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MEN, brethren, and fathers, hear ye the account which I now give unto you.

Ver. 1.  Hear ye the account.[1]  In the Greek, to the apology, or defence.  Wi.

 

--- S. Paul, in this exordium, as also in Acts vii. 2. shews himself not ignorant of the art of pleading.  He adds the name of Fathers, supposing there may be some of his hearers of senatorial dignity, and others deserving the title for their rank and age.  Mat. Pol.

 

[1]  V. 1.  Quam reddo rationem, akousate . . . thV apologiaV.

2 (And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew tongue, they kept the more silence.) 3 And he saith: I am a Jew, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the truth of the law of the fathers, zealous for the law, as also all you are this day:

Ver. 3.  The scholars sat much below their master; and the nearest the master were such as had made the greatest proficiency.  Philo de Essenis.




4 Who persecuted this way unto death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.

Ver. 4.  This way.  That is, the Christian faith, which now I profess.  Wi.



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5 As the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the ancients: from whom also receiving letters to the brethren, I went to Damascus, that I might bring them bound from thence to Jerusalem to be punished.

Ver. 5.  As the high priest doth bear me witness.  That is, as the letters which he gave me, bear witness.  Wi.



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6 And it came to pass, as I was going, and drawing nigh to Damascus at midday, that suddenly from heaven there shone round about me a great light:

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7 And falling on the ground, I heard a voice saying to me: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 8 And I answered: Who art thou, Lord? And he said to me: I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.


9 And they that were with me, saw indeed the light, but they heard not the voice of him that spoke with me.

Ver. 9.  Heard not the voice.  To reconcile this with c. ix. v. 7. where it is said that they heard the voice; it may be answered that they heard a noise, and a voice, but heard it not distinctly, nor so as to understand the words.  Wi.

 

--- They heard not the voice of him who spoke to the apostle, but they heard the latter speak; (Acts ix. 7.) or perhaps they heard a noise, which they could not understand.  They perhaps heard the voice of Paul answering, but not that of Christ complaining.


10 And I said: What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said to me: Arise, and go to Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things that thou must do.

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11 And whereas I did not see for the brightness of that light, being led by the hand by my companions, I came to Damascus.


12 And one Ananias, a man according to the law, having testimony of all the Jews who dwelt there,

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13 Coming to me, and standing by me, said to me: Brother Saul, look up. And I the same hour looked upon him. 14 But he said: The God of our fathers hath preordained thee that thou shouldst know his will, and see the Just One, and shouldst hear the voice from his mouth.

Ver. 14.  Shouldst . . . see the Just One.  Our Saviour appeared to S. Paul, as it is said; (c. ix. 7.) and he is divers times, both in the Prophets and in the Testament, called the Just One.  Wi.

 

--- To see and hear the Just One; Him, who is just by excellence, that you also may prove a witness of his resurrection from the dead.


15 For thou shalt be his witness to all men, of those things which thou hast seen and heard. 16 And now why tarriest thou? Rise up, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, invoking his name.

Ver. 16.  Wash, &c.  The contrition and charity of S. Paul had, no doubt, merited for him the remission of his sins at the moment of his conversion.  Still were these effects to be attributed to the desire of the sacrament of baptism, without which the council of Trent defines that the forgiveness of sins, and the punishment due to them, are not obtained.  It likewise added a new degree of lustre to his innocence and purity.  Tirinus.

 

--- Calling upon his name.  In such manner, says S. Chrys. (hom. xlvii.) as we invoke the only true God; and as we invoke the saints, and pray to them, that they would pray for us.  Wi.


17 And it came to pass, when I was come again to Jerusalem, and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance,

Ver. 17.  To Jerusalem . . . that I was in a trance.  This might be when he went to Jerusalem, three years after his conversion, or at some other time.  It might be in this ecstacy that he was wrapt to the third heaven, as he tells the Corinthians, 1 Cor. xv. 9.  Wi.




18 And saw him saying unto me: Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem; because they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.


