Acts 21:37 – 22:21
As the soldiers were about the take Paul into he barracks, he asked the commander, “May I say something to you?”
“Do you speak Greek?” he replied. “Aren’t you the Eqyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorist out into the desert some time ago?”
Paul answered, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.”
Having received the cammander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic:
(read Acts 22:1 – 21 or Paul’s recounting of his calling and missions, leading up to his return to Jerusalem)
We see Paul, two Roman guards, and the Roman commander on the steps. Paul gestures for the crowd to be calm and listen. The guards hold their weapons, spear, swords, and axe in ready, but not drawn. One holds a chain that binds Paul’s right arm. The commander looks down the the crowd. Given his question to Paul about whether he was the Egyptian who lead a revolt, his stern and cautious expression is understandable. Among the rioters below might there be followers who will stir up more emotion and trouble.
Paul stands on the steps of the barracks above the crowd. While this follows the drama, it also evokes the image of the Greek philosophers called the Stoics. Paul has calmed his emotions and now attempts to calm the people so that they can listen. Stoics stood on the steps or porticos of buildings, the stoa. Their essential idea was that destructive emotions resulted from errors in knowledge and logic. Thus, the artists suggests that Paul acts as a stoic to calm the rioters by providing them information about his mission to the Gentiles.
A further symbolic image of the bondage of ignorance, and furthermore freedom from the results of this ignorance, is the two sets of chains. Paul is bound by one chain. But, at his feet, lies another chain, open and unbound. Freedom from the destructive passions of ignorance is through knowledge of Jesus’s calling and following one’s mission. This also foreshadow’s Paul’s imprisonment and bondage in Rome, in which he was free to talk with the followers of Rome, and to write his letter’s to the churches that he formed and ministered to during his missions. Might our apparent earthly bondage actually result in greater freedom?