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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
Acts 23



Verse 1

Looking steadfastly (ατενισαςatenisas). See note on this word Acts 1:10; note on Acts 3:12; Acts 6:15; Acts 7:55; Acts 13:9. Paul may have had weak eyes, but probably the earnest gaze was to see if he recognized any faces that were in the body that tried Stephen and to which he apparently once belonged.

I have lived before God (πεπολιτευμαι τωι τεωιpepoliteumai tōi theōi). Perfect middle indicative of πολιτευωpoliteuō old verb to manage affairs of city (πολιςpolis) or state, to be a citizen, behave as a citizen. In the N.T. only here and Philemon 1:27. The idea of citizenship was Greek and Roman, not Jewish. “He had lived as God‘s citizen, as a member of God‘s commonwealth” (Rackham). God (τεωιtheōi) is the dative of personal interest. As God looked at it and in his relation to God.

In all good conscience unto this day (πασηι συνειδησει αγατηι αχρι ταυτης της ημεραςpasēi suneidēsei agathēi achri tautēs tēs hēmeras). This claim seems to lack tact, but for brevity‘s sake Paul sums up a whole speech in it. He may have said much more than Luke here reports along the line of his speech the day before, but Paul did not make this claim without consideration. It appears to contradict his confession as the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:13-16). But that depends on one‘s interpretation of “good conscience.” The word συνειδησιςsuneidēsis is literally “joint-knowledge” in Greek, Latin (conscientia) and English “conscience” from the Latin. It is a late word from συνοιδαsunoida to know together, common in O.T., Apocrypha, Philo, Plutarch, New Testament, Stoics, ecclesiastical writers. In itself the word simply means consciousness of one‘s own thoughts (Hebrews 10:2), or of one‘s own self, then consciousness of the distinction between right and wrong (Romans 2:15) with approval or disapproval. But the conscience is not an infallible guide and acts according to the light that it has (1 Corinthians 8:7, 1 Corinthians 8:10; 1 Peter 2:19). The conscience can be contaminated (Hebrews 10:22, evil πονηραςponērās). All this and more must be borne in mind in trying to understand Paul‘s description of his motives as a persecutor. Alleviation of his guilt comes thereby, but not removal of guilt as he himself felt (1 Timothy 1:13-16). He means to say to the Sanhedrin that he persecuted Christians as a conscientious (though mistaken) Jew (Pharisee) just as he followed his conscience in turning from Judaism to Christianity. It is a pointed disclaimer against the charge that he is a renegade Jew, an opposer of the law, the people, the temple. Paul addresses the Sanhedrin as an equal and has no “apologies” (in our sense) to make for his career as a whole. The golden thread of consistency runs through, as a good citizen in God‘s commonwealth. He had the consolation of a good conscience (1 Peter 3:16). The word does not occur in the Gospels and chiefly in Paul‘s Epistles, but we see it at work in John 8:9 (the interpolation 7:53-8:11).

Verse 2

Ananias (ανανιαςHananias). Not the one in Luke 3:2; John 18:13; Acts 4:7, but the son of Nebedaeus, nominated high priest by Herod, King of Chalcis, a.d. 48 and till a.d. 59. He was called to Rome a.d. 52 to answer “a charge of rapine and cruelty made against him by the Samaritans, but honourably acquitted” (Page). Though high priest, he was a man of bad character.

Them that stood by him (τοις παρεστωσιν αυτωιtois parestōsin autōi). Dative case of second perfect participle of παριστημιparistēmi to place, and intransitive. See the same form in Acts 23:4 (παρεστωτεςparesttes).

To smite him on the mouth (τυπτειν αυτου το στομαtuptein autou to stoma). See Luke 12:45 and Luke 18:13. Cf. the treatment of Jesus (John 18:22). Ananias was provoked by Paul‘s self-assertion while on trial before his judges. “The act was illegal and peculiarly offensive to a Jew at the hands of a Jew” (Knowling). More self-control might have served Paul better. Smiting the mouth or cheek is a peculiarly irritating offence and one not uncommon among the Jews and this fact gives point to the command of Jesus to turn the other check (Luke 6:29 where τυπτωtuptō is also used).

