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22 “My brothers and my fathers, listen to what I have to say in my own defence.”

As soon as they heard him addressing them in Hebrew the silence became intense.

3-16 “I myself am a Jew,” Paul went on. “I was born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but I was brought up here in the city, I received my training at the feet of Gamaliel and I was schooled in the strictest observance of our father’s Law. I was as much on fire with zeal for God as you all are today. I am also the man who persecuted this way to the death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the High Priest and the whole council can readily testify. Indeed, it was after receiving letters from them to their brothers in Damascus that I was on my way to that city, intending to arrest any followers of the way I could find there and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. Then this happened to me. As I was on my journey and getting near to Damascus, about midday a great light from Heaven suddenly blazed around me. I fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I replied, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’ My companions naturally saw the light, but they did not hear the voice of the one who was talking to me. ‘What am I to do Lord?’ I asked. And the Lord told me, ‘Get up and go to Damascus and there you will be told of all that has been determined for you to do.’ I was blinded by the brightness of the light and my companions had to take me by the hand as we went on to Damascus. There, there was a man called Ananias, a reverent observer of the Law and a man highly respected by all the Jews who lived there. He came to visit me and as he stood by my side said, ‘Saul, brother, you may see again!’ At once I regained my sight and looked up to him. ‘The God of our fathers,’ he went on, ‘has chosen you to know his will, to see the righteous one, to hear words from his own lips, so that you may become his witness before all men of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up and be baptised! Be clean from your sins as you call on his name.’

Paul claims that God sent him to the Gentiles

17-21 “Then it happened that after my return to Jerusalem, while I was at prayer in the Temple, unconscious of everything else, I saw him, and he said to me, ‘Make haste and leave Jerusalem at once, for they will not accept your testimony about me.’ And I said, ‘But, Lord, they know how I have been through all the synagogues imprisoning and beating all those who believe in you. They know also that when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed I stood by, giving my approval—why, I was even holding in my arms, the outer garments of those who killed him.’ But he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles’.”

The consequence of Paul’s speech

22 They had listened to him until he said this, but now they raised a great shout, “Kill him, and rid the earth of such a man! He is not fit to live!”

23-25 As they were yelling and ripping their clothes and hurling dust into the air, the colonel gave orders to bring Paul into the barracks and directed that he should be examined by scourging, so that he might discover the reason for such an uproar against him. But when they had strapped him up, Paul spoke to the centurion standing by, “Is it legal for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen, and untried at that?”

26 On hearing this the centurion went in to the colonel and reported to him, saying, “Do you realise what you were about to do? This man is a Roman citizen!”

27 Then the colonel himself came up to Paul, and said, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.”

28 Whereupon the colonel replied, “It cost me a good deal to get my citizenship.” “Ah,” replied Paul, “but I was born a citizen.”

29 Then those who had been about to examine him left hurriedly, while even the colonel himself was alarmed at discovering that Paul was a Roman and that he had had him bound.

Roman fair-mindedness

30 Next day the colonel, determined to get to the bottom of Paul’s accusation by the Jews, released him and ordered the assembly of the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin. Then he took Paul down and placed him in front of them.