Chrysostom on Acts 4700
ACTS XXI. 39, 40.—“But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people. And when he had given him license, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the’ people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying.”
Observe how, when he discourses to those that are without, he does not decline availing himself of the aids afforded by the laws. Here he awes the tribune by the name of his city. And again, elsewhere he said, “Openly, uncondemned, Romans as we are, they have cast us into prison.” (ch. 19,37). For since the tribune said, “Art thou that Egyptian?” he immediately drew him off from that surmise: then, that he may not be thought to deny his nation, he says at once, “I am a Jew:” he means his religion.1 (b) What then? he did not deny (that he was a Christian): God forbid: for he was both a Jew and a Christian, observing what things he ought: since indeed he, most of all men, did obey the law: (a) as in fact he elsewhere calls himself, “Under the law to Christ.” (1Co 9,21). What is this, I pray? (c) The man2 that believes in Christ. And when discoursing with Peter, he says: “We, Jews by nature.—But I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.” (Ga 2,15). And this is a proof, that he does not speak lies, seeing he takes all as his witnesses. Observe again how mildly he speaks. This again is a very strong argument that he is chargeable with no crime, his being so ready to make his defence, and his wishing to come to discourse with the people of the Jews. See a man well-prepared (tetagmenon andra)!—Mc the providential ordering of the thing: unless the tribune had come, unless he had bound him, he would not have desired to speak for his defence, he would not have obtained the silence he did. “Standing on the stairs.” Then there was the additional facility afforded by the locality, that he should have a high place to harangue them from—in chains too! What spectacle could be equal to this, to see Paul, bound with two chains, and haranguing the people! (To see him,) how he was not a whit perturbed, not a whit confused; how, seeing as he did so great a multitude all hostility against him, the ruler standing by, he first of all made them desist from their anger: then, how prudently (he does this). Just what he does in his Epistle to the Hebrews, the same he does here: first he attracts them by the sound of their common mother tongue: then by his mildness itself. “He spake unto them,” it says, “in the Hebrew tongue, saying, Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.” (ch. 22,1). Mc his address, at once so free from all flattery, and so expressive of meekness. For he says not, “Masters,” nor “Lords,” but, “Brethren,” just the word they most liked: “I am no alien from. you,” he says, nor “against you.” “Men,” he says, “brethren, and fathers:” this, a term of honor, that of kindred. “Hear ye,” says he, “my”—he says not, “teaching,” nor “harangue,” but, “my defence which I now make unto you.” He puts himself in the posture of a suppliant. “And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence.” (v. 2). Do you observe how the using the same tongue subdued them? In fact, they had a sort of awe for that language. Observe also how he prepares the way for his discourse, beginning thus: “I am verily a man whicham a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.” (v. 3). “I am a man,” he says, “which am a Jew:” which thing they liked most of all to hear; “born in Tarsus, a city of Cilicia.” That they may not again think him to be of another nation, he adds his religion: “but brought up in this city.” (p. 282, note 1). He shows how great was his zeal for the worship, inasmuch as having left his native city, which was so great and so remote too, he chose to be brought up here for the Law’s sake. See how from the beginning he attached himself to the law.3 But this he says, not only to defend himself to them, but to show that not by human intent was he led to the preaching of the Gospel, but by a Divine power: else, having been so educated, he would not have suddenly changed. For if indeed he had been one of the common order of men, it might have been reasonable to suspect this: but if he was of the number of those who were most of all bound by the law, it was not likely that he should change lightly, and without strong necessity. But perhaps some one may say: “To have been brought up here proves nothing: for what if thou camest here for the purpose of trading, or for some other cause?” Therefore he says, “at the feet of Gamaliel:” and not simply, “by Gamaliel,” but “at his feet,” showing his perseverance, his assiduity, his zeal for the hearing, and his great reverence for the man. “Taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers.” Not simply, “the law,” but “the law of the fathers;” showing that he was such from the beginning, and not merely one that knew the Law. All this seems indeed to be spoken on their side, but in fact it told against them, since he, knowing the law, forsook it. “Yes: but what if thou didst indeed know the law accurately, but dost not vindicate it, no, nor love it?” “Being a zealot,” he adds: not simply (one that knew it). Then, since it was a high encomium he had passed upon himself, he makes it theirs as well as his, adding, “As ye all are this day.” For he shows that they act not from any human object, but from zeal for God; gratifying them, and preoccupying their minds, and getting a hold upon them in a way that did no harm. Then he brings forward proofs also, saying, “and I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders” (v. 4, 5): “How does this appear.” As witnesses he brings forward the high-priest himself and the elders. He says indeed, “Being a zealot, as ye” (Hom. 19,p. 123): but he shows by his actions, that he went beyond them. "For I did not wait for an opportunity of seizing them: I both stirred up the priests, and undertook journeys: I did not confine my attacks, as ye did, to men, I extended them to women also: “both binding, and casting into prisons both men and women.”
