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Acts 22:24-23:11 – Paul before the Council

Following the murderous behavior of the Jewish crowd toward Paul, the Roman tribune intended to question Paul by flogging. Paul avoided this by referring to his Roman citizenship which did not allow a Roman citizen to be flogged in this manner. Is this a case of Paul, who was willing to suffer for the gospel, also being willing to utilize his civic rights to avoid needless suffering? Or was it a choice on Paul’s part to have a trial before Roman authorities so as to declare the gospel begore kings and governors?

In place of the flogging, the tribune decides to have Paul stand trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin although under Roman protection. Whereas metaphorically when Paul was stoned in Lystra he stood in Stephen’s place, now he literally stands on the exact same spot both Stephen and Jesus had stood when on trial before the Sanhedrin.

As the trial begins Ananias the high priest orders Paul to be struck on the mouth to which Paul responds that God will strike Ananias who is a whitewashed wall (echoing the language of prophetic judgment used by the Old Testament prophets and by Jesus of hypocrites who appear the uphold the law but actually break it c.f. Ananias judging Paul according to the law but actually breaking the law by striking a not proved guilty man).

Those standing by view Paul’s cursing Ananias as reviling the high priest which is against the law. Paul responds by saying that he didn’t know that Ananias was the high priest and Paul then quotes his agreement with the law that the high priest should not be cursed. Why did Paul not know Ananias was the high priest? Was it because his eyesight was bad as implied in Galatians? Or was Paul referring to the frequent illegitimate changes in who was the high priest due to Jerusalem politics? Or was it because he could not recognize the high priest because the high priest was breaking the law himself?

Paul then acts with shrewdness. Perceiving some to be Sadducees and other Pharisees, Paul identifies his strong Pharisee credentials, his belief in the resurrection and he has already mentioned about receiving a revelation from a heavenly messenger. This results in a division between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The later becoming partisan with Paul and sharing his belief in the resurrection and angels against the Sadducees who deny these things. The dissension becomes so violent that no verdict is given by the Sanhedrin and the tribune for the second time has to intervene lest Paul be torn to pieces by them. The tribune again commands his soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force.

With this event Paul’s witness in Jerusalem to the Jews is ended. Luke states: The following night the Lord Jesus stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”