Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Men, brethren, and fathers - This defense was addressed to the Jews, and Paul commenced it with an expression of sincere respect for them. Stephen began his defense with the same form of address. See the notes on Act 7:2.
My defence - Against the charges brought against me. Those charges were, that he had endeavored to prejudice people everywhere against the Jews, the Law, and the temple, Act 21:28. In order to meet this charge, Paul stated:
(1) That he was a Jew by birth, and had enjoyed all the advantages of a Jewish education, Act 22:3;
(2) He recounted the circumstances of his conversion, and the reason why he believed that he was called to preach the gospel, Act 22:4-16;
(3) He proceeded to state the reasons why he went among the Gentiles, and evidently intended to vindicate his conduct there, Act 22:17-21; but at this point, at the name Gentiles, his defense was interrupted by the enraged multitude, and he was not permitted to proceed.
What would have been his defense, therefore, had he been suffered to finish it, it is impossible to know with certainty. On another occasion, however, he was permitted to make a similar defense, and perhaps to complete the train of thought which he had purposed to pursue here. See Acts 22.
The Hebrew tongue - See the notes on Act 21:40.
Born in Tarsus - See the notes on Act 9:11.
Brought up in this city - In Jerusalem, sent there for the advantage of more perfect instruction in the Law.
At the feet of Gamaliel - As a scholar or disciple of Gamaliel. The phrase to sit at the feet of one is expressive of the condition of a disciple or learner. Compare Deu 33:3; Luk 10:39. It is probable that the expression arose from the fact that the learners occupied a lower place or seat than the teacher. On the character and rank of Gamaliel, see the notes on Act 5:34. Paul mentions his having been instructed in this manner in order to show that he was entitled to the full privileges of a Jew, and that he had had every opportunity to become fully acquainted with the nature of the Law.
According to the perfect manner - κατὰ ἀκρίβειαν kata akribeian . By strict diligence or exact care; or in the utmost rigor and severity of that instruction. No pains were Spared to make him understand and practice the Law of Moses.
The law of the fathers - The law of our fathers; that is, the law which they received and handed down to us. Paul was a Pharisee, and the law in which he had been taught was not only the written Law of Moses, but the traditional law which had been handed down from former times. See the notes on Mat 3:6.
And was zealous toward God - Gal 1:14. He had a constant burning zeal for God and His Law, which was expressed not only by scrupulous adherence to its forms, but by persecuting all who opposed it, Act 22:4-5.
And I persecuted - Act 8:3.
This way - Those who were of this mode of worshipping God; that is, Christians. See the notes on Act 9:2.
Unto the death - Intending to put them to death. He did not probably put any to death himself, but he committed them to prison; he sought their lives; he was the agent employed in arresting them; and when they were put to death, he tells us that he gave his voice against them Act 26:10; that is, he joined in, and approved of their condemnation.
Delivering into prisons ... - Act 8:3.
As also the high priest ... - See the notes on Act 9:2.
All the estate of the elders - Greek: all the presbytery; that is, the whole body of the Sanhedrin, or Great Council of the nation.
Unto the brethren - The Jewish brethren who were at Damascus. Paul here speaks as a Jew, and regards his countrymen as his brethren.
See the notes on Act 9:3-7.
As I made my journey - As I was on my journey.
About noon - Act 26:13, "at mid-day." This circumstance is omitted by Luke in his account in Acts 9: Paul mentions it as being the more remarkable since it occurred at mid-day, to show that he was not deluded by any meteoric or natural appearances, which usually occur at night.
The glory of that light - The splendor, the intense brilliancy of the light. See this and its effects explained in the notes on Act 9:8.
See the notes on Act 9:17-18.
Shouldest know his will - His will in the plan of salvation, and in regard to your future life.
And see that Just One - The Messiah. See the notes on Act 3:14. As Paul was to be an apostle, and as it was the special office of an apostle to bear witness to the person and deeds of the Lord Jesus (see the notes on Act 1:21-22), it was necessary that he should see him, that thus he might be a competent witness of his resurrection.
Shouldest hear the voice of his mouth - Shouldst hear and obey his commands.
For thou shalt be his witness ... - As an apostle - to testify to all people that the Messiah has come, that he has died, that he has risen, and that he is the Saviour of the world.
Of what thou hast seen and heard - Of the remarkable proof which has been furnished you of the divine mission and character of the Lord Jesus.
And now why tarriest thou? - Why dost thou delay, or wait any longer? These words are not recorded by Luke in Acts 9, where he has given an account of the conversion of Paul; but there is nothing here contradictory to his statement.
