Acts of Apostles 23:1-35

23  Looking intently at the Sanʹhe·drin, Paul said: “Men, brothers, I have behaved before God with a perfectly clear conscience+ down to this day.”  At this the high priest An·a·niʹas ordered those standing by him to strike him on the mouth.+  Then Paul said to him: “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall. Do you sit to judge me according to the Law and at the same time violate the Law by commanding me to be struck?”  Those standing by said: “Are you insulting the high priest of God?”  And Paul said: “Brothers, I did not know he was high priest. For it is written, ‘You must not speak injuriously of a ruler of your people.’”+  Now Paul, knowing that the one part was made up of Sadducees but the other of Pharisees, cried out in the Sanʹhe·drin: “Men, brothers, I am a Pharisee,+ a son of Pharisees. Over the hope of the resurrection of the dead I am being judged.”  Because he said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was split.  For the Sadducees say that there is neither resurrection nor angel nor spirit, but the Pharisees accept* them all.+  So a great uproar broke out, and some of the scribes of the party of the Pharisees rose and began arguing fiercely, saying: “We find nothing wrong in this man, but if a spirit or an angel spoke to him+—.” 10  Now when the dissension grew great, the military commander feared that Paul would be torn apart by them, and he commanded the soldiers to go down and snatch him from their midst and bring him into the soldiers’ quarters. 11  But the following night the Lord stood by him and said: “Take courage!+ For just as you have been giving a thorough witness about me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.”+ 12  When it became day, the Jews formed a conspiracy+ and bound themselves with a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. 13  There were more than 40 men who formed this oath-bound conspiracy. 14  These men went to the chief priests and the elders and said: “We have solemnly bound ourselves with a curse not to eat anything at all until we have killed Paul. 15  So now you together with the Sanʹhe·drin should inform the military commander that he should bring him down to you as though you want to examine his case more thoroughly. But before he gets near, we will be ready to do away with him.” 16  However, the son of Paul’s sister heard of the ambush they were planning, and he entered the soldiers’ quarters and reported it to Paul. 17  Paul then called one of the army officers to him and said: “Take this young man to the military commander, for he has something to report to him.” 18  So he brought him and led him to the military commander and said: “The prisoner Paul called me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.” 19  The military commander took him by the hand and withdrew privately and asked him: “What do you have to report to me?” 20  He said: “The Jews have agreed to request you to bring Paul down to the Sanʹhe·drin tomorrow, as though they intend to learn more details about his case.+ 21  But do not let them persuade you, for more than 40 of their men are waiting to ambush him, and they have bound themselves with a curse neither to eat nor to drink until they have killed him;+ and they are now ready, waiting for the promise from you.” 22  So the military commander let the young man go, after ordering him: “Do not tell anyone that you have informed me of this.” 23  And he summoned two of the army officers and said: “Get 200 soldiers ready to march clear to Caes·a·reʹa, also 70 horsemen and 200 spearmen, at the third hour of the night. 24  Also, provide horses for Paul to ride, to take him safely to Felix the governor.”+ 25  And he wrote a letter with this content: 26  “Claudius Lysʹi·as to His Excellency, Governor Felix: Greetings! 27  This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them, but I came quickly with my soldiers and rescued him,+ because I learned that he is a Roman.+ 28  And wanting to find out the cause for which they were accusing him, I brought him down into their Sanʹhe·drin.+ 29  I found him to be accused about questions of their Law,+ but not charged with a single thing deserving of death or prison bonds.+ 30  But because a plot against the man has been made known to me,+ I am at once sending him to you and ordering the accusers to speak against him before you.” 31  So these soldiers took Paul+ according to their orders and brought him by night to An·tipʹa·tris. 32  The next day they permitted the horsemen to go on with him, but they returned to the soldiers’ quarters. 33  The horsemen entered Caes·a·reʹa and delivered the letter to the governor and also presented Paul to him. 34  So he read it and asked what province he was from and learned that he was from Ci·liʹcia.+ 35  “I will give you a thorough hearing,” he said, “when your accusers arrive.”+ And he commanded that he be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.


Or “publicly declare.”

