Acts 22:3
I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.
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(3) Brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel.—His education may have begun shortly after he became a child of the Law, at the age of twelve. (See Note on Luke 2:42.) He, too, had sat in the midst of the doctors, hearing and asking questions. The Rabbis sat in a high chair, and their scholars on the ground, and so they were literally at their master’s feet.

Taught according to the perfect manner . .—The two last words are expressed in the Greek by a single noun, meaning “accuracy,” exactness. In the “most straitest sect of our religion,” of Acts 26:5, we have the corresponding adjective.

Was zealous toward God.—The Apostle (see Note on Acts 21:20) claims their sympathy as having at one time shared all their dearest convictions. There is, perhaps, a touch of higher enthusiasm in the Apostle’s language. He was a zealot for God: they were zealots for the Law.

Acts 22:3-5. I am verily a Jew, &c. — This defence answers all that is objected, Acts 21:28. But he speaks closely and nervously, in a few words, because the time was short; born in Tarsus, yet brought up in this city — For my parents were so warmly attached to their religion, and so desirous that I might be well instructed in it, that they sent me to be educated here; at the feet of Gamaliel — That celebrated teacher. See note on Acts 5:34. The phrase of being brought up at his feet, plainly alludes to the posture in which the scholars were usually placed, sitting on low seats, or upon mats, on the floor, at the feet of their masters, whose seats were raised to a considerable height. Taught according to the perfect manner of the law — Or, accurately instructed in the law: which learned education was once, doubtless, the matter of his boasting and confidence; but, not being sanctified, it made his bonds strong, and furnished him with numerous arguments against the gospel. Yet, when the grace of God had changed his heart, and turned his accomplishments into another channel, he was the fitter instrument to serve God’s wise and merciful purposes, in the defence and propagation of Christianity. And I persecuted this way — With the same zeal that ye do now; binding both men and women — Who professed and practised it, without any regard to sex, age, or quality. How much better was his condition now he was bound himself! The high-priest doth bear me witness — Is able to testify; and all the estate of the elders — All the other members of the sanhedrim; from whom also I received letters unto the brethren — The Jews (for this title was not peculiar to the Christians) empowering me to act against those for whom I have now so great a regard. And went to Damascus, &c. — See note on c Acts 9:1-2.

22:1-11 The apostle addressed the enraged multitude, in the customary style of respect and good-will. Paul relates the history of his early life very particularly; he notices that his conversion was wholly the act of God. Condemned sinners are struck blind by the power of darkness, and it is a lasting blindness, like that of the unbelieving Jews. Convinced sinners are struck blind as Paul was, not by darkness, but by light. They are for a time brought to be at a loss within themselves, but it is in order to their being enlightened. A simple relation of the Lord's dealings with us, in bringing us, from opposing, to profess and promote his gospel, when delivered in a right spirit and manner, will sometimes make more impression that laboured speeches, even though it amounts not to the full proof of the truth, such as was shown in the change wrought in the apostle.Born in Tarsus - See the notes on Acts 9:11.

Brought up in this city - In Jerusalem, sent there for the advantage of more perfect instruction in the Law.

At the feet of Gamaliel - As a scholar or disciple of Gamaliel. The phrase to sit at the feet of one is expressive of the condition of a disciple or learner. Compare Deuteronomy 33:3; Luke 10:39. It is probable that the expression arose from the fact that the learners occupied a lower place or seat than the teacher. On the character and rank of Gamaliel, see the notes on Acts 5:34. Paul mentions his having been instructed in this manner in order to show that he was entitled to the full privileges of a Jew, and that he had had every opportunity to become fully acquainted with the nature of the Law.

According to the perfect manner - κατὰ ἀκρίβειαν kata akribeian . By strict diligence or exact care; or in the utmost rigor and severity of that instruction. No pains were Spared to make him understand and practice the Law of Moses.

The law of the fathers - The law of our fathers; that is, the law which they received and handed down to us. Paul was a Pharisee, and the law in which he had been taught was not only the written Law of Moses, but the traditional law which had been handed down from former times. See the notes on Matthew 3:6.

And was zealous toward God - Galatians 1:14. He had a constant burning zeal for God and His Law, which was expressed not only by scrupulous adherence to its forms, but by persecuting all who opposed it, Acts 22:4-5.

3. a Jew of Tarsus, brought up in this city, at the feet—(See on [2091]Lu 10:39).

of Gamaliel—(See on [2092]Ac 5:34); a fact of great importance in the apostle's history, standing in the same relation to his future career as Moses' education in the Egyptian court to the work for which he was destined.

the perfect manner of the law of the fathers—the strictest form of traditional Judaism.

zealous—"a zealot."

toward God as ye all are this day—his own former murderous zeal against the disciples of the Lord Jesus being merely reflected in their present treatment of himself.

