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Bible Commentaries
Acts 23

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-11

C.—PAUL IS BROUGHT BEFORE THE GREAT COUNCIL; HE MAKES HIS DEFENCE; THE COMFORTING PROMISE WHICH THE LORD GIVES HIM

Acts 22:30Acts 23:11

[Acts 22:30]. On the morrow, because he would have known [But on the following day, wishing to know] the certainty wherefore [of that of which] he was accused of [by] the Jews, he loosed him from his bands [he released him15], and commanded the chief priests and all their [the] council to appear [assemble], and brought Paul down, and set him before them.

[Acts 23:1.] And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until [I have walked before God with all good conscience unto] this day. 2And [But] the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. 3Then said Paul unto him, God shall [will, μέλλει] smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou [wall: thou sittest] to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law [me, in violation of the law, to be Smitten]? 4And [But] they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest? 5Then said Paul [And (τε) Paul said], I wist [knew] not, brethren, that he was [is, ἐστὶν] the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. 6But when Paul perceived [But as Paul knew] that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee [a son of Pharisees1]: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question [for the sake of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am judged!]. 7And [But] when he had so said [said this, τοῦτο], there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. 8For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, [and] neither2 angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess 9 both. 9And [But] there arose a great cry: and the scribes3 that were of the Pharisees’ part [cry: and scribes4 of the party of the Pharisees] arose, and strove [contended], saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God [man: but if a spirit hath spoken to him, or an angel?4]. 10And when [But as] there arose a great dissension, the chief captain [the tribune], fearing lest Paul should have been [might be] pulled in pieces of [by] them, commanded the soldiers to go [that the soldiers should come] down, and to take him by force [and snatch him] from among them, and to [om. to] bring him into the castle [barracks]. 11And [But in] the night following the Lord stood by [came to] him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul [om. Paul]:5for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Acts 22:30. On the morrow.—Τὸ�, i.e., that which is certain or sure; Lysias wished to obtain information on which he could rely; the words: τὸ τί … Ἰουδαίων, are in apposition with the former [“referring epexegetically to τὸ�.” (Meyer).—Tr.]. Lysias did not investigate the facts themselves, but wished to ascertain the precise charge which the Jews brought, against Paul. He had hitherto learned nothing that was definite; he had only perceived that the Jews were excessively excited, and spoke of Paul with the utmost exasperation. The hierarchical authority of the Jews could, as he hoped, enable him to accomplish his design. His command that a meeting of the Sanhedrin should be held, demonstrates that the independence of the Jews, even in matters referring to the internal concerns of their religion, had been seriously impaired. The word συνελθεῖν implies that the members assembled in the ordinary council-room, whereas the reading ἐλθεῖν, which is not well attested [note 1, appended to the text—Tr.], assumes that they were required to meet at the abode of the Roman. Besides, καταγαγών (with which compare καταβάν, Acts 23:10), indicates a locality in the city itself, and not one in the interior of the tower of Antonia, which commanded the city. From the word ἔλυσεν it appears that, although Lysias had at first felt some alarm, because he had illegally fettered a Roman citizen, he had, nevertheless, not freed Paul from his bonds, until he presented him to the Sanhedrin. [“Although he had been alarmed, he determined, in a spirit of defiance, to exhibit no signs of weakness to the Jews, by the immediate release of the prisoner.—Καταγαγών, i.e., brought him down from the tower to the council-room of the Sanhedrin.”(Meyer).—Tr.].

Acts 23:1. And Paul, earnestly beholding the council.—The apostle was now placed before the Sanhedrin, like the Redeemer himself, in the night which preceded his crucifixion, and like the first apostles, Acts 4:7 ff; Acts 5:27 ff. Ἀτενίσας, i.e., he steadfastly surveyed the assembly before him, with a calm and undaunted spirit. The address, ἄνδρ. ἀδελφοι, without πατέρες (as in Acts 22:1), demonstrates that he felt himself to be the equal of the persons before him. He commences the proceedings himself, for he had not been cited by the assembly, but had been placed before them by the Roman commandant. Hence they waited until the latter made his own statement; the apostle, on his part, speaks with great composure. He testifies that he had a good conscience, inasmuch as he had always fulfilled his duty to God in every respect; πάσῃ συνειδήσει�, in every respect, in every case, with a good conscience. Πολιτεύομαι (which is equivalent to rempublicam gero, fungor magistratu in repub.) here implies: “I have performed my office with a good conscience τῷ θεῷ;” the latter is dativus commodi, namely, “for God.” [“I have lived unto God, i. e., for his service and glory; See Romans 14:8; Galatians 2:19.” (Hackett).—Tr.]. The usus loquendi furnishes no authority whatever for taking πολιτεύομαι in an entirely abstract sense, as if it were equivalent to vitam instituere, or, se gerere.

Acts 23:2-3. a. The high priest Ananias.—He is also mentioned by Josephus (Antiq. xx. 5. 2; 6. 2 f.). He was the son of Nebedæus, and was appointed high priest by Herod, the king of Chalcis, in the year A. D. Acts 48: he probably retained his high office till towards the year 60, when Ismael, the son of Phabi, was made the high priest, shortly before the departure of the procurator Felix (Jos. Ant. xx. 8. 8).—Ananias was sent to Rome, in the year A. D. 52, by Quadratus, the governor of Syria, in order to defend himself before the emperor Claudius, in reference to certain acts of violence of which the Samaritans accused the Jews (Jos. Ant. xx. 6. 2). This circumstance led interpreters, at an earlier period, to believe that Ananias had, on that occasion, been deposed, and that, when Paul appeared before him, he was only temporarily administering the office, or, possibly, merely retained the honorary title of an ex-high priest (Eichhorn; Kuinoel). But Ananias pleaded his cause with entire success when he was in Rome, and then returned to Jerusalem, where he was, no doubt, allowed to retain his office without interruption. This is the opinion, among other recent writers, of Winer (Realwört.), Wieseler (Chronol. d. apost. Zeitalters, 1848, p. 76 f. note), Meyer (Com.), and Ewald (Ap. Zeitalter, p. 500). Thus, other historical records establish the fact that Ananias was at that time unquestionably the ruling high priest—a fact indicated by the designation ὁ�, Acts 23:2; Acts 23:4.

b. Commanded them that stood by him, etc.—[Τοῖς παρεστ. αὐτῷ, those who stood at his (the high priest’s) side—servants, or officers of the court; comp. Luke 19:24. (Meyer).—Tr.]. Scarcely had Paul uttered the first words, when the high priest, to whom they seemed to betray audacity or hypocrisy, commanded those who stood by (probably officers of justice), to smite him on the mouth. But Paul replied to him with righteous indignation, and announced a divine retribution for that blow. [“Observe the position, (at the beginning of the reply) of the word τύπτειν, which, in a higher sense, returns to the high priest the blow that had just been received. It is an arbitrary assumption (Baumg.), that the command of the high priest was not executed.” (Meyer).—Tr.]. The words τύπτειν σὲ μελλει, do not constitute an imprecation, as Kuinoel supposes. [“Shall smite, literally, is (or is about) to smite, the first verb denoting simple futurity … the idea of a (human) curse or imprecation is at variance with the very form of the original.” (Alex.).—Tr.]. The expression τοῖχε κεκονιαμένε exposes the hypocrisy of Ananias; it contrasts the external splendor of the paint or lime on the surface of the wall with the interior parts, which consist of filthy clay. [“A whited wall is a familiar figure for a fair outside, behind which, or within which, all is foul and filthy. Our Saviour uses the still stronger image of a whited sepulchre, Matthew 23:27.” (Alex.).—Tr.]. Great prominence is given to the inconsistency of the high priest, who professes to judge according to the rule of the Mosaic law, and yet personally violates it, by illegally subjecting Paul to ill treatment. Καὶ σύ, i.e., Thou too, as well as the rest, whereas, thou, as a judge, art specially bound to observe the law with strictness and conscientiousness. [“Κάθῃ, for κάθησαι” (Winer § 14. 4).—Tr.]—That prophetical announcement was fulfilled ten years afterwards, when Ananias, as one of the leaders of the loyal imperial party, was murdered, at the beginning of the Jewish war, by the insurgents [the sicarii]; Jos. Jewish War, ii. 17. 9.

