Gateway to the Classics: Display Item
Jesse Lyman Hurlbut

Two Years in Prison

Acts xxii: 30, to xxiv: 27.

dropcap image FTER Paul had been rescued from the Jewish mob, he was taken into the castle on the north of the Temple for safekeeping. The chief captain wished to know for what reasons the Jews were so bitter in their hate against Paul; and to learn this he commanded the chief priests and rulers to meet together, and brought Paul down from the castle, and set him before them. Paul looked earnestly upon the council, and said to them, "Brethren, I have lived with a right feeling toward God all my life until this day."

The high-priest, whose name was Ananias, was sitting in the council, clad in the white garments worn by all priests. He was so enraged at those words that he said to those who were standing near Paul, "Strike him on the mouth!"

And Paul roused to sudden anger at such unjust words, said in answer, "God shall strike you, O whited wall! Do you sit to judge me by the law, and yet command me to be struck against the law?"

Those that were standing by said to Paul, "Do you speak such words against the high-priest of God?"

"I did not know," answered Paul, "that he was high-priest. It is written in the law not to speak evil of a ruler of your people."

Paul saw that there were two parties in the council, and by a few wise words he made some of the rulers friendly to him, so that they stood up and said, "We find no evil in this man. Perhaps a spirit has spoken to him, or an angel."

This made the rulers of the other side all the more furious, and such a quarrel arose between them that the chief captain feared that Paul would be torn in pieces, and he again sent down soldiers to take him by force from the council and to bring him into the castle.

On the night after this, while Paul was in his room in the castle the Lord stood by him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have spoken for me at Jerusalem, so shall you speak for me at Rome."

Early on the next morning more than forty of the Jews laid a plan to kill Paul, and bound themselves together by an oath, swearing that they would neither eat nor drink until they had slain him. These men came to the chief priests, and said, "We have bound ourselves under a great oath that we will taste nothing until we have killed Paul. Now, do you ask the chief captain to bring Paul down again to meet the council, so that they may hear him, and try his case once more. And while he shall be on his way to the council we will rush in and kill him."

Now Paul had a sister living in Jerusalem, and her son heard of this plot, and came to the castle, and told it to Paul. Then Paul called one of the officers, and said to him, "Take this young man to the chief captain, for he has something to tell him."

So the officer brought the young man to the chief captain, and said to him, "Paul, the prisoner, called me to him, and asked me to bring this young man to you, for he has something to say to you."

Then the chief captain took the young man aside, and asked him, "What is it that you have to say to me?"

And he said, "The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the council again; but do not let him go, for there are more than forty men watching for him, who have sworn an oath together that they will neither eat nor drink until they have killed Paul."

The chief captain listened carefully, and then sent the young man away, after saying to him, "Do not tell any one that you have spoken of these things to me."

And after the young man had gone the chief captain called to him two centurions, captains over a hundred men, and he said to them, "Make ready two hundred soldiers to go as far as Caesarea, and seventy men on horseback, and two hundred men with spears, at nine o'clock at night."

And he told them also to have ready horses for Paul, so that he might send him safe to Felix, the governor of the land, at Caesarea. And he wrote a letter in this manner:

"Claudius Lysias sends greeting to the most noble governor Felix. This man was seized by the Jews, and would have been killed by them, but I came upon him with the soldiers, and took him from their hands, having learned that he was a citizen of Rome. And to find out the reasons why they were so strongly against him, I brought him down to their council. But I found that the charges against him were about questions of their law, but nothing deserving death or bonds. When I heard that there was a plot to kill the man, I sent him at once to you, and told his enemies to go before you with their charges."

So in the night almost five hundred men were sent with a guard for Paul. He was brought out of the castle, and taken that night as far as to Antripatris, about forty miles. On the next day the soldiers left him, thinking him to be no longer in danger, and returned to Jerusalem, while the horsemen rode on with him to Caesarea, where the governor Felix lived. The officer in charge gave the letter to the governor. He read the letter, and then asked Paul from what land he had come. Paul told him that he belonged to the land of Cilicia in Asia Minor. And Felix said, "I will hear your case when those who bring charges against you have come."

And he sent Paul to be kept in a castle which had once belonged to Herod. After five days the high-priest Ananias and some others came to Caesarea, bringing with them a lawyer named Tertullus. And when Paul was brought before them in presence of Felix, the governor, Tertullus made a speech charging him with riot and lawbreaking, and many evil deeds. They said also that he was "a ring-leader in the party of the Nazarenes," which was the name they gave to the Church of Christ. And the Jews all joined in the charge, saying that all these things were true. After they had spoken, the governor motioned with his hand toward Paul, showing that he might speak, and Paul began, "I know that you have been for many years a judge over this people, and for that reason I speak to you willingly. For you may know that it is only twelve days since I went up to worship at Jerusalem. Nor was I quarreling with any one in the Temple, nor stirring up a crowd in the Temple, or the synagogues, or in the city. Nor can they prove to you the things that they have said against me.


A heathen temple.

"But I do own to this, that after the way which they call 'the party of the Nazarenes,' so do I serve the God of our fathers, believing all things in the law and in the prophets, and having a hope in God that the dead shall be raised up. And I have always tried to keep my heart free from wrong toward God and toward men.

"Now, after many years, I came to bring gifts to my people, and offerings for the altar. And with these they found me in the Temple, but not with a crowd, nor with a riot. But there were certain Jews from Asia Minor who ought to have been here, if they have anything against me."

Felix knew somewhat about the Church of Christ, and he said, "When Lysias, the chief captain, shall come down, I will settle this case."

And he ordered Paul to be kept under guard, but that his friends might freely come to see him. After a few days Felix and his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess, sent for Paul, and heard from him with regard to the gospel of Christ. And as Paul preached to him, of right living, and of ruling one's self, and of the judgment of God that should come upon sinners, Felix was alarmed, and said, "Go away for this time; when a fit time comes, and I am ready to listen, I will send for you."

Felix was not a just judge, for he hoped that Paul might give him money, so that he might set Paul free; and with this in his mind, he sent for Paul, and talked with him many times. Two whole years passed away, and Paul was still in prison at Caesarea. At the end of that time Felix was called back to Rome, and a man named Porcius Festus was sent as governor in his place. Felix wished to please the Jews, and he left Paul a prisoner.