This testimony is incontrovertible; the (unbelief) of the Jews (is left) without excuse. See how many witnesses he brings forward, the elders, the high-priest, and those in the city. Observe his defence, how it is not of cowardly fear (for himself, that he pleads), no, but for teaching and indoctrination. For had not the hearers been stones, they would have felt the force of what he was saying. For up to this point he had themselves as witnesses: the rest, however, was without witnesses: “From whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished. And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? And I answered, Who are Thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, Whom thou persecutest.” (v. 6, 7, 8). Why then, these very things ought to have been held worthy of credit, from those that went before: otherwise he would not have undergone such a revolution. How if he is only making a fine story of it, say you? Answer me, Why did he suddenly fling away all this zeal? Because he looked for honor? And yet he got just the contrary. But an easy life, perhaps? No, nor that either. Well but something else? Why it is not in the power of thought to invent any other object. So then, leaving it to themselves to draw the inference, he narrates the facts. “As I came nigh,” he says, “unto Damascus, about noonday.” See how great was the excess of the light. What if he is only making a fine story, say you? Those who were with him are witnesses, who led him by the hand, who saw the light. “And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me.” (v. 9). But in another place he says, “Hearing the voice, but seeing no man.” (Ac 9,7). It is not at variance: no, there were two voices, that of Paul and the Lord’s voice: in that place, the writer means Paul’s voice (Hom. xix. p. 124, note 2); as in fact (Paul) here adds, “The voice of Him that spake unto me. Seeing no man:” he does not say, that they did not see the light: but, “no man,” that is, “none speaking,” And good reason that it should be so, since it behooved him alone to have that voice vouchsafed unto him. For if indeed they also had heard it, (the miracle) would not have been so great. Since persons of grosser minds are persuaded more by sight, those saw the light, and were afraid. In fact, neither did the light take so much effect on them, as it did on him: for it even blinded his eyes: by that which befel him, (God) gave them also an opportunity of recovering their sight, if they had the mind. It seems to me at least, that their not believing was providentially ordered, that they might be unexceptionable witnesses. “And he said unto me” it says, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, Whom thou persecutest.” (comp. ch. 9,5). Well is the name of the city (Nazareth) also added, that they might recognize (the Person): moreover, the Apostles also spoke thus. (ch. 2,22; 4,10; 10,38). And Himself bore witness, that they were persecuting Him. “And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid, but they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. Enter into the city,” it says, “and there it shall be spoken to thee of all that is appointed for thee to do.” (v. 10–13). Lo! again another witness. And see how unexceptionable he makes him also. “And one Ananias,” he says, “a devout man according to the law,”—so far is it from being anything alien!—“having a good report of all the Jews that dwelt” (there). “And I in the same hour received sight.” Then follows the testimony borne by the facts. Observe how it is interwoven, of persons and facts; and the persons, both of their own and of aliens: the priests, the elders, and his fellow-travellers: the facts, what he did and what was done to him: and facts bear witness to facts, not persons only. Then Ananias, an alien;4 then the fact itself, the recovery of sight; then a great prophecy. “And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know His will, and see That Just One.” (v. 14). It is well said, “Of the fathers,” to show that they were not Jews, but aliens from the law, and that it was not from zeal (for the law) that they were acting. “That thou shouldest know His will.” Why then His will is this. See how in the form of narrative it is teaching. “And see That Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For thou shall be His witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And see,” he says, “that Just One.” (v. 15). For the present he says no more than this: if He is Just, they are guilty. “And hear the voice of His mouth.” See how high he raises the fact! "For thou shall be His witness—for this, because thou wilt not betray the sight and hearing (i.e. “prove false to”)—“ both of what thou hast seen, and of what thou hast heard:” by means of both the senses he claims his faith, fulness—“to all men. And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on His name.” (v. 16). Here it is a great thing he has uttered. For he said not, “Be baptized in His name:” but, “calling on the name of Christ.” It shows that He is God: since it is not lawful to “call upon” any other, save God. Then he shows also, that he himself was not compelled: for, “I said,” says he, “What must I do?” Nothing is (left) without witness: no; he brings forward the witness of a whole city, seeing they had beheld him led by the hand. But see the prophecy fulfilled. “To all men,” it is said. For he did become a witness to Him, and a witness as it ought to be; by what he suffered, by what he did, and by what he said. Such witnesses ought we also to be, and not to betray the things we have been entrusted withal: I speak not only of doctrines, but also of the manner of life.
