Acts 22:28
And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(28) With a great sum obtained I this freedom.—Better, this citizenship, the word expressing, not the transition from bondage to freedom, but from the position of an alien to that of a citizen. Probably the translators used the word in the sense in which we still speak of the “freedom “of a city. The chiliarch was himself, apparently, an alien by birth, and, as was customary at the time, had obtained the citizenship by the payment of a large bribe. As the admission of citizens now rested with the Emperor, as holding the office of Censor, the money had probably been paid to Narcissus, or some other of Claudius’ favourite freed-men who carried on a traffic of this kind.

I was free born.—The Greek is somewhat more emphatic: I am one even from birth. This implies that St. Paul’s father or grandfather had received the citizenship; how, we cannot tell. Many of the Jews who were taken to Rome by Pompeius as slaves first obtained their freedom and became libertini, and afterwards were admitted on the register as citizens. (See Note on Acts 6:9; Acts 16:37.) The mention of kinsmen or friends at Rome (Romans 16:7; Romans 16:11), makes it probable, as has been said, that the Apostle’s father may have been among them.

22:22-30 The Jews listened to Paul's account of his conversion, but the mention of his being sent to the Gentiles, was so contrary to all their national prejudices, that they would hear no more. Their frantic conduct astonished the Roman officer, who supposed that Paul must have committed some great crime. Paul pleaded his privilege as a Roman citizen, by which he was exempted from all trials and punishments which might force him to confess himself guilty. The manner of his speaking plainly shows what holy security and serenity of mind he enjoyed. As Paul was a Jew, in low circumstances, the Roman officer questioned how he obtained so valuable a distinction; but the apostle told him he was free born. Let us value that freedom to which all the children of God are born; which no sum of money, however large, can purchase for those who remain unregenerate. This at once put a stop to his trouble. Thus many are kept from evil practices by the fear of man, who would not be held back from them by the fear of God. The apostle asks, simply, Is it lawful? He knew that the God whom he served would support him under all sufferings for his name's sake. But if it were not lawful, the apostle's religion directed him, if possible, to avoid it. He never shrunk from a cross which his Divine Master laid upon his onward road; and he never stept aside out of that road to take one up.With a great sum obtained I this freedom - The freedom or privilege of Roman citizenship. From this it would seem that the privilege of being a Roman citizen might be purchased, unless perhaps he refers to the expenses which were necessarily attendant in passing through the proper forms of becoming a Roman citizen. The argument of the tribune in this case is this: "I obtained this privilege at a great price. Whence did you, Paul, thus poor and persecuted, obtain the means of becoming a Roman citizen?" Paul had informed him that he was a native of Tarsus Acts 21:39; and the chief captain supposed that that was not a free city, and that Paul could not have derived the privilege of citizenship from his birth.

But I was free born - I was born a Roman citizen, or I am such in virtue of my birth. Various opinions have been formed on the question in what way or for what reasons Paul was entitled to the privileges of a Roman citizen. Some have supposed that Tarsus was a Roman colony, and that he thus became a Roman citizen. But of this there does not appear to be sufficient proof. Pliny says (Acts 21:27) that it was a free city. Appian says that it was endowed with the privileges of a free city by Augustus Caesar after it had been greatly afflicted and oppressed by wars. Dio Chrysost. says to the people of Tarsus, "He (Augustus) has conferred on you everything which anyone could bestow on his friends and companions, a country (that is, a free country), laws, honor, authority over the river (Cydranus) and the neighboring sea." Free cities were permitted in the Roman empire to use their own laws, customs, and magistrates, and they were free from being subject to Roman guards. They were required only to acknowledge the supremacy and authority of the Roman people, and to aid them in their wars. Such a city was Tarsus; and, having been born there, Paul was entitled to these privileges of a free man. Many critics have supposed that this privilege of Roman citizenship had been conferred on some of the ancestors of Paul in consequence of some distinguished military service. Such a conferring of the rights of citizenship was not unusual, and possibly might have occurred in this case. But there is no direct historical proof of it; and the former fact that he was born in a free city, will amply account for his affirmation that he was free born. Compare the notes on Acts 16:37.

