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"The aides were scandalised.’How dare you talk to God's Chief Priest like that!'
"Paul acted surprised.’How was I to know he was Chief Priest? He doesn't act like a Chief Priest. You're right, the Scripture does say, "Don't speak abusively to a ruler of the people." Sorry.'
"Paul, knowing that some of the council was made up of Sadducees and others of Pharisees and how they hated each other, decided to exploit their antagonism: 'Friends, I am a stalwart Pharisee from a long line of Pharisees. It's because of my Pharisee convictions -- the hope and resurrection from the dead -- that I've been hauled into this court.'" Acts 23:4-6 (The Message).
Paul was in a critical situation -- knowing that his life was on the line and that, whatever he said would be taken up the wrong way and used against him. It was up to him now to get as much mileage out of the situation as he could, and to use it to his own advantage. He was a shrewd and quick thinker.
The bullying action of the High Priest was a good opportunity to show him up for what he was and Paul was quick to respond, pretending that he was unaware of the high priest's position because of his behaviour and making him look like the bully he was in front of his peers.
Jesus counselled His followers to be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves, especially when they were dragged before the High Council. Paul also knew of the deep divide between Pharisees and Sadducees down both religious and political lines. Pharisees were fully convinced of the supernatural and of the resurrection while Sadducees rejected both ideas. They were the more secular and political wing of the Sanhedrin.
All Paul had to do was to use his rhetorical skill to turn them against each other, and the heat would be off him, and that is exactly what he did. He used his background and training as a Pharisee to identify with the Pharisee section of the Sanhedrin, and they knew it because Paul had been a prominent Pharisee before his conversion, contending for the law to the extent of persecuting the church.
"The moment he said this, the council split right down the middle, Pharisees and Sadducees going at each other in heated argument. Sadducees had nothing to do with a resurrection or angels or even a spirit. If they can't see it, they don't believe it. Pharisees believe it all. And so a huge and noisy quarrel broke out. Then some of the religion scholars on the Pharisee side shouted down the others: 'We don't find anything wrong with this man! And what if a spirit has spoken to him! Or maybe an angel? What if it turns out we're fighting against God?'" Acts 23:7-9 (The Message).
Paul got exactly what he wanted and the Roman captain got his answer as well. Now he could see that the whole furore over Paul was nothing more than an internal religious squabble and nothing to do with lawlessness or criminal activity. Paul's shrew move had blown the whole thing open and forced a "not guilty" verdict from the mouths of at least half of the Sanhedrin.
"That was fuel on the fire. The quarrel flamed up and became so violent that the captain was afraid they would tear Paul apart, limb from limb. He ordered the soldiers to get him out of there and escort him back to the safety of the barracks." Acts 23:10 (The Message).
Paul was in custody, not because he was guilty, but because he was in danger. It was up to the captain to decide what to do with him. If he released him, the Jews would attack him and start the whole process all over again.
God was still in charge, slowly moving in Paul's life to get him to Rome, where He wanted him to be.
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