Paul’s Defense before the Jews
22 “Brethren and fathers (kinsmen), hear my defense which I now offer to you.”
2 When they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more quiet. And he continued,
3 “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. 4 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, 5 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.
6 “But as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a great blaze of light suddenly flashed from heaven and shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ 8 And I replied, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me [c]saw the light, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me. 10 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.’ 11 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.
12 “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, 13 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. 14 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. 15 For you will be His witness to all men testifying of what you have seen and heard. 16 Now, why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins by calling on His name [for salvation].’
17 “Then it happened when I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple [enclosure], that I fell into a trance (vision); 18 and I saw Him saying to me, ‘Hurry and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’ 19 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]. 20 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.’ 21 And the Lord said to me, ‘Go, I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”
22 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!” 23 And as they were shouting and throwing off their coats [getting ready to stone Paul] and tossing dust into the air [expressing their anger], 24 the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, stating that he was to be [e]interrogated with a whip in order to learn why the people were shouting against him that way. 25 But when they had stretched him out [f]with the leather straps [in preparation for the whip], Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it legal for you to whip a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned [without a trial]?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and said to him, “What are you about to do? This man is a [g]Roman!” 27 So the commander came and asked Paul, “Tell me, are you a Roman?” And he said, “Yes.” 28 The commander replied, “I [h]purchased this citizenship [of mine] for a large sum of money [so how did you acquire yours?].” Paul said, “But I was actually born a citizen.” 29 So those who were about to interrogate him by torture immediately let him go; and the commander was also afraid when he realized that Paul was a Roman and he had put him in chains.
30 But on the next day, wanting to know the real reason why Paul was being accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and the whole Council (Sanhedrin, Jewish High Court) to assemble; and brought Paul down and presented him before them.
- 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.
- Acts 22:24 This was standard practice with slaves or others of no social standing under Roman rule. The thinking was that such people did not have the integrity to tell the truth, and had to be tortured to drag the truth out of them.
- Acts 22:25 Or for the whip.
- Acts 22:26 Death was the punishment for someone falsely claiming to be a Roman.
- Acts 22:28 Messalina (third wife of Emperor Claudius) was said to have illegally “sold” Roman citizenships at high prices; however, there were also legitimate ways to obtain citizenship.