Acts 26:29
And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.
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(29) I would to God that not only thou . . .—It is clear that here also the English “almost” must be abandoned, and that we must take the words in a little or in a great (measure), or, with little labour and with great, as corresponding with what Agrippa had just said. Grammatically the words admit of three possible paraphrases, each of which has found advocates. We may suppose St. Paul to say—(1) “I would pray to God, not as you put it, lightly, but as fully as I can . . . .;” or (2) “I would pray to God that, whether persuaded with little evidence or much . . . .;” or (3) “I would pray to God that, both in a little measure and in a great. . . .” The first two of these explanations are open to the objection that they substitute a disjunctive alternative for the natural rendering of the two copulative conjunctions. The last has the advantage of so far taking the words in their natural construction; but, on the other hand, it takes the special phrase, “in a little,” in a sense different from that in which we have seen reason to believe that Agrippa had used it. It is, however, perfectly conceivable that, for the purpose of emphasising the strong desire of his heart, St. Paul may have caught up the half-sarcastic phrase, and used it as with a new meaning.

The MSS. present two readings, in a little and in a great, and in a little and in much; but this scarcely affects the interpretation of the passage.

Except these bonds.—The words show, as has been pointed out in the Note on Acts 26:29, that the prisoner was brought into court chained, after the Roman fashion, to the soldier or soldiers who kept guard over him. We cannot read the words without feeling their almost plaintive pathos. “Such as he”—pardoned, at peace with God and man, with a hope stretching beyond the grave, and an actual present participation in the powers of the eternal world—this is what he was desiring for them. If that could be effected, he would be content to remain in his bonds, and to leave them upon their thrones.



Acts 26:19 - Acts 26:32

Festus was no model of a righteous judge, but he had got hold of the truth as to Paul, and saw that what he contemptuously called ‘certain questions of their own superstition,’ and especially his assertion of the Resurrection, were the real crimes of the Apostle in Jewish eyes. But the fatal wish to curry favour warped his course, and led him to propose a removal of the ‘venue’ to Jerusalem. Paul knew that to return thither would seal his death-warrant, and was therefore driven to appeal to Rome.

That took the case out of Festus’s jurisdiction. So that the hearing before Agrippa was an entertainment, got up for the king’s diversion, when other amusements had been exhausted, rather than a regular judicial proceeding. Paul was examined ‘to make a Roman holiday.’ Festus’s speech {Acts 25:24 - Acts 25:27} tries to put on a colour of desire to ascertain more clearly the charges, but that is a very thin pretext. Agrippa had said that he would like ‘to hear the man,’ and so the performance was got up ‘by request.’ Not a very sympathetic audience fronted Paul that day. A king and his sister, a Roman governor, and all the elite of Caesarean society, ready to take their cue from the faces of these three, did not daunt Paul. The man who had seen Jesus on the Damascus road could face ‘small and great.’

The portion of his address included in the passage touches substantially the same points as did his previous ‘apologies.’ We may note how strongly he puts the force that impelled him on his course, and lays bare the secret of his life. ‘I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision’; then the possibility of disobedience was open after he had heard Christ ask, ‘Why persecutest thou Me?’ and had received commands from His mouth. Then, too, the essential character of the charge against him was that, instead of kicking against the owner’s goad, he had bowed his neck to his yoke, and that his obstinate will had melted. Then, too, the ‘light above the brightness of the sun’ still shone round him, and his whole life was one long act of obedience.

We note also how he sums up his work in Acts 26:20, representing his mission to the Gentiles as but the last term in a continuous widening of his field, from Damascus to Jerusalem, from Jerusalem to Judaea {a phase of his activity not otherwise known to us, and for which, with our present records, it is difficult to find a place}, from Judaea to the Gentiles. Step by step he had been led afield, and at each step the ‘heavenly vision’ had shone before him.

How superbly, too, Paul overleaps the distinction of Jew and Gentile, which disappeared to him in the unity of the broad message, which was the same to every man. Repentance, turning to God, works worthy of repentance, are as needful for Jew as for Gentile, and as open to Gentile as to Jew. What but universal can such a message be? To limit it would be to mutilate it.

We note, too, the calmness with which he lays his finger on the real cause of Jewish hate, which Festus had already found out. He does not condescend to rebut the charge of treason, which he had already repelled, and which nobody in his audience believed. He is neither afraid nor angry, as he quietly points to the deadly malice which had no ground but his message.

We further note the triumphant confidence in God and assurance of His help in all the past, so that, like some strong tower after the most crashing blows of the battering-ram, he still ‘stands.’ ‘His steps had wellnigh slipped,’ when foe after foe stormed against him, but ‘Thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.’

