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Acts Chapter 23
An Understandable Version of ACTS
Translation by William E. Paul
by Charles Dailey

(Black underlined words match words in the Bible text.)
1) Paul [then] looked intently at the Council [i.e., the Jewish supreme court called the "Sanhedrin"] and spoke [in his defense]: "Brothers, I have lived before God with a good conscience all my life." – Paul was employed here more than 20 years before. This is probably his first time back.
- Paul had always done what he believed was right. We must use care that our belief system is correct.
- conscience means co-knowledge - that inner voice that tells us how to behave based on what we have learned. This inner voice is not available to other creatures of the universe.
2) [Upon hearing this], the head priest Ananias ordered that those standing closest to Paul hit him on the mouth. – Hitting on the mouth was a means of silencing a speaker for saying what was thought to be false. See John 18:22.
3) Then Paul said to the head priest, "God will hit you, you white-washed wall [i.e., you hypocrite]. Are you sitting in judgment over me according to the law of Moses and [yet] do you order me to be hit contrary to that law?" – This Ananias was less than conscientious. He violently collected tithes right at the threshing floors so the other priests could not get them. Joseph Antiquities XX.9.2. - He took a strong hit. He was murdered because of his greed. The Living Letters paraphrase says, "whitewashed pig pen." - Jesus had used the term whitewashed wall. Matthew 23:27.
4) Those who stood nearby replied, "Are you insulting God's head priest?" – Those standing nearby by were probably attachιs, as Paul once was.
5) Paul said, "Brothers, I did not know that he was the head priest, for it is written [Ex. 22:28],
'You shall not speak evil about a leader of your people.'"
– Perhaps the head priest did not have on the ceremonial attire. Paul would not have recognized him as there were 28 head priests from A.D. 37-70. - Paul was an expert in the Law of Moses. - The word Elohim is used here of the leader of the people. - It is a principle of God that we respect office holders.
6) When Paul realized that part [of the Sanhedrin] were Sadducees and the other part were Pharisees, he lifted up his voice before the Council and said, "Brothers, I am a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee. And it is concerning our hope that the dead will be raised that I have been brought to trial." – It must have been noisy for Paul to lift up his voice.
- The Sadducees always maintained control of the Sanhedrin. They were more favorable to the Roman government.
- Paul had trained under (son of) the great Pharisee Gamaliel. He himself subscribed to that point of view.
7) When he said this it stirred up a dispute between the Pharisees and Sadducees and the assembly became divided. – The two factions had been united in the case of Stephen many years before. Divided, they would not agree on death for Paul.
8) For the Sadducees believe there is no resurrection, angels or spirits, but the Pharisees accept all of them [to be true]. – The resurrection is a key issue, since Paul is preaching about the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. - Luke explains to his reader the finer points of Jewish theology. Josephus details these points in Wars, 8.14 and Antiquities VIII. 1. 4.
9) A loud commotion developed [in the Council meeting]. Some of the teachers of the law of Moses who belonged to the Pharisee party stood up and argued, saying, "We can find nothing wrong with this man. What if an angel or spirit did speak to him?" – These stately gentlemen of the jury were yelling at each other. This sounds like the mob Luke reported on the day before. (I wonder what the Gentile Luke is really thinking about all of this.)
- Since Paul belonged to their line of thinking, the Pharisees could not find him guilty of any crime.
- They were speaking of the two events that Paul had presented the day before where Jesus spoke to him.
10) And when a serious debate broke out, the commander was afraid that Paul might [virtually] be torn apart by the mob, so he ordered his soldiers to go down [to the Council meeting] and forcibly remove Paul and take him to the battalion headquarters. – The court had changed the subject from hearing Paul to heatedly debating resurrections.
- Wild animals would tear their prey.
- Claudius Lysias had Paul forcibly removed so he didn't get torn apart by these zealots for their point of view. He was responsible for Paul's safety. It is Gentiles that are performing reasonably here.
11) The next night the Lord stood beside Paul [in a supernatural dream] and said, "Take courage, for just as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also be my witness in Rome." – Paul was alone. His friends could not reach him, but we are sure they were praying for him. But the Lord could reach him with words of encouragement.
- Paul had testified as the Lord had wanted and soon he would be able to go to the center of world power in Rome to tell about Jesus.
12) When daylight came, [a group of] Jews conspired together, agreeing under oath that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. – The Lord's trip to Rome strategy starts here. This will be an expenses-paid trip for Paul. - These opposers of Jesus had taken an oath before God.
13) There were more than forty men who made this pact. – We call them terrorists today.
14) They went to the leading priests and [Jewish] elders and told them, "We have bound ourselves under an oath [with serious consequences] to eat nothing until we have killed Paul. – They went to the Sadducean segment of the Sanhedrin with their plan. The Pharisees probably knew nothing about this.
15) Therefore, [all of] you, together with the Jewish Council, should notify the commander so that he will bring Paul [back] down to you, as though you wanted to consider his case further. Then we will be ready to kill him, [even] before he comes near [you]." – They had a plan to lie and kill in order to serve God.