Acts 23:4-5. Revilest thou, etc.?—To the charge that when Paul addressed such abusive language to the high priest of God, he offered an insult to the holy God himself, he replied, (for the purpose of justifying his course,) that he knew not that the person so addressed was the high priest. This answer has received various artificial interpretations, and its meaning has often been distorted. In some of these cases, the words “that he is the high priest” (ὄτι ἐστὶν�.), in others “I knew not” (οὐκ ᾔδειν), have served as the basis of the explanation. The former have, by a forced interpretation, been represented as meaning that the apostle denied that Ananias was really the high priest, either because he had procured the office by money (Grotius), or because he really was not at that time the true high priest (Lightfoot). The meaning of the other words, in which Paul speaks of his want of knowledge of the fact, has also been perverted by commentators, as if Paul intended to say: ‘I did not reflect that he is the high priest’ (Wetstein, Olshausen, Ewald). According to this view, Paul really retracts his words, as having been too hastily uttered, or, he means by οὐκ ᾔδειν: ‘I do not admit that it is so’ (Augustine), or “I could not know—could not think that he is the high priest, since he has acted in a manner so unpriestly, and so entirely unworthy of a high priest” (Calvin, Meyer, Baumgarten). [Calvin says: Ego Augustino subscribens non dubito quin hæc ironica sit excusatio, etc.—Tr.]. The cause which has led to these far-fetched explanations, was the apparent impossibility of believing that the words, if taken in their plain and direct sense, conveyed the truth, namely, that the apostle actually did not know that he who had given that unbecoming command, was in truth the high priest in office. There have, however, been interpreters, who adhere to the literal sense of the words—for instance, Chrysostom; Beza. They appeal to the fact that the apostle had long been absent from Jerusalem, and hence could not personally know the high priest. If Ananias had been invested with the office at the time when Paul proceeded with the letters of the “high priest” (Acts 9:1-2) to Damascus, in order to persecute the Christians, it would be inconceivable that Paul should not now know the same man. But it has already been fully demonstrated that Ananias did not obtain the office until the year 48, whereas the latest date that can possibly be fixed as that of Paul’s conversion, is the year 40 or 41. [See Exeg. note on Acts 9:2.—Tr.]. Besides, the high priest could not be recognized by his apparel, when he was not engaged in performing his official duties in the temple. It is also quite possible that Ananias was not, at that moment, the presiding officer of the meeting, for the whole occurred, not at a regular session of the Sanhedrin, but at one which had been unexpectedly appointed by the Roman tribune. Or, if Ananias even did act as the presiding officer, Paul could not know from that circumstance that he was also the high priest, for the latter was not always or necessarily the nasi (president of the Sanhedrin). [“It should be remembered that the intricacy and confusion on these points—the many High Priests who had been successively put up and down by Roman intervention, etc.—is not necessarily the fault of the historian, but arises from the actual irregularities existing at this crisis of the Jewish history, etc.” (Alex.).—Tr.].—Paul refers, in this connection, to a commandment of God (Exodus 22:28 [quoted verbatim from the LXX. Exodus 22:27.—Tr.]), as one which he well knew and also revered—but without retracting his words [“The quotation—is simply tantamount to saying, ‘I know the law that you refer to, but I am not guilty of its violation.’ ” (Alex.).—Tr.]

Acts 23:6. I am a Pharisee.—At this point the apostle quickly changes the course which he had hitherto pursued; a calm defence, such as he had begun in Acts 23:1, found no favorable hearing. [“He had seen enough to be convinced that there was no prospect before this tribunal of a fair inquiry and a just decision.” (Conyb. and H. II. 270).—Tr.]. The method which he now adopted in defending himself, and by which at least one party in the assembly before him might be won for his cause—the cause of Christian truth—was that of openly declaring that he was himself a Pharisee, and that his faith was allied to the Pharisaic doctrine. [“Paul’s declaration that he was still a Pharisee, is as little untrue, as it was when he made it in Philippians 3:5. He describes himself as a Jew, who, as such, belonged to no other religious society than that of the Pharisees, and who, especially with regard to the doctrine of the resurrection, adhered to the creed of the Pharisees (in opposition to the whole system of Sadduceeism), after its truth had been so fully established in the Person of Christ Himself. His opposition to the doctrine of righteousness by the law, to the hypocrisy, etc., of the Pharisees, and his anti-Pharisaic labors, did not refer to the sect per se, but to its moral and other errors. As a Jew, he continued to be a Pharisee, and, as such, was an orthodox Jew, in opposition to the Naturalism of the Sadducees.” (Meyer).—Tr.].—When he calls himself “a son of Pharisees,” he refers to his father and ancestors, and implies that he was not the first of his family who adopted Pharisaic views and sentiments, but had already received them by inheritance. [A son of Pharisees, see note 2, appended to the text.—Tr.]. He adds, that he was in reality placed before the tribunal for the sake of the hope and resurrection. The words περὶ ἐλπίδος καὶ�, are commonly explained as an hendiadys, equivalent to “hope of the resurrection;” this is the opinion of Bengel, Meyer, Baumgarten. But a better and more complete sense may be obtained by taking each of the terms separately, thus: ‘for the sake of the hope,’ that is, the hope of redemption—of the Messianic promise given to Israel, ‘and for the sake of a resurrection of the dead.’ The latter words may then be directly referred to the resurrection of Jesus, whereas, if they are inseparably connected with ἐλπὶς, the future resurrection only can have been meant; and yet the resurrection of Jesus was, no doubt, the subject which primarily presented itself to the mind of the apostle.

Acts 23:7-9. And when he had so said.—The multitude [“the whole mass or body of the Sanhedrin itself, as distinguished from the parties into which it was divided” (Alex.).—Tr.] had previously united in assailing Paul; but it was now divided (ἐσχίσθη), so that the Pharisees and the Sadducees contended with each other. The contention grew louder and more violent (κραυγὴ μεγάλη, Acts 23:9; πολλή στάσις, Acts 23:10), insomuch that the Roman tribune, who was alarmed by the danger which threatened his prisoner, ordered the soldiers to conduct the latter away. Here Luke explains the difference between the doctrinal views of the Pharisees and those of the Sadducees, for the purpose of enabling his readers to comprehend the cause of the difficulty which had arisen between men, who had previously acted in concert. The latter denied, on the one hand, the resurrection, and, on the other, the existence of an angel or spirit. (The reading μηδὲ—μήτε should be retained, for critical reasons. [But see note 3, appended to the text, above.—Tr.]. The former, μηδὲ, introduces a second class of conceptions, generically different from the preceding (ἀνάστασιν); the latter, μήτε, connects with it objects that are similar, in so far as πνεῦμα, an incorporeal spirit, and ἄγγελος are, essentially, homogeneous). The Pharisees, on the contrary, confess both. (Ἀμφότερα, i.e., in so far as the resurrection of the body, on the one hand, and the existence of a pure spirit, e. g., angels or departed souls, on the other, constitute two distinct categories). [On μηδὲ—μήτε in this passage, see Winer: Gram. N. T. § 55. 6.—Alford, who differs from Lechler, says: “The former μήτε has been altered to μηδὲ to suit τὰ�, because with ἀναστ. μήτε ἄγγ. μήτε πν. three things are mentioned;—whereas, if μηδέ is read, the two last are coupled, and form only one. But τὰ�. is used of both things, the one being the resurrection, the other, the doctrine of spiritual existences; the two specified classes of the latter being combined generically.”—On the doctrines of the two sects, see Jos. Ant. xvii. 1. 4. Bel. Jud. ii. 8. 14.—Tr.]. Indeed, several scribes [see note 4, appended to the text, above.—Tr.] of the Pharisaic party, espoused the cause of Paul. This party consisted both of learned, and of unlearned men; the former were the speakers. They spoke of Paul, personally, in favorable terms, as a man who could not be charged with any offence, and, moreover, expressed the opinion that it was quite possible that he had received a revelation. The sentence: εἰ - - ἄγγελος, terminates abruptly, [μὴ θεομαχῶμεν being cancelled by recent editors; see note 5 appended to the text, above.—Tr.]; it either states, affirmatively, the condition, without adding the apodosis, or it is a question, the reply to which the opponents are expected to furnish. [“The question is an aposiopesis (comp. John 6:62; Romans 9:22,) implying, but not expressly saying, that if such are the facts, they are very serious.” (Meyer).—“Undoubtedly, a designed aposiopesis. A significant gesture or look towards the Sadducees expressed what was left unsaid.” (Hackett). Winer (Gram. § 64 II.) does not decide whether the words were pronounced affirmatively or interrogatively, and adds that it is doubtful whether an aposiopesis is here to be assumed, or whether the sentence was simply left unfinished on account of a sudden interruption, comp. Acts 23:10.—“The sentence was left incomplete or unheard in the uproar.” (Conyb. and H. II. 271). In all these cases the words μὴ θεομ. are assumed to be a later addition.—Tr.]. There can be no doubt that the words: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, refer to Paul’s statement in Acts 22:6 ff. respecting the appearance of Jesus, except that the Pharisees conceived of the appearance of an angel, or the manifestation of a spirit, in their own way.

