Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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ACTS - Chapter 24

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Acts 24

Supplemental Commentary:

THE MISSIONARY JOURNEYS OF ST. PAUL  13, 1 -- 28, 31 (continued)

4.  Imprisonment in Palestine  21, 17 -- 26, 32 (continued)

24, 1-9:  The Accusation.    2.  Tertullus, a professional orator, began his presentation of the case in the accepted style of the schools with a bit of flattery.  In reality Felix was a rascal and, as Tacitus puts it, "he wielded royal power with the soul of a slave," and "thought he could commit all crimes with impunity" (Hist. 5, 9; Annals 12, 54).  He had previously been accused at Rome, but had secured his acquittal through the influence of his brother Pallas, a favorite freedman of the Emperor Claudius.  His wife was Drusilla, the sister of Herod Agrippa II and Bernice, and he had won her from her husband, the king of Emesa, by the help of a Jewish magician.  On his recall to Rome about 58 A.D. he had to face accusations laid against him by the Jews of Caesarea.    5-8.  Tertullus advanced three charges: St. Paul had stirred up seditions among the Jews throughout the world, he has the soul of the Nazarenes (a Jewish name for the Christians), and he had profaned the temple.

24, 10-21:  The Defense.  St. Paul skillfully began by winning the good will of the judge, but he confined himself to facts; Felix had been in office for a long time and was acquainted with local conditions.  Then with calm dignity he met each of the charges.  He was not a disturber of the peace, for he had been in Jerusalem for only a short time and had comported himself quietly.  Nor was he a heretic, since he believed in the Law and the Prophets, and Christianity was the flowering of all that was essential in Judaism.  Finally he had not profaned the temple for, when attacked, he was performing customary religious rites there.  If he had done anything amiss, his first assailants, the Asiatic Jews, should have been on hand to accuse him.  In his trial before the Sanhedrin the only fault laid to his charge had been his belief in the resurrection of the dead, a doctrine held by most of the Jews.

24, 22-27:  The Prisoner.  Living at Caesarea where there were many Christians, Felix was in a position to judge how unfounded were the accusations made against the Apostle.  Besides, his wife Drusilla must have known of the hostility between Jews and Christians.  He postponed his decision, however, on the pretext of wishing to consult the tribune, but in reality, after the manner of the worst type of Roman official, merely to play fast and loose with the Jews and to receive bribes from St. Paul.  After two years, with a trial at Rome confronting him, he was chiefly concerned with placating the Jews.

Confraternity Bible:

The Accusation  1 Now five days later the high priest Ananias came down with some of the elders and one Tertullus, an attorney; and they presented their case against Paul before the governor.  2 When Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying:

"Whereas we live in much peace through thee, and whereas many reforms are in progress by thy foresight, 3 we always and everywhere receive them, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness.  4 But not to detain thee too long, I entreat thee to be kind enough to grant us a brief hearing.  5 We have found this man a pest, and a promoter of seditions among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sedition of the Nazarene sect.  6 He even tried to desecrate the temple, but we caught him [and wished to judge him according to our Law.  7 But Lysias, the tribune, came upon us and with great violence took him away out of our hands, 8 ordering his accusers to come to thee].  By examining him thyself, thou wilt be able to discover all these things we charge him with."  9 And the Jews also supported the charge, saying that this was so.

The Defense  10 Then when the governor nodded to him to speak, Paul answered, "As I know that for many years thou hast been a judge for this nation, I shall answer for myself with good courage.  11 For thou canst take as certain that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem; 12 and neither in the temple did they find me disputing with anyone or creating a disturbance among the people, nor in the synagogue, nor about the city; 13 neither can they prove to thee the charges that they now make against me.  14 But this I admit to thee, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, so I serve the God of my fathers; believing all things that are written in the Law and the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God which these men themselves also look for, that there is to be a resurrection of the just and the unjust; 16 and in this I too strive always to have a clear conscience before God and before men.

17 "Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to offer sacrifice and fulfill vows; 18 in which they found me engaged in the temple, after having been purified, with no crowd or disturbance at all.  19 But there were some Jews from the province of Asia, who ought to have been here before thee and to have presented their charges, if they had any, against me; 20 or else let these men themselves say what they found wrong in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin, 21 unless it be for the one thing I shouted out as I stood among them, 'It is about the resurrection of the dead that I am being judged by you this day.'"

The Prisoner  22 Felix, however, having precise information about the Way, adjourned the trial, saying, "When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case."  23 And he instructed the centurion to keep Paul in custody but to allow him some liberty, and not to prevent any of his friends from looking after him.

24 Now some days later, Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard what he had to say about the faith in Christ Jesus.  25 But as he talked of justice and chastity and the judgment to come, Felix became alarmed and answered, "For the present go thy way; but when I get an opportunity, I will send for thee."  26 At the same time he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul, and for this reason he would send for him often and talk with him.  27 But after two years Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and as he wanted to ingratiate himself with the Jews, Felix left Paul in prison.