Whitewashed Wall

What is "Whitewashed Wall"?

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Whitewashed Wall
ACTS 23 COMMENTARY

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 23:3  3 Then Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?”

What does "whitewashed wall" (Acts 23:3) mean?
Whitewashed means to have covered up dirt or some other thing to hide it; a whitewashed wall is a dirty wall whose dirt has been covered up by a thin coat of (white) paint or some other coloring material.

Why did Paul call Ananias a whitewashed wall?
Paul was calling Ananias a hypocrite for commanding other people to do his dirty work. At a hearing supposedly aimed at upholding justice, he was telling others to inflict unjust bodily harm on Paul, who hadn't been found guilty: "For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?" (Acts 23:3)

Contrary to which "law" (Acts 23:3) was Paul being ordered struck?
"You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor." (Leviticus 19:15)

ACTS 23:4-5  4 And those who stood by said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?” 5 Then 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.' ”

Was Ananias "God's high priest" (Acts 23:4)?
The office of the high priest was "God's" in the sense that he was in charge of offering to God the sacrifices, which pointed to Jesus. When Jesus offered the promised sacrifice - His own life - on the cross "once for all" (Romans 6:10), He became the High Priest: "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession" (Hebrews 4:14). Israel's high priest remained the head of its government, albeit under the rule of Rome, but when Jesus died on the cross, the spiritual role of the high priest was eliminated, as symbolized by the temple's veil to where only the high priest could enter being ripped "from top to bottom" (Matthew 27:51), for now all could enter into God's presence through Christ. Note that the question was posed to Paul regarding "God's high priest" (Acts 23:3) but Paul gave his answer to pertain simply to "the high priest." Paul acknowledged Ananias as the latter - "ruler of your people" (Acts 23:5) - but not the former.

Did Paul "revile" (Acts 23:4) Ananias?
λοιδορεω (loidoreo), the root of the original Greek word translated "revile" (Acts 23:4), means to "insult, slander or rail against" someone. The part of Paul's outburst that isn't true (yet) and could be possibly described as such are, "God will strike you" (Acts 23:3), and while Paul's response sounds like an admission, the only thing he explicitly admits is not having known that Ananias was the high priest.

Then why did Paul say, "God will strike you" (Acts 23:3) to Ananias?
God may have been using Paul's outburst to level a prophecy against Ananias, who was appointed by Herod Agrippa II in 47 AD and proved himself one of the most corrupt and conniving thieves to serve in that position. He stole tithes from other priests, leaving many of them to starve, and cared more about his Roman overlords than Israel. When the Jews later revolted against Rome, the Jewish rebels burned down Ananias' house and chased him down after he fled, "striking" him dead in the aqueduct of Herod's palace, where he was caught hiding.

Why did Paul not recognize Ananias as the high priest?
Ananias, who had been appointed high priest only in 47 AD, may not have been sitting in the high priest's seat and/or not wearing the high priest's attire. Paul's poor eye sight - "See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!" (Galatians 6:11) - also may have been a contributing factor.

How many people 'injured' or 'wounded' Paul's mouth as "Ananias commanded" (Acts 23:2)?
Since Ananias commanded "those" (Acts 23:2) near Paul, he commanded at least two people. If everyone commanded had obliged, Paul's mouth would have been wounded by two or more people. If only one - perhaps the nearest - had obliged, then it would have been wounded only once. But the command to wound Paul's mouth doesn't appear to have been carried out yet. For one, his mouth was working just fine. For another, given his harsh words for Ananias for ordering the unjustified violence, Paul is unlikely to have addressed as "brethren" (Acts 23:5) those who carried out unjust violence.

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