Acts 16:37

ESV But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.”
NIV But Paul said to the officers: 'They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.'
NASB But Paul said to them, 'After beating us in public without due process—men who are Romans—they threw us into prison; and now they are releasing us secretly? No indeed! On the contrary, let them come in person and lead us out.'
CSB But Paul said to them, "They beat us in public without a trial, although we are Roman citizens, and threw us in jail. And now are they going to send us away secretly? Certainly not! On the contrary, let them come themselves and escort us out."
NLT But Paul replied, 'They have publicly beaten us without a trial and put us in prison — and we are Roman citizens. So now they want us to leave secretly? Certainly not! Let them come themselves to release us!'
KJV But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.

What does Acts 16:37 mean?

Paul and Silas have been accused of a serious crime: promoting the worship of a God not recognized by the Roman Empire (Acts 16:20–21). The Empire had dozens of national, civil, regional, and household gods, but they were strictly controlled. In addition, the Romans insisted on emperor worship: a token tribute to the leader who was seen as the son of a god. By preaching about Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, Paul and Silas had not only broken Roman law, they had also committed sacrilege against the emperor.

The crime was serious, but not a capital offense. The standard punishment would be to beat the accused and imprison them for one night, then force them to leave the city. Paul and Silas have been beaten, and they've finished one night in jail, but when the magistrates send the police to quietly escort them out of Philippi, they refuse to leave. The "standard punishment" was for those who were not Roman citizens. The magistrates never bothered to ask the two Jewish men if they were also Roman citizens. They are.

Roman citizenship was given to people born in Roman colonies, like Philippi, to those whose parents were citizens, to those whom the Empire wanted to honor, and to those who could afford to buy it (Acts 22:28). The honor was given to encourage good will and spread Roman culture. Among the various legal rights were the right to defend oneself in a trial, the right to appeal a verdict to a higher court (Acts 25:11), protection from being beaten, tortured, or scourged, and protection from being executed unless found guilty of treason.

Christians should obey their governing authorities so long as the law does not force someone to disobey God's instruction (Romans 13:1–7). It is perfectly acceptable for Christians to expect and demand the civil rights given them by the secular government. It isn't clear why Paul and Silas didn't reveal their citizenship earlier, although it may be because a crowd attacked them before they could say anything (Acts 16:22). Paul will be able to identify himself later, in Jerusalem (Acts 22:23–25) and even appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:11). On this day, he and Silas merely demand the magistrates publicly acknowledge their own crime before the pair move on to Thessalonica.
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