Paul Seized in the Temple
When the seven days [required to complete the ritual] were almost over, [some] Jews from [the province of] Asia [Minor], caught sight of him in the temple, and began to stir up the crowd, and they seized him, shouting, “Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and the Law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul, and they assumed that he had brought the man into the temple [beyond the court of the Gentiles]. Then the whole city was provoked and confused, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the gates were closed. Now while they were trying to kill him, word came to the commander of the [Roman] garrison that all Jerusalem was in a state of upheaval. So he immediately took soldiers and centurions and ran down among them. When the people saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the commander came up and arrested Paul, and ordered that he be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. But some in the crowd were shouting one thing and others something else; and since he could not determine the facts because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken to the barracks [in the tower of Antonia]. When Paul got to the steps, he was carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob; for the majority of the people kept following them, shouting, “Away with him! [Kill him!]”
Just as Paul was about to be taken into the barracks, he asked the commander, “May I say something to you?” And the man replied, “Do you know Greek? Then you are not [as I assumed] the Egyptian who [a]some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led those 4,000 men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” Paul said, “I am a Jew from [b]Tarsus in Cilicia (Mersin Province, Turkey), a citizen of no insignificant city; and I beg you, allow me to speak to the people.” When the commander had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, gestured with his hand to the people; and when there was a great hush, he spoke to them in the Hebrew dialect (Jewish Aramaic), saying,
- Acts 21:38 Lit before these days.
- Acts 21:39 A major city located at the crossing of several ancient trade routes, Tarsus (Tarsos, Tarsisi) was also known for its literary schools which rivaled those located in Athens and Alexandria.
Paul’s Defense before the Jews
“Brethren and fathers (kinsmen), hear my defense which I now offer to you.”
When they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more quiet. And he continued,
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of [a]Gamaliel according to the strictness of the law of our fathers, being ardent and passionate for God just as all of you are today. I persecuted and pursued the followers of this [b]Way to the death, binding them with chains and putting [followers of Jesus] both men and women into prisons, as the high priest and all the Council of the elders (Sanhedrin, Jewish High Court) can testify; because from them I received letters to the brothers, and I was on my way to Damascus in order to bring those [believers] who were there to Jerusalem in chains to be punished.
“But as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a great blaze of light suddenly flashed from heaven and shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And I replied, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me [c]saw the light, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me. And I asked, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that is appointed and destined for you to do.’ But since I could not see because of the [glorious intensity and dazzling] brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me and came into Damascus.
“And one Ananias, a devout man according to [d]the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to [see] me, and standing near, he said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I [recovered my sight and] looked up at him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will, [and to progressively understand His plan with clarity and power] and to see the Righteous One [Jesus Christ, the Messiah] and to hear a message from His [own] mouth. For you will be His witness to all men testifying of what you have seen and heard. Now, why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins by calling on His name [for salvation].’
“Then it happened when I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple [enclosure], that I fell into a trance (vision); and I saw Him saying to me, ‘Hurry and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’ And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know [without any doubt] that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in You [and Your message of salvation]. And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing nearby approving and consenting [to his death], and guarding the coats of those who were killing him.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Go, I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”
They listened to Paul until [he made] this [last] statement, but now they raised their voices and shouted, “Away with such a man from the earth! He is not fit to live!”
- Acts 22:3 According to the Talmud, Gamaliel, who was the leading scholar of the Torah from a.d. 20 to 40, taught a school of 1,000 advanced students.
- Acts 22:4 See note 9:2. Paul was probably referring to Jesus Himself.
- Acts 22:9 At first look, what Paul says here seems to contradict Luke the writer’s own description of what happened in 9:7. However, Luke says there that Paul’s companions saw no one, not that they did not see the light; and this may be an indication that Paul did not just see the light but saw Jesus in the light. As for what was heard, there is a subtle distinction in the Greek between the two accounts. The Greek word for “hear” takes an object in one form for the source of a sound, and in another form for the substance or content of a sound. In 9:7 Luke uses the first form, indicating that Paul’s companions heard the voice as a sound. Here in 22:9, the second form is used, indicating that the others did not hear the substance of the sound—that is, they could not make out what the voice was saying.
- Acts 22:12 Or the Law.