God’s Word for You
Acts 24:5b-9 Fake news
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, February 1, 2021
He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect. 6 He even tried to profane the temple, but we arrested him. 8 By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these things we’re accusing him of.” 9 The Jews also joined in this attack, claiming that these things were so.
This is the only time in the Bible that Jesus’ followers are called “the Nazarenes.” Calling them a “sect” was probably a mistake for the lawyer employed by the Sanhedrin, since every single member of the Sanhedrin was also a member of a sect, either Pharisees or Sadducees. The question needs to be asked: Was being a ‘Nazarene’ a crime against Roman law? Was attempting to profane a Jewish temple a crime against Roman law (not that Paul had done this)? Weren’t these things the Jews could have, should have, handled themselves? What did they want the Procurator to do about it?
The reader may notice that there is no verse 7 in the translation above, and if my translation is compared with the King James Version, it will also be clear that additional lines at the end of verse 6 and the beginning of verse 8 are missing as well. This is because none of the Greek manuscripts copied prior to the 8th century have those sentences. The additional material would be inserted between “him” in verse 6 and “By” in verse 8. The words are these:
“and wanted to judge him according to our law. 7 “But
Lysias the commanding officer came and with great
force took him out of our hands, 8 ordering his accusers
to come to you.”
Besides being a late addition, these words contradict the rest of the passage, since they make Lysias (the Roman Colonel) the one who is to be subject to questioning by force and not Paul in verse 8. There was no reason for that, and the center of attention is clearly on Paul in verse 10 and following. I have to admit that there are scholars who think that the words should be admitted because they think the attention should have been on Lysias at this point, but the absence of this text from any manuscript prior to the 8th century is not easily explained unless it is a later addition, perhaps by an over-zealous preacher who wanted to dramatize the scene.
A thoroughly amazing statement is the one made by the lawyer, that it was the Jews who arrested Paul (verse 6). In fact, there was a riot that was about to end in the lynching, and Paul was not arrested by the Jews at all. He was rescued from the Jews by the Romans! But as my High School Chorus teacher used to tell us, the one who sings the loudest (and with the most confidence) is the one the audience is going to think is right. This has been proved again and again in our recent political climate of “fake news” in America.
We will have people turn on us, too. We will have crowds furious with us because of their own sins, which they will lay at our feet. “The whole world strives and contends with me!” the prophet complained (Jeremiah 15:10). And one singer added: “I am a man of peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” (Psalm 120:7). The devil knows when people are being set free from his snares and traps, and he rages against anyone who preaches the forgiveness of sins as if they are poaching on his territory. He fumes against the gospel and he attacks the gospel even in the hearts of some Christians. He lies to them, telling them in a hiss that God punishes them for past sins, sins that they’ve long since repented of. But Christ was punished for all of our sins on the cross; there is no punishment for man on earth to atone for sin. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). If we still feel guilt, that is the conscience at work so that we won’t imagine that we’re free to sin willy-nilly as we please. Man continues to stumble into temptations as long as man has breath, but the punishment that brought us peace was laid upon Jesus on the cross (Isaiah 53:5). Let the devil spit and hiss and lie. Let the crowds shout their lies. Let fingers point at us. We are safe in the arms of Jesus.
Pastor Timothy Smith