Acts 22:3

3 1"I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated 2at the feet of 3Gamaliel[a]4 according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, 5being zealous for God 6as all of you are this day.

Acts 22:3 Meaning and Commentary

Acts 22:3

I am verily a man which am a Jew
By birth, a thorough genuine one; an Hebrew of the Hebrews, both by father and mother side, both parents being Jews, and so a true descendant from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:

born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia; (See Gill on Acts 21:39).

yet brought up in this city;
the city of Jerusalem; though Tarsus was the place of his birth, he had his education at Jerusalem:

at the feet of Gamaliel;
of whom see ( Acts 5:34 ) it was the custom of scholars among the Jews, to sit at the feet of their masters, when instructed by them; see ( Deuteronomy 33:3 ) hence that saying of Jose ben Joezer F1;

``let thy house be an house of resort for the wise men, and be thou dusting thyself, (Mhylgr rpeb) , "with the dust of their feet":''
which by one of their commentators F2 is interpreted two ways, either

``as if it was said that thou shouldst walk after them; for he that walks raises the dust with his feet, and he that goes after him is filled with the dust which he raises with his feet; or else that thou shouldst sit at their feet upon the ground, for so it was usual, that the master sat upon a bench, and the scholars sat at his feet upon the floor.''

This latter sense is commonly understood, and adapted to the passage here, as illustrating it; though it may be, that the sense may only be this, that the apostle boarded in Gamaliel's house, ate at his table, and familiarly conversed with him; which he modestly expresses by being brought up at his feet, who was a man that was had in great reverence with the Jews; and this sense seems the rather to be the sense of the passage, since his learning is expressed in the next clause; and since; till after Gamaliel's time, it was not usual for scholars to sit when they learned; for the tradition is F3, that

``from the times of Moses to Rabban Gamaliel, they (the scholars) did not learn the law but standing; after Rabban Gamaliel died, sickness came into the world, and they learned the law sitting; and hence it is said, that after Rabban Gamaliel died, the glory of the law ceased.''

It follows,

[and] taught according to the perfect law of the fathers;
not the law which the Jewish fathers received from Moses, though Paul was instructed in this, but in the oral law, the "Misna", or traditions of the elders, in which he greatly profited, and exceeded others, ( Galatians 1:14 ) .

And was zealous towards God;
or "a zealot of God"; one of those who were called "Kanaim", or zealots; who in their great zeal for the glory of God, took away the lives of men, when they found them guilty of what they judged a capital crime; see ( Matthew 10:4 ) ( John 16:2 ) . The Vulgate Latin version reads, "zealous of the law"; both written and oral, the law of Moses, and the traditions of the fathers:

as ye all are this day;
having a zeal for God, and the law, but not according to knowledge.


F1 Misn. Pirke Abot, c. 1. sect. 4.
F2 Bartenora in Misn. Piske Abot, c. 1. sect. 4.
F3 T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 21. 1. Vid. Misn. Sota, c. 9. sect. 15.

Acts 22:3 In-Context

1 "Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you."
2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:
3 "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.
4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women,
5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

Cross References 6

  • 1. Acts 9:11; Acts 21:39; Romans 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:22; Philippians 3:5
  • 2. Deuteronomy 33:3; 2 Kings 4:38; [Luke 10:39]
  • 3. Acts 5:34
  • 4. Acts 26:5
  • 5. [John 16:2; Philippians 3:6]; See Acts 21:20
  • 6. Romans 10:2

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. Or city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.