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Bible Commentaries
Acts 22

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Acts 22:0


Paul Defends HimselfAddressing The Jerusalem MobPaul's Arrest and DefensePaul Defends HimselfPaul's Address to the Jews of Jerusalem
Acts 21:37-5Acts 21:37-21(Acts 21:27-29)Acts 21:37-1(Acts 21:37-5)
Acts 22:1-5
Acts 22:2
Acts 22:3-5Acts 22:3-5
Paul Tells of His ConversionPaul Tells of His Conversion
Acts 22:6-11Acts 22:6-11Acts 22:6-11Acts 22:6-11
Acts 22:12-16Acts 22:12-16Acts 22:12-16Acts 22:12-16
Paul Sent to the GentilesPaul's Call to Preach to the Gentiles
Acts 22:17-21Acts 22:17-21Acts 22:17-21Acts 22:17-21
Paul and the Roman TribunePaul's Roman CitizenshipPaul the Roman Citizen
Acts 22:22-29Acts 22:22-29Acts 22:22-29Acts 22:22-25Acts 22:22-29
Acts 22:26
Acts 22:27a
Acts 22:27b
Acts 22:28a
Acts 22:28b
Acts 22:29
Paul Before the CouncilThe Sanhedrin DividedPaul Before the CouncilHis Appearance Before the Sanhedrin
(Acts 22:30-11)Acts 22:30-5Acts 22:30-10Acts 22:30(Acts 22:30-11)Acts 22:30(Acts 22:30-11)Acts 22:30

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did Paul even want to defend himself to this mob?

2. Why does Luke record three times Paul's testimony of his conversion on the road to Damascus?

3. How does the Spirit's use of Ananias refute Apostolic succession?

4. List Paul's special visions. Why did he need this many supernatural encounters?

5. How does the outcome of Paul's defense before this mob in the temple fit God's plan?

Verse 1

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 22:1 1"Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you."

Acts 22:1

NASB"Brethren and fathers" NKJV"Men, brethren and fathers" NRSV"Brothers and fathers" TEV"My fellow Jews" NJB"My brothers, my fathers"

A Translator's Handbook on the Acts of the Apostles, by Newman and Nida says this implies men of Paul's age and those older than he (cf. p. 419). However, I think this must be an idiom (Stephen used the same introductory statement in Acts 7:2) because Paul was over sixty by this point and this does not fit the age of the mob.

There would have been some believers in this crowd. Possibly the term "the brothers" uniquely refers to them. However, Paul always identified with his race and nationality (cf. Romans 9:1-5; Philippians 3:5).

"defense" We get the English term "apology" from this Greek word (apologia). It means a legal verbal defense. This term is used several times in Acts related to Paul's trials (cf. Acts 25:16; 2 Timothy 4:16).

Verse 2

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 22:2 2And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more quiet; and he said,

Acts 22:2 "Hebrew dialect" This refers to Aramaic. All of the places in the Gospels where Jesus' actual words are recorded are in Aramaic. This was a cognate language to ancient Hebrew. It was the language of the Persian Empire. The Jews learned it while under their control. For example, in Nehemiah 8:0, where Ezra read the Law of Moses in Hebrew, Levites had to interpret it into Aramaic for the people (cf. Nehemiah 8:7).

"they became even more quiet" Paul's polite introduction, combined with his fluent Aramaic and the fact that many in this mob knew him or knew of him, caused an immediate, surprising calm. They wanted to hear what he had to saya perfect preaching opportunity to the leaders of Judaism.

Verses 3-5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 22:3-5 3"I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today. 4I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, 5as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished."

Acts 22:3 "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus" Paul is trying to identify himself with this Jewish crowd. He is asserting his Jewishness (cf. Acts 22:2 Cor. 12:22; Philippians 3:5-6). He would have been considered a Greek-speaking Jew of the diaspora.

The phrase "but brought up in this city" can refer grammatically either to (1) Tarsus or (2) Jerusalem. Contextually, Jerusalem is implied. If so, then Paul's training in Greek rhetoric must have occurred somewhere besides Tarsus.

"educated under Gamaliel" This was a very respected rabbi (cf. Acts 5:34-40). He is quoted in the Mishnah several times. Paul was a student of the liberal rabbinical school of Hillel. This crowd would have been impressed by this statement. See SPECIAL TOPIC: GAMALIEL at Acts 5:34.

