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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
Acts 22

 

 

Verse 1

Paul’s Hebrew Speech to the Jewish Crowd in the Temple Court from the steps leading to the Antonia Tower, and the Tumult which succeeded it, 1-23.

Acts 22:1. Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you. The accurate translation of the Greek word would be simply, ‘Brethren and fathers.’ It is noticeable that the opening words are the same as those used by Stephen in his great defence before the Sanhedrim (see chap. Acts 7:2). ‘Brethren’ expresses the love Paul bore to his fellow-countrymen the Jews. ‘Fathers’ seems to recognise the presence of some of the older and more prominent men of the Jerusalem Church, members, perhaps, of the .Sanhedrim, certainly well-known scribes and elders of the Holy City. It has been suggested with some probability, that ‘Brethren and fathers’ was the received formula in addressing an assembly which included scribes and elders of the people.

Mr. Humphry, in his commentary on the ‘Acts,’ happily touches on the leading characteristic features of this speech: ‘Though the subject-matter of this speech has been related before, it assumes here a fresh interest from the manner in which it is adapted to the occasion and the audience. The apostle is suspected of disaffection to the Mosaic law. In order to refute this charge, he addresses them in Hebrew; he dwells on his Jewish education, and on his early zeal for the law; he shows how at his conversion he was guided by Ananias, a man devout according to the law, and of good report among the Jews at Damascus, and how he subsequently worshipped in the temple at Jerusalem. So far they listen to him; but he no sooner touches on the promulgation of the gospel among the heathen (Acts 22:21) than he is interrupted, and his fate would probably have been the same as Stephen’s, had he not been under the protection of the Roman captain.’


Verse 2

Acts 22:2. And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence. He addresses his hearers in the loved sacred language. They would be more likely, he knew, to listen to him whom they fancied was a blasphemer of the law of Moses and the temple, if they heard his account of himself in no hated Gentile language, but in the well-known cherished tongue of the people of God. It is clear from the narrative that the majority at least of his hearers would have perfectly understood Paul had he spoken in Greek. The Hebrew tongue was chosen because he knew they would listen to it, and the event shows he had judged them rightly. ‘When they heard the first words spoken in their fathers’ tongue,’ we read, ‘they kept the more silence.’

And he saith. The speech of Paul on the steps of the Antonia tower, as reported by the writer of the ‘Acts,’ contains three divisions:—1. Acts 22:3-8 treat of his early life, and roughly sketch his story up to the day when the Heavenly Vision and Voice changed the whole current of his existence. 2. Acts 22:9-16 relate in detail what took place in the days immediately following this Divine Vision. 3. Acts 22:17-21 pursue the story of his life from the days which followed the Heavenly Vision on the Damascus road until the hour when a second time the Divine Voice spoke to him in the temple, and declared to him what should be the grand object of his life.


Verse 3

Acts 22:3. I am verily a man which am a Jew. He starts at once with a statement calculated to allay the suspicions with which many of those who were infuriated against him, without knowing any thing really of his story, regarded him. ‘I was a Jew’, he tells them.

Born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of our fathers. ‘And, although born,’ he goes on to say, ‘in the distant Gentile city of Tarsus, yet it was here, in our Holy City, that I received my education. My master was none other than the famous R. Gamaliel, so well known to every Jew. In those days I was trained by that great master as a Pharisee, to love and to practise all the strictness of our ancestral law.’ [See the Galatian Epistle, Acts 1:13-14, where he speaks of his pre-eminence in those far-back days in all this learning, and how none of his fellow-students were able to compete with him in his knowledge of the law, and in his fervent zeal for the old sacred traditions of the Fathers.] The expression, ‘at the feet of Gamaliel,’ is strictly accurate. In the Jewish schools, the teacher sat and taught from a raised seat; the pupils sat round on low benches or on the floor, literally at the master’s feet.

And was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. ‘What ye are now;’ said the apostle, ‘I was once—a zealot,’ a word well known in the extremest phases of the religious life of that disastrous period in Judæa, ‘a zealot for what I deemed was for the honour of God.’


Verse 4

Acts 22:4. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. In support of his assertion that he, too, was once a Jewish ‘zealot,’ he reminds them that he was formerly a bitter persecutor of ‘this way;’ there were doubtless those present in the listening crowd who well knew that these words of his were literally true.

