« السابقةمتابعة »
PART OF CHAPTERS XXI, XXII, XXIII.
SOON after Paul's arrival at Jerusalem, he related
to James and the elders, who were all present,
what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry."-For which, having glorified God, they in their turn inform the Apostle of strong prejudices entertained against him by the believing Jews, who had heard reports of his teaching their nation to forsake the law of Moses. This report seems to have been destitute of foundation, and fabricated by his enemies to excite public odium against him for we hear nothing yet of his preaching against the use of circumcision and other rites, except when they were required as indispensable duties from the Gentiles. With respect to the Jews, the legal services were in a great degree left to their own discretion; till a more intimate acquaintance with the true nature of Christianity, and also the approaching ruin of their temple, should convince them of the abolition of the ceremonial
law. And we know that St. Paul himself, on more occasions than one, conformed to the Jewish rites, wishing to conciliate disciples by a compliance with forms not yet absolutely forbidden, although he could never be induced to admit them as essential. It was under the influence of these sentiments, that he yielded without opposition to the advice of James and the elders, such as they thought would be most effectual to remove unfavourable impressions from the minds of the people; namely, that he should
purify himself with four men, who had a vow upon them, and should be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads." You perceive an allusion here to the vow of the Nazarite, spoken of at some length in a former lecture. We shall therefore have but one or two remarks to make upon the passage.
The expression to be at charges with them," means, to defray for them the expense of offerings and other requisites, which was sometimes very considerable. Nothing was more usual and popular, about this time, than for zealous persons of affluent or competent circumstances, to enable numbers of the poor, who had bound themselves by this vow, to discharge it. They, who did so, were considered as partakers in the merits of the devotees, and in the blessings which should attend their vows. It is deserving of notice too, that the phrase here used by St. Luke, "that they may
shave their heads," which seems rather harsh and difficult, was the form. in most common use: he therefore did not say, be at charges with them, that they may accomplish their offerings, but that they may shave their heads."*
Another expression that requires to be explained, occurs in the 26th verse, viz: "To signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them;"-that is, Paul professed himself willing to undertake the same vow of purification with them, until their time should be completed; when he would in conjunction with them, make offerings and perform such other ceremonies as were proper for the occasion. Whatever period they had originally vowed was to expire in seven days from the time of St. Paul's first joining himself to them ; which days of purification being ended, they all in common were to shave their heads and to make their oblations according to law.
Before the full accomplishment of these days, the Jews having seen him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him: crying out, men of Israel, help, this is the man that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place; and farther, brought Greeks into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place."
* Thus Josephus tells us, that Agrippa ordered a good number of Nazarites to be shaved.
Some of the charges are of the same kind with those brought against Stephen, for which he had been stoned; and this, as we saw in another place, without due form of law. The accusation conveyed in the concluding part of this outcry, is founded upon a solemn custom among the Jews, of excluding from the inner court of the temple, called the court of the Israelites, all Gentiles even Romans themselves. And so rigorous were they in this particular, that any Heathen, who passed the wall of partition between this and the outer court, was guilty of death ;* which in the very act of such pollution, (in the same manner as of blasphemy and some other crimes) was sometimes inflicted by private persons or tumultuous meetings with furious zeal. But in the present instance their zeal was directed against Paul, under pretence of his having brought Trophimus, an Ephesian Greek, into the temple; a false charge, as may fairly be collected from the 29th verse; and had it been true, neither by law nor custom could it justify an attempt against the Apostle's life. Whence, and from a multitude of other incidents in the history both of the Gospels and Acts, there is full evidence
*The Romans gave a sanction to this judgment; for Titus, some time after the present, uses these words to the Jews, "Did not you erect pillars there at certain distances, with inscriptions in Greek and Latin, forbidding any to pass those bounds? And did not we give you leave to kill any man that passed them, though he were a Roman ?"
of illegality and violence in many of their proceedings. On this occasion however their designs were prevented by Lysias, the chief captain of the Roman band; who came upon them, while they were beating him, after he had been dragged out of the temple, and the doors shut to guard against any profanation of it by riot or bloodshed. Having taken him out of their hands, he commanded him to be bound with two chains,"—that is, bound between two soldiers, his right hand to the left of one, and his left to the right of the other; and to be carried into the castle" of Antonia, where the Roman garrison was stationed. While he was on the stairs, he begged permission in the Greek tongue to speak; and the chief captain with some surprise says, canst thou speak Greek? Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?" It has been objected to this passage, that it contradicts the account given by Josephus of the same event; for he makes the number thirty thousand. But the number might have been what St. Luke here states at their first going out from Jerusalem, and afterwards encreased in their progress to the wilderness: or in the whole multitude there might have been four thousand of that description of persons, who were called Sicarii, assassins or murderers as here stated; who at this time were very numerous