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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Acts 25

 

 

Verses 1-12

D.—THE NEW PROCURATOR, PORCIUS FESTUS, RESUMES, AT THE INSTANCE OF THE JEWS, THE INVESTIGATION OF THE CASE OF PAUL; BUT WHEN THE LATTER APPEALS TO THE EMPEROR, THE PROCURATOR ADMITS THE APPEAL

Acts 25:1-12

1Now when [οὖν] Festus was come into [had taken charge of] the province, afterthree days he ascended from Cesarea to Jerusalem 2 Then the high priest [the chief priests[FN1]] and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul [accused Paul before him],and besought him, 3And desired [Asking it as a] favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying [intending to lay] wait in the way to kill him [wait, in order to kill him by the way]. 4But [However, μὲν οὖν] Festus answered, that Paul should be kept [was guarded] at[FN2] Cesarea, and [but, δὲ] that he himself would depart shortly thither. 5Let them, therefore, said Hebrews, which among you are able [those among you who exercise authority], go down with me, and accuse thisman, if there be any wickedness in him [if he be liable to any charge[FN3]]. 6And when he had tarried among them more than ten days [not more than eight or ten days[FN4]], he went down unto Cesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commandedPaul to be brought 7 And when he was come, the Jews which [who] came down from Jerusalem stood round about [stood around], and laid[FN5] many and grievous complaintsagainst Paul, which they could not [were not able to] prove 8 While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Cesar [against the emperor], have I offended any thing at all [in anyrespect]. 9But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure [to confer an obligation on the Jews], answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there bejudged of these things [with respect to this accusation] before me? 10Then said Paul [But (δὲ) Paul said], I stand at Cesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest [as thou also (χαὶ συ)knowest better (κάλλιον)]. 11For if I [If, therefore,[FN6] I] be an offender, or [and, χαὶ] have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of [nothing in] these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me untothem [can surrender me as a favor to them]. I appeal unto Cesar 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the [his] council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Cesar? [Thou hast appealed unto Cesar;] unto Cesar shalt thou go.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Acts 25:1-3. a. Now when Festus was come into [had taken charge of] the province.—Ἐπιβαίνω is regarded by some as here meaning to come into the province; but several passages adduced by Wetstein sustain the interpretation: to assume office, to undertake the administration. Ἐπαρχία, Isaiah, strictly speaking, a term applied only to proconsular provinces, but may also be used of those governed by procurators; the official term in the latter case was ἐπιτροπή. Festus arrived either in the summer or the autumn of the year60 after Christ (Wieseler: Ap. Chronol. p 91 ff.; Anger: Temp. Rat. p105 ff.). He had scarcely reached Cesarea (where he was to reside), when he prepared to visit Jerusalem, which was, properly speaking, the capital of the nation.

b. The acting high priest at that time was Ismael, the son of Phabi, whom Felix had already appointed in place of Ananias (Jos. Antiq. xx88,11). But on the present occasion all the chief priests [see note1, appended to the text above.—Tr.] and the chief men of the people in general, presented themselves, and had an audience with the new procurator. The phrase οἱ πρῶτοι is not identical in meaning with “elders” (Grotius, de Wette), but, irrespectively of any official rank, denotes the most eminent, the most influential men, of the nation. They doubtless availed themselves of the occasion on which they paid their first visit to Festus, to direct his attention to the present matter, as one in which the whole nation was interested. The proposal which they made to the new governor, and to which they begged him to accede, as the first favor which he would grant, virtually expressed their wish that he would order the prisoner to be brought up to Jerusalem and placed before his judgment-seat, inasmuch as he himself was now present in the capital. The participle ἐνέδραν ποιοῦντες, belonging to παρεκάλουν, Acts 25:2, implies that at the time when they made the request, they were already forming secret and hostile plans, and making preparations to destroy the apostle. [“Ποιοῦντες, not for ποιήσοντες; they were making, contriving, the ambush already.” (Alf.)—Tr.]

Acts 25:4-6. That Paul should be kept at Cesarea.—The meaning of Festus Isaiah, that Paul was then at Cesarea and would remain there, and that his own stay in Jerusalem would be so brief, that it was not worth while to bring up the prisoner from Cesarea. [“Τηρεῖσθαι. The English version ‘should be kept’ is rather too peremptory. Festus doubtless expresses this decision, but in the most conciliating form.” (Conyb. and H. II:298, n7).—Tr.]. Οἱ δυνατοὶ ἐν ὑμῖν, “those among you who exercise authority,” i.e., those who had authority to Acts, on account of their office and rank; for some of the Jews then present may have been prominent only by birth, wealth, etc, whereas, in any case of judicial proceedings, the Roman governor regarded those alone as competent to Acts, who were invested with office. It is an arbitrary mode of interpretation, to represent δυνατοὶ as referring to those who were able to perform the journey (Bengel), or who were able to produce any charge against Paul.

