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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

Acts 25

Verses 1-99

25:1 12 . Arrival of Festus. Paul’s cause heard before him. Paul appeals to the Emperor

1 . Now when Festus 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. Ver. , “when he had entered upon his province.” The former seems to be the preferable sense because of what follows.

after three days he ascended ( R. V. went up)] He took a very short time to make himself acquainted with what would be his principal residence, and then went up to the capital.

2 . Then the high priest ] R. V. “And the chief priests.” For the best MSS. give the plural. 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.

and the chief of the Jews ] This might mean “the chief part;” therefore it is better, with R. V. , to read “the principal men of the Jews.” The wealthiest men of the nation belonged to the Sadducees.

informed him against Paul ] 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.

3 . and desired 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.

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.

4 . But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept , &c.] This hardly gives the force of the original, which is better rendered in the Rev. Ver. , “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.

would ( R. V. was about to) depart shortly thither ] 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.

5 . Let them therefore … which among you are able ] R. V. “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.

go 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.

and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him ] A large number of MSS., with the Text. Rec ., give no word for “wickedness.” But in some of the oldest Texts there is a word which signifies “out of the way.” The Rev. Ver. therefore gives “and if there is anything amiss in the man, let them accuse him.” The adjective is the same that is so rendered, Luke 23:41 , “This man hath done nothing amiss .”

6 . more than ten days ] The oldest texts read “ not more than eight or ten days.” This seems the more likely reading. 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.

and the next day ] Rev. Ver. “on the morrow.” 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.

7 . the Jews which came , &c.] Better, with Rev. Ver. , “which had come, &c.”

stood round about ] The best authorities give “ round about him .” They were eager to set upon him, and so compassed him on every side.

and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul ] The best MSS. have nothing for the last two words. Read, with Rev. Ver. , following a slightly different text, “bringing against him many and grievous charges.” In the two years lapse of time they had gathered up every rumour which they could collect, and these they brought forward, even though they could not support them by evidence.

8 . While he answered for himself] Rev. Ver ., with MSS., “While Paul said in his defence.” He offered an “Apologia” 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.

Neither against the law of the Jews ] 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.

have I offended any thing at all] Rev. Ver ., “have I sinned at all.”

9 . But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure ] Better (with R. V. ) “desiring to gain favour with the Jews.” Cp. 24:27. Though he had not consented to their request when he was in Jerusalem, he now went some way towards doing so by his question to Paul.

Wilt thou … before me ] 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.

10 . I stand at Cesar’s judgment seat ] Better (with Rev. Ver. ) “I am standing before Cæsar’s judgment seat.” This represents more nearly the sense of the original, which implies, “I have been and am standing.” 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.

where I ought to be judged ] Because I am a Roman citizen.

as thou very well knowest] Rev. Ver . “as thou also, &c.” 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.

11 . For if I be an offender ] The best MSS. have not “For.” Read, with Rev. Ver. , “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.

no man may deliver me unto them ] The full idea of the verb is expressed by the margin of the Rev. Ver. , “no man may grant me by favour.” The use of this word confirms the notion that St Paul saw through what the governor was doing. The word “may” represents the Greek “is able,” and therefore the “can” of the Rev. Ver. is to be approved. There is no power anywhere which can give me up to them.

I appeal unto Cesar ] The final tribunal being the hearing of the Emperor himself.

12 . when he had 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.

13 22 . Festus consults King Agrippa about his prisoner. Agrippa wishes to hear Paul’s defence

13 . And after certain days ] More literally, but with no manifest gain, Rev. Ver. gives “Now when certain days were passed.”

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.

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 sinful. She was subsequently married to Polemon, king of Cilicia, but soon left him and lived with Agrippa II. in Rome.

came unto Cesarea to salute Festus ] Rev. Ver. , following MSS., gives “arrived at Cæsarea, and saluted Festus,” with a marginal rendering “having saluted.” This would seem to imply that the salutation had taken place elsewhere than at Cæsarea. This is very improbable. Cæsarea was the official residence of the governor, and thither would the vassal-king Agrippa come to pay his formal visit of welcome to the representative of Rome.

14 . And when they had been there many days] Rev. Ver . “And as they tarried there many days;” a rendering which may be taken to mean that the length of their stay was a reason why Festus set Paul’s cause before the king. This is not the sense of the Greek, so the A. V. appears the better rendering.

15 . the chief priests ] See note on verse 2.

desiring to have judgment against him ] The older MSS. give a stronger word for “judgment” than the Text. Recept . It implies that they held there could be but one opinion and that a condemnatory sentence might be at once pronounced, even by the newly arrived governor.

16 . to deliver any man to die ] The best MSS. omit the Greek for the last two words. Rev. Ver. renders “to give up any man.” The verb is the same as in verse 11, and implies the granting as a favour. 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.

and have licence to answer for himself ] The Greek word for licence is literally “place,” and is here used figuratively for “opportunity.” So Romans 15:23 St Paul says “having no more place in these parts,” by which he means that there is no further opportunity for preaching the Gospel there. So Rev. Ver. gives “have had opportunity to make his defence.”

17 . when they were come hither ] The Greek is (as Rev. Ver. ) “come together here.”

18 . of such things as I supposed ] Following the authority of some ancient MSS. the Rev. Ver. gives “of such evil things as, &c.”

19 . of their own superstition [ R. V. religion]. The noun used here is cognate to the adjective employed by St Paul in speaking to the Athenians (17:22). It is a term which might be employed by any one without offence 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.

of 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.”

20 . And because I doubted of such manner of questions] Rev. Ver ., with ancient authorities, gives “And I, being perplexed how to inquire concerning these things.” The whole subject was a strange one 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.

21 . to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus] Rev. Ver . “to be kept for the decision of the Emperor.” The verb is that which occurs 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. “Augustus,” 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 “Augustus” was Nero. In the noun rendered “hearing” we have a word which implies “thorough inquiry.”

22 . I would also hear the man myself] Rev. Ver . “I also could wish [ marg . was wishing] to hear, &c.” The marginal rendering here given is the most literal and appears to bring out the meaning best. What Agrippa means to say is that he had for some time been wishing to see and hear St Paul.

23 27 . Assembly of the Court and address of Festus

23 . 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 (12:21).

were entered ] The A.V. of 1611 has “was entered,” and so it will in consequence be found printed in most English Bibles. The correction is required by the original which is plural. So Rev. Ver.

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 signifies “a lecture-room.”

chief captains ] The Greek word chiliarchos is constantly used in N. T. for the “prefect” of a Roman cohort.

24 . have dealt with me] Rev. Ver . “made suit to me.” In all other places of the N. T. this word is used of “making intercession” to God.

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.

25 . 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 a Roman officer. The best texts give at the beginning of this verse “But I found that, &c.”

to Augustus ] See note on verse 21.

26 . unto 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.

before you ] Spoken with a glance towards the chief priests and great persons who were present on the bench.

specially before thee ] i.e. as one most likely to be able to clear up the difficulties which I feel about the prisoner.

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