Acts 23:10. And when there arose a great dissension.—The excitement continued to increase, until at length the tribune became apprehensive that Paul would be pulled in pieces by the parties (διασπασθῇ implies that while some took hold of him in order to protect him, others seized him in wrath, and thus he was dragged to and fro.). Hence he ordered that the military force which he commanded (στράτευμα) should descend from the tower, secure the person of the prisoner, employing even violent measures, if the assembly resisted, and re-conduct him to the barracks. The commander, who did not desire to wound the feelings of the hierarchy, had, doubtless, directed the soldiery to remain in the tower, and had come to the meeting attended only by an orderly officer.

Acts 23:11. And the night following.—The revelation of Jesus Christ was probably made through the medium of a vision in a dream. Paul saw the Lord standing by him, and heard his cheering words of promise.—Εἰς Ἱερουσαλήμ—εἰς ̔Ρώμην, i.e., he was directed to go to both cities, and address his testimony to (εἰς) both—the one being the religious, the other, the political capital of the world, at that time.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. When the apostle declares that he has a good conscience, he does not so much refer personally to himself as an individual, as rather to his calling as an apostle of the Gentiles. He was bound more solemnly than ever, when he stood in the presence of the highest court of the hierarchy of Israel, not to be ashamed of his office; and he did, openly and gladly, acknowledge it. He appealed to God (τῷ θεῷ)—to that divine grace and that divine approbation, which were decisive, even though men should sternly condemn his conduct. He had, no doubt, chiefly those years of his life in view, which followed his conversion; still, his testimony does not refer exclusively to that period; he says in substance that, as a Christian, he served God as sincerely and zealously, as at any previous period.

2. The distinction between the office and the person who is invested with it, was placed by Paul in a very clear light, both when he so quickly addressed Ananias, on being subjected to such ill treatment, Acts 23:3, and when he justified the words which he had uttered, Acts 23:5. The office required the president and every member of the court to observe the law with the strictest conscientiousness; but here the person, the office-bearer, most grossly violated the law, Acts 23:3. His personal act unquestionably justified any one who refused to recognize him as the holder of such a sacred office. This is the decision of the Holy Ghost, who applies the standard of right and truth to the person, however exalted his position may be, and recognizes no man as infallible, whether found in cathedra, or in the midst of a general church council.

3. The declaration of the apostle, Acts 23:6, that he was a Pharisee, is frequently represented as having been dictated by worldly wisdom, as it enabled him to divide the assembly, and to derive personal advantage from party interests. Divide et impera. But it was assuredly not his object to secure himself and his personal interests; he was influenced solely by a regard for the sacred cause of the truth, and for the honor of Christ. He availed himself Of the party distinctions existing between the Pharisees and Sadducees, simply as the means of obtaining a hearing for the truth, to which the minds of all had hitherto been entirely closed. And he gained this object by declaring that he was himself a Pharisee, and was brought before the tribunal on account of a doctrine which constituted the centre of gravity in the Pharisaic system. He pursues here the same course which he adopted when he combated paganism [see the author’s Exeg. notes, and Doct. views, Acts 17:16-34.—Tr.]; he selects those principles which are allied to Christianity—Israel’s hope of a Messiah, and faith in the resurrection of the dead. The result, indeed, shows that the Pharisees approached more nearly to the truth, than their opponents.

4. How far was Paul justified in saying that he had not merely been, but that he still was, a Pharisee? It has been supposed by some that his language involved an untruth. But when we reflect on the relation in which he stood to the whole system of the Sadducees (and it is precisely in view of their adverse positions that he speaks), it is evident that he could, with entire truth, assert that he had not changed, that he still was a Pharisee, that he held strict views of that holiness and righteousness which availed before God, and that, as to the hope of Israel and the resurrection, he was a firm believer; indeed, the richest blessing which existence could afford him, was the fulfilment of that earnest hope which the devout Pharisee entertained. And with respect to the points in which he differed from the Pharisees, he says to them, as he had once said to the pagan Athenians: “That which ye seek, but do not understand, I have; I know it; I declare it unto you.” In this sense the remark may be appropriately repeated, which Bengel makes in another connection, on Acts 23:1 : [In pristino statu, quanquam in errore versabatur, conscientiæ fuerat obsecutus, neque quicquam commiserat, cur in foro externo reus fieret.] Nunc, quum bona vetera non abjecit, sed meliora accepit, ex præsenti statu lux in pristinum sese refundebat.

5. The revelation of Christ, Acts 23:11, alike comforted and strengthened Paul. Even while he is involved in very great danger, a most brilliant prospect is opened before him. It had long ago appeared to him to be the highest object of life, to be permitted to preach the Gospel in Rome, Acts 19:21; and that permission was now granted.—All the purposes of the Redeemer in reference to him, as revealed at the period of his conversion, through Ananias, were rapidly approaching their fulfilment, although under the sign of the cross, seeing that he would be required to suffer much for the sake of the name of Jesus (Acts 9:15-16).

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Acts 23:1. And Paul, earnestly beholding the council.—Such a glance Solomon had already cast on places of judgment, where ungodly men and wickedness prevail, Ecclesiastes 3:16; and such expressive glances are mentioned in the history of the life of our blessed Saviour, Luke 20:17; Mark 3:5; Mark 11:11. Paul’s heart was, no doubt, deeply affected as he surveyed the scene before him; he thought of the fall of his brethren according to the flesh, whose Great Council was governed by such principles; he thought, too, on his own election and calling, by which he had been delivered from the bonds of darkness, and in consequence of which he would never again be obliged to apply for letters and a commission (Acts 9:3) to such a council. (Rieger).—I have lived [walked] in all good conscience before God until this day.—Those who are rebuked by their own conscience, do not usually lift up their eyes, as Paul here does, but cast them down. (Starke).—A good conscience before God, proceeds, I. From true faith in Christ, by which the remission of sins is obtained; II. From the assurance of divine grace and eternal life; III. From the renewal of the Holy Ghost, unto a new life and walk; IV. From the faithful performance of the duties of our calling, (id.).—It is true that many appeal to their good conscience, because no man can actually look into it; many, too, mistake a sleeping for a good conscience. (id.).

Acts 23:2. To smite him on the mouth.—In this mode of suffering, too, Paul was an image of the suffering Jesus, who, in the days of his sorrow, was smitten on the cheek because he witnessed a good confession (1 Timothy 6:13) before the high priest (John 18:22). (Ap. Past.).—How many shameful blows on the face devout believers still receive, partly, by beingreviled, partly, by not being allowed to speak the truth, and to rebuke the wicked ways of the world! Job 16:10; 1 Kings 22:24; Acts 5:28. (Starke).

