Acts 23:9
And there arose a great cry: and 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 has spoken to him, let us not fight against God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) Let us not fight against God.—If we could receive these words as part of the original text, they would be a singularly characteristic reproduction of the counsel of St. Paul’s master (Acts 5:39). They are, however, wanting in many of the best MSS. and versions, and were apparently added to complete the sentence which St. Luke had left in the emphasis of its unfinished abruptness. Possibly its close was drowned in the tumultuous cries of the Sadducees. The line taken by the Pharisees is altogether that of Gamaliel. After twenty-five years they have not got further than the cautious policy of those who halt between two opinions. They give a verdict of “Not Guilty” as to the specific charges brought against St. Paul. They think it possible that he may have received a vision or revelation of some kind. In the word “spirit” they perhaps admit that the form of Jesus may have appeared to him as a spectre from the world of the dead.

Acts 23:9. And there arose a great cry — A great clamour and quarrel, so that the edge of their zeal began to turn from Paul against one another. Nor could they go on to act against him, when they could not agree among themselves, or prosecute him for breaking the unity of the church, when there was among them so little of the unity of the Spirit. All the cry had been against Paul: but now there arose a great cry against one another; and so much did a fierce, furious spirit prevail among all orders of the Jews at this time, that every thing was done, even respecting religion, with clamour, tumult, and noise. And the scribes of the Pharisees’ part arose and strove — In the prisoner’s defence. Every sect contains both learned and unlearned: the former of which are usually the mouth of the party; saying, We find no evil in this man — And can see no reason for his being condemned or detained; but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken unto him — In the manner he represents, let us acquiesce, and wait the event, and not fight against God — Which must end in our ruin. They allude to what Paul had affirmed in his speech from the stairs, that Jesus, whom they knew to have been dead, was alive, and had appeared and spoken unto him in his way to Damascus, and again in a vision. This they interpret of an angel or spirit appearing to him; not allowing that the person whom they had crucified was really risen from the dead.23:6-11 The Pharisees were correct in the faith of the Jewish church. The Sadducees were no friends to the Scripture or Divine revelation; they denied a future state; they had neither hope of eternal happiness, nor dread of eternal misery. When called in question for his being a Christian, Paul might truly say he was called in question for the hope of the resurrection of the dead. It was justifiable in him, by this profession of his opinion on that disputed point, to draw off the Pharisees from persecuting him, and to lead them to protect him from this unlawful violence. How easily can God defend his own cause! Though the Jews seemed to be perfectly agreed in their conspiracy against religion, yet they were influenced by very different motives. There is no true friendship among the wicked, and in a moment, and with the utmost ease, God can turn their union into open enmity. Divine consolations stood Paul in the most stead; the chief captain rescued him out of the hands of cruel men, but the event he could not tell. Whoever is against us, we need not fear, if the Lord stand by us. It is the will of Christ, that his servants who are faithful, should be always cheerful. He might think he should never see Rome; but God tells him, even in that he should be gratified, since he desired to go there only for the honour of Christ, and to do good.A great cry - A great clamor and tumult.

The scribes - The learned men. They would naturally be the chief speakers.

Of the Pharisees' part - Who were Pharisees, or who belonged to that party. The scribes were not a distinct sect, but might be either Pharisees or Sadducees.

We find no evil in this man - No opinion which is contrary to the Law of Moses; no conduct in spreading the doctrine of the resurrection which we do not approve. The importance of this doctrine, in their view, was so great as to throw into the background all the other doctrines that Paul might hold; and, provided this were propagated, they were willing to vindicate and sustain him. A similar testimony was offered to the innocence of the Saviour by Pilate, John 19:6.

But if a spirit or an angel ... - They here referred, doubtless, to what Paul had said in Acts 22:17-18. He had declared that he had gone among the I Gentiles in obedience to a command which he received in a vision in the temple. As the Pharisees held to the belief of spirits and angels, and to the doctrine that the will of God was often delivered to people by their agency, they were ready now to admit that he had received such a communication, and that he had gone among the Gentiles in obedience to it, to defend their great doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. We are not to suppose that the Pharisees had become the friends of Paul or of Christianity. The true solution of their conduct doubtless is, that they were so inflamed with hatred against the Sadducees that they were willing to make use of any argument against their doctrine. As the testimony of Paul might be turned to their account, they were willing to vindicate him. It is remarkable, too, that they perverted the statement of Paul in order to oppose the Sadducees. Paul had stated distinctly Acts 22:17-18 that he had been commanded to go by the Lord, meaning the Lord Jesus. He had said nothing of "a spirit or an angel." Yet they would unite with the Sadducees so far as to maintain that he had received no such command from the Lord Jesus. But they might easily vary his statements, and suppose that an "angel or a spirit" had spoken to him, and thus make use of his conduct as an argument against the Sadducees. Men are not always very careful about the exact correctness of their statements when they wish to humble a rival.

