THE NEW TESTAMENT
Paul's Defence from the Jew's Accusations
Acts 22 and 23
Finally the mob of people who were calling for Paul's death
were somewhat silent in order to allow Paul to speak to them.
"Men and my brethren and honorable fathers, hear my defence which
I make unto you," Paul began to say in the Hebrew dialect to
them, and as he spoke in their native language they became even
"I am truly a man who is a Jew, " Paul continued, "and I was
born in Tarsus, a city in the province of Cilicia, yet I was
brought up in this city of Jerusalem, as a student at the
feet of Gamaliel (who was one of the great Jewish teachers
of that day). I was taught according to the perfect manner
and traditions of the fathers of Judaism, and I was surely
zealous towards serving God, as all of you are this day. I
persecuted THIS WAY even to some dying as I hounded them
down. I put many in chains and delivered both men and
women into prison, both the High Priest and many Elders can
bear witness to those facts.
I received letters from the aforementioned to give to the
brethren Jews at Damascus, to bring them which I had bound
and chained unto Jerusalem, for to be punished. And it
came to pass, that as I was on my journey to Damascus and
was about there, that around noon, there was suddenly a
great light from heaven around me. And I fell to the
ground hearing a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are
you persecuting me?' I answered, 'Who are you Lord?' And the
voice said to me, 'I am Jesus of Nazareth, who you are
They that were with me saw indeed the light, and were
terrified, but they did not hear the voice of Him that spoke
to me. And I said, 'What shall I do Lord?' And the Lord
replied, 'Arise, get up, and go into Damascus, and there it
shall be told you concerning all the things that are
appointed for you to do.'
I could not see, I was blind, from the glory of the light,
and I had to be led by hand into the city of Damascus, by
those who were with me.
Then a man by the name of Ananias, a devout man according to
the law of Moses, a man who had the respect of all the Jews
at Damascus, he came to me, and said, 'Brother Saul,
received your sight.' And within the same hour I was able to
see him. And he further said to me, 'The God of our fathers
has chosen you, that you should know His will, and
understand the Just One, and should hear the words from His
mouth. For you are to be a witness to all persons of what
you have seen and heard. Now, wait no longer, get up
and be baptized, and have your sins washed away, as you call
on the name of the Lord.'
And it came to pass as I was come again to Jerusalem, as I
was praying in the Temple, I was in a trance, and I saw Him
saying to me, 'Make haste, get out of Jerusalem quickly,
for the people there will not receive your words concerning
Myself.' And I said, 'Lord, they know that I had many in the
synagogues who believed on you, beaten and imprisoned.
and when the blood of your martyr Stephen was spilled, I
also stood by and consented unto his death, I was holding
and watching over the clothes of those who were stoning
him.' And He answered me, 'Depart, for I will send you far
away to the Gentiles.'" (chapter 22:1-21).
At the sound of the word "Gentile" they broke their silence.
Once more their angry emotions took over, and they shouted out,
"Away with such a fellow as this, he should not walk this earth,
it is fitting that he should not live."
They continued to cry this out and as they did so they cast
off their clothes and threw dust into the air, a sign with the
Jews of deep emotional upset, but the emotion in this case was
anger at Paul and a desire to have him put to death (verses
We must always guard against the bad side of our emotions.
Emotions are not wrong of themselves. Our heavenly Father has all
the emotions we have. This can be seen from a careful reading of
the entire Bible, but our Father's emotions are always in
perfect control and with righteousness. We can also see from this
account that the Jews had "prejudice" - a preconceived notion or
idea about something that can cause a wrong action, even a
hurtful action to others. The Jews here hated the Gentiles
overall. It had become with them, not just a matter of hating
many of their sins and practices, which indeed were contrary to
the word, and commandments of God, but even the mention of
the word "Gentile" brought revolt and disdain and anger. The
wrong side of those emotions were again manifested as they
shouted out that Paul should be put to death.
The chief captain of the guards ordered that Paul should be
brought inside the castle, and be whipped, to see if he might
admit as to why the Jews were crying out for him to be put to
They were binding Paul's hands with thongs of leather, when
Paul said to them, "Is it lawful to whip a man that is a Roman
citizen, before a trial, to see if he should be condemned?" When
the centurion (a soldier in charge of a hundred men) heard this
he quickly ran off to the captain and said, "You need to be very
careful with this man, for he claims he is a Roman citizen."
Then, with haste, the captain came over to Paul and said,
"Tell me the truth now, is it true that you are a Roman citizen?"
Paul answered, "Yes, it is indeed true, I am." The captain
muttered, "Why, it is with a great sum of money that I bought
this freedom of being a Roman citizen."
