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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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Claudins Lysias was the chiliarch, the tribune, in command of the Roman troops stationed at the Tower of Antonia at the time of St. Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem. The conjecture is probable that he was by birth a Greek, and that he adopted the name Claudius when ‘with a great sum’ he obtained the station of a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28; see R. J. Knowling, Expositor’s Greek Testament , ‘Acts,’ 1900, p. 463; of. Acts 21:37). The Tower of Antonia communicated by a stairway with the cloisters of the Temple (see G. A. Smith, Jerusalem, 1898, ii. 495f., and article Jerusalem for the position of the tower), and care was taken to have soldiers there in readiness for any emergency, especially at the time of the Jewish festivals (Jos. Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) Acts 21:5; Acts 21:8), like that of Pentecost, which St. Paul was attending. News was quickly brought up to the Tower of the riotous attack made upon the Apostle in the Temple at the instigation of ‘Jews from Asia’ (Acts 21:27 ff.). It was suggested to Lysias, or the idea occurred spontaneously to him, that the object of the fury of the mob might be a man whom he was anxious to apprehend-viz. the leader of a recent seditious movement, who had managed to escape when the procurator Felix fell upon him and the crowd of his followers (Jos. Ant. xx. 8. 6, and Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) ii. 13. 5). Hence the surprise with which the chiliarch turns to St. Paul, so soon as he had been snatched from his assailants, with the question: ‘You are not, then, the Egyptian …?’ (Acts 21:38) After allowing St. Paul to address the people from ‘the stairs,’ Lysias had him taken within the Tower, and had given orders that he should be examined by scourging, when he was made aware that his prisoner was a Roman citizen, whom ‘it was illegal to subject to such treatment’ (Acts 22:25 ff.). Seeking to obtain the information he desired by other means, Lysias convened a meeting of the Jewish Council on the following day, ‘and brought St. Paul down and set him before them’ (Acts 22:30). The tumult that arose on St. Paul’s statement that he was a Pharisee, and was called in question ‘touching the hope and resurrection of the dead,’ was so great that he had to be rescued by the soldiers, who took him again to the Tower. Then followed the ‘plot of certain of the Jews to kill St. Paul,’ if the chiliarch could be induced to bring him again before the Council. News of this was carried to Lysias by ‘Paul’s sister’s son.’ Thereupon the resolution was taken to send the Apostle for greater safety to Caesarea (Acts 23:16 ff.). With the escort, Lysias sent a letter to the Governor Felix (Acts 23:24 ff.). In writing, he forgot the misconception about ‘the Egyptian’ under which he had first apprehended St. Paul. Uppermost in his mind was the fact that he had been the means of rescuing ‘a Roman’ from the mad fury of the Jews. Not unnaturally it is that fact he emphasized when writing to the Governor. No further trace of Lysias is forthcoming.

G. P. Gould.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Lysias'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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