Acts 26:28
Then Agrippa said to Paul, Almost you persuade me to be a Christian.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(28) Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.—At the cost of giving up a familiar and impressive text, it must be admitted that the Greek words cannot possibly bear the meaning which is thus put upon them. The words run literally, In, or with, a little thou persuadest me; and this may be completed by, “with little speech,” “with little labour,” or “little evidence.” So in Ephesians 3:3 we have precisely the same phrase rendered “in few words.” Agrippa’s words, accordingly, are the expression, not of a half-belief, but of a cynical sneer. Thou art trying to make a Christian of me with very few words, on very slender grounds, would be the nearest paraphrase of his derisive answer to St. Paul’s appeal. It was. it will be seen, evasive as well as derisive; he shrinks from a direct answer to the question that had been put to him. In his use of the Latin term “Christian” (see Note on Acts 11:26) we may trace, perhaps, the effect of Roman associations. There certainly were Christian communities at Rome at this time (Romans 16 passim), and they would naturally be described there as they had been at Antioch. It may be noted that, of the prominent English versions, Wiclif gives “in a little thing,” Tyndal and Cranmer “somewhat,” the Rhemish “a little;” the Geneva agrees with the present version in “almost.” The meaning “somewhat,” or “a little,” is a tenable one. but Ephesians 3:3. as already stated, is in favour of that given above. The phrase was, perhaps, in itself ambiguous, and St. Paul accepts in one sense what had been spoken in another.

Acts

‘BEFORE GOVERNORS AND KINGS’

‘ME A CHRISTIAN!’

Acts 26:28
.

This Agrippa was son of the other Herod of whom we hear in the Acts as a persecutor. This one appears from other sources, to have had the vices but not the force of character of his bad race. He was weak and indolent, a mere hanger-on of Rome, to which he owed his kingdom, and to which he stoutly stuck during all the tragedy of the fall of Jerusalem. In position and in character {largely resulting from the position} he was uncommonly like those semi-independent rajahs in India, who are allowed to keep up a kind of shadow of authority on condition of doing what Calcutta bids them. Of course frivolity and debauchery become the business of such men. What sort of a man this was may be sufficiently inferred from the fact that Bernice was his sister.

But he knew a good deal about the Jews, about their opinions, their religion, and about what had been going on during the last half century amongst them. Or grounds of policy he professed to accept the Jewish faith-of which an edifying example is given in the fact that, on one occasion, Bernice was prevented from accompanying him to Rome because she was fulfilling a Nazarite vow in the Temple at Jerusalem!

So the Apostle was fully warranted in appealing to Agrippa’s knowledge, not only of Judaism, but of the history of Jesus Christ, and in his further assertion, ‘I know that thou believest.’ But the home-thrust was too much for the king. His answer is given in the words of our text.

They are very familiar words, and they have been made the basis of a great many sermons upon being all but persuaded to accept of Christ as Saviour. But, edifying as such a use of them is, it can scarcely be sustained by their actual meaning. Most commentators are agreed that our Authorised Version does not represent either Agrippa’s words or his tone. He was not speaking in earnest. His words are sarcasm, not a half melting into conviction, and the Revised Version gives what may, on the whole, be accepted as being a truer representation of their intention when it reads, ‘With but little persuasion thou wouldst fain make me a Christian.’

He is half amused and half angry at the Apostle’s presumption in supposing that so easily or so quickly he was going to land his fish. ‘It is a more difficult task than you fancy, Paul, to make a Christian of a man like me.’ That is the real meaning of his words, and I think that, rightly understood, they yield lessons of no less value than those that have been so often drawn from them as they appear in our Authorised Version. So I wish to try and gather up and urge upon you now these lessons:-

I. First, then, I see here an example of the danger of a superficial familiarity with Christian truth.

As I said, Agrippa knew, in a general way, a good deal not only about the prophets and the Jewish religion, but of the outstanding facts of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul’s assumption that he knew would have been very quickly repudiated if it had not been based upon fact. And the inference from his acceptance without contradiction of the Apostle’s statement is confirmed by his use of the word ‘Christian,’ which had by no means come into general employment when he spoke; and in itself indicates that he knew a good deal about the people who were so named. Mark the contrast, for instance, between him and the bluff Roman official at his side. To Festus, Paul’s talking about a dead man’s having risen, and a risen Jew becoming a light to all nations, was such utter nonsense that, with characteristic Roman contempt for men with ideas, he breaks in, with his rough, strident voice, ‘Much learning has made thee mad.’ There was not much chance of that cause producing that effect on Festus. But he was apparently utterly bewildered at this entirely novel and unintelligible sort of talk. Agrippa, on the other hand, knows all about the Resurrection; has heard that there was such a thing, and has a general rough notion of what Paul believed as a Christian.

