Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 10 June 2021; Revised 30 July 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 A.D. 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 Introduction to Acts for background information on Luke and the book of 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-Six continues the narrative of the previous chapter in which Paul is standing in an auditorium before King Agrippa II, his sister Bernice, and the governor Festus, with military officers and prominent men from the city in the audience. Agrippa had expressed a desire to hear Paul (25:22) and Festus wanted the help of Agrippa in wording a letter to Caesar setting forth the charges against Paul. What follows in this chapter is Paul's third defense speech, this time directed primarily to Agrippa.
As in Chapter Twenty-Two Paul recounts his early years of his youth and devotion as a Pharisee and how he was an ardent persecutor of Yeshua's disciples. Then he shared his personal encounter with the resurrected and ascended Yeshua on the road to Damascus, experienced a spiritual transformation and received a commission to be his messenger to Israel and the nations. The mission, which Paul accepted, was to open blinded eyes, to turn those in darkness to the light and from the authority of Satan to God, so that they would receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those having been sanctified by Yeshua's faithfulness.
Paul summarized his ministry of declaring Yeshua to be the Messiah, first in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and Judea and finally into the Diaspora. Paul affirmed that wherever he went he had been fully obedient in carrying out the divine mission, calling his hearers to repent, to turn to God, and to do works that manifested repentance. Then in Jerusalem some Ephesian Jews that had previously slandered his teaching seized him at the temple and tried to kill him. Paul strongly insisted that he only proclaimed those things that the Prophets and Moses had said would come to pass: the Messiah would suffer and be resurrected from death; and this message would be light to Jews and Gentiles.
Festus then interrupted Paul, declaring that his learning was driving him mad! Paul defended his mental faculties and pointed out that Agrippa knew of these things. Paul further noted that none of these things had been "done in a corner." Paul asked Agrippa if he believed the prophets and expressed the opinion that Agrippa did believe the Scriptures. Agrippa then resisted the Spirit's conviction with the question, "By a few words are you entreating to make me Messianic?"
Paul then expressed his prayer that whether by a few words or by many words, not only Agrippa, but also all those present in the auditorium would become such as he was, an ardent follower of Yeshua. King Agrippa, Festus, and the others then deliberated about Paul. They agreed that Paul had done nothing deserving of death or chains. Agrippa pointed out that Paul might have been freed if he had not appealed to Caesar.
Opening Statement, 26:1-5
The Hope of the Promise, 26:6-8
Persecution of Disciples, 26:9-11
Encounter with Yeshua, 26:12-15
Yeshua's Commission, 26:16-18
Obedient Ministry, 26:19-23
Response of Festus, 26:24-26
The Jewish Question, 26:27-29
Hearing Postscript, 26:30-32
August A.D. 59
Rome: Caesar Nero (AD 54-68)
Procurator of Judaea: Porcius Festus (AD 59-61)
High Priest in Jerusalem: Ishmael b. Phiabi II (AD 58-61)
Opening Statement, 26:1-5
1 Now Agrippa said to Paul, "You are permitted to speak for yourself." Then Paul, having stretched out his hand, began his defense:
Luke's narrative continues from the previous chapter. Paul had been brought into an auditorium in which the governor Festus, King Agrippa and his sister Bernice, military tribunes and prominent men of the city were present. This was the most dignified and influential audience Paul had yet addressed, fulfilling the prediction given to Ananias (Acts 9:15). As a public venue Luke was also likely present. The speech of Paul and his interaction with the rulers has the indications of an eyewitness report.
Now: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement; (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter; or (3) a continuation of thought, sometimes with emphasis. The second meaning applies here. Agrippa: Grk. Agrippas, the name of two descendants of Herod the Great. This one is Marcus Julius Agrippa, as he was known on official coins using his name as a Roman citizen, otherwise known as Herod Agrippa II, son of the elder Agrippa (Acts 12:1), grandson of Aristobulus, and the great-grandson of Herod the Great. The arrival of Agrippa with his sister Bernice is recorded in the previous chapter (25:13). Festus had recounted to Agrippa the story of Paul and Agrippa had expressed a desire to hear Paul for himself.
said: Grk. phēmi (from phaō, "shine, bring to light"), impf., to convey one's thinking through verbal communication, say, declare. The use of phēmi instead of the standard legō is significant and the imperfect tense gives the action a certain vividness. Since this speech was given in a public gathering (25:23), the narrative probably reflects the personal witness of Luke. to: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing" (DM 110), to, towards, with. Here the preposition denotes being in company with others and speaking face to face.
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. Paul was born in Tarsus of Cilicia to traditional Jewish parents of the tribe of Benjamin and given the Hebrew name Sha'ul (Acts 9:11; 21:39; 22:3; Php 3:5). The name Paulus was probably taken from the patron who made Roman citizenship possible for Paul's father or grandfather (see Acts 22:28). 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."
You: Grk. su, second person pronoun. are permitted: Grk. epitrepō, pres. mid., grant opportunity for an activity; permit, allow. to speak: Grk. legō, pres. inf., 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. In the LXX legō translates Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, shew, command or think. for: Grk. huper, prep., lit. "over, above," used to express a stance of concern or interest relating to someone or something. With the genitive case of the pronoun following the preposition emphasizes a supportive aspect; for the advantage of, in behalf of, in the interest of.
yourself: Grk. seautou, reflexive pronoun of the second person, used of bringing action back on yourself. Then: Grk. de. Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. having stretched out: Grk. ekteinō, aor. part., cause an object to extend in space, most often used of hands. his hand: Grk. ho cheir, the anatomical limb of the hand. This gesture was not for the purpose of gaining the attention of an audience (cf. Acts 13:16; 21:40), but an acknowledgement and appreciation of the king granting permission to speak. began his defense: Grk. apologeomai, impf. mid., to speak in one's own defense. In the LXX apologeomai translates Heb. rib (SH-7378), to plead for justice (Jer 12:1) and Heb. galah (SH-1540), to make known a cause to (Jer 20:12).
2 "Concerning all of which I am accused by Jewish leaders, King Agrippa, I consider myself blessed, being about to make my defense before you today;
Concerning: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near or having to do with something; in behalf of, about, concerning. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. of which: 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. I am accused: Grk. egkaleō, pres. pass., 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).
by: Grk. hupo, prep., properly, "under," often meaning "under authority" of someone (HELPS), and used here to indicate the efficient cause. Jewish leaders: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios (derived from Ioudas, "Judah"). See the explanatory note on 2:5. Among Gentiles the ethnic term did not distinguish between members of the twelve tribes of Israel or parties of Judaism. However, among Jews in the first century Ioudaios was only used to distinguish devout Jews whose tenets and practices conformed to Pharisee beliefs and traditions (Matt 23:2-3; Mark 7:3; Acts 2:5; 10:28). The negative use of Ioudaiōn here denotes particular Jews, namely the chief priests and principal men in Judea (25:2) that presented charges against Paul to Festus.
Some versions make the distinction. The ISV and NLT have "the Jewish leaders," the MW has "the Jewish authorities," the TLV has "the Judean leaders," WE has "leaders of the Jews" and VOICE has "my Jewish opponents." Note that the noun lacks the definite article, but the translation of "the Jews" in Christian versions may perpetuate the false narrative of Christianity that Paul abandoned his Judaism and contrasts himself with Jews in order to identify as a "Christian." Paul will proceed to affirm his Jewish identity in the strongest terms.
King: Grk. basileus, voc., king or chief ruler. In the LXX basileus appears frequently to translate Heb. melek (SH-4428). In the Tanakh the title "king" was not associated with the size of territory governed, but the authority wielded. A monarchy controlled the executive, judicial and legislative functions of government. Paul uses the title "king" out of respect for the office. Agrippa: Grk. Agrippas, voc. See the previous verse. Paul addresses the king by his Jewish name rather than his Roman name. Soon after the death of his father (Acts 12:23) in AD 50 Agrippa II received from Caesar Claudius, at whose court he was reared (Ant. XIX, 9:2, XX, 1:1), the principality of Chalcis.
Four years afterwards (A.D. 53), from the same emperor, Agrippa II was given the territory of the former tetrarchy of Philip (Gaulanitis, Batanea and Trachonitis) and Abila, a city in the Decapolis, along with the title of king (Ant. XX, 7:1). Three years later he received a further considerable increase of territory from Caesar Nero, who added the regions of Tiberias and Taricheae, on the west side of the Sea of Galilee, together with Julias in Perea and fourteen neighboring villages (Ant. XX, 8:4). In token of gratitude to Nero, Agrippa changed the name of Caesarea Philippi, the capital of Gaulanitis, to Neronias. See the Additional Note below on King Agrippa.
I consider: Grk. hēgeomai, perf. mid., may mean either (1) to function in a leadership capacity, to lead; or (2) 'deem to be,' to think, consider or deduce. The second meaning applies here. myself: Grk. emautou, reflexive pronoun of the first person. blessed: Grk. makarios, adj., which Danker defines as enjoying special advantage, blessed, privileged, fortunate or happy. Most versions translate the adjective as "fortunate," but some have "happy." This is the same word Yeshua used in the Beatitudes (Matt 5:3-11). In the LXX makarios translates Heb. esher, (SH-835; BDB 81), which means happiness, blessedness or well-being, first in Deut 33:29 (DNTT 1:215).
Zodhiates takes issue with the common lexicon definition of "happiness." He defines makarios as possessing the favor of God, that state of being marked by fullness from God. HELPS concurs with this view defining makarios as "blessed." The Hebrew viewpoint is that a "blessing" is a purposeful endowment (cf. Gen 1:28), ordinarily transmitted from the greater to the lesser. Blessedness can never be self-imposed nor come by accident. The only source of blessing is from God. Paul considered himself as being in an enviable or fortunate position that was the direct result of having received God's favor.
being about: Grk. mellō, pres. part., a future oriented verb with a pending aspect, being in the offing, be about to. to make my defense: Grk. apologeomai, pres. mid. inf. See the previous verse. before: Grk. epi, prep., with the root meaning of "upon," used primarily as a marker of position or location; and in composition may be translated 'at, before, by, near, on, upon, or over.' you: Grk. su, second person pronoun. today: Grk. sēmeron, today, this day, now. Paul could feel blessed of God because of presenting his case to the Jewish king. Nicoll notes that Paul can feel confident before King Agrippa due to having a clear conscience and quotes Chrysostom on this point:
"And yet, had he been conscious of guilt, he should have feared at being tried in the presence of one who knew all the facts: but this is a mark of a clear conscience, not to shrink from a judge who has an accurate knowledge of the circumstances, but even to rejoice, and to call himself happy." (Homily LII)
Additional Note: The Later Years of Agrippa
Agrippa II did his best to prevent the revolt of Jewish citizens against Rome in AD 66 when Florus was procurator. He made a strong speech to the citizens of Jerusalem (Wars, II, 16:3-4), but he did not dissuade them from war. When his efforts failed, he remained loyal to Rome and was rewarded after the war with a further increase of territory and (in 75) with promotion to praetorian rank (Bruce). He corresponded with Josephus about the latter's historical tome Wars, confirming its accuracy (Life §65).
Agrippa II died c. 100, being the last reigning prince of the Herodian house. The date is based on the statement found by Photius I (810-893), patriarch of Constantinople, in a historical work of Justus of Tiberius (A Chronicle of the Kings of the Jews), a Jewish contemporary of Josephus, that Agrippa died in the third year of the reign of Trajan (Bibliotheca 33). The history of Justus is now lost with only a remaining fragment. Josephus published his Antiquities in the reign of Domitian (c. 94) and nowhere mentions the death of Agrippa II.
3 especially you being an expert in all of the customs according to traditional Jews and also controversies; therefore I implore you to hear me patiently.
especially: Grk. malista, adv., most of all, especially, very much the case, particularly so. you: Grk. su, second person pronoun. being: Grk. eimi, pres. part., 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). an expert: Grk. gnōstēs, one that knows, one who is knowledgeable or well-informed; an expert. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. in all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See the previous verse.
of the customs: pl. of Grk. ho ethos, a way of doing things marked by recurring procedure; custom or practice. The Greek term is not found in the Greek translation of the Tanakh but it is found in the Apocrypha (4Macc 18:5) and Josephus (Ant. XV, 8:1, 4) for ancestral customs handed down from Moses, which all the Jews were obliged to observe, or to die for them. The Greek term corresponds to the Hebrew term halakhah ("way to walk"), which for practical purposes means "Jewish religious law" (Stern 160). Customs or traditions included rules for circumcision, kosher diet, Sabbath observance, calendar festival observance, ritual washings, synagogue worship and many other aspects of Jewish life.
according to: Grk. kata, prep., with the root meaning of "down," is generally used to signify (1) direction, 'against, down;' (2) opposition, 'against;' or (3) conformity, 'according to.' The third usage is intended here. traditional Jews: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios. See the previous verse. The phrase "customs according to traditional Jews" stands in contradistinction to the practices of non-traditional Jews, such as Hellenistic Jews and Samaritans. 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' (DM 250f). The first use applies here.
also: Grk. te, conj. used to connect an idea closely to another in a manner that is tighter than with kai; also, both. controversies: pl. of Grk. zētēma, matter of a dispute; controversial matter or subject. Agrippa would be knowledgeable of the differences of viewpoint between the four major Jewish parties (Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees and Zealots), particularly the issue of resurrection that separated Pharisees and Sadducees. For a definitive explanation of the differences between these parties see Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XVIII, 1:2-6.
therefore: Grk. dio, conj., wherefore, on which account, therefore. I implore: Grk. deomai, pres., direct a request with focus on appeal for assistance, the nature of which is nuanced by the context; ask, beg, beseech, petition, pray, plead, request. you to hear: Grk. akouō, pres. inf., may mean (1) to hear, with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said; (2) hear with comprehension, understand; (3) receive information aurally, hear, hear about; or (4) a legal term of hearing a case. The first meaning dominates here.
me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. patiently: Grk. makrothumōs, adv., with forbearance, patiently; lit. 'showing passion that is under control' (HELPS). Paul implies that his speech may be lengthy and he would like to give it without being interrupted.
4 "So indeed, all the Jewish leaders have known my manner of life from my youth, from the beginning having taken place in my nation and also at Jerusalem;
Parallel Passages: Acts 22:3; Galatians 1:13-14; Philippians 3:5.
Verses 4-5 mirror the background information he provided in his speech to Jews in Jerusalem (22:3-5). So: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which is used here to indicate a conclusion connected with data immediately preceding, "so, therefore, consequently, then." indeed: Grk. mén, adv., a particle of affirmation; indeed, verily, truly. Many versions do not translate the particle. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 2 above. the Jewish leaders: pl. of Grk. ho Ioudaios. See verse 2 above. The reference to "all" is not hyperbole referring to all Jews, but rather all his accusers, none of whom were young men.
have known: Grk. oida, perf., to know. The verb denotes experiential knowledge, seeing that becomes knowing (HELPS). Thus, in usage the verb may denote (1) have information about; or (2) have discernment about. Paul intends the first usage here. my: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. manner of life: Grk. ho biōsis, manner of living and acting, way of life. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. Paul's mention of "my manner of life" is comparable to his statement in his letter to the Galatians of his zeal for Jewish traditions and his advancement in Judaism beyond his contemporaries (Gal 1:14). "My accusers know very well what I used to be like and how I lived."
from: Grk. ek, prep. may be used to denote derivation or separation, here the former; from, out of, out from among. my youth: Grk. neotēs, period of life when one is young; youth, youthfulness. The noun neotēs can include boyhood, but especially from the age of accountability (cf. Mark 10:20; Luke 18:21). In the LXX neotēs is used chiefly for Heb. naur (SH-5271), youth, early life, first in Genesis 8:21. from: Grk. apo, prep. used generally as a marker of separation, here denoting a point of origin; from.
the beginning: Grk. archē, with the basic meaning of beginning, i.e., the initial starting point (HELPS). In the LXX archē translates Heb. reshit (SH-7225), "beginning," first in Genesis 1:1; and also rosh (SH-7218), "head, ruler," first in Genesis 2:10 (DNTT 1:164f). The mention of "beginning" may refer to his bar mitzvah at age 13, or the beginning of his education under Gamaliel.
having taken place: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part., 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).
in: Grk. en, prep., with the root meaning of "within," generally used to mark position or place (among, at, by, in, on, within), but also may mark means (by, by means of) (DM 105). The preposition properly denotes "in the realm (sphere) of," as in the condition (state) in which something operates from the inside (HELPS). my: Grk. egō. nation: Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group. In the LXX ethnos generally translates Heb. goy (SH-1471), nation, people (DNTT 2:790). The term ethnos is first used in Genesis 10 to describe the list of seventy nations, then descendants of Abraham (Gen 12:2) and then specifically of Israel (Ex 19:6).
