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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
Acts 21

 

 

Verses 1-14

Prophecies of Paul's Arrest in Jerusalem (A.D 58) - Acts 21:1-14 describes Paul's final journey back to Palestine with an emphasis placed on two prophetic utterances predicting Paul's arrest and imprisonment.

Acts 21:4Comments- The Holy Spirit speaks through prophets about specific situations in our lives. See also Acts 21:10-12.

Acts 21:11Comments- The prophecy of Paul being bound by the Jews in Jerusalem was fulfilled in Acts 21:11 was fulfilled in Acts 22:25, "And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?"


Verses 1-31

Witness of Paul's Arrest, Imprisonment, and Trials (A.D 58-62) - The final major division of the book of Acts ( Acts 21:1 to Acts 28:31) serves as Luke's testimony of the arrest and trials of Paul the apostle, his trip by sea to Rome, and preparation for a hearing before the Roman emperor, the highest court in the Roman Empire. G. H. C. MacGregor notes that this large portion of material devoted to Paul's arrest, imprisonment and journey to Rome fills about one fourth of the book of Acts. He suggests several reasons. (1) Luke was an Eyewitness of these Events - Luke was an eye witness of these dramatic events of Paul's arrest, trials and journey to Rome. The nature of such events must have created a strong impact upon his life. (2) The Gospels are Structured with a Similar Disproportion of Jesus' Arrest, Passion and Resurrection- By comparing this large portion of material to a similar structure in the Gospels, MacGregor suggests that Luke draws a parallel plot with the story of Paul. (3) Luke is Writing an Apology for Paul - Many scholars believe Luke is writing an apology in defense of Paul. MacGregor bases this view upon the five speeches of Paul's defense that are recorded in this section of Acts: Paul's speech to the Jewish mob ( Acts 22:3-21), to the Sanhedrin ( Acts 23:1-6), to Felix, the Roman governor ( Acts 24:10-21), to Festus, the Roman governor ( Acts 25:8-11), and to King Herod ( Acts 26:2-23). A number of scholars support the proposition that the impetus behind these events was an effort to legalize Christianity in the Roman Empire, which leads to the suggestion that Luke -Acts was prepared by Luke as a legal brief in anticipation of Paul's trial before the Roman court. MacGregor argues that this motif is woven throughout Paul's missionary journeys when Luke carefully records his encounters with Roman authorities in various cities. He notes that Luke records statements by Lysias, Festus, and Felix regarding the failure by the Jews to prove Paul's guilt under Roman Law. He adds that Luke ends the book by portraying Paul as a peaceful man entertaining guests while imprisoned in Rome, in stark contrast to the zealous violence of the Jews that Rome was accustomed to encountering. 258] We may add that Luke's opening to his Gospel and Acts serve as a petition to Theophilus.

258] G. H. C. MacGregor and Theodore P. Ferris, The Acts of the Apostles, in The Interpreter's Bible, vol 9, ed. George A. Buttrick (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1954), 284-285.

The accounts of Paul's five trials and apologetic speeches recorded in Acts 21:1 to Acts 26:32 show that Paul had exhausted the judicial systems in Palestine, both Jewish and Roman, before departing for Rome. In each of these trials, Luke proves Paul's innocence. The only court left was an appeal to the highest court in Rome. These five trials serve as a testimony that Paul had a legal right to appeal unto Caesar, and that he was beyond doubt innocent of his allegations by the Jews.

One more important aspect of this passage is that divine oracles are embedded within the narrative material of Acts 21:1 to Acts 28:31. For example, Paul received divine oracles from the seven daughters of Philip the evangelist and the prophet Agabus ( Acts 21:8); he testifies of his divine vision on the road to Damascus and of the prophecy of Ananias ( Acts 22:6-16); Luke records Paul's angelic visitation while in prison at Caesarea ( Acts 23:11); Paul testifies again of his divine vision on the road to Damascus ( Acts 26:12-19); Luke records Paul's angelic visitation at sea ( Acts 27:20-26).