Let us not fight against God - See the notes on Acts 5:39. These words are missing in many mss. and in some of the ancient versions. The Syriac reads it, "If a spirit or an angel have spoken to him, what is there in this?" that is, what is there unusual or wrong?

8. the Sadducees say … there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit—(See on [2099]Lu 20:37).

the scribes … of the Pharisees' part … strove, saying, We find no evil in this man, but—as to those startling things which he brings to our ears.

if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him—referring, perhaps, to his trance in the temple, of which he had told them (Ac 22:17). They put this favorable construction upon his proceedings for no other reason than that they had found him one of their own party. They care not to inquire into the truth of what he alleged, over and above their opinions, but only to explain it away as something not worth raising a noise about. (The following words, "Let us not fight against God," seem not to belong to the original text, and perhaps are from Ac 5:39. In this case, either the meaning is, "If he has had some divine communication, what of that?" or, the conclusion of the sentence may have been drowned in the hubbub, which Ac 23:10 shows to have been intense).

Scribe is a name denoting an office or place; and the sribes were men skilled in the law.

A spirit or an angel; ome take the latter to be exegetical of the former, and that by a spirit is only meant an angel; by such messengers God many times sending his messages to the children of men. Yet others by spirit understand prophetical revelation, and the Spirit of prophecy, which was expected to be shed abroad in large measures about that time; as appears, John 7:39.

Let us not fight against God: See Poole on "Acts 5:39". And there arose a great cry,.... Or noise, a loud clamour; they began to be very noisy, and to talk loud, and in high spirits, one against another:

and the Scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose; there were Scribes in the sanhedrim, and these were some of them on the side of the Sadducees, and some on the side of the Pharisees; though, generally speaking, they agreed with the latter, and are often in Scripture mentioned with them, and for them: however, that part in this sanhedrim that were on their side rose up from their seats,

and strove; that is, contended, disputed, and litigated the point with the Sadducees:

saying, we find no evil in this man; why he should be hated, persecuted, and punished:

but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him; that is, if the Holy Spirit, as the Ethiopic version reads, has inspired him, or God by an angel has revealed anything to him, who has to say anything against it? This they said in agreement with their own principles, and more for the sake of establishing them, and in opposition to the Sadducees, than in favour of Paul:

let us not fight against God; as in Acts 5:39. These words are not in the Alexandrian copy, nor in the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions.

{8} And there arose a great cry: and the {e} 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.

(8) The Lord, when it pleases him, finds defenders of his cause, even amongst his enemies.

(e) The scribe's office was a public office, and the name of the Pharisees was the name of a sect.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 23:9. The designed stirring up of party-feeling proved so successful,[149] that some scribes (“os partis suae,” Bengel), who belonged to the Pharisaic half of the Sanhedrim, rose up and not only maintained the innocence of Paul against the other party, but also, with bitter offensiveness towards the latter, added the question: But if a spirit has spoken to him, or an angel? The question is an aposiopesis (comp. on John 6:62; Romans 9:22), indicating the critical position of the matter in the case supposed, without expressing it (quid vero, si, etc.). We may imagine the words uttered with a Jesuitically-treacherous look and gesture toward the Sadducees, to whom the speakers leave the task of supplying in thought an answer to this dubious question.

πνεῦμα] is not, with Calovius and others, to be taken of the Holy Spirit, but without more precise definition as: a spirit, quite as in Acts 23:8, where Luke by his gloss prepares us for Acts 23:9.

ἐλάλησεν] giving him revelation concerning the ἐλπίς and ἀνάστασις, Acts 23:6. A reference precisely to the narrative, which Paul had given of his conversion at Acts 22:6 ff., is not indicated.