Verse 3

Thou whited wall (τοιχε κεκονιαμενεtoiche kekoniamene). Perfect passive participle of κονιαωkoniaō (from κονιαkonia dust or lime). The same word used in Matthew 23:27 for “whited sepulchres” (ταποι κεκονιαμενοιtaphoi kekoniamenoi) which see. It is a picturesque way of calling Ananias a hypocrite, undoubtedly true, but not a particularly tactful thing for a prisoner to say to his judge, not to say Jewish high priest. Besides, Paul had hurled back at him the word τυπτεινtuptein (smite) in his command, putting it first in the sentence (τυπτειν σε μελλει ο τεοςtuptein se mellei ho theos) in strong emphasis. Clearly Paul felt that he, not Ananias, was living as a good citizen in God‘s commonwealth.

And sittest thou to judge me? (Και συ κατηι κρινων μεKai su kathēi krinōn mė) Literally, “And thou (being what thou art) art sitting (κατηιkathēi second person singular middle of κατημαιkathēmai late form for κατησαιkathēsai the uncontracted form) judging me.” Cf. Luke 22:30. Και συKai su at the beginning of a question expresses indignation.

Contrary to the law (παρανομωνparanomōn). Present active participle of παρανομεωparanomeō old verb to act contrary to the law, here alone in the N.T., “acting contrary to the law.”

Verse 4

Of God (του τεουtou theou). As God‘s representative in spite of his bad character (Deuteronomy 17:8.). Here was a charge of irreverence, to say the least. The office called for respect.

Verse 5

I wist not (ουκ ηιδεινouk ēidein). Second past perfect of οιδαoida used as an imperfect. The Greek naturally means that Paul did not know that it was the high priest who gave the order to smite his mouth. If this view is taken, several things may be said by way of explanation. The high priest may not have had on his official dress as the meeting was called hurriedly by Lysias. Paul had been away so long that he may not have known Ananias on sight. And then Paul may have had poor eyesight or the high priest may not have been sitting in the official seat. Another way of explaining it is to say that Paul was so indignant, even angry, at the command that he spoke without considering who it was that gave the order. The Greek allows this idea also. At any rate Paul at once recognizes the justice of the point made against him. He had been guilty of irreverence against the office of high priest as the passage from Exodus 22:18 (lxx) shows and confesses his fault, but the rebuke was deserved. Jesus did not threaten (1 Peter 2:23) when smitten on the cheek (John 18:22), but he did protest against the act and did not turn the other cheek.

Verse 6

But when Paul perceived (γνους δε ο Παυλοςgnous de ho Paulos). Perceiving (second aorist ingressive of γινωσκωginōskō). Paul quickly saw that his cause was ruined before the Sanhedrin by his unwitting attack on the high priest. It was impossible to get a fair hearing. Hence, Vincent says, “Paul, with great tact, seeks to bring the two parties of the council into collision with each other.” So Alford argues with the motto “divide and conquer.” Farrar condemns Paul and takes Acts 24:21 as a confession of error here, but that is reading into Paul‘s word about the resurrection more than he says. Page considers Luke‘s report meagre and unsatisfactory. Rackham thinks that the trial was already started and that Paul repeated part of his speech of the day before when “the Sadducees received his words with ostentatious scepticism and ridicule: this provoked counter-expressions of sympathy and credulity among the Pharisees.” But all this is inference. We do not have to adopt the Jesuitical principle that the end justifies the means in order to see shrewdness and hard sense in what Paul said and did. Paul knew, of course, that the Sanhedrin was nearly evenly divided between Pharisees and Sadducees, for he himself had been a Pharisee.

I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees (Εγω Παρισαιος ειμι υιος ΠαρισαιωνEgō Pharisaiōos eimi huios Pharisaiōn). This was strictly true as we know from his Epistles (Philemon 3:5).