And was he any better for it? No; he was a great deal worse. It took the edge off a good deal of his curiosity. It made him fancy that he knew beforehand all that the Apostle had to say. It stood in the way of his apprehending the truths which he thought that he understood.

And although the world knows a great deal more about Jesus Christ and the Gospel than he did, the very same thing is true about hundreds and thousands of people who have all their lives long been brought into contact with Christianity. Superficial knowledge is the worst enemy of accurate knowledge, for the first condition of knowing a thing is to know that we do not know it. And so there are a great many of us who, having picked up since childhood vague and partially inaccurate notions about Christ and His Gospel and what He has done, are so satisfied on the strength of these that we know all about it, that we listen to preaching about it with a very languid attention. The ground in our minds is preoccupied with our own vague and imperfect apprehensions. I believe that there is nothing that stands more in the way of hundreds of people coming into real intelligent contact with Gospel truth than the half knowledge that they have had of it ever since they were children. You fancy that you know all that I can tell you. Very probably you do. But have you ever taken a firm hold of the plain central facts of Christianity-your own sinfulness and helplessness, your need of a Saviour, the perfect work of Jesus Christ who died on the Cross for you, and the power of simple faith therein to join you to Him, and, if followed by consecration and obedience, to make you partakers of His nature, and heirs of the inheritance that is above? These are but the fundamentals, the outlines of Gospel truth. But far too many of you see them, in such a manner as you see the figures cast upon a screen when the lantern is not rightly focussed, with a blurred outline, and the blurred outline keeps you from seeing the sharp-cut truth as it is in Jesus. In all regions of thought inaccurate knowledge is the worst foe to further understanding, and eminently is this the case in religion. Brethren, some of you are in that position.

Then there is another way in which such knowledge as that of which the king in our text is an example is a hindrance, and that is, that it is knowledge which has no effect on character. What do hundreds of us do with our knowledge of Christianity? Our minds seem built in watertight compartments, and we keep the doors of them shut very close, so that truths in the understanding have no influence on the will. Many of you believe the Gospel intellectually, and it does not make a hairsbreadth of difference to anything that you ever either thought or wished or did. And because you so believe it, it is utterly impossible that it should ever be of any use to you. ‘Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.’ ‘Yes, believest the prophets, and Bernice sitting by thy side there- believest the prophets, and livest in utter bestial godlessness.’ What is the good of a knowledge of Christianity like that? And is it not such knowledge of Christianity that blocks the way with some of you for anything more real and more operative? There is nothing more impotent than a firmly believed and utterly neglected truth. And that is what the Christianity of some of you is when it is analysed.

II. Now, secondly, notice how we have here the example of a proud man indignantly recoiling from submission,

There is a world of contempt in Agrippa’s words, in the very putting side by side of the two things. ‘Me! Me,’ with a very large capital M-’Me a Christian?’ He thinks of his dignity, poor creature. It was not such a very tremendous dignity after all. He was a petty kinglet, permitted by the grace of Rome to live and to pose as if he were the real thing, and yet he struts and claps his wings and crows on his little hillock as if it were a mountain. ‘Me a Christian?’ ‘The great Agrippa a Christian!’ And he uses that word ‘Christian’ with the intense contempt which coined it and adhered to it, until the men to whom it was applied were wise enough to take it and bind it as a crown of honour upon their head. The wits at Antioch first of all hit upon the designation. They meant a very exquisite piece of sarcasm by their nickname. These people were ‘Christians,’ just as some other people were Herodians-Christ’s men, the men of this impostor who pretended to be a Messiah. That seemed such an intensely ludicrous thing to the wise people in Antioch that they coined the name; and no doubt thought they had done a very clever thing. It is only used in the Bible in tike notice of its origin; here, with a very evident connotation of contempt; and once more when Peter in his letter refers to it as being the indictment on which certain disciples suffered. So when Agrippa says, ‘Me a Christian,’ he puts all the bitterness that he can into that last word. As if he said, ‘Do you really think that I-I-am going to bow myself down to be a follower and adherent of that Christ of yours? The thing is too ridiculous! With but little persuasion you would fain make me a Christian. But you will find it a harder task than you fancy.’

Now, my dear friends, the shape of this unwillingness is changed but the fact of it remains. There are two or three features of what I take to be the plain Gospel of Jesus Christ which grate very much against all self-importance and self-complacency, and operate very largely, though not always consciously, upon very many amongst us. I just run them over, very briefly.

