Acts 23:1-15 The Message Bible

23 1  Paul surveyed the members of the council with a steady gaze, and then said his piece: "Friends, I've lived with a clear conscience before God all my life, up to this very moment." 2  That set the Chief Priest Ananias off. He ordered his aides to slap Paul in the face. 3  Paul shot back, "God will slap you down! What a fake you are! You sit there and judge me by the Law and then break the Law by ordering me slapped around!" 4  The aides were scandalized: "How dare you talk to God's Chief Priest like that! 5  Paul acted surprised. "How was I to know he was Chief Priest? He doesn't act like a Chief Priest. You're right, the Scripture does say, 'Don't speak abusively to a ruler of the people.' Sorry."

6  Paul, knowing some of the council was made up of Sadducees and others of Pharisees and how they hated each other, decided to exploit their antagonism: "Friends, I am a stalwart Pharisee from a long line of Pharisees. It's because of my Pharisee convictions - the hope and resurrection of the dead - that I've been hauled into this court." 7  The moment he said this, the council split right down the middle, Pharisees and Sadducees going at each other in heated argument. 8  Sadducees have nothing to do with a resurrection or angels or even a spirit. If they can't see it, they don't believe it. Pharisees believe it all. 9  And so a huge and noisy quarrel broke out. Then some of the religion scholars on the Pharisee side shouted down the others: "We don't find anything wrong with this man! And what if a spirit has spoken to him? Or maybe an angel? What if it turns out we're fighting against God?" 10  That was fuel on the fire. The quarrel flamed up and became so violent the captain was afraid they would tear Paul apart, limb from limb. He ordered the soldiers to get him out of there and escort him back to the safety of the barracks. 11  That night the Master appeared to Paul: "It's going to be all right. Everything is going to turn out for the best. You've been a good witness for me here in Jerusalem. Now you're going to be my witness in Rome!"

The Plot against Paul's Life

12  Next day the Jews worked up a plot against Paul. They took a solemn oath that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed him. 13  Over forty of them ritually bound themselves to this murder pact 14  and presented themselves to the high priests and religious leaders. "We've bound ourselves by a solemn oath to eat nothing until we have killed Paul 15  But we need your help. Send a request from the council to the captain to bring Paul back so that you can investigate the charges in more detail. We'll do the rest. Before he gets anywhere near you, we'll have killed him. You won't be involved."

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