As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek? Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.” And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying: “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said: (Acts 21:37 – 22:2)
The tribune at first thought that Paul was some brigand (jag pa).
Then, when Paul spoke to him in Greek (which was the language of educated people, just as Chinese is spoken in Lhasa, or English in Hong Kong), he thought that Paul must be that rebel from Egypt (ngo log pa) who had raised a guerrilla force to hide in the country and then fight against Rome.*
In answer to the tribune Paul said, ‘No; I am a Jew and a citizen of Tarsus, a free city of the Roman Empire.’
Then in addressing the crowd he was courteous in awaiting permission to speak, and respectful in addressing them both as ‘brother-Jews’, and any of the council members present as ‘fathers’.
The steps were for Paul a platform of opportunity to give witness to Jesus Christ, trusting that the Holy Spirit would give him the words to use, as Jesus has promised (see Luke’s Gospel Chapter 12 verses 11 & 12). Because he spoke using the standard Hebrew dialect (like spyi skad), and not Greek, the crowd listened.
Next time we’ll read his testimony of how Jesus had spoken to him and had appeared in vision to him.
[* They were defeated, but he himself had escaped]