For observe: because he had seen, because he had heard, he bears witness to all men, and nothing hindered him. We too bear witness (Mod. text “have heard”) that there is a Resurrection and numberless good things: we are bound to bear witness of this to all men. “Yes, and we do bear witness,” you will say, “and do believe.” How; when ye act the contrary? Say now: if any one should call himself a Christian, and then having apostatized should hold with the Jews, would this testimony suffice? By no means: for men would desire the testimony which is borne by the actions. Just so, if we say that there is a Resurrection and numberless good things, and then despise those things and prefer the things here, who will believe us? Not what we say, but what we do, is what all men look to. “Thou shalt be a witness,” it says, “unto all men:” not only to the friendly, but also to the unbelievers: for this is what witnesses are for; not to persuade those who know, but those who know not. Let us be trustworthy witnesses. But how shall we be trustworthy? By the life we lead. The Jews assaulted him: our passions assault us, bidding us abjure our testimony. But let us not obey them: we are witnesses from God. (Christ) is judged that He is not God:5 He has sent us to bear witness to Him. Let us bear witness and persuade those who have to decide the point: if we do not bear witness, we have to answer for their error also. But if in a court of justice, where worldly matters come in question, nobody would receive a witness full of numberless vices, much less here, where such (and so great) are the matters to be considered). We say, that we have heard Christ, and that we believe the things which He has promised: Show it, say they, by your works: for your life bears witness of the contrary—that ye do not believe. Say, shall we look at the money-getting people, the rapacious, the covetous? the people that mourn and wail, that build and busy themselves in all sorts of things, as though they were never to die? “Ye do not believe that ye shall die, a thing so plain and evident: and how shall we believe you when ye bear witness?” For there are, there are many men, whose state of mind is just as if they were not to die. For when in a lengthened old age they set about building and planting, when will they take death into their calculations? It will be no small punishment to us that we were called to bear witness, but were not able to bear witness of the things that we have seen. We have seen Angels with our eyes, yea, more clearly than those who have (visibly) beheld them. We shall be (Mod. text “Then let us be”) witnesses to Christ: for not those only are “martyrs,” (or witnesses, whom we so call), but ourselves also. This is why they are called martyrs, because when bidden to abjure (the faith), they endure all things, that they may speak the truth: and we, when we are bidden by our passions to abjure, let us not be overcome. Gold saith: Say that Christ is not Christ. Then listen not to it as to God, but despise its biddings. The evil lusts6 “profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him.” (Tt 1,16). For this is not to witness, but the contrary. And indeed that others should deny, (Him) is nothing wonderful: but that we who have been called to bear witness should deny Him, is a grievous and a heinous thing: this of all things does the greatest hurt to our cause. “It shall be to (your)selves for a testimony.” (Lc 21,13), He saith: but (this is) when we ourselves stand to it firmly. If we would all bear witness to Christ, we should quickly persuade the greater number of the heathen. It is a great thing, my beloved, the life (one leads). Let a man be savage as a beast, let him openly condemn thee on account of thy doctrine,7 yet he secretly approves, yet he will praise, yet he will admire. For say, whence can an excellent life proceed? From no source, except from a Divine Power working in us. “What if there be heathen also of such a character?” If anywhere any of them be such, it is partly from nature, partly from vainglory. Wilt thou learn what a brilliancy there is in a good life, what a force of persuasion it has? Many of the heretics have thus prevailed, and while their doctrines are corrupt, yet the greater part of men out of reverence for their (virtuous) life did not go on to examine their doctrine: and many even condemning them on account of their doctrine, reverence them on account of their life: not rightly indeed, but still so it is, that they do thus feel (towards them). This has brought slanders on the awful articles of our creed, this has turned everything upside down, that no one takes any account of good living: this is a mischief to the faith. We say that Christ is God; numberless other arguments we bring forward, and this one among the rest, that He has persuaded all men to live rightly: but this is the case with few. The badness of the life is a mischief to the doctrine of the Resurrection, to that of the immortality of the soul, to that of the Judgment: many other (false doctrines) too it draws on with itself, fate, necessity, denial of a Providence. For the soul being immersed in numberless vices, by way of consolations to itself tries to devise these, that it may not be pained in having to reflect that there is a Judgment, and that virtue and vice lie in our own power. (Such a) life works numberless evils, it makes men beasts, and more irrational than beasts: for what things are in each several nature of the beasts, these it has often collected together in one man, and turned everything upside down. This is why the devil has brought in the doctrine of Fate: this is why he has said that the world is without a Providence (Hom. 2,p. 15): this is why he advances his hypothesis of good natures, and evil natures, and his hypothesis of evil (uncreated and) without beginning, and material (in its essence): and, in short, all the rest of it, that he may ruin our life. For it is not possible for a man who is of such a life either to recover himself from corrupt doctrines, or to remain in a sound faith: but of inevitable necessity he must receive all this. For I do not think, for my part, that of those who do not live aright, there could be easily found any who do not hold numberless satanical devices—as, that there is a nativity (or birth-fate) (genesi"), that things happen at random, that all is hap-hazard and chancemedley. Wherefore I beseech you let us have a care for good living, that we may not receive evil doctrines. Cain received for punishment that he should be (ever) groaning and trembling. (Gn 4,14). Such are the wicked, and being conscious within themselves of numberless bad things, often they start out of their sleep, their thoughts are full of tumult, their eyes full of perturbation; everything is fraught for them with misgivings, everything alarms them, their soul is replete with grievous expectation and cowardly apprehension, contracted with impotent fear and trembling. Nothing can be more effeminate than such a soul, nothing more inane.8 Like madmen, it has no self-possession. For it were well for it that in the enjoyment of calm and quiet it were enabled to take knowledge of its proper nobility. But when all things terrify and throw it into perturbation, dreams, and words, and gestures, and forebodings, indiscriminately, when will it be able to look into itself, being thus troubled and amazed? Let us therefore do away with its fear, let us break asunder its bonds. For were there no other punishment, what punishment could exceed this—to be living always in fear, never to have confidence, never to be at ease? Therefore knowing these things assuredly, let us keep ourselves in a state of calm and be careful to practise virtue, that maintaining both sound doctrines and an upright life, we may without offence pass through this life present, and be enabled to attain unto the good things which God hath promised to them that love Him, through the grace and mercy of His only-begotten Son, with Whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost together be glory, might, honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen).
1 Eita ina mh nomisqh to eqno" AEIoudaio", legei thn qrhskeian: kai gar kai allacou ennomon eauton Cristou kalei. Ti (A). b.c. add oun, Cat). dh) touto estin; (Mod. text adds, Paulo" yeudetai; (Apage) Ti oun; ouk hrnhsato; k. t. l. The sense is confused by omission and transposition. It seems to be this: He gives the tribune to understand that he is a Roman: but because he would not have the Jews to suppose that he was not a Jew, therefore he declares his religion, that he is a Jew. And herein was no denial of his Christianity, etc. See below on 5,3). ina mh palin nomiswsi to eqno" allo, thn qrhskeian ephgagen. Hence we restore the sense as in the text.—Oecumen. gives it. “He immediately drew him off from this surmise, kai to eqno" kai thn qrhskeian eipwn, as in fact he elsewhere calls himself, Under the law to Christ.”
