Paul appears before the Jewish High Council, a Roman commander rescues him, Jesus personally appears before Paul, a plot by assassins is foiled, and he is taken to Caesarea, where he had landed earlier.
As I write in every introduction:
This online commentary and translation is available for free, gratis, to anyone who needs it, particularly those living in oppressive nations, who do not have access to printed Study Bibles.
The translation is mine. I wrote it to learn what the Greek text really says. The translation tends to be literal, but complete literalism and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If readers don’t read Greek, they can ignore the left side of the tables. I include the language to check my work and for Greek readers, who can also check my translation.
If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com. The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at biblehub.com. However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. And I keep things nontechnical.
The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section of Scripture, for discipleship.
Links are provided for further study.
Paul’s Introductory Remarks before Sanhedrin (Acts 23:1-5)
|1 Ἀτενίσας δὲ ὁ Παῦλος τῷ συνεδρίῳ εἶπεν· ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί, ἐγὼ πάσῃ συνειδήσει ἀγαθῇ πεπολίτευμαι τῷ θεῷ ἄχρι ταύτης τῆς ἡμέρας. 2 ὁ δὲ ἀρχιερεὺς Ἁνανίας ἐπέταξεν τοῖς παρεστῶσιν αὐτῷ τύπτειν αὐτοῦ τὸ στόμα. 3 τότε ὁ Παῦλος πρὸς αὐτὸν εἶπεν· τύπτειν σε μέλλει ὁ θεός, τοῖχε κεκονιαμένε· καὶ σὺ κάθῃ κρίνων με κατὰ τὸν νόμον καὶ παρανομῶν κελεύεις με τύπτεσθαι; 4 οἱ δὲ παρεστῶτες εἶπαν· τὸν ἀρχιερέα τοῦ θεοῦ λοιδορεῖς; 5 ἔφη τε ὁ Παῦλος· οὐκ ᾔδειν, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι ἐστὶν ἀρχιερεύς· γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι ἄρχοντα τοῦ λαοῦ σου οὐκ ἐρεῖς κακῶς.||1 Paul stared down the high council and said: “Men, brothers! With an entirely good conscience I live as a citizen to God, to this day. 2 The high priest Ananias ordered those standing near him to strike his mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is about to strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit judging me by the law, and breaking the law, you order me to be struck?” 4 The ones standing nearby said, “You insult the high priest of God?” 5 And Paul said, “I had not known, brothers, that he is the high priest. For it is written, ‘You shall not verbally abuse the ruler of the people.’” [Ex. 22:28]|
For continuity, here is the previous pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-koh-pea) or u8nit or section in Acts 22:
30 The next day, intending to find out exactly why he was accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the high council to gather and brought Paul down and stood him before them. (Acts 22:30)
“stared down”: it comes from the verb atenizō (pronounced ah-teh-nee-zoh) and also means “stare intently or intensely” or “fix one’s gaze.” Luke is fond of it: Luke 4:20; 22:56; Acts 1:10; 3:4; 3:12; 6:15; 7:55; 10:4; 11:6; 13:9; 14:9; 23:1. Then Paul uses it twice: 2 Cor. 3:7, 13. You know you have God’s authority when you can stare at satanic and broken-human attacks right in the face (so to speak). If you cannot, please pray for the inner strength and grace and anointing to be able to stand and not to fold or flag during satanic and broken human attacks (I pray this almost every day). In the power of the Spirit (not soul power), stare down this kind of opposition. Don’t flinch.
“entirely good conscience”: “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Cor. 4:4, NIV). Paul did not rely on his conscience to be acquitted in the heavenly courtroom. But down here on earth, his conscience was clear. It is possible to do the right thing throughout your life. Don’t take the doctrine of total depravity too far. It just means you are unable to save yourself before a thrice-holy God; it does not mean you cannot enjoy life, like a walk on the beach or a good concert. It does not mean that you are so wicked that you cannot think happy thoughts, and the happy thoughts you do have are sinful. That’s extreme and a denial of how God made you.
“live as a citizen”: it is the one verb politeuomai (pronounced poh-lee-too-oh-my), and you can see polit– in it (related to our word politics). It is related to the word polis, which means city-state in the ancient Greek East. We live in God’s kingdom and a human kingdom. My translation is sound, and I like it because it reminds me that I am a citizen in God’s kingdom, and this citizenship enables me to live with a good conscience in human kingdoms.
It is fantastic how Paul fought back verbally. He could have omitted the “whitewashed wall” bit, but maybe not. Jesus said about the scribes (teachers of the law) and Pharisees: “Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you are like whitewashed tombs which from the outside appear beautiful, but on the inside they of full of the bones of the dead and all sorts of uncleanness” (Matt. 23:27). The contexts differ. In Jesus’s context, he was not speaking to an assembly of official leaders but excoriating a general class of leaders. In Paul’s context, he was standing before a specific collection of leaders in a legal setting.
