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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
Acts 25

 

 

Verses 1-12

The Fourth Witness of Paul's Innocence, Standing Before Festus the Governor (60 A.D.) - Acts 25:1-12 gives us the testimony of Paul standing before Festus and making his appeal to stand trial in the court of Caesar at Rome. This is the fourth speech that Luke records of Paul's defense of the Christian faith. Paul has spoken before the Jewish mob at the Temple ( Acts 21:15 to Acts 22:29); he has been taken before the Sanhedrin and addressed the Jewish leaders ( Acts 22:30 to Acts 23:35); he has stood before Felix the governor ( Acts 24:1-27); he now stands before Festus the subsequent governor ( Acts 25:1-12), and he will stand before King Agrippa ( Acts 25:13 to Acts 26:32). These preliminary trials lead up to Paul's appeal to Caesar. Many scholars suggest Luke compiles this sequence of trials in order to reveal Paul's innocence as a legal defense that could have been used during Paul's actual trial.

Acts 25:10-11Comments - Each of Paul's opening speeches reveals a man unashamed and confident of his innocence. In Acts 21:40 he turns to address the Jewish mob rather than accept deliverance from the Roman soldiers, as would be typical for someone who had committed a crime and wanted to escape punishment. In Acts 23:1 he looks intently upon the Sanhedrin and speaks boldly rather than hanging his head down in shame and guilt. In Acts 24:10 he addresses Felix the governor with cheer. In Acts 25:11 Paul boldly declares to Festus that if any wrong can be found in him, he is ready to die. In Acts 26:1-2 he stretches forth his hand as an orator and speaks unto King Agrippa.

Comments - Paul's right to appeal unto Caesar came as a result of his Roman citizenship. Pliny the Younger tells us that Christians who were also Roman citizens were given the right to appeal unto Caesar, while others were either forced into renouncing their Christian faith, or put to death (Letters 1096). 295]

295] Pliny writes, "In the meanwhile, the method I have observed towards those who have been denounced to me as Christians is this: I interrogated them whether they were Christians; if they confessed it I repeated the question twice again, adding the threat of capital punishment; if they still persevered, I ordered them to be executed. For whatever the nature of their creed might be, I could at least feel no doubt that contumacy and inflexible obstinacy deserved chastisement. There were others also possessed with the same infatuation, but being citizens of Rome, I directed them to be carried thither." See Pliny: Letters, vol 1, trans. William Melmoth, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, 1915), 403.

Acts 25:12Comments- In the same way that Paul the apostle had a destiny to stand before Caesar, so did Jesus Christ have a destiny to stand before Pilate.


Verses 13-22

Festus Recounts Paul's Defense to King Agrippa - In Acts 25:13-22 Festus the Roman governor recounts the events of Paul's defense to King Agrippa, which is essentially a description of the events recorded in the previous passage ( Acts 25:1-12).

Acts 25:13 — "And after certain days" - Comments- BDAG translates this phrase, "several days afterward."

"king Agrippa" - Comments- Acts 25:13 refers to Herod Agrippa II, the son of Herod Agrippa I and great-grandson of Herod the Great, who slew the children of Bethlehem ( Matthew 2:16-18). The death of Herod Agrippa I is recorded in Acts 12:20-25. Josephus tells us that Herod Agrippa I died when Agrippa II was only seventeen years old, and living in Rome, being brought up with Claudius Caesar. Because of his youth, he was not immediately entrusted with the vast region of his father. In A. D 48, his uncle died, Herod king of Chalcis and brother of Agrippa I, and Claudius gave him this throne (Josephus, Wars 2121), as well as the oversight of the Temple and the authority to select the high priest. As time progressed, Claudius and Nero appointed Agrippa II over the former tetrarchies that had belonged to Philip and Lysanias, and he was crowned king (Josephus, Antiquities 2071, Wars 2121, 8). Herod Agrippa II later sided with Rome during the Jewish wars. After the destruction of Jerusalem he and his sister Bernice retired to Rome where he died in A.D 100. Although he was not a king over the region of Palestine, he was nonetheless the fifth king of the Herod lineage and last ruling king that Rome appointed over the Jews. 296] There are no further references to King Agrippa II and Bernice in the Scriptures outside of Acts 25:13 to Acts 26:32.

