Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 16 January 2021; Revised 9 April 2021
Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. See my web article The Jewish New Testament. Scripture quotations may be taken from different versions. Click here for abbreviations of Bible versions. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important Jewish sources include the following:
● DSS: Citations marked as "DSS" are from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last three centuries BC and the first century AD. Online DSS Bible.
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C. Online.
● Josephus: Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
● MT: The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism. Work on developing a uniform Hebrew Bible began in the 2nd century under Rabbi Akiva, but completed by Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D. The oldest extant manuscripts date from around the 9th century A.D. Online.
● Talmud: Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. The Jerusalem Talmud, identified with "TJ," may be found here. Click here for Talmud abbreviations.
● Targums: The targums are early Aramaic translations of the Hebrew text with commentary: Targum Jerusalem (1st c. AD), Targum Neofiti (1st c. AD), Targum Onkelos (c. 35–120 AD) and Targum Jonathan (2nd c. AD). See an index of targum texts here.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations and pronunciation of Greek words. Parsing data for Greek words is from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament. The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms ADONAI (for 'LORD' when quoting a Tanakh source), Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).
See the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on Acts. For a suggested timeline of Acts see the dating chart of George Edmundson. All dates given for the narrative of Acts are estimates.
Chapter Twenty-Three begins with Paul appearance before the Judean council. He attempted to give a defense speech but the high priest Ananias ordered him to be struck. Paul responded with a prophecy that God would strike Ananias. Recognizing the religious divide between the Sadducee and Pharisee members Paul declared that he was a Pharisee and was on trial because of his belief in the resurrection of the dead. This declaration cause a sharp dissension in the meeting, and the Pharisees declared they found no fault in Paul. The argument got so heated the Roman commander feared for Paul's life and removed him back to the Roman barracks.
In the night Yeshua appeared to Paul and assured him that he would get his wish to go to Rome and witness there. The next day a group of over forty Jewish zealots formed a conspiracy to kill Paul. They even determined to fast until they had accomplished their goal. The conspirators enticed the Sadducean council members to ask the Roman commander to bring Paul for another interview and while en route they would kill Paul. By a providential occurrence Paul's nephew learned of the conspiracy and came to the barracks to inform Paul, who directed his nephew to share the information with the Roman commander.
The Roman commander immediately ordered a large contingent of soldiers be organized to take Paul to the governor Felix in Caesarea. The commander, named Claudius Lysias, wrote a letter to Felix explaining the situation. The military unit then left during the night and arrived two days later in Caesarea where the letter and Paul were presented to the governor. Felix informed Paul that his case would be heard when his accusers arrived and in the meantime Paul would be provided a room in the governor's palace.
Paul vs. the High Priest, 23:1-5
Sadducees vs. Pharisees, 23:6-10
Divine Revelation, 23:11
Plot Against Paul, 23:12-15
Plot Revealed, 23:16-22
Preparation for Paul's Safety, 23:23-30
Paul Taken to Caesarea, 23:31-35
Rome: Caesar Nero (AD 54-68)
Procurator of Judaea: Marcus Antonius Felix (AD 52-59)
High Priest in Jerusalem: Ananias, son of Nebedaius (AD 46-58)
Date: Wednesday, 1 June 57
Paul vs. the High Priest, 23:1-5
1 And Paul, having looked intently at the council, said, "Men, brothers, I have lived as a citizen in all good conscience to God until this day."
NOTE: Absent in this narrative is a preamble describing an opening comment by the Roman commander as to why he called for an assembly of Jewish leaders (22:30). There is no indication that this meeting was a formal trial. The chairmen of the meeting does not call for the accusers against Paul (21:27). In a typical Jewish trial there were no attorneys for prosecution or defense. Instead, the president of the court called for the accusing witness who stated the offense in the presence of the accused and then the accused could call witnesses on his own behalf. Luke begins the narrative with an opening statement by Paul.
And: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also," sometimes with emphasis, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). The third meaning applies here. Many versions do not translate the conjunction. Luke's narrative continues from the previous chapter. The Roman commander had ordered the Jewish leaders to convene a formal meeting in order to get some answers (22:30).
Paul: Grk. ho Paulos, from the Latin cognomen or surname Paulus ("small" or "humble"). The definite article probably signifies "the one called." The name Paulos first appears in Acts 13:9. The name Paulus was probably taken from the patron who made Roman citizenship possible for Paul's father or grandfather (see Acts 22:28). Paul was born in Tarsus of Cilicia to traditional Jewish parents of the tribe of Benjamin, given the Hebrew name Sha'ul, and lived as a devout Pharisee (Acts 22:3; 23:6; 26:5; Php 3:5). Paul was called by Yeshua to be an apostle and to proclaim the good news to the nations and the sons of Israel (Acts 9:15). For a biography of Paul see my article The Apostle from Tarsus.
The CJB, in deference to its intended audience, substitutes the Hebrew name Sha'ul for "Paul" to emphasize his Jewishness and rebut the lie of historic Christianity that the apostle surrendered his Jewish identity (Stern 267). We should note that "Paul" is also the only name by which the apostle refers to himself in his writings and those were sent to congregations with largely Jewish membership, as well as to Jewish congregational leaders. In addition, the OJB, which also has Sha'ul, adds the title "Rav" in direct violation of Yeshua's instruction (Matt 23:8). Paul never used the honorific of himself and no one ever addressed Paul as "Rabbi."
having looked intently: Grk. atenizō, aor. part., direct one's gaze, look intently, observe with great interest. The verb suggests that Paul took a moment to make individual eye contact. at the council: Grk. ho sunedrion (from sún, "with" and hedra, "a convening, sitting together"), a council of leading Jews (HELPS). In Greek culture the term originally meant (1) the place where a council met, (2) then the body of councilors or (3) their actual meeting (DNTT 1:363). Sunedrion is used in the apostolic narratives of (1) a local Jewish court or judicial assembly (Matt 10:17; Mark 13:9); (2) a principal judicial body in Jerusalem (Matt 5:22; Mark 14:55; Acts 5:21, 27, 34, 41; 6:12, 15; 22:30); and (3) the meeting room of a council (Luke 22:66; Acts 4:15).
In the LXX sunedrion translates Heb. math (SH-4962), male, man, men (Ps 26:4 as a deliberative body), qahal (SH-6951), assembly, congregation (Prov 26:26); and sôd (SH-5475), council, counsel (Jer 15:17). The Greek term also occurs several times in Proverbs (11:13; 15:22; 20:19; 22:10; 24:7; 27:22; 31:23) without Heb. equivalent for those sitting in the gate for counsel or judgment. The usage of sunedrion in the LXX denotes small groups of elders who acted as counselors and judges. The Jewish courts are described by type, the number of their members and their functions in the Tractate Sanhedrin 1:1. For an overview of the Jewish court system in the first century see my web article Jewish Jurisprudence.
Most versions translate sunedrion here with "council," but a number have the capitalized "Sanhedrin," implying the full seventy-one members of the Supreme Court. However, this interpretive translation is open to question. Josephus uses the term sunedrion for an ad hoc group assembled for a special purpose or task (Ant., XX, 9:1, 6). Flusser says that the Temple was supervised by a council consisting of chief priests, scribes and elders (142). The actual number present at this meeting is not given, although the members of the judicial body are mentioned in verse 6 below. The lay elder members of the Great Sanhedrin, consisting of the heads of patrician families, such as Joseph of Arimathea, were probably not included in this meeting.
said: Grk. legō, aor., to make a statement or utterance, whether mentally, orally or in writing, often used to introduce quoted material. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative; declare, say. In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, show, command or think. Paul probably spoke in Hebrew as he did when he addressed the crowd, although it's possible he spoke in Greek for the benefit of the Roman commander. Men: pl. of Grk. anēr, voc. case, an adult man without regard to marital status. In the LXX anēr renders several Heb. words, but primarily ish, man or husband, Gen 2:23 (DNTT 2:562). The direct address of anēr in speaking to groups appears 29 times in Acts, but many Bible versions ignore the noun here. The address of "men," a greeting of courtesy, presumes those present were only men.
brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, voc., lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant a male sibling; brother. In the Jewish context the term primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites. In the LXX adelphos renders Heb. ach (SH-251), a male sibling (Gen 4:2; 20:5), a male relative of the same tribe (Gen 13:8; Num 16:10) or the people of Israel (Ex 2:11; 4:18). The use of "brothers" may acknowledge their common heritage as Jews or emphasize their shared form of Judaism. Stern notes that "brothers" is not a mode of address appropriate for a court in regular session. Also, a Sanhedrin session would not begin with the person being questioned giving a speech of his own.
I have lived as a citizen: Grk. politeuomai, perf. mid., function with a sense of obligation in the boy politic, to live the life of a citizen, behave as a citizen. The verb occurs only two times in the Besekh. Paul will later use the verb in his Philippian letter in which he will exhort disciples to live worthy of the good news of Messiah (Php 1:27); i.e., live as a good citizen to avoid bringing the message of the Messiah into disrepute (cf. 1Pet 4:15-19). The verb does not occur in the Greek Tanakh, although Hebrew constructions that exhort living according to provisions of Torah (Num 6:21; Josh 1:8; 1Kgs 2:3) might be equivalent.
The verb politeuomai is used in other Jewish works to mean "to live in accordance with the laws of God given to Jews" (Josephus, Antiquities XII, 3:3; Autobiography 2; Letter of Aristeas 31; Philo, On the Virtues 161; Special Laws IV 226; 2Macc 6:1; 11:25; 3Macc 3:4; 4Macc 2:8; 6:18). The use of this verb might lend support to the thesis that Paul spoke to the council in Greek. Most versions translate the verb as "have lived my life," which obscures his meaning. If this is all Paul meant he could have used zaō instead of politeuomai. Paul's choice of verb is purposeful. He previously described himself as a "citizen" (Grk. politēs) of Tarsus (21:39) and a Roman citizen (22:25, 27-28). His point is that he had always been a law-abiding member of Jewish society.
in all: Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every, the whole. good: Grk. agathos, adj., achieving a high standard of excellence in meeting a need or interest, beneficial, useful, good. The adjective also describes an intrinsic quality that originates from God and is empowered by Him (HELPS). In the LXX agathos translates Heb. tov (SH-2896), agreeable, good or pleasant (Num 14:7). The Hebrew adjective is often used of the character and acts of God. When used of people tov can have an ethical or moral quality, the opposite of evil (Deut 1:39; 30:15).
conscience: Grk. suneidēsis, sensitivity to moral or ethical expectations; properly, joint-knowing, i.e. conscience which joins moral and spiritual consciousness as part of being created in the divine image (HELPS). In the LXX suneidēsis occurs twice, first in Ecclesiastes 10:20 where it translates Heb. madda (SH-4093), knowledge, thought; and then in the Apocrypha (Wisdom 17:11). This term occurs 30 times in the Besekh and all but three are found in Paul's speeches (here; Acts 24:16), and in his letters. The conscience only functions best as an internal awareness of right and wrong when guided by knowledge of God's commandments (Rom 2:15; cf. 1Cor 8:7; Heb 10:2).
to God: Grk. ho theos, God or god, which must be determined from the context. In the LXX theos primarily renders the name of the Creator God Elohim (2568 times), but sometimes YHVH (300 times) (DNTT 2:67-70). Given the plural nature of Elohim the full triunity of the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe must be represented in theos. Moreover, Elohim is the God of Israel (Ex 5:1), the only God in existence (Deut 32:39; Isa 37:16; 43:11; 44:6, 8, 24; 45:5, 21). In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel. Paul repeatedly affirmed that he served God with a good conscience (Acts 24:16; 1Cor 4:4; 2Cor 1:12; 2Tim 1:3; Heb 13:18).
until: Grk. achri, adv., a function word signifying an interval between two points with focus on continuity, here meaning up to a certain point. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this. day: Grk. hēmera, day, normally either (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, or (2) the civil or legal day that included the night. In the LXX hēmera translates Heb. yom (SH-3117), day, first in Genesis 1:5. The noun is used here figuratively of this point in Paul's life.
2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those standing by him to strike his mouth.
And: Grk. de, conj. the high priest: Grk. ho archiereus, a high or chief priest. In the LXX archiereus occurs only two times in the canonical books (Lev 4:3; Josh 24:33), but 41 times in the Apocrypha (DNTT 3:35). In the Tanakh the Hebrew title is Hakohen Hagadol, 'the high [or great] priest,' which occurs 11 times (Lev 21:10; Num 35:25, 28; Josh 20:6; 2Kgs 12:10; 22:4, 8; 23:4; 2Chr 34:9; Neh 3:1, 20), but in all of these passages the title is translated in the LXX by Grk. ho hierus ho megas, 'the great priest.' The office of high priest was established by God to be a descendant of Aaron (Ex 27:21; 30:30). The high priest was the chief executive officer over all the priests and all Temple rites and ceremonies. An important privilege of the ruling high priest was serving as ex-officio president of the Great Sanhedrin.
Ananias: Grk. Ananias, a poor transliteration of Heb. Chananyah ("Yah has been gracious"). Under Roman rule the office of high priest was no longer strictly hereditary. The office was manipulated by the Romans for political purposes and high priests were approved and deposed by the Roman governor. Josephus said that Herod, king of Chalcis and younger brother of King Herod Agrippa I, removed Joseph Caiaphas from the high priesthood, and made Ananias, the son of Nebedæus, his successor in the year 47 (Ant. XX, 5:2). Josephus called Ananias a "great hoarder of money" (Ant. XX, 9:2) and was conspicuous for his cruelty and injustice. Bruce notes a parody of Psalm 24:7 preserved in the Talmud lampooning the greed of Ananias:
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and let Yohanan ben Narbai, the disciple of Pinqai, may enter and fill his stomach with the divine sacrifices." (Pesachim 57a) NOTE: 'Narbai' is a corruption of 'Nebedæus.' 'Pinqai' is perhaps a nickname formed by a play on words from 'pinqa,' being a meat-dish, an allusion to greed.
