Acts 28:19

ESV But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against my nation.
NIV The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people.
NASB But when the Jews objected, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation against my nation.
CSB Because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar; even though I had no charge to bring against my people.
NLT But when the Jewish leaders protested the decision, I felt it necessary to appeal to Caesar, even though I had no desire to press charges against my own people.
KJV But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.

What does Acts 28:19 mean?

After longing to visit Rome for years (Romans 1:9–10; 15:23), Paul has finally arrived. Unfortunately, he's under house arrest and chained to a Roman guard. His situation looks suspicious, and he knows the rumors his enemies are spreading are particularly harmful. So, he has invited the Jewish leaders to visit so he can explain why he's in this predicament.

It started over two years prior when he visited Jerusalem. Through a series of unlikely events, he found himself under house arrest in Caesarea Maritima, despite having committed no crime. The Sanhedrin in Jerusalem wanted him dead, but Governor Felix had to protect him as a Roman citizen. But Felix didn't want to release Paul and risk irritating the Sanhedrin (Acts 24). Two years later, Felix was called to Rome to answer to accusations of cruelty. His replacement Festus was a kinder man and a better leader, and he wanted to rule the Jews through respect and cooperation. When the Sanhedrin brought up the same unfounded charges, Festus realized Paul was innocent but wanted to work with the Sanhedrin. He didn't realize that by doing so he would make Paul vulnerable to their assassination plans. Paul chastised Festus for not doing his job and appealed to Caesar (Acts 25:1–12).

The last clause, where Paul clarifies that he has no intent of prosecuting his own people, is significant. According to Roman law, if someone brought false charges against another, they could be given the same punishment the accused would face if found guilty. The Sanhedrin accused Paul of starting riots and desecrating a religious structure, both capital offenses in Rome (Acts 24:5–6). Paul could countersue. Since both Felix and Festus would have recorded the proceedings, including the parts where the Sanhedrin had neither witnesses (Acts 24:18–19) nor evidence (Acts 25:7), Paul could have accused them with false witness. Because their false witness referred to capital crimes, they could have been executed.
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