Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Acts 23:9

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

The scribes - arose, and strove - Διεμαχοντο, They contended forcibly - they came to an open rupture with the Sadducees; and, in order to support their own party against them, they even admitted as truth, St. Paul's account of his miraculous conversion, and therefore they said, if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, etc. He had previously mentioned that Jesus Christ had appeared to him, when on his way to Damascus; and, though they might not be ready to admit the doctrine of Christ's resurrection, yet they could, consistently with their own principles, allow that the soul of Christ might appear to him; and they immediately caught at this, as furnishing a strong proof against the doctrine of the Sadducees, who neither believed in angel nor spirit, while the Pharisees confessed both.

Let us not fight against God - These words are wanting in ABCE, several others, with the Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, later Syriac, Vulgate, and some of the fathers.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

A great cry - A great clamor and tumult.

The scribes - The learned men. They would naturally be the chief speakers.

Of the Pharisees‘ part - Who were Pharisees, or who belonged to that party. The scribes were not a distinct sect, but might be either Pharisees or Sadducees.

We find no evil in this man - No opinion which is contrary to the Law of Moses; no conduct in spreading the doctrine of the resurrection which we do not approve. The importance of this doctrine, in their view, was so great as to throw into the background all the other doctrines that Paul might hold; and, provided this were propagated, they were willing to vindicate and sustain him. A similar testimony was offered to the innocence of the Saviour by Pilate, John 19:6.

But if a spirit or an angel … - They here referred, doubtless, to what Paul had said in Acts 22:17-18. He had declared that he had gone among the I Gentiles in obedience to a command which he received in a vision in the temple. As the Pharisees held to the belief of spirits and angels, and to the doctrine that the will of God was often delivered to people by their agency, they were ready now to admit that he had received such a communication, and that he had gone among the Gentiles in obedience to it, to defend their great doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. We are not to suppose that the Pharisees had become the friends of Paul or of Christianity. The true solution of their conduct doubtless is, that they were so inflamed with hatred against the Sadducees that they were willing to make use of any argument against their doctrine. As the testimony of Paul might be turned to their account, they were willing to vindicate him. It is remarkable, too, that they perverted the statement of Paul in order to oppose the Sadducees. Paul had stated distinctly Acts 22:17-18 that he had been commanded to go by the Lord, meaning the Lord Jesus. He had said nothing of “a spirit or an angel.” Yet they would unite with the Sadducees so far as to maintain that he had received no such command from the Lord Jesus. But they might easily vary his statements, and suppose that an “angel or a spirit” had spoken to him, and thus make use of his conduct as an argument against the Sadducees. Men are not always very careful about the exact correctness of their statements when they wish to humble a rival.

Let us not fight against God - See the notes on Acts 5:39. These words are missing in many mss. and in some of the ancient versions. The Syriac reads it, “If a spirit or an angel have spoken to him, what is there in this?” that is, what is there unusual or wrong?

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.