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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

Acts 22

Verses 1-99

22:1 21 . St Paul’s Defence

1 . Men, brethren, and fathers ] The Greek is amply rendered (with Rev. Ver. ) by “ Brethren and fathers .” See note on 1:16.

hear ye my defence which I make now unto you ] The Rev. Ver. substitutes the for my and puts now before make . There seems nothing gained by either change, the former of which leaves a pronoun which is in the original without anything to represent it. The A. V. does represent it, though not exactly after the manner of the Greek construction.

2 . And … Hebrew tongue ] The beckoning with the hand (21:40) had procured silence enough for the Apostle’s first words to be heard, and now they caught the sound of their own dialect.

they kept the more silence ] The noun in the original refers not only to peace from cries and shouts, but to general quietness, such as would be produced by refraining from all movements. It expresses a very high degree of quietness. Rev. Ver. has “ they were the more quiet .”

3 . I am verily a man which am a Jew ] The word rendered verily is omitted in the oldest MSS. The Rev. Ver. has “ I am a Jew ,” and this renders the original fully enough. Cp. note on verse I above. These first words of the Apostle would correct many wrong impressions among the crowd, for we may be sure that many, beside the Chief Captain, had the notion that St Paul was one of those foreign desperadoes with which Judæa abounded at this time.

born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia ] Better, “ born in Tarsus of Cilicia ” with the Rev. Ver. On Tarsus see note on 6:9.

brought up in this city ] St Paul means not that from his infancy he had lived in Jerusalem, but that, when he had reached an age fitted for it, he was sent from home to be educated under Gamaliel. The verb is used in this sense in classical Greek. On Gamaliel , see note on 5:34.

at the feet ] (Cp. Luke 10:39 .) The most usual position of teacher and pupils at the time of St Paul was that both should sit, the former on a higher level than the latter. For the evidence on this matter from the Talmud, see Taylor, Pirke Aboth , pp. 28, 29.

and taught [ instructed ] according to the perfect [ strict ] manner of the law of the [ our ] fathers, and was [ being ] zealous , &c.] For an account by the Apostle himself of his Jewish birth, education, and character, cf. Philippians 3:5 , Philippians 3:6 . He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and his language shews how learned he was in all that concerned his own people. He makes frequent allusions to Jewish customs, laws, and festivals, and reckons his time by the Jewish calendar. He was also a Pharisee, and none of his contemporaries surpassed him while but few equalled him in strictness of legal observance.

as ye all are ] The Apostle wishes to put himself in an acceptable light before them, and for that reason explains that he was, like themselves, a zealous observer of the law.

4 . And I persecuted this way , &c.] On “the Way” as the designation of the Christian religion, cp. note on 9:2 We are not told of any Christians who were put to death through Saul’s zealous persecution, for in the case of Stephen he was not a very active agent, but his own statement in this verse, and the stronger expression 26:10, “when they were put to death I gave my voice against them,” make it certain that the persecutions in which he took part were carried beyond imprisonment even to the martyrdom of the accused.

into prisons ] The original has the plural “prisons,” and it is probably intended to express by it, what in chap. 26 is given in more detail, the wide field over which Saul’s zeal was exerted, “being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.”

5 . the high priest doth bear me witness ] The Apostle refers not to the high priest at the time when he was speaking, but to him who had held that office when (9:1) in his earnestness against the Christians he had desired a commission from the authorities to carry his persecuting measures as far as Damascus. Josephus ( Ant . xviii. 5, 3) tells us that in a.d. 37 Theophilus, son of Ananus, was made high priest in the place of his brother Jonathan. The high priest to whom St Paul here alludes was one of these two brothers, for Theophilus held office till he was removed by Agrippa and his place occupied by Simon, called Kantheras (see Jos. Ant , xix. 6, 2, and cp. Farrar’s St Paul , i. 178). Ananias was high priest at the time of St Paul’s arrest. See 23:2.

and all the estate of the elders ] Though it was now more than twenty years since St Paul’s conversion, yet it was not improbable that some members of the Sanhedrin which granted him his commission were still alive, and the records of the transaction were doubtless preserved and could be appealed to.

letters unto the brethren ] i.e. to the Jewish authorities in Damascus. The Jews spake of all their race as brethren from early times (cp. Deuteronomy 18:15 ).

to bring them which were there, bound unto Jerusalem ] The English of the A. V. is not free from ambiguity. The Greek is plain, and the Rev. Ver. gives the sense clearly “to bring them also which were there unto Jerusalem in bonds.”