296] See Josephus, Antiquities 1991-2; J. Rawson Lumby, The Acts of the Apostles with Maps, Notes and Introductions, in Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools, ed. J. J. S. Perowne (Cambridge, The University Press, 1891), 420-421; W. Robertson Nicoll, ed, The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol 2 (New York: George H. Doran Company, n.d.), 495.

"and Bernice" - Comments- Bernice was the eldest daughter of King Herod Agrippa I and sister to Herod Agrippa II and Drusilla, the wife of Felix. The Scriptures tell us that Drusilla was Jewess ( Acts 24:24), and Josephus adds Mariamne to the list of siblings (Wars 2116), so that there were three daughters and one son born to Agrippa 1, all of these of Jewish descent. Bernice was first married at the young age of thirteen to Herod king of Chalcis, the brother of King Herod I, who was her uncle. At his death in A.D 48, she moved in with her brother Agrippa II and remained a widow for a lengthy period of time. She was accused of having a relationship with her brother Herod Agrippa II, so quickly persuaded Polemo, king of Cilicia, to marry her in order to squelch this rumor. However, this marriage was short-lived when she left him and moved back in with her brother, which is the time when Acts 25:13; Acts 25:23; Acts 26:30 records that King Agrippa II and Bernice came to visit Festus the governor and sat to hear Paul's defense (Antiquities 2072-3). 297] There are no further references to King Agrippa II and Bernice in the Scriptures outside of Acts 25:13 to Acts 26:32.

297] E. M. B. Green and C. H. Hemer, "Bernice," in New Bible Dictionary, second edition, ed. J. D. Douglas (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishing, c 1962, 1982), 132.

Acts 24:24, "And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ."

"came unto Caesarea to salute Festus" - Comments- Caesarea was the official residence of the Roman governor over this region of the Empire. Festus had recently been appointed as governor in place of Felix by Nero ( Acts 24:27) (Josephus Antiquities 2089, Wars 2141), so that King Agrippa's royal visit appears to be an official greeting to congratulate him in his new office. 298]

298] Matthew Henry, Acts, in Matthew Henry"s Commentary on the Whole Bible, New Modern Edition, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, 1991), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), notes on Acts 25:13-27.

Acts 24:27, "But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix" room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound."

Acts 25:14 — "And when they had been there many days" - Comments- The fact that much time passed during Paul's Caesarean imprisonment shows the inconsistency of his prosecution. There was simply insufficient evidence to bring about a final verdict.

"Festus declared Paul"s cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix" - Comments- King Herod Agrippa II was Jewish and would have understood the cause of the dispute between Paul and the Jewish leaders better than Festus, a Roman. Festus was new to his appointment as governor, so naturally would be hesitant to make quick decisions while still unfamiliar with the Jewish culture.

Acts 25:15Comments- The Jewish leaders desired to have Paul condemned of a crime, not considering a fair trial to be adequate for him. King Herod would understand the views of the Jewish leaders much better than Festus.

Acts 25:16Comments- Festus wants King Agrippa to know that he has tried to deal fairly with issues concerning his new office, and particularly with the Jewish people.

Acts 25:17Comments- Festus declares to King Agrippa his efforts to quickly address Jewish matters. Paul would have been brought into Herod's judgment hall of the magnificent palace in Caesarea ( Acts 23:35; Acts 25:6). The Jewish leaders would have assembled themselves and Paul brought in just before or immediately after Festus enters and finds his seat.

Acts 23:35, "I will hear thee, said Hebrews , when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod"s judgment hall."

Acts 25:6, "And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought."

Acts 25:18Comments- Festus has been educated in the history of Jewish insurrections and efforts to repel Roman dominion. He would have heard stories of particular Jewish zealots who murdered Roman soldiers, or riots caused by the Jews. Paul's accusers presented none of these typical criminal Acts , which left Festus, desiring to begin his office with justice, without a judgment. However, fearing the wrath of the Jews, he kept Paul imprisoned, as did Felix his predecessor ( Acts 24:27).

