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Studies in ACTS

"Acts040 - Acts 23 Paul Before the Sanhedrin Council"

From: "Pastor Buddy Martin" <>
Date: Fri, January 3, 2003 3:18 pm
Subject: [HF] Acts040 - Acts 23 Paul Before the Sanhedrin Council


This study begins with Paul standing before some of the same ones
who gave him permissions many years prior, to bring any Jewish
people belonging to 'the Way' back to Jerusalem. He had received
his letters from the high priest. In this case he will be standing
before a different high priest, but a number of the Council members
will be the same. Let's see what happens.

This is Acts040 - Acts 23 Paul Before the Sanhedrin Council

(I am going to leave questions off this study also. Feel free to
discuss any portion.)

Paul had been kept in protective custody by the Romans until it
could be determined what the charges were against him. It is the
day after the riot in the temple and in Jerusalem, and Paul is
brought before the Council. But the Roman soldiers are also close
by. They have no intention of letting Paul be abused. He was under
protection of Roman law.

Acts23:l: "Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, 'Brethren, I
have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up
to this day.'"

.... Paul is known personally by some of the members of the
Council. This contributes to his confidence in addressing them. He
is probably searching their faces to see who is there. In his younger
days, Paul was most likely a candidate for the Council. He also
knew that not everyone on the Council harbored ill feelings towards
the Nazarene movement.

The apostle gives a brief summary as way of testimony, but it
doesn't go over very well with one man in particular. Let's call this
man 'the great hypocrite.' (It will be shown that this is the case.)

Vs2: "The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside
him to strike him on the mouth."

... Now we see where the venom lies. The leadership of Judaism at
the time hated the Christ movement. This particular priest was
known for his cruelty. He was put in office in 48 a.d., and removed
from office by King Agrippa in 59 a.d. (About two years after this.)
According to Josephus, Ananias was assassinated during the war
with Rome in 70 a.d.

Vs3: "Then Paul said to him, 'God is going to strike you, you
whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in
violation of the Law order me to be struck?'"

.... We may wonder what happened to Paul's self-control, but there
may be more to the story than this alone. What the apostle said was
deliberate. He called Ananias a hypocrite. Jesus used similar
language with regard to certain of the scribes and Pharisees; "Woe
to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like
whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but
inside they full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness."

This adds something to the picture. What Paul said may have been
either a prophecy, or even a curse. In Judaism, to say, "God is
going to strike you," was to speak a curse. It is possible that the
Holy Spirit had spoken through him.

Vss4,5: "But the bystanders said, 'Do you revile God's high priest?'
And Paul said, 'I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest;
for it is written, "You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people."'"

.... To not know Ananias was high priest is easily explained by the
fact that Paul had been absent from Jerusalem for a great many
years, and the priestly office changed ever so often, either at the
whim of the Romans, and others who were in charge. (Often to the
highest bidder.)

Here is where we see Paul's use of tact. He knows that under the
present circumstances he does not have a chance for a fair hearing,
and especially after calling for a curse on the high priest. But I
wonder if this was simply the Spirit of Jesus speaking through Him,
and calling things as they were.

Remember Jesus said, "But when they hand you over, do not worry
about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour
what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit
of your Father who speaks in you." (Matt10:19,20)

Vs6: "But perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other
Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the Council, 'Brethren, I am a
Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and
resurrection of the dead!'"

.... What a moment of triumph! Paul cries out loud enough for
everyone to hear him. The Council makeup is of both Sadducee
and Pharisee. He calls himself a son of 'Pharisees.' This implies
that both his father and mother were Pharisees, as well as his
forebearers. Then Paul reaches into Pharisee beliefs that are also
beliefs carried by Christians, which is the resurrection of the dead.
Of course the Sadducees do not believe in an resurrection, nor in
angels, nor in miracles. (According to Talmudic writers, the
Sadducees believed there was no other world except what we
presently live in, that the soul and spirit die with the body.)

