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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Acts 24

 

 

Verse 1

1 And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul.

Ver. 1. With a certain orator] One of those sordida poscinummia (as Plautus phraseth it), those leguleiorum faeces decem drachmariae, as another styleth these mercenary orators, qui linguas habent venales. It is reported of Nevessan (a better lawyer than an honest man) that he should say, he that will not venture his body shall never be valiant: he that will not venture his soul, never rich.


Verse 2

2 And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence,

Ver. 2. Tertullus began to accuse him] Prosperior Afro Oratori eloquentia quam morum fama, saith Tacitus. (Tacit. Annal.) Ciceronis linguam omnes fere mirantur, pectus non ita, Almost all marvelled at the tongue of Cicero, but not so his heart, saith Augustine (Confess. iv. 3). The Duke of Buckingham, speaking to the Londoners for Richard III, gained the commendation, that no man could deliver so much bad matter in so good words and quaint phrases. Such another was Tertullus, wittily wicked, et malo publico facundus, eloquent for mischief to other men. There is a story of a poor man who complained to his king that a man (naming a lawyer) had taken away his cow from him. I will hear, said the king, what he will say to the matter. Nay, saith the poor man, if you hear him speak, then have I surely lost my cow indeed.


Verse 3

3 We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness.

Ver. 3. We accept it always] So they say, the sooner to ingratiate; when in truth they worthily hated Felix for his oppression and cruelty. Nota hypocrisin cum assentatione, saith Beza. "In his estate shall stand up a vile person," Daniel 11:21, that is, Antiochus Epiphanes. And yet Josephus reports that the Samaritans writing to him, because he tormented the Jews, to excuse themselves that they were no Jews, styled him, by flattery, Antiochus the mighty God. Romani, propter omnia quae a Nerone fiebant etiam scelera, quasi gratias agentes, sacra faciebant: such was their baseness, and such were these Jews.


Verse 4

4 Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words.

Ver. 4. That I be not further tedious unto thee] Gr. ινα μη επι πλειον σε εγκοπτω, that I hinder thee not in thine haste to other businesses; that I put not a stop to thy praise worthy proceedings, by a troublesome prolixity, &c. Thus he cunningly insinuateth into the judge’s affections; which is one of the rhetorical precepts: and another is (Tertullus likely had learned it out of Cicero), Non ad veritatem solum, sed etiam ad opinionem eorum qui audiunt, accommodanda est oratio. An orator may make a little bold with the truth to give his hearers content. Socrates in his apology, "My lords" (said he to his judges), "I know not how you have been affected with mine accusers’ eloquence while you heard them speak; for my own part, I assure you that I, whom it toucheth most, was almost drawn to believe that all they said, though against myself, was true: when they scarcely uttered one word of truth."


Verse 5

5 For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:

Ver. 5. A pestilent fellow] Gr. λοιμον, a botch, sicut Scelus pro scelerato: Tubulus quidam, paulo supra Ciceronem, Praetor fuit, homo tam Proiecte improbus, ut eius nomen non hominis sed vitii esse videretur. (Lips., Antiq. Lect.) Now if so precious a man as Paul (than whom, saith Chrysostom, the earth never bare a better since it bore Christ) were counted and called a pest, let not us think much to be so esteemed.

And a mover of sedition] So Elias was held, and called the "troubler of Israel," Luther Tuba rebelllonis, the trumpet of turmoil. So it was said to one Singleton, sometime chaplain to the Lady Ann Boleyn, that he was the murderer of Packington, and afterwards that he was a stirrer up of sedition and commotion, who also suffered as a traitor for the same; where in very deed the true cause was nothing else but for preaching the gospel, saith Master Fox. And he might as safely say as Mr Latimer did in his third sermon before King Edward VI, "As for sedition, for aught that I know, methinks I should not need Christ, if I might so say." (Acts and Mon.)

Of the sect of the Nazarenes] Who stirred up the people to stand up for their liberty against the Romans, saith an interpreter.


Verse 6

6 Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law.

Ver. 6. To profane the temple] A loud lie: but innocence is no target against calumny.


Verse 7

7 But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands,

Ver. 7. Took him out of our hands] Wherein he did well, though he hear ill; as public persons must look to do.


Verse 8

8 Commanding his accusers to come unto thee: by examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things, whereof we accuse him.

Ver. 8. By examining of whom] By this outfacing boldness, and these specious pretences, they hoped to have swayed the governor to deliver up the prisoner to their pleasure without any more ado, and to have condemned him unheard. But God had otherwise ordered it.