28. With a great sum obtained I this freedom—Roman citizenship was bought and sold in the reign of Claudius, we know, at a high price: at a subsequent date, for next to nothing. But to put in a false claim to this privilege was a capital crime.

I was free born—born to it, by purchase, or in reward of services, on the part of his father or some ancestor.

The historian relates, that the emperor Claudius sold this privilege to such foreigners as had not by any notable service merited to have it conferred upon them. At first it cost them very much to obtain it, as it did this chief captain; but afterwards it was more cheap and contemptible.

I was free born; though Paul was born of Hebrew parents, yet he was born at Tarsus, to the natives of which town Augustus had given this privilege, for the assistance that the citizens afforded him in his wars with Brutus and Cassius; or, as some will have it, for favouring of Julius Caesar, this privilege was granted unto that place by him: and they, on the other side, to continue the sense of his favour, caused their town to be called Juliopolis, or the city of Julius. And the chief captain answered, with a great sum obtained I this freedom,.... For, it seems, he was not a Roman born, but very likely a Grecian, or Syrian, by his name Lysias; and as all things were now venal at Rome, the freedom of the city was to be bought with money, though a large sum was insisted on for it: this the chief captain said, as wondering that so mean a person, and who he understood was a Jew by birth, should be able to procure such a privilege, which cost him so much money:

and Paul said, but I was free born; being born at Tarsus; which, as Pliny says (l), was a free city, and which had its freedom given it by Mark Antony, and which was before the birth of Paul; and therefore his parents being of this city, and free, he was born so.

(l) Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 27.

And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 22:28-29. Ἐγὼ πολλοῦ κεφαλ. κ.τ.λ.] The tribune, to whom it was known that a native of Tarsus had not, as such, the right of citizenship, thinks that Paul must probably have come to it by purchase, and yet for this the arrested Cilician appears to him too poor. With the sale of citizenship, it was sought at that time (Dio Cass. 60:17)—by an often ridiculed abuse—to fill the imperial chest. Comp. Wetstein and Jacobs, ad Del. Epigr. p. 177.

See examples of κεφάλαιον, capital, sum of money,—as to the use of which in ancient Greek (Plat. Legg. v. p. 742 C) Beza was mistaken—in Kypke, II. p. 116.

ἐγὼ δὲ καὶ γεγέννημαι] But I am even so (καί) born, namely, as Ῥωμαῖος, so that my πολιτεία, as hereditary, is even γενναιότερα! a bold answer, which did not fail to make its impression.

καὶ ὁ χιλ. δὲ ἐφοβ.] and the tribune also was afraid. On καὶδέ, atque etiam, see on John 6:51. “Facinus est, vinciri civem Romanum; scelus, verberari; prope parricidium necari,” Cic. Verr. v. 66. Comp. on Acts 16:37. And the binding had taken place with arbitrary violence before any examination.[140] It is otherwise Acts 26:27, Acts 26:29. See on these two passages. Therefore δεδεκώς, which evidently points to Acts 21:33, is not to be referred, with Böttger, Beitr. II. p. 6, to the binding with a view to scourging (on account of Acts 22:30); nor, with de Wette, is the statement of the fear of the tribune to be traced back to an error of the reporter, or at all to be removed by conjectural emendation (Rinck: δεδάρκως). And that Paul was still bound after the hearing (Acts 23:18), was precisely after the hearing and after the occurrences in it in due order. See Böttger, I.c.; Wieseler, p. 377.

καὶ ὅτι dependent on ἘΦΟΒ: and because he was in the position of having bound him.

