Monday, December 31, 2012

If the Holy Family Was on Facebook

... their recent activity would look something like this:

Very well done. For a more humorous take (yet still reverent), see The Nativity ... If It Happened Today.

Pax Christi,

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Birth Pangs of Mary: Part 4

My critic responded to Part 3 of my series on the birth pangs of Mary. This is probably her best effort yet, but I am still not convinced that I should dispose of this doctrine. What do you say? Leave a comment and let me know.

As before, her words will be indented and italicized.
At the top of your November 29 thread (The Birth Pangs of Mary: Part 3), you wrote, "My critic responded to my latest post on the birth pangs of Mary." At the words, "latest post," you provided a link to your November 27 thread (... : Part 2). The truth is that I had not "responded to [your] latest post." If you check, I responded twice to your first post -- on October 7 and November 23. Thus, I did not even read "Part 2" until after I had read "Part 3."
The majority of what I shared in Part 2 and Part 3 I already provided in the comments section of Part 1. I added a paragraph or two of new material just so I could give you a more substantial response. It's difficult to really get into it in the combox since one doesn't have the ability to format and blockquote and all that. I structured our debate the way I have so that it would be easier to follow. Point-rebuttal, point-rebuttal, it just works better that way. I hope you don't think I was trying to be dishonest or to misrepresent you in any way. That was not my intent.

Speaking of "pangs/pains," I'll apologize in advance if today's message of mine gives you a few dolors! They cannot be helped, unless I censor myself mercilessly.
No need for you to censor yourself. I've heard much worse, I can assure you, and I learned a long time ago not to take this sort of back-and-forth personally. My caricature probably makes me look younger than I am. This is certainly not my first rodeo.

I want to start by giving you a bit of advice for you, as a veteran apologist to a younger one:
If you have a weak argument in mind, it is better to omit it, lest you taint your whole essay by appearing to be foolish or careless.
Only in your mind is my argument weak. I shall defend it shortly!

Here's why I offered the above advice:

Last time, I wrote, "There is no record of such a thing in the scriptures nor in the earliest Church Fathers." [I just added the emphasis.]

To this, you responded, "Don't speak so soon. There is in fact a substantial record on this point. From the early Church fathers:"

At this point, you quoted a passage from "Ascension of Isaiah," including the words, "... and we heard no cries of pain."

First, "hear[ing] no cries of pain" does not mean that pain was not felt. It is quite possible that Our Lady made "no cries of pain" on Calvary despite her suffering.
According to the Ascension of Isaiah, many thought that Mary had not given birth because the midwife had not gone up to her and there were no cries of pain. But, these are reasons not for an absence of birth but for the miraculous nature of that birth. No midwife + no cries of pain = something extraordinary. I think that's the whole point of the passage. I really doubt this was intended to mean that Mary had pain, but she held it in.

Second, and more important, you misidentified the "Ascension of Isaiah" as a work of "one of the earliest Church Fathers" (my phrase, which you were claiming to refute). The "Ascension" is an apocryphal work, written by an unknown person, not by any of the "earliest Fathers of the Church."
Any time someone quotes from the early Church "fathers", early writings of anonymous or uncertain authorship are always included as well. That's just common Catholic apologetical practice. Even the Catechism quotes from such works (for example, the Apostolic Constitutions, the Didache, the Epistula ad Diognetum). I think you're splitting hairs now.

Next, you quoted a passage from the "Odes of Solomon," including the words, "she labored and bore the Son, but without pain."

First, as with the "Ascension of Isaiah," the "Odes of Solomon" was written by an unknown person, not by any of the "earliest Fathers of the Church."
Even documents of unknown authorship are valuable because they witness to the faith of the people from the period in which they were written. I don't think you should be so quick to dismiss these works. It is very common practice to refer to them.

Second, you defeated your own purpose with the quoted passage, because it says that Mary "labored." This means that she suffered "labor pains!" What was "without pain," according to the "Odes," was the delivery of Jesus into daylight. THAT moment was presumably painless, because, in keeping with Mary's conjugal virginity, no physical defloration occurred (so said the "Roman Catechism" after the Council of Trent).
There's no reason to believe that if she labored, then she must have felt pain. If she can deliver without pain then she can labor without it. Read the passage from the Odes again: "And she labored and bore the Son, but without pain ..." The qualifier could just as well refer to BOTH the labor and the delivery.

