Policing the Roman Empire: Soldiers, Administration, and Public Order

By Christopher J. Fuhrmann | Go to book overview

1
Introduction

The Jews from Asia, who had seen [Paul] in the temple, stirred up the
whole crowd. They seized him, shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help! This
is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against our people,
our law, and this place; more than that, he has actually brought Greeks
into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” … Then all the city was
aroused, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged
him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. While
they were trying to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that
all Jerusalem was in an uproar. Immediately he took soldiers and cen-
turions and ran down to them. When they saw the tribune and the
soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the tribune came, arrested
him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains; he inquired who
he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd shouted one thing,
some another; and as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar,
he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. When Paul came to the
steps, the violence of the mob was so great that he had to be carried by
the soldiers. The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Away with him!”
Just as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the
tribune, “May I say something to you?” The tribune replied, “Do you
know Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who recently stirred up a
revolt and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?”
Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an impor-
tant city; I beg you, let me speak to the people.” When he had given him
permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the people for
silence; and when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the
Hebrew language.1

Suspicion, confusion, ethnic hostility—few passages in Roman imperial literature touch on as many complex troubles and explosive sensitivities as

1. Acts 21:27–40, slightly adapted from the NRSV. Cf. Acts 23:10. On the Egyptian revolutionary, see Josephus BJ 2.261–3.

-3-

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