On Acts 26:1-8

Acts 26:1‑8  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Luke sets the scene vividly before us. The king, whose opinion the governor sought, and who himself was desirous of hearing, gives courteous leave, and the prisoner enters on his defense with outstretched hand. Orators no doubt used the same action to engage the ear of their countrymen; rhetoricians in their schools; but his heart went out thus in desire over souls about to hear that message from God which, in whatever manner put, is the turning-point of salvation or perdition to all that hear it. No doubt the soul is beyond all price for every one in view of such everlasting issues. But it was no light thing even for the apostle to confront, without his seeking it but at their own desire, the great ones of the earth with all that swelled their train.
“And Agrippa said to Paul, it is permitted thee to speak for1 thyself. Then Paul stretched out his hand and entered on his defense. Touching all things of which I am accused by Jews, king Agrippa, I count myself happy that I am to make my defense before thee to-day;2 especially as thou art skilled in all customs and questions that are among Jews. Wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently” (Acts 26:1-31Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: 2I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: 3Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently. (Acts 26:1‑3)).
“My manner of life then from my youth which was from the beginning among my nation and3 at Jerusalem know all Jews, knowing me before from the outset, if they be willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. And now I stand to be judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers; unto which our twelve tribes earnestly serving night and day hope to arrive. And concerning this hope I am accused by4 Jews, Ο king5. Why is it judged incredible with you, if God raiseth dead [men]?” (Acts 26:4-84My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; 5Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. 6And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: 7Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. 8Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? (Acts 26:4‑8)).
It may be a small matter, yet it is well to avoid the mistake of confounding the apostle’s act here with what he did in the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:1616Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience. (Acts 13:16)), or what Alexander did in the tumultuous assembly at Ephesus (Acts 19:3333And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people. (Acts 19:33)). This was “beckoning with the hand,” quite different in character and aim from stretching it forth, here too with a chain, What a witness of the world’s enmity to God’s infinite grace in Christ! For, to say nothing of his loving labors, wherein had His servant done wrong? He was sharing the sufferings of Christ.
It will be observed that the apostle graciously passes by the various calumnies of the Jews which had been put forward by their venal orator and the unscrupulous men who supported his charges. He expresses his satisfaction at having to speak before one so exceptionally competent as the king in all the ways and controversies of Jews, as he does not fail even in this acknowledgment to preface it with an allusion to such accusations coming from Jews, not “the” Jews. In this connection there is no article in the text of verse 2, 3, as there should be none in verse 4 and 7, though in verse 4 there is much conflict among the MSS. (even the best uncials), and only Lachmann, and Alford, Tregelles, with Westcott and Hort, following B E, and others, against the rest. Nor is it to be wondered at that Tischendorf, who had dropt it in his later editions up to the seventh, went back in his eighth to that of his earlier issues in 1841 and both of 1842. The fact is that the sense required in this phrase here seems without example in the N. T., where in other cases πάντες οἱ ‘I, is the correct form, and the article, as far as I have noticed, could not be omitted without damage. Here there is a distinct and unusual peculiarity; for “all the Jews” are not meant, but all Jews knowing Paul before from the outset. This accordingly requires πάντες Ἰ προγινώσκοντές με ἄνωθεν.
All Gr. T. students know of course the late Dean Alford’s note on verse 2, which seems a long-standing reproach to scholars and ought to have been repudiated far and wide: for I cannot doubt there must be not a few besides the late Bp. of Durham, who are aware of the fallacy. “There is no force in Meyer’s observation that by the art before Ἰουδαίων, Paul wishes to express that the charges were made by some, not by all of the Jews. That omission is the one so often overlooked by the German critics (for example, Stier, here), after a preposition. See Middl. ch. 6. § 1, and compare κατὰ Ἰουδαιόυς in the next verse, of which the above cannot be said” (Greek Test. ii. 276, fifth ed. 1865.
Now it is admitted that the celebrated German expositor’s remark is imperfect, even though in many cases true. The omission of the article is due here and every where to presenting the word or combination of words characteristically, whilst the use of the article presents it as an object before the mind. There may be a very few exceptions, but these only prove the otherwise universality of the rule. And prepositions are in no way an exception, though they admit freely of serving to define the characteristic design of the anarthrous construction, which has been overlooked by English scholars quite as much perhaps as German. This is exactly one of the great defects of Bp. Middleton’s able treatise, which has for effect the making imaginary exceptions as numerous as the rule. This of itself ought to have indicated failure in generalization. John 4:99Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. (John 4:9) is a plain illustration of the principle: not only πῶς σὺ Ἰουδαῖος ὤν which every one sees, but Ἰουδαῖοι Σαμαρείταις, where the article for either would be out of place if the object were, as it certainly is, to mark both characteristically.
