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22. Paul's Arrest and Defense
1Brethren and fathers, hear ye the defence which I now make unto you. 2And when they heard that he spake unto them in the Hebrew language, they were the more quiet: and he saith, 3I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, at the feet of Gamaliel, instructed according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, even as ye all are this day: 4and I persecuted this Way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. 5As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and journeyed to Damascus to bring them also that were there unto Jerusalem in bonds to be punished. 6And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and drew nigh unto Damascus, about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. 7And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 8And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. 9And they that were with me beheld indeed the light, but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. 10And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. 11And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me I came into Damascus. 12And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well reported of by all the Jews that dwelt there, 13came unto me, and standing by me said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And in that very hour I looked up on him. 14And he said, The God of our fathers hath appointed thee to know his will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear a voice from his mouth. 15For thou shalt be a witness for him unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. 16And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name. 17And it came to pass, that, when I had returned to Jerusalem, and while I prayed in the temple, I fell into a trance, 18and saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem; because they will not receive of thee testimony concerning me. 19And I said, Lord, they themselves know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: 20and when the blood of Stephen thy witness was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting, and keeping the garments of them that slew him. 21And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee forth far hence unto the Gentiles. 22And they gave him audience unto this word; and they lifted up their voice, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. 23And as they cried out, and threw off their garments, and cast dust into the air, 24the chief captain commanded him be brought into the castle, bidding that he should be examined by scourging, that he might know for what cause they so shouted against him. 25And when they had tied him up with the thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? 26And when the centurion heard it, he went to the chief captain and told him, saying, What art thou about to do? for this man is a Roman. 27And the chief captain came and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? And he said, Yea. 28And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this citizenship. And Paul said, But I am a Roman born. 29They then that were about to examine him straightway departed from him: and the chief captain also was afraid when he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. 30But on the morrow, desiring to know the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him, and commanded the chief priests and all the council to come together, and brought Paul down and set him before them.
22. Away with such a fellow. Luke showeth here how outrageously Paul’s sermon was interrupted. For they do not only oppress him with their crying, but they desire to have him put to death; where it doth also plainly appear how frenzy [frenzied] pride is. The Jews conceived so great good liking of themselves, that they did not only despise all the whole world in comparison of themselves, but they stood also more stoutly in defense of their own dignity than of the law itself, as if all religion did consist in this, that Abraham’s stock might excel all other mortal men. So now they rage against and rail upon Paul, because he said that he was sent to be the apostle of the Gentiles; as if God were bound by his own liberality to suffer the contempt of his power 518518 “Numinis sui,” of his Deity. in the wicked and unthankful, on whom he bestowed excellent graces above all other. And it is no marvel if there were such fierceness and fury at that day among the Jews, seeing that being by all means wasted, 519519 “Attriti,” trampled upon. and accustomed to suffer extreme reproaches at this day, they cease not, notwithstanding, to swell with servile pride. But these be fruits of reprobation, until God gather together the remnant according to Paul’s prophecy (Romans 11:5).
24. The chief captain. It was well and wisely done of the chief captain thus to withdraw Paul from the sight of the people, forasmuch as his presence did move and more provoke them who were already too much moved. For by this means he provideth for the life of the holy man, and partly appeaseth the madness of the people. But when he commandeth him to be scourged, to whose charge he heard no certain crime laid, he seemeth to deal unjustly. And yet this injury [injustice] was not without color, because it was likely that it was, not without cause, that all the people had conspired to put one man to death. Therefore, a vehement presumption was the cause of so strait examination. But we must note that this is a common custom among politic men, that they be just judges, so far as is expedient for them; but if they be called away by profit, then they go out of the way. Nevertheless, it is sufficient for them to color this their wickedness with the title of wisdom, because they hold that general principle, that the world cannot be governed without some show or color of justice; but in all actions that subtilty whereof I spake doth prevail, that they consider rather what is profitable than what is equal and right.
25. Is it lawful? He allegeth first the privilege of the city, then he defendeth himself by common law. And though there were more weight in the second point, (to wit, that it is not lawful to scourge a man before his cause is heard) yet should he have prevailed nothing, unless the centurion had been more moved with the honor of the Roman empire. For nothing was then more heinous than to do any thing which was contrary to the liberty of the people of Rome. Valerius’ law, the law of Porcius, and of Sempronius, and such like, did forbid that no man should do any violence to the body of the city of Rome 521521 “Civis Romani,” a Roman citizen. without the commandment of the people. The privilege was so (sure and) holy, that they thought it to be not only a deadly offense, but also such an offense as could not be purged, that a citizen of Rome should be beaten.
Therefore, Paul escaped rather by the privilege than by common equity, yet did he not doubt in a good cause to bear off the injury which was prepared for him, with this buckler of the city. But we must know that he did so allege the right and privilege of the city, that the chief captain was brought to believe him, because his words should not have been credited unless he had used some proof. Moreover, it was no hard matter for a man, who was well known, to bring forth witnesses. We alleged a cause in the sixteenth chapter, why he suffered himself to be scourged at Philippos, [Philippi] which he now preventeth by his own declaration; to wit, because he should not have been heard in a tumult raised among the common people (Acts 16:37). But because he hath now to deal with the soldiers of Rome, who did behave themselves more moderately and gravely, he useth the opportunity.
26. This man is a Roman. Some man may marvel that he was so credulous, who was appointed to be chief in examining Paul, that he doth affirm the thing, as if he knew it to be so. For if he ought to believe Paul’s words, every malefactor might, by this shift, have escaped punishment. But this was their manner of dealing, he which did say that he was a citizen of Rome, unless he could bring in some which knew him, or prove it lawfully, he was punished; for it was death for any man to pretend the freedom of the city falsely. Wherefore, the centurion referreth the matter unto the chief captain, as doubting thereof; and he (as we have said) doth straightway examine the matter more thoroughly. And though Luke doth not express by what testimonies Paul did prove himself to be a citizen of Rome, yet, undoubtedly, the chief captain knew the truth of the matter before he loosed him.
28. With a great sum. The chief captain objecteth this to refute him as if he should say, that the freedom of the city is not so common, and easily to be obtained. How can it be that thou, being some base fellow of the country of the Cilicians, shouldst obtain this honor, for which I paid sweetly? Whereas Paul maketh answer, that he was free born, who never saw the city, yea, whose father it may be was never there, there is no cause why this should trouble any man. For those who are skillful in the Roman history know that certain were made free of the city who dwelt in the provinces, if, having deserved well of the commonwealth, or in war, or in other weighty affairs, they did desire and crave this reward of the deputies, [proconsuls] so that it is no absurdity to say that he was born a citizen of Rome, who, descending by his ancestors of some province far distant from Rome, did never set foot in Italy. Notwithstanding, the question is, how this can hang together, that the chief captain was afraid, because he had bound a citizen of Rome, and yet he did not loose him from his bonds until the morrow? It may be that he deferred it till the next day, lest he should show some token of fear. Notwithstanding, I think that the chief captain was afraid, because Paul was bound at his commandment, that he might be scourged, because this was to do injury to the body of a citizen of Rome, and to break the common liberty, and that [although] it was lawful to put a Roman in prison.