Yes, like today in some quarters, as they say, "With money
you can buy anything." You could with enough money "buy" yourself
a citizenship in the Roman Government. And with that citizenship
you were entitled to many things that you could not ask for if
you were not a citizen of Rome. Going through a "court" hearing
before being physically punished if found guilty, was one of
Paul was now claiming his rightful Roman citizen privileges
of a court hearing before any physical punishment could be
enacted upon him, if he was indeed guilty of a crime. The captain
had acquired Roman citizenship by buying it with a great sum of
money. Paul answered him on the other hand that he was BORN a
Roman citizen - he was born free - with Roman citizen privileges,
and one of them was that a Roman citizen could not be whipped
without first a trial to see if he was guilty of something that
deserved a physical beating under Roman law (verses 22-28).
Everyone now departed from Paul. They got together and
talked among themselves, even now being very afraid, because the
captain had bound up and was about to allow physical whipping to
be administered to a Roman citizen, without first having a trial.
The next day the captain, took off the bonds from Paul's
hands, set him free, but wanting to know if the Jews had a true
cause in saying Paul had done some evil, he called the chief
priests and the Jewish Sanhedrin (the Jewish court allowed under
Roman rule to function on certain religious matters) together. He
set Paul in their midst (verses 29-30).
PAUL ANSWERS THE JEWISH SANHEDRIN - ACTS 23
With an earnest steadfast look at the members of the
Sanhedrin, Paul spoke: "Men and brethren, I have lived in all
good conscience before God unto this very day." The High Priest
Ananias then commanded someone standing close to Paul to smite
him on the mouth. Paul immediately said with a stern tone of
voice, "God shall smite you, you whited wall (black underneath,
but looking white and righteous to onlookers). Do you sit
to judge me after the law, and then command that I be smitten,
which is contrary to the law?"
Those that stood by cried out to Paul, "Do you revile and
speak angry to God's High Priest?" Then Paul said, "I did not
know brethren that it was the High Priest; for it is written,
'You shall not speak evil of the ruler of your people" (verses
Paul is quoting Exodus 22:28. But the whole Bible must be
taken into account with such a verse. When the judges and rulers
are judging and ruling according to God's commandments and
righteousness, then they rule and judge correctly and so must be
shown respect at all times. Under the ideal of God's government
they are living, acting, thinking, and administering, correct
judgment, in the correct godly manner. In so doing God gave
instructions, that all people then should honor the judges and
In this case with Paul, it is very clear that the High
Priest and the members of the Sanhedrin, were FAR from acting and
thinking and practicing according to God's righteousness. The
High Priest had commanded that a physical action to done to Paul
that was indeed NOT according to any law of Moses or law of God.
The High Priest was way out of line here and in the whole context
of this episode with Paul. Did Paul really not know that it was
the High Priest standing there? I very much doubt he did not.
Paul was a highly educated man, and coming to Jerusalem, being
there for a while, going through all the trouble he was
experiencing with the Jews, I would fully expect that Paul
knew very well who was High Priest.
Did Paul have a right to protest, even with no uncertain
words, against the High Priest's command to have him stricken on
the mouth. Yes, of course he did. No where in God's word does the
Lord teach that "evil" men, who are NOT fulfilling their function
as supposedly being a judge and ruler in righteousness for God,
over His people, must be respected no matter how they behave and
no matter what commandments they broadcast out to others to
perform against righteous individuals (and Paul was certainly
in full and right standing with God here, it was the High Priest
and the members of the Sanhedrin who were opposed to the Lord
here, and it was they who were really in the hot seat with God,
Jesus spoke at times with very open and frank words to
"religious leaders" of His day, who were anything but the correct
righteous judges and rulers of religion in Israel. Once more just
read Matthew chapter 23 and hear the blistering words form Jesus'
mouth to religious judges and rulers, which would have included
the High Priest and the members of the Jewish religious council
of the Sanhedrin.
So, what of Paul kind of apologizing here, and saying "I did
not know it was the High Priest" and quoting from Exodus 22:28?
He was probably saying it with tongue in cheek, kind of
"appeasing" them we could say. They were so far off from acting
the truth, that they even thought the High Priest had the right
from God to command anything, even that which was against the law
of God, and that it was approved of God. Yes, Paul I'm sure knew
it was the High Priest commanding something to be done which was
against the law of God, but when they wanted to abuse Exodus
22:28 as if no matter what the judge or ruler of the people
commanded against you, you were to take it like "blind faith
dogs" - then Paul appeased them with a kind of tongue in cheek,
"Oh, I'm so sorry, for I know what Exodus 22:28 says." Probably
under his breath he was saying, "but you guys are so far from
following the righteous way and laws of God, you don't even come
within acting as God commanded judges and rulers to act."
Many sects and cults, mis-apply this verse of Exodus 22:28.
They first, through various cunning ways get their followers to
believe the leader of the cult and his right hand men, are true
"prophets" or "apostles" or "ministers" of God, usually the
"head" leader is "THE prophet or apostle" of God. Then they
brainwash their followers to believe that anything done, spoken,
or written, by the "head" apostle is THE WORD of God,
directly coming from God, inspired by the Lord, even when it is
in utter CONTRAST and opposition to the laws and commandments and
teachings of the Lord in His word the Bible.