The Gospel insists on dealing with everybody in the same fashion, and on regarding all as standing on the same level. Many of us do not like that. Translate Agrippa’s scorn into words that fit ourselves: ‘I am a well-to-do Manchester man. Am I to stand on the same level as my office-boy?’ Yes! the very same. ‘I, a student, perhaps a teacher of science, or a cultivated man, a scholar, a lawyer, a professional man-am I to stand on the same level as people that scarcely know how to read and write?’ Yes, exactly. So, like the man in the Old Testament, ‘he turned and went away in a rage.’ Many of us would like that there should be a little private door for us in consideration of our position or acquirements or respectability, or this, that, or the other thing. At any rate we are not to be classed in the same category with the poor and the ignorant and the sinful and the savage all over the world. But we are so classed. Do not you and the men in Patagonia breathe the same air? Are not your bodies subject to the same laws? Have you not to be contented to be fed in the same fashion, and to sleep and eat and drink in the same way? ‘We have all of us one human heart’; and ‘there is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ The identities of humanity, in all its examples, are deeper than the differences in any. We have all the one Saviour and are to be saved in the same fashion. That is a humbling thing for those of us who stand upon some little elevation, real or fancied, but it is only the other side of the great truth that God’s love is world-wide, and that Christ’s Gospel is meant for humanity. Naaman, to whom I have already referred in passing, wanted to be treated as a great man who happened to be a leper; Elisha insisted on treating him as a leper who happened to be a great man. And that makes all the difference. I remember seeing somewhere that a great surgeon had said that the late Emperor of Germany would have had a far better chance of being cured if he had gone incognito to the hospital for throat diseases. We all need the same surgery, and we must be contented to take it in the same fashion. So, some of us recoil from humbling equality with the lowest and worst.

Then again, another thing that sometimes makes people shrink back from the Gospel is that it insists upon every one being saved solely by dependence on Another. We would like to have a part in our salvation, and many of us had rather do anything in the way of sacrifice or suffering or penance than take this position:

‘Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to Thy Cross I cling.’

Corrupt forms of Christianity have taken an acute measure of the worst parts of human nature, when they have taught men that they can eke out Christ’s work by their own, and have some kind of share in their own salvation. Dear brethren, I have to bring to you another Gospel than that, and to say, All is done for us, and all will be done in us, and nothing has to be done by us. Some of you do not like that. Just as a man drowning is almost sure to try to help himself, and get his limbs inextricably twisted round his would-be rescuer and drown them both, so men will not, without a struggle, consent to owe everything to Jesus Christ, and to let Him draw them out of many waters and set them on the safe shore. But unless we do so, we have little share in His Gospel.

And another thing stands in the way-namely, that the Gospel insists upon absolute obedience to Jesus Christ. Agrippa fancied that it was an utterly preposterous idea that he should lower his flag, and doff his crown, and become the servant of a Jewish peasant. A great many of us, though we have a higher idea of our Lord than his, do yet find it quite as hard to submit our wills to His, and to accept the condition of absolute obedience, utter resignation to Him, and entire subjection to His commandment. We say, ‘Let my own will have a little bit of play in a corner.’ Some of us find it very hard to believe that we are to bring all our thinking upon religious and moral subjects to Him, and to accept His word as conclusive, settling all controversies. ‘I, with my culture; am I to accept what Christ says as the end of strife?’ Yes, absolute submission is the plainest condition of real Christianity. The very name tells us that. We are Christians, i.e. Christ’s men; and unless we are, we have no right to the name. But some of us had rather be our own masters and enjoy the miseries of independence and self-will, and so be the slaves of our worse selves, than bow ourselves utterly before that dear Lord, and so pass into the freedom of a service love-inspired, and by love accepted, ‘Thou wouldst fain persuade me to be a Christian,’ is the recoil of a proud heart from submission. Brethren, let me beseech you that it may not be yours.

III. Again, we have here an example of instinctive shrinking from the personal application of broad truths.

Agrippa listened, half-amused and a good deal interested, to Paul as long as he talked generalities and described his own experience. But when he came to point the generalities and to drive them home to the hearer’s heart it was time to stop him. That question of the Apostle’s, keen and sudden as the flash of a dagger, went straight home, and the king at once gathered himself together into an attitude of resistance. Ah, that is what hundreds of people do! You will let me preach as long as I like-only you will get a little weary sometimes-you will let me preach generalities ad libitum. But when I come to ‘And thou?’ then I am ‘rude’ and ‘inquisitorial’ and ‘personal’ and ‘trespassing on a region where I have no business,’ and so on and so on. And so you shut up your heart if not your ears.