19 And I said: Lord, they know that I cast into prison, and beat in every synagogue, them that believed in thee.

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20 And when the blood of Stephen thy witness was shed, I stood by and consented, and kept the garments of them that killed him.

Ver. 20.  Of Stephen, thy witness.  Or thy martyr, as the Greek word signifies.  Wi.



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21 And he said to me: Go, for unto the Gentiles afar off, will I send thee.

Ver. 21.  Hence we see that not only principals, but all that consent to the persecution of God's servants for the cause of religion, do highly offend; and this S. Paul mentions here, that the mercy of God may be more remarkably glorified in him hereby.  B.


22 And they heard him until this word, and then lifted up their voice, saying: Away with such an one from the earth; for it is not fit that he should live.

Ver. 22.  This word.  That is, until he told them that God had sent him to preach to the Gentiles, whom they could not bear to hear preferred before themselves.  Not that the Jews forbad preaching to the Gentiles; on the contrary, our Saviour reproached the Pharisees, that they would go over land and sea for the sake of making one proselyte.  They were likewise enraged that S. Paul had not laid on the Gentiles the heavy yoke of the law.  Calmet.

 

--- Hence they exclaim: take away this wicked man from amongst us, for it is a sin to let him live.  V.


23 And as they cried out and threw off their garments, and cast dust into the air,

Ver. 23.  Threw off their garments.  Or pulling them open to shew themselves ready to stone him.  Wi.

 

--- This is nicely descriptive of the fury of a populace, who, when unable to vent their rage in some more effectual way, indignantly throw into the air, and against the object of their indignation, such harmless trifles as dust, clothes, &c.  Menochius.


24 The tribune commanded him to be brought into the castle, and that he should be scourged and tortured: to know for what cause they did so cry out against him.
25 And when they had bound him with thongs, Paul saith to the centurion that stood by him: Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?

Ver. 25.  A Roman.  That is, a Roman citizen, a freeman of Rome.  Wi.

 

--- The apostle, on this occasion, not to injure the faith of some weak Christians, who might be scandalized at his public disgrace, prevents the scourging, which on another occasion he patiently submitted to.  By the thongs he was probably bound to a pillar; (Tirinus) or being tied hand and foot, was stretched on the ground, with his face downwards.  This was frequently done among the Romans.  Calmet.

 

--- See also Gretser de cruce, l. i. c. 10; who declares that it was the Roman custom to bind to a stake or pillar, such as were condemned to be flogged.


26 Which the centurion hearing, went to the tribune, and told him, saying: What art thou about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen. 27 And the tribune coming, said to him: Tell me, art thou a Roman? But he said: Yea. 28 And the tribune answered: I obtained the being free of this city with a great sum. And Paul said: But I was born so.

Ver. 28.  Civilitatem; that is, Civitatem, Græcè, politeian, the rights of citizenship.  These privileges were granted by Antonius to the city of Tarsus.  Appianus civilium 5.


29 Immediately therefore they departed from him that were about to torture him. The tribune also was afraid after he understood that he was a Roman citizen, and because he had bound him.

Ver. 29.  The same law which forbad a Roman citizen to be scourged, forbad him also to be bound.  S. Aug. lib. i. de Serm.  Dni. c. 29.

 

--- It was under Claudius that the abuse of buying the freedom of Rome was introduced.  At first the name of a Roman was esteemed much, and bought at a great price.  Now (such is the emptiness and vanity of titles) it is refused, and despised; nay, it is fled from, and reckoned disgraceful.  Salvian. De Gubern. Dei, lib. v.

 

--- If S. Paul, on this occasion, makes use of his privilege, it is not that he was unprepared, or afraid to die for Christ; but because it was lawful to use ordinary means to extricate himself from difficulties, and preserve himself for future services to religion.  D. Dion. Carthus.


30 But on the next day, meaning to know more diligently for what cause he was accused by the Jews, he loosed him, and commanded the priests to come together, and all the council: and bringing forth Paul, he set him before them.
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