6 . about noon ] The time of the day at which the vision occurred is not noticed in chap. 9, but in chap. 26 the Apostle also mentions that it was “at mid-day,” at which time the heavenly brightness must have been very overpowering to shine above the glare of an Eastern sun.

7 . and heard a voice ] As in chap. 9:4 and 7, so here, and below in verse 9, the case of the noun is varied, so as to mark that the hearing in St Paul’s case was different from the hearing of his companions. The verb can be connected with either a genitive or accusative case. In both the narratives a variation is made, and it was not without its significance (see notes on chap. 9). St Paul heard intelligible words, the others heard a sound, but it was not speech to them. Cp. the narrative in Daniel 10:6-9 .

8 . of Nazareth ] This is found only here in chap, 22, the other two accounts omitting the words, though in some MSS., to make one story exactly like the other, they are inserted in 9:5. Such assimilation of verses to each other is not uncommon in the Acts.

9 . and were afraid ] These words are omitted in the oldest MSS. and have been left out in the Rev. Ver. But they are not like anything in the other two accounts, the one of which (9:7) describes Saul’s companions as being “speechless,” the other (26:14) as “all falling to the ground.” Therefore it seems best to retain them, as not being due to any annotation, or to the assimilation of one form of the story to another. The last three letters of this phrase are the same as those of the phrase preceding it, and the eye of a scribe in early times may have passed from one to the other, and thus words belonging to the earliest form of the narrative may have been omitted.

heard not the voice ] i.e. the words which were spoken to Saul. They were only conscious of a sound around them. See above on verse 7.

10 . which are appointed for thee to do ] God explained this to Ananias (see 9:15), how Saul was a chosen vessel to bear His name before Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel; and still more about his labours was to be revealed to the new Apostle himself. According to 26:16 18 the character of the work to which he was called was from the first indicated to Saul; though as no mention is made of Ananias in that passage, it may well be that the Apostle there brings into one statement both the words he heard on the way, and those which were afterwards spoken to him by Ananias.

11 . could not see for the glory of that light ] This explanation of the reason of the Apostle’s blindness is only given in this place.

12 . Ananias, a devout man according to the law , &c.] The Apostle neglects nothing in his address which can conciliate his audience, and so he tells them that the messenger whom God sent to him was “well reported of by all the Jews that dwelt in Damascus.” (For Ananias see note on 9:10.) The hostility towards Christians, which was so strong in Jerusalem, had not at the time of St Paul’s conversion manifested itself so greatly in Damascus, since Ananias “a disciple” was still in good repute with the Jews there.

13 . and stood ] The fuller force of the compound verb is given by the Rev. Ver. “and standing by me.”

receive thy sight … I looked up , &c.] The verb is the same in both places, and this the Rev. Ver. has noted in the margin. But the word is used in both senses elsewhere in N. T., as of Jesus (Luke 19:5 ) looking up and seeing Zacchæus in the sycomore tree, and (John 9:11 ) of the blind man who received his sight.

And the same hour ] Rev. Ver. with strict grammatical warrant, “ and in that very hour .”