And yet, brethren, what is the use of toothless generalities? What am I here for if I am not here to take these broad, blunt truths and sharpen them to a point, and try to get them in between the joints of your armour? Can any man faithfully preach the Gospel who is always flying over the heads of his hearers with universalities, and never goes straight to their hearts with ‘Thou-thou art the man!’ ‘Believest thou?’

And so, dear friends, let me press that question upon you. Never mind about other people. Suppose you and I were alone together and my words were coming straight to thee. Would they not have more power than they have now? They are so coming. Think away all these other people, and this place, ay, and me too, and let the word of Christ, which deals with no crowds but with single souls, come to you in its individualising force: ‘Believest thou?’ You will have to answer that question one day. Better to face it now and try to answer it than to leave it all vague until you get yonder, where ‘each one of us shall give account of himself to God.

IV. Lastly, we have here an example of a soul close to the light, but passing into the dark.

Agrippa listens to Paul; Bernice listens; Festus listens. And what comes of it? Only this, ‘And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man hath done nothing worthy of death or of bonds.’ May I translate into a modern equivalent: And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, ‘This man preached a very impressive sermon,’ or, ‘This man preached a very wearisome sermon,’ and there an end.

Agrippa and Bernice went their wicked way, and Festus went his, and none of them knew what a fateful moment they had passed through. Ah, brethren! there are many such in our lives when we make decisions that influence our whole future, and no sign shows that the moment is any way different from millions of its undistinguished fellows. It is eminently so in regard to our relation to Jesus Christ and His Gospel. These three had been in the light; they were never so near it again. Probably they never heard the Gospel preached any more, and they went away, not knowing what they had done when they silenced Paul and left him. Now you will probably hear plenty of sermons in future. You may or you may not. But be sure of this, that if you go away from this one, unmelted and unbelieving, you have not done a trivial thing. You have added one more stone to the barrier that you yourself build to shut you out from holiness and happiness, from hope and heaven. It is not I that ask you the question, it is not Paul that asks it, Jesus Christ Himself says to you, as He said to the blind man, ‘Dost thou believe on the Son of God?’ or as He said to the weeping sister of Lazarus, ‘Believest thou this?’ O dear friends, do not answer like this arrogant bit of a king, but cry with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief!’26:24-32 It becomes us, on all occasions, to speak the words of truth and soberness, and then we need not be troubled at the unjust censures of men. Active and laborious followers of the gospel often have been despised as dreamers or madmen, for believing such doctrines and such wonderful facts; and for attesting that the same faith and diligence, and an experience like their own, are necessary to all men, whatever their rank, in order to their salvation. But apostles and prophets, and the Son of God himself, were exposed to this charge; and none need be moved thereby, when Divine grace has made them wise unto salvation. Agrippa saw a great deal of reason for Christianity. His understanding and judgment were for the time convinced, but his heart was not changed. And his conduct and temper were widely different from the humility and spirituality of the gospel. Many are almost persuaded to be religious, who are not quite persuaded; they are under strong convictions of their duty, and of the excellence of the ways of God, yet do not pursue their convictions. Paul urged that it was the concern of every one to become a true Christian; that there is grace enough in Christ for all. He expressed his full conviction of the truth of the gospel, the absolute necessity of faith in Christ in order to salvation. Such salvation from such bondage, the gospel of Christ offers to the Gentiles; to a lost world. Yet it is with much difficulty that any person can be persuaded he needs a work of grace on his heart, like that which was needful for the conversion of the Gentiles. Let us beware of fatal hesitation in our own conduct; and recollect how far the being almost persuaded to be a Christian, is from being altogether such a one as every true believer is.Then Agrippa said unto Paul - He could not deny that he believed the prophecies in the Old Testament. He could not deny that the argument was a strong one that they had been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. He could not deny that the evidence of the miraculous interposition of God in the conversion of Paul was overwhelming; and instead, therefore, of charging him, as Festus had done, with derangement, he candidly and honestly avows the impression which the proof had made on his mind.

Almost - Except a very little - ἐν ὀλίγῳ en oligō. Thou hast nearly convinced me that Christianity is true, and persuaded me to embrace it. The arguments of Paul had been so rational; the appeal which he had made to his belief of the prophets had been so irresistible, that he had been nearly convinced of the truth of Christianity. We are to remember:

(1) That Agrippa was a Jew, and that he would look on this whole subject in a different manner from the Roman Festus.

(2) that he does not appear to have partaken of the violent passions and prejudices of the Jews who had accused Paul.

