June 10, 2015

Acts 22:30-23:11

Acts 23:2
Acts 23:2

22:30 But on the morrow, desiring to know the real reason why the Jews accused him, the tribune unbound him, and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them.

23:1 And Paul, looking intently at the council, said, “Brethren, I have lived before God in all good conscience up to this day.” 2 And the high priest [archiereus] Anani′as commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God shall 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?” 4 Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

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

11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified about me at Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also at Rome.”

We can learn from Paul a lot about self-respect. Even when led out as a prisoner and standing in front of hostile accusers he retains his dignity, spirit and principles.

Ananias, a Sadducee, was high priest in 47-59 AD, during the reigns of Claudius and Nero and was infamous for his cruelty. He was so despised that when the revolt against Rome began in 70 AD it was Jews who assassinated him.

The Sanhedrin

Paul refuses to play the role of servile supplicant before Ananias and the Sanhedrin. But of course he pays a price for that, just as Jesus did when he too was struck for talking back to the high priest (John 18:19-23.) Ananias is incensed that Paul a) looks at the council directly, i.e., without eyes-downcast submissiveness, and b) because he dares to stand on his own conscience.

When struck Paul answers with characteristic biting irony saying he didn’t know Ananias was the high priest. The Orthodox Study Bible says Paul has “respect for the holy office of the high priest even though the officeholder was contemptible.”  But Paul is also saying that a true high priest wouldn’t act so unjustly. His rabbinically-trained listeners would have known the context of Paul’s quotation of Exodus 22:28, “You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.” The verses that both precede and follow this are commandments about justice.

You shall not utter a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man, to be a malicious witness. You shall not follow a multitude to do evil; nor shall you bear witness in a suit, turning aside after a multitude, so as to pervert justice. (Exodus 23:1-2)

It should be noted that the Greek word for “high priest” is archiereus. This same word is used for the high-priesthood of Christ (see Hebrews) and was later applied to bishops. Paul uses the term episkopos (overseer) to label the leaders we now call bishops. In his first letter to Timothy he lays out the qualifications to be an episkopos, and these include “not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money” (1 Tim 3:3.)

Time and again the Lord speaks to Paul at critical moments to encourage him and help set his direction. Up to this point Paul has been aiming to testify before the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem. Now he knows that he will also give his witness (martyria) to the leaders of the Gentile world in Rome.

Raymond Boyd
Raymond Boyd


The Chancery is happy to welcome Raymond Boyd. He will be working part-time to help rebuild the OCA’s donor database and connect with our Stewards of the OCA.