Paul’s Defense before Agrippa
1 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You are [now] permitted to speak on your own behalf.” At that, Paul stretched out his hand [as an orator] and made his defense [as follows]:
2 “I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, since it is before you that I am to make my defense today regarding all the charges brought against me by the Jews, 3 especially because you are an expert [fully knowledgeable, experienced and unusually conversant] in all the Jewish customs and controversial issues; therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.
4 “So then, all the Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation [the Jewish people], and in Jerusalem. 5 They have known me for a long time, if they are willing to testify to it, that according to the (a)strictest sect of our religion, I have lived as a Pharisee. 6 And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers.(A) 7 Which hope [of the Messiah and the resurrection] our twelve tribes [confidently] expect to realize as they serve and worship God in earnest night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews! 8 Why is it thought incredible by [any of] you that God raises the dead?
9 “So then, I [once] thought to myself that it was my duty to do many things in opposition to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; I not only locked up many of the saints (God’s people) in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being condemned to death, I (b)cast my vote against them. 11 And I often punished them [making them suffer] in all the synagogues and tried to force them to blaspheme; and in my extreme rage at them, I kept hunting them even to foreign cities [harassing and persecuting them].
12 “While so engaged, as I was traveling to Damascus with the authority and commission and full power of the chief priests, 13 at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven surpassing the brightness of the sun, shining all around me and those who were traveling with me. 14 And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice in the Hebrew dialect (Jewish Aramaic) saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? (c)It is hard for you to kick [repeatedly] against the (d)goads [offering pointless resistance].’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 Get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you [to serve] as a minister and as a witness [to testify, with authority,] not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you, 17 [choosing you for Myself and] rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you,(B) 18 to open their [spiritual] eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness and release from their sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified (set apart, made holy) by faith in Me.’(C)
19 “So, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but I openly proclaimed first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent [change their inner self—their old way of thinking] and turn to God, doing deeds and living lives which are consistent with repentance. 21 Because of this some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 But I have had help from God to this day, and I stand [before people] testifying to small and great alike, stating nothing except what the Prophets and Moses said would come to pass— 23 that the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed) was to suffer, and that He by being the first to rise from the dead [with an incorruptible body] would proclaim light (salvation) both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
24 While Paul was making this defense, Festus said loudly, “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great education is turning you toward madness.” 25 But Paul replied, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent and noble Festus, but [with a sound mind] I am uttering rational words of truth and reason. 26 For [your majesty] the king understands these things, and [therefore] I am also speaking to him with confidence and boldness, since I am convinced that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner [hidden from view, in secret]. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the [writings of the] Prophets [their messages and words]? I know that you do.” 28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time [and with so little effort] you [almost] persuade me to become a Christian.” 29 And Paul replied, “Whether in a short time or long, I wish to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become such as I am, except for these chains.”
30 Then the king stood up, and [with him] the governor and Bernice, and those who were sitting with them; 31 and after they had gone out, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything worthy of death or [even] of imprisonment.” 32 And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to (e)Caesar (Emperor Nero).”
a. Acts 26:5: Paul probably is referring to the school of Shammai, which flourished from 30 b.c. to a.d. 20. Gamaliel, Paul’s teacher in the school of Hillel (22:3), discussed and interpreted the teachings of both schools, and often agreed with the teachings of Shammai, so Paul was familiar with Shammai as well as Hillel.
b. Acts 26:10: Lit cast down my (black) pebble. In ancient times a vote cast by throwing a white pebble meant acquittal, and a black one, condemnation.
c. Acts 26:14: An ancient Greek proverb dating back to the time of Euripides.
d. Acts 26:14: These were wooden shafts (like broomsticks) with a pointed piece of metal on one end, used by the farmer to keep an ox going in the right direction as it pulled a plow. Jesus was “prodding” Paul to take the proper direction in his life, and Paul had been resisting.
e. Acts 26:32: Nero was the fifth and last of the Roman emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He ruled after the death of Claudius and actively persecuted Christians. Both Paul and Peter were martyred during Nero’s reign (a.d. 54-68).