(3) pits character, as given by Josephus, is that of a mild, candid, and ingenuous man. He had no particular hostility to Christians; he knew that they were not justly charged with sedition and crime; and he saw the conclusion to which a belief of the prophets inevitably tended. Yet, as in thousands of other cases, he was not quite persuaded to be a Christian. What was included in the "almost"; what prevented his being quite persuaded, we know not. It may have been that the evidence was not so clear to his mind as he would profess to desire; or that he was not willing to give up his sins; or that he was too proud to rank himself with the followers of Jesus of Nazareth; or that, like Felix, he was willing to defer it to a more convenient season. There is every reason to believe that he was never quite persuaded to embrace the Lord Jesus, and that he was never nearer the kingdom of heaven than at this moment. It was the crisis, the turning-point in Agrippa's life, and in his eternal destiny; and, like thousands of others, he neglected or refused to allow the full conviction of the truth on his mind, and died in his sins.

Thou persuadest me - Thou dost convince me of the truth of the Christian religion, and persuadest me to embrace it.

To be a Christian - On the name Christian, see the notes on Acts 11:26. On this deeply interesting case we may observe:

(1) That there are many in the same situation as Agrippa- many who are almost, but not altogether, persuaded to be Christians. They are found among:

(a) Those who have been religiously educated;

(b) Those who are convinced by argument of the truth of Christianity;

(c) Those whose consciences are awakened, and who feel their guilt, and the necessity of some better portion than this world can furnish.

(2) such persons are deterred from being altogether Christians by the following, among other causes:

(a) By the love of sin - the love of sin in general, or some particular sin which they are not willing to abandon;

(b) By the fear of shame, persecution, or contempt, if they become Christians;

continued...

28. Almost—or, "in a little time."

thou persuadest me to be a Christian—Most modern interpreters think the ordinary translation inadmissible, and take the meaning to be, "Thou thinkest to make me with little persuasion (or small trouble) a Christian"—but I am not to be so easily turned. But the apostle's reply can scarcely suit any but the sense given in our authorized version, which is that adopted by Chrysostom and some of the best scholars since. The objection on which so much stress is laid, that the word "Christian" was at that time only a term of contempt, has no force except on the other side; for taking it in that view, the sense is, "Thou wilt soon have me one of that despised sect."

Some think that these words were spoken ironically, or scoffingly; as if Agrippa had said: Thou wouldst have me in so short a space (for so en oligw may be translated) to be brought to profess Christ: some think it unlikely that such a one as Agrippa would speak so plainly as we translate it, in such a place, before such an auditory: but the danger seems not to have been so great from these words; and if it had been greater, who knows the power of that conviction under which Agrippa at that time was? And Paul’s rejoinder do suppose the words to be spoken in the sense we read them. Then Agrippa said unto Paul,.... Either seriously or ironically; rather the former, arising from the convictions of his mind, which he could not stifle nor conceal:

almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian; to profess faith in Jesus as the Messiah, to embrace his doctrine, and submit to his ordinances, which is to be a Christian, at least externally: and when he says "almost", or "in a little", his meaning is, that within a little, or very near, he was of being persuaded to embrace Christianity; or in a little matter, and in some respects; or rather in a few words, and in a small space of time, Paul had strangely wrought upon him to incline to the Christian religion; though the first sense, that he was almost, or within a little of being a Christian, seems to be the best, as appears by the apostle's reply to it: what it is to be a real Christian; see Gill on Acts 11:26. An almost Christian is one that has much light and knowledge, but no grace; he may know something of himself and of sin, of its being a violation of the law of God, and of the bad consequences of it, but has not true repentance for it; he may know much of Christ in a speculative way, concerning his person and offices, as the devils themselves do, and of the good things which come by him, as peace, pardon, righteousness, and salvation; but has no application of these things to himself; he may have a large notional knowledge of the doctrines of the Gospel, but has no experience of the power, sweetness, and comfort of them in his own soul; all his knowledge is unsanctified, and without practice: he is one that has a taste of divine things, but has not the truth of them; he may taste of the heavenly gift, of the good word of God, and of the powers of the world to come; yet it is but a taste, a superficial one, which he has; he does not savour and relish these things, nor is he nourished by them: he has a great deal of faith in the historical way, and sometimes a bold confidence and assurance of everlasting happiness; but has not faith of the right kind, which is spiritual and special, which is the faith of God's elect, the gift of God, and the operation of his Spirit; by which the soul beholds the glory, fulness, and suitableness of Christ, under a sense of need, and goes forth to him, renouncing everything of self, and lays hold upon him, and trusts in him for salvation; and which works by love to Christ and his people, and has with it the fruits of righteousness: he may express a great deal of flashy affectation to the word, and the ministers of it, for a while, but has nothing solid and substantial in him; he may partake of the Holy Ghost, of his gifts largely, but not of special and internal grace; and indeed he can only be an almost Christian, that becomes one merely through the persuasion of men: it is one part of the Gospel ministry to persuade men, but this of itself is ineffectual; a real Christian is made so by the power of divine grace. Agrippa was only persuaded, and but almost persuaded by the apostle to be a Christian, but not by the Lord, nor altogether, who persuades Japheth to dwell in the tents of Shem.

Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 26:28. The king is of course well-meaning enough not to take amiss the burning words, but also, as a luxurious man of the world, sufficiently estranged from what is holy instantly to banish the transiently-felt impression with haughtily contemptuous mockery. The conduct of Pilate in John 18:38 is similar to this and to Acts 26:32.

ἐν ὀλίγῳ is to be taken as neuter, and without supplement, as in Ephesians 3:3 (see in loc.), namely: With little (ἐν, instrumental) thou persuadest me to become a Christian! This sarcasm is meant to say: “Thus summarily, thus brevi manu, you will not manage to win me over to Christianity.” Appropriately, in substance, Oecumenius: ἐν ὀλίγῳ· τουτέστι διʼ ὀλίγων ῥημάτων, ἐν βραχέσι λόγοις, ἐν ὀλίγῃ διδασκαλίᾳ, χωρὶς πολλοῦ πόνου καὶ συνεχοὺς διαλέξεως. Most expositors either adopt the meaning (Calvin, Wetstein, Kuinoel, Olshausen, Neander, de Wette, Lange) sometimes with and sometimes without the supplement of χρόνῳ: in a short time (Pind. Pyth. viii. 131; Plat. Apol. p. 22 B; and see the passages in Raphel, Polyb.; comp. the analogous διʼ ὀλίγου, Thuc. i. 77. 4, ii. 85. 2, iii. 43. 3; Schaefer, ad Bos. Ellips. pp. 101, 553; and see on Ephesians 3:3); or (Chrysostom, Valla, Luther, Castalio, Beza, Piscator, Grotius, Calovius, and others, to which also the modica ex parte of Erasmus comes in the end): propemodum, parum abest, quin. So also Ewald, who calls to his aid the בְּ of value (for a little, i.e. almost). But in opposition to the view which takes it temporally, may be decisively urged the reading μεγάλῳ, to be adopted instead of πολλῷ in Acts 26:29 (see the critical remarks), an expression which proves that Paul apprehended ἐν ὀλίγῳ in a quantitative sense; and there is no reason in the context for the idea (to which Calvin is inclined, following Chrysostom) that Paul took the word in one sense and the king in another. The same reason decides against the explanation propemodum, which also is not linguistically to be justified, for there must have been used either ὀλίγου (Plat. Prot. p. 361 C, Phaedr. p. 258 E; Stallb. ad Plat. Rep. p. 563 B), or ὀλίγου δεῖ (Wolf, ad Dem. Lept. p. 238), or παρʼ ὀλίγον (Bernhardy, p. 258).

