

Paul, thou art beside thyself: much learning doth make thee mad!’language, which admonishes all preachers of the Gospel to examine themselves: I. Whether their doctrine does not betray any unscriptural extravagance; II. Whether carnal passion does not mingle with their zeal; III. Whether their eloquence is not, in part, sustained by unspiritual arts.

Paul, thou art beside thyself!’the judgment which the worldly-minded man usually forms of the people of God: I. He thinks that he can overwhelm them by representing their childlike Christian faith as narrowness of mind, their devout Christian life as religious melancholy, and their joyful Christian hope as fanaticism. But, in reality, II. The worldly-minded man condemns himself; for he exposes his own poverty of spirit, which cannot understand divine things—his hardness of heart, which pays no attention to the admonition of the Holy Ghost—and the miserable state of his soul, which cannot conceive the blessedness of the children of God.

Who is beside himself? Paul or Festus? The Christian, or he who is not a Christian? I. Is the Christian beside himself, whose faith is established on the infallible revelations of God in the Scriptures and in the experience of the heart, or rather he who, without examination, blindly denies all that he cannot comprehend, or touch with his hands? II. Is the Christian beside himself, who regulates his life according to the commands of God, and walks securely in the narrow way of sanctification, or rather he who is the sport of his passions, and who staggers along the broad road that leads to destruction? III. Is the Christian beside himself, whose hope is fixed on an eternity, which, amid all the changes of time, appears steadily before his view, or rather he who seeks for happiness in the transitory things of this life—a life which passes away like a dream, and leaves nothing behind but a terrible awakening ?

That Paul was fully justified in saying: ‘I speak forth the words of truth and soberness’ ( Acts 26:25): I. Proved from the past history of the church of Christ; for these words of Paul abide unto the present day, whereas the wit of Festus has long since become silent; II. Confirmed by the prompt assent of every honest heart, which still derives its most cheerful light, its greatest, strength, and its richest consolations from these words; III. Demonstrated hereafter, on the great day of eternity; for heaven and earth will pass away, but the word of God endureth for ever.

King Agrippa, believest thou?’a solemn question, suited to the courts of kings: I. Exhorting princes and nobles to seek the salvation of their souls; II. Exhorting court preachers to fulfil their duty with fidelity.

Paul and his princely hearers, or, The various positions which men assume with respect to Christian truth: I. Festus, who altogether rejects it, saying: ‘Paul, thou art beside thyself;’ II. Agrippa, who partially inclines to it, saying: ‘Almost thou persuadest me;’ III. Paul, whose life is bound up in it [ Genesis 44:30], saying: ‘I would to God, etc,’ Acts 26:29.

When does a sermon really benefit us? I. When it convinces, and does not merely “persuade” us; II. When it wins us altogether, and not “almost;” III. When it influences not only an individual, but “all that hear.”

The dangerous expression: ‘Almost [With little effort]:’ dangerous, for it, I. Encourages the delusion that it is easy to enter into the kingdom of heaven; II. Increases our responsibility, if we had been ‘not far from the kingdom of God,’ and, nevertheless, did not enter in.

The curse of lukewarmness in matters of religion: the lukewarm are, I. An abomination unto the Lord, who demands the whole heart. ‘Because thou art lukewarm I will spew thee out of my mouth’ [ Revelation 3:16]; II. The derision of the world, which wantonly sports with them; III. A torment to themselves, without strength or comfort.

The men of rank who had listened to the discourse of Paul, Acts 26:30-32 : I. Apparently, a gracious dismissal of the upright servant of the Lord; II. In reality, a decorous flight before the word of divine truth.

[ Acts 26:27. The faith of king Agrippa: I. Historical notices; (a) his life; (b) his character. II. The nature of his faith; (a) he was indebted for it merely to his birth and education; (b) it did not possess that power which is derived from personal religious experience; III. Its real value; (a) it withheld him from no sins; (b) it did not attach him to Christ; IV. The lessons which it affords; (a) faith in the divine origin of our holy religion may be professed even by the unconverted; (b) the vast difference between a living and a dead faith.—Tr.]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - The text. rec. adopts ὑπέρ with B (e sil). and G.—Lach, Tisch, Born, and Alf. read περί.—Tr.]

FN#2 - σου is inserted in text. rec. after δέομαί with C. G. H. Syr, but is omitted by A. B. E, Cod. Sin, Vulg, and cancelled by Lach, Tisch, Born, and Alf.—Tr.]

FN#3 - of text. rec. with C. G. H.].—Ἡμῶν, which immediately follows [not in text. rec., which, with G. H. omits it], is sustained, it is true, by the majority of the uncial manuscripts [by A. B. C. E. Cod. Sin, Vulg. (nostros)], but would scarcely have been dropped, if it had been originally employed, whilst it might easily have been inserted by a later hand. [Ἡμῶν is inserted as genuine by Lach. and Alf.; Meyer regards it as an interpolation.—Tr.]

FN#4 - Acts 26:7. a. [The margin of the English Bible remarks that the Greek exhibits the following order of the words: night and day.—Comp. Luke 2:37; Acts 9:24; etc.—As the entire day of 24 hours, with the Jews, began at sunset, the night was usually mentioned before the day. Tynd, Cranm, and Geneva Bible, exhibit “day and night;” Wicl. and Rheims: “night and day.”—Tr.]

FN#5 - Acts 26:7. b. ὑπὸ Ἰουδ., without the article [as in Acts 26:2], which is wanting in all the uncial manuscripts [including Cod. Sin.], is the original reading. [Τῶν is omitted by recent editors generally.—The proper name in the same verse, Ἀγρίππα, is inserted in text. rec. with G. H, but is omitted in A. B. C. E. Vulg, and is generally cancelled by recent editors, except Scholz.—Cod. Sin. reads: εγκαλουμαι υπο Ιουδαιων βασιλευ τι ---.—Tr.]