Finally, Paul gathers himself together, to leave as his last word the mighty sentence in which he condenses his whole teaching, in its aspect of witness-bearing, in its universal destination and identity to the poorest and to loftily placed men and women, such as sat languidly looking at him now, in its perfect concord with the earlier revelation, and in its threefold contents, that it was the message of the Christ who suffered, who rose from the dead, who was the Light of the world. Surely the promise was fulfilled to him, and it was ‘given him in that hour what he should speak.’

The rustle in the crowd was scarcely over, when the strong masterful voice of the governor rasped out the coarse taunt, which, according to one reading, was made coarser {and more lifelike} by repetition, ‘Thou art mad, Paul; thou art mad.’ So did a hard ‘practical man’ think of that strain of lofty conviction, and of that story of the appearance of the Christ. To be in earnest about wealth or power or science or pleasure is not madness, so the world thinks; but to be in earnest about religion, one’s own soul, or other people’s, is. Which was the saner, Paul, who ‘counted all things but dung that he might win Christ,’ or Festus, who counted keeping his governorship, and making all that he could out of it, the one thing worth living for? Who is the madman, he who looks up and sees Jesus, and bows before Him for lifelong service, or he who looks up and says, ‘I see nothing up there; I keep my eyes on the main chance down here’? It would be a saner and a happier world if there were more of us mad after Paul’s fashion.

Paul’s unruffled calm and dignity brushed aside the rude exclamation with a simple affirmation that his words were true in themselves, and spoken by one who had full command over his faculties; and then he turned away from Festus, who understood nothing, to Agrippa, who, at any rate, did understand a little. Indeed, Festus has to take the second place throughout, and it may have been the ignoring of him that nettled him. For all his courtesy to Agrippa, he knew that the latter was but a vassal king, and may have chafed at Paul’s addressing him exclusively.

The Apostle has finished his defence, and now he towers above the petty dignitaries before him, and goes straight at the conscience of the king. Festus had dismissed the Resurrection of ‘one Jesus’ as unimportant: Paul asserted it, the Jews denied it. It was not worth while to ask which was right. The man was dead, that was agreed. If Paul said He was alive after death, that was only another proof of madness, and a Roman governor had more weighty things to occupy him than investigating such obscure and absurd trifles. But Agrippa, though not himself a Jew, knew enough of the history of the last twenty years to have heard about the Resurrection and the rise of the Church. No doubt he would have been ready to admit his knowledge, but Paul shows a disposition to come to closer quarters by his swift thrust, ‘Believest thou the prophets?’ and the confident answer which the questioner gives.

What was the Apostle bringing these two things-the publicity given to the facts of Christ’s life, and the belief in the prophets- together for? Obviously, if Agrippa said Yes, then the next question would be, ‘Believest thou the Christ, whose life and death and resurrection thou knowest, and who has fulfilled the prophets thereby?’ That would have been a hard question for the king to answer. His conscience begins to be uncomfortable, and his dignity is wounded by this extremely rude person, who ventures to talk to him as if he were a mere common man. He has no better answer ready than a sarcasm; not a very forcible one, betraying, however, his penetration into, and his dislike of, and his embarrassment at, Paul’s drift. His ironical words are no confession of being ‘almost persuaded,’ but a taunt. ‘And do you really suppose that it is so easy a matter to turn me-the great Me, a Herod, a king,’ and he might have added, a sensual bad man, ‘into a Christian?’

Paul met the sarcastic jest with deep earnestness, which must have hushed the audience of sycophants ready to laugh with the king, and evidently touched him and Festus. His whole soul ran over in yearning desire for the salvation of them all. He took no notice of the gibe in the word Christian, nor of the levity of Agrippa. He showed that purest love fills his heart, that he has found the treasure which enriches the poorest and adds blessedness to the highest. So peaceful and blessed is he, a prisoner, that he can wish nothing better for any than to be like him in his faith. He hints his willingness to take any pains and undergo any troubles for such an end; and, with almost a smile, he looks at his chains, and adds, ‘except these bonds.’

Did Festus wince a little at the mention of these, which ought not to have been on his wrists? At all events, the entertainment had taken rather too serious a turn for the taste of any of the three,-Festus, Agrippa, or Bernice. If this strange man was going to shake their consciences in that fashion, it was high time to end what was, after all, as far as the rendering of justice was concerned, something like a farce.