If someone then questions the correctness of "THE apostle"
of the cult, as not in accordance to God's word in the Bible, the
cult leaders throw Exodus 22:28 in their face. How many cult
leaders finally reach the point when they tell their followers
that THEY, the leader, are ABOVE the law, have new revelation
supposedly from God, that makes the written word of God obsolete
at times, is just about ALWAYS the case. Then they want you to
blindly obey Exodus 22:28. The reasoning goes in a circle. We are
God's judges and rulers, hence we can set whatever we want to
command and set as law, be it against God's law or not, and you
have to take it and say nothing, for Exodus 22:28 tells you to
They want you to look at the Bible with tunnel vision and
fall in line with their reason of circulation. They fail to
realize and certainly fail to teach that the Bible often
speaks with "general statements" and general statements have an
exception side to them. The "whole world" came to be taxed in
Luke 2:1. Obviously this is a general statement. The people in
Argentina or China, or India, did NOT come to Jerusalem to be
"taxed." So it is with Exodus 22:28. The understanding from this
general statement, as expounded in the whole Bible, is that when
judges and rulers are acting in accordance to God's will and ways
and laws, then respect is to be shown to them .... if they are
not, but acting contrary to God's laws, then the verse does not
People did not have to respect or give honor or obedience to
Adolf Hitler of the 20th century. Nor did they have to keep their
mouth shut or their pen from writing about the wrongs and the
evils of that leader.
Paul now goes on to use common wisdom of the world, even
what we might say "psychology" on the people in the Sanhedrin
He perceived that one part of the Sanhedrin were Pharisees
and the other part were Sadducees. He tells them that he was a
Pharisee at one time, the very son of a Pharisee. And that it is
the hope of the RESURRECTION of the dead that he is called
into question over. Oh, what psychology he used, for when he came
from that point in his defence, with the doctrine of the
resurrection of the dead, he knew it would cause quite
a commotion. For The Pharisees BELIEVED in the resurrection of
the dead, but the Sadducees DID NOT! They, the Sadducees also did
not believe in angels or spirits, but the Pharisees believed in
There was quite the cry raised up, the scribes from the
Pharisees section of the Sanhedrin, rose and said they found NO
EVIL in Paul, but that if it was a spirit or an angel speaking to
him, they did not want to fight against God.
A mighty tug-of-war broke out between the two rival
fractions of the Jewish Sanhedrin, so much so that it looked like
Paul would literally be torn apart between them. So the captain
ordered his soldiers to go down and take hold of Paul by force
and bring him back into the castle.
That night the Lord stood by Paul and said, "Be of good
comfort, Paul, for you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so
must you also witness about me in Rome" (verses 6-11).
PLOT TO KILL PAUL IS DISCOVERED
The anger some Jews (about 40 of them) had for Paul was so
intense that some actually banded together and put themselves
under a curse, or a vow, that they would neither eat food or
drink water till they had killed Paul.
We know that if they stuck to this vow, they themselves
ended up dying, for Paul was not to be killed by the hands of
them or the Jews of the Sanhedrin.
This band of 40 Jews went to the Sanhedrin, told them what
vow they had put themselves under, and wanted the Sanhedrin to
tell the captain in the castle to bring Paul to them, as if
wanting to question him more. Then the 40 Jews would jump on Paul
and kill him.
This plan became known to Paul's sister's son (yes Paul has
a sister living in Jerusalem) and he went into the castle and was
able to tell Paul about it.
Paul was able and allowed to appear before the captain of
the soldiers with this young man who had told him the secret plan
of the forty Jews. The captain took the young man off privately
and asked him what he had to say. He told him that the Jews were
going to ask him to bring Paul to them so they could ask him more
questions, but the forty would jump on him and kill him.
The chief captain thanked the young man for bringing him the
news of this plan, and told him to tell no one that he had told
the captain about it (verses 12-22).
The captain ordered two centurions to gather together two
hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, two hundred spearmen, and
horses for all, and at the third hour of the night, to escort
Paul to Felix the governor at Caesarea.
He wrote a letter after this manner:
"Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix,
greeting. This man Paul was taken by the Jews and should
have been killed by them; then came I with an army,
and rescued him, having understood he was a Roman citizen. I
wanted to know the cause as to why the Jews wanted him dead.
I perceived it was all to do with their law, and nothing
worthy of death or even of being bound up and imprisoned. I
was also informed how the Jews had contrived a plan to kill
this man, so I've straight away sent him to you. I have
informed the Jews they need to go before you to state what
they have against this man Paul, Farewell."
The soldiers did as they were commanded and brought Paul
during the night to Antipatris. On the morrow they left just the
horsemen to accompany Paul, and they returned to the castle. The
horsemen arrived at Caesarea and delivered the letter and
Paul before Felix.
Felix read the letter from Claudius, and asked Paul what
Province he was from, and was told Cilicia.
Felix told Paul he would hear him give his defence when his
accusers arrived. Until then Paul was to be housed in Herod's
judgment hall, a very fine and hospitable confinement (verses
Written October 2004