Agrippa then said to Paul, “You are free to speak on your own behalf.”
With a sweep of his arm, Paul began his defense. I am delighted, King Agrippa, to make my defense before you today regarding everything I am accused of by the Jews, particularly because you are an expert in all Jewish issues and customs. I beg your patient indulgence as you listen to what I have to say.
All the Jews know my life story—from my earliest days beginning in my own country and then in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can verify, if they choose to, that I have followed the religious school that observes our faith in the strictest wayI lived as a Pharisee.
Now I am standing here to be judged regarding the promised hope God gave to our fathers that our twelve tribes hoped to receive as they continually dedicated themselves in God's service. Yes, it's because of this hope that I'm accused by the Jews, Your Majesty! Why should any of you think it's unbelievable that God raises the dead?
Previously I was sincerely convinced I should do as much as I could to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 This is what I did in Jerusalem. I threw many of the believers in prison, having been given authority to do this by the chief priests. When they were sentenced to death I cast my vote against them. 11 I had them punished in all the synagogues, trying to make them recant. I was so furiously opposed to them that I went to cities outside our country to persecute them.
12 That's why one day I was on my way to Damascus with the authority and orders from the chief priests. 13 At about noon as I was on my way, Your Majesty, I saw a light from heaven that blazed brighter than the sun. It shone around me and those who were traveling with me. 14 All of us fell to the ground. Then I heard a voice speaking to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It's hard for you to fight against me!’*
15 Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.
I am Jesus, the one you're persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 But pick yourself up and get to your feet. The reason why I've appeared to you is to appoint you as my servant, to be a witness for me, telling others how you have seen me and everything I will reveal to you. 17 I will save you from your own people and from the foreigners. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes so they can turn from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, and so that they can receive forgiveness for their sins and a place with those who are set right as they trust in me.’
19 Clearly, King Agrippa, I could not disobey this vision from heaven. 20 First in Damascus, then in Jerusalem, and then all over Judea and also to the foreigners I shared the message of repentance: how they should turn to God, demonstrating their repentance through their actions. 21 That's why the Jews seized me in the Temple and tried to kill me.
22 God has looked after me so I can stand here today as a witness to everyone, both to ordinary people and to those who are important. I am only repeating what Moses and the prophets said would happen 23 how the Messiah had to suffer, and that by being the first to rise from the dead he would announce the light of God's salvation to both Jews and foreigners.”
24 Festus interrupted Paul as he made his defense, shouting out, “Paul, you've gone mad! All your knowledge is driving you insane!”
25 “I'm not mad, Festus your Excellency,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and makes sense. 26 The king recognizes this, and I'm explaining it very clearly. I am sure that he is aware of what's been happening, because none of this took place as if it were hidden in a corner.
27 King Agrippa, do you believe what the prophets said? I'm sure you do!”
28 Do you think you can convince me to become a Christian so quickly?” Agrippa asked Paul.
29 Whether it takes a short time or a long time doesn't matter,” Paul answered. “But my prayer to God is that not just you, but everybody listening to me today would become like meexcept for these chains!”
30 The king stood up, along with the governor and Bernice, and everyone who had been sitting with them. 31 They conferred together after they had left. “This man hasn't done anything that deserves death or imprisonment,” they concluded. 32 Agrippa told Festus, “He could have been freed if he hadn't appealed to Caesar.”
* 26:14 Literally, “kick against the goads”—the image of the prods used to direct livestock. 26:23 Implied. The original simply says “light.”