But Luke’s readers may have known that Ananias (not to be confused with Annas), son of Nedebaeus, who ruled AD 48 to 58 or 59, was killed by Jewish nationalists (see below). So God really did strike him down, so to speak.
The Torah says that a man must have a fair trial and is innocent until proven guilty: “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor” (Lev. 19:15, ESV). That verse says to judge justly and not favor the poor because he is poor or to be prejudiced against a rich man because he is rich. In other words, get all the fact and then decide guilt. Whether poor or rich, he is innocent until proven guilty.
16 And I charged your judges at that time, “Hear the disputes between your people and judge fairly, whether the case is between two Israelites or between an Israelite and a foreigner residing among you. 17 Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of anyone, for judgment belongs to God. Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it.” (Deut. 1:16-17, NIV)
One near-contemporary historian says that Ananias was corrupt, and people were glad when he died nine years later. Bruce says that the high priest at this time was Ananias, who got his office from Herod of Chalcis (younger brother of Herod Agrippa I) in A.D 47. He held it for eleven or twelve years. He was a bad high priest. He sent his servants to seize the tithes at the threshing floor, when the grain should have gone to the common priests. The Talmud preserves a mocking parody of Ps. 24:7 about him.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
That Yoḥanan [i.e. Ananias] ben Narbai [or Nabdai = Nebdebaeus], the disciple of Pinqai [pun on pinka or meat-dish] may go in
And fill his belly with the divine sacrifices! The ditty shows Ananias as being greedy for material, instinctive things.
Further, Ananias adopted a pro-Roman outlook and cracked down hard on Jewish nationalists, and when the war with Rome broke out in AD 66, he was dragged out of the aqueduct where he hid and put to death with his brother Hezekiah (Bruce, comment on v. 2).
In other words, he was a leader.
But why did Paul insult him? Here are some options. (1) When the order was given to hit Paul, was his head turned away so that he did not see who ordered the unjust strike. (2) Paul may not have been able to identify the high priest because Paul had not been in Jerusalem for a long time and the position was opened and filled in quick succession. And this was not an ordinary trial, but hastily called, so the high priest did not put on his full regalia. (3) Or his response could have been a display of his sarcasm, like this after he was struck: “Oh! I would not have known he was the high priest because he would not break the law like that! I couldn’t connect the dots! I shouldn’t verbally abuse such a righteous leader!” (4) Paul, being a human, lost his temper. He was infallibly inspired to write his letters, but outside of this unique call to write Scripture, he was not always inspired infallibly. I like what Longenecker says about our not being self-righteous at Paul’s reaction: “We cannot excuse Paul’s burst of anger, though we must not view it self-righteously. We are made of the same stuff as Paul, and his provocation was greater than most of us will ever face. Yet his quickness in acknowledging his wrongdoing (v. 5) was more than many of us are willing to emulate” (comment on v. 3). (5) Finally, Paul was exercising his prophetic call, as Jesus did. Here is Ezekiel’s prophecy about a whitewashed wall:
10 “‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, 11 therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. 12 When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with?”
13 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: In my wrath I will unleash a violent wind, and in my anger hailstones and torrents of rain will fall with destructive fury. 14 I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you will be destroyed in it; and you will know that I am the Lord. 15 So I will pour out my wrath against the wall and against those who covered it with whitewash. I will say to you, “The wall is gone and so are those who whitewashed it, 16 those prophets of Israel who prophesied to Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her when there was no peace, declares the Sovereign Lord.”’ (Ezek. 13:10-16)
Any one of those five options, or a combination of them, is valid. You can decide.
His apology and quotation from Scripture seems sincere (Exod. 22:28b), so he went back to Jewish law. Yet Schnable thinks the apology may not be sincere and Paul was speaking in the prophetic tradition (comments on vv. 4-5).
The abuse Paul took may have elicited sympathy with fair-minded Pharisees (Keener, p. 546).
In any case, it is good to fight back once in a while. The best example is Jesus. Maybe millions believe that throughout his ministry he did not answer his challengers. Where do they get this bad idea? The source must be at his trial. Is. 53:7 says he did not open his mouth before his accusers, but was like a lamb going to slaughter, and Peter repeats the same idea (1 Peter 2:22-23) (Matt. 27:12-14; Mark 14:60-61; 15:4-5; John 19:8-9.) Even during his trial he questioned his own beating (John 18:21-23), Yes, at his trial he did not defend himself or argue his case with the purpose of exonerating or clearing himself of the death sentence. He could have called on the Father who would send twelve legions of angels (Matt. 26:53). Instead, he was called to die for the sins of the world, so he let the unjust events take their course and remained silent in the sense of no self-defense. However, during his ministry he often replied to verbal challenges from the Pharisees and teachers of the law. He answered back and defeated them in their badgering him (Mark 2:6; 2:16; 7:1-5; 8:31; 9:14; 10:33; 11:18, 27-28; 14:1, etc.).
