Acts 26:11

ESV And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
NIV Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.
NASB And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and since I was extremely enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.
CSB In all the synagogues I often punished them and tried to make them blaspheme. Since I was terribly enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities.
NLT Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.
KJV And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.

What does Acts 26:11 mean?

The Sanhedrin came before Governor Festus and charged Paul with serious crimes. They accused him of desecrating the temple, starting riots, and leading a cult (Acts 24:5–6; 25:7). Festus investigated the matter and realized their claims were unfounded and unwitnessed. Festus has only been governor for a couple of weeks and knows little about Jewish culture and religion. He's asked King Agrippa II and the leaders of Caesarea Maritima to listen to Paul's testimony and help him determine if Paul is guilty of anything (Acts 25:23–27).

Paul begins his defense by asserting he has never broken the Mosaic law, but he is guilty of far greater sins: he hunted Jesus-followers. He chased them, dragged them from the synagogue, and tried to force them to deny Christ. If they didn't, he voted they should be executed (Acts 26:4–10).

The great irony is that Paul's persecution caused the message of Jesus to spread to those foreign cities. Before the murder of Stephen (Acts 7:54–60) and Paul's initial campaign in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1–3), most Christians lived in Jerusalem and Judea where they could learn from the apostles (Acts 4:32–35). When Paul started his attack, Christians fled, taking their faith with them. Even more ironic, when Paul pursued them to the foreign city of Damascus, he met Jesus (Acts 9:1–19).

To be expelled from the synagogue is like being excommunicated from the church. The synagogue is the center of community, worship, and the study of the Jewish Scriptures: the Old Testament. Jerusalem had several synagogues for different people groups and languages (Acts 6:9). In foreign cities, the synagogue was vital for the Jews as a place to meet, share resources, and bolster their identity as God's chosen people in a land of paganism. Even this probably helped the message of Jesus spread; when the Jewish Christians were expelled from their synagogue, they had to form a church with the Gentile Christians (Acts 18:1–7). Jesus promised that those who left their family for His sake would receive an even bigger family (Matthew 12:50; 19:29). When the Jews were pushed out of the synagogue, they became family with countless Gentiles who also followed Jesus.
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