Five years previous to this time Ananias had been sent to Rome for trial and accused by Quadratus, the legate of Syria, of fomenting civil unrest between Judeans and Samaritans and undermining Roman authority (Ant. XX, 6:2-3). He had been acquitted of the charge, thanks to the mediation of Agrippa, and returned to Judea. The pro-Roman policies of Ananias eventually made him an enemy of the zealots and when war with Rome broke out in the year 66, he was assassinated by the Sicarii (Wars II, 17:9).
commanded: Grk. epitassō, aor., to arrange upon, command or give an order. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. standing by: Grk. paristēmi, perf. part., may mean (1) to place beside; present; or (2) be in a position beside; stand near or stand by. The second meaning applies here. The participle probably refers to members of the Levitical temple police or perhaps servants of the high priest. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. to strike: Grk. tuptō, pres. inf., to strike or smite, can range in meaning from a single non-fatal blow, to multiple blows as in 'pummel,' here the former. In the LXX tuptō translates Heb. nakah (SH-5221), to beat or smite, with the same range of meaning, including fatal blows, first in Exodus 2:11.
his: Grk. autos. mouth: Grk. stoma, the bodily organ used for speaking, tasting, eating and drinking; mouth. In the LXX stoma translates Heb. peh (SH-6310), a mouth for eating and drinking (Gen 8:11; 25:28), but also fig. of other openings (Gen 4:11; 29:2). Ananias regarded Paul's opening words as being out of order and wanted to exercise control over the meeting. Striking on the mouth would supposedly prevent further words.
There are three other biblical examples of a godly man being struck on the face. In the first instance Job figuratively regards the false charges of his friends as being slapped on the cheek (Job 16:10). The three friends initially came to commiserate with Job's plight (2:11-12), but when they opened their mouths comfort did not come out, but rather accusation and rebuke. As the story proceeds the accusations become increasingly malicious. In spite of the repeated assaults on his character Job consistently declares his innocence (Job 9:21; 23:10-12; 27:5-6; 31:1-40). The reader knows from God's pronouncement at the end that the three friends were totally wrong in their judgment of Job (Job 42:7).
The second instance occurred during the reigns of King Jehoshaphat of Judah and King Ahab of Israel. The two kings discussed an alliance to fight against Aram and sought the advice of Micaiah concerning whether to instigate battle at Ramoth-Gilead. The prophet Micaiah counseled against war and even prophesied defeat. In the confrontation between prophet and kings one of Ahab's officers struck Micaiah on the cheek for calling Ahab's advisors deceivers (1Kgs 22:24). Micaiah responded by saying that the proof of God's word would be in the fulfillment.
The third instance occurred when Yeshua was on trial before Annas (John 18:20-23). Yeshua dared to instruct Annas on proper legal procedure and a member of the Temple security force struck Yeshua. Yeshua responded to the assault by asking the officer to justify his action. Yeshua's response to the slap is according to his own teaching of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:39). Yeshua did not criticize the officer or respond in kind but asked the officer to conduct self-examination and consider what was actually happening in the hearing.
3 Then Paul said to him, "God is about to strike you, a whitewashed wall! And you, do you sit judging me according to the law, and contrary to law order me to be struck?"
Then: Grk. tote, temporal adv. that focuses on a time or circumstance that is closely associated with what precedes in the narrative; at that time, then, thereupon. Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 1 above. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 1 above. to: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing" and conveys motion toward; to, toward, with. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., Ananias. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 1 above. is about: Grk. mellō, pres., a future oriented verb with a pending aspect, being in the offing, be about to. to strike: Grk. tuptō, pres. inf. See the previous verse. you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. Paul's words could be considered prophetic considering the assassination of Ananias in 66.
a whitewashed: Grk. koniaō, perf. pass. part., to cover with lime, plaster over, or whitewash. In the LXX koniaō translates Heb. súd (SH-7874), to whitewash, first in Deuteronomy 27:2. The verb describes coating with lime (Heb. sid). Before pilgrim festivals it was customary to whitewash graves or grave-sites with lime as a warning to pilgrims against accidental defilement from contact with corpses (Num 19:11-22). The requirements are set forth in the Mishnah (Shekalim 1:1; Moed Katan 1:1; Masser Sheni 5:1). Such uncleanness would prevent participation in festival ceremonies (Kelim 1:4; cf. John 11:55; 18:28).
wall: Grk. toichos, something that serves as an enclosing medium, such as the side of a dwelling; wall. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. The expression "whitewashed wall" may be an allusion to the white linen clothes worn by the high priest. The color white is supposed to represent righteousness (Rev 3:5, 18; 7:9). As an idiomatic insult "whitewashed wall" implies hypocrisy. Yeshua also referred to Judean leaders by a similar epithet (Matt 23:27).
And: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect.
you: Grk. su. do you sit: Grk. kathēmai, pres. mid., be at rest on the haunches, to sit down or to take a seat. The verb alludes to the customary posture of judges. judging: Grk. krinō, pres. part., to separate or distinguish between options, i.e. judge; to come to a decision by making a judgment, either positive (a verdict in favor of) or negative (which rejects or condemns) (HELPS). In the LXX krinō is used to translate three Hebrew words: din, rib and shaphat, generally of issuing a judgment in a legal context (DNTT 2:363). me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun.
according to: Grk. kata, prep. that generally expresses measure and the idea of something associated with or lining up with something else in terms of manner, direction, reference, position, or the like. With the accusative case of the noun following the meaning is "according to" or "by way of" (Thayer). the law: Grk. ho nomos (from nemō, distribute; 'that which is generally recognized as customary') may mean either (1) a principle or standard relating to behavior or (2) codified legislation, i.e. law. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX nomos often translates Heb. torah (SH-8451), which means "direction," "teaching" or "instruction" (BDB 435f), first in Genesis 26:5.
In the Pentateuch torah refers primarily to commandments decreed by God to Israel. Torah sets forth the way to live in an ethical way in order to enjoy life to the full and to please God. In the Besekh nomos is used for the commandments given to Israel at Sinai and Moab (Matt 12:5; John 8:5) or the entire Pentateuch, especially when used in combination with "the Prophets" (Matt 22:40; John 1:45). Sometimes nomos is used to mean laws enacted by Jewish authorities (e.g., John 8:17; 18:31; Acts 18:15; Rom 7:2), which is the intention here. Paul refers to the laws that governed legal procedures.
and: Grk. kai. contrary to law: Grk. paranomeō, pres. part., act contrary to law or to break the law. order: Grk. keleuō, pres., give an authoritative order; command, order. me: Grk. egō. to be struck: Grk. tuptō, pres. pass. inf. Paul was not neutral about being struck. He was a Jew who lived in accordance with the laws of strict Judaism, and he expected the same of other Jews. He had not been properly charged, let alone tried and convicted. The Torah requires that evil behavior by a fellow Israelite be confronted (Lev 19:17-18). So, Paul pointed out that the order to hit him was clearly illegal.
4 Now those standing by said, "Do you revile the high priest of God?"
Now: Grk. de, conj. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. standing by: Grk. paristēmi, perf. part. See verse 2 above. The verb refers to members of the Levitical temple police or perhaps servants of the high priest, since members of the council were sitting. said: Grk. legō, aor., 3p-pl. Do you revile: Grk. loidoreō, pres., to verbally abuse in a contemptuous or scornful manner; insult, revile. This is an uncommon verb, occurring only four times in the Besekh (also John 9:28; 1Cor 4:12; 1Pet 2:23). the high priest: Grk. ho archiereus. See verse 2 above. of God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 1 above.
the high priest: Grk. ho archiereus. See verse 2 above. of God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 1 above. The question may reflect incredulity that Paul, a person without social status, would dare to talk back to the high priest. Poole comments: "These partial parasites take no notice of the real injury done to Paul by the high priest, and readily catch at the seeming calumny spoke by Paul against him." The question indicates a lack of recognition that Paul's response to being hit was an accurate assessment of the character of Ananias and a prophetic declaration of God's judgment. In their minds the exalted position of high priest justified whatever he might wish to order.
5 And Paul said, "I did not know, brothers, that he is high priest; for it is written that, 'You shall not speak wrongly of a ruler of your people.'"
And: Grk. te, conj. used to connect an idea closely to another in a manner that is tighter than with kai; also, and, both. Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 1 above. said: Grk. phēmi (from phaō, "shine, bring to light"), impf., to convey one's thinking through verbal communication, say, declare. The verb hints at Paul receiving a revelation of how to respond (cf. Matt 10:19-20). I did not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. know: Grk. oida, plperf, to have seen or perceived, hence to know. The verb is used for experiential knowledge.
In the LXX oida occurs frequently to render Heb. yada (SH-3045), to know, (e.g., Gen 3:5; 4:1), which in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, primarily by experience but also by learning (DNTT 2:395). The pluperfect tense denotes action in the past that is complete and the results of the action in existence at some point in past time as indicated by the context. Paul's declaration has been variously interpreted by commentators, since ordinarily Jews would have known the identity of the high priest.
Taking Paul's statement at face value, he claimed genuine ignorance, which may be explained by a variety of factors. First, he would not have recognized the high priest simply by his attire, since not even the high priest wore a distinctive dress when not engaged in actual service (Edersheim 63). Second, since this was not a meeting of the Great Sanhedrin the high priest was not sitting in his position as President of the court. Third, Paul did not know the high priest by sight by virtue of his long absence from Jerusalem. Paul had left Jerusalem in AD 35. He was serving in Antioch when Ananias was appointed and only recently returned to Jerusalem after three ministry journeys in the Diaspora. Jews in the Diaspora did not necessarily keep up with the news of changes in the temple high priest.
Fourth, there is the possibility that his weakness of eyesight might have prevented him from seeing clearly (Gal 4:15; 6:11). Fifth, Paul might have mistaken the person he heard speak for the Sagan or Deputy High Priest whose name was also Ananias (Shekalim 6:1; Pesachim 1:5). Lightfoot suggests that Paul spoke in a spiritual sense, not recognizing Ananias as being worthy of the office because of his wicked reputation and likens Paul's statement to that of Yeshua (Matt 7:23; 25:41; Luke 13:27). However, Lightfoot's suggestion is contradicted by the following quotation from the Torah.
brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, voc. See verse 1 above. In spite of the insult of being struck, Paul still appeals to the members of the council. that: Grk. hoti, conj., that, because. The conjunction is used here to introduce a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb. he is: Grk. eimi, pres., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). high priest: Grk. archiereus. See verse 2 above. Note the absence of the definite article.
for: Grk. gar, conj., a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that; for." The conjunction has an explanatory use here. it is written: Grk. graphō, perf. pass., to write or inscribe as a physical act, generally in reference to a document. The phrase "it is written" is the standard formula in the Besekh for attesting an assertion of truth and divine inspiration of Scripture, normally followed by a quote from the Tanakh. that: Grk. hoti. The conjunction is used here to introduce a quotation from Exodus 22:28. You: Grk. su, second person pronoun. shall not: Grk. ou. speak: Grk. ereō, fut., inform through utterance, often denoting speech in progress; will say, speak, tell.
wrongly: Grk. kakōs, adv., in a bad way, improperly or wrongly, especially in a moral sense. The Hebrew text has arar (SH-779), to curse. The prohibition is not against general criticism. The Greek translation forbids defamation. The original Hebrew text forbids invoking undeserved divine wrath. of a ruler: Grk. archōn, one who has eminence in a ruling capacity or one who has administrative authority. Among Jews the term is used of a synagogue official (Matt 9:18, 23; Luke 8:41; 18:18; Acts 14:5), a demonic power (Matt 12:24; John 12:31; 14:30), a Gentile political leader (Matt 20:25), a religious party leader (Luke 14:1), a magistrate (Luke 12:58), and a member of the temple ruling council or Sanhedrin (Luke 23:13; 24:20; John 3:1; Acts 4:5, 8).
In the LXX of this verse archōn translates Heb. nasi (SH-5387), "one lifted up, a chief, prince," a term used for leaders of the nation of Israel (Ex 16:22; 34:21; Num 1:16). Relevant to this context is that the president of the Sanhedrin bore the Hebrew title nasi (Sanh. 11a; 66a). The LXX has the plural form of the noun. The high priest was a ruler in sacred things, things of religion and the temple.
of your: Grk. su. people: Grk. ho laos, a group of humans, understood geographically or ethnically, and often in the apostolic narratives groups associated with the God of Israel. In the LXX laos renders Heb. am, (SH-5971), folk, people, nation or inhabitants of a locality, first in Genesis 14:16. In the apostolic narratives laos generally corresponds to the Heb. am-ha'arets, "people of the land."
While Paul quoted the Torah, he did not offer any admission that he spoke wrongly. Indeed, his retort in verse 3 was entirely apt, since Ananias was corrupt official. Paul could have meant his statement of this verse in a facetious sense, just as Gill points out there is now no high priest but Yeshua the Messiah.
Sadducees vs. Pharisees, 23:6-10
6 But Paul having known that one part was of Sadducees and the other of Pharisees, began crying out in the council, "Men, brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am being judged concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead!"
But: Grk. de, conj. Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 1 above. having known: Grk. ginōskō, aor. part., to know, including (1) to be in receipt of information; (2) form a judgment or draw a conclusion; or (3) have a personal relationship involving recognition of another's identity or value. The first meaning applies there. In the LXX ginōskō renders Heb. yada, which has a similar wide range of meaning, but in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning from a teacher (DNTT 2:395).
Some versions offer the inaccurate translation of the verb as "noticed" (NET, NRSV, VOICE), "perceived/perceiving" (ESV, KJV, NASB, NKJV, RSV), or "realized" (CSB, EHV, LEB, NLT), as if Paul grasped a truth he had not known before, when in reality every Jew knew the membership of the Sanhedrin. Other versions give the correct sense with "knew," "knowing," "having known," or "recognizing" (CEB, CJB, DRA, ERV, MSG, NCV, NIRV, NIV, NTE, TLV, WE, YLT). that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 5 above. one: Grk. ho heis, adj., one, a primary number. part: Grk. meros may mean (1) an allotted portion of something; (2) a part, portion, or division of a whole; or (3) a party or faction (Mounce). The second meaning is intended here.
was: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 5 above. of Sadducees: pl. of Grk. Saddoukaios a transliteration of Heb. Tzdôq (pl. Tz'dukim). The name was taken in honor of the high priest Zadok (Heb. Tzôq, "righteous") appointed by King Solomon (2Kgs 2:35). The Sadducee party was one of four prominent Jewish groups in the first century (Josephus, Ant. XIII, 5:9; 10:6; XVIII, 1:1, 4; Wars II, 8:2, 14). Stern notes that in Yeshua’s day the Sadducees tended to be richer, more skeptical, more worldly, and more willing to cooperate with the Roman rulers than other Jewish parties (18). Yochanan the Immerser called the Sadducees vipers (Matt 3:7) and Yeshua warned his disciples to beware the "leaven of the Sadducees" (Matt 16:6, 11). The origin of the Sadducees is a matter of controversy, since there are no extant Sadducean documents.
