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The Defense, Interrupted by Festus, but only the more Impressively Continued and Triumphantly Concluded (26:1-29)
This speech, though in substance the same as that from the fortress-stairs of Jerusalem (Acts 22:1-30 ), differs from it in so far as it is less directed to meet the charge of apostasy from the Jewish Faith, and gives more enlarged views of his remarkable change and apostolic commission, and of the divine support under which he was enabled to brave the hostility of his countrymen. At the same time, as its details, together with those of Acts 22:1-30, have been considered in the exposition of Acts 9:1-43, it will be enough to refer the reader to that exposition, and the Remarks at its close; a few running remarks only being added here on particular verses.
Then Paul stretched forth the hand. It is a peculiarity of this historian to notice postures, gestures, etc., (see Luke 1:22; Luke 1:41; Luke 4:16; Luke 4:39; Acts 9:39; Acts 9:41; Acts 20:9; Acts 20:37: particularly in introducing speeches, as Acts 1:15; Acts 2:14; Acts 3:4; Acts 5:17; Acts 10:34; Acts 12:17; Acts 13:9; Acts 13:16; Acts 14:9; Acts 17:22.
And answered for himself, [apelogeito ( G626)] - 'made his defense.'
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:
I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself ('because I am to make my defense') this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:
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.
Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews. His father was zealous for the law, and himself, as Josephus states (Ant. 20: 1. 3), held the office of president of the temple and its treasures, and had the appointment of the high priest, which he received from Claudius.
Wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently. The idea of 'indulgently' is also conveyed by the word [ makrothumoos (G3116)].
My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;
My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;
Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
Which knew me from the beginning - plainly showing that he received his education, even from early youth, at Jerusalem. See the note at Acts 22:3.
That after the most straitest ('the strictest') sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee - the Pharisees were confessedly the strictest of the sects, and he refers to this in order to meet the charge, that as a Hellenistic Jew he had contracted among the Heathen lax ideas of Jewish peculiarities.
And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers - that is, for believing that the promise of Messiah, the Hope of Israel (Acts 13:32 ; Acts 28:10), had been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth risen from the dead, and glorified at the right hand of power.
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.
Unto which promise our twelve tribes ( James 1:1, and see the note at Luke 2:36 ).
Serving God, [latreuon ( G3000)] - 'offering worship' (see the note on the word "ministered," Acts 13:2)
Day and night ('night and day'), hope to come. The apostle rises into language as catholic as the thought which he expresses-representing his despised nation, all scattered though it now was, as twelve great branches of one ancient stem, in all places of their dispersion offering to the God of their fathers one unbroken worship, reposing on one great "promise" made of old unto their fathers, and sustained by one "hope" of "coming" to its fulfillment; the single point of difference between him and his countrymen, and the one cause of all their virulence against him, being, that his hope had found rest in One already come, while theirs still pointed to the future.
For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews - or (without the article), 'of Jews;' of all quarters the most surprising for such a charge to come from. The charge of sedition is not so much as alluded to throughout this speech; it was indeed a mere pretext.
Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? - rather, 'Why is it judged a thing incredible with you if God raises the dead?' the case being viewed as an accomplished fact. No one dared to call in question the overwhelming evidence of the resurrection of Jesus, which proclaimed Him to be the Christ, the Son of God; the only way of getting rid of it, therefore, was to pronounce it incredible. But why asks the apostle. is it so judged? Leaving this pregnant question to find its answer in the breasts of his audience, he now passes to his personal history.
I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.
Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison ('in prisons'), having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice , [pseefon ( G5586 )] - literally, 'my vote,' but generally a 'verdict' or 'voice' of assent, against them.
And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.
And I punished them oft in every synagogue ('in all the synagogues'), and compelled them to blaspheme, [eenangkazon (G315 )] - that is, 'put force upon them' for that purpose (cf. Galatians 6:12 , Gr.);
And, being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange (or, 'foreign') cities.
Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,
At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
At mid-day, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining ('flashing') round about me and them which journeyed with me.
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? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
No JFB commentary on this verse.
And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest.
But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose. Here (as Alford justly remarks) the apostle appears to condense into one statement various sayings of his Lord to him in visions at different times, in order to present at one view the grandeur of the commission with which his Master had clothed him.
To make thee a minister [hupeereteen (G5257)] and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen - thus putting him on a level with those "eye-witnesses and ministers [hupeeretai (G5257 )] of the word" mentioned in Luke 1:2 .
And of those things in the which I will appear unto thee - referring to visions which he was hereafter to he favoured with (as Acts 18:9-10; Acts 22:17-21; Acts 23:11 ; 2 Corinthians 12:1, and see Galatians 1:12).
Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
Delivering thee from the people (of the Jews), and from the Gentiles. He was all along the object of Jewish Delivering thee from the people (of the Jews), and from the Gentiles. He was all along the object of Jewish malignity, and was at that moment in the hands of the Gentiles; yet he calmly reposes on his Master's assurances of deliverance from both, at the same time taking all precautions for safety and vindicating all his legal rights.
Unto whom now I send thee. The emphatic "I" (says Bengel) denotes the authority of the Sender.
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
To open their eyes. This and what follows-though needed in another sense by the Jews also-as is evident from Acts 26:23 - is specially meant here of the Gentiles, last mentioned.
[And] to turn [them]. Since the "and" and "them" here are a supplement by our translators, the meaning and the better rendering probably is, 'To open their eyes, that they may turn' (as in
Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:
Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision. This musical and elevated strain-which carries the reader along with it, as it doubtless did the hearers-bespeaks the lofty region of thought and feeling to which the apostle had risen while rehearsing his Master's communications to him from heaven.
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.
But showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles. His visit to Arabia is here omitted, because, beginning with the Jews, his object was to mention first the places where his former hatred of the name of Christ was best known: the mention of the Gentiles, so unpalatable to his Jewish audience, is reserved to the last.
That they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for ('worthy of') repentance - a brief description of repentance and its befitting fruits, suggested probably by the Baptist's teaching ( Luke 3:7-8 ).
No JFB commentary on this verse.
Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:
I continue, [hesteeka ( G2476)] - 'I stand;' that is, hold my ground unto this day, witnessing-q.d., 'Since this life of mine, so marvelously preserved, in spite of all plots against it, is upheld for the Gospel's sake, I regard myself as living only to bear testimony'
Both to small and great. But in doing this, I am saying none other things than those which the Prophets and Moses did say should come;
That Christ ('the Christ,' or 'Messiah') should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles. The sense is, that in testifying that the predicted Messiah was to be a suffering one, and that rising from the dead. He should show light both to the Jews and to the Gentiles, he had only said what their own Scriptures had foreshown. The statement that the Christ "should be the first that should rise from the dead," was thus reached: Since it was to be in the character of a suffering and risen Messiah that He was to erect His kingdom and shed all its blessings on the world ( Psalms 22:1-31 ; Psalms 69:1-36 ; Isaiah 52:14-15 ; Isaiah 53:1-12, particularly Isaiah 53:10-12); and the subjects of this kingdom of illuminated believers were to be taken from among mortal men, Messiah Himself would of necessity be "the first that should rise from the dead."
And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.
And as he thus spake for himself - `was thus making his defense,'
Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad - is turning thy head. The union of flowing Greek, deep acquaintance with the sacred writings of his nation, reference to a resurrection, and other doctrines-to a Roman utterly unintelligible-and, above all, lofty religious earnestness, so strange to the cultivated, cold-hearted sceptics of that day, may account for this sudden exclamation.
But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words ('speak forth words') of truth and soberness. Can anything surpass this reply for realness, self-possession, and calm dignity? Every word of it refuted the governor's rude charge, though Festus probably did not intend to hurt the prisoner's feelings.
For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.
For the king knoweth of these things (see the note at Acts 26:1-3),
Before whom also I speak freely: for I am pervaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.
King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.
King Agrippa, believest thou the Prophets? I know that thou believest. The courage and confidence here shown proceeded from a vivid persuasion of Agrippa's knowledge of the facts and his faith in the predictions which they verified; and the king's reply is the highest testimony to the correctness of these presumptions and the immense power of such bold yet courteous appeals to conscience.
Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian, [en (G1722 ) oligoo (G3641) me ( G3165 ) peitheis (G3982)]. There is certainly some difficulty in this translation, there being no other clear instance of this meaning of the phrase. Some of the best critics think the only true sense of the words to be, 'With a little persuadest thou me,' which they understand as an ironical response to the apostolic question-to this effect, 'Ah, Paul, thou art for making me a Christian rather too summarily-I am not to be so easily turned.' But the apostle's reply seems clearly to show that he at least did not so understand the king; and it is not likely that he misunderstood him. Others, who also object to the rendering of our version, think the sense of the phrase to be, 'In little [time] thou wilt persuade me to be a Christian'-q.d., 'At this rate you will soon have me over to your opinions;' which they take to have been meant seriously, though not very deeply. But though the words will bear the sense of 'In little [time],' the tense used-not the future, 'thou wilt persuade me;' but the present, "thou persuadest me," suits ill with such a rendering of the words; and the apostle's reply seems to us quite fatal to it. One other sense of the words, different from that of our version, remains, 'In a little [measure] thou art persuading me to be a Christian'-q.d., 'You are really making some impression upon me;' 'I feel myself a little drawn over to your opinions.' Not that Agrippa is to be supposed, in saying this, to mean anything more than a high compliment to the persuasiveness of the speaker; though it may well be supposed that there was more in it than he would let his manner show. But the chief, and to us all-sufficient recommendation of this view of the words-which is that of Tyndale and Cranmer, and defended by Alexander-is, that it is the only one which the apostle's response perfectly meets.