Acts 23:3. God shall smite thee, thou whited wall.—Here was one of those whited sepulchres mentioned by the Lord Himself, Matthew 23:27.—We have here a striking instance of an unconverted teacher. Ananias held the sacred office of high priest, and, perhaps, when viewed externally, his gray hair and white priestly garments, gave him even a venerable appearance; but internally, his heart was full of rage and deadly hatred, of injustice and tyranny. Our sacred offices, ecclesiastical titles, and priestly dignities, are nothing else than a white lime which conceals the internal uncleanness of the carnal heart. But no attempt at concealment is of avail before God, and even in the presence of men the loose lime sometimes fails to adhere. (Ap. Past.).—No doubt when Paul’s conduct is compared with the calmness, gentleness, and self-denial of Jesus (John 18:23), his warmth of temper becomes evident. Still, we ought not to be too rigid in forming a judgment respecting the apostle. It is true that in our excessively refined age, the servants of Christ cannot commit a greater sin than when they exhibit impetuosity; the remark is at once made that they should have been more circumspect. This may be true; but then, let it be considered that they have exposed themselves to every danger, and, weak as they are, chose their position at the front of the army. It is surely better to be unskilful advocates of the Lord, than, through excessive caution, to resign the whole work to others. It may be also remarked, that if Luther, for instance, had been in Paul’s place, he would have spoken with far more severity. (Williger).

Acts 23:5. I wist not that he was the high priest.—It ought to be observed that it was quite possible that, amid the tumult, Paul should not have known or recognized the person of the high priest; for, at that time, the office had been exposed to such vicissitudes, that it could not always be known who was really invested with it. Hence Paul might have regarded. Ananias as a Jewish elder and judge, without actually knowing that he was at that time the presiding high priest. However, even if it should be assumed that Paul did know him, his words could not have been intended to imply more than that, while he revered the office, he rebuked the person who so unworthily administered it. (Ap. Past.).—It would, however, be an abuse to quote the conduct of Paul for the purpose of justifying violent human passions, or the maxims of a false political wisdom, Titus 1:7. (Starke).—If St. Paul in this manner assails the priest, who was appointed by the law of Moses, why should I hesitate to assail these painted bishops and masks that come from the pope, without any authority derived from God or from men? (Luther).

Acts 23:6. I am a Pharisee, etc.—Here Paul stands as a sheep in the midst of wolves; he is, therefore, wise as a serpent, Matthew 10:16. (Starke).—And yet, he did not renounce the harmlessness of the dove. He still belonged to the Pharisees, not only on account of his education and earlier life, but also on account of his present position as a believer, in so far as, in contradistinction from the frivolity of the Sadducees, he maintained, with the Pharisees, the authority of the divine law, and believed in the resurrection. This was the common ground occupied by them and by him, and he desired to guide them still further, until he had conducted them to the Gospel.—The hope of the fathers, fulfilled by the appearance of Christ; and, the resurrection of the dead, sealed by the resurrection of Christ—the two fundamental themes of the preaching of Paul. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 23:7. And the multitude was divided.—Here again we see the wisdom of God, in patiently permitting so many forms of religion to exist. If the whole world were of one mind, the truth would soon be crushed. But now, while one sect contends with another, divine truth finds an opportunity to speak. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 23:9. We find no evil in this man.—Human passions were violently inflamed; nevertheless the wisdom of God accomplished its great design. He rules in the midst of his enemies [Psalms 110:2.]. Some—says Paul (Philippians 1:16; Philippians 1:18),—preach Christ, who are influenced by hostile feelings; still, if Christ is preached, whatever the motive may be, I will rejoice. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 23:10. And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing, etc.—When the people of God are in great distress, He can always send them guardian angels, even though these should be heathen soldiers. (Starke).—It may easily be conceived how great a stumbling-block this division was to the heathen officer. (Rieger).—And still, in our day, when Christians, in their religious disputes, pull one another in pieces, their conduct must give offence to heathens.

Acts 23:11. And the night following, the Lord stood by him.—The danger was great, but the comfort, too, was great. (Starke).—The consolatory words of the Lord, must, on this occasion, have been of special value to the apostle. He may, himself, have felt but little satisfied with the witness which he had borne in Jerusalem, partly, on account of the result, and partly, on account of the manner of his defence. Such thoughts and doubts, to which, more than to any other cause, the sleepless nights of a servant of God are due, were dispelled by the words of the Lord: ‘Be of good cheer; I am satisfied with thy testimony; thou hast done what thou couldst do; the result did not depend on thee; thou hast not interfered with my ways and purposes; thy witness in Jerusalem is at an end; now go to Rome.’ (Williger).—The rest of the book, after Acts 23:0., is occupied with the apostolical testimony which Paul bore in Rome. Now if the defenders of the primacy of Peter could have found all these statements, or even only the half of them, made in reference to Peter, what a great stress they would lay on the circumstance! (Bengel).

On the whole section, Acts 23:1-11.

The enemies of the Gospel, condemning themselves: I. By the injustice of which they are guilty, Acts 23:2 ff.; II. By their internal disputes, Acts 23:6 ff. (Lisco).

The hope of the resurrection, the crown of Christianity: I. The force of Paul’s defence depends on the truth of the doctrine of the resurrection; II. That doctrine is sustained by the sure foundation of divine truth. (id.).

The excited feeling which Paul displayed before the council: I. The cause, Acts 23:1-2; II. The manner in which he controlled it, Acts 23:3-5. (id.).

The true mode of combining the simplicity of the children of God with the wisdom of the children of this world: I. The simplicity of the children of God, by a candid confession of our infirmities, Acts 23:3-5; II. The wisdom of the children of this world, by availing ourselves of those circumstances by which our object may be gained, Acts 23:6-10. (id.).

The comfort of a good conscience, Acts 23:1; I. The source from which it proceeds; (a) justification by faith; (b) earnestness in following holiness [Hebrews 12:14]; II. The support which it affords: (a) it enables us to labor with diligence; (b) it enables us to suffer with hope and joy.

Paul’s defence before the council, or, The true spirit of a witness: a spirit, I. Of manly courage, Acts 23:1-3; II. Of childlike humility, Acts 23:4-5; III. Of calmness and prudence, Acts 23:6; and, at the same time, IV. Of candor and simplicity, Acts 23:6, (for Paul speaks nothing but the truth).

Even when a servant of God exhibits nothing but carnal zeal, he shows what manner of spirit he is of [Luke 9:55]: I. By the cause which provokes his zeal (it is iniquity that arouses him, and justice and truth for which he is zealous). II. By the manner in which that zeal manifests itself (even in anger, he forgets neither his own dignity, nor his reverence for God). III. By the victory which he gains over it (he confesses it, when his composure is restored, and firmly controls it.—Parallel cases in Luther’s life and writings).

Jesus and Paul before the Great Council, or, The Master and the disciple before unjust Judges: I. The points of resemblance between them; (a) both are undeservedly exposed to shame, (Acts 23:2, and comp. John 18:22); (b) both maintain the dignity which heaven had bestowed (Acts 23:3, and John 18:23). II. The points in which the Master is above the disciple; (a) the holy self-consciousness of Jesus (John 18:20-21), is more than Paul’s good conscience (Acts 23:1); (b) the gentle reply of Jesus (John 18:23), is more heavenly than Paul’s human vehemence (Acts 23:3).

The best advocates of a servant of God before the tribunal of an unjust world: I. The comfort of a good conscience in his own breast, Acts 23:1; II. The curse of a bad cause in the ranks of his enemies, Acts 23:3; Acts 23:6-9; III. The sympathy of unprejudiced and honest men of the world, Acts 23:10; IV. The gracious testimony of a righteous Judge, in heaven, Acts 23:11.

The call from heaven: ‘Be of good cheer, Paul!’, a source of comfort for all the faithful servants of Christ: I. It consoles them when the world unjustly condemns. II. It indemnifies them, when their office exposes them to reproach; III. It soothes them when their own conscience is troubled; IV. It endows them with strength for future contests (‘Thou must bear witness also at Rome.’).

