ARRESTED BY THE JEWS Part 1 of 3 (Acts Series)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

February 11, 2016

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles
By: Tom Lowe


Topic #IV: The Church Advancing to the End of the Earth (Acts 13-28)

Subtopic E: Paul in Jerusalem (Acts 21:15-23:22)


Lesson: IV.E.2: ARRESTED BY THE JEWS (21:27-40)



ACTS 21:27-40 (KJV)

27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,
28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.
29 (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)
30 And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut.
31 And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.
32 Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul.
33 Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done.
34 And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle.
35 And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people.
36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him.
37 And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek?
38 Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?
39 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.
40 And when he had given him licence, 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,

THE UNPLEASANT INCIDENT IN A NUTSHELL

The scheme of James and the elders (Lesson IV.E.2) proved to be ineffective, and ended in disaster for Paul. Just before the termination of the seven days, some Jews from Asia who were attending the feast of Pentecost saw Paul in the Temple with Trophimus. They knew Trophimus, one of the apostles traveling companions, because he was a citizen of Ephesus. Thinking that Paul had brought Trophimus, a Gentile, into the Temple, they stirred up a mob with the charge that Paul had defiled the Temple with the presence of his Greek friend. The people seized Paul and dragged him outside the sanctuary and closed the doors so that he could not seek refuge in the inner courts. They intended to kill him but they did not want to spill his blood in the sanctuary for fear that it would defile the Temple.

While the people were beating Paul, a report of the uproar came to Claudius Lysias, the Tribune of the Roman cohort garrisoned in Jerusalem. Lysias took some soldiers and hurried to the scene. When the Romans put in their appearance, the Jews suddenly regained their composure and stopped beating Paul. The Tribune arrested Paul and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He then decided to move Paul away from the people and take him to the barracks located inside the Tower of Antonio. When the soldiers reached the steps leading up to the Tower, they had to carry Paul in order to keep him out of reach of the angry crowd.

Up to this time, it seems that Paul had not been able to say anything. When he was brought into the barracks, he asked the Tribune if he could speak. The officer was surprised to hear him use the Greek language. He was under the impression that Paul was the Egyptian who came to Jerusalem in a.d. 54 and claimed that he was a prophet.

Paul quickly set Lysias straight about his mistake in opinion and informed him that he was a Jew from Tarsus in Philistia. He then asked to be granted permission to speak to the people. Lysias consented. The apostle stood on the steps of the Tower of Antonia and motioned with his hand to the people. When they became silent, he spoke to them in the Aramaic language which was the language spoken in the land of Palestine.


COMMENTARY

27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,

James had the idea that the Apostle Paul should go through a purification process to show the Jewish people that he still followed Jewish laws and customs, and to prove his enemies wrong, who said he taught against circumcision and Jewish tradition. The purification process required a cleansing on the third and on the seventh days “They must purify themselves on the third and seventh days with the water of purification; then they will be purified. But if they do not do this on the third and seventh days, they will continue to be unclean even after the seventh day. (Numbers 19:12). It is likely that on the prescribed seventh day Paul returned to the temple to complete the ritual. He was spotted there by some Asian Jews, who immediately began to stir up a crowd against him: like Paul, they had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Not surprisingly the opposition to Paul came from Asian Jews, probably some from Ephesus. Earlier they had seen him in the city with Trophimus, and knowing Trophimus (an Ephesian) to be a Gentile, concluded that Paul had now brought him and possibly the whole Gentile delegation (note the plural, “Greeks,” v.28) “into the inner courts” where no Gentile was permitted to go (v. 29) (This was one offense for which the Sanhedrin was allowed by the Romans to execute the death sentence. However, as far as we know, Trophimus was not in the temple, much less in the inner courts. But Paul was their enemy. That was enough. And in any case, the second charge was the real heart of the matter (See 24:17-21 for Paul’s own account of the incident).

Paul had spent three years in Ephesus and part of the time in their synagogue “Then Paul went to the synagogue and preached boldly for the next three months, arguing persuasively about the Kingdom of God” (19:8).. They knew him well. In his Miletus speech, Paul alluded to plots the Ephesian Jews had already directed against him. Often Diaspora{1] Jews were exceedingly strict in their observance of the Jewish rituals “But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia” (6:9), and it may have been some of these same Asian Jews who had spread the rumors about Paul throughout Jerusalem—“But the Jewish believers here in Jerusalem have been told that you are teaching all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn their backs on the laws of Moses. They’ve heard that you teach them not to circumcise their children or follow other Jewish customs” (21:21).

28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.

The accusations they began to make against Paul were very serious. Two were the same charges leveled against Stephen (6:13): He speaks against “our law and this place”; i.e., against Torah and Temple. The third charge was less specific but perhaps the most valid—that Paul taught “against our people,” because in a sense Paul did. His leveling gospel of oneness of all in Jesus Christ, Greek as well as Jew, could ultimately do nothing other than reduce the significance of the Jews as God’s chosen people. In this instance, they charged him with temple violation. They accused Paul of having violated the temple by taking a Gentile beyond the court of the Gentiles into the sacred precincts that were open to Jews only; i.e., into the area of the temple proper. The large outer courtyard, known as the court of the Gentiles, was open to all. The temple proper was not. In fact, there was a stone barrier that separated the court of the Gentiles from the first courtyard of the temple proper, the court of the women. Perhaps Paul had this barrier in mind when he wrote Ephesians 2:14—“For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us” (NLT). According to Josephus, there were warning stones set at regular intervals along this barrier, some in Greek and some in Latin, forbidding non-Jews access beyond this point. Two of these have been excavated, both with a Greek text and both with a message to the effect that any foreigner proceeding beyond the barrier did so, on pain of death.

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