At the feet; the apostle alludes unto the posture that the disciples of any rabbi, or teacher, in those times did use; the master sitting in some high or elevated place, did teach his scholars, who sat at his feet on the ground; and as they grew in knowledge, were advanced to sit nearer to their master: Deu 33:3. Abraham is thus said to be called to God’s foot, Isaiah 41:2; and Mary sat at our Saviour’s feet, Luke 10:39.

Of Gamaliel; the same Gamaliel who made that moderating speech in the apostle’s behalf, Acts 5:34.

The perfect manner of the law; this perfect manner of the law is Pharisaism, in which the apostle was brought up, and before his conversion made a profession of, Philippians 3:5. Not that the apostle reckoned upon any perfection in this profession; but because, as Acts 26:5, it was the most strait sect of their religion, observing a great deal of punctuality and accurateness, making what they called a hedge about the law.

Of the fathers; not observing only the law, which was given by God to their fathers by the hand of Moses; but the traditions of their fathers he was exceeding zealous in; as Galatians 1:14.

Zealous toward God; or, as some copies read, zealous toward the law; both in the same sense. His zeal for the law was sincere, not out of by-ends, but out of his love to God, though it was not according to knowledge, Romans 10:2. It was truly according unto what he knew or believed, but it was not according to true knowledge.

I am verily a man which am a Jew,.... By birth, a thorough genuine one; an Hebrew of the Hebrews, both by father and mother side, both parents being Jews, and so a true descendant from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:

born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia; See Gill on Acts 21:39.

yet brought up in this city; the city of Jerusalem; though Tarsus was the place of his birth, he had his education at Jerusalem:

at the feet of Gamaliel; of whom see Acts 5:34 it was the custom of scholars among the Jews, to sit at the feet of their masters, when instructed by them; see Deuteronomy 33:3 hence that saying of Jose ben Joezer (a);

"let thy house be an house of resort for the wise men, and be thou dusting thyself, , "with the dust of their feet":''

which by one of their commentators (b) is interpreted two ways, either

"as if it was said that thou shouldst walk after them; for he that walks raises the dust with his feet, and he that goes after him is filled with the dust which he raises with his feet; or else that thou shouldst sit at their feet upon the ground, for so it was usual, that the master sat upon a bench, and the scholars sat at his feet upon the floor.''

This latter sense is commonly understood, and adapted to the passage here, as illustrating it; though it may be, that the sense may only be this, that the apostle boarded in Gamaliel's house, ate at his table, and familiarly conversed with him; which he modestly expresses by being brought up at his feet, who was a man that was had in great reverence with the Jews; and this sense seems the rather to be the sense of the passage, since his learning is expressed in the next clause; and since; till after Gamaliel's time, it was not usual for scholars to sit when they learned; for the tradition is (c), that

"from the times of Moses to Rabban Gamaliel, they (the scholars) did not learn the law but standing; after Rabban Gamaliel died, sickness came into the world, and they learned the law sitting; and hence it is said, that after Rabban Gamaliel died, the glory of the law ceased.''

It follows,

and taught according to the perfect law of the fathers; not the law which the Jewish fathers received from Moses, though Paul was instructed in this, but in the oral law, the "Misna", or traditions of the elders, in which he greatly profited, and exceeded others, Galatians 1:14.

And was zealous towards God; or "a zealot of God"; one of those who were called "Kanaim", or zealots; who in their great zeal for the glory of God, took away the lives of men, when they found them guilty of what they judged a capital crime; see Matthew 10:4. The Vulgate Latin version reads, "zealous of the law"; both written and oral, the law of Moses, and the traditions of the fathers:

as ye all are this day; having a zeal for God, and the law, but not according to knowledge.

(a) Misn. Pirke Abot, c. 1. sect. 4. (b) Bartenora in Misn. Piske Abot, c. 1. sect. 4. (c) T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 21. 1. Vid. Misn. Sota, c. 9. sect. 15.

{1} I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the {a} feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.

(1) Paul, making a short declaration of his former life, proves both his calling and doctrine to be from God.

(a) That is, his daily hearer: the reason of this speech is this: those who teach commonly sit in the higher place, speaking to their students who sit upon benches beneath, and therefore he says at the feet of Gamaliel.