Touching the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question (περι ελπιδος και αναστασεως νεκρων κρινομαιperi elpidos kai anastaseōs nekrōn krinomai). This was true also and this is the point that Paul mentions in Acts 24:21. His failure to mention again the fact that he was a Pharisee throws no discredit on Luke‘s report here. The chief point of difference between Pharisees and Sadducees was precisely this matter of the resurrection. And this was Paul‘s cardinal doctrine as a Christian minister. It was this fact that convinced him that Jesus was the Messiah and was “the very centre of his faith” (Page) and of his preaching. It was not a mere trick for Paul to proclaim this fact here and so divide the Sanhedrin. As a matter of fact, the Pharisees held aloof when the Sadducees persecuted Peter and the other apostles for preaching resurrection in the case of Jesus and even Gamaliel threw cold water on the effort to punish them for it (Acts 5:34-39). So then Paul was really recurring to the original cleavage on this point and was able to score a point against the Sadducees as Gamaliel, his great teacher, had done before him. Besides, “Paul and Pharisaism seem to us such opposite ideas that we often forget that to Paul Christianity was the natural development of Judaism” (Page). Paul shows this in Galatians 3; Romans 9-11.

Verse 7

When he had so said (τουτο αυτου λαλουντοςtouto autou lalountos). Genitive absolute of present participle (Westcott and Hort) rather than aorist (ειποντοςeipontos). While he was saying this.

A dissension (στασιςstasis). This old word for standing or station (Hebrews 9:8) from ιστημιhistēmi to place, we have seen already to mean insurrection (Acts 19:40 which see). Here it is strife as in Acts 15:2.

Was divided (εσχιστηeschisthē). See note on Acts 14:4.

Verse 8

There is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit (μη ειναι αναστασιν μητε αγγελον μητε πνευμαmē einai anastasin mēte aggelon mēte pneuma). Infinitive with negative μηmē in indirect assertion. These points constitute the chief doctrinal differences between the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Both (αμποτεραamphotera). Here used though three items of belief are mentioned as in Acts 19:16 where the seven sons of Sceva are thus described. This idiom is common enough in papyri and Byzantine Greek (Robertson, Grammar, p. 745).

Verse 9

Strove (διεμαχοντοdiemachonto). Imperfect middle of διαμαχομαιdiamachomai old Attic verb, to fight it out (between, back and forth, fiercely). Here only in the N.T. It was a lively scrap and Luke pictures it as going on. The Pharisees definitely take Paul‘s side.

And what if a spirit hath spoken to him or an angel? (ει δε πνευμα ελαλησεν αυτωι η αγγελοσei de pneuma elalēsen autōi ē aggeloṡ). This is aposiopesis, not uncommon in the N.T., as in Luke 13:9; John 6:62 (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1203). See one also in Exodus 32:32.

Verse 10

When there arose a great dissension (πολλης της γινομενης στασεωςpollēs tēs ginomenēs staseōs). Present middle participle (genitive absolute). Literally, “dissension becoming much.”

Lest Paul should be torn in pieces by them (μη διασπαστηι ο Παυλοςmē diaspasthēi ho Paulos). First aorist passive subjunctive of διασπαωdiaspaō to draw in two, to tear in pieces, old verb, in the N.T. only here and Mark 5:4 of tearing chains in two. The subjunctive with μηmē is the common construction after a verb of fearing (Robertson, Grammar, p. 995).

The soldiers (το στρατευμαto strateuma). The army, the band of soldiers and so in Acts 23:27.

To go down (καταβανkataban). Second aorist active participle of καταβαινωkatabainō having gone down.

Take him by force (αρπασαιharpasai). To seize. The soldiers were to seize and save Paul from the midst of (εκ μεσουek mesou) the rabbis or preachers (in their rage to get at each other). Paul was more of a puzzle to Lysias now than ever.

Verse 11

The night following (τηι επιουσηι νυκτιtēi epiousēi nukti). Locative case, on the next (following) night.