Verse 9

9 And the Jews also assented, saying that these things were so.

Ver. 9. And the Jews assented] With what face could they do it, but that their faces were hatched with impudence; and they had taken an order with their consciences not to trouble them: "Trouble me not, for I am in bed," as he in the Gospel said to his neighbour.


Verse 10

10 Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself:

Ver. 10. Forasmuch as I know, &c.] Paul was a stately orator when he listed, as here. Porphyry said it was a pity that such a man as Paul should be bestowed upon our religion. How bravely doth he here unstarch the orator’s speech, and make his own defence.


Verse 11

11 Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship.

Ver. 11. There are yet but twelve days] And therefore in so short a time I could surely do no such great matters as they charge me with.


Verse 12

12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city:

Ver. 12. And they neither found me in the temple] As he had argued from the circumstance of time, Acts 24:11; (to disprove their empty allegations), so here of place. It fared with the apostle as the historian saith it did with Cuthbert Tunstal, bishop of Durham, who was sent to the Tower for concealment of (I know not what) treason written to him (I know not by whom), and not discovered until (what shall I call) the party did reveal it. False accusers, as they affirm without reason, so they may be dismissed without refutation: unless we will answer them with a downright denial, as here. It happens often, that plain dealing puts craft out of countenance.


Verse 13

13 Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.

Ver. 13. Neither can they prove the things] And if to be barely accused be sufficient to make a man guilty, no man shall be innocent. It is happy if we can write (as the Lady Elizabeth did in Woodstock windows),

"Much alleged against me:

Nothing proved can be."


Verse 14

14 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:

Ver. 14. Which they call heresy] Haeresis est vex Eccleslae peculiaris. Antiquitus enim dicebatur, In hac haeresi sum, id est in hac sum sententia vel sic sentio. (Tull. Paradox.) Ecclesiastical writers take it for an error in religion, for an opinion repugnant to the word of God. There must be in it, Error in ratione, et pertinacia in voluntate. Fevardentius, that fiery friar, feigns 1400 errors and heresies, all which he fathers and fastens on the Calvinists. Genebrard imputes to Calvin as an error, that he taught Christ to be αυτοθεος, God of himself. It is not so long since, whosoever among us was not an Arminian, was eo nomine a doctrinal Puritan, as he was then termed; and now, he that was the old English Puritan, cried out upon as the worst of men, and greatest Heteroclite. {a}

{a} -pudet haec opprobria noble et dici potuisse et non potuisse refelli.


Verse 15

15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.

Ver. 15. And have hope toward God, which themselves also allow] The Jews generally believed no article of the faith more than this, John 12:24; Acts 23:8. The primitive times yielded some that denied it, 1 Corinthians 15:12-19; so do these unhappy times of ours: we must all look to our standing, and get our hearts ballasted with grace (as the bee, when she is to fly against the wind, ballasteth her body with some little stone carried between her feet), that we be not whirled about with every wind of doctrine. A man is to expect, if he live out his days, to be urged to the breach of every branch of the Decalogue, and to be put to it in respect of every article of the creed. Provide for a storm: shipmen in a calm, or at a haven, look to their tacklings: see the ship be well ballasted, victualled, watered, &c.


Verse 16

16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.

Ver. 16. And herein] Or, meanwhile ( εν τουτω, i.e. χρονω, ασκω), for this cause do I exercise myself: or, I use diligence, skill, and conscience; I lay my policy, or bend my wit, I discipline and inure myself.


Verse 17

17 Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.

Ver. 17. To bring alms to my nation] And therefore should have been better welcomed; a present makes room for a man, Proverbs 18:16. But it is God alone that fashioneth men’s opinions and affections: and therefore, Romans 15:31, St Paul prayeth that this service of his might be accepted by the saints themselves. The Jews at this day send their alms yearly from all parts to Jerusalem for the maintenance of the praying poor that live there.


Verse 18

18 Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult.

Ver. 18. Purified in the temple] Therefore surely not profaning of it: unless they will say of me, as Diogenes did of Antipater (who being vicious, wore a white cloak, the ensign of innocence), that he did virtutis stragulam pudefacere, put honesty to an open shame: or unless they will concur in opinion with their utter enemy Florus, who calleth the temple at Jerusalem impiae gentis arcanum, libidinum sacrarium, &c. secret place of a wicked nation, a shrine of lust. Virgil.


Verse 19

19 Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me.

Ver. 19. Who ought to have been here before thee] For those that are here to accuse me, speak but by hearsay, which is tam ficti pravique tenax quam nuntia veri, a loud liar, for the most part.