He speaks of the Christian cause with the now familiar term—familiar, apparently, to friends and enemies of the Nazarene brotherhood—of ‘this way.’ It originated most likely from a loving memory of the Master’s words, in which he claimed to be himself ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (see, too, the great prophecy of Isaiah 40:3, where the word ‘way’ may be said to have formed the burden of the solemn song). The significant words, ‘unto the death,’ seem to tell us that in those first early persecutions of the Nazarenes, Stephen the deacon was by no means the only martyr for the cause of the Lord Jesus.


Verse 5

Acts 22:5. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders. The ‘high priest’ in question was not the person holding that office at the present juncture, but the one who happened, at the time of the Damascus Mission, A.D. 37, to be in possession of that high office. The high priest who with the Sanhedrim gave Paul his credentials as inquisitor for Damascus and Syria, was probably Jonathan the successor and brother of Caiaphas. The reigning high priest at this period, A.D. 58, was Ananias. We have before noticed that in these last days of the Jewish power, the high-priestly office and dignity were not permanent, but were constantly transferred from one holder to another, the Roman authority claiming and exercising this right of raising and deposing the Jewish high priest. Claudius Cæsar, the emperor, had conceded the privilege of naming the high priest to Agrippa II. This prince had nominated Ananias. The deposed high priest of A.D. 37 was however doubtless one of the members of the Sanhedrim council.

‘The estate of the elders’ more likely is a term used for the Sanhedrim. There were many, probably, in that venerable body who remembered well the young Pharisee, ‘the zealot Saul,’ and the brilliant promise he gave in old days of becoming one of the foremost men in the Pharisee party.

From whom also I received letters unto the brethren. That is, to the chiefs of the Syrian synagogues resident in Damascus and elsewhere. He uses the term ‘brethren’ to show how, now as then, he regarded his fellow-countrymen the Jews as ‘his brethren,’ and how he looked on their interests as his. It is also noticeable that the term ‘brethren ‘was used by the Jews first, and that, like so much else that belonged to the synagogue and its life, the expression passed to the Christians, and became among the members of the Church of Jesus of Nazareth, indeed, a household word. Paul was armed on that occasion with letters from the Sanhedrim, from whose commands and decisions in ecclesiastical .affairs there was no appeal.

For to be punished. By imprisonment, scourging, and, as in the case of Stephen, by a cruel death.


Verse 6

Acts 22:6. And it came to pass. [On the various incidents in the narrative of the miraculous conversion of Paul, see notes on chap. Acts 9:3-19. Any additional facts mentioned in this narration of the same events by St. Paul will be noticed here.]

About noon. This ‘note of time’ does not appear in the former account. A light which could compel attention at such an hour in the full glare of an eastern noon, must be regarded at once as something out of the ordinary course of nature. This mention of the exact time when the Glorious Vision appeared was evidently a personal recollection of the event.


Verse 7

Acts 22:7. Saul, Saul. Here, and again in Paul’s own account before Agrippa and Bernice at Cæsarea, the language ‘Hebrew’ is specially noticed (chap. Acts 26:14); and also in the narrative of chap. 9, the Aramaic (Hebrew) form of Saul, ‘Saoul,’ is found. The voice from heaven had so imprinted itself on the memory of Paul that he reproduces the call to him as he first heard it.


Verse 8

Acts 22:8. I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutes. More literally, ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ This title of the Lord is peculiar to this account of the conversion. It seems probable that the followers of the Crucified, whom Paul was proceeding to Damascus to persecute, were called ‘Nazarenes,’ and the inquisitor was arrested in his work by One from heaven calling Himself ‘The Nazarene.’


Verse 9

Acts 22:9. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. Much has been said as to the seeming discrepancy between the statement here that Paul’s companions ‘heard not the voice of Him that spoke to me,’ and the words in the narrative, chap. Acts 9:7, ‘hearing a voice.’ Dr. J. A. Alexander well explains this apparent difference: ‘There is a distinction between hearing a voice speak and hearing what it says, as nothing is more common in our public bodies than the complaint that the speaker is not heard, i.e. that his words are not distinguished, though his voice may be audible and even loud. It might be said with equal truth, that Paul’s companions heard the voice, i.e. knew that it was speaking, and that they did not hear it, i.e. did not know what it said. See St. John’s Gospel, John 12:29, where a similar confusion seems to have occurred in the listeners’ minds. Here as there, the Divine Voice to the ordinary bystander was a voice, but not one uttering articulate words.

(On the identity of the ‘light from heaven,’ which shone round about the company of Saul, with the Shekinah or visible glory, which on so many occasions had been seen by Israel, see note on chap. Acts 9:3, where the question is discussed at length.)