GrowApp for Acts 23:1-5
A.. Paul fought back. Sometimes you also may have to do this, and sometimes you do not. Have you ever had to fight for your basic rights? How did it go?
Paul Deploys A Divide-and-Conquer Strategy (Acts 23:6-11)
|6 Γνοὺς δὲ ὁ Παῦλος ὅτι τὸ ἓν μέρος ἐστὶν Σαδδουκαίων τὸ δὲ ἕτερον Φαρισαίων ἔκραζεν ἐν τῷ συνεδρίῳ· ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί, ἐγὼ Φαρισαῖός εἰμι, υἱὸς Φαρισαίων, περὶ ἐλπίδος καὶ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν [ἐγὼ] κρίνομαι. 7 τοῦτο δὲ αὐτοῦ εἰπόντος ἐγένετο στάσις τῶν Φαρισαίων καὶ Σαδδουκαίων καὶ ἐσχίσθη τὸ πλῆθος. 8 Σαδδουκαῖοι μὲν γὰρ λέγουσιν μὴ εἶναι ἀνάστασιν μήτε ἄγγελον μήτε πνεῦμα, Φαρισαῖοι δὲ ὁμολογοῦσιν τὰ ἀμφότερα. 9 ἐγένετο δὲ κραυγὴ μεγάλη, καὶ ἀναστάντες τινὲς τῶν γραμματέων τοῦ μέρους τῶν Φαρισαίων διεμάχοντο λέγοντες· οὐδὲν κακὸν εὑρίσκομεν ἐν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ τούτῳ· εἰ δὲ πνεῦμα ἐλάλησεν αὐτῷ ἢ ἄγγελος; 10 Πολλῆς δὲ γινομένης στάσεως φοβηθεὶς ὁ χιλίαρχος μὴ διασπασθῇ ὁ Παῦλος ὑπ’ αὐτῶν ἐκέλευσεν τὸ στράτευμα καταβὰν ἁρπάσαι αὐτὸν ἐκ μέσου αὐτῶν ἄγειν τε εἰς τὴν παρεμβολήν.
11 Τῇ δὲ ἐπιούσῃ νυκτὶ ἐπιστὰς αὐτῷ ὁ κύριος εἶπεν· θάρσει· ὡς γὰρ διεμαρτύρω τὰ περὶ ἐμοῦ εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ, οὕτως σε δεῖ καὶ εἰς Ῥώμην μαρτυρῆσαι.
|6 Paul, knowing that one part was Sadducee and the other was Pharisee, shouted in the High Council: “Men, brothers! I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees! I am on trial for the hope of the resurrection of the dead!” 7 When he said this, a dispute happened between the Sadducees and Pharisees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection nor angels or a spirit; the Pharisees acknowledge all of it. 9 A great shouting match took place, and some teachers of the law from the Pharisee faction stood up and waged a verbal battle: “We find nothing wrong with this man, if a spirit or angel spoke to him!” 10 When the huge dispute happened, the commander, being afraid in case Paul might be torn apart by them, ordered a contingent of troops to come down and whisk him away from the middle of them, to bring him to the barracks.
11 The next night the Lord stood before him and said, “Take courage, for as you testified to the things about me in Jerusalem, in the same way you must testify also in Rome.”
“knowing”: the verb is ginōskō (pronounced gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). The verb is so common that it is used 222 times in the NT. (Its cognate epiginōskō, pronounced eh-pea-gee-noh-skoh is used 44 times).
It is also fantastic how Paul used the divide-and-conquer strategy. It may have saved his life, if a mob had formed and stoned him to death, which happened to Stephen (Acts 7). Back then Saul / Paul was probably the one dragging him out of the council room outside of the city to watch him be killed. I can only imagine how the “shouting match” must have been. I am glad Luke recorded some of the words. It seems as though he was there. Or he may have heard a report from someone else soon after the events. Maybe it was Paul’s nephew who seemed to have slipped through the cracks in society and could listen in. Who knows?
This divide-and-conquer may not be just an extra-clever ploy. Let’s remember that Paul was still proclaiming the resurrection of the dead, which he will also do before King Agrippa (26:6-8, 22-23) and in other contexts (24:15, 21; 28:20).
“son of Pharisees”: either it means his father or grandfather was a Pharisee or else he was a “disciple” in the “school” of the Pharisees. We don’t know for sure either way.
