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Acts 26

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

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Verses 1-29

Paul’s Speech to King Agrippa Acts 26:1-29 records Paul’s speech before King Agrippa. This speech will be the third testimony of his conversion on the Damascus Road recorded in the book of Acts (see Acts 22:1-21, Acts 26:1-23). Paul’s divine calling on the Damascus Road and the visitation by Ananias (Acts 9:1-18) served as an anchor for his soul throughout his life. In fact, he will often refer back to this event. It is during some of his most difficult trials that he stands upon his divine visitations to strengthen him and secure himself in his calling.

John Chrysostom notes that Paul’s argument builds itself upon two testimonies: the Old Testament Scriptures testify of the hope of the resurrection of the dead, and Paul himself encountered the resurrected Christ Jesus on the road to Damascus through a divine vision. [306]

[306] John Chrysostom, The Homilies of John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, On the Acts of the Apostles, Translated, With Notes and Indices, Part I Homilies XXIX-LV, in The Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Anterior to the Division of the East and the West (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1852), 686.

Acts 26:1 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:

Acts 26:1 Comments Each of Paul’s opening speeches reveals a man unashamed and confident of his innocence. In Acts 21:40 he turns to address the Jewish mob rather than accept deliverance from the Roman soldiers, as would be typical for someone who had committed a crime and wanted to escape punishment. In Acts 23:1 he looks intently upon the Sanhedrin and speaks boldly rather than hanging his head down in shame and guilt. In Acts 24:10 he addresses Felix the governor with cheer. In Acts 25:11 Paul boldly declares to Festus that if any wrong can be found in him, he is ready to die. In Acts 26:1-2 he stretches forth his hand as an orator and speaks unto King Agrippa.

Paul had gained years of experience in oratory skills debating with Jews in their synagogues about the resurrection of Jesus and His claim as the Messiah. While still bound with chains handing down from his outstretched hands (which are mentioned in Acts 26:29), he speaks with confidence, while showing proper respect to those whom he is addressing.

Acts 26:29, “And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.”

Albert Barnes notes that ancient statues express the posture of an orator, with the right hand extended. [307]

[307] Albert Barnes, Acts, in Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 1997), in P.C. Study Bible, v. 3.1 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc., 1993-2000), comments on Acts 26:1.

Acts 26:2 I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:

Acts 26:2 Comments - Paul opens by saying he considers it a privilege to address the king with the opportunity to defend himself. Adam Clarke notes that until now, Paul had stood before Roman magistrates who were unqualified to sort out such disputes. [308] Paul now stood before a Jew who held some interest and personal knowledge of Jewish traditions and the issues surrounding this dispute.

[308] Adam Clarke, The Acts of the Apostles, in Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 1996), in P.C. Study Bible, v. 3.1 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc., 1993-2000), notes on Acts 26:2.

Acts 26:3 Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.

Acts 26:3 Comments - Agrippa II and his two sisters Bernice and Drusilla were Jewish (Acts 24:24). Therefore, the king was naturally mindful of Jewish customs.

Acts 24:24, “And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.”

Acts 26:4 My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;

Acts 26:4 Comments - Although Paul was born in Tarsus (Acts 9:11; Acts 21:39; Acts 22:3), he was educated in Jerusalem beginning at a young age. In his earlier testimony to the Jewish mob at the time of his arrest, he says that he had been “brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers…” (Acts 22:3) Adam Clarke suggests that Paul was brought to Jerusalem at the age of twelve, citing this same age when Jesus went to the Temple and debated with the scribes (Luke 2:41-42). [309] The significance of the age of twelve in a young Jewish boy’s life is believed to be a time of transition from childhood towards adulthood. Nolland quotes a number of Jewish rabbis and sources to support the increase of duties at this time saying this was “the age at which vows became binding, parental punishment could become more severe, and fasting could be expected to be sustained for a whole day.” [310] John Gill list similar duties implemented at this age. [311]

[309] Adam Clarke, The Acts of the Apostles, in Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 1996), in P.C. Study Bible, v. 3.1 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc., 1993-2000), notes on Acts 26:4.

[310] John Nolland, Luke 1:1-20 , in Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 35A (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), S. 129.