[Acts 23:8. Faith in the invisible world: I. The invisible world; (a) the future judgment; (b) the eternal happiness of the redeemed; (c) the eternal misery of the impenitent. II. The grounds of our faith in it; (a) reason sustains it; (b) the word of God establishes it; (c) the resurrection of Christ confirms and illustrates it. III. The influence of that faith; (a) on the mind and heart; (b) on the conscience; (c) on the outward walk. —Tr.].

Footnotes:

Acts 22:30; Acts 22:30. (Acts 22:0). [D. is deficient from ὁι μέλλοντες, Acts 22:29, to the end of the book.—Tr.] Ἀπὸ τῶν δεσμῶν, after ἔλυσεν αὐτὸν [of text. rec., with G. H.] is obviously a later addition; for the four oldest uncial manuscripts [A. B. C. E., also Cod. Sin., Vulg.] do not exhibit it.—Further, the same four manuscripts [A. B. C. E., with Cod. Sin., Vulg. (convenire)] exhibit the reading συνελθεῖν, whereas the others [G. H.] have the reading ἐλθεῖν [of text. rec.]. The latter is also a later correction, as it was supposed that the Jewish authorities had been directed to proceed to the quarters of the Roman commander. [See the Exeg. note.—In the same verse, ὅλον before τὸ συνέδ., of text. rec., with G. H., is changed into πᾶν by recent editors, on the authority of A. B. C. E., Cod. Sin., Vulg. (omne).—Αὐτῶν, after συνέδ., of text. rec. with G. H., is dropped by the same, on the same authority.—Tr.]

[1]Ch. 23, Acts 23:6. The reading, υἱὸς Φαρισαίων, is found in the uncial manuscripts A. B. C. [also, Cod. Sin.], in seven minuscules, the Syr. and Vulg.; also in Tert.; the reading [of text. rec., found in E. G. H.], Φαρισαίου, is, without doubt, a correction, as it was assumed that Paul referred solely to his father. Griesbach preferred the plural form; it has been very properly adopted by Lach. and Tisch. [also Born. and Alf., while Scholz retains the singular.—Tr.]

Acts 23:8; Acts 23:8. [The text. rec. reads: μηδὲ ἄγγελον, μήτε πνεῦμα. with G. H., some minuscules and fathers; Lach., Tisch., and Alf., change μηδὲ, before ἄγγ. into μήτε, on the authority of A. B. C. E (also Cod. Sin.)., some minuscules, etc. See the Exeg. note on the passage.—Tr.]

Acts 23:9; Acts 23:9. a. The reading of the two latest uncial manuscripts, G. H., and of five minuscules, namely, γραμματεῖς, without the article, seems to be genuine. Two uncial manuscripts [B. C (also Cod. Sin.).] read: τινες τῶν γραμματέων; in two others [A. E., and Vulg. (quidam Pharisæorum)] the reading is: τινες τῶν Φαρισαίων. All such alterations were probably intended to explain or improve the original words [which, according to Lechler’s translation, he assumes to have been those found in text. rec., excepting οἱ, which occurs in none of the uncials. This is the reading preferred by Tisch.; Lach. reads simply: τινὲς τῶν Φαρ. Alf. makes no change in the text rec. Meyer concludes with Born. that the genuine reading is probably the following: τινὲς τ. γραμματέων του μέρ. τῶν Φαρ.—Tr.]

Acts 23:9; Acts 23:9. b. The concluding words: μὴ θεομαχῶμεν, after ἄγγελος, [of text. rec., with C (second correction).G. H.] are wanting in the four most important manuscripts, of the first class [A. B. C (original). E., also Cod. Sin.], in three minuscules, and five of the oldest versions; they should, in accordance with the opinion of Erasmus, Griesb., and most of the recent critics, be cancelled, as being simply a gloss derived from Acts 5:39.

Acts 23:11; Acts 23:11. Παῦλε after θάρσει, is, according to external evidence, undoubtedly spurious. [It is found in C (second correction). G. H., but not in A. B. C (original). E., Cod. Sin., Vulg., etc.—Tr.]

Verses 12-35

SECTION III

PAUL IS CONVEYED FROM JERUSALEM TO CESAREA, AND THERE SPEAKS IN DEFENCE OF HIMSELF BEFORE THE ROMAN PROCURATOR FELIX, AND, SUBSEQUENTLY, BEFORE HIS SUCCESSOR FESTUS, AS WELL AS BEFORE KING AGRIPPA II

Acts 23:12 to Acts 26:32

A.—A CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE LIFE OF PAUL HAVING BEEN DISCOVERED, HE IS SENT, FOR THE SAFETY OF HIS PERSON, TO CESAREA, WHERE HE IS PLACED IN THE CHARGE OF FELIX, THE ROMAN PROCURATOR

Acts 23:12-35

12     And [But] when it was day, certain of the Jews [day, the Jews6] banded together [combined], and bound themselves under a curse [themselves by an oath7], saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had [should have] killed Paul. 13And they [But there] were more than forty which had [forty men who] made this conspiracy. 14And they [These] came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great [solemn] curse, that we will eat [taste] nothing until we have slain Paul. 15Now therefore ye with the council signify [give notice] to the chief captain [the tribune] that he [should] bring him down unto you to morrow [om. to morrow8], as though ye would inquire something more perfectly [as if ye were about to inquire more thoroughly] concerning him [into his case]: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him [but we are ready to kill him, before he comes near.] 16And when [However (δὲ),] Paul’s sister’s son heard of their lying in wait, he [of the plot, and] went and entered into the castle [barracks], and told Paul. 17Then [But] Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, Bring this young man unto the chief captain [tribune]: for he hath a certain thing [something] to tell him. 18So he took him, and brought him to the chief captain [tribune], and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and prayed [asked] me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee. 19Then [But] the chief captain [tribune] took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately [withdrew to a private place], and asked him, What is [it] that thou hast to tell me? 20And [But] he said, The [That the] Jews have agreed [together] to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul to morrow into [before] the council [chief council, τὸ συνέδριον], as though they would inquire somewhat of him more perfectly [as if the council would9 institute a more thorough investigation concerning him]. 21But do not thou yield unto [thou be persuaded thereto by] them: for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, which [who] have bound themselves with an oath [as in Acts 23:12], that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him: and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee [waiting for thy promise]. 22So the chief captain then let the young man depart [Then (ὁ μὲν οὖν χ.) the tribune dismissed the young man], and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me [charged him to tell no one, that he had disclosed this to him, πρός με]. And he called unto him two [of the, δύο τινὰς τῶν ἐχ.] centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Cesarea, and horsemen three score and ten [seventy horsemen], and spearmen [and of light-armed men] two hundred, at the third hour of the night; 24And provide them, [And they were also to provide] beasts, that they may [might] set Paul on, and [to] bring him safe [in safety] unto Felix the governor. 25And he wrote a letter after this manner: 26Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent [the noble] governor Felix sendeth greeting. 27This man was taken of [seized by] the Jews, and should have been killed of [and was on the point of being killed by] them: then came I with an army [with the soldiery (τῷ στρατεύματι, as in Acts 23:10)], and rescued him, having understood [learned] that he was a Roman [citizen]. 28And when I would have known the cause wherefore [And as I wished to ascertain the grounds on which] they accused him, I brought him forth [down, κατήγαγον] into their council: 29Whom I perceived to be accused [only on account] of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds [imprisonment]. 30And [But] when it was told me how [om. how] that the Jews laid [that they10 would lay] wait for the man, I sent [him] straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his [gave notice to the] accusers also to say before thee what they had against him. Farewell [that they should speak before thee (om. what they … … Farewell)11].

31Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by [during the, διὰ τῆς ν.] night to Antipatris. 32[But] On the morrow [next day] they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle [barracks]: 33Who [But these], when they came to Cesarea, and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him. 34And when the governor [But when he12] had read the letter, he asked of what province he was. And when he understood [learned] that he was of Cilicia; 35I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come [also here]. And he commanded13 him to be kept in Herod’s judgment hall [in Herod’s palace].

