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Acts 23:6

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee - Instead of Φαρισαιου, of a Pharisee, ABC, some others, with the Syriac and Vulgate, have Φαρισαιων, of the Pharisees; which, if acknowledged to be the genuine reading, would alter the sense thus, I am a Pharisee, and a disciple of the Pharisees, for so the word son is frequently understood.

Of the hope and resurrection - Concerning the hope of the resurrection, the και, and, being here redundant; indeed, it is omitted by the Syriac, all the Arabic, and Ethiopic. St. Paul had preached the resurrection of the dead, on the foundation and evidence of the resurrection of Christ. For this, he and the apostles were, some time before, imprisoned by the high priest and elders, Acts 4:1-3; Acts 5:17, because they preached, Through Jesus, the resurrection of the dead. This they could not bear; for, if Jesus Christ rose from the dead, their malice and wickedness, in putting him to death, were incontrovertibly established.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

But when Paul perceived - Probably by his former acquaintance with the men who composed the council. As he had been brought up in Jerusalem, and had been before acquainted with the Sanhedrin Acts 9:2, he would have an acquaintance, doubtless, with the character of most of those present, though he had been absent from them for fourteen years, Galatians 2:1.

The one part … - That the council was divided into two parts, Pharisees and Sadducees. This was commonly the case, though it was uncertain which had the majority. In regard to the opinions of these two sects, see the notes on Matthew 3:7.

He cried out … - The reasons why Paul resolved to take advantage of their difference of opinion were, probably:

(1) That he saw that it was impossible to expect justice at their hands, and he therefore regarded it as prudent and proper to consult his own safety. He saw, from the conduct of Ananias, and from the spirit manifested Acts 23:4, that they, like the other Jews, had prejudged the case, and were driven on by blind rage and fury.

(2) his object was to show his innocence to the chief captain. To ascertain that was the purpose for which he had been arraigned. Yet that, perhaps, could be most directly and satisfactorily shown by bringing out, as he knew he could do, the real spirit which actuated the whole council, as a spirit of party strife, contention, and persecution. Knowing, therefore, how sensitive they were on the subject of the resurrection, he seems to have resolved to do what he would not have done had they been disposed to hear him according to the rules of justice - to abandon the direct argument for his defense, and to enlist a large part, perhaps a majority of the council, in his favor. Whatever may be thought of the propriety of this course, it cannot be denied that it was a masterstroke of policy, and that it evinced a profound knowledge of human nature.

I am a Pharisee - That is, I was of that sect among the Jews. I was born a Pharisee, and I ever continued while a Jew to be of that sect. In the main he agreed with them still. He did not mean to deny that he was a Christian, but that, so far as the Pharisees differed from the Sadducees, he was with the former. He agreed with them, not with the Sadducees, in regard to the doctrine of the resurrection, and the existence of angels and spirits.

The son of a Pharisee - What was the name of his father is not known. But the meaning is, simply, that he was entitled to all the immunities and privileges of a Pharisee. He had, from his birth, belonged to that sect, nor had he ever departed from the great cardinal doctrine which distinguished that sect - the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. Compare Philemon 3:5.

Of the hope and resurrection of the dead - That is, of the hope that the dead will be raised. This is the real point of the opposition to me.

I am called in question - Greek: I am judged; that is, I am persecuted, or brought to trial. Orobio charges this upon Paul as an artful manner of declining persecution, unworthy the character of an upright and honest man. Chubb, a British Deist of the seventeenth century, charges it upon Paul as an act of gross “dissimulation, as designed to conceal the true ground of all the troubles that he had brought upon himself, and as designed to deceive and impose upon the Jews.” He affirms also that “Paul probably invented this pretended charge against himself to draw over a party of the unbelieving Jews unto him.” See Chubb‘s Posthumous Works, vol. ii. p. 238. Now, in reply to this, we may observe:

(1) That there is not the least evidence that Paul denied that he had been, or was then, a Christian. An attempt to deny this, after all that they knew of him, would have been vain; and there is not the slightest hint that he attempted it.

