Paul, the Sarcastic Apostle


In today’s Bible reading from Acts 23, we see an interesting picture of Paul. I don’t know that this side of him is seen in any other place in the New Testament.

The Sanhedrin, from an 1883 encyclopedia
The Sanhedrin, from an 1883 encyclopedia

Paul has been called to speak to the Sanhedrin, a council of 71 Jewish Rabbis, made up of Pharisees and Sadducees. When Paul explains that he has lived a blameless life, Annanias, the Chief Priest orders the men standing next to Paul to strike him in the mouth. (Acts 23:2)

Paul popped off to the man ordering the assault, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! You are sitting there judging me according to the law, and yet in violation of the law are you ordering me to be struck?” Someone scolded Paul, “How dare you revile God’s High Priest.”

Paul’s response is classic in Acts 23:5. “Well, I didn’t know that he was the High Priest.” My guess is that Paul knew who he was talking to. He had to have known, given that he had been charged with finding Christians to bring them back to Jerusalem to account for following The Way. I think Paul’s response was more of, “How was I supposed to know he was the High Priest? He wasn’t acting like one!”

Next, Paul almost causes a riot when he calls out, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am being judged because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead!” (Acts 23:6)

Just reading through this, it reminds me of Jesus’ mockery of a trial by these same people. I think Paul see through their hypocrisy and decides he’s going to have a little fun at their expense!


I am encouraged when I read stories like this. Paul was a regular man. He got frustrated with religious hypocrites and called them out; he even made fun of them!

God uses real people in the Bible. Real people like you and me. Sure, we’re separated by almost two thousand years and a great deal of cultural differences. But we’re not too different from the people God used in the New Testament.

Even when we’re in a serious, life-changing situation like Paul, we need to remember to have a sense of humor occasionally and not take ourselves too seriously.