In the Besekh ethnos in the singular may refer generally to any people distinguished by language and culture (Acts 10:35), including Israel (Luke 23:2). In a colloquial sense "nation" probably means "the Jewish people," since Israel did not have an independent political identity. Considering the followed named location the mention of "nation" probably alludes to his home town of Tarsus, but it also rebuts the common Christian viewpoint that Paul was influenced by Hellenism. From his youth Paul lived among traditional Jews.
and also: Grk. te, conj. at: Grk. en, prep. Jerusalem: Grk. Hierosoluma, a rough transliteration of the Heb. Yerushalayim (SH-3389), which means "possession" or "foundation of peace" (BDB 436). Hierosoluma is one of two forms of "Jerusalem" in Greek, the other being Ierousalēm. The spelling of Hierosoluma was used for the city in the Roman province of Judaea as found in the secular works of Strabo and Dio Cassius and the Jewish writings of Philo and Josephus. This Greek spelling does not occur in the LXX at all (BAG). See the note on "Jerusalem" in 1:4. At some point after Paul's bar mitzvah his father sent him to Jerusalem for advanced education and there he enrolled in the academy of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).
5 knowing me for a long time, if they would be willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee.
Parallel Passages: Acts 23:6; Galatians 1:14.
knowing: Grk. proginōskō (from pro, "before," and ginōskō, "to know"), pres. part., may mean (1) know before about a matter of moment; or (2) have in mind as part of a long-standing plan. The first meaning applies here. The verb does not refer to knowledge gained from education, but personal experiential knowledge. me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. for a long time: Grk. anōthen, adv., may mean (1) from above; (2) from the beginning or the first; or (3) again. The second meaning is intended here in the sense of describing a long period of acquaintance. The adverb probably alludes to the mention of Paul's youth in the previous verse when he became a student of Gamaliel.
if: Grk. ean, conj. that serves as a conditional particle and produces an aspect of tentativeness by introducing a possible circumstance that determines the realization of some other circumstance. they would be willing: Grk. thelō, pres. subj., 3p-pl., to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. to testify: Grk. martureō, pres. inf., to attest or testify to a fact or truth; be a witness, bear witness, or testify. that: Grk. hoti, conj. used for (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect. The second usage applies here.
according to: Grk. kata, prep. See verse 3 above. the strictest: Grk. akribestatos, adj., most exact, precise, strict. The adjective, which occurs only here in the Besekh, is the superlative form of akribōs ("diligently, carefully"), meaning "the most accurate of all" (HELPS). party: Grk. hairesis, choice of association based on shared principles or beliefs, ordinarily of a subgroup with views or beliefs that deviate in certain respects from those of the larger membership; party, faction. The noun is used of the Sadducees in Acts 5:17, the Pharisees in Acts 15:5, and the Yeshua movement in this chapter and Acts 28:22. The majority of Bible versions have "sect," but since "sect" has a pejorative meaning in modern English some versions have "party" (CJB, EHV, ESV, GW, GNB, HCSB, ISV, LEB, NOG, NABRE, NET, NJB, RSV).
of our: Grk. hēmeteros, possessive pronoun, our, our own. religion: Grk. thrēskeia, the worship of God, especially as it expresses itself in religious service or ritual acts (BAG). In Greek culture the term meant reverence or worship of the gods. Thus, "our religion" means the religion of Jews as contrasted with the religion of pagans. Josephus identifies four major parties of the Jews: Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees and Zealots (Ant. XVIII, 1:1-6). Of these only the Essenes are not mentioned by name in the Besekh. The church father Justin Martyr identified seven parties or categories of Jews: Sadducees, Genistae, Meristae, Galileans, Hellenists, Pharisees, and Baptists (Dialogue with Trypho, Chap. LXXX).
I have lived: Grk. zaō, aor., may mean (1) be in the state of being physically alive; (2) pass one's life; or (3) be alive in a manner that transcends physical existence. The second meaning applies here. as a Pharisee: 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 Pharisee party was the oldest and most influential of all the Jewish parties. For more information on this group see my comment on Acts 23:6. In his defense speech before the Jewish council Paul declared that he continued living as a Pharisee (cf. 1Cor 9:20).
The Hope of the Promise, 26:6-8
6 And now I stand being judged for the hope of the promise having been made by God to our fathers;
Parallel Passages: Acts 13:23, 32; 23:6; 24:15; Ephesians 2:12; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 10:23.
And: Grk. kai, conj. now: Grk. nun, adv. of time in the present, 'now' or more emphatically 'right now.' I stand: Grk. histēmi, perf., may mean (1) cause to be in a place or position; or (2) be in an upright position, used of bodily posture. The perfect tense with action completed in the past and continuing results in the present points back to his arrest two years earlier. The verb certainly alludes to Paul's erect posture as he faced Festus and the royal couple who were seated, but the verb also has the figurative meaning of Paul "taking his stand."
being judged: 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). for: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 2 above. The preposition is used to introduce the reason or motive underlying the previous verbs, so that epi is equivalent to "on account of" (Thayer).
the hope: Grk. elpis (from elpō, "to anticipate, welcome"), may refer to (1) a state of looking forward to something that is desirable, or (2) the basis of firm expectation. In the LXX elpis translates primarily Heb. tiqvah (SH-8615), hope, ground of hope (Job 4:6; 5:16; 6:8), but also Heb. miqveh (SH-4723), a hope (Ezra 10:2). The second usage applies here. The noun as used in Scripture never carries the meaning of "hope so," a mere wish. Rather, "hope" represents a firm confidence and anticipation. In his defense speech before the Jerusalem council (Acts 23:6) Paul declared that he was being judged for the "hope of the dead," which 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).
of the promise: Grk. ho epangelia (from epi, "on," and angellō, "announce"), a pledge of special benefit, promise, especially from God. In Greek culture epangelia was a legal term that referred to an officially sanctioned promise or summons (HELPS). Epangelia has no direct Hebrew equivalent (DNTT 3:69). The LXX uses epangelia to translate Heb. parashah (SH-6575), "exact statement" (Esth 4:7) and it occurs without Hebrew equivalent in Psalm 56:8 and Amos 9:6. However, the concept of promise pervades the Tanakh, especially in the content of the covenants that God made with Abraham and his descendants (Rom 9:4; Gal 3:17; Eph 2:12; Heb 8:6; 9:15). See my article The Everlasting Covenants.
The act of God promising something is often conveyed by the verb dabar (SH-1696), "to speak," or the verb shaba (SH-7650), "to swear," used of something coming to pass or something that would come to pass because God "spoke it" or "promised it by an oath" (e.g., Genesis 21:1; 28:15; 50:24; Ex 12:25; Num 10:29; Deut 6:3). The noun epangelia occurs 52 times in the Besekh and only once in a secular sense (Acts 23:21). Noteworthy is that the term occurs 44 times in Paul's speeches and writings by which he refers to promises made by God to Abraham or Israel (e.g., Acts 13:23, 32; Gal 3:16, 21; Rom 4:13; 9:4; Heb 4:1; 6:13).
having been made: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part. See verse 4 above. by: Grk. hupo, prep., "by the authority of." See verse 2 above. God: Grk. ho theos, properly, God, the Creator and owner of all things (John 1:1-3). The definite article probably signifies "the one called." In the LXX the singular theos translates the plural Heb. Elohim (SH-430), when used of the true God, the God of creation (Gen 1:1). In Hebrew thought the plural form represents fullness (DNTT 2:67), which excludes the possible existence of any other deity (Isa 44:6; 45:5-6; 46:9).
Also, theos is not a philosophical construct for monotheism. God is a Person, and in the apostolic narratives He is particularly the God of the patriarchs and Israel (Matt 22:32; Luke 1:68). A promise from the God of Israel is a guaranteed assurance. to our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The pronoun emphasizes Paul's Jewish identity by virtue of genealogy in contrast to the Gentiles in the room.
fathers: pl. of Grk. ho patēr, normally of a male biological parent or ancestor. In the LXX patēr translates ab ("av") (SH-1), father, either as an individual, head of household or ancestor, first in Genesis 2:24. The plural phrase "our fathers" is first used in Scripture of the patriarchs and the sons of Jacob (Gen 46:34) and in the Besekh of the patriarchs (Luke 1:55; Acts 3:13) and the Israelites that God delivered from Egypt (Acts 7:12, 44; 13:17). In a broad sense "our fathers" might include all the faithful heroes named in Hebrews 11.
Paul had previously referred to promises made to the fathers in his sermon in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:32) and in his letter to the Roman congregation (Rom 15:8). However, the specific "hope of the promise" was the arrival and resurrection of the Messiah, which he declared in his Antioch sermon (Acts 13:23, 33) and in his defense to the Jerusalem council (Acts 23:6). This interpretation is confirmed by Paul's question in verse 8 below.
7 to which our twelve tribes in earnestness, serving God night and day to attain the hope; concerning which hope, O King, I am being accused by Jewish leaders.
Parallel Passages: Acts 24:15; James 1:1.
to: Grk. eis, prep., with the root meaning of "within, in," generally focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit, and in composition may be translated as "into, in, to, upon, towards, for, or among" (DM 103). which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 2 above. our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. Again, Paul uses the first person pronoun to emphasize shared Jewish identity. Paul's use of "our" reminds Agrippa that he did not share genetic heritage with Paul, but he was grafted-in to the Jewish nation.
twelve tribes: Grk. dōdekaphulon (from dōdeka, "twelve," and phulē, "tribe"), the twelve tribes of Israel. Ellicott says the noun is strictly a neuter adjective: our twelve-tribed nation. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. Paul's mention of the twelve tribes as existing in his time, as did Yeshua (Luke 22:30) and Jacob (Jas 1:1), rebuts the claim of many people that ten tribes of Israel disappeared after the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel and deportation by ancient Assyria. See my article The Twelve Tribes of Israel.
in: Grk. en, prep. earnestness: Grk. ekteneia, persistence and devotion beyond the ordinary, earnestness. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. serving God: Grk. latreuō, pres. part., to minister or serve God, often in the context of religious activity at the sanctuary. The verb can also mean being committed and devoted to God beyond religious activities. Nicoll interprets the verb as referring to earnest prayer for the coming of the Messiah. This earnestness would be represented by Jews, members of the twelve tribes, coming to Jerusalem from all over the world to keep the prescribed festivals (cf. Acts 2:5-11).
night: Grk. nux, night as a chronological period, sunset to sunrise. and: Grk. kai, conj. day: Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, or a time of life or activity (BAG). The first meaning applies here.
The phrase "night and day" is a Hebrew idiom based on the biblical definition of "day" in Genesis as beginning and ending with sundown (Gen 1:5). The idiom occurs nine times in the Besekh, seven of which are used by Paul (Acts 20:31; here; 1Th 2:9; 3:10; 2Th 3:8; 1Tim 5:5; 2Tim 1:3). Luke makes mention of Anna, of the tribe of Asher, who served night and day at the Temple with fastings and prayers (Luke 2:37).
to attain: Grk. katantaō, aor. inf., used of coming or arriving at a destination in the course of travel; or fig. of reaching or achieving a condition or circumstance, which is the intention here. the hope: Grk. elpis. See the previous verse. Nicoll comments that Paul affirms the twelve tribes, or more precisely their godly members, had an intense hope of a national reunion under the Messiah (cf. Acts 3:21). concerning: Grk. peri, prep. which: Grk. hos. hope: Grk. elpis. O King: Grk. basileus, voc. See verse 2 above.
I am being accused: Grk. egkaleō, pres. pass. part. See verse 2 above. by: Grk. hupo, prep. Jewish leaders: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios. See verse 2 above. Paul is incredulous that he should be persecuted for proclaiming the fulfillment of the ancient hope of all Israelites.
8 Why is it considered incredible by you if God resurrects the dead?
Parallel Passages: Acts 23:6; 24:15.
Why: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. is it considered: Grk. krinō, pres. pass., lit. "judged." See verse 6 above. incredible: Grk. apistos, adj., may mean (1) in the passive sense of things not worthy of credence, incredible, far-fetched; or (2) in the active sense of refusing to credence to; without trust, unbelieving, without fidelity. The first meaning is intended here. by: Grk. para, prep., has the root meaning of "beside" (DM 108). With the following pronoun in the dative case para indicates that something is or is done either in the vicinity of someone, or (metaphorically) in his mind; among, in the presence of, by, with (Thayer).
you: Grk. humeis, 2p-pl., personal pronoun. Many Bible versions translate the plural pronoun either as "any of you" or "you people," perhaps to denote the Gentiles in the auditorium. However, Paul had addressed King Agrippa in the previous verse, so the plural pronoun is probably directed at Agrippa and Bernice, whom he is facing, and perhaps including Festus. if: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker, used here to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 6 above.
resurrects: Grk. egeirō, pres., to rise or raise, is used with a variety of meanings: (1) to arouse from sleep, to awake; (2) to recall the dead to life; (3) to cause to rise or raise, from a seat or bed; or (4) to raise up, produce, cause to appear, such as appear before the public or a judge, erect a building, or incite opposition. The second meaning is intended here. Bible versions translate the verb as "raises," but since the English verb "raises" denotes an upward motion it may wrongly imply being raised from earthly graves. (See John 5:28-29.) Resurrection is a transformational action of giving the human spirit a new incorruptible body (cf. 1Cor 15:50-53).
the dead: pl. of Grk. nekros may be used as (1) a noun, corpse or (2) adj., without life in the physical sense, being dead. The term lacks the definite article but Paul uses the plural noun as referring to dead people. We must remember that when people die their spirits go either to Heaven or Hades (cf. Luke 16:22-23; 23:43; 2Cor 5:8; Rev 6:9; 7:9; 20:13). The question may seem abrupt and disconnected from Paul's previous statement, but by it he implies that the hope of the promise pertained to resurrection. Paul makes it clear that resurrection is a divine miracle and alludes to the fact that the Sadducean chief priests did not believe in resurrection (Acts 23:8).
From the earliest time Greek philosophers mocked the belief in the resurrection on the basis of the decay and dissolution of the body. Gentiles, influenced by Hellenism, were more likely to believe in reincarnation. And, in the Diaspora many Jews were influenced by Hellenism. See my article The Mystery of the Resurrection.
Bruce observes that Paul critiques accepting in principle the concept of resurrection, but refusing to believe in an authenticated instance of resurrection. Of course, witnesses could have been sought in Judea to testify to the resurrection of the widow's son in Nain (Luke 7:11-17) and Lazarus in Bethany (John 11:38-46). Then there was the report of dead people that came out of tombs coincidental with the resurrection of Yeshua and appeared to many (Matt 27:52-53).
Paul then recounts his "before and after" story (verse 9-20), perhaps the most miraculous story in history of a radical spiritual transformation from darkness to light.
Persecution of Disciples, 26:9-11
9 "Therefore I indeed thought to myself 'I ought to do many things hostile to the name of Yeshua the Nazarene.'
Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. See verse 4 above. I: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. indeed: Grk. mén, adv. See verse 4 above. thought: Grk. dokeō, aor., may mean (1) to entertain an idea or form an opinion about something on the basis of what appears to support a specific conclusion; think, opine, regard; or (2) with the focus on that which leads to entertainment of an opinion; seemed good, esteemed, reputed. The first meaning applies here. to myself: Grk. emautou, reflexive pronoun of the first person. Paul then restates a thought he entertained in his mind, which no doubt was a deception of Satan. This thought became his raison d'être for the persecution of Yeshua's disciples.
