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Bible Commentaries

Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Acts 23

Verse 1

Acts 23:1 . Ἀτενίσας , having earnestly fixed, his eyes upon ) with a countenance indicative of a good conscience; waiting also to see whether anyone of the chief priests was about to ask any question. ἐγὼ , I ) By this protestation he gained his point, that no former act of his could be alleged as a charge against him, but that that truth which he was about to assert in the end of Acts 23:6 , might be brought forward as the one and only cause of his imprisonment: ch. Acts 24:21 . συνειδήσει , conscience ) ch. Acts 24:16 ; 2 Corinthians 1:12 . Paul speaks especially of his state after conversion: for concerning his former state no one moved any controversy with him. And yet even in his former state, although he was labouring under error, he had obeyed conscience, and had not committed aught which could constitute him guilty before the bar of external justice. Now, since he has not cast away whatever of good he formerly had, but has received better goods, the light was pouring itself out of his present state into his former state. τῷ Θεῷ , before God ) although all men did not approve of it.

Verse 2

Acts 23:2 . Δὲ , but ) No one, however unfavourable (prejudiced against the speaker), ought to have been displeased at Paul’s speech. He interrupts him when about to speak more fully, [or even attempts to accuse him of a lie (in laying claim to a “good conscience”). V. g.] ὁ ἀρχιερεὺς ), the High Priest : not one of the many “chief priests,” of whom ch. Act 22:30 treats. ἐπεταξε , commanded ) without any cause. αὐτῷ , himself ) Ananias [not Paul ]. στόμα , the mouth ) as speaking unworthy things.

Verse 3

Acts 23:3 . Τύπτειν μέλλει , shall smite thee ) Retribution in kind is predicted by Paul. τοῖχε κεκονιαμένε ) Thou whited wall , having outside a white coating of chalk, but within clay. The chalk is the appearance and colour of justice; the part within is injustice. The High Priest himself had his eyes so dulled (held fast) by the whiteness of that chalk, that he embraced wrong rather than right. Perhaps also he had hoary hairs or a white robe. καὶ , dost thou also ) Καὶ in the very beginning of a reproving speech is equivalent to therefore : but here at the beginning, it has the strict meaning, also. Dost thou also , not merely the rest; thou, who dost wish to be looked upon as a defender of the law.

Verse 4

Acts 23:4 . Τοῦ Θεοῦ , of God ) They make the sanctity of the High Priest their plea.

Verse 5

Acts 23:5 . Οὐκ ᾔδειν , I did not know , or reflect ) Paul, although he had been absent for several years, ch. Acts 24:17 , yet knew the Chief Priest , ch. Acts 22:5 , inasmuch as he also knew the others, Acts 23:6 ; and if he had not known him, he might still have now known him from the very place in which, without doubt, he was sitting, and from the number of the bystanders: nor was the council (Acts 23:1 , συνέδριον ) of such a tumultuous (hastily-convened) character, that the High Priest did not occupy a distinguished post. Therefore I did not know may be interpreted as a modest form of expression for, it did not come into my mind . So, I know not [= I do not remember ], 1 Corinthians 1:16 . Comp. in the same Epistle, ch. Acts 12:2 , note ( Eph 2:11 ), and ch. Acts 15:34 , note; Philippians 4:15 ; Luk 9:55 ; 2 Samuel 19:22 ; Leviticus 5:4 . This phrase most appropriately expresses the various ἦθος of the apostle, partly in relation to the bystanders, whom he thus appeased (softened), especially with the addition of the appellation of Brethren , and by quoting the commandment of Moses as to not speaking evil of rulers; partly in relation to Ananias, whose mode of acting and commandment were such as to indicate any one else rather than the High Priest; partly in relation to Paul himself, whom an extraordinary influence (commotio) had elevated in Spirit internally, and after having fulfilled the prompting of that influence, he presently after withdrew himself back again to that ordinary principle which commands not to speak evil of rulers. In a similar way Paul often, under the influence of modesty, judged and spake of those things which he did by Divine direction in such a manner as if they had been done under a mere human impulse. See Rom 15:15 ; 1 Corinthians 9:17-18 ; 2 Corinthians 11:8-9 , notes. We glance at the cause of this liberty which the apostle takes in the notes upon 1 Corinthians 7:25 (The apostles wrote nothing that was not inspired; but in some cases they had a special command or revelation, in others they drew from their general habit of faith: in all these cases they might vary most freely their modes, according to the particular circumstances, and waive their own rights, and give the preference to others above themselves, or vice versa ). Furthermore, from what we have said, it is also clear how Paul could have addressed, in such a way, him whom he knew merely to be sitting as a judge , without violation of the law, which treats universally of rulers . [ γέγραπται , it is written ) Exodus 22:28 . V. g.]

