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Paul again attempts defence

23 1-3 Paul looked steadily at the Sanhedrin and spoke to them, “men and brothers, I have lived my life with a perfectly clear conscience before God up to the present day—” Then Ananias the High Priest ordered those who were standing near to strike him in the mouth. At this Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you white-washed wall! How dare you sit there judging me by the Law and give orders for me to be struck, which is clean contrary to the Law?”

Those who stood by said, “Do you mean to insult God’s High Priest?”

But Paul said, “My brothers, I did not know that he was the High Priest, for it is written: ‘You shall not speak evil of the ruler of your people.’”

Paul seizes his opportunity

Then Paul, realising that part of the council were Sadducees and the other part Pharisees, raised his voice and said to them, “I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees. It is for my hope in the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial!”

7-9a At these words an immediate tension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the meeting was divided. For the Sadducees claim that there is no resurrection and that there is neither angel nor spirit, while the Pharisees believe in all three. A great uproar ensued and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party jumped to their feet and protested violently.

9b “We find nothing wrong with this man! Suppose some angel or spirit has really spoken to him?”

10 As the tension mounted the colonel began to fear that Paul would be torn to pieces between them. He therefore ordered his soldiers to come down and rescue him from them and bring him back to the barracks.

God’s direct encouragement to Paul

11 That night the Lord stood by Paul, and said, “Take heart!—for as you have witnessed boldly for me in Jerusalem so you must give your witness to me in Rome.”

Paul’s acute danger

12-15 Early in the morning the Jews made a conspiracy and bound themselves by a solemn oath that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. Over forty of them were involved in the plot, and they approached the chief priests and elders, and said, “We have bound ourselves by a solemn oath to let nothing pass our lips until we have killed Paul. Now you and the council must make it plain to the colonel that you want him to bring Paul down to you, suggesting that you want to examine his case more closely. We shall be standing by ready to kill him before he gets here.”

Leakage of information leads to Paul’s protection

16-17 However, Paul’s nephew got wind of this plot and he came and found his way into the barracks and told Paul about it. Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the colonel for he has something to report to him.”

18 So the centurion took him and brought him into the colonel’s presence, and said, “The prisoner Paul called me and requested that this young man should be brought to you as he has something to say to you.”

19 The colonel took his hand, and drew him aside (where they could not be overheard), and asked, “What have you got to tell me?”

20-21 And he replied, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the Sanhedrin tomorrow as though they were going to enquire more carefully into his case. But I beg you not to let them persuade you. For more than forty of them are waiting for him—they have sworn a solemn oath that they will neither eat nor drink until they have killed him. They are all ready at this moment—all they want is for you to give the order.”

22 At this the colonel dismissed the young man with the caution, “Don’t let a soul know that you have given me this information.”

23-24 Then he summoned two of his centurions, and said, “Get two hundred men ready to proceed to Caesarea, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen, by nine o’clock tonight.” (Mounts were also to be provided to carry Paul safely to Felix the governor.)

The Roman view of Paul’s position

25-30 He further wrote a letter to Felix of which this is a copy: “Claudius Lysias sends greeting to his excellency the governor Felix. “This man had been seized by the Jews and was on the point of being murdered by them when I arrived with my troops and rescued him, since I had discovered that he was a Roman citizen. Wishing to find out what the accusation was that they were making against him, I had him brought down to their Sanhedrin. There I discovered he was being accused over questions of their laws, and that there was no charge against him which deserved either death or imprisonment. Now, however, that I have received private information of a plot against his life, I have sent him to you without delay. At the same time I have notified his accusers that they must make their charges against him in your presence.”

Paul is taken into protective custody

31-35 The soldiers, acting on their orders, took Paul and, riding through that night, brought him down to Antipatris. Next day they returned to the barracks, leaving the horsemen to accompany him further. They went into Caesarea and after delivering the letter to the governor, they handed Paul over to him. When the governor had read the letter he asked Paul what province he came from, and on learning that he came from Cilicia, he said, “I will hear your case as soon as your accusers arrive.” Then he ordered him to be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.