Acts 23
Vincent's Word Studies
And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.
Earnestly beholding

See on Luke 4:20. Some, who hold that Paul's eyesight was defective, explain this steadfast look in connection with his imperfect vision.

Men and brethren

He addresses the Sanhedrim as an equal.

I have lived (πεπολίτευμαι)

Lit., have lived as a citizen, with special reference to the charge against him that he taught men against the law and the temple. He means that he has lived as a true and loyal Jew.

Conscience (συνειδήσει)

See on 1 Peter 3:16.

And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.

He is described as a revengeful and rapacious tyrant. We are told that he reduced the inferior priests almost to starvation by defrauding them of their tithes, and sent his creatures to the threshing-floors with bludgeons to seize the tithes by force.

Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?
Shall smite thee (τύπτειν σε μέλλει)

More strictly, is about to smite. The words are not an imprecation, but a prophecy of punishment for his violent dealing. According to Josephus, in the attack of the Sicarii upon Jerusalem, he was dragged from his hiding-place, in a sewer of the palace, and murdered by assassins.

Thou whited wall

Compare Matthew 23:27.

Contrary to the law (παρανομῶν)

A verb. Lit., transgressing the law.

And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest?
Revilest (λοιδορεῖς)

The word signifies vehement abuse, scolding, berating.

Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.
But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.
The one part were Sadducees, etc

Perceiving the impossibility of getting a fair hearing, Paul, with great tact, seeks to bring the two parties of the council into collision with each other.

The resurrection

A main point of contention between the Pharisees and Sadducees, the latter of whom denied the doctrine of the resurrection, of a future state, and of any spiritual existence apart from the body.

And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided.
For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.

Showing that two classes of doctrines peculiar to the Sadducees, and not three, are meant: 1. The resurrection. 2. The existence of spirits, whether angels or souls of men; "neither angel nor spirit."

And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.

The diversion was successful. The Pharisees' hatred of the Sadducees was greater than their hatred of Christianity.

What if a spirit, etc

Neither the A. V. nor Rev. give the precise form of this expression. The words form a broken sentence, followed by a significant silence, which leaves the hearers to supply the omission for themselves: "But if a spirit or angel has spoken to him ..." The words which the A. V. supplies to complete the sentence, let us not fight against God, are spurious, borrowed from Acts 5:39.

And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.
And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.
And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.
Banded together (ποιήσαντες συστροφὴν)

Lit., having made a conspiracy. See on concourse, Acts 19:40.

Bound themselves under a curse (ἀνεθεμάτισαν ἑαυτοὺς).

Lit., anathematized or cursed themselves; invoked God's curse on themselves if they should violate their vow. On the kindred noun ἀνάθεμα, a curse, see note on offerings, Luke 21:5. In case of failure, they could procure absolution from their oath by the Rabbis.

And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy.
Conspiracy (συνωμοσίαν)

Lit., swearing together; conjuration. According to its etymology, conspiracy is a breathing or blowing together (Latin, conspirare). Hence, of concerted thought and action.

And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul.
We have bound ourselves under a great curse (ἀναθέματι ἀνεθεματίσαμεν ἑαυτοὺς)

Lit., we have anathematized ourselves with an anathema. A very strong expression. For similar expressions, see Luke 22:15; John 3:29; Acts 4:17.

Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would inquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him.
Enquire (διαγινώσκειν)

Only here and Acts 24:22. Originally, to distinguish or discern; hence, to decide, as a suit. Rev., more correctly, therefore, judge.

More perfectly (ἀκριβέστερον)

Rev., better, more exactly. See on Luke 1:3; and Acts 18:25, Acts 18:26.

Concerning him (τὰ περὶ αὐτοῦ)

Lit., the things about him. Rev., better, his case.

And when Paul's sister's son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul.
Then Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, Bring this young man unto the chief captain: for he hath a certain thing to tell him.
So he took him, and brought him to the chief captain, and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and prayed me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee.
The prisoner (ὁ δέσμιος)

From δέω, to bind. Paul, as a Roman citizen, was held in custodia militaris, "military custody." Three kinds of custody were recognized by the Roman law: 1. Custodia publica (public custody); confinement in the public jail. This was the worst kind, the common jails being wretched dungeons. Such was the confinement of Paul and Silas at Philippi. 2. Custodia libera (free custody), confined to men of high rank. The accused was committed to the charge of a magistrate or senator, who became responsible for his appearance on the day of trial. 3. Custodia militaris (military custody). The accused was placed in charge of a soldier, who was responsible with his life for the prisoner's safe-keeping, and whose left hand was secured by a chain to the prisoner's right. The prisoner was usually kept in the barracks, but was sometimes allowed to reside in a private house under charge of his guard.

