OF THE CHURCHES
For the third time Paul went back to Jerusalem to
explain to the Elders his mission to the Gentiles.
This time he led a delegation representing the
Churches he had founded, mostly Pagan-Christians,
but also Hebrew disciples like Timothy. He became
the recognized leader (cf. 1Cor. 12:14) of a group of
local communities who were in dispute with the
synagogues and led an autonomous existence within
the Pagan communities. He named them Churches,
according to the Deuteronomic tradition, and claimed
for each of them the dignity of an assembly of
people chosen by God, which primarily was reserved
to the Church of Jerusalem. Paul exercised his
authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ (cf. 1Cor.
1:21; 2Cor. 1:1), a title to which he was
But at that time,
in the capital of Judaism and in the presence of the
Church of Jerusalem, presided over by James, where
there were “thousands of believers... from among
the Jews” (Acts 20:21), he was asked to prove his
devotion to the Fathers. He wrote to the Corinthians
“I have become all things to all” – (1Cor. 9:22).
Therefore he would go to the Temple and be purified
together with a group of Nazoreans, saying:
“everyone will know…that you yourself live in
observance of the law” (Acts 20:24). And it is
there in the temple where Paul would be arrested.
ARRESTED IN THE
TEMPLE OF JERUSALEM
All signs pointed in the direction of impending
turmoil: Paul’s preaching in the synagogues provoked
fear, as well as, the development of Christianity
which was viewed as a threat to structures and laws.
Some incidents broke out when Paul arrived at the
Temple on the seventh and final day of the
purification: had he been perhaps accompanied by a
non-Hebrew Greek, desecrating in such a way the
sanctuary? Some Jews from Asia Minor recognized him
and incited the crowd, which led to Paul’s expulsion
from the Temple.
Thanks to the arrival of the cohort commander and a
group of soldiers, Paul escaped death and wished to
speak again. “Paul stood on the steps… when all was
quiet he addressed them in Hebrew” (Acts 21:40):
he explained his fidelity to Judaism, having been
formed in the Jewish faith at the school of Gamaliel,
and the disconcerting encounter he had on the way to
Damascus which dominated and inspired his life.
Later, in front of the Jews of Jerusalem, he added:
“While I was praying in the temple, I fell into a
trance and saw the Lord saying to me, ‘Hurry, leave
Jerusalem at once, because they will not accept your
testimony about me’” (Acts 22:17-18), and again: “I
shall send you far away to the Gentiles” (Acts
22:21). These latter words caused another uprising
among the crowd because that would mean, in effect,
that the Covenant God made with the sons of Israel
was opened to everybody.
IMPRISONMENT AND TRIALS: JERUSALEM, CAESAREA AND
Paul was led to the fortress of Jerusalem, for his
first trial before the Sanhedrin, however he escaped
flagellation since he was a Roman citizen.
He was transferred to Caesarea, after the discovery
of a plot by Hebrew zealots to kill him. There he
underwent his second trial before Felix, the
procurator (years 57-59).
Two years later he was tried for a third time before
Felix’s successor Festus.
His fourth trial was heard by King Agrippa II: "This
man is doing nothing (at all) that deserves death or
imprisonment” (Acts 26:31). “This man could have
been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar" (Acts