Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

Acts 23

Verse 1

Earnestly beholding

See on Luke 4:20. Some, who hold that Paul's eyesight was defective, explain this steadfast look in connection with his imperfect vision.

Men and brethren

He addresses the Sanhedrim as an equal.

I have lived ( πεπολίτευμαι )

Lit., have lived as a citizen, with special reference to the charge against him that he taught men against the law and the temple. He means that he has lived as a true and loyal Jew.

Conscience ( συνειδήσει )

See on 1 Peter 3:16.

Verse 2


He is described as a revengeful and rapacious tyrant. We are told that he reduced the inferior priests almost to starvation by defrauding them of their tithes, and sent his creatures to the threshing-floors with bludgeons to seize the tithes by force.

Verse 3

Shall smite thee ( τύπτειν σε μέλλει )

More strictly, is about to smite. The words are not an imprecation, but a prophecy of punishment for his violent dealing. According to Josephus, in the attack of the Sicarii upon Jerusalem, he was dragged from his hiding-place, in a sewer of the palace, and murdered by assassins.

Thou whited wall

Compare Matthew 23:27.

Contrary to the law ( παρανομῶν )

A verb. Lit., transgressing the law.

Verse 4

Revilest ( λοιδορεῖς )

The word signifies vehement abuse, scolding, berating.

Verse 6

The one part were Sadducees, etc

Perceiving the impossibility of getting a fair hearing, Paul, with great tact, seeks to bring the two parties of the council into collision with each other.

The resurrection

A main point of contention between the Pharisees and Sadducees, the latter of whom denied the doctrine of the resurrection, of a future state, and of any spiritual existence apart from the body.

Verse 8


Showing that two classes of doctrines peculiar to the Sadducees, and not three, are meant: 1. The resurrection. 2. The existence of spirits, whether angels or souls of men; “neither angel nor spirit.”

Verse 9


The diversion was successful. The Pharisees' hatred of the Sadducees was greater than their hatred of Christianity.

What if a spirit, etc

Neither the A. V. nor Rev. give the precise form of this expression. The words form a broken sentence, followed by a significant silence, which leaves the hearers to supply the omission for themselves: “But if a spirit or angel has spoken to him … ” The words which the A. V. supplies to complete the sentence, let us not fight against God, are spurious, borrowed from Acts 5:39.

Verse 12

Banded together ( ποιήσαντες συστροφὴν )

Lit., having made a conspiracy. See on concourse, Acts 19:40.

Bound themselves under a curse ( ἀνεθεμάτισαν ἑαυτοὺς )anathematized or cursed themselves; invoked God's curse on themselves if they should violate their vow. On the kindred noun ἀνάθεμα , a curse, see note on offerings, Luke 21:5. In case of failure, they could procure absolution from their oath by the Rabbis.

Verse 13

Conspiracy ( συνωμοσίαν )

Lit., swearing together; conjuration. According to its etymology, conspiracy is a breathing or blowing together (Latin, conspirare )Hence, of concerted thought and action.

Verse 14

We have bound ourselves under a great curse ( ἀναθέματι ἀνεθεματίσαμεν ἑαυτοὺς )

Lit., we have anathematized ourselves with an anathema. A very strong expression. For similar expressions, see Luke 22:15; John 3:29; Acts 4:17.

Verse 15

Enquire ( διαγινώσκειν )

Only here and Acts 24:22. Originally, to distinguish or discern; hence, to decide, as a suit. Rev., more correctly, therefore, judge.

More perfectly ( ἀκριβέστερον )

Rev., better, more exactly. See on Luke 1:3; and Acts 18:25, Acts 18:26.

Concerning him ( τὰ περὶ αὐτοῦ )

Lit., the things about him. Rev., better, his case.

