What does Acts 23:4 mean?
ESV: Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?”
NIV: Those who were standing near Paul said, 'How dare you insult God's high priest!'
NASB: But those present said, 'Are you insulting God’s high priest?'
CSB: Those standing nearby said, "Do you dare revile God's high priest? "
NLT: Those standing near Paul said to him, 'Do you dare to insult God’s high priest?'
KJV: And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest?
NKJV: And those who stood by said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?”
Verse Commentary:
Everywhere Paul goes, he starts at the synagogue and explains how Jesus of Nazareth fulfills the prophecies in the Jewish Scriptures. After a few weeks, invariably several Gentiles and a few Jews will believe him, but the leadership won't. Sometimes the leadership beats him (Acts 14:19), but usually they drive him out of the synagogue, and he and the new believers start a new church (Acts 18:4–7).

Here in Jerusalem, Paul has an opportunity to present Jesus to the Sanhedrin, the religious leaders of Judaism, but he doesn't get past his initial opening remark before his audience orders him struck (Acts 23:1–3).

Years before, Paul and the Sanhedrin enjoyed a more comfortable relationship. Paul had been trained by the famous Pharisee rabbi Gamaliel, one of the most respected members of the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:34; 22:3). Paul voluntarily became the Sanhedrin's enforcer, arresting Jesus-following Jews first in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and then farther north into Syria (Acts 8:1–3; 9:1–2).

During one such trip, however, Jesus appeared to Paul (Acts 9:3–5). Paul now understands that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and the Son of God, and that worshiping Him is the fulfillment of Judaism. Because of this, he can claim a clear conscience before God (Acts 23:1). The council, however, considers this heresy.

The high priest Ananias has Paul struck (Acts 23:2). Paul responds by calling him a "whitewashed wall:" appearing respectable but filled with mold on the inside (Acts 23:3).

When Paul learns whom he has insulted, he says he didn't know (Acts 23:5). Ananias is known to history as a violent, greedy ruler not above using assassination to get what he wants. His order to strike Paul is illegal as Paul isn't even on trial, let alone convicted of a crime (Deuteronomy 25:1–3). Some say Paul didn't know Ananias gave the order because his eyesight had gone bad; others think he did know but is sarcastically saying he didn't think a high priest would act against the law.
Verse Context:
Acts 23:1–11 records a Roman military tribune's last effort to uncover why a mob attacked Paul. The crowd dragged him out of the temple and beat him mercilessly (Acts 21:27–33). The tribune asks the Sanhedrin for help, but there are too many divisions. The Sanhedrin can't abide Christians. Paul can't fathom their rejection of Jesus. The Sadducees and Pharisees quickly fall into an old fight about the resurrection of the dead. The tribune takes Paul back to the barracks where, that night, Jesus tells Paul he's on his way to Rome.
Chapter Summary:
Acts 23 continues the tribune's attempt to discover why a mob of Jews suddenly turned violent and attacked Paul (Acts 21:27–33). He takes Paul to the Sanhedrin to see if they understand what his crime is. Paul barely begins his story when he is slapped for impudence. He disrespects the high priest and starts a fight between the Pharisees and Sadducees. The next day, a group of forty Jews invite the Sanhedrin to help them murder Paul. Paul's nephew reports the plot to the tribune who gives up and sends Paul to the governor. The governor awaits Paul's accusers for trial.
Chapter Context:
Jews from near Ephesus accused Paul of bringing a Gentile into the temple and incited a crowd to attack him. The tribune saved Paul but couldn't uncover the reason for the violence; most of the mob didn't know, and Paul was a Roman citizen, so the tribune couldn't beat the truth out of him (Acts 21—22). When the Sanhedrin would rather murder Paul than talk to him, the tribune sends Paul to the governor. The governor holds Paul without charges for so long he invokes his right to a trial before Caesar. The governor agrees, and Paul finally gets to Rome (Acts 24—28).
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
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