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Bible Commentaries
Acts 25

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Acts 25:0


Paul Appeals to CaesarPaul Appeals to CaesarAppeal to the EmperorPaul Appeals to the EmperorPaul Appeals to Caesar
Acts 25:1-5Acts 25:1-12Acts 25:1-5Acts 25:1-5Acts 25:1-5
Acts 25:6-12Acts 25:6-12Acts 25:6-8Acts 25:6-12
Acts 25:9
Acts 25:10-11
Acts 25:12
Paul Brought Before Agrippa and BernicePaul Before AgrippaPaul's Defense Before Agrippa(Acts 25:13-32)Paul Before Agrippa and BernicePaul Appears Before King Agrippa
Acts 25:13-22Acts 25:13-27Acts 25:13-22Acts 25:13-21Acts 25:13-22
Acts 25:22a
Acts 25:22b
Acts 25:23-27Acts 25:23-27Acts 25:23-27Acts 25:23-1

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did the Jewish leaders fear and hate Paul?

2. How does this chapter reflect one of Luke's purposes in writing Acts?

3. What was Paul's purpose in defending himself before Agrippa and Bernice?

Verses 1-5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 25:1-5 1Festus then, having arrived in the province, three days later went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. 2And the chief priests and the leading men of the Jews brought charges against Paul, and they were urging him, 3requesting a concession against Paul, that he might have him brought to Jerusalem (at the same time, setting an ambush to kill him on the way). 4Festus then answered that Paul was being kept in custody at Caesarea and that he himself was about to leave shortly. 5"Therefore," he said, "let the influential men among you go there with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them prosecute him."

Acts 25:1 "Festus" This was Felix's successor. He was a nobler personality, but obviously under the same political pressure and mind set. He was in office for two years and died in A.D. 62 while still in office (cf. Josephus, Antiq. 20.8.9).

"three days later" This shows how upset and persistent the Jewish leadership was concerning Paul. Festus also wanted to make a good first impression.

Acts 25:2 "the chief priest and the leading men of the Jews" This may refer to the Sanhedrin, which was made up of 70 Jewish leaders from Jerusalem. They formed the highest judicial body of the Jews in both politics and religion. See Special Topic at Acts 4:5. However, it could also refer to the other wealthy and elite citizens of Jerusalem who would be very anxious to meet the new Roman procurator and begin to establish a good relationship with him.

It is surely possible that it refers to both groups. After two years there was a new high priest, Ishmael ben Fabus (A.D. 56-62). He, too, wanted to establish himself and a good way to do this was to attack the renegade Pharisee, Paul.

"they were urging him" This is an imperfect active indicative. They asked again and again.

Acts 25:3 This shows animosity against Paul on the part of these religious leaders. They saw Paul as an enemy from within!

"(at the same time, setting an ambush to kill him on the way)" The tactics of the Jewish leadership had not changed (cf. Acts 23:12-15).

Acts 25:5 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his purposes (cf. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 3, p. 429). Dr. Bruce Tankersley, the Koine Greek specialist at East Texas Baptist University, says it might be third class because there is no verb in the protasis. Festus assumed Paul was guilty. Why else would the Jerusalem leaders be so persistent, and so tenacious?

Verses 6-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 25:6-12 6After he had spent not more than eight or ten days among them, he went down to Caesarea, and on the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. 7After Paul arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him which they could not prove, 8while Paul said in his own defense, "I have committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar." 9But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, "Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me on these charges?" 10But Paul said, "I am standing before Caesar's tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you also very well know. 11If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar." 12Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered, "You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go."

Acts 25:6-9 These events showed Paul that he had no real hope for justice with Festus. He knew what awaited him in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 25:3). He also knew Jesus wanted him to go to Rome (cf. Acts 9:15).

Acts 25:6 "After he had spent not more than eight or ten days among them" I would imagine the Jewish leaders wined and dined Festus. They manipulated all the Roman officials.

Acts 25:8 Paul asserts that he is innocent of all charges against

1. the Law of Moses (cf. Acts 21:21, Acts 21:28)

2. the temple (cf. Acts 21:28; Acts 24:6)

3. Caesar (cf. Acts 16:21; Acts 17:7)

Numbers 1:0 and 2 are exactly what Stephen was charged with in Acts 6:13-14.

Acts 25:10-11 Paul asserts that he was already before the proper authority and in the proper place. Luke records in Acts 25:11 Paul's official appeal to Caesar.

