Are you a Roman citizen? (Acts 22:27)

“The Roman commander

Came.

He said to Paul.

‘Tell me!

Are you a Roman citizen?’

Paul said.

‘Yes.’”

προσελθὼν δὲ ὁ χιλίαρχος εἶπεν αὐτῷ Λέγε μοι, σὺ Ῥωμαῖος εἶ; ὁ δὲ ἔφη Ναί.

The author of Acts indicated that the Roman commander (δὲ ὁ χιλίαρχος) came (προσελθὼν).  He said to Paul (εἶπεν αὐτῷ).  “Tell me (Λέγε μοι)!  Are you a Roman citizen (σὺ Ῥωμαῖος εἶ)?”  Paul said (ὁ δὲ ἔφη).  “Yes (Ναί)!”  This Roman commander got this report about Paul being a Roman citizen.  Thus, he asked Paul directly, who replied that he was indeed a Roman citizen.  He grew up in Tarsus, so that his father may have been a Roman official.  Roman citizenship was conferred in a number of ways.  The most common way was being born from two Roman citizens.  Paul will make this claim in verse 28, that implies that both of Paul’s parents were Jewish Roman citizens.  One could also obtain citizenship as a reward for military service. Regularly, military veterans were given citizenship upon discharge. This was the surest way to get it, taking 20 to 25 years depending of the level or the military rank.  Although not common, the emperor could confer citizenship, either on individuals or on whole communities, as in the establishment of a new colony, often the result of doing some loyal service to Rome.  One could gain an audience with the Emperor though expensive gifts to members of the inner Imperial court.  This may have been how the Tribune Claudius Lysias gained his citizenship, as mentioned in verses 27-28.  Roman citizenship was also conferred through emancipation of a slave from the house of a Roman citizen.  Some have suggested that Paul’s ancestors may have been freedmen from among the thousands of Jews who Pompey took as slaves in 63 BCE.  How did you become a citizen of your country?

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