14 . The God of our fathers , &c.] Ananias spake naturally as one Jew to another. At the commencement of the Christian Church there was no thought of a rupture with Judaism, and nothing is more to be noticed in the Acts than the gradual advance made by the Apostles and their companions in apprehending what the result of their mission would be.

hath chosen thee ] The verb, which is found only in the Acts in the N. T., has the sense of committing a work into anyone’s hands. So Rev. Ver. appointed .”

that thou shouldest know his will ] For this reason it is that St Paul so often in the commencement of his Epistles speaks of himself as an Apostle according to the will of God. 1 Corinthians 1:1 ; 2 Corinthians 1:1 ; Ephesians 1:1 ; Colossians 1:1 , &c. The whole passage Ephesians 1:1-11 is a comment on this clause.

and see that Just One ] Rev. Ver. see the righteous One ,” i.e. Jesus, called “the Holy One and the Just” (Acts 3:14 ) and “the Just One” (7:52), in both which places the R. V. reads “Righteous,” thus connecting all the passages with 1 John 2:1 , “We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth ] Rev. Ver. a voice from , &c.” In this way Paul was taught of Jesus as the other Apostles.

15 . For thou shalt be his witness , &c.] Thus the commission of the later-called Apostle was in the same terms as those in which Christ had spoken (Acts 1:8 ) to the eleven before his Ascension.

unto all men ] Paul does not utter the word “Gentiles” until he is forced to do so.

of what thou hast seen and heard ] For by revelation the Apostle was made aware of the whole scope of Christian truth, and of those doctrines which Christ in His life on earth had communicated to the Twelve.

16 . why tarriest thou? ] According to the narrative in 9:15 the message of Ananias had already proclaimed the gift of the Holy Ghost to Saul, and the favour of God had been shewn in the recovery of his sight. So the question of Ananias becomes parallel to that of St Peter in the house of Cornelius: “Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?”

arise, and be baptized ] Though the gift of the Spirit was announced, yet God directs that the means of grace, the sacrament of baptism, which the Apostle must offer to others, should also be received by himself.

and wash away thy sins ] The close connexion of the sacramental sign with renewing grace is spoken of in like terms by the Apostle in his Epistle to Titus (3:5) “according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.”

calling on the name of the Lord ] The oldest authorities give “calling on His name,” which refers back to “the Just One.” Probably the Textus Receptus is due to a desire to make the phrase accordant with 2:21.

17 . when I was come again to Jerusalem ] Rev. Ver. “had returned.” This refers to that visit of the Apostle recorded in Acts 9:26 seqq. We learn from Galatians 1:18 that three years had elapsed between the conversion of Saul and this visit to Jerusalem, which period is supposed to have been consumed in Arabia (cp. Galatians 1:17 ). The preaching of Saul at Jerusalem we are told in the Acts roused the anger of the Greek-speaking Jews, and that in consequence of their attempts against Saul the Christian congregation sent him away first to Cæsarea and then to Tarsus.

even while I prayed in the temple ] It is worthy of note how often in this address St Paul incidentally expresses himself in such wise as to conciliate the crowd. His visit to the temple for the purpose of prayer was at once a proof that he was not likely to despise Jewish ordinances and religious observances.

I was in a trance ] Better (with Rev. Ver. ), “I fell into a trance.” This was the occasion of one of those “visions and revelations of the Lord” of which St Paul speaks to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 12:1 ) and with which, from his conversion onwards, he was many times instructed and comforted.

18 . and saw him saying unto me ] In Acts 9:29-30 no mention is made that a vision had appeared to Saul commanding him to depart from Jerusalem. It is only said that “the disciples” sent him away. But these two statements are not inconsistent with each other. Saul might be warned to go, and the disciples at the same time prompted to send him. In the same way two different causes, one natural, the other supernatural, are mentioned Acts 13:2-4 , viz . the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and the act of the Church of Antioch. And still more like is the statement of St Paul (Galatians 2:2 ), that he went up to Jerusalem “by revelation,” when it is placed side by side with Acts 15:2 where we are told that the Christians of Antioch determined that Paul and Barnabas should go up to consult the church in Jerusalem.

get thee quickly out of Jerusalem ] We know from Galatians 1:18 that the duration of the Apostle’s stay was but fifteen days.

receive thy testimony concerning me ] Better (with Rev. Ver. ), “receive of thee testimony, &c.” The Apostle, as is clear from what follows in the next verse, considered that he would be specially a messenger likely to persuade and convince men of the truths of the Christian faith. God, in the vision, points out that this will not be so.

