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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Acts 25

Verse 1

1. ἐπιβὰς τῇ ἐπαρχίᾳ, was come into the province. This may either mean ‘when he had reached Cæsarea,’ to which, as the seaport, he would naturally come first; or, with margin of the Rev. Vers., ‘when he had entered upon his province.’ The former seems to be the preferable sense because of what follows.

ἐπαρχία, which only occurs in N.T. here and in Acts 23:34, is common in the Apocryphal Acts. Cf. Acta Petri et Pauli, §§ 3, 5, &c.

μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας ἀνέβη, after three days he went up. Festus took a very short time to make himself acquainted with what would be his principal residence, and then went up to visit the Capital.

Verses 1-12


Verse 2

2. ἐνεφάνισάν τε, and they informed. The verb indicates that the proceedings here assumed a legal form. It was no mere mention in any irregular way, but a definite charge was made, no doubt in the same terms which Tertullus had used before.

See on this verb above, Acts 23:15; Acts 23:22, Acts 24:1.

οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς, the chief priests. No doubt Ananias, as before, was the leader of the accusation, but he got others of his own class to support him in Jerusalem. He was their representative when the hearing was in Cæsarea.

καὶ οἱ πρῶτοι τῶν Ἰουδαίων, and the principal men of the Jews. The wealthiest men of the nation belonged to the party of the Sadducees.

Verse 3

3. αἰτούμενοι χάριν κατ' αὐτοῦ, desiring favour against him, i.e. they begged that their case might have some special consideration. They were many and rich; the accused man was alone and an obscure person, and it was much easier to bring one man from Cæsarea, than for their whole body to undertake a journey from Jerusalem thither. No doubt too they hoped that with a new governor their influence and good position would not be without weight.

ἐνέδραν ποιοῦντες ἀνελεῖν αὐτὸν κατὰ τὴν ὁδόν, laying wait in the way to kill him. They still adhered to their plan of assassination, than which no crime was more common at this time in Judæa. Perhaps too those men who had bound themselves by a vow, though they had been forced to break it, yet felt dissatisfied that Paul was still alive.

Verse 4

4. ἀπεκρίθη τηρεῖσθαι τὸν Παῦλον εἰς Καισάρειαν, he answered that Paul was kept in charge at Cæsarea. The governor’s position was that the prisoner had been placed by his predecessor in a certain state of custody, and that this could not be interfered with.

ἑαυτὸν δὲ μέλλειν ἐν τάχει ἐκπορεύεσθαι, and that he himself was about to depart thither shortly. A governor newly arrived must move about actively, and could not remain long even in the capital. To have waited till all the arrangements, which the accusing party were supposed to be ready to make, were complete, would have consumed time, which must be occupied in learning the details of his provincial charge.

For ἐν τάχει, cf. Acts 7:7, Acts 22:18, above.

Verse 5

5. οἱ οὖν ἐν ὑμῖνδυνατοί, let them which are of power among you. The words of Festus do not refer to whether some of them could go to Cæsarea or not, but to the character of those who should go down, that they should be men of influence and character, such as would fitly represent the powerful body who appealed to him.

συγκαταβάντες, going down with me. For they were evidently wealthy persons, whose companionship on the journey might be no discredit to the governor. Festus was no doubt willing to conciliate the influential people in the nation, though he had refused to break through a regulation of his predecessor at their request.

εἴ τι ἐστὶν ἐν τῷ ἀνδρὶ ἄτοπον, if there is anything amiss in the man. For ἄτοπον in this sense cf. Luke 23:41; also LXX. Job 36:21; Proverbs 30:20; 2 Maccabees 14:23, καὶ ἔπραττεν οὐθὲν ἄτοπον ‘and he did no hurt’ (A.V.).

Verse 6

6. ἡμέρας οὐ πλείους ὀκτὼ ἢ δέκα, not more than eight or ten days. This seems a more likely reading than that of the Text. recept. It is more probable that the writer would use words to mark the shortness of the stay than a form which would seem to describe ten days as a long residence at Jerusalem. Festus was evidently full of business and anxious to get it done.

