The essay entitled “In Paul’s Defense” by Timothy Brookins, Mikeal Parsons and Peter Reynolds seeks to provide the reader with translations from ‘J.A. Cramer’s Catena’ (1838) which collected early defenses of Paul, or clarifications of Acts’ portrait of Paul that might seem to tarnish his halo. The attempt also is to exonerate Paul from any infelicity or wrongdoing. The scholia in Cramer’s catena are thought to go back to Archbishop Andrew of Caesarea of Cappadocia, and so to the 7th century A.D. The primary contributors to the scholia are John Chrysostom, Ammonius, and Severus (all 3 cited dozens of times), with various anonymous items as well.
What sort of apologiae do we find? For example, on Acts 15.39 we have the explanation by an anonymous source that the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas did not arise from a quarrel but rather because of ‘divine dispensation’ since Paul was intending to take Timothy with him and we know from 2 Tim. 4.11 that Paul still loved Mark.
Ammonius, also commenting on Acts 15.39 suggests that Barnabas was too simple (i.e. naive) about Mark, seeking to take him back at once after he had abandoned the first missionary journey. Paul is vindicated for being severe about Mark by using the parallel in 1 Cor. 5 and 2 Tim. 4.2. So Paul and Barnabas did not ruin their friendship but deemed it wise for the sake of the Gospel and their differing dispositions to go their separate ways. On Acts 16.7-8 Ammonius adds that it is not appropriate to question why the Spirit didn’t let Paul go to Asia at the time, and since all things the apostles did having been pricked by the Spirit to do it, it is wrong to find fault with the things done by them. He also sees Acts 16.33-34 as proof that catechesis should precede baptism.
An anonymous scholion, possibly by Chrysostom, on Acts 23.1-2 defends Paul against the charge of being insolent towards the high priest, because, according to this defender, Paul really didn’t know he was speaking to the high priest.
Severus will have none of this, since Paul says that the man in question is sitting in judgment of him in accord with the Law, which seems to presume he is the high priest. So Severus suggests Paul pretended to not know this was the high priest out of expediency or to expose the high priest’s hypocrisy. Anyway, if Jesus can call such folk whited sepulchres, one shouldn’t object to Paul characterizing hypocrisy this way as well.