Bruce, F.F. The Book of Acts Revised. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988. Kindle Electronic Edition. “VI. Paul Plans to Visit Rome and Gets there by an Unforseen Route (19:21-28:31).” “C. Paul at Jerusalem (21:17-23:30)” pp. 403-435.
In Acts 21:17, we see the record of Paul and his cohorts arriving in Jerusalem. Bruce notes that the reception by “all the elders” would suggest some level of advanced notice (Bruce 1988, 404). It becomes apparent that Paul was considered by some in Jerusalem as a person who rejected the Jewish law. To combat this reputation, Paul agreed to be subject to a vow (Bruce 1988, 405).
In verse 27, some Jews who assumed Paul was opposed to the Law saw him in the temple, assumed also that he had unlawfully brought a Greek into the temple, and started a disturbance, taking Paul captive (Bruce 1988, 408). Bruce nots that the presence of a Gentile in the inner courts of the temple was a capital offence. There were warning signs clearly posted (Bruce 1988, 409). Verse 30 says the temple doors were shut to Paul. Bruce suggests that this statement of Luke may have been a strong symbolic observation that the temple was no longer a place where God’s grace could be found (Bruce 1988, 410).
Paul was rescued from the violent crowd by the Roman tribune and some soliders, who arrested him. The tribune was initially unable to learn the cause of the conflict. He assumed that Paul was likely a political revolutionary. Bruce provides a few details of a move for revolution about three years previously, in which the Egyptian ringleader had evaded capture but promised to return and overthrown the Romans (Bruce 1988, 412). Paul, however, was not an Egyptian but appeared as a Hellenized Jew. He addressed the Jewish crowd in their own native language (Bruce 1988, 413).
Paul’s claim, in the start of Acts 22, is that he is a devout Jew and that he zealously persecuted Christians (Bruce 1988, 415). His conversion, on the way to Damascus, changed his entire outlook on Jesus and his followers (Bruce 1988, 416). His healing by Ananias emphasized the fact that both Jews and Christians in Damascus understood that Jesus was healing Paul (Bruce 1988, 417). In verses 17-21 Paul described a commission to bring the message of Jesus to the gentiles. Bruce observes that the commission aroused hostility both on account of a Jewish bias against Jesus and due to a Jewish bias against the gentile world (Bruce 1988, 418). In fact, on this occasion, Paul’s mention of a mission to gentiles provoked fury. Bruce notes that the tribune would not have understood Paul’s comments or the responses, as they were in Aramaic (Bruce 1988, 420). Paul, not wishing to be questioned under torture, told the centurion of his status as a citizen. It was not legal to torture a citizen prior to a trial (Bruce 1988, 421). Because of Paul’s status, he had a right to protection by the Roman authorities. The tribune arranged for a meeting of the Jewish court in order to learn what the actual charge against Paul was. Bruce observes that the Roman government could compel the Sanhedrin to meet and hear a case (Bruce 1988, 422).
In Acts 23 we see Paul’s testimony before the Sanhedrin. Bruce observes that contemporary accounts of the reigning high priest do not portray him as a character of high integrity (Bruce 1988, 425). His move to have Paul struck was a violation of Jewish law. Paul’s apology, clearly directed to the dignity of the high priestly office rather than the man himself, may well be a thinly veiled insult to one who did not behave in a manner appropriate for a high priest. Paul’s testimony turned, in vers 6, to comments about his hope in the resurrection (Bruce 1988, 427). Bruce notes that Paul’s claim to being a Pharisee was very appropriate and relevant. Though his hope in the resurrection set him apart from the Sadducees, it was perfectly within bounds for a Pharisee. He played on a point of doctrine which the Christians held in common with the Pharisees. This also served to cause a dissent in the Sanhedrin, which would be less willing to convict him (Bruce 1988, 428).
In Acts 23:11 the Lord appeared to Paul in a night vision. Bruce observes that Paul’s situation was far from encouraging. He was being rejected in Jerusalem and the conflict level was increasing (Bruce 1988, 430). To make matters worse, Luke tells us that a group of Jews had taken an oath to kill Paul (Bruce 1988, 431). A relative of Paul told the tribune of the plan. The tribune then arranged for Paul to be moved under cover of night and accompanied by a large escort (Bruce 1988, 433). The tribune sent a letter with Paul, making it clear that the tribune had acted heroically to protect his prisoner. Bruce does note that the tribune adjusts some details to his own advantage.