In English the word apology most often means an expression of regret or sorrow for one’s lapse in behavior in word or action; but, it can also be used according to its meaning in ancient Greek, which is a defense of a point of view, opinion, idea, philosophy, religious belief, etc. In the New Testament the word is used in this latter sense in both its nominal and verbal forms.
Apology is used most often in Luke-Acts and Paul. The verbal form appears two times in Luke, six times in the Book of Acts, and once in Romans and 2 Corinthians. In Luke 12: 11 Jesus counsels the disciples, “And when they bring you before synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12: 11-12 ESV) The parallel passage in Matthew does not utilize the verb apologeomai, defend oneself, as does Luke. The same is true when comparing Luke 21: 14 with parallels in Matthew and Mark. Here again, only Luke employs the verbal form of apology while Matthew and Mark use a verb meaning to speak.
Luke 12: 11 pertains to the witness of the disciples at a time of persecution. The Greek verb, apologeomai, in the English Standard Version of Luke 21: 14 is translated “to answer.” The whole verse reads, “Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.” (Luke 21: 14 ESV) In persecution the disciple has the opportnity to witness to the Gospel. Both passages in Luke where apologeomai is used refer to persecution and martyrdom of Jesus’ disciples. The meaning in both contexts is the same. The Christian replies to the charges of the opponent and, at the same time, testifies to the Gospel of Christ.
In Acts the verb is used six times. Paul makes his defense before Felix in Acts 24; before Festus in Acs 25; and before Agrippa in Acs 26.
Luke does not use the noun apologia but Acts, written by Luke, does. In Acts the word is used two times toward the end of the book, as is the case with the verbs. The word refers to Paul’s defense of his ministry in public. In Acts 22 Paul must defend himself against the Jews’ false accusation that he was teaching against the Law and bringing Gentiles into the Temple. In Acts 25 Paul makes his case before Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice.
In Acts 22 Paul gives an account of his conversion. Paul’s defense also served as opportunities to witness to Christ. He insisted that he was not preaching against His people, the Law, or the government. In Acts 26 Paul gives yet another account of his conversion.
Both verb and noun refer to Paul’s defense in various contexts that were of a juridical nature. He defends himself against false charges, gives account of his conversion, and witnesses to Christ. The crowd opposed to the Apostle interpreted his defense with loud threats against his person. The government officials listen more sympathetically.
The next article will consider Paul’s use of apology in Philippians and then in I Peter, its only use outside of Luke-Acts and the Pauline correspondence.