"strictly according to the law of our fathers" This would imply that he was a Pharisee (cf. Acts 23:6; Acts 26:5) and a zealous one at that (cf. Acts 22:4; Galatians 1:14; Philippians 3:6). The Pharisees were committed to stringent obedience to the Oral Traditions (i.e., Talmud), which interpreted the Old Testament.

"as you all are today" Paul acknowledges their enthusiasm and commitment. He was once like them!

Acts 22:4 "I persecuted" Throughout Paul's ministry he looked back on these days with deep regret. He mentions this often (cf. Acts 9:1, Acts 9:13, Acts 9:21; Acts 22:4, Acts 22:19; Acts 26:10-11; Galatians 1:13, Galatians 1:23; Philippians 3:6; 1 Timothy 1:13). Paul often refers to himself as the least of the saints because of these actions (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:9; 2 Corinthians 12:11; Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:15).

"this Way" This was the earliest name for the Christian Church (cf. Acts 9:2; Acts 19:9, Acts 19:23; Acts 22:4; Acts 28:14, Acts 28:22). It refers to

1. Jesus as "the Way" (cf. John 14:6)

2. biblical faith as a lifestyle (cf. Deuteronomy 5:32-33; Deuteronomy 31:29; Psalms 27:11; Isaiah 35:8)

▣ "to the death" Paul had some Christians put to death (cf. Acts 8:1, Acts 8:3; Acts 26:10)! He was surely involved in Stephen's death (cf. Acts 7:58, Acts 8:1).

"binding and putting both men and women into prisons" The fact that Paul did this to women really shows the intensity of his persecutions.

Acts 22:5 Paul is sharing the circumstances that led up to his Damascus road conversion to faith in Jesus (cf. Acts 9:0).

"the Council of the elders" This is literally "all the elders." Luke uses this same term for the Sanhedrin in Luke 22:66. This is not the normal term used of this official body of Jewish leaders in Jerusalem (Sanhedrin). It may have referred to a small administrative sub-committee.

"I also received letters" F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, has an interesting discussion and documentation of the Sanhedrin's rights of extradition from surrounding countries (p. 72). For more historical information see I Macc. 15:21 and Falvius Josephus.

"those who were there" This phrase implies that these were believing Jews who had fled the persecution in Jerusalem.

Verses 6-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 22:6-11 6"But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, 7and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' 8And I answered, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said to me, 'I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.' 9And those who were with me saw the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me. 10And I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Get up and go on into Damascus, and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.' 11But since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me and came into Damascus."

Acts 22:6 "about noontime" This is an added detail not found in Acts 9:3.

Acts 22:7 This is a repeat of Acts 9:4.

Acts 22:8

NASB, NJB"Jesus the Nazarene" NKJV, NRSV, TEV"Jesus of Nazareth"

Paul shares his personal testimony three times in Acts 9:1-31; Acts 26:4-18, but here and Acts 26:9 are the only places where he uses this designation. Literally, this is "Jesus the Nazarene." This is a term of derision in Acts 24:5, but a term of prophecy in Matthew 2:23. It is possible that it is not a geographical designation, but a Messianic title from "branch" (cf. Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 53:2) from the Hebrew word nçser (cf. Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12). See Special Topic at Acts 2:22.

"whom you are persecuting" See full note at Acts 9:4.

Acts 22:9 "but did not understand the voice" There is no contradiction between the accounts of Paul's conversion in Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9. The Greek grammar implies that his companions heard the sound, but did not understand the words. See Acts 9:7 for a fuller discussion.

Acts 22:10 "all that has been appointed for you" This is a perfect passive indicative. It reflects the words of Jesus to Ananias in Acts 9:15-16. Paul had a very specific and difficult mission to accomplish. In several ways Paul's vision and commission follow that of OT prophets (cf. Isaiah 6:0; Jeremiah 1:0; Ezek. 2-3).