At this point, you at last quoted from one of the "earliest Fathers of the Church," St. Ignatius of Antioch ... but your quotation was ineffectual and not helpful to either of us, since it did not make any reference to Our Lady and pain.
Here is the quote from Ignatius again:
"Mary's virginity was hidden from the prince of this world; so was her childbearing, and so was the death of the Lord. All these three trumpet-tongued secrets were brought to pass in the deep silence of God." (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians, 19; c. 107 AD)
Ignatius is alluding to the negative effects of the original sin. Sexual relations, childbearing, and life itself were tarnished by what Satan was able to compel Adam and Eve to do. Yet, Mary's childbearing was "hidden from the prince of this world." This means that Satan was not able to tarnish her childbearing as he has for all other women. The original sin brought pain in giving birth, and Mary was spared from that. Instead her childbearing was "brought to pass in the deep silence of God," where great mysteries beyond human experience are revealed.

Finally, you quoted from St. Gregory of Nyssa, including the words, "the delivery without pain, the nativity without defilement."

Here, once again, I have two objections:

First, it was the "delivery" that was painless -- but "delivery" is a separate event that follows after "labor pains."
First, here is the quote in question:
"Of Him then His mother's burden was light, the birth immaculate, the delivery without pain, the nativity without defilement, neither beginning from wanton desire, nor brought to pass with sorrow. For as she who by her guilt engrafted death into our nature, was condemned to bring forth in trouble, it was meet that she who brought life into the world should accomplish her delivery with joy." (St Gregory of Nyssa, Homily on the Nativity 388 AD)
Now, it seems to me that he's using the word "delivery" as an umbrella term to refer to the labor and the birth. I tried to find the "Homily on the Nativity" where this quote originated to read Gregory's words in context, but I couldn't find it. I did however find a different homily of his on the Nativity, and here he expresses himself more clearly:
“Rejoice, thou that art full of Grace,” he said, “the Lord is with thee.” The words now addressed to the Virgin are the antithesis of those addressed to the first woman. The latter was condemned to the pangs of childbirth on account of sin; in the case of the former, sorrow is expelled through joy. In the latter case, sorrows precede parturition; in the former case, joy is the midwife of parturition. “Fear not,” says Gabriel. Since the expectation of travail arouses fear in every woman, that fear is banished by the promise of an agreeable childbirth.
We see from this that Gregory believed that Mary did not experience the pains of childbirth.

Second, St. Gregory of Nyssa was not one of the "earliest Fathers of the Church." He was writing 350 years after the death of Jesus. If you look at the writings of the men I had in mind (when I initially referred to the "earliest Fathers") -- Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin, Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian [if he can be included as a "Father"] -- you will not find statements declaring that Our Lady was without pain.
First of all, I don't think the quotations I provided from this earlier period should be discounted (for the reasons I've already given).

Secondly, if in fact it could be said that the earliest fathers did not mention the painless birth of Christ, this could just as easily be because they were focused on other issues instead, such as the Christological heresies that were floating about. Or it could be because the Spirit had not yet led the Church to a fuller understanding of Mary's perpetual virginity that included a painless birth. There are other plausible reasons other than because they didn't believe in it. Of course, this assumes there's an actual scarcity of material on the subject, and I'm not convinced of that yet.

Thirdly, and perhaps more importantly, your requirement to find proof from the "earliest" fathers is arbitrary and unnecessary. Since when do we discredit certain early Church fathers because they lived in the 4th century instead of the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd? Their witness is just as important as the rest in establishing doctrine. The Catechism quotes Augustine more than any other early Church father, and he lived in the 4th and 5th century. Gregory of Nyssa is a towering mind in the early Church, eminently saintly and orthodox. It might be wise to listen to what he has to say.

So, my friend, as I stated above, "If you have a weak argument in mind, it is better to omit it, lest you taint your whole essay by appearing to be foolish or careless." You did not support your position with a quotation from "the earliest Church Fathers," and your quotations either left open the possibility of labor pains or actually affirmed their presence ("Odes").
If I thought it was weak, I wouldn't have presented it. We'll let the reader decide who has the stronger arguments.

