But when Paul perceived (gnous de ho Paulos). Perceiving (second aorist ingressive of ginōskō). Paul quickly saw that his cause was ruined before the Sanhedrin by his unwitting attack on the high priest. It was impossible to get a fair hearing. Hence, Vincent says, “Paul, with great tact, seeks to bring the two parties of the council into collision with each other.” So Alford argues with the motto “divide and conquer.” Farrar condemns Paul and takes Act 24:21 as a confession of error here, but that is reading into Paul’s word about the resurrection more than he says. Page considers Luke’s report meagre and unsatisfactory. Rackham thinks that the trial was already started and that Paul repeated part of his speech of the day before when “the Sadducees received his words with ostentatious scepticism and ridicule: this provoked counter-expressions of sympathy and credulity among the Pharisees.” But all this is inference. We do not have to adopt the Jesuitical principle that the end justifies the means in order to see shrewdness and hard sense in what Paul said and did. Paul knew, of course, that the Sanhedrin was nearly evenly divided between Pharisees and Sadducees, for he himself had been a Pharisee.
I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees (Egō Pharisaiōos eimi huios Pharisaiōn). This was strictly true as we know from his Epistles (Phi 3:5).
Touching the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question (peri elpidos kai anastaseōs nekrōn krinomai). This was true also and this is the point that Paul mentions in Act 24:21. His failure to mention again the fact that he was a Pharisee throws no discredit on Luke’s report here. The chief point of difference between Pharisees and Sadducees was precisely this matter of the resurrection. And this was Paul’s cardinal doctrine as a Christian minister. It was this fact that convinced him that Jesus was the Messiah and was “the very centre of his faith” (Page) and of his preaching. It was not a mere trick for Paul to proclaim this fact here and so divide the Sanhedrin. As a matter of fact, the Pharisees held aloof when the Sadducees persecuted Peter and the other apostles for preaching resurrection in the case of Jesus and even Gamaliel threw cold water on the effort to punish them for it (Act 5:34-39). So then Paul was really recurring to the original cleavage on this point and was able to score a point against the Sadducees as Gamaliel, his great teacher, had done before him. Besides, “Paul and Pharisaism seem to us such opposite ideas that we often forget that to Paul Christianity was the natural development of Judaism” (Page). Paul shows this in Galatians 3; Romans 9-11.