Acts 23 Paul Before the Sanhedrin
Summary

The following day, after the uproar, Paul was brought before the Jewish Council (22:30). Here he gives another impassioned defense (the second in two chapters). This leads to an altercation with the High Priest and then a division of the Council with some being Pharisees and some Sadducees. Again the commander, fearing that Paul would be harmed, takes him away and brings him back to the barracks. The following night a plot to take Paul’s life is revealed by Paul’s nephew. The commander determines to send Paul away from Jerusalem to Caesarea. That is accomplished at night and Paul sent into the oversight of Felix, the Roman Governor who says he will hear Paul’s accusers when they come.

23And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” 2And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” 4Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God's high priest?” 5And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

6Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees' party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.

Question 1

What were some differences between Pharisees and Sadducees?

11The following night the Lord 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.”

A Plot to Kill Paul

12When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. 14They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. 15Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”

Question 2

What did the conspirators against Paul promise until Paul had been killed?

16Now the son of Paul's sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. 17Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him.” 18So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, “Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you.” 19The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” 20And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. 21But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him, who have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him. And now they are ready, waiting for your consent.” 22So the tribune dismissed the young man, charging him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of these things.”

Question 3

Who revealed the plot against Paul and how was it handled?

Paul Sent to Felix the Governor

23Then he called two of the centurions and said, “Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night.[1] 24Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.” 25And he wrote a letter to this effect:

Question 4

Who was the commander and what did he write to Felix?

26“Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. 27This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. 28And desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their council. 29I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. 30And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.”

31So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32And on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with him. 33When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. 34On reading the letter, he asked what province he was from. And when he learned that he was from Cilicia, 35he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod's praetorium.

Question 5

What responsibility would Felix have had in dealing with Paul?

People
  • The Council
  • Jewish priests, elders and scribes

  • Ananias
  • The High Priest

  • Paul's sister's son
  • Revealed the plot against Paul

  • Claudias Lysias
  • The commander at Jerusalem

  • Felix
  • The Roman governor

Places
  • Jerusalem
  • Paul met with teh Council

  • Antipatris
  • Paul taken to this outpost the first night

  • Caesarea
  • Paul taken to this Roman seat of Jewish oversight the following day

23And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” 2And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” 4Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God's high priest?” 5And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

Acts 23:1

It would have been very unusual for a Roman commander to call a meeting of the Council. No doubt, this is because of the unusually volatile circumstances in which Paul’s life is threatened. Could we say that we have lived in “all good conscience before God until this day?”


Acts 23:2

Ananias was High Priest from AD 47 to 58. Josephus tells us that he was insolent and high- tempered. He died in AD 66, slain by zealot leader Menahem.

Later tradition reveals that one should be smitten on the mouth only to defend God’s honor.


Acts 23:5

Some have questioned how Paul did not know the high priest. Possible solutions: Paul did not originally hear who specifically among the judges gave the order to strike him; that he did not recognize Ananias as high priest because he had been away from Jerusalem; or that Paul reacted as he did because Ananias was not really representing the high and noble office in his actions.

6Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees' party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.

Acts 23:6

Paul shrewdly divides the Council by identifying Christianity with resurrection.


Acts 23:8

Some scholars believe that there may have been some Sadducees who believed in spirits since spirits are mentioned in the Pentateuch. Paul is stating the general doctrinal position of this sect.

11The following night the Lord 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.”

A Plot to Kill Paul

12When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. 14They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. 15Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”

16Now the son of Paul's sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. 17Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him.” 18So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, “Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you.” 19The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” 20And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. 21But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him, who have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him. And now they are ready, waiting for your consent.” 22So the tribune dismissed the young man, charging him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of these things.”

Acts 23:16

This is the only Biblical reference to Paul’s having family in Jerusalem. This is his nephew.

Paul Sent to Felix the Governor

23Then he called two of the centurions and said, “Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night.[1] 24Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.” 25And he wrote a letter to this effect:

Acts 23:23

The third hour of the night is approximately 9:00 pm.


Acts 23:24

Emperor Claudius had favored Felix, released him from slavery, and made him governor. Felix held that position from AD 52 to 59 when he was recalled to Rome. His rule had been marked by violence. His third wife was Drusilla. His first wife was a granddaughter of Antony and Cleopatra.

26“Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. 27This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. 28And desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their council. 29I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. 30And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.”

31So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32And on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with him. 33When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. 34On reading the letter, he asked what province he was from. And when he learned that he was from Cilicia, 35he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod's praetorium.

Acts 23:31

Antipatris was about 35 miles from Jerusalem.


Acts 23:33

Caesarea Maritima was about 62 miles from Jerusalem.


Acts 23:35

The Praetorium was the headquarters of the Roman contingent in Caesarea.

Perspectives

It is good to be able to say that we have lived in all good conscience in out lives as Paul did.

The Pharisees were correct in their doctrinal views; closer to Christianity than the Sadducees.

Paul appealed to civil authorities for protection when he was in danger