Paul Before the High Council
The next day the commander ordered the leading priests into session with the Jewish high council. He wanted to find out what the trouble was all about, so he released Paul to have him stand before them.Acts 22:30
< Chapter Break >
Gazing intently at the high council, Paul began: “Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience!”
Instantly Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth. But Paul said to him, “God will slap you, you corrupt hypocrite! What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?”
Those standing near Paul said to him, “Do you dare to insult God’s high priest?”
“I’m sorry, brothers. I didn’t realize he was the high priest,” Paul replied, “for the Scriptures say, ‘You must not speak evil of any of your rulers.’”
Paul realized that some members of the high council were Sadducees and some were Pharisees, so he shouted, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, as were my ancestors! And I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead!” This divided the council—the Pharisees against the Sadducees— for the Sadducees say there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, but the Pharisees believe in all of these. So there was a great uproar. Some of the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees jumped up and began to argue forcefully. “We see nothing wrong with him,” they shouted. “Perhaps a spirit or an angel spoke to him.”
As the conflict grew more violent, the commander was afraid they would tear Paul apart. So he ordered his soldiers to go and rescue him by force and take him back to the fortress. That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.” ()Acts 23:1-11
- 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”?
Because it highlights the hypocrisy of the priests and teachers of the Law. If Paul can say to the High Priest before them all that he has a clear conscience before God then it calls into question what they are saying and supposedly believing about him. It puts the spotlight on why he is standing before them now as a Roman Citizen. Jewish process has failed him, now he must turn to the Roman system to protect him. Ouch. I think the fact that Robert Estienne has cut the chapter before it at verse 30 and then starts with this statement is telling as well. I think he put it there to highlight the importance of Paul’s intent gaze and his statement to the Sanhedrin. But I may be attributing more intent to Estienne than he deserves. I really don’t know his motivation but I believe I can sense Luke’s. The trial could hardly have begun with Paul’s defence. There must have been a preliminary phase but Luke hasn’t recorded it in order to highlight this interaction. Luke’s version here is a punchy summary to highlight this interaction. A clear conscience ought to result in a sound judgement! So what’s happening here? The judgement of the Sanhedrin is in question. . . There have been no charges brought against Paul.
- 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?
Yes “pretty out there” is a euphemistic (nice) way to put it. Go back to the story of Stephen in Acts 6 and 7. You will see that the members of the Sanhedrin stare intently at Stephen at the beginning of his speech. At the end of his speech Stephen is staring intently into heaven. This contrast is very important I am sure; I just haven’t got it all sorted out yet. The connections keep growing. The Bible is like that. Notice Paul doesn’t address the Sanhedrin as the esteemed high priest and the leaders of all things Jewish but simply “brothers”, fellow Jews.
- 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.)
Simply it can’t be the same Ananias mentioned in Luke’s gospel and in Acts 4:6. This Ananias began his role at High Priest in AD 48 and lasted for 10 years only. He was murdered in AD 66 and known to be a man with a temper and insolent according to Josephus. Besides Paul would have recognised him to be High Priest by the clothes he wore. The High Priest would have worn the High Priestly garment with the breastplate of stones.
- So how can Paul say that he didn’t know he was the High Priest?
There are a number of suggestions by the experts as to why Paul said he didn’t know he was the High Priest.
- The High Priest hadn’t put on his high priestly robes at an informal gathering of the Sanhedrin called by the Roman Tribune as a mark of defiance. So this was not a bonefide meeting of the Sanhedrin, merely one ordered by the Romans. No one presided over an informal meeting.
- Paul was speaking sarcastically because this was a time after Ananias was deposed. Such a supposition is not in accord with the facts.
- Paul was speaking ironically and drawing attention to the fact that the high priest was not acting in accord with the Jewish Law .
Suffice to say it is a difficult claim to justify so there must be more going on in this passage than I am aware. A good reason to leave a question mark on this matter and leave it to lie in order to find the answer later. Ask him who knows: Luke, Paul or the Holy Spirit. You are more likely to get an answer from the Holy Spirit, so ask Him.
- 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).
No seemingly he didn’t. Oh give me that kind of boldness Lord. And yes I am sure that Paul was stirring the pot as you put it. There was considerable enmity between the Sadducees and the Pharisees over the matter of the resurrection. So Paul highlights the major issue which divides them deliberately to highlight the nature of these leaders and everything descends into chaos. You are right in asking how the leaders could have lost sight of the major issue and allowed themselves to be side-tracked. Simply because they were not very good leaders and were deeply divided so it was easy for Paul to play on those divisions and show them in their true light.
Now we have a turning point in the story. Paul has appealed to his Roman citizenship. Now the official statement has been pronounced that Paul was bound for Rome. Oh don’t misunderstand me, the official earthly pronouncement has not been given yet – that is still to come. That doesn’t come until Acts 25:12. No I am talking about a higher pronouncement than that. The one Luke intends us to pick up on. The pronouncement made by Jesus Himself. “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.”
Luke makes it clear why this is happening and who is in control. It’s not the human authorities, it’s Jesus who is in control. And it has nothing to do with human governmental powers determining the outcome. Rather God uses the political and religious leaders of the day to achieve His purposes in taking Paul to Rome to preach the Gospel.
The way I see it, if you want the rainbow , you gotta put up with the rain.Dolly Parton
Sing your way through discouragement,
Sing your way out of trials,
Sing your way through tough times.
Sing your way to victory.Anon
Don’t compare your beginning with someone else’s middle. Don’t compare your situation with theirs anyway; you don’t know the full facts.Thorin Klosowski
We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.Mother Teresa
Just like Paul in the midst of turmoil, you have to have a word of God to your heart.Ian Vail
Ah now order has been restored. Now everything is back on track again because God has spoken again to Paul’s heart.