The Lord (ο κυριοςho kurios). Jesus. Paul never needed Jesus more than now. On a previous occasion the whole church prayed for Peter‘s release (Acts 12:5), but Paul clearly had no such grip on the church as that, though he had been kindly welcomed (Acts 21:18). In every crisis Jesus appears to him (cf. Acts 18:9). It looked dark for Paul till Jesus spoke. Once before in Jerusalem Jesus spoke words of cheer (Acts 22:18). Then he was told to leave Jerusalem. Now he is to have “cheer” or “courage” (ταρσειtharsei). Jesus used this very word to others (Matthew 9:2, Matthew 9:22; Mark 10:49). It is a brave word.

Thou hast testified (διεμαρτυρωdiemarturō). First aorist middle indicative second person singular of διαμαρτυρομαιdiamarturomai strong word (See note on Acts 22:18).

Must thou (σε δειse dei). That is the needed word and on this Paul leans. His hopes (Acts 19:21) of going to Rome will not be in vain. He can bide Christ‘s time now. And Jesus has approved his witness in Jerusalem.

Verse 12

Banded together (ποιησαντες συστροπηνpoiēsantes sustrophēn). See note on Acts 19:40 (riot), but here conspiracy, secret combination, binding together like twisted cords.

Bound themselves under a curse (ανετεματισαν εαυτουςanethematisan heautous). First aorist active indicative of ανατεματιζωanathematizō a late word, said by Cremer and Thayer to be wholly Biblical or ecclesiastical. But Deissmann (Light from the Ancient East, p. 95) quotes several examples of the verb in an Attic cursing tablet from Megara of the first or second century a.d. This proof shows that the word, as well as ανατεμαanathema (substantive) from which the verb is derived, was employed by pagans as well as by Jews. Deissmann suggests that Greek Jews like the seven sons of Sceva may have been the first to coin it. It occurs in the lxx as well as Mark 14:71 (which see and Luke 21:5); Acts 23:12, Acts 23:14, Acts 23:21. They placed themselves under an anathema or curse, devoted themselves to God (cf. Leviticus 27:28.; 1 Corinthians 16:22).

Drink (πεινπιεινpein̂piein). Second aorist active infinitive of πινωpinō For this shortened form see Robertson, Grammar, p. 343.

Till they had killed (εως ου αποκτεινωσινheōs hou apokteinōsin). First aorist active subjunctive of αποκτεινωapokteinō common verb. No reason to translate “had killed,” simply “till they should kill,” the aorist merely punctiliar action, the subjunctive retained instead of the optative for vividness as usual in the Koiné{[28928]}š (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 974-6). Same construction in Acts 23:14. King Saul took an “anathema” that imperilled Jonathan (1 Samuel 14:24). Perhaps the forty felt that the rabbis could find some way to absolve the curse if they failed. See this verse repeated in Acts 23:21.

Verse 13

More than forty (πλειους τεσσερακονταpleious tesserakonta). Without “than” (η) as in Acts 23:21; Acts 24:11 and often in the ancient Greek.

Conspiracy (συνωμοσιανsunōmosian). Old word from συνομνυμιsunomnumi to swear together. Only here in the N.T.

Verse 14

Came to the chief priests and the elders (προσελτοντες τοις αρχιερευσιν και τοις πρεσβυτεροιςproselthontes tois archiereusin kai tois presbuterois). The Sanhedrin, just as Judas did (Luke 22:4).

With a great curse (ανατεματιanathemati). This use of the same word as the verb repeated in the instrumental case is in imitation of the Hebrew absolute infinitive and common in the lxx, the very idiom and words of Deuteronomy 13:15; Deuteronomy 20:17, an example of translation Greek, though found in other languages (Robertson, Grammar, p. 531). See note on Luke 21:5 for the distinction between anathema and anathēma Jesus had foretold: “Whoso killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (John 16:2).

Verse 15

Ye (υμειςhumeis). Emphatic.

Signify (εμπανισατεemphanisate). First aorist active imperative of εμπανιζωemphanizō Make plain from εμπανηςemphanēs chiefly in Acts. Repeated in Acts 23:22. The authority is with the chiliarch not with the Sanhedrin, but he had appealed to the Sanhedrin for advice.