For the omission of after the comparative πλείους before numerals cf. Acts 4:22, Acts 23:13; Acts 23:21, Acts 24:11.

τῇ ἐπαύριον, the next day. The Jewish authorities must have accepted the governor’s invitation, and have gone down along with him, so that the hearing could begin at once. Probably they would think it good policy to join the party of Festus, as they might turn their opportunities on the journey to some account against St Paul.

Verse 7

7. περιέστησαν αὐτὸν οἱκ.τ.λ., the Jews which had come down from Jerusalem stood round about him. They were eager to set upon him and so compassed him about on every side.

πολλὰ καὶ βαρέα αἰτιώματα καταφέροντες, bringing against him many and grievous charges. In the two years lapse of time they had gathered up every rumour they could collect, and these they brought forward, even though they could not support them by evidence.

For καταφέρειν of an accusation cf. LXX. Genesis 37:1 κατήνεγκαν δὲ κατὰ Ἰωσὴφ ψόγον πονηρόν.

Verse 8

8. τοῦ Παύλου ἀπολογουμένου, while Paul said in his defence. He offered an ἀπολογία for himself. He did not make a defence against the unsubstantiated charges, but alluded only to those points on which they would try to prove their case, i.e. his alleged attempt to defile the Temple, his breaches of the Jewish Law, and any insurrectionary outbreaks, in which the accusers would try to prove him a leader, and which might be construed into opposition to the Roman power. On this last his accusers would lay most stress. St Luke has only given us the three heads of St Paul’s Apologia.

οὔτε εἰς τὸν νόμον τῶν Ἰουδαίων, κ.τ.λ., neither against the law of the Jews … have I sinned at all. The accusation on the former occasion had not dwelt on this point, but in the course of two years they had discovered that the Apostle had taught among the Gentiles that circumcision was no necessary door for admission to Christianity, and this they would construe into an offence against the Jewish Law.

Verse 9

9. ὁ Φῆστος δὲ θέλων τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις χάριν καταθέσθαι, but Festus desiring to gain favour with the Jews. See above, Acts 24:27. Though he had not consented to their request when in Jerusalem Festus now went some way towards doing so by his question to Paul.

θέλεις εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα ἀναβὰς κ.τ.λ., wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, &c. What Festus proposed was equivalent to acquitting the Apostle of any charge which would come under Roman law. He is therefore appealed to on the other accusations. The offences against the Law of the Jews and against the Temple must be heard before the Sanhedrin. Would Paul accept an acquittal on one count and submit to a trial before his own people on the rest? And Festus would be present to see that right was done.

Verse 10

10. ἐπὶ τοῦ βήματος Καίσαρος ἑστώς εἰμι, I am standing before Cæsar’s judgment seat. The Roman authorities had taken charge of him and had kept him in custody for two years. Of this he reminds the governor, and refuses to be turned over to another tribunal, where he would have for judges, if he ever were allowed to live till his trial, those persons who had been cognizant of the plot to murder him.

οὗ με δεῖ καίνεσθαι, where I ought to be judged, because I am a Roman citizen.

ὡς καὶ σὺ κάλλιον ἐπιγινώσκεις, as thou also very well knowest. St Paul does not mean to say that Festus is to be blamed for his proposal. Probably he saw that the governor was acting with a view to conciliate the Jews. But he intends to say that after all that the governor has heard, any man would say at once that there was no case against the prisoner.

The comparative force in κάλλιον may be brought out somewhat thus, ‘better than from your proposal to turn me over to Jews you would appear to know.’

Verse 11

11. εἰ μὲν οὖν ἀδικῶ, if then I am a wrong-doer. He has asserted that he was innocent so far as the Jews are concerned. If there be anything against him, it is for the civil jurisdiction of Rome, not for the religious tribunal at Jerusalem, to decide upon.

εἰ δὲ οὐδέν ἐστιν ὦν, but if there be none of these things whereof, i.e. if they be all nothing, all without truth; cf. on οὐδέν ἐστιν, chap. Acts 21:24 above.