I ought: Grk. dei, pres. inf., conveys the idea of something that's necessary, something that must or needs to happen; must, necessary, ought. to do: Grk. prassō, aor. inf., to engage in activity with focus on productivity; do, perform, engage in, carry out. The verb is often associated with evil or harmful conduct (e.g., Luke 23:41; Rom 1:32; 2:1-3; 7:15; 13:4). many things: Grk. polus, adj., n. pl., extensive in scope, whether of quantity ("many") or quality ("much"), here the former. hostile: Grk. enantios, adj., may mean (1) in a facing position, in front of; or (2) in opposition; contrary, hostile, opposed. The second meaning applies here. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 1 above.
the name: Grk. ho onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone with a proper name. In Hebrew literature "name" also carries the extended sense of authority, qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. of Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH is salvation" (BDB 221). For more information on the meaning our Lord's name see my web article Who is Yeshua?
the Nazarene: Grk. ho Nazōraios, lit. "the Nazarene." The title is first introduced in Matthew 2:23 and appears seven times in Acts (2:22; 3:6; 4:10; 6:14; 22:8; 24:5; and here). See my comment there. Since the title and the name "Yeshua" are in the genitive case most Bible versions translate the noun as "of/from Nazareth," including the CJB and OJB (with Natzeret), even though the Greek text does not have Natzeret (SG-3478), the Greek name for Nazareth. Some versions translate the noun as "the Nazarene" (CEB, DLNT, EHV, HCSB, LEB, NET, NLT) and NABRE has "the Nazorean."
Of Messianic Jewish versions the TLV uses the Hebrew form of the title ha-Natzrati, the MJLT has "HaNatz'ratiy," and MW has "the Natzri." Delitzsch has ha-Natzri. The significance of Nazōraios may be found in its probable Hebrew root, netzer (SH-5342), branch, sprout or shoot, found in Isaiah 11:1 where it is used to refer to the branch of Jesse, the father of David. Thus, "the Nazarene" is the humble shoot of Jesse who would fulfill the covenantal promise made to David and sit on his throne (Luke 1:32-33; cf. 2Sam 7:12-14; Isa 9:6). The connection of Nazōraios with the Isaiah promise of the netzer is made explicit in the story of the healing of Bartimaeus:
"35 As He drew near Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging. 36 Hearing a crowd passing by, he inquired what this meant. 37 'Jesus the Nazarene is passing by,' they told him. 38 So he called out, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!'" (Luke 18:35-38 HCSB)
It is very possible that Paul in his recollection of why he began the persecution of "Nazarenes" only thought of Yeshua as a Galilean teacher from Nazareth that disobeyed Pharisee interpretation of Torah (cf. Luke 6:7; 13:14; John 5:16, 18; 9:16, 24; 2Cor 5:16). He did not believe that Yeshua had been resurrected as his disciples claimed and therefore he considered what he might do to harm the reputation of Yeshua. However, after his meeting with Yeshua on the Damascus Road he understood Yeshua to be "the Nazarene," the Davidic Messiah of whom the prophets spoke (Acts 22:8).
10 which also I did in Jerusalem; and many also of the holy ones I confined in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests; also they being put to death I cast a vote against them.
Parallel Passages: Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-2, 13; 22:4.
which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. also: Grk. kai, conj. I did: Grk. poieō, aor., 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. The second meaning applies here. in: Grk. en, prep. Jerusalem: Grk. Hierosoluma. See verse 4 above. The first clause alludes to the statement in the previous verse of initiating many hostile acts to attack the good name of Yeshua. The clause also identifies the city as the primary center of the first persecution of Yeshua's disciples (cf. Acts 8:1).
and: Grk. kai. many: Grk. polus, adj., m. pl. See the previous verse. also: Grk. te, conj. of the holy ones: Grk. ho hagios, adj., m. pl., dedicated to God. The adjective is used of both things (e.g., the temple), and persons consecrated to God (e.g., prophets), The "holy ones" are those separated from what is common, unclean or contrary to God’s holiness. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadosh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy (Ex 19:6). Many Christian versions translate the noun as "saints," but some versions have "God's/Lord's people" (CEB, CEV, CJB, EHV, EXB, GNB, ICB, MSG, NCV, NIV, NTE, WE).
This descriptor was commonly used in the Tanakh and other Jewish writings for the people of God (Deut 7:6; 1Sam 2:9; Ps 16:3; 34:9; 97:10; 135:4; Isa 41:8-9; Dan 7:18, 21-22, 25, 27; 8:24). The appellation originated when God called Israel to be a people consecrated to worship and obey Him. The term succeeds in having a corporate meaning as well as an individual meaning. "Holy ones" occurs frequently in the Besekh and refers to those who have accepted the truth of the Good News of the Messiah, repented of their sins, put their trust in the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua for their sins and separated themselves to be faithful to their Lord.
Paul addressed virtually all his letters to the holy ones, but he did not use the term in any elitist sense. The holy ones are those who are wholly His and who seek to live by His standards. Unlike modern Christians who refer to themselves as "sinners saved by grace" the apostles never mixed their metaphors and never referred to faithful believers as "sinners" (cf. 1Cor 6:11).
I: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. confined: Grk. katakleiō (from kata, "according to, against, down" and kleiō, "to shut, shut up"), aor., to confine, enclose, shut in, or shut up. in: Grk. en. prisons: Grk. phulakē, f. pl., may mean (1) a place for detaining a law-breaker; (2) a sentry station with a contingent of guards; or (3) a period of time for mounting guard, watch. The first meaning applies here. This clause is a repeat of his testimony in Acts 22:4 in which he said that he bound and delivered both men and women into prison. having received: Grk. lambanō, aor. part., to lay hold of by actively accepting what is offered; gain, obtain, receive (HELPS).
authority: Grk. exousia, the right to speak or act in a situation without looking or waiting for approval, especially ruling power; authority, right, jurisdiction. from: Grk. para, prep., lit. "in the presence of." See verse 8 above. the chief priests: Grk. ho archiereus, m. pl., 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). 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. According to Josephus (Ant. XX, 9:1) the chief priests were Sadducees and ex–officio members of the Sanhedrin (Jeremias 179, 197, 230).
In addition to the high priest, 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. Luke previously reported that Paul (Saul) had obtained written letters from the high priest to take his inquisition to Damascus. Paul's testimony is that his persecution had the sanction of the chief priests from its outset, although the plural noun might only refer to the high priest and deputy high priest.
also: Grk. te. they: 3p-pl. Grk. autos, personal pronoun used to distinguish a person or thing from or contrast it with another, or to give him (it) emphatic prominence. The pronoun may mean (1) self, (2) he, she, it, or (3) the same. The second meaning applies here. being put to death: Grk. anaireō, pl. pres. pass. part. Of interest is Dorotheus, bishop of Tyre (ca. 255 – 362), says that 2,000 believers died in the persecution that began with the martyrdom of Stephen. I cast: Grk. katapherō (from kata, "against" and pherō, "to bear, carry or bring forth"), aor., to bear down or bring down, may mean to (1) make incriminating charges (cf. Acts 25:7); or (2) lay down an opposition vote. The second meaning applies here.
a vote: Grk. psēphos, a pebble, small stone, hence, from their use in voting: a vote. against them. The verbal phrase with the mention of a pebble normally denotes the vote of a judge. Ellicott and Stern suggest Paul could have been a member of a sanhedrin. In Jerusalem there were two small sanhedrins of 23 members each and the Great Sanhedrin of 71 members. Membership on these groups seems unlikely considering his age and status. If Paul was born in AD 5 as some scholars have suggested, then he would have been about 26 at the stoning of Stephen. He would not have been eligible by age to serve on a sanhedrin.
Members of a sanhedrin had to be of "mature age" (Sanh. 17a). In the Sayings of the Fathers a man gained "full strength" at age 30, "understanding" at age 40 and "the ability to give counsel" at age 50 (Avot 5:21). Stern offers an alternative interpretation that Paul's statement indicates agreement with the death sentence rather than membership on the judicial panel. Other commentators concur with this view (Barnes, Gill, Poole, Vincent).
Paul claims he had authority from the chief priests to arrest disciples and likely a special small sanhedrin was formed to adjudicate the cases against disciples and Paul served as the prosecutor or chief prosecution witness. Since Paul brought the charges he would have concurred with the vote for the death penalty.
11 And in all the synagogues, often punishing them, I was compelling them to blaspheme; also being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them as far as even to remote cities.
And: Grk. kai, conj. in: Grk kata, prep. See verse 3 above. The preposition has a distributive meaning here. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 2 above. the synagogues: pl. of Grk. ho sunagōgē, a gathering-place or place of assembly. In the Besekh the term refers to the place at which Jews gathered for worship and learning. The term does not necessarily mean a manufactured structure as the word "church" can mean (cf. Acts 16:13). In the LXX sunagōgē is generally used to translate the Heb. words edah (SH-5712), congregation (Ex 12:3) and qahal (SH-6951), assembly, convocation, or congregation (Ex 16:3) (DNTT 1:292ff).
The synagogue was the central institution of Jewish life where education, study, worship, celebration, and various other kinds of meetings took place. The synagogue was the place where the Pharisees exercised the greatest influence.
often: Grk. pollakis, adv., frequently, often, many times. punishing: Grk. timōreō, pres. part., exact reciprocity for wrongdoing, punish or avenge. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The phrase repeats the narrative of Acts 22:5. I was compelling them: Grk. anankazō, impf., to compel or constrain, doing so with urgency as a pressing necessity (HELPS). The imperfect tense denotes a repeated attempt, but there is no indication of the degree of success. Some versions insert "tried to" in order to convey the lack of success (CJB, CSB, CEV, ESV, GNB, MW, NASB, NIV, NRSV, RSV, TLV).
to blaspheme: Grk. blasphēmeō, pres. inf., to cause damage to reputation by arrogant speech or action; slander, revile, malign, vilify, defame. The purpose of the action was to defame the reputation of Yeshua. also: Grk. te, conj. being furiously: Grk. perissōs, adv., extraordinary in number, size or quality; greatly, exceedingly, abundantly, vehemently. enraged: Grk. emmainomai, pres. mid. part., madly enraged with, locked in the frenzy of rage or fury. Paul confesses to acting in a completely irrational manner, like a maniac. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. at them: pl. of Grk. autos. Paul probably became enraged at the steadfast refusal of disciples to recant their testimony of belief in Yeshua.
I kept pursuing them: Grk. diōkō, impf., to put to flight, to pursue, to persecute. The verb represents a zealous interest in attaining something. The verb alludes to the fact that hundreds, if not thousands, of disciples fled Jerusalem as a result of the persecution. as far as: Grk. heōs, adv., a marker of limit, here of place. even: Grk. kai. to: Grk. eis, prep. remote: Grk. exō, adv., outside, outer, without, external, foreign. The term is used here as an adjective to denote outside of Jerusalem where the persecution began. Many versions translate the adverb as "foreign," which would mean outside the land of Israel.
cities: pl. of Grk. polis, a population center whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly, a city or town. Disciples were scattered into Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1), into Damascus of southern Syria (9:1-2) and even into Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch in northern Syria (11:19). Paul thus indicates that his intention was to press ahead with his inquisition wherever he could. The narratives of Luke (Acts 9:2) and Paul (22:5) previously mention only Damascus as a foreign city to which Paul traveled to arrest disciples of Yeshua and return them to Jerusalem for trial.
Encounter with Yeshua, 26:12-15
12 "In which journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests,
Parallel Passages: Acts 9:1-2; 22:5.
In: Grk. en, prep. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. journeying: Grk. poreuomai (from poros, "passageway"), pres. mid. part., 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 verb emphasizes the personal meaning which is attached to reaching the particular destination (HELPS). In the LXX poreuomai translates 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). In contrast to the LXX usage poreuomai in the Besekh seldom mentions the physical act of walking.
to: Grk. eis, prep. Damascus: Grk. Damaskos, a transliteration of Heb. Dammaseq, a major city in the Roman province of Syria, located in a fertile plain north of Mt. Hermon, about 140 miles northeast of Jerusalem and about 60 miles east of Sidon, the Mediterranean port city. The city is first mentioned in Genesis 14:15. Its geographical location enabled Damascus to become a dominant trading and transportation center. Its major exports included a patterned cloth called "damask" (Ezek 27:18). Three major caravan routes passed through Damascus. The city owed its prosperity to two rivers, the Abana and the Pharpar (2Kgs 5:12).
In 110 BC Damascus gained a semi-independent status from the Seleucid Empire by being included in the Decapolis, a group of ten autonomous city-states. In 85 BC Damascus became part of the Nabataean Kingdom, an Arabian political state that incorporated lands east of the Decapolis and Perea and south of Idumea and stretched as far south as the Red Sea. In 64 BC Damascus was annexed by the Romans under Pompey. So, at the time of this journey Damascus was under direct Roman rule. The next year, AD 33, the Romans ceded oversight of the city to King Aretas IV who ruled the Nabataean Kingdom from Petra. Later, in the time of Nero, it again became a Roman city. All the 15 references to the city in the Besekh relate to Paul's trip and ministry there. See the map and history of Damascus here.
with: Grk. meta, prep. with a root meaning of "in the midst of" (DM 107), may be used (1) as a marker of association; with, among; or (2) as a sequential marker; after, behind. The first usage is intended here. the authority: Grk. exousia. See verse 10 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. commission: Grk. epitropē, power to decide, authority, commission. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. of the chief priests: pl. of Grk. ho archiereus. See verse 10 above. The plural noun may only refer directly to the high priest and deputy high priest, who supervised the temple security force, but also imply general approval by the other chief priests.
13 in the middle of the day on the highway I saw, O King, from heaven above, a light, the brightness of the sun, having shone around me; and those journeying with me.
Parallel Passages: Acts 9:3; 22:6
in the middle: Grk. mesos, adj., at a point near the center, midst, middle, in the midst of, among. of the day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 7 above. The temporal reference "mid day" would be the noon hour. on: Grk. kata, prep., lit. "according to." See verse 3 above. the highway: Grk. ho hodos (for Heb. derek, SH-1870), with the focus on the concept of going the word typically has the sense of a route for traveling, hence a way, a road or a highway. Two major highways could be taken to go to Damascus.
First, the Via Maris ran from Mesopotamia in the east through Damascus and the Jezreel Valley to the Plain of Sharon and along the Mediterranean coast, then south to Egypt. Second, the King's Highway ran from Damascus south through Ashtaroth, the Decapolis, and Nabatea to Elath on the Red Sea and to Arabia. See the road map here. Paul (Saul) probably took the King's Highway, an appropriate setting for him to meet the King of the Jews (Matt 2:2; John 19:19), the King of Israel (John 1:49) and King of Kings (1Tim 6:15).
I saw: Grk. horaō, aor., to perceive physically with the eye, as well as to see with the mind (inward spiritual perception). O King: Grk. basileus, voc. See verse 2 above. from heaven: Grk. ouranothen (from ouranos, "heaven"), adv., from heaven. The translation of "from the sky" found in a few versions (GW, GNB, MSG, NOG, NABRE, WEB, WE) is inaccurate since the atmosphere does not produce any light. above: Grk. huper, prep., above, beyond or over; used here in a spatial sense. In Scripture heaven is always "up" as a direction from the surface of the earth. a light: Grk. phōs, that which serves as a revealing or disclosing medium; light.
The noun phōs, originating from "heaven above," likely has a double meaning since Yeshua is "the light of the world" (John 8:12; 9:5; 11:9; 12:35-36). the brightness: Grk. ho lamprotēs, splendor, brightness, brilliancy. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. The noun would correspond to the modern term "lumens," which refers to the intensity of visible light produced from a source.
of the sun: Grk. ho hēlios (for Heb. shemesh), the sun, the star that is the central body of the solar system, created on the fourth day to "govern the day" (Gen 1:16-19). The core temperature of the sun produced by nuclear fusion has been estimated above 27 million degrees F and the temperature at its surface about 10,000 degrees F. In both the solar system and on the earth "there is nothing hidden from its heat" (Ps 19:6). Its distance from the earth of about 93 million miles assures the right balance of heat, light and photosynthesis to sustain all of earth's physical and biological processes. The sun moves in an orbit through the Milky Way Galaxy (Ps 19:5-6), at a speed that scientists estimate to be 600,000 mph (BBMS 165).
having shone around: Grk. perilampō, aor. part., to shine around. me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. and: Grk. kai, conj. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. journeying: Grk. poreuomai, pres. mid. part. See the previous verse. with: Grk. sún, prep. used to denote association or connection, in this case the former. me: Grk. egō. Luke's narrative and Paul's previous narrative mention the light as only flashing around Paul.
Scientists estimate that for each square meter on the earth the sun puts out 127,000 lumens. Such intense light can cause damage to the eyes if one stares directly at the sun. Paul's description is specific. He did not say that the light came from the sun, although it could have. God could have increased the lumen output of the sun for that portion of ground where Paul and his companions had fallen (cf. Rev 16:8). Paul only said the intensity of the light was equivalent to the sun. It is no wonder that Paul was blinded by the experience (Acts 9:8; 22:11).
