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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 22

 

 

Verse 1

3. Paul’s First Defenceto the Jerusalemites, Acts 22:1-23.

1. Men—We have here the first of five self-defences by Paul, recorded by Luke, (22-26.) His method of defence is the often very effective one of telling his own experience. With special wisdom in his case; for his experience and history have ever been held as a peculiar and striking demonstration of the truth of Christianity. The argument to these Jews now is: I was once, in your circumstances, a foe of Christ; you, with my experience, would be Christian.

Men… brethren—Best expressed in English, brother-men; men who are brethren. Fathers—Probably men of age and office, of high priestly rank, were under his eye, looking down from the stairs.


Verse 2

2. Hebrew tongue—The Jews were bilingual, speaking two languages, Greek and Aramaic, or the then modern Hebrew. The Greek was most prevalent in large towns; and hence, probably, had he spoken Greek, his audience would have understood him. His speaking Aramaic secured the momentary sympathy of the Jews, but lost that of the chiliarch. Could he have spoken both Hebrew and Greek at once, the chiliarch would have learned that Paul’s only crime was favour toward the Gentiles; it would have been rather a merit than an offence to him. We may analyze this speech thus: Paul’s Jewish enmity to Christ, (3-5;) his miraculous conversion, (6-10;) his authentication and baptism by Ananias, (11-16;) his subsequent return to Jerusalem and commission by Jesus, (17-21.)

Among all this bitter audience none is so bitter as once, alas! was I. With the highest Jewish education and proudest prospects, I was the bloodiest of persecutors.


Verse 3

3. Nearly every term is emphatic. Verily a Jew, this city, Gamaliel, perfect, law, fathers, all are points of a preeminent instance.


Verse 4

4. This way—As yet Christianity had received no normal and permanent name. Hence this vague phrase repeatedly.


Verse 5

5. The high priest—Who may have now been present.

The estate of the elders—The presbyterium or eldership; the Sanhedrin. So that the intensity of his original Judaism was beyond all question. Why had all this been changed? The narrative of his conversion now answers.

By the vision of Jehovah repeatedly appearing, (as all admitted,) Abraham had been called (Genesis 17:1) and Moses commissioned, (Exodus 3:1.) So by the repeated vision of Jehovah-Jesus. Saul had been both called and commissioned. This Jesus, like the Jehovah of old, appears in the splendour of the Shekinah; he is Lord, the Just One, the pronouncer of the I will send thee. For the discrepancies between this and the other two narratives, see our note on Acts 9:4-8.


Verse 8

8. Jesus of Nazareth—Jesus, the Nazarene. Paul uses the epithet here in purposed identification of Jesus with the disciples now living in Jerusalem, who bore the epithet of Nazarenes.


Verse 9

9. Heard not the voice—Paul introduces this cautionary clause, because he was, doubtless, aware that his attendants, on returning to Jerusalem, in reporting the wonderful light and sound, testified to nothing of the mission he received from the words of Jesus. That special testimony their ears were incompetent to receive, and the official witness was to be Ananias.


Verse 12

12. A devout man—Paul brings out specially the holy Judaism and wide reputation of Ananias, to show him as a worthy witness to his divine legation from the risen Jesus.


Verse 15

15. Unto all men—In this announcement of his commission by Ananias (not given in the previous narrative) the Gentiles are not expressly mentioned, but are clearly implied.


Verse 16

16. Be baptized—Literally, baptize thyself. The work being supposed to be done by himself through another’s hands.

Wash away thy sins—By the external symbol, just as the Holy Spirit has already done the work in the internal reality. (See note on John 3:5.) So 1 Peter 3:21, says, “Baptism doth save us;” but it is carefully explained: “not the putting away of the filthiness of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God.” Baptism is the external and symbolical salvation, while regeneration is the internal and real.

The Lord—The same Lord as named in Acts 22:8; Acts 22:10; Acts 22:19; the Lord into whose name he was to be baptized. The phrase here is the same as in Genesis 4:26. Paul here adds a narrative not elsewhere given, yet most important to his present defence.


Verse 20

20. Thy martyr—The English word martyr is pure Greek, and signifies witness; being the same word as is used in Acts 22:15. But the word was early and beautifully consecrated to designate those who witnessed to Jesus with their blood; as the word confessor designated those who maintained fast faith through a persecution which they survived. The Greek word for witness is properly rendered in Revelation 17:6, “the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” One of the apostolic fathers, Clement of Rome, says of Peter, “Being martyred, he went to his due peace of glory.”

This reference to Stephen must have thrilled the heart of Paul himself with emotion at the recollection of his own share in that deed of blood with some of his murderers now present, and ready to inflict upon himself the same doom.


Verse 22

22. Unto this word—Spellbound by the apostle’s patriotic Hebrew, they listened intently until this word Gentiles, springing up like a sudden serpent, transformed them all to serpents. The word Gentiles does not in the Greek come last in the sentence, but it was the word in the last sentence that stung them to madness.

Not fit that he should live—An exclamation of indignation at his escape; the starting point of the ensuing purpose of assassination.


Verse 23

23. Cast off their clothes—In their insanity they forget that Paul is safe from their power in Roman hands, and throw off their clothes to inflict upon him the fate of Stephen.


Verse 24

4. Paul and the Chiliarch, Acts 22:24-30.

24. The castle—Again in the barracks. Had Lysias understood the speech, and known that Paul’s crime was favour to the Gentiles, different would have been the result.

Examined by scourging—Compelling him to explain his own crime by torture. Lysias is here plainly overhasty. How easy was it for him to learn at least the accusation against Paul by calling in a few chief Jews. This lazy readiness for the scourge was one of the instances of the cruelty in which the Roman under-officers often indulged where the provincial population was alone concerned. But Lysias here committed himself, in that his victim was not a mere provincial, but a Roman citizen as well.


Verse 25

25. Bound him with thongs—Rather, stretched him forward (to the whipping-post) for the thongs with which the lashes were to be inflicted upon the bare back. (See our note on John 19:1.)

Is it lawful—(See note on Acts 16:37.) The centurion shrinks back appalled at Paul’s momentous claim of citizenship, and departs to warn the committed chiliarch. 27.

Yea—(Note Acts 16:38.)


Verse 28

28. With a great sum—Messalina, the mother of the emperor Claudius, freely sold the right of citizenship for money. The article did not long require “a great sum,” and gradually became very cheap.

Free born—(See our note on Acts 16:37.)


Verse 29

29. Departed—The underlings require no order to desist, and depart. The chiliarch is fearful, not because he has bound Paul with chains for security, for that was lawful; but because he has bound him for the scourging. Accordingly, he is not released until the morrow; but from this time the chiliarch treats Paul with consideration, and exerts himself for his safety and deliverance from any injustice from the Jews.


Verse 30

30. The certainty—Lysias is now on the right track, inquiring of the prosecutors what the charge is, confronting the accuser with the accused. Inasmuch as troops could be brought from the castle in a moment, (xxiii, 10,) this meeting was probably held in the cloisters of the court of the Gentiles, very near to the stairs of Fort Antonia.

This seems, however, not to be a court for judicial trial and sentence, but an informal calling together for inquiry. Lysias assembles the Sanhedrin simply to know “the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews.” And probably himself (and not the high priest, Ananias) presided over the informal inquest.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Acts 22:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/acts-22.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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