Claudius Lysias

CLAUDIUS LYSIAS (klô'dĭ-ŭs lĭs'ĭ-ăs). A chief captain who rescued Paul from fanatical Jewish rioters at Jerusalem (Acts.21.31; Acts.24.22). He was a Greek, as his second name shows. He was a chiliarch (i.e., leader of a thousand men), in charge of the Roman garrison of Jerusalem, stationed in the Castle of Antonia, adjoining the temple. When Paul informed him that he was a Roman citizen and therefore could not legally be scourged, Claudias told Paul that he had purchased his Roman citizenship with a “big price” (Acts.22.28). To protect Paul, he soon afterward sent him to Caesarea to see Felix, the Roman governor.

CLAUDIUS LYSIAS klô’ dĭ əs lĭ’ sĭ ăs (Κλαύδιος Λυσίας). Commander of the Rom. garrison in Jerusalem at the time of Paul’s arrest.

He was a military tribune (χιλίαρχος, G5941) in command of a cohort which was stationed at the fortress of Antonia near the Temple area and connected to it by a staircase. He was not a free-born citizen, for he had obtained Rom. citizenship by a large sum, thus expressing his disbelief that one as poor as Paul and a native of Tarsus could be a Rom. citizen (Acts 22:28). His cognomen suggests that he was of Gr. origin.

He delivered Paul by force from a mob which was threatening to kill him for bringing Gentiles into the Temple at Jerusalem (21:31-36; 22:24). During this period Pal. had been troubled by a number of revolutionaries, particularly at festival times. Gamaliel mentioned Theudas and Judas of Galilee by name (5:36, 37). Lysias mistook Paul for an Egyp., perhaps a leader of the sicarii, who had recently retired to the desert with 4,000 followers. When he learned who Paul was, he allowed him to address the Jewish mob from the steps of the castle. However, Paul’s mention of his mission to the Gentiles renewed the uprising (21:27-22:24). He was prepared to examine Paul by torture until he learned that he was a Rom. citizen, and therefore exempt from such treatment by the lex Porcia. Paul was then turned over to the Sanhedrin for examination. Dissension prevented Paul’s conviction, but a group plotted to kill him. When informed of the plot by Paul’s nephew, Lysias sent Paul by night to Felix, the governor at Caesarea (23:23-33). The situation must have been serious for Paul was guarded by 200 foot soldiers, 70 horsemen and 200 spearmen.

A letter from Lysias to Felix concerning the essential facts in the matter is recorded in Acts 23:26-30. The original prob. was written in Latin. Luke’s words were a condensation of the original or a composition by Luke. The words τὸν τύπον του̂τον, “to this effect,” suggest these two possibilities. However, the letter was prob. not composed by Luke since it contains a contradiction with Acts 23:25-27. In that passage it was stated that Lysias rescued Paul because he discovered that he was a Rom. citizen. But in Acts 22:24 he ordered Paul to be scourged—illegal treatment for a Rom. citizen—to find out why the mob wished to kill him. Furthermore, Luke could easily have obtained a copy of the letter since it would have been read in open court before Felix because it contained the results of a preliminary inquiry. It is also probable that Paul was given a copy of it at some time during the proceedings.


H. J. Cadbury, The Book of Acts in History (1955), 66-68; Stein in Pauly-Wissowa RE s. v. “Claudius 210.”

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)