Paul, An Egyptian Terrorist?

Q. Two quick questions. In Acts 21: 38-39, it says the chief capt. asked if Paul was a certain Egyptian, but Paul concurred that he was a Jew from Tarsus. Why did the capt. ask if he was Egyptian? I’ve just always assumed that Paul was Jewish. 2nd question-I kind of think chap.s 21 & 22 are very symbolic of no exclusion, no excuse. At the end of 21 and the beginning of 22, we have Paul stating that he is a Jew by birth(21:39), a Greek by education(22:3), a Roman by citizenship(22:25). And then in chap. 23, he is also claiming to be a Pharisee by posterity(23:6).

I’m wanting to discuss this with my wife, but I want to make sure I’m explaining it correctly. When Paul stands to share his testimony of the Gospel and his conversion to “The Way” we see that he is coming, not as a member of one party dispensing his faith on all, but as an equal member of all parties involved in this congregation.

To me, this seems to be showing one of God’s profound ways of offering the same message of Salvation to the Jews, Greeks, Romans and Pharisees, while at the same time leaving no one with an excuse if they reject. Paul is able to come to each party as one of their own. We also learn in another one of Paul’s letters where he says,” I have become all things to all men, so that I might win them to the Glory of God”. What are your thoughts on this one?

A. I’m in general agreement, especially where it concerns Paul’s “all things to all people” strategy. (1 Cor. 9:19-23) But Paul wasn’t a Greek by education, although he spent his early years in the Roman / Greek culture of Tarsus. He was educated under Gamaliel, the leading Rabbi of the time, in Jerusalem. Both Paul and his father were of the Pharisaical school of theology. He did preach one message of salvation to all, and left no doubt as to the consequences of rejection.

I believe the incident where the Roman soldiers rescued Paul from the crowd was based on a faulty assumption. The Roman Commander was confused. He thought the crowd was so angry because it believed that Paul was an Egyptian Terrorist. He was surprised, therefore, when Paul addressed him in Greek.

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