2 Mod. text omits the article). JO tw Cristw pistenwn, as we take it, is the answer to the question, ti dh touto estin; In the next sentence (which Edd. separate from this only by a comma) he says: in the same sense he calls himself and Peter, fusei AEIoudaioi, “born Jews (not proselytes,) and Jews still.” But Ammonius in the Catena: “I am a man which am a Jew: for we Christians are fusei AEIoudaioi, as confessing the true faith: which is what the name Judah signifies.”
3 The whole purpose of Paul’s defence here is to appease the prejudice against him as an apostate from Moses. He addresses the people of Jerusalem in their own tongue and as “brethren.” He shows them that although born in a Greek city, he had received his education in Jerusalem, under one of their most famous Rabbis. He sketches his history as a zealous adherent of Judaism. After his conversion he did not desert the religion of his fathers. It was while praying in the temple that the call of God came to him which summoned him to go as an apostle to the Gentiles. From this apology, it would be seen how far Paul was from despising the Mosaic law and also, how manifestly providential had been the call by which he had been set apart to a distinct work among the Gentiles. It is a guarded defence which neither antagonizes the law, nor admits its binding force over the apostle or his converts).
4 Perhaps it should be, “And he too, not an alien:” viz. being a “devout man according to the Law:” as above, he says of Ananias, outw" ouden allotrion esti).
5 Krinetai par anqrwpoi" (tisin o Qeo" add. mod. text) oti ouk esti Qeo". The subject, not expressed, is Christ. He is brought before the bar of men’s judgment for trial whether He be God: so below tou" dikazonta".
6 Mod. text adds: “say the same: but be not thou seduced, but stand nobly that it may not be said of us also, They profess,” etc).
7 Kan fanerw" ou kataginwskh (b.c. -ei) dia to dogma, allAE apodecetai k. t. l. Ben, retains this, in the sense, saltem aperte non damnabit propter doma: taking kan in different senses in this and the former clause. Ed. Par. Ben. 2, Legendum videtur fanerw" oun katag). Licet sit quispiam valde efferus, licet aperte ob dogma condemnet, at clam etc. Erasm). Etiam si per dogma non condemnetur. The emendation is sure and easy: kan fanerw" SOU kataginwskh. So below). Polloi de kai kataginwskonte" autwn dia to dogma, aidountai dia ton bion.
8 Old text exhcoteron: a word unknown to the Lexicons, and of doubtful meaning. If we could suppose a comparative of the perfect participle in kw" (analogous to the comparison of errwmeno" and asmeno"), exesthkoterov would suit the sense very well: but such a form seems to be quite unexampled.—Mod. text anohtoteron. Then: “Even as madmen have no self-possession, so this has no self-possession. When therefore is this to come to consciousness of itself, having such a dizziness’ which it were well,” etc).
ACTS XXII. 17–20.—“And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; and saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: and when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.”
See how he thrusts himself (into danger), I came, he says, after that vision, “to Jerusalem. I was in a trance,” etc. Again, this is without witness: but observe, the witness follows from the result. He said, “They will not receive thy testimony:” they did not receive it. And yet from calculations of reason the surmise should have been this, that they would assuredly receive him. For I was the man that made war upon the Christians: so that they ought to have received him. Here he establishes two things: both that they are without excuse, since they persecuted him contrary to all likelihood or calculation of reason; and, that Christ was God, as prophesying things contrary to expectation, and as not looking to past things, but fore-knowing the things to come. How then does He say, “He shall bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and children of Israel?” (Ac 9,15). Not, certainly persuade. Besides which, on other occasions we find the Jews were persuaded, but here they were not. Where most of all they ought to have been persuaded, as knowing his former zeal (in their cause), here they were not persuaded. “And when the blood of Thy martyr Stephen,” etc. See where again his discourse terminates, namely, in the forcible main point (ei" to iscuron kefalaion): that it was he that persecuted, and not only persecuted but killed, nay, had he ten thousand hands (muriai" cersin anairwn) would have used them all to kill Stephen. He reminded them of the murderous spirit heinously indulged (by him and them).Then of course above all they would not endurehim, since this convicted them; and truly the prophecy was having its fulfilment: great the zeal, vehement the accusation, and the Jews themselves witnesses of the truth of Christ! “And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that,he should live.” (v. 21, 22). The Jews1 would not endure to hear out all his harangue,2 but excessively fired by their wrath, they shouted, it says, “Away with him; for it is not fit that he should live. And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air, the tribune commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that be should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him.” (v. 23, 24). Whereas both the tribune ought to have examined whether these things were so—yes, and the Jews themselves too —or, if they were not so, to have ordered him to be scourged, he “bade examine him by scourging, that he might know for what cause they so clamored against him.” And yet he ought to have learnt from those clamorers, and to have asked whether they laid hold upon aught of the things spoken: instead of that, without more ado he indulges his arbitrary will and pleasure, and acts with a view to gratify them: for he did not look to this, how he should do a righteous thing, but only how he might stop their rage unrighteous as it was. “And as they bound him with thongs,3 Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman and uncondemned?” (v. 25). Paul lied not, God forbid: for he was a Roman.4 if there was nothing else, he would have been afraid (to pretend this), lest he should be found out, and suffer a worse punishment. (See Sueton. Vit. Claud. §25). And observe he does not say it peremptorily (aplw"), but, “Is it lawful for you?” The charges brought are two, both its being without examination, and his being a Roman. They held this as a great privilege, at that time: for they say that (it was only) from the time of Hadrian that all5 were named Romans, but of old it was not so. He would have been contemptible had he been scourged: but as it is, he puts them into greater fear (than they him). Had they scourged him, they would also have dismissed6 the whole matter, or even have killed him; but as it is, the result is not so. See how God permits many (good results) to be brought about quite in a human way, both in the case of the Apostles and of the rest (of mankind). Mc how they suspected the thing to be a pretext,7 and that in calling himself a Roman, Paul lied: perhaps surmising this from his poverty. “When the centurion heard that, he went and told the tribune, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. Then the tribune came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. And the tribune answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born. Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the tribune also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.” (v. 26–29).—“But I,” he says, “was free born.” So then his father also was a Roman. What then comes of this? He bound him, and brought him down to the Jews.8 “On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty whereof he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them.” (v. 30). He discourses not now to the multitude, nor to the people. “And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” (ch. 23,1). 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. What then said the high priest?9 Right justly, and ruler-like, and mildly: “And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest? 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.”10 (v. 3–5). Because “I knew not that he was high priest.” Some say, Why then does he defend himself as if it was matter of accusation, and adds, “Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people?” For if he were not the ruler, was it right for no better reason than that to abuse (him or any) other? He says himself, “Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it” (1Co 4,12); but here he does the contrary, and not only reviles, but curses.11 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. But that saying, “Thou whited wall, and dost thou sit to judge me after the law?” (is) instead of, Being (thyself) a culprit: as if he had said, And (thyself) worthy of stripes without number. See accordingly how greatly they were struck with his boldness; for whereas the point was to have overthrown the whole matter, they rather commend him.12 (infra, 5,9). “For it is written,” etc. He wishes to show that he thus speaks, not from fear, nor because (Ananias) did not deserve to be called this, but from obedience to the law in this point also. And indeed I am fully persuaded that he did not know that it was the high priest,13 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.14 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.
(Recapitulation). (b) But let us review what has been said. (a) “And when I was came again to Jerusalem,” etc. (v. 17). How was it,15 that being a Jew, and there brought up and taught, he did not stay there? Nor did he abide there, unless he had a mind to furnish numberless occasions against him: everywhere just like an exile, fleeing about from place to place.(c) “While I prayed in the temple,” he says, “it came to pass that I was in a trance.” (To show) that it was not simply a phantom of the imagination, therefore “while he prayed” (the Lord) stood by him. And he shows that it was not from fear of their dangers that he fled, but because they would “not receive” his “testimony.” (v. 18). But why said he “They know I imprisoned?” (v. 19). Not to gainsay Christ, but because he wished to learn this which was so contrary to all reasonable expectation. Christ, however, did not teach him (this),16 but only bade him depart, and he obeys: so obedient is he. “And they lifted up their voices,” it says, “and said, Away with him: it is not fit that this fellow should live.” (v. 22). Nay, ye are the persons not fit to live; not he, who in everything obeys God. O villains and murderers! “And shaking out their clothes,” it says, “they threw dust into the air” (v. 23), to make insurrection more fierce, because they wished to frighten the governor.17 And observe; they do not say what the charge was, as in fact they had nothing to allege, but only think to strike terror by their shouting. “The tribune commanded,” etc. and yet he ought to have learnt from the accusers, “wherefore they cried so against him. And as they bound him, etc. And the chief captain was afraid, after he learnt that he was a Roman.” Why then it was no falsehood. “On the morrow, because he would know the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, etc., he brought him down before the council.” (v. 24–30). This he should have done at the outset. He brought him in, loosed. This above all the Jews would not know what to make of.18 “And Paul,” it says, “earnestly beholding them.” It shows his boldness, and how it awed themto entreptikon). “Then the high priest Ananias.” etc.ch. xxiii. 1, 23,2). Why, what has he said that was affronting? What is he beaten for? Why what hardihood, what shamelessness! Therefore (Paul) set him down (with a rebuke) “God shall smite thee thou whited wall.” (v. 3). Accordingly (Ananias) himself is put to a stand, and dares not say a word: only those about him could not bear Paul’s boldness. They saw a man ready to die19 * * * for if this was the case,Paul) had but to hold his peace, and the tribune would have taken him, and gone his way; he would have sacrificed him to them. He both shows that he suffers willingly what he suffers, and thus excuses himself before them, not that he wished to excuse himself to them—since as for those, he even strongly condemns them—but for the sake of the people.20 “Violating the law, commandest thou me to be beaten?” Well may he say so: for to kill a man who had done (them) no injury, and that an innocent person, was a violating of the law. For neither was it abuse that was spoken by him, unless one would call Christ’s words abusive, when He says, “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, for ye are like unto whited walls.” (Mt 23,27). True, you will say: but if he had said it before he had been beaten, it would have betokened not anger, but boldness. But I have mentioned the reason of this.21 And (at this rate) we often find Christ Himself “speaking abusively” to the Jews when abused by them; as when He says, “Do not think that I will accuse you.” (Jn 5,45). But this is not abuse, God forbid. See, with what gentleness he addresses these men: “I wist not,” he says, “that he was God’s high priest” (v. 4, 5): and, (to show) that he was not dissembling (eirwneuetai) he adds, “Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.” He even confesses him to be still ruler. Let us also learn the gentleness also,22 that in both the one and the other we may be perfect. For one must look narrowly into them, to learn what the one is