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.


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