“Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.”
King James Version (KJV)
23:5 I was not aware, brethren, that it was the high priest - He seems to mean, I did not advert to it, in the prophetic transport of my mind: but he does not add, that his not adverting to it proceeded from the power of the Spirit coming upon him; as knowing they were not able to bear it. This answer admirably shows the situation of mind he was then in, partly with regard to the bystanders, whom he thus softens, adding also the title of brethren, and justifying their reproof by the prohibition of Moses; partly with regard to himself, who, after that singular transport subsided, was again under the direction of the general command. #Exod 22:28|.
Ac 23:5 I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest. It was contrary to the law of Moses to revile one in high authority (Ex 22:28). Paul's reply to the charge that he had violated the law has been variously explained. Howson gives what appears to me the most probable view: ``I did not take thought, at the moment, in my indignation over the command to smite a defenseless prisoner on trial, that he was the high priest. I am well aware that it is said, "Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people".'' His words were an apology for his hasty speech. "I wist not" is used in the sense of "I did not bear in mind".