14 Also all of us having fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'
Parallel Passages: Acts 9:4; 22:7.
Also: Grk. te, conj. See verse 3 above. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 2 above. of us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The phrase "all of us" indicates Paul and his companions, which is not made explicit in the previous narratives. having fallen: Grk. katapiptō (from kata, "against, down," and piptō, to fall"), pl. aor. part., to fall down. to: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." the ground: Grk. ho gē can mean (1) soil, (2) the ground, (3) land as contrasted with the sea, or (4) the earth in contrast to heaven. The second meaning is intended here. The falling to the ground may have resulted from shock, but also the body's instinctive reaction for self-protection in order to cover the eyes, perhaps ending in the fetal position.
I heard: Grk. akouō, aor. See verse 3 above. a voice: Grk. phōnē can mean (1) an auditory impression, sound or tone defined in the context; or (2) voice, the sound of uttered words. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX phōnē generally translates Heb. qôl (sound, voice, BDB 876), the first usage of which is God's voice (Gen 3:8), and second the human voice (Gen 3:17), and these usages occur frequently in the Tanakh with various kinds of expression (DNTT 3:113). The previous narratives indicate that only Paul heard the voice from heaven (Acts 9:7; 22:9). Paul's companions only heard his side of the verbal exchange.
saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 1 above. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 1 above. me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. in the Hebrew: Grk. ho Hebrais (fem. of Hebraios, "Hebrew"), the Hebrew language (BAG). The noun occurs three times in the Besekh, all in Acts (21:40; 22:2). Hebrais also occurs in 4Macc 12:7; and 16:15 for the Hebrew language spoken by Israelites. Some versions inaccurately translate the noun as "Aramaic" (CEB, CEV, CSB, ERV, LEB, NET, NIRV, NIV, NLT, NTE, TPT, TLV, VOICE). The Greek word for Aramaic is Suristi (LXX 2Kgs 18:26; Ezra 4:7; Isa 36:11; Dan 2:4), not Hebrais. The majority of versions translate the noun correctly as "Hebrew."
language: Grk. dialektos, a pattern of verbal articulation or coherent language peculiar to any people; dialect, language. As far as can be determined from the Tanakh, the only language God ever used to speak to His people was Hebrew. Actually, archaeological evidence and the texts of early Jewish writings (especially the LXX) suggest that Greek was much more prevalent than Aramaic. The Talmud has a declaration that contradicts the assumption of Christian scholars, "Why use the Syrian language in the land of Israel? Either use the holy tongue or Greek!" (Sotah 49b).
A number of scholars have presented strong evidence that Yeshua and the apostles spoke conversational Hebrew (Bivin, Flusser, Hamp, Lindsey, Stern, and Tverberg). David Flusser (1917-2000), Orthodox Jewish scholar at Hebrew University, had said,
"It is possible that Jesus did, from time to time, make use of the Aramaic language. But during that period Hebrew was both the daily language and the language of study. The Gospel of Mark contains a few Aramaic words, and this is what has misled scholars….There is thus no ground for assuming that Jesus did not speak Hebrew; and when we are told (Acts 21:40) that Paul spoke Hebrew, we should take this piece of information at face value" (11).
Saul: Grk. Saoul, voc., which transliterates Heb. Sha'ul (SH-7586). The Greek has no letter with a "sh" sound. Paul recounts that the voice addressed him by his Hebrew name. This Greek spelling of the Hebrew name appears throughout the LXX, including the Apocrypha (1Macc 4:30), for four different men who bear the name Saul, most notably the king who preceded David.
Saul: Grk. Saoul, voc. The name Saoul occurs nine times in the Besekh, all in Acts, eight of which occur in direct address to the apostle. The double use of a person's name in direct address occurs five other times in Scripture, all spoken by God or Yeshua: "Abraham, Abraham" (Gen 22:11); "Jacob, Jacob" (Gen 46:2); "Moses, Moses" (Ex 3:4); "Martha, Martha" (Luke 10:41); and "Simon, Simon" (Luke 22:31). God called Samuel's name three times in one evening (1Sam 3:4-8). On each of these occasions the address was followed by a significant revelation.
why: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. See verse 8 above. are you persecuting: Grk. diōkō, pres. part., to engage in pursuit or chase, used here in a malicious sense of harass, maltreat or persecute. Me: Grk. egō. Since Paul had admitted to being enraged at disciples of Yeshua, the question would be the equivalent of calling for serious self-examination. Why are you so angry? Paul's actions specifically violated the commandments found in Leviticus 19:16-18. See my exposition on this passage.
Yeshua already knew the answer to his question. The question is typical of probing questions asked by ADONAI to Bible characters for self-examination: (1) "Where?" (Gen 3:9; 4:9; 16:8; 18:9); "Who?" (Gen 3:11); "What?" (Gen 3:13; 4:10; 21:17); "Why?" (Gen 4:6; 18:13; 32:29; Ex 14:15). Yeshua is so identified with his disciples that persecution of them represents an attack on their Lord.
It is hard: Grk. sklēros, adj., unyielding in nature; difficult, hard. for you: Grk. su, second person pronoun. to kick: Grk. laktizō, pres. inf., to kick with the foot or heel. against: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "toward." the goads: pl. of Grk. kentron (from kenteō, "to prick"), something with a sharp point and is used of (1) the sting of an animal (Rev 9:10) and fig. of death (1Cor 15:55-56); and (2) a goad, a rod, generally about eight feet long, with a pointed end that served the same purpose as a whip and was used to control oxen or other domesticated animals. The second meaning is intended here.
To "kick against the goads" was a proverb meaning to offer vain and perilous or ruinous resistance (Thayer). Scholars claim that the metaphor of kicking the goads is not found in Jewish writings but was common in Greek and Roman writings. However, the LXX has these sayings,
"As a whip to a horse and a spur [Grk. kentron] to a donkey, so a rod to a lawbreaking nation" (Prov 26:3 ABP).
"And I will be as a disturbance to Ephraim and as a spur [Grk. kentron] to the house of Judah" (Hos 5:12 ABP).
Vincent quotes another author, "Who knows whether at that moment the operation of plowing might not be going on within sight of the road along which the persecutor was traveling?" The structure of the proverbial question may imply Yeshua was likening himself to a goad. Yeshua had previously likened himself to inanimate objects (bread, gate, light, and vine; John 6:35; 8:12; 10:7; 15:1). If Yeshua is the goad, then Paul kicking against him would only hurt himself.
15 Then I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I AM Yeshua whom you are persecuting.
Parallel Passages: Acts 9:5; 22:8.
Then: Grk. de, conj. I: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 1 above. Who: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. See verse 8 above. are You: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. Lord: Grk. kurios, voc., 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 occurs over 9,000 times to translate Heb. words for God, and in the overwhelming majority of instances (over 6,000 times), it translates the sacred name YHVH. Kurios also occurs a number of times to identify men of higher rank to whom respect is owed (DNTT 2:511).
Paul (Saul) may have used kurios with the meaning of "sir." Even though he apparently knew Yeshua or knew of him before his crucifixion (2Cor 5:16), and saw in his vision the resurrected Messiah (verses 17 and 27 below; cf. Acts 22:14; 26:16; 1Cor 9:1; 15:8), there was no immediate recognition of his voice in this encounter. Even when Miriam of Magdala (John 20:15) and the disciples en route to Emmaus (Luke 24:16) saw and heard Yeshua speak after his resurrection they did not recognize him.
And: Grk. de. the Lord: Grk. ho kurios. Kurios is the principal title by which disciples and members of the public addressed Yeshua during his earthly ministry and intended in the sense of Heb. adôn, because Yeshua is the owner-master of his disciples. said: Grk. legō, aor. I: Grk. egō. AM: Grk. eimi, pres. The expression egō eimi occurs 47 times in the Besekh, 34 times on the lips of Yeshua, often as a way of identifying himself to his disciples and others. Yeshua's declaration was not just a friendly introduction such as "Hi, how are you, I am…" In the LXX egō eimi is used to translate the personal pronoun ani (SH-589), meaning "I," predominately spoken by the God of Israel in reference to Himself.
Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). The English rendering of "Jesus" originated with the Mace New Testament in 1729. For more information on the meaning our Lord's name, his identity, and the history of translation of the name see my web article Who is Yeshua?
Stern offers an important observation regarding the use of "Yeshua" instead of "Jesus" by Messianic Jews, which also has a bearing on the usage of "Yeshua" in this commentary:
"The movement by English-speaking Messianic Jews to call the Messiah by his Hebrew name, "Yeshua," which the Savior and his friends would have used during his lifetime, instead of the more common "Jesus," has actually been denounced by a few Gentile Christians as being "separatist," "rebuilding the middle wall of partition" (Eph 2:14) between Jews and Gentiles in the Messianic Community. But this verse gives more than adequate ground for the practice: if it was good enough for Yeshua to call himself "Yeshua," it is good enough for us too. It is perverse to regard adoption of Yeshua's own custom as separatist." (318)
whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 2 above. you: Grk. su, second person pronoun. The singular form is significant. are persecuting: Grk. diōkō, pres. See the previous verse. Yeshua means two things. First, he identifies himself intimately with his disciples because by the Spirit he is in them and by their love for him Yeshua feels their pain. Second, Yeshua laid the responsibility and the blame for the persecution of disciples solely on Paul (Saul), not the high priest, chief priests or the men who were assisting him. By his own testimony the persecution of Messianic Jews was Paul's own personal vendetta.
Yeshua's Commission, 26:16-18
16 But arise and stand on your feet. For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you a servant and a witness of that which both you have seen of me, also of the things in which I will appear to you;
Parallel Passages: Acts 9:6, 15; 22:10.
Paul apparently felt no need to include the role of Ananias in communicating the divine commission as was noted in the speech before the crowd in Jerusalem (22:12-15). Bruce comments that "the Lord's message through Ananias is merged with his words spoken directly to Paul on the Damascus road and with those spoken to him in the temple when he returned to Jerusalem (22:17-21)."
But: Grk. alla, conj., adversative particle used adverbially to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, on the other hand. arise: Grk. anistēmi, aor. imp., to rise, stand up or get up and in its ordinary use refers to the physical motion of transition from a sitting or prone position or simply standing; arise, rise, or stand. In the LXX anistēmi translates Heb. qum (SH-6965), to arise, stand up, or stand, first in Genesis 4:8. Paul repeats the original instruction given by Yeshua after having fallen to the ground as a result of being hit with the beam of light (Acts 9:6; 22:10; 26:13).
and: Grk. kai, conj. stand: Grk. histēmi, aor. imp. See verse 6 above. This verb is not used in the previous narratives of Paul's encounter with Yeshua. on: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 2 above. your: Grk. su, second person pronoun. feet: pl. of Grk. pous, the body part used for walking or running; foot. Paul omits Yeshua's command found in the previous accounts to enter the city of Damascus and await further instructions. This instruction recalls the commission given to Ezekiel, "Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you! … 3 Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel" (Ezek 2:1, 3 NASB).
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 four uses: (1) explanatory, (2) expressive of astonishment, (3) causal and, (4) inferential. The first use is intended here. I have appeared: Grk. horaō, aor. pass. See verse 13 above. to you: Grk. su. for: Grk. eis, prep, lit. "toward." this purpose: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this. Most versions insert "purpose" or "reason" to clarify the pronoun. Yeshua's commission for Paul was reported in three prior passages:
From Yeshua to Ananias: "Go, because this one is to me a vessel of choice to bear my name before nations, and both kings and sons of Israel; 16 for I will show to him how much it is necessary for him to suffer in behalf of My name." (Acts 9:15-16 BR)
From Yeshua to Paul: "For so the Lord has commanded us, 'I have placed you for a light of nations, that you should be for salvation to the end of the earth.'" (Acts 13:47 BR)
From Ananias to Paul: "14 Then he said, 'The God of our fathers appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. 15 because you will be a witness for Him to all people of what you have seen and heard." (Acts 22:14-15 BR)
From Yeshua to Paul: "21 And He said to me, 'Go! For I will send you far away to nations.'" (Acts 22:21 BR)
The following recounting of Yeshua's commission (through verse 18) greatly expands on the earlier narratives. to appoint: Grk. procheirizō, aor. mid. inf., select for oneself for a special role or task, appoint. This verb occurs in the account of receiving Yeshua's commission from Ananias (also Acts 22:14). you: Grk. su. a servant: Grk. hupēretēs, one who translates service with his hands or aids another in any work; assistant, attendant, helper, servant. In the LXX hupēretēs occurs only twice, first to translate Heb. ebed (SH-5650), slave or servant, in Proverbs 14:35 in reference to an officer of a king, and then in Isaiah 32:5 without Hebrew equivalent, also in regard to an officer of a king.
The term in this context emphasizes that Paul would be devoted to the service of the King of Israel. The term could represent a restatement of Yeshua's words to Ananias that Paul would be a "vessel of choice" (Acts 9:15). The translation of "minister" in some Christian versions is derived from the historic pastoral theology of Christianity.
and: Grk. kai. a witness: Grk. martus, one who attests the fact or truth of something, often used in a legal context of who testifies before a legal proceeding regarding first hand knowledge. The term martus, which appears in the mission statement given through Ananias (Acts 22:15), is particularly associated with the apostles due to their personal experience of Yeshua's resurrection (Acts 1:8, 22; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39; 13:31). Yeshua then explained the nature of the knowledge of which Paul will be a witness.
of that which: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 2 above. both: Grk. te, conj. See verse 3 above. you have seen: Grk. horaō, aor. The verb repeats what Paul received from Ananias (22:15). of me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. Paul omits the element of "what you heard" in 22:15. The first category of witness is Paul's encounter with Yeshua on the Damascus highway. also: Grk. te. of the things in which: pl. of Grk. hos. I will appear: Grk. horaō, fut. pass. to you: Grk. su. The second category of witness includes future personal revelations (cf. Acts 16:9; 23:11; 2Cor 12:1-4; Gal 1:12; 2:2; Eph 3:3).
Noteworthy is that Paul does not repeat the revelation that Yeshua had appointed him as an apostle as he does in his letters (Rom 1:1; 1Cor 1:1; 2Cor 1:1; Gal 1:1; Eph 1:1; Col 1:1; 1Tim 1:1; 2:7; 2Tim 1:1, 11; Titus 1:1). Luke had early identified Paul as an apostle (Acts 14:14). However, his appointment as apostle may be inferred from the next verse.
17 rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you,
Parallel Passages: Acts 9:15; 22:15.
rescuing: Grk. exaireō, pres. mid. part., 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. you: Grk. su, second person pronoun. from: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 4 above. The preposition is used here to denote separation from hostile intention. the Jewish 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 or more specifically Yeshua (Acts 15:14).
In Greek literature the term was used for natives of a country, soldiers in an army, men or people as subjects of a prince, sailors or seafaring folk, people assembled in a public place, and mankind in general (LSJ). In the LXX laos translates Heb. am, (SH-5971), folk, people, nation or inhabitants of a locality, first in Genesis 14:16. In the Apocrypha laos distinguishes "lay" people from priests and Levites (1Esdras 5:46).
In the apostolic narratives laos generally corresponds to the Heb. am-ha'arets, "people of the land," who are contrasted with the ruling classes and religious elite (Matt 2:4; 21:23; 26:3, 5; Luke 22:2; John 7:49; Acts 4:1). Many versions qualify laos with either "Jewish" or "your own" to signify Jewish identity of the term. The translation of "the Jews" in a few versions (CEV, NLV, WE), which is not in the Greek text, pits Paul against "the Jews" as a whole; and is therefore effectively antisemitic, even if not deliberately so (Stern). Noteworthy is that Yeshua did not say "chief priests" or "synagogue rulers" who certainly threatened Paul's life.