May we move onto another sub-topic?
Yes, please do.

I have taken a look at Brant Pitre's analysis, and (unlike you) I have not found it to be "convincing." Now, why is Brant Pitre unconvincing? I just looked at more than ten Bible translations, and I found what I expected to find: They all have what he would mislabel "a loose translation."
There are numerous versions that confirm his translation as well. Perhaps you missed these?
Bible in Basic English: To the woman he said, Great will be your pain in childbirth; in sorrow will your children come to birth;

Common English Bible: To the woman he said, "I will make your pregnancy very painful; in pain you will bear children.

Contemporary English Version: Then the Lord said to the woman, “You will suffer terribly when you give birth. But you will still desire your husband, and he will rule over you.”

Knox Bible: To the woman he said, Many are the pangs, many are the throes I will give you to endure; with pangs you shall give birth to children

New Century Version: Then God said to the woman, "I will cause you to have much trouble when you are pregnant, and when you give birth to children, you will have great pain.

New International Version: To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

New Jerusalem Bible: To the woman he said: I shall give you intense pain in childbearing, you will give birth to your children in pain.

New Living Translation: Then he said to the woman, "You will bear children with intense pain and suffering.

Today's NIV: To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
We can both count bible translations. I'm not really sure if it proves anything.

The problem is that his translation of the Hebrew is not accurate. The actual, literal meaning is this: "To the woman He said, 'Multiplying, I multiply your sorrow ... .'" The repeated word is verbal (multiply/increase), not adjectival (great).

But even if we were to accept, "Great, great," that would not help Brant Pitre. He seems to be unaware of the fact that ancient Hebrew did not have adjectives of the comparative and superlative degrees, so a word was repeated once to denote a higher degree (and repeated twice to denote the highest degree). Thus, "Great, great" (like "Multiplying, I multiply") denotes "(to make) greater" -- as "holy, holy, holy" denotes "holiest." This is why so many (non-literal) Bible translations correctly use variations of the RSV's words: "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing."
This is the part of your response that kept me from posting this sooner. I was trying to research the Hebrew, but, not being a Hebrew scholar myself, I was unable to definitively settle the matter. It does appear to me that both translations are equally plausible.

As Catholics, when a passage is unclear, what do we do? We turn to our Tradition. There is a long and firm tradition that has understood pain in childbirth to be a result of the fall. Church fathers, popes, theologians, authoritative documents throughout the history of the Church all say that Mary had a painless childbirth, and the main reason for this is because of her preservation from original sin. As a Catholic, I side with that, and I really don't see why it shouldn't settle the matter.

Final sub-topic:

Last time, I wrote, "As a mother who suffered both at her Son's birth and death, Mary is an excellent role model for mothers of today. She would not be as good a model if she did not suffer in giving birth."

To this, you responded: "That doesn't follow any more than it would follow from her other unique prerogatives that she failed then to be a role model. Is she no longer a role model for us [because] she committed no sin? No" [etc., with other examples].

You did not read my words carefully enough. I did not say that Mary would "no longer [be] a role model" if she did not suffer in giving birth. Instead, I said that she "would not be as good a role model."
So be it. My argument still applies. Mary's other unique qualities don't lessen her ability to be a role model for us, so neither should a painless birth. She doesn't become "not as good of a role model" for having a painless birth any more than she does for being sinless, or a perpetual virgin, or assumed into heaven.

Also, it was a logical fallacy for you to contrast this with the commission of sin. We women do not want to sin, so we do not want or need a role model for that. But we do want to do a good thing, like accepting suffering in childbirth, so it is good for Our Lady to be our role model for that.
You want to do a good thing by having a healthy sex life with your husband, yet Mary never had sex with Joseph. Would she "not be as good a role model" for this reason as well?

If I were in the midst of a painful half day of labor, and if I were to moan, "Blessed Mother, you went through this in Bethlehem, so please help me to accept the pain," you would tell me, "Stop that this minute! Mary felt no pain, so don't you dare say that to her. Talk to St. Monica instead!" (;-D)
First of all, I think that what she experienced at the foot of the Cross in giving birth to the Church makes her the perfect intercessor in such a circumstance, or in any moment of intense pain. Laboring mothers, cry out to her! Mary understands the fullest depths of human suffering.