“resurrection”: The apostles and others preached their witness to resurrection. It is always beneficial to bring any discussion you have with a friend or family member or colleague at work back to the resurrection. The apostles saw it with their own eyes. We have not (unless you personally have seen the resurrected Jesus). We should study the evidence for the resurrection. Many resources are online. However, we can also speak about his resurrection in our hearts. We were once dead in our sins, but he has raised us up to new life.
Here are the basics about resurrection in the New Testament:
1.. It was prophesied in the OT (Ps. 16:3-11; Is. 55:3; Jnh. 1:17)
2.. Jesus predicted it before his death (Mark 8:31; 9:9, 31; 10:33-34; John 2:19-22)
3.. It happened in history (Matt. 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-8; John 20:1-8)
4.. Power used to resurrect Jesus:
a.. Power of God (Acts 2:24; Eph. 1:19-20; Col. 2:12)
b.. Christ’s own power (John 10:18)
c.. Jesus is the resurrection (John 11:25-26)
d.. Power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:11; 1 Pet. 3:18)
5.. Nature of Christ’s resurrection
a.. The same body that died was raised (Luke 24:39-40; John 20:27)
b.. It was a physical body
(1)) He ate (Luke 24:41-43; John 21:12-13; Acts 10:40-41)
(2)) He could be touched (John 20:27; 1 John 1:1)
(3)) It was a gloried body (1 Cor. 15:42-44; Phil. 3:21)
(4)) He passed through locked door (John 20:19, 26)
(5)) He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9)
c.. It was also a transformed and glorified body
12. Do I Really Know Jesus? What Was His Resurrected Body Like?
And for a review of the basics, please click on this post:
11. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Was Resurrected from the Dead
You can also go to youtube to find out the evidence for it. Look for Gary Habermas or Mike Licona.
For a table of his appearances and other facts, please see:
14. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Appeared to His Disciples
“angels”: An angel, both in Hebrew and Greek, is really a messenger. Angels are created beings, while Jesus was the one who created all things, including angels (John 1:1-4). Renewalists believe that angels appear to people in their dreams or in person. It is God’s ongoing ministry through them to us.
Here is a multi-part study of angels in the area of systematic theology, but first a list of the basics.
(a) Are messengers (in Hebrew mal’ak and in Greek angelos);
(b) Are created spirit beings;
(c) Have a beginning at their creation (not eternal);
(d) Have a beginning, but they are immortal (deathless).
(e) Have moral judgment;
(f) Have a certain measure of free will;
(g) Have high intelligence;
(h) Do not have physical bodies;
(i) But can manifest with immortal bodies before humans;
(j) Can show the emotion of joy.
See my posts about angels in the area of systematic theology:
Angels: Their Duties and Missions
Angels: Their Names and Ranks and Heavenly Existence
Angels: Their Origins, Abilities, and Nature
“acknowledge”: the verb is homologeō (pronounced ho-mo-loh-geh-oh, and the “g” is hard), which is a compound: hom– = same, and log– = speak. It can mean “confess” in the sense of “agreeing and speaking” or “speaking agreement.” Other meanings, depending on the context: “promise, assure”; “agree, admit”; “declare publicly, acknowledge” “say plainly, claim, praise.” BDAG says it means, depending on the context: (1) “to commit oneself to do something, for someone, promise, assure”; (2) “to share a common view or be of common mind about a matter, agree”; (3) “to concede that something is factual or true, grant, admit, confess”; (4) “to acknowledge something, ordinarily in public, acknowledge, claim, profess, praise.”
The Torah (Pentateuch) has angels in its pages, so why would the Sadducees deny angels or spirits? Answer: Because the Pharisees may have believed that at the resurrection, people would be like or become angels and have a spiritual body or became pure spirit. The Sadducees denied either form of existence for people at the general resurrection (Marshall, comment on v. 8).
Paul was recognized as innocent (“nothing wrong with this man”). Throughout Luke’s narrative, Paul will be portrayed as innocent (Acts 23:29; 25:18-20, 25; 26:31-32). This is important in order to smack down the modern statement, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” In this case, the smoke and fire came from Paul’s enemies, not Paul or the Way (Christianity). If there is any fire, it is revival fire from the gospel.
“whisked”: it comes from the verb harpazō (pronounced hahr-pah-zoh), which means to “catch up” or “snatch away.” It appears in 2 Cor 12:2 and 4, which says Paul was caught up to the third heaven. 1 Thess. 4:17 says that believers in Jesus will be snatched up or “raptured” (same meaning in the Latin word), to meet the Lord in the air. Philip was whisked or snatched away by the Spirit, when he was transported to another place, and then he was found in the town called Azotus (Acts 8:39).
