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An Exposition Of The Acts Of The Apostles

ANALYSIS

In this Chapter, we have an account of the grievous charges made by the Jewish authorities against Paul to Festus, the new Governor, when he went up to Jerusalem. Their request to have Paul sent up to Jerusalem intending to assassinate him on the way. Paul’s defence and appeal to Cæsar (1–11). Festus mentions the case of Paul to Agrippa and Bernice who came to visit him. He utters certain maxims of Roman and natural justice in connexion with the case (12–20). Agrippa desires himself to hear Paul’s defence (22). Festus describes the state of the case to Agrippa (23–27).

Commentary

1. “Province.” Judea was made a Roman province.

“Jerusalem,” the former capital, the seat of learning and religion, where the rich and learned resided. There he could obtain an accurate knowledge of the province. It was in search of such knowledge, so necessary on entering on the duties of his office, that Festus went up from Cæsarea—the usual residence of the governors—and the capital of the province, so far as the Romans were concerned. Though Jerusalem held its pre-eminence in the eyes of the Jews.

2. “Chief Priests.” In some editions it is in the singular, “chief priest.”

“Went unto him.” Seeking to prejudice him against Paul.

3. They meant to kill him. But God, mindful of His promise to Paul, of being witness at Rome (23:12) set all their wicked designs at nought.

4. Festus, possibly informed by Lysias or some one else of the former conspiracy, refused, as Paul a Roman citizen was now at Cæsarea, the seat of empire. Let them go there (v. 5).

6. “Eight or ten days.” Some difference of reading in the Greek: but not of any importance.

7. These charges which they failed to prove, were probably the same as those alleged already before Felix (24:13–19).

8. Paul denied that he violated any law, or transgressed in any way against religion or civil society.

9. Festus at the commencement of his administration wished to conciliate the good will of the Jews.

“Before me.” He would not let out of his own hands the cause of a Roman citizen.

10. Paul, who knew the persistent malice of his countrymen, and probably fearing violence, prudently declining the proposal of the governor, who left him free to accede to it or not, at once appeals to the Roman emperor for a fair trial.

“Cæsar.” The Roman emperors at the time took the name of “Cæsar,” as the kings of Egypt went by the name of Pharaoh, each, however, retaining his own proper name also. Nero was, at the time, the reigning emperor. Under him Paul was beheaded.

“Where I ought to be judged.” Entitled to a fair trial, which I cannot expect from my countrymen.

“No injury,” either in person, property or religion. “As thou knowest.” Festus knew that Paul was tried by Felix, and that he was perfectly innocent.

11. Here is shown the magnanimity of Paul. His rights should be respected. If he committed crimes worthy of death, he is prepared to die.

“No man may deliver me,” &c. No one had a right to deliver over for punishment an innocent man. The laws of justice and of Rome forbade it, and Festus dare not act against the laws. Festus seemed to be pursuing the same iniquitous, vacillating course adopted by Felix, who kept him two years in unjust detention though conscious of his innocence. Paul appeals, as he had a right to do, to the Roman emperor—the highest tribunal in the empire.

12. “Council.” The judges associated with him, composed of military and civil magistrates, in the administration of the province.

13. “After some days.” While awaiting some favourable opportunity of sending Paul to Rome on appeal.

“King Agrippa.” Son of Agrippa, whose shocking death is recorded (c. 12). “And Bernice,” his sister, who lived with him. (Josephus, Antiq., xx. c. 7. charges her with scandalous incest with her brother.) She bore the repute of being a shocking character. Her relations with Titus, son of the Emperor Vespasian, who took her to Rome as his mistress, are recorded by Suetonius (Titus, c. 7). Titus resolved on marrying her. But public opinion was too strong against it, so he reluctantly dismissed her. “Dimisit invitus invitam” (Tacitus, Hist. xi. 81).

“To salute Festus.” To pay him a visit of respect as new governor of the province.

14. “Told the king of Paul.” Informed him of the cause of Paul, whose trial was probably a matter generally spoken of. Agrippa, being a Jew, might be naturally supposed to feel some interest in his case.

“Left prisoner.” Probably, in care of a soldier (24:23–27).

15. “Sentence of condemnation,” &c. Wishing me to pass sentence of condemnation against him.

16. This just principle of Roman jurisprudence, thoroughly in accordance with natural equity is, unhappily, in many instances departed from in practice. There is no proof, however, that Festus was guilty of violating it. “To condemn anyone.” The Greek would mean to hand over for destruction (capital punishment) any one as a favour to another.

18. No grievous violation of the laws of Rome was proved against him.

19. “Certain questions.” Certain disputed points, controverted among them.

“Of their own superstition”—δεισιδαιμονιας—literally, fear of demons. Among the Greeks and Romans the term was used to designate the worship of their Gods, as 17:22, where it is taken in a good sense, as it was a term he would employ in speaking of his own worship of the Gods. Moreover, on addressing Agrippa, his guest, whom he knew to be a Jew, he certainly would not use the word in an offensive sense any more than would Paul when commencing his address to the Athenians (17:22) whom it was his interest and the interest of his ministry to conciliate and render favourable.

“One Jesus deceased.” In Greek, one deceased Jesus. It would seem Festus paid no heed to the teaching of Paul regarding the Resurrection of our Lord.

20. I doubted how to give judgment regarding questions of this sort, being wholly ignorant of their nature and import. Perplexed, as to the whole matter.

21. Making an appeal. Claiming to be reserved, &c. “Augustus,” which signifies venerable, worthy of honour. This was the surname given to all the Roman emperors from Cæsar Octavianus, to whom it was first given, usually called Augustus Cæsar The name, “Cæsar,” which belonged to the Julian family, was also given from the time of Julius Cæsar, the first Roman emperor, to all his successors in the empire. Nero was the reigning emperor at this time.

22. “Agrippa,” himself a Jew, doubtless, heard much about our Lord and the Christian following, and was curious to hear the defence of Christianity from its chief champion.

23. “Great pomp,” regal splendour and state; and this in a city, where their father, thirteen (13) years before, died a horrible death.

“Hall of audience,” where the judges usually sat to hear and decide cases of litigation.

24. “All ye men,” Jews of Cæsarea, “here present.” These also joined in the clamour.

“Dealt with me,” appealed to me.

26. “Of whom” concerning whom. “Nothing certain,” definite or precise, nothing against the Laws of the State, the whole accusation having reference to Jewish Laws and Customs, to which I am stranger. “My lord,” the Emperor, Nero. The title “lord,” though rejected by Augustus and Tiberius, was accepted by Caligula, Claudius and subsequent Emperors. Nero exacted it.

“Brought him before you.” As Agrippa was a Jew, acquainted with Jewish laws and usages, Festus hoped to receive some light and information from him on this subject, so as to be able to present a satisfactory statement to the Emperor Nero.

27. Festus felt perplexed. Having tried the case, he could not understand the nature of the accusations or charges brought against the prisoner who appealed from his jurisdiction. It would be only reasonable, that the judge of appeal should be informed by the inferior judge, who tried the case, of the nature of the charge—the defence, and the reasons adduced on both sides. Of these things Festus was ignorant, and was glad to get some assistance from King Agrippa, a Jew, acquainted with Jewish customs and laws.

“Signify,” specify with precision and accuracy, “the things laid to his charge.”

“Unreasonable,” against reason and law, as well.








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