Acts 24:27, "But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix" room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound."

Acts 25:19Comments- Festus could describe the Christian faith as a "superstition" without offending King Herod, who was of Jewish birth. Because neither Festus nor King Agrippa had any sympathy for Jesus and His followers, Festus took the liberty to speak of Christians with open contempt.

Acts 25:21Word Study on "Augustus" - BDAG says the Greek word ( σεβαστός) (G 4575) means, "revered, worthy of reverence, august." The TDNT says σεβαστός is the Greek translation of the Latin word "augustus," which means, "holy, sacred." The Enhanced Strong says this word is used 3times in the New Testament, being translated in the KJV as "Augustus 3."

Comments- The title "Augustus," which literally means, "the exalted" (TDNT), was initially conferred upon Octavian, the first Roman emperor (27 B.C. to A.D 14) (Suetonius, Octavius Augustus 7). 299] This title was transferred upon subsequent reigning Roman emperors, so that it designated Emperor Nero (A.D 54-68) when used in Acts 25:21; Acts 25:25.

299] Suetonius, History of Twelve Caesars, trans. Philemon Holland, vol 1, in The Tutor Translations, vol 21, ed. W. E. Henley (London: David Nutt, 1899), 85.

Acts 25:21Comments - In Acts 25:21 Festus the governor refers to Emperor Nero as Augustus and as Caesar. These two names were handed down from Octavius Augustus, the first official Roman emperor, and from his predecessor Julius Caesar. Tacitus tells us the people called Emperor Vespasian (A.D 69-79) by "Augustus" and "Caesar" (Histories 280). 300] The name "Augustus" was a personal name given to Roman Emperors, as a way of deifying him before the people, while the word "Caesar" was an official title, and more closely equivalent to "king." 301] The distinction between the two terms "Augustus" and "Caesar" can be seen in modern societies when addressing the leader of certain nations. For example, in Africa a nation's president (equivalent to Caesar) is directly addressed by calling him "Your Excellency" (equivalent to Augustus).

300] Tacitus writes, "…as Vespasian stepped from his quarters, a few soldiers who were drawn up in their usual order to salute him as their Legate, saluted him as Emperor. Then the rest ran up and began to call him Caesar and Augustus; they heaped on him all the titles of an emperor." See Tacitus, The Histories, vol 2, trans. Clifford H. Moore, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, c 1925, 1980), 289.

301] W. Robertson Nicoll, ed, The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol 2 (New York: George H. Doran Company, n.d.), 497.

Acts 25:22Comments- The EGT says the imperfect verb "I would hear" implies "a wish entertained for some time." Perhaps King Agrippa had heard about Paul or at least the Christian faith in general and was interested in knowing more about this issue. However, some scholars "soften" this imperfect tense to says, "I should like." 302]

302] W. Robertson Nicoll, ed, The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol 2 (New York: George H. Doran Company, n.d.), 498.


Verses 13-32

The Fifth Witness of Paul's Innocence, Standing Before Agrippa and Bernice (A.D 60) - Acts 25:13 to Acts 26:32 gives us the lengthy testimony of Paul standing trial before King Agrippa. This is the fifth and final speech that Paul will make before his accusers before setting forth to Rome to face the highest court in the Roman Empire. Paul has spoken before the Jewish mob at the Temple ( Acts 21:15 to Acts 22:29); he has been taken before the Sanhedrin and addressed the Jewish leaders ( Acts 22:30 to Acts 23:35); he has stood before Felix the governor ( Acts 24:1-27); he has stood before Festus the subsequent governor ( Acts 25:1-12), and now he stands before King Agrippa ( Acts 25:13 to Acts 26:32). These preliminary trials lead up to Paul's appeal to Caesar. Many scholars suggest Luke compiles this sequence of trials in order to reveal Paul's innocence as a legal defense that could have been used during Paul's actual trial.

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. Festus Recounts Paul's Defense to King Agrippa — Acts 25:13-22

2. The Opening Speech of Festus — Acts 25:23-27

3. Paul's Speech to King Agrippa — Acts 26:1-29

4. The Verdict of King Agrippa — Acts 26:30-32


Verses 23-27

The Opening Speech of Festus - Acts 25:23-27 records the opening speech that Paul the apostle made to King Herod and those in attendance, while Paul the apostle was brought in bound in chains and stood before this predominately Roman crowd.