Lastly, that the words of the king are to be taken ironically, and not, with Heinrichs and many other expositors, as an earnest confession, is evident even from the very improbability in itself of such a confession in view of the luxurious levity of the king, as well as from the name Χριστιανόν, which, of Gentile origin (see on Acts 11:26), carries with it in the mouth of a Jew the accessory idea of heterodoxy and the stain of contempt (1 Peter 4:16). Schneckenburger also would have the expression to be earnestly meant, but in favour of the apologetic design imputed to the Book of Acts.Acts 26:28. ἐν ὀλίγῳ με πείθεις Χ. γένεσθαι, see critical note, “with but little persuasion thou wouldest fain make me a Christian,” R.V. reading ποιῆσαι, and πείθεις being used de conatu (so Zockler in his 2nd edition); cf. προσήλυτον ποιεῖν, Matthew 23:15. Schmiedel, Encycl. Bibl., i., 754, inclines to explain the phrase Χ. ποιῆσαι as a Latinism: Christianum agere, to play the part of a Christian. Weiss sees in the words a gentle irony, as if Agrippa would answer St. Paul’s appeal to his belief in the prophets by intimating that it was not so simple a matter to become a Christian, even if one, as a Jew, believed in the prophets. Or we may regard Agrippa as rejecting, not so much in banter as in cold disdain, the enthusiasm of the orator, and adopting the tone of a certain Jewish orthodoxy (Zockler), not, i.e., the indifference of the Roman, but that of the Sadducees to the prophets. The A.V. “almost” must be abandoned, even if we retain γενέσθαι, for ἐν ὀλίγῳ cannot be so rendered, either here or elsewhere in the N.T.; παρʼ ὀλίγον, or ὀλίγου or ὀλίγον δεῖ would be required as the classical expression for “almost”. The best parallel is Ephesians 3:3, ἐν ὀλίγῳ: “in a few words”: so A. and R.V. (cf. 1 Peter 5:12). But if in the next verse we read μεγάλῳ instead of πολλῷ, so R.V. (see critical note), it seems best to understand πόνῳ with ὀλίγῳ, as this noun could fitly stand with both μεγάλῳ and ὀλίγῳ = with little trouble, with little cost. The R.V. rendering of the two verses reads as if πολλῷ was retained in Acts 26:29, whereas μεγάλῳ is the reading adopted in R.V. text. So far as N.T. usage is concerned, ἐν ὀλίγῳ might be rendered “in a short time” (cf. Jam 4:14, 1 Peter 1:6, Revelation 17:10, so in classical Greek), but this rendering also is excluded by ἐν ὀλίγῳ καὶ ἐν μεγάλῳ in the next verse. Wendt maintains that ἐν ὀλίγῳ may still be rendered “almost”; the phrase is instrumental, as if expressing the thought contained in ὀλίγου δεῖ, and meaning that a little was wanted to attain the aim = almost; so St. Chrysostom, St. Cyril of Jerusalem; Luther, Beza, Grotius = propemodum. The answer of Agrippa, therefore, need not be taken ironically, as by most moderns, but in earnest (cf. Acts 26:32, where his favourable opinion supports this view), although Wendt acknowledges that his confession was only half-hearted, as is seen by his desire to conclude the interview (Wendt, 1888, note, p. 530, and 1899, p. 400, to the same effect, so too Schürer, Jewish People, div. i., vol. ii., p. 198, note). If we read πείθῃ, see critical note, we render “with but little thou art persuading thyself that thou canst make me a Christian,” taking up πείθομαι of Acts 26:26. This reading is adopted by Blass and Belser, but the former takes ἐν ὀλίγῳ as meaning brevi tempore in this verse (so in Plato, Apol., 22 B), but in Acts 26:29 he takes it as = facile, whilst ἐν μεγάλῳ (which he reads) = difficile. Belser, however, takes the phrase ἐν ὀλίγῳ in the same sense in both verses, “with little trouble or pains”. St. Chrysostom thought that the phrase ἐν ὀλίγῳ was used by Agrippa in one sense and by St. Paul in another (so too Lewin, cf. Grimm-Thayer and Plumptre); Blass apparently obliges us to adopt the same view, but there is nothing in the context to support it (Wendt, Belser).—Χριστ.: there is nothing strange in this use of the word by Agrippa; he may have become acquainted with it in his knowledge of the Christian movement (see above), and the term could easily have spread from Antioch over the district which he ruled. It is difficult to say in what sense he used the term; and no doubt the shade of meaning which we attach to his employment of it will depend upon the meaning which we give to the rest of his answer—a meaning earnest or contemptuous. Thus on the former supposition it is possible that he may have used the word instead of the despised “Nazarene,” to indicate his half-friendly attitude towards Christianity, and his relative recognition of it by connecting it with the name which was cherished by every Jew, although the context shows that he had no intention whatever of allowing Paul’s persuasive powers further scope; see Wendt (1899), who points out as against Lipsius that there is nothing unhistorical in the introduction of the name here, as if the writer presupposed that it would be familiar to every Jew. On the other hand, although a Jew, Agrippa, before such an audience, might well have used a term with which the Romans also would probably have been familiar, and if he spoke contemptuously (so Blass, Rendall) he would naturally employ a title which had been given in scorn, and which apparently at this period even the Christians themselves had not accepted; see below, and note on Acts 11:26.28. Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian] Rev. Ver. “With but little persuasion thou wouldest fain make me a Christian.” The original is “with [or in] little (labour or time) thou art persuading me, &c.” It would seem therefore that the Rev. Ver. represents Agrippa’s words more nearly than A. V. “With little labour” or “in a little time” implies that the king despised the attempt which had been made to convince him, and mocked at the language of St Paul in so readily taking for granted that the king was in accord with him. It is as though he said “You are supposing that I accept these words of the prophets in the same sense as you do, and you are a fool for your pains, to think that with so little trouble and in so short a space you could win me over to your side. And such a side! To be a Christian.” The name had, no doubt, been given, when it was first applied (Acts 11:26), to the adherents of Jesus as a term of reproach, and it is likely that it had not yet won its way to be a name of credit, at all events among such men as Agrippa and his friends. For we have no reason to suppose that the king was influenced at all by Paul’s words.Acts 26:28. Ὁ δὲ Ἀγρίππας, but Agrippa) The king is thought by some to speak contemptuously: it would be more true to say, that there was a motion towards good in him: with which comp. Acts 26:27; Acts 26:29.—ἐν ὀλίγῷ) This phrase itself is not to be found in the LXX.; but synonyms however are found, put in the same neuter gender; and these synonyms express the Hebrew כמעט, the Latin propemodum, tantum non; and that too, in such a way that the effect itself, in the case of a past event, is excluded, in the case of a thing future, is included, according to the variety of the circumstances of each particular case. In the former manner there is generally added παρά· παρὰ μικρὸν, παρὰ βραχὺ, παρʼ ὀλίγον, Psalms 72 (73):2, 93 (94):17; Proverbs 5:14 : Latin, pæne. In the second way, ἐν is employed: ἐν τῷ μηδενὶ, Psalms 80(81):14; ἐν τάχει, Psalm 2:12 : Lat. nullo negotio, facile, celeriter; which notion admirably accords with this passage, which also has ἐν. Therefore there are presented to us here, Festus without Christ, Paul the representative of Christianity, and Agrippa, at the point where the decision between the two roads must be made, with an excellent bias.Verse 28. - And for then, A.V.; with but little persuasion thou wouldest fain make me a Christian for almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian, A.V. With but little persuasion (ἐν ὀλίγῳ κ.τ.λ.). This saying of Agrippa's is obscure and variously explained. The A.V., following Chrysostom, Beza, Luther, etc., takes ἐν ὀλίγῳ to mean "within a little" or" almost," like the Hebrew כִּמְעַט, which is very suitable to the context. The corresponding ἐν πόλλῳ, or, as otherwise read, ἐν μεγάλῳ would then mean, as in the A.V., "altogether," and the sense of the whole passage is striking and appropriate. But there is some difficulty in getting Otis meaning out of the words. The natural way of expressing it would be παρ ὀλίγον, or ὀλίγου, or ὀλίγον δεῖ. Hence many other commentators take ἐν ὀλίγῳ to mean "in a short time," and the sense to be either "you are making short work of my conversion: you are persuading me to become a Christian as suddenly as you yourself did;" with a corresponding sense for ἐν πόλλῳ, "in a long time," i.e. whether it takes a short or a long time, I pray God you may become a Christian like myself;" or, "you are soon persuading me," you will soon persuade me if you go on any longer in this strain. Others, again, preferring the reading ἐν μεγάλῳ in ver. 29, take ἐν ὀλίγῳ to mean "with little trouble," or "with few words," as Ephesians 3:5 (understanding λόγῳ or πόνῳ), "lightly" (Alford), and then the opposite ἐν μεγάλῳ would mean "with much trouble," "with many words," i.e. "with difficulty." But this is rather a fiat rendering. Another difference of opinion is whether the words of Agrippa are to be taken ironically, or sarcastically, or jestingly, or whether they are to be taken seriously, as the words of a man shaken in his convictions and seriously impressed by what he had heard. The whole turn of the narrative seems to favor the latter view. Another view, started by Chrysostom, is that Agrippa used the words in one sense, and St. Paul (mistakenly or advisedly) took them in another. Another possible explanation is that ἐν ὀλίγῳ is here used in the sense in which Thucydides employs the phrase (it. 86 and Ephesians 4:26), Τὴν ἐν ὀλίγῳ ναυμάχιαν and Ἐν ὀλίγῳ στρατοπεδευομένος, viz. "in a narrow place;" and that Agrippa meant to say, "By your appeal to the prophets you press me hard; you have got me into a corner. I am in a στενοχωρία, a ' narrow room; ' I hardly know how to get out of it." The ἐν μεγάλῳ would then mean a" large room," a εὐρυχωρία (Psalm 30:8). This would suppose ἐν ὀλίγῳ and ἐν μεγάλῳ to have become proverbial phrases. Almost thou persuadest (ἐν ὀλίγῳ με πείθεις)

Lit., in a little thou persuadest. The rendering almost must be rejected, being without sufficient authority. The phrase, in a little, is adverbial, and means in brief; summarily. We may supply pains or talk. "With little pains, or with a few words." The words are ironical, and the sense is, "You are trying to persuade me off-hand to be a Christian." Thou persuadest (πείθεις) is, rather, thou art for persuading; thou attemptest to persuade; a force which both the present and the imperfect sometimes have.

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