ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
Agrippa said to Paul:
“You may speak in your own defense.”
So Paul stretched out his hand and began in this way:
you have just heard about the accusations of the Jews.
I consider myself fortunate in having the opportunity to defend myself against all this before you today,
for you are an expert in the customs of the Jews and their disputes.
Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.
All the Jews know how I have lived from my youth,
how I have lived among my own people and in Jerusalem.
They have always known me and they can tell you, if they wish,
that I have lived as a Pharisee in the most rigorous sect of our religion.
If I am now tried here,
it is because of the hope I have in the promise made by God to our ancestors.
The hope of attaining this promise is behind the fervent worship
that our twelve tribes render to God night and day.
Yet now, O king,
the Jews accuse me for this hope!
But why refuse to believe that God raises the dead?
I myself in the beginning thought that I had to use all possible means to counteract the Name of Jesus of Nazareth.
This I did in Jerusalem and, with the authorisation of the chief priests,
I put in prison many who believed;
and I cast my vote when they were condemned to death.
I went round the synagogues
and multiplied punishment against them
to force them to renounce their faith;
such was my rage against them that I pursued them even to foreign cities.
With this purpose in mind
I went to Damascus with full authority
and commissioned by the chief priests.
On the way, O King,
at midday I saw a light from heaven, more brilliant than the sun,
that dazzled me and those who accompanied me.
We all fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying to me in Hebrew:
‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?
In vain do you kick against the goad.’
‘Who are you, Lord?’
And the Lord said:
‘I am Jesus whom you persecute.
Get up now and stand on your feet.
I have revealed myself to you
to make you servant and witness to what I have just shown you
and to what I will show you later on.
I will rescue you from all evil that may come from your own people or from the pagans to whom I am sending you.
For you shall open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light,
and from the power of Satan to God;
and, through faith in me, may obtain forgiveness of their sins
and a place among those who are sanctified.’
Since that time,
I did not stray from this heavenly vision;
on the contrary,
I began preaching first to those in Damascus,
then to those in Jerusalem and throughout Judea,
and then to the pagan nations,
that they should repent and turn to God,
showing the fruits of true conversion.
I was carrying out this mission
when the Jews arrested me in the Temple and tried to kill me.
But with the help of God,
I still stand here today to give my testimony
both to the great and the small.
I do not teach anything other than what Moses and the Prophets announced beforehand:
the Messiah had to die,
and after being the first to be raised from the dead,
would proclaim the light to his people as well as to all nations.”
As Paul came to this point of his defence,
Festus said in a loud voice:
“Paul, you are mad;
your great learning has deranged your mind!”
But Paul answered:
“I am not mad, Most Excellent Festus,
but everything I have said is reliable and true.
The king is acquainted with all these things,
so to him I speak with such confidence.
I am convinced that he knows everything about this case,
for these things did not happen in a dark corner.
King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets?
I know that you do.”
Agrippa said to him:
“You almost believe that you have already made me a Christian!”
Paul answered him:
“Whether little or more,
I would that not only you
but all who hear me this day
may come to be as I am
– except for these chains.”
Then the king rose and, with him, the governor, Bernice and all the attendants.
When they went out they talked among themselves and said:
“This man has done nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.”
And Agrippa said to Festus:
“Had he not appealed to Caesar, he could have been set free.”