Monday, 9 May 2016

Acts 23 - Do not lose heart; on the providential ordering of things

File:Caesaria Palace site 0595 (494541628).jpg
Site of the palace at Caesaria
Photo: James Emery

In Acts 22 Paul confronts the Council of the Jews, and manages to gain support from the Pharisees, who he claims to be a member of, setting off a dispute with the Sadducees (verses 1-10).  A plot to kill him via an ambush on the way to the Council the next day is foiled with the help of Paul's nephew (10-21), and he is hustled off to Caesaria under guard (22-35).  In the midst of this, he has a vision telling him that he is headed for Rome...

Acts 23:
Paul fastened his eyes on the Council, and said, Brethren, all my life I have behaved myself with full loyalty of conscience towards God. 
Intendens autem in concilium Paulus, ait: Viri fratres, ego omni conscientia bona conversatus sum ante Deum usque in hodiernum diem. 
Chrysostom (Homily 48): What he means is this: I am not conscious to myself of having wronged you at all, or of having done anything worthy of these bonds.
2 At this, the high priest Ananias bade those who were standing near smite him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, It is God that will smite thee, for the whitened wall thou art; thou art sitting there to judge me according to the law, and wilt thou break the law by ordering them to smite me?4 What, said the bystanders, wouldst thou insult God’s high priest? 5 And Paul said, Brethren, I could not tell that it was the high priest; to be sure, it is written, Thou shalt not speak ill of him who rules thy people.
 Princeps autem sacerdotum Ananias præcepit astantibus sibi percutere os ejus. 3 Tunc Paulus dixit ad eum: Percutiet te Deus, paries dealbate. Et tu sedens judicas me secundum legem, et contra legem jubes me percuti? 4 Et qui astabant dixerunt: Summum sacerdotem Dei maledicis. 5 Dixit autem Paulus: Nesciebam, fratres, quia princeps est sacerdotum. Scriptum est enim: Principem populi tui non maledices.
 Chrys:  He says himself, Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; but here he does the contrary, and not only reviles, but curses. They are the words of boldness, rather than of anger; he did not choose to appear in a contemptible light to the tribune. For suppose the tribune himself had spared to scourge him, only as he was about to be delivered up to the Jews, his being beaten by their servants would have more emboldened him: this is why Paul does not attack the servant, but the person who gave the order.

...And indeed I am fully persuaded that he did not know that it was the high priest, since he had returned now after a long interval, and was not in the habit of constant intercourse with the Jews; seeing him too in the midst among many others: for the high priest was no longer easy to be seen at a glance, there being many of them and diverse. So, it seems to me, in this also he spoke with a view to his plea against them: by way of showing that he does obey the law; therefore he (thus) exculpates himself.
.6 And now, finding that there were two factions among them, one of the Sadducees and the other of the Pharisees, Paul cried out in the Council, Brethren, I am a Pharisee, and my fathers were Pharisees before me. And I am standing on my trial because I am one who hopes for the resurrection of the dead.
 Sciens autem Paulus quia una pars esset sadducæorum, et altera pharisæorum, exclamavit in concilio: Viri fratres, ego pharisæus sum, filius pharisæorum: de spe et resurrectione mortuorum ego judicor.
Chrys: ..both in this, and in what comes after it, he wished to divide the multitude, which had an evil unanimity against him. And he does not speak a falsehood here either: for he was a Pharisee by descent from his ancestors. Of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. For since they would not say for what reason they arraigned him, he is compelled therefore to declare it himself. But the Pharisees, it says, confess both.

Comment: It is always good to be reminded of the continuity of Christian doctrines with those of contemporary Judaism (Sadducees notwithstanding).
7 When he said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the assembly was in two minds. 8 The Sadducees will have it that there is no resurrection, that there are no angels or spirit[s], whereas the Pharisees believe in both. 9 So that a great clamour followed; and some of the Pharisees came forward to protest; We cannot find any fault in this man, they said. Perhaps he has had a message from a spirit, or an angel.
Et cum hæc dixisset, facta est dissensio inter pharisæos et sadducæos, et soluta est multitudo. 8 Sadducæi enim dicunt non esse resurrectionem, neque angelum, neque spiritum: pharisæi autem utraque confitentur. 9 Factus est autem clamor magnus. Et surgentes quidam pharisæorum, pugnabant, dicentes: Nihil mali invenimus in homine isto: quid si spiritus locutus est ei, aut angelus?
Note: Knox makes spirit plural for no obvious reason from the Greek or Latin that I can see.