Verse 11

Acts 22:11. And when I could not see for the glory of that light. We have here another personal memory of the strange eventful scene. In the narrative of chap. 9, we are simply told Saul was blinded; but as we should expect from one who had not only been present at the scene, but had been the chief actor in it, Paul gives us here the reason for that blindness. His eyes were dazzled by the blinding glory of that Light which was ‘above the brightness of the sun.’


Verse 12

Acts 22:12. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there. In the account of the conversion of chap. Acts 9:10, this Ananias is merely mentioned as ‘a disciple,’ a follower of Jesus of Nazareth; here, however, we have a detailed description of the man who was sent to the blinded Saul after the heavenly vision. It seems not improbable that, although a believer in the Crucified, he was a well-known and respected Jew of Damascus,—one, in fact, blameless in all the ordinances of the law in the Syrian capital, as was James the Lord’s brother in Jerusalem. Such a one as Paul describes, even though he were not well known to the Jerusalem Jews (which at least seems probable), yet seeing he was a devout man according to the law, and well reported of in his own city, would surely not have visited and received into friendship a blasphemer and an enemy of the law—would never, save on very weighty evidence, have accepted Saul the persecutor as a brother-disciple.


Verse 13

Acts 22:13. And the same hour I looked up upon him. That is to say, Ananias stood before the stricken Saul, and spoke as he was commanded the healing words of power; then Saul turned his heavy blinded eyes in the direction of the voice which spoke to him, and the sight came back, and ‘he looked upon Ananias.’ One commentator thus paraphrases: ‘I looked up with recovered sight upon him.’


Verse 14

Acts 22:14. The God of our fathers hath chosen thee. Another appeal to Jewish thought. Paul here reproduces what ‘the young man whose name was Saul,’ heard from the lips of the first martyr Stephen twenty-five years before, when pleading before the Sanhedrim. The whole sentence of Stephen, which was probably reproduced in its entirety by Paul (Luke no doubt abbreviates it), ran thus: ‘The God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’

And see that Just One. We are here distinctly told by Ananias what hardly appears from Luke’s account of the vision, or from either of Paul’s own recitals, how in the blinding glory Paul gated on the Divine form of Jesus Christ. Was it not to this appearance of ‘the Risen One’ that he refers when he writes, ‘Am I not an apostle? . . . have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?’(1 Corinthians 9:1); and ‘Last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time’ (1 Corinthians 15:8).

‘That Just One,’ another reminiscence of Stephen’s defence before the Sanhedrim. The martyr had spoken of ‘the coming of the Just One.’ The name ‘The Just One’ does not appear to have been one of the titles of the expected Messiah, but may have been suggested by Isaiah 11:4-5. It seems to have been accepted by the Church of Jerusalem; and in 1 John 2:1, and perhaps in James 5:6, we find examples of its application. The memorable use of this name by Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19) may have helped to give prominence to it. He who had been condemned as a malefactor was emphatically, above all the sons of men, the ‘Righteous,’ the ‘Just One.’


Verse 15

Acts 22:15. Thou shalt be his witness unto all men. In Luke’s account of Acts 9:15, the ‘Gentiles’ are especially mentioned by name in the colloquy between Ananias and the Lord, who spoke to him in a vision: ‘He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear My name before the Gentiles,’ etc. Here speaking to the angry and jealous Jewish crowd, the expression ‘the Gentiles’ is omitted altogether, and Paul’s broader mission is expressed by the words, ‘Thou shalt be His witness to all men.’


Verse 16

Acts 22:16. And be baptized. The verb in the original Greek is of the middle, not of the passive voice, as the English translation would seem to imply. The more accurate rendering is, ‘have thyself baptized.’ The rite in the case of persons arrived at years of discretion was preceded by ‘repentance’ (see Acts 2:38). In St. Paul’s mind it was no mere formal or ceremonial rite (comp. his words in Titus 3:5).

Calling on the name of the Lord. The reading of the older MSS. here, which we are now able to restore, is an important addition to our proofs, gathered from the inspired writings of the New Testament, of the belief in the early Church in the divinity of Christ. We should read, ‘calling on His name,’ that is, on that ‘Just One,’ of whom mention has been made before, Acts 22:14, and immediately after, Acts 22:18-21, or, in other words, on Jesus Christ. We see, therefore, that the Church of the first days directly invoked our Lord and Redeemer.