[311] John Gill, The Gospel of Luke, in John Gill’s Expositor, in e-Sword, v. 7.7.7 [CD-ROM] (Franklin, Tennessee: e-Sword, 2000-2005), comments on Luke 2:41.

Luke 2:42, “And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.”

Acts 26:5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

Acts 26:4-5 Comments - In Acts 26:4-5 Paul begins his defense by first identifying himself as a devout Jew before King Agrippa, who himself was a Jew. Paul describes himself as someone unlikely to agitate his Jewish brothers. Thus, the king could understand Paul’s mindset, as a person having been raised and educated in strict Jewish customs. The EGT notes that the Pharisees adhered not only to the Mosaic Law, but a long list of customs of the elders. [312] Paul includes King Agrippa into this description by calling the Jewish faith “our religion.” Thus, in the religion of King Agrippa II and Paul, the apostle clearly excelled the more abundantly in these Jewish traditions and virtues, a fact that should have impressed Agrippa II.

[312] W. Robertson Nicoll, ed., The Expositor’s Greek Testament, vol. 2 (New York: George H. Doran Company, n.d.), 501.

Acts 26:6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers:

Acts 26:7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.

Acts 26:7 “instantly serving God day and night” Comments - The phrase “day and night,” or “night and day,” is used on seven occasions by the Gospel writers (Mark 4:23; Mark 5:5, Luke 2:37; Luke 18:7, Acts 9:24; Acts 20:31; Acts 26:7) and five times by Paul (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 3:10, 2Th 3:10 , 1 Timothy 5:5, 2 Timothy 1:3).

Mark 4:27, “And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.”

Mark 5:5, “And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.”

Luke 2:37, “And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.”

Luke 18:7, “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?”

Acts 9:24, “But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.”

Acts 20:31, “Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.”

Acts 26:7, “Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.”

1 Thessalonians 2:9, “For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.”

1 Thessalonians 3:10, “Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?”

2 Thessalonians 3:8, “Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:”

1 Timothy 5:5, “Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.”

2 Timothy 1:3, “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;”

Acts 26:6-7 Comments The Promise - The EGT notes that Israel’s promise was of Israel’s full restoration in the form of a Messianic kingdom, preceded by the resurrection from the dead. [313] Alfred Edersheim says this hope expressed itself when the multitudes of Israel came out to hear the preaching of John the Baptist, and when they gathered in Galilee to listen to Jesus Christ teach about the kingdom of heaven, and when they opened their homes to those whom Jesus sent out by twos. This hope also expressed itself in the apocalyptic literature [314] that has become popular among the Jews for several centuries. [315] This hope kept Anna in the Temple night and day praying for her people. This hope moved various Jews to rise up in sedition against Roman rule in Palestine. This hope is why various Jewish sects emerged, such as the Sadducees, Pharisees and Essenes, all preparing themselves for the coming of the Messiah. In other words, this hope and expectation of the Messiah and all that the rabbis taught in the synagogues concerning him were continually upon the minds of the Jewish people. Thus, King Agrippa clearly understood Paul’s references to this hope of Israel.

[313] W. Robertson Nicoll, ed., The Expositor’s Greek Testament, vol. 2 (New York: George H. Doran Company, n.d.), 501.

[314] Apocalyptic literature became popular among the Jews several centuries before Christ. The Jewish apocalyptic books entitled 1 Enoch, The Assumption of Moses (The Testament of Moses), 4 Ezra (2 Esdras), 2 Baruch, and Apocalypse of Abraham are believed to have been written from the second century B.C. to the second century A.D. Other Jewish writings, such as Sibylline Oracles, Jubilees, and The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, contain passages that are apocalyptic in nature. See R. J. Bauckham, “Apocalyptic,” in New Bible Dictionary, second edition, ed. J. D. Douglas (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishing, c1962, 1982), 54.

[315] Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ (New York: Hodder & Stoughton, n.d.), 67.

Acts 26:11 “I persecuted them even unto strange cities” Comments - The phrase “strange cities” literally reads “the outside cities.” Paul travels to those cities outside of the land of Palestine.

Acts 26:14 “And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me” - Comments In the Parable of the Judgment of the Nations (Matthew 25:31-46) Jesus says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Therefore, when Saul of Tarsus was persecuting Christians, he was persecuting Jesus.

