World Wide Study Bible


a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary


While Paul was looking intently at the council he said, “Brothers, up to this day I have lived my life with a clear conscience before God.” 2Then the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near him to strike him on the mouth. 3At this Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting there to judge me according to the law, and yet in violation of the law you order me to be struck?” 4Those standing nearby said, “Do you dare to insult God’s high priest?” 5And Paul said, “I did not realize, brothers, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a leader of your people.’ ”

6 When Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” 7When he said this, a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8(The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three.) 9Then a great clamor arose, and certain scribes of the Pharisees’ group stood up and contended, “We find nothing wrong with this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” 10When the dissension became violent, the tribune, fearing that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered the soldiers to go down, take him by force, and bring him into the barracks.

11 That night the Lord stood near him and said, “Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome.”

The Plot to Kill Paul

12 In the morning the Jews joined in a conspiracy and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. 13There were more than forty who joined in this conspiracy. 14They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food until we have killed Paul. 15Now then, you and the council must notify the tribune to bring him down to you, on the pretext that you want to make a more thorough examination of his case. And we are ready to do away with him before he arrives.”

16 Now the son of Paul’s sister heard about the ambush; so he went and gained entrance to the barracks and told Paul. 17Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to report to him.” 18So he took him, brought him to the tribune, and said, “The prisoner Paul called me and asked me to bring this young man to you; he has something to tell you.” 19The tribune took him by the hand, drew him aside privately, and asked, “What is it that you have to report to me?” 20He answered, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire more thoroughly into his case. 21But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him. They have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink until they kill him. They are ready now and are waiting for your consent.” 22So the tribune dismissed the young man, ordering him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of this.”

Paul Sent to Felix the Governor

23 Then he summoned two of the centurions and said, “Get ready to leave by nine o’clock tonight for Caesarea with two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen. 24Also provide mounts for Paul to ride, and take him safely to Felix the governor.” 25He wrote a letter to this effect:

26 “Claudius Lysias to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. 27This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them, but when I had learned that he was a Roman citizen, I came with the guard and rescued him. 28Since I wanted to know the charge for which they accused him, I had him brought to their council. 29I found that he was accused concerning questions of their law, but was charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. 30When I was informed that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.”

31 So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him during the night to Antipatris. 32The next day they let the horsemen go on with him, while they returned to the barracks. 33When they came to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. 34On reading the letter, he asked what province he belonged to, and when he learned that he was from Cilicia, 35he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” Then he ordered that he be kept under guard in Herod’s headquarters.

Select a resource above

Ac 23:1-10. Paul's Defense before the Sanhedrin Divides the Rival Factions, from Whose Violence the Commandant Has the Apostle Removed into the Fortress.

1. Paul, earnestly beholding the council—with a look of conscious integrity and unfaltering courage, perhaps also recognizing some of his early fellow pupils.

I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day—The word has an indirect reference to the "polity" or "commonwealth of Israel," of which he would signify that he had been, and was to that hour, an honest and God-fearing member.

2. the high priest … commanded … to smite him on the mouth—a method of silencing a speaker common in the East to this day [Hacket]. But for a judge thus to treat a prisoner on his "trial," for merely prefacing his defense by a protestation of his integrity, was infamous.

3, 4. God shall smite thee—as indeed He did; for he was killed by an assassin during the Jewish war [Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 2.17.9].

thou whited wall—that is, hypocrite (Mt 23:27). This epithet, however correctly describing the man, must not be defended as addressed to a judge, though the remonstrance which follows—"for sittest thou," &c.—ought to have put him to shame.

5. I wist not … that he was the high priest—All sorts of explanations of this have been given. The high priesthood was in a state of great confusion and constant change at this time (as appears from Josephus), and the apostle's long absence from Jerusalem, and perhaps the manner in which he was habited or the seat he occupied, with other circumstances to us unknown, may account for such a speech. But if he was thrown off his guard by an insult which touched him to the quick, "what can surpass the grace with which he recovered his self-possession, and the frankness with which he acknowledged his error? If his conduct in yielding to the momentary impulse was not that of Christ Himself under a similar provocation (Joh 18:22, 23), certainly the manner in which he atoned for his fault was Christ-like" [Hacket].

6-9. when Paul perceived—from the discussion which plainly had by this time arisen between the parties.

that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out—raising his voice above both parties.

I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee—The true reading seems to be, "the son of Pharisees," that is, belonging to a family who from father to son had long been such.

of the hope and resurrection of the dead—that is, not the vague hope of immortality, but the definite expectation of the resurrection.

I am called in question—By this adroit stroke, Paul engages the whole Pharisaic section of the council in his favor; the doctrine of a resurrection being common to both, though they would totally differ in their application of it. This was, of course, quite warrantable, and the more so as it was already evident that no impartiality in trying his cause was to be looked for from such an assembly.

