The commander agreed, so Paul stood on the stairs and motioned to the people to be quiet. Soon a deep silence enveloped the crowd, and he addressed them in their own language, Aramaic. (Acts 21:40)
Paul Addresses the Crowd
“Brothers and esteemed fathers,” Paul said, “Listen to me as I offer my defence.”
When they heard him speaking in their own language, the silence was even greater.
Then Paul said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and I was brought up and educated here in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As his student, I was carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs. I became very zealous to honour God in everything I did, just like all of you today. And I persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison. The high priest and the whole council of elders can testify that this is so. For I received letters from them to our Jewish brothers in Damascus, authorizing me to bring the followers of the Way from there to Jerusalem, in chains, to be punished.Acts 22:1-5
“As I was on the road, approaching Damascus about noon, a very bright light from heaven suddenly shone down around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
“‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.
And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, the one you are persecuting.’ The people with me saw the light but didn’t understand the voice speaking to me.
“I asked, ‘What should I do, Lord?’
And the Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything you are to do.’ I was blinded by the intense light and had to be led by the hand to Damascus by my companions.
A man named Ananias lived there. He was a godly man, deeply devoted to the law, and well regarded by all the Jews of Damascus. He came and stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And that very moment I could see him! Then he told me, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and hear him speak. For you are to be his witness, telling everyone what you have seen and heard. What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord.’
After I returned to Jerusalem, I was praying in the Temple and fell into a trance. I saw a vision of Jesus saying to me, ‘Hurry! Leave Jerusalem, for the people here won’t accept your testimony about me.’
“‘But Lord,’ I argued, ‘they certainly know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And I was in complete agreement when your witness Stephen was killed. I stood by and kept the coats they took off when they stoned him.’
But the Lord said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles!’”Acts 22:6-21
These are the words Paul used to address the crowd on the steps of the Roman fort in Jerusalem. We will use Propositional Analysis to pull apart what he said. I will give you some time to read over the words Luke recorded for us as coming from Paul’s mouth on this occasion. They are very significant. So we will pay attention to the words Paul used as recorded by Luke. You might ask how did Luke come to write down the words? Are these words paraphrased or are they the actual words used by Paul at the time? And if it’s the latter then how did Luke manage to record them for us so accurately? Furthermore, let me add another question related to the words of Jesus recorded here (in red). How is it that Luke has managed to record for us the actual words that Jesus spoke to Paul at moments when we would be right in assuming that Luke was not present? Just a question! I encourage you to ask such questions. As you interact with the text before you in the Scripture, insights come or if not insights and answers, then significant valid questions which will stay with you for a while until God gives you answers or clarification. It is good to persevere with your questions as you interact with the Word of God.
Before you have time to ponder at a deeper level the words Paul used in his defense let me pick out some noteworthy elements in the introduction. And offer you some explanation as to why I have divided this segment as I have. In the first instance I felt that it is normal English practice to introduce a section of quoted speech with the introductory statement which includes “and he said” or “saying”. In this case what we have is “and he addressed them in their own language, Aramaic. One of my readers after the last Gem sent me a valid question which requires a response from me.
Ian, you wrote “I favour translating Paul’s act of standing here and speaking to the people as participles. I am convinced the action of standing on the steps and addressing the crowd in Aramaic was what held them in rapt attention. A number of translations handle this as a temporal clause – when Paul was allowed to stand on the steps above them and began to speak to them in Aramaic a deep silence enveloped the crowd. I suggest it was when Paul started speaking their language Aramaic (Hebrew) that they feel into deep silence.” Doesn’t the fact that Luke tells us in Acts 22:2 “When they heard him speaking in their own language, the silence was even greater” suggest a subsequent response to the fact it was Aramaic used?
That’s a good question which requires a response from me. I have only just noticed that verse (22:2) for the first time in its context. The chapter boundary has always masked the continuity for me up until now. But approaching this series in Acts the way I am is forcing me to investigate the chapter boundaries in ways that I haven’t before now. I still stand by what I said in the last Gem about the verbs being participles and able to be translated as a temporal clause – “when (or even after) he had called for silence.” But it is true that Paul had made a hand motion to indicate he wanted silence first. A fact I missed in my attempt to move the Gem along. Yes you rightly point out Tim that before Paul spoke in Aramaic he motioned for silence with his hand. It is clear the crowd respond to Paul’s hand motions first and then after he starts speaking, they respond to the fact that he is speaking the language of the crowd – Aramaic. Indicating that there were largely Jews in the crowd given the complaint against Paul. Yes I missed the double emphasis Luke gave to the fact that the crowd were silenced even more by the fact Paul used Aramaic. Which goes to emphasize further the impact of Paul using Aramaic.
Now let me use that response to your question Tim, to lead into what I want to draw my readers’ attention to at the start of this next segment. Paul literally says to the crowd:
Men, brothers, and fathers, hear my defense now to you.
Indeed having been born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but having been brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, having been trained according to the exactness of the ancestral law, being a zealous one of God, even as you all are today.
A man, a Jew – Paul – appears to be calling attention to himself as an individual. One man, but a Jewish one. He is giving his own personal statement or testimony to them. Fellow Jewish men, and so he begins by saying “Men, brother, fathers . . . I too am a man, a Jewish man.” Keep in mind the fact that Paul is offering his defence to the claims made. This is not a formal trial but rather a public statement in refutation of what has been said about him. Both by the crowd and the assumption by the Roman Commander that he was an Egyptian insurrectionist leader of 4,000 men. Paul is responding to the accusations made of him. Don’t lose sight of that as you look at the words Paul carefully chose in his defence. It would help you to list the factual elements that Paul includes in his opening remarks.
I will give you the time to look at the detail Luke has recorded for us before I start making my comments. Many of you who have done Deeper Bible before appreciate me doing that. Namely giving you the time to practice sifting through the text and examining the evidence before I pull from it what I want to comment on. Remember too that I am not commenting on everything that is in the text that is worthy of comment because it would delay the process of us getting to the end of the Book of Acts. I will let you all know that I am thinking of doing something new when I get to the end of the Book of Acts. In other words, I am not intending to continue on with another Bible book after Acts. Despite the fact that several of you have suggested I move on to Genesis or Isaiah. Oh my goodness, imagine how long I would likely spend on Genesis (50 Chapters) or Isaiah (66 Chapters). No, I have something else in mind after Acts which I will tell you in due course.
In the meantime, let’s stick to the task in hand. We will leave Paul momentarily on the steps of the Roman fort in Jerusalem with his mouth open until Wednesday. That will give you a couple of days to read over Paul’s speech to see what stands out to you. And it gives you time to gather your questions or comments.
Never read your Bible merely to learn or to know or merely to gain doctrinal truth; rather read to know God’s glory, feel His presence and know His ways.Ian Vail
Don’t just parrot someone else words, especially God’s; rather take them deep down into your heart until you really believe them. Until the words become an expression of you.John Piper
Allow God’s Word to become real inside you then it becomes your words and it will come out with His power.Ian Vail
God’s infinite worth and beauty [and the worth and beauty of His Word] is the supreme reality in the universe.John Piper and [Ian]