The right of appeal to Caesar initially started with Octavian in 30 B.C. (cf. Dio Cassius, History, 51.19). This initial dictate was expanded to forbid blinding, scourging, and torture to any Roman citizen who appealed to Caesar (cf. Paulus, Sententiae 5.26.1).

There is a good discussion of Roman Law of the first century in A. N. Sherwin-White's Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, "lecture four: Paul before Felix and Festus," pp. 48-70.

Acts 25:11 "If. . .if" These are two first class conditional sentences which are assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his purpose. These two usages in context show how this grammatical construction was used to make a point. The first is false to reality (but exactly the same condition used by Felix in Acts 25:5); the second is true to reality.

"I do not refuse to die" Paul recognized the power of the state (cf. Romans 13:4). The OT perspective on capital punishment can be found in Genesis 9:6. See an interesting discussion of capital punishment in Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 114-116.

NASB, TEV"no one can hand me over to them" NKJV"no on can deliver me over to them" NRSV"no one can turn me over to them" NJB"no one has the right to surrender me to them"

The term charizomai basically means "to gratify" or "grant as a favor." Paul realized that Festus was trying to impress the Jewish leadership by giving them himself!

However, it is possible that Festus is trying to abide by a decree from Julius Caesar (cf. Josephus, Antiq. 14.10.2), which encouraged Roman officials in Palestine to allow the wishes of the high priest.

"I appeal to Caesar" This was the legal right of every Roman citizen in capital punishment cases (Pliny the Younger, Letters 10.96). At this point in history, Nero was the Caesar (A.D. 54-68).

Acts 25:12 "his council" This refers to Festus' Roman legal experts, not the Jewish leaders.



A. Herod Agrippa II (Marcus Julius Agrippa)

1. He is the son of Herod Agrippa I (cf. Acts 12:0), who was the political ruler of Judea and who had control of the Temple and Priesthood (A.D. 41-44) and grandson of Herod the Great.

2. He was educated in Rome and was pro-Roman. He returned to Rome after the Jewish war of A.D. 70 and died there in A.D. 100.

3. At the age of 17 his father died, but he was too young to assume his kingdom.

4. In A.D. 50 Herod Chalcis, Agrippa II's uncle, the King of Chalcis (a small kingdom in Northern Palestine), died and Agrippa II was given his kingdom by Emperor Claudius. Also, he was given control over the Temple and the High Priesthood.

5. In A.D. 53 he exchanged this small kingdom for the tetrarches of Herod Philip (Ituraea and Trachonitis) and Lysanius (Abilene).

6. Later, Emperor Nero added certain cities and villages around the Sea of Galilee to his control. His capital was Caesarea Philippi, which he renamed Neronias.

7. For historical reference cf:

a. Josephus Jewish Wars 2.12.1,7-8; 15.1; 16.4; 7.5.1

b. Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews 19.9.2; 20.5.2; 6.5; 7.1; 8.4; 9.6.

B. Bernice

1. She was the oldest daughter of Herod Agrippa I.

2. She was the sister of Agrippa II, and for a period of time may have been his incestuous lover (there is no evidence of this, only rumor). Later she was a mistress to Emperor Titus while he was a general. He was the Roman general who destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70.

3. She was Drusilla's sister (cf. Acts 24:24).

4. She was married to Herod Chalcis (Herod Agrippa I's brother, her uncle), but when he died she moved in with her brother.

5. She later married Polemon, King of Cilicia, but left him to return to her brother who had just been given the title of "King."

6. She was the mistress of Emperor Vespasian.

7. Historical references

a. Josephus Jewish Wars 2.1.6; 15.1; 17.1.

b.Josephus' Antiquities of the Jew 19.9.1; 15.1; 20.1.3

c. Tacitus' History 2.2

d. Seutonius' Life of Titus 7

e. Dio Cassius' Histories 65.15; 66.18

f. Juvenal's Satire 61.156-157

Verses 13-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 25:13-22 13Now when several days had elapsed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus. 14While they were spending many days there, Festus laid Paul's case before the king, saying, "There is a man who was left as a prisoner by Felix; 15and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him. 16I answered them that it is not the custom of the Romans to hand over any man before the accused meets his accusers face to face and has an opportunity to make his defense against the charges. 17So after they had assembled here, I did not delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought before me. 18When the accusers stood up, they began bringing charges against him not of such crimes as I was expecting, 19but they simply had some points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a dead man, Jesus, whom Paul asserted to be alive. 20Being at a loss how to investigate such matters, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there stand trial on these matters. 21But when Paul appealed to be held in custody for the Emperor's decision, I ordered him to be kept in custody until I send him to Caesar." 22Then Agrippa said to Festus, "I also would like to hear the man myself." "Tomorrow," he said, "you shall hear him."