And wash away thy sins - Receive baptism as emblematic of the washing away of sins. It cannot be intended that the external rite of baptism was sufficient to make the soul pure, but that it was an ordinance divinely appointed as expressive of the washing away of sins, or of purifying the heart. Compare Heb 10:22. Sinners are represented in the Scriptures as defiled or polluted by sin. "To wash away the sins" denotes "the purifying of the soul from this polluted influence," Co1 6:11; Rev 1:5; Rev 7:14; Isa 1:16; Psa 51:2, Psa 51:7.
Calling on the name of the Lord - For pardon and sanctification, Rom 10:13, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." It was proper that this calling on the name of the Lord should be connected with the ordinance of baptism. That ordinance was emblematic of a purifying which the Lord only could produce. It is proper that the rite of baptism should be attended with extraordinary prayer; that he who is to be baptized should make it the occasion of special and very solemn religious exercises. The external rite will avail nothing without the pardoning mercy of God.
When I was come again to Jerusalem - That is, three years after his conversion. See Gal 1:17-18.
While I prayed in the temple - Paul, like other converts to Christianity from among the Jews, would naturally continue to offer his devotions in the temple. We meet with repeated instances of their continuing to comply with the customs of the Jewish people.
I was in a trance - Greek: ecstasy. See the notes on Act 10:10. It is possible that he may here refer to what he elsewhere mentions Co2 12:1-5 as "visions and revelations of the Lord." In that place he mentions his being "caught up to the third heaven" Co2 12:2 and "into paradise," where he heard words which it was "not lawful (marg. possible) for a man to utter," Co2 12:4. It is not certain, however, that he alludes in this place to that remarkable occurrence. The narrative would rather imply that the Lord Jesus appeared to him in the temple in a remarkable manner, in a vision, and gave him a special command to go to the Gentiles. Paul had now stated the evidence of his conversion, which appears to have been satisfactory to them - at least they made no objection to his statement; he had shown, by his being in the temple, his respect for their institutions; and he now proceeds to show that in his other conduct he had been directed by the same high authority by which he had been called into the ministry, and that the command had been given to him in their own temple and in their own city.
And saw him - Evidently, the Lord Jesus, Act 22:14. He had received his commission from him, and he now received a distinct command to go to the Gentiles.
For they will not receive - The inhabitants of Jerusalem, probably including both Jews and Christians. The Jews would not listen to him because he had become, in their view, an apostate, and they would hate and persecute him. The Christians would not be likely to receive him, for they would remember his former persecutions, and would be suspicious of him because he had been so long in Arabia, and had not sooner connected himself with them. See the notes on Act 9:26, "And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple."
And I said, Lord - This shows that it was the Lord Jesus whom Paul saw in a trance in the temple. The term "Lord" is usually applied to him in the Acts . See the notes on Act 1:24.
They know - Christians know; and they will therefore be not likely to receive to their fellowship their former enemy and persecutor.
Beat in every synagogue - Beating, or scourging, was often done in the synagogue. See the notes on Mat 10:17. Compare Act 26:11. It was customary for those who were converted to Christianity still to meet with the Jews in their synagogues, and to join with them in their worship.
The blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed - See Act 7:58; Act 8:1.
I also was standing by - Act 7:58.
And consenting unto his death - Act 8:1.
And kept the raiment - The outer robes or garments, which were usually laid aside when they engaged in running or labor. See Act 7:58. All this showed that, though Paul was not engaged in stoning Stephen, yet he was with them in spirit, and fully accorded with what they did. These circumstances are mentioned here by him as reasons why he knew that he would not be received by Christians as one of their number, and why it was necessary, therefore, for him to turn to the Gentile world.
And he said unto me, Depart - Because the Christians at Jerusalem would not receive him.
Far hence - Paul traveled far in the pagan nations. A large part of his ministry was spent in remote countries, and in the most distant regions then known. See Rom 15:19.
And they gave him audience - They heard him patiently.
Unto this word - The word "Gentile."
Away with such a fellow - Greek: "take such a man from the earth," that is, "put him to death." It is language of strong indignation and abhorrence. The reasons of their induction were, not that they supposed that the Gentiles could not be brought into covenant with God, for they would themselves compass sea and land to make one proselyte, but:
(1) That they believed that Paul taught that they might be saved without conforming to the Law of Moses; and,
(2) His speech implied that the Jews were more hardened than the Gentiles, and that he had a greater prospect of success in bringing them to God than he had in regard to the Jews.
Cast off their clothes - Their outer garments. Probably they did it now intending to stone him, Act 7:58.
And threw dust into the air - As expressive of them abhorrence and indignation. This was a striking exhibition of rage and malice. Paul was guarded by Roman soldiers so that they could not injure him; and their only way of expressing their wrath was by menaces and threats, and by these tokens of furious indignation. Thus, Shimei expressed his indignation against David by cursing him, throwing stones at him, and casting dust, Sa2 16:13.
