Acts 21:37-25:12New Living Translation (NLT)
Paul Speaks to the Crowd
37 As Paul was about to be taken inside, he said to the commander, “May I have a word with you?”
“Do you know Greek?” the commander asked, surprised. 38 “Aren’t you the Egyptian who led a rebellion some time ago and took 4,000 members of the Assassins out into the desert?”
39 “No,” Paul replied, “I am a Jew and a citizen of Tarsus in Cilicia, which is an important city. Please, let me talk to these people.” 40 The commander agreed, so Paul stood on the stairs and motioned to the people to be quiet. Soon a deep silence enveloped the crowd, and he addressed them in their own language, Aramaic.[a]
22 “Brothers and esteemed fathers,” Paul said, “listen to me as I offer my defense.” 2 When they heard him speaking in their own language,[b] the silence was even greater.
3 Then Paul said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and I was brought up and educated here in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As his student, I was carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs. I became very zealous to honor God in everything I did, just like all of you today. 4 And I persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison. 5 The high priest and the whole council of elders can testify that this is so. For I received letters from them to our Jewish brothers in Damascus, authorizing me to bring the followers of the Way from there to Jerusalem, in chains, to be punished.
6 “As I was on the road, approaching Damascus about noon, a very bright light from heaven suddenly shone down around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
8 “‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.
“And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene,[c] the one you are persecuting.’ 9 The people with me saw the light but didn’t understand the voice speaking to me.
10 “I asked, ‘What should I do, Lord?’
“And the Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything you are to do.’
11 “I was blinded by the intense light and had to be led by the hand to Damascus by my companions. 12 A man named Ananias lived there. He was a godly man, deeply devoted to the law, and well regarded by all the Jews of Damascus. 13 He came and stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And that very moment I could see him!
14 “Then he told me, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and hear him speak. 15 For you are to be his witness, telling everyone what you have seen and heard. 16 What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord.’
17 “After I returned to Jerusalem, I was praying in the Temple and fell into a trance. 18 I saw a vision of Jesus[d] saying to me, ‘Hurry! Leave Jerusalem, for the people here won’t accept your testimony about me.’
19 “‘But Lord,’ I argued, ‘they certainly know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And I was in complete agreement when your witness Stephen was killed. I stood by and kept the coats they took off when they stoned him.’
21 “But the Lord said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles!’”
22 The crowd listened until Paul said that word. Then they all began to shout, “Away with such a fellow! He isn’t fit to live!” 23 They yelled, threw off their coats, and tossed handfuls of dust into the air.
Paul Reveals His Roman Citizenship
24 The commander brought Paul inside and ordered him lashed with whips to make him confess his crime. He wanted to find out why the crowd had become so furious. 25 When they tied Paul down to lash him, Paul said to the officer[e] standing there, “Is it legal for you to whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been tried?”
26 When the officer heard this, he went to the commander and asked, “What are you doing? This man is a Roman citizen!”
27 So the commander went over and asked Paul, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”
“Yes, I certainly am,” Paul replied.
28 “I am, too,” the commander muttered, “and it cost me plenty!”
Paul answered, “But I am a citizen by birth!”
29 The soldiers who were about to interrogate Paul quickly withdrew when they heard he was a Roman citizen, and the commander was frightened because he had ordered him bound and whipped.
Paul before the High Council
30 The next day the commander ordered the leading priests into session with the Jewish high council.[f] He wanted to find out what the trouble was all about, so he released Paul to have him stand before them.
23 Gazing intently at the high council,[g] Paul began: “Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience!”
2 Instantly Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth. 3 But Paul said to him, “God will slap you, you corrupt hypocrite![h] What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?”
4 Those standing near Paul said to him, “Do you dare to insult God’s high priest?”
5 “I’m sorry, brothers. I didn’t realize he was the high priest,” Paul replied, “for the Scriptures say, ‘You must not speak evil of any of your rulers.’[i]”
6 Paul realized that some members of the high council were Sadducees and some were Pharisees, so he shouted, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, as were my ancestors! And I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead!”
7 This divided the council—the Pharisees against the Sadducees— 8 for the Sadducees say there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, but the Pharisees believe in all of these. 9 So there was a great uproar. Some of the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees jumped up and began to argue forcefully. “We see nothing wrong with him,” they shouted. “Perhaps a spirit or an angel spoke to him.” 10 As the conflict grew more violent, the commander was afraid they would tear Paul apart. So he ordered his soldiers to go and rescue him by force and take him back to the fortress.
11 That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.”
The Plan to Kill Paul
12 The next morning a group of Jews[j] got together and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty of them in the conspiracy. 14 They went to the leading priests and elders and told them, “We have bound ourselves with an oath to eat nothing until we have killed Paul. 15 So you and the high council should ask the commander to bring Paul back to the council again. Pretend you want to examine his case more fully. We will kill him on the way.”
16 But Paul’s nephew—his sister’s son—heard of their plan and went to the fortress and told Paul. 17 Paul called for one of the Roman officers[k] and said, “Take this young man to the commander. He has something important to tell him.”
18 So the officer did, explaining, “Paul, the prisoner, called me over and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.”
19 The commander took his hand, led him aside, and asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”
20 Paul’s nephew told him, “Some Jews are going to ask you to bring Paul before the high council tomorrow, pretending they want to get some more information. 21 But don’t do it! There are more than forty men hiding along the way ready to ambush him. They have vowed not to eat or drink anything until they have killed him. They are ready now, just waiting for your consent.”
