Acts 21:17-26 (NIV):

17 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. 18 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. 19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”

26 The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.

Why were there reports that Paul was teaching "all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses"? Why had Paul earned such a reputation?


Acts 21:27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” 29(They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)

Why were there reports that Paul was teaching "all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses"?

These were lies. That's their modus operandi. They did the same earlier to Stephen in Acts 6:13

They produced false witnesses, who testified, "This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.

Why had Paul earned such a reputation?

Jealousy. Paul was successful and they were not.

Acts 17:5

But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.

People have a tendency to believe what they want to believe. Echo chamber. Lack of objectivity.


Great Question!! There were probably several components to the cause of this antagonism toward Paul by the Jewish leadership:

  1. Paul's influence was becoming too great to ignore and the leadership felt that, unchecked, Paul would become more important teacher than they would (they were correct)
  2. Paul's teaching centered on free grace which they felt undermined the legalism that their teaching was based around (they were correct). That is Paul promoted a theology that enabled a person to achieve righteousness by a means other than works of the law
  3. Paul's teaching appeared to them to lessen the importance of the Toarh (they were wrong) - but all of Paul's teaching was based upon the teachings in the Torah but they could not reconcile grace with Torah. Paul had done so.

Note Paul's consistent teaching about this: the law is essential because “through the law we become conscious of sin” (Rom 3:21, 7:7, 13), “we uphold the law by faith” (Rom 3:31), “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good” (Rom 7:12), “the law is spiritual” (Rom 7:14), “the law is good” (1 Tim 1:8), keeping the law is to do right (James 2:8). “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Certainly not! Instead, we uphold the law.” (Rom 3:31). “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? Certainly not!” (Rom 6:15); “we are now slaves of righteousness” (Rom 6:16), or, “slaves to God” (Rom 6:22).

Obviously, Paul is talking here about the moral aspects of the law and not the ceremonial aspects.

In summary, the Jewish leadership were jealous of Paul's influence and the ultimate destination of his theology. Thus they conspired to kill him on several occasions.

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