Acts 23 Commentary

Acts chapter 23 commentary Bible study

Acts Chapter 23 Commentary Bible Study


Acts 23:3-5 Whitewashed Wall
Acts 23:6-10 Pharisees and Sadducees
Acts 23:11-15 Be of Good Cheer
Acts 23:16-24 Paul's Nephew
Acts 23:25-35 Claudius Lysias
Acts 23 Bible Study Questions (Handout)
ACTS 23:1  1 Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, "Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day."

"Looking earnestly at the council" (Acts 23:1), whom did Paul see?
Sanhedrin - "the council" (Acts 23:1) - was comprised of older men who were the religious leaders of Israel, and "all" (Acts 26:4) of them knew Paul, who, until his conversion, had been a model Pharisee, a chosen pupil of Gamaliel, and someone whom the high priest had even written a reference letter. Looking around, Paul would have seen his former mentors and peers. Had he remained unsaved, Paul probably would have been sitting among them as a member of the Sanhedrin by this time.

Had Paul "lived in all good conscience before God" (Acts 23:1)?
Until his conversion, Paul was a leading persecutor of Christians (see Acts 8).

Did Paul think that he had always lived in good conscience before God?
He wrote to the church in Corinth, "For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God" (1 Corinthians 15:9). He wrote to the churches in Galatia, "For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it" (Galatians 1:13). And just a day earlier, he had declared to the Jewish mob, "I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished" (Acts 22:4-5).

Then why did Paul say that he has "lived in all good conscience before God until this day" (Acts 23:1)?
He was talking about how he had lived during the two decades from when he left Jerusalem for Tarsus, which was a few years after his conversion (see Paul escapes in a basket), "until this day" (Acts 23:1).

Why would Paul say that to begin addressing the Sanhedrin?
Some if not many in the audience may have heard him the day before, when his testimony was cut short by the mob when he mentioned being sent to the gentiles: "Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the gentiles.’" And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air, the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks ..." (Acts 22:21-24); Paul could have been picking up where he left off the day before and telling them how his years among the gentiles had been lived. He also may have been responding to the "he is guilty" stares he noticed in the audience. And/or, he could have been sharing what he has been up to to his former mentors and peers, who hadn't seen him in two decades, as he met with only members of the Jerusalem church on his two prior visits to Jerusalem.

ACTS 23:2  2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth.

How did the "high priest" (Acts 23:2) command Paul to be struck?
When Jesus answered the then high priest (see Annas and Caiaphas) on the night of His arrest, an officer "struck Jesus with the palm of his hand" (John 18:22). The original Greek expression in John 18:22 is εδωκεν ραπισμα (edoken rapisma), which literally means to "give [a] slap." By contrast, τυπτειν (tuptein), the original Greek word translated "to strike" in Acts 23:2 literally means to "injure," "harm" or "wound" with the "fist," "whip" or "staff." Ananias wanted "those" (Acts 23:2) near Paul to damage his "mouth" (Acts 23:2).

Ananias had either heard or heard about Paul's testimony the day before (see Acts 22) and didn't want it being repeated in this hearing, which had been forced upon the Sanhedrin by the Roman Commander.