Verse 6

Acts 23:6 . Ἔκραξεν , he cried out ) Making an open profession, in order that all in the crowd might hear: ch. Acts 24:21 . Here the saying held good, in a good sense, “Divide et impera,” divide, and you will thereby command . Paul did not use craft of reason or dialectical stratagem, but simply invites to his defence those who were less far removed from the truth. Φαρισαῖος εἰμι , I am a Pharisee ) according to my ancient discipline (training); and even yet am so, as far as concerns faith in the resurrection. υἱὸς Φαρισαίου ) υἱὸς Φαρισαίων , others read, whose testimony is corroborated by the ancient authority, Tertullian. [The Gnomon here follows, not the margin of the larger Edition, but that of the 2d Edition, along with the Germ. Vers. E. B. Φαρισαίων is read by [126]


[128] Vulg. Syr [129] ; but ΦΑΡΙΣΑΊΟΥ of the Rec. Text, only by [130]

[131] of the very old authorities.] Moreover Paul calls himself a son of the Pharisees , not meaning his preceptors, which would give tautology in the sense, a Pharisee, a son of the Pharisees , nor does Paul mention in ch. Acts 22:3 a number of preceptors, but Gamaliel alone; but he means that he had parents, or a father and grandfather or forefathers, Pharisees: comp. 2 Timothy 1:3 . In this way there is a Climax: a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees . ἐλπίδος καὶ ἀναστάσεως , of the hope and resurrection ) A Hendiadys: for it was the resurrection that they hoped for . ἐγὼ κρίνομαι , I am judged, called in question ) In the present judicial procedure, in which Ananias acts the part of president , saith Paul, the case has come to this, that the hope and resurrection of the dead is being impugned . The predecessors of Ananias had been Sadducees, ch. Acts 5:17 , and now also he himself was a Sadducee. Now, when more than twenty years had elapsed from the resurrection of Jesus Christ, they did not so unceasingly assail the preaching concerning Jesus Christ and His resurrection, as they did the dogma itself concerning the Resurrection of the dead, which was long ago odious to them; as indeed they had already done, ch. Acts 4:2 : whereas the Pharisees, in this respect, were not so far removed from the Christian faith. Therefore Paul conciliates them to himself, whilst the Sadducees were the more enraged in consequence. This then was what at that time the state of the controversy became, which Paul earnestly and stedfastly mentions subsequently, ch. Acts 24:15 ; Acts 24:21 , Acts 26:6-7 , Acts 28:20 .

[126] the Alexandrine MS.: in Brit. Museum: fifth century: publ. by Woide, 1786 1819: O. and N. Test. defective.

[127] Cod. Basilianus (not the B. Vaticanus): Revelation: in the Vatican: edited by Tisch., who assigns it to the beginning of the eighth century.

[128] Ephræmi Rescriptus: Royal libr., Paris: fifth or sixth cent.: publ. by Tisch. 1843: O. and N. T. def.

[129] yr. the Peschito Syriac Version: second cent.: publ. and corrected by Cureton, from MS. of fifth cent.

[130] Laudianus: Bodl. libr., Oxford: seventh or eighth cent.: publ. 1715: Acts def.

[131] Laudianus, do.: Acts.

Verse 7

Acts 23:7 . Τὸ πλῆθος , the multitude ) of the assessors on the tribunal, who favoured each (either) of the two sects respectively.

Verse 8

Acts 23:8 . Μήτε πνεῦμα , nor spirit) Spirit , as opposed to angel, means here the spirit of a man who is dead: comp. note on Acts 23:9 ; Matthew 14:2 ; Luke 24:37 . ὁμολογοῦσι ) acknowledge, confess . τὰ ἀμφότερα , both ) One of these two points is the resurrection; the other is, angels and other spirits. The difference of the particles μηδὲ , μήτε , but not, and not , is in consonance with this view, of which the former imparts an adversative, the latter a copulative force to the negation [ i.e. μηδὲ connects adversatively μὴ εἶναι ἀνάστασιν with the clause ἄγγελον μήτε πνεῦμα , joined by the copula μήτε ].