and what the other: narrowly, because these virtues have their corresponding vices hard by them: mere forwardness passing itself off for boldness, mere cowardice for gentleness:23 and need being to scan them, lest any person possessing the vice should seem to have the virtue: which would be just as if a person should fancy that he was cohabiting with the mistress, and not know that it was the servant-maid. What then is gentleness, and what mere cowardice? When others are wronged, and we do not take their part, but hold our peace, this is cowardice: when we are the persons ill-treated, and we bear it, this is gentleness. What is boldness? Again the same, when others are the persons for whom we contend. What forwardness? When it is in our own cause that we are willing to fight. So that magnanimity and boldness go together, as also (mere) forwardness and (mere) cowardice. For he that (does not) resent on his own behalf,24 will hardly but resent on behalf of others: and he that does not stand up for his own cause, will hardly fail to stand up for others. For when our habitual disposition is pure from passion, it admits virtue also. Just as a body when free from fever admits strength, so the soul, unless it be corrupted by the passions, admits strength. It betokens great strength, this gentleness; it needs a generous and a gallant soul, and one of exceeding loftiness, this gentleness. Or, think you, is it a small thing to suffer ill, and not be exasperated? Indeed one would not err if in speaking of the disposition to stand up for our neighbors, one should call it the spirit of manly courage. For he that has had the strength to be able to overcome so strong a passion (as this of selfishness), will have the strength to dare the attack on another. For instance, these are two passions, cowardice and anger: if thou have overcome anger, it is very plain that thou overcomest cowardice also: but thou gettest the mastery over anger, by being gentle: therefore (do so) with cowardice also, and thou wilt be manly. Again, if thou hast not got the better of anger, thou art become forward and pugnacious; but not having got the better of this, neither canst thou get the better of fear; consequently, thou wilt be a coward too: and the case is the same as with the body; if it be weak, it is quickly overcome both by cold and heat: for such is the ill temperament, but the good temperament is able to stand all (changes). Again, greatness of soul is a virtue, and hard by it stands prodigality: economy is a virtue, the being a good manager; hard by it stands parsimony and meanness. Come, let us again collate and compare the virtues (with their vices). Well, then, the prodigal person is not to be called great-minded. How should he? The man who is overcome by numberless passions, how should he be great of soul? For this is not despising money; it is only the being ordered about by other passions: for just as a man, if he were at the beck and bidding of robbers to obey their orders, could not be free (so it is here). His large spending does not come of his contempt of money, but simply from his not knowing how to dispose of it properly: else, were it possible both to keep it and to lay it out on his pleasure, this is what he would like. But he that spends his money on fit objects, this is the man of high soul: for it is truly a high soul, that which is not in slavery to passion, which accounts money to be nothing. Again, economy is a good thing: for thus that will be the best manager, who spends in a proper manner, and not at random without management. But parsimony is not the same thing with this. For the former25 indeed, not even when an urgent necessity demands, touches the principal of his money: but the latter will be brother to the former. Wells then, we will put together the man of great soul, and the prudent economist, as also the prodigal and the mean man: for both of these are thus affected from littleness of soul, as those others are (from the opposite). Let us not then call him high-souled, who simply spends, but him who spends aright: nor let us call the economical manager mean and parsimonious, but him who is unseasonably sparing of his money.
What a quantity of wealth that rich man spent, “who was clothed in purple and fine linen?” (Lc 16,19). But he was not high-souled: for his soul was possessed by an unmerciful disposition and by numberless lusts: how then should it be great? Abraham had a great soul, spending as he did for the reception of his guests, killing the calf, and, where need was, not only not sparing his property, but not even his life. If then we see a person having his sumptuous table, having his harlots and his parasites, let us not call him a man of a great mind, but a man of an exceedingly little mind. For see how many passions he is enslaved and subject to—gluttony, inordinate pleasure, flattery: but him who is possessed by so many, and cannot even escape one of them, how can any one call magnanimous? Nay, then most of all let us call him little-minded, when he spends the most: for the more he spends, the more does he show the tyranny of those passions: for had they not excessively got the mastery over him, be would not have spent to excess. Again, if we see a person, giving nothing to such people as these, but feeding the poor, and succoring those in need, himself keeping a mean table—him let us call an exceedingly high-souled man: for it is truly a mark of a great soul, to despise one’s own comfort, but to care for that of others. For tell me, if you should see a person despising all tyrants, and holding their commands of no account, but rescuing from their tyranny those who are oppressed and evil entreated; would you not think this a great man? So let us account of the man in this case also. The passions are the tyrant: if then we despise them, we shall be great: but if we rescue others also from them, we shall be far greater, as being sufficient not only for ourselves, but for others also. But if any one, at a tyrant’s bidding, beat some other of his subjects, is this greatness of soul? No, indeed: but the extreme of slavery, in proportion as he is great. And now also there is set before usprokeitai) a soul that is a noble one and a free: but this the prodigal has ordered to be beaten by his passions: the man then that beats himself, shall we call high-souled? By no means. Well then * *, but let us see what is greatness of soul, and what prodigality; what is economy, and what meanness; what is gentleness, and (what) dulness and cowardice; what boldness, and what forwardness: that having distinguished these things from each other, we may be enabled to pass (this life) well-pleasing to the Lord, and to attain unto the good things promised, through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen).
