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LYSIAS (lĭs'ī-ăs, Gr. Lysias). Claudius Lysias, of the Jerusalem garrison, tribune by rank, was probably one of the career men of the days of Pallas and Narcissus, the powerful freedmen and executive officers of the Emperor Claudius. Lysias was a Greek, as the name Lycias shows. His first name was assumed when he secured Roman citizenship at “a big price” (Acts.22.28), no doubt by bribing one of the freedmen of the court. Paul was fortunate in encountering this officer. Lysias was a vigorous and capable soldier.

2. Claudius Lysias. The “chief captain,” chiliarch, or military tribune over Rom. forces in Jerusalem at the time when Paul made the visit to the city which is mentioned in Acts 21-23. On that occasion, when Paul’s life was threatened by a mob, Lysias had the apostle bound and carried to the castle or fortress of Antonia, and permitted him to speak to the people from the stairs. When Lysias commanded that Paul be examined by scourging that he might know why the Jews made such an outcry against him, he was deterred from his purpose by Paul’s claim to Rom. citizenship. He himself had obtained freedom “with a great sum”—his name Lysias indicates his Gr. background—but Paul could lay claim to having been freeborn (Acts 22:27, 28). His subsequent treatment of the apostle was naturally influenced and conditioned by Paul’s Rom. citizenship.

To know the certainty or real reason why Paul was accused by the Jews, Lysias set Paul, loosed from his bonds, before the chief priests and all the council. When a great dissension arose among the Jewish leaders, Lysias, fearing lest Paul be torn to pieces, had him brought into the castle. Informed by Paul’s sister’s son of a conspiracy against Paul’s life, he sent him swiftly with a military escort to Felix the governor in Caesarea. He sent a letter to Felix in which he spoke of his rescuing Paul from the Jews and declared that Paul had been charged with nothing worthy of death or of bonds. In God’s providence Lysias was an important instrument in sparing Paul and in contributing to the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise that as Paul had testified about Him in Jerusalem, so he must bear witness also at Rome (Acts 23:11).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


(1) "A noble man, and one of the blood royal" whom Antiochus Epiphanes (circa 166 BC) left with the government of Southern Syria and the guardianship of his son, while he went in person into Persia to collect the revenues which were. not coming in satisfactorily (1 Macc 3:32; 2 Macc 10:11). According to Josephus (Ant., XII, vii, 2), the instructions of Lysias were’ "to conquer Judea, enslave its inhabitants, utterly destroy Jerusalem and abolish the whole nation." Lysias, accordingly, armed against Judas Maccabeus a large force under Ptolemy, son of Dorymenes, Nicanor and Gorgias. Of this force Judas defeated the two divisions under Nicanor and Gorgias near Emmaus (166 BC), and in the following year Lysias himself at Bethsura (1 Macc 4), after which he proceeded to the purification of the temple. In the narration of these campaigns there are considerable differences between the writers of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees which scholars have not found easy to explain. Antiochus died at Babylon on his Persian expedition (164 BC), and Lysias assumed the office of regent during the minority of his son, who was yet a child (1 Macc 6:17). He collected another army at Antioch, and after the recapture of Bethsura was besieging Jerusalem when he learned of the approach of Philip to whom Antiochus, on his deathbed, had entrusted the guardianship of the prince (1 Macc 6:15; 2 Macc 13). He defeated Philip in 163 BC and was supported at Rome, but in the following year he fell with his ward Antiochus into the hands of Demetrius I (Soter), who put both of them to death (1 Macc 7:1-23).

(2) See Claudius Lysias (Ac 23:26).