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Bible Commentaries
Acts 23

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

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Verses 1-11

Paul Before the Sanhedrin Acts 22:30 to Acts 23:11 records Paul’s testimony before the Sanhedrin.

Acts 22:30 On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them.

Acts 23:1 And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.

Acts 23:1 “I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” - Comments - The voice of our hearts, or spirits, is our conscience. Thus, Paul reveals in Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16 that he learned how to follow his conscience rather than the voice of his mind, which is human reason, or the voice of his physical body, which are our senses, or our feelings. Paul tells us in Acts 24:16 that he exercised himself, or trained himself, to follow his conscience, which is the same as being led by the Spirit. For the Holy Spirit speaks to us and guides us through our spirits.

Acts 24:16, “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.”

2 Timothy 1:3, “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;”

Acts 23:1 “And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren” - Comments - Each of Paul’s opening speeches reveals a man unashamed and confident of his innocence. In Acts 21:40 he turns to address the Jewish mob rather than accept deliverance from the Roman soldiers, as would be typical for someone who had committed a crime and wanted to escape punishment. In Acts 23:1 he looks intently upon the Sanhedrin and speaks boldly rather than hanging his head down in shame and guilt. In Acts 24:10 he addresses Felix the governor with cheer. In Acts 25:11 Paul boldly declares to Festus that if any wrong can be found in him, he is ready to die. In Acts 26:1-2 he stretches forth his hand as an orator and speaks unto King Agrippa.

Acts 23:2 And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.

Acts 23:3 Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?

Acts 23:3 Comments - Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees by the phrase “whited sepulchers.” Perhaps Paul had heard this Gospel story from the disciples who were with Jesus.

Matthew 23:27, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.”

Acts 23:4 And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest?

Acts 23:5 Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.

Acts 23:5 “it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people” Comments - This is a quote from Exodus 22:28.

Exodus 22:28, “Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people .”

Other New Testament passages make an indirect reference to this verse out of Exodus.

2 Peter 2:10-11, “But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.”

Jude 1:8, “Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.”

Acts 23:6 But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.

Acts 23:6 “But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council” - Comments - It appears from Paul’s opening statement in Acts 23:1 that he had prepared a strong defense and was ready to deliver it unto the Sanhedrin. However, a slap in the face can be intimidating and cause one to lose his focus, concentration, and composure. However, in Acts 23:6 the Spirit of God intervenes and gives Paul a new strategy. This is a perfect example of what Jesus told the apostles in Matthew 10:18-20, “And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.”

Acts 23:6 “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question” Comments - Paul will focus upon the theme of the resurrection before the Sanhedrin and in his defense before King Agrippa (Acts 26:3; Acts 26:23).

Acts 26:8, “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?”

Acts 26:23, “That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.”

Acts 23:9 Comments The Pharisees took seriously the testimony of a fellow Jew who had received a vision or divine oracle. When reflecting back on Paul’s first defense in Acts 22:1-21, we see that he relied heavily upon the visionary aspects of his conversion, which was more likely to appeal to the Pharisees

Acts 23:10 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.

Acts 23:11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

Acts 23:11 Comments - The Lord’s statement to Paul reconfirmed the commission of Jesus to the apostles in Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” The vision of Jesus Christ appearing and speaking to him served to anchor his soul in difficult times. God often speaks to His children in such times.

Verses 1-35

The Second Witness of Paul’s Innocence, Standing Before the Sanhedrin (A.D. 58) Acts 22:30 to Acts 23:35 gives us the testimony of Paul’s second trial as he stands before the Jewish Sanhedrin. This is the second speech that Luke records of Paul’s defense of the Christian faith. Paul has spoken before the Jewish mob at the Temple (Acts 21:15 to Acts 22:29); he now stands before the Sanhedrin and addressed the Jewish leaders (Acts 22:30 to Acts 23:35); he will stand before Felix the governor (Acts 24:1-27); he will stand before Festus the subsequent governor (Acts 25:1-12); and he will stand before King Agrippa (Acts 25:13 to Acts 26:32). These preliminary trials lead up to Paul’s appeal to Caesar. Many scholars suggest Luke compiles this sequence of trials in order to reveal Paul’s innocence as a legal defense that could have been used during Paul’s actual trial.

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. Paul Before the Sanhedrin Acts 22:30 to Acts 23:11

2. The Jews Plot Against Paul’s Life Acts 23:12-22

3. Paul is Sent to Felix the Governor Acts 23:23-35

Verses 12-22

The Jews Plot Against Paul’s Life In Acts 23:12-22 we have the account of how the Jews plotted against Paul’s life.

