3 Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?

The Delusion of a Whited Wall

Paul, justifiably indignant at the violence ordered against him by the high priest, challenged this dishonest and irregular conduct. In a brief moment of rashness he addressed his adversary as "Thou whited wall!" Whilst he swiftly apologised for his impulsive comment, many have wondered at the origin of the expression.

Doubtless Paul would have been aware of the Lord's censure of the scribes and Pharisees:

"Ye are like whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness" (Mat. 23:27).

Whilst this expression would fittingly include the corrupt high priest Paul addressed, his expression appears to be founded on the words of Ezekiel. Speaking of the way in which false brethren, the prophets, had "seduced" Yahweh's people - a word which occurs nowhere else, and means "to deviate from what is right" (a fitting description of the priesthood in Paul's day), Ezekiel describes the hypocrisy of their actions:

"One built up a wall, and lo, others daubed it with untempered morter" (Eze. 13: 10).

The simile is that of a ruined city, here the men of the city observe its state and determine that something should be done to rectify the situation. Instead of re-building the wall strongly, with sound foundations, as did Nehemiah - itself a representation of the protection the Word of God provides for His people - the men of this ruined city fabricated merely "a slight wall" (see mg.). Literally, the term is "a thin wall"; wall without any strength or durability, and no more effective than if it had been made of cardboard.

This was purely a "cover-up," a kind of compromise rather than providing something of worth that would endure and withstand any attack, thus providing a sound defence for the people within the city.

Others then came along and "daubed it with untempered morter." The Hebrew indicates the use of "white plaster", or a form of white-wash, which transformed it outwardly into a whited wall, only patching up the cracks and deficiencies in the wall - typical of the spiritual values and attitudes of the Jewish religious leaders in apostolic times.

What was the inevitable fate for such a sham construction? Yahweh tells the foolish people:

"It shall fall! There shall be an overflowing shower! Great hailstones shall fall! A stormy wind shall rend it!" (v. 11).

.... This graphic description is remarkably apt in relation to the Jewish religious leaders of Paul's day. Not long after Paul uttered these words, "Thou whited wall!", the walls of their city were to be literally broken down by the Romans, and their spiritual walls would be exposed their true state.

The Christadelphian Expositor - Acts

26 Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting.

Nero ruled the world from A. D. 54 to 68.

He reigned mildly during five years, guided by the experience of Burrhus and Seneca, after which he became a maniac. He set fire to Rome, and while the city was burning, mounted a lofty tower, where, accompanying the words with the music of the harp, he sung his own poem on the siege of Troy. This fire occurred in the tenth year of his reign.

To divert a suspicion, which the power of despotism was unable to suppress, the emperor was determined to substitute in his own place some factitious criminals. "With this view," continues Tacitus, a pagan historian,

"he inflicted the most exquisite tortures on those men, who, under the common appellation of Christians, were already branded with deserved infamy. They derived their name and origin from Christ, who in the reign of Tiberius had suffered death, by the sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate.

For a while this dire superstition was checked, but it again burst forth; and not only spread itself over Judea, the first seat of this mischievous sect, but was even introduced into Rome, the common asylum which receives and protects whatever is impure, whatever is atrocious.

The confessions of those who were seized, discovered a great multitude of their accomplices, and they were all convicted; not so much for the crime of setting fire to the city, as for their hatred of human kind. They died in torments, and their torments were embittered by insult and derision. Some were nailed on crosses; others sown up in the skins of wild beasts, and exposed to the fury of dogs; others again, smeared over with combustible materials, were used as torches to illuminate the darkness of the night.

The gardens of Nero were destined for the melancholy spectacle, which was accompanied with a horse-race, and honored with the presence of the emperor, who mingled with the populace in the dress and attitude of a charioteer. The guilt of the Christians deserved indeed the most exemplary punishment, but the public abhorence was changed into commiseration, from the opinion that those unhappy wretches were sacrificed, not so much to the public welfare, as to the cruelty of a jealous tyrant."—Tacit. Annal. xv. 44.

On the site of the gardens and circus of Nero, where these horrors were displayed, now stands the Roman Temple dedicated to the Apostle Peter. Suetonius, another pagan writer mentions these cruelties inflicted by Nero, on "a sect of men who had embraced a new and criminal superstition."

It was to this emperor Paul appealed, when he appealed to Cæsar. Claudius Lysias, Felix, Porcius Festus, and Agrippa, belong to this period. Nero at length perished by the sword of his freedman, and with him the Julian family became extinct; and in consequence of the disputed succession, four emperors arose in less than two years.

Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Feb 1861