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Acts 23:12-13. And when it was day.—Οἱ Ιουδαῖοιi.e., the Jewish party; the details are given in Acts 23:13. Συστροφή is, here, an unauthorized and lawless combination, a conspiracy. Ἀναθεματίζειν ἑαυτ., they pronounced a curse, an imprecation on themselves (חֵרֶם) if they should taste any thing before they had slain Paul. [See ἀνάθεμα, etc., in Schleusner: Thes. sive Lex. in LXX. I. 221.—“Bound themselves under a curse, in Greek, anathematized themselves … Anathema—among the Jews seems to have been used to represent a Hebrew word denoting an irrevocable vow, or something consecrated either to God’s special service or to irremissible destruction .… These Jews invoked the curse upon themselves if they should prove false to the pledge which they had given.” (Alex).—Tr.]. It may, at the same time, be remarked that the Talmud provided a loop-hole, that is, furnished the means for releasing an individual from the vow and the curse, if the performance of the former became impossible; the wise Jewish teachers could free him from his vow. Lightfoot has quoted the passage from Abodah Zarah [in Horæ Hebr. et. Talm. ad loc., where he gives the following version: Homini qui vovit se abstenturum a cibo, væ si edat, væ si non edat. Si edat, peccat in votum suum: si non edat, peccat in vitam suam. Quid ei hic faciendum? Adeat sapientes, et illi solvent ei votum suum. Sicut scribitur: Lingua sapientum est sanitas, Proverbs 12:18.Tr.]. Ἕως οὖ with the subjunctive [Winer, § 41. 3] indicates their belief that the result which they desired, would inevitably follow.

Acts 23:14-15. And they came to the chief priests.—The conspirators, in order to gain their object, applied to the authorities—doubtless, primarily, to the chief priests and members of the Great Council who entertained Sadducean views. It was their wish that the whole Sanhedrin (ὑμεῖς σὺν τῷ συνεδρίῳ) would request the Roman commander to bring the prisoner before them, so that they themselves might way-lay him, and thus find an opportunity to assassinate him before he could reach the assembly (πρὸ τοῦ ἐγγίσαι). [Ἔτοιμοί—τοῦ�—for the genitive of the design and the result (τοῦ with the infin.) see Winer, § 44. 4.—Tr.]

Acts 23:16. And when Paul’s sister’s son heard.—We have no other information respecting this young man; Bengel explains his discovery of the murderous design, by assuming that strict secrecy had not been observed, as none suspected that tidings of it could possibly reach Paul or the Roman tribune. [Alford supposes that the young man was, like Paul himself at an earlier period, receiving instruction in the schools in Jerusalem, and may there have heard the scheme mentioned.—Tr.]. The circumstance shows that the apostle was not so rigorously confined, as to prevent the approach of a third person. Still, he was a δέσμιος, Acts 23:18, and was probably held, as at Rome, Acts 28:16, in custodia militaris, chained to a soldier who guarded him.

Acts 23:17-22. Paul called one of the centurions.—In order to keep the matter as secret as possible, Paul simply requests the centurion, without explaining his purpose, to conduct the young man to the tribune, to whom the information was to be given. The latter courteously received the young man, took him by the hand in a manner which inspired confidence, and led him to a spot where they could converse without witnesses (κατʼ ἰδίαν, confidentially). [“The English version changes the construction for the sake of uniformity, the Greek abruptly passing from the third to the first and second persons, (literally translated): charging him to tell no one, that thou hast disclosed these things unto me. The same end might have been secured by inserting saith he, as in Acts 1:4.” (Alex.).—On this and other instances of a transition from the oratio obliqua to the recta, see Winer: Gram. § 63. II. 2.—Tr.]

Acts 23:23-24. Make ready two hundred soldiers.—A military force, consisting of 470 men, was directed to escort the prisoner, in order to protect him not only against the plots of assassins, but also against any open attempt on his life. The force consisted of heavy-armed foot soldiers (which signification the context assigns to στρατιῶται), a small squadron of cavalry, and a body of light-armed foot-soldiers. Δεξιολάβοι is a word not found in any classic Greek writer [“perhaps frequently occurring at that period in the popular language, but not adopted by writers.” (Meyer).—Tr.], and occurs only in two passages of later writers [mentioned in Rob. Lex. ad verb.—Tr.], in one of which [quoted by Grotius, Meyer and Alford], the word is introduced in connection with bowmen and men armed with a light shield. The explanation that, the δεξιολάβοι were halberdiers, or life-guardsmen (protecting the right side of the commander), cannot be accepted; they were, on the contrary, soldiers who seized the weapon with the right hand, whether it was a javelin or sling, and who were, accordingly, either javelinmen or slingers. Ewald’s conjecture that the slingers were Arabian auxiliary troops, is, very probably, in accordance with the fact, as those regions had, from early times, been celebrated for their slingers. The reading in Cod. Alexand. [A.], which Lachmann preferred, viz., δεξιοβόλους, accords with this view, although that reading itself is doubtless a later correction. [Meyer also regards the latter (δεξιός and βάλλω), as a correct interpretation of the original word, δεξιολάβ. (δεξιός and λαμβάνω). The reading of the text. rec. is sustained by B (e sil). E. G. H., also Cod. Sin.—Tr.]. Ἀπὸ τρίτ ὥρ., at the third hour of the night, i.e., the men. were to be ready to march at nine o’clock in the evening, or as soon afterwards as the order that they should proceed, arrived; it was intended that their movements should be concealed by the darkness of the night. It was also ordered that several beasts of burden, i.e., horses or mules, should be in readiness, so that they might relieve one another. [They were not intended, as Kuinoel says, in usum Pauli et militis ipsius custodis, but solely in usum Pauli, as the words ἵνα ἐπιβ. τ. Παῦλ. plainly show (Meyer).—Tr.]. Διασώζειν is equivalent to: to conduct to a place of safety. Bengel makes an exceedingly ingenious and happy remark on the transition from the direct [oratio recta] to the indirect [or. obliqua—comp. Exeg. note on Acts 23:17-22, ult.—Tr.] form of speech, Acts 23:24 : παραστῆσαι, ἵνα … διασώσωσι: namely, this change of construction corresponds to the facts themselves, for the tribune did not at first announce that the object of the march was to furnish Paul with a military escort. Hence the design of the whole expedition, which was at first kept secret, is stated in ἵνα … διασώσωσι, and, in order to express this plainly, the transition already begins with παραστῆσαι.

Acts 23:25-30. a. Felix.—[“Since the death of Herod Agrippa, recorded in Acts 12:23, Judea had again become a part of the great Roman province of Syria, and was governed by deputies (or procurators) of the Syrian proconsul.” (Alex.).—Tr.]. He was at that time the procurator of Judea, and is mentioned by Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius. His full name was Antonius Felix. He was a freedman of the emperor Claudius (Tac. Hist. V. 9), and a brother of Pallas, one of the favorites of Nero, and was appointed procurator by Claudius in the year A. D. 53, after the deposition of Cumanus. But, as Tacitus says (loc. cit.), he exercised the power of a king in the spirit of a slave [jus regium servili ingenio exercuit], and was, hence, subsequently recalled, about A. D. 60 or 61; the imperial favor, however, which his brother Pallas enjoyed, protected him against the accusations of the Jews.—Grammatically, γράψας, in Acts 23:25, belongs to εἶπεν in Acts 23:23; but, as a matter of fact, the letter, which was intended to state the case to the procurator, may possibly have been written at a somewhat later period. Τύπος, exemplum, indicates that the contents of the letter are given in their original form and extent. [“Luke with his inquisitive habits (see his Gospel Acts 1:1) would find an opportunity to copy the letter during his abode of two years at Cesarea.” (Hackett).—Tr.]

b. Having understood that he was a Roman.—Ἀυτόν after ἐξειλόμην, is pleonastic. Μαθών implies, in the connection in which it stands, that Claudius Lysias had ascertained, before Paul’s life was in danger, that he was a Roman citizen, and that it was precisely this circumstance which had induced him to interfere, in order to rescue him. But this statement is entirely inconsistent with the facts themselves, Acts 21:31 ff., and comp. Acts 22:25 ff. The attempt has, therefore, been made to reconcile the two by assuming that μαθών is used without any reference to a particular time (Grotius), or else, that the writer of the letter alludes to the second rescue, Acts 23:10 (Du Bois). But all such explanations are instances of art perversely applied. The tribune undoubtedly intended, for the sake of exhibiting his zeal in the public service in a favorable light, to say that he had rescued the man from death, because he knew that he was a Roman citizen. Personal considerations induced him to give a distorted view of the facts that had occurred. And this comparatively trivial circumstance affords evidence, as Meyer correctly observes, of the genuineness of the letter. The words μηνυθείσης … μέλλειν ἔσεσθαι exhibit negligence in the arrangement of the terms of the sentence, as two different constructions are combined. [“He writes hastily, and mixes two constructions together: 1. μηνυθείσης δέ μοι ἐπιβουλῆς τῆς μελλούσης ἔσεσθαι, and, 2. μηνυθέντος δέ μοι ἐπιβουλὴν μέλλειν ἔσεσθαι.—See Winer, § 63. I. 1.” (Meyer).—Tr.]