22 “Don’t let anyone know you told me this,” the commander warned the young man.
Paul Is Sent to Caesarea
23 Then the commander called two of his officers and ordered, “Get 200 soldiers ready to leave for Caesarea at nine o’clock tonight. Also take 200 spearmen and 70 mounted troops. 24 Provide horses for Paul to ride, and get him safely to Governor Felix.” 25 Then he wrote this letter to the governor:
26 “From Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency, Governor Felix: Greetings!
27 “This man was seized by some Jews, and they were about to kill him when I arrived with the troops. When I learned that he was a Roman citizen, I removed him to safety. 28 Then I took him to their high council to try to learn the basis of the accusations against him. 29 I soon discovered the charge was something regarding their religious law—certainly nothing worthy of imprisonment or death. 30 But when I was informed of a plot to kill him, I immediately sent him on to you. I have told his accusers to bring their charges before you.”
31 So that night, as ordered, the soldiers took Paul as far as Antipatris. 32 They returned to the fortress the next morning, while the mounted troops took him on to Caesarea. 33 When they arrived in Caesarea, they presented Paul and the letter to Governor Felix. 34 He read it and then asked Paul what province he was from. “Cilicia,” Paul answered.
35 “I will hear your case myself when your accusers arrive,” the governor told him. Then the governor ordered him kept in the prison at Herod’s headquarters.[l]
Paul Appears before Felix
24 Five days later Ananias, the high priest, arrived with some of the Jewish elders and the lawyer[m] Tertullus, to present their case against Paul to the governor. 2 When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented the charges against Paul in the following address to the governor:
“You have provided a long period of peace for us Jews and with foresight have enacted reforms for us. 3 For all of this, Your Excellency, we are very grateful to you. 4 But I don’t want to bore you, so please give me your attention for only a moment. 5 We have found this man to be a troublemaker who is constantly stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the cult known as the Nazarenes. 6 Furthermore, he was trying to desecrate the Temple when we arrested him.[n] 8 You can find out the truth of our accusations by examining him yourself.” 9 Then the other Jews chimed in, declaring that everything Tertullus said was true.
10 The governor then motioned for Paul to speak. Paul said, “I know, sir, that you have been a judge of Jewish affairs for many years, so I gladly present my defense before you. 11 You can quickly discover that I arrived in Jerusalem no more than twelve days ago to worship at the Temple. 12 My accusers never found me arguing with anyone in the Temple, nor stirring up a riot in any synagogue or on the streets of the city. 13 These men cannot prove the things they accuse me of doing.
14 “But I admit that I follow the Way, which they call a cult. I worship the God of our ancestors, and I firmly believe the Jewish law and everything written in the prophets. 15 I have the same hope in God that these men have, that he will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous. 16 Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people.
17 “After several years away, I returned to Jerusalem with money to aid my people and to offer sacrifices to God. 18 My accusers saw me in the Temple as I was completing a purification ceremony. There was no crowd around me and no rioting. 19 But some Jews from the province of Asia were there—and they ought to be here to bring charges if they have anything against me! 20 Ask these men here what crime the Jewish high council[o] found me guilty of, 21 except for the one time I shouted out, ‘I am on trial before you today because I believe in the resurrection of the dead!’”
22 At that point Felix, who was quite familiar with the Way, adjourned the hearing and said, “Wait until Lysias, the garrison commander, arrives. Then I will decide the case.” 23 He ordered an officer[p] to keep Paul in custody but to give him some freedom and allow his friends to visit him and take care of his needs.
24 A few days later Felix came back with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish. Sending for Paul, they listened as he told them about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As he reasoned with them about righteousness and self-control and the coming day of judgment, Felix became frightened. “Go away for now,” he replied. “When it is more convenient, I’ll call for you again.” 26 He also hoped that Paul would bribe him, so he sent for him quite often and talked with him.
27 After two years went by in this way, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And because Felix wanted to gain favor with the Jewish people, he left Paul in prison.
Paul Appears before Festus
25 Three days after Festus arrived in Caesarea to take over his new responsibilities, he left for Jerusalem, 2 where the leading priests and other Jewish leaders met with him and made their accusations against Paul. 3 They asked Festus as a favor to transfer Paul to Jerusalem (planning to ambush and kill him on the way). 4 But Festus replied that Paul was at Caesarea and he himself would be returning there soon. 5 So he said, “Those of you in authority can return with me. If Paul has done anything wrong, you can make your accusations.”
6 About eight or ten days later Festus returned to Caesarea, and on the following day he took his seat in court and ordered that Paul be brought in. 7 When Paul arrived, the Jewish leaders from Jerusalem gathered around and made many serious accusations they couldn’t prove.
8 Paul denied the charges. “I am not guilty of any crime against the Jewish laws or the Temple or the Roman government,” he said.
9 Then Festus, wanting to please the Jews, asked him, “Are you willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there?”
10 But Paul replied, “No! This is the official Roman court, so I ought to be tried right here. You know very well I am not guilty of harming the Jews. 11 If I have done something worthy of death, I don’t refuse to die. But if I am innocent, no one has a right to turn me over to these men to kill me. I appeal to Caesar!”
12 Festus conferred with his advisers and then replied, “Very well! You have appealed to Caesar, and to Caesar you will go!”
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