As though ye would judge of his case more exactly (ως μελλοντας διαγινωσκειν ακριβεστερον τα περι αυτουhōs mellontas diaginōskein akribesteron ta peri autou). ωςHōs with the participle gives the alleged reason as here. So also in Acts 23:20. ΔιαγνοσκωDiagnoskō old verb to distinguish accurately, only here in N.T. and Acts 24:22.

Or ever come near (προ του εγγισαι αυτονpro tou eggisai auton). “Before the coming near as to him.” ΠροPro and the genitive of the articular infinitive of εγγιζωeggizō with accusative of general reference.

We are ready to slay him (ετοιμοι εσμεν του ανελειν αυτονhetoimoi esōmen tou anelein auton). Genitive of purpose of the articular infinitive after the adjective ετοιμοιhetoimoi (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1061). ΑνελεινAnelein second aorist active of αναιρεωanaireō f0).

Verse 16

Their lying in wait (την ενεδρανtēn enedran). Old word from ενen (in) and εδραhedra (seat), ambush. In N.T. only here and Acts 25:3. Accusative object of ακουσαςakousas

He came (παραγενομενοςparagenomenos). Second aorist middle participle of παραγινομαιparaginomai It may mean, “having come upon them” and so discount their plot, a graphic touch. Vincent thinks that some Pharisee, since Paul was a Pharisee and so a member of the “guild,” told his nephew of the plot. Perhaps, and perhaps not.

Told Paul (απηγγειλεν τωι Παυλωιapēggeilen tōi Paulōi). This nephew is not known otherwise. He may be a student here from Tarsus as Paul once was. Anyhow he knows what to do when he catches on to the conspirators. He had enough address to get into the barracks where Paul was. He ran the risk of death if discovered.

Verse 17

Called unto him (προσκαλεσαμενοςproskalesamenos). First aorist participle indirect middle, calling to himself. Paul laid his plans as energetically as if Jesus had not promised that he would see Rome (Acts 23:11).

Bring (απαγεapage). “Take away.”

Verse 18

Paul the prisoner (ο δεσμιος Παυλοςho desmios Paulos). Bound (δεσμιοςdesmios) to a soldier, but not with two chains (Acts 21:33), and with some freedom to see his friends as later (Acts 28:16), in military custody (custodia militaris). This was better than custodia publica (public custody), the common prison, but more confining.

Who hath something to say to thee (εχοντα τι λαλησαι σοιechonta tōi lalēsai soi). Same idiom as in Acts 23:17, Acts 23:19, but λαλησαιlalēsai here instead of απαγγειλαιapaggeilai f0).

Verse 19

Took him by the hand (επιλαβομενος της χειρος αυτουepilabomenos tēs cheiros autou). Kindly touch in Lysias, ut fiduciam adolescentis confirmaret (Bengel). Note genitive with the second aorist middle (indirect, to himself) of επιλαμβανωepilambanō as in Luke 8:54 with κρατησαςkratēsas which see. How old the young man (νεανιαςneanias) was we do not know, but it is the very word used of Paul in Acts 7:58 when he helped in the killing of Stephen, a young man in the twenties probably. See also Acts 20:9 of Eutychus. He is termed νεανισκοςneaniskos in Acts 23:22.

Asked him privately (κατ ιδιαν επυντανετοkat' idian epunthaneto). Imperfect middle, began to ask (inchoative).

Verse 20

The Jews (οι Ιουδαιοιhoi Ioudaioi). As if the whole nation was in the conspiracy and so in Acts 23:12. The conspirators may have belonged to the Zealots, but clearly they represented the state of Jewish feeling toward Paul in Jerusalem.

Have agreed (συνετεντοsunethento). Second aorist middle indicative of συντιτημιsuntithēmi old verb to join together, to agree. Already this form in Luke 22:5 which see. See also John 9:22; Acts 24:9.

