Paul’s Introduction to Agrippa
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You may speak in your defence.” So Paul, gesturing with his hand, started his defence:
“I am fortunate, King Agrippa, that you are the one hearing my defence today against all these accusations made by t he Jewish leaders, for I know you are an expert on all Jewish customs and controversies. Now please listen to me patiently! As the Jewish leaders are well aware, I was given a thorough Jewish training from my earliest childhood among my own people and in Jerusalem. If they would admit it, they know that I have been a member of the Pharisees, the strictest sect of our religion. Now I am on trial because of my hope in the fulfilment of God’s promise made to our ancestors. In fact, that is why the twelve tribes of Israel zealously worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, Your Majesty, they accuse me for having this hope! Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?Acts 26:1-8
What were Paul’s hand gestures?
Paul was most likely to have his hands manacled at the wrists. So what possible hand gesture could he have made? It is likely that Paul lifted his chained hands to highlight the fact that he was chained and yet he had done nothing wrong. But then again perhaps his gesture in raising his hands was to greet and acknowledge the royal dignitary. Or a third possibility is that Paul’s hands although chained were chained separately, allowing him to lift only his right hand in the way an orator would flamboyantly begin a speech. Festus would not have missed the gesture but as to whether Agrippa recognized the movements of an orator or not is debatable. Perhaps it was a sign for Festus.
Why did Paul primarily address his defense to Agrippa?
It is curious to say the least that Paul speaks primarily to Agrippa when Festus is the one who had called for this hearing to get the charges against Paul clear in his mind in order to write a case brief for Caesar. We have no indication from Luke as to whether Paul knew about Agrippa or not. They certainly had never met before this. So why did Paul address so much of his comments to Agrippa in such a personal way when before this he has been relating to Festus? Agrippa and Bernice are only in the court room as a favour from Festus as a result of their request when they first met. Why doesn’t Paul talk to Festus who is the Roman Governor and the one responsible for the report to Caesar?
- “I am fortunate, King Agrippa, that you are the one hearing my defence today
- I know you are an expert on all Jewish customs and controversies.
- Now please listen to me patiently!
- Yet, Your Majesty, they accuse me for having this hope!”
Paul ignored Festus and spoke only to Agrippa. It sure sounds like a lot of flattery. Was that what Paul was doing? If so, why not schmooze Festus rather than Agrippa? I think Paul was astute enough to realize here was a chance to help Festus see the confusion in the case the Jewish leaders had brought but he needed to appeal to one who knew Judaism – Agrippa and not Festus. Festus had handed control of the meeting over to Agrippa because he was a Jew and understood them better than the Roman Procurator. So Agrippa took control of the meeting from the outset and Paul rightly addressed his comments to the one seemingly in charge. Agrippa was not an expert in Jewish customs and controversies as such but he was a Jew and familiar with the customs as one who grew up a Jew and practiced them in his youth. And it was for sure that as a King and one of the Herods that he knew the major issues of the Law and its practice and the distinctives of the Jewish leaders – the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Paul then recognized his good fortune to be heard by a fellow Jew over charges that the Jewish leaders had brought against him.
Paul made his background and training clear to Agrippa, the one who would understand. Paul also made it clear that the Jewish leaders were aware of his training in Jerusalem and the fact that he was a member of the strictest sect of Pharisees. That is a surprising piece of information that he was Jerusalem trained as one of them and yet the Pharisees were now pursuing him as one opposed to them and charging him with inciting the people against the teachings of Judaism.
Paul ignored the charges as such and focused on the hope of all Jews. He was appealing to Agrippa’s Jewish roots. “They accuse me Your Majesty of having the same hope as you and all Jews do.”
“Now I am on trial because of my hope in the fulfilment of God’s promise made to our ancestors. In fact, that is why the twelve tribes of Israel zealously worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, Your Majesty, they accuse me for having this hope!Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?”Acts 26:6-8
What is the hope that is the fulfilment of God’s promises and the focus of the twelve tribes of Israel?
Take time to think this through for yourself and we will dissect that Hope in the next Gem.
Man’s way leads to a hopeless end…God’s way leads to an endless hope.Anon
Women hope men will change after marriage but they don’t; men hope women won’t change but they do.Bettina Arndt
We all hope in something, we just have to make sure that our hope is not misplaced.Ian Vail
Hope is nature’s veil for hiding truth’s nakedness.Alfred Nobel
What then is the promise of God that the Jews were hoping in?