Apparently, this was not a vision. Jesus himself appeared to Paul. Peterson reminds us that the verb “take courage” in Greek is in the present tense, so it could be translated as “keep up your courage” (comment on v. 11).
Renewalists believe that visions and dreams and personal appearances still happen today. They get them all the time. It’s biblical. But your revelation must be submitted to the written Word because your revelation may not be right, but self-serving. In contrast, Scripture has stood the test of time. Your dream or vision has not. Scripture is infallible; you are not. See another similar appearance in Acts 18:10, but that was a vision.
Dreams and Visions: How to Interpret Them
Jesus tells him to take heart or courage. He was going though scary things—like his life was being threatened. Expect Jesus to speak to you in this way.
“must”: It comes from the word dei (pronounced day), and in some contexts it denotes a destiny orchestrated by God, as it does here. (Compare the French il faut, “one must” or “it is necessary,” if you know this language.) The Greek verb means: “it is necessary, one must … one ought or should … what one should do” (Shorter Lexicon). In Luke it often means divine necessity; that is, God is leading things: Luke 2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 12:12; 13:16, 33; 15:32; 17:25; 18:1; 19:5; 21:9; 22:37; 24:7; 24:26, 44; Acts 1:16; 1:21; 3:21; 4:12; 5:29; 9:6, 16; 14:22; 16:30; 17:3; 19:21; 20:35; 23:11; 25:10; 27:21; 27:24, 26.
In this context, Jesus was guiding Paul towards Rome. He is going to get there. Paul needed to be reassured because as of right now, things looked bleak. But this direct word from the Lord kept in self-control and calm and dignified, making him the master of events rather then their victim.
GrowApp for Acts 23:6-11
A.. Paul used savvy to accomplish his goal: divine and conquer. Read James 1:5-7 and 3:17. How has God given you wisdom from above in a tight spot?
B.. Jesus encouraged Paul that no matter the opposition, he would reach his goal: testifying in Rome. Has God encouraged you when you were in a tight spot? What is you goal?
Death Plot against Paul (Acts 23:12-22)
|12 Γενομένης δὲ ἡμέρας ποιήσαντες συστροφὴν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἀνεθεμάτισαν ἑαυτοὺς λέγοντες μήτε φαγεῖν μήτε πιεῖν ἕως οὗ ἀποκτείνωσιν τὸν Παῦλον. 13 ἦσαν δὲ πλείους τεσσεράκοντα οἱ ταύτην τὴν συνωμοσίαν ποιησάμενοι, 14 οἵτινες προσελθόντες τοῖς ἀρχιερεῦσιν καὶ τοῖς πρεσβυτέροις εἶπαν· ἀναθέματι ἀνεθεματίσαμεν ἑαυτοὺς μηδενὸς γεύσασθαι ἕως οὗ ἀποκτείνωμεν τὸν Παῦλον. 15 νῦν οὖν ὑμεῖς ἐμφανίσατε τῷ χιλιάρχῳ σὺν τῷ συνεδρίῳ ὅπως καταγάγῃ αὐτὸν εἰς ὑμᾶς ὡς μέλλοντας διαγινώσκειν ἀκριβέστερον τὰ περὶ αὐτοῦ· ἡμεῖς δὲ πρὸ τοῦ ἐγγίσαι αὐτὸν ἕτοιμοί ἐσμεν τοῦ ἀνελεῖν αὐτόν
16 Ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀδελφῆς Παύλου τὴν ἐνέδραν, παραγενόμενος καὶ εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὴν παρεμβολὴν ἀπήγγειλεν τῷ Παύλῳ. 17 προσκαλεσάμενος δὲ ὁ Παῦλος ἕνα τῶν ἑκατονταρχῶν ἔφη· τὸν νεανίαν τοῦτον ἀπάγαγε πρὸς τὸν χιλίαρχον, ἔχει γὰρ ἀπαγγεῖλαί τι αὐτῷ. 18 ὁ μὲν οὖν παραλαβὼν αὐτὸν ἤγαγεν πρὸς τὸν χιλίαρχον καὶ φησίν· ὁ δέσμιος Παῦλος προσκαλεσάμενός με ἠρώτησεν τοῦτον τὸν νεανίσκον ἀγαγεῖν πρὸς σὲ ἔχοντά τι λαλῆσαί σοι. 19 ἐπιλαβόμενος δὲ τῆς χειρὸς αὐτοῦ ὁ χιλίαρχος καὶ ἀναχωρήσας κατ’ ἰδίαν ἐπυνθάνετο, τί ἐστιν ὃ ἔχεις ἀπαγγεῖλαί μοι; 20 εἶπεν δὲ ὅτι οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι συνέθεντο τοῦ ἐρωτῆσαί σε ὅπως αὔριον τὸν Παῦλον καταγάγῃς εἰς τὸ συνέδριον ὡς μέλλον τι ἀκριβέστερον πυνθάνεσθαι περὶ αὐτοῦ. 21 σὺ οὖν μὴ πεισθῇς αὐτοῖς· ἐνεδρεύουσιν γὰρ αὐτὸν ἐξ αὐτῶν ἄνδρες πλείους τεσσεράκοντα, οἵτινες ἀνεθεμάτισαν ἑαυτοὺς μήτε φαγεῖν μήτε πιεῖν ἕως οὗ ἀνέλωσιν αὐτόν, καὶ νῦν εἰσιν ἕτοιμοι προσδεχόμενοι τὴν ἀπὸ σοῦ ἐπαγγελίαν. 22 ὁ μὲν οὖν χιλίαρχος ἀπέλυσεν τὸν νεανίσκον παραγγείλας μηδενὶ ἐκλαλῆσαι ὅτι ταῦτα ἐνεφάνισας πρός με.
