"Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them".
"Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, "Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place." (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)
"And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut. Now as they were seeking to kill him, news came to the commander of the garrison that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. He immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them. And when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.. Then the commander came near and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and he asked who he was and what he had done. And some among the multitude cried one thing and some another.So when he could not ascertain the truth because of the tumult, he commanded him to be taken into the barracks. When he reached the stairs, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob. For the multitude of the people followed after, crying out, "Away with him!"
Paul:: Addressing the Jerusalem Mob
Cross reference with (Acts 9:1-19; 26:12-18) The "Conversion" of Saul at Damascus and the "Testimony" of before King Agrippa
"Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, "May I speak to you?" He replied, "Can you speak Greek? Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?" But Paul said, "I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people."So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying, (NKJV)
Part Two: “Trouble in Jerusalem”: Paul Mobbed and Beaten by Unbelieving Jews….Rescued by Gentiles
To recap the earlier part of Chapter 21, being forewarned by the Holy Spirit concerning what would await him if he traveled to Jerusalem, Paul, still driven and determined to go to Jerusalem chose to travel there anyway.
Paul justified his decision by stressing he was ready to suffer, even die for the cause of spreading the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, even to those who lived in Jerusalem and to his Jewish brethren in particular. Paul had traveled in 3 missionary trips with different ministry help; Barnabas first, then with Silas, Timothy, and Titus and a plethora of new converts both Jew and Gentile.
Subsequently everywhere he went, he received fierce opposition from Jewish and some Gentile factions who refuse to accept Jesus Christ as Messiah and clung tightly to the promotion of adhering to the Mosaic Law of their own godless philosophies. The Judaizers made it their vow to destroy what they saw as a strange new form of worship and to slander the ministry and character of Paul. Those rejecting Gentiles saw what Paul taught as an extension to Judaism and the Mosaic Law.
Everywhere Paul preached in Asia Minor, this one faction, of Jews, particularly from Thessalonica followed him and stirred up strife either between Paul and the Roman magistrates, and/or the Jewish temple leaders and elders. They accused Paul of several things; first of teaching against the Mosaic Law, second of attempting to persuade the Jews wherever he preached .to abandon the traditional teachings of their fathers, and temple rituals and ceremonies, third, of flooding the temples with converted Gentiles, telling them that they didn’t have to follow the Mosaic Law. In essence, they accused him of sedition and blasphemy and polluting the Jewish Temple. (the inner court) Paul was labeled as a blasphemer among the Jews and a trouble maker among the Romans. Their aim was to silence Paul, kill him if necessary, under mind his ministry and wreck his credibility. The atmosphere was full of the rumor that Paul had admonished the Jewish converts to abandon the Law, not to subject their infant sons to circumcision, and to abandon all customs, rituals ceremonies, sacrifices required by the Law.
Paul is now in Jerusalem and having gone before James the Less and the other elders of the Jerusalem church. Paul is now made aware of the vicious rumor that was made against him concerning the Jews, the Mosaic Law and the message he allegedly preach and taught. Paul was also made aware that many of the Jews who became followers of Jesus Christ also had continued to follow and live according to the Mosaic Law also in their belief that it took more than the sacrificial blood of Jesus to bring about salvation; that it also took continuing to keep the Law and the rituals, customs and feast contained within it. The elders came up with a viable idea in attempt to dispel the rumor by suggesting to Paul to take a purification vow with 4 other Jewish men, shave his head and pay for their expenses as a show to these haters that Paul had not abandoned the Law, nor taught against it.
Paul Follows the Advice of the Elders. (verses 26- 27)
In the latter part of Acts Chapter 21:26-27) Paul took the advice of the Elders and along with the 4 men who had taken a vow to purify themselves did the same with them and paid an offering in all of their behalf. This was the gist of what this vow of purification required: Paul was to observe the “Nazarite Vow”. It required
1. Abstaining from drinking wine and strong drink.
2. They were to eat no grapes, moist or dried.
3. They were forbidden to come near no dead body, nor to make themselves "unclean" for their father, mother, brother, or sister, when they died (Numbers 6:3-7)
4. They were to present an offering when the days of the vow were completed. (Numbers 6:8).
Paul not only agreed to do so, Paul also shared in paying their offering. The offerings were a ram of a year old for a burnt-offering, a sheep of the same age for a sin-offering, a ram for a thank-offering, a basket of unleavened cakes, and a libation of wine.(Numbers 6:13-20.)
At the conclusion of the vow, along with presenting the required offering, Paul and the men were to shave their heads.