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.
And Paul [said] (This bracketed word should be printed in Italics, as required in the translation, but not in the original, according to the best authorities),
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, [kai (G2532) en (G1722) oligoo (G3641) kai ( G2532) en ( G1722) polloo ( G4183)] - literally, 'both in little and in much such as I am;' or, according to the reading best supported (and adopted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles), 'both in little and in great' [megaloo (G3173 ), excellently rendered in the Vulgate, et in modico et in magno]. Whichever of these readings we adopt, the sense is the same, that whereas Agrippa had gone so far as to say (with how much sincerity, the apostle would not choose to inquire) that he was a little drawn to the apostle's views, that magnanimous servant of Christ, seizing upon the admission, and repeating the very words of it, wishes to God that not Agrippa only, but the whole audience, were not only in little, but in much (or in great), such as he was; that is, not somewhat a Christian, but out-and-out a Christian.
In this view of the words it will at once be seen that they express only in another form, both what the King James Version conveys, and what the other rendering does not-`In a little [time] thou wilt persuade me to be a Christian;' while it avoids the objections we have mentioned against this latter translation, and what seems a want of strict grammatical warrant for the King James rendering. The only one of the proposed translations which it does not agree with is the ironical one, which, though so powerfully contended for, appears to us to be wholly out of place. The objection taken to the King James Version (and equally applicable to ours) by the advocates of the ironical sense-that the word "Christian" was at that time only a term of contempt, and therefore not likely to have been used seriously by Agrippa-has no force except on the other side; for, taking it seriously, the sense, according to the King James Version is, 'Thou wilt soon have me over'-or, according to our proposed version, 'I feel myself beginning to come over to that despised sect.'
Except these bonds - doubtless holding up his two chained hands (see the note at Acts 12:6), which, in closing such a noble utterance, must have had an electrical effect.
And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them:
And [when he had thus spoken], the king rose up (the bracketed words are certainly an addition to the true text). He was not over easy, we may be sure.
And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds.
And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds - an important, though an almost superfluous testimony.
Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Cesar. But what object could the apostle have in making this appeal, except to prevent his being taken for trial where he knew he had no justice to expect, unless Festus should at Jerusalem show a courage which Pontius Pilate wanted in a better cause, and which his predecessor Felix had shown himself destitute of in this very case? King Agrippa had but to pronounce in favour of the immediate liberation of this innocent man, and Festus would no doubt have at once given the warrant. But possibly they thought themselves precluded from taking any action after that appeal had transferred the case to a higher tribunal.
(1) Letting alone no spiritual discernment, who that has any nice perception of the workings of human feeling under different circumstances-such as might be supposed to actuate Paul and Festus and Agrippa respectively on this occasion-and of what would be a natural expression of these as they came out in this assembly, as distinguished from literary invention or embellishment, can fail to see in this chapter unadorned though vigorous and noble history; and what but a sceptical spirit, a low moral tone, and perverted scholarship, directed to the establishment of a preconceived theory could find in it-as the Tubingen critics do (Zeller, for example) - only one of a series of unhistorical addresses, drawn up apologetically long after the events, in the interest of a Pauline, or more catholic party in the Church, and with the view of supplanting the Petrine or more Jewish views? One would be ashamed to have to refer to such literature, were it not that the learning and ingenuity which it displays, after having done much mischief in the land of its birth, have at length begun to make some impression even in our own country, and that the sceptical tendency which has recently set in among us is fed by such wretched speculations. But its effects will assuredly die away, not so much through the force of any replies that may be made to it, as under the power of the naked text upon the devout and candid students of it, while 'evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.'
(2) The commission from the glorified Redeemer to His once bitter enemy is so grandly expressed in this address before King Agrippa, that we may here pause upon it for a moment. Three things in it may be noticed.
