3. Paul’s Treatment by Festus, and Appeal to Cesar, Acts 25:1-12.
1.Festus—Of the previous life of Festus history says nothing. He arrived at Cesarea probably in the autumn of A.D. 60. He was not disgraced by the flagitious qualities that belonged to Felix, yet he courted popularity at the expense of right.
After three days—A promptness that allowed him but one intermediate day for rest.
Cesarea to Jerusalem—From the Roman capital to the Jewish capital of Palestine.
2.High priest—Ananias had been assassinated, and Agrippa, who had the power of appointment, substituted Ismael, the son of Phabi, in his place.
Chief—Not merely the Sanhedrin, as before, but the eminent by rank, wealth, or learning.
Informed him—Brought accusation to him. They are still vindictive after two years are past, and as prompt in their action as Festus in his.
4.Festus answered—Festus, in Acts 25:16, reports himself to have given a nobler answer than Luke here narrates. That report shows that he could conceive what the magnanimous course would be; but that report (Acts 25:15) also says that they asked summary judgment against Paul untried. Both answers may therefore have really been made. The Jews probably first asked as a favour (Acts 25:15) that Paul might be executed without farther trial, and to that Festus gave (Acts 25:16) his peremptory Roman negative. They then requested that he be sent to Jerusalem to be tried, which appeared not an unreasonable request. But Festus’ suspicions of foul play, being awakened by their first bloody request, he gave them (Acts 25:4) a gentle refusal.
Paul should be kept—Rather, Paul is kept, or in custody, a gentler form of refusal than the translation implies: “Paul is secure in Cesarea; I must soon be there; there let his trial be.”
5.Able—Not merely those able to go, but those in power, the officials or authorities, in distinction from the chief of Acts 25:2, who were men of weight of character. Festus required responsible accusers.
6.More than ten days—Not so shortly, perhaps, as his answer in Acts 25:4 implied; but his length of stay may have been in itself complimentary. But a better reading of the Greek text is not more than eight or ten days, which implies a keeping of his promise.
7.Was come—Festus seats himself upon the bema, or judicial elevation, his council (Acts 25:12) or assessors are seated beside him; Paul is called from the guard room of the palace, and the Jews earnestly press around the tribunal.
Could not prove—The court was not convinced by the evidence. (See Acts 25:18.)
8.Answered—The three neithers of his answer indicate what were the three charges, namely, heresy against the law of the Jews, sacrilege against the temple, and treason against Cesar. This last charge of treason is new, and is probably founded on Paul’s assertion of the kingship of Jesus.
9.Wilt thou—Festus is aware that as a Roman citizen Paul cannot be obliged to undergo trial by the Jews. He probably does not expect that Paul will consent. But he will do the Jews the pleasure of making the query.
Before me—He offers to preside at the trial before the Sanhedrin as a safeguard of justice. But Paul has had enough of Jewish treachery, and knows whither his Providential destiny points.
10.Cesar’s judgment seat—Every Roman bema, or tribunal, was Cesar’s judgment seat, including the court of Festus.
Where I ought to be judged—And not before a Jewish Sanhedrin.
Very well knowest—From their failure of proof on the present occasion. Such was Festus’ own statement, (Acts 25:18.)
11.Refuse not to die—I accept the penalty which the law of the empire decides.
Deliver me—Make a gracious present of me. He insists upon Roman law and justice instead of being bandied about by the favour of one party to another.
Appeal unto Cesar—By this memorable sentence the apostle irrevocably transfers himself to Rome.
12.Council—A judge was bound by law to admit the appeal, except in cases excluding delay, such as pirates, notorious robbers, leaders of seditions and factions taken in the act.
Hast thou—It is now agreed among scholars that this is not an interrogation, but an affirmation. Thou hast appealed unto Cesar, unto Cesar wilt thou go. As this was the proper announcement of the result of the consultation, a question would be out of place. Cesar was originally the proper name of Julius Cesar, who established the Roman imperial power on the ruins of the old republic, afterward it was adopted as the permanent titular name of the successive emperors.
4. Agreement and Preparation for Paul’s Speech before Agrippa II., Acts 25:13-27.
King Agrippa II., whose history we have given in our Hist. Revelation, 21:17, was now residing in his ancestral palace at Cesarea Philippi. (Note Matthew 16:13.) The Herod family lost no opportunity to court the Roman officials, and Agrippa would pay an early visit of congratulation to Festus. We have had a sight of Drusilla in the last chapter; her sister Bernice now appears magnificently in view.
