48 An unlikely witness. Acts 24:6-8
Were these words concerning the possibility of Lysias being a witness in this case against Paul, the original words Luke had written down, or is this clause a later addition?
KJV: Acts 24:6-8: “ (Paul) who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law. But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands, Commanding his accusers to come unto thee: by examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things, whereof we accuse him.”
NIV: Acts 24:6-8: “(Paul) even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.”
Please read this very interesting record of the arrest of Paul and the hearing of the cases against him in Acts 21-26. It is clear that on two occasions Lysias the Commander, saved Paul from the hands Jewish leaders (Acts 21:32 and 23:10), and reckoned him not guilty. (Acts 23:29) Once again he saved Paul’s life by rather sending him to Felix, the governor in Caesarea to be put on trial there. The clause in question here in verses 6-8 is part of the argumentation of Tertullus, the lawyer who represented the Sanhedrin. If this clause is authentic, he must have had doubt concerning his own case, otherwise he wouldn’t have relied on the witness of a Roman Commander, who had already saved the accused on two occasions. That is why we should examine what is available to discern whether this clause is in fact authentic.
Where this clause do appear in manuscripts, there are three versions with minor deviations.
Let us look at the manuscript evidence to our avail:
|Witness:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:|
|301-400||א , B||Bohairic||Chrysostom|
|401-500||A||1 Old Latin, Syriac, Armenian,Ethiopic, Georgian|
|501-600||1 Old Latin,||Ea|
|601-700||p74 1 other Uncial manuscript||Syriac|
|701-800||1 Old Latin||Ψ|
|801-900||Papr||1 Old Latin|
|901-1000||2 other Uncial manuscript|
|1001-1600||9 Minuscules||1 Vulgate||14 Minuscules||4 Old Latin, 1 Vulgate||Theohpylact|
When we look at the first 600 years, no less than five Greek uncials do not contain this clause, while only one Greek uncial does contain it. It is also lacking in the two oldest translations, the Sahidic and Bohairic, as well as two other ancient translations. Yet it is present in four ancient translations between 401 to 500 A.D.
According to the manuscript evidence it seems that this clause had not been authentic to the original autograph.
Next let us look at the content of this clause. There is no indication that Lysias would ever be going to Caesarea. Not the Sanhedrin, nor a Jewish lawyer had the authority to summon a Roman commander to appear in any court case. It seems as though Felix never heard this case again until he had been succeeded by Festus two years later. (Acts 24:27) Festus wanted to refer this case back to Jerusalem, but Paul appealed to Caesar. (Acts 25:11) Do read the rest of this interesting history! Nowhere Lysias is ever mentioned again.
Even to the understanding of this case the inclusion of this clause has trivial effect. It just boils down to the meaning that the lawyer would have asked Felix to question Lysias instead of Paul. Yet Felix did not wait, but gave Paul the opportunity to speak and defend himself.
Should this clause be retained, or discarded?
On what grounds?
Sometimes variations in manuscripts are in fact trivial, yet to me it proves that through the ages God employed man with all his frailties and mistakes. Whenever I take God’s Word in my hand to reveal its message to someone, I become aware of my own fallibility. I can only humble myself before God and confess: “Lord, who can discern his own errors?” (Ps.19:12)
“Let not those who seek thee be brought to dishonor through me, O God” (Ps.60:6)
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