Acts 25:7-8. The Jews … stood round about; they surrounded the apostle in a menacing manner, and attempted to intimidate him. [Αὐτὸν, after περιέστ., is adopted by Lach. and Tisch, in accordance with A. B. C. E. G, also Cod. Sin, many minuscules, Syr. Vulg. (eum), etc.; it is omitted by text. rec. and Alf, in accordance with H.—E. reads αὐτῷ. Meyer says: “They surrounded Paul, as Παραγ. δὲ αὐτοῦ, (the words immediately preceding περιέστ.), plainly show; it is an error to refer περιέστ. (as Grotius and Kuinoel do), to τὸ βῆμα.”—Tr.]. The first two charges—the violation of the law, and the profanation of the temple—were those which had been previously made: but it is evident from Acts 25:8 [οὔτε εἰς Καίσαρα] that a third charge, referring to a political offence, was now added. Paul was slanderously described as a traitor, as if he were guilty of an offence against the Roman sovereignty or the emperor himself; the accusation Isaiah, possibly, analogous to that which is mentioned in Acts 17:6-7.

Acts 25:9. There be judged … before me.—The expression ἐπʼ ἐμοῦ is ambiguous, and was, perhaps, designedly chosen. It might mean: me judice (as it evidently does in Acts 23:30; Acts 26:2); but it might also mean: coram me; in this latter sense, the Jewish Sanhedrin would have constituted the court, and the procurator would have been present simply for the purpose of watching the trial. Indeed, the [apostle’s] journey to Jerusalem [ Acts 25:3], and the transfer of the trial to that city [as requested by the Jews], would have had no object, if a change of the tribunal had not been intended; and it was only in the latter case that an actual and special favor [χάριν, Acts 25:3], would have been granted to the Jews.

Acts 25:10-11. I stand at Cesar’s judgment seat—It is evident that, as Paul understood the question, he was asked whether he was willing to be tried before the Sanhedrin, as the court. He withholds his consent, for these reasons: 1. Because he already stood before the imperial tribunal, and, consequently, his sentence would there be properly pronounced. (He says: βήμ. Καίσαρος, inasmuch as the procurator was the representative of Cesar, and pronounced sentence in the name of the emperor).—2. Because he was guilty of no offence against the Jews, as Festus indeed well knew, and knew better than he was willing to admit—κάλλιον, i.e., than the expressions of the procurator seemed to imply. [“Κάλλιον—not for the superlative; the comparative is elliptical, requiring ‘than …’ to be supplied by the hearer … it means: ‘better than thou choosest to confess’ ” (Alf.). This is the interpretation of de Wette, Hackett, etc. See Winer, § 354. “Hence, Festus, as Paul implies, should not have asked such a question (θέλεις, etc, Acts 25:9), as it was in opposition to his own better knowledge and conviction.” (Meyer).—Tr.]. This declaration of the apostle was made with deliberation, and was sufficiently definite. He proceeds, in Acts 25:11, to draw an inference from it. “Hence (οὖν, not γάρ [note6, appended to the text.—Tr.])”—says he—I subject myself to the punishment which the law decrees, in case I have deserved it; but, if the accusation is unfounded, I claim the protection of the law (Meyer). When Paul uses the word χαρίσασθαι, he says, without reserve, that as the whole question turned on a point of law, no act would be legal, by which he would be surrendered to the Jews, as a favor to the latter.—He avails himself, finally, of the legal right of an appeal to the emperor himself, and, in doing Song of Solomon, employs the most concise terms. It is obvious that he was induced to adopt this course by the circumstance that Festus did not seem disposed to maintain with firmness the position which he had previously taken in reference to the wishes of the Jews; hence Paul had reason to apprehend that, ultimately, he might not be protected against the machinations of his deadly enemies. He was, besides, encouraged to take this step, by the promise which he had received ( Acts 23:11), that he should bear witness of Jesus in Rome, before he died. All these circumstances, in their combination, convinced him that it was now his duty to resort to the right of appeal; and in pursuing this course, he was influenced not so much by any considerations connected with himself, as by a sense of his duty as a witness. As a Roman citizen, he possessed the right of appealing to the emperor; it was strictly forbidden by the Lex Julia that any impediment should be placed in the way of a Roman citizen who had appealed. That appeal itself might be made in writing, but also orally, when, as in the present case, it was made during the course of judicial proceedings. (See the appropriate passages of the Roman Law in Wetstein).