|12 On that day, Jews formed a mob and put themselves under a curse, saying they would neither eat nor drink until they killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty who formed this conspiracy. 14 They approached the high priest and the elders and said, “We have cursed ourselves with a curse not to taste anything until we kill Paul. 15 Now you, along with the great council therefore must inform the commander that he should bring him before you, and that you are about to determine more accurately his case. Before he gets here, we are ready to kill him.”
16 The son of Paul’s sister heard about the ambush and appeared and went into the barracks to report to Paul. 17 Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Bring this young man to the commander, for he has something to report to him.” 18 And so he took and brought him to the commander and said, “The prisoner Paul called for me and requested me to bring this young man to you, having something to tell you.” 19 Taking him by his hand, the commander went apart by themselves and asked, “What is it that you have to report to me?” 20 He said, “the Jews have agreed to request that tomorrow you should bring Paul down to the great council, as though they are about to inquire more accurately about him. 21 And so you must not listen to them, for they are laying in wait for him—more than forty of them, who have put themselves under a curse not to eat or drink until they kill him; even now they are ready to receive your consent.” 22 And so the commander dismissed the young man, ordering him, “Tell no one that you have revealed these things to me.”
Fanatics putting themselves under curses is misguided, but they think they are right. Christians should never do this. In fact, I suggest you should never put yourself under a vow, particularly Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians. Paul, a Messianic Jew, allowed himself to be put under a partial vow, only for the benefit of outreach to extra-strict Messianic Jews and soon-to-be Messianic Jewish converts (Acts 21:17-26). Call it cross-cultural outreach.
Incidentally, Lev. 5:4-6 talks about getting out from under a thoughtless or careless oath, but these men entered theirs carefully and thoughtfully. Rabbis said these extreme curses and vows could be escaped from by reason of constraint. I’m not sure where the “constraint” comes in when the oath-takers did this voluntarily, so the ruling sounds empty. In any case, these forty men could get out of their vows by special permission.
Paul and his sister grew up in Jerusalem. She got married. Bruce believes that Paul’s own family may have abandoned him (Phil. 3:8, which says he suffered the loss of all things, for Christ’s sake). But here his nephew must have had a soft spot in his heart for his uncle. The unnamed young man may have gone to Jerusalem, just as Paul did at his age (comment on v. 16). Schnabel estimates that the nephew was in his late twenties or early thirties because “young man” describes someone between eighteen and thirty and because Paul was about in his fifties by now (comment on v. 16).
Right after Jesus appears to Paul and informs him that he was going to testify in Jerusalem, Paul’s nephew appears on the stage, but in the background of the stage. Clearly Jesus was leading the boy, whether he realized it or not, so Paul could be delivered. Jesus will deliver you from your troubles by arranging for a human messenger or a divine messenger to bring about circumstances in your favor.
Dear Dr. Luke, I love your narrative history and the details you do include, but would it have been too distracting to tell us the boy’s and his mother’s names? Hodesh is mentioned in the genealogies of Benjamin (1 Chron. 8:9), so maybe that was her name, since their father named his son after the king of their tribe, Saul, though the king’s character was flawed. Was it the most common name in Jewish culture at the time, Miriam? As for his nephew, Luke, how about a few appositive phrases, like “a student of rabbis” or “a Messianic Jewish boy”? Anything at all, beyond Paul having a sister and a nephew? But perhaps Luke was in the area taking notes, and it was dangerous to reveal Paul’s sister’s and his nephew’s names, if his notes were confiscated. In any case, I wrote those words out of admiration, not anger and frustration.
We don’t know how young the boy was, but the commander took him by the hand (v. 19), so he could not have been a young adult. He could not have been too young, either, because he remembers the plot in great detail. Mid-teen, maybe?