The promise, which is not included in the previous accounts of Paul's commission, implies the mission of taking the good news to the sons of Israel (Acts 9:15; 22:15). Being rescued refers to preservation from death, not deliverance from suffering as Yeshua told Ananias would be Paul's experience (Acts 9:16). In practical terms "people" may refer to mobs that were stirred up against Paul by Jewish leaders in various cities: in Iconium (Acts 14:2,5), in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5), in Berea (Acts 17:13), and in Jerusalem (Acts 21:27, 35-36; 22:22; 23:12).
and: Grk. kai, conj. from: Grk. ek, prep. the Gentiles: Grk. ho ethnōn, gen. pl. of ethnos, humans belonging to a people group. In the LXX ethnos generally translates Heb. goy (SH-1471; pl. goyim), "nation, people" (DNTT 2:790). The term ethnos is first used in Genesis 10 to describe the list of seventy nations, then of descendants of Abraham (Gen 12:2) and then even more specifically of Israel (Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1). In the Besekh ethnos may refer generally to any people distinguished by language and culture (Matt 24:7; Acts 10:35; Rev 5:9), including Israelites and non-Israelites.
The term presumptively means "Gentiles" here as distinct from the Jewish people. In similar fashion the Lord rescued Paul from Gentile mobs stirred up against him in various cities: in Iconium (Acts 14:2, 5), in Lystra (Acts 14:19), in Philippi (Acts 16:19-22), and in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-29).
to: Grk. eis, prep. whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. I: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. am sending: Grk. apostellō, pres., to cause to move from one position to another, but often to send as an authoritative personal representative. Originally in Greek culture apostellō was used of sending an envoy to represent a king or a personal representative with legal powers. In the LXX apostellō translated Heb. shalach ("to stretch out or to send"), often in contexts of commissioning and empowering a messenger (DNTT 1:128). you: Grk. su.
The original form of Paul's commission, given to Ananias, was to bear the name of the Messiah "before nations" (Acts 9:15; cf. 13:47; 22:15). Paul had a broad mandate to proclaim the good news to all people of every nation, even to the ends of the earth. In addition, Paul emphasized that his ordination came from the Son of God, not the other apostles (Gal 1:1). The promise of rescue may be contrasted with the later warning of Agabus that Paul would be delivered to the Gentiles (Acts 21:11).
18 to open their eyes, to turn from darkness to light and from the authority of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those having been sanctified by faithfulness that is in Me.'
Parallel Passages: Acts 9:15; 22:15.
Paul continued to expand on the content of Yeshua's commission not reported in previous accounts. to open: Grk. anoigō, aor. inf., to open, usually of a physical structure with hinges, but here with a spiritual meaning. their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. eyes: pl. of Grk. ophthalmos, the physical organ of sight; eyes, but used here figuratively of the heart and mind. The verbal phrase serves as a parallel to Paul's own restoration of sight. The opening of eyes would be accomplished by providing enlightenment through instruction of the good news. to turn: Grk. epistrephō, aor. inf., may mean (1) go back to a point, (2) turn about within a space, or (3) change a mode of thinking. The third meaning applies here.
from: Grk. apo, prep. See verse 4 above. darkness: Grk. ho skotos, absence of light or darkness, used here in a figurative sense. The darkness is a metaphor for spiritual blindness resulting from idolatry and paganism. The metaphor also refers to a sinful lifestyle (Rom 13:12-14). to: Grk. eis, prep. See verse 7 above. light: Grk. phōs. See verse 13 above. The light is the knowledge of Yeshua and a personal relationship with him (2Cor 4:6; Eph 1:18). The metaphor also refers to a lifestyle that results from knowing Yeshua, that of goodness, righteousness and truth (Eph 5:9).
and: Grk. kai, conj. from the authority: Grk. exousia. See verse 10 above. The great majority of versions translate the noun as "power," which may be misleading, since the term refers to ruling power. of Satan: Grk. ho Satanas, adversary, here of the chief enemy of God and all who belong to God. Satanas may be a name, but functions more as a descriptive title of his function as heavenly prosecutor. In the Besekh satanas is never used to describe a human. In both the Besekh and the LXX satanas transliterates the Heb. satan (SH-7854, "sah-tahn"), which means adversary, whether human or superhuman (BDB 966). The superhuman Satan is mentioned 14 times in the Tanakh (1Chr 21:1; Job 1:6-9, 12; 2:1-4, 6-7; Zech 3:1).
Satan is a created being and not equal to God in power or knowledge. The taunt against the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14:11-15 and the lament for the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28:11-19 depict the original perfection and downfall of the leading cherub. Exactly when this evil character was created or became evil is not disclosed in Scripture. The heavenly beings were most likely created on the second day (cf. Job 38:4-7). In the Tanakh the Adversary appears as a tempter (1Chr 21:1) and an accuser (Job 1:6; Zech 3:1). There is no question that the serpent in Genesis 3 who tempts the first couple is this person (Rev 12:9).
In the apostolic narratives Satan is depicted as a tempter (Mark 1:13; Acts 5:3) and the head of a supranatural organization opposed to God (cf. Mark 3:23-26; 8:33; Eph 6:12) and an opponent of the proclamation of the good news (Mark 4:15). Yeshua said that Satan was a murderer from the beginning and the father of lies (John 8:44). In contrast with the "God of peace" Satan's character and life goals are summed up in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy." The authority or dominion of Satan alludes to his rule over the world (John 12:31; 2Cor 4:4; Eph 6:12; 1Jn 5:19). The great mass of the people of this world are the subjects of the dominion of Satan, and held captive to his will.
to: Grk. epi, prep. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 6 above. The phrase "to God" implies "the authority of God," which alludes to the Kingdom of God and the reign of God's Son, Yeshua. The goal of the good news is that all people would renounce the dominion of Satan and submit to the God of Israel and Yeshua as the supreme authority in their lives. that: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun. they: pl. of Grk. autos. The plural pronoun refers to Jews and Gentiles living under the rule and dominion of Satan. may receive: Grk. lambanō, aor. inf. See verse 10 above. Spiritual blessings are gifts of God. They cannot be taken from God.
forgiveness: Grk. aphesis, a 'letting go,' a term frequently used of canceled penal liabilities or indebtedness. Thus by extension aphesis means forgiveness (of), release (from) or pardon. In the LXX aphesis occurs about 50 times, 22 of which occur in Leviticus 25 and 27 for Heb. yobel (SH-3104), designation of the 50th year on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). In the fiftieth year all lands were to be restored to the original owners, and men were to return to their families and clans. The latter provision included giving Hebrew slaves their freedom. Next aphesis occurs five times in Deuteronomy 15:1-9 for Heb. shemittah (SH-8059), a letting drop, a remitting, used in reference to the cancellation of loans in the year of jubilee.
The law established the principle that since God shows mercy to His people on Yom Kippur by releasing them from the judgment of sin, they were expected to show the same mercy on others at the same time. The requirements of the Jubilee year are a graphic illustration of the freedom that comes from forgiveness. Only once does aphesis appear without Hebrew equivalent and that referring to the release of the scapegoat into the wilderness to complete the atonement on Yom Kippur for the people (Lev 16:26). The scapegoat figuratively carried all the transgressions of the people away from them, an acted out parable of cleansing (Lev 16:30).
of sins: pl. of Grk. hamartia may refer to (1) a behavioral action, a misdeed that creates liability, every departure from the way of righteousness; (2) the result of sinning or the condition of being sinful; or (3) an invasive evil power. Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the Besekh. In the LXX hamartia translates a range of Hebrew words for guilt and sin, particularly Heb. chata (SH-2398), miss, go wrong, lapse, sin (Gen 20:6; 39:9) and avon (SH-5771), iniquity, guilt, punishment for iniquity (Gen 15:16). Throughout Scripture sin as a behavior is a violation of God's written commandments (Rom 3:20; 5:13; 7:7).
The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior, only whether the express requirements or prohibitions of Torah commandments have been violated. Indeed, the Torah recognizes that a transgression could be unintentional (Heb. shegagah, SH-7684), a sin of error or inadvertence (Lev 4:1-3, 27-28; 5:18; Num 15:22-29). Nevertheless, atonement was still required. In Scripture hamartia does not include the imperfections that separate humanity from divinity, "falling short of the glory" (Rom 3:23).
and: Grk. kai. an inheritance: Grk. klēros may mean (1) an object used in sortition (casting of lots) or the practice of deciding by use of a pebble, stick or other object; lot; or (2) specially assigned portion with focus on divinely conferred benefit; share, inheritance. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX klēros translates three Hebrew terms: (1) nachalah (SH-5159), possession, property, inheritance (Gen 48:6; Num 16:14; 18:20); (2) morashah (SH-4181), a possession (Ex 6:8); and (3) goral (SH-1486), a lot for casting (Lev 16:8; Num 26:55; 32:54). These terms are primarily used in reference to the inheritance of the Land by the twelve tribes.
Relevant to Paul's message is that in the future age non-Jews are to receive a share in the inheritance of Israel, as prophesied by Ezekiel:
21 "'And you shall divide this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. 22 And you shall divide it by lot as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners who dwell among and who bear sons among you; and they shall be to you as native-born among the sons of Israel; with you they shall have an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. 23 And it shall be that in whatever tribe the foreigner dwells there, there you shall give him his inheritance,' says Adonai YHVH." (Ezek 47:21-23 BR)
among: Grk. en, prep. those: pl. of Grk. ho, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having been sanctified: Grk. hagiazō (from hagios, "holy"), pl. perf. pass. part., to set apart into the realm of the sacred with focus on elimination of that which jeopardizes access to God. When used of persons it may mean to consecrate or purify. In the LXX the hagiazō translates Heb. qadash (SH-6942), to be set apart or consecrated. The Hebrew verb is used of (1) places, such as temple and houses; (2) calendar events, such as festivals and Shabbat; (3) persons, such as priests; and (4) objects, such as the sacred bread and vessels (BDB 872).
The essence of both the Hebrew and Greek words for "sanctify" when applied to people mean being dedicated, set apart or belonging to God (TWOT 2:786ff). The work of sanctifying persons (cleansing and empowering) is a ministry of the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:8-9; Rom 6:22; 15:16; 1Cor 6:11; 2Th 2:13; 1Pet 1:2). Only those sanctified or set apart for God will receive the future inheritance (cf. Matt 5:8; Heb. 12:14). Indeed, those who refuse to quit sinning have no claim on the future inheritance (1Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:21; Eph 5:5).
by faithfulness: Grk. pistis (from peithō, "to persuade, be persuaded"), incorporates two primary facets of meaning, first that which causes trust and faith, i.e., faithfulness or reliability, and second, trust or confidence in an active sense (BAG). The noun signifies a confident reliance on God, as opposed to mere mental assent. In the LXX pistis translates the Heb. emun word group (SH-529; 530; BDB 53), which essentially means 'faithfulness, fidelity or steadfastness,' and used mainly of men's faithfulness (1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15; 22:7; Jer 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:3; Hos 2:20), but also of God's faithfulness (Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4). The LXX usage emphasizes that the intended meaning of pistis is faithfulness.
that: Grk. ho. The definite article is used here as a demonstrative pronoun. is in: Grk. eis, prep., which has the root meaning of "within, in" (DM 103). Me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun; i.e., Yeshua. Commentators typically treat the clause pistei tēs eis eme as expressing believing on Yeshua, as dying for our offenses, and being raised for our justification. Thus, salvation comes only through Yeshua, and it is to be received by faith. However, the clause is positioned at the end of the verse making it independent of the two actions of receiving forgiveness and an inheritance.
In my view the clause denotes the faithfulness of Yeshua, not the faith of the believer. Yeshua was faithful in being the atoning sacrifice that provides the ground of God's forgiveness as well as being a promise-keeper who sent the Holy Spirit to cleanse his disciples and empower them for service. The individual's share in the future inheritance is guaranteed by the faithfulness of Yeshua who will return to establish his kingdom on earth.
Obedient Ministry, 26:19-23
19 "Consequently, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly appearance,
Consequently: Grk. hothen, adv., a marker of derivation, here denoting a result. King: Grk. basileus, voc. See verse 2 above. Agrippa: Grk. Agrippas, voc. See verse 1 above. I was: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., lit. "became." See verse 4 above. not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. disobedient: Grk. apeithēs, adj., not subject to persuasion or direction, thus disobedient, rebellious, or resistant. Paul affirms that from the moment of the Damascus Road encounter Yeshua was his only master and to this point in his life he had obeyed everything Yeshua demanded of him.
to the heavenly: Grk. ouranios, adj., relating to a transcendent realm, of God the Father. The adjective denotes the source of the light and voice of Yeshua. appearance: Grk. optasia, something that is seen above and beyond all normal experience, an appearing or apparition. The term occurs only four times in the Besekh. It is first used of the encounter of Zechariah with the angel Gabriel in the temple (Luke 1:22), then the encounter of two angels by women going to the tomb of Yeshua (Luke 24:23) and finally of Paul's experience of being caught up to the third heaven (2Cor 12:1).
In the LXX optasia occurs five times in Daniel, translating Heb. mareh (SH-4758), sight, appearance, vision, in the narrative of Daniel's encounter with Gabriel who appeared to him (Dan 9:23; 10:1, 7-8, 16). Daniel actually met the archangel. The noun also occurs in Malachi 3:2 to translate the infinitive of Heb. ra'ah, to see or appear, in reference to the prophesied coming of the Messiah to the temple, which Yeshua fulfilled twice (John 2:14-15; Matt 21:12). In other Jewish literature optasia is used of the sun's appearing at sunrise (Sirach 43:2). Thus, optasia is used in reference to substantive reality.
Paul does not use the regular word for vision (Grk. horama), which denotes a pictographic image without material substance seen with the eyes (cf. Acts 10:3, 10, 17, 19). The common translation of "vision" in almost all versions can be misleading. Indeed, unbelieving Jews have seized upon the translation of "vision" to claim that Paul did not have an experiential encounter with the resurrected Yeshua, but instead the "vision" was a mystical experience (cf. Acts 23:9) or all in his imagination (Klausner 428).
The encounter of Zechariah and the women with angels was certainly not a vision, but a personal face-to-face experience, as was Paul's rapture to heaven where he saw things he could not describe. Surrounded by the light from heaven Paul met and heard Yeshua.
20 but I began declaring first to those of Damascus, and also Jerusalem; also all the region of Judaea, and the nations, to repent and to turn to God, performing deeds worthy of repentance.
Parallel Passages: Acts 9:20-25, 30; 13─20; Galatians 1:15-18, 21-22.
but: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 16 above. I began declaring: Grk. apangellō, impf., may mean (1) to report back in response to a directive ; or (2) to relate as the result of personal experience, observation or other source of information; relate, report, declare, announce, or proclaim. The second meaning applies here with a focus on public proclamation, which almost always occurred in synagogues. The imperfect tense normally denotes continuous action in past time, but here is an example of the inceptive imperfect (DM 190), which signifies the beginning of the action. Paul then offers a summary of his missional itinerary.
first: Grk. prōton, adv. (from prōtos, "first"), firstly, often meaning the first time, at the beginning. to those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. of Damascus: Grk. Damaskos. See verse 12 above. The account of Paul's ministry in Damascus, which occurred in AD 32, is found in Acts 9:20-22. Once he regained his sight and was immersed Paul immediately began proclaiming Yeshua to the Jews in the city. He then spent two years proclaiming Yeshua in the Nabatean Kingdom (Gal 1:15-17). Afterward he returned to Damascus where he encountered persecution that forced him to leave the city (Acts 9:23-25).
and: Grk. kai, conj. also: Grk. te, conj. See verse 3 above. Jerusalem: Grk. Hierosoluma. See verse 4 above. Paul's ministry in Jerusalem after returning from Damascus is found in Acts 9:26-30 (cf. Gal 1:18). The phrase "all Jerusalem" denotes moving freely throughout the city and may imply visiting all the synagogues in the city. also: Grk. te, conj. all: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 2 above.
the region: Grk. ho chōra may refer to (1) a stretch of territory with a wide variety of use, including a province or country, the region environing a city or village, and the region with towns and villages which surrounds the metropolis; or (2) an area under cultivation, landed property or fields. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX chōra translates Heb. erets (SH-776), earth or land, in reference to lands or territory associated with a nation (Gen 10:20, 31; 11:27, 31). A few versions translate ho chōra as "coasts" (BRG, JUB, KJV, RGT), implying Caesarea. This is a bad translation since the word for "coast" is paralios (Luke 6:17).
of Judea: Grk. ho Ioudaia, a transliteration of the Latin provincial name of Iudaea. In the LXX Ioudaia translates Heb. Y'hudah ("praised," SH-3063), Judea or the Kingdom of Judah, first in Ruth 1:1. The territorial name of Ioudaia has two uses in Acts: (1) the historic territory of that lay between Samaria on the north and Idumea on the south. Judea was bounded on the west by the Mediterranean Sea and the east by the Jordan River (Acts 1:8). (See the map.) (2) the Roman province of Judaea formed in AD 6, comprised of Samaria, Judea and Idumea with its capital at Caesarea (Acts 2:9; 10:37). (See the map.)
