Was Paul Abandoned by His Friends? – an Excerpt from Acts, Volume 4

The following is an excerpt from Acts, Volume 4, by Craig Keener, commenting on Paul’s trial in Acts 24:1–26:32.


Where are members of the Jerusalem church? According to ancient friendship ideals, friends (which could include recipients of benefactions) should not desert one another in hardship, when friendship was most needed. Second-century Christians might visit their imprisoned leader, bring food, bribe guards to let them stay with him at night, read Scripture, and so forth. Why do we not read of such activity here?

Cover ArtAlthough the narrative does not inform us that James or other Jerusalemite believers traveled to Caesarea to defend Paul, the idea that they “abandoned” Paul “concludes far too much from Luke’s silence”; they “had no influence with either the chief priests or the Romans.” Whatever they did for Paul, they would have probably done privately.

Although the majority of the Jerusalem church had heard negative rumors about Paul (Acts 21:21), the apparent lack of support in this narrative does not render implausible their leaders’ earlier hospitable reception of Paul (21:17). Paul may have had some support in Jerusalem, but those who welcomed him in Jerusalem had no reason to make the journey to Caesarea.

Friends in Caesarea surely did visit (21:8–9; 24:23), but Luke does not have reason to elaborate on this point; we should use his silence to condemn neither the Caesarean believers nor the Jerusalem church. For that matter, Luke is not explicit about his own presence, despite surely remaining on hand (21:18; 27:1).

Still, the chief priests likely believed that some of Paul’s supporters could have come; presumably unaware of available witnesses in Caesarea, they may have expected that Paul could call some from Jerusalem. This could explain why, in the narrative world, Paul’s opponents offer no false witnesses here, in contrast to Stephen’s opponents in 6:13. (That the Romans would cross-examine witnesses less sympathetically than hearers did in 6:13–14 might have also provided a significant deterrent for potential witnesses.)

©2015 by Craig Keener. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


For more information on Acts, Volume 4, click here.

New Release: Acts, Volume 4

Cover ArtThis commentary on Acts, Craig Keener’s magnum opus, may be the largest and most thoroughly documented Acts commentary ever written. Useful not only for the study of Acts but also early Christianity, this work sets Acts in its first-century context.

In this volume, the last of four, Keener finishes his detailed exegesis of Acts, utilizing an unparalleled range of ancient sources and offering a wealth of fresh insights. This magisterial commentary will be an invaluable resource for New Testament professors and students, pastors, Acts scholars, and libraries.


“With this enormous commentary, Craig Keener deploys his breathtaking knowledge of the classical world to shine a bright light on both the big picture of Acts and ten thousand small details. Students of Acts will be in his debt for generations to come.” – N. T. Wright, University of St. Andrews

“No wise and patient scholar will tackle a passage in Acts without engaging Keener….The richness of detail and depth of immersion in primary sources guarantee a long and honored life for these volumes.” – Richard I. Pervo, author of Acts: A Commentary (Hermeneia)

“Keener’s work is essential for its survey of and detailed interaction with Acts scholarship. The New Testament researcher must have it! This is a remarkable scholarly achievement that will be eagerly used by a wide range of readers.” – I. Howard Marshall, University of Aberdeen

“This final volume on Acts is full of the meticulous scholarship and original insight we’ve come to expect of Keener. Despite the abundance of ancient sources and unparalleled discussion of secondary literature, the prose is beautifully clear and the commentary is a delight to use….The premier commentator on Acts for academics and ministers alike.” – Helen K. Bond, University of Edinburgh

“This work constitutes a definitive and yet surprisingly accessible go-to reference for this biblical book. Professor Keener here supplies an entire library on Acts in commentary form, a landmark compendium characterized throughout by a lively critical sympathy for its text.” – Markus Bockmuehl, Keble College, University of Oxford


Craig S. KeenerCraig S. Keener (PhD, Duke University) is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is the author of many books, including Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, the bestseller The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, Gift and Giver, and commentaries on Acts, Matthew, John, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, and Revelation.

For more information on Acts, Volume 4, click here.