The party can be traced back to the time of the Hasmoneans and Maccabees as indicated by Josephus (Ant. XIII, 10:6). Flusser notes that whatever the philosophical leanings of ordinary priests, the Temple leadership was clearly identified with the Sadducees (44, 104). The Sadducees were noted for rejecting tradition and accepting only the written books of Moses as inspired Scripture and having authority. Sadducees were included in the membership of the Great Sanhedrin, but no evidence exists that gives any kind of precise numbers. After the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 the Sadducees effectively ceased to exist.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the other: Grk. ho heteros, adj., another, other, used generically or qualitatively to express dissimilarity of one item relative to another item. While there were some twenty Jewish sects in the time of Yeshua (Moseley 87), only two were represented on the council. For more information on the distinctions between major Jewish parties in the first century see Josephus, Ant., XVIII, 1:1-6; Wars, II, 8:1-14. of Pharisees: pl. of Grk. Pharisaios, a transliteration of Heb. P'rush (pl. P'rushim), meaning "separatists." The name was born of the fact that they devoted themselves to study and observance of the Torah.
The Pharisees traced their roots to the Hasidim ("pious ones") organized in the time of Ezra, but are known as an organized group from the 2nd century BC (Jeremias 247). The first mention of the group is in the books of Maccabees where they are described as "a company of Hasideans, mighty warriors of Israel, every one who offered himself willingly for the law (Torah)" (1Macc 2:42; cf. 1Macc 7:13; 2Macc 14:6). Josephus estimated that during the time of Herod the Great there were at least six thousand Pharisees in the Land (Ant. XVII, 2:4).
There were several Pharisee communities in Jerusalem (Jeremias 252), and a large number of priests, including those among the higher ranks of priests, were Pharisees (Jeremias, fn31, 230; 256f). Yeshua noted the presence of Pharisees on the Sanhedrin (Matt 23:2), but as with the Sadducees the exact number is unknown. The Pharisees are often mentioned as acting in a judicial capacity (John 8:3, 13; 9:13; 12:42) and are coupled with the chief priests to emphasize their association on the Sanhedrin (Matt 21:45; 27:62; John 7:32, 45, 47; 11:47, 57; 18:3).
There were many aspects of Phariseeism with which Yeshua would have agreed. The Pharisees resisted syncretism and regarded Greek ideas as abominations. In addition to their pietism, the Pharisees held the biblical teachings of the Messiah, life after death, resurrection of the dead, immortality, and angels. In contrast to the Sadducees the Pharisees accepted the traditions of the Sages as having equal authority as the written Torah, sometimes even greater than the written Torah. There are many verses that depict certain Pharisees in a bad light. Even the Jewish Sages spoke harshly against seven types of bad Pharisees they called hypocrites (Avot 5:9; Sotah 22b).
Yeshua frequently uses the term "hypocrites" to refer to such Pharisees (18 times in the Synoptic Narratives), which also distinguishes them from the good Pharisees. For Pharisees almsgiving, prayers, twice-weekly fasting and tithing were the most important components of righteous living (Matt 23:14, 23; Luke 18:12), but Yeshua's label of "hypocrite" was reserved for those who performed these good works in a manner to gain public attention. Unfortunately, we know more about the Pharisees who opposed Yeshua than we do about his supporters, such a Nicodemus (John 7:50-51), and the unnamed Pharisees who warned Yeshua of a plot by Herod to kill him (Luke 13:31). To impugn all Pharisees of that time with the same negative judgment would be unfair.
While Yeshua warned his disciples to avoid the hypocrisy found among some Pharisees (Luke 12:1), he also enjoined his disciples to respect their authority and obey their rulings (Matt 23:2-3). While the Sadducees supervised the Temple, the synagogue was the center of power for the Pharisees. For the Pharisee belief in an omnipresent God meant worship was not dependent on sacrifices alone and could take place in the synagogue as well as the Temple (Mansoor). They thus fostered the synagogue as a place of worship, study, and prayer, and raised it to a central and important place in the life of the Jewish people, rivaling the Temple.
Nevertheless the Pharisees were influential in the Temple and the Sadducean priests performed worship ceremonies, prayers, sacrifices, and various festival customs according to the direction of the Pharisees due to their popularity with the people (Ant. XIII, 10:6; XVIII, 1:3-4). A lengthy treatment of the Pharisee party, their history, theology and practices, can be found in Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Yeshua and the Original Church; Lederer Books, 1996.)
began crying out: Grk. krazō, impf., to cry, i.e. call out aloud, speak with a loud voice. Paul raised his voice to be heard. in: Grk. en, prep. the council: Grk. ho sunedrion. See verse 1 above. Paul purposely changed tactics, no doubt inspired by the Spirit to address a fundamental issue, the proverbial "elephant in the room." Men: pl. of Grk. anēr, voc. See verse 1 above. The direct address again shows respect for the members of the council. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, voc. See verse 1 above. Again Paul appeals to the members of the council on the basis of shared heritage, but it's very possible the direct address of "brothers" was intended for the Pharisee members, considering his words that follow.
I: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. am: Grk. eimi, pres. a Pharisee: Grk. Pharisaios. Paul affirms that not only was he a Pharisee before he met Yeshua, but he remained one afterwards (Acts 26:5; Php 3:5). Paul's present tense declaration rebuts the lie propagated within Christianity that he abandoned Judaism and everything associated with it. See my article Perspectives on Paul. a son: Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by birth or adoption. In the LXX huios translates Heb. ben (SH-1121), son, or son of, which is used (1) of direct paternity (Gen 3:16); (2) of a distant ancestor (Gen 32:32); or (3) fig. of having the characteristics of (Job 41:34). This range of meaning is also used of huios in the Besekh.
of Pharisees: pl. of Grk. Pharisaios. Several versions inexplicably translate the plural form as singular, "a Pharisee" (CEV, JUB, KJV, NEB, NKJV, NMB, YLT). The grammar implies that Paul was a descendent of Pharisees. He could also have intended a figurative meaning of having the characteristics of the Sages and his teachers at the School of Hillel. In his speech before the crowd Paul had said that he had been "instructed according to the exactness of our fathers' torah" (Acts 22:3). Whatever Paul may have meant by saying the was "a son of Pharisees," he took pride in his Pharisee roots.
I: Grk. egō. am being judged: Grk. krinō, pres. See verse 3 above. Paul does not mean that he was being tried on the basis of formal charges having been presented. The meeting with the council was more like a grand jury proceeding. He had been accused of a serious crime of teaching against Moses and the Torah and defiling the temple (Acts 21:21, 28), but those charges were not raised in this meeting. Paul reframes the accusation into the fundamental issue that distinguished the two parties of the council. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near or having to do with something; in behalf of, about, concerning.
the hope: Grk. elpis may refer to (1) a state of looking forward to something that is desirable, or (2) the basis of firm expectation. The second usage applies here. and: Grk. kai. resurrection: Grk. anastasis (from ana, 'up, again' and histēmi, 'to stand') may mean either (1) rise, which may be bringing to a higher position in a physical sense or a higher status in a relational sense; or (2) a rising from the condition of death; i.e., brought back to life after death. The second meaning is intended here. Anastasis is the principal Greek word in the Besekh for resurrection, with references divided between the resurrection of Yeshua and the resurrection at the end of the age.
of the dead: pl. of Grk. nekros, adj., may be used as (1) a noun, corpse or (2) adj., without life in the physical sense, being dead. The plural form indicates people who have died. We should note that the "hope of the dead" and the "resurrection of the dead" are separate but linked concepts. The "hope of the dead" affirms the belief not only in life after death, but the expectation of those who have died that they will live again (cf. Job 19:26; Ps 16:10; 49:15; 73:24; John 11:23). The "resurrection of the dead" refers to the general resurrection at the end of the present age (Dan 12:13; John 6:39-40, 44, 54; 11:24).
Paul would have been aware that several people in biblical history were brought back to life from death (cf. Heb 11:43-44), such as the Shunammite's son (2Kgs 4:34-36), the man thrown into Elisha's grave (2Kgs 13:20-21), the widow's son (Luke 7:14-15), Lazarus (John 11:43-44) and those that came out of their tombs at the resurrection of Yeshua (Matt 27:52-53). There are some key differences between these previous resurrections and the future resurrection: (1) All of the previous resurrections occurred within a very short time after dying; none of them had decayed into dust. (2) None of those formerly raised received an incorruptible body. They were still liable to physical weakness, suffering, pain or disease. (3) All of those formerly raised eventually died again. See my web article The Mystery of the Resurrection.
Bruce observes that Paul and the Pharisees agreed that the ancestral hope of Israel was bound up with the resurrection of the dead. In fact, the Pharisees went so far as to declare that anyone who says the resurrection of the dead is not intimated in the Torah has no part in the world to come (Sanhedrin 11:1). Paul and other Messianic Pharisees (Acts 15:5) knew that the hope of Israel had been fulfilled in the particular resurrection of Yeshua, which guaranteed the general resurrection of the dead.
Paul's conviction was summarized in first letter to the congregation in Corinth, written three years previously:
"13 Now if there is not a resurrection of the dead, not even Messiah has been raised; 14 and if Messiah has not been raised, then our proclamation is vain, your trust also is vain. 15 Moreover also we are found false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Messiah, whom He did not raise, if then the dead are not raised. 16 If indeed the dead are not raised, not even Messiah has been raised; 17 moreover if Messiah has not been raised, your trust is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then also the ones having fallen asleep in Messiah have perished. 19 If we are having hope in Messiah only in this life, we are pitiable of all men. 20 But now Messiah has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of the ones having fallen asleep." (1Cor 15:13-17 BR)
Ellicott offers an excellent interpretation of Paul's declaration:
"I am one with you in all that is truest in your creed. I invite you to listen and see whether what I now proclaim to you is not the crown and completion of all your hopes and yearnings. Is not the resurrection of Jesus the one thing needed for a proof of that hope of the resurrection of the dead of which you and your fathers have been witnesses?"
7 And he saying this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided.
And: Grk. de, conj. he: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. saying: Grk. laleō, pres. part., to make an oral statement and to exercise the faculty of speech; proclaim, report, say, speak, talk about. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. The pronoun refers back to Paul's words in the previous verse. a dissension: Grk. stasis may mean (1) a position or stance that challenges public order, an uprising, sedition or insurgency; or (2) a circumstance characterized by counter-positioning; dissension, discord. The second meaning is intended here.
arose: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., to become, which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being by birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) to be made or performed by a person; or (3) equivalent to come to pass or happen, used of historical events or something happening to someone; take place, happen, occur, arise. The third meaning applies here. In the LXX ginomai translates Heb. hayah (SH-1961; BDB 224), to fall out, come to pass, become, be (first in Gen 1:3).
between the Pharisees: pl. of Grk. Pharisaios. See the previous verse. and: Grk. kai, conj. Sadducees: pl. of Grk. Saddoukaios. See the previous verse. It is not clear whether the dissension arose over Paul's self-description as a Pharisee or Paul's assessment of the reason for being judged. The Sadducees would view the first part of Paul's statement as a blatant attempt to curry favor with the Pharisee members of the council, and the second part as a deliberate effort to obscure the charge of teaching against Moses and the Torah and defiling the temple.
and: Grk. kai. the assembly: Grk. ho plēthos, a great number of any kind, but the definite article indicates "the whole number" (Thayer). Danker notes the term is used here of gathering for official business. was divided: Grk. schizō, aor. pass., cause to be in parts, here to be divided in viewpoint. Gloag notes that the Pharisees, especially the school of Hillel, were more inclined to Messianic belief than the Sadducees. Gamaliel had formerly protected the disciples of Yeshua in the council, and there were certainly Pharisees among the Messianic Jews (Acts 6:7; 15:5).
Probably some of the Pharisees in the council were like Nicodemus, secret disciples; and others may have admitted the possibility of Yeshua being the Messiah. In this moment the main hostility from the council arose from the Sadducees, and their hostility would not be diminished, but increased, by the Pharisees siding with the apostle.
8 For indeed Sadducees say there is not a resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but Pharisees affirm them all.
Luke adds an explanatory note for the benefit of Theophilus to whom he is writing. For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 5 above. indeed: Grk. mén, conj., a particle of affirmation; indeed, verily, truly. Almost all versions omit translation of the particle, but it is important to Luke's explanation. Sadducees: pl. of Grk. Saddoukaios . See verse 6 above. say: Grk. legō, pres., 3p-pl. See verse 1 above. The verb alludes to well known public statements. there is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 5 above. not: Grk. mē, adv., a particle of qualified negation, not. It differs from the other standard negative particle, oú, in that oú is objective, dealing only with facts, while mē is subjective, involving will and thought (DM 265). The use of mē affirms an opinion, not actual knowledge of facts.
a resurrection: Grk. anastasis. See verse 6 above. The term resurrection refers to the general resurrection at the end of the age. The Sadducees denied not only the resurrection of the body (Matt 22:23), but also the immortality of the soul and future rewards and retribution (Wars, II, 8:14). The Sadducees were slaves to their own theology. A Sadducee could not become a follower of Yeshua without recanting this distinctive theological tenet. nor: Grk. mēte, conj., a negative particle foreclosing a conceived option in continuation after a preceding negative; either, neither, nor. The particle emphasizes that the options are not a possibility. an angel: Grk. angelos means one sent, a messenger, whether human or heavenly, here the latter. In the LXX angelos renders Heb. malak, which means messenger, representative, courier or angel (DNTT 1:101f).