The great majority of versions have "Judea," but some versions have "Judaea" (ASV, BRG, KJV, JUB, Moffatt, NEB, NJB, NTE, Weymouth). The complete clause in Greek referring to Jerusalem and the surrounding territory, minus the word "region," is a virtual duplicate of Acts 1:8, so Paul could have implied that he fulfilled the original commission given to the Twelve. The location reference presents a conundrum to some scholars, since Luke does not mention Paul proclaiming the good news in synagogues of the Land outside of Jerusalem. Various solutions have been offered.
(1) Interpreting Ioudaia as "Judaea" Ellicott notes that when Paul departed Jerusalem under a death threat brothers escorted him to Caesarea (Acts 9:30). It is possible that before sailing for Cilicia he proclaimed the good news there and met with the congregation Philip had planted.
(2) Lumby suggests that sometimes Cilicia was reckoned as part of the province of Judaea based on the comment of Felix (cf. Acts 23:34). Lumby cites no historical reference to support his contention and misconstrues the comment of Felix.
(3) Another approach by Bruce and Marshall is to treat the clause as a textual corruption (for which there is no evidence) and translate it as "every country of Jews and Gentiles." No Bible version follows this interpretation.
In my view the best solution is to interpret Ioudaia as "Judea." Paul could have visited synagogues in nearby towns, such as Bethlehem, Bethphage, Bethany, Emmaus and Jericho. This ministry could have been done while en route from Damascus or as an extension of his witnessing in Jerusalem. The fact that Luke does not mention this evangelism effort in Acts 9 is immaterial since there are other elements of Paul's personal narratives not found in Luke's narrative of Acts 9. Paul gave only a general survey of his evangelistic ministry, but the main point considering the content of his message is that he went to unbelieving Jews.
and: Grk. kai, conj. to the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See verse 17 above. Most versions have "Gentiles" but a few have "nations" (DARBY, LITV, NTE, TPT, YLT). After departing Jerusalem Paul returned home to Cilicia (Acts 9:30; Gal 1:21) where he ministered. The mention of proclaiming the good news to the nations probably takes in his three Diaspora journeys (Acts 13─20), which in most cities meant going to the synagogues. His audience included traditional Jews, Hellenistic Jews, proselytes, God-fearing Gentiles and even pagan Gentiles.
to repent: Grk. metanoeō (from meta, "with," and noeō, "to think"), aor. inf., to have a serious change of mind and heart about a previous point of view or course of behavior, generally translated as 'repent.' The verb depicts a reversal in one's thinking. In Greek culture metanoeō did not fully convey the intent of the biblical concept of a moral conviction. In the LXX metanoeō almost always translates Heb. nacham (SH-5162), to be sorry, change one's mind or repent, sometimes used of God (Jer 4:28; 18:8; Amos 7:3, 6; Jon 3:9, 10; 4:2; Zech 8:14) and other times of humans (Jer 8:6, 10; 31:19; Joel 2:13, 14).
In the LXX metanoeō is used one time to render Heb. shuv: "Remember this, and show yourselves men; bring again [Heb. shuv] to mind, you transgressors" (Isa 46:8 BR). Paul's use of metanoeō is obviously meant to express the force of shuv (DNTT 1:357). The use of metanoeō may reflect a desire to emphasize the beginning point of change with a decision of the will.
and: Grk. kai, conj. to turn: Grk. epistrephō, aor. inf., may mean (1) go back to a point, (2) turn about within a space, or (3) change a mode of thinking. The third meaning applies here. In the LXX epistrephō is used to translate Heb. shuv (SH-7725), bring back to mind, to return, turn back, turn around; first in Genesis 8:12. When used for repentance shuv means to turn away from evil in the sense of renouncing and disowning sin, and to turn toward the good or becoming obedient to God's will as expressed in the commandments (TWOT 2:909, e.g., 1Kgs 8:33, 35, 48; 2Chr 7:14; Isa 30:15; 59:20; Ezek 18:21; Hos 6:1; Jon 3:8).
to: Grk. epi, prep. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 6 above. The point of the call to repent and to turn to God is to quit sinning. Indeed there is no biblical allowance for continued sinning after conversion (cf. Rom 6:1). Certain individuals in Scripture were cautioned to "sin no more" (John 5:14; 8:11), as well as the congregation at Corinth (1Cor 15:34). The fact that a disciple may be instructed to cease sinning or to avoid sinning (cf. Eph 4:26; 1Tim 5:20) contradicts the assumption by some Christians that they must sin in thought, word and deed every day.
performing: Grk. prassō, pl. pres. part. See verse 9 above. deeds: pl. of Grk. ergon, generally means a deed, action or accomplishment, used here to mean works that fulfill Torah expectations (cf. Eph 2:10). worthy: pl. of Grk. axios, adj., having worth or value, in the sense of being weighed on a scale; befitting, corresponding to. In this context axios has the practical meaning of demonstrating the expected virtue. of repentance: Grk. ho metanoia, a serious change of mind and heart about a previous point of view or course of behavior. The noun is an important concept in Paul's letters (Rom 2:4; 2Cor 7:9; 2Tim 2:25; Heb 6:1, 6; 12:17).
In the LXX metanoia occurs only one time and without Hebrew equivalent in Proverbs 14:15, "The guileless believe every word, but the astute one comes to repentance" (ABP). Thayer points out that the noun occurs in Josephus to represent especially the change of mind of those who have begun to abhor their errors and misdeeds, and have determined to enter upon a better course of life, so that it embraces both a recognition of sin and sorrow for it and hearty amendment, the tokens and effects of which are good deeds (Ant. XIII, 11:3).
Metanoia also occurs in Sirach 44:16 where it says "Enoch pleased the Lord, and was taken up; he was an example of repentance to all generations." Paul echoes the message of Yochanan the Immerser to Pharisees and Sadducees who came to him for immersion: "Produce (Grk. poieō) fruit (Grk. karpos) worthy (Grk. axios) of repentance (Grk. ho metanoia)" (Matt 3:8; Luke 3:8). Thus, Paul substitutes prassō for poieō and ergon for karpos, and his instruction functions as a synonymous parallel. This message contrasts with the condemnation of works of legalism found in his letters (Rom 3:20, 28; Gal 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10).
Metanoia represents the beginning point of the underlying Hebrew concept of t’shuvah. As a word for repentance t’shuvah means to turn away from evil in the sense of renouncing sin, and to turn toward God in obedience to his will as expressed in the commandments (TWOT 2:909). True repentance requires honest self-evaluation, and any serious consideration of the divine virtues should lead the honest disciple to identify any number of faults for which confession is necessary. It is one thing to confess one's sins to God and express sorrow over sinning, but it is quite another thing to produce deeds or works that demonstrate repentance.
Yochanan the Immerser gave practical advice on deeds of repentance (Luke 3:8-14). For the general public these deeds included giving clothing and food to the needy. For tax collectors, he advised them to avoid imposing taxes greater than legally permitted. For soldiers he advised them not to engage in extortion, intimidation, or false accusations, and to be content with their wages. The counsel of Yochanan illustrates that the expected deeds are relative to the individuals. What do you need to stop doing and what do you need to start doing (cf. Eph 4:22-32)?
Repentance should be part of the disciple's lifestyle as implied in the Lord's Prayer. No one becomes so holy or so perfect that he can stop being open to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and repenting of behaviors that fail to please God. Stern shares this exhortation from the Talmud:
"Rabbi Eliezer (c.40-c. 120 AD) said, 'Repent one day before you die.' His disciples asked him, '[How can we do that?] Who knows on what day he will die?' He answered them, 'All the more reason to repent today, because you might be dead tomorrow!'" (Shabbat 153a)
21 On account of these things, Jews having seized me in the temple, they were attempting to kill me.
Parallel Passages: Acts 21:27-30; 23:27.
On account of: Grk. heneka, prep., expresses cause or reason for something; on account of, because of. these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. The plural pronoun refers to Paul's message of Yeshua and call to repentance in the multiple locations mentioned in the previous verse. Jews: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios. See verse 2 above. According to Acts 21:27 these were Jewish pilgrims from Asia, probably Ephesus. These Jews, perhaps synagogue rulers, publicly opposed Paul in Ephesus and spoke evil of the Messianic movement (Acts 19:9; 20:19).
having seized: Grk. sullambanō, aor. part., to take possession of by capture, here in the legal sense of seizing or apprehending. me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. in: Grk. en, prep. the temple: Grk. ho hieron, sanctuary or temple, here referring to the entire 35-acre complex with its courts, rooms, and chambers, in contrast to naios, the holy place where priests performed their sacrifices. For a description of the construction and characteristics of the temple see my comment on Mark 11:11.
they were attempting: Grk. peirazō, impf. mid., may mean (1) make an effort to do something; try, attempt; or (2) make a trial of, put to the test; tempt, test (BAG). The first meaning applies here. to kill me: Grk. diacheirizō, aor. mid. inf., to lay violent hands on; slay, kill. The verb occurs only twice in the Besekh (also Acts 5:30). The verb implies direct personal involvement. Paul recounts the bare facts of what happened to him in Jerusalem without commenting on the motivation of his opponents. Bruce suggests that the violent opposition of the Asian Jews was not because Paul announced fulfillment of what Moses and the prophets foretold, but the terms in which he proclaimed the good news.
The unbelieving Jews from Asia spread a false rumor that Paul urged Jews in the Diaspora to forsake Moses and circumcision (Acts 21:21). The good news according to Paul effectively obliterated the presumed meritorious nature of animal sacrifices at the Jerusalem temple and made God's grace freely available without the need for Pharisee legalism. Then, spotting Paul in the temple, the Asian Jews told another bald-faced lie in order stir up the worshippers against him (Acts 21:28).
22 Therefore, having obtained help from God, I have stood until this day testifying to both to small and great, saying nothing besides what both the Prophets and Moses said was about to happen;
Parallel Passage: Acts 24:14.
Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. See verse 4 above. having obtained: Grk. tugchanō, aor. part., lit. "hit the mark" (HELPS), may mean (1) be privileged to receive a benefit; attain, obtain, reach; or (2) meet up with something in ordinary experience; come upon, happen. The first meaning applies here. help: Grk. ho epikouria, provide aid or succor (against foes); help, aid, assistance. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. from: Grk. apo, prep. See verse 4 above. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 6 above. Paul may have alluded to his experience of Yeshua's encouraging visitation recorded in 23:11.
I have stood: Grk. histēmi, perf. See verse 6 above. The verb emphasizes standing firm in loyalty to Yeshua to fulfill his commission. until: Grk. achri, prep., 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. See verse 16 above. day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 7 above. The phrase "this day" could mean the specific day on the calendar or figuratively of this day of trial. testifying: Grk. martureō, pres. mid. part. See verse 5 above. to both: Grk. te, conj. See verse 3 above.
small: Grk. mikros, adj., relatively limited in extent, used (1) of persons as a measure of physical height, age and social position relative to importance, influence or power; (2) of things whether in size, number, significance or time; and (3) as a substantive to mean a short time, a little while (BAG). The first usage is intended here. In the LXX mikros (in its neuter form mikron) appears about 190 times to translate a variety of concepts of which Heb. qatan (SH-6996), small, young, unimportant (first in Gen 19:11) is frequent (DNTT 2:428).
and: Grk. kai, conj. 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 second meaning is intended here. In the LXX megas translates Heb. gadol (SH-1419), great, and has the same range of meaning as megas, first in Genesis 1:16. The phrase "small and great" is a Hebrew idiomatic expression that occurs eight times in the Tanakh to describe people (Gen 19:11; Deut 1:17; 1Sam 30:2; 2Kgs 23:2; 25:26; Jer 42:1, 8; 44:12).
Paul does not clarify whether the expression "small and great" refers to age or social status. Both BAG and Thayer say the expression denotes the "young and old." Josephus uses the same expression in describing masters of slaves (Ant. XII, 4:8). The idiomatic phrase also occurs at Acts 8:10; Heb 8:11; Rev 11:18; 13:16, 19:5, 18 and 20:12. However, most commentators treat the expression as referring to social status, especially since Paul spoke these words to the Roman and Jewish rulers.
saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 1 above. 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. besides: Grk. ektos, adv. suggesting disconnectedness; apart from, besides, beyond, except. what: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 2 above. both: Grk. te, conj. the Prophets: pl. of Grk. ho prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet.
In the LXX prophētēs translates Heb. nabi (SH-5030), spokesman, speaker, or prophet; first in Genesis 20:7 where it is used of Abraham. In Scripture the term refers to one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling or forth-telling. The Hebrew prophets were a diverse group, but they all spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21). Paul's use of the plural "Prophets" refers to the portion of the Tanakh known as the Neviim, which included the Early Prophets (Joshua–Kings) and the Latter Prophets (Isaiah–Malachi).
Contrary to the beliefs of the Sadducees (and many modern Christians) Paul affirmed the Pharisee belief (as well as the belief of Yeshua) that the literary works of the Neviim in the Tanakh are authoritative Scripture (Matt 5:17-19; 26:56; Luke 24:27, 44-45; Rom 1:2; 16:26; 2Tim 3:16-17). Paul could also have implied specific Hebrew prophets who provided key Messianic prophecies, such as Isaiah, Daniel, Micah and Zechariah. See my article The Messiah in the Prophets.
and: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 3 above. Moses: Grk. Mōusēs (for Heb. Mosheh), the great Hebrew leader, prophet and lawgiver of Israel. The name of Moses has a double meaning here, first of Moses as the covenantal father of the Jewish people (John 5:45; 9:28) and then as a circumlocution for the Pentateuch or five books that Moses penned (cf. Luke 16:29; 24:27; Acts 15:21; 26:22; 2Cor 3:15). Normally when the two major elements of the Tanakh are mentioned, Moses or the Torah, is mentioned first in sequence (e.g., Matt 5:17; Luke 16:16; 24:27, 44; Acts 13:15; Rom 3:21). See my article The Messiah in the Pentateuch.
said: Grk. laleō, aor., 3p-pl, to make an oral statement and to exercise the faculty of speech; proclaim, report, say, speak, talk about. The sentence structure places the verb in direct relation to "the Prophets," but it also includes Moses. The verb emphasizes that the prophecies were first oral given by God, but then is equivalent to "written in" (Acts John 6:45; 7:42; 24:14). was about: Grk. mellō, pl. pres. part. See verse 2 above. to happen: Grk. ginomai, pres. mid. inf. See verse 4 above. The phrase "was about to happen" refers to specific future events prophesied pertaining to the coming of the Messiah.
The present tense emphasizes that even though the prophecies were given in the course of four millennia the prophesied events took place within a short 30-year period. In addition, the prophecies were spoken by the eternal God for whom a thousand years is but a watch in the night (Ps 90:4), so once given the time for fulfillment from God's point of view was near. See my article Prophecies of the Messiah for a list of predictions made by Moses and the Prophets.
23 that the Messiah was destined to suffer, that first from resurrection of the dead he would proclaim light to both the people of Israel and the nations."
that: Grk. ei, conj. See verse 8 above. Here the conjunction imitates the certainty found the Heb. conditional conjunction im (SH-518), when it is used in first place in a verse to introduce an assertion (Gen 14:23; Num 14:30). Paul uses the conjunction here to introduce what the Prophets and Moses had predicted of a milestone event.
the Messiah: Grk. ho Christos (from chriō, "anoint with olive oil"), the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Messiah. The English "Christ" transliterates the Greek title, but does not translate it. In the LXX Christos translates Heb. Mashiach (SH-4899), "anointed, Anointed One." Mashiach is used in the Tanakh for the Messiah (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25-26) and this usage defined the term among Jews in the first century.