Verse 18

The prisoner ( ὁ δέσμιος )

From δέω , to bind. Paul, as a Roman citizen, was held in custodia militaris, “military custody.” Three kinds of custody were recognized by the Roman law: 1. Custodia publica (public custody); confinement in the public jail. This was the worst kind, the common jails being wretched dungeons. Such was the confinement of Paul and Silas at Philippi. 2. Custodia libera (free custody), confined to men of high rank. The accused was committed to the charge of a magistrate or senator, who became responsible for his appearance on the day of trial. 3. Custodia militaris (military custody). The accused was placed in charge of a soldier, who was responsible with his life for the prisoner's safe-keeping, and whose left hand was secured by a chain to the prisoner's right. The prisoner was usually kept in the barracks, but was sometimes allowed to reside in a private house under charge of his guard.

Verse 21

Have bound themselves

“If we should wonder how, so early in the morning, after the long discussion in the Sanhedrim, which must have occupied a considerable part of the day, more than forty men should have been found banded together, under an anathema, neither to eat nor to drink till they had killed Paul; and, still more, how such a conspiracy, or, rather, conjuration, which, in the nature of it, would be kept a profound secret, should have become known to Paul's sister's son - the circumstances of the case furnish a sufficient explanation. The Pharisees were avowedly a fraternity or guild; and they, or some of their kindred fraternities, would furnish the ready material for such a band, to whom this additional vow would be nothing new or strange, and, murderous though it sounded, only seem a further carrying out of the principles of their order. Again, since the wife and all the children of a member were ipso facto members of the guild, and Paul's father had been a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), Paul's sister also would, by virtue of her birth, belong to the fraternity, even irrespective of the probability that, in accordance with the principles of the party, she would have married into a Pharisaical family” (Edersheim, “Jewish Social Life”).

Verse 23

Soldiers ( στρατιώτας )

Heavy-armed footmen: legionaries.

Spearmen ( δεξιολάβους )

Only here in New Testament, and not in classical Greek. From δεξιός right, and λαμβάνω , to take. The exact meaning is uncertain. Some explain it as those who take the right side of the prisoners whom they have in charge; others, those who grasp (their weapon ) with the right hand; others, again, those who hold (a second horse )by the right hand. They are here distinguished from the heavy-armed legionaries and the cavalry. They were probably light-armed troops, javelin-throwers or slingers. One of the principal manuscripts reads δεξιοβόλους “those who throw with the right hand.”

Verse 24

Beasts ( κτήνη )

See on Luke 10:34.

Verse 25

After this manner ( περιέχουσαν τὸν τύπον τοῦτον )

Lit., containing this form or type. See on it is contained, 1 Peter 2:6.

Verse 26

To the most excellent ( τῷ κρατίστῳ )

“His excellency:” an official title. Compare Acts 24:3; Acts 26:25.

Greeting ( χαίρειν )

See on Acts 15:23.

Verse 27


Bengel says, “a lie.” Lysias wishes to make the impression that Paul's citizenship was the cause of his rescuing him; whereas he did not know of this until afterward. He says nothing about the proposed scourging.

Verse 29


See on Acts 15:2.

Nothing - worthy of death or of bonds

Every Roman magistrate before whom the apostle is brought declares him innocent.

Verse 30

When it was told ( μηνυθείσης )

Lit., pointed out, orshown, as Rev. See on Luke 20:37.


The best texts omit. See on Acts 15:29.

Verse 31

Took ( ἀναλαβόντες )

Lit., “having taken up.” Compare set Paul on, Acts 23:24.

To Antipatris

A hard night's ride: forty miles.

Verse 32

On the morrow

After arriving at Antipatris.

Verse 33


Twenty-six miles from Antipatris.

Verse 34

Of what province ( ἐκ ποίας ἐπαρχίας )

Rather, “from what kind of a province;” whether senatorial or imperial. See Introduction to Luke. Cilicia was an imperial province.

Verse 35

I will hear thee ( διακούσομαι )

Better, as Rev., will hear thy cause; the word meaning “to hearfully ( διά ) in a judicial sense.” The present questioning was merely preliminary.

Herod's palace

Built by Herod the Great. Judaea being now a Roman province, the palace of its former kings had become the governor's official residence. It thus appears that Paul was leniently dealt with, and not cast into the common prison.

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The text of this work is public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Acts 23". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.