Post-Tanakh Judaism developed an elaborate angelology, primarily the Essenes and Pharisees. Josephus said that the Essenes in particular preserved the names of the angels (Wars, Book II, 8:7). In particular Gabriel (mentioned in Dan 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:19, 26) and Michael (mentioned in Dan 10:13, 21; Jude 1:9; Rev 12:7) are included in a list of seven archangels, called the "angels of the presence" in 1Enoch 9:1. The remaining five archangels are Uri'el, Rapha'el, Ragu'el, Saraka'el, and Remi'el. According to 1Enoch 20:1-7; 40:1-9 each angel is assigned a special function that either serves God or His people Israel. See my web article The Host of Heaven.
nor: Grk. mēte. a spirit: Grk. pneuma (for Heb. ruach, Resh-Vav-Chet), wind, breath or spirit. In the Besekh pneuma is used primarily for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:2; 2:4; 4:8), but also for the wind (John 3:8), the breath of humans (Rev 11:11), the human spirit by which a human being feels, thinks, wills, or decides (Luke 1:47; Acts 7:59; 17:16; 18:25), and transcendent beings such as angels (Heb 1:14), demons (Acts 8:7; 16:16; 19:12) and Satan (1Cor 2:12). Pneuma is also used of the human spirit that has left the body and is in heaven (Matt 27:50; Luke 23:46; Acts 7:59; Rom 8:10; Heb 12:23; cf. Rev 6:9).
The disbelief of the Sadducees might relate to both human and transcendent spirits. In other words, they could not accept the idea of a person having a spirit, because the spirit is eternal. By extension they could not believe in the spirits of humans taking up residence in an eternal abode after death. Similarly, their disbelief extended to refusal to accept the existence of evil spirits or demons. We should note that the accusation that Yeshua cast out demons by Beelzebul came from certain Pharisees (Matt 12:24; cf. "scribes," Mark 3:22). Luke leaves the identity of the accusers unstated (Luke 11:15).
Lightfoot offers this assessment of the Sadducees:
"He prays; he fasts; he offers sacrifice; he observes the law; and yet doth not expect a resurrection or life eternal. To what end is this religion? It is that he may obtain temporal good things, observing only the promise of them made in the law, and he seeks for nothing beyond the mere letter."
but: Grk. de, conj. Pharisees: pl. of Grk. Pharisaios. See verse 6 above. affirm: Grk. homologeō, pres., to express oneself openly and firmly about a matter; affirm, confess, declare, inform, profess. The verb has a range of meaning: (1) to promise or assure; (2) to agree with or admit something; (3) to confess in a judicial sense; (4) to declare or acknowledge publicly; or (5) to praise (BAG). The fourth meaning is intended here. From a legal standpoint the verb is equivalent to a public statement made under oath.
them all: pl. of Grk. amphoteroi, adj., both of two, both the one and the other. The plural form would be equivalent to four in number. While Luke lists three items "spirit" could count as two. Most versions translate the plural adjective as "them all" or "all of these." Stern notes that the existence of angels and spirits is an issue because of what Paul said in his earlier address (22:6–11, 17–21). Pharisees believed that the Scriptures pointed to resurrection (Sanhedrin 90a-b, 91b).
Indeed, the Pharisees felt so strongly about the subject that they declared anyone who says the resurrection of the dead is not intimated in the Torah has no part in the world to come (Sanhedrin 11:1). It's possible that the dissension mentioned in the previous verse included a renewed argument over these subjects.
9 Then happened a great shouting; and some of the scribes of the party of the Pharisees having arisen were contending, saying, "We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?"
Then: Grk. de, conj. happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 7 above. The construction ginomai de, which begins the Greek verse, is a peculiar characteristic of Luke's writing style, appearing in the Besekh only in his writings, 17 times in his narrative of Yeshua and 20 times in Acts. The phrase may be considered a Hebraism because it imitates the frequent use of Heb. v'hayah, "and it came to pass" in the historical narratives of the Tanakh (185 times; first in Gen 4:8). The phrase is used to signal a change in the narrative and often introduces some significant action by individuals in the narrative.
a great: Grk. megas, adj., large or great in extent and used (1) of any extension in space in all directions; or (2) fig. of measure, whether of age, quantity, intensity, importance or social position (BAG). The adjective is used here to emphasize intensity. shouting: Grk. kraugē, a loud crying done with great emotion; clamorous yelling that is extremely boisterous (HELPS); crying, outcry, screaming, shouting. Apparently the dissension erupted in yelling from both sides of the aisle, perhaps including personal insults. and: Grk. kai, conj. some: pl. of Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun; a certain one, someone, anyone, anything. This pronoun is often used to distinguish someone of consequence in contrast to others, or to denote a collective commonality of those in a group, as here.
of the scribes: pl. of Grk. ho grammateus, refers to a specialist in legal matters. In the LXX grammateus translates primarily sophêr, participle of saphar, "to count, recount" (SH-5608; BDB 708), secretary or scribe, used for a king's official (2Sam 8:17 1Kgs 4:3; Esth 3:12), but also a class of learned men such as Jonathan, David's uncle (1Chr 27:32), Baruch, scribe for Jeremiah (Jer 36:26, 32) and Ezra the priest (Ezra 7:6; Neh 8:1). In the Besekh the term generally has its Jewish meaning of one learned in Torah. Scribes served as secretaries, teachers, lawyers, judges, and priests. For more information on the history, education and work of the scribes see my commentary on Mark 1:22.
of the party: Grk. meros. See verse 6 above. of the Pharisees: pl. of Grk. Pharisaios. See verse 6 above. Jeremias says that the Pharisee party in the Sanhedrin was composed entirely of scribes (cf. Matt 21:45; Mark 2:16; Luke 20:19) (236). having arisen: Grk. anistēmi, pl. aor. part., to cause to rise up, usually in a physical sense from a kneeling, prone or sitting position. In the LXX anistēmi translates Heb. qum (SH-6965), to arise, stand up, stand, first in Genesis 4:8. The increased dissension and argument brought the protagonists to their feet.
were contending: Grk. diamachomai, impf., 3p-pl, engage in intramural battling, contend heatedly. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. The argument became more heated by virtue of all the members of the council standing up, probably accentuated by physical gestures. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 1 above. We find: Grk. heuriskō, pres., 1p-pl., may mean (1) to come upon a person or thing by seeking; (2) to discover or reach a conclusion by inquiry, examination, scrutiny, observation, or hearing; or (3) to find for oneself, to acquire, get, obtain, or procure (Thayer). The second meaning is intended here in the sense of a legal conclusion of fact.
nothing: Grk. oudeis, adj. used to indicate negation of a person or thing as actually existing at a given place or moment; no one, none, nothing. wrong: Grk. kakos, adj., may mean (1) morally or socially reprehensible and contrary to Torah standards; bad, wrong, wicked, evil; or (2) causing harm, with focus on personal or physical injury; harmful, bad. The first meaning is intended here. In the LXX kakos is used to render Heb. ra (SH-7451), which has the same dual meaning (DNTT 1:562). The scribes concluded that there was no substance to a charge of wrongdoing or evil.
in: Grk. en, prep. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. man: Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man or mankind. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam (Gen 1:26-27); (2) ish (Gen 2:23-24) and (3) enosh (Ps 8:4-5), which are generally used for an adult male, husband, a human in contrast to animals or mankind (DNTT 2:564). The phrase "in this man" means "in this man's conduct." This pronouncement of "not guilty" effectively rebuts the need for further legal proceedings.
What if: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker, generally used to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument, but used here interrogatively. Thayer notes that like the Hebrew interrogative he (ה), the Greek ei is used in the LXX and the New Testament (especially by Luke) in direct questions. The question is serious, not rhetorical. Gamaliel once made the same sort of declaration relative to the Messianic movement, although it could have implied a question, "What if it is of God?" (Acts 5:39). The Pharisee scribes offer an alternative explanation to account for Paul's behavior.
a spirit: Grk. pneuma. See the previous verse. The claim of a spirit might allude to Paul's testimony of Yeshua appearing to him on the Damascus Road (22:6–10) or his trance experience in the temple (22:17). In any event this statement does not imply a belief that Yeshua had risen from the dead, only that the spirit of the dead Yeshua may have appeared to Paul (cf. 1Sam 28:8-15; Matt 14:26; Luke 24:36-39). or: Grk. ē, conj. used to denote an alternative. an angel: Grk. angelos. See the previous verse. The question confirms the information Luke provided in the previous verse that the Pharisees believed in the existence and ministry of angels.
has spoken: Grk. laleō, aor. See verse 7 above. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The Pharisee scribes were willing to consider that Paul had received a revelation from an angel, even though Luke records no encounter with an angel in the life of Paul. His experiences of divine revelations came from Yeshua himself. Longenecker suggests that some of the Pharisees saw in the inquisition of Paul an attempt by the Sadducees to discredit Phariseeism theologically, to make Paul and his message an absurdity, and thus rose to his defense. Bruce notes that Luke never disparages the Pharisees: to him they represent what is best in Judaism, and some of them on this occasion show themselves to be not far from the kingdom of God (cf. Mark 12:34).
Metzger notes that the Byzantine Text, followed by the Textus Receptus, adds, perhaps from 5:39, mē theomachomen, "let us not fight against God." A few versions include the addition (AMPC, JUB, KJV, NKJV, WEB). However, the entreaty simply does not fit the context of severe contention in the council meeting.
10 And as a great dissension was happening, the commander having become afraid lest Paul would be torn apart by them, he ordered the troop, having come down, to seize him from the midst of them, also to bring him into the barracks.
And: Grk. de, conj. as a great: Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, here indicating a high intensity involving the entire council. dissension: Grk. stasis. See verse 7 above. was happening: Grk. ginomai, pres. pass. part. See verse 7 above. Longenecker suggests that the Sadducees kept pressing their objections, and the debate soon got out of hand. Stern notes that Paul's tactic of diverting the council's attention away from himself and his supposed crime to a long-standing dispute among themselves succeeded. the commander: Grk. ho chiliarchos, lit., "leader of a thousand," a Roman tribune that had command of a subdivision of a legion. The Roman officer was introduced in 21:31.
having become afraid: Grk. phobeomai, aor. pass. part., to fear, may refer (1) to a state of apprehension, being fearful; or (2) to having special respect or reverence for, i.e., deep respect. The first meaning applies here. Ellicott notes that the fear of the commander was naturally heightened by his knowledge that he was responsible for the life of a Roman citizen. lest: Grk mē, adv. See verse 8 above. The negative particle when used after verbs of fearing introduces a clause expressive of an action or occurrence requiring caution. Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 1 above.
would be torn apart: Grk. diaspaō, aor. pass. subj., cause to come apart by violent action, tear apart or asunder. by: Grk. hupo, prep., properly, "under," often meaning "under authority" of someone (HELPS), and used here to indicate the efficient cause. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. From the perception of the commander it seemed as if the intensity of the argument between the Pharisees and Sadducees was so out of control that it would result in the Sadducees attacking Paul and the Pharisees defending him so that he would be seriously injured. he ordered: Grk. keleuō, aor. See verse 3 above.
the troop: Grk. ho strateuma, a military force and in a smaller sense a detachment of soldiers. The noun is singular, but many versions translate it as plural ("troops," "soldiers"). The noun denotes a specific Roman military unit. The term could have intended a contubernium (tent group), which consisted of eight soldiers. having come down: Grk. katabainō, aor. part., to proceed in a direction that is down; go down, come down, descend. The past tense of the verb indicates that this group of soldiers had accompanied the commander when he brought Paul before the council. The narrative does not mean to imply that the commander left the council meeting and went back to the Tower of Antonia to get soldiers.
to seize: Grk. harpazō, aor. inf., take away by seizure; forcibly take away, seize, snatch. him: Grk. autos. from: Grk. ek, Grk. ek, prep. may be used to denote derivation or separation, here the latter; from, out of, out from among. Ek has a two-layered meaning, "out from" and "to," which makes it out-come oriented, i.e., out of the depths of the source and extending to its impact on the object (HELPS). the midst: Grk. mesos, adj., at a point near the center, midst, middle, in the midst of, among. of them: pl. of Grk. autos. also: Grk. te, conj. to bring: Grk. agō, pres. inf., to cause movement by taking the lead; lead away, bring, carry, take.
him into: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit, here complementing the verb to indicate completion of movement. the barracks: Grk. ho parembolē, a spatial or structural arrangement for a group of people engaged in military or related activity. The noun is used here of barracks in the Tower of Antonia that housed Roman soldiers. Once more the commander took Paul into the barracks for his security. We may note that again the commander did not succeed in his effort to learn exactly why the Jews were so adamantly opposed to his prisoner (Longenecker).
Divine Revelation, 23:11
11 But the following night, having stood by him the Lord said, "Take courage; for as you have earnestly testified the things about me in Jerusalem, so it behooves you to witness also in Rome."
But: Grk. de, conj. the following: Grk. ho epiousa, pres. part. (fem. part. of epeimi, "next"), following, next. night: Grk. nux, night as a chronological period, sunset to sunrise. The time reference means the night following the daytime meeting with the council. By Jewish reckoning it would be the next day, but by Roman reckoning it would not be the next day unless the "night" was after midnight. having stood by: Grk. ephistēmi, aor. part., to come or stand near or by as a physical presence. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., Paul.
the Lord: Grk. ho kurios may mean either (1) one in control through possession, and therefore owner or master; or (2) one esteemed for authority or high status, thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios primarily translates the sacred name YHVH (DNTT 2:511). "The Lord" is often substituted for Yeshua's name in Acts out of respect for his authority. Its use in this setting emphasizes Yeshua's control of the situation. Bruce notes that the risen Lord appeared to Paul as he had done at critical moments before (Acts 18:9; 22:17).
said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 1 above. Take courage: Grk. tharseō (from tharsos, "emboldened from within"), pres. imp., may mean according to BAG, Mounce and Thayer (1) be cheerful; or (2) be courageous. The second meaning is intended here, although a few versions adopt the first meaning (ASV, KJV, NKJV, NTE, WEB). Danker recognizes only the second meaning. In secular Greek literature tharseō could mean to be of good courage, pluck up courage, fear not, have no fear of, have confidence, be confident about, or make bold (LSJ). In the LXX tharseō occurs seven times to translate the Heb. construction al yarê, "do not fear" (Gen 35:17; Ex 14:13; 20:20; 1Kgs 17:13; Joel 2:21-22; Zeph 3:16).