8. the Sadducees say … there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit—(See on Lu 20:37).

the scribes … of the Pharisees' part … strove, saying, We find no evil in this man, but—as to those startling things which he brings to our ears.

if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him—referring, perhaps, to his trance in the temple, of which he had told them (Ac 22:17). They put this favorable construction upon his proceedings for no other reason than that they had found him one of their own party. They care not to inquire into the truth of what he alleged, over and above their opinions, but only to explain it away as something not worth raising a noise about. (The following words, "Let us not fight against God," seem not to belong to the original text, and perhaps are from Ac 5:39. In this case, either the meaning is, "If he has had some divine communication, what of that?" or, the conclusion of the sentence may have been drowned in the hubbub, which Ac 23:10 shows to have been intense).

10. the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled to pieces … commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force, &c.—This shows that the commandant was not himself present, and further, that instead of the Sanhedrim trying the cause, the proceedings quickly consisted in the one party attempting to seize the prisoner, and the other to protect him.

Ac 23:11-35. In the Fortress Paul Is Cheered by a Night VisionAn Infamous Conspiracy to Assassinate Him Is Providentially Defeated, and He Is Despatched by Night with a Letter from the Commandant to Felix at Cæsarea, by Whom Arrangements Are Made for a Hearing of His Cause.

11. the night following—his heart perhaps sinking, in the solitude of his barrack ward, and thinking perhaps that all the predictions of danger at Jerusalem were now to be fulfilled in his death there.

the Lord—that is, Jesus.

stood by him … Be of good cheer, Paul; for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou … also at Rome—that is, "Thy work in Jerusalem is done, faithfully and well done; but thou art not to die here; thy purpose next to 'see Rome' (Ac 19:21) shall not be disappointed, and there also must thou bear witness of Me." As this vision was not unneeded now, so we shall find it cheering and upholding him throughout all that befell him up to his arrival there.

12-14. bound themselves under a curse … that they would neither eat … fill they had killed Paul—Compare 2Sa 3:35; 1Sa 14:24.

15. Now … ye with the council signify to the chief captain … as though, &c.—That these high ecclesiastics fell in readily with this infamous plot is clear. What will not unscrupulous and hypocritical religionists do under the mask of religion? The narrative bears unmistakable internal marks of truth.

or ever he come near—Their plan was to assassinate him on his way down from the barracks to the council. The case was critical, but He who had pledged His word to him that he should testify for Him at Rome provided unexpected means of defeating this well-laid scheme.

16-22. Paul's sister's son—(See on Ac 9:30). If he was at this time residing at Jerusalem for his education, like Paul himself, he may have got at the schools those hints of the conspiracy on which he so promptly acted.

17. Then Paul called one of the centurions—Though divinely assured of safety, he never allows this to interfere with the duty he owed to his own life and the work he had yet to do. (See on Ac 27:22-25; Ac 27:31).

19. took him by the hand—This shows that he must have been quite in his boyhood, and throws a pleasing light on the kind-hearted impartiality of this officer.

21. and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee—Thus, as is so often the case with God's people, not till the last moment, when the plot was all prepared, did deliverance come.

23, 24. two hundred soldiers—a formidable guard for such an occasion; but Roman officials felt their honor concerned in the preservation of the public peace, and the danger of an attempted rescue would seem to require it. The force at Jerusalem was large enough to spare this convoy.

the third hour of the night—nine o'clock.

24. beasts … set Paul on—as relays, and to carry baggage.

unto Felix, the governor—the procurator. See on Ac 24:24, 25.

26-30. Claudius—the Roman name he would take on purchasing his citizenship.

Lysias—his Greek family name.

the most excellent governor—an honorary title of office.

27. came I with an army—rather, "with the military."

29. perceived to be accused of questions of their law, &c.—Amidst all his difficulty in getting at the charges laid against Paul, enough, no doubt, come out to satisfy him that the whole was a question of religion, and that there was no case for a civil tribunal.

30. gave commandment to his accusers … to say before thee—This was not done when he wrote, but would be before the letter reached its destination.

31, 32. brought him … to Antipatris—nearly forty miles from Jerusalem, on the way to Cæsarea; so named by Herod in honor of his father, Antipater.

32. On the morrow they—the infantry.

left the horsemen—themselves no longer needed as a guard. The remaining distance was about twenty-five or twenty-six miles.

34, 35. asked of what province he was—the letter describing him as a Roman citizen.

35. I will hear thee—The word means, "give thee a full hearing."

to be kept in Herod's judgment hall—"prætorium," the palace built at Cæsarea by Herod, and now occupied by the Roman procurators; in one of the buildings attached to which Paul was ordered to be kept.