Acts 22:11 I think this was the cause of Paul's "thorn in the flesh." Some theories regarding Paul's thorn in the flesh are:

1. early Church Fathers, Luther, and Calvin, say it was spiritual problems with his fallen nature (i.e., "in the flesh")

2. Chrysostom says it was a problem with persons (cf. Numbers 33:55; Judges 2:3)

3. some say it was epilepsy

4. Sir William Ramsay says it was malaria

5. I think it was ophthalmia, a common eye problem (compare Acts 22:5 and 6:11) exacerbated or caused by this initial blindness on the Damascus road (cf. Acts 9:0, possibly an OT allusion in Joshua 23:13)

Verses 12-16

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 22:12-16 12"A certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13came to me, and standing near said to me, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight!' And at that very time I looked up at him. 14And he said, 'The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. 15'For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16'Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.'"

Acts 22:12 This is a much fuller description of Ananias than Acts 9:10. He was a lay person who apparently, like Paul, was devout by the standard of the Mosaic Law. This may imply he was also a Pharisee.

1. Luke similarly describes Simeon, the one who saw Jesus in the temple as a child (cf. Luke 2:25).

2. Luke also uses it of Jews of the diaspora who came to Jerusalem on Pentecost when the Spirit came with power (cf. Acts 2:5).

3. Luke uses it a third time of the men who buried Stephen after his stoning (cf. Acts 8:2).

Therefore, this term does not relate to a believer in Christ as much as a sincere follower of Judaism. He is called a "disciple" in Acts 9:10; therefore, he had become a believer. Yet, even though he was a Christian, he still had the respect of the Jewish community in Damascus.

Acts 22:13 Ananias' ministry to Paul shows us that there is no clear division of believers in the NT between clergy (special ordained group) and laity. Jesus' words were his authority to:

1. lay hands (cf. Acts 9:12, Acts 9:17) on Paul and command healing (aorist active imperative, Acts 22:13, See Special Topic at Acts 6:6)

2. reveal Jesus' will for Paul's ministry (Acts 22:15)

3. tell Paul to be baptized (Paul may have baptized himself as Jews required of proselytes, Aorist middle imperative, Acts 22:16)

4. be the instrument of Paul being filled with the Spirit (cf. Acts 9:17)

You can see Ananias' heart when he calls this vicious persecutor and murder (cf. Acts 9:13-14) "Brother Saul."

Acts 22:14 "The God of our fathers" This phrase was used to describe the Deity of Jewish worship. Paul wants to make clear that it was YHWH (see Special Topic at Acts 1:68) who contacted him and commissioned him through His Son, Jesus. Paul was not called by any other god than Judaism's God!

"to know His will" YHWH's primary will is for humans is to know Jesus (cf. John 6:29, John 6:40). God's further will for Paul was to be the missionary Apostle to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 9:15; Acts 22:15; Acts 26:16).

"to see the Righteous One" This is a Messianic title (cf. Psalms 45:0; Psalms 72:0; Acts 3:14; Acts 7:52; 1 John 2:1). Paul would have the privilege of a personal revelation of the glorified Jesus (as did Stephen, cf. Acts 7:55-56). See SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS at Acts 3:14.

"and to hear an utterance from His mouth" This seems to refer to the voice from heaven in Acts 22:7-8 (i.e., Bat Kol, cf. Deuteronomy 4:12; 1 Kings 19:12-13; Job 4:16; Jeremiah 25:30; Ezekiel 1:25, Ezekiel 1:28; Joel 3:16; Amos 1:2; Luke 3:22; Luke 9:35; Acts 10:13, Acts 10:15), but it could just as much refer to Acts 22:17-21. It is also possible that it refers to several special visions which Paul had throughout his ministry. See list at Acts 22:17-21.

Acts 22:15 "a witness. . .to all men" This is the marvelous truth that the gospel of Jesus Christ is for all men (cf. John 3:16; John 4:42; 1 Timothy 2:4; 1 Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:11; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:1; 1 John 4:14). Not all will receive, not all may clearly hear, but all are included in God's love and Jesus' sacrifice and Paul's preaching! This is the very truth that this mob rejected (cf. Acts 22:22).

Paul purposefully does not use the word "Gentile" that Ananias passed on to him from Jesus (cf. Acts 9:15). Paul knew how explosive this derogatory term go'im (the nations or Gentiles) was to these ultra-conservative Jews. Their biases and racial arrogance had even robbed the OT prophets of their inclusive prophecies!