So with a rustle, and amid the obeisances of the courtiers, the three rose, and, followed by the principal people, went through the form of deliberation. There was only one conclusion to be come to. He was perfectly innocent. So Agrippa solemnly pronounced, what had been known before, that he had done nothing worthy of death or bonds, though he had ‘these bonds’ on his arms; and salved the injustice of keeping an innocent man in custody by throwing all the blame on Paul himself for appealing to Csesar. But the person to blame was Festus, who had forced Paul to appeal in order to save his life.

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.I would to God - I pray to God; I earnestly desire it of God. This shows:

(1) Paul's intense desire that Agrippa, and all who heard him, might be saved.

(2) his steady and constant belief that none but God could incline people to become altogether Christians. Paul knew well that there was nothing that would overcome the reluctance of the human heart to be an entire Christian but the grace and mercy of God. He had addressed to his hearers the convincing arguments of religion, and he now breathed forth his earnest prayer to God that those arguments might be effectual. So prays every faithful minister of the cross.

All that hear me - Festus, and the military and civil officers who had been assembled to hear his defense, Acts 25:23.

Were both almost, and altogether ... - Paul had no higher wish for them than that they might have the faith and consolations which he himself enjoyed. He had so firm a conviction of the truth of Christianity, and had experienced so much of its supports amidst his persecutions and trials, that his highest desire for them was that they might experience the same inexpressibly pure and holy consolations. He well knew that there was neither happiness nor safety in being almost a Christian; and he desired, therefore, that they would give themselves, as he had done, entirely and altogether to the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Except these bonds - These chains. This is an exceedingly happy and touching appeal. Probably Paul, when he said this, lifted up his arm with the chain attached to it. His wish was that in all respects they might partake of the effects of the gospel, except those chains. Those he did not wish them to bear. The persecutions, the unjust trials, and the imprisonments which he had been called to suffer in the cause, he did not desire them to endure. True Christians wish others to partake of the full blessings of religion. The trials which they themselves experienced from without in unjust persecutions, ridicule, and slander, they do not wish them to endure. The trials which they themselves experience from an evil heart, from corrupt passions, and from temptations, they do not wish others to experience. But even with these, religion confers infinitely more pure joy than the world can give; and even though others should be called to experience severe trials for their religion, still Christians wish that all should partake of the pure consolations which Christianity alone can furnish in this world and the world to come. Compare Mark 10:30.

29. I would to God, &c.—What unequalled magnanimity does this speech breathe! Only his Master ever towered above this.

not only … almost … but altogether—or, "whether soon or late," or "with little or much difficulty."

except these bonds—doubtless holding up his two chained hands (see on [2122]Ac 12:6): which in closing such a noble utterance must have had an electrical effect.

Paul, knowing how little it would avail any to be almost a Christian, wisheth their perfection in that profession, that they might not, with the Laodiceans, be neither hot nor cold, Revelation 3:16; nor, with the Israelites, halt between God and Baal, 1 Kings 18:21.

Except these bonds: some think that by bonds St. Paul means only his guard wherewith he was surrounded; but it is certain that St. Paul was bound, in the most literal sense, with chains, as Acts 24:27; and he wishes his auditors all the good that was in him, and to be freed from all the evils that were upon him.

And Paul said, I would to God,.... This prayer of the apostle's shows his affection for the souls of men, and his great desire for their conversion, and also his sense of the power and grace of God, as necessary to it:

that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost and altogether such as I am; that is, his wish was that not only Agrippa, but that all that were present, were not only within a little, or in some low degree, but entirely, in the highest and fullest sense, Christians, as he was; that they knew as much of Christ, and had as much faith in him, and love to him, as he had, and were as ready to serve and obey him: he does not wish that Agrippa and the rest that heard him were as he had been, a bigot for traditions and ceremonies, that trusted in his own righteousness, did many things contrary to the name of Jesus, was a blasphemer of him, a persecutor of his saints, and an injurious person; but as he now was, not meaning with respect to his civil circumstances, as a mean poor man, and a tent maker, or with respect to his single state of life, which he elsewhere advises to, 1 Corinthians 9:5 or with respect to his ministerial capacity, as an apostle of Christ, and a preacher of the Gospel; but as a Christian, and in a private capacity: his sense is, he wished that they were as he, regenerated by the Spirit of God, new creatures in Christ, called by the grace of God with an holy calling, believers in Christ, lovers of him, pardoned by his blood, justified by his righteousness, sanctified by his grace, children of God, and heirs of eternal life: and all this he wishes for of God, saying, "would to God", &c. knowing that the whole of this is not of men, but of God; all grace, and every blessing of it, which make or show a man to be a Christian indeed, are from him. And this wish is expressive of true grace, which desires the good of others, and also of a spirit truly generous, that is not selfish and monopolizing; and which is concerned for the glory of God, the interest of Christ, and the weakening of Satan's kingdom: and from the whole of this it appears, that a person may arrive to true satisfaction of his own state; and that it is an evidence of grace, when the heart is drawn out in desires, after the salvation of others; and that altogether Christians are the only desirable ones; and that to be made a real Christian is the work of God, and to be ascribed to him. This the apostle wished for, for Agrippa and all that heard him; as does every Gospel minister for their hearers, the hearing of the word being the ordinary means of believing; and the rather it is desired by them, because the condemnation of those that hear the word is otherwise thereby aggravated: the apostle adds,

