Acts 21-24

Paul goes to Jerusalem, where many Jews think he had taught other Jews to forsake  Mosaic law.  Paul joins four men in ritual purification after a Nazirite vow to show his adherence to the law.  Jews from Asia stir up a crowd anyway and start beating him at the temple.  The tribune of the cohort arrests him, and allows him to address the people.  Paul tells the story of his upbringing under Gamaliel (a Pharisee like Paul), his persecution of the church, and his conversion.  The crowd becomes unruly, so the tribune takes him into the barracks and convenes a meeting between Paul and the chief priests the next day.  During this meeting, Paul notices that his accusers consist of Pharisees and Sadducees; he proclaims himself a Pharisee, using this to divide the accusers.  The tribune again brings him to the barracks for his own protection.  The next morning, the Jews vow to kill Paul, but the tribune hears of this and takes Paul to Felix the governor in Caesarea.  Ananias (the high priest) presents his case against Paul in Caesarea, accusing him of political agitation, leading a sect, and profaning the temple.  Paul defends himself, saying that he worships the God of his ancestors, believes the law and the prophets, and was completing a rite of purification in Jerusalem.  Felix keeps in Paul in prison, hoping for a bribe; his successor, Porcius Festus, keeps Paul in prison to win favor with the Jews.


  • A tribune is a military official who commands a cohort of 1000 men.  Here, the tribune goes to extreme lengths to protect Paul, especially after Paul claims to be a Roman citizen.
  • Antonius Felix was procurator of Judea from about 52-58 AD (the exact years are not known).
  • The Pharisees were a Jewish sect devoted to meticulously obeying Mosaic law.  To ensure obedience, they usually chose the strictest possible interpretation in cases of ambiguity, developing a system of rules of their own that came to be known as “oral” law.  By 200 AD, this oral law gained great authority and was written down in the Mishnah, part of the Talmud.  The Sadducees represented the elite of Jewish society.  They rejected oral law, and as Acts 23:8 (as well as other sources) tell us, they also rejected the existence of angels or the resurrection of the dead.
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