Verse 17

Acts 22:17. And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem. We know that after his conversion and meeting with Ananias, he did not return to Jerusalem, but after a short interval went into Arabia (Galatians 1:17),—a period spent probably for the most part in preparation for his great work. Subsequently, when he went up to the Holy City, in the temple there, he received, while in a trance, the positive direction which determined him to devote himself to preaching the cross of Christ afar off among the isles of the Gentiles.

Paul dwells especially on the fact of this second voice of the Divine Wisdom, ordering him to devote his life’s work to the Gentiles, coming to him when praying in the temple of Jerusalem. He would show the people who charged him with being a traitor to the chosen race, that his becoming a Christian had neither made him forget Jerusalem nor the glorious House on Mount Zion.

I was in a trance, or ecstasy. This apparently was no uncommon state of mind and body for those persons who were chosen to make known in a special way the will of God. For good instances of this miraculously suspended action of the normal working of the senses, see Numbers 24:4, the vision of Balaam: ‘He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open;’ and 2 Corinthians 12:3, the vision of Paul, where he speaks of himself as, Whether in the body, or out of the body, he could not tell: and that then he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it was not lawful for a man to utter. See, too, among other places, for the vision of John on the Lord’s day, Revelation 1:10. There is no probability that this vision in the temple was identical with the one above referred to in 2 Corinthians 12:3, where a vision of heaven was vouchsafed to him. Here a direct and positive command was given him. St. Paul had many similar revelations in the course of his life.


Verse 18

Acts 22:18. Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. ‘They’ included both the Jews still strangers to the new covenant, and also the Jewish Christians of the Holy City. By the former he was hated as an apostate; by the latter he was viewed probably as a spy, and as no real Christian.


Verse 19

Acts 22:19. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee. Paul, in recalling the very words of the prayer he uttered during his ecstasy, wishes to show his enemies charging him with disloyalty to the people, the law, and the temple, that his apostleship among the Gentiles was totally unsought by him,—nay, that it was positively forced on him by the will of the Most High. He tells them even how he pleaded with God to let him work in Jerusalem among his own people; how he urged that it was naturally to be expected that the members of his own party, the rigid Pharisee Jerusalem Jews, would be likely to listen to him and his arguments, because they could not possibly be more bitter against the followers of the Crucified than he had been. ‘Did they not know how he had persecuted and beaten in every synagogue them that called on the hated name of Jesus?’ These Pharisees would surely feel that no light or trivial circumstances could have made him the bitter foe, join a sect of which he was the notorious persecutor. It has been also suggested, as a reason for his earnest prayer to God in the temple, that he hoped by a lengthened work in Jerusalem in some way to make amends for his former cruel injuries done in that city.


Verse 20

Acts 22:20. And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death. It is hardly likely that the sense in which we understand the word ‘martyr,’ viz. ‘one who dies for his religion, belonged as yet to the Greek word μάρτυρ or μάρτυς. It would therefore be more strictly accurate to render here, ‘the blood of thy witness Stephen.’ But there is little doubt that, very early indeed in the Christian story, the, to us, well-known sense of the beautiful word martyr became attached to it. Probably the transition from the general sense of ‘witness’ to the specific meaning of ‘martyr’ is traceable to its use in such passages as this and Revelation 2:13; Revelation 11:3; Revelation 17:6 : ‘Antipas, my faithful martyr:’ ‘And I will give power unto my two witnesses’ (better, martyrs); And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus; it must be borne in mind that the Revelation was written many years (possibly thirty years) after the compilation of these ‘Acts.’ Thus the word before the close of the first century had began to acquire the special Christian sense which in the second was so well known. Eusebius tells us, for instance (H. E. v. 2), how the martyrs of Lyons (second century) positively refused the title ‘martyrs,’ considering it appropriate only to Christ: ‘If any of us, either by letter or conversation, called them martyrs, they gravely reproved us, for they gladly gave up the title of martyr to Christ—the true and faithful Martyr, the first begotten of the dead, the Prince of Divine life.’ ‘The transition from the first sense (witness) to the second sense (martyr) may be easily accounted for. Many, who had only seen with the eye of faith, suffered persecution and death as a proof of their sincerity. For such constancy the Greek had no adequate term. It was necessary for the Christians to provide one None was more appropriate than μάρτυρ, seeing what had been the fate of those whom Christ had appointed His witnesses (chap. Acts 1:8). They almost all suffered; hence, to witness became a synonym for to suffer, while the witnessing was in itself a kind of suffering’ (Humphry).