Acts 22:3. γεγενν. ἐν Τ., see above p. 202.—ἀνατεθ. δὲ: although by birth a foreign Jew, yet brought up in Jerusalem, and so belonging to his hearers. It was important for the Apostle to emphasise this, as his close association with Jerusalem had a significant bearing on his future life. The comma best after Γαμ., so that each clause begins with a participle, but Weiss places comma after ταύτῃ (so De Wette, Hackett). Probably Paul went to Jerusalem not later than thirteen, possibly at eleven, for his training as a teacher of the law. ἀνατεθ.: only in Luke, cf. Acts 7:20-21, Luke 4:16 (W.H[365] margin), “educated,” so in classical Greek, 4Ma 10:2; 4Ma 11:15, but in latter passage AR τραφ. In Wis 7:4 we have ἐν σπαργάνοις ἀνετράφην (A ἀνεστρ.).—παρὰ τοὺς πόδας: the more usual attitude for teacher and taught according to the N.T. and the Talmud; according to later Talmudic tradition the sitting on the ground was not customary until after the death of Gamaliel I., J. Lightfoot, Hor. Heb., on Luke 2:46; cf. also Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. 1, p. 326, E.T., and Taylor, Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, pp. 14, 15, 2nd edit.; even if the later tradition was true, the scholar standing would still be at the feet of his teacher on his raised seat.—κατὰ ἀκρίβειαν: noun only here in N.T., but cf. Acts 26:5, “according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers,” R.V., and so practically A.V. For a comment on the words cf. Jos., Ant., xvii., 2, 4, Vita, 38, and B.J., ii., 8, 18. φαρισαῖοι οἱ δοκοῦντες μετὰ ἀκριβείας ἐξηγεῖσθαι τὰ νόμιμα: Edersheim, Jesus the Messiah, ii., 314, note on ἀκρίβεια as used by Josephus and St. Paul, Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. ii., p. 54. E.T. Whether therefore τοῦ πατ. νόμου (3Ma 1:23) included anything besides the Mosaic law or not, the words before us at least refer to the strictness upon which the Pharisees prided themselves in the observance of the law. In Galatians 1:14 St. Paul speaks of being a zealot of the traditions handed down from his fathers, πατρικῶν, where the traditions are apparently distinguished from the written law, Jos., Ant., xiii., 16, 2, and 10, 6; but the “oral law” which the scribes developed was apparently equally binding with the written Thorah in the eyes of the Pharisees, Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. ii., pp. 10, 11, E.T., but cf. also Lightfoot, u. s. The word πατρῴου would appeal to the hearts of the people, who loved the Thorah as the chief good, but St. Chrysostom’s words are also to be remembered: “all this seems indeed to be spoken on their side, but in fact it told against them, since he, knowing the law, forsook it” Hom., xlvii.—ζηλωτὴς ὑπάρ. τοῦ Θεοῦ: St. Paul might have called himself a zealot of the law, or a zealot of God (Lightfoot, u. s.), cf. 2Ma 4:2, ζηλ. τῶν νόμων, sued of Phinehas, 4Ma 18:12.—καθὼς πάντεςσήμερον: he recognises that their present zeal was a zeal for God, as his own had been, ἀλλ ̓ οὐ κατʼ ἐπίγνωσιν, Romans 10:2 : argumentum concilians, Bengel.

[365] Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.

3. I am verily a man which am a Jew] The word rendered verily is omitted in the oldest MSS. The Rev. Ver. has “I am a Jew,” and this renders the original fully enough. Cp. note on verse I above. These first words of the Apostle would correct many wrong impressions among the crowd, for we may be sure that many, beside the Chief Captain, had the notion that St Paul was one of those foreign desperadoes with which Judæa abounded at this time.

born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia] Better, “born in Tarsus of Cilicia” with the Rev. Ver. On Tarsus see note on Acts 6:9.

brought up in this city] St Paul means not that from his infancy he had lived in Jerusalem, but that, when he had reached an age fitted for it, he was sent from home to be educated under Gamaliel. The verb is used in this sense in classical Greek. On Gamaliel, see note on Acts 5:34.

at the feet] (Cp. Luke 10:39.) The most usual position of teacher and pupils at the time of St Paul was that both should sit, the former on a higher level than the latter. For the evidence on this matter from the Talmud, see Taylor, Pirke Aboth, pp. 28, 29.

and taught [instructed] according to the perfect [strict] manner of the law of the [our] fathers, and was [being] zealous, &c.] For an account by the Apostle himself of his Jewish birth, education, and character, cf. Php 3:5-6. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and his language shews how learned he was in all that concerned his own people. He makes frequent allusions to Jewish customs, laws, and festivals, and reckons his time by the Jewish calendar. He was also a Pharisee, and none of his contemporaries surpassed him while but few equalled him in strictness of legal observance.

as ye all are] The Apostle wishes to put himself in an acceptable light before them, and for that reason explains that he was, like themselves, a zealous observer of the law.