οὐδείς με δύναται αὐτοῖς χαρίσασθαι, no man can deliver me unto them, i.e. there is no authority or power by which I may be given into their hands.

χαρίσασθαι properly signifies ‘to grant us a favour,’ and the use of it by St Paul seems to shew that he saw through all that Festus was doing, and how he was seeking (Acts 25:9) to ingratiate himself with the Jews. For other instances of this verb, cf. 2 Maccabees 3:31; 2 Maccabees 3:33, and in the signification of ‘to make a present,’ 2 Maccabees 4:32.

Καίσαρα ἐπικαλοῦμαι, I appeal unto Cæsar, the final tribunal for a Roman citizen being the hearing of the Emperor himself.

On St Paul’s appeal Chrysostom says: ἀλλ' εἴποι ἄν τις ἐνταῦθα καὶ τίνος ἕνεκεν ἀκούσας ὅτι καὶ ἐν Ῥώμῃ σε δεῖ μαρτυρῆσαι τὰ περὶ ἐμοῦ, ὡς ἀπιστῶν ταῦτα ἐποίει; μὴ γένοιτο, ἀλλὰ καὶ σφόδρα πιστεύων. μᾶλλον οὖν πειράζοντος ἦν τὸ θαῤῥεῖν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἀποφάσει, καὶ εἰς μυρίους ἑαυτὸν ἐμβάλλειν κινδύνους, καὶ λέγειν, ἴδωμεν εἰ δύναται ὁ θεὸς καὶ οὕτως ἐξελέσθαι με. ἀλλ' οὐ ποιεῖ τοῦτο Παῦλος ἀλλὰ τὰ καθ' ἑαυτὸν πάντα εἰσφέρει τὸ πᾶν ἐπιτρέπων τῷ θεῷ.

Verse 12

12. συλλαλήσας μετὰ τοῦ συμβουλίου, having conferred with the council. Having taken the opinion of those who sat as assessors with him. Such persons would be specially needed for a new governor, and the governors of Judæa were changed frequently. Of the existence of such assessors in the provinces, see Suetonius Tib. 33; Galba 19.

Verse 13

13. ἡμερῶν δὲ διαγενομένων. For διαγίνεσθαι, of the lapse of time, cf. Mark 16:1; Acts 27:9.

Ἀγρίππας ὁ βασιλεύς, king Agrippa. This was Herod Agrippa II., son of Herod Agrippa I., and consequently a great-grandson of Herod the Great. He was therefore brother of Bernice and Drusilla. On account of his youth he was not appointed to succeed his father when he died. But after a time the Roman emperor gave him the kingdom of Chalcis, from which he was subsequently transferred to govern the tetrarchies formerly held by Philip and Lysanias, and was named king thereof. His kingdom was afterwards increased by the grant of other cities which Nero gave him. At the fall of Jerusalem he retired to Rome, with his sister Bernice, and there died A.D. 100. He had sided with the Romans in the war against the Holy City. Festus was likely to avail himself of an opportunity of consulting Agrippa, for he would expect to be soundly advised by him on any question of Jewish law.

καὶ Βερνίκη, and Bernice, She was the eldest daughter of Herod Agrippa I. She had first been married to her uncle Herod, king of Chalcis. Her connexion with her brother Agrippa II. was spoken of both by Roman and Jewish writers as immoral. She was subsequently married to Polemon, king of Cilicia, but soon left him and lived with Agrippa II. in Rome.

κατήντησαν εἰς Καισάρειαν ἀσπασάμενοι τὸν φῆστον, arrived at Cæsarea, and saluted (lit. having saluted) Festus, The Greek seems to imply that they had met and paid their salutation to Festus before arriving at Cæsarea. If this had occurred, yet still the vassal-king Agrippa would probably feel bound to pay a formal visit of welcome to the representative of Rome in Cæsarea, the official residence.

Verses 13-22


Verse 15

15. οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς, the chief priests. See above on Acts 25:2, and on ἐμφανίζω also.