- Give official and legal notice to Claudius Lysias to bring Paul down from the Tower of Antonia.
- The killing would be in such a way that the Council officials would not be implicated.
16) But Paul's nephew learned of their plot and went to the headquarters and told Paul [all about it]. – The Lord always has someone that will leak the information, as at Corinth in Acts 20:3.
- We know nothing else about this nephew. The Lord certainly used him in this event.
- Paul was able to receive visitors.
17) So, Paul called for one of the officers and said [to him], "Take this young man to the commander; he has something [important] to tell him." – Paul was still in protective custody. Remember, the Lord wants to keep him safe for that trip to Rome.
18) So, the officer took Paul's nephew to the commander and said, "Paul, the prisoner, called for me and asked me to bring this young man to you. He has something to tell you." – Paul, the prisoner became part of his title. See Ephesians 3:1.
- This needed to be confidential because of its nature.
19) The commander took him by the hand, and walking along together, asked him privately, "What is it that you have to tell me?" – By walking as they talked, only fragments of the conversation could be overheard by any one person.
- Perhaps he was a very young lad.
20) And the lad said, "The Jews have plotted to ask you to take Paul down to the Council [meeting] tomorrow, as though you were going to question him further. – The term the Jews already is being used of the leaders of Israel, rather than as a term describing all of them. The Apostle John uses it almost exclusively that way.
- down - they were UP in the Tower of Antonia.
21) But, do not listen to them, because over forty men have laid a plot and bound themselves under an oath [with serious consequences] neither to eat nor drink [anything] until they have killed him. They are now ready [to carry out the plot] and are just waiting for you to agree [to their arrangement]." – This young man was fairly directive with Claudius Lysias.
- killed - they were assassins.
22) So, the commander let the young man go, urging him, "Do not tell anyone that you have reported this to me." – Claudius Lysias did not reveal his intentions to the nephew. He only asked that the report remain confidential. The spreading of the report could be bad for both of them.
23) Then he called two of his officers and said, "Get two hundred soldiers ready to go to Caesarea, along with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen, by nine o'clock tonight." [Note: This was calculated according to Jewish time]. – Four hundred and seventy armed soldiers were sent to take Paul from Jerusalem about nightfall. Secrecy was the first defense.
- officers - centurions, leaders of 100 men each.
- Caesarea is the Roman capital for the area. Court was held there.
- If there is enough military power, there will not be a fight.
24) And he [also] requested that they furnish animals for Paul to ride so he could be brought safely to Felix, the governor. – Paul was used to walking. This part of his trip to Rome is in comparative luxury.
25) The commander then wrote a letter like this: – The Roman law required a "cover letter" to explain why this man was being sent.
- like this: Luke says this is not a precise copy.
26) "Claudius Lysias, [commander of the battalion, is writing] to His Excellency, Governor Felix. Greetings:
27) This man [i.e., Paul] was grabbed by the Jews and almost killed by them when I discovered what they were doing and rescued him, after learning that he was a Roman citizen. – The way this report is written makes Claudius Lysias a bit more of a hero than he was. He learned that Paul was a Roman citizen only after Paul reported this himself to forestall a beating.
- Being a Roman citizen put Paul under the jurisdiction of the Roman Court at Caesarea.
28) So, I brought him before the Council because I wanted to know the reasons for the charges [they were] bringing against him.
29) I found out that he was being accused over questions regarding their law, but that they had no charges against him deserving of the death penalty, or [even] of being kept in prison. – Claudius Lysias believed that no crime was committed. The issues were questions regarding their law.
- The Romans had long-term jails. The Jews did not.
30) And when I was told that there was a plot against the man, I sent him to you immediately, also ordering his accusers to present their case against him in front of you." – He planned to give out these orders, but the record does not say he had done it yet.
- Now the Jews were ordered into a Roman court. This will handicap their case. Failure to appear could have serious repercussions for these Jewish leaders.
31) So, the soldiers took charge of Paul and took him at night to Antipatris [Note: This was a town on the road between Jerusalem and Caesarea] as they were ordered. – They traveled 30 miles that night. They must have been tired when they arrived at Antipatris.
- The location of ancient Antipatris is uncertain.
32) The next day the soldiers allowed the horsemen to go on with Paul, while they [themselves] returned to headquarters. – Paul was still guarded by 70 cavalrymen. The foot soldiers walked back to Jerusalem.
- The soldiers might be needed at headquarters if a riot ensued.
33) When they came to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul before him. – Philip the Evangelist lived here. Did he know that Paul was returning to Caesarea as a prisoner of the Roman government?
34) And when the governor read the letter, he asked what province Paul was from. When he learned that he was from Cilicia, – Learned: he asked Paul.
35) he said, "I will hear your case fully when your accusers also get here." Then he ordered that Paul be kept [under guard] in Herod's palace. – Now Paul had advanced to the Roman court system.
- Paul may have had nice circumstances for living.
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