"what you have seen and heard" This first verb is a perfect active indicative; the second is an aorist active indicative. Why they are different tenses is uncertain. They seem to be parallel. Paul will carry the memory of this personal encounter with the risen Christ throughout his life. He mentions it three times in Acts. He probably gave his personal testimony in every synagogue.

Acts 22:16 "be baptized and wash away your sins" These are both aorist middle imperatives. This is an OT allusion to the ceremonial ablutions (cf. Leviticus 11:25, Leviticus 11:28, Leviticus 11:40; Leviticus 13:6, Leviticus 13:34, Leviticus 13:56; Leviticus 14:8-9; Leviticus 15:5-13, Leviticus 15:21-22, Leviticus 15:27; Leviticus 16:26, Leviticus 16:28; Leviticus 17:15-16; Numbers 8:7, Numbers 8:21; Numbers 19:19; Deuteronomy 23:11). It is used here as a symbol of our spiritual cleansing in Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 10:22). Baptism was the early Church's public profession of faith. See notes and Special Topic at Acts 2:38 for a fuller theological discussion.

Notice that the middle voice refers to both baptism (aorist middle imperative) and cleansing (aorist middle imperative). Paul could not wash away his sins, but he could baptize himself (Jewish practice for proselytes). Often it is said that immersion is the only NT pattern (cf. Romans 6:0 and Colossians 2:0), but here baptism is linked to the metaphor of washing (cf. Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 10:22). Theologically 1 Peter 3:21 shows that it is a symbol, not a sacrament!

Modern interpreters must be careful of basing too much on the middle or passive voice because these were merging into the passive form in Koine Greek. Paul is said to have been baptized (PASSIVE) in Acts 9:18. The mode of Paul's baptism is not the issue, but his baptism itself is!

"calling on His name" The "name" is not a magical formula, but a public acknowledgment of Jesus' ownership and the beginning of a personal relationship with Him (aorist middle participle used as an imperative), which issues in a Christlike attitude and lifestyle. The early Church's baptismal formula as stated orally by the candidate was "Jesus is Lord" (cf. Romans 10:9-13; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:22). The exact words or formula is not the key (sacramentalism), but the heart of the candidate (believe, receive). See note at Acts 2:38 and Special Topic at Acts 2:21.

Verses 17-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 22:17-21 17"It happened when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I fell into a trance, 18and I saw Him saying to me, 'Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.' 19And I said, 'Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in You. 20And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving, and watching out for the coats of those who were slaying him.' 21And He said to me, 'Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'"

Acts 22:17-21 This is another example of Paul's special visions (cf. Acts 18:9-10; Acts 23:11; Acts 27:23-24). In this context it fits the prophecy of Acts 22:14.

Acts 22:17 "when I returned to Jerusalem" In Paul's testimony in both Acts 9:0 and here, it seems to imply that he returned to Jerusalem soon after his conversion, but Galatians 1:11-24 reveal a long period (up to three years) before Paul returned.

"fell into a trance" See note at Acts 10:10.

Acts 22:18 Jesus speaks two aorist active imperatives to Paul: "make haste" and "get out." Jesus' warning is illustrated in the Hellenistic Jews' plot to kill Paul, recorded in Acts 9:29.

Acts 22:19 "Lord" The grammatical antecedent to this could be either "the God of our fathers" (Acts 22:14) or "the Righteous One" (Acts 22:14). The Jewish mob would have understood YHWH, but any believers present there would have understood Jesus. The transference is common in OT quotes used of Jesus in the NT. It is the ambiguity of "triune monotheism" (see Special Topics at Acts 22:2 and 2:39)!

"I used to imprison and beat" These are periphrastic imperfect actives, which denotes continued action in the past. See full note at Acts 22:4.

"those who believed in You" See the related Special Topics at Acts 2:40, Acts 3:16, and Acts 6:5.

Acts 22:20 See note at Acts 7:58-59 and Acts 8:1. Paul describes his previous grievous acts by using three periphrastic imperfect participles.

1. He was standing there with the mob.

2. He was consenting to the stoning.

3. He was holding the cloaks of those stoning Stephen.

Stephen's sermon and death had a profound influence on Paul.