Verse 9

Acts 23:9 . Κραυγὴ μεγάλη , a great cry ) disgracefully. γραμματεῖς , the scribes ) Each sect has its learned men, and unlearned: the former are wont to be the mouth-piece of their party. πνεῦμα , spirit ) Paul was defending the resurrection: now also the Pharisees urge the point concerning spirits, against the Sadducees. ἐλάλησεν αὐτῷ , hath spoken to him ) They take out of the words of Paul the part that pleases them: with this comp. ch. Acts 22:6-7 (his description of the vision which he had on his way to Damascus): they cast aside the rest. ἢ ἄγγελος , or angel ) Paul did not say this; but the Pharisees add it against the Sadducees. Here his speech is cut short: and Luke skilfully (purposely) relates the words of the scribes broken off abruptly by the tumult, suspending the Apodosis to the particle εἰ , if , as he does to the κἂν , and if , Luke 13:9 , κἂν μὲν ποιήσκαρπόν , and if it bring forth fruit (well). [132]

[132] Aposiopesis. Not. Crit. ABC corrected, E e Vulg. Memph. later Syr. omit μὴ θεομαχῶμεν , which Rec. Text adds without old authority, excepting Theb. Syr. adds “quid est in hoc?” E. and T.

Verse 10

Acts 23:10 . Ὁ Χιλίαρχος , the tribune or chief captain ) What may we suppose that the soldier thought of the quarrel of so great a college? He was afterwards about to hear of worse things: Acts 23:21 . ὑπʼ αὐτῶν , by them ) Some were defending him, others rushing upon him.

Verse 11

Acts 23:11 . Τῇ δὲ ἐπιούσνυκτὶ , but on the following night ) When dangers have come to their height, then especially does the Lord disclose Himself with His consolation. The Divine promises were given, as to the people in the Old Testament, so to the saints individually, at that time especially when all things might seem to them desperate: comp. Acts 23:16 , ch. Acts 27:23 ; 2 Timothy 4:17 . ὁ Κύριος ) the Lord , Jesus. What Paul in the spirit had proposed to himself, ch. Acts 19:21 , the Lord establishes (confirm), now when it was the mature (ripe) time. A third declaration is added by the angel of GOD: ch. Acts 27:23-24 . Accordingly from this chapter 23, the main subject of this book is the apostolical testimony accomplished by Paul at Rome: 2 Timothy 4:17 . But if the defenders of Peter’s supremacy had found either the whole or only the half of this ascribed to Peter, how they would urge it! διεμαρτύρω , thou hast testified ) especially during the immediately preceding days. Ἱερουσαλὴμ , Ῥώμην , in Jerusalem, at Rome ) The two metropolitan cities of the world. δεῖ , thou must ) Danger in the eyes of God is a mere nothing. The very hindrances prove advantages. καὶ , also ) To him who hath it shall be given. εἰς Ῥώμην , at Rome ) The promise, reaching to a distance, embraced all the nearer and intermediate times. Paul shall bear witness at Rome: therefore he shall come to Rome: therefore he shall escape the plots of the Jews, and the dangers of the sea, and injury from the viper.

Verse 12

Acts 23:12 . Λέγοντες , saying ) with the utmost rashness, even though they had had a good cause. How perplexed they must have been, when they were not able to accomplish it!

Verse 14

Acts 23:14 . Τοῖς ἀρχιερεῦσι , to the chief priests ) whose duty however was to have prevented it. μηδενὸς , nothing ) either of food or drink.

Verse 15

Acts 23:15 . Ὑμεῖς , ye ) With this word are connected the words, with the council . They join together treachery and violence. ἐμφανίσατε ) viz. ἑαυτοὺς , with which comp. Acts 23:22 , ταῦτα ἐνεφάνισας πρὸς μέ .

Verse 16

Acts 23:16 . Ἀκούσας , having heard ) They managed the business with too little secrecy, not supposing that there would be any one who would communicate the fact to Paul or to the chief captain.

