Insulting God’s High Priest

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Recent research has shown that Sadducees, not Pharisees, were responsible for the death of Jesus. An incident recounted in the Book of Acts provides a glimpse of the Sadducean high priests’ corrupt behavior. Little wonder the Sadducees were despised by the common people.

In Acts 21:27 and following, we see Paul once again at the forefront of a commotion sparked by his messianic activity and close association with Gentiles. Jews from the province of Asia had publicly accused Paul of maligning the Jewish people, the Torah and the Temple. Specifically, they charged that Paul had brought Greeks into the restricted inner courts of the Temple, thus defiling it. The accusations incited the people, and a reckless mob set upon the man from Tarsus.

News of the uproar quickly reached the Roman commander, who straightway assembled a band of soldiers and ran to the scene to disperse the crowd. At the bottom of the pile, the commander found Paul, whom he secured with chains. In a vain effort to get the facts about what had transpired, the commander turned to the people, but they proved so unruly his only recourse was to take Paul into custody.

En route to the barracks, Paul asked the commander in Greek if he could address the crowd, which continued to follow. Apparently a bit startled to hear Greek from Paul’s mouth, he agreed. Paul then stepped up to a prominent elevation and addressed the people in Hebrew (τῇ Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτῳ, te hebra’idi dialekto). The crowd listened quietly—until the moment Paul mentioned God had sent him to the Gentiles. At that point, the people again burst into an uproar. No doubt exuding immense frustration, the commander ordered Paul secured and taken to the barracks.

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