Acts 21:37

37 Just as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, "May I say something to you?" The tribune replied, "Do you know Greek?

Acts 21:37 Meaning and Commentary

Acts 21:37

And as Paul was to be led into the castle
Just as he was got up to the top of the steps, or stairs, that led up to the castle, and was about to go into the door of it:

he said unto the chief captain, may I speak unto thee?
the apostle was one that had had a good education, and was a man of address, and this his modest and respectful way of speaking to the chief captain shows; and the question he put to him, was in the Greek language: hence it follows,

who said to him, canst thou speak Greek?
or "dost thou know the Hellenistic language?" which the Jews who were born and lived in Greece spoke; hence such were called Hellenists; see ( Acts 6:1 ) of this language we read in the Talmud F8;

``R. Levi bar Chajethah went to Caesarea, and heard them reading "Shema", (hear O Israel) ( Deuteronomy 6:4 ) (Nytoynwla) in the Hellenistic language; he sought to hinder them; R. Rose heard of it, and was angry; and said, he that knows not to read in the Hebrew language, must he not read at all? yea, he may read in whatsoever language he understands.''

The nearest to this language spoken by the Jews dispersed in Greece, must be the Greek language, in which Jews have written; as the books of the Old Testament translated by the "seventy" interpreters, who were Jews; and indeed it was this Bible which the Jews called Hellenists made use of; and the writings of Josephus, and Philo the Jew of Alexandria, and even the books of the New Testament, which are written by Jews; and Paul being a Jew of Tarsus, and so an Hellenist, could speak this language; as he did, when he disputed against the Hellenists, in ( Acts 9:29 ) . This the chief captain said, either as wondering to hear him speak Greek, when he thought he had been a Jerusalem Jew, or rather an Egyptian, as in the next verse; or it may be he put this question to him, as choosing rather that he should speak in Greek, it being the language he might best understand himself, and was the least known to the people, who he might not care should hear what he had to say; since if he took him for the Egyptian, the Greek tongue was what was chiefly spoken by such.


F8 T. Hieros. Sota, fol. 21. 2.

Acts 21:37 In-Context

35 When Paul came to the steps, the violence of the mob was so great that he had to be carried by the soldiers.
36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, "Away with him!"
37 Just as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, "May I say something to you?" The tribune replied, "Do you know Greek?
38 Then you are not the Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?"
39 Paul replied, "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city; I beg you, let me speak to the people."

Footnotes 1

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.