To bring down (οπως καταγαγηιςhopōs katagagēis). Very words of the conspirators in Acts 23:15 as if the young man overheard. Second aorist active subjunctive of καταγωkatagō with οπωςhopōs in final clause, still used, but nothing like so common as ιναhina though again in Acts 23:23 (Robertson, Grammar, p. 985).

As though thou wouldest inquire (ως μελλων πυντανεσταιhōs mellōn punthanesthai). Just as in Acts 23:15 except that here μελλωνmellōn refers to Lysias instead of to the conspirators as in Acts 23:15. The singular is used by the youth out of deference to the authority of Lysias and so modifies a bit the scheming of the conspirators, not “absurd” as Page holds.

Verse 21

Do not therefore yield unto them (Συ ουν μη πειστηις αυτοιςSu oun mē peisthēis autois). First aorist passive subjunctive of πειτωpeithō common verb, here to be persuaded by, to listen to, to obey, to yield to. With negative and rightly. Do not yield to them (dative) at all. On the aorist subjunctive with μηmē in prohibitions against committing an act see Robertson, Grammar, pp. 851-4.

For there lie in wait (ενεδρευουσιν γαρenedreuousin gar). Present active indicative of ενεδρευωenedreuō old verb from ενεδραenedra (Acts 23:16), in the N.T. only here and Luke 11:54 which see.

Till they have slain him (εως ου ανελωσιν αυτονheōs hou anelōsin auton). Same idiom as in Acts 23:12 save that here we have ανελωσινanelōsin (second aorist active subjunctive) instead of αποκτεινωσινapokteinōsin (another word for kill), “till they slay him.”

Looking for the promise from thee (προσδεχομενοι την απο σου επαγγελιανprosdechomenoi tēn apo sou epaggelian). This item is all that is needed to put the scheme through, the young man shrewdly adds.

Verse 22

Tell no man (μηδενι εκλαλησαιmēdeni eklalēsai). Indirect command (oratio obliqua) after παραγγειλαςparaggeilas (charging) with first aorist active infinitive of εκλαλεωekaleō (in ancient Greek, but here only in N.T.), but construction changed to direct in rest of the sentence (oratio recta) as in Acts 1:4, “that thou hast signified these things to me” (οτι ταυτα ενεπανισας προς εμεhoti tauta enephanisas pros eme). Same verb here as in Acts 23:15. This change is common in the N.T. (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1047).

Verse 23

Two (τινας δυοtinas duo). “Some two” as in Luke 7:19, indicating (Page) that they were not specially chosen.

Soldiers (στρατιωταςstratiōtas), horsemen (ιππειςhippeis), spearmen (δεχιολαβουςdexiolabous). The three varieties of troops in a Roman army like the cohort of Lysias (Page). The στρατιωταιstratiōtai were the heavy-armed legionaries, the ιππειςhippeis belonged to every legion, the δεχιολαβοιdexiolaboi were light-armed supplementary troops who carried a lance in the right hand (δεχιοςdexios right, λαμβανωlambanō to take). Vulgate, lancearios. At the third hour of the night (απο τριτης ωρας της νυκτοςapo tritēs hōras tēs nuktos). About nine in the evening.

Verse 24

Provide beasts (κτενη παραστησαιktenē parastēsai). Change from direct to indirect discourse just the opposite of that in Acts 23:22.

Beasts (κτηνηktēnē). For riding as here or for baggage. See note on Luke 10:34. Asses or horses, but not war-horses. Since Paul was chained to a soldier, another animal would be required for baggage. It was also seventy miles and a change of horses might be needed. The extreme precaution of Lysias is explained in some Latin MSS. as due to fear of a night attack with the result that he might be accused to Felix of bribery. Luke also probably accompanied Paul.

To bring safe (hina diasōsōsin). Final clause with hina and the first aorist active subjunctive of ινα διασωσωσινdiasōzō old verb, to save through (ιναdia) to a finish. Eight times in the N.T. (Matthew 14:36; Luke 7:3; Acts 23:24; Acts 27:43, Acts 27:44; Acts 28:1, Acts 28:4; 1 Peter 3:20).