The castle - The castle of Antonia. He would be there removed entirely from the wrath of the Jews.
Should be examined - ἀνετάζεσθαι anetazesthai." The word "examine" with us commonly means "to inquire, to question, to search for, to look carefully into a subject." The word used here is commonly applied to metals whose nature is tested, or examined by fire; and then it mean to subject to torture or torments, in order to extort a confession where persons were accused of crime. It was often resorted to among the ancients. A common mode has been by the rack, but various kinds of torments have been invented in order to extort confessions of guilt from those who were accused. The whole practice has been one of the most flagrant violations of justice, and one of the foulest blots on human nature. In this case, the tribune saw that Paul was accused violently by the Jews; he was probably ignorant of the Hebrew language, and had not understood the address of Paul; he supposed from the extraordinary excitement that Paul must have been guilty of some flagrant offence, and he therefore resolved to subject him to torture to extort from him a confession.
By scourging - By the scourge or whip. Compare Heb 11:36. This was one mode of torture, in order to extort a secret from those who were accused.
Bound him with thongs - With cords, preparatory to scourging.
Is it lawful ... - It was directly contrary to the Roman law to bind and scourge a Roman citizen. See the notes on Act 16:36-37.
With a great sum obtained I this freedom - The freedom or privilege of Roman citizenship. From this it would seem that the privilege of being a Roman citizen might be purchased, unless perhaps he refers to the expenses which were necessarily attendant in passing through the proper forms of becoming a Roman citizen. The argument of the tribune in this case is this: "I obtained this privilege at a great price. Whence did you, Paul, thus poor and persecuted, obtain the means of becoming a Roman citizen?" Paul had informed him that he was a native of Tarsus Act 21:39; and the chief captain supposed that that was not a free city, and that Paul could not have derived the privilege of citizenship from his birth.
But I was free born - I was born a Roman citizen, or I am such in virtue of my birth. Various opinions have been formed on the question in what way or for what reasons Paul was entitled to the privileges of a Roman citizen. Some have supposed that Tarsus was a Roman colony, and that he thus became a Roman citizen. But of this there does not appear to be sufficient proof. Pliny says (Act 21:27) that it was a free city. Appian says that it was endowed with the privileges of a free city by Augustus Caesar after it had been greatly afflicted and oppressed by wars. Dio Chrysost. says to the people of Tarsus, "He (Augustus) has conferred on you everything which anyone could bestow on his friends and companions, a country (that is, a free country), laws, honor, authority over the river (Cydranus) and the neighboring sea." Free cities were permitted in the Roman empire to use their own laws, customs, and magistrates, and they were free from being subject to Roman guards. They were required only to acknowledge the supremacy and authority of the Roman people, and to aid them in their wars. Such a city was Tarsus; and, having been born there, Paul was entitled to these privileges of a free man. Many critics have supposed that this privilege of Roman citizenship had been conferred on some of the ancestors of Paul in consequence of some distinguished military service. Such a conferring of the rights of citizenship was not unusual, and possibly might have occurred in this case. But there is no direct historical proof of it; and the former fact that he was born in a free city, will amply account for his affirmation that he was free born. Compare the notes on Act 16:37.
Then straightway - Immediately. They saw that by scourging him they would have Violated the Roman law, and exposed themselves to its penalty.
Which should have examined him - Who were about to torture him by scourging him, Act 22:24.
Because he had bound him - Preparatory to scourging him. The act of binding a Roman citizen with such an intent, untried and uncondemned, was unlawful. Prisoners Who were to be scourged were usually bound by the Romans to a pillar or post; and a Similar custom prevailed among the Jews. That it was unlawful to bind a man with this intent, who was uncondemned, appears from an express declaration in Cicero (against Verres): "It is a heinous sin to bind a Roman citizen; it is wickedness to beat him; it is next to parricide to kill him, and what Shall I say to crucify him?"
On the morrow - After he had arrested Paul. Paul was still a prisoner; and if suffered to go at liberty among the Jews, his life would have been in danger.
And commanded the chief priests ... - Summoned a meeting of the Sanhedrin, or Great Council of the nation. He did this, as he was prevented from scourging Paul, in order to know what he had done, and that he might learn from the Jews themselves the nature of the charge against him. This was necessary for the safety of Paul and for the ends of justice. This should have been done without any attempt to torture him in order to extort a confession.
And brought Paul down - From the elevated castle of Antonia. The council assembled commonly in the house of the high priest.
And set him before them - He brought the prisoner to their bar, that they might have have an opportunity to accuse him, and that thus the chief captain might learn the real nature of the charge against him.