The primary identification of Messiah is the King of the Jews, the son of David. Biblical prophecies speak of his rule over Israel from David's throne in Jerusalem. Yeshua recounted these prophecies to his disciples after his resurrection (Luke 24:44-47). Jews eagerly anticipated the coming of the Messiah to deliver them from their enemies and establish His kingdom on the earth (Luke 1:69-75; Acts 1:6). Thus, "Messiah" has special meaning as the hope of Israel, whereas the word "Christ" has an alien and even negative meaning to Jews (Stern 1-2). For a discussion of the Jewish hope and expectation of the Messiah see my article The Messiah.
was destined to suffer: Grk. pathētos, adj., one who has suffered or is destined to suffer or subject to suffering. The adjective occurs only here in the Besekh. While most Jews expected a victorious Messiah, Mashiach ben David, the Sages did recognize that Scripture predicted Mashiach ben Yosef (Sukkah 52a), the one to be slain. The Talmudic passage views the Messianic title as a fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10, "And they will look to me whom they pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for his only son" (BR). While unstated calling the Messiah "son of Joseph" may be an homage to Joseph the son of Jacob who was sold into Egyptian bondage, suffered unjustly, but later gained deliverance for his family.
Luke does not indicate whether Paul quoted specific passages as he did in his sermon in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13) and his letters (Galatians and Romans). Besides Zechariah 12:10, the key passages in the Prophets predicting the suffering Messiah would be Isaiah 53, Daniel 9:24-26 and Zechariah 11:12-13. From the Torah he could have quoted the passage of being lifted up as a serpent in the wilderness (Num 21:8-9; John 3:14) and of being hung on a tree (Deut 21:21-23; Acts 13:29; Gal 3:13). See a complete list of prophecies of Messiah's sufferings here. And, of course, Yeshua predicted his sufferings at the hands of Judean leaders (Luke 9:22).
that: Grk. ei. Again Paul uses the conjunction to introduce what the Prophets and Moses had predicted of a milestone event regarding the Messiah. first: Grk. prōtos, adj., having to do with beforeness, whether (1) indicating primary position in sequence; first, earlier, earliest; or (2) standing out in significance or importance. The first meaning is intended here. from: Grk. ek, prep., lit. "out of." See verse 4 above. The preposition could allude to the tomb in which the body of Yeshua had been laid. resurrection: Grk. anastasis (from ana, 'up, again' and histēmi, 'to stand') may mean either (1) bringing to a higher status; 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. Many versions translate the noun as a verb ("to rise," "to be raised"), which may be misleading. Other people had been raised from death only to die again. Yeshua didn't just "rise." The noun anastasis is used in the Besekh not only of a restoration of life but more importantly a transformation that results in an immortal and incorruptible body (cf. 1Cor 15:54). See my article The Mystery of the Resurrection.
of the dead: Grk. nekros. See verse 8 above. Paul had previously asserted that he was on trial because of his belief in the resurrection (Acts 23:6; 24:21). The Pharisees believed that the Scriptures pointed to resurrection (Sanh. 90a-b, 91b), and even declared that belief in the resurrection was essential to having a part in the world to come (Sanh. 11:1). Although there were people previous to Yeshua who had died and been brought back to life (2Kgs 4:34-36; 13:20-21; Luke 7:14-15; John 11:43-44; Heb 11:35), the phrase "resurrection of the dead" refers to the general resurrection that will take place at the end of the present age. Paul asserts that Yeshua was the first to experience the future resurrection and thereby became the guarantor of its occurrence Moreover, Yeshua's resurrection was foretold in the Prophets and Moses. Yeshua also predicted his own resurrection (Luke 9:22; 18:33).
He is about: Grk. mellō, pres. See verse 4 above. The present tense is used to emphasize a historical event with vividness. to proclaim: Grk. katangellō, pres. inf., to proclaim, with connotation of broad dissemination; announce, declare, proclaim. The verb alludes to teaching in a public place. Paul will later rephrase this assertion about Yeshua in his letter to the congregation in Ephesus, "And having come he proclaimed the good news of peace to you, the ones far off, and peace to those near" (Eph 2:17 BR). In another sense Paul likely employed poetic license to imply himself as the voice of Yeshua (cf. Rom 15:18; 2Tim 4:17), since Yeshua gave him a broad mandate to proclaim the good news.
light: Grk. phōs. See verse 13 above. The noun is used figuratively of "the light of the good news of the glory of Messiah, who is the image of God" (2Cor 4:4 TLV). to both: Grk. te, conj. the Jewish people: Grk. ho laos. See verse 17 above. The noun intends the people that identify with the God of Israel. and: Grk. kai, conj. the Gentiles: pl. of Grk. ho ethnos. See verse 17 above. The plural noun refers to those who do not worship the God of Israel, but could also be taken in the sense of the nations of the Diaspora.
Paul's declaration imitates the prophecy of Simeon when Yeshua was presented as a baby in the temple, "a light for revelation of the nations and the glory of Your people Israel" (Luke 2:32; cf. Matt 4:16). The idea of the Messiah being a light to Israel and the nations is found in the servant songs of Isaiah (42:6; 49:6; 51:4; 60:1-3). It is only through Yeshua being resurrected that the prophecy of Isaiah and Simeon could be fulfilled.
Response of Festus, 26:24-26
24 Now as he was speaking in his defense these things, Festus said in a loud voice, "Paul, you are raving! Your great learning is turning into madness."
Now: Grk. de, conj. as he was speaking in his defense: Grk. apologeomai, pres. mid. part. See verse 1 above. these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. The plural pronoun alludes to Paul's words of testimony and proclamation of Yeshua. Festus: Grk. ho Phēstos, a surname. Festus, with the first name of Porcius (Acts 24:27), succeeded Felix as procurator and served for two years (AD 59-61). He is mentioned by Josephus (Ant. XX, 8:9; Wars II, 14:1). The name of Festus appears 13 times in Acts (first in 24:27). Festus was seated on the tribunal alongside King Agrippa (cf. Acts 25:6).
said: Grk. phēmi, pres. See verse 1 above. in a loud: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 22 above. The adjective is used here to describe volume. voice: Grk. phōnē. See verse 14 above. Ellicott comments, "The description may be noted as one of the touches of vividness indicating that the writer relates what he had actually heard. The Roman governor forgot the usual dignity of his office, and burst, apparently, into a loud laugh of scorn."
Paul: Grk. Paulos, voc. See verse 1 above. you are raving: Grk. mainomai, pres. mid., may mean (1) to rave, full of inner rage or fury; or (2) to act as though out of one's senses. Indeed, the description is of getting so angry it amounts to acting temporarily deranged (HELPS). The word is a verb describing behavior, but many versions translate it as an adjective with modern psychological labels of "crazy" or "insane." The reaction of Festus is to the claim that a crucified man had been resurrected.
Your: Grk. su, second person pronoun. great: pl. of Grk. polus, adj. See verse 9 above. learning: Grk. gramma may mean (1) that which is written, usually of a letter of the alphabet; (2) a set of characters or letters forming a document, whether of correspondence, or a long document such as Scripture; or (3) by extension knowledge of letters or documents, thus learning. The third meaning is intended here. Paul's knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures was impressive as evidenced by his assertion of what was set forth in the Prophets and Moses regarding the sufferings and resurrection of the Messiah. However, Festus implies that Paul's knowledge of Scripture indicated an obsession to justify fanciful theories.
is turning: Grk. peritrepō, pres., turn about, turn, change or transfer into a different state by turning. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. into: Grk. eis, prep. madness: Grk. mania (from mainomai), delirium, frenzy, madness. In Greek literature the term was used for enthusiasm, inspired frenzy and passion (LSJ). The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. In context Paul was apparently speaking with great passion in order to convince Agrippa of the merits of the case for Yeshua being the suffering and resurrected Messiah. In addition, for Festus to understand Paul, his speech must have been in Greek.
Ramsay interpreted the exclamation of Festus to mean, "Paul! Paul! you are a great philosopher, but you have no common sense" (179). However, Festus used the kind of terminology that would get people committed to psychiatric wards in modern times. Indeed one Messianic Jewish rabbi testified that his parents forced him to be examined by a psychiatrist when he shared his new faith in Yeshua.
25 But Paul said, "I am not raving, most excellent Festus, but I declare words of reasonableness and of truth.
But: Grk. de, conj. Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 1 above. said: Grk. phēmi, pres. See verse 1 above. I am not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 19 above. Paul categorically denied the charge of Festus. raving: Grk. mainomai, pres. mid. See the previous verse. most excellent: Grk. kratistos, adj., voc., in honorary recognition; strongest, noblest, most excellent. The term was an official epithet, used in Roman culture of addressing someone of high rank. LSJ says the word in Greek literature is used colloquially of the aristocracy. The title "most excellent" may have indicated membership in the equestrian order in Roman society, or order of "knights," which ranked next after the senatorial order.
This title is also used for addressing Theophilus, the recipient of this writing (Luke 1:3), and the Roman governor Felix (Acts 23:26; 24:3). Festus: Grk. Phēstos, voc. See the previous verse. Even though in chains and accused of raving Paul did not react negatively as he did toward the high priest Ananias (23:3), but showed respect toward Festus, a pagan in spiritual darkness. Paul's manner of responding to the false accusation is in accord with the model set by Yeshua in his trial (cf. 1Pet 2:21-23).
but: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 16 above. I declare: Grk. apophtheggomai, pres. mid., speak out in an attention-getting manner; speak out, declare, utter forth. The verb occurs only three times in the Besekh, all in Acts (of the Spirit, 2:4, and of Peter, 2:14). In the LXX the verb occurs six times, translating as many Hebrew words, first in a passage describing the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun prophesying with musical instruments (1Chr 25:1). The verb is also used in books of the prophets to describe false prophesying, or divination based on dreams and visions (Ezek 13:9, 19; Mic 5:12; Zech 10:2). The usage of the verb in Acts implies that Paul spoke under divine inspiration.
words: pl. of Grk. rhēma, a communication consisting of words, often with the implication of importance or special significance. In the LXX rhēma translates Heb. dabar (SH-1697), speech, saying, utterance, word or matter (DNTT 3:1119f), first in Genesis 15:1 of the words of ADONAI. The plural noun alludes to the specific content of Paul's speech. of reasonableness: Grk. sōphrosynē, quality of moderation and good sense, the opposite of mania; rationality, reasonableness, self-control, sobriety, soundness of mind. The term occurs only three times in the Besekh, the other two by Paul of a virtue expected of godly women (1Tim 2:9, 15).
and: Grk. kai, conj. of truth: Grk. alētheia, that which is really so, and may refer to (1) dependability in thought and deed, (2) truth as opposed to what is false, or (3) reality as opposed to mere appearance (BAG). The good news of Yeshua has all three elements of truth. In the LXX alētheia regularly translates the Heb. emet (SH-571), firmness, faithfulness, or truth (BDB 54), first in Genesis 24:27. Paul affirmed that he spoke "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth," in accord with the oath used in modern courtrooms.
26 For the king knows about these things, and to whom I speak using boldness. For I am not persuaded these things escaped his notice; for none of these things were done in a corner.
For: Grk. gar, conj. the king: Grk. ho basileus. See verse 2 above. knows: Grk. epistamai, pres., may mean (1) grasp mentally, understand; or (2) acquire information about something, know. The second meaning applies here. about: Grk. peri, prep. See verse 2 above. these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. Paul did not imply that the knowledge of Agrippa was equal to his own, but in a general sense Agrippa would have known first the general expectation of the Messiah proclaimed by Moses and the Prophets, and second the facts regarding the life, death and resurrection of Yeshua.
and: Grk. kai, conj. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 1 above. whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. I speak: Grk. laleō, pres. See verse 22 above. using boldness: Grk. parrēsiazomai, pres. mid. part., speak without sense of constraint; speak openly/boldly/freely. Paul tactfully reminds Festus that he is making his defense to the king, whom Festus expects to help write a letter to Caesar Nero. For: Grk. gar. I am not: Grk. ou, adv. persuaded: Grk. peithō, pres., to bring about a convinced state in regard to something; convince, persuade, be persuaded. these things: pl. of Grk. houtos. escaped his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. notice: Grk. lanthanō, pres. inf., to be hidden or concealed; escape notice.
for: Grk. gar. none: Grk. oudeis, adj. See verse 22 above. The Greek text has "ou" following oudeis, which intensifies the denial. of these things: pl. of Grk. houtos. were: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. done: Grk. prassō, perf. pass. part. See verse 9 above. in: Grk. en, prep. a corner: Grk. gōnia, an external angle, the place at which two converging lines or surfaces meet, used of a street corner (Matt 6:5) and a building corner stone (Luke 20:17). The term is used here figuratively of a hidden place or secluded spot. The term was used in this figurative sense in Greek literature of Plato, Epictetus, and Celsus (BAG). CJB translates the term with "back alley" and CEB has "some out of the way place."
Longenecker comments, "The ministry of Yeshua was widely known in Palestine, and Agrippa would have heard of it." The use of the label "Palestine," which occurs frequently in Longenecker's commentary on Acts, is both inaccurate and offensive. See my article The Land is NOT Palestine! Yeshua never lived in "Palestine," a label not found in Scripture. He was born in the hill country of Judea and in the historic region assigned to the tribe of Judah, and lived as a child to young adulthood in Galilee and then traveled the length of the Land during his three years of ministry. From God's point of view the Land was/is "Israel" (1Sam 13:19; Matt 2:20-21; 10:23; Luke 4:25, 27; 7:9; John 1:49; Eph 2:12).
The Jewish Question, 26:27-29
27 Do you believe, King Agrippa, the Prophets? I know that you believe."
Do you believe: Grk. pisteuō (from pistis, trust, faithfulness, which is from peithō, be persuaded), pres., 2p-sing., to have complete confidence in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone; believe, have faith in, trust in. In the LXX pisteuō translates Heb. aman (SH-539), to be reliable, to stand firm, trust, believe, be faithful, first used in Genesis 15:6 where it describes Abraham's response to God. Thayer says the verb denotes "the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of his soul." King: Grk. basileus, voc. See verse 2 above. Agrippa: Grk. Agrippas, voc. See verse 1 above.
the Prophets: Grk. ho Prophētēs. See verse 22 above. While the sentence in Greek has no interrogative particle, the following declaration by Paul marks this sentence as a question, probably by elevating the pitch of the voice on the word "Prophets." Paul's use of the plural "prophets" may refer to the portion of the Tanakh known as the Neviim, which included the Early Prophets (Joshua–Kings) and the Latter Prophets (Isaiah–Malachi). The point of the question could be "Do you acknowledge the authority of the Neviim as the Pharisees do?" The Sadducees only granted authority to the Torah and they had no Messianic expectation.
More likely is that Paul intended "Do you believe in the Messianic prophecies of the Hebrew prophets?" This was an important question to ask Agrippa, the Jewish king, given that the Gentile pagan Festus had mocked Paul's presentation of the good news. Messianic prophecy of the Tanakh is a distinctive feature of the Jewish gospel as contrasted with the Gentile gospel. See my article The Original Gospel. Believing in the Messianic prophecies is foundational for Jews to believe the good news about Yeshua as Messiah and Savior.
I know: Grk. oida, perf. See verse 4 above. Paul uses the verb here in the sense of having discernment, a conclusion given by the Spirit. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 5 above. you believe: Grk. pisteuō, pres. Paul may have waited a moment for Agrippa to answer the question, but then declared what Agrippa was hesitant to say in front of Festus and the assembled Gentiles. Paul does not mean "I know you believe in Yeshua." Rather, by affirming Agrippa's tacit belief in the Hebrew Scriptures, he invited the king to draw his own conclusion concerning the prophecies of the person, office, sufferings, death, and resurrection of the Messiah.
28 Then Agrippa replied to Paul, "By a few words are you entreating to make me Messianic?"
Parallel Passage: Acts 11:29
Then: Grk. de, conj. Agrippa: Grk. ho Agrippas. See verse 1 above. replied to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 1 above. Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 1 above. Bible versions are about evenly divided in the translation of Agrippa's response, either treating it as a question on the one hand or a declaration on the other. There is no interrogative particle in the Greek text, but Paul's answer in the next verse favors Agrippa's response to Paul as a question, perhaps as a retort to Paul's question. By: Grk. en, prep. See verse 4 above. Many versions translate the preposition as "in," and interpret its use as marking a period of time. However, taking the preposition as denoting means seems the best option.
a few words: Grk. oligos, adj., used (1) of extent or degree; little, small; (2) of quantity, few; or (3) adverbially of time. Bible versions are divided over interpreting the adjective as referring to an amount or degree of effort (ASV, CSB, TLB, KJV, MW, NKJV, WEB) or time (e.g., AMP, CEB, CEV, CJB, ESV, GNB, GW, MJLT, NASB, NIV, NRSV, RSV, TLV). Bruce favors the former and Marshall the latter. Ellicott, Meyer and Nicoll argue that the adjective should be interpreted as it is used in Ephesians 3:3 where the same phrase en oligō is used to mean "briefly" in reference to a few words. I find this argument to be compelling.
are you entreating: Grk. peithō, pres., to bring about a convinced state in regard to something. In the active voice the verb can mean (1) to cause a belief in a thing; (2) as in classical Greek, to make friends of, win one's favor, or gain one's good-will; or (3) to induce one by persuasion to do something (Thayer). LSJ adds "to prevail upon by entreaty," which seems to be the sense here.
to make: Grk. poieō, pres. inf. See verse 10 above. The infinitive stresses purpose here. Many versions have "to become," which would require ginomai which is used in some late Greek manuscripts. However, the earliest and best manuscripts have poieō (Metzger; GNT 520). Agrippa did not use the verb in the sense of having a personal spiritual experience, but as a result of instruction adopting a set of beliefs and imitating a model of behavior. me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun.