Unto Felix the governor (διασωζωpros Phēlika ton hēgemona). Felix was a brother of Pallas, the notorious favourite of Claudius. Both had been slaves and were now freedmen. Felix was made procurator of Judea by Claudius a.d. 52. He held the position till Festus succeeded him after complaints by the Jews to Nero. He married Drusilla the daughter of Herod Agrippa I with the hope of winning the favour of the Jews. He was one of the most depraved men of his time. Tacitus says of him that “with all cruelty and lust he exercised the power of a king with the spirit of a slave.” The term “governor” (διαhēgemōn) means “leader” from προς Πηλικα τον ηγεμοναhēgeomai to lead, and was applied to leaders of all sorts (emperors, kings, procurators). In the N.T. it is used of Pilate (Matthew 27:2), of Felix, (Acts 23:24, Acts 23:26, Acts 23:33; Acts 24:1), of Festus (Acts 26:30).

Verse 25

And he wrote (γραπσαςgrapsas). First aorist active participle of γραπωgraphō agreeing with the subject (Lysias) of ειπενeipen (said) back in Acts 23:23 (beginning).

After this form (εχουσαν τον τυπον τουτονechousan ton tupon touton). Textus Receptus has περιεχουσανperiechousan The use of τυπονtupon (type or form) like exemplum in Latin (Page who quotes Cicero Ad Att. IX. 6. 3) may give merely the purport or substantial contents of the letter. But there is no reason for thinking that it is not a genuine copy since the letter may have been read in open court before Felix, and Luke was probably with Paul. The Roman law required that a subordinate officer like Lysias in reporting a case to his superior should send a written statement of the case and it was termed elogium. A copy of the letter may have been given Paul after his appeal to Caesar. It was probably written in Latin. The letter is a “dexterous mixture of truth and falsehood” (Furneaux) with the stamp of genuineness. It puts things in a favourable light for Lysias and makes no mention of his order to scourge Paul.

Verse 26

Most excellent (κρατιστωιkratistōi). See note on Luke 1:3 to Theophilus though not in Acts 1:1. It is usual in addressing men of rank as here, like our “Your Excellency” in Acts 24:3 and Paul uses it to Festus in Acts 26:25.

Greeting (chairein). Absolute infinitive with independent or absolute nominative (Klaudios Lusias) as is used in letters (Acts 15:23; James 1:1) and in countless papyri (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1092).

Verse 27

Was seized (συλλημπτενταsullēmphthenta). First aorist passive participle of συλλαμβανωsullambanō

Rescued him having learned that he was a Roman (εχειλαμεν ματων οτι ομαιος εστινexeilamen mathōn hoti Romaios estin). Wendt, Zoeckler, and Furneaux try to defend this record of two facts by Lysias in the wrong order from being an actual lie as Bengel rightly says. Lysias did rescue Paul and he did learn that he was a Roman, but in this order. He did not first learn that he was a Roman and then rescue him as his letter states. The use of the aorist participle (ματωνmathōn from μαντανωmanthanō) after the principal verb εχειλαμενexeilamen (second aorist middle of εχαιρεωexaireō to take out to oneself, to rescue) can be either simultaneous action or antecedent. There is in Greek no such idiom as the aorist participle of subsequent action (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 1112-14). Lysias simply reversed the order of the facts and omitted the order for scourging Paul to put himself in proper light with Felix his superior officer and actually poses as the protector of a fellow Roman citizen.

Verse 28

To know (επιγνωναιepignōnai). To know fully, επιepi second aorist active infinitive.

They accused him (ενεκαλουν αυτωιenekaloun autōi). Imperfect active indicative, were accusing him (dative), repeating their charges.

Verse 29

Concerning questions of their law (περι ζητηματα του νομου αυτωνperi zētēmata tou nomou autōn). The very distinction drawn by Gallio in Corinth (Acts 18:14.). On the word see note on Acts 15:2.

