What does Acts 26:11 mean?
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.
NKJV: And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
Verse Commentary:
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.
Verse Context:
Acts 26:1–11 contains Paul's account of his life before encountering Jesus Christ. He speaks to Governor Festus, King Agrippa II, and the military and civil leadership of Caesarea Maritima. Before conversion, Paul absorbed training as a devout Pharisee, including passionate devotion to the Mosaic law. His beliefs led him to zealously hunt Jesus-followers, even voting that they be executed if they did not deny Christ. Everything changed when he tracked Christians to Damascus.
Chapter Summary:
Acts 26 records Paul's testimony before the noblemen of Caesarea Maritima, as well as their reactions. He explains that Jewish leaders want him dead because he once persecuted the church, but now believes Jesus rose from the dead and has been spreading that message. Governor Festus thinks Paul has gone mad. King Agrippa II, however, finds his story compelling. They realize that had Paul not appealed to a higher Roman court, they could have let him go.
Chapter Context:
After being held in custody for two years and, again, hassled by the Sanhedrin who want to kill him, Paul appeals his case to Caesar (Acts 25:7–12). Before he travels to Rome, however, Governor Festus has Paul give his testimony before King Agrippa II and the noblemen of Caesarea Maritima (Act 25:23–27). When Paul is finished, they realize they should have set him free before he appealed to Caesar (Acts 26:30–32). But he must go to Rome, surviving a violent storm and a shipwreck along the way (Acts 27—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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