Verses 1, 2. (1) "Men, brethren, and fathers, hear my defense, which I now make to you. (2) And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew dialect, they kept the greater quiet." It is happily remarked by Mr. Howson, that, had he spoken in Greek, the majority of his hearers would have understood him; but, "the sound of the holy tongue in that holy place fell like a calm upon the troubled waters." It was a mark of respect for Jewish nationality which they were not prepared to expect from Paul; and the result was, that the silence, which was only general at the waving of his hand, became universal at the utterance of his first sentence.
Verses 3-16. (3) "And he said, I myself am a Jew; born in Tarsus of
Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated
according to the strictest doctrine of the law of our fathers, and was
zealous toward God as you all are this day.
(4) I persecuted this way,
even to death; binding and delivering into prisons both men and women;
(5) as the high priest and the whole body of the elders are my witnesses:
from whom, also, I received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus,
to bring those who were there bound to Jerusalem, that they might be
(6) But it came to pass, as I journeyed and was drawing
near to Damascus, about noon, a great light from heaven suddenly flashed
(7) I fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to me,
Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?
(8) And I answered, Who art
thou, Lord? He said to me, I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you persecute.
(9) Now, they who were with me saw the light, and were afraid;
but they heard not the voice of him who spoke to me.
(10) And I said,
Lord, what shall I do? And the Lord said to me, Arise, and go into
Damascus, and there it shall be told thee concerning all things which
are appointed for thee to do.
(11) And, as I could not see for the
glory of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me,
and went into Damascus.
(12) And one Ananias, a pious man according
to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who dwelt there,
to me, and stood, and said to me, Brother Saul, look up. And that
moment I looked up upon him.
(14) And he said, The God of our
fathers has chosen you to know his will, and to see the Just One, and to
hear the voice of his mouth.
(15) For you shall be a witness for him
to all men, of what you have seen and heard.
(16) And now, why do
you tarry? Arise, and be immersed, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord."
Such portions of this speech as are necessary
to the full understanding of Paul's conversion, we have considered
in commenting on the ninth chapter. The words of Ananias, "Arise
and be immersed," probably demand a moment's additional notice, on
account of the use which has been made of them by many pedobaptist
writers and speakers of an inferior grade. It is urged that the
words should be rendered, "Standing up, be baptized;" and that they
indicate that Paul was baptized on the spot, without leaving the
house. We might admit the rendering without granting the conclusion;
for the command to be baptized required him to do whatever
was necessary to that act. If the act was immersion, it required him
to go where it could be performed, however great the distance, and
the words are entirely consistent with that idea. If he was to be
immersed, he must, of necessity, arise from his prostrate or sitting
position for that purpose. If he was to be sprinkled, he might as
well have remained, as candidates for that ceremony now commonly
do, upon his knees.
Verses 17-21. After this brief account of his course of persecution and his
conversion, he advances to the events which occurred upon his return
to Jerusalem, and which led to that peculiar ministry that had excited
the hatred of his hearers.
(17) "And it came to pass, when I
returned to Jerusalem, and was praying in the temple, that I was in a
(18) and saw him saying to me, Make haste, and depart quickly
out of Jerusalem, for they will not receive your testimony concerning me.
(19) And I said, Lord, they know that I was imprisoning and beating
in every synagogue those who believe on thee,
(20) and when the blood of
thy witness, Stephen, was shed, I myself was standing by, and consenting
to his death, and guarding the raiment of those who slew him.
he said to me, Depart, for I will send you far hence to the Gentiles."
By allowing Paul to speak, Lysias expected to learn something
about the charges against him, supposing that he would address himself
immediately and strictly to a defense. What must have been
his surprise, then, to hear him, after asking the people to hear his
defense, proceed with a narrative, the bearing of which upon the case
was so obscure? It must be confessed that the speech afforded very
little of the light that he was seeking; and even to men who are
better prepared to understand it than he, it is still a source of astonishment.
Here is a man in the hands of a heathen soldiery, with a
prison-door opening behind him, and before him a mob thirsting for
his blood, whom to appease would save him from prison, and, perhaps,
from death, yet appearing to be utterly oblivious to the danger which
surrounded him, and though permitted to speak, making not the
slightest effort to obtain release. He could most truthfully have
denied bringing Greeks into the temple, or speaking improperly of
the people, the law, or that holy place;
but he was so far elevated
above all selfish considerations, that he desired no vindication of
himself not involving a vindication of the cause he was pleading.