καταδίκην, judgment, but always with the sense of adverse judgment. Hence Rev. Ver. ‘sentence.’ The word implies that those who asked thought there could be but one opinion and that a condemnatory sentence might be at once pronounced, even by the newly arrived governor.

Verse 16

16. χαρίζεσθαί τινα ἄνθρωπον, to give up any man. See above, Acts 25:11, on the force of χαρίζεσθαι The language throughout shews that the Jews thought the influence of their party was enough to gain from Festus the condemnation of this so obscure a prisoner, whatever might be the merits of his case.

τόπον τε ἀνολογίας λάβοι, and have had opportunity to make his defence (lit. ‘place of defence’). On τόπος in this sense cf. Sirach 4:5 μὴ δῷς τόπον ἀνθρώπῳ καταρασασθαί σε. See also Romans 15:23 where ‘having no more place in these parts’ signifies ‘no further opportunity for preaching the Gospel.’

The two verbs ἔχοι an λάβοι are the only two cases of an optative after πρὶν ἢ in the N.T.

Verse 17

17. συνελθόντων οὖν αὐτῶν ἐνθάδε, therefore when they were come together here, i.e. the accusers from Jerusalem and the accused who was in custody. Then they were κατὰ πρόσωπον, as the Roman law required.

Verse 18

18. περὶ οὗ σταθέντες οἱ κατήγοροι, concerning whom the accusers when they stood up. Or there may be the same sense in the expression as in περιέστησαν of Acts 25:7, ‘When they stood round about him’ eager each to give emphasis to the charge.

οὐδεμίαν αἰτίαν ἔφερον ὦν ἐγὼ ὑπενόουν πονηράν, they brought no evil accusation of such things as I supposed. With αἰτία πονηρά may be compared ῥαδιούρημα πονηρόν above, chap. Acts 18:14.

Verse 19

19. περὶ τῆς ἰδίας δεισιδαιμονίας, concerning their own religion. Cf. St Paul’s use of the cognate adjective, when he was speaking to the Athenians. The word is one which might be employed without offence by any one in speaking of a worship with which he did not agree. Addressing Agrippa, Festus would not wish to say a word that might annoy, any more than St Paul wished to irritate the Athenians by his speech.

περί τινος Ἰησοῦ, concerning one Jesus. Neither in the hearing of the cause before Felix nor when Festus made his inquiry, does St Luke record any mention of the name of Jesus, but it is clear from the explanation here given that not only had Paul stated the doctrine of the Resurrection generally, which the Pharisees accepted, but had also asserted in proof of it that Jesus had risen and ‘become the firstfruits of them that sleep.’

Verse 20

20. ἀπορούμενος δὲ ἐγὼ τὴν περὶ τούτων ζήτησιν, and I being perplexed how to inquire concerning these things. The whole subject would be strange to Festus, and when he found that some Jews in part at least agreed with St Paul, while others of them were his bitter opponents, he could find no better plan than to turn to a Jew for an explanation. He did not himself know how to conduct an inquiry on such a subject, and yet the Jews’ religion, being now allowed by the Empire, must have its causes adjudicated on.

Verse 21

21. τηρηθῆναι αὐτὸν εἰς τὴν τοῦ Σεβαστοῦ διάγνωσιν, to be kept for the decision of the emperor, τηρεῖσθαι is used above, Acts 24:23, where the centurion was commanded to ‘keep’ Paul. He desired to be under the care of the Roman authorities until his case could be properly heard. Σεβαστός, the title given first to Octavianus, was afterwards conferred on his successors, and so came to mean ‘His Imperial Majesty,’ whoever might be on the throne. The present Σεβαστός was Nero. In the noun διάγνωσις we have a word which implies ‘thorough inquiry,’ which a final appeal was supposed always to receive.

Verse 22

22. ἐβουλόμην καὶ αὐτὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώτου ἀκοῦσαι, I was wishing [Rev. Ver. ‘could wish’] also to hear the man myself. Agrippa intimates that he knew something of the Apostle and his labours, as indeed was not unlikely, and that in consequence he had for some time been desirous to see and hear St Paul.