But to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds (μηδεν δε αχιον τανατου η δεσμων εχοντα ενκλημαmēden de axion thanatou ē desmōn echonta enklēma). Literally, “having no accusation (or crime) worthy of death or of bonds.” This phrase here only in the N.T. ΕγκλημαEgklēma is old word for accusation or crime from εγκαλεωegkaleō used in Acts 23:28 and in the N.T. only here and Acts 25:16. Lysias thus expresses the opinion that Paul ought to be set free and the lenient treatment that Paul received in Caesarea and Rome (first imprisonment) is probably due to this report of Lysias. Every Roman magistrate before whom Paul appears declares him innocent (Gallio, Lysias, Felix, Festus).

Verse 30

When it was shown to me that there would be a plot (μηνυτεισης μοι επιβουλης εσεσταιmēnutheisēs moi epiboulēs esesthai). Two constructions combined; genitive absolute (μηνυτεισης επιβουληςmēnutheisēs epiboulēs first aorist passive participle of μηνυωmēnuō) and future infinitive (εσεσταιesesthai as if επιβουληνepiboulēn accusative of general reference used) in indirect assertion after μηνυωmēnuō (Robertson, Grammar, p. 877).

Charging his accusers also (παραγγειλας και τοις κατηγοροιςparaggeilas kai tois katēgorois). First aorist active participle of παραγγελλωparaggellō with which compare ματωνmathōn above (Acts 23:27), not subsequent action. Dative case in κατηγοροιςkatēgorois

Before thee (επι σουepi sou). Common idiom for “in the presence of” when before a judge (like Latin apud) as in Acts 24:20, Acts 24:21; Acts 25:26; Acts 26:2. What happened to the forty conspirators we have no way of knowing. Neither they nor the Jews from Asia are heard of more during the long five years of Paul‘s imprisonment in Caesarea and Rome.

Verse 31

As it was commanded them (κατα το διατεταγμενον αυτοιςkata to diatetagmenon autois). “According to that which was commanded them,” perfect passive articular participle of διατασσωdiatassō

By night (δια νυκτοςdia nuktos). Through the night, travelling by night forty miles from Jerusalem to Antipatris which was founded by Herod the Great and was on the road from Jerusalem to Caesarea, a hard night‘s ride.

Verse 33

And they (οιτινεςhoitines). Which very ones, the cavalry, the horsemen of Acts 23:31.

Delivered (αναδοντεςanadontes). Second aorist active participle of αναδιδωμιanadidōmi old verb to give up, to hand over, here only in the N.T.

Presented Paul also (παρεστησαν και τον Παυλονparestēsan kai ton Paulon). First aorist active (transitive, not second aorist intransitive) indicative of παριστημιparistēmi common verb to present or place beside. What would Paul‘s friends in Caesarea (Philip and his daughters) think of the prophecy of Agabus now so quickly come true.

Verse 34

When he had read it (αναγνουςanagnous). Second aorist active participle of αναγινωσκωanaginōskō to know again, to read.

Of what province he was (εκ ποιας επαρχειας εστινek poias eparcheias estin). Tense of εστινestin (is) retained in indirect question. ΠοιαςPoias is strictly “of what kind of” province, whether senatorial or imperial. Cilicia, like Judea, was under the control of the propraetor of Syria (imperial province). Paul‘s arrest was in Jerusalem and so under the jurisdiction of Felix unless it was a matter of insurrection when he could appeal to the propraetor of Syria.

Verse 35

I will hear thy cause (διακουσομαιdiakousomai). “I will hear thee fully” (διαdia).

When--are come (παραγενωνταιparagenōntai). Second aorist middle subjunctive of παραγινομαιparaginomai with temporal conjunction οτανhotan indefinite temporal clause of future time (Robertson, Grammar, p. 972), “whenever thine accusers come.”

In Herod‘s palace (εν τωι πραιτωριωιen tōi praitōriōi). The Latin word πραετοριυμpraetorium The word meant the camp of the general, then the palace of the governor as here and Matthew 27:27 which see, and then the camp of praetorian soldiers or rather the praetorian guard as in Philemon 1:13.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Acts 23:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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