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Acts 24:1-9

1. And after five days the chief priest Ananias came down with the elders, and one Tertullus, a rhetorician, who came before the governor against Paul. 2. And when Paul was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, Seeing that we live in great peace by means of thee, and seeing many things are restored in this nation by thy providence, 3. That allow we ever, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thanks. 4. But lest I become tedious unto thee, I pray thee hear us a little of thy courtesy. 5. For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of debate unto all the Jews throughout the whole world, and an author of the sect of the Nazarites: 6. Who did also go about to pollute the temple; whom when we had taken, we would have judged him according to our law, 7. But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him from us, 8. Commanding his accusers to come down unto thee: of whom thou mayest, if thou wilt inquire, know the certainty of all these things whereof we accuse him. 9. And the Jews added, saying that these things were so.

 

1. Seeing Ananias goeth down to Cesarea to accuse Paul, it maketh the conjecture more probable, which I brought before touching his priesthood. For it was not meet for the highest priest to take such a journey. Therefore some other man was highest priest at that time; and Ananias being one of the chief priests, forasmuch as he was in great authority, and was withal a stout 562562     “Strenuus,” active. his innocence. man, did take this embassage upon him. He bringeth with him a train, and that of the worshipful company of elders, that the governor might be moved with their very pomp to condemn Paul. But forasmuch as Paul did use no eloquence, they had no need to hire a rhetorician to contend with him in eloquence. Moreover, they did exceed both in dignity and also in multitude, so that it was an easy matter for them to oppress a poor man, and such a one as was destitute of man’s help. Therefore it was a sign of an evil conscience, in that seeing they were men of great experience, exercised in public affairs, and skillful in matters pertaining to courts, they hire a rhetorician. Eloquence is, I confess, the gift of God; but in this matter they went about nothing else but to deceive the judge therewith. And Luke declareth this, therefore, that we may know that the Jews did omit nothing whereby they might oppress Paul; and that they might not only prove him guilty, 563563     “Perverterent ejus innocentiam,” but so dash him out of countenance, that he might not be able to defend himself; and so let us consider that it came to pass by the wonderful providence of God, that Paul did so stoutly endure such sore assaults. Wherefore, if it so fall out at any time that a godly man being alone be beset with a great number of enemies, let him call to mind this history, and let him be of good courage. As David doth likewise exhort us by his own example,

“If tents were pitched about me, I will not fear,
because thou art with me,” (Psalm 27:3).

2. Seeing we live in great peace. Tertullus useth a preface nothing appertinent to the matter; because he commendeth Felix wisdom and virtues that he may purchase favor. Therefore it is a filthy and flattering exordium. Not that I am of their mind who reprehend Tertullus for speaking the judge fair, and for seeking to win his favor. For it is not always disagreeing with the right and lawful form of pleading to commend the judge; and there may reasons be brought on both sides (as they say) touching this matter. But I mislike nothing but this which is altogether corrupt. For the rhetorician doth insinuate himself under false praises, that he may darken the matter which is called in question. For to what end doth he speak of peace and a well ordered state, save only that Felix may think that the safety of Judea consisteth in condemning Paul, and that he may examine the matter no further? Moreover, it appeareth by Josephus, how covetously, cruelly, and voluptuously, Felix behaved himself in that province. The unworthy and tragical murdering of the highest priest, Jonathas, because he set himself against his dissolute tyranny, was already past; 564564     “Jam praecesserat,” had already been committed. and, finally, almost at the very same time, Claudius Caesar was enforced with the complaints of the whole nation, to put Festus in his place, and to call him to answer for himself.

Therefore we see how shamefully this orator did lie. And seeing all Paul’s adversaries sing the same song, we see that they be blinded with hatred and malice, and that they treacherously betray the state of their country; neither do they pass what befall them so Paul may die the death.

Where Erasmus translateth it, Many things are well done, the old interpreter seemeth to come nearer unto Paul’s meaning, who saith, that κατορθωματα are wrought, which signifieth as much as reformations or dressings. Therefore Tertullus commendeth the industry of Felix, because he had cleansed Judea from many corruptions, and he restored many things which would otherwise have decayed; 565565     “Quae alioqui pessum ibant,” which were otherwise becoming worse. to wit, to the end he may the more greedily seek to purchase the favor of the nation (which he knew was otherwise offended with him) by the death of one man.

