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Acts 23:5

    Acts 23:5 Translations

    King James Version (KJV)

    Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.

    American King James Version (AKJV)

    Then said Paul, I knew not, brothers, that he was the high priest: for it is written, You shall not speak evil of the ruler of your people.

    American Standard Version (ASV)

    And Paul said, I knew not, brethren, that he was high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of a ruler of thy people.

    Basic English Translation (BBE)

    And Paul said, Brother, I had no idea that he was the high priest: for it has been said, You may not say evil about the ruler of your people.

    Webster's Revision

    And Paul said, I knew not, brethren, that he was high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of a ruler of thy people.

    World English Bible

    Paul said, "I didn't know, brothers, that he was high priest. For it is written, 'You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.'"

    English Revised Version (ERV)

    And Paul said, I wist not, brethren, that he was high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of a ruler of thy people.

    Definitions for Acts 23:5

    Wist - Knew; to have known.

    Clarke's Commentary on Acts 23:5

    I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest - After all the learned labor that has been spent on this subject, the simple meaning appears plainly to be this: -

    St. Paul did not know that Ananias was high priest; he had been long absent from Jerusalem; political changes were frequent; the high priesthood was no longer in succession, and was frequently bought and sold; the Romans put down one high priest, and raised up another, as political reasons dictated. As the person of Ananias might have been wholly unknown to him, as the hearing was very sudden, and there was scarcely any time to consult the formalities of justice, it seems very probable that St. Paul, if he ever had known the person of Ananias, had forgotten him; and as, in a council or meeting of this kind, the presence of the high priest was not indispensably necessary, he did not know that the person who presided was not the sagan, or high priest's deputy, or some other person put in the seat for the time being. I therefore understand the words above in their most obvious and literal sense. He knew not who the person was, and God's Spirit suddenly led him to denounce the Divine displeasure against him.

    Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people - If I had known he was the high priest, I should not have publicly pronounced this execration; for respect is due to his person for the sake of his office. I do not see that Paul intimates that he had done any thing through inadvertence; nor does he here confess any fault; he states two facts: -

    1. That he did not know him to be the high priest.

    2. That such a one, or any ruler of the people, should be reverenced. But he neither recalled or made an apology for his words: he had not committed a trespass, and he did not acknowledge one. We must beware how we attribute either to him in the case before us.

    Barnes' Notes on Acts 23:5

    Then said Paul, I wist not - I know not; I was ignorant of the fact that he was high priest. Interpreters have been greatly divided on the meaning of this expression. Some have supposed that Paul said it in irony, as if he had said, "Pardon me, brethren, I did not consider that this was the high priest. It did not occur to me that a man who could conduct thus could be God's highest. Others have thought (as Grotius) that Paul used these words for the purpose of mitigating their wrath, and as an acknowledgment that he had spoken hastily, and that it was contrary to his usual habit, which was not to speak evil of the ruler of the people. As if he had said, "I acknowledge my error and my haste. I did not consider that I was addressing him whom God had commanded me to respect." But this interpretation is not probable, for Paul evidently did not intend to retract what he had said.

    Dr. Doddridge renders it, "I was not aware, brethren, that it was the high priest," and regards it as an apology for having spoken in haste. But the obvious reply to this interpretation is, that if Ananias was the high priest, Paul could not but be aware of it. Of so material a point it is hardly possible that he could be ignorant. Others suppose that, as Paul had been long absent from Jerusalem, and had not known the changes which had occurred there, he was a stranger to the person of the high priest. Others suppose that Ananias did not occupy the usual seat which was appropriated to the high priest, and that he was not clothed in the usual robes of office, and that Paul did not recognize him as the high priest. But it is wholly improbable that on such an occasion the high priest, who was the presiding officer in the Sanhedrin, should not be known to the accused. The true interpretation, therefore, I suppose, is what is derived from the fact that Ananias was not then properly the high priest; that there was a vacancy in the office, and that he presided by courtesy, or in virtue of his having been formerly invested with that office.

    The meaning then will be: "I do not regard or acknowledge him as the high priest, or address him as such, since that is not his true character. Had he been truly the high priest, even if he had thus been guilty of manifest injustice, I would not have used the language which I did. The office, if not the man, would have claimed respect. But as he is not truly and properly clothed with that office, and as he was guilty of manifest injustice, I did not believe that he was to be shielded in his injustice by the Law which commands me to show respect to the proper ruler of the people." If this be the true interpretation, it shows that Luke, in this account, accords entirely with the truth of history. The character of Ananias as given by Josephus, the facts which he has stated in regard to him, all accord with the account here given, and show that the writer of the "Acts of the Apostles" was acquainted with the history of that time, and has correctly stated it.

    For it is written - Exodus 22:28. Paul adduces this to show that it was his purpose to observe the Law; that he would not intentionally violate it; and that, if he had known Ananias to be high priest, he would have been restrained by his regard for the Law from using the language which he did.

    Of the ruler of thy people - This passage had not any special reference to the high priest, but it inculcated the general spirit of respect for those in office, whatever that office was. As the office of high priest was one of importance and authority, Paul declares here that he would not be guilty of showing disrespect for it, or of using reproachful language in regard to it.

    Wesley's Notes on Acts 23:5

    23:5 I was not aware, brethren, that it was the high priest - He seems to mean, I did not advert to it, in the prophetic transport of my mind: but he does not add, that his not adverting to it proceeded from the power of the Spirit coming upon him; as knowing they were not able to bear it. This answer admirably shows the situation of mind he was then in, partly with regard to the bystanders, whom he thus softens, adding also the title of brethren, and justifying their reproof by the prohibition of Moses; partly with regard to himself, who, after that singular transport subsided, was again under the direction of the general command. Exod 22:28.