Acts 23:22 Comments The chief captain charged Paul’s nephew to keep silence about this plan to bring Paul out of Jerusalem and to Caesarea, the headquarters of Rome’s presence in Palestine where the Roman governor sat. This captain knew how volatile Jewish mobs could behave, endangering Roman soldiers and making it difficult to manage the Palestinian region. He did not want his life endangered by Jewish zealots as well by having someone disclose him as the one who brought Paul out of the hands of the Jews.

Verses 23-35

Paul is Sent to Felix the Governor In Acts 23:23-35 we have the account of Paul being sent to Felix the governor.

Acts 23:23 Comments Four hundred and seventy men seems to be more than enough men to safely escort Paul to Caesarea. However, this Roman captain understood how difficult the Jews were to manage when incited by religious issues. Therefore, he had the authority to make such a large scale escort, and he would not take any chance of having a Jewish mob threaten his men, or Paul, whom he knew was a Roman citizen.

Acts 23:24 “And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on” - Comments - Paul was given this grand escort because it was now known that he was a Roman citizen.

“and bring him safe unto Felix the governor” Comments - Josephus records the appointment of Felix as procurator of Galilee, and Samaria, and Perea by Emperor Claudius ( Antiquities 20.7.1, Wars 2.12.8).

Acts 23:26 Comments - Claudius Lysias is mentioned a number of times in the previous passage as the chief captain (Acts 21:33; Acts 21:37; Acts 22:26-28). The EGT suggests that his Greek name was Lysias, and his Roman name Claudius, which may have been inferred upon him when he purchased his Roman citizenship (Acts 22:28). [291]

[291] W. Robertson Nicoll, ed., The Expositor’s Greek Testament, vol. 2 (New York: George H. Doran Company, n.d.), 463.

Acts 21:33, “Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done.”

Acts 21:37, “And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek?”

Acts 22:26, “When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman.”

Acts 23:31 Comments - The city of Antipatris is mentioned only one time in Scripture (Acts 23:31). This city is also mentioned by Josephus on seven occasions ( Antiquities 13.15.1; 16.5.2, Wars 1.4.7; 1.21.9, 2.19.1, 9; 4.8.1 ). Easton says this city lay along “the great Roman road from Caesarea to Jerusalem.” Smith says i ts ancient name was Capharsaba, but it was rebuilt by Herod, who changed it to Antipatris, in honor of his father, Antipater. Easton says the proposed ruins of ancient Antipatris are identified today with the modern, Ras-el-Ain, where the springs of Aujeh, which are largest springs in Palestine, rise out of these foothills. Thus, it would have served as a refreshing stop along such a journey.

Acts 23:33 Comments - The city of Caesarea was the capital of this part of the Roman Empire, just as Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish nation.

Acts 23:35 “And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's judgment hall” Comments - The Greek word “praetorium” ( πραιτω ́ ριον ) (G4232) is translated “judgment hall” in the KJV in Acts 23:35. The Enhanced Strong says this word is used 8 times in the New Testament, being translated in the KJV as, “judgment hall 4, hall of judgment 1, common hall 1, praetorium 1, palace 1.” The word “praetorium” is of Latin origin, and according to Lightfoot it properly means, “the general’s tent,” or “the head-quarters in a camp.” [292] BDAG says it originally referred to “the praetor’s tent in camp, with its surroundings,” but that this word was later used to refer to the residence of Roman governor, who presided over a province. The ISBE says that the Romans customarily seized the existing palaces of local kings or princes and made it into their official “praetorium.” According to BDAG, the “praetorium” mentioned in the Gospels where Jesus was tried refers either to Herod’s palace located in the western part of the city of Jerusalem, or “to the fortress Antonia” located “northwest of the temple area.” (see Matthew 27:27, Mark 15:16, John 18:28 a,b, John 18:33; Acts 19:9) In Acts 23:35 Paul’s trial would have taken place in Herod’s palace in Caesarea, which was used as the residence of the Roman governor. Thus, these palaces were used to hear disputes by the governor and pass judgment. Regarding the use of this word in Philippians 1:13, since Paul’s imprisonment is generally believed to be in Rome, Lightfoot supports the popular view that the word “praetorium” refers more specifically to “the imperial guard,” rather than to a building. Lightfoot believes that “in Rome itself a ‘praetorium’ would not have been tolerated.” He thus translates this word as “the imperial guards.” [293]

[292] J. B. Lightfoot, Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians (London: MacMillan and Co., c1868, 1903), 99.

[293] J. B. Lightfoot, Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians (London: MacMillan and Co., c1868, 1903), 101-102.

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Acts 23". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/acts-23.html. 2013.
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