FN#6 - Acts 26:10. ἐν φυλακαῖς is the reading sustained by all the uncial manuscripts [A. B. C. E. G. and Cod. Sin.] except one [H.], which omits the preposition. [Ἐν, omitted in text. rec. is inserted by recent editors generally.—Tr.]

FN#7 - Acts 26:12. a. καί [of text. rec.] alter ἐν οἶς, is decidedly sustained. [It is retained by Alf. with G. H, but omitted by Lach. and Born. with A. B. C. E. and Cod. Sin.—Tr.]

FN#8 - Acts 26:12. b. [The reading τῆς παρὰ (text. rec.) before τῶν ἀρχ., which is found in C. G. H. is retained by Alf, but is omitted by Lach. and Born. with A. E.—B. and Cod. Sin. omit only παρὰ, but retain τῆς.—Tr.]

FN#9 - Acts 26:14. The words φωνὴν λαλοῦσαν πρός με καὶ λέγουσαν, seem to be the original reading; whereas the abbreviated reading, which omits λαλ. --- και [found in A. B. C. E, and Vulg.] was made to suit the parallel passages, Acts 9:4; Acts 22:7 [The full reading of text. rec., found in G. H. and most of the minuscules, is retained by Alf. The reading adopted by Lachmann precisely agrees with that now found in Cod. Sin, namely: φωνὴν λέγουσαν πρός με τῇ ---. In this place Cod. Sin. exhibits no traces of any correction by a later hand.—Tr.]

FN#10 - Acts 26:15. κύριος after δὲ [not adopted by text. rec.], is sustained by all the uncial manuscripts [A. B. C. E. Cod. Sin, and Vulg. (Dominus)], with the exception of one [H, and several church fathers.—Alf. omits κύριος but Lach, Tisch, and Born. adopt it.—Tr.]

FN#11 - The text. rec. reads: νῦν σε ἀποστέλλω with some minuscules; Vulg. nunc ego mitto te.—Ἐγω is substituted for νῦν in A. B. C. E. G. H. In A. B. C. σε follows ἀποσ., but precedes in G. II.—Alf. adopts the latter order, but Lach. and Tisch. read ἐγω ἀποσ. σε, and this is the reading exhibited by Cod. Sin.—Tr.]

FN#12 - In the same verse, for παρὰ. τ. θ., of text. rec. with G. H, Lach, Tisch, Born, and Alt, with A. B. E. and Cod. Sin. read ἀπὸ. τ. θ.—Tr.]

FN#13 - The text. rec. omits τε before λαῷ with G.; but it is found in A. B. E. H. and Cod. Sin, and is inserted by Lach, Tisch, and Alf.—Tr.]

FN#14 - Acts 26:25. Παῦλος after δέ is wanting in several manuscripts [G. H. etc.], and is a later addition. [It is found in A. B. E. Cod. Sin, and Vulg. (Et Paulus); it is omitted in text. rec. and by Alf, but adopted by Lach, Tisch. and Born.—Tr.]

FN#15 - Acts 26:28. a. ἔφη after πρὸς τ. Παῦλ., is wanting in several manuscripts [in A. B. Cod. Sin. minuscules, Vulg.], and was erroneously inserted in the text. rec. [It is found in E. G. H, but is dropped by Lach, Tisch, and Alf.—Tr.]

FN#16 - Acts 26:28. b. [For γενέσθαι, after Χρισ. of text. rec. with E. G. H, Lach. and Born. read ποιῆσαι, with A. B. and Cod. Sin.—Meyer says that γενέσθαι is decidedly attested, and that the reading ποιῆσαι is to be thus explained: ποιήσῃ was added as a gloss to πείθεις --- γενέσθαι. He adds in a note: “The reading ποιῆσαι which was adopted, occasioned in A. a change of πείθεις into ΠΕΙΘΗΙ, which Lachm. (Præf. p10) regards as correct: ‘Parva opera speras fore ut me Christianum facias.’ Alford, who retains γεν. says that ποιῆσαι “apparently proceeded from a confusion of two readings, one of which was με Χρισ. ποιησεις.”—Tisch. retained γεν. in the edition of1849.—Tr.]

FN#17 - Acts 26:29. a. εἶπεν [of text. rec.] after δέ II. is also [like ἔφη, in Acts 26:28] an interpolation. [It is found in G. H, but omitted in A. B. Cod. Sin. Vulg, and is cancelled by Lach, Tisch, and Alf.—Tr.]

FN#18 - Acts 26:29. b. The authorities in favor, respectively, of μεγάλῳ [before οὐ μόνον] and of πολλῷ [of text. rec.] had hitherto been of equal weight [μεγ. being found in A. B. Vulg. (magno), and πολ. in G. H. fathers, etc.]. Internal evidence alone had led critics like Lachmann and Tischendorf [also Borneman and Alford] to prefer the former. Their opinion has been established as correct, by the Sinaitic Codex, so that at present the weight of the external evidence is also decidedly in favor of μεγάλῳ.

FN#19 - Acts 26:30. The words καὶ ταῦτα εἰπόντος αυτοῦ. before ἀνέστη, are not found either in Cod. Alex. [A.], or in Cod. Vat. [B.], and were undoubtedly interpolated. [They are found in G. H. but are not reproduced in the Vulgate, and are rejected by recent critics generally, τε being inserted from A. B. after ἀνέστη. The words are omitted in Cod. Sin, which proceeds, after Acts 26:29 thus: ανεστη τε ο βασιλ ….—Tr.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Acts 26:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/acts-26.html. 1857-84.

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