Study Notes

I have behaved: Or “I have lived my life.” The form of the Greek verb po·li·teuʹo·mai used here could be rendered “to behave as a citizen.” (Kingdom Interlinear) Paul indicates that he has behaved in a proper way as a good citizen who followed the laws of his country. Roman citizens generally took an active part in the affairs of the State because Roman citizenship was highly prized and it carried with it responsibilities and privileges. (Ac 22:25-30) When Paul on this occasion described how he had “behaved” before God, it may have carried the implication that he was primarily a citizen of God’s Kingdom.​—Php 3:20; compare the use of the same verb form at Php 1:27; ftn.

those of the sect of the Pharisees: Apparently, these Christians were still identified in some sense with their Pharisaic background.​—Compare study note on Ac 23:6.

I am a Pharisee: Some of those in the audience knew Paul. (Ac 22:5) They would have understood that by calling himself a son of Pharisees, he was acknowledging his common heritage with them. They understood that Paul was not misrepresenting himself, since the Pharisees of the Sanhedrin knew that he had become a zealous Christian. But in this context, Paul’s statement about being a Pharisee could be understood in a relative sense; Paul was identifying himself with the Pharisees rather than the Sadducees because he shared the Pharisees’ belief in the resurrection. In so doing, he established a common ground with the Pharisees who were present. He apparently hoped that raising this controversial issue would cause some members of the Sanhedrin to sympathize with his argument, and the strategy worked. (Ac 23:7-9) Paul’s statement here at Ac 23:6 also harmonizes with how he described himself when he later defended himself before King Agrippa. (Ac 26:5) And when writing from Rome to fellow Christians in Philippi, Paul again made reference to his heritage as a Pharisee. (Php 3:5) It is also worth noting how other Christians who were former Pharisees are described at Ac 15:5.​—See study note on Ac 15:5.

bound themselves with a curse: Or “bound themselves with an oath.” The Greek word a·na·the·ma·tiʹzo is apparently used to refer to the declaring of an oath that if not carried out or if proved false would result in a curse against the one who took the oath.

bound themselves with a curse: Or “bound themselves with an oath.” The Greek word a·na·the·ma·tiʹzo is apparently used to refer to the declaring of an oath that if not carried out or if proved false would result in a curse against the one who took the oath.

elders: Lit., “older men.” In the Bible, the Greek term pre·sbyʹte·ros refers primarily to those who hold a position of authority and responsibility in a community or a nation. Although the term sometimes refers to physical age (as at Lu 15:25; Ac 2:17), it is not limited to those who are elderly. Here it refers to the leaders of the Jewish nation who are often mentioned together with chief priests and scribes. The Sanhedrin was made up of men from these three groups.​—Mt 21:23; 26:3, 47, 57; 27:1, 41; 28:12; see Glossary, “Elder; Older man.”

the elders: Here referring to the leaders of the Jewish nation who are often mentioned together with chief priests and scribes.​—See study note on Mt 16:21.

bound ourselves with a curse: Or “bound ourselves with an oath.”​—See study note on Ac 23:12.

bound themselves with a curse: Or “bound themselves with an oath.” The Greek word a·na·the·ma·tiʹzo is apparently used to refer to the declaring of an oath that if not carried out or if proved false would result in a curse against the one who took the oath.

bound themselves with a curse: Or “bound themselves with an oath.”​—See study note on Ac 23:12.

late in the day: In this verse, reference is made to the four watches of the night of about three hours each, running from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., according to the Greek and Roman division of the night. (See also following study notes on this verse.) The Hebrews formerly divided the night into three watches of about four hours each (Ex 14:24; Jg 7:19), but by Jesus’ day, they had adopted the Roman system. The expression “late in the day” in this verse refers to the first night watch, that is, from sunset to about 9:00 p.m.​—See study note on Mt 14:25.

the third hour of the night: That is, about 9:00 p.m., counting from sunset. The Christian Greek Scriptures usually refer to “watch” periods when counting time, following the Greek and Roman custom. (Mt 14:25; Mr 6:48; Lu 12:38) This is the only mention of a specific “hour” of the 12 hours that make up the nighttime.​—Compare Ac 16:25, 33; see study note on Mr 13:35.