Acts 26:14 “it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” Word Study on “pricks” - Strong says the Greek word “pricks” ( κέντρον ) (G2759) means, “a point, a sting, a goad.”

Comments Within the context of Acts 9:5, the word “pricks” refers to the ox-goad, which was made from a long stick with some sharp object fastened on its end, being used to poke the ox and get him to move forward in his harness to pull the cart. We can imagine Paul traveling along the Damascus road in a convoy of horses, men, and wagons, with a team of oxen being prodded along the way using an ox goad. This metaphor that Jesus uses would have immediate application to what Paul was doing to the Christian in his efforts to persecute and imprison them.

Heinrich Meyer translates the phrase “kick against the prick” as, “It is for thee a difficult undertaking.” [316]

[316] Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Acts of the Apostles, trans. Paton J. Gloag, ed. William P. Dickson (New York: Funk and Wagnalis, 1884), 275.

The classical Greek and Latin writers used the phrase “kick against the prick” often enough to assume that it was, as Basil Gildersleeve suggests, an ancient proverb. [317]

[317] Basil L. Gildersleeve, Pindar The Olympian and Pythian Odes (New York: American Book Company, 1885), 267. The ancient Athenian tragedian Euripides (480-406 B.C.) writes, “Better to yield him prayer and sacrifice, Than kick against the pricks, since Dionyse, Is God, and thou but mortal.” (The Bacchae 191) See Euripides, The Bacchae of Euripides, trans. Gilbert Murray (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd, c1904, 1920), 46. The ancient Greek lyric poet Pindar (522-443 B.C.) writes, “But he, the patient and the wise. Who to the yoke his neck applies, Lifts not, like oxen prone to feel Each casual sting, his angry heel Be my complacent temper shown, Conversing with the good alone.” (The Second Pythian Ode 2.173-175) See Pindar, Pindar and Anacreon, trans. C. A. Wheelwright and Thomas Bourne (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1846), 106. The ancient Roman playwright Terence (195/185-159 B.C.) writes, “Yes, yes, it is folly kicking against the pricks.” (Phormia 1.2.27) See John Sargeaunt, Terance, vol. 2, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1959), 15.

Acts 26:17 Comments - The Scriptures list three people groups that God has used throughout His redemptive history: the Church, the Jews and the Gentiles. These groups are all listed together in 1 Corinthians 10:32, “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:” We see a reference to such a distinction of people groups in Acts 26:17.

Acts 26:14-18 Comments Paul’s Divine Commission In Acts 26:14-18 Paul recounts an aspect of his divine commission from the Lord during his Damascus Road conversion that he did not mention in the two earlier accounts of this event (Acts 9:1-8; Acts 22:6-11). Saul was commissioned by the chief priests to go to Damascus on their “divine” assignment. The Lord instead gives him a new assignment in the midst of his Jewish one, appointing him to a far greater commission than his task at hand. While the Jewish leaders were sending Paul as far as Damascus, the Lord tells Paul that he was destined to travel to the nations. In this vision, the Lord also says, “unto which I myself will send you;” thus, such a heavenly commission radically altered how Paul understood a divine assignment. He now understood that he was to receive his directions for divine service from the Lord and not from men. This is why Paul opens his epistle to the Galatians saying, “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)” (Galatians 1:1)

Acts 26:19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:

Acts 26:20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

Acts 26:20 Comments - Paul’s summary of his ministry and missionary efforts in Acts 26:20, beginning in Damascus, Jerusalem, Judaea, and to the Gentiles, reflects the commission that Jesus gave the Church in Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” The fact that Paul commented in one of his earliest epistles to the Galatians (Galatians 1:22) that he was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea does not contradict the fact that his ministry extended into this region, if only by word of testimony among the churches. In other words, Paul’s statement in Acts 26:20 does not necessitate him visiting and preaching in Judaea, because his fame certainly spread there. However, he does say that he preached “throughout all the coasts of Judaea,” an event that is not necessarily recorded in Scripture.