14.Many days—It would not do to bring a case of business forward too soon.
Paul’s cause unto the king—New in office, and entirely ignorant both of Christianity and of the interior of the Jewish theology, Festus turns to Agrippa for aid. The father of Agrippa and Bernice was both studious and zealous in regard to the rites and tenets of Judaism; and they were, no doubt, themselves fully indoctrinated. Nor is it to be doubted that they had a knowledge of the history of Jesus traditional in their family. They were fully acquainted with the excitement produced by the marvellous conversion of Saul of Tarsus. (Acts 26:26.) Agrippa was precisely the man, therefore, to counsel Festus, and both he and Bernice were persons sure to be interested in seeing and hearing the leader of the Christians.
15.Judgment—(Note Acts 25:4.)
16.Manner of the Romans—We have here a noble maxim, lying at the basis of all just jurisprudence. There is no proof that Festus violated it.
18.Such things as I supposed—Some act of robbery or rebellion, such as was daily being perpetrated.
19.Superstition—The same word as in Acts 17:22, and capable of both a good and a bad sense.
One Jesus—The phraseology here indicates first that Jesus and the resurrection were debated at the interview, (Acts 25:7-8,) and, second, that Festus listened with a very cool indifference.
21.Augustus—When the nephew of Julius Cesar, Octavianus became emperor the Senate decreed to him the title of Augustus, the august or worshipful; much like the more modern phrase his majesty.
22.I would—The Greek imperfect tense, here, implying continuity of action, seems to signify that Agrippa had long had a wish to hear Paul. This wish is a very striking parallel to his own great-uncle’s long desire to see Jesus. (Luke 23:8.)
23.Morrow—Paul is here not now on trial. He is beyond this jurisdiction, amenable only to the emperor’s own court at Rome. But he is to be heard, first, to gratify the interest of Agrippa and Bernice; and, second, for reasons assigned in Acts 25:26-27.
Bernice—This fascinating but dissolute daughter of the Herodian line was now near thirty. She had been so envious of the superior beauty of her younger sister Drusilla that the latter took hasty refuge in marriage to escape her annoyances. Though inferior in beauty, Bernice was superior in success. (Hist. Revelation, 21:17, § 3.)
Great pomp—It is clearly an occasion! Never had advocate for Christianity appeared before so august an assembly. Philip the evangelist, (who had indeed preached to and converted a chamberlain of the Ethiopian court,) with his little band of Cesarean Christians, had no reason that day to be ashamed of their champion. As not only Luke, but the magnates, military and civil, of Cesarea present marked the showy style of Bernice, some recollections may have occurred of the gorgeous array worn by her father on the day of his fatal oratory in this same Cesarea. (Acts 12:21.) Agrippa and Bernice were the last of the Herods! With them terminated that meteoric family, which shone with a dark brilliancy, as a strange background, through just the period of Christ and the apostolic age. The race seemed to inherit the beauty of the unfortunate Mariamne with the unscrupulousness of the first Herod; and they stand as striking representatives of the kingdom of this world in contrast with the kingdom of Christ.
Place of hearing—Evidently not the court room in which Paul had been arraigned and tried before Felix and Festus. This is a more suitable assembly room, where ladies of highest quality may be agreeably present.
Paul was brought forth—The object of all this high interest now appears, and the eyes of the silent assembly are fixed upon him. A slight mercurial figure, in whom the traces of high vitality are apparent, yet worn doubtless by a two years’ confinement, is led in by a soldier with a chain fastened to his wrist.
24.King Agrippa—Festus now introduces the prisoner to the king, stating with due formality what of course Agrippa already knew. The apostle and king are the two principal figures in the scene.
26.No certain thing to write—In case of an appeal the judge was by law required to transmit to the imperial court apostoli or literae dimissoriae, that is, a due record of the crime charged and the judicial proceedings taken.
My lord—My master, the emperor Nero. Here is another instance of Luke’s accuracy. Both the emperors Augustus and Tiberius rejected the title dominus, for which the word lord here stands, with disgust, as too servile for Romans to offer, too invidious for themselves to accept. Yet Caligula did not forbid it; and just at this time of which Luke writes the spirit of flattery was persisting in its use until it became a regular title under Domitian.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Acts 25". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany