Acts Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 23

1. Sha’ul looked straight at them and said, “Brothers, I have been discharging my obligations to God with a perfectly clear conscience, right up until today.”
Sha'ul looked straight at them and probably recognized many familiar faces in the Sanhedrin, since he may well have once been a member himself (26:10&N). In any case. it is clear from vv. 6-10 thai he understood his audience. Brothers. These people are still Sha'ul's brothers (compare 22:1 &N). However, this is not a formal meeting of the Sanhedrin, for "Brothers" is not a mode of address appropriate for a court in regular session (rather, it is appropriate for old friends; see above paragraph). Instead, this is the gathering summoned by the Roman commander (22:30). In no other Sanhedrin session does the person being questioned commence the proceedings with a speech of his own (compare 4:5-22, 5:21-40, 6:12-7:60; Lk 22:66-71). Also, in a formal session the identity of the cohen hagadol would have been clear to Sha'ul (vv. 2-5; but see note there). 

2. But the cohen hagadol, Hananyah, ordered those standing near him to strike him on the mouth.
3. Then Sha’ul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! Will you sit there judging me according to the Torah, yet in violation of the Torah order me to be struck?”
4. The men nearby said, “This is the cohen hagadol of God that you’re insulting!”
5. Sha’ul said, “I didn’t know, brothers, that he was the cohen hagadol; for it says in the Torah, 'You are not to speak disparagingly of a ruler of your people' (Exodus 22:27(28))
Sha'ul's outburst is certainly not the behavior of a man who had heard and understood Yeshua's command to tum the other cheek (Mt 5:39). Yeshua himself, when struck, argued the injustice of it without vexation or irritation (Yn 18:22). But no claim of perfection is made for Sha'ul. Like the heroes of the Tanakh, whose failings are reported faithfully along with their victories, he is shown to be a man who has not yet achieved the goal, as he himself admits (Pp 3:12-13, 1С 9:25-27). God saves imperfect people. I didn't know, brothers, that he was the cohen hagadoi. It has been suggested that this line drips sarcasm, that Sha'ul knew perfectly well who the cohen hagadoi was but means that he wasn't acting like one! 

6. But knowing that one part of the Sanhedrin consisted of Tz’dukim and the other of P’rushim, Sha’ul shouted, “Brothers, I myself am a Parush and the son of P’rushim; and it is concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead that I am being tried!”
On the Tz'dukim and P'rushim see Mt 3:7N.
I myself am a Parush (a Pharisee), Greek ego Pharisaios eimi. "Ego" ("I") adds emphasis ("I myself), and the verb "eimi" is present tense ("am"). Though a Messianic Jew for some twenty years, Sha'ul still considers himself a Pharisee (compare Pp 3:5). This fact alone invalidates equating "Pharisee" with "legalist" or "hypocrite"; see 15:5&N, Mt 23:13-36N.

It is concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead that I am being tried. Compare Yeshua's correction of the Tz'dukim on this point (Mt 22:23-32). A Pharisee could believe in Yeshua and his resurrection and remain a Pharisee like Sha'ul; Luke refers to other believing P'rushim at 15:5. But it is difficult to see how a Sadducee could remain a Sadducee after coming to faith in the risen Yeshua (see v. 8&N), and the New Testament makes no mention of believing Sadducees. It does mention believing cohanim (6:7&N), and some of these may well have been Tz'dukim before coming to faith. 

7. When he said this, an argument arose between the P’rushim and the Tz’dukim, and the crowd was divided.
8. For the Tz’dukim deny the resurrection and the existence of angels and spirits; whereas the P’rushim acknowledge both.
The Tz'dukim believed the human soul disappeared with the body; only God's Spirit remained. One hundred fifty years later belief in resurrection of the dead had become an essential ingredient of normative Judaism, for Mishna Sanhedrin 10: i says: 'These have no part in the 'olam haba [the world to come]: those who say the resurrection of the dead cannot be inferred from the Torah..." For more, see Mt 22:31-32N.

The existence of angels and spirits is an issue because of what Sha'ul said in his earlier address (22:6-11, 17-21); see v. 9. On angels, see 7:53&N; Ga 3:19&N; MJ 1:4-2:18&NN, 13:2b&N. 

9. So there was a great uproar, with some of the Torah-teachers who were on the side of the P’rushim standing up and joining in — “We don’t find anything wrong with this man; and if a spirit or an angel spoke to him, what of it?”
What of it? Compare Rabban Gamli'el's similarly restrained reaction to the believers' claims (5:39). 

10. The dispute became so violent that the commander, fearing that Sha’ul would be torn apart by them, ordered the soldiers to go down, take him by force and bring him back into the barracks.
Sha'ul's tactic of diverting the Sanhedrin's attention away from himself and his supposed crime to a long-standing dispute among themselves succeeded. 

11. The following night, the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage! For just as you have borne a faithful witness to me in Yerushalayim, so now you must bear witness in Rome.”
12. The next day, some of the Judeans formed a conspiracy. They took an oath, saying they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Sha’ul;
Judeans (see 21:20N, Yn 1:19N), or possibly "unbelieving Jews" (see 9:22-23N).
Took an oath, saying they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Sha'ul, which they failed to do (vv. 16-35). But they didn't starve to death, for such an oath could be dissolved by the rabbis.

