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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
Ver. 1. With an entire good conscience. With an upright sincerity. But S. Paul is far from excusing himself from all sin. He laments elsewhere his blind zeal in persecuting the Christians. See 1 Cor. xv. 9. Wi.
Ver. 3. God shall strike thee, thou whited wall. These words are rather by way of a prophecy. Wi. — Whited wall. That is, hypocrite, for pretending to judge me according to law; whereas, against all sense of justice, thou strikest me before my condemnation; nay, even without giving me a hearing. The Fathers admire, on this occasion, the greatness of mind and freedom S. Paul exhibited, in reproving the great. Tirinus. — This expression was not the angry words of an irritated man, nor the effect of personal resentment, but the just freedom which insulted innocence may lawfully use in its own defence. A. — It was likewise a prophecy of what was going to happen. To those who do not consider it, it may seem a curse; but to others a prophecy, as it really was. S. Aug. lib. i. cap. 19. de Verb. Dni. — For S. Chrysostom relates that the high priest, being thunderstruck by this answer, became speechless and half deaf; so that not being able to reply a single word, the bystanders did it for him. Tirinus. — It was also, as Ven. Bede says, to shew that the Jewish priesthood was to be destroyed, as now the true priesthood of Christ was come and established. Beda in hunc locum.
Ver. 5. I knew not, &c. Some think S. Paul here speaks ironically, or to signify that now he could be no longer high priest, since the Mosaic law, with its rites and ceremonies, was abolished. But S. Chrys. rather judges that S. Paul, having been long absent from Jerusalem, might not know the person of the high priest, who was not in the sanhedrim, but in the place whither the tribune had called the council, and who did not appear with that habit, and those marks which distinguished him from others. Wi. — It seems rather surprising that S. Paul did not know that he was the high priest. The place which he held in the council, one would suppose, would have been sufficient to have pointed him out. The apostle's absence from Jerusalem is perhaps a sufficient reason to account for his not knowing this circumstance; especially, as the order of succession to the priesthood was at that time much confused and irregular, determined by favour of the Roman emperor, or by purchase. Calmet. — At all events, any difficulties we may now find in assigning a probable or true reason, are merely negative arguments; and therefore too futile to be an impeachment of the apostle's veracity. A. — S. Cyprian supposes that S. Paul, considering the mere shadow of the name of priest, which Ananias then held, said: I knew not, brethren, that he is high priest. Ep. lxv. 69. nu. 2. S. Chrysostom says, that the apostle here shews the wisdom of the serpent; but that in his preaching, teaching, and patience, he used the simplicity of the dove.
Ver. 6. I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees. It may signify only a disciple of the Pharisees, though the common Greek copies have of a Pharisee. Wi. — The address of the apostle in this is great. Knowing the different dispositions of his judges, he throws disunion into their councils, in order to draw himself from danger. Such innocent artifices are allowed in the defence of a just cause. It is one of our Saviour's counsels, to use the prudence of the serpent. S. Gregory, in his Morality, (lib. xxxiv. cap. 3. and 4.) and S. Thomas in his Sum. Theol. (2. 2. quæst. 37. art. 2.) observe, that on similar occasions you may, without sin, cause divisions among the wicked; because their union being an evil, it is consequently a good thing that the enemies of peace and righteousness should be divided in sentiments and interests. It must, however, be acknowledged that this principle is very easily stretched beyond its proper limits, and therefore ought not to be acted upon but with the greatest caution and prudence. Calmet. — S. Paul knew from divine revelation that he was to go to Rome; but this did not hinder the apostle from taking every prudent care of his own life; as we may see from the following chapter.
Ver. 7. There arose a dissension. By the Greek, a division, or schism among them, occasioned by S. Paul's declaring himself for the resurrection, which made the Pharisees favour him, and incensed the Sadducees. Wi.
Ver. 11. Be constant . . . so must thou bear witness also at Rome; and so needest not fear to be killed by them. Wi.
Ver. 12. Bound themselves. The Greek is, anathematized, that is, submitted themselves to a curse, if they did not kill Paul. It was a great imprecation, the violation of which would have been equivalent to renouncing their belief in God. See to what degree of iniquity this nation is come. When any good is in contemplation, none are found to undertake it; whilst all, even the priests too, are ready to concur in any wicked design. S. Chrys. in Act. hom. xlix. — To take an unlawful oath is one sin; but to keep it, is another and greater sin: as when Herod, to keep his oath, put to death John the Baptist. Matt. iv. 9.
Ver. 13. Forty men that had made this conspiracy, and bound themselves with an impious curse, or imprecation upon themselves, if they did not kill him. Wi.
Ver. 19. Taking him by the hand, with marks of affection and tenderness. It is probable that the tribune expected this young man was come to offer some ransom for Paul's liberty. Menochius.
Ver. 23. From the third hour of the night. If the tribune spoke with a regard to the twelve hours of the night, the third hour was three hours after sunset, and was about our nine o'clock at night; but if he meant the third watch of the night, that began at midnight. See Matt. xiv. 35. Wi.
Ver. 24. Felix. This man had been a slave of the emperor Claudius. The high priest, Jonathan, had procured him to be made governor of Judea. He governed the country with great cruelty and outrage; exercising the power of a king, says Tacitus, with all the insolence and meanness of a slave, who is neither restrained by fear nor shame. Tacitus, Hist. lib. v.
Ver. 25. This verse is omitted in the Greek. Antipatris was a pleasant city on the Mediterranean sea, situated at equal distance, about 24 miles, between Joppe and Cæsarea, on the way from Jerusalem to this latter city. Matt. Polus.
Ver. 27. I rescued . . . having understood that he is a Roman. This was not true, if we understand it of the first time he rescued him; but may be true, if meant of the second time. Wi.
Ver. 35. This was a palace erected by Herod the Great; in which the governors had taken up their habitation. V.