except these bonds; which were both troublesome and reproachful: not but that he cheerfully endured them himself, and thought it the duty of Christians to bear them patiently, when called to it, but then they were not things to be desired and wished for; the exception is not only Christian like, but humane and genteel.

And Paul said, {l} I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.

(l) I would to God that not only almost, but thoroughly and altogether, both you and all that hear me this day, might be made as I am, only except for my bonds.

Acts 26:29. In the full consciousness of his apostolic dignity, Paul now upholds the cause of the despised Χριστιανὸν γενέσθαι as that which he would entreat from God for the king and all his present hearers, and which was thus more glorious than all the glory of the world.

εὐξαίμην ἂν τῷ Θεῷ] I would indeed (in case of the state of the matter admitting it) pray to God. See on this use of the optative with ἄν, Fritzsche, Conject. I. p. 34 f.; Bernhardy, p. 410; Krüger, § 54, 3. 6. Εὔχεσθαι; with the dative, to pray to any one, only here in the N.T., but very frequently in classical writers.

In what follows σήμερον belongs to τ. ἀκούοντάς μ., not to γενέσθαι (Chrysostom), as is to be inferred from ἐν μεγάλῳ.

καὶ ἐν ὀλίγῳ καὶ ἐν μεγάλῳ οὐ μόνον σὲ κ.τ.λ.] that as well by little as by great,—whether in the case of one, little (see on Acts 26:28), and in the case of another, much (κόπος κ. πόνος ἐν τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ, Oecumenius, reading ἐν πολλῷ), may be employed as a means for the purpose,[164]—not merely thou, but also allwere such also as I am (Christians). On κἀγώ, comp. 1 Corinthians 7:7; Baeumlein, Partik. p. 153.

παρεκτὸς τῶν δεσμῶν τούτων] The chains which had bound him in prison, and were again to bind him (comp. on Acts 24:23; Acts 24:27, Acts 28:30), chaining him, namely, after the manner of the custodia militaris to the soldiers who watched him, he bore now hanging down freely on his arm. Comp. Justin. xiv. 4, 1. The παρεκτὸς κ.τ.λ., although to the apostle his chains were an honour (Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1; Philemon 1:1. Comp. Php 2:17 f.), is “suavissima ἐπιθεραπεία et exceptio” (Bengel), in the spirit of love.

[164] The interpreters who take ἐν ὀλίγῳ as brevi tempore (see on ver. 28) here translate (according to the reading πολλῷ): “be it for short or for long” (de Wette). Those who take ἐν ὀλίγῳ as propemodum, translate: “non propemodum tantum, sed plane” (Grotius). With our view of ἐν ὀλίγῳ, the reading ἐν πολλῷ makes no difference of meaning from ἐν μεγάλῳ. Ewald, likewise following the reading ἐν μεγ., takes ἐν also here consistently in the sense of value: by little and by much, that is, by all I wish, etc.

Acts 26:29. εὐξαίμην ἄν: on the optative with ἄν, Burton, p. 80, Blass, Gram., p. 202, Viteau, Le Grec du N.T., p. 40 (1893); with dative only here in N.T.—καὶ ἐν ὀλ. καὶ ἐν μεγ.: “whether with little or with much,” R.V. See critical note and Acts 26:28, i.e., with little or much trouble, and cost.—σήμερον: to be joined not with γενέσθαι (as Chrysostom, Bengel), but With τοὺς ἀκούοντάς μου.—οὐ μόνον, Burton, pp. 183, 184, μὴ μόνον with infinitive only in Galatians 4:18.—τοιούτους ὁποῖος κἀγώ εἰμι, he does not repeat the word “Christian,” which perhaps he would not recognise (Blass): “tales qualis ego sum, sive Chr. appellare vis, sive alio vel contemptiore nomine”. γενέσθαιεἰμι: “might become such as I am,” R.V., thus giving the difference between γέν. and εἰμι; by whatever name he might be called, the Apostle knew what he actually was (1 Corinthians 9:9).—παρεκτὸς τῶν δεσμῶν τούτων; not figurative but literal; although the plural may be used rhetorically (Weiss), cf. Tac., Ann., iv., 28. παρεκτὸς: Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9 (see W.H[405]) (2 Corinthians 11:28, adv[406]), Didaché, vi., 1, Test., xii., Patr., Zab., 1; “suavissima ἐπιθεραπεία et exceptio,” Bengel. Faith and Hope—of these the Apostle had spoken, and his closing words reveal a Love which sought not its own, was not easily provoked, and took no account of evil: “totum responsum et urbanissimum et Christiano nomine dignissimum,” Blass.

