JERUSALEM: HEAD 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 particularly attached.
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.
TIME OF IMPRISONMENT AND TRIALS: JERUSALEM, CAESAREA AND ROME
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 26:32).