1 The sense is confused in old text by misplacing the portions of sacred text. Mod. text “witnesses of the truth of Christ speaking boldly. But the Jews,” etc. 5,21–24, which verses are followed in old text by fhsin: aire auton ou gar kaqhkei auton zhn. Below, mod. text “or the Jews themselves also,” and omits “or if it Were not so, to have ordered him to be scourged.”
2 The words, “I will send thee to the Gentiles,” were those at which the Jews took offence. That a word should come from heaven to Paul in the Temple, commanding him to leave the chosen people and the Holy City and go to the uncircumcised heathen, was a statement verging upon blasphemy. This admission they would regard as proof of Paul’s apostasy from Moses. It implied that he regarded the heathen as standing upon the same plane as themselves. The thought roused all their native bigotry. Beyond “this word” they would not hear him, nor did they think that one who should so estimate the privileges and character of the Jews as compared with the Gentiles was fit to live.—G. B. S.
3 Proeteinan auton toi" imasin is commonly rendered, as here, “When they stretched him out, or bound him with thongs.” But this rendering seems to overlook the force of pro in the verb and the force of the article toi". The preferable interpretation seems to be, (Thayer’s Lex).: “When they had stretched him out for the thongs, 1,e. to receive the blows of the thongs, by tying him up to a beam or pillar.” (So Meyer, DeWette, Lechler, Gloag).—G. B. S).
4 Mod. text entirely mistaking the sense, interpolates, “On which account also the tribune fears on hearing it. And why, you will say, did he fear?” as if it meant, The tribune would have been afraid to be condemned for this, etc.
5 Meaning that all provincial subjects of the Roman Empire came to be called Romans, only in the time of this Emperor: therefore in St. Paul’s time it was a great thing to be able to call one’s self a Roman. If it means, “All the citizens of Tarsus,” the remark is not apposite. Certain it is that Tarsus. an urbs libera by favor of M. Anthony, enjoyed neither jus coloniarum nor jus civitatis until long afterwards, and the Apostle was not a Roman because a citizen of Tarsus. This however is not the point of St. Chrysostom’s remark. In the Catena and Oecumen. it will be seen, that in later times the extended use of the name “Roman” as applied to all subjects of the Roman Empire made a difficulty in the understanding of this passage. Thus Ammonius takes it that St. Paul was a “Roman,” because a native of Tarsus which was subject to the Romans (so Oec).: and that the Jews themselves for the like reason were Romans; but these scorned the appellation as a badge of servitude; Paul on the contrary avouched it, setting an example of submission to the powers that be.—After this sentence mod. text interpolates, “Or also he called himself a Roman to escape punishment: for,” etc.
6 parepemyan an: mod. text (after Cat). needlessly alters to paretreyan.
7 profasin einai to pragma kai to eipein auton JRwmaion ton Paulon: kai isw". …We read tw eipein and kai yeudesqai ton P. isw". Mod. text “But the tribune by answering, ‘with a great sum,’ etc., shows that he suspected it to be a pretext, Paul’s saying that he wasa Roman: and perhaps he surmised this from Paul’s apparent insignificance.”
8 Mod. text interpolates: “So far was it from being a falsehood, his saying, etc., that he also gained by it, being loosed from his chains. And in what way, hear.” And below, altering the sense: “He no longer speaks to the tribune, but to the multitude and the whole people.”
9 Mod. text “When he ought to have been pricked to the heart, because (Paul) had been unjustly bound to gratify them, he even adds a further wrong, and commands him to be beaten : which is plain from the words subjoined.”
10 Mod. text “Now some say, that he knowing it speaks ironically (or feigns ignorance, eirwneuetai); but it seems to me, that he did not at all know that it was the high priest: otherwise he would even have honored him: wherefore,” etc. In old text tine" fasi, placed before oti ouk hdein, k. t. l. requires to be transposed.
11 Mod. text “Away with the thought: he appears to have done neither the one nor the other: but to one accurately considering it, the words,” etc).
12 Parainousi, all our mss. But Erasm). debacchantur, and all the Edd). paroinousin, contrary to the sense.
13 Other interpretations are given in the Catena and Oecum. “Anonym.: The high priest being a hypocrite deserved to be called a ‘whited wall.’ Whence also Paul says he did not even know him as high priest, since it is the work of a high priest to save the flock put under his charge: but this man made havoc upon it, etc. Severus : Paul justly reproached him, but then, as if repenting, said: ‘I knew not,’ etc. Not know that he was high priest? Then how saidst thou, ‘And sittest thou to judge me?’—But he pretends ignorance: an ignorance which does no harm, but is an ‘economy’ (oikonomousan): for reserve (metaceirismo") may be more forcible than speaking out (parrhsia): an unseasonable parrhsia often hinders the truth: a seasonable metac. as often advances it.”
