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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

On Acts 23: 6 - 13

EXCERPT FROM THE COMMENTARY OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM ON THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES, HOMILY XLIX.

Th Book of Acts


Chapter 23:

Ver.6-8: "But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both."

AGAIN he discourses simply as man, and he does not on all occasions alike enjoy the benefit of supernatural aid. "I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee:" 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." And yet there are three things: how then does he say both? "Spirit and Angel" is put as one. When he is on their side, then they plead for him.

Ver. 9: "And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but what if a spirit has spoken to him, or an angel?"

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.

Ver. 10: "And when there arose a great dissension, the tribune, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle."

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. Do you observe that Paul had a right to profess himself a Roman? Else, neither would (the tribune) have been afraid now. So it remains that the soldiers must bear him off by force. But when the wretches saw all to be without avail, they take the whole matter into their own hands, as they would fain have done before, but were prevented: and their wickedness stops nowhere, though it received so many checks: and yet how many things were providentially ordered, on purpose that they might settle down from their rage, and learn those things through which they might possibly recover themselves! But none the less do they set upon him. 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.

Ver. 11 - 13: "And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome. And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy."

"They bound themselves under a curse," it says. See how vehement and revengeful they are in their malice. What does "bound under a curse" mean? 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.