Verse 17

Acts 23:17 . Ἕνα ) one : for there were several. χιλίαρχον , the tribune or chief captain ) It was safer to tell the chief captain himself.

Verse 19

Acts 23:19 . Ἐπιλαβόμενος , having taken hold of the hand) so as to give confidence to the youth.

Verse 21

Acts 23:21 . Μὴ πεισθῇς ) do not comply with their request. ἕτοιμοι , ready ) to kill him.

Verse 23

Acts 23:23 . Δεξιολάβους διακοσίους , two hundred body-guards ) [133] Whether we read ΔΕΞΙΟΛΆΒΟΥς , or from one very old MS., ΔΕΞΙΟΒΌΛΟΥς , the word expresses an unknown kind of soldiers; and concerning each of the two readings, Grotius has made a very few remarks. Therefore we may the more wonder that two hundred of them were in this case ordered to be got ready. An Arabic rendering, mentioned in Erpenius and Ludovicus de Dieu, has eighty . If other witnesses were added to this Arabian one, we might suppose that διακοσἱους crept in from what goes before. At all events for too large a number of soldiers was put in motion against more than forty zealots. [134]

[133] Lit. satellites, who protect the right side of a person, from δέξιος . E. and T.

[134] BE read δεξιολάβους ; but A, δεξιοβόλους . Vulg. and e have lanciarios ; Syr. jaculantes dextrâ ; Memph. and later Syr. stipatores . E. and T.

Verse 24

Acts 23:24 . Κτήνη τε παραστῆσαι , and to get ready beasts ) From the recitative style a transition is here made to the relative (narrative), differently from what had been begun with in Acts 23:22 : for in the recitative style the form of expression should be διασώζητε , that ye may bring him safe , not διασώσωσι , that they might bring him safe . Moreover the relative (narrative) style is appropriate to the subject itself: because the tribune (chief captain) did not immediately intimate what was the cause of their journey. ἐπιβιβάσαντες , having set on ) We read but once of Paul having been mounted on horseback, and that not of his own accord: comp. ch. Acts 20:13 . ἡγεμόνα , the governor ) There is subjoined in more recent Latin copies, “Timuit enim, ne forte raperent eum Judæi et occiderent, et ipse postea calumniam sustineret, tanquam accepturus pecuniam.” And so the Germ. Bible of Mentz, printed in A.D. 1462, with these words omitted, “tanquam accepturus pecuniam.” [135]

[135] It is only later copies of Vulg. and the later Syr. with an asterisk which have this addition. Vulg. Amiatinus and the best MSS. are without it. E. and T.

Verse 25

Acts 23:25 . Ἐπιστολὴν περιέχουσαν τὸν τύπον τοῦτον ) 1Ma 15:2 , ἦσαν (ἐ πιστολαί ̔) περιέχουσαι τὸν τρόπον τοῦτον . τύπον ) mould, form, purport . This, which was without doubt written in Latin, and preserved in the Roman archives, afterwards convinced the Romans, when they read it, of the truth of the apostolic history.

Verse 27

Acts 23:27 . Τὸν ἄνδρα , the person, the man ) So he calls him by way of honour, and again in Acts 23:30 . ἐξειλόμην , I rescued ) Lysias is silent as to the scourging: ch. Acts 22:24 . Festus employs the same artifice: ch. Acts 25:20 ; Acts 25:25 . μαθὼν , having learnt or understood ) He did not learn it previously (to his coming with his army and laying hold on Paul), but subsequently.

Verse 30

Acts 23:30 . Μηνυθείσης ) Upon this, as being a verb of declaring, the infinitive μέλλειν depends.

Verse 33

[33. Εἰς τὴν Καισάρειαν , to Cesarea ) Paul’s stay in this metropolis afforded great help to the cause of the Gospel. Nevertheless he was himself placed in the midst of Gentiles and strangers in this place. V. g.]

Verse 34

Acts 23:34 . Ἐκ ποίας , from what province) Paul was a Roman citizen: on this account Felix asks him as to the province which he came from.

Verse 35

Acts 23:35 . Διακούσομαι , I will hear ) It would have been better to have heard the case as soon as possible. φυλάσσεσθαι , to be kept ) So a time was afforded to Paul in which he could pray and meditate in quiet.

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Bibliographical Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Acts 23". Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.