Acts of the Apostles 2017 Lesson 09


Paul’s Defense before the Jerusalem Jews

22:1 “My brothers and fathers, listen to what I am about to say to you in my defense.” 2 When they heard him addressing them in Hebrew they became all the more quiet. And he continued, 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today. 4 I persecuted this Way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison. 5 Even the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify on my behalf. For from them I even received letters to the brothers and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem in chains for punishment those there as well. 6


“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’ 9 My companions saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me. 10 I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’ The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything appointed for you to do.’ 11 Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light, I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus. 12


“A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law, and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me and stood there and said, ‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight.’ And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him. 14 Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice; 15 for you will be his witness before all to what you have seen and heard. 16 Now, why delay? Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon his name.’ 17


“After I had returned to Jerusalem and while I was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw the Lord saying to me, ‘Hurry, leave Jerusalem at once, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 But I replied, ‘Lord, they themselves know that from synagogue to synagogue I used to imprison and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of your witness Stephen was being shed, I myself stood by giving my approval and keeping guard over the cloaks of his murderers.’ 21 Then he said to me, ‘Go, I shall send you far away to the Gentiles.'”


Paul Imprisoned

 22 They listened to him until he said this, but then they raised their voices and shouted, “Take such a one as this away from the earth. It is not right that he should live.” 23  And as they were yelling and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the cohort commander ordered him to be brought into the compound and gave instruction that he be interrogated under the lash to determine the reason why they were making such an outcry against him. 25 But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion on duty, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen and has not been tried?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the cohort commander and reported it, saying, “What are you going to do? This man is a Roman citizen.” 27 Then the commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes,” he answered. 28 The commander replied, “I acquired this citizenship for a large sum of money.” Paul said, “But I was born one.” 29   At once those who were going to interrogate him backed away from him, and the commander became alarmed when he realized that he was a Roman citizen and that he had had him bound.


Paul before the Sanhedrin

 30 The next day, wishing to determine the truth about why he was being accused by the Jews, he freed him and ordered the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin to convene. Then he brought Paul down and made him stand before them.



23:1 Paul looked intently at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have conducted myself with a perfectly clear conscience before God to this day.” 2 The high priest Ananias ordered his attendants to strike his mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall. Do you indeed sit in judgment upon me according to the law and yet in violation of the law order me to be struck?” 4 The attendants said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” 5 Paul answered, “Brothers, I did not realize he was the high priest. For it is written, ‘You shall not curse a ruler of your people.'” 6 Paul was aware that some were Sadducees and some Pharisees, so he called out before the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees; (I) am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.” 7


When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the group became divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, while the Pharisees acknowledge all three. 9 A great uproar occurred, and some scribes belonging to the Pharisee party stood up and sharply argued, “We find nothing wrong with this man. Suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” 10 The dispute was so serious that the commander, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, ordered his troops to go down and rescue him from their midst and take him into the compound. 11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage. For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.”


Transfer to Caesarea

 12 When day came, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty who formed this conspiracy. 14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have bound ourselves by a solemn oath to taste nothing until we have killed Paul. 15 You, together with the Sanhedrin, must now make an official request to the commander to have him bring him down to you, as though you meant to investigate his case more thoroughly. We on our part are prepared to kill him before he arrives.” 16


The son of Paul’s sister, however, heard about the ambush; so he went and entered the compound and reported it to Paul. 17 Paul then called one of the centurions and requested, “Take this young man to the commander; he has something to report to him.” 18 So he took him and brought him to the commander and explained, “The prisoner Paul called me and asked that I bring this young man to you; he has something to say to you.” 19 The commander took him by the hand, drew him aside, and asked him privately, “What is it you have to report to me?” 20 He replied, “The Jews have conspired to ask you to bring Paul down to the Sanhedrin tomorrow, as though they meant to inquire about him more thoroughly, 21 but do not believe them. More than forty of them are lying in wait for him; they have bound themselves by oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are now ready and only wait for your consent.” 22