He saw before him a deluded multitude rushing blindly to destruction,
and though they were thirsting for his own blood, he pitied them,
and resolved to give them light. Under the smart of the bruises they
had inflicted on him, and amid their wild outcries, he remembered when he once took part in similar mobs, and the blood of Stephen
rose up before his vision. This enabled him to excuse their rage,
and, as the vision of Christ glorified, which he had witnessed on the
road to Damascus, had changed him from a persecutor to a disciple,
he resolved to try its effect upon them. He did not altogether miscalculate
its power; for they listened to the whole account of his
conversion with profound attention. The narrative demonstrated the
divine authority of Jesus, and enabled Paul to assume, as a basis for
his further argument, that it was proper to do whatever he might
command. He then proceeds to account for his going to the Gentiles.
It was not my own choice, for I desired to stay in Jerusalem. But
the Lord commanded me in a vision to leave the city. I even remonstrated
against his decision, when he peremptorily commanded,
"Depart, for I will send you far hence to the Gentiles."
Verses 22-24. When he reached this point in his discourse, he appeared
to the mob about to vindicate the course which they condemned as
criminal, instead of apologizing for it, and their rage was renewed.
(22) "Now they heard him up to this word, then raised their voices and
said, Away with such a fellow from the earth! For it is not fit that he
(23) And as they were shouting, and tossing up their garments,
and casting dust into the air,
(24) the chiliarch commanded him
to be led into the castle, saying that he should be examined by scourging,
in order that he might know on what account they cried out so against
The idea of scourging a man who is assailed by a mob, to
make him confess the cause for which he is assailed, is most abhorrent
to all proper sense of justice, yet it prevailed in the most enlightened
heathen nations of antiquity. Rome, it is true, exempted from
its effects all who enjoyed the rights of citizenship; but the existence
of such a distinction in a matter in which all human beings should
have equal rights, is a further proof of their ignorance of the true
principles of public justice. To the enlightening and rectifying influence
of Christianity, modern nations are indebted for many happy
changes in jurisprudence.
Verses 25-29. When Paul was led within the castle, the executioner made
immediate preparation for his cruel work.
(25) "And as he was
bending him forward with the
Paul said to the centurion, who
was standing by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman,
(26) When the centurion heard this, he went and
told the chiliarch, saying, Take heed what you are about to do, for this
man is a Roman.
(27) Then the chiliarch came and said to him, Tell
me, are you a Roman? And he said, Yes.
(28) And the chiliarch
answered, With a great sum I obtained this citizenship. And Paul said,
But I was born so.
(29) Then they who were about to examine him
immediately departed from him; and the chiliarch was alarmed, when he
knew that he was a Roman, and that he had bound him."
applying the scourge, the victim was bent forward upon a reclining
post, to which he was bound by straps. It was this binding which
caused the alarm of the chiliarch, and not the binding of his arms
with chains. The latter was legal, and hence Paul remained so
but the former was illegal. It was just at the critical moment, when he was bent forward upon the post, and the straps were being
adjusted, that the quiet assertion of citizenship caused his release,
and struck terror into the heart of the officer. Notwithstanding this
exemption was extended only to a favored few, we can but admire
the majesty of a law, which in a remote province, and within the
walls of a prison, suddenly released a prisoner from the whipping-post,
by the simple declaration, "I am a Roman citizen."
Verse 30. Lysias was disposed to do his duty, but he experienced great
difficulty in deciding what is was. He had first inquired of the mob;
had then heard a speech from Paul; and had now gone as far as he
dared toward the trial by scourging; yet he knew nothing more about
the charges against his prisoner than he did at first. He determined
to make one more effort.
(30) "On the next day, desiring to know the
certainty as to what he was accused of by the Jews, he released him from
his bonds, and commanded the high priests and the whole Sanhedrim to
come together, and brought Paul down, and placed him before them."
For the correctness of this reading, see Bloomfield, in loco.
Acts xxii: 30; xxvi: 29.