The Crowd’s Reaction
The crowd listened until Paul said that word. Then they all began to shout, “Away with such a fellow! He isn’t fit to live!” They yelled, threw off their coats, and tossed handfuls of dust into the air.Acts 22:22-23
Paul Discloses His Roman Citizenship
The commander brought Paul inside and ordered him lashed with whips to make him confess his crime. He wanted to find out why the crowd had become so furious. When they tied Paul down to lash him, Paul said to the officer standing there, “Is it legal for you to whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been tried?”
When the officer heard this, he went to the commander and asked, “What are you doing? This man is a Roman citizen!”
So the commander went over and asked Paul, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”
“Yes, I certainly am,” Paul replied.
“I am, too,” the commander muttered, “and it cost me plenty!”
Paul answered, “But I am a citizen by birth!”
The soldiers who were about to interrogate Paul quickly withdrew when they heard he was a Roman citizen, and the commander was frightened because he had ordered him bound and whipped.Acts 22:24-29
Your Readers’ Question or Significant Comments (To which I have added two late questions)
- Why was it that the Roman commander called the meeting of the Sanhedrin? And how was it that he could do that? I would have thought they were autonomous.
- “Until Paul said that word”, is the word really “Gentile”? That seems so ridiculous.
- What does tore their garments and threw dust in the air signify? It seems a strange thing to do.
- Why did the commander have Paul lashed with a whip? It seemed one minute that he was sympathetic then he wanted him lashed. I don’t understand.
- I am still puzzled as to why Paul didn’t disclose his Roman citizen when he was first escorted out of the temple area by the commander. Surely that would have been the best time to tell the commander he was a Roman citizen. It’s almost as though Paul was helping the Jews to persecute him. He told the officer freely who obviously told the commander. Why didn’t Paul just tell the commander himself?
- Why was the commander frightened that he had ordered Paul bound and whipped? Was that illegal or something?
- How could the Roman commander call the Sanhedrin together?
- Why did the High Priest order Paul to be slapped for saying that? What was wrong with saying, “Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience”?
- Wow that was pretty out there Ian for Paul to call the High Priest a corrupt hypocrite wasn’t it? He got a reaction didn’t he? Is that why he did it?
- I don’t understand how Paul didn’t recognise the High Priest. Hadn’t he been a part of the Sanhedrin before. Surely he would have recognised the High Priest? Wouldn’t he have recognise him by the clothes he wore? That bit puzzles me. Sorry for these dumb questions Ian. (Don’t worry, the same question came to my mind too.)
- Wow for the first time I have realised how much the Pharisees and the Sadducees didn’t like each other. Paul deliberately said that about the resurrection didn’t he? It was like he was stirring the pot. Amazing. Didn’t he fear for his life?
- Isn’t the issue about two things Ian? Jesus being Messiah and Paul going to the Gentiles? They are pretty major provocative things. How can these Pharisees and Sadducees get side tracked by trivial things to the point where they lose it? The court turned into chaos after this. Amazing how they could have lost it so easily.
- The scene that Luke describes here indicates to me how sensitive and on a knife edge the Jews were. Man it doesn’t take much to push them over the edge. Touchy touchy. (Please don’t attach my name to this).
With two additional questions from Ross:
- They threw off their coats…(Acts 22:23) sounds like a stoning is on the way for Paul just as they stoned Stephen while Paul looked on and looked after their cloaks (Acts 7:54-60). What do you think or am I reading too much into this action?
- Where would Paul have stayed overnight as there is certainly the possibility of him being a guest of the Commander? It does say the next day the Commander released him but surely as a Roman citizen without trial he would have been treated with some leniency after the previous day’s events? The Commander was frightened after ordering him bound and whipped (Acts 22:29) so would have wanted to appease him I would have thought, but maybe not these were rather barbarous times.
I have left the full list of questions in this Gems but will reduce them to the questions for each day in future Gems.