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

[406] adverb

29. both almost, and altogether] The literal rendering of the Greek is given by the Rev. Ver. “whether with little or with much,” and it is difficult to see how the sense of the A. V. can be extracted from the words. The Apostle takes up the jeer of the king in a serious tone, and replies: “I may have seemed to use little persuasion, and suddenly to have jumped at the conclusion that you accept the teaching of the prophets as I myself receive it; but whether it need little or much persuasion, or little or much time, my prayer to God is, for you and for all who listen to me that they may become such as I am, save as to my bonds.”

were … such as I am] Better with Rev. Ver. “might become such as I am.” Paul avoids the word “Christian,” which for himself he might willingly have accepted (cp. 1 Peter 4:16), but which was used by the king in a mocking sense, and therefore would not have made his wish seem an acceptable one. You may call me “Christian” in mockery, my joy and hope and faith in Christ are such, that I know no better prayer for any than to wish you all the like blessings.

except these bonds] From this it is clear, in spite of the leniency with which Paul had been at first treated by Felix, that either because his case was deemed more serious in consequence of his being left in prison so long, or because he was just now before the court as a prisoner, the Apostle had been put in chains.

Acts 26:29. Εὐξαίμην ἂν τῷ Θεῷ, I would wish before GOD) Agrippa speaks of it as a thing at his own pleasure, as if he could at will admit human persuasion, such as he ascribed to Paul: Paul courteously corrects this error; for it is the gift and work of GOD.—καὶ ἐν ὀλίγῳ καὶ ἐν πολλῷ, both almost and altogether) Paul retorts the expression almost upon the king; and by a kind of parody adds, and altogether: both of which designate (imply) both the time and the easiness of the thing: Those things which are easy, are for the most part quickly done; those things which are difficult, are slowly done. The ἐν πολλῷ [implying slowness and difficulty in the accomplishment] appertains to Festus, and other hearers like Festus, whom he invites to faith: the ἐν ὀλίγῳ (in a little, easily, quickly, almost), or both expressions, apply to Agrippa.—οὐ μόνον σὲ, not only thou) Paul intimates that he is ready, not only to bestow (devote) τὸ ὄλιγον, that which is little and easy, the labour of speaking, but also that which is much and hard, τὸ πολὺ, viz. great labour, endurance, and life itself.—πάντας, all) It is the part of modesty, that Paul does not name and address all these; yet he looks at them and marks them.—σήμερον, this day) This is construed by most interpreters with the preceding participle; by Chrysostom and others, with the subsequent verb. And, indeed, it has remarkable force with the verb.—γένεσθαι, might become) The word of Agrippa (“to become a Christian”) is repeated. The antithesis is εἰμι, I am, presently.—τοιούτους, such) Christians, not merely by profession, but in reality. An elegant periphrasis.—κἀγὼ, even I myself) Paul speaks from a sense of his own blessedness, with the widest (most comprehensive) love. Comp. 1 Corinthians 7:7.—παρεκτὸς, with the exception of) A most sweet ἐπιθεραπεία (after-correction.—See Append.) and exception.

Verse 29. - Whether with little or with much for both almost, and altogether, A.V.; might become for were, A.V. (the order of the words is also changed). I would to God; literally, I would pray to God. It is not very different from the ηὐχόμην of Romans 9:3. All acknowledge the extreme beauty and taste of this reply, combining the firmness of the martyr with the courtesy of the gentleman. "Loquitur Paulus ex sensu suae beatitudinis, cum amore latissimo" (Bengel). Acts 26:29Almost and altogether (ἐν ολίγῳ καὶ ἐν μεγάλῳ).

Lit., in little and in great; i.e., with little or with great pains.

Were (γενέσθαι)

Better, as Rev., might become. Agrippa's word, "to become a Christian," is repeated.

Except these bonds

An exquisite touch of Christian courtesy.

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