Acts 22:3. Ἐγω, I) By this defence the cry is refuted of which ch. Acts 21:28 treated. For the weightiest reasons, and in a peculiar way, Paul speaks so much as he does concerning himself in this passage and ch. Acts 26:4-5. Comp. 1 Peter 2:9.—μὲν, indeed) There follows δὲ but, in Acts 22:6.—ἀνὴρ, a man) This speech has a singular degree of ἐνάργεια and distinctness.—παρὰ τοὺς πόδας, at the feet) Again in turn, the teacher is said to be from the head [a capite, at or on the head] of his disciple: 2 Kings 2:3, “The Lord will take away thy master from thy head to-day.” The teacher sits: the disciple sits in a lower place, or else stands; sometimes disciples even prostrated themselves.—ἀκρίβειαν, the truth, the accurate or perfect manner) the choice (carefully sought out) mode of teaching, peculiar to the Pharisees: ch. Acts 26:5.—ζηλωτὴς τοῦ Θεοῦ, zealous towards God) ζηλωτὴς is a word intermediate between a good and bad sense: ζηλωτὴς Θεοῦ, one zealous towards God, is used as ζῆλος Θεοῦ, a zeal of God, or a zeal towards God, Romans 10:2. Both passages have some degree of Mimesis [allusion to the language or sentiments of another, whom we are refuting]: for the Jews thought, that they gave honour to God in proportion as they detracted (derogated) from Jesus Christ.—καθὼς, even as) A conciliatory argument.—ὑμεῖς, ye) ch. Acts 21:28; Acts 21:36.

Verse 3. - A Jew for verily a man which am a Jew, A.V. and T.R.; of Cilicia for a city in Cilicia, A.V.; but for yet, A.V.; instructed for and taught, A.V.; strict for perfect, A.V.; our for the, A.V.; being for and was, A.V.; for for towards, A.V.; even as for as, A.V. Born in Tarsus, etc. (see Acts 21:39). St. Paul was evidently proud of his native city, "the famous capital of a Roman province," watered by the "swift stream of the Cydnus," and looked down upon by the snowy summits of Mount Taurus; "a center of busy commercial enterprise and political power;" "a free city, libera ct immunis" (Farrar, 'Life of St. Paul,' vol. 1. Acts 2.). St. Paul's express assertion that he was "born at Tarsus" directly refutes the tradition handed down by St. Jerome that he was horn at Giscala, and carried thence to Tarsus by his parents when Giscala was taken by the Romans (Farrar, ibid.). Brought up; ἀνατεθραμμένος, a classical word, only found in the New Testament in the Acts (Acts 7:20, 21, and here). It is found also in Wisd. 7:4. It implies early education. At the feet of. The scholar sits or stands humbly beneath the raised seat of the teacher (comp. Luke 10:39). The stop is rightly placed after Γαμαλιὴλ. Some, however, put the stop after ταύτῃ, and connect παρὰ τοὺς πόδας Γαμαλιὴλ with πεπαιδευμένος. Gamaliel (see Acts 4, 5:3, note). Instructed according to the strict manner of the Law of our fathers; comp. Galatians 1:14, "I profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers," where for τοῦ πατρῳου νόμου we read τῶν πατρικῶν μου παραδόσεων. Under the πατρῴος νόμος Paul probably included the traditions, as well as the written Law, which the Pharisees so rigidly observed (comp. Acts 26:5,where the ἀκριβεστάτην αἵρεσιντῆς ἡμετέρας θρησκείας corresponds with the ἀκρίβειαν τοῦ πατρώου νόμου) The strict manner; κατὰ ἀκριβείαν, found only here in the New Testament; but a word of repeated use in this sense in Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom, and also, with the adjective ἀκρίβης and the adverb ἀκριβῶς, much used by medical writers. Ἀκριβέστερος and ἀκριβέστατος are used by St. Luke only (Acts 18:26; Acts 23:15, 20; Acts 24:22; Acts 26:5), and ἀκριβῶς six times to three in the rest of the New Testament. Zealous for God (ζηλωτὴς τοῦ Θεοῦ); see Acts 21:20, note. Acts 22:3At the feet

Referring to the Jewish custom of the pupils sitting on benches or on the floor, while the teacher occupied an elevated platform.


One of the seven Rabbis to whom the Jews gave the title Rabban. Rab, "teacher," was the lowest degree; Rabbi, "my teacher," the next higher; and Rabban, "our teacher," the highest. Gamaliel was a liberal Pharisee. "As Aquinas among the schoolmen was called Doctor Angelicus, and Bonaventura Doctor Seraphicus, so Gamaliel was called the Beauty of the Law. He had no antipathy to the Greek learning. Candor and wisdom seem to have been features of his character" (Conybeare and Hewson). See Acts 5:34 sq.

Instructed (πεπαιδευμένος)

See on chastise, Luke 23:16.

According to the perfect manner (κατὰ ἀκρίβειαν)

Lit., according to the strictness. See on perfect understanding, Luke 1:3; and diligently, Acts 18:25. Compare, also, Acts 18:26; Acts 26:5.

Zealous (ζηλωτὴς)

Or a zealot. On the word as a title, see on Mark 3:18.

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