Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. St. Paul having obtained liberty of speaking, stretches out his right hand, disengaged from his cloak. We must recollect that St. Paul still bore his chains about him, those chains in which he gloried; (ver. 26.) it is therefore necessary to suppose that his left hand only was tied; or, what is less likely, that these chains were not so tight nor heavy as to hinder the easy motion of the right. It is observed by Apuleius, that orators in this action closed the two shorter fingers, and had the others extended. (Calmet)
Ver. 5. According to the most sure sect. In the Greek, the most exact or approved: for such was esteemed that of the Pharisees. (Witham)
Ver. 6. For the hope of the promise. That is, of the promised Messias, and of salvation by him. (Witham)
Ver. 8. He speaks now to the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection. Can you say it is impossible for Him, whom you all allow to be omnipotent, to raise any of the dead to life? Is it not easier to reanimate a body, whose parts are dissolved by death, than create what had no existence? “And why should He, who daily form the corrupted seed brings forth plants, leaves, wood, not be able to call back into their primitive state the flesh and bones from the dust into which they have been dissolved.” (St. Gregory, hom. xxvi. in Evang.)
Ver. 10. I brought the sentence. That is, from those who in the great council were judges of life and death, to those officers who were to put the sentence in execution. This seems to be the sense of these words, rather than, I voted, or gave my voice in condemning them; for we have no grounds to think St. Paul was one of the council, or of the judges. (Witham)
Ver. 14. It is generally supposed that St. Paul addresses king Agrippa in the Greek language, which was the common tongue of a great part of the East. (Bible de Vence)
Ver. 16. Wherein I will appear to thee. From whence interpreters take notice, that Christ divers times appeared to St. Paul to reveal things to him. (Witham)
Ver. 17. Delivering thee, &c. That is, from many attempts, both of the Jews and Gentiles, against thee. (Witham)
Ver. 18. That they may be converted from the darkness of error to the light of the gospel, and from the power of Satan to the liberty of the children of God.
Ver. 23. That Christ should suffer, &c. Literally, if Christ be passible. If, here is expounded not as implying a condition, but as an affirmation; so that the sense is, that Christ, according to the predictions of the prophets, was to suffer, was to be the first that should rise from the dead, &c. (Witham) — First, &c. Many had been raised from the dead before Jesus; the child of the widow of Sarepta, Lazarus, and others. How, then, is Jesus first? He is the first who rises not to die again; and as such the Messias is always represented by the prophets. Others were raised from the dead, but returned again to their graves. Jesus dies no more. He is the first too who raises himself. (Calmet)
Ver. 24. It is not surprising that Festus should have taken St. Paul for a madman. The resurrection of the dead, remission of sins, receiving baptism, and faith, announcing light to the nations, &c. were subjects completely unintelligible to a Roman. To a Jew the terms were customary and common. The eloquence and manner in which he spoke on these subjects, might shew him to be a man of great learning.
Ver. 28. In a little thou persuadest me to become a Christian. According to the common exposition, Agrippa speaks in a jest, and ironically; and as for the words, they are the same as, thou almost persuadest me, &c. (Witham)
Ver. 29. Except these chains. That is, I heartily wish all men in the same condition as myself, not only to be prisoners as I am, but to be Christians, as I am. (Witham)
 Ver. 5. Certissimam, akribestaten, accuratissimam.
 Ver. 10. Ego sententiam detuli, katenegka psephon, calculum, suffragium. It was the custom for judges to give their votes either by taking up a white or a black stone: that it, a white stone, if the persons judged were found not guilty, and a black stone, if guilty: so Ovid,
Mos erat antiquis niveis, atrisque lapillis,
His damnare reos, illis absolvere culpa.
— So that psephos was a lapillus, or a little stone made use of in giving sentence, and from thence taken for the sentence itself.
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Paul gives an account to Agrippa of his life, conversion, and calling.
1 Then *Agrippa said to Paul: Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretching forth his hand, began to make his answer.
2 I think myself happy, O king Agrippa, that I am to answer for myself this day before thee, concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews,
3 Especially, as thou knowest all, both customs and questions, which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.
4 And my life indeed from my youth, which was from the beginning among my own nation in Jerusalem, all the Jews do know:
5 Having known me from the beginning, (if they will give testimony) that according to the most sure sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
6 And now I stand under judgment for the hope of the promise which was made by God to our fathers:
7 Unto which our twelve tribes, serving night and day, hope to come. For which hope, O king, I am accused by the Jews.
8 Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?
9 And I indeed thought that I ought to do many things in opposition to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
10 *Which also I did at Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prisons, having received authority of the chief priests: and when they were put to death, I brought the sentence.
11 And I punished them often in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme: and being yet more mad against them, I persecuted them, even unto foreign cities.
12 *Whereupon when I was going to Damascus with authority and permission of the chief priest,
13 At mid-day, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven above the brightness of the sun, shining about me and them that were in company with me.
14 And when we were all fallen down to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me in the Hebrew tongue: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the goad.
15 And I said: Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord answered: I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest.
16 But rise up and stand upon thy feet: for to this end have I appeared to thee, that I may make thee a minister and a witness of those things which thou hast seen, and of those things wherein I will appear to thee,
17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the nations, unto which now I send thee,
18 To open their eyes, that they may be converted from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and a lot among the saints, by the faith that is in me.
19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not incredulous to the heavenly vision:
20 *But preached first to them that are at Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judea, and to the Gentiles, that they should do penance, and turn to God, doing works worthy of penance.
21 For this cause the Jews, when I was in the temple, *having apprehended me, attempted to kill me.
22 But being aided by the help of God, I continue to this day witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come to pass:
23 That Christ should suffer, and that he the first of the resurrection from the dead, should shew light to the people and to the Gentiles.
24 As he was speaking these things, and making his answer, Festus said with a loud voice: Paul, thou art beside thyself: much learning doth make thee mad.
25 And Paul said: I am not mad, most excellent Festus, but I speak words of truth and sobriety.
26 For the king knoweth of these things, to whom also I speak with confidence: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him. For neither were any of these things done in a corner.
27 Believest thou the prophets, O king Agrippa? I know that thou believest.
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul: In a little thou persuadest me to become a Christian.
29 And Paul said: I would to God, that both in a little and in much, not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, should become such as I also am, except these chains.
30 And the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them.
31 And when they were gone aside, they spoke with each other, saying: This man hath done nothing deserving of death or chains.
32 And Agrippa said to Festus: This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed to Cæsar.
1: about the year A.D. 60.
10: Acts viii. 3.
12: Acts ix. 2.
20: Acts ix. 20.
21: Acts xxi. 31.