Verse 23

23. μετὰ πολλῆς φαντασίας, with great pomp. The children follow in the steps of their father, who formerly had sat on his throne in Cæsarea arrayed in royal apparel, to listen to the flatteries of the Tyrian deputation (Acts 12:21).

φαντασία is found only here in N.T., and in this sense is very rare anywhere.

ἀκροατήριον, the place of hearing. The word is found nowhere else in N.T. It was no doubt some special room attached to the governor’s palace, where causes were tried. In classical Greek it is found in the sense of ‘a lecture-room.’

χιλιάρχοις, chief captains. The word is frequent for the ‘praefectus’ of a Roman cohort.

ἀνδράσιν τοῖς κατ' ἐξοχήν, the principal men. The word ἐξοχή is used of any thing which is prominent. Cf. LXX. Job 39:28 ἐπ' ἐξοχῇ πέτρας, ‘on the crag of the rock.’ Hence in the text of persons who are prominent. But the phrase is not common.

Verses 23-27


Verse 24

24. ἐνέτυχόν μοι, made suit to me. In all other places of N.T. ἐντυγχάνειν is used of ‘making intercession’ to God. In the LXX. it is also used thus, Wisdom of Solomon 8:21 ἐνέτυχον τῷ κυρίῳ; but also very frequently of those who come before some authority with a complaint, as the Jews did against St Paul. See 1 Maccabees 8:32; 1 Maccabees 10:61; 1 Maccabees 10:63-64; 1 Maccabees 11:25; 2 Maccabees 4:36.

καὶ ἐνθάδε, and also here. No doubt the Sadducees from Jerusalem had been able in the course of two years to work up a great deal of feeling against Paul among their party in Cæsarea. So when Festus came he was appealed to by the great men of the residential city as well as by those from Jerusalem.

Verse 25

25. ἐγὼ δὲ κατελαβόμγν, but I found. Cf. above, Acts 25:18-19.

μηδὲν ἄξιον αὐτὸν θανάτου πεπραχέναι, that he had committed nothing worthy of death. To ask for the life of a prisoner because of some offence against the religious observances of the Jews would be absurd in the eyes of the Roman procurator, and the more so when the accused was a Roman citizen.

Σεβαστόν, the emperor. See on Acts 25:21.

Verse 26

26. τῷ κυρίῳ, to my lord. Octavianus by an edict forbade the title ‘Lord’ to be given to him. The practice had its rise from parasites; but you find ‘Dominus’ often used in Pliny’s letters to Trajan, so that not many emperors were like Octavian.

ἐφ' ὑμῶν, before you. Spoken with a glance towards the chief priests and great personages who were present on the bench.

καὶ μάλιστα ἐπὶ σοῦ, and especially before thee, i.e. as one most likely to be able to clear up the difficulties which I feel about the prisoner.

τῆς ἀνακρίσεως γενομένης, the examination having been made. The English of A.V. is very idiomatic, ‘after examination had.’ In classical Greek ἀνάκρισις is used of a preliminary examination of a cause before the Archon, to see whether there is ground for proceeding further. So Festus uses the technical term in its proper sense.

σχῶ τί γράψω, I may have somewhat to write. Lit. ‘what I may write.’ With this use of the interrogative τί, where in classical Greek a relative would have been used, cf. Matthew 10:19, δοθήσεται ὑμῖντί λαλήσετε.

Verse 27

27. ἄλογον, unreasonable. In this sense, which is quite the classical usage of the word, ἄλογος is not found again in N.T.

πέμποντα, when sending. This may mean ‘when I am sending,’ and if so taken, then the accusative participle following the dative pronoun μοι may be compared with Hebrews 2:10, ἔπρεπεν αὐτῷἀγαγόντα, and the construction is not uncommon with words like ἔξεστι. But πέμποντα may be general in its application and mean ‘that any one when sending, &c.,’ and no doubt it would be as unreasonable in the case of any other person as of Festus.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 25". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.