Messianic: Grk. Christianos (from Christos, Anointed One, and ianos, "a partisan"), a Jewish term for a follower of the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua, probably coined by Barnabas. The term appears first in Acts 11:26. See my comment there. Christian Bible versions translate the term as "Christian." Messianic Jewish versions attempt to be more accurate considering the Hebrew root of the name. The CJB and TLV have "Messianic." The MJLT has "Messiah follower."
The KJV translates Agrippa's response as "Almost you persuade me to be a Christian." Ellicott correctly points out, "At the cost of giving up a familiar and impressive text, it must be admitted that the Greek words cannot possibly bear the meaning which is thus put upon them." Marshall notes that Paul's argument had created logical trap known as the horns of a dilemma. If Agrippa confessed belief in the prophets then he must accept Paul's message about Yeshua. If Agrippa denied belief in the prophets he would not be a loyal Jew. So Agrippa refused to confirm or deny Paul's question and assertion, but instead expressed incredulity that Paul had switched roles from being a defendant to being a prosecutor.
Liberman and Stern repeat their claim that Christianos was used to describe Gentile believers. Thus, Agrippa's question would mean "are you trying to persuade me to leave Judaism and become a Gentile?" This interpretation cannot be correct considering Paul's response in the next verse. Paul wanted Agrippa to become like him and that certainly did not mean becoming a Gentile. Agrippa used the term Christianos according to its original setting as a label for Jewish followers of the Jewish Messiah. Agrippa was a Jew and an expert in all matters of Jewish knowledge and custom (verse 3 above).
Agrippa certainly did not use the term as it was later redefined in Christianity to exclude Jewish life. The Council of Nicea II (8th century), officially banned Jewish life in Yeshua. All who continued to practice circumcision, Sabbath observance, festivals or other Hebrew rites were to be excluded from the Church. In addition, Jews that converted to Christianity were required to sign a written affirmation of their renunciation of the Jewish way of life (Schonfield 54-55). Even today some Christians think the way for a Jew to demonstrate his faith in Yeshua is to eat a ham sandwich.
Agrippa understood that at the very least a "Messianic" was someone who believed that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel and Son of God (John 1:41, 49; 11:27; 20:31; Acts 9:20). More specifically a Messianic was someone willing to act on the specific content of Paul's message. A public profession of becoming Messianic would be dangerous for Agrippa to make. Supporters of Caesar might well conclude that Agrippa was switching loyalty to a pretender to Caesar's throne. Agrippa's question might imply "Are you trying to put me in your position?"
Additional Note: The Meaning of Christianos
Agrippa could have deduced the meaning of Christianos ("Messianic") from the content of Paul's speech in this chapter.
● First, a Messianic is one who understands the good news as fulfillment of the covenantal promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (verse 6 above).
● Second, a Messianic is one who turns from darkness to light, from the dominion of Satan to the Kingdom of God (verse 18 above).
● Third, a Messianic is one who repents and produces works of repentance (verse 20 above).
● Fourth, a Messianic is one who has received from God forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified (verse 18 above).
● Fifth, a Messianic is one who believes in the inspiration and authority of the Torah and the Prophets (verse 22 above).
● Sixth, a Messianic is one who understands that the Messiah had to suffer and believes that Yeshua rose from the dead (verse 23 above).
Unfortunately, many modern Christians would not agree with some of these principles. Too many professing Christians reject the authority of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and its moral code. Christianity is rife with leaders and members that reject the covenantal promises made to Israel, embrace tenets of pagan religions, reject the biblical definition of sin, and therefore refuse to quit behaviors God hates (cf. Matt 7:21-23; 1Cor 5:9-11). Christianity is in dire need of spiritual revival.
29 And Paul said, "I would pray to God, whether by a few words or by a great many, not only you, but also all those hearing me today, to become such as also I am, except for these chains."
And: Grk. de, conj. Paul said: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 1 above. The verb is implied. I would: Grk. an, a disjunctive particle that nuances a verb with contingency or generalization; would, ever, might, in that case, anyhow. HELPS says the particle indicates what could occur under certain conditions, and the context determines the limits of those conditions. The particle is often not translated. pray: Grk. euchomai, aor. mid. opt., may mean (1) to pray for, used of a petition to God; or (2) in a diminished religious sense to wish for or long for. Bible versions are divided between translating the verb as "wish/would" and "pray. The lexicons of BAG, Danker and Thayer favor "pray."
to God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 6 above. Paul means the God of Israel, a strong testimony to the Gentile pagans in the room. whether: Grk. kai, conj. by: Grk. en, prep. a few words: Grk. oligos, adj. See the previous verse. or: Grk. kai. by: Grk. en. a great many: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 22 above. The adjective is used here in a quantitative sense. not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 19 above. only: Grk. monon, adv., marking a narrow limitation; merely, just, only. you: Grk. su, second person pronoun; i.e., King Agrippa. but: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 16 above. also: Grk. kai. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 2 above.
those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. hearing: Grk. akouō, pl. pres. part. See verse 3 above. me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. today: Grk. sēmeron. See verse 2 above. Those hearing Paul included Queen Bernice, Festus, the military tribunes assigned to the Roman cohort and men of prominence from the city of Caesarea (Acts 25:23). to become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. inf. See verse 4 above. such: pl. of Grk. toioutos (from toios, "such, such-like," and houtos, "this"), demonstrative pronoun, of such a kind, such as this. as: Grk. hopoios, correlative pronoun, of what kind or manner, of what sort. also: Grk. kai.
I: Grk. egō. am: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. Although Paul did not use the term "Messianic" (Christianos) to describe himself, and the term does not appear in his letters, his self-definition marked him as an ardent disciple of Yeshua the Messiah who served God according to the Way (Acts 24:14). except for: Grk. parektos, prep. expressing an exclusionary aspect; excluding, except for. these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. 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.
Even though Paul was given a room in the governor's residence, he was nonetheless kept chained to a Roman soldier (Acts 21:33; 22:29). This clause represents self-deprecating humor and probably prompted smiles in the audience.
Hearing Postscript, 26:30-32
30 Both the king and the governor arose, also Bernice and those who were sitting with them,
Both: Grk. te, conj. See verse 3 above. the king: Grk. ho basileus. See verse 2 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. the governor: Grk. ho 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. The title refers to Festus. arose: Grk. anistēmi, aor. See verse 16 above. Most versions have "stood up" or "got up." The verb indicates that the king and the governor had been sitting on the tribunal. The action to stand seems abrupt, but nevertheless signaled the end of the hearing.
The clause implies standing simultaneously, which may have resulted from the two men looking at each other. Agrippa had heard all he wanted to hear and Festus was ready to adjourn the meeting. also: Grk. te. Bernice: Grk. Bernikē, (ber-nee'-kay), the popular Hellenistic pronunciation of the Macedonian name of Berenice (Berenikē). Julia Bernice was the daughter of Herod Agrippa I and sister of Drusilla (Acts 24:24) and Agrippa II. For more information about Bernice see my note on Acts 25:13. and: Grk. kai. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun.
sitting with: Grk. sugkathēmai, pl. pres. mid. part., to sit together or sit in company with, here the latter. The participle alludes to the military tribunes assigned to the Roman cohort and men of prominence from the city of Caesarea (Acts 25:23) that had been invited to the public hearing. Benches (Latin subsellium) were used in Roman courtrooms for public seating (see Suetonius, Life of Claudius, 23.2). them: 3p-pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. See verse 10 above. The masculine form means the pronoun refers to Agrippa and Festus. The grammar means that everyone in the auditorium stood in deference to the king and governor standing.
31 and having withdrawn, they began speaking to one another, saying that, "This man has done nothing worthy of death or chains."
and: Grk. kai, conj. having withdrawn: Grk. anachōreō, masc. pl. aor. part., to depart from this or that place; to go away or go off, withdraw. The plural masculine form indicates Agrippa and Festus leaving the main room of the auditorium and retiring to a private room. they began speaking: Grk. laleō, impf., 3p-pl. See verse 22 above. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 1 above. one another: masc. pl. of Grk. allēlōn, reciprocal pronoun, one another, each other. saying: Grk. legō, masc. pl. pres. part. See verse 1 above.
that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 5 above. The conjunction is used here to introduce the following quotation. Many versions do not translate the conjunction. Gill suggests the two men talked between themselves that the common people might not hear their debates, and the result of them, and what were their sentiments concerning Paul and his case. However, attributing the following quotation to both of them is problematic. Another possible scenario that that the antecedent of the verbal phrase "speaking to one another" is those sitting in the auditorium mentioned in the previous verse.
This: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 16 above. man: Grk. ho anthrōpos, human being, man or mankind. In the LXX anthrōpos translates 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, and a human in contrast to animals or mankind (DNTT 2:564). Noteworthy is that Paul is not referred to by name as Festus referred to him by name twice in the previous chapter (25:4, 19), and addressed him by name in verse 24 above. Here he is just "this man," which could imply that Agrippa made the following statement. An alternate scenario is that the crowd acting as an unofficial jury made the comment.
has done: Grk. prassō, pres. See verse 9 above. The present tense is used here to denote a past event with vividness. nothing: Grk. oudeis, adj. See verse 22 above. worthy: Grk. axios, adj. See verse 20 above. of death: Grk. thanatos, death, which may refer in a literal sense to (1) natural death; (2) death as a penalty; or (3) the manner of death. There are also figurative uses of the term. The term is used in reference to the penalty for a capital crime. Festus had expressed this opinion to Agrippa the previous day (25:25), so Agrippa could have said it in agreement. This assessment concurred with the opinion of the Roman commander Claudius Lysias (Acts 23:29), as well as Paul's own opinion (25:11).
or: Grk. ē, conj. used to denote (1) an alternative, 'or,' or (2) a comparative function, 'than.' The first usage applies here. chains: pl. of Grk. desmos. See verse 29 above. Many versions translate the plural noun as "imprisonment," but Paul had not been put in a prison. He has been housed in the Praetorium (Acts 23:35), the equivalent of a modern five-star hotel. If the conversation mentioned in this verse was between Agrippa and Festus then Agrippa must have made the critical comment about "chains," because it was Festus who kept Paul chained to a Roman soldier. Indeed he had been in this condition for over two years. However, this statement could well represent the incredulity of the crowd, who would be amazed that a Roman citizen would be treated like a criminal.
32 Moreover Agrippa said to Festus, "This man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar."
Moreover: Grk. de, conj. The conjunction introduces an important addition to the public judgment. Agrippa: Grk. Agrippas. See verse 1 above. said: Grk. phēmi, impf. See verse 1 above. to Festus: Grk. ho Phēstos. See verse 24 above. This is the last mention of Festus in Acts. This: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. man: Grk. ho anthrōpos. See the previous verse. could: Grk. dunamai, impf. pass., to be capable of doing or achieving; be able. have been released: Grk. apoluō, perf. pass. inf., 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 first meaning applies here.
if: Grk. ei, conj. he had not: Grk. mē, adv. appealed: Grk. epikaleō, plperf. mid., may mean (1) to give a name or nickname to; call, name; or (2) call upon for help, aid or intercession; invoke, appeal to, call upon for oneself. The second meaning applies here. to Caesar: Grk. Kaisar, originally the family name of Julius, the first emperor. In time it became a title of the Roman head of state. The Caesar in power at this time was Nero, although his name does not appear in the Besekh. He was born in A.D. 37 and given the name Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. In 50 he took the name Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus.
In 54 Nero succeeded Claudius as emperor after his assassination. Nero became infamous for cruelties, his personal debaucheries and extravagances, and late in his reign horrific persecutions of Christians. He died by suicide in 68. For a summary of Nero's life see the article at Livius.org. For original biographies of Nero see Tacitus, The Annals, (AD 109), Books XII−XVI, and Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars (AD 121), Book VI, The Life of Nero.
Agrippa offered a factual legal conclusion. Stern notes that the appeal to the Emperor could not be annulled because Festus accepted it publicly before Paul's accusers (Acts 25:11-12). In addition, the accusers had not withdrawn their complaint. It's not unlike the laws of the Medes and the Persians (Dan 6:8). Once invoked the appeal had to be executed. In addition, according to God's sovereign will Paul had to go to Rome. What Agrippa did not consider is that dismissal of the charges would not have protected Paul from the conspiracy to kill him.
Ant.: Flavius Josephus (c. 37–100 A.D.), Antiquities of the Jews (Latin Antiquitates Judaicae). trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
ABP: The Apostolic Bible Polyglot. ed. Charles Van der Pool. Apostolic Press, 2006. An interlinear of the Septuagint with English translation. Online.
Barnes: Albert Barnes (1798-1870), Notes on the Whole Bible (1834). Baker Book House, 1949. Online.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BBMS: Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.
Bivin: David Bivin, New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus. En-Gedi Resource Center, 2007
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Bruce: F.F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts. Rev. ed. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1988. (New International Commentary on the New Testament)
Chrysostom: John Chrysostom (347-407), Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles. Oxford Edition. trans. J. Walker, et. al. (Online)
Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
Delitzsch: Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890), Hebrew New Testament. Leipzig, 1877. Online. (Translation into biblical Hebrew.)
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 vols., ed. Colin Brown. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
Ellicott: Charles John Ellicott (1819–1905), Commentary for English Readers (1878). Online.
Flusser: David Flusser, Jewish Sources in Early Christianity, Adama Books, 1987.
Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.
Hamp: Douglas Hamp, Discovering the Language of Jesus: Hebrew or Aramaic? CreateSpace, 2005.
HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
Jeremias: Joichim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Fortress Press, 1975.
Klausner: Joseph Klausner (1874-1958), From Jesus to Paul. trans. William Stinespring. The Macmillan Company, 1943; First Menorah Pub. Co., 1979.
LSJ: Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (1889). rev. by Sir Henry Stuart Jones. Clarendon Press, 1940. Online
Lindsey: Robert L. Lindsey, Jesus Rabbi & Lord: The Hebrew Story of Jesus Behind Our Gospels, Cornerstone Publishing, 1990.
Longenecker: Richard D. Longenecker, The Acts of the Apostles, Vol. 9, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
Lumby: J. Rawson Lumby, Acts, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Cambridge University Press, 1891. Online.
Meyer: Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer (1800-1873), Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (1859). 21 vols. T&T Clark, 1880. Online.
Nicoll: W. Robertson Nicoll (1851–1923), The Expositor's Greek Testament (1897), 5 vols. Online.
Poole: Matthew Poole (1624–1679), A Commentary on the Holy Bible. Hendrickson Publishers, 1985. Online.
Ramsay: Sir William Mitchell Ramsay (1851-1939), St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 10th ed., Hodder & Stoughton, 1907. Online.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. 2 Vol. Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Schonfield: Hugh J. Schonfield (1901-1988), The History of Jewish Christianity (1936). Vine of David, 2008. Online.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer (1828-1901), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889. Website HTML 2011 by Biblesoft, Inc. Online.
Tverberg: Lois Tverberg, Listening to the Language of the Bible. En-Gedi Resource Center, 2004.
Vincent: Marvin R. Vincent (1834-1922), The Word Studies in the New Testament. 4 vols. Hendrickson Pub., 1886. Online.
Wars: Flavius Josephus (c. 37–100 A.D.), Wars of the Jews (Latin De Bello Judaico). trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
Zodhiates: Spiros Zodhiates (1922-2009), ed. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. AMG Publishers, 1992, 1993.
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