Acts 25:23 — "with great pomp" - Comments- The "royal" pomp stands in stark contrast to the humility of Paul the apostle as he stands trial before the Roman court.

"with the chief captains" - Comments- Josephus says that there were five cohorts of Roman soldiers deployed in Caesarea, with a thousand footmen per cohort (Wars 342). Thus, we can consider these five chief captains in attendance with their governor and the king. The possibility that additional chief captains from other cities attended this event is very likely.

Acts 25:23Comments- John Chrysostom notes the attendance in the meeting of many great men. The King and his wife, the governor over this region of the Roman Empire, the chief captains of the Roman military, the leaders of the city, which were perhaps Jewish and Roman, and all of the guards of these men of renown, were either seated or standing to hear Paul preach the Gospel to them. 303] Therefore, this was clearly not a Jewish trial, but rather a Roman trial.

303] John Chrysostom, The Homilies of John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, On the Acts of the Apostles, Translated, With Notes and Indices, Part I Homilies XXIX-LV, in The Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Anterior to the Division of the East and the West (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1852), 683.

Jesus told the twelve apostles that they would be brought before governors and kings for His name sake ( Matthew 10:18, Luke 21:12), and Paul describes the office of an apostle as being "made a spectacle unto the world" ( 1 Corinthians 4:9).

Matthew 10:18, "And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles."

Luke 21:12, "But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name"s sake."

1 Corinthians 4:9, "For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men."

Acts 25:24Comments- Festus follows protocol in his opening speech by addressing the chief guest first, then others of dignified political and social rank.

Acts 25:26Comments- Festus has referred to Emperor Nero as "Augustus" and "Caesar" ( Acts 25:21). In Acts 25:26 he now calls him "Lord." A few commentators note that some Roman emperors were not fond of being called by the title κύ ριος (lord). Citations from Suetonius suggest that Octavian and Tiberius despised this title (Augustus 53, Tiberius 27). 304] However, it appears from Acts 25:26 that Nero gladly accepted such flattering titles. Adam Clarke tells us that Pliny the Younger uses this term frequently in his letters for Trajan. 305]

304] Suetonius tells us that Octavian despised the term "lord," saying, "He always shrank from the title of Lord as reproachful and insulting. When the words ‘O just and gracious Lord!' were uttered in a farce at which he was a spectator and all the people sprang to their feet and applauded as if they were said of him, he at once checked their unseemly flattery by look and gesture, and on the following day sharply reproved them in an edict. After that he would not suffer himself to be addressed by that term even by his children or his grandchildren either in jest or earnest, and he forbade them to use such flattering terms even among themselves." (Augustus 53) Suetonius tells us that Tiberius did not like to be called by flattering terms, "He so loathed flattery that he would not allow any Senator to approach his litter, either to pay his respects or on business, and when an Exodus -consul in apologizing to him attempted to embrace his knees, he drew back in such haste that he fell over backward. In fact, if any one in conversation or in a set speech spoke of him in too flattering terms, he did not hesitate to interrupt him, to take him to task, and to correct his language on the spot. Being once called ‘Lord,' he warned the speaker not to address him again in an insulting fashion." (Tiberius 27) See Joseph Gavorse, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars by Suetonius, in The Modern Library of the World's Best Books (New York: Random House, 1931), 36, 138.

305] Adam Clarke, The Acts of the Apostles, in Adam Clarke"s Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 1996), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), notes on Acts 25:26.

Acts 25:27Comments- In Acts 25:27 Festus admits that he could not justify sending Paul to Rome without first presenting this case to King Agrippa. Perhaps the Roman legal system necessitated Paul standing trial before Governors Felix and Festus and King Agrippa prior to being sent to Rome to stand before the Emperor. Festus could not hold Paul, a Roman citizen, indefinitely in prison without a criminal charge being officially placed upon him. We see Festus looking for a solution to a problem that has been inherited the previous governor Felix.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Acts 25:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/acts-25.html. 2013.

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Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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