Thus, the idea of commanding Paul to be cheerful seems totally inappropriate to the situation. "Being cheerful" and "being courageous" are not synonymous. Considering the LXX and secular Greek usage the Lord assured Paul that he had no reason to fear, thus he should be confident about the future. The verb implies being bolstered within by Yeshua's own strength as conveyed through the Spirit (HELPS). for: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 5 above. The conjunction has an inferential use here. as: Grk. houtō, adv. used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done or to be done; thus, in this manner, way or fashion, so.
you have earnestly testified: Grk. diamarturomai (from dia, "thoroughly" and marturomai, "witness, testify"), aor. mid., an emphatic declaration establishing the importance of what is stated, giving full, clear testimony. The middle voice emphasizes witnessing done with a high level of strong personal interest motivating it (HELPS). the things: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. Most versions don't translate the article. A few versions offer an appropriate interpretation of the plural article: "the facts" (ESV) and "the truth" (GW, NOG, NASB). about: Grk. peri, prep. See verse 6 above. me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun.
in: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." Jerusalem: Grk. Ierousalēm, which transliterates Heb. Yerushalaim (SH-3389), 660 times in the LXX, first in Joshua 10:1 (DNTT 2:324). See the note on "Jerusalem" in 1:4. Yeshua's compliment could include all the occasions of Paul's witness in Jerusalem:
(1) his ministry in the synagogues upon his return to Jerusalem from Damascus in AD 35 (Acts 9:28);
(2) his report before the Jerusalem elders and apostles of the success of the good news during his first Diaspora journey (15:4);
(3) his report to Jacob and the elders of the success of the good news during his second and third Diaspora journeys (21:18); and
(4) his defense sermon before the adversarial crowd which included a description of his encounter with the risen Yeshua on the Damascus Road (22:6-11).
Gill makes the unusual claim that though not particularly recorded, Paul bore a testimony to the council for Yeshua, "that he was the true Messiah; and that though he died, he was risen from the dead, and was at the right hand of God, and was the only Savior of men." Luke provides no evidence to support Gill's conjecture. so: Grk. houtō, adv. used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done or to be done; thus, in this manner, way or fashion, so. it behooves: Grk. dei, pres., impersonal verb from deō ('lack, stand in need of') and conveys the idea of something that's necessary, something that must or needs to happen; must, necessary, behooves. you: Grk. su, second person pronoun.
to bear witness: Grk. martureō, aor. inf., to attest or testify to a fact or truth; be a witness, bear witness, or testify. also: Grk. kai, conj. in: Grk. eis. Rome: Grk. Rhōmē, the city of Rome, Italy and capital of the Roman Empire. Paul had wanted to visit Rome (Acts 19:21), especially in order to raise support for ministry in Spain (Rom 15:24). So, Yeshua informed Paul that his desire was in fact the plan of God. Bruce observes,
"Yeshua's assurance meant much to Paul during the delays and anxieties of the next two years, and goes far to account for the calm and dignified bearing which from now on marks him as a master of events rather than their victim."
Date: Thursday, 2 June 57
Plot Against Paul, 23:12-15
12 Then daytime having come, the unbelieving Jews, having formed a conspiracy, bound themselves under a curse, declaring neither to eat nor to drink until which time they had killed Paul.
Then: Grk. de, conj. daytime: Grk. hēmera. See verse 1 above. having come: Grk. ginomai, aor. part. See verse 7 above. the unbelieving: The adjective does not occur in the Greek text but is appropriate to this context. As reported in Acts such unbelief was manifested by vocal opposition in the synagogues and even violent retaliation in many locations of the Diaspora against Paul's ministry: in Damascus (Acts 9:23), in Jerusalem (Acts 9:29), in Paphos (Acts 13:6-8), in Antioch (Acts 13:45), in Iconium (Acts 14:2,5), in Lystra (Acts 14:19), in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5), in Berea (Acts 17:13), in Corinth (Acts 18:5-6; 20:3), in Ephesus (Acts 19:23; 20:19) and now in Jerusalem.
Jews: pl. of Grk. ho Ioudaios (derived from Ioudas, "Judah") may be used as an adjective (Judean, Jewish) or a noun (Jew, Judean). See the explanatory note on 2:5. Among Gentiles the ethnic term did not distinguish between members of the twelve tribes of Israel or sects of Judaism. All of the people exiled from the land of Israel were called "Jews" (Esth 8:9, 11, 17; Ezra 4:12, 23; 5:1, 5; 6:7, 14; Dan 3:8, 12). After the exile Jewish literature continued this inclusive meaning of Ioudaioi to designate the covenant people as distinct from Gentiles (1Macc 2:23; 14:33; Letter of Aristeas 1:1 +34t; Josephus, Apion 1:1 +42t), often as the object of persecution and warfare (Philo, Flaccus IV.21 +26t; Josephus, Ant. X, 11:1; Wars VI, 1:2-8).
Among Jews in the first century Ioudaios was used to distinguish devout, observant Jews whose tenets and practices conformed to Pharisee beliefs and traditions, in contrast to other descendants of Jacob who did not live by the strict code (Matt 23:2-3; Mark 7:3; Acts 2:5; 10:28). In the Besekh Ioudaios is never used to identify Hellenistic Jews, Samaritan Jews or Qumran Jews (cf. John 4:9). The CJB has "Judeans," but this group was more likely composed of unbelieving Jews from Asia that began the riot (Acts 21:7). The qualification of "unbelieving" is important to distinguish Paul's adversaries in the Jewish population.
having formed: Grk. poieō, pl. aor. part., a verb of physical action, may mean (1) to produce something material or bring something into existence; or (2) to express by deeds the feelings and thoughts of the mind; act, do, perform (Thayer). The second meaning applies here. a conspiracy: Grk. sustrophē, a twisting up together, a binding together, and may refer to (1) a gathering, indicating a disorderly or seditious aspect; or (2) a plot or conspiracy. In the context either meaning could apply or both together. A meeting would obviously have to take place for the plot to be formed. Most modern versions translate the noun as "plot" or "conspiracy."
bound themselves: pl. of Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun of the third person. under a curse: Grk. anathematizō, aor., to declare oneself liable to severe divine penalties for non-compliance, put under a divine curse. Some versions diminish the force of the verb with the translation "bound by/under … 'an oath,' 'a promise' or 'a vow'" (e.g., CJB, ESV, MSG, MW, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, RSV, TLV, WE). The conspirators were not just taking a pledge for action, but giving God permission to punish them if they failed. Other versions give the correct sense with "bound by/under a curse" (ASV, AMPC, CSB, DARBY, DLNT, DRA, GW, HCSB, JUB, KJV, LEB, TLB, MPNT, NOG, RGT, WEB).
declaring: Grk. legō, pl. pres. part. See verse 1 above. The plural participle serves to introduce a direct quotation and represents a declaration of the total group. they were neither: Grk. mēte, conj. See verse 8 above. to eat: Grk. phagō, aor. inf., to take in one's mouth, to partake of food. nor: Grk. mēte. to drink: Grk. pinō, aor. inf., to take in a liquid, to drink, usually of water or wine. The conspirators essentially declared a fast for themselves. This is the only fast recorded in Scripture for a heinous purpose. until: Grk. heōs, adv., a marker of limit, here of time. The fast would effectively last for an indefinite period.
which time: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. See the Textual Note below. they had killed: Grk. apokteinō, aor. subj., 3p-pl., put an end by force to the existence of someone, kill. In this context the subjunctive mood expresses future deliberation. Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 1 above. We can only wonder how long the fast actually lasted since the plot failed. Since the conspirators had invoked a curse on themselves it is very possible that God honored that curse, but not for the reason they offered for their vow. They had conspired to commit murder, and so deserved the severest penalty prescribed by the Torah (Ex 21:12-14; Deut 19:11-13).
The position of the pronoun hos following heōs in the Greek text indicates giving significance to the time set for the goal of the conspirators. Thayer notes that heōs hos is a construction in Greek literature for "until the time when" as early as Herodotus (5th c. BC), but then only in writers later than Luke. However, a search on the Unbound Bible website revealed that the construction heōs hos occurs 64 times in the LXX, so Jewish translators and writers before the first century were aware of the construction. Many versions either do not translate the pronoun or move it to a position following the verb legō. The DLNT is the only version to translate the construction heōs hos as "until which time."
13 Now there were more than forty, the ones having formed this conspiracy.
Now: Grk. de, conj. there were: Grk. eimi, impf., 3p-pl. See verse 5 above. more than: Grk. pleiōn, adj., the comparative form of polus (verse 10 above), greater in quantity. forty: Grk. tessarakonta (for Heb. arbaim), adj., the cardinal numeral forty. the ones: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having formed: Grk. poieō, pl. aor. part. See verse 12 above. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. conspiracy: Grk. sunōmosia (from sun, "with" and omnuō, "to swear"), a swearing together; plot, conspiracy. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. The term does not appear in the LXX, but it does occur in Josephus (Ant. XV, 8:4). A derivative term sunōmotēs ("confederate, ally") is found in the LXX of Genesis 14:13 to describe two brothers who had a covenant with Abraham.
"More than forty" is not an insignificant number. The leaders of the conspiracy obviously wanted enough men to deal with contingencies. Paul did have friends who would be willing to defend him. Since the conspirators were religious zealots they may have felt the number held some symbolic power that would contribute to their success. In Jewish thought the number four represented completeness and sufficiency and the number ten represented a divine order, a complete number to accomplish something, whether for good or evil.
From the viewpoint of the conspirators "more than 40" meant more than enough to accomplish their goal. On the other hand, in Scripture the number 40 often stands for a generation and from the standpoint of God these forty represented the adulterous generation (Mark 8:38) that opposed the fulfillment of the Messianic kingdom.
14 who, having come to the chief priests and the elders, said, "With an oath-curse we have bound ourselves under a curse to taste nothing until that we have killed Paul.
who: pl. of Grk. hostis, relative pronoun used as a generalizing reference to the subject of a verb or a preceding entity; who, which. The plural pronoun may refer to the "more than forty" conspirators, but more than likely their leaders. having come: Grk. proserchomai, pl. aor. part., to approach from a point to a person or place; come, go to, approach. The destination would have been the temple. to the chief priests: pl. of Grk. ho archiereus. See verse 2 above. In addition to the high priest the plural noun included any living retired high priests and active holders of the priestly offices of higher rank in the Temple, altogether some fifteen to twenty persons.
From Luke's narrative and Josephus (Ant. XX, 9:1) we know that the chief priests were Sadducees and ex–officio members of the Sanhedrin (Jeremias 179, 197, 230). The working chief priests included the deputy high priest, the director of the weekly division of ordinary priests, the director of the daily shift, the seven temple overseers and the three or more temple treasurers (Jeremias 160). As a group the chief priests wielded considerable power in the city.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the elders: pl. of Grk. ho presbuteros, may mean (1) ranked as superior in age, older, older one; or (2) ranked in terms of official responsibility, elder. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX presbuteros translates Heb. zaqen ("zaw-kane", SH-2205), old, advanced in days (Gen 18:11), as well as a technical term for a man with official authority (Ex 17:5). In the Tanakh elders as a group are found in tribes, communities and in the body of seventy appointed by Moses. In the Besekh the term was used for the Jewish Sages (Matt 15:2), for members of the ruling council in Jerusalem (Matt 16:21), and for officers in a synagogue (Luke 7:3).
These elders were probably not the heads of patrician families that sat on the Great Sanhedrin, but elders that were members of the temple ruling council. These elders are often seen in the apostolic narratives as allies of the Sadducean chief priests (Matt 21:23; 26:3). John's narrative mentions "chief priests" and "Pharisees" together (John 1:19, 24; 7:32, 45; 8:3; 9:13, 15-16, 18, 22; 11:47, 57; 18:3) as representing the temple organization. Thus, "chief priests and the elders" could be equivalent to the "Sadducees and Pharisees" in verse 6 above.
said: Grk. legō, aor., 3p-pl. See verse 1 above. With an oath-curse: Grk. anathema, that which has been cursed; accursed thing, anathema. In the LXX anathema regularly translates Heb. cherem (SH-2764), a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed, first in Leviticus 27:28 (DNTT 1:413). To be accursed alludes to the Torah provision that people could be put under a ban for utter destruction. In the Torah this provision was normally for someone who impeded or resisted God's work and was therefore considered to be accursed before God, such as the seven tribes of Canaan (Num 21:2-3; Deut 7:2; 1Sam 15:3) and idolaters (Ex 22:20; Deut 13:12-16). For the conspirators to invoke an anathema on themselves was the height of foolishness.
We have bound ourselves: pl. of Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun of the third person. under a curse: Grk. anathematizō, aor., 1p-pl. See verse 12 above. to taste: Grk. geuomai, aor. mid. inf., may mean (1) to taste, try the flavor of; (2) to taste, i.e. perceive the flavor of, partake of, enjoy; or (3) to take nourishment, partake of something by mouth. Bible versions are divided between translating the verb as "taste" or "eat." Since "eat" (Grk. phagō) is used in verse 12, this verb probably reflects an added nuance. The conspirators won't even taste food, let alone consume it.
nothing: Grk. mēdeis, adj. (from mē, "not" and heis, "one"), not even one, nothing, none; i.e., "not even a bite of food." until: Grk. heōs, adv. See verse 12 above. that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. we have killed: Grk. apokteinō, aor. subj., 1p-pl. See verse 12 above. Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 1 above. The conspirators had the audacity to inform judicial authorities that they were planning to commit murder. They believed there was no risk in telling the chief priests since the high priest Ananias had already demonstrated his contempt for Paul. The Sadducean chief priests would be more than willing to support violence against Paul.
15 Now therefore, you with the Council inform the commander so that he will bring him to you, as though being about to determine accurately the things about him; we then before his drawing near are ready to kill him.