Acts 23:31-33. Took Paul, and brought him.—Ἀναλαβόντες is descriptive of the act of placing Paul on a beast of burden. After a rapid night march, he and the escort reached Antipatris, a city which Herod the Great had built, and named after his father Antipater. It was situated in a plain, at a distance of 42 Roman, that Isaiah , 7 or 8 [German] geographical miles from Jerusalem. Hence the escort, which had commenced the march at 9 o’clock on the previous evening, must have reached this station in the course of the forenoon. The foot-soldiers proceeded no further than Antipatris, but returned to Jerusalem [where their aid might possibly be needed, if any tumult should occur, while the safety of Paul no longer required so strong a force (Meyer).—Tr.]. The horsemen continued to escort the prisoner until they reached Cesarea, which was 26 Roman miles distant from Antipatris. [See the full account of the road, etc., in Conyb. and Howson’s Life, etc., of St. Paul, Acts 21:0, where Mr. Howson says, in the text, and a note: “It is to the quick journey and energetic researches of an American traveller, that we owe the power of following the exact course of this night march from Jerusalem to Cesarea.—See ‘A visit to Antipatris,’ by the Rev. Eli Smith, missionary in Palestine, in the Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. I. p. 478–496.” (Conyb., etc., II 275).—Tr.]

Acts 23:34-35, And when the governor [when he] had read the letter.—Felix addressed only one question to Paul, which referred to the latter personally, as the epistle stated that he was a Roman citizen, without mentioning his residence. Διακούειν means ad finem usque audire, to give a full hearing, Τὸ πραιτώριον Ἡρώδου was the name which the palace, built by Herod the Great, received only after it was occupied by the Roman governors. The apostle was, as it here appears, not confined in a public prison [probably in consequence of the favorable statement made in the letter,—Tr.], but was placed in an apartment of the same palace in which the procurator resided.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. The promise of divine protection which was conveyed by the word θάρσει, Acts 23:11, was very speedily fulfilled. The enemies of the apostle pursued him with a deadly hatred; the number of the conspirators was large, their plot was carefully arranged; and yet the almighty protection of the Redeemer secured His servant from harm. That which was concerted in secret, He made manifest; the designs of wicked men were frustrated by a superior military force. Thus the exalted Redeemer rules in the midst of His enemies [Psalms 110:2.].

2. A body-guard, consisting of nearly 500 men, accompanies the apostle; he had never before been attended by such a force, or appeared with such a large retinue. For the consideration which was thus paid to him, he was, no doubt, primarily indebted to his Roman citizenship. Still, it is equally true that his personal safety required such a strong force. Christ not only protects, but also honor’s His people. And the unsought honor which a child of God in this manner often obtains, reflects its rays of glory on Him, by whose grace a converted sinner is what he is [1 Corinthians 15:10].

3. The personal innocence of Paul is attested by the Roman tribune; the latter, however, at the same time employs language which shows that he regarded the whole case, and the faith, with very little respect, Acts 23:29. He was a man of the world, and looked on religion and its concerns as matters of secondary importance. And yet he is influenced to employ a considerable part of the military force which he commanded, in the service of Paul. Thus the world, even when entertaining designs of an opposite nature, is so controlled as to serve the kingdom of God, and exalt the honor of Christ.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Acts 23:12. Bound themselves … that they would neither eat nor drink.—What burdens men are willing to assume, for the purpose of opposing the kingdom of God! What happy results would have already followed, if its friends were equally willing to make sacrifices in promoting its interests, and were as firmly united together!

Acts 23:13. And they were more than forty.—What a bundle [Mtt. Acts 13:30] these tares will hereafter make, when they shall be bound together! (Rieger).

Acts 23:14. And they came to the chief priests.—The high priest, who, when he performed the duties of his office, exhibited on his mitre the words: ‘Holiness to the Lord,’ and on his breastplate ‘Lights and Perfections’ [Exodus 28:30-36], allows himself to be made the leader of a band of sworn assassins. Such is the result of a false religious zeal, and such the fruit of an unrenewed heart. O that it had been the only example of this kind! (Ap. Past.).

Acts 23:15. As though ye would inquire … and we are ready.—These are Cain’s saints, who conceal the murderer’s club behind the veil of the law. (Starke).

Acts 23:16. And when Paul’s sister’s son heard.—We know not whether this youth was already a Christian, or still a Jew, nor do we know the means by which he discovered the plot; it is enough for us that God was pleased to employ him as the guardian angel of the apostle.—The Lord, who rules over the angels, and can command the earthquake, employs a lad on this occasion, in executing His purpose, so that the words in Psalms 7:14-16 might be fulfilled. (Besser).

Acts 23:17. Then Paul called one of the centurions.—He had received Christ’s own promise of protection, Acts 23:11, but he did not on that account neglect to avail himself of ordinary means of protecting himself; these means were, on the contrary, in his eyes the stretched-out saving hand of the Lord.—Observe that, while Paul trusts in God, he does not neglect the use of ordinary means.—Here, too, Luther resembles him. He submitted to the circumstances after his interview with Cajetan, escaped from the city of Augsburg by night, and rode eight [German, nearly forty English] miles, until he reached a place of safety. (Besser).

Acts 23:19. Then the chief captain took him by the hand, etc.—Thus heaven gave additional signs; for these men had the time and the inclination to listen to the young man kindly, which was not their usual manner. (Williger).—Even pagans exhibit a certain natural uprightness and fidelity; but, alas! how rare have such qualities become among Christians! Hosea 4:1. (Starke).

Acts 23:23. Make ready two hundred soldiers, etc.—Here Paul travels in state, like a great lord; he is now great in the eyes of God, for he that feareth the Lord, is greater than he that taketh a city [Proverbs 16:32], At other times he travelled wearily on foot, but now he rides. He doubtless reflected on the truth that all things, even the beasts of the field, are the Lord’s, and are bound to serve Him. (Bogatzky).—This escort of pagan soldiers is a striking emblem of the soldiers of the Lord, who “encamp round about them that fear him” [Psalms 34:7]. God is the God of hosts in the kingdom of spirits and of men, and he employs them, according to His own good pleasure, in protecting His people. By his providential care, five hundred men protect His apostle against forty bandits. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 23:24. And bring him safe unto Felix.—Who that reads of Paul, attended by his military guard, does not at once think of Luther, his brother in spirit, his successor in office, the partner of his fortunes—how he was taken by armed men, and safely conducted to the castle of Wart-burg?

Acts 23:25. Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent, etc.—Lysias does not, in the faintest manner, conceive of the value of the present which he bestows on Felix, when he sends Paul to him. It is true that Felix did not appreciate the gift, Acts 24:0. Still, Paul’s countenance presented another letter of commendation, for it was there written ‘Governor Felix! God saluteth thee with salvation and peace!’ O that he had understood this letter! (Williger).

Acts 23:27. This man was taken of the Jews, etc.—When we examine this letter, we perceive that the pagan writes with more honesty and equity than the orthodox Jews speak. And even in our day, Paul fares better with Lysias and Felix, than he does with those who profess to adhere to the letter, but who deny the spirit. (Gossner).