GrowApp for Acts 23:12-22
A.. In v. 11, Jesus said Paul would reach Rome. Now Paul’s nephew overhears a plot to kill his uncle. Clearly Jesus was working behind the scenes to get Paul to his goal. How has God blessed you with circumstances that work out?
The Commander Prepares to Send Paul to Caesarea (Acts 23:23-35)
|23 Καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος δύο [τινὰς] τῶν ἑκατονταρχῶν εἶπεν· ἑτοιμάσατε στρατιώτας διακοσίους, ὅπως πορευθῶσιν ἕως Καισαρείας, καὶ ἱππεῖς ἑβδομήκοντα καὶ δεξιολάβους διακοσίους ἀπὸ τρίτης ὥρας τῆς νυκτός, 24 κτήνη τε παραστῆσαι ἵνα ἐπιβιβάσαντες τὸν Παῦλον διασώσωσιν πρὸς Φήλικα τὸν ἡγεμόνα,
25 γράψας ἐπιστολὴν ἔχουσαν τὸν τύπον τοῦτον·
26 Κλαύδιος Λυσίας
τῷ κρατίστῳ ἡγεμόνι Φήλικι χαίρειν.
27 Τὸν ἄνδρα τοῦτον συλλημφθέντα ὑπὸ τῶν Ἰουδαίων καὶ μέλλοντα ἀναιρεῖσθαι ὑπ’ αὐτῶν ἐπιστὰς σὺν τῷ στρατεύματι ἐξειλάμην μαθὼν ὅτι Ῥωμαῖός ἐστιν. 28 βουλόμενός τε ἐπιγνῶναι τὴν αἰτίαν δι’ ἣν ἐνεκάλουν αὐτῷ, κατήγαγον εἰς τὸ συνέδριον αὐτῶν 29 ὃν εὗρον ἐγκαλούμενον περὶ ζητημάτων τοῦ νόμου αὐτῶν, μηδὲν δὲ ἄξιον θανάτου ἢ δεσμῶν ἔχοντα ἔγκλημα. 30 μηνυθείσης δέ μοι ἐπιβουλῆς εἰς τὸν ἄνδρα ἔσεσθαι ἐξαυτῆς ἔπεμψα πρὸς σὲ παραγγείλας καὶ τοῖς κατηγόροις λέγειν [τὰ] πρὸς αὐτὸν ἐπὶ σοῦ.
31 Οἱ μὲν οὖν στρατιῶται κατὰ τὸ διατεταγμένον αὐτοῖς ἀναλαβόντες τὸν Παῦλον ἤγαγον διὰ νυκτὸς εἰς τὴν Ἀντιπατρίδα, 32 τῇ δὲ ἐπαύριον ἐάσαντες τοὺς ἱππεῖς ἀπέρχεσθαι σὺν αὐτῷ ὑπέστρεψαν εἰς τὴν παρεμβολήν· 33 οἵτινες εἰσελθόντες εἰς τὴν Καισάρειαν καὶ ἀναδόντες τὴν ἐπιστολὴν τῷ ἡγεμόνι παρέστησαν καὶ τὸν Παῦλον αὐτῷ. 34 ἀναγνοὺς δὲ καὶ ἐπερωτήσας ἐκ ποίας ἐπαρχείας ἐστίν, καὶ πυθόμενος ὅτι ἀπὸ Κιλικίας, 35 διακούσομαί σου, ἔφη, ὅταν καὶ οἱ κατήγοροί σου παραγένωνται· κελεύσας ἐν τῷ πραιτωρίῳ τοῦ Ἡρῴδου φυλάσσεσθαι αὐτόν.
|23 Summoning two of the centurions, he said, “Make ready two hundred soldiers, to go to Caesarea, and seventy cavalrymen, and two hundred spearmen, at 21:00 hours, 24 horses for escort, putting Paul on the mount, to bring him safely through to Felix the governor.”
25 He wrote a letter having this exact content:
26 Claudius Lysias
To his Excellency the Governor Felix, greetings:
27 Through a standby detachment of soldiers I have rescued this man from being seized by the Jews, and who was about to be killed by them, after I learned that he was Roman. 28 When I intended to know the cause for which they accused him, I brought him to their High Council. 29 I discovered he was being accused about issues of their law, the charge containing nothing deserving death or imprisonment. 30 When a plot was revealed to me about to be against this man, I immediately sent him to you, also ordering the accusers to state to you the case against him.
31 And so the soldiers by this order to them took Paul and brought him at night to Antipatris. 32 At morning, they allowed the horsemen to depart with him, while they turned around to the barracks. 33 They entered Caesarea and handed over the letter to the governor and presented Paul to him. 34 He read the letter and asked from which province he was and learned from Cilicia. “I shall try your case,” he said, “whenever your accusers appear.” 35 He ordered him to be guarded in Herod’s official residence.