If you don't buy that argument, there is another reason why laboring mothers would turn to Mary. Wouldn't such women long to have the peace and joy that Mary felt in giving birth to Jesus? Satan is the reason for the pain they are feeling, and Mary is victorious over him! Could these women not pray to Mary for a participation in that victory, for some of the peace and joy that she felt, so that they too may bring life into the world with ease? Seems like a no-brainer to me!

Either way, Mary is perfect role model and intercessor. I don't think her painless parturition diminishes that in any way.

All right, my friend. You can have the last word, if you wish. If I have not convinced you by now, I never will, so I will be satisfied with the opportunities received.
It's good for Catholics to hammer out these sorts of things. Good, well-intentioned Catholics investigating the ramifications of certain doctrines (in this case, Mary's immaculate conception and perpetual virginity) within the parameters defined by the Church. This is how dogma develops, and I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us, as He guides the Church, to the proper conclusion. I know you intended to give me the last word, but if you wish to respond, you are welcome to it.

Pax Christi,

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bible Commentary on Acts 23:5

Masaccio, "St. Paul,"
from The Pisa Polyptych

This probably won't be of much importance or relevance to most people, especially as it really has nothing to do with the season of Advent, but I was already putting this together for a friend so I thought it wouldn't hurt to post it here. Some random soul might desperately search Google one day looking for Catholic bible commentary on Acts 23:5, and I will be there to serve him.

Except for Stern's Jewish New Testament Commentary and the IVP Commentary,  all of the sources found here are Catholic. When possible, I linked to what was available online. The rest I transcribed from my personal library.

Without further ado ...


Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, New American Bible: Revised Edition (2010), Acts 23:
[23:5] Luke portrays Paul as a model of one who is obedient to the Mosaic law. Paul, because of his reverence for the law (Ex 22:27), withdraws his accusation of hypocrisy, “whitewashed wall” (cf. Mt 23:27), when he is told Ananias is the high priest.

George Leo Haydock, Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible Commentary (1859):
Ver. 5. I knew not, &c. Some think St. Paul here speaks ironically, or to signify that now he could be no longer high priest, since the Mosaic law, with its rites and ceremonies, was abolished. But St. Chrysostom rather judges that St. Paul, having been long absent from Jerusalem, might not know the person of the high priest, who was not now in the sanhedrim but in the place whither the tribune had called the council, and who did not appear with that habit, and those marks which distinguished him from others. (Witham) --- It seems rather surprising that St. Paul did not know that he was the high priest. The place which he held in the council, one would suppose, would have been sufficient to have pointed him out. The apostle's absence from Jerusalem is perhaps a sufficient reason to account for his not knowing this circumstance; especially, as the order of succession to the priesthood was at that time much confused and irregular, determined by favour of the Roman emperor, or by purchase. (Calmet) --- At all events, any difficulties we may now find in assigning a probable or true reason, are merely negative arguments; and therefore too futile to be an impeachment of the apostle's veracity. (Haydock) --- St. Cyprian supposes that St. Paul, considering the mere shadow of the name of priest, which Ananias then held, said: I knew not, brethren, that he is high priest. (Ep. lxv. 69. nu. 2.) St. Chrysostom says, that the apostle here shews the wisdom of the serpent; but that in his preaching, teaching, and patience, he used the simplicity of the dove.

Early Christian Writings, e-Catena: Compiled Allusions to the NT in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Acts 23:
Acts 23:5 - in Cyprian, Epistle LIV
-although they had begun to be sacrilegious, and impious, and bloody, the Lord having already been crucified, and had no longer retained anything of the priestly honour and authority-yet Paul, considering the name itself, however empty, and the shadow, as it were, of the priest, said, "I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy, people."[22]