[140] During imprisonment preparatory to trial binding was legally admissible, so far as it was connected with the custodia militaris.Acts 22:28. πολλοῦ κεφ., cf. LXX, Lev. 5:24 (Leviticus 6:4), Numbers 5:7; Jos., Ant., xii., 2, 3 (used by Plato of capital (caput) as opposed to interest). Mr. Page compares the making of baronets by James 1. as a means of filling the exchequer.—τὴν πολιτείαν ταύτην: “this citizenship,” R.V., jus civitatis, cf. 3Ma 3:21; 3Ma 3:23, so in classical Greek. Probably A.V. renders “freedom” quite as we might speak of the freedom of the city being conferred upon any one. On the advantages of the rights of Roman citizenship see Schürer, div. ii., vol. ii., pp. 277, 278, E.T., and “Citizenship,” Hastings’ B.D.—ἐκτησάμην: Dio Cassius, lx., 17, tells us how Messalina the wife of Claudius and the freedmen sold the Roman citizenship, and how at one time it might be purchased for one or two cracked drinking-cups (see passage in full in Wetstein, and also Cic., Ad Fam., xii., 36). Very probably the Chiliarch was a Greek, Lysias, Acts 23:26, who had taken the Roman name Claudius on his purchase of the citizenship under the emperor of that name.—ἐγὼ δὲ καὶ γεγέννημαι: “but I am a Roman even from birth”: “item breviter et cum dignitate,” Blass. St. Paul’s citizenship of Tarsus did not make him a Roman citizen, otherwise his answer in Acts 21:39 would have been sufficient to have saved him from the present indignity. Tarsus was an urbs libera, not a colonia or municipium, and the distinction made in Acts between the Roman and Tarsian citizenship of Paul is in itself an additional proof of the truthfulness of the narrative. How his father obtained the Roman citizenship we are not told; it may have been by manumission, Philo Leg. ad ., 23, or for some service rendered to the state, Jos., Vita, 76, or by purchase, but on this last supposition the contrast here implied would be rendered less forcible. However the right was obtained, it is quite certain that there is nothing strange in St. Paul’s enjoyment of it. As early as the first century B.C. there were many thousands of Roman citizens living in Asia Minor; and the doubts raised by Renan and Overbeck are pronounced by Schürer as much too weak in face of the fact that it is precisely in the most trustworthy portion of Acts that the matter is vouched for.28. obtained I this freedom] Better “this citizenship” (Rev. Ver.). Probably at the time when the A. V. was made “freedom” conveyed somewhat of this sense as we speak still of bestowing on any one the “freedom” of a city, meaning thereby all the rights of a citizen. It was the Roman boast “I am a Roman citizen,” (Cic. in Verr. v. 63). The sale of the freedom of Rome was at times the perquisite of some of the Imperial parasites and favourites, who made what they could of such a privilege.

I was free born] Rev. Ver. “I am a Roman born.” How St Paul came to be a Roman citizen by birth we cannot tell, probably some ancestor for meritorious conduct had been rewarded with enfranchisement. Tarsus was a free city, and had its own laws and magistrates, but that did not constitute its inhabitants Roman citizens.Acts 22:28. Ἐγὼ δὲ καὶ, but I even) The freedom of speech of Paul is therein indicated.Verse 28. - Citizenship for freedom, A.V; am a Roman for was free, A.V. A great sum (πολλοῦ κεφαλαίου). The word is only found here in the New Testament in the sense of a "sum of money," but is so used in classical writers. Citizenship; πολιτεία, for "freedom of the city," in Xenophon, AElian, Polybius, Dion Cassius, etc., and 3Macc. 3:21. Dion Cassius (9 17) relates that Messaliua, the wife of the Emperor Claudius, used to sell the freedom of the city, and that at first she sold it (μεγάλων ξρημάτων) for a very high price, but that afterwards it became very cheap. In all probability Lysias had so purchased it, and in consequence took the name of Claudius (Renan, ' St. Paul,' p. 524). I am a Roman born. It is not known how St. Paul's family acquired the Roman citizenship. Sum (κεφαλαίου)

Lit., capital. The purchase of Roman citizenship was an investment. Under the first Roman emperors it was obtained only at large cost and with great difficulty; later, it was sold for a trifle.

I was free-born (ἐγὼ καὶ γεγέννημαι)

Lit., I am even so born, leaving the mind to supply free or a Roman. Better, as Rev., I am a Roman born.

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