Verse 20

20 Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council,

Ver. 20. Or else let these same here say] This is the best defence, that is thus fetched from the accusers themselves, who are apt to make the worst of everything and to aggravate faults beyond truth. This is no small prejudice to Luther’s adversaries, said Erasmus, that they cannot but say he lives honestly. And the like is recorded of Bucer, Bradford, others; the Papists could not find fault with their lives, only they taxed them for heresy; but so they could not Paul, unless they would conclude themselves also heretics, Acts 24:21.


Verse 21

21 Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day.

Ver. 21. Except it be, &c.] And if this be a fault in true account, why are not all the whole nation of the Pharisees faulted, that hold the same thing? Is that Naevus in me that is Venus in them? Or is that a vice in Gaius that is a virtue in Titus? Are they not apparently partial in themselves, and become judges of evil thoughts? James 2:4. If Dioscorus the heretic could cry out in the Council of Chalcedon, I am cast out with the Fathers, I defend the doctrine of the Fathers, I transgress them not in any part; may not I more truly lay the like claim to the Pharisees, those fathers of our nation?


Verse 22

22 And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter.

Ver. 22. He deferred them, and said] Truly and timely spake the orator, De vita hominis nulla saris diuturna cunctatio esse possit {see Deuteronomy 17:3} In a case of life and death there cannot be too much caution and cunctation. (delay)


Verse 23

23 And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him.

Ver. 23. And to let him have liberty] This shows that Felix himself found that it was malice, more than matter, that moved the Jews to prosecute. And the same perhaps is hinted in the former verse, "having more perfect knowledge of that way;" that is, as some sense it, being well acquainted with their courses, and knowing it to be their common practice to accuse innocent men of mere spite. But why then did not Felix punish those malicious men, and let Paul go? why is he still a prisoner, though a free prisoner, under a keeper, or with some chain on him? Oh, it is a mercy to have judges modo velint quae possint, modo audeant quae sentiant, so they be willing to do what they may, and dare do what they judge fit to be done. (Cic. pro Milone.)


Verse 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.

Ver. 24. With his wife Drusilla] The sister of King Agrippa, and wife of Abidus, king of Emesenes, whom she had basely forsaken, and came and joined herself to this Felix (Joseph. Antiq. 20), worthy therefore to have been hanged, as Joan queen of Naples, was at a window for like treachery by Lewis, king of Hungary. (Heyl. Geog. 167.)


Verse 25

25 And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.

Ver. 25. Of righteousness, temperance, &c.] Whereas Felix did many things there tyrannously and had greater regard to gain than to justice; and whereas Drusilla, a Jewess, was not only married to an uncircumcised man, but also a filthy adulteress, -Paul in a certain kind of grave wisdom, which yet had joined with it great liberty of speech, reasoneth and disputeth of things that he knew principally lacking in his hearers.

Felix trembled] See the force of conscience, which, like Samson’s wife, conceals not the riddle, 16:17; like Fulvia a courtesan, who declared all the secrets of her foolish lover Gneius, a noble Roman, bewrays (maligns) and betrays those that harbour her. She is a watch and will at length give warning. (Sallust. Bell. Cat.)

Go thy way for this time, &c.] The president of St Julian’s being sent to Angrogne would have forced a poor man to rebaptize his child. He, after he had prayed, required of the president that he would write and sign the same with his own hand, that he would discharge him before God of the danger of that offence, and that he would take the peril upon him and his. The president hereat was so confounded, that he spake not one word a good while after. Then said he, "Away, thou villain, out of my sight." After that he was never called more. (Acts and Mon.)


Verse 26

26 He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him.

Ver. 26. He hoped also, &c.] Fuit Felix inexplebilis gurges, as Tacitus testifieth. He trembled, and yet gaped after money. A man may as soon find a harvest in a hedge as the least goodness in a covetous heart. Privatorum fares in nervo et compedibus oetatem agunt; publica in auro et purpura visuntur. (Cato apud Gell. lib. xi. 18.) Public thieves are gallant fellows. And covetousness is a dry drunkenness. Justice is often made a hackney by them to be backed for money; and a golden spur brings her to the desired journey’s end of injury and wrong. Whereas a judge, as he should have nothing to lose, so he should have nothing to get, he should be above all price or sale; and justice justice, as Moses speaketh, that is, pure justice without mud should run down amain, Deuteronomy 16:20.


Verse 27

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

Ver. 27. Willing to show the Jews, &c.] Politicians care not to gratify others and serve their own turns with the loss of right and good conscience. In the reign of Henry II of France, A. D. 1554, many were there burnt for religion, not without the indignation of honest men, who knew that the diligence used against these poor people was not for piety or religion, but to satiate the covetousness of Diana Valentina, the king’s mistress, to whom he had given all the confiscation of goods made in the kingdom for cause of heresy. (Hist. of Council of Trent.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Acts 24:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/acts-24.html. 1865-1868.

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Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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