Acts 26:11
And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even to strange cities.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) Compelled them to blaspheme.—The verb is in the imperfect tense, which may express either continued or incomplete action. It does not follow, therefore, that any of the believers yielded to the pressure; and the words may be paraphrased, I went on trying to compel them.

Being exceedingly mad against them.—The words express, with a wonderful vividness, St. Paul’s retrospective analysis of his former state. It was not only that he acted in ignorance (1Timothy 1:13), he might plead also the temporary insanity of fanaticism.

Even unto strange cities.—The words show that the mission to Damascus was not a solitary instance, and the persecution may well have raged in the regions of Samaria and Galilee through which the Apostle passed. (See Note on Acts 9:3.)

26:1-11 Christianity teaches us to give a reason of the hope that is in us, and also to give honour to whom honour is due, without flattery or fear of man. Agrippa was well versed in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, therefore could the better judge as to the controversy about Jesus being the Messiah. Surely ministers may expect, when they preach the faith of Christ, to be heard patiently. Paul professes that he still kept to all the good in which he was first educated and trained up. See here what his religion was. He was a moralist, a man of virtue, and had not learned the arts of the crafty, covetous Pharisees; he was not chargeable with any open vice and profaneness. He was sound in the faith. He always had a holy regard for the ancient promise made of God unto the fathers, and built his hope upon it. The apostle knew very well that all this would not justify him before God, yet he knew it was for his reputation among the Jews, and an argument that he was not such a man as they represented him to be. Though he counted this but loss, that he might win Christ, yet he mentioned it when it might serve to honour Christ. See here what Paul's religion is; he has not such zeal for the ceremonial law as he had in his youth; the sacrifices and offerings appointed by that, are done away by the great Sacrifice which they typified. Of the ceremonial cleansings he makes no conscience, and thinks the Levitical priesthood is done away in the priesthood of Christ; but, as to the main principles of his religion, he is as zealous as ever. Christ and heaven, are the two great doctrines of the gospel; that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. These are the matter of the promise made unto the fathers. The temple service, or continual course of religious duties, day and night, was kept up as the profession of faith in the promise of eternal life, and in expectation of it. The prospect of eternal life should engage us to be diligent and stedfast in all religious exercises. Yet the Sadducees hated Paul for preaching the resurrection; and the other Jews joined them, because he testified that Jesus was risen, and was the promised Redeemer of Israel. Many things are thought to be beyond belief, only because the infinite nature and perfections of Him that has revealed, performed, or promised them, are overlooked. Paul acknowledged, that while he continued a Pharisee, he was a bitter enemy to Christianity. This was his character and manner of life in the beginning of his time; and there was every thing to hinder his being a Christian. Those who have been most strict in their conduct before conversion, will afterwards see abundant reason for humbling themselves, even on account of things which they then thought ought to have been done.And I punished them oft ... - See Acts 22:19.

And compelled them to blaspheme - To blaspheme the name of Jesus by denying that he was the Messiah, and by admitting that he was an impostor. This was the object which they had in view in the persecution. It was not to make them blaspheme or reproach God, but to deny that Jesus was the Messiah, and to reproach him as a deceiver and an impostor. It is not necessarily implied in the expression, "and compelled them to blaspheme," that he succeeded in doing it, but that he endeavored to make them apostatize from the Christian religion and deny the Lord Jesus. It is certainly not impossible that a few might thus have been induced by the authority of the Sanhedrin and by the threats of Paul to do it, but it is certain that the great mass of Christians adhered firmly to their belief that Jesus was the Messiah.

And being exceedingly mad - Nothing could more forcibly express his violence against the Christians. He raged like a madman; he was so ignorant that he laid aside all appearance of reason; with the fury and violence of a maniac, he endeavored to exterminate them from the earth. None but a madman will persecute people on account of their religious opinions; and all persecutions have been conducted like this, with the violence, the fury, and the ungovernable temper of maniacs.

Unto strange cities - Unto foreign cities; cities out of Judea. The principal instance of this was his going to Damascus; but there is no evidence that he did not intend also to visit other cities out of Judea and bring the Christians there, of he found any, to Jerusalem.

