Related: Was Paul literally predicting that God would strike Ananias?

From Acts 23:1-5 (NIV):

1 Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” 2 At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!”

4 Those who were standing near Paul said, “How dare you insult God’s high priest!”

5 Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’”

Did Paul actually not realize that he was the High Priest, and is his expression of regret sincere? Is he being sarcastic here?

  • What evidence do you have for suggesting insincerity or (undue) sarcasm ?
    – Nigel J
    Mar 9 '18 at 2:10
  • @NigelJ I recall reading that theory suggested as a possible interpretation (I believe it was in John MacArthur's study Bible - he didn't agree with it I don't think, just mentioned it as a possibility). Mar 9 '18 at 3:45
  • 2
    This is a perfectly reasonable question IMO; I don't see how it's any more "opinion based" than most of the exegetical questions here. @Nigel -- although I'm not defending it, here's one argument to that effect. Sarcasm/irony aren't necessarily to be equated with malicious intent
    – Susan
    Mar 9 '18 at 4:39


The name Ananias in the Bible The name Ananias occurs 11 times in the New Testament (SEE FULL CONCORDANCE) and covers three separate men:

  1. The husband of Sapphira (Acts 5:1).....

  2. Ananias of Damascus, whom Jesus sent to meet Saul of Tarshish (later the apostle Paul).....

  3. The high priest Ananias who heard Paul, ordered him struck on the mouth after his first statement, and Paul reminded him in no small terms that this violated the Law (Deuteronomy 25:2). When someone reminded Paul that he shouldn't speak ill of the high priest, Paul submitted that he didn't know that he was either a high priest or a ruler of the people. This was obviously still part of Paul's previous observation that Ananias was a white-washed wall because (1) everybody knew who the high priest was, and (2) in case someone didn't know, the high priest came with an elaborate uniform. Paul basically stated that he didn't recognize the authority of the Sanhedrin.

Josephus speaks of this high priest as Ananias son of Nebedeu(s), and tells us that he had been instated by Herod (Ant.5.2), and at some point in his career was sent in chains to Claudius Caesar to explain what he might have had to do with a Samaritan uprising, which was caused by the plundering of Samaritan towns by Jews (6.2).

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