The number of fanatical assassins—forty of them—startled the commander, so he provided a huge military escort and protection for Paul the Roman citizen. Peterson, referring to other commentators, says that the image of all these men escorting Paul shows Paul to be a hero. I like that quick analysis. But Schnabel says it is not a big deal.
Four hundred and seventy men was about half of the force stationed in Jerusalem. This shows the urgency of bringing Paul, the Roman citizen, to safety.
21:00 hours is 9:00 p.m. I used military time.
“bring him safely through”: this comes from the one verb diasōzō (pronounced dee-ah-soh-zoh), and it literally means “save through.” It means to bring someone through to the other side, safely and soundly. Its related verb sōzō is standard for “save,” as in people being saved and healed through Christ. The verb (and noun) is very versatile.
Now we know the commander’s name. He comes across as tough and authoritative and in charge, but also kind and just.
Luke likes the military, throughout Luke Acts (Luke 3:14; 7:3-8; Acts 10; 27).
Claudius Lysias omits some details, like putting Paul in chains. Claudius presents himself as a total hero, and I have to say that in his favor he was mostly heroic!
In v. 27 the verb “learned” is the verb epiginōskō (pronounced eh-pea-gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard as in “get,” and it is used 44 times in the NT). In any case here are the basic meanings, depending on the context: (1) “know exactly, completely”; “know again, recognize”; “acknowledge’; (2) “know, learn, find out, ascertain; notice; perceive, learn of; understand, know, learn to know.” Here the second definition is best.
“Antipatris”: you can find it on only Bible maps, though there is some dispute as to its precise location.
The soldiers went back, while the horsemen went on to deliver Paul to Felix, because Paul was far enough away from Jerusalem and immediate danger. It must have been a sight to see: Paul was surrounded by seventy horsemen, coming into Caesarea, where Messianic and probably Gentile Christian prophets showed up and told him not to go into Jerusalem and he would be put in chains (Acts 21:1-14). What a grand reentrance!
GrowApp for Acts 23:23-35
A.. In Luke’s account, the Romans are portrayed as protecting Paul, while his fellow Jews are portrayed as attacking him. Have those closest to you attacked you? How have you overcome their betrayal?
B.. Have you received support for your Christian faith from surprising places and people? At church? Friends? Tell your story.
Observations for Discipleship
The part that stands out to me is Paul’s nephew. Soon after Jesus himself appeared to Paul—rather than in a vision or dream—the nephew appears behind the scenes. Clearly Jesus was guiding the boy, unknown to him, to listen in on the conspiracy. Jesus will guide and orchestrate circumstances for your favor. Always trust God through Christ to see you through to victory, so you can fulfill his mission on your life. Pray. Always pray.
Jesus personally appeared to Paul. Wow. Renewalists believe that Jesus appears to people personally or in dreams or visions. (Reports say it is happening in the Islamic world.)
What are some purposes for these visitations? When Jesus personally appears in a dream or vision or sends a messenger in his place, he shows his love for you, and he sees that you need guidance and encouragement in a special way. That has been my experience. He has encouraged and guided me through messengers in dreams (he himself has not appeared to me).
Why doesn’t God send a dream or vision or appear personally more often? First, it is no big deal—as if you are inferior—if he never sends you one. Don’t feel badly. Second, however, I believe he wants to communicate more often in these “platforms” or “formats,” but we are not listening. We are not into Scripture enough. Our minds are not getting renewed sufficiently. They get clogged with the world’s sensory data input. You may ask God for them, and let him answer according to his will.
Bock, Darrell L. Acts. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Baker Academic, 2007.
Bruce, F. F. Acts. Rev. ed. Eerdmans, 1988. (I also used his earlier work Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Commentary, Eerdmans, 1951, 1952, 1990, 3rd ed.).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger. United Bible Society, 2014. The Greek text in the tables comes from the Nestle-Aland 28th ed, available here: https://www.academic-bible.com/en/online-bibles/novum-testamentum-graece-na-28/read-the-bible-text/
Keener, Craig, S. Acts. New Cambridge Bible Commentary. Cambridge UP, 2020.
Longenecker, Richard N. Acts. Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 2007.
Marshall, I. Howard. Acts. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Tyndale, 1980.
Parsons, Mikeal C. and Martin M. Culy. Acts. A Handbook on the Greek Text. Baylor, UP, 2003.
Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Eerdmans, 2009.
Polhill, John B. Acts. New American Commentary. Vol. 26. Broadman and Holman, 1992.
Schnabel, Eckhard, J. Acts. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan, 2012.