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Acts 21:37-23:35Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

Paul’s Defense before the Jerusalem Mob

37 As he was about to be brought into the barracks, Paul said to the commander, “Am I allowed to say something to you?”

He replied, “Do you know Greek? 38 Aren’t you the Egyptian who raised a rebellion some time ago and led 4,000 Assassins[a][b] into the wilderness?”

39 Paul said, “I am a Jewish man from Tarsus of Cilicia, a citizen of an important city.[c] Now I ask you, let me speak to the people.”

40 After he had given permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned with his hand to the people. When there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language: 22 “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense before you.” When they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even quieter. He continued, “I am a Jewish man, born in Tarsus of Cilicia but brought up in this city[d] at the feet of Gamaliel and educated according to the strict view of our patriarchal law. Being zealous for God, just as all of you are today, I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women in jail, as both the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. After I received letters from them to the brothers, I traveled to Damascus to bring those who were prisoners there to be punished in Jerusalem.

Paul’s Testimony

“As I was traveling and near Damascus, about noon an intense light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’

“I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’

“He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, the One you are persecuting!’ Now those who were with me saw the light,[e] but they did not hear the voice of the One who was speaking to me.

10 “Then I said, ‘What should I do, Lord?’

“And the Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything that is assigned for you to do.’

11 “Since I couldn’t see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus. 12 Someone named Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good reputation with all the Jews residing there, 13 came and stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And in that very hour I looked up and saw him. 14 Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of His voice.[f] 15 For you will be a witness for Him to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now, why delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins by calling on His name.’

17 “After I came back to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple complex, I went into a visionary state 18 and saw Him telling me, ‘Hurry and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me!’

19 “But I said, ‘Lord, they know that in synagogue after synagogue I had those who believed in You imprisoned and beaten. 20 And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I was standing by and approving,[g] and I guarded the clothes of those who killed him.’

21 “Then He said to me, ‘Go, because I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’

Paul’s Roman Protection

22 They listened to him up to this word. Then they raised their voices, shouting, “Wipe this person off the earth—it’s a disgrace for him to live!”

23 As they were yelling and flinging aside their robes and throwing dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, directing that he be examined with the scourge, so he could discover the reason they were shouting against him like this. 25 As they stretched him out for the lash, Paul said to the centurion standing by, “Is it legal for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen and is uncondemned?”

26 When the centurion heard this, he went and reported to the commander, saying, “What are you going to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.”

27 The commander came and said to him, “Tell me—are you a Roman citizen?”

“Yes,” he said.

28 The commander replied, “I bought this citizenship for a large amount of money.”

“But I was born a citizen,” Paul said.

29 Therefore, those who were about to examine him withdrew from him at once. The commander too was alarmed when he realized Paul was a Roman citizen and he had bound him.

Paul before the Sanhedrin

30 The next day, since he wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews, he released him[h] and instructed the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin to convene. Then he brought Paul down and placed him before them. 23 Paul looked intently at the Sanhedrin and said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience until this day.” But the high priest Ananias ordered those who were standing next to him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! You are sitting there judging me according to the law, and in violation of the law are you ordering me to be struck?”

And those standing nearby said, “Do you dare revile God’s high priest?”

“I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest,” replied Paul. “For it is written, You must not speak evil of a ruler of your people.[i] When Paul realized that one part of them were Sadducees and the other part were Pharisees, he cried out in the Sanhedrin, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees! I am being judged because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead!” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, and no angel or spirit, but the Pharisees affirm them all.

The shouting grew loud, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party got up and argued vehemently: “We find nothing evil in this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?”[j] 10 When the dispute became violent, the commander feared that Paul might be torn apart by them and ordered the troops to go down, rescue him from them, and bring him into the barracks.

The Plot against Paul

11 The following night, the Lord stood by him and said, “Have courage! For as you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

12 When it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under a curse: neither to eat nor to drink until they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than 40 who had formed this plot. 14 These men went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have bound ourselves under a solemn curse that we won’t eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 So now you, along with the Sanhedrin, make a request to the commander that he bring him down to you[k] as if you were going to investigate his case more thoroughly. However, before he gets near, we are ready to kill him.”

16 But the son of Paul’s sister, hearing about their ambush, came and entered the barracks and reported it to Paul. 17 Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander, because he has something to report to him.”

18 So he took him, brought him to the 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 Then the commander took him by the hand, led him aside, and inquired privately, “What is it you have to report to me?”

20 “The Jews,” he said, “have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the Sanhedrin tomorrow, as though they are going to hold a somewhat more careful inquiry about him. 21 Don’t let them persuade you, because there are more than 40 of them arranging to ambush him, men who have bound themselves under a curse not to eat or drink until they kill him. Now they are ready, waiting for a commitment from you.”

22 So the commander dismissed the young man and instructed him, “Don’t tell anyone that you have informed me about this.”

To Caesarea by Night

23 He summoned two of his centurions and said, “Get 200 soldiers ready with 70 cavalry and 200 spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight.[l] 24 Also provide mounts so they can put Paul on them and bring him safely to Felix the governor.”

25 He wrote a letter of this kind:

26 Claudius Lysias,

To the most excellent governor Felix:

Greetings.

27 When this man had been seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them, I arrived with my troops and rescued him because I learned that he is a Roman citizen. 28 Wanting to know the charge they were accusing him of, I brought him down before their Sanhedrin. 29 I found out that the accusations were about disputed matters in their law, and that there was no charge that merited death or chains. 30 When I was informed that there was a plot against the man,[m] I sent him to you right away. I also ordered his accusers to state their case against him in your presence.[n]

31 Therefore, the soldiers took Paul during the night and brought him to Antipatris as they were ordered. 32 The next day, they returned to the barracks, allowing the cavalry to go on with him. 33 When these men entered Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him. 34 After he[o] read it, he asked what province he was from. So when he learned he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I will give you a hearing whenever your accusers get here too.” And he ordered that he be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.

Footnotes:

  1. Acts 21:38 Lit 4,000 men of the Assassins
  2. Acts 21:38 In Lat, the word Sicarii is similar to the Eng word “cut-throats.”
  3. Acts 21:39 Lit of no insignificant city
  4. Acts 22:3 Probably Jerusalem, but others think Tarsus
  5. Acts 22:9 Other mss add and were afraid
  6. Acts 22:14 Lit to hear a voice from His mouth
  7. Acts 22:20 Other mss add of his murder
  8. Acts 22:30 Other mss add from his chains
  9. Acts 23:5 Ex 22:28
  10. Acts 23:9 Other mss add Let us not fight God.
  11. Acts 23:15 Other mss add tomorrow
  12. Acts 23:23 Lit at the third hour tonight
  13. Acts 23:30 Other mss add by the Jews
  14. Acts 23:30 Other mss add Farewell
  15. Acts 23:34 Other mss read the governor

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