Chrys: ...Why did they not plead for him before this? Do you observe, how, when the passions give way, the truth is discovered? Where is the crime, say they, if an angel has spoken to him, or a spirit? Paul gives them no handle against him.
10 Then dissension rose high; and the captain, who was afraid that they would tear Paul in pieces, ordered his troops to come down and rescue Paul from their midst, and bring him safe to the soldiers’ quarters.
Chrys: ...The tribune is afraid of his being pulled in pieces, now that he has said that he is a Roman: and the matter was not without danger...Sufficient for proof of his innocence was even this, that the man was saved when at the point to be pulled in pieces, and that with these so great dangers about him, he escaped them all.
 On the next night, the Lord came to his side, and told him, Do not lose heart; thou hast done with bearing me witness in Jerusalem, and now thou must carry the same witness to Rome.
  Sequenti autem nocte assistens ei Dominus, ait: Constans esto: sicut enim testificatus es de me in Jerusalem, sic te oportet et Romæ testificari.
Chrys: See what strong consolation! First he praises him, As you have testified to My cause in Jerusalem; then He does not leave him to be afraid for the uncertain issue of his journey to Rome: for there also, He says, you shall not depart alone (μόνος, Cat. and Edd. μόνον), but you shall also have all this boldness of speech. Hereby it was made manifest, not (only) that he should be saved, but that (he should be so) in order to great crowns in the great city. But why did He not appear to him before he fell into the danger? Because it is evermore in the afflictions that God comforts us; for He appears more wished-for, while even in the dangers He exercises and trains us. Besides, he was then at ease, when free from bonds; but now great perils were awaiting him.
12 When day came, the Jews held a conclave, and bound themselves under a solemn curse that they would not eat or drink until they had killed Paul; 13 more than forty of them joined in this conspiracy. 14 So they went to the chief priests and elders, and told them, We have bound ourselves under a solemn curse not to take food until we have killed Paul. 15 Your part, then, is to signify to the captain your wish and the Council’s, that he would bring him down before you, as if you meant to examine his cause more precisely; and we are ready to make away with him before he reaches you.
Chrys: See how vehement and revengeful they are in their malice! What means, bound under a curse? Why then those men are accused forever, seeing they did not kill Paul. And forty together. For such is the nature of that nation: when there needs concerting together for a good object, not even two concur with each other: but when it is for an evil object, the entire people does it. And they admit the rulers also as accomplices.
16 Paul’s sister had a son who heard of this ambush being laid; and he went to the soldiers’ quarters and gave news of it to Paul. 17 Whereupon Paul had one of the centurions brought to him, and said, Take this young man to the captain; he has news to give him. 18 So he bade him follow, and took him to the captain; The prisoner, Paul, he said, had me summoned and asked me to take this young man into thy presence; he has a message for thee. 19 And the captain, taking him by the hand and drawing him aside, asked, What is the news thou bringest me? 20 The Jews, he said, have formed this design; they will ask thee to bring Paul down before the Council to-morrow, as if they meant to examine his cause more precisely. 21 Do not listen to them; some of them will be lying in ambush for him, more than forty in number. They have sworn not to eat or drink until they have made away with him; even now they are in readiness, only waiting for thy consent.22 Thereupon the captain dismissed the young man, warning him not to let anyone know that he had revealed this secret to him. 23 Then he summoned two of the centurions, and told them, You are to have two hundred men from the cohort ready to march to Caesarea, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen; they will set out at the third hour of the night. 24 And you must provide beasts, so that they can mount Paul and take him safely to the governor, Felix. 25 (He was afraid that the Jews might seize on Paul and kill him; and that he himself might be falsely accused of taking a bribe from them.)
Chrys:  Such are God's ways of ordering: the very things by which we are hurt, by these same are we benefited.

Thus it was with Joseph: his mistress sought to ruin him: and she seemed indeed to be contriving his ruin, but by her contriving she placed him in a state of safety: for the house where that wild beast (of a woman) was kept was a den in comparison with which the prison was gentle...This (Joseph's) uncle (Esau) had ill designs against his father (Jacob), and drove him out of his native land: what then?  He too set him (thereby) aloof from the danger; for he too got (thereby) to be in safety. He made him a wiser and a better man (φιλοσοφώτερον); he was the means of his having that dream...Thus, in every point of these men's history, the more people designed their hurt, the more their affairs flourished...
He also wrote a letter, with these contents: 26 Claudius Lysias, to his excellency Felix, the governor, sends greeting. 27 Here is a man whom the Jews seized, and set about killing him; but I came up with my men and rescued him, learning that he was a Roman citizen. 28 Since I had a mind to discover what complaint it was they had against him, I took him down into the presence of their Council; 29 but I found that the accusation was concerned with disputes about their own law, and that he was charged with nothing that deserved death or imprisonment. 30 And now, since I have information of a plot which they have laid against him, I am sending him to thee, telling his accusers at the same time that they must plead their cause before thee. Farewell.
Chrys:  See how the letter speaks for him as a defence— for it says, I found nothing worthy of death, but as accusation against them (rather) than against him. About to have been killed of them: so set upon his death were they. First, I came with the army, and rescued him: then also I brought him down unto them: and not even so did they find anything to lay to his charge: and when they ought to have been stricken with fear and shame for the former act, they again attempt to kill him, insomuch that again his cause became all the more clear. And his accusers, he says, I have sent unto you: that at the tribunal where these things are more strictly examined, he may be proved guiltless.
31 The soldiers, obeying their orders, took Paul with them, and conducted him, travelling all night, to Antipatris. 32 Next day they left the horsemen to accompany him, and went back to their quarters. 33 The horsemen, upon reaching Caesarea, delivered the letter to the governor, and brought Paul, too, into his presence. 34 So the governor read the letter, asked from what province he came, and was told, From Cilicia; 35 then he said, I will give thee a hearing when thy accusers, too, are present. And he gave orders that he should be kept safe in Herod’s palace.

No comments:

Post a Comment