5. For we found this man. Tertullus doth aim at a double mark. The first is this, that Paul may be delivered to the Jews, because they be very skillful in matters which concern the worship of God and the law of Moses. But and if he deny this, he layeth to his charge a crime worthy of death, because he procured contention 566566     “Seditionem... concitaverit,” stirred up sedition. among the people. They knew that the Romans did hate nothing more, therefore they urge that the sorest against Paul. This doth Tertullus amplify when he saith, that Paul had moved the Jews throughout the whole world. But I wonder why he addeth that he is the author or chief of the sect of the Nazarites, which we know was rather a praise than a dispraise among the Jews. I think that they mean not those who, according to the old and lawful custom of the law, did consecrate themselves to God, but those troublesome murderers who did also vaunt and boast that they were zealous men. 567567     “Tumultusos illos sicarios qui se etiam plausibili nomine vociferabant zelotas,” those tumultuary assassins who, assuming a specious name, boasted of being zelotae, (zealous) Some 568568     “Quae factio circiter illud tempus emerserit; imo ex Josephi historia colligitur jamtunc fuisse grassatos,” about this time that faction had broken out, nay, it appears from Josephus that it had even then made considerable progress, omitted. think that Nazarites are here put for Christians, which may very well be. But if we like the former exposition better, he doth craftily lay to Paul’s charge that he was one of that sect which the Romans did hate. For whereas these zealous men would above all other have been counted for notable observers of the law, they advanced a color of zeal as a banner to stir up the minds of the common people. Nevertheless, these good men, who are so zealous over their liberty, do not spare the chiefest maintainers thereof, so they may cause Paul to be hated by means of them. They would have commended the Nazarites as courageous defenders of the law, if it had not been in this matter, but now, as if they did infect the whole world, they seek to bring upon Paul great reproach by saying that he is one of them. Moreover, they slander Paul impudently, for no man did think that he was guilty of that crime. Therefore they lay to his charge, no less wickedly than maliciously, a crime which they take up at their foot, 569569     “Crimen velut ex trivio aereptum,” some charge, picked up, as it were, in the streets. and invent without all color. But such is the careless security of hypocrites, that they think they may do whatsoever they will, so they color their doings with zeal.

6. Who went about to pollute the temple. It was a light and almost a frivolous accusation to lay this to his charge before the Roman governor, who could have wished that the temple had been turned topsy-turvy. But because nothing was more fit for procuring uproars than the polluting of the temple, he doth craftily accuse Paul thereof, as if he should say, that it was no thanks to him that Jerusalem was not on an uproar; and that he carried such a firebrand as might have procured sore hurt if he had not been prevented. Also he includeth that other thing, that because Paul had offended in matters of religion, it did belong properly to the Jews to give judgment in that matter. And here he complaineth also of the chief captain Lysias, because he robbed them of their right. Therefore his drift is, to obtain at the hands of the ruler that he will restore to them that which Lysias had taken from them. This is also not void of subtilty, in that Tertullus doth discredit the chief captain, because he dealt more courteously towards Paul than the priests would he should; and glancingly he bringeth him in suspicion, because he dare not openly accuse him. But the question is, whether they could hope that the governor would grant them so much, seeing the Roman magistrates alone were to sit upon life and death? I answer, that he maketh in this place some semblance of equity, as if they were purposed to handle him more gently than he deserved. For though they might not condemn any man to death, yet they might use some light chastisement as was scourging. Nevertheless, Tertullus doth not cease to desire before the president to have him put to death.

8. Having made inquiry. A good 570570     “AEqua,” just, equitable. request, that the governor do not give sentence before he thoroughly examine and know the matter; and that he do not condemn Paul before he be lawfully convict. But how dare they put in these conditions, seeing their own consciences do accuse them of unjust dealing? I answer, that they had witnesses in readiness; and that they do not offer themselves to prove the matter until they do call them; 571571     “Nec se ad probandum offerre nisi suo arbitrio,” and that they do not offer proof unless he decide that it shall be taken. though there were another end. For they did hope that Felix would be so persuaded with such glorious words, 572572     “Ampullis,” bombast. that he would turn over unto them the man whom they did accuse for a condemned man, whom they might handle at their pleasure. In sum, the more fierce they be upon him, and the more they were puffed up with some affiance they had in themselves, they think they shall get the upper hand by this means, because the party arraigned shall have no license granted to defend himself. Thus do false accusers boldly boast that their matter is plain, that they may blind the eyes of the judges.


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