Greetings!: The Greek word khaiʹro, which literally means “to rejoice,” is here used as a salutation and conveys the thought “may things be well with you.” The introduction to this letter concerning circumcision, which was sent to the congregations, follows the common ancient form of letter writing. First the writer was mentioned, then a person was addressed, and third the common greeting was given. (See study note on Ac 23:26.) Of all the letters included in the Christian Greek Scriptures, only the letter of James uses the Greek term khaiʹro as a salutation in the same way as this letter from the first-century governing body. (Jas 1:1) The disciple James was involved in formulating this letter, which supports the conclusion that the James who wrote the letter bearing his name is the same as the one who had a prominent part in the meeting recounted in Acts chapter 15.

Claudius Lysias to His Excellency, Governor Felix: Greetings!: This was a common introduction used in ancient letters. First the writer was mentioned, then the person was addressed, and third the common greeting was given using the Greek word khaiʹro, which literally means “to rejoice.” It expressed the thought: “May things be well with you.” It commonly appears in non-Biblical papyrus letters. In this context, the Greek word can appropriately be rendered “Greetings!” A similar introduction to a letter can be found at Ac 15:23 and Jas 1:1.​—See study note on Ac 15:23.

a Roman: That is, a Roman citizen.​—See study notes on Ac 16:37; 22:25.

a Roman: That is, a Roman citizen. This is the second of three recorded instances in which Paul made use of his rights as a Roman citizen. Roman authorities usually interfered little in Jewish affairs. However, the Romans got involved in Paul’s case not only because a riot erupted when he visited the temple but also because he was a Roman citizen. Citizenship afforded a person certain privileges that were recognized and honored throughout the empire. It was illegal, for example, to bind or beat an uncondemned Roman, since such treatment was considered fit for slaves only.​—For the other two occasions, see study notes on Ac 16:37; 25:11.

we are Romans: That is, Roman citizens. Paul and apparently also Silas were Roman citizens. Roman law stated that a citizen was always entitled to a proper trial and was never to be punished in public uncondemned. Roman citizenship entitled a person to certain rights and privileges wherever he went in the empire. A Roman citizen was subject to Roman law, not to the laws of provincial cities. When accused, he could agree to be tried according to local law; yet, he still retained the right to be heard by a Roman tribunal. In the case of a capital offense, he had the right to appeal to the emperor. The apostle Paul preached extensively throughout the Roman Empire. He made use of his rights as a Roman citizen on three recorded occasions. The first is here in Philippi when he informed the Philippian magistrates that they had infringed on his rights by beating him.​—For the other two occasions, see study notes on Ac 22:25; 25:11.

governor’s residence: The Greek term prai·toʹri·on (derived from the Latin praetorium) designates the official residence of the Roman governors. In Jerusalem, the residence was probably the palace built by Herod the Great, situated in the NW corner of the upper city, that is, of the southern part of Jerusalem. (See App. B12 for the location.) Pilate stayed in Jerusalem only on certain occasions, such as festivals, since there was a potential for unrest. His usual residence was in Caesarea.

palace: Or “praetorium.” In the Gospels and Acts, the Greek word prai·toʹri·on (from Latin) is used with regard to a palace or a residence. The tent of an army commander had been known as the praetorium, so in time the term was applied to the residence of a provincial governor. Here the term refers to a palace located in Caesarea and built by Herod the Great. At this time, about 56 C.E., it served as the residence of the Roman governor.​—See study note on Mt 27:27.


Roman Spears
Roman Spears

Roman soldiers were commonly equipped with long weapons suitable for thrusting or throwing. The pilum (1) was designed to penetrate its target. Its heavy weight limited the range at which it could be thrown but enabled the weapon to pierce through armor or a shield. There is evidence that Roman legionnaires often carried the pilum. Simpler spears (2) had a wooden shaft and a tip of forged iron. Auxiliary infantry sometimes carried one or more spears of this type. It is unknown what kind of spear was used to jab the side of Jesus’ body.