19 . Lord, they know , &c.] The Rev. Ver. gives “they themselves know” to mark that the pronoun is emphatic. This is not English, but there seems to be no other way of indicating in our language the emphasis which is expressed in the original. Saul is confident that he will be well known by many to whom he is speaking, and that his zealous persecution of the Christians less than four years before cannot have fallen out of men’s memories.

I imprisoned and beat ] The Greek implies that this conduct was of some continuance. Saul was regularly engaged in the work.

in every synagogue ] For the synagogues as places where such punishment was inflicted cp. Matthew 10:17 , Matthew 23:34 , Mark 13:9 , Luke 21:12 . That they were also places in which charges were heard is seen from Luke 12:11 .

20 . thy martyr Stephen ] Better, “Stephen, thy witness .” The Greek word had not yet come to be applied as it afterwards was to those Christians who bore witness to the truth by their death.

and consenting unto his death ] The oldest authorities omit the last three words, which are added to bring the phrase into exact accord with 8:1.

kept the raiment ] cp. 7:58.

21 . I will send thee far hence , &c.] Rev. Ver. “will send thee forth far hence, &c.” We need not understand the command as implying that the Apostle’s missionary labours were to begin from that moment, but that God’s work for him was now appointed, and would begin in His own time, but would be not among Jews or Greeks at Jerusalem, but among the Gentiles in distant places.

unto the Gentiles ] St Paul had kept back the word which he was sure would rouse their anger as long as ever he could, and we may well suppose from the conciliatory tone of much of his speech that the attention of the crowd had been enlisted, for the speaker was a man of culture and spake their own tongue. But when the Gentiles are spoken of as recipients of God’s message they break forth into all the excitement of an Oriental mob.

22 29 . Fury of the Jews. The Chief Captain orders Paul to be scourged, but on hearing that he is a roman, recalls the order in alarm

22 . unto this word ] It is probable that, though listening, they were not well-pleased at some things which they heard. Their pent-up feelings broke into instant execration at the hated word.

and then lift up ] The Rev. Ver. omits “then” for which there is no word in the original, but it is needed for the English sense, and would be therefore better retained.

for it is not fit ] The best authorities read “It was not fit.” And this no doubt expresses the feeling of the mob. They had listened for a time, but when the speaker made mention of “the Gentiles” they were at once clear that he ought long ago to have been destroyed. He had been all along a man who was not fit to live.

23 . cast off their clothes ] i.e. the loose upper robe, which could easily be laid aside, and which in such an excitement would interfere with their movements. Compare the conduct of the crowd when our Lord rode into Jerusalem, and also the behaviour of Jehu’s friends, 2 Kings 9:13 .

and threw dust into the air ] Compare the action of Shimei, 2 Samuel 16:13 , where the marginal rendering shews that the dust was thrown at David. Perhaps it may have been meant in the present case to be thrown at St Paul, who was above the crowd, at the top of the stairs. The attempt to reach him with what they threw was futile, but it shewed what they would fain have done. For a like action as a sign of grief cp. Job 2:12 .

24 . the chief captain , &c.] Probably the chief captain knew nothing of what St Paul had been saying, and would be surprised at the outbreak of rage on the part of the people, and conclude from it that there was some serious charge laid against him which he might best ascertain by subjecting his prisoner to torture till he should confess.

wherefore they cried so against him ] The Rev. Ver. has “for what cause they so shouted against him,” and the verb is rendered “gave a shout” (Acts 12:22 ), but there it is the voice of the applauding crowd that is spoken of. In this verse and Luke 23:21 (the only other passage in which the word is found in N. T.) “cry” seems to express better in English the utterance of an infuriated mob. It is true that a different verb is rendered by “cry” in verse 23, but that proves that the Greeks had two verbs which they could use for the noise of a mob, while in English we appear not to be so rich. In the A. V. “shout” seems always used of triumph and exultation.