First, The position which Christ occupies. As the commission issues authoritatively from Him - "I send thee" - so all the effects which the commission contemplates, since they could only be instrumentally worked by any creature, must be effected, if at all, by Him from whom the commission flows. And what are those effects? "I send thee to the (chosen) people, and to the Gentiles, to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." Plainly, He who sends men to do such things must either have the power and intention to do them Himself, through their instrumentality, or must be mocking them when He thus sends them forth. But, further while it is He who, by opening blind eyes, makes them turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, their standing before God as His pardoned and reconciled people, and their final inheritance among the sanctified, is represented as due solely to their faith in Him. It makes no difference to these conclusions, whether we regard the words of this commission as literally so addressed to him at any one time, or as the apostle's own concentrated summary; of all that had been expressed to him by his glorified Lord on many successive occasions. In this latter view, which seems the correct one, it is even more striking, as holding forth what we may style The Pauline Theology, with respect to Christ's position in the divine economy-which we may expect to find, and which,we do find, running through all his Epistles to the churches.
Secondly, The relation to each other of spiritual illumination, conversion, and faith. As the reason why men are content to remain in darkness and in bondage to the enemies of God is, that they are blind to their true condition, so, as soon as their eyes are divinely opened to see clearly what and where they are, they turn from this discovered darkness to the "marvelous light" of "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," and, at the same time and in the same act, from the dominion of Satan to subjection to God. But wonderful as is this transformation of nature and exchange of services, it is not this which effects their reconciliation to God, and entitles them to ultimate admission among the sanctified above. It is by faith in the Lord Jesus alone - "faith that is in ME" - that men "obtain forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them that are sanctified." For this alone rectifies their position, and adjusts their relationship to God; giving them right of approach to Him immediately as His pardoned and reconciled children, and right of admission to see Him face to face in the kingdom prepared "for them from the foundation of the world."
Thirdly, The superhuman power of the Gospel ministry. That it does possess such power-opening blind eyes, and so causing men to turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God-is the distinguishing characteristic of it as here held forth. But as that power lies not at all in the commissioned ambassadors of Christ, but wholly in Him that sends them, so they have here at once the materials of deepest humility and of highest encouragement, in the discharge of that commission, knowing that they "can do all things," though only "through Christ that strengtheneth them," and that of their converts they can say, "In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel."
(3) The view which Festus expressed of Paul's state of mind ("Thou art beside thyself"), and the exalted calmness of the reply ("I am not mad, most noble Felix, but do speak forth words of truth and soberness") remind us of the apostle's remarkable words to the Corinthians: "Whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God; or whether we be sober, it is for your cause: for the love of Christ constraineth us" ( 2 Corinthians 5:13-14 ). No doubt he spoke in an elevated tone; and when he came to the glowing words at which Festus interrupted him, he probably seemed as one carried quite beyond himself, while expatiating on the vast purpose of grace which his risen Lord bad commissioned him to carry out. To one who knew nothing of those things, and cared as little, this holy enthusiasm would seem like the outpourings of one not quite himself-of one whose head had been turned by too much study; but the reply-especially when followed up by that appeal to the king which drew from him so remarkable a testimony to the power with which he pleaded for Christ; and, above all, when this was followed up by the wish to God that he and all present were in everything like himself with our thrilling exception-the chains upon those uplifted hands of his-this reply, we say, so followed up, while it nobly refuted the charge of Festus, revealed the true, secret of the enthusiasm which had suggested it, and indeed was itself but a varied display of that very enthusiasm.
'No, most noble Festus, I am not beside myself; but the love of Christ constraineth me: and what wonder? For who could undergo such a change, and receive such a commission, and for simply fulfilling it have to stand here charged with hostility both to law and religion, and relate the amazing facts of such a case with the apathy of a sceptic? No: "If I be beside myself, it is to God" - in sight of whom the wonder would be if I were not what I seem to thee - "or if I be sober," speaking forth the words of truth and soberness, "it is for your cause" who hear me this day, "if by any means I may save some." And is not this still the fitting attitude for those who plead for Christ, either in defending the truth or while praying them in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God? And those who go forth in this attitude, when they rise above the fear or favour of men, and realize the invisible and eternal issues of their pleading, may lay their account with seeming to the indifferent to be beside themselves; or if, to remove this impression, they "be sober" - presenting the awful truths which they handle in the light of sober but resistless realities, it will be but "for their cause." In either case, and in both at once, the secret of their procedure will be that of the apostle - "The love of Christ constraineth us."
(4) On the whole, viewing this as the last public occasion on which the great apostle was to be "brought before kings and governors for Jesus' sake, for a testimony unto them," one cannot but be struck with the crowning character of it, and feel how well, during his last imprisonment and in the near prospect of sealing his testimony with his blood, he could say with respect to these public appearances for his Lord, as well as his whole career from the date of his conversion, "I have fought a good fight" ( 2 Timothy 4:7).
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Acts 26". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13