Now: Grk. nun, adv. of time in the present, 'now' or more emphatically 'right now.' therefore: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which is used here to indicate a conclusion connected with data immediately preceding, "so, therefore, consequently, then." you: Grk. humeis, pl. second person pronoun. with: Grk. sun, prep. used to denote association or close identification. the Council: Grk. ho sunedrion. See verse 1 and 6 above. The term is not used here of the Great Sanhedrin. inform: Grk. emphanizō, aor., may mean (1) make visible; appear; or (2) provide information; disclose, inform, make known, report. The second meaning is intended here.
the commander: Grk. chiliarchos. See verse 10 above. so that: Grk. hopōs, conj. used to indicate purpose, objective or an end in view; in order that, so that. he will bring: Grk. katagō, aor. subj., to lead or bring down someone from a point that is higher (BAG). The verb depicts descending from the higher elevation of the Tower of Antonia to the council room of the Temple. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., Paul. to: Grk. eis, prep. you: Grk. humeis. as though: Grk. hōs, adv. with the primary function of connecting narrative components; used here with focus on a subjective perspective, regarding an alleged reason for the following verbal action; as though.
being about: Grk. mellō, pl. pres. part. See verse 3 above. to determine: Grk. diaginōskō, pres. inf., know one from the other in a legal sense, distinguish, decide, determine. The verb occurs only twice in the Besekh (also Acts 24:22. The verb is rare in Greek literature, but it does occur in the LXX (2Macc 9:15), Philo and Josephus (BAG). accurately: Grk. akribōs, comparative adverb, diligently or carefully, i.e., be really thorough, with exactness. The adverb implies gaining exact information with the highest level of accuracy, acquired by probing investigation with a strict adherence to the facts (HELPS).
the things: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. about: Grk. peri, prep. him: Grk. autos. The request of the conspirators to the chief priests and elders proposed that they to lie to the Pharisee members of the council and pretend they want to know more about Paul since the previous council meeting did not afford an opportunity for such information gathering. The conspirators believe such a deception will gain cooperation from the Pharisees so that the request of the commander will appear to come from the entire council.
we: Grk. hēmeis, pl. first person pronoun. then: Grk. de, conj. before: Grk. pro, prep. indicating precedence, either (1) spatially, 'ahead, before,' (2) temporally, 'earlier than, before' or (3) in rank, before or above. The second usage applies here. his: Grk. autos. drawing near: Grk. engizō, aor. inf., come or draw near, approach. The verb indicates close proximity. are: Grk. eimi, pres., 1p-pl. See verse 5 above. ready: pl. of Grk. hetoimos, adj., ready, prepared. The adjective indicates ready because the necessary preparations are done, or are sure to happen as needed (HELPS).
to kill: Grk. anaireō, aor. inf., to take up and used here to mean remove by causing death, kill, murder. him: Grk. autos. The plot as conceived represents the height of stupidity. Maybe they imagined the Roman commander would escort Paul alone, but he certainly would have a contingent of soldiers with him as in verse 10 above. Maybe they thought the Romans wouldn't defend Paul, but if so, it was an errant assumption since Paul was a Roman citizen. So, attacking the Roman military guard would result in the death of some of the conspirators and the rest would end up being crucified.
We should note that while the conspirators made the request of the council, there is no evidence that the council actually agreed to ask for another meeting with Paul. While the Pharisees on the council might wish to speak with Paul further on his beliefs, the pronouncement of the Pharisee scribes of finding no fault in him (verse 9 above) would surely predispose them to be against murdering Paul in lieu of a formal trial. In the end the request of the conspirators was preempted by the swift action of the Roman commander (verse 23 below).
Plot Revealed, 23:16-22
16 But the son of the sister of Paul having heard of the ambush, having arrived and having entered into the barracks, he reported it to Paul.
But: Grk. de, conj. the son: Grk. ho huios. See verse 6 above. of the sister: Grk. ho adelphē, fem. of adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," a female sibling. of Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 1 above. Luke does not explain how the sister and nephew of Paul came to be living in Jerusalem. We should not imagine the nephew to be a boy or adolescent, given Paul's age. See the next verse. Commentators tend to believe the sister and nephew were not permanent residents, but there is no evidence for such an assumption. Paul had an extensive family since several kinsmen are listed in his letter to the Roman congregation (Rom 16:7, 11, 21). No mention is made of whether the sister and nephew were Messianic, but the warning of the nephew argues in its favor.
having heard: Grk. akouō, aor. part., to hear and used here to mean receive information aurally, hear, hear about. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). of the ambush: Grk. ho enedra, a lying in wait, ambush. Luke does not satisfy our curiosity of how the nephew learned of the ambush, whether overhearing the conspirators discussing their plan or overhearing those who knew about the plan (verse 14 above). The lack of discretion of those discussing the plan and the "chance encounter" of the nephew to hear of the plan became a divine appointment.
having arrived: Grk. paraginomai, aor. part., to make one's way so as to be present; come, arrive, be present. and: Grk. kai, conj. having entered: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. part., to go or enter into a geographical area, manufactured structure or other place defined in the context. into: Grk. eis, prep. the barracks: Grk. ho parembolē. See verse 10 above. he reported it: Grk. apangellō, aor., to report or announce, and used here to mean to share the result of personal experience, observation or other source of information; relate, report, declare.
to Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. Since Paul was only in protective custody the Roman commander allowed friends and family to visit. Paul was uncondemned and still had the rights of a Roman citizen. Informing his uncle about the planned ambush before telling anyone else was the right thing to do. Among Jews it was "family first." The action of the nephew probably reflected both duty and affection.
17 Then Paul having summoned one of the centurions, was saying, "Take this young man to the commander, for he has something to report to him."
Then: Grk. de, conj. Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 1 above. having summoned: Grk. proskaleō, aor. mid. part., to call, invite or summon to one's self or one's presence. one: Grk. heis, adj., the number one. of the centurions: pl. of Grk. ho hekatontarchēs (from hekaton, "a hundred," and archō, to rule), commander of a century (Latin centuria), consisting of 80 fighting men (Latin milites) and 20 military servants (Latin calones). A centurion had administrative duties with respect to the soldiers, but more importantly he served as a tactical leader in combat. In addition, the status of centurions within a legion was based on the centuria he commanded.
For example, command of the First Centuria of the First Cohort was the highest and the 6th Centuria of the 10th Cohort was the lowest. See "Roman Legionary Ranks" in The Roman Imperial Legion. Paul's summoning of a centurion was probably one who was nearby and not based on rank, assuming Paul was even aware of centurion order of precedence. was saying: Grk. phēmi, impf. See verse 5 above. Take: Grk. apagō, pres. imp., to lead out, lead away, take away, especially with a destination in mind. The imperative mood stresses entreaty.
this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. young man: Grk. neanias, a young man, youth; used of one who is in the prime of life (Mounce). In Greek literature the term was used of men at least twenty-four years of age (Thayer). The noun occurs only three times in the Besekh, first used of Paul when he observed the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58). He was about 26 at that time. In the LXX neanias translates Heb. bachur (SH-970), young man (Ruth 3:10; 2Sam 6:1; 10:9; 1Kgs 12:21; 1Chr 19:10; Prov 20:29). Noteworthy about bachur is being of fighting age (age 20, Num 1:3; 26:2) and therefore eligible to join the army.
to: Grk. pros, prep. The preposition stresses a face-to-face meeting. the commander: Grk. ho chiliarchos. See verse 10 above. for: Grk. gar, conj. he has: Grk. echō, pres., to have, hold or possess, with a wide range of application. something: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. to report: Grk. apangellō, aor. inf. See the previous verse. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. It is interesting that Paul did not share the information with the centurion, but Paul did not want to waste time. The matter was urgent and the sooner the commander could be involved the sooner there could be a solution.
18 Therefore, the one indeed having taken him brought him to the commander and said, "The prisoner Paul having summoned me, asked me to bring this young man to you, having something to say to you."
Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. the one: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun to refer to the centurion. indeed: Grk. mén, conj. Most versions don't translate this particle. having taken: Grk. paralambanō, aor. part., to receive to one's side; take, receive; or to cause to go along; take. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. brought him: Grk. agō, aor. See verse 10 above. to: Grk. pros, prep. the commander: Grk. ho chiliarchos. See verse 10 above. The centurion acted promptly to carry out Paul's request, treating the matter as a routine task. and: Grk. kai, conj. said: Grk. phēmi, pres. See verse 5 above. The centurion then gives an exact report to the commander of what has happened.
The prisoner: Grk. ho desmios, one who is bound as a captive or prisoner. Paul: Grk. Paulos. See verse 1 above. Nicoll notes that Paul uses desmios of himself five times in his letters (Eph 3:1; 4:1; Php 1:1, 9; 2Tim 1:8), but the term is used here for the first time in Acts in regard to Paul. For Paul the term became a status of honor. having summoned: Grk. proskaleō, aor. mid. part. See the previous verse. me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. asked me: Grk. erōtaō, aor., to ask, which can mean (1) to query for information; or (2) to make a request, frequently with the effort to soften the tone for what might sound peremptory. The second meaning applies here. The centurion acknowledges that Paul made a voluntary request, not a demand.
to bring: Grk. agō, aor. inf. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. young man: Grk. ho neaniskos (from neanias in the previous verse), a young man. The noun ending has diminutive force, so it emphasizes youthfulness. to: Grk. pros. you: Grk. su, second person pronoun. having: Grk. echō, pres. part. See the previous verse. something: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 9 above. to say: Grk. laleō, aor. inf. See verse 7 above. to you: Grk. su. The centurion also recognized Paul as a Roman citizen with rights, so Paul's request was completed without objection and without embellishment.
19 Then the commander, having taken hold of his arm and having withdrawn in private, began to inquire, "What is it that you have to report to me?"
Then: Grk. de, conj. the commander: Grk. ho chiliarchos. See verse 10 above. having taken hold: Grk. epilambanomai, aor. mid. part., may mean (1) to take or lay hold of; or (2) to take hold of forcefully; catch, seize, arrest. The first meaning applies here. of his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. arm: Grk. ho cheir, the anatomical limb of the hand. However, in Greek literature the term included the arm (LSJ). BAG also notes that cheir can mean "arm." In the LXX cheir translates Heb. yad (SH-3027), hand, but there are instances that refer to the wrist (Gen 24:22, 30, 47; Ezek 13:18) and the armpit (Jer 38:12) (BDB 388).
Most versions translate the noun as "hand," and on that interpretation Brown suggests that the nephew of Paul must have been quite in his boyhood, contrary to the description in verses 17 and 18. Some versions do translate the noun as "arm" (GW, Goodspeed, MSG, NEB, NOG, TPT, WE, and Weymouth). The commander was certainly not being overly familiar by this action. The actual point of contact was probably the wrist or elbow. Making this physical contact was simply a gesture of civility to expedite the personal meeting away from the soldiers.
and: Grk. kai, conj. having withdrawn: Grk. anachōreō, aor., 3p-pl., to depart from this or that place; to go away or go off, withdraw. in: Grk. kata, prep. has the root meaning of "down," and with the accusative case of the adjective following the meaning is lit. "according to" or "by way of" (Thayer). private: Grk. idios, adj., belonging to oneself, one's own, private, personal. The reference to privacy could mean simply some distance away to afford confidential conversation or perhaps moving into a private room belonging to the commander. began to inquire: Grk. punthanomai, pres. mid. inf., to inquire for information or to learn as a result of inquiry.
What: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. is it: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 5 above. that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 12 above. you have: Grk. echō, pres., 2p-sing. See verse 17 above. to report: Grk. apangellō, aor. inf. See verse 16 above. to me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. The tone of the question is entirely neutral and indicates a readiness to listen. The question is a straightforward invitation to the young man to share his urgent information.
20 And he said that, "The Judean leaders have agreed of this, to ask you that tomorrow you might bring down Paul into the Council, as though being about to inquire something more accurately about him.
And: Grk. de, conj. he said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 1 above. that: Grk. hoti, conj. The conjunction is used here to introduce a quotation. The Judean leaders: pl. of Grk. ho Ioudaios. See verse 12 above. The negative use of Ioudaios here most likely denotes the Sadducean Temple leaders. The CEB and ISV have "Jewish leaders," the TLV has "Judean leaders" and WE has "leaders of the Jews." The messenger is also Jewish so the young man is not making a pejorative statement about all Jews, as might be inferred from the translation of Christian versions. have agreed: Grk. suntithēmi, aor. mid., 3p-pl., to reach a meeting of minds about something; agree, decide.
of this: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. Bible versions do not translate the term, but it is in the Greek text for a purpose. to ask: Grk. erōtaō, aor. inf. See verse 18 above. you: Grk. su, second person pronoun. that: Grk. hopōs, conj. See verse 15 above. tomorrow: Grk. aurion, generally means the next day, tomorrow, but also may lack a nocturnal interval and mean soon, in a short time. you might bring down: Grk. katagō, aor. subj. See verse 15 above. The verb represents the difference in elevation between the Tower of Antonia and the Temple. Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 1 above.
into: Grk. eis, prep. the Council: Grk. ho sunedrion. See verse 1 above. Some versions have "Sanhedrin" (CJB, CSB, NIV, OJB, TLV), but this is hardly likely. The noun may refer to the meeting room of the council. The request will imply that the constituency mentioned in verse 6 above will be present. as though: Grk. hōs, adv. being about: Grk. mellō, pres. part. See verse 3 above. to inquire: Grk. punthanomai, pres. mid. inf. See the previous verse. something: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. more accurately: Grk. akribōs, adv. See verse 15 above. about: Grk. peri, prep. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun.
21 "So you should not be persuaded by them, for more than forty men of them lie in wait for him who have bound themselves under a curse neither to eat nor to drink until that they have killed him; and now they are ready, awaiting the promise from you."
So: Grk. oun, conj. See verse 15 above. you: Grk. su, second person pronoun. should not: Grk. mē, adv. See verse 8 above. be persuaded: Grk. peithō, aor. pass. subj., to bring about a convinced state in regard to something; convince, persuade, be persuaded. by them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Paul's nephew then repeats the information found in verses 12-13 above. for: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 5 above. more than: Grk. pleiōn, adj. See verse 13 above. forty: Grk. tessarakonta, adj. See verse 13 above. men: pl. of Grk. anēr. See verse 1 above. No women or children were involved. The zealots were grown men capable of violence.
of: Grk. ek, prep., lit. "from the midst of." See verse 10 above. them: pl. of Grk. autos. The words "of them" emphasize that the conspiracy involved a support network beyond the forty. lie in wait for: Grk. enedreuō, pres., 3p-pl., to engage in a conspiracy, here with the focus on waiting to conduct an ambush. him: Grk. autos; i.e., Paul. The young man then repeats the content of the oath taken by the conspirators. who: pl. of Grk. hostis, relative pronoun. See verse 14 above. have bound themselves: pl. of Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun of the third person.
under a curse: Grk. anathematizō, aor., 3p-pl. See verse 12 above. neither: Grk. mēte, conj. See verse 8 above. to eat: Grk. phagō, aor. inf. See verse 12 above. nor: Grk. mēte. to drink: Grk. pinō, aor. inf. See verse 12 above. until: Grk. heōs, prep. See verse 12 above. that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. they have killed: Grk. anaireō, aor. subj., 3p-pl. See verse 15 above. him: Grk. autos. The stated purpose to murder Paul mark these zealots as functional sociopaths.
and: Grk. kai, conj. now: Grk. nun, adv. See verse 15 above. they are: Grk. eimi, pres., 3p-pl. See verse 5 above. ready: pl. of Grk. hetoimos, adj. See verse 15 above. awaiting: Grk. prosdechomai, pl. pres. part., look forward to in a receptive frame of mind, to wait for. the promise: Grk. ho epangelia, a legal term that refers to an officially sanctioned promise (HELPS). from: Grk. apo, prep. used to mark separation or source, here the latter; from. you: Grk. su. The conspirators fully expect that the commander will comply with the request to bring Paul.