25 . And as they bound him with thongs ] Rev. Ver. “And when they had tied him up with the thongs.” This gives more of the force of the verb in the Greek which implies the stretching of the prisoner forward, so that he may be in a position to receive the blows. Some have translated “for the thongs,” but the word rendered “thongs” is one which is always used for straps employed for straining or binding tight, and rarely, if ever, for the implement by which the chastisement is inflicted.

the centurion that stood by ] He was superintending the work of fastening the prisoner to the whipping-post, which was done by the common soldiers.

a man that is a Roman ] It was an offence punishable with the severest penalties for a man to claim to be a Roman citizen, if he were not one. The peril of such an assertion, if it were not true, convinces the centurion at once, and though we are not told so expressly we may feel sure that the operation of “tying up” was stopped.

26 . Take heed what thou doest ] The oldest texts omit the word for “take heed” and so make the remainder to be a blunt question “What art thou about to do?” And thus Rev. Ver. It was forbidden, under heavy penalty, by the Lex Porcia , to scourge a Roman citizen (Liv. 10:9).

28 . obtained I this freedom ] Better “ this citizenship ” ( Rev. Ver. ). Probably at the time when the A. V. was made “freedom” conveyed somewhat of this sense as we speak still of bestowing on any one the “freedom” of a city, meaning thereby all the rights of a citizen. It was the Roman boast “I am a Roman citizen ,” (Cic. in Verr . v. 63). The sale of the freedom of Rome was at times the perquisite of some of the Imperial parasites and favourites, who made what they could of such a privilege.

I was free born ] Rev. Ver. “I am a Roman born.” How St Paul came to be a Roman citizen by birth we cannot tell, probably some ancestor for meritorious conduct had been rewarded with enfranchisement. Tarsus was a free city, and had its own laws and magistrates, but that did not constitute its inhabitants Roman citizens.

29 . which should have examined him ] This is old English for “which were about to examine him” which the Rev. Ver. gives. The verb is euphemistically employed for the scourging which it was proposed to administer to obtain information from St Paul.

because he had bound him ] i.e. bound him for the purpose of scourging. To be bound with a chain as a prisoner was not prohibited in the case of Romans. Hence we find St Paul speaking often in the Epistles, written during his imprisonment at Rome, of the bonds and the “chain” with which he was afflicted. Cp. Philippians 1:7 , Philippians 1:13 , Philippians 1:14 , Philippians 1:16 ; Colossians 4:18 ; Philemon 1:10 , Philemon 1:13 . Also Acts 28:20 , while the next verse in this chapter shews that though the Apostle was unloosed from the whipping-post, he was still kept in bands.

30 . The Chief Captain brings Paul before the Sanhedrin

30 . because he would have known ] Literally and better (with Rev. Ver. ) “desiring to know.” The Chief Captain was anxious as a Roman officer, that justice should be done, and this could only be by having both sides before some authoritative council.

he loosed him from his bands ] The oldest MSS. do not contain the last three words, but they are to be understood, whether expressed or not.

and commanded the chief priests ] He had discovered thus much that the offence charged against his prisoner was concerning the religion of the Jews. He therefore summons the chief religious authorities as those who were best able to decide whether any wrong had been done.

and all their council ] The oldest text omits “their.” The council intended was the whole Jewish Sanhedrin.

to appear ] i.e. to be assembled in some place to which he might bring Paul, and have the case fairly discussed. The place where the Sanhedrin met for their own consultations was called Lishkath-Haggazith and was a hall built of cut stone so situate that one half was built on holy, the other half on the profane ground, and it had two doors, one to admit to each separate section. T. B. Joma 25 a . But whether this was the place of meeting at this time we have no means of deciding.

brought Paul dawn ] The castle was situate on the highest part above the temple, so that wherever he had to go, the Chief Captain must come down.

set him before them ] He appears to have left him there (see 23:10) and to have given him over to them for examination, though still taking care that he should not be the victim of mob-law.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 22". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/acts-22.html. 1896.