Outline- Here is a proposed outline to Acts 21:1 to Acts 28:31 :

1. Prophecies of Paul's Arrest in Jerusalem — Acts 21:1-14

2. Paul's Arrest and First Speech to Jewish Mob — Acts 21:15 to Acts 22:29

3. Paul's Second Speech Before the Sanhedrin — Acts 22:30 to Acts 23:35

4. Paul's Third Speech Before Felix the Governor — Acts 24:1-27

5. Paul's Fourth Speech Before Festus the Governor — Acts 25:1-12

6. Paul's Fifth Speech Before King Agrippa — Acts 25:13 to Acts 26:32

7. The Witness of Paul's Trip to Rome — Acts 27:1 to Acts 28:29


Verses 15-26

Paul Meets with James and the Elders at Jerusalem - In Acts 21:15-26 Paul arrives in Jerusalem and meets James and the elders. Those who were traveling with Paul understood that they may be putting themselves into mortal danger by accompanying Paul. As Matthew Henry notes, Paul's boldness gave them courage to take the perilous journey with him. 259]

259] Matthew Henry, Acts, in Matthew Henry"s Commentary on the Whole Bible, New Modern Edition, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, 1991), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), notes on Acts 21:15-26.

Acts 21:17-25 records the meeting that Paul had with James and the elders. James is traditionally said to be the first bishop of the church at Jerusalem, which is implied in Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13, and Galatians 2:12. It is most likely that Paul officially handed over the collection for the poor saints at this time with the church leaders serving as eye-witnesses.

In this passage of Scripture James and the elders of the church in Jerusalem persuade Paul to join in a Nazarite vow with other Jewish believers, perhaps concerned with his presence renewing Jewish persecutions against the believers living in Jerusalem. In accepting this vow, Paul must have seen the Law as holy, and not as something bad ( Romans 7:12). In other words, he saw the vow as a holy act.

Romans 7:12, "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good."

Acts 21:15Comments- There is a textual variant in Acts 21:15, where some ancient Greek manuscripts read ἀποσκευάζω (G 643), literally meaning, "having discharged our baggage" (Alford), or "to lay aside, get rid of" (BDAG), but it is translated as "pack up baggage" (Strong), "pack up and leave" (BDAG) because of the context of this passage. Other Greek manuscripts read ἐπισκευάζομαι, which means, "having packed up" (Alford) "we made preparations" (BDAG), or "we took our baggage" (Zodhiates), and is the generally favored reading because it is supported with better manuscripts (Alford). 260]

260] Henry Alford, The Greek Testament: With A Critically Revised Text, vol 2, third edition (London: Rivington's, Waterloo Place, 1857), 220.

The EGT tells us the journey from Caesarea to Jerusalem was sixty-four miles. 261]

261] W. Robertson Nicoll, ed, The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol 2 (New York: George H. Doran Company, n.d.), 447.

Acts 21:16 — "and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus" - Comments- Mnason is mentioned nowhere else in the Scriptures. His Greek name was commonly used and it suggests he was Greek convert to Christianity. 262]

262] W. Robertson Nicoll, ed, The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol 2 (New York: George H. Doran Company, n.d.), 447-448.

"an old disciple" - Comments- The phrase "an old disciple" ( ἀρχαίῳ μαθητῇ) can mean that he was either an old Prayer of Manasseh , "an aged disciple" (YLT), but more popularly believed to me that he was an early convert to the Christian faith, "a disciple of long standing" (BDAG) "an early disciple" (ASV, Rotherham, RSV), "one of the early disciples."

Acts 21:16Comments- Because this journey was sixty-four miles and took several days, some scholars surmise that Paul lodged with Mnason of Cyprus along the journey before reaching Jerusalem, and that members of the church at Jerusalem would probably have made accommodations for Paul when he reached there, as the next statement implies, "And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly." ( Acts 21:17) However, other scholars believe the disciples of Caesarea brought Paul "to Mnason," who was waiting to receive them in Jerusalem. These two views are based upon whether the subject of the Greek participle ( ἄγοντες) is "the disciples of Caesarea" being brought to Mnason, or whether the subject is "Mnason," who being brought along with the disciples on their trip to Jerusalem.

Acts 21:17Comments- Alford understands "the brethren" to refer to the believers in general, and not to the church leaders, who will be mentioned in the next verse. 263]

263] Henry Alford, The Greek Testament: With A Critically Revised Text, vol 2, third edition (London: Rivington's, Waterloo Place, 1857), 221.

Acts 21:20 — "And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord" - Comments- Paul testified of his ministry in such a way that God received all of the glory and honor.

"and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law" - Comments- Eusebius gives us an account of the fears of the Jewish leaders when a great multitude of their people believed in Jesus while James the Lord's brother was head of the church in Jerusalem.

"Therefore when many even of the rulers believed, there was a commotion among the Jews and Scribes and Pharisees, who said that there was danger that the whole people would be looking for Jesus as the Christ." (Ecclesiastical History 22310)

Origen believes the number of believing Jews in his day did not exceed 144 ,000.

