on Acts 22 :28
With a great sum obtained I this freedom - So it appears that the freedom, even of Rome, might be purchased, and that it was sold at a very high price.
But I was free born - It has been generally believed that the inhabitants of Tarsus, born in that city, had the same rights and privileges as Roman citizens, in consequence of a charter or grant from Julius Caesar. Calmet disputes this, because Tarsus was a free not a colonial city; and he supposes that Paul's father might have been rewarded with the freedom of Rome for some military services, and that it was in consequence of this that Paul was horn free. But that the city of Tarsus had such privileges appears extremely probable. In Acts 21:39, Paul says he was born at Tarsus in Cilicia, and in Acts 22:28, he says he was free born; and, at Acts 22:26, he calls himself a Roman; as he does also Acts 16:37. From whence it has been concluded, with every show of reason, that Tarsus, though no Roman colony, yet had this privilege granted to it, that its natives should be citizens of Rome. Pliny, in Hist. Nat. lib. Acts 16:27, tells us that Tarsus was a free city. And Appian, De Bello Civil. lib. v. p. 1077, edit. Tollii, says that Antony, Ταρσεας ελευθερους ηφιει, και ατελεις φορων, made the people of Tarsus free, and discharged them from paying tribute. Dio Cassius, lib. xlvii. p. 508, edit. Reimar, farther tells us, Adeo Caesari priori, et ejus gratia etiam posteriori, favebant Tarsenses, ut urbem suam pro Tarso Juliopolin vocaverint: "that, for the affection which the people of Tarsus bore to Julius Caesar, and afterwards to Augustus, the former caused their city to be called Juliopolis." The Greek text is as follows: - οὑτω προσφιλως τῳ Καισαρι προτερῳ, και δι' εκεινον τῳ δευτερῳ, οἱ Ταρσεις ειχον, ὡϚε και Ιουλιοπολιν σφας απ' αυτου μετονομασαι. To which I add, that Philo, de Virt. vol. ii. p. 587, edit. Mang., makes Agrippa say to Caligula, φιλων ενιων πατριδας ὁλας της Ῥωμαΐκης ηξιωσας πολιτειας· You have made whole countries, to which your friends belong, to be citizens of Rome. See the note on Acts 21:39. These testimonies are of weight sufficient to show that Paul, by being born at Tarsus, might have been free born, and a Roman. See Bishop Pearce on Acts 16:37.
on Acts 22 :28
With a great sum obtained I this freedom - The freedom or privilege of Roman citizenship. From this it would seem that the privilege of being a Roman citizen might be purchased, unless perhaps he refers to the expenses which were necessarily attendant in passing through the proper forms of becoming a Roman citizen. The argument of the tribune in this case is this: "I obtained this privilege at a great price. Whence did you, Paul, thus poor and persecuted, obtain the means of becoming a Roman citizen?" Paul had informed him that he was a native of Tarsus Acts 21:39; and the chief captain supposed that that was not a free city, and that Paul could not have derived the privilege of citizenship from his birth.
But I was free born - I was born a Roman citizen, or I am such in virtue of my birth. Various opinions have been formed on the question in what way or for what reasons Paul was entitled to the privileges of a Roman citizen. Some have supposed that Tarsus was a Roman colony, and that he thus became a Roman citizen. But of this there does not appear to be sufficient proof. Pliny says (Acts 21:27) that it was a free city. Appian says that it was endowed with the privileges of a free city by Augustus Caesar after it had been greatly afflicted and oppressed by wars. Dio Chrysost. says to the people of Tarsus, "He (Augustus) has conferred on you everything which anyone could bestow on his friends and companions, a country (that is, a free country), laws, honor, authority over the river (Cydranus) and the neighboring sea." Free cities were permitted in the Roman empire to use their own laws, customs, and magistrates, and they were free from being subject to Roman guards. They were required only to acknowledge the supremacy and authority of the Roman people, and to aid them in their wars. Such a city was Tarsus; and, having been born there, Paul was entitled to these privileges of a free man. Many critics have supposed that this privilege of Roman citizenship had been conferred on some of the ancestors of Paul in consequence of some distinguished military service. Such a conferring of the rights of citizenship was not unusual, and possibly might have occurred in this case. But there is no direct historical proof of it; and the former fact that he was born in a free city, will amply account for his affirmation that he was free born. Compare the notes on Acts 16:37.
on Acts 22 :28
22:28 But I was free born - Not barely as being born at Tarsus; for this was not Roman colony. But probably either his father, or some of his ancestors, had been made free of Rome, for some military service. We learn hence, that we are under no obligation as Christians to give up our civil privileges (which we are to receive and prize as the gift of God) to every insolent invader. In a thousand circumstances, gratitude to God, and duty to men, will oblige us to insist upon them; and engage us to strive to transmit them improved, rather than impaired to posterity.