As the commander dismissed the young man he directed him, “Tell no one that you gave me this information.” 23 Then he summoned two of the centurions and said, “Get two hundred soldiers ready to go to Caesarea by nine o’clock tonight, along with seventy horsemen and two hundred auxiliaries. 24 Provide mounts for Paul to ride and give him safe conduct to Felix the governor.” 25


Then he wrote a letter with this content: 26 “Claudius Lysias to his excellency the governor Felix, greetings. 27 This man, seized by the Jews and about to be murdered by them, I rescued after intervening with my troops when I learned that he was a Roman citizen. 28 I wanted to learn the reason for their accusations against him so I brought him down to their Sanhedrin. 29 I discovered that he was accused in matters of controversial questions of their law and not of any charge deserving death or imprisonment. 30 Since it was brought to my attention that there will be a plot against the man, I am sending him to you at once, and have also notified his accusers to state (their case) against him before you.” 31


So the soldiers, according to their orders, took Paul and escorted him by night to Antipatris. 32 The next day they returned to the compound, leaving the horsemen to complete the journey with him. 33 When they arrived in Caesarea they delivered the letter to the governor and presented Paul to him. 34 When he had read it and asked to what province he belonged, and learned that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I shall hear your case when your accusers arrive.” Then he ordered that he be held in custody in Herod’s praetorium.



Trial before Felix

24:1 Five days later the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and an advocate, a certain Tertullus, and they presented formal charges against Paul to the governor. 2 When he was called, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, “Since we have attained much peace through you, and reforms have been accomplished in this nation through your provident care, 3 we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with all gratitude. 4 But in order not to detain you further, I ask you to give us a brief hearing with your customary graciousness. 5 We found this man to be a pest; he creates dissension among Jews all over the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazoreans. 6 He even tried to desecrate our temple, but we arrested him. 7  8 If you examine him you will be able to learn from him for yourself about everything of which we are accusing him.” 9




The Jews also joined in the attack and asserted that these things were so. 10 Then the governor motioned to him to speak and Paul replied, “I know that you have been a judge over this nation for many years and so I am pleased to make my defense before you. 11 As you can verify, not more than twelve days have passed since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 Neither in the temple, nor in the synagogues, nor anywhere in the city did they find me arguing with anyone or instigating a riot among the people. 13 Nor can they prove to you the accusations they are now making against me. 14 But this I do admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our ancestors and I believe everything that is in accordance with the law and written in the prophets. 15


I have the same hope in God as they themselves have that there will be a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous. 16 Because of this, I always strive to keep my conscience clear before God and man. 17 After many years, I came to bring alms for my nation and offerings. 18 While I was so engaged, they found me, after my purification, in the temple without a crowd or disturbance. 19 But some Jews from the province of Asia, who should be here before you to make whatever accusation they might have against me– 20 or let these men themselves state what crime they discovered when I stood before the Sanhedrin, 21 unless it was my one outcry as I stood among them, that ‘I am on trial before you today for the resurrection of the dead.'” 22


Then Felix, who was accurately informed about the Way, postponed the trial, saying, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I shall decide your case.” 23 He gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that he should not prevent any of his friends from caring for his needs.


Captivity in Caesarea

 24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He had Paul summoned and listened to him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 But as he spoke about righteousness and self-restraint and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “You may go for now; when I find an opportunity I shall summon you again.” 26 At the same time he hoped that a bribe would be offered him by Paul, and so he sent for him very often and conversed with him. 27 Two years passed and Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. Wishing to ingratiate himself with the Jews, Felix left Paul in prison.



This talk is by Clifford Yeary


Who are your heroes?  Often were controversial in their own time.


When we read carefully we see Paul as complex and controversial.


Gal. 5:22,23  “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  Paul could rub people the wrong way, had many enemies.


Charges against Paul:

  1. Paul is a pest!
  2. He creates dissension.
  3. He is a ringleader of the sect known as the Nazoreans.
  4. Paul desecrated the Temple.


