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Bible Commentaries

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Acts 22

Verses 23-29

Paul and the Roman Chief Captain In Acts 22:23-44.22.29 we have the account of Paul defending his right to a fair trial as a Roman citizen before the Roman chief captain. This is the first statement that would eventually lead Paul to the high court in Rome as he appealed unto Caesar, the highest authority in the Roman judicial system.

Acts 22:23 “and cast off their clothes” - Word Study on “cast off” There is a debate as to whether this Greek word is derived from ῥιπτέω or ῥιπίζω . Strong says the Greek word “cast off” is derived from ῥιπτέω (G4495) and means, “to toss up, to cast off.” BDAG also says it is derived from ῥιπτέω and means, “to throw off (clothing).” In contrast, Mouce says this word is derived from ῥιπίζω (G4494) and means, “to fan, blow, ventilate; to toss, agitate, e.g. the ocean by the wind.”

Comments There are two evenly divided views as to the meaning of the phrase “and cast off their clothes.” One view is the idea of throwing off garments ( ῥιπτέω or ῥιπτω ) (see ASV, NIV).

ASV, “threw off their garments”

KJV, “casting off their clothes”

NIV, “throwing off their cloaks”

The other is the idea of tossing about, or tearing, their garments in rage ( ῥιπίζω ) (see Alford, EGT, LITV, Rotherham, RSV), and not casting them off in order to stone Paul, since he was in custody of the Roman soldiers.

Alford, “shaking their garments, as shaking off the dust, abominating such an expression and him who uttered it”

EGT, “tossing about their garments” [286]

[286] W. Robertson Nicoll, ed., The Expositor’s Greek Testament, vol. 2 (New York: George H. Doran Company, n.d.), 461.

LITV, “tearing their garments”

Rotherham, “tearing their mantles”

RSV, “waving their garments”

Acts 22:24 The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him.

Acts 22:24 Comments - Some commentators suggest that the Roman commander did not understand Paul’s Hebrew speech. [287] The commander decided to take an action that would reveal to them the reason for this hostility.

[287] Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Acts of the Apostles, second edition, trans. Paton J. Gloag, and William P. Dickson, ed. William Ormiston (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1884), 420.

Acts 22:25 And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?

Acts 22:25 “And as they bound him with thongs” Word Study on “bound” - Strong says the Greek word “bound” ( προτείνω ) (G4385) means, “to stretch, to protend, to tie prostrate (for scourging).” BDAG says it means, “to stretch out, to spread out a criminal who is to be flogged.” Mouce says it means, “to extend before, to stretch out.”

Comments The idea in Acts 22:25 is that the Roman soldiers were stretching Paul out with ropes to a pillar or a post in order to scourge him. Paul’s bondage with thongs was prophesied in Acts 21:11, “And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”

Acts 22:25 “Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned” Comments - It is possible that the death penalty was invoked upon anyone who falsely claimed Roman citizenship. Suetonius tells us of a decree by the Roman emperor Claudius (A.D. 41-54) that made such a statement, “He forbade men of foreign birth to use the Roman names so far as those of the clans were concerned. Those who usurped the privileges of Roman citizenship he executed in the Esquiline field.” ( The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, bk 5 “The Deified Claudius,” 25) [288]

[288] J. C. Rolfe, Suetonius, vol. 2, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, W. H. D. Rouse, L. A. Post, and E. H. Warmington (London: William Heinemann, 1959), 51.

Acts 22:26 When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman.

Acts 22:27 Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea.

Acts 22:27 Comments - Paul was very likely dressed in traditional Jewish clothing, which would have been different than that of the Romans.

Acts 22:28 And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.

Acts 22:28 “And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom” Comments - The Roman historian Cassius (155-229 A.D.) tells us that Roman citizenship could be purchased, at first for a high price, then later for a cheap sum of money ( Roman History 60.17.4-5). [289]

[289] Cassius Dio writes, “A great many other persons unworthy of citizenship were also deprived of it, whereas lie granted citizenship to others quite indiscriminately, sometimes to individuals and sometimes to whole groups. For inasmuch as Romans had the advantage over foreigners in practically all respects, many sought the franchise by personal application to the emperor, and many bought it from Messalina and the imperial freedmen. For this reason, though the privilege was at first sold only for large sums, it later became so cheapened by the facility with which it could be obtained that it came to be a common saying, that a man could become a citizen by giving the right person some bits of broken glass.” ( Roman History 60.17.4-5) See Dio Cassius, Dio’s Roman History, vol. 7, trans. Earnest Cary, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, W. H. D. Rouse, L. A. Post, and E. H. Warmington (London: William Heinemann, 1955), 411.

Acts 22:28 “And Paul said, But I was free born” - Comments - One commentator says that Paul was a Roman citizen probably because Tarsus was a Roman colony, and all those born in such a city were Roman citizens by birth. However, the Roman commander of the garrison did not associate Tarsus with Roman citizenship for Paul, so this must not have been given to all citizens of Tarsus. [290]

[290] Thomas Scott, The Holy Bible; Containing the Old and New Testaments, According to the Authorized Version: with Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations, and Copious Marginal References, vol. 5 (London: James Nisbet and Co., 1866), notes on Acts 22:22-44.22.30.

Acts 22:29 Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.

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Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Acts 22". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.