Note: The shaving of the head, or the cutting off the hair which had been allowed to grow during the continuance of the vow (Numbers 6:5), was an outward physical observance to indicate the vow had been performed and was completed.
James and the rest of the elders reasoned with Paul that by fully observing this ritual and ceremony with these 4 men, would serve....
A. As evidence that it is not your purpose or practice to speak in contempt of these “Nazarite” rites, and their ritual components or to undervalue the authority of Moses in any way.
B. Also, that this will prove all accusations to that effect are untrue, that they have no concrete foundation and were not valid in the slightest.
C. This will show that contrary to what they (the brethren) heard, you do live in accordance with the real requirements of the Law of Moses, that is: To walk, in the Scriptures,) that is, "to live, to act, to conduct yourself in a “certain” manner that line up with the Law.)
D. In reality, it was their hope that this would show that he was not an enemy of Moses and calm the growing tension mounting against Paul. The ones who gave this counsel were Christians,(believers that Jesus Christ is their promised messiah) and they could not wish him to do anything which would imply that he was not a Christian.
Now Concerning the Gentiles Christians: (vs. 25)
As we have already declared in a previously sent letter…..
“As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication”.
Here is the fact of the matter....
The Jerusalem Church Council could not command the Gentile converts to observe those rituals and ceremonies. While yet it might be proper (for the sake of peace), that the converts to Christianity from among the Jews should regard them. The Jews had a hard time transitioning from all they were taught from God through Moses concerning the state and status of the Gentiles before and even after their conversion.
The conduct of the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem in giving this advice, and of Paul in following it, was designed to appease the Jews in Jerusalem through deception (who refused to stop adherence) in believing that Paul was actually conformed to the ceremonial and rituals of the Mosaic Law, when his conduct among the Gentiles showed that obviously he did not. God had already declared through Jesus that the day would come when the performance of the ceremonial rituals and contained in keeping the Mosaic Law would indeed cease. After 70 A.D., all rituals, sacrifices and ceremonies were stopped by Roman force. The Temple was destroyed and Israel as a nation was scattered once again by Titus the general of the Roman army who led a vicious onslaught against the Jews, driving them completely out of Rome.
In maintaining their previous agreement at the Council of Nicea, James the Less and the Council still maintained that the Gentiles were not to be subjected to these rituals and ceremonies. Their “rational” concerning not placing this demand upon the Gentile Christians was the following reasons:
1. The observance of that law was not necessary for salvation. The Mosaic Law had no “salvation” principle in it. The Law established God’s boundaries for lifestyle and code of conduct for the Jews. The Law established the need for the Jews to allow God to be their God and for them to follow through the keeping of His Law and their dedication to Him by the sacrifices, different offerings and rituals of purification done at the Temple, since He had formed them and established His covenant with them. Though symbolic, these rituals were to be done as an outward expression that true repentance and the turning away from their sins has been done.
It must be noted here that even the Jews were incapable of keeping the Law and violated many of the provisions of the Mosaic Law in Old Testament times, even though they would still bring their offerings and sacrifices before Him at the temple and present them to the priest.
2. It would have been improper to have force its observance on the Gentile converts and promoting their observance as necessary. Therefore this was never done because in the minds of this council and the council at Nicea, it was too time consuming to enforce and the belief was many of the Gentiles would not be able to bear them because they were counter to their culture and lifestyles.
3. When the Jews urged its observance as necessary to justification and salvation, Paul strenuously opposed this view of it everywhere; Yet, as a matter of expediency, Paul didn’t oppose the observance of that law either by the Jews, or by the converts made among the Jews. In fact, there is other evidence besides the case before us that Paul himself continued to observe some, at least, of the Jewish rites, and his conduct in public at Jerusalem was in strict accordance with his conduct in other places. (Acts 18:18).
Note: Whenever the observance of the Jewish ceremonial law was urged upon as necessary for justification and acceptance with God, Paul resisted it. When it was demanded that its observance should be placed upon the Gentiles, he opposed it. Yet, in all other cases he made no opposition to it, and was ready himself to comply with it, and even willing that others should also. Paul understood that it was expedient for the furtherance of spreading the Good News.
Paul said this to the Church of Corinth in (1 Corinthians 9:20):
"And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the Law, as under the Law, that I might gain them that are under the Law."
And to this end, it has always been found necessary, in propagating the gospel among the pagan, not to offend them needlessly, but to conform to their innocent customs in regard to dress, language, modes of traveling, sitting, eating, etc ‘. Paul did nothing more than this. He violated none of the dictates of honesty and truth.