Verse 21

Acts 22:21. And he said onto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. He thus traces step by step, very briefly but clearly, how he was led by the directly expressed will of God to adopt the cause which he once persecuted; how he was shown that his life’s work lay not with his own people, but with those races and nations who lay without the narrow pale of Israel. ‘The object of Paul in relating this vision appears to have been to show that his own inclination and prayer had been, that he might preach the gospel to his own people; but that it was by the imperative command of the Lord Himself that he went to the Gentiles’ (Dean Alford).


Verse 22

Acts 22:22. And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth; for it is not fit that he should live. Literally, ‘they continued to listen to him until,’ etc. ‘This word’ does not refer to the expression ‘the Gentiles,’ but to the whole of the last part of Paul’s discourse, in which he explained that his mission to and his work among the Gentile nations were in accordance with a Divine command. This, to the fanatic Jewish mind, was indeed a startling statement, and, if true, would at once remove all reason for their jealousy of the foreigner. But could it be true that the long-expected Messiah—the peculiar glory of the chosen race—could, in their own proud House in Jerusalem, speak to this man from His glory-throne in heaven, and command him to leave his own city and people, and to devote himself solely to the uncircumcised Gentiles? Was not such an assertion of itself rank blasphemy? Could King Messiah send one—once belonging to their own strictest sect of Pharisees—to these uncovenanted Heathen to tell them that the Messiah, the Redeemer of Israel, was equally their Messiah and Redeemer? One who could say such things was surely unworthy to live. ‘The Gentile people of the earth cannot be said really to live,’ was one of the maxims of the children of Israel; and were these degraded races to be told they stood as regards eternity on an equal footing with the favoured descendant of Abraham?


Verse 23

Acts 22:23. And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air. The cries were exclamations and ejaculations of rage and indignation, probably for the most part inarticulate. The throwing off their clothes was not, as some have supposed, a preparation for the stoning of the blasphemer, as in the case of the martyr Stephen, where we read of the clothes of those sharing in the deed of blood being taken off and laid at the feet of a young man whose name was Saul. There could have been no idea of stoning now in the case of Paul, who was in the custody of the Roman authority. The tearing off the garments on the present occasion was simply, as was the act of throwing dust into the air, an oriental way of giving some outward expression of their uncontrollable rage. These acts, which proclaimed the bitter indignation of the brethren and fathers who were standing near enough to hear Paul’s words, were well calculated to inflame the populace who were crowding doubtless into the temple area.


Verse 24

Paul, on being condemned to be scourged, appeals as a Roman CitizenThe Roman Commander summons the Sanhedrim, 24-30.

Acts 22:24. The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and hade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. Claudius Lysias, the Roman officer, of course had understood but little of the Hebrew address just delivered by Paul; but when he saw that the people were moved to frenzy by Paul’s words, he began to suspect that there was something more than ordinarily dangerous in the apparently insignificant prisoner, whose presence and words could so painfully excite the Jerusalem people. In those stormy and turbulent days which immediately preceded the final outbreak of the Jews, every Roman official in authority felt the danger and responsibility of his position; so at once he determined to get to the bottom of this mysterious matter, and ordered the prisoner to be tortured in the cruel way then common—with the terrible scourge. This scourging was a very usual torture among the Romans in the case of criminals who had to be examined. The punishment was carried out by lictors, and was usually inflicted by rods. ‘Judicial torture for the purpose of eliciting a confession has acquired a euphemistic name, the application of the rack, etc., being known in history as putting men to the question.’ It is not unlikely that, besides wishing himself to get at the truth of the matter, the Roman, in ordering Paul to be subjected to this severe and disgraceful punishment, like Pilate in the case of the Lord, wished to please the Jews, and so win himself a cheap popularity.


Verse 25

Acts 22:25. And as they bound him with thongs. This may be the rendering of the Greek words, but it seems better to translate, ‘And as they stretched him out for the scourge;’ that is, the apostle was bound to a post or pillar in order to be exposed to the blows of the scourge, and in a suitable position to receive the torture.

Paul said to the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? Once before at Philippi had Paul saved himself from the dread infliction by the same plea (see notes on chap. Acts 16:37-38); now again the execution of the sentence was at once delayed, and the officer who was in charge of the prisoner at once reported to his commander the words of the sufferer. It was a grave crime, as Claudius Lysias well knew, to scourge a Roman citizen; so at once he stayed the proceedings pending further inquiries, which he conducted in person. The claim of Roman citizenship was instantly allowed. There was no fear of imposture in such a case: the assertion, it false, was punishable with death. ‘Claudius prohibited strangers from assuming Roman names, especially those which belonged to families. Those who falsely pretended to the freedom of Rome he beheaded on the Esquiline’ (Suetonius). There is no doubt Paul had papers and abundant references in the city by which he was ready to have made good his claim to the citizenship.