22 Therefore indeed the commander dismissed the young man, having instructed him to tell no one that "you have reported these things to me."
Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. See verse 15 above. indeed: Grk. mén, conj. See verse 8 above. Most versions don't translate the conjunction. the commander: Grk. ho chiliarchos. See verse 10 above. dismissed: Grk. apoluō, aor., may mean (1) to set free from a condition or obligation, to release or to free; or (2) to cause to depart from a place, to send off or dismiss. The second meaning applies here. the young man: Grk. ho neaniskos. See verse 18 above. having instructed him: Grk. parangellō, aor. part., to give authoritative direction; order, instruct, direct. to tell: Grk. eklaleō, aor. inf., to express something impulsively; blurt out, divulge, tell, utter.
no one: Grk. mēdeis, adj. See verse 14 above. that: Grk. hoti, conj. The conjunction is used to introduce a quotation. you have reported: Grk. emphanizō, aor. See verse 15 above. these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 3 above. The preposition emphasizes the face-to-face communication. me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. The instruction was for the young man's safety, not only from the conspirators, but generally it was not healthy to be considered a spy for the Romans.
Preparation for Paul's Safety, 23:23-30
23 And having summoned two certain centurions, he said, "Prepare two hundred soldiers and seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen so that they might go as far as Caesarea from the third hour of the night."
And: Grk. kai, conj. having summoned: Grk. proskaleō, aor. part. See verse 17 above. two: Grk. duo, adj., the number two. certain: pl. of Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 9 above. In this context the pronoun alludes to someone noteworthy. centurions: pl. of Grk. ho hekatontarchēs. See verse 18 above. The commander probably selected the two highest ranking centurions to carry out the following order. he said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 1 above.
Prepare: Grk. hetoimazō, aor. imp., 2p-pl., put in a state of readiness; make ready, prepare. In the context the instruction means to have dressed and armed. See the description of military equipment here. two hundred: Grk. diakosioi (from dis, "twice," and hekaton, "a hundred"), adj., a pl. cardinal number, two hundred. soldiers: pl. of Grk. stratiōtēs, soldier in the military sense. The Greek term is broad in scope and included ranks below Centurion. These 200 soldiers would be considered heavy infantry. The infantry soldier was equipped with the short sword, a shield (4.2 feet long by 2.1 feet wide), a bronze helmet, a breastplate and one greave, on the left leg (cf. Eph 6:14-17).
and: Grk. kai. seventy: Grk. hebdomēkonta, adj., the number seventy. horsemen: pl. of Grk. hippeus, a mounted soldier, cavalryman. Mounted cavalry rode in front of and on the sides of the infantry unit to provide protection. The cavalry soldier was equipped in the Greek fashion, with a cuirass (upper body armor) and round shield. They also wore a mail shirt identical to that of the legionaries, aside from a split in the middle that allowed them to sit on a horse. For more information see the article Roman Cavalry.
and: Grk. kai. two hundred: Grk. diakosioi. spearmen: pl. of Grk. dexiolabos (from dexios, "right," and lambanō, "to take"), a spearman or slinger. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. Apparently spearmen carried a spear (Lat. pilum) or javelin in the right hand. For information on the use of the spear see The Pilum. The spearmen would be considered light infantry. The lightly armed soldiers wore no armor at all, except a plain helmet, sometimes decorated with wolf skin or some other unique mark so that the centurions could recognize them from a distance.
The escort seems a large one for a single prisoner, but the commander perhaps considered the forty conspirators as possibly representing a much larger group of zealots and therefore a formidable threat. He may also have remembered his questioning of Paul as to whether he was the Egyptian that led 4,000 Sicarii (Acts 21:38). The commander had no intelligence of such a large group operating near Jerusalem, but it was still best to be prudent. Bruce notes that the 470 men of the unit did not excessively weaken the garrison in the Antonia fortress, since it was an auxiliary cohort and such a cohort regularly comprised a thousand men.
so that: Grk. hopōs, conj. See verse 15 above. they might go: Grk. poreuomai, aor. pass. subj., 3p-pl., may mean (1) to move from one area to another; go, journey, make one's way, transport, travel; or (2) in an ethical sense, to conduct oneself, live, walk. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX poreuomai renders mainly Heb. halak (SH-1980), to go, come, walk, first occurring in Genesis 3:14 (DNTT 3:946). The verb often has the literal sense of going, journeying or traveling (e.g., Gen 12:4).
as far as: Grk. heōs. See verse 12 above. Used as a preposition here the word marks a limit of distance and therefore the destination. Caesarea: Grk. Kaisareia, a prominent coastal city located 600 stadia northwest from Jerusalem (Josephus, Wars I, 3:5) or about 70 miles. See the map here. Originally called Strato's Tower, Herod changed the name of the city to Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus (Josephus, Ant. XIV, 4:4; XV, 8:5). After the death of Herod the city became the capital of the Roman province of Judaea and served as the official home of the procurators. The city was home to a thriving Jewish community, including a Messianic congregation (Acts 21:8, 16).
from: Grk. apo, prep. the third: Grk. tritos (from treis, "three"), adj., third. hour: Grk. hōra may mean (1) a short space of time, the twelfth part of a day; hour; (2) fig. for a period of time in the day; "the hour was already late;" or (3) fig. for a point of time as an occasion for action or for an event; time. The third usage applies here. of the night: Grk. ho nux. See verse 11 above. The Romans divided the period between sunset and sunrise into twelve hours, on the analogy of the twelve hours of daylight (Bruce). Assuming sunset was about 6:00 PM then the planned departure would be about 9:00 PM. The commander's plan for the contingent to leave with Paul during the night represented his sense of urgency.
24 also to provide horses so that having mounted Paul they might bring him safely to Felix the governor.
also: Grk. te, conj. See verse 5 above. The conjunction introduces an additional instruction of the commander. to provide: Grk. paristēmi, aor. inf. See verse 2 above. The verb in this context means to put at one's disposal or make available. horses: pl. of Grk. ktēnos, a domesticated animal, generally, a horse or mule. so that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed, in order that, so that, that. having mounted: Grk. epibibazō, pl. aor. part., to cause to mount, cause to be on, used of putting someone on an animal to ride; put on, seat. The verb is only used by Luke (also Luke 10:34; 19:35). Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 1 above.
they might bring him safely: Grk. diasōzō, aor. subj., lit. "save thoroughly," to bring someone through danger and into a safe condition (HELPS). to: Grk. pros, prep. Felix: Grk. Phēlix, third name of Marcus Antonius Felix. He was a freedman of Claudius and his mother Antonia, and the brother of Pallas, the powerful favorite of the emperor. He had a total of three wives, the first of which was Drusilla, the granddaughter of Cleopatra and Antony (Suetonius, Life of Claudius, 28). Nothing is known of the second wife. Afterward he married Drusilla, the daughter of Herod Agrippa (Acts 24:17). See the article on Felix at Livius.org.
the governor: Grk. hēgemōn, lit., "a leader," but in this context a 'legatus Caesaris,' an officer administering a province in the name and with the authority of the Roman emperor; the procurator of a province. At this time Felix was the procurator of the Roman province of Judaea (c. A.D. 52–59). According to Tacitus (The Annals, XII, 54), Felix had shared power with the previous procurator, Ventidius Cumanus (48–52), having control over Samaria while Cumanus governed Galilee. Felix quarreled with Cumanus over his handling of violent rioting between the Galileans and Samaritans. Caesar recalled Cumanus for his poor handling of the conflict and appointed Felix in his place.
Felix was noted for persecuting the Jews and flagrantly used bribes, unethical informers, and torture. He methodically hunted down the leaders of the Zealots to severely punish them, as well as any Jewish group he considered "seditious" (HELPS). According to Tacitus, "by his cruelty and injustice he stimulated the rage of the turbulent Jews against the Roman rule." When he had retired from the province and come to Rome, the Jews of Caesarea accused him before the emperor, but through the intercession of his brother Pallas he was acquitted by Nero. Historical references to Felix may be found in Josephus, Antiquities XX, 7:1-2; 8:5-9; Wars II, 12:8; 13:2-7.
DATING NOTE: While scholars are generally agreed on the year when Claudius appointed Felix as procurator, there is a difference of opinion on the year he was removed from office by Nero, with dates being given as "late 50's" (Gilbert 246), "56-58" (ISBE), "58-60" (Marshall 402), "58" (Livius), "59" (Bruce, Longenecker, Stern) and "60" (Ellicott, Lumby). Roman and Jewish historians do not identify the year of Nero's reign when Felix was removed, so the estimate is generally based on interpretation of Paul's timeline in Acts. Most modern scholars as Polhill (234) favor the year 59 as the end date. See the note on 24:27.
25 having written a letter having this form:
having written: Grk. graphō, aor. part. See verse 5 above. The participle indicates the writing taking place at the same time as the centurions were carrying out the commander's order to assemble the unit. a letter: Grk. epistolē, written correspondence; letter, dispatch, epistle. In the LXX epistolē renders three Hebrew words: Heb. sepher (SH-5612; 2Kgs 20:12), Heb. iggereth (SH-107; 2Chr 30:1) and Heb. kathab (SH-3789; Ezra 4:6) (DNTT 1:246). having: Grk. echō, pres. part. See verse 17 above.
this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. form: Grk. ho tupos may mean (1) a mark left by the downward force of a device; (2) an artisan's representation of an entity; or (3) that which serves as a design for something. The third meaning applies here. In modern English we might say "format." The commander used the commonly used form for writing letters with an introduction, body and conclusion. In addition, Lumby notes that the letter would have been written in Latin and Luke's reproduction of the letter may be simply a representation of its essential substance rather than a verbatim translation. However, Bruce suggests that the term tupos in this context (cf. 3Macc 3:30) does imply a verbatim copy.
Luke does not explain how he came to have knowledge of the letter and its contents, but he confirmed at the outset that his historical narrative was based on the word of eyewitnesses and careful investigation on his part (Luke 1:1-2). Moreover, as Nicoll says, Luke might have easily learned the letter's contents, as there is reason for supposing that the letter would have been read in open court before Felix, as containing the preliminary inquiry, and that a copy may have been given to Paul after his appeal.
26 "Claudius Lysias, to the most excellent governor Felix, greetings.
In the introduction to the letter the commander identifies himself as the writer and identifies to whom the letter is addressed. Claudius: Grk. Klaudios, a personal name. The commander apparently took the name "Claudius" to honor Caesar Claudius in consequence of purchasing his citizenship (Acts 22:28). Caesar Claudius controlled the admission of citizens and in his reign the sale of citizenship, an often ridiculed abuse, was sought to fill the imperial chest (Cassius Dio, Roman History, 60:17). Lysias: Grk. Lusias, a personal name, but this name was from his family.
to the most excellent: Grk. ho kratistos, strongest, noblest, most excellent. The term was an official epithet, used in Roman culture of addressing someone of high rank. The title "most excellent" may have indicated that Felix belonged to the equestrian order in Roman society, of which he was not a member, and which was given to the governors of subordinate provinces like Judaea, who were normally drawn from that order (Bruce). The equestrian order or order of "knights" ranked next after the senatorial order. This is the same title that Luke used to address Theophilus (Luke 1:3), although in his case Luke likely used the title as a simple courtesy.
governor: Grk. hēgemōn. See verse 24 above. Felix: Grk. Phēlix. See verse 24 above. greetings: Grk. chairō, pres. inf., may mean (1) to be in a state marked by good feeling about an event or circumstance; be happy, glad, delighted, rejoice; or (2) an expression of greeting that is normally tantamount to assuring the other of one's good will, a kind of introductory social ointment; greetings, hail. The second meaning is intended here.
27 "This man having been seized by the Jews and being about to be killed by them; having come up with the troop, I rescued him; having learned that he is a Roman citizen.
The commander's report is a condensation of Luke's narrative found in Chapters Twenty-One, Twenty-Two and this chapter.
This: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. man: Grk. ho anēr. See verse 1 above. having been seized: Grk. sullambanō, aor. part., to take possession of by capture, here in the legal sense of seizing or apprehending. by: Grk. hupo, prep. the Jews: pl. of Grk. ho Ioudaios. See verse 12 and 20 above. The CJB and OJB have "Judeans" and the TLV has "Judean leaders," but the Roman commander would probably only use Ioudaios according to the common usage among Gentiles as "Jew." The clause "seized by the Jews" repeats the content of 21:27.
and: Grk. kai, conj. being about: Grk. mellō, pres. part. See verse 3 above. to be killed: Grk. anaireō, pres. pass. inf. See verse 15 above. by: Grk. hupo. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The clause "was about to be killed by them" repeats the content of 21:31. having come up: Grk. ephistēmi, aor. part. See verse 11 above. with: Grk. sun, prep. the troop: Grk. ho strateuma. See verse 10 above. I rescued: Grk. exaireō, aor. mid., may mean (1) remove from a place, e.g., bodily organ, take out, extract; or (2) in an extended sense of removing from peril, deliver or rescue. The second meaning applies here. him: Grk. autos. The next clause repeats the content of 21:32-33.
having learned: Grk. manthanō, aor. part., acquire knowledge, learn, whether through formal instruction or example or experience, here the latter. that: Grk. hoti, conj. he is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 5 above. a Roman citizen: Grk. Rhōmaios, adj., a Roman or Roman citizen, here the latter. The last clause of this verse repeats the content of 22:25-28. Bruce suggests that the commander purports learning of Paul's citizenship before the rescue and therefore the reason for it. However, Luke with his typical fondness for "threes," uses three aorist participles as distinct chronological events.
In the context of the commander's narrative the three participles reflects military brevity. Thus, the report of learning about Paul's citizenship is the third event in the chronology reported by Lysias, not the reason for the second event. Of course, the commander did discretely omit that learning of Paul's citizenship was a result of his premature and questionable decision to have Paul whipped.