"The sages have allowed four kinds of vows to be nullified: vows of urging, vows of exaggeration, vows made in error and vows made under duress" (Mishna N'darim 3:1).
See Numbers 30:3-16(2-16) and Deuteronomy 23:22-24(21-23) on vows; and compare 18:18&N, Mt 5:33-37&N. 

13. more than forty were involved in this plot.
14. They went to the head cohanim and the elders and said, “We have bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food until we have killed Sha’ul.
15. What you are to do is make it appear to the commander that you and the Sanhedrin want to get more accurate information about Sha’ul’s case, so that he will bring him down to you; while we, for our part, are prepared to kill him before he ever gets here.”
The conspirators would have overcome the Roman guard bringing Sha'ul across the Temple court from the Antonia Fortress to the Sanhedrin chambers. 

16. But the son of Sha’ul’s sister got wind of the planned ambush, and he went into the barracks and told Sha’ul.
We know a bit about Sha'ul's parents — they were Hellenist Jews who also were Pharisees; they were of the tribe of Benjamin; and they spoke Hebrew as well as Greek (23:6, Pp 3:5) in the town where they lived, Tarsus in Cilicia. But we know nothing about his sister or about his nephew, who was visiting or living in Jerusalem and who helped save him. How his nephew became privy to the plot is uncertain. Either Sha'ul's enemies included members of his own family, in which case the nephew's presence would not have alarmed them; or his relationship to Sha'ul was unknown to the plotters. 

17. Sha’ul called one of the officers and said, “Take this man up to the commander; he has something to tell him.”
18. So he took him and brought him to the commander and said, “The prisoner Sha’ul called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, because he has something to tell you.”
19. The commander took him by the hand, led him aside privately and asked, “What is it you have to tell me?”
20. He said, “The Judeans have agreed to ask you tomorrow to bring Sha’ul down to the Sanhedrin on the pretext that they want to investigate his case more thoroughly.
21. But don’t let yourself be talked into it, because more than forty men are lying in wait for him. They have taken an oath neither to eat nor to drink until they kill him; and they are ready now, only waiting for you to give your consent to their request.”
22. The commander let the young man go, cautioning him, “Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.”
23. Then he summoned two of the captains and said, “Get two hundred infantry soldiers ready to leave for Caesarea at nine o’clock tonight, and seventy mounted cavalry and two hundred spearmen;
24. also provide replacements for Sha’ul’s horse when it gets tired; and bring him through safely to Felix the governor.”
Felix the governor, or, more exactly, the procurator of Judea. He was governor of Shomron (Samaria) from 48 to 52 C.E., while Cumanas ruled Judea. When the latter was removed from office for failing to suppress rioting between the Jews and Gentiles of Caesarea, Felix replaced him. About him Tacitus wrote, "With all cruelty and lust he exercised the power of a king with the spirit of a slave," referring to his being a freed-man of Emperor Claudius' mother Antonia. Felix had three wives in succession, the last beingDrusilla(24:17). 

25. And the commander wrote the following letter:
The following letter, literally, "a letter having this form." Luke must have had access to the document itself in order to quote it exactly. 

26. From: Claudius Lysias
To: His Excellency, Governor Felix:
27. This man was seized by the Judeans and was about to be killed by them, when I came on the scene with my troops and rescued him. After learning that he was a Roman citizen,
28. I wanted to understand exactly what they were charging him with; so I brought him down to their “Sanhedrin.”
29. I found that he was charged in connection with questions of their “Torah” but that there was no charge deserving death or prison.
30.But when I was informed of a plot against the man, I immediately sent him to you and also ordered his accusers to state their case against him before you.
I immediately sent him to you and ordered his accusers to state their case against him before you. Claudius Lysias knows that these accusers have nothing against Sha'ul worthy of judgment in a Roman court (compare 18:12-16,25:19&N) — he has already learned that and just said so (vv. 28-29). But he wants to extricate himself from a bad situation which he has already bungled several times. 

31. So the soldiers, following their orders, took Sha’ul during the night and brought him to Antipatris,
В Антипатриду, на месте которой ныне ведутся археологические раскопки в Тель-Афеке, к северо-востоку от Тель-Авива. Она находится в 68 километрах от Иерусалима и в 42 километрах от Кесарии. Будучи там, я видел основание римской колонны, случайно обнаруженное крестьянином, вспахивавшим поле; оно все ещё стояло на своём месте, возвышаясь над поверхностью земли всего лишь на 15 см. 

32. then returned to the barracks after leaving the cavalry to go on with him.
33. The cavalry took him to Caesarea, delivered the letter to the governor, and handed Sha’ul over to him.
34. The governor read the letter and asked what province he was from. On learning he was from Cilicia,
Cilicia was ruled by the propraetor of Syria, and Sha'ul might have to be heard before him. 

35. he said, “I will give you a full hearing after your accusers have also arrived,” and ordered him to be kept under guard in Herod’s headquarters.
Under guard in Herod's headquarters building (the Praeiurium). Sha'ul is placed in military custody for his protection but not put in a prison cell, since no charges have yet been brought against him. 

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