Acts 20:13-38

Word about Paul has gotten back to the Jews in Jerusalem, and they are upset! So upset, in fact, that they are lying about his ministry. First of all, they claim that he is telling all the Jewish converts to abandon the law, circumcision, and their customs. To be fair, they could simply be misunderstanding Paul’s teaching on these points. He would certainly be teaching that salvation is by grace, and not from keeping the law, but consider the following verses:

1 Corinthians 7:18-19 “For instance, a man who was circumcised before he became a believer should not try to reverse it. And the man who was uncircumcised when he became a believer should not be circumcised now. For it makes no difference whether or not a man has been circumcised. The important thing is to keep God’s commandments.

Romans 14:5 “In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable.

Second, they claim that he brought Greeks into a section of the sanctuary that only Jews were allowed in. Would a man in the midst of a Nazarite vow (Numbers 6:1-21) who was trying to placate his Jewish brethren really do that? Of course not! They do what so many do today; they lie and mislead about somebody that they disagree with. Be warned! Christians are supposed to be people of the truth!

Zechariah 8:14-17 “For this is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: I was determined to punish you when your ancestors angered me, and I did not change my mind, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. But now I am determined to bless Jerusalem and the people of Judah. So don’t be afraid. But this is what you must do: Tell the truth to each other. Render verdicts in your courts that are just and that lead to peace. Don’t scheme against each other. Stop your love of telling lies that you swear are the truth. I hate all these things, says the LORD.

Ephesians 4:24-25 “Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.

A mob develops and the Roman guard comes to intercede. Paul is arrested based on the cries of the mob, but they can’t agree about what he has done. The commander was initially worried that Paul could have been an insurrectionist that had previously escaped, but is reassured when Paul speaks Greek. Josephus may refer to the individual in question:

But there was an Egyptian false prophet that did the Jews more mischief than the former; for he was a cheat, and pretended to be a prophet also, and got together thirty thousand men that were deluded by him; these he led round about from the wilderness to the mount which was called the Mount of Olives, and was ready to break into Jerusalem by force from that place; and if he could but once conquer the Roman garrison and the people, he intended to domineer over them by the assistance of those guards of his that were to break into the city with him, but Felix prevented his attempt, and met him with his Roman soldiers, while all the people assisted him in his attack upon them, insomuch that, when it came to a battle, the Egyptian ran away, with a few others, while the greatest part of those that were with him were either destroyed or taken alive; but the rest of the multitude were dispersed every one to their own homes and there concealed themselves.” (The Wars of the Jews, 2:13:5)

The NET Bible says that Paul spoke to them in Aramaic (21:40). The text literally says that Paul spoke in “the Hebrew dialect.” Most scholars believe that the Jews were actually trilingual at this time and knew Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. Hebrew would be the language of the Scriptures and the religious elite, Greek the language of the empire and commerce, and Aramaic the everyday tongue.

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