St. John Chrysostom, Homily III, I Colossians 1,15–18 — “Who is the Image of the invisible God":
304 [. . .] Do not, I pray you, think that these things are spoken from us; it is the Grace of God which worketh in the unworthy, not for our sakes, but for yours. Hear ye then what Christ saith. “If the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it.” (). And how becometh it worthy? If “they receive you” (Lc 10,8), He saith. “But if they receive you not, nor hear your words, …verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodore and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.” What boots it then, that ye receive us, and hear not the things we say? What gain is it that ye wait upon us, and give no heed to the things which are spoken to you? This will be honor to us, this the admirable service, which is profitable both to you and to us, if ye hear us. Hear also Paul saying, “I wist not, brethren, that he was High Priest.” (Ac 23,5). Hear also Christ saying, “All whatsoever they bid you observe” (Mt 23,3), that “observe and do.” Thou despisest not me, but the Priesthood; when thou seest me stripped of this, then despise me; then no more will I endure to impose commands. But so long as we sit upon this throne, so long as we have the first place, we have both the dignity and the power, even though we are unworthy. If the throne of Moses was of such reverence, that for its sake they were to be heard, much more the throne of Christ. It, we have received by succession; from it we speak; since the time that Christ hath vested in us the ministry of reconciliation. [. . .]

Grant R. Osborne, Editor, IVP New Testament Commentary, Acts 22, Conversation with a Roman Tribune; Defense Before the Sanhedrin:
Acts 22:22 - 23:11 [. . .]Paul pleads ignorance, declares the Old Testament law's requirement and in so doing subordinates himself to the authority of the Word of God. He does not speak ironically: "I didn't know he was the high priest, because he was certainly not acting like one" (contra Marshall 1980:364). Nor was his curse a simple sin of ignorance because Paul did not know from whom the command came or did not understand that he was the high priest (contra E. F. Harrison 1986:367). Rather, it was a sin of omission. Paul did not take into consideration the man's position when he made the declaration (Polhill 1992:469). Paul's prophetic curse, given in hasty anger, had violated a basic biblical precept lived out by David in his dealings with Saul. Though an officeholder dishonors the office through his conduct, one does not have liberty to dishonor him (1 Sam 24:6; 26:9-11). Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people (Ex 22:27 LXX).

How do we cope when a sophisticated cynic's punishing rejection of our integrity drives us to lash out in anger? Like Paul, we must respond in humility, quickly admitting our fault and subordinating ourselves again to the authority of God's Word. "It is not our mistakes that do us in; it's our pride that keeps us from admitting them" (Ogilvie 1983:316). [. . .]

St. Augustine, On the Mounts, 1043:
58. [. . .] For when he was smitten with the hand by order of the high priest, what he seemed to say contumeliously when he affirms, “God shall smite thee, thou whited wall,” sounds like an insult to those who do not understand it; but to those who do, it is a prophecy. For a whited wall is hypocrisy, i.e. pretence holding forth the sacerdotal dignity before itself, and under this name, as under a white covering, concealing an inner and as it were sordid baseness. For what belonged to humility he wonderfully preserved, when, on its being said to him, “Revilest thou the high priest?”174 he replied, “I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, Thou shall not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.”175 And here he showed with what calmness he had spoken that which he seemed to have spoken in anger, because he answered so quickly and so mildly, which cannot be done by those who are indignant and thrown into confusion. And in that very statement he spoke the truth to those who understood him, “I wist not that he was the high priest:”176 as if he said, I know another High Priest, for whose name I bear such things, whom it is not lawful to revile, and whom ye revile, since in me it is nothing else but His name that ye hate. Thus, therefore, it is necessary for one not to boast of such things in a hypocritical way, but to be prepared in the heart itself for all things, so that he can sing that prophetic word, “My heart is prepared,177 O God, my heart is prepared.” For many have learned how to offer the other cheek, but do not know how to love him by whom they are struck. But in truth, the Lord Himself, who certainly was the first to fulfil the precepts which He taught, did not offer the other cheek to the servant of the high priest when smiting Him thereon; but, so far from that, said, “If I have spoken evil, hear witness of the evil;178 but if well, why smitest thou me?”179 Yet was He not on that account unprepared in heart, for the salvation of all, not merely to be smitten on the other cheek, but even to have His whole body crucified.


Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, Roland E. Murphy, The Jerome Biblical Commentary (1968), Vol. II, pg. 207: doesn't have any commentary on vs. 5, but a line from the commentary on vs. 3 may apply:
His whole answer is ironical; he poses as the exemplar of obedience toward the Law and would not think of insulting the high priest, quoting Ex 22:27 to support his contention.

