King Agrippa Hears Paul. 1Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You may now speak on your own behalf.” So Paul stretched out his hand and began his defense. 2* “I count myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am to defend myself before you today against all the charges made against me by the Jews, 3especially since you are an expert in all the Jewish customs and controversies. And therefore I beg you to listen patiently. 4My manner of living from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my people* and in Jerusalem, all [the] Jews know. 5a They have known about me from the start, if they are willing to testify, that I have lived my life as a Pharisee, the strictest party of our religion. 6b But now I am standing trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors. 7Our twelve tribes hope to attain to that promise as they fervently worship God day and night; and on account of this hope I am accused by Jews, O king. 8Why is it thought unbelievable among you that God raises the dead? 9c I myself once thought that I had to do many things against the name of Jesus the Nazorean, 10and I did so in Jerusalem. I imprisoned many of the holy ones with the authorization I received from the chief priests, and when they were to be put to death I cast my vote against them.d 11Many times, in synagogue after synagogue, I punished them in an attempt to force them to blaspheme; I was so enraged against them that I pursued them even to foreign cities.
12“On one such occasion I was traveling to Damascus with the authorization and commission of the chief priests. 13e At midday, along the way, O king, I saw a light from the sky, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my traveling companions.f 14We all fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying to me in Hebrew, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?g It is hard for you to kick against the goad.’* 15And I said, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.h 16Get up now, and stand on your feet.i I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness of what you have seen [of me] and what you will be shown.* 17I shall deliver you from this people and from the Gentiles to whom I send you,j 18to open their eyes* that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may obtain forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been consecrated by faith in me.’k
19“And so, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. 20On the contrary, first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem and throughout the whole country of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached the need to repent and turn to God, and to do works giving evidence of repentance. 21l That is why the Jews seized me [when I was] in the temple and tried to kill me. 22m But I have enjoyed God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here testifying to small and great alike, saying nothing different from what the prophets and Moses foretold,* 23that the Messiah must suffer* and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”n
Reactions to Paul’s Speech. 24While Paul was so speaking in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, “You are mad, Paul; much learning is driving you mad.” 25But Paul replied, “I am not mad, most excellent Festus; I am speaking words of truth and reason. 26The king knows about these matters and to him I speak boldly, for I cannot believe that [any] of this has escaped his notice; this was not done in a corner.* 27King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets?* I know you believe.” 28Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You will soon persuade me to play the Christian.” 29Paul replied, “I would pray to God that sooner or later not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am except for these chains.”
30Then the king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and the others who sat with them. 31* And after they had withdrawn they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing [at all] that deserves death or imprisonment.” 32And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”o
* [26:2–23] Paul’s final defense speech in Acts is now made before a king (see Acts 9:15). In the speech Paul presents himself as a zealous Pharisee and Christianity as the logical development of Pharisaic Judaism. The story of his conversion is recounted for the third time in Acts in this speech (see note on Acts 9:1–19).
* [26:4] Among my people: that is, among the Jews.
* [26:14] In Hebrew: see note on Acts 21:40. It is hard for you to kick against the goad: this proverb is commonly found in Greek literature and in this context signifies the senselessness and ineffectiveness of any opposition to the divine influence in his life.
* [26:16] The words of Jesus directed to Paul here reflect the dialogues between Christ and Ananias (Acts 9:15) and between Ananias and Paul (Acts 22:14–15) in the two previous accounts of Paul’s conversion.
* [26:18] To open their eyes: though no mention is made of Paul’s blindness in this account (cf. Acts 9:8–9, 12, 18; 22:11–13), the task he is commissioned to perform is the removal of other people’s spiritual blindness.
* [26:26] Not done in a corner: for Luke, this Greek proverb expresses his belief that he is presenting a story about Jesus and the church that is already well known. As such, the entire history of Christianity is public knowledge and incontestable. Luke presents his story in this way to provide “certainty” to his readers about the instructions they have received (Lk 1:4).
* [26:27–28] If the Christian missionaries proclaim nothing different from what the Old Testament prophets had proclaimed (Acts 26:22–23), then the logical outcome for the believing Jew, according to Luke, is to become a Christian.
* [26:31–32] In recording the episode of Paul’s appearance before Agrippa, Luke wishes to show that, when Paul’s case was judged impartially, no grounds for legal action against him were found (see Acts 23:29; 25:25).