[149] Baur and Zeller, following Schneckenburger, p. 144 ff., contest the historical character of this event, because the two parties had already so long been rubbing against each other, that they could not have been so inflamed by the apple of discord thrown in among them by Paul; the sequel also contradicting it, as Paul a few days afterwards was accused by the chief priest and Sanhedrim before Felix. But in this view sufficient account is not taken of the frequently quite blind vehemence of passion, when suddenly and unexpectedly aroused, in parties whose mutual relations are strained. As this vehemence, particularly in the presence of the tribune, before whom the sore point of honour was touched, might easily overleap the boundaries of discretion and prudence; so might the prudent concert for a joint accusation subsequently take place, when the fit of passion was over. Comp. also Baumgarten, II. p. 197 f.Acts 23:9. κραυγὴ μεγ.: “there arose a great clamour,” R.V., so A.V. in Ephesians 4:31; the noun also denotes not only the loud cry of partisan applause as here, but of joyful surprise, Luke 1:42, of grief, Revelation 21:4, of anger, Ephes. u. s., Westcott on Hebrews 5:7, cf. LXX, Exodus 12:30, Jdt 14:19, 2Ma 15:29.—ἀναστάντες, characteristic, see on Acts 5:17.—γραμματεῖς, the professional lawyers exercised considerable influence in the Sanhedrim, belonging chiefly to the Pharisees, but also numbering in their ranks some Sadducean scribes, Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. i., pp. 178, 319, E.T. The notice may therefore be placed to the writer’s accuracy.—διεμάχοντο: only here in N.T., cf. LXX, Daniel 10:20, Sir 8:1; Sir 8:3; Sir 51:19 R., frequent in classics. Overbeck and Holtzmann can only see in this scene a repetition of chap. Acts 5:33.—εἰ δὲ πνεῦμα: “And what if a spirit hath spoken to him, or an angel?” R.V. reading after ἄγγελος a mark of interrogation. Often explained as aposiopesis (so Weiss), cf. W.H[372] reading—John 6:62, Romans 9:22, but see Blass, Gram., p. 288, Burton, pp. 109–110. The words may been followed by a significant gesture or look towards the Sadducees, or by some such words as St. Chrysostom suggests: ποῖον ἔγκλημα! or, without any real aposiopesis, the words may have been interrupted by the tumult, Winer-Moulton, lxiv., ii. πνεῦμα: the word evidently refers back to St. Paul’s own statements, Acts 22:6-7, while at the same time it indicates that the Pharisees were far from accepting Paul’s account of the scene before Damascus as an appearance of Jesus of Nazareth.

[372] Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.9. And there arose a great cry [Rev. Ver. clamour] The noise was of an excited mob. It is the same word that is used in the parable of the Ten Virgins, to describe the shout “the bridegroom cometh.”

and the scribes that were of the Pharisees’ part] The best authorities read “some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ part.”

let us not fight against God] These words are not found in the oldest MSS, and it may be that St Luke left the sentence as an incomplete exclamation. This the Rev. Ver. has endeavoured to represent by rendering the preceding clause “And what if a Spirit hath spoken to him, or an angel.” The temper of these Pharisees is so very much akin to the counsel of Gamaliel in chap. Acts 5:39, that it is not difficult to understand how a thoughtful reader filled up on his margin the unfinished exclamation by an adaptation of Gamaliel’s language, and that these words found their way in a short time into the text.Acts 23:9. Κραυγὴ μεγάλη, a great cry) disgracefully.—γραμματεῖς, the scribes) Each sect has its learned men, and unlearned: the former are wont to be the mouth-piece of their party.—πνεῦμα, spirit) Paul was defending the resurrection: now also the Pharisees urge the point concerning spirits, against the Sadducees.—ἐλάλησεν αὐτῷ, hath spoken to him) They take out of the words of Paul the part that pleases them: with this comp. ch. Acts 22:6-7 (his description of the vision which he had on his way to Damascus): they cast aside the rest.—ἢ ἄγγελος, or angel) Paul did not say this; but the Pharisees add it against the Sadducees. Here his speech is cut short: and Luke skilfully (purposely) relates the words of the scribes broken off abruptly by the tumult, suspending the Apodosis to the particle εἰ, if, as he does to the κἂν, and if, Luke 13:9, κἂν μὲν ποιήσῃ καρπόν, and if it bring forth fruit (well).[132]

[132] Aposiopesis.—Not. Crit. ABC corrected, Ee Vulg. Memph. later Syr. omit μὴ θεομαχῶμεν, which Rec. Text adds without old authority, excepting Theb. Syr. adds “quid est in hoc?”—E. and T.Verse 9. - Clamor for cry, A.V.; some of the for the, A.V.; of the Pharisees part for that were of the, etc., A.V.; stood up for arose, A.V.; and what for but, A.V.; a spirit hath spoken to him, or an angel for a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, A.V.; the R.T. omits the clause in the T.R., let us not fight against God. The scribes (comp. Luke 20:39). We find no evil in this man (comp. John 18:29, 33; Luke 23:14, 15, 22). What if a spirit, etc.; alluding to what Paul had said in Acts 22:17, 18. Strove

The diversion was successful. The Pharisees' hatred of the Sadducees was greater than their hatred of Christianity.

What if a spirit, etc

Neither the A. V. nor Rev. give the precise form of this expression. The words form a broken sentence, followed by a significant silence, which leaves the hearers to supply the omission for themselves: "But if a spirit or angel has spoken to him ..." The words which the A. V. supplies to complete the sentence, let us not fight against God, are spurious, borrowed from Acts 5:39.

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