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Paul's Defence Before Felix
Summary —The High Priest and Elders Come Down to Accuse Paul. The Speech of Tertullus, Their Lawyer. Paul's Reply. Declares His Manner of Life, That He is a Christian, Why He Came to Jerusalem, How He Acted. Felix Defers a Decision for Further Inquiry. Paul Preaches Before Felix and Drusilla.
1–9. After five days. Five days after Paul departed from Jerusalem. The Roman usage was to investigate a case promptly. The deep animosity of the Jews is shown by the fact that the high priest himself came down to prosecute, attended by a delegation from the Sanhedrim (elders). A certain orator named Tertullus. A lawyer acquainted with the forms of Roman courts. Some have supposed that he was not a Jew, from his name, but it is probable that he was a Jew who had been educated in Roman law, perhaps at Rome. The name signifies nothing. That of Paul (Paulus) was itself Roman. The first three verses of the address of Tertullus are compliments to Felix, intended to secure a favorable hearing. In fifth verse the charges begin, the first one of which is false. A ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. This was the offence of Paul. All their hatred was due to the fact that he was the great Christian leader. The reason why this urged was to show that Paul preached a religion not authorized by Roman law. See notes on 18:13. Nazarenes was for hundreds of years the term was applied to Christians 523by the Jews. This is the only instance, however, in the New Testament where it so applied. The Mohammedans still use it. Hath gone about to profane the temple. This false charge is repeated, because this was the cry when Paul was seized (21:28). Note that there are three charges: (1) That Paul was the author of sedition; (2) preached an unlawful religion; (3) profaned the temple. The penalty of the last by Jewish law was death, and the Romans usually permitted it to be enforced. Whom we took, and would have judged. This part of the sixth verse, all of the seventh, and the first clause of the eighth, are not found in the Revision, or the best MSS. Whom (verse 8) in the Common Version becomes him in the Revision and refers to Paul. And the Jews joined in the charge. Those who had come down from Jerusalem affirmed that Tertullus had spoken in the facts.
10–21. Paul answered. He had the right to reply to his accusers. The Roman law condemned no one unheard. Thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation. For six or seven years Felix had been governor and was therefore familiar with the state of affairs in Judea. Upon this fact Paul courteously congratulates himself. It is not more than twelve days. It would be easy for Felix to ascertain the facts, for only twelve days had passed since he returned to Judea, after many years absence. Of these twelve, the first is the day Paul meets James and the elders, the second he enters upon his vow, the seventh he is seized in the temple, the eighth tried before the Sanhedrim, the eleventh day he is delivered to Felix, and the thirteenth appears before his court. Verse 12 is in answer to the first charge, that of sedition. He had been perfectly quiet in Jerusalem. But this I confess. Verses 14, 15 and 16 are in answer to the second charge, that he is of the sect of Nazarenes.” He confesses that he worships God after that way they call a sect (see Revision). Yet he is a 524true Jew, believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets. In becoming a Christian, he had not, therefore, as they asserted, apostatized from the faith of his fathers. And have hope toward God. This hope of the resurrection, the great doctrine of Christianity, was one that the law and the prophets foreshadow, and which they themselves also allow. The Jews held this same hope. Apart from the Sadducees, a small minority, the Jews believed in a future life and judgment. Hence, even in this matter, he was not preaching a new, unknown and illegal doctrine, for Judaism was acknowledged by Roman law. Josephus says, “The Sadducees were able to persuade none but the rich. The Pharisees had the multitude on their side.” Herein do I exercise myself. In this belief of a resurrection. His belief was not a theory, but a life, and hence he sought to keep his conscience pure in the sight of God and man. Now after many years I came. Here he begins his reply to the third charge, that of profaning the temple. He came to Jerusalem with the most benevolent motives, to bring alms to my own nation. These were the sums of money gathered in the Gentile churches for the poor in Jerusalem. See Rom. 15:25–31; 1 Cor. 16:1–4; 2 Cor. 8:9. Offerings. Such as were customary at the temple. It was while engaged in the preparations for a Nazarite offering that he was seized. He thus accounts for his presence in the temple. Certain Jews from Asia found me. He states how these Jews who raised the outcry found him engaged. He was engaged in a Jewish rite. Who ought to have been here. These foreign Jews were the legal accusers. The Sanhedrim was a court of trial, and its members present were not the accusers. The Roman custom required the accusers to face the accused. Let these same here say. Let those present testify if they know one thing against me, save that I declared before the Sanhedrim that Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question. This was the real offence in the eyes of the high priest and his fellow Sadducees.
22, 23. Felix heard these things. The speeches on each side. Having more perfect knowledge. Understanding the real animus of the charges. He was well acquainted with the Jewish hatred of 525Christians, and understood something of that way, the Christian doctrine. He commanded a centurion to keep Paul. Two reasons caused him to keep a prisoner that had done no wrong: (1) He did not like to offend the Jews; (2) he hoped to be bribed by the Christians to let Paul go. Paul was not put in confinement, but under the charge of an officer who was responsible for him. Usually in this kind of imprisonment the prisoner was bound to a soldier.
24–27. Felix came with his wife Drusilla. This woman, a Jewess, was the daughter of the Herod who died miserably at Cæsarea (12:23), and the sister of King Agrippa and Bernice (25:23). She was very beautiful and very profligate, had been the wife of Azizus, the king of Emesa, but had left him and married Felix. Perhaps the interest she felt in Paul was due to the fact that her father had been a persecutor of the Christians, had died a singular death, and this had been pronounced a judgment. As he reasoned. They, no doubt, expected that he would speak of doctrine, but instead he spoke of the life that ought to be lived, with special reference to those who sat before him in such state and glory. When he spoke of righteousness, he spoke of justice to a judge who held this office only for the sake of gain and who took bribes. When he spoke of temperance, he rebuked the unbridled sway of the passions and of lust. When he spoke of judgment, he pictured the judgment scene when the unjust and impure of earth shall be called to account. With such power he spoke that the stern Roman trembled before the poor prisoner in his power. Go thy way. Felix does not resent; he is too powerfully moved, but he puts off. Thus thousands destroy their souls. He hoped that money. Almost every Roman governor took a province in order to enrich himself, and hence would welcome bribery and every species of corruption. Felix was no worse than the average official of his time. But after two years. It was in the autumn of a.d. 60 that Felix was removed. Porcius Festus came in Felix' room. This officer was more upright, according to Josephus, than most Roman governors, but died in the second year of his office. Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure. He was recalled, because grave accusations were made against him. Had he released Paul, it would have intensified the enmity of the Jews, and hence he was turned over as a prisoner to his successor.
The question has been asked how Paul spent these two years of confinement. Dean Howson urges that at this time of the Gospel of Luke was written under the supervision of Paul. He and Luke were in Judea, where the facts could be gathered. Philip lived at Cæsarea. Paul more than once in his writings speaks of “My Gospel.” Irenæus, who had heard those preach who had heard the apostles, tells us that Paul was accustomed to speak of the Gospel of Luke as written by him, and Origen and Jerome assert the same fact. We know Paul could not have been idle. Hence, for these reasons, Howson suggests that at this period his chief work was the Third Gospel, the “Gospel for the Gentiles.” 526
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