"But the number of believers is small who belong to Israel according to the flesh; one might venture to assert that they would not nearly make up the number of a hundred and forty-four thousand." (Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of John 1:2)

Acts 21:22 — "the multitude must needs come together" - Comments- Alford reads, "a multitude (of these Judaizers) will certainly come together." 264]

264] Henry Alford, The Greek Testament: With A Critically Revised Text, vol 2, third edition (London: Rivington's, Waterloo Place, 1857), 222.

Acts 21:23-24Comments- Paul was accustomed to Jewish vows. We read in Acts 18:18 where Paul made a vow and shaved his head before departing from Corinth during his second missionary journey. Scholars generally agree that the phrase "and be at charges with them" means that Paul should pay their expenses, or at least share in a portion of the expenses for the offerings that were to be brought to the priest.

Acts 18:18, "And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow."

We read about this Nazarite vow in Numbers 6:1-21, which included the shaving of the head and the presentation of an offering to the priest when the time of separation expires.

Josephus records a similar incident when King Agrippa made an offering to the Temple and ordered many of the Nazarites to shave their heads. Thus, his offered served to pay for these Nazarites. (Antiquities 1961)

Acts 21:26Comments- In Acts 21:26 Paul makes an offering ( προσφορά) (G 4376) in the Temple. A number of commentators note that, in a sense, Paul became a Jew that he might win the Jews ( 1 Corinthians 9:22).

1 Corinthians 9:22, "To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."


Verses 15-29

The First Witness of Paul's Innocence, Standing Before the Jewish Mob and Roman Chief Captain (A.D 58) - Acts 21:15 to Acts 22:29 records the testimony of Paul before the Jewish mob at the Temple and before the Roman's chief captain. This is the first speech that Luke records of Paul's defense of the Christian faith. Paul now stands before the Jewish mob at the Temple ( Acts 21:15 to Acts 22:29); he will stand before the Sanhedrin and addressed the Jewish leaders ( Acts 22:30 to Acts 23:35); he will stand before Felix the governor ( Acts 24:1-27); he will stand before Festus the subsequent governor ( Acts 25:1-12), and he will stand before King Agrippa ( Acts 25:13 to Acts 26:32). These preliminary trials lead up to Paul's appeal to Caesar. Many scholars suggest Luke compiles this sequence of trials in order to reveal Paul's innocence as a legal defense that could have been used during Paul's actual trial.

Outline- Here is a proposed outline to Acts 21:15 to Acts 22:29 :

1. Paul Meets with James and the Elders at Jerusalem — Acts 21:15-26

2. Paul's Arrest in the Temple — Acts 21:27-36

3. Paul's Testimony to the Mob — Acts 21:37 to Acts 22:22

4. Paul and the Roman Chief Captain — Acts 22:23-29


Verses 27-36

Paul's Arrest in the Temple - Acts 21:27-36 gives us the account of Paul's arrest in the Temple in Jerusalem. It is interesting to note that Paul is believed to have written the epistle to the Romans towards the end of his third missionary journey. In this epistle, he states his great love for his fellow Jews and his intense sorrow for their rejection of the Messiah ( Romans 9:1-3). Now, he is face to face with these same people, raging in anger and trying to kill him.

Romans 9:1-3, "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:"

Acts 21:27Comments- Perhaps the traditional period of Jewish purification was seven days. This may be implied from the law of the Nazarite vow described in Numbers 6:1-21, which commands a sacrifice to be brought to the priest on the eighth day ( Numbers 6:10).

Numbers 6:10, "And on the eighth day he shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons, to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation:"

Acts 21:29Comments- Trophimus the Ephesians began to travel with Paul the apostle when he was force to depart from his ministry in the city of Ephesus, where he spend a number of years evangelizing Asia Minor ( Acts 19:1 to Acts 20:4). Paul mentions him during his second Roman imprisonment just prior to his execution by Nero the Roman Emperor.

Acts 20:4, "And there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus."

2 Timothy 4:20, "Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick."

Acts 21:28-29Comments - Herod's Temple- Josephus gives us a vivid description of Herod's Temple (Josephus, Antiquities 15111-7, Wars 551-8). This great Temple was designed with a large, outer courtyard where Gentiles were allowed to assemble. Within this outer courtyard was an inner courtyard slightly elevated and barricaded with a three-meter wall, with notices posted that warned Gentiles not to pass beyond this point. (Josephus, Antiquities 15115. Wars 552; 624) 265] Deissmann refers to the discovery of one of these ancient inscriptions that reads, "Let no foreigner enter within the screen and enclosure surrounding the sanctuary. Whosoever is taken so doing will be the cause that death overtaketh him." 266] The Jews were accusing Paul of bringing his Gentile friend Trophimus into the inner Jewish court.