9-15. (See on [2119]Ac 9:1, &c.; and compare Ac 22:4, &c.) Paul confesses that he compelled them to blaspheme, either:

1. By the torments he made them to be put unto; or:

2. By his own example; for he confessed that he had been a blasphemer himself, 1 Timothy 1:13.

This blasphemy was either:

1. Denying of Christ to be the Messiah; or:

2. Cursing or execrating of Christ, and acknowledging that he was justly condemned.

I persecuted them even unto strange cities; drove them out of Jerusalem and Judea; and, according to what Paul then believed, he drave them from the worship of the true God, and said in effect, as David’s adversaries when they expelled him from Jerusalem, Go, and serve other gods, 1 Samuel 26:19. And I punished them oft in every synagogue,.... In Jerusalem, where there were many; See Gill on Acts 24:12; by beating and scourging them there, as the manner was; see Matthew 10:17.

and compelled them to blaspheme; the Lord Jesus Christ, both to deny him to be the Messiah, and to call him accursed; as the Jews and Heathens obliged some professors of Christianity to do, who were only nominal ones, and had not grace and strength to stand against their threatenings, and to endure their persecutions:

and being exceeding mad against them; full of malice, envy, and hatred:

I persecuted them even to strange cities; particularly Damascus; and of his journey thither, he gives an account in the following verse; or through the violence of his persecution he obliged them to fly to strange cities, where they were foreigners and strangers; though he himself might not follow them there, since we do not read of his going anywhere but to Damascus; whereas they that were scattered by the persecution, in which he was concerned, travelled as far as Phenice, Cyprus, and Antioch, Acts 9:19. The phrase may be rendered, "even to cities without"; i.e. without the land of Israel: frequent mention is made in Jewish writings of such and such cities being , "without the land".

And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and {e} compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.

(e) By extreme punishment.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 26:11-13. Κατὰ πάσας τ. συναγ.] throughout all the synagogues (in Jerusalem), going from one to another and searching out the Christians in all; comp. Acts 22:19.

τιμωρῶν αὐτούς] taking vengeance on them, dragging them to punishment, Soph. O. R. 107. 140; Polyb. ii. 56. 15. Comp. Acts 22:5, and Wetstein in loc. The middle is more usual.

βλασφημεῖν] namely, τὸν Ἰησοῦν, which is obvious of itself, as the object of the specific reverence of Christians (Jam 2:7). Comp. Plin. Ep. x. 97; Suicer, Thes. I. p. 697. Whether and how far this ἠνάγκαζ. βλασφ. was actually successful, cannot be determined.

ἕως καὶ εἰς τὰς ἔξω πόλεις] till even unto the extraneous cities (outside of Palestine). By this remark the following narrative has the way significantly prepared for it.

ἐν οἷς] in which affairs of persecution. Comp. Acts 24:18.

μετʼ ἐξουσ. κ. ἐπιτρ.] with power and plenary authority (Polyb. iii. 15. 7; 2Ma 13:14). “Paulus erat commissarius,” Bengel.

ἡμέρας μέσας] At noon, μεσημβρίας (comp. Acts 22:6), genitive of the definition of time, Bernhardy, p. 145. On the non-classical Greek expression μέση ἡμέρα, see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 55 f.

κατὰ τὴν ὁδόν] along the way, Acts 25:3, Acts 8:36.

