(1) Men, brethren, and fathers.—The apparently triple division is really only two-fold—Brethren and fathers. (See Note on Acts 7:2.) It is noticeable that he begins his speech with the self-same formula as Stephen. It was, perhaps, the received formula in addressing an assembly which included the scribes and elders.
Taught according to the perfect manner . .—The two last words are expressed in the Greek by a single noun, meaning “accuracy,” exactness. In the “most straitest sect of our religion,” of Acts 26:5, we have the corresponding adjective.
Was zealous toward God.—The Apostle (see Note on Acts 21:20) claims their sympathy as having at one time shared all their dearest convictions. There is, perhaps, a touch of higher enthusiasm in the Apostle’s language. He was a zealot for God: they were zealots for the Law.
All the estate of the elders.—The word is perhaps used as identical with the Sanhedrin, or Council; perhaps, also, as including the Gerousia, or “Senate,” of Acts 5:21—a body, possibly of the nature of a permanent committee, or an Upper Chamber, which was apparently represented in the Sanhedrin, and yet had separate rights, and might hold separate meetings of its own.
I received letters unto the brethren.—The phrase is interesting, as showing that the Jews used this language of each other, and that it passed from them to the Church of Christ. On the general history of St. Paul’s conversion, see Notes on Acts 9:1-16. Here it will be sufficient to note points that are more or less distinctive. In Acts 9:2 the letters are said to have been addressed to the “synagogues.”
For to be punished.—We must remember that the punishments would include imprisonment, scourging, and brutal violence (Acts 9:2; Acts 26:10-11); or, as in the case of Stephen, death by stoning.
Hath chosen thee.—The Greek verb is not that commonly rendered by “chosen,” and is better translated fore-appointed.
And see that Just One.—See Note on Acts 7:52, in reference to the use of this name to designate the Lord Jesus.
Calling on the name of the Lord.—The better MSS. give simply, “calling upon His name,” i.e., the name of the Just One whom St. Paul had seen. The reading in the Received text probably arose from a wish to adapt the phrase to the language of Acts 2:21.
Even while I prayed in the temple.—Better, and as I was praying. The fact is brought forward as showing that then, as now, he had been not a blasphemer of the Temple, but a devout worshipper in it, and so formed an important part of the Apostle’s apologia to the charge that had been brought against him.
I was in a trance.—On the word and the state of consciousness it implies, see Note on Acts 10:10.
Consenting unto his death.—The self-same word is used as in Acts 8:1, not, we may believe, without the feeling which the speaker had lately expressed in Romans 1:32, that that state of mind involved a greater guilt than those who had been acting blindly,—almost in what John Huss called the sancta simplicitas of devout ignorance—in the passionate heat of fanaticism. The words “unto his death” are wanting in the best MSS., but are obviously implied.
Far hence unto the Gentiles.—The crowd had listened, impatiently, we may believe, up to this point, as the speaker had once listened to St. Stephen. This, that the Christ should be represented as sending His messenger to the Gentiles, and not to Jews, was more than they could bear.
Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman . . .?—Stress is laid on both points. It was unlawful to scourge a Roman citizen in any case; it was an aggravation so to torture him, as slaves were tortured, only as a means of inquiry. On the whole question of the rights of Roman citizens, and St. Paul’s claim to those rights, see Note on Acts 16:37.
I was free born.—The Greek is somewhat more emphatic: I am one even from birth. This implies that St. Paul’s father or grandfather had received the citizenship; how, we cannot tell. Many of the Jews who were taken to Rome by Pompeius as slaves first obtained their freedom and became libertini, and afterwards were admitted on the register as citizens. (See Note on Acts 6:9; Acts 16:37.) The mention of kinsmen or friends at Rome (Romans 16:7; Romans 16:11), makes it probable, as has been said, that the Apostle’s father may have been among them.
Because he had bound him.—The words seem to refer to the second act of binding (Acts 22:25) rather than the first (Acts 21:33). The chains fastened to the arms were thought of, as we see afterwards, when St. Paul’s citizenship was an acknowledged fact (Acts 26:29; Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1), as not incompatible with the respect due to a Roman citizen. The binding, as slaves were bound, with leathern thongs, was quite another matter.