265] R. F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison, and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson"s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, rev. ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), "Temple: Herod's Temple."

266] Adolf Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, trans. Lionel R. M. STrachan (New York: 1910), 74-75.

Acts 21:31Comments- Located at the northwest corner of the complex of Herod's Temple was the "Fortress of Antonia," (Josephus, Antiquities 15114) a garrison housing Roman procurators and a garrison of Roman soldiers. 267] This garrison's chief captain was named Lysias ( Acts 24:22).

267] R. F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison, and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson"s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, rev. ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), "Temple: Herod's Temple."

Acts 24:22, "And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter."

Acts 21:32Comments- In Africa today it is common to see a mob beating a thief to death, even burning them to death after pouring gasoline upon the poor victims. The reason such mob justice is carried out is because the police force is seldom available or even cooperative when summoned due to the high level of corruption.

Acts 21:33Comments- Because mob justice is common in undeveloped societies in Africa, it is natural to believe the individual being beaten is a criminal, since this is society's method of justice when a local police force is unavailable or ineffective. The chief captain naturally assumed that Paul had committed a crime.

Acts 21:35Comments- Josephus tells us that the tower of Antoina, located at the north eastern corner of the Temple, was elevated above the courtyard of the Temple, so that there would have been an ascent into the Roman garrison (Josephus, Antiquities 15114).

Acts 21:36 — "Away with him" - Comments- This same cry was made about Jesus in Luke 23:18, "And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this Prayer of Manasseh , and release unto us Barabbas:"

Acts 21:37 to Acts 22:22

Paul's Testimony to the Mob - In Acts 21:37 to Acts 22:22 we have the account of Paul addressing the angry mob in the Hebrew tongue. He took this opportunity to testify of the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul's divine calling on the Damascus Road and the visitation by Ananias ( Acts 9:1-18) served as an anchor for his soul throughout his life. In fact, he will often refer back to this event. It is during some of his most difficult trials that he stands upon his divine visitations to strengthen him and secure himself in his calling ( Acts 22:1-21; Acts 26:1-23)

This account of Paul's conversion will differ slightly from that recorded in Acts 9:1-18 to the degree that he gives it a "Jewish flavor" in order to make it more palatable to this angry mob. 268] For example, he describes his years prior to conversion by emphasizing his training as a Jew under the famous rabbi Gamaliel, his strict adherence to and zeal for the Law, his efforts to persecute the Christians ( Acts 22:3-5); he then describes his vision of the Lord on the Damascus Road as a divine visitation beyond his ability to resist, and a visit by Ananias, "a devout man according to the law," who brought a message from the "God of our fathers"; he goes on to describe himself in a trance while praying in the Temple, where he makes a reference to consenting to Stephen's death.

268] William Ormiston, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Acts of the Apostles by Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, second edition, trans. Paton J. Gloag, and William P. Dickson, ed. William Ormiston (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1884), 420.

Acts 21:38Comments- Josephus 269] and Eusebius 270] make mention of this Egyptian, who stirred up an insurrection against the Roman government outside the city of Jerusalem during the days that Felix was procurator. However, Josephus says that the Egyptian gathered thirty thousand me, rather than four thousand.

269] Josephus writes, "Moreover, there came out of Egypt about this time to Jerusalem, one that said he was a prophet, and advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the Mount of Olives, as it was called, which lay over against the city, and at the distance of five furlongs. He said farther, that he would show them from hence, how, at his command, the walls of Jerusalem would fall down; and he promised that he would procure them an entrance into the city through those walls, when they were fallen down. Now when Felix was informed of these things, he ordered his soldiers to take their weapons, and came against them with a great number of horsemen and footmen, from Jerusalem, and attacked the Egyptian and the people that were with him. He also slew four hundred of them, and took two hundred alive. But the Egyptian himself escaped out of the fight, but did not appear any more." (Antiquities 2086)

270] Eusebius writes, "After other matters he proceeds as follows: ‘But the Jews were afflicted with a greater plague than these by the Egyptian false prophet. For there appeared in the land an impostor who aroused faith in himself as a prophet, and collected about thirty thousand of those whom he had deceived, and led them from the desert to the Song of Solomon -called Mount of Olives whence he was prepared to enter Jerusalem by force and to overpower the Roman garrison and seize the government of the people, using those who made the attack with him as bodyguards. But Felix anticipated his attack, and went out to meet him with the Roman legionaries, and all the people joined in the defense, so that when the battle was fought the Egyptian fled with a few followers, but the most of them were destroyed or taken captive.' Josephus relates these events in the second book of his History. But it is worthwhile comparing the account of the Egyptian given here with that contained in the Acts of the Apostles. In the time of Felix it was said to Paul by the centurion in Jerusalem, when the multitude of the Jews raised a disturbance against the apostle, ‘Art not thou he Who before these days made an uproar, and led out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?' These are the events which took place in the time of Felix." (Ecclesiastical History 2211-3)