(2) the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was the main and leading doctrine which he had insisted on, and which had been to him the cause of much of his persecution. See Acts 17:31-32; Acts 13:34; Acts 26:6-7, Acts 26:23, Acts 26:25.

(3) Paul defended this by an argument which he deemed invincible; and which constituted, in fact, the principal evidence of its truth - the fact that the Lord Jesus had been raised. That fact had fully confirmed the doctrine of the Pharisees that the dead would rise. As Paul had everywhere proclaimed the fact that Jesus had been raised up, and as this had been the occasion of his being opposed, it was true that he had been persecuted on account of that doctrine.

(4) the real ground of the opposition Which the Sadducees made to him, and of their opposition to his doctrine, was the additional zeal with which he urged this doctrine, and the additional argument which he brought for the resurrection of the dead. Perhaps the cause of the opposition of this great party among the Jews the Sadducees - to Christianity, was the strong confirmation which the resurrection of Christ gave to the doctrine which they so much hated - the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. It thus gave a triumph to their opponents among the Pharisees, and Paul, as a leading and zealous advocate of that doctrine, would excite their special hatred.

(5) all that Paul said, therefore, was strictly true. It was because he advocated this doctrine that he was opposed. That there were other causes of opposition to him might be true also; but still this was the main and prominent cause of the hostility.

(6) with great propriety, therefore, he might address the Pharisees and say, “Brethren, the doctrine which has distinguished you from the Sadducees is at stake. The doctrine which is at the foundation of all our hopes - the resurrection of the dead; the doctrine of our fathers, of the Scriptures, of our sect, is in danger. Of that doctrine I have been the advocate. I have never denied it. I have everywhere defended it, and have devoted myself to the work of putting it on an imperishable basis among the Jews and the Gentiles. For my zeal in that I have been opposed. I have excited the ridicule of the Gentile and the hatred of the Sadducee. I have thus been persecuted and arraigned; and for my zeal in urging the argument in defense of it which I have deemed most irrefragable the resurrection of the Messiah - I have been arraigned, and now cast myself on your protection against the mad zeal of the enemies of the doctrine of our fathers.” Not only, therefore, was this an act of policy and prudence in Paul, but what he affirmed was strictly true, and the effect was as he had anticipated.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The Pharisees were correct in the faith of the Jewish church. The Sadducees were no friends to the Scripture or Divine revelation; they denied a future state; they had neither hope of eternal happiness, nor dread of eternal misery. When called in question for his being a Christian, Paul might truly say he was called in question for the hope of the resurrection of the dead. It was justifiable in him, by this profession of his opinion on that disputed point, to draw off the Pharisees from persecuting him, and to lead them to protect him from this unlawful violence. How easily can God defend his own cause! Though the Jews seemed to be perfectly agreed in their conspiracy against religion, yet they were influenced by very different motives. There is no true friendship among the wicked, and in a moment, and with the utmost ease, God can turn their union into open enmity. Divine consolations stood Paul in the most stead; the chief captain rescued him out of the hands of cruel men, but the event he could not tell. Whoever is against us, we need not fear, if the Lord stand by us. It is the will of Christ, that his servants who are faithful, should be always cheerful. He might think he should never see Rome; but God tells him, even in that he should be gratified, since he desired to go there only for the honour of Christ, and to do good.
Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 411-6

“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. AA 411.1

“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.” The two parties began to dispute between themselves, and thus the strength of their opposition against Paul was broken. “The scribes that were of the Pharisees’ part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.” AA 411.2

In the confusion that followed, the Sadducees were eagerly striving to gain possession of the apostle, that they might put him to death; and the Pharisees were as eager in striving to protect him. “The chief captain, 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.” AA 412.1

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Paul's Arrest and Imprisonment