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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 23 - Verse 6
Verse 6. But when Paul perceived. Probably by his former acquaintance with the men who composed the council. As he had been brought up in Jerusalem, and had been before acquainted with the sanhedrim, Ac 9:2, he would have an acquaintance, doubtless, with the character of most of those present, though he had been absent from them for fourteen years, Ga 2:1.
The one part, etc. That the council was divided into two parties, Pharisees and Sadducees. This was commonly the case, though it is uncertain which had the majority. In regard to the opinions of these two sects, See Barnes "Mt 3:7".
He cried out, etc. The reasons why Paul resolved to take advantage of their difference of opinion were probably,
(1.) that he saw that it was impossible to expect justice at their hands; and he, therefore, regarded it as prudent and proper to consult his safety, He saw, from the conduct of Ananias, and from the spirit manifested, Ac 23:4, that they, like the other Jews, had prejudged the case, and were driven on by blind rage and fury.
(2.) His object was to show his innocence to the chief captain. To ascertain that was the purpose for which he had been arraigned. Yet that, perhaps, could be most directly and satisfactorily shown by bringing out, as he knew he could do, the real spirit which actuated the whole council, as a spirit of party strife, contention, and persecution. Knowing, therefore, how sensitive they were on the subject of the resurrection, he seems, to have resolved to do what he would not have done had they been disposed to hear him according to the rules of justice—to abandon the direct argument for his defence, and to enlist a large part, perhaps a majority of the council, in his favour. Whatever may be thought of the propriety of this course, it cannot be denied that it was a master-stroke of policy, and that it evinced a profound knowledge of human nature.
I am a Pharisee. That is, I was of that sect among the Jews. I was born a Pharisee, and I ever continued while a Jew to be of that sect. In the main he agreed with them still. He did not mean to deny that he was a Christian, but that so far as the Pharisees differed from the Sadducees, he was in the main with the former. He agreed with them, not with the Sadducees, in regard to the doctrine of the resurrection, and the existence of angels and spirits.
The son of a Pharisee. What was the name of his father is not known. But the meaning is, simply, that he was entitled to all the immunities and privileges of a Pharisee. He had, from his birth, belonged to that sect, nor had he ever departed from the great cardinal doctrines which distinguished that sect—the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. Comp. Php 3:5.
Of the hope and resurrection of the dead. That is, of the hope that the dead will be raised. This is the real point of the persecution and opposition to me.
I am called in question. Gr., I am judged; that is, I am persecuted, or brought to trial. Orobio charges this upon Paul as an artful manner of declining persecution, unworthy the character of an upright and honest man. Chubb, a British Deist of the seventeenth century, charges it upon Patti as an act of gross "dissimulation, as designed to conceal the true ground of all the troubles that he had brought upon himself; and as designed to deceive and impose upon the Jews." He affirms also, that "St. Paul probably invented this pretended charge against himself, to draw over a party of the unbelieving Jews unto him." See Chubb's Posthumous Works, vol. ii. p. 238., Now, in reply to this we may observe,
(1.) that there is not the least evidence that Paul denied that he had been, or was then, a Christian. An attempt to deny this, after all that they knew of him, would have been vain; and there is not the slightest hint that he attempted it.
(2.) The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was the main and leading doctrine which he had insisted on, and which had been to him the cause of much of his persecution. Ac 17:31,32; 1 Co 15; Ac 13:34
(3.) Paul defended this by an argument which he deemed invincible, and which constituted, in fact, the principal evidence of its truth—the fact that the Lord Jesus had been raised. That fact had given demonstration to the doctrine of the Pharisees, that the dead would rise. As Paul had everywhere proclaimed the fact that Jesus had been raised up, and as this had been the occasion of his being opposed, it was true that he had been persecuted on account of that doctrine.
(4.) The real ground of the opposition which the Sadducees made to him, and of their opposition to his doctrine, was the additional zeal with which he urged this doctrine, and the additional argument which he brought far the resurrection of the dead. Perhaps the cause of the opposition of this great party among the Jews—the Sadducees—to Christianity, was the strong confirmation which the resurrection of Christ gave to the doctrine which they so much hated—the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. It thus gave a triumph to their opponents among the Pharisees; and Paul, as a leading and zealous advocate of that doctrine, would excite their special hatred.
(5.) All that Paul said, therefore, was strictly true. It was because he advocated this doctrine that he was opposed. That there were other causes of opposition to him might be true also; but still this was the main and prominent cause of the hostility.
(6.) With great propriety, therefore, he might address the Pharisees, and say, "Brethren, the great doctrine which has distinguished you from the Sadducees is at stake. The great doctrine which is at the foundation of all our hopes—the resurrection of the dead—the doctrine of our fathers, of the Scriptures, of our sect, is in danger. Of that doctrine I have been the advocate. I have never denied it. I have endeavoured to establish it, and have everywhere defended it, and have devoted myself to the work of putting it on an imperishable basis among the Jews and the Gentiles. For my zeal in that I have been opposed. I have excited the ridicule of the Gentile, and the hatred of the Sadducee. I have thus been persecuted and arraigned; and for my zeal in this, in urging the argument in defence of it, which I have deemed most irrefragable—the resurrection of the Messiah—I have been persecuted and arraigned, and now cast myself on your protection against the mad zeal of the enemies of the doctrine of our fathers. Not only, therefore, was this an act of policy and prudence in Paul, but what he affirmed was strictly true, and the effect was as he had anticipated.
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