Josephus also writes, "But there was an Egyptian false prophet that did the Jews more mischief than the former; for he was a cheat, and pretended to be a prophet also, and got together thirty thousand men that were deluded by him; these he led round about from the wilderness to the mount which was called the Mount of Olives, and was ready to break into Jerusalem by force from that place; and if he could but once conquer the Roman garrison and the people, he intended to domineer over them by the assistance of those guards of his that were to break into the city with him, but Felix prevented his attempt, and met him with his Roman soldiers, while all the people assisted him in his attack upon them, insomuch that, when it came to a battle, the Egyptian ran away, with a few others, while the greatest part of those that were with him were either destroyed or taken alive; but the rest of the multitude were dispersed every one to their own homes and there concealed themselves." (Wars 2135)

Acts 21:39 But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.

Acts 21:39"I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city" - Comments- Paul the apostle was a man of great zeal and achievement. He was born of Jewish parents in the city of Tarsus, the chief city of Cilicia, where Greek culture predominated. In this city was a great university, which Strabo (63 B.C. to A.D 24?), the Greek historian and geographer, was known for its enthusiasm for learning, especially in the area of philosophy. Strabo said this university surpassed those at Athens, Alexandria, and all others in its passion for learning (Geography 14513). 271] It is from this upbringing that we see why Paul was a man of zeal and great achievement; for he was raised in an atmosphere of physical and mental achievement around the university in Tarsus.

271] Strabo writes, "The inhabitants of this city apply to the study of philosophy and to the whole encyclical compass of learning with so much ardour, that they surpass Athens, Alexandreia, and every other place which can be named where there are schools and lectures of philosophers." See The Geography of Strabo, vol 3, trans. H. C. Hamilton and W. Falconer (London: George Bell and Sons, 1889), 57.

Paul's claim to be a Roman citizen from Tarsus tells us that his family was one of wealth and standing. The fact that he was born in Tarsus, but brought up in the city of Jerusalem ( Acts 22:3) implies that he did not reach university level before leaving Tarsus, but his early education took place in this environment. Thus, he was strongly influenced by its teachings, and very familiar with the Greek's deep dependence upon human reason. The city's ancient traditions and present greatness explain why Paul would make such a statement.

Acts 21:40 — "he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying" - Comments- The Jews of Palestine spoke the Aramaic language among themselves during the first century. Scholars suggest Paul was more correctly speaking Aramaic rather than Hebrew. 272] Thus, the NIV reads, "Aramaic." There are a number of other references to the Hebrew tongue in the New Testament (see Luke 23:38, John 5:2; John 19:13; John 19:17; John 19:20, Acts 26:14, Revelation 9:11).

272] G. H. C. MacGregor and Theodore P. Ferris, The Acts of the Apostles, in The Interpreter's Bible, vol 9, ed. George A. Buttrick (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1954), 288.

Luke 23:38, "And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS."

John 5:2, "Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches."

John 19:13, "When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha."

John 19:17, "And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:"

John 19:20, "This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin."

Acts 26:14, "And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."

Revelation 9:11, "And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon."

Acts 21:40Comments - Each of Paul's opening speeches reveals a man unashamed and confident of his innocence. In Acts 21:40 he turns to address the Jewish mob rather than accept deliverance from the Roman soldiers, as would be typical for someone who had committed a crime and wanted to escape punishment. In Acts 23:1 he looks intently upon the Sanhedrin and speaks boldly rather than hanging his head down in shame and guilt. In Acts 24:10 he addresses Felix the governor with cheer. In Acts 25:11 Paul boldly declares to Festus that if any wrong can be found in him, he is ready to die. In Acts 26:1-2 he stretches forth his hand as an orator and speaks unto King Agrippa.

Acts 22:1 — "Men, brethren, and fathers" - Comments- Paul recognized three groups of men in his audience in his opening statement in Acts 22:1. There were men present who were Gentiles, Roman soldiers, centurions and a chief captain ( Acts 21:31-32; Acts 22:26); there were Jews present that he called brethren; and there were Jewish elders, or fathers present to hear his speech. He refers to some of these fathers when mentioning the rabbi Gamaliel ( Acts 22:3), and the high priest and elders ( Acts 22:5). He greeted them in order of increasing rank in the Jewish mind, beginning with Gentiles and ending with the Jewish fathers. In the same way, it is proper protocol today in Uganda, East Africa, to begin a speech by recognizing all of the special guests, but it begins by giving honor to the most important members of society first, and decreasing in rank.