Acts 25:13 "King Agrippa" This refers to Agrippa II. He was the brother of Drusilla and Bernice. He was educated in Rome and was very loyal to Rome's policies and programs.


Acts 25:13-19 This again reveals one of Luke's literary and theological purposes, which was to show that Christianity was not a political threat to Rome (cf. Acts 25:25). In the early decades of the first century Christianity was considered a sect of Judaism, which was acknowledged by Rome as a legal religion. Rome wanted no part of disputes between Jewish religious sects!

Acts 25:18 "they began charges against him not of such crimes as I was expecting" This shows the intensity and nature of the Jewish opposition. It was not political, but religious.

NASB, NRSV, NJB, NIV"crimes" NKJV"such things" TEV"evil crimes" REB"charges" NET Bible"evil deeds" ASV"evil things"

There are several variants.

1. ponçrôn genitive plural in MSS אcf8 i2, B, E, meaning "things of evil" (cf. Acts 28:21)

2. ponçrau accusative neuter singular in MSS P74, A, C*

3. ponçra accusative neuter plural in MSS א*, C2

4. omit MSS L, P, and some Lectionaries (cf. NKJV)

UBS4 puts option #1 in the text with a "C" rating (difficulty in deciding).

Felix was surprised that the charges were not serious and had to do with Jewish religious matters, not legal matters.

Acts 25:19 "religion" This is literally a compound term from "fear" and "gods." This term can mean "superstition," which was exactly what these Roman leaders thought about the Jewish religion. However, Festus would have not wanted to insult his Jewish dignitaries, so he used an ambiguous term (so too, Paul, Acts 17:22).

Verses Acts 25:18-19 show again that Roman justice found no fault with Paul or Christianity.

"about a dead man, Jesus, whom Paul asserted to be alive" The resurrection was one the central pillars of the sermons (kerygma, see Special Topic at Acts 2:14) in Acts (cf. Acts 26:8). Christianity stands or falls on this theological assertion (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:0).

Verses 23-27

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 25:23-27 23So, on the next day when Agrippa came together with Bernice amid great pomp, and entered the auditorium accompanied by the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24Festus said, "King Agrippa, and all you gentlemen here present with us, you see this man about whom all the people of the Jews appealed to me, both at Jerusalem and here, loudly declaring that he ought not to live any longer. 25But I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death; and since he himself appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him. 26Yet I have nothing definite about him to write to my lord. Therefore I have brought him before you all and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the investigation has taken place, I may have something to write. 27For it seems absurd to me in sending a prisoner, not to indicate also the charges against him."

Acts 25:23 What a wonderful opportunity to preach the gospel!

"the commanders" This is the term chiliarch, which means leaders of a thousand, as centurion means leader of a hundred. We learn from Josephus' Antiq. 19.19.2, that there were five auxiliary cohorts in Caesarea at this period. Therefore, possibly five military men are referred to here.

"the prominent men of the city" This would refer to the civic leaders of Caesarea.

Notice the groups in the assembly.

1. a Roman procurator

2. an Idumean regional king

3. Roman military leaders

4. prominent civic leaders of Caesarea

Acts 25:26 "the Emperor" This term is sebastos, which was the Greek equivalent of the Latin term augustus. Its basic etymology is "revere, "adore," "venerate," or "worship." It was first used of Octavian in 27 B.C. by the Senate. Here, it is used of Nero (A.D. 54-68). Nero seems to have expanded the worship of the Emperor cult.

Acts 25:26 "I have nothing definite about him to write" Festus had the same problem as Lysias, the commander from Jerusalem. He was bound by Roman law to write an indictment against Paul along with any evidence or judicial opinion. Paul was a mystery to these Roman leaders.

"lord" The is the Greek word kurios, which means owner, master, ruler. This is the first documented use of kurios as a stand-alone title for Nero. This title was rejected by the Emperors Octavian/Augustus and Tiberias because they felt it was too close to the Latin rex (king), which caused the Roman populace and Senate discomfort. However, it appears often during and after Nero's day. Vespasian and Titus used the term "savior" and Domitian used "god" to describe themselves (cf. James S. Jeffers, The Greco-Roman World p. 101). The term kurios became the focus of the persecution against Christians, who could use only this term for Jesus Christ. They refused to use it in the incense offering and pledge of allegiance to Rome.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Acts 25". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/acts-25.html. 2021.
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