"Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense before you."
When they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even quieter.
He continued, "I am a Jewish man, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and educated according to the strict view of our patriarchal law. Being zealous for God, just as all of you are today,
I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women in jail,
as both the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. Having received letters from them to the brothers, I was traveling to Damascus to bring those who were prisoners there to be punished in Jerusalem.
"As I was traveling and near Damascus, about noon an intense light from heaven suddenly flashed around me.
I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?'
"I answered, 'Who are You, Lord?' "He said to me, 'I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting!'
Now those who were with me saw the light, but they did not hear the voice of the One who was speaking to me.
"Then I said, 'What should I do, Lord?' "And the Lord told me, 'Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything that is assigned for you to do.'
"Since I couldn't see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.
Someone named Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good reputation with all the Jews residing there,
came to me, stood by me, and said, 'Brother Saul, regain your sight.' And in that very hour I looked up and saw him.
Then he said, 'The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of His voice.
For you will be a witness for Him to all people of what you have seen and heard.
And now, why delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins by calling on His name.'
"After I came back to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple complex, I went into a visionary state
and saw Him telling me, 'Hurry and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me!'
"But I said, 'Lord, they know that in synagogue after synagogue I had those who believed in You imprisoned and beaten.
And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving, and I guarded the clothes of those who killed him.'
"Then He said to me, 'Go, because I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'"
They listened to him up to this word. Then they raised their voices, shouting, "Wipe this person off the earth-- it's a disgrace for him to live!"
As they were yelling and flinging aside their robes and throwing dust into the air,
the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, directing that he be examined with the scourge, so he could discover the reason they were shouting against him like this.
As they stretched him out for the lash, Paul said to the centurion standing by, "Is it legal for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen and is uncondemned?"
When the centurion heard this, he went and reported to the commander, saying, "What are you going to do? For this man is a Roman citizen."
The commander came and said to him, "Tell me-- are you a Roman citizen?" "Yes," he said.
The commander replied, "I bought this citizenship for a large amount of money." "But I myself was born a citizen," Paul said.
Therefore, those who were about to examine him withdrew from him at once. The commander too was alarmed when he realized Paul was a Roman citizen and he had bound him.
The next day, since he wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews, he released him and instructed the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin to convene. Then he brought Paul down and placed him before them.