Dom Bernard Orchard, General Editor, A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (1953), pg. 1042:
5. St. Paul, who may have been looking around the Sanhedrin to see whom he could recognize, heard the high-priest's order, without knowing from whom it had come.

Reginald C. Fuller, General Editor, A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (1975), pg. 1099:
22:30 - 23:11 Paul before the Sanhedrin -- This whole scene has been impugned as an invention by Lk owing to various difficulties, of which the most serious is Paul's failure to recognize the high priest (5). The tribune could well have permitted the investigation in order to discover the rights and wrongs in the case, or even the charges. The account is clearly simplified, e.g. Paul's opening remark is impossibly truculent as it stands. The quarrel he sparks off between Pharisees and Sadducees is naively represented (6-10); but it is far from impossible that they eventually ranged themselves on one side or the other according to the differences of belief of v 8. As v 28 makes clear, the scene serves the apologetic purpose of showing that the Jews had no valid case against Paul in Roman eyes; he was being lynched for a theological difference of opinion, in which one party was in fact on his side.

Ronald Knox, A New Testament Commentary for English Readers (1954), Vol. II, pg. 55-57:
22.30 - 23.11. St Paul before the Council. [. . .] Then comes the shocked protest of verse 4; which one of his quick changes of mood, St Paul recognizes that the has made a fault in reverence, not to the man but to his office. The Rabi in him comes out instinctively, and he quotes Exodus (22.28). Did he, thereupon, catch some sardonic piece of comment, "Just like a Pharisee--knows the law by heart, and doesn't keep it"? This would account for the sudden diversion of verse 6; but verse 6 may be divided from verse 5 by a long interval of time, and of procedure.
It is just possible to see the thing happening in this wa, if we are content to recognize that the members of the Council had been convoked, at the captain's summons and under his auspices. Verse 10 will mean, not that he sent an urgent message back to the barracks, in response to which the military marched through the streets and invaded the Council-chamber. They will have "come down" from some gallery in which they had been posted for fear of violence in the ante-room. If we picture to ourselves a formal meeting of the Council in its judicial capacity, verse 5 becomes wholly inexplicable. We have no independent grounds for imagining that St Paul was short-sighted, and even if he had been, he would have been cound to recognize the high priest from the position in which he sat. The idea that "I did not know it was the high priest" means "I was not prepared to recognize him as the high priest when he talked like that" is surely fantastic. St Paul must have failed to recognize him simply because he was one of a crowd, interjecting his ill-bred demand like a common heckler. [. . .]

David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (1992), pg. 308:
2-5 Sha'ul's outburst is certainly not the behavior of a man who had heard and understood Yeshua's command to turn the other cheek (Mt 5:39). Yeshua himself, when struck, argued the injustice of it without vexation or irritation (Yn 18:22). But no claim of perfection is made for Sha'ul. Like the heroes of the Tanakh, whose failings are reported faithfully along with their victories, he is shown to be a man who has not yet achieved the goal, as he himself admits (Pp 3:12-13, 1C 9:25-27). God saves imperfect people.
I didn't know, brothers, that he was the cohen hagadol. It has been suggested that this line drips sarcasm, that Sha'ul knew perfectly well who the cohen hadadol was but means that he wasn't acting like one!

The Catholic Biblical Association, A Commentary on the New Testament (1942), pg. 399-400:
22, 30 -- 23, 11: The Sanhedrin. [. . .] 5. In this investigation conducted by the Roman tribune the High Priest may not have been conspicuous, and St. Paul may not have known him personally.

Jose Maria Casciaro, Director, The Navarre Bible: Acts of the Apostles (1998), pg. 236:
5. Many commentators think that Paul is being sarcastic here, as if to say, "I would never have thought that anyone who gave an order against the Law like that could be the high priest". Others think that the Apostle realizes that his words may have scandalized some of those present and therefore he wants to make it clear that he respects the Jewish institutions and the commandments of the Law.

I'm afraid that's all I have. There are other sites that have collections of articles on the book of Acts. You might be able to wade through these and find more information:

I hope that helps!

Pax Christi,
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