Pestilence: “a contagious or infectious epidemic disease that is virulent and devastating.”  Pest in Greek = plague.  Connect the charge against Paul to God’s liberating act in the Exodus.


He is still active as one who creates dissension –

  1. His teachings concerning the role of women in the church.
  2. What exactly he meant by justification.

Back then: the real question wasn’t whether God accepted the faith of a non-Jew, the problem was how could non-Jews demonstrate their faithfulness if they were going to ignore the covenant that Jesus himself observed with absolute faithfulness?


For most Jewish Christians, the cross and the resurrection did not signal an end to the old covenant but meant a profound renewal of the covenant sealed under Moses.


What Paul seemed to some to be offering the Gentiles was a watered-down version of their faith, even a degradation of all that was holy and sacred in it


Ring-leader of a sect.  Sect – hairesis in Greek, ‘heresy’  Sadducees and Pharisees were also sects.  Sect – a movement distinct enough to have its own name.


Luke has made it clear: Paul as a prophet, not on trial alone but for/with all Christians.


Paul as a spokesperson for the movement?  Not all on the same page as he was.  “Although I may not be an apostle for others, certainly I am for you.”  1 Cor. 9:2


Within Paul’s letters, soon being read in the churches alongside the OT readings: “In them there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction.”  2 Peter 3:16


Debate: Paul as leader or Paul as loose cannon


Paul has desecrated the temple??  Puts Paul in the company of Jesus.  He didn’t but he WAS a threat to the temple – it was no longer truly needed.  A new temple would come from heaven.


Luke was sensitive to the role of the temple for Jews.


“Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “it is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’”  Luke 19:45-46


Jesus felt the temple was a sacred place for prayer, not as house of sacrifice


For Paul the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross reconciled people to God once and for all – there was no need of sacrifices in the temple any longer.  No longer the dwelling place of God on earth either – Jesus / church / body of Christ was.


Paul has not brought Gentiles into the temple, but even worse – Paul recognizes that God has made Gentiles into the new temple








Bruce, F F.  The Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary.  Third Revised and Enlarged Edition.  (William B Eerdmans, Grand Rapids MI, 1990).

Wall, Robert W.  Introduction, Commentary and Reflections on the Book of Acts.  Volume X of the New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes edited by Leander Keck, Senior New Testament Editor.  (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2002).




Wall p. 304: “This is a section of Acts that is more speech than story; and these speeches are typically forensic (apologia) in form and function and, therefore, are different from the missionary speeches heard to this point in Acts.  Perhaps the most obvious characteristic of these speeches is their Jewishness.  In part this reflects Paul’s effort to respond to his opponents’ accusation that he is guilty of teaching against Israel’s ancestral traditions.  Even though his Jewish opponents attempt to ratchet up their charge to expose a political consequence (= sedition), the Roman judges who hear their case against Paul follow Gallio’s earlier example and never adjudicate its legal merit. … Rome at least comprehends that nothing he has done or said is punishable under Roman law.”


Wall p. 304: “At the end of the day, Luke is disinterested in Rome’s verdict on Paul and so concludes Acts without legal closure.  Nothing is written of Paul’s meeting with the Emperor because Luke is fundamentally disinterested in what Rome thinks.”  Luke is interested in Paul as messenger for God and God’s people.


Paul’s Defense before the Jerusalem Jews

Stephen’s speech in front of the Jerusalem Jews / mob? at the beginning of chapter 7 begins in the same way as Paul’s: “My brothers and fathers, listen …”


Bruce p. 454: “The three participial phrases, arranged in a rhetorical topos*, point to three successive phases in Paul’s early days: (a) born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but (b) brought up in this city (Jerusalem), (c) educated at the feet of Gamaliel.”