ὑπὲρ τ. λαμπρ. τ. ἡλίου] surpassing the brightness of the sun. See Winer, p. 376 [E. T. 502].Acts 26:11. τιμωρῶν (cf. Acts 22:5), more usually in the middle voice in this sense, although the active is so used sometimes in classical Greek, Soph., O. T., 107, 140, Polyb., ii., 56, 15. For ecclesiastial censures and punishments see Edersheim, History of the Jewish Nation, p. 374, cf. Matthew 10:17; Matthew 23:34.—ἠνάγκαζον: “I strove to make them blaspheme,” R.V., all other E.V[400] render “I compelled them to blaspheme,” but the imperfect leaves it quite doubtful as to whether the persecutor succeeded in his attempts or not. The imperfect may thus be regarded as conative, Burton, p. 12, cf. Luke 1:59, Matthew 3:14. Blass points out that it may have the force of repeated action (cf. ἐδίωκον), but even if so, it does not say that the compulsion was effectual, Gram., p. 186. See further Page, in loco, for the rendering of R.V., which he regards as correct. A striking parallel may be adduced from Pliny’s Letter to Trajan, x., 97, where the Christians are urged to call upon the gods, to worship the emperor, and to blaspheme Christ, “quorum nihil cogi posse dicuntur qui sunt revera Christiani,” cf. Polycarp, Martyr., ix., 2, 3.—βλασφημεῖν, i.e., Jesus, “maledicere Christo,” Pliny, u. s., Jam 2:7; cf. 1 Timothy 1:13 with this passage, and Paul’s later reflections on his conduct.—ἕως καὶ εἰς τὰς ἔξω π.: “even unto foreign cities,” R.V., so that other cities besides Damascus had been included in the persecution, or would have been included if Saul’s attempt had been successful.—ἐδίωκον: “I set about persecuting them”. The imperfect ἐδίωκ. may however denote repeated action, and may indicate that Saul had already visited other foreign cities. Weiss regards the τε as connecting the two imperfects de conatu together—the latter imperfect being regarded as a continuation of the former, in case the victims sought to save themselves by flight.—ἐμμαιν.: only in Josephus once, Ant., xvii., 6, 5, but ἐμμανής in Wis 14:23, and in classical Greek, so also ἐκμαίνεσθαι.

[400] English Version.11. And I punished them oft in every synagogue] The Gk. continues with a participial construction, represented in Rev. Ver. “and punishing … in all the synagogues.” This closer representation of the original seems to add strength to the description of Saul’s former zeal as a persecutor. Of the synagogues as places where offenders were accused and punished, cp. Matthew 10:17; Matthew 23:34; Mark 13:9; Luke 12:11; Luke 21:12.

and compelled them to blaspheme] Rev. Ver. “I strove to make them blaspheme.” The verb is that which is frequently rendered “constrain” or “compel,” but being in the imperfect tense, it seems to signify that the attempt was repeated often, and needed to be so, for it was not in some cases successful. Saul kept on with his constraint. “To blaspheme,” i.e. the name of Jesus into which they had been baptized. They were to be forced to renounce the belief in the divinity of Jesus. Cp. on blasphemy of the divine Name, Leviticus 24:11-16.

even unto strange [R. V. foreign] cities] That is, cities outside the country of the Jews proper. So that, as it appears, Damascus was but one among several cities to which Saul had gone on his errand of punishment.Acts 26:11. Συναγωνάς, synagogues) of Jerusalem.—ἠνάγκαζον βλασφημεῖν, I compelled them to blaspheme) This was the saddest of all. Repent, ye enemies of the Gospel. If Franc. Spira, to whom force was applied, paid so dearly for his sin, what then will become of those who apply the force (exercise compulsion), and yet do not repent with Saul.Verse 11. - Punishing them oftentimes in all the synagogues, I strove to make them blaspheme for I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme, A.V.; foreign for strange, A.V. In all the synagogues. Those in Jerusalem, as the contrast of the foreign cities shows. (For the facts, see Acts 8:1, 3.) I strove, etc. The "compelled" of the A.V. is the natural rendering of ἠνάγκαζον (Matthew 14:22; Luke 14:23; Acts 28:19, etc.); but it does not necessarily follow that the compulsion was successful. It might be in some cases, and not in others. Pliny, in his letter to Trajan, says that those who were accused of being Christians cleared themselves by calling upon the gods, offering to the image of the emperor, and cursing Christ, none of which things, it is said, true Christians ("qui sunt revera Christiani") can be compelled to do ('Epist.,' 10, 95, quoted by Kuinoel). Mad against them; ἐμμαινόμενος αὐτοῖς, only here; but the adjective ἐμμανής, frantic, is not uncommon in classical writers.
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