Acts 23:29. Accused of questions of the law.—This is the language of a heathen, who thinks that the religious disputes of the Jews are entitled to no consideration. But this opinion was the means, in the providence of God, of rescuing Paul from the hands of murderers. (Starke).

Acts 23:35. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod’s judgment hall.—We have here another instance of God’s tender care for his servant, in granting him repose, and a favorable season for prayer, so that he might be strengthened in the Lord, and prepare himself for the witness which he was to bear in Jerusalem. He was protected not only by the guard of the governor, but also by the good hand of his faithful Lord and Saviour. He was thus enabled, after escaping the perils of the road, to perceive the evidence of the divine protection which he enjoyed, and he saw that he was conducted more and more nearly to Rome, his point of destination, and, indeed, to his own happy end. He was strong in faith, and glorified God. He became more and more firm in his resolution to deliver his apostolical testimony, and he was well prepared for any future event. The pauses which the Lord sometimes allows us in our labors and sufferings, are intended to render us similar services. (Ap. Past.).

ON THE WHOLE SECTION, Acts 23:12-35The Lord protects his people: I. They need His protection against the insidious designs of enemies; (a) these enemies form combinations against righteous men, Acts 23:12-13; (b) and, at the same time, often assume the mask of religion, Acts 23:14-15. II. The protection of the Lord is extended to them; (a) He exposes the malice of their enemies, Acts 23:16; (b) and influences the hearts of men with a view to the welfare of His people, Acts 23:17-22. (Lisco).

The murderous plot of Paul’s enemies, and the gracious covenant of his Lord: I. Those enemies were powerful, in consequence of (a) their number—forty against one; (b) their ultimate design—they were bound by an oath to kill him; (c) the means which they employed—cunning and deceit. But, II. The Lord, who made a covenant with His servant, was far more powerful (“Be of good cheer, etc.,” Acts 23:11); (a) He exposed the plot formed by those enemies; (b) He raised up for the apostle protectors, who were more powerful than his enemies—against the high priest, the Roman commander; against the 40 conspirators, more than 400 soldiers; (c) He led him forth, unharmed, out of the toils of his enemies.

Rejoice, ye righteous, for the Lord is with His people! I. He gives them inward strength by the assurance of His grace, Acts 23:14; II. He exposes the devices of his enemies, Acts 23:16; III. He raises up for them active friends (Paul’s sister’s son), and powerful protectors (Lysias);. IV. He conducts them safely through the midst of their enemies (Paul’s military escort on leaving the city); V. He furnishes them with honorable credentials (the letter of Lysias to Felix);

The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them,’ Psalms 34:7. The protecting angel approaches the apostle in a threefold form: I. As a comforting vision, in the prison, Acts 23:11; II. As a tender friend, in the person of his sister’s son, Acts 23:16 ff.; III. As a powerful body-guard, in the form of Roman soldiers, Acts 23:23 ff.(Comp. 2 Kings 6:17 : “Behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”).

Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. Psalms 34:19 : I. The afflictions of the righteous; II. The divine deliverance —‘Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.’ 2 Kings 6:16 : I. With them are (a) wicked designs to commit murder, Acts 23:12 : (b) numerous confederates, Acts 23:13; (c) powerful assistants, Acts 23:14-15. But, II. With us are (a) divine promises of peace, Acts 23:11; (b) the hearts of praying friends, Acts 23:16; (c) the protecting hosts of the Lord, Acts 23:22 ff.

The hearts of men are in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water, and are turned unto the welfare of His people [Proverbs 21:1]: I. He smites artful foes with blindness, so that their murderous plot is divulged, Acts 23:16. II. He arms the timid youth—Paul’s sister’s son—with resolution and firmness, so that he reaches the presence of the commanding officer; III. He touches the conscience of the Roman commander, so that he provides for the safety of the apostle, as if a crowned head were in danger.

Paul’s final departure from Jerusalem: viewed, I. As the mournful departure of a witness of the truth, whose message of salvation was rejected by his deluded people; II. As the brilliant triumphal march of an anointed servant of God, whom the Lord conducts as a victor through the midst of his enemies; III. As the solemn homeward journey of a soldier of Christ, who is drawing near to his last battle, his last victory, and his last reward.

Footnotes:

Acts 23:12; Acts 23:12. a. In the majority of the uncial manuscripts [A. B. C. E., also Cod. Sin., Syr.], we find the reading οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι; only the two latest, G. and H., read τινες τῶν Ἰουδ. [as in text. rec.], which is a correction, as it was assumed [by the copyists, in view of Acts 23:13] that only some were engaged in the plot. [Vulg. quidam ex Judæis; recent editors generally read ποιήσ. συστ. οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι.—Tr.]

Acts 23:12; Acts 23:12. b. [In place of: under a curse (or: with an oath, as the same Greek words are rendered in Acts 23:21), the translators of the Engl. Bible here propose in the margin: with an oath of execration; literally, anathematized themselves; see the Exeg. note.—Tr.]

Acts 23:15; Acts 23:15. αὔριον [of text. rec.] after ὅπως is attested only by the two latest manuscripts [G. H.]; it must be regarded as a gloss from Acts 23:20, as it is wanting alike in the greater number, and in the best, of the manuscripts [A. B. C. E. Cod. Sin., Vulg.—Tr.]

Acts 23:20; Acts 23:20. ὡς μέλλων is undoubtedly the original reading, and is also sustained by external testimony [A. B. E.], whereas μέλλοντες [of text. rec., with some minuscules, but derived from Acts 23:15 (Meyer)], μέλλοντα [in G. H.], and μελλόντων, [in some minuscules], are merely attempts to correct the original. [Μέλλων is adopted by Lach., Tisch., Born., and Alf.—Cod. Sin., (original) exhibits μέλλον which was afterwards corrected by C to μέλλοντων.—Tr.]

Acts 23:30; Acts 23:30. a. The words ὑπὸ τῶν Ἰουδαίων, after ἔσεσθαι, are wanting in the Vatican manuscript [B.], and in several minuscules: they are, without doubt, a later addition. [They are found in G. H., Syr. but not in Vulg., nor Cod. Sin.—For ἐξαυτῆς A. and E. substitute ἐξ αὐτῶν, which reading is adopted by Lach., and has since been found in Cod. Sin.—Tisch. and Alf. cancel ὑπο τ. Ἰ.—Ἐξαυτῆς, of text. rec., found in B. G. H., is omitted in A. E. Cod. Sin. Vulg., and is dropped by Lach., but retained by Tisch. and Alf.—Tr.]

Acts 23:30; Acts 23:30. b. τὰ πρὸς αὐτὸν, and ἔῤῥωσο [of text. rec.], are also to be suspected, on critical grounds, and must be regarded as glosses. [The words τὰ πρὸς αὐτὸν are found, with some variations (B. omitting τὰ; E.G. adding αὐτοὺς) in B. E. G. H.; they are retained by Alf.—Lach. and Tisch., with A., read simply αὐτοὺς after λεγειν, which is also the reading of Cod. Sin.—Ἔῤῥωσο is found in E. G. and Cod. Sin.; ἐῤῥώσθε in H.; the word is omitted in A. B., and is dropped by Lach., Tisch., and Alt. The Vulg. has Vale in the common printed editions, but Cod. Amiatinus omits the word.—Tr.]

Acts 23:34; Acts 23:34. ὁ ἡγεμών after ἀναγνοὺς δὲ is a spurious addition. [It is found in G. H., but omitted in A. B. E. Cod. Sin. Vulg., and is dropped by recent editors generally.—Tr.]

Acts 23:35; Acts 23:35. κελεύσας [without τε, found in A. B. E. Syr., and adopted by Lach., Tisch., Born., and Alf.] is better attested than ἐκέλευσέ τε [of text. rec., with G. H.—Cod. Sin. originally read κελεύσαντος, which was afterwards corrected by C to κελεύσας.—Vulg. jussitque.—Tr.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Acts 23". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/acts-23.html. 1857-84.
 
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