*a theme or technique of argument or presentation


Wall p. 306: Paul notes “At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God…”  Gamaliel was a respected member of the Sanhedrin and one of the foremost teachers of the Pharisaic party.  “strictly” denotes the particular concern of the Pharisees for precision in their interpretation and observance of the “ancestral laws”.  He might have been expected to be “zealous for the Torah” but Paul changes the common phrase to “zealous for God” – perhaps as a gentle rebuke to the leadership for losing sight of the reason for being zealous?


Paul Imprisoned

As they are about to beat the truth out of him Paul reveals to the Roman soldiers and commander that he is by birthright a Roman citizen.  Bruce p. 460: “The scourge (Latin: flagellum) was a murderous instrument of torture, much more fearful than the lictors’ rods at Philippi.  A slave or alien might be scourged in order to make him confess the truth (the theory being that he could not be trusted to confess it without such persuasion).  But Paul immediately affirms his Roman citizenship, which, by the Valerian and Porcian Laws exempted him from such treatment.”




Paul before the Sanhedrin

“whitewashed wall”?   perhaps a reference to tombs painted white on the outside and looking pleasant – while on the inside there is only death and rotting.


The violation of the law by the high priest would have been to have him struck before he had been found guilty of anything.  Leviticus 19:15: “You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment. Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty, but judge your neighbor justly.


Bruce p. 464: “Various reasons have been suggested for Paul’s failure to recognize him, e.g. his alleged weak eyesight, a change of high priests since Paul’s last visit, or irony (“I did not think that a man who spoke like that could possibly be the high priest”).  As president of the Sanhedrin ex officio, the high priest was in the chair.  We may dismiss Ramsay’s idea that the tribune presided at this special meeting, with the Sanhedrin on one side and Paul on the other, while Luke and others formed the audience.  After Paul’s appeal to the resurrection hope (v. 6) he supposed that the Pharisaic members of the council crossed the floor and stood beside Paul.”


A Pharisee could become a follower of Jesus and remain a Pharisee; a Sadducee could NOT become a follower of Jesus and remain a Sadducee since resurrection was at the heart of Christian belief.


Wall p. 311: “Luke’s brief summary of the ‘dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees’ illustrates in microcosm the realization of Simeon’s prophecy of a divided Israel over God’s gospel of the resurrected Messiah (Luke 2:35).”


Transfer to Caesarea

Bruce p. 469: “Paul was kept in honorable custody, as befitted an un-convicted Roman citizen; he was allowed to receive visitors and (as appears from v. 17) could give instructions to a centurion.”


Bruce p. 472: “As in the Gospel Luke is at pains to emphasize Pilate’s finding no fault in Jesus, so now in the mouth of many official witnesses he emphasizes Paul’s innocence of the charges brought against him.  The charge of temple violation was indeed ‘deserving of death’ if it could be proved, but no witnesses came forward to press it.”



Trial before Felix


Bruce p. 476: “The first charge put him in the same category as many who stirred up strife around that time, not least in Jewish communities throughout the empire, and had more sinister implications than might appear on the surface.  The second associated him with a messianic movement, and was calculated to arouse suspicion in a Roman official who knew how much trouble had lately been caused by political messianism and who might not distinguish between political and purely religious messianism.”   …  it was not uncommon to ‘throw in for good measure’ a major charge along with other less deadly accusations.  True then and now!


The essence of Paul’s defense: I am a Jew.  I have been completely faithful to Judaism.  Judaism is legal in the Roman empire.


Wall p. 323: “’Felix left Paul in prison’.  The tragic subtext of Acts is how frequently people make decision against God out of greater concern for their financial situation, political status, or some other momentary accommodation.  Felix is a case in point.  He sat under Paul’s instruction ‘concerning faith in Christ Jesus’.  Paul is literally his captive audience as they discuss the ultimate issues of human existence – ‘righteousness, self-control, and the judgement to come’.  Even though Paul’s message alarms him and he realizes the charges against Paul are false, Felix postpones the ‘not guilty’ verdict to retain custody of Paul in order to extort money from his Jewish enemies.  It is his greed and not his ignorance that keeps Felix from the faith.”


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