Paul: Arrested in the Temple and Beaten (verses 27- 35)
As it neared the end of the 7th day of the vow, a vicious group of Jews who were totally against the preaching of Paul saw him in the Temple stirred up the crowd and laid hands on him in Jerusalem. In verses 28 and 29, they yelled out the following accusation:
"Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place”.
(For they had previously* seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)
“All Israel who are friends to the Law of Moses “This is the man that teach all men everywhere against the people, (Jews) the Law and against the temple and further brought Greeks (Gentiles) into the temple and has polluted this holy place”.
Concerning the Temple.
Everything that came against the Mosaic Law would be interpreted also as coming against the very place where most of the ceremonial activities required by the Mosaic Law would take place. Most of the ceremonies required in the Law were celebrated there.
Concerning the Accusation of “polluting” the Temple with Greeks
This accusation was a deliberate attempt to slander Paul’s character and ministry with this malicious lie. Bringing a Greek or a Gentile into the temple would not have served Paul any real purpose. These malicious Jews may have seen Trophimus, an Ephesian, with him, in the city, but this was no ground on which to raise a slander against a fellow Jew that must so materially affect both their lives.
The Hebrew Historian Josephus informs us, that on the wall which separated the court of the Gentiles from that of the Israelites was an inscription written in Greek and Latin letters, which stated that no stranger was permitted to come within the holy place on pain of death. With such a prohibition as this before his eyes, it was highly unlikely that Paul would enter into the temple in company with an uncircumcised Greek? You can surmise they deliberately lied about this to further raise the ire of the people because as they saw it, no greater defilement could take place greater than this and the people certainly after hearing this wouldn’t respond favorably to Paul in any manner
The People in the City’s response….They “Ambushed” and “Beat” Paul
"And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul. Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done.
After hearing the scathing accusations against Paul, the people of city moved with fierce indignation and ambushed Paul in the inner court of the temple with such violence, they drugged him out of the court of the Hebrews where he was worshipping (inner court) to the outer court where the Gentiles worshipped and immediately shut the doors to both courts. They beat Paul mercilessly with the full intention of taking his life. But word got to the Captain of the Roman Army band that Jerusalem was in an uproar, causing him to send hundreds of soldiers and centurions to the temple to break up the melee. When the mob saw the soldiers coming, they pulled back and ran. The captain then instructed the soldiers to take Paul into custody and chain him between 2 soldiers. Then he demanded Paul to identify himself and tell him what was it he had done to cause this kind of uproar.
Note: The Purpose of “Binding” of Paul:
The purpose of binding Paul was to show to the enraged multitude the captain did not intend to rescue anyone from justice, but to keep the peace. Paul's binding would convince them of his determination that justice should be done in the case.
The “Mob” Crowd’s Response to the Captain: ‘Some cried one thing and some cried another!’ (vs. 34)
The captain being unsuccessful in finding out what caused the melee because the crowd yelled different things and were not unified in their accusations, the captain then gave the command to take Paul guarded into the barracks located upstairs in the castle. The angry crowd followed them behind crying out “Away with Him!” (meaning: “Kill Him”) This was the usual outcry when they wanted the Roman government to handle an issue where they wanted someone dead, knowing that they didn’t have the authority under Roman law to put anyone to death.
Paul addresses the Jerusalem Mob (verses 37-40)
Reference with (Acts 9:1-19; 26:12-18)
By the time they reached the steps leading to the Tower of Antonia from the temple area, the mob had become so violent that the soldiers had to pick up Paul and carry him. As they came to the head of the stairs, Paul surprised the tribune by speaking to him in Greek.
“Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, "May I speak to you?" He replied, "Can you speak Greek? Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?" (vs. 37-38)
Some three years before this time, an Egyptian Jew had stirred up a revolt by leading four thousand men out to the Mount of Olives, promising that the walls of the city would be leveled before them and that they would be able to overthrow the Roman garrison. The supporters of this revolt were called assassins because each carried a knife concealed in his garments with which he might assassinate political opponents. This revolt had been crushed by the Roman procurator Felix, but the Egyptian had escaped. The tribune for some reason identified his captive with that Jewish rebel.
But Paul said, "I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people." So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying…. (vs. 39-40)
When Paul assured the tribune that he, as a Jew, had a right to enter the temple precincts and that he was a citizen of the important city of Tarsus, the officer permitted him to try to quiet the mob. The apostle stood at the head of the stairs overlooking the court of the Gentiles, while the soldiers stood below him on the stairs. When Paul had captured the attention of the mob, he began to speak to them in the native Aramaic dialect, which was the common Jewish language of both Palestine and western Asia. In the next chapter, Paul addresses the crowd as the events of his return to Jerusalem continue to unfold.
Dr. William Edward Boddie