"hear ye my defence which I make now unto you" - Word Study on "defence" - Strong says the Greek word "defence" ( ἀπολογία) (G 627) means, "a plea, an answer (for self), clearing of self, defence." Mounce says it means, "a verbal defense."

Comments - Within the context of the book of Acts , Paul's apology serves as a legal testimony in defense of the preaching of the Gospel in the Roman Empire. If Luke's account of Luke -Acts serves as a legal brief for Paul's impending trial during his first Roman imprisonment, then the emphasis upon Acts 21-28 is to vindicate Paul's ministry and message.

Acts 22:2Comments- The Hebrew tongue was not normally spoken by the Jews of the Diaspora, but by devout, educated Jews only. We see this in Acts 2:5-12 on the day of Pentecost when the apostles spoke in the languages of the visiting Jews. The Jews heard the apostles and replied, "And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?" ( Acts 2:8) The Palestinian Jews spoke Aramaic. Therefore, Paul's speech in the Hebrew tongue immediately seized their attention. However, many scholars suggest Paul was more correctly speaking Aramaic rather than Hebrew. 273] Thus, the NIV reads, "Aramaic."

273] G. H. C. MacGregor and Theodore P. Ferris, The Acts of the Apostles, in The Interpreter's Bible, vol 9, ed. George A. Buttrick (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1954), 288.

Acts 22:3 — "yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel" - Comments- G. V. Lechler and K. Gerok tell us that Philo and the Talmud describe the Jewish tradition of rabbis setting in a teaching chair, while his pupils sat on benches or the floor. 274]

274] G. V. Lechler and K. Gerok, Theological and Homiletical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Specially Designed and Adapted for the Use of Ministers and Students, vol 2, trans. Paton J. Gloag, ed. John P. Lange, in Clark's Foreign Theological Library, third series, vol 25 (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1864), 314.

Acts 22:3 — "and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers" - Comments- Lechler and Gerok say the Greek word "perfect manner" ἀ κρί βεια more specifically refers to the pharisaical tendencies of the Law, rather than to the Law itself. 275]

275] G. V. Lechler and K. Gerok, Theological and Homiletical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Specially Designed and Adapted for the Use of Ministers and Students, vol 2, trans. Paton J. Gloag, ed. John P. Lange, in Clark's Foreign Theological Library, third series, vol 25 (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1864), 314-315.

Acts 22:3 — "and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day" - Comments- Paul identifies with his audience by saying that he was as zealous for God and the Jewish religion as they are today, even to the extent of killing others, which this mob attempted to do to Paul. 276]

276] G. V. Lechler and K. Gerok, Theological and Homiletical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Specially Designed and Adapted for the Use of Ministers and Students, vol 2, trans. Paton J. Gloag, ed. John P. Lange, in Clark's Foreign Theological Library, third series, vol 25 (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1864), 315.

Acts 22:3Comments- Living oversea and meeting new people, it is common for us to ask someone where they are from in an effort to identify one another. Paul's reference to one of the most prestigious cities of the Roman Empire, and the famous rabbi named Gamaliel would have captured any Jew's attention, identifying him as an educated and devout Jew. Paul's years of experience and tribulation on the mission field in confronting Jewish opposition gave him the immediate skills to deal with his situation. Often our difficult experiences of confronting adversity in the business place, in any area of life, serves to prepare us for these times when we need to retain our composure and speak clearly in the midst of opposition. Thus, Paul's years of confrontation with Jews in foreign synagogues had seasoned him to stand strong and courageous in the midst of adversity.

Acts 22:4 And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.

Acts 22:4Scripture References - Note:

Acts 26:9-10, "I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them."

Acts 22:5 As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.

