“Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense before you.” 2 When they heard that he was addressing them in Aramaic,[a] they became even quieter. 3 He continued, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the law of our ancestors. I was zealous for God, just as all of you are today. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, arresting and putting both men and women in jail, 5 as both the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. After I received letters from them to the brothers, I traveled to Damascus to arrest those who were there and bring them to Jerusalem to be punished.
6 “As I was traveling and approaching Damascus, about noon an intense light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
8 “I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, the one you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light,[b] but they did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.
10 “I said, ‘What should I do, Lord?’
“The Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything that you have been assigned to do.’
11 “Since I couldn’t see because of the brightness of the light,[c] I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and went into Damascus. 12 Someone named Ananias, a devout man according to the law, who had a good reputation with all the Jews living there, 13 came and stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And in that very hour I looked up and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the words from his mouth, 15 since you will be a witness for him to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now, why are you delaying? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
17 “After I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him telling me, ‘Hurry and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’
19 “But I said, ‘Lord, they know that in synagogue after synagogue I had those who believed in you imprisoned and beaten. 20 And when the blood of your witness Stephen was being shed, I stood there giving approval[d] and guarding the clothes of those who killed him.’
21 “He said to me, ‘Go, because I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”
Paul’s Roman Protection
22 They listened to him up to this point. Then they raised their voices, shouting, “Wipe this man off the face of the earth! He should not be allowed to live!”
23 As they were yelling and flinging aside their garments and throwing dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, directing that he be interrogated with the scourge to discover the reason they were shouting against him like this. 25 As they stretched him out for the lash, Paul said to the centurion standing by, “Is it legal for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen and is uncondemned?”
26 When the centurion heard this, he went and reported to the commander, saying, “What are you going to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.”
27 The commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”
“Yes,” he said.
28 The commander replied, “I bought this citizenship for a large amount of money.”
“But I was born a citizen,” Paul said.
29 So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately. The commander too was alarmed when he realized Paul was a Roman citizen and he had bound him.
Paul before the Sanhedrin
30 The next day, since he wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews, he released him[e] and instructed the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin to convene. He brought Paul down and placed him before them.
Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience to this day.” 2 The high priest Ananias ordered those who were standing next to him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! You are sitting there judging me according to the law, and yet in violation of the law are you ordering me to be struck?”
4 Those standing nearby said, “Do you dare revile God’s high priest?”
5 “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest,” replied Paul. “For it is written, You must not speak evil of a ruler of your people.”[f] 6 When Paul realized that one part of them were Sadducees and the other part were Pharisees, he cried out in the Sanhedrin, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am being judged because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead!” 7 When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, and neither angel nor spirit, but the Pharisees affirm them all.
9 The shouting grew loud, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party got up and argued vehemently: “We find nothing evil in this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” [g]
10 When the dispute became violent, the commander feared that Paul might be torn apart by them and ordered the troops to go down, take him away from them, and bring him into the barracks. 11 The following night, the Lord stood by him and said, “Have courage! For as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so it is necessary for you to testify in Rome.”
The Plot against Paul
12 When it was morning, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under a curse not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty who had formed this plot. 14 These men went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have bound ourselves under a solemn curse that we won’t eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 So now you, along with the Sanhedrin, make a request to the commander that he bring him down to you[h] as if you were going to investigate his case more thoroughly. But, before he gets near, we are ready to kill him.”
16 But the son of Paul’s sister, hearing about their ambush, came and entered the barracks and reported it to Paul. 17 Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander, because he has something to report to him.”
18 So he took him, brought him to the commander, and said, “The prisoner Paul called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, because he has something to tell you.”
19 The commander took him by the hand, led him aside, and inquired privately, “What is it you have to report to me?”
20 “The Jews,” he said, “have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the Sanhedrin tomorrow, as though they are going to hold a somewhat more careful inquiry about him. 21 Don’t let them persuade you, because there are more than forty of them lying in ambush—men who have bound themselves under a curse not to eat or drink until they have killed him. Now they are ready, waiting for your consent.”
22 So the commander dismissed the young man and instructed him, “Don’t tell anyone that you have informed me about this.”
To Caesarea by Night
23 He summoned two of his centurions and said, “Get two hundred soldiers ready with seventy cavalry and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight.[i] 24 Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.”
25 He wrote the following letter:[j]
26 Claudius Lysias,
To the most excellent governor Felix:
27 When this man had been seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them, I arrived with my troops and rescued him because I learned that he is a Roman citizen. 28 Wanting to know the charge they were accusing him of, I brought him down before their Sanhedrin. 29 I found out that the accusations were concerning questions of their law, and that there was no charge that merited death or imprisonment. 30 When I was informed that there was a plot against the man,[k] I sent him to you right away. I also ordered his accusers to state their case against him in your presence.[l]
31 So the soldiers took Paul during the night and brought him to Antipatris as they were ordered. 32 The next day, they returned to the barracks, allowing the cavalry to go on with him. 33 When these men entered Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him. 34 After he[m] read it, he asked what province he was from. When he learned he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I will give you a hearing whenever your accusers also get here.” He ordered that he be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.[n]