In the following passage: What was Paul's "learning" and how do we know? We can say that he had a "classical education", but that is basically a cheat. There was no single meaning to that term throughout history.

While he was making this defense, Festus exclaimed, “You are out of your mind, Paul! Too much learning is driving you insane!” Acts 26:24

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    Paul's own words tell us that he was taught by Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). This Gamaliel was a Pharisee and a Law teacher that was esteemed by the people (Acts 5:34)
    – agarza
    Feb 11, 2021 at 23:21
  • Ah yes. Certainly a major component of his learning...Are we to conclude that was the extent of it? Does he ever tell us he learned other topics, ie, taught by non-Jewish teachers? Feb 11, 2021 at 23:24
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    I believe that Festus was simply acknowledging that Paul was highly educated and was using it as an excuse to ignore the draw of Christ in Paul's testimony. "For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner." - Acts 26:26 Feb 12, 2021 at 1:10
  • Yes, surely that's right rhetorically...Are there other places where Paul speaks of his own education? Feb 12, 2021 at 1:59
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    This is an NT background question that investigates the education of an upper class diaspora roman citizen grrek speaking pharisee Jew like Paul. Since we don't have Paul's CV specifically we need to derive it from people like Philo, Caiaphas, etc. Feb 12, 2021 at 18:55

2 Answers 2


Acts 26:24 What did Festus mean when he said to Paul “Too much learning is driving you insane!”

What was Paul's "learning" and how do we know?

Paul himself tells us his background in Acts 22:3

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but educated in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, instructed according to the strictness of the ancestral Law, and zealous for God just as all of you are this day." (NWT)

Who is Gamaliel? Luke, the author of Acts, tells us in chapter 5 verse 34:

But a Pharisee named Gamaliel rose in the Sanhedrin; he was a Law teacher esteemed by all the people, and he gave the command to put the men outside for a little while." (NWT)

Meyer's NT Commentary gives additional weight to Gamaliel's background:

Gamaliel, גַּמְלִי אֵל, retributio Dei (Numbers 1:10; Numbers 2:20), is usually assumed to be identical with Rabban Gamaliel, הַזָּקֵיִ (senex), celebrated in the Talmud, the grandson of Hillel and the son of R. Simeon,—a view which cannot be proved, but also cannot be refuted, as there is nothing against it in a chronological point of view (Lightf. Hor. ad Matth. p. 33). He was the teacher of the Apostle Paul (Acts 22:3), but is certainly not in our passage to be considered as the president of the Sanhedrim, as many have assumed, because in that case Luke would have designated him more characteristically than by τις ἐν τ. συνεδρίῳ Φαρισ.


Let's take a look at the setting.

Acts 25:23 New International Version

The next day [King] Agrippa and [Queen] Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking military officers and the prominent men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in.

This was a serious and formal affair. Everyone was to behave properly according to protocols.

Acts 26:1

Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You have permission to speak for yourself." So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense:

Then Paul began his formal defense. In the midst of it, Paul got animated and said in Acts 26:23:

"the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles."

This came at the climax of the trial. Governor Festus could no longer let Paul went on and introduced a point of order.

Acts 26:24

At this point Festus interrupted Paul's defense. "You are out of your mind, Paul!" he shouted. "Your great learning is driving you insane."

Festus knew that Paul was well-educated and an intellectual. I don't think his shouting of "great learning" here means anything specific. Festus was saying that Paul's incredible accumulation of knowledge over his lifetime had finally driven his brain haywire.

After a couple more sharp exchanges of words, the trial ended abruptly:

30 The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them.

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