28 "Also wanting to find out the charge on account of which they were accusing him, I brought him to their council;
The commander's statement recorded in this verse repeats the content of 22:30. Also: Grk. te, conj. See verse 5 above. wanting: Grk. boulomai, pres. mid. part., may mean (1) have in one's mind; wish, want, desire; or (2) reach a decision upon deliberation; intend, decide, plan, will. The first meaning applies here. to find out: Grk. epiginōskō, aor. inf., 'to know about,' here with the focus on acquisition of knowledge, find out. the charge: Grk. ho aitia, the basis for something; reason, cause. The commander believed, wrongly as it turned out, that there had been a formal charge against Paul.
on account of: Grk. dia, prep. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. they were accusing: Grk. egkaleō, impf., 3p-pl., to call to account, to bring a charge or accusation against a person; and by extension as a legal term to prosecute, take proceedings against (LSJ). him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. I brought: Grk. katagō, aor. See verse 15 above. him: Grk. autos. to: Grk. eis, prep. their: pl. of Grk. autos. council: Grk. ho sunedrion. See verse 1 above. The commander omits mentioning that he ordered the chief priests and the rest of the council to convene in order to discover the nature of the charge against Paul.
29 whom I found being accused concerning questions of their law, but having an accusation not worthy of death or of chains.
The commander's statement recorded in this verse repeats the content of verses 1-10 above. whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. I found: Grk. heuriskō, aor. See verse 9 above. being accused: Grk. egkaleō, pres. pass. part. See the previous verse. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. questions: pl. of Grk. zētēma, matter of a dispute; controversial matter or subject. of their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. law: Grk. ho nomos. See verse 3 above. The commander refers to the law governing Jewish society, the same sense as used by Gallio in Acts 18:15. The commander's deduction was probably made on the basis of Paul's opening statement (verse 1), his declaration of the real issue in verse 6, the resulting dissension described in verse 7 and the pronouncement of the Pharisees in verse 9.
but: Grk. de, conj. having: Grk. echō, pres. part. See verse 17 above. an accusation: Grk. egklēma, indictment for improper conduct and here an exposure to a judicial process; accusation. The noun occurs only two times in the Besekh (also Acts 25:16). The noun alludes to what would be entered into a Roman court. not: Grk. mē, adv. worthy: Grk. axios, adj., having worth or value, in the sense of being weighed on a scale. The term "worthy" is use in terms of Roman law as applicable to a Roman citizen. The commander makes his evaluation based on what he heard in the council meeting. of death: Grk. thanatos, death in the natural physical sense or extinction of life, but used here of the punishment for a capital crime. While defiling the temple was a capital crime among Jews, Lysias states the exact fact that no charge of a capital offense under Roman law was presented in his hearing. This charge will be brought before Felix (24:6).
or: Grk. ē, conj. See verse 9 above. of chains: pl. of Grk. desmos, a medium or device used for restraining someone, bond or fetter. A bond could be of rope, leather or metal to bind the hands and/or feet, or even stocks. Many versions have "imprisonment," which can be a valid interpretation. Imprisonment was not one of the punishments prescribed in Jewish law, but it was practiced under Roman law.
30 "Then having been disclosed to me of a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, also having instructed the accusers to speak the things against him before you."
In terms of letter format verse 30 represents the conclusion. The commander's statement recorded in this verse repeats the content of verses 20-21 above.
Then: Grk. de, conj. having been disclosed: Grk. mēnuō, aor. pass. part., to provide information not generally known, inform, disclose. to me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. of a plot: Grk. epiboulē. See verse 3 above. against: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "toward," but used here in a bad sense. the man: Grk. ho anēr. See verse 1 above. The commander does not mention Paul's nephew as the source of the information about the plot. No further mention is made of the forty conspirators. Ellicott suggests the conspirators probably considered themselves absolved from their vow as soon as they heard of the prisoner's removal, and their fast probably did not last longer than eighteen or twenty hours.
I sent: Grk. pempō, aor., to send someone or dispatch a person with a special purpose, here the former. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 3 above. you: Grk. su, second person pronoun. at once: Grk. exautēs, adv., at once, immediately, without delay. The commander was not merely "passing the buck," but bringing the matter before the appropriate Roman tribunal due to Paul's Roman citizenship. The commander was not a magistrate. also: Grk. kai, conj. having instructed: Grk. parangellō, aor. part. See verse 22 above. The instructing could have been accomplished by messenger.
the accusers: pl. of Grk. ho katēgoros, one who accuses. The noun occurs one time in the LXX to translate Heb. rib (SH-7379), strife, dispute (Prov 18:17), but the Greek term also appears in 2Macc 4:5 and Josephus (Wars, IV, 5:4; Against Apion II, 12). The message may have been given to the High Priest. The original accusers were Jews from Asia (Acts 21:27), but it would be up to the council to appoint an official prosecutor. to speak: Grk. legō, pres. inf. See verse 1 above. the things: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as demonstrative pronoun. The plural form represents the commander's belief that there was more than one charge (cf. Acts 21:21, 28).
against: Grk. pros. The preposition does not normally mean "against," but in this position the term indicates a hostile direction and an active exchange done in opposition (HELPS). him: Grk. autos. before: Grk. epi, prep. used primarily as a marker of position or location, lit., "upon," but here the meaning is determined by the following pronoun; before, in the presence of. you: Grk. su. The commander expected Felix to conduct a formal hearing in which Paul's accusers could present their complaint and Paul would have the opportunity to defend himself.
The Textus Receptus ends the letter with the epistolary closing "Farewell" (Grk. errōso), which is found in some versions (DRA, JUB, KJV, NKJV, WEB). The insertion of the closing may have been influenced by its presence in Acts 15:29. Nevertheless, the closing is not found in this verse of the earliest and best MSS (Metzger).
Paul Taken to Caesarea, 23:31-35
31 Therefore indeed the soldiers, according to that having been ordered them, having taken Paul brought him through the night to Antipatris.
Luke continues his own narrative. Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. See verse 15 above. indeed: Grk. mén, conj. See verse 8 above. the soldiers: pl. of Grk. ho stratiōtēs. See verse 23 above. The 200 soldiers, commanded by centurions, probably formed the main body of the military unit as it progressed in a standard marching formation. See the design of the marching formation here. The commander did not go with the unit (Acts 24:22), which was the point of sending a letter. according to: Grk kata, prep. that: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun.
having been ordered: Grk. diatassō, perf. pass. part., to make appropriate arrangement for accomplishing an objective; give orders to, prescribe, arrange, take care of. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., the soldiers. having taken: Grk. analambanō, pl. aor. part., may mean (1) cause movement in an upward direction; (2) lift up in order to take along; or (3) take someone with. The third meaning is intended here. Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 1 above. Luke indicates that Paul was placed inside the main body of the military unit.
brought: Grk. agō, aor., 3p-pl. See verse 10 above. him through: Grk. dia, prep. the night: Grk. nux. See verse 11 above. to: Grk. eis, prep. Antipatris: Grk. Antipatris, a town, where was a Roman colony, on the road between Caesarea and Jerusalem. The town was located in a very fertile region, not far from the coast; formerly called Chabarzaba (Josephus, Ant. XIII, 15:1), and afterward rebuilt by Herod the Great and named Antipatris in honor of his father Antipater (Wars I, 21:9). Antipatris was about half the distance to Caesarea, 28 miles northwest of Jerusalem. See the map here. Paul and his military escort had departed the evening of Thursday, 2 June, and arrived in Antipatris on the next day.
Date: Friday, 3 June 57
32 Now the next day, having permitted the horsemen to depart with him, they returned to the barracks.
Now: Grk. de, conj. the next day: Grk. ho epaurion, adv., lit. 'on the morrow,' the next or following day. having permitted: Grk. eaō, pl. aor. part. The basic idea is the removal of a real or perceived impediment to a desired action; let something happen or take place; allow, permit, let. the horsemen: pl. of Grk. ho hippeus. See verse 23 above. to depart: Grk. aperchomai, pres. mid. inf., to be in movement from a position with or without mention of a destination; to go away, depart or leave. with: Grk. sun, prep. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Paul's escort was reduced to the 70 mounted cavalry.
The decision was probably made by the senior centurion in charge of the escort who concluded they were far enough removed from the threat of the conspirators. Since the distance from Antipatris to Caesarea was all coastal plain, the cavalry had the tactical advantage of quick escape in the event of an attack. they returned: Grk. hupostrephō, aor., 3p-pl., to go back to a position, to return or turn back. The plural subject refers to the 200 heavy infantry and 200 spearmen. to: Grk. eis, prep. the barracks: Grk. ho parembolē. See verse 10 above. The main unit of 400 soldiers returned to the Tower of Antonia. Lumby notes that the infantry returned to Jerusalem on the day of the intended plot.
33 who having entered into Caesarea and having delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him.
who: Grk. hostis, relative pronoun. See verse 14 above. having entered: Grk. eiserchomai, pl. aor. part. See verse 16 above. into: Grk. eis, prep. Caesarea: Grk. Kaisareia. See verse 23 above. The Roman cavalry probably followed the Roman highway Via Maris (see map here), entering Caesarea from the south. and: Grk. kai, conj. having delivered: Grk. anadidōmi, pl. aor. part., to deliver or hand over. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. the letter: Grk. ho epistolē. See verse 25 above. The letter is the one written by Lysias, the contents of which are in verses 26-30 above.
to the governor: Grk. ho hēgemōn; i.e., Felix. See verse 24 above. The centurions in charge of the cavalry would have located the governor at his official administration building. they also: Grk. kai. presented: Grk. paristēmi, aor., 3p-pl. See verse 2 above. Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 1 above. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. With the delivery of the letter and Paul the work of the cavalry centurions was concluded. Soldiers working for the governor would take charge of Paul now and the cavalry contingent could return to Jerusalem.
34 Then having read it, and having asked from what province he was, and having learned that he was from Cilicia,
Then: Grk. de, conj. having read it: Grk. anaginōskō, aor. part., to know again, here to recognize written characters, and so 'read.' and: Grk. kai, conj. having asked: Grk. eperōtaō, aor. part., may mean (1) put a question to, ask; or (2) make a request, ask for. The first meaning applies here. from: Grk. ek, prep. what: Grk. poios, interrogative pronoun, used (1) in reference to a class, sort or species, of what kind?; or (2) equivalent to the interrogative pronoun tís, which? what? The second usage is intended here. province: Grk. eparcheia, a region subject to a prefect; a province of the Roman empire, either a larger province, or an appendage to a larger province, as Israel was to that of Syria.
he was: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 5 above. This was a natural question to ask since the letter identified Paul as a Roman citizen and Felix needed to confirm that he had jurisdiction. and: Grk. kai. having learned: Grk. punthanomai, aor. part. See verse 19 above. that: Grk. hoti, conj. he was from: Grk. apo, prep. Cilicia: Grk. Kilikia, a province of Asia Minor, bounded on the north by Cappadocia, on the south by the Mediterranean, on the east by Syria, and on the west by Pamphylia. Cilicia was part of the Roman province of Syria. See the map here. Paul had previously reported being from Cilicia (Acts 21:39; 22:3).
Nicoll observes that a procurator of Judaea like Felix was only subordinate to the governor of Syria inasmuch as the latter could bring his supreme power to bear in cases of necessity. The military command and the independent jurisdiction of the procurator gave him practically sole power in all ordinary transactions, but the governor of Syria could take the superior command if he had reason to fear revolutionary or other serious difficulties. Felix could have relinquished jurisdiction to the governor of Syria, but since the accusation pertained to supposed offenses committed in Judaea, then Felix could retain jurisdiction.
35 he said, "I will hear you when also your accusers have arrived," having commanded him to be guarded in the Praetorium of Herod.
he said: Grk. phēmi, impf., lit. "he was saying." See verse 5 above. I will hear: Grk. diakouō, fut. mid., to hear one through, hear to the end, hear with care, hear fully; used of a judge trying a case (Thayer). The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. Felix affirmed that he would follow Roman rules of court procedure. you: Grk. su, second person pronoun. when: Grk. hotan, conj., a temporal marker indicating 'when' or 'whenever.' also: Grk. kai, conj. your: Grk. su. accusers: pl. of Grk. katēgoros. See verse 30 above. The accusers would be members of the ruling council in Jerusalem.
have arrived: Grk. paraginomai, aor. mid. subj. See verse 16 above. Felix assumes the arrival of the accusers since Lysias had ordered them to appear before the governor (verse 30 above). having commanded: Grk. keleuō, aor. part. See verse 3 above. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. to be guarded: Grk. phulassō, pres. pass. inf., may mean (1) serve as sentinel; guard, watch; (2) ensure that something remains intact; keep safe, preserve, watch; (3) 'be on guard against' or 'be on the alert against;' avoid (4) 'keep something from being violated;' keep, observe. The first meaning applies here.
in: Grk. en, prep. the Praetorium: Grk. ho praitōrion, the palace in which the governor or procurator of a province resided, to which use the Romans were accustomed to appropriate the palaces already existing, and formerly dwelt in by the kings or princes (Thayer). The Latin term praetorium originally signified a general's tent within a Roman encampment (McClintock). The important point to note here is that Paul was not kept in a prison cell, but a guest room in the palace.
The palace was built on a rock promontory jutting out into the sea, in the southern part of the Roman city. The excavations revealed a large architectural complex, measuring 110 x 60 meters, with a decorative pool, surrounded by porticoes. The palace was in use throughout the Roman period, as attested to by two columns with Greek and Latin dedicatory inscriptions naming governors of the province of Judea (Caesarea, JVL). For a more detailed description of the palace based on modern excavations at the site see the article in Biblical Archaeology Review.
of Herod: Grk. ho Hérōdēs, from hēros, 'hero,' known as Herod the Great. Herod was born about the year 73 BC. According to Josephus, Herod was the second son of Antipater, an Idumean, and Cypros, a Nabatean Arab (Ant. XIV, 1:3 and 7:3). Herod was appointed king "by the Romans," i.e., the Roman Senate with the nomination of Marc Antony in 40 B.C. (Josephus, Ant. XIV, 13:1; 14:5; XVII, 8:1). However, Herod did not gain actual power until after he defeated the last Hasmonean king with assistance from Marc Antony. King Herod then reigned from 38 BC to 1 BC. As a reigning monarch Herod became known for his building projects, especially in Caesarea (Ant. XV, 9:6; Wars I, 21:5).
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DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
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