December 09, 2002 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You may now speak on your own behalf." So Paul stretched out his hand and began his defense.
- 1 "I count myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am to defend myself before you today against all the charges made against me by the Jews,
- especially since you are an expert in all the Jewish customs and controversies. And therefore I beg you to listen patiently.
- My manner of living from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my people 2 and in Jerusalem, all (the) Jews know.
- They have known about me from the start, if they are willing to testify, that I have lived my life as a Pharisee, the strictest party of our religion.
- But now I am standing trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors.
- Our twelve tribes hope to attain to that promise as they fervently worship God day and night; and on account of this hope I am accused by Jews, O king.
- Why is it thought unbelievable among you that God raises the dead?
- I myself once thought that I had to do many things against the name of Jesus the Nazorean,
- and I did so in Jerusalem. I imprisoned many of the holy ones with the authorization I received from the chief priests, and when they were to be put to death I cast my vote against them.
- Many times, in synagogue after synagogue, I punished them in an attempt to force them to blaspheme; I was so enraged against them that I pursued them even to foreign cities.
- "On one such occasion I was traveling to Damascus with the authorization and commission of the chief priests.
- At midday, along the way, O king, I saw a light from the sky, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my traveling companions.
- We all fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying to me in Hebrew, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goad.' 3
- And I said, 'Who are you, sir?' And the Lord replied, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.
- Get up now, and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness of what you have seen (of me) and what you will be shown. 4
- I shall deliver you from this people and from the Gentiles to whom I send you,
- to open their eyes 5 that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may obtain forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been consecrated by faith in me.'
- "And so, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.
- On the contrary, first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem and throughout the whole country of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached the need to repent and turn to God, and to do works giving evidence of repentance.
- That is why the Jews seized me (when I was) in the temple and tried to kill me.
- But I have enjoyed God's help to this very day, and so I stand here testifying to small and great alike, saying nothing different from what the prophets and Moses foretold, 6
- that the Messiah must suffer 7 and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles."
- While Paul was so speaking in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, "You are mad, Paul; much learning is driving you mad."
- But Paul replied, "I am not mad, most excellent Festus; I am speaking words of truth and reason.
- The king knows about these matters and to him I speak boldly, for I cannot believe that (any) of this has escaped his notice; this was not done in a corner. 8
- King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? 9 I know you believe."
- Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You will soon persuade me to play the Christian."
- Paul replied, "I would pray to God that sooner or later not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am except for these chains."
- Then the king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and the others who sat with them.
- 10 And after they had withdrawn they said to one another, "This man is doing nothing (at all) that deserves death or imprisonment."
- And Agrippa said to Festus, "This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar."
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1 [2-23] Paul's final defense speech in Acts is now made before a king (see Acts 9:15). In the speech Paul presents himself as a zealous Pharisee and Christianity as the logical development of Pharisaic Judaism. The story of his conversion is recounted for the third time in Acts in this speech (see the note on Acts 9:1-19).
2  Among my people: that is, among the Jews.
3  In Hebrew: see the note on Acts 21:40. It is hard for you to kick against the goad: this proverb is commonly found in Greek literature and in this context signifies the senselessness and ineffectiveness of any opposition to the divine influence in his life.
4  The words of Jesus directed to Paul here reflect the dialogues between Christ and Ananias (Acts 9:15) and between Ananias and Paul (Acts 22:14-15) in the two previous accounts of Paul's conversion.
5  To open their eyes: though no mention is made of Paul's blindness in this account (cf Acts 9:8-9, 12, 18; 22:11-13), the task he is commissioned to perform is the removal of other people's spiritual blindness.
6  Saying nothing different from what the prophets and Moses foretold: see the note on Luke 18:31.
7  That the Messiah must suffer: see the note on Luke 24:26.
8  Not done in a corner: for Luke, this Greek proverb expresses his belief that he is presenting a story about Jesus and the church that is already well known. As such, the entire history of Christianity is public knowledge and incontestable. Luke presents his story in this way to provide "certainty" to his readers about the instructions they have received (Luke 1:4).
9 [27,28] If the Christian missionaries proclaim nothing different from what the Old Testament prophets had proclaimed (Acts 26:22-23), then the logical outcome for the believing Jew, according to Luke, is to become a Christian.
10 [31-32] In recording the episode of Paul's appearance before Agrippa, Luke wishes to show that, when Paul's case was judged impartially, no grounds for legal action against him were found (see Acts 23:29; 25:25).
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