14 Other methods of dealing with Paul’s much debated statement: “I did not know that he was the high priest,” besides the view given in the text (with which agree Beza, Wolff, Lechler, et al.) are: (1) Paul did not perceive who it was that addressed him and thus did not know that it was the high priest whom he rebuked (Alford). (2) Paul did not acknowledge Ananias to be high priest; he would not recognize so unjust a man as a real high priest (Calvin, Meyer, Stier). (3) Ananias was not high priest at this time (Lightfoot, Whiston, Lewin). (4) Paul did not recollect or consider that it was the high priest whom he was addressing (Bengel, Olshausen, Neander, Schaff, Hackett, Conybeare and Howson, Gloag). In this view Paul apologizes for his rash words, spoken inadvertently and without reflection, by adding: “for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.” Baur and Zeller suppose that the apostle never said what he is reposed as saying. The choice appears to lie between views (2) and (4).—G. B. S.
15 Mod. text omits the whole of the portion marked (a). The sense is: St. Paul is concerned to explain how it was that having been bred and taught in Jerusalem, he did not remain there. It was by command of Christ in a vision that he departed. In fact he could not stay there unless, etc. Accordingly we find him everywhere fleeing about from place to place, like one exiled from his own land. The words which are corrupt, are: ouk ekei emenen; oude ekei dietriben (oude gar exhn ekei diatribein") ei mh muria katAE autwn (autou A) kata"-keuasai (sic) hqele pantacou: kaqaper ti" fuga" perifugwn.
16 to outw paradoxon, viz. that the Jews would not receive the testimony of one, who from his known history had, of all men, the greatest claim to be heard by them: “‘Lord, they know,’ etc., therefore surely they will listen to me.” (So St. Chrysostom constantly interprets these words: see Cat. in loco.) But Christ did not gratify his wish for information on this point: He only bade him depart.—The innovator, who has greatly disfigured this Homily by numerous interpolations, has here: “did not teach him what he must do.”
17 Better: “they cast off their clothes” as a signal of their anger and readiness to stone Paul. Others understand it to mean: waving their garments as a signal of their assent to the exclamations against Paul of those who were near.—G. B. S.
18 touto malista hporhsan an oi AEIoudaioi: 1,e. perhaps “they would be at a loss to know the reason of his being brought before them loosed, not knowing what had passed between him and the tribune.” Mod. text amplifies: “This he ought to have done at the outset, and neither to have bound him, nor have wished to scourge him, but to have left him, as having done nothing such as that he should be put in bonds. ‘And he loosed him,’ it says, etc. This above all the Jews knew not what to make of.”
19 eidon anqrwpon qanatwnta: ei gar touto hn, kan esighsen: kai labwn auton aphlqen: kan exedwken auton autoi" o ciliarco". The meaning (see (above p. 289). may be: “The wrong was not to be put up with, for to hold his peace under such treatment would have been to embolden the tribune to sacrifice him to his enemies, as a person who might be insulted with impunity.” But the passage is corrupt: perhaps it should be ouk (mod. text has outw") eidon anqr. qan. “They did not see before them one who was willing to die, i.e. to let them take away his life. For if this were the case, he had but to hold his peace, and the tribune would,” etc. Mod. text “In such wise saw they a man ready to die; and they would not endure it. ‘I knew not that he was the high priest.’ Why then: the rebuke was of ignorance. For if this were not the case, kan labwn auton aphlqe kai ouk esighse, kan exedwken, k. t. l.”
20 Mod. text quite perverting the sense: “Obeying the law, not from a wish to show (endeixasqai) to them: for those he had even strongly condemned. For the law’s sake, therefore, he defends himself, not for the sake of the people, with reason,” etc.
21 Viz. it was because he did not choose to let the tribune despise him, p. 289. And so mod. text adds, oti ouk ebouleto katafronhqhnai.
22 Maqwmen kai thn epieikeian, 1,e. Paul’s as well as his parrhsia. Mod. text “Let us then also learn gentleness.”
23 oti parufestasin autai" ai kakiai, th men parrhsia qrasuth". th de epieikeia anandria. It is seldom possible to match the ethical terms of one language with exact equivalents in another. Here qrasuth", as opposed to parrhsia “courage in speaking one’s mind,” is not merely “audacity,” or “hardihood,” or “pugnacity,” or “the spirit of the bully,” though it may be applied to all these. On the whole, “forwardness” seems to be most suitable for the antithesis: the one character comes forward boldly and speaks up in the cause of truth and justice; the other thrusts itself forward, in its own cause, for resentment of wrongs done to one’s self. Below, in connection with anandria it means what we call “bullying.”
24 All our mss. o gar uper eautou mh algwn, duskolw" uper eterwn alghsei, but Sav. marg). ouk alghsei; which we adopt as indispensable to the sense. In the next sentence, C. omits the mh before amunwn, and A. the ouk before amuneitai).
25 AEEkeino" men gar oude anagkaia" apaitoush" creia", th" ousia" aptetai twn crhmatwn, outo" de ekeinou genoito an adelfo". We leave this as it stands, evidently corrupt. Something is wanting after outo" de. “The former, the oikonomiko", is careful not to touch his principal or capital, but will confine his outlay within his income: the latter,” etc. But oude anagk. ap. creia" is hardly suitable in the former case, and should rather come after outo" de “the latter, the niggard, though the need be ever so urgent, has not the heart to touch either principal or income”—or something to that effect. Then perhaps, pw" oun outo" ekeinou genoito an adelfo"; Mod. text “For the former spends all upon proper objects; the latter, not even when urgent need requires, touches the principal of his money. The oikon. therefore will to brother to the megaloy.”
Chrysostom on Acts 4700