Acts 22:21 "I will send you far away to the Gentiles" This is an obvious reference to Paul's missionary journeys and ultimately, witness before Roman governmental officials in Palestine and also in Rome before Caesar (cf. Acts 23:11). He knew this statement would inflame the crowd!

Verses 22-29

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 22:22-29 22They listened to him up to this statement, and then they raised their voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!" 23And as they were crying out and throwing off their cloaks and tossing dust into the air, 24the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, stating that he should be examined by scourging so that he might find out the reason why they were shouting against him that way. 25But when they stretched him out with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?" 26When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and told him, saying, "What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman." 27The commander came and said to him, "Tell me, are you a Roman?" And he said, "Yes." 28The commander answered, "I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money." And Paul said, "But I was actually born a citizen." 29Therefore those who were about to examine him immediately let go of him; and the commander also was afraid when he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had put him in chains.

Acts 22:22 Their statement is idiomatic and has two parts.

1. "take (present active imperative) from the earth such a man" (cf. Luke 23:18; Acts 21:36)

2. "not fitting (imperfect active indicative) for him to live" (cf. Acts 25:24)

Their racial and religious biases are revealed. All humans are historically and culturally conditioned.

Acts 22:23

NASB"throwing off their clothes" NKJV"tore off their clothes" NRSV"throwing off their cloaks" TEV"waving their clothes" NJB"waving their cloaks"

This tearing off and waving of clothes or the throwing of them into the air were OT signs of mourning over a blasphemy (Greek-English Lexicon, Louw and Nida, vol. 1, p. 213, cf. Acts 14:14).

"tossing dust into the air" Paul was lucky that there were no rocks available. Putting dust on one's head was a sign of mourning (cf. Joshua 7:6; 1 Samuel 4:12; 2 Samuel 1:2; Job 2:12), here mourning over blasphemy (cf. Isaiah 47:0; Lamentations 2:0; Micah 1:10).


Acts 22:24 "the commander" This is the word chiliarch (cf. Acts 22:27-29), which means a leader of 1000, as the term centurion (cf. Acts 22:25, Acts 22:26) implies a leader of 100. However, the numbers are relative. He was the officer in charge of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem.

"the barracks" This refers to the Fortress Antonia, which overlooked and connected to the Temple area. It was built in the Persian Period during Nehemiah's day (cf. Nehemiah 2:8; Nehemiah 7:2). Herod the Great renamed it after Marc Antony. During feast days Jerusalem swelled to three times its normal population. The Romans moved large numbers of troops from Caesarea into the Fortress Antonia for security purposes.

"examined by scourging" This implies "beat the information out of him." Scourging was a cruel form of torture. Many died from it. It was much more severe than Jewish flogging or Roman beating with rods. A leather whip with pieces of metal, stone or bones sewn into the strands was used to whip prisoners.

Acts 22:25 "stretched him out" Usually the victims were bent over and bound to a low post for the scourging to be performed.

"Is it lawful" These soldiers were about to transgress their own law in several points:

1. a Roman citizen could not be bound (cf. Acts 22:3 and 22:29)

2. a Roman citizen could not be scourged (cf. Livy, History Acts 10:9:4; Cicero, Pro Rabirio Acts 4:12-13)

3. Paul had not been tried and found guilty (cf. Acts 16:37)

Acts 22:27 "are you a Roman" The "you" is emphasized. This Roman officer could not believe Paul was a Roman citizen.

Acts 22:28 "I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money" There were three ways to be a Roman citizen:

1. by birth

2. given for special service to the state

3. purchased (Dio Cassius, Rom. Hist. 60:17:5-6)

This soldier's name implies that he purchased his citizenship under Claudius and that he was a Greek (Claudius Lysias, cf. Acts 23:26). Claudius' wife, Messaline, often sold Roman citizenships for large sums of money.

Verse 30

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 22:30 30But on the next day, wishing to know for certain why he had been accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Council to assemble, and brought Paul down and set him before them.

Acts 22:30 "he. . .ordered. . .the chief priests and all the Council to assemble" This shows the Roman power. The Sanhedrin was forced to meet, possibly in the Fortress Antonio. This seems to be an unofficial, informal meeting.

Paul had to face the local charges but in a Roman setting.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Acts 22". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/acts-22.html. 2021.
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