Verse 27

Acts 22:27. Art thou a Roman? The haughty officer, proud of his nationality, could scarcely believe that the poor accused and probably insignificant-looking Jew before him was a citizen of Rome. The pronoun is strangely emphatic: ‘Thou—art thou a Roman?’


Verse 28

Acts 22:28. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. More literally, and at the same time more forcibly, ‘obtained I this citizenship;’ the word, as Plumptre well remarks, expressing not the transition from bondage to freedom, but from the position of an alien to that of a citizen. The chief captain was no doubt an alien by birth, and by the payment of a heavy bribe had obtained the rights of a citizen of Rome. The power of granting this privilege now rested solely with the reigning emperor as holding the office of Censor.

It was by no means uncommon for persons of wealth and position to purchase this ‘citizenship.’ It appears that many of the Asian Jews had thus acquired the right to style themselves citizens of Rome.

Under the first Cæsars the freedom of Rome was obtained with great difficulty, and cost a large sum of money; but in the latter days of Claudius these prized rights were freely sold by his wicked favourite Messalina.

But I was free-born. It has been asked how Paul obtained this ‘freedom;’ for Tarsus, the city of his birth, although possessing many great and important privileges, was a metropolis and a free city, and did not confer the rights of the Roman citizenship upon its citizens. It was neither a ‘Colonia’ nor a ‘Municipium.’ It must have been from his father or from some ancestor that he inherited it, either as a reward for service done to Rome or else by purchase.


Verse 29

Acts 22:29. Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him. That is to say, those soldiers who with the centurion were about to carry the sentence of scourging into execution. It is noticeable how the word rendered ‘should have examined’ had acquired the sense of ‘examining by torture.’

The chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. The old magical power of the words, Civis Romanus sum, ‘I am a Roman citizen,’ was by no means gone when Paul spoke to the soldiers of the tower of Antonia. Although the stern rules which once forbade torture to be applied to any citizen of Rome had been violated even so early as the time of Tiberius, when torture was endured by citizens of the highest rank, still we imagine for a long while provincial officials would stand in awe of the old name which once was so venerated and still bore with it many precious privileges. On this occasion his claim to the citizenship saved him from the lictor’s rods, though he still remained ‘bound;’ for Acts 22:30 tells us he was not ‘loosed from his bands’ until the morrow, when he was brought before the Sanhedrim. There is no doubt but that the statement of Acts 22:29, which states how ‘the chief captain was afraid’ because he had bound a Roman, refers not to the fact simply of his being fettered, but to his having been fastened to the pillar to receive the blows of the rods.


Verse 30

Acts 22:30. On the morrow, when he would have known the certainty whereof he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bonds. In spite of his being convinced that Paul was a Roman, the captain of the thousand garrisoning Jerusalem was uneasy respecting his prisoner; he could not but believe him guilty of some very grave offence, seeing that so many persons, and among them not a few responsible men, seemed to consider him deserving of death. Treason and rebellion against the Empire filled the very air then of Judæa; who then was this malefactor?

Commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them. The procurator or governor was evidently not in the city. (The procuratorship was the office once held by Pontius Pilate.) In his absence the chief authority in Jerusalem was held by the commanding officer in Antonia. Claudius Lysias thus had the power in extraordinary instances of summoning the Sanhedrim together. This power, after the preceding day’s tumult, he thought fit to exercise. Hence the meeting of the supreme Jewish council. Now Jewish tradition tells us that some twenty-six years before this time, the Sanhedrim had ceased to hold their meetings in their hall called Gazith which was in the temple. Probably they declined to sit in the temple when the power over life and death was taken from them by the Roman government. After ceasing to sit in ‘Gazith,’ they adopted as their council chamber a room in the city, near the bridge leading across the ravine from the western cloister of the temple. It is not unlikely that this removal from the temple to the city was originally owing to an ‘authoritative’ suggestion of the Roman power; for within that part of the temple area where the hall ‘Gazith’ was situated, the Romans as Gentiles had no access. As on the present occasion, when Lysias brought in Paul, the representatives of Rome no doubt were often in the habit of insisting on being present at the deliberations of the supreme Jewish council.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Acts 22:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/acts-22.html. 1879-90.

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Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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