Jesus's Words

Chapter 15: Law Report.—Jews Versus Paul: Trials Five, With Observations

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Section 3: Trial II. Judicatory, Jerusalem Council-Board.—Acts 23:1-10

Judges, chief priests in council assembled: present, the high priests. Prosecutors, the said judge: other prosecutors, as far as appears, none. In modern Rome-bred law, this mode of procedure, in which the parts of judge and prosecutor are performed by the same person, is styled the inquisitorial: in contradistinction to this, that in which the part of prosecutor is borne by a different person, is stiled the accusatorial.

Charges or questions put, not stated.

Defendant: I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.Acts 23:6

Thereupon, And there arose a great cry... And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.Acts 23:9-10

"Cry? dissention?"—whence all this? Acts has not here been explicit enough to inform us. As to Defendant's plea, that it was for believing in the resurrection that he was prosecuted,—what could not but be perfectly known to him was,—that it neither was true, nor by possibility could be so. Among said Judges, parties two—Pharisees and Sadducees: Pharisees the predominant. On this occasion it is noted that, For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.Acts 23:8 Prosecuting a Pharisee for preaching the resurrection, meaning always the general resurrection, would have been as if a Church-of-Englandist Priest were indicted in the King's Bench, for reading the Athanasian creed. Accordingly—it was a stratagem of the Defendant's—this same misstatement: such it is expressly stated to be:—when defendant perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other PhariseesActs 23:6—then it was that he came out with it: and, already it has been seen, how effectually it answered its purpose.

Enter once more the history of the trance. Note here the sudden termination of Defendant's first Jerusalem visit, alias his Reconciliation Visit, and turn back to Chapter IV. §. 7, Cause of it,—historian speaking in his own person—"Grecians went about to slay him,"(Acts 9:29.) for disputing with them:—historian, speaking, to wit, here, in defendant's person, Christianized Jews' disbelief of his conversion, and of that vision story of his, that he produced in evidence of it. It is on the occasion of the just-mentioned Temple trial, that Defendant is made to come out with it. On that occasion, as hath been seen, it was of no use: but, in this second trial, it will be seen to be of prime use. That it was told over again at this trial is not indeed expressly said: but, that it was so is sufficiently manifest. This and no other is the handle which his supporters in the council lay hold of: and this they could not have done, had he not, as will be seen presently, put it into their hands. the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.Acts 23:9b Well then—this spirit, or this angel, who was he? Who but that spirit, whom defendant had so manifestly told them of, and who was no other than that "Lord" of his, whom he had seen in the trance: in the trance, which, while the multitude were beating him, invention had furnished him with for the purpose.

Mark now, how apposite a weapon the Pharisees found, in this same trance, in their war against the Sadducees. As to Jesus,—though from first to last, so far from being recognized by their sect, he had been the object of that enmity of theirs under which he sunk,—yet, so far as, in general terms, he preached the general resurrection,—his doctrine not only agreed with theirs, but was of no small use to them: it was of use to them, against those political rivals, whose opposition to their sect was the sole cause of everything that was troublesome to it. As to Paul,—had he confined himself, to the speaking of Jesus's particular resurrection,—this indeed was what no Pharisee could be disposed to admit: but if, by Paul or anyone else, Jesus, or any other person, was at any time seen in an incorporeal state,—here was a piece of evidence on their side. With relation to any interview of the Apostles with Jesus after his resurrection, nothing that Paul had to say—to say with truth or colour of truth—was anything more than hearsay evidence: but, as to that, which on this occasion, he had been relating about the Lord, whom he had seen in his trance,—this, how false soever, was not only direct, but immediate evidence: evidence, in the delivery of which, the relating witness stated himself to have been, with relation to the alleged fact in question, a percipient witness.

That, on this occasion, Paul dwelt, with any particularity, on the appearance of Jesus in the flesh after his resurrection, is not said: and, as it would not have contributed anything to the purpose, the less particular the safer and the better. Lord or not Lord, that which appeared was at any rate a spirit: and for the war against the Sadducees, a spirit was all that was wanted: no matter of what sort.

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