Then the chief captain took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately, and asked him, What is that thou hast to tell me?
And he said, The Jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul to morrow into the council, as though they would inquire somewhat of him more perfectly.
But do not thou yield unto them: for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him: and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee.
Have bound themselves

"If we should wonder how, so early in the morning, after the long discussion in the Sanhedrim, which must have occupied a considerable part of the day, more than forty men should have been found banded together, under an anathema, neither to eat nor to drink till they had killed Paul; and, still more, how such a conspiracy, or, rather, conjuration, which, in the nature of it, would be kept a profound secret, should have become known to Paul's sister's son - the circumstances of the case furnish a sufficient explanation. The Pharisees were avowedly a fraternity or guild; and they, or some of their kindred fraternities, would furnish the ready material for such a band, to whom this additional vow would be nothing new or strange, and, murderous though it sounded, only seem a further carrying out of the principles of their order. Again, since the wife and all the children of a member were ipso facto members of the guild, and Paul's father had been a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), Paul's sister also would, by virtue of her birth, belong to the fraternity, even irrespective of the probability that, in accordance with the principles of the party, she would have married into a Pharisaical family" (Edersheim, "Jewish Social Life").

So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me.
And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night;
Soldiers (στρατιώτας)

Heavy-armed footmen: legionaries.

Spearmen (δεξιολάβους)

Only here in New Testament, and not in classical Greek. From δεξιός right, and λαμβάνω, to take. The exact meaning is uncertain. Some explain it as those who take the right side of the prisoners whom they have in charge; others, those who grasp (their weapon) with the right hand; others, again, those who hold (a second horse) by the right hand. They are here distinguished from the heavy-armed legionaries and the cavalry. They were probably light-armed troops, javelin-throwers or slingers. One of the principal manuscripts reads δεξιοβόλους "those who throw with the right hand."

And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor.
Beasts (κτήνη)

See on Luke 10:34.

And he wrote a letter after this manner:
After this manner (περιέχουσαν τὸν τύπον τοῦτον)

Lit., containing this form or type. See on it is contained, 1 Peter 2:6.

Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting.
To the most excellent (τῷ κρατίστῳ)

"His excellency:" an official title. Compare Acts 24:3; Acts 26:25.

Greeting (χαίρειν)

See on Acts 15:23.

This man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman.

Bengel says, "a lie." Lysias wishes to make the impression that Paul's citizenship was the cause of his rescuing him; whereas he did not know of this until afterward. He says nothing about the proposed scourging.

And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council:
Whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds.

See on Acts 15:2.

Nothing - worthy of death or of bonds

Every Roman magistrate before whom the apostle is brought declares him innocent.

And when it was told me how that the Jews laid wait for the man, I sent straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also to say before thee what they had against him. Farewell.
When it was told (μηνυθείσης)

Lit., pointed out, or shown, as Rev. See on Luke 20:37.


The best texts omit. See on Acts 15:29.

Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris.
Took (ἀναλαβόντες)

Lit., "having taken up." Compare set Paul on, Acts 23:24.

To Antipatris

A hard night's ride: forty miles.

On the morrow they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle:
On the morrow

After arriving at Antipatris.

Who, when they came to Caesarea, and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him.

Twenty-six miles from Antipatris.

And when the governor had read the letter, he asked of what province he was. And when he understood that he was of Cilicia;
Of what province (ἐκ ποίας ἐπαρχίας)

Rather, "from what kind of a province;" whether senatorial or imperial. See Introduction to Luke. Cilicia was an imperial province.

I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's judgment hall.
I will hear thee (διακούσομαι)

Better, as Rev., will hear thy cause; the word meaning "to hear fully (διά) in a judicial sense." The present questioning was merely preliminary.

Herod's palace

Built by Herod the Great. Judaea being now a Roman province, the palace of its former kings had become the governor's official residence. It thus appears that Paul was leniently dealt with, and not cast into the common prison.

Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent [1886].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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