"It is hard for you to kick against the pricks”? Why does Luke put a Greek proverb on our Lords lips?


Hello, I hope you can help me…

So in Acts 26:14 our Lord says to St. Paul:
14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language,1 ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads (or pricks).’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. I’ve been question by someone who says to me: "If Jesus really said this, why does Paul put a Greek proverb on Jesus’ lips, as this was not a Hebrew saying, especially since Paul just told us that Jesus was speaking Hebrew? He says that “It is clear that Jesus did not say these words exactly, but that Luke simply used a common turn of phrase found in Greek literature and society as a whole” (e.g. Euripides : “kicks against the pricks” (Euripides, Bacchae.) Aeschylus:. “kicks against the pricks.” (Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1624.)

Am I correct to think that our Lord simply used a phrase that was understood by Paul since Paul spoke Greek and said it in Hebrew? Or that it was perhaps already a Hebrew proverb at the time since it was so widely known in Greek? Or that all rural peoples used a similar phrase, and since Paul was relating the account to King Agrippa a Latin speaking/Greek understanding man, he used the phrase It is hard for you to kick against the goads (or pricks), to make a point he could understand??

How do I argue against this?
"The Greeks and Romans used the phrase “kicking against the goad” as a saying to imply ruinous resistance. And Luke, speaking Greek, was familiar with the proverb. But according to the passage, Jesus supposedly spoke to Paul in Hebrew (Aramaic being his dialect). So did Jesus use an Aramaic proverb that was identical to the Greek proverb or did Luke do a loose translation?

The question is: Why did St. Paul via Luke put a Greek proverb on our Lord’s lips, when he just finished saying he was speaking to him in Hebrew?**

Thoughts please, as I have no way to argue this on my own.

Give me some strength and wisdom to refute this please. :o

Or does St. Luke mention that our Lord spoke in Hebrew so that he would call out that what Jesus said was EQUIVALENT to the Greek proverb in question.

In other words Paul told Luke what our Lord said in Hebrew and Luke said, “oh, you mean like the saying kick against the pricks as the Greeks say?”, and Paul said “yes”.

Could this be it?

I’m confused… :confused: Help please.


Anyone have any thoughts?


I found this online:

It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.—… As they occur in the English text, however, and belong to this crisis in St. Paul’s life, it will be well to deal with them now. In their outward form they were among the oldest and most familiar of Greek proverbs. The Jew who had been educated in the schools of Tarsus might have read them in Greek poets (Æschylus, Agam. 1633; Pindar, Pyth. ii. 173; Eurip. Bacch. 791), or heard them quoted in familiar speech, or written them in his boyhood. They do not occur in any collection of Hebrew proverbs, but the analogy which they presented was so obvious that the ploughmen of Israel could hardly have failed to draw the same lesson as those of Greece. What they taught was, of course, that to resist a power altogether superior to our own is a profitless and perilous experiment. The goad did but prick more sharply the more the ox struggled against it. Two of the passages cited apply the words directly to the suffering which man is sure to encounter when he resists God, as e.g.—

“With God we may not strive:

But to bow down the willing neck,

And bear the yoke, is wise;

To kick against the pricks will prove

A perilous emprise.”

It makes sense, no? I think so…


Nobody? :o You guys have been so helpful to me in the past…

A Catholic Brother or Sisters thoughts are most welcome!!


Can’t offer any insight…Other than to be patient…It’s a holiday weekend here in the U.S. (Memorial Day) to the board may not be as active as usual…



Ah, i see. :slight_smile: Happy holiday to you!

I will wait patiently. Hopefully someone here can help me out.



I will wait patiently. Hopefully someone here can help me out.

Me too…



It would not be unheard of for some Greek proverbs sneaking into Aramaic, since many learned Jews, not to speak of diaspora Jews, also knew Greek. And if a saying was common in Aramaic, it’s not like it couldn’t be said in Hebrew. Thus, it is not impossible that Our Lord used a Greek proverb in Hebrew.

But it would also not be unheard of if Luke chose a familiar (to the audience), Greek proverb, when describing the event. In some cases where the target culture may or would not understand a metaphor, it is still done when translating the Bible, actually. The important thing is what Our Lord said, not exactly which words were used.


That was a fantastic answer. God Bless you!


Our LORD could easily have known Greek, and idiomatic expressions often are unique and do not get translated.

Why wouldn’t He use it, if it fit?



Very true, forgive me, but what does “and idiomatic expressions often are unique and do not get translated” mean?


I have a problem with Paulism and I always have. It is Jesus whom I follow. But I can tell you this (believe me or not): I have had several visions in my lifetime. The “language” during a vision or apparition is immediately discerned in the hearer’s language, even if it is spoken (conveyed) in another. I’ve had this experience. Paul wrote to the churches; Jesus spoke to us all. I prefer Jesus to Paul and it is His voice I listen for.


I have bad news for you then. Paul was chosen by Jesus to receive the Keys of the Kingdom as an apostle. He also wrote a significant portion of the New Testament. Do you deny the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in his work?


Or sorry, I understand you now. Agreed. :slight_smile:


Though I don’t agree with your first statement, I understand what you mean in the second part of your answer, and thank you for a valuable assessment and an option that makes sense.


I suppose so. But would His Hebrew audience have known it?


I think his point was there was a similar expression in Hebrew, which logic calls for since even though there are no written examples, they were a people who used “goads” or “pricks” as it is mentioned in the OT and the Jewish people lived with knowledge of Greek sayings, which probably intermingled with their own, especially with a common theme of Ox and beasts of burden which all men used. The audience for Luke and Paul however were Greek.

If I understood him correctly.


Why is this a problem? As Haydock says: “It is generally supposed that S. Paul addresses king Agrippa in the Greek language, which was the common tongue of a great part of the East. V.”

The Lord spoke to Paul in one language. Paul probably spoke to Agrippa in another. Luke rendered that in the Greek. Indeed, Jesus could have spoken this Greek proverb in Hebrew to Paul, as He knew that Paul would both understand it as well as later use it before Agrippa (and probably others), since the Hellenized (Greek speaking) Jews would be hearing him.

In short, scripture is not everything. As well, we must not assume that Paul put any words on Jesus’ lips.

Why did Jude, one of the twelve, quote from the apocryphal Assumption of Moses as well as from the equally apocryphal Book of Enoch his letter? Why does Paul name Jannes and Jambres as opposing Moses in the desert? They are named nowhere in the OT.

Those excerpted apocryphal lessons were inspired when used in context, but their sum total remained apocryphal.


Remember, Paul was Apostle to the Gentiles. Although he certainly encountered Hebrew speakers, they were a minority of those he taught.


I think this is splitting hairs here. I would image that St. Luke got this first hand from St. Paul whom he traveled with. The person questioning that Jesus from heaven wouldn’t have used s Greek proverb to speak to an extremely educated man like St. Paul can’t say this at all and with any certainty. In other words, how does can this person know that? They can’t and Jesus speaking from heaven could have easily used a popular Greek proverb which fit the situation. The burden of proof is on them instead of what St. Luke recorded from St. Paul. St. Paul did become the “apostle” to the Greeks so it does seem fitting that Jesus speaking to St. Paul in his conversion would have used a Greek proverb as a precurser to what St. Paul’s mission and ministry would be.

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