Galatians 1:22, “And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:”

Acts 26:26 Comments - Paul proves his denial of madness by appealing to fact that the Gospel was well-known by many. At this time in early Church history, approximately thirty years since the resurrection of Christ Jesus (A.D. 30 to 60), the stories of Jesus Christ had embedded themselves among the Jews, and among many Gentiles throughout the Roman Empire. It was not a story that was easily forgotten, as were other Jewish insurgents in Palestine. This story was now being proclaimed with passion and conviction from all corners of the Roman Empire.

Acts 26:28 “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” - Comments - Heinrich Meyer translates the phrase ἐν ὀλίγῳ in the instrumental case, thus reading “With little thou persuadest me to become a Christian.” Others render it as a temporal phrase, “In a short (time) thou persuadest me to become a Christian.” Still others understand it temporally to mean, “for a little, i.e. almost, thou persuadest me to become a Christian.” [318]

[318] Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Acts of the Apostles, trans. Paton J. Gloag, ed. William P. Dickson (New York: Funk and Wagnalis, 1884), 283.

Acts 26:28 Comments - A man must be convicted of sin to see the need of salvation, not merely persuaded (Luke 16:31).

Luke 16:31, “And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded , though one rose from the dead.”

Verses 1-32

The Fifth Witness of Paul’s Innocence, Standing Before Agrippa and Bernice (A.D. 60) Acts 25:13 to Acts 26:32 gives us the lengthy testimony of Paul standing trial before King Agrippa. This is the fifth and final speech that Paul will make before his accusers before setting forth to Rome to face the highest court in the Roman Empire. Paul has spoken before the Jewish mob at the Temple (Acts 21:15 to Acts 22:29); he has been taken before the Sanhedrin and addressed the Jewish leaders (Acts 22:30 to Acts 23:35); he has stood before Felix the governor (Acts 24:1-27); he has stood before Festus the subsequent governor (Acts 25:1-12), and now he stands before King Agrippa (Acts 25:13 to Acts 26:32). These preliminary trials lead up to Paul’s appeal to Caesar. Many scholars suggest Luke compiles this sequence of trials in order to reveal Paul’s innocence as a legal defense that could have been used during Paul’s actual trial.

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. Festus Recounts Paul’s Defense to King Agrippa Acts 25:13-22

2. The Opening Speech of Festus Acts 25:23-27

3. Paul’s Speech to King Agrippa Acts 26:1-29

4. The Verdict of King Agrippa Acts 26:30-32

Verses 30-32

Acts 26:30-32 The Verdict of King Agrippa Acts 26:30-32 records the final verdict of King Agrippa in which he official the official decision to send Paul to Rome.

Acts 26:30 Comments - Meyer notes that such a direct question from Paul to King Agrippa may have embarrassed him to the point of ending this meeting and departing. He also comments on the fact that those who had gathered to hear Paul now arose according to “the order of rank,” the king, then the governor, Bernice, then those who had accompanied them. [319]

[319] Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Acts of the Apostles, trans. Paton J. Gloag, ed. William P. Dickson (New York: Funk and Wagnalis, 1884), 284.

Acts 26:32 Comments - Both King Agrippa and Festus realized that Paul was not guilty of any offence worthy of death. The early Church tradition tells us that Paul stood before Caesar and was acquitted during his first Roman imprisonment. [320] King Agrippa’s advice gave Festus the authority needed to send Paul to Rome.

[320] Clement of Rome says Paul was “a teacher of righteousness unto the whole world” and that before Paul died, he “reached the furthest bounds of the West and bore testimony before the ruling powers.” ( 1 Clement 5:6-7) Eusebius says, “Festus was sent by Nero to be Felix's successor. Under him Paul, having made his defense, was sent bound to Rome. Aristarchus was with him, whom he also somewhere in his epistles quite naturally calls his fellow-prisoner. And Luke, who wrote the Acts of the Apostles, brought his history to a close at this point, after stating that Paul spent two whole years at Rome as a prisoner at large, and preached the word of God without restraint. Thus after he had made his defense it is said that the apostle was sent again upon the ministry of preaching, and that upon coming to the same city a second time he suffered martyrdom. In this imprisonment he wrote his second epistle to Timothy, in which he mentions his first defense and his impending death.” ( Ecclesiastical History 2. 22.1-2)

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Acts 26". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/acts-26.html. 2013.
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