It is no question of “some” no doubt. And the article might have been with truth prefixed to both; but the meaning would have been altered. The two peoples would then stand contrasted as objects, not characteristically as they now are. Compare for this a selection from the book of the Acts — Acts 2:5,7,9-11; 11:19; 14:1,5,19; 18:4; 19:10,17; 20:21; 25:105And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. (Acts 2:5)
7And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? (Acts 2:7)
9Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. (Acts 2:9‑11)
19Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. (Acts 11:19)
1And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. (Acts 14:1)
5And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them, (Acts 14:5)
19And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. (Acts 14:19)
4And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. (Acts 18:4)
10And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19:10)
17And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. (Acts 19:17)
21Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21)
10Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. (Acts 25:10)
. Again, any intelligent examination of the Greek T. cannot fail to convince that the preposition makes no difference whatever. The article is or is not used with the word in question like every other, in accordance with its principle of insertion or omission.
Thus in Matthew 28:1515So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. (Matthew 28:15) character is the point and therefore it is παρὰ Iουδαίοις. In John 4:2222Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. (John 4:22) the Jews are the object, and hence it is ἐκ τῶν I.: so in Acts 10:1919While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. (Acts 10:19) and Acts 11:54, ἐν τοῖς ‘I., in Acts 11:1919Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. (Acts 11:19), ἐκ τὠν ‘I.; in Acts 18:38, πρὸς τοὺς ‘I. It is really a total oversight of the nice shades of thought in the Greek language to conceive that there is the least laxity or exception after prepositions. Perhaps the notion is due to the difficulty of always representing the distinction in English, which sometimes compels us to use our definite article where there is none in Greek. But this is no right reason to deny that there is invariably an intended difference. Weigh Acts 23:88For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. (Acts 23:8) where we have Σαδδ. and Φαρ. without the article, though there is no preposition. If οἱ, had been prefixed to each, it would have been true; but the absence of the article makes them characteristic, however hard it may be to express it in English.
And there is an analogous difference in the cases before us, alike when with or without prepositions. “I am accused by Jews” in verses 2 and 7 is far more forcible than if the article had been inserted. It was not lost on Agrippa or Festus or the Jews that heard it. Of all men Jews were the last to have accused Paul for proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection that is from among the dead. Sadduceanism had alas! withered up their old faith. As a fact too, which may have weighed with Meyer and Stier, the Pharisees diverged in Acts 23 from the dominant faction which persecuted Paul. The preposition clearly gives no license, (Inni) Jews, not the Jews, being meant. Nor is it otherwise with κατὰ ‘I., however confidently urged. Doubtless “according to the Jews” would have been true in fact; but it is stated characteristically; and here again as “Jews,” not “the Jews,” is the force intended, so it is evident once more that the preposition does not really affect the question. The article is inserted or omitted with prepositions on its own principle. Lastly, to be correct, π. οἱ ‘I. would require οἱ προγιν qualifying the subject, π. ‘I. προγιν is correct as it is given; for it means only all such Jews as previously knew Paul from the outset. In a word, it is characteristic and therefore anarthrous. Not only is π. οἱ ‘I. the more usual expression, but quite distinct in sense; for it means the whole Jewish people as a known, definite, and complete object, whereas the phrase here means all Jews qualified by the peculiar and described knowledge of Paul.
Returning from this digression, we may note that the apostle begs for a patient hearing from one so skilled as Agrippa, and dwells (Acts 26:4-54My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; 5Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. (Acts 26:4‑5)) on his known early life under strict Pharisaic belief and discipline “among my nation and at Jerusalem,” as all Jews cognizant from its outset could testify if willing.
But the question; he insists, for which he stood for judgment was the hope of the promise made by God unto our fathers (Acts 26:66And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: (Acts 26:6)), onto which our twelve tribes earnestly serving day and night hope to arrive (vs. 7). How strange and flagrant that, of all men, Jews should lay accusation against him for that hope! Certainly his testimony to the risen Jesus did not weaken faith in the promise of the Messiah or in the resurrection of the dead. Yet the whole nation in their public and earnest service of God night and day bore witness of their hope of attaining to that promise. Why is it judged incredible if God raises dead men? The prisoner assuredly did believe what the service of the chosen nation confessed night and day. Were Jews then gainsayers of their own boasted faith?