Notice the outcome:

Vss7-9: "As he said this, there occurred a dissension between the
Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the
Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a
spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. And there occurred
a great uproar; and some of the scribes of the Pharisaic party stood
up and began to argue heatedly, saying, 'We find nothing wrong
with this man; suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?'"

.... Paul needs say nothing more. The Pharisees are now defending
him. Notice that they are pretty much saying what Gamaliel had
said many years earlier, concerning the mistreatment of Peter and
John; "Stay away from these men and leave them alone, for it this
plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you
will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found
fighting against God." (Cf. Acts 5:34-39)

When the Roman commander sees that the things are about to
come to blows, he takes charge.

Vs10:"And as a great dissension was developing, the commander
was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them and ordered the
troops to go down and take him away from them by force, and bring
him into the barracks."

.... Has Jesus been a part of all this? After all, in the great
commission, He said that He would be with us always. Here we next
see something wonderful indeed.

Vs11: "But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his
side and said, 'Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to
My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.'"

.... Think about how many times this precious man has borne
witness to Israel's Messiah. Now the Lord appears in a vision to
Paul. He is to take courage. Paul's testimony must continue right up
to Rome. This is what the apostle has in mind when he later writes,
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept
the faith!" (2Tim4:7)

Vss12-22: Synopsis - More than 40 Jews bind themselves under
oath to not eat or drink until they have killed Paul. The chief priests
are to have Paul brought before the Council for further examination.
Paul's nephew hears of the conspiracy, tells it to Paul, and Paul has
the nephew brought to the commander. This is the background for
Paul's relocating elsewhere. (You may wish to read these verses.)

... We may wonder what happened to these 40 men and their oath,
but during that time it was an easy thing to be absolved of an oath.
The religious leaders claimed power of binding and loosing, and
could easily release someone from an oath.

Vs23,24: "And he called to him two of the centurions and said, 'Get
two hundred soldiers ready by the third hour of the night to proceed
to Caesarea, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen.'
They were also to provide mounts to put Paul on and bring him
safely to Felix the governor."

.... Caesarea is about 70 miles from Jerusalem. The commander
knows that the Jews can go to great lengths to accomplish their
goals. He also knows that this man Paul is a man of importance. He
has the troops ready by 9 p.m., before the request can be given to
him by the Council, for Paul to be brought to them. There are 200
foot soldiers, and 70 cavalry men. This commander had no intention
of letting the Jews get a hold of Paul. Behind all this is Paul's Roman

The Romans treat Paul with respect. The problem is that no reason
could be found to place Paul in bonds of any sort. The Romans had
to be quite careful how they dealt with him. Interestingly enough, the
Romans could be fierce in dealing with conquered peoples, but very
concerned when it came to Roman citizenship. This is why to hold
Roman citizenship at that time was a great honor.

Vss25-30: Synopsis - This concerns the letter sent to Felix, by the
commander explaining what he can about Paul. (You may want to
read this portion.)

Vss31-34: Synopsis: The soldiers and their charge travel to
Antipatris. Next morning the foot soldiers return to Jerusalem, and
the horsemen travel with Paul on to Caesarea. There Paul is
presented to the governor. Knowing that Paul is a Roman citizen,
he asks which province he is from, and Paul tells him Cilicia.

The chapter closes with:

Vs35: "'I will give you a hearing after your accusers arrive also,'
giving orders for him to be kept in Herod's Praetorium."

.... The commander had ordered Paul's accusers to present their
case before Felix. During this time Paul is kept in Herod's
Praetorium, which is actually a palace. You can be sure that Paul is
given considerable liberty for friends to visit with him. We know that
Luke is with him during all this time.

As we continue our journey with Paul for the remainder of Acts, the
story will continue with added interest. Every time Paul makes a
defense, it becomes an opportunity for the furtherance of the

The study is open. Feel free to make comments, ask questions, or
otherwise dialogue.

Shalom in Christ,

Lawrence E. (Buddy) Martin, HF Host

"See to it that no one comes short of the grace
of God; that no root of bitterness springing up
causes trouble, and by it many be defiled." (Heb12:15)

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