Acts 23:1

Looking steadfastly (atenisa). See on this word Luke 1:10 ; Luke 3:12 ; Luke 6:15 ; Luke 7:55 ; Luke 13:9 . Paul may have had weak eyes, but probably the earnest gaze was to see if he recognized any faces that were in the body that tried Stephen and to which he apparently once belonged. I have lived before God (pepoliteumai twi qewi). Perfect middle indicative of politeuw, old verb to manage affairs of city (poli) or state, to be a citizen, behave as a citizen. In the N.T. only here and Philippians 1:27 . The idea of citizenship was Greek and Roman, not Jewish. "He had lived as God's citizen, as a member of God's commonwealth" (Rackham). God (qewi) is the dative of personal interest. As God looked at it and in his relation to God. In all good conscience unto this day (pash suneidhsei agaqh acri tauth th hmera). This claim seems to lack tact, but for brevity's sake Paul sums up a whole speech in it. He may have said much more than Luke here reports along the line of his speech the day before, but Paul did not make this claim without consideration. It appears to contradict his confession as the chief of sinners ( 1 Timothy 1:13-16 ). But that depends on one's interpretation of "good conscience." The word suneidhsi is literally "joint-knowledge" in Greek, Latin (conscientia) and English "conscience" from the Latin. It is a late word from sunoida, to know together, common in O.T., Apocrypha, Philo, Plutarch, New Testament, Stoics, ecclesiastical writers. In itself the word simply means consciousness of one's own thoughts ( Hebrews 10:2 ), or of one's own self, then consciousness of the distinction between right and wrong ( Romans 2:15 ) with approval or disapproval. But the conscience is not an infallible guide and acts according to the light that it has ( 1 Corinthians 8:7 1 Corinthians 8:10 ; 1 Peter 2:19 ). The conscience can be contaminated ( Hebrews 10:22 , evil ponhra). All this and more must be borne in mind in trying to understand Paul's description of his motives as a persecutor. Alleviation of his guilt comes thereby, but not removal of guilt as he himself felt ( 1 Timothy 1:13-16 ). He means to say to the Sanhedrin that he persecuted Christians as a conscientious (though mistaken) Jew (Pharisee) just as he followed his conscience in turning from Judaism to Christianity. It is a pointed disclaimer against the charge that he is a renegade Jew, an opposer of the law, the people, the temple. Paul addresses the Sanhedrin as an equal and has no "apologies" (in our sense) to make for his career as a whole. The golden thread of consistency runs through, as a good citizen in God's commonwealth. He had the consolation of a good conscience ( 1 Peter 3:16 ). The word does not occur in the Gospels and chiefly in Paul's Epistles, but we see it at work in John 8:9 (the interpolation John 7:53-8:11 ).