An interesting opening:
The crowd began to shout, “Away with such a fellow! He isn’t fit to live!” No one commented on that. It’s so reminiscent of Jesus and the crowd baying for his blood. I guess in a city like Jerusalem under Roman occupation a little blood was a form of entertainment. If it seems so brutal; it was. One crowd yells: Crucify him, crucify him. The other, with possibly some of the same people, yells: Off the earth with him, he is not fit to live. That seems harsh and rather global. They sure must have been upset with Paul.
“Until Paul said that word”, is the word really “Gentile”? That seems so ridiculous.
Yes the word really was “Gentile”. This crowd and the Jewish leaders were able to look past Paul’s obvious references to Jesus being the Messiah but latched on to the fact that he was being sent to the Gentiles. That God would be sending Paul to the Gentiles was unthinkable! The obvious inference is that God was sending Paul to the Gentiles in preference to them. The fact that they had rejected all and every effort on Paul’s part counted as nothing. They were incensed that they should be supplanted by Gentiles. They are stumbling on the stumbling stone yet again. Oh how we become locked into our wrong thinking, unable to break free. Evaluate your own wrong thinking at this point. Ask God for help to do so because we can’t rightly evaluate our own wrong thinking.
They yelled, threw off their coats, and tossed handfuls of dust into the air.
What does tore their garments and threw dust in the air signify? It seems a strange thing to do. They threw off their coats…(Acts 22:23) sounds like a stoning is on the way for Paul just as they stoned Stephen while Paul looked on and looked after their cloaks (Acts 7:54-60). What do you think or am I reading too much into this action?[ῥιπτέω- rhipteō] There are a number of translations which phrase this action as tear or ripping them clothes whereas most have the sense of “throwing off”, “flinging off”, waving their clothes around, tossing their clothes off. The word does indeed contain all of those meaning including “tearing”.
The mind boggles as to what was actually happening here. I don’t think the crowd were suddenly naked. It is clearly their outer garments which are in focus here. It was a very Jewish cultural thing to do to rend the outer garments and cover themselves with dust. Why? The crying was the roar of the mob. They were screaming and carrying on. Screaming . . . throwing / ripping off their clothes . . . flinging dust gives a vivid description of what these people were doing. They were certainly wound up and enraged. Why were they doing this? It seems to make no sense.
Here are the possible interpretations:
This action describes the rage of the mob at what they have heard and interpreted by Paul saying the G word. This action is to be interpreted as an expression of their horror at the blasphemy they have heard. It could either have been caused by Paul’s reference to the Messiah telling Paul to go the “Gentiles” or his claim that “Jesus was indeed the Messiah”. This action was symbolic of the fact that they intended to stone him.
The Roman Tribune (or Commander) would have just seen a mob of people screaming, ripping their outer garments or waving them and throwing dust in the air. Imagine what his eyes saw. He must have been totally shocked and wondering why this was happening. The point of their actions was to avoid the curse of blasphemy from falling on them. Ripping your clothes or stripping off the outer garments was meant to show that you wanted no part of this blasphemy. Let not the curse of blasphemy fall on us. The dust was likely thrown toward Paul.
The third option above would have been indicative of preparing themselves for further action. If that were the case then likely as not their mob action was simultaneous, in unison and indicating the fact they wanted to stone Paul en masse. Ripping their outer garments in unison was a sign they were of one mind to stone him to death. In short, Ross, no I don’t think you are reading too much into it. , It is highly likely that this was indicative of the stoning they intended to carry out. The dust initially is symbolic of the stones to come. If that is the case, it’s ironic isn’t it that the mob intend to carry out the same mob retribution on Paul that he condoned for Stephen. The analogies in this are pregnant with meaning.
I think I had better stop at this point or this Gem will grow too long. More coming. Scratch those two questions off your list.
If serving is beneath you … leadership is beyond you!Rick Godwin
Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.James W. Frick
Show me where your rage is and I will tell you where you have gone wrong.James W. Frick
Irrational rage is a sign you have lost control and something is seriously wrong.Ian Vail
Never allow yesterday’s victories to cloud today’s priorities.Ian Vail
Never allow yesterday’s anger to cloud today’s reactions.Ian Vail