Acts 22:1-5Comments- Paul's Opening Defense- Paul begins his defense in Acts 22:1-5 by recognizing those in the audience of various ranks in his society in order to show respect ( Acts 22:1), then he immediately associates himself with this Jewish mob by speaking in the Hebrew tongue ( Acts 22:2), and explaining that he was a Jew by birth ( Acts 22:3), a Pharisee by training ( Acts 22:3), and a persecutor of the church in his zeal for Jewish traditions ( Acts 2:4). This was Paul's way of identifying with his audience. He supports this testimony by referencing the Jewish high priest and the elders that held office with him ( Acts 22:5). Paul will follow this with his personal testimony of a divine visitation from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Comments- Paul Describesd His Zeal as a Jew- John Chrysostom says the reason Paul describes his excessive zeal as a Jew to persecute the Church in the opening of his testimony is that it helped the crowd understand that his conversion to Christianity was not his "human intent," but "by a Divine power." Chrysostom explains that if Paul was an ordinary, uneducated Prayer of Manasseh , such a conversion would have been understandable; but it would have been unheard of for a man of bound to the Law to make such a quick conversion. He believes the phrase "at the feet of Gamaliel" further emphasizes Paul's zeal and fortitude to commit himself to the teachings of such a great rabbi. The phrase "taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers" means that Paul completed his Jewish education to its fullness, achieving the highest degree of academics. The phrase "and was zealous toward God" means that Paul made the Law his career. In other words, he did not just get the best Jewish education; he went on to join the league of zealous, religious Jews, practicing the Law daily. The phrase "as ye all are this day" is Paul's attempt to identify himself as closely to his audience as possible before giving his personal testimony. Paul's reference to the high priest and Jewish elders as his witness leaves his audience with little recourse but to believe his words. Thus, Acts 22:3-5 introduces this man Paul to the audience as a devout Jew that would do anything for God, a man so radical that he would persecute fellow Jews who joined the ranks of those believing in Christ. Therefore, Paul's description of his conversion in the following verses explains to the Jews that Paul was indeed following his zeal for God by his conversion to faith in Christ Jesus. Chrysostom explains that Paul's testimony of himself prior to his conversion was supported by eye-witnesses, perhaps in the crowd, so that the testimony of his conversion would carry an almost equal weight. 277]

277] John Chrysostom, The Homilies of John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, On the Acts of the Apostles, Translated, With Notes and Indices, Part I Homilies XXIX-LV, in The Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Anterior to the Division of the East and the West (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1852), 626-627.

God gives every believer a testimony, which we are to take with us during the course of our life's ministry.

Acts 22:6Comments- Paul mentioned the fact that his vision took place at noon day, perhaps to explain that this was not a night vision or a trance. It was an actual event that took place during the day, as Paul will later say was seen as well by his traveling companions ( Acts 22:9).

Acts 22:8Comments- Lechler and Gerok suggest that the phrase "Jesus of Nazareth," which is not used elsewhere in parallel passages of Paul's testimony ( Acts 9:5; Acts 26:15), is placed in Acts 22:8 as a way of identifying Jesus to those Jews yet unfamiliar with him. 278] In other words, it may be used to identify Jesus as a Jew from Palestine.

278] G. V. Lechler and K. Gerok, Theological and Homiletical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Specially Designed and Adapted for the Use of Ministers and Students, vol 2, trans. Paton J. Gloag, ed. John P. Lange, in Clark's Foreign Theological Library, third series, vol 25 (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1864), 315.

Acts 9:5, "And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."

Acts 26:15, "And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest."

Acts 22:9Comments- The story of Paul's conversion first recorded in Acts 9:1-9 says that those who were with him heard a voice, although they saw no man ( Acts 9:7). Chrysostom reconciles this by saying Paul's companions heard Paul speaking, but not the voice of the Lord. He notes that had these other people heard and been converted, their testimony would not be as powerful as one coming from a devout Jew, who indeed saw the light but heard nothing, for a Jew would have no reason to lie and defend Paul's testimony, while another Christian would have every cause to favor Paul. 279]

279] John Chrysostom, The Homilies of John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, On the Acts of the Apostles, Translated, With Notes and Indices, Part I Homilies XXIX-LV, in The Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Anterior to the Division of the East and the West (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1852), 628.

Acts 9:7, "And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man."

Acts 22:11Comments- Paul wanted the Jews to realize that from the time this vision took place, Paul no longer conducted his life by his own decisions, but by the lasting impact this divine encounter had on his life. 280]

280] G. V. Lechler and K. Gerok, Theological and Homiletical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Specially Designed and Adapted for the Use of Ministers and Students, vol 2, trans. Paton J. Gloag, ed. John P. Lange, in Clark's Foreign Theological Library, third series, vol 25 (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1864), 316.

Acts 22:12Comments- Paul described Ananias as a man who showed great reverence for the Mosaic Law and of Jewish traditions. This was part of Paul's attempt to present a favorable testimony to these irate Jews.

Acts 22:13Word Study on "looked up" - Strong says the Greek word ἀναβλέπω (G 308) literally means, "to look up," but carries the meaning, "to recover sight."

Acts 22:14 — "And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee" - Comments- Christianity has its origin in the Jewish faith in God, which faith we are to take to the nations of the world.

Acts 22:14 — "and see that Just One" - Comments- Chrysostom notes that if Jesus is called "the Just One," then all of the Jews stand condemned as unjust outside of the Messiah. 281]

281] John Chrysostom, The Homilies of John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, On the Acts of the Apostles, Translated, With Notes and Indices, Part I Homilies XXIX-LV, in The Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Anterior to the Division of the East and the West (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1852), 629.

Acts 22:14Comments- Lechler and Gerok understand the phrases "God of our fathers" and the "Just One" to be "purely Old Testament names." 282] Paul was persuading his Jewish audience to accept the fact that this vision was a divine encounter of the God that they themselves have been serving since the time of the patriarchs.

282] G. V. Lechler and K. Gerok, Theological and Homiletical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Specially Designed and Adapted for the Use of Ministers and Students, vol 2, trans. Paton J. Gloag, ed. John P. Lange, in Clark's Foreign Theological Library, third series, vol 25 (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1864), 316.

Acts 22:15Comments- In Acts 22:15 Paul was told to bear witness to all men of his conversion experience. Thus, Paul testifies to the Jews in their rage to kill him. Paul had learned to make opportunities in the midst of catastrophes.

Acts 22:16Comments- Paul wants his Jewish audience to understand that this vision required him to make an immediate decision about his faith in Jesus as the Messiah. Chrysostom notes that it would have been unlawful for a Jew to call upon anyone but the God of Israel, so calling Jesus "Lord" declares Him to also be God. 283]

283] John Chrysostom, The Homilies of John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, On the Acts of the Apostles, Translated, With Notes and Indices, Part I Homilies XXIX-LV, in The Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Anterior to the Division of the East and the West (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1852), 629-630.

Acts 22:17 — "And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem" - Comments- According to Galatians 1:18, there was at least a three-year interlude before Paul returned to Jerusalem after his conversion.

Galatians 1:18, "Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days."

"even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance" - Comments- Paul's trance in Jerusalem is nowhere else mentioned in Scriptures, except for a possible reference to his divine revelation in 2 Corinthians 12:2-3. He is telling the Jewish mob about this experience in order to place emphasis upon the fact that the God of Israel was supernaturally intervening in his life during the course of his conversion to Christianity. In other words, these supernatural events were imposed upon his life despite his zeal for Judaism, and they compelled him to embark upon this divine commission to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can see the important of such emphasis in Acts 23:9, where the Pharisees said, "We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God."

2 Corinthians 12:2-3, "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a Prayer of Manasseh , (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)"

Acts 23:9, "And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees" part arose, and strove, 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."

Acts 22:20Word Study on "martyr" - Strong and BDAG say the Greek word "witness" ( μάρτυς) (G 3144) literally means, "a witness." It was used by the early Church to also mean, "a martyr." The Enhanced Strong says it is used 34times in the New Testament, being translated in the KJV as "witness 29, martyr 3, record 2." This same Greek word is used in Acts 1:8, "ye shall be witnesses unto me…"

Acts 22:20Comments- For each of us as children of God, there stand particular events that mark the lowest period in our lives. For Paul, the stoning of Stephen had to be an event that lived in his mind forever as the time in which he was so distance from God. He would often recall the face of this martyr with the glory of God shining forth as a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In his book The Call Rick Joyner is told in a vision by Paul the apostle that the memory of the light that was on Stephen"s face during his stoning carried Paul through many trials. Paul felt that Stephen has somehow died for him, so that he could see the true light. 284]

284] Rick Joyner, The Call (Charlotte, North Carolina: Morning Star Publications, 1999), 213-4.

Acts 22:22Comments - A number of scholars, such as Thomas Scott, note that Paul's mention of the Gentiles serves as the cause for this burst of outrage, cutting off Paul's message. 285] Their anger was rekindled when Paul began to discuss the Gentiles, anticipating that he was about to defend himself for teaching against the Mosaic Law. Paul's efforts to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles had agitated the Jews, leading to his arrest and imprisonment. The Jews believed that Paul was propagating a distorted Jewish doctrine regarding Jesus of Nazareth, and teaching the Jews to forsake the Law of Moses ( Acts 21:21), so that they viewed him as a heretic and worthy of death.

285] Thomas Scott, The Holy Bible; Containing the Old and New Testaments, According to the Authorized Version: with Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations, and Copious Marginal References, vol 5 (London: James Nisbet and Co, 1866), notes on Acts 22:22-30.

Acts 21:21, "And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs."

 


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These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Acts 21:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/acts-21.html. 2013.

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Monday, January 27th, 2020
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