Acts 25:12. Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council [with his own συμβούλιον, not with the συνέδριον of the Jews.—Tr.]. This council consisted of certain officers, whom Suetonius calls consiliarii (Tiber, c. 33), and also assessores (Galba, c. 19). The consultation referred to the question whether Paul’s appeal ought to be admitted and confirmed, [inasmuch as there were a few cases, such as those of bandits, pirates, etc, in which the right of appeal was disallowed; but no doubt could be entertained on this head, in the present instance, and the appeal was at once sustained. (Conyb. and H. II:301.).—The text. rec. introduces the Greek note of interrogation after Καίσαρα ἐπικέκλησαι (Hast thou, etc.?). “Griesbach had already rejected the usual note of interrogation in this place, as it only tends to destroy the solemnity and weight of the decision.” (Meyer). “The sentence is not interrogative, as in the authorized (English) version, but the words express a solemn decision of the Procurator and his Assessors.” Conyb. etc. II:301. n3). This is the opinion now generally entertained (Alexander; Hackett, etc.) and recent editors substitute a comma for the note of interrogation.—Tr.].

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. When the apostle is placed before the tribunal of the new Judges, he does not fail to address his conscience also, with respect to his duty and to justice. He speaks of the matter before them, with the utmost freedom, while he treats the person of the magistrate with due consideration. Here again the Roman laws and the ordinances of the government subserve the interests of the kingdom of God.

2. The path of the apostle conducts him, according to the counsel of God, from Jerusalem to Rome, and, indeed, at that period, the path of the Church of Christ led from Jerusalem to Rome. But the manner in which this counsel of God was fulfilled, is very remarkable, when viewed as an index of the ways of providence. The falsehood and deceit of the one party, and the weakness of the other, ultimately leave the imprisoned apostle no other choice than that of making an appeal to the emperor himself. It was not in a calculating spirit, nor from cowardice or caprice, that he adopted this resolution; he found himself, on the contrary, compelled to take such a step; his act in availing himself of this right, which the law conceded, assumed a moral character.—Now, at that moment, when the Roman procurator formally declared that the appeal was admitted, and that Paul should proceed on his journey to the emperor, a decisive turning point in the life of the apostle was reached. His watchword henceforth was: “On, to Rome!” The point which he had for years longed to reach ( Acts 19:21), and to which a divine revelation assured him that he was appointed to proceed ( Acts 23:11), was now already brought much nearer to his eye. But many sins were committed by men before the promise was actually fulfilled. The evil which men intended, God meant unto good, Genesis 50:20.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

1. Now when Festus was come into the province.—It is true that Paul now stood in the presence of another Judges, when the successor of Felix, the former governor, assumed the office; but Festus had the same worldly mind, and was actuated by the same desire to gain the favor of men. Who, then, can expect that any advantages will result from such changes in the civil government, if, while the persons are changed, the same carnal sentiments continue to rule? Faith, which has overcome the world in all its forms, is a richer source of consolation. And yet God employed such changes as the means for impressing the great truth on the conscience of the people of the world, that all human authority is transitory and vain. It Isaiah, besides, a very serious thought, that in a country in which God himself had, at a former period, been acknowledged as the Supreme Ruler, one pagan governor is seen rapidly following the other. This circumstance should have taught the people how sadly their affairs had decayed. (Rieger).—Kings may die, and rulers be changed; ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever’ [ Hebrews 13:8]. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 25:3. And desired favor against him.—The lives and bodies of Christians are so little valued, that they are given away, when others ask for such favors, Matthew 14:6-11; Mark 15:15. (Starke).

Acts 25:4-5. But Festus answered, etc.—God here protected Paul in a wonderful manner. The reply of Festus, and the statement in Acts 25:9, show that it cost him an effort, when he refused, in a direct manner, to grant the request of the Jews; he might, by complying with it, have become popular among them, at the very commencement of his administration. But he was not controlled by passion, and submitted to be guided by God in the path of justice.—And Paul himself was not aware of the extent of the danger from which his life was again rescued, Acts 25:3. How numerous are the cases, in which we have been protected and rescued, and of which we shall remain in ignorance, until we hereafter stand before the throne of God! (Williger).

Acts 25:6. Commanded Paul to be brought.—In the whole history of these judicial proceedings, we do not in a single instance observe the apostle thrusting himself forward before the tribunal. He invariably waits until he is commanded to appear; and whenever he is allowed to speak, he confines himself within the limits of his defence, without in the least degree meditating revenge on his blood-thirsty accusers. He furnishes a noble example to every servant of God, teaching that it is our duty to forget personal insults, to leave vengeance to God, to deny ourselves when we suffer for Christ’s sake, and to overcome our enemies by patience and gentleness. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 25:7. Many and grievous complaints,—which they could not prove.—Here, too, the lot of the servant is like that of the Master. Even as false witnesses appeared in the presence of the pagan, Pilate, against Christ, but could furnish no adequate support for their calumnies, so the attempt of the Jews against Paul in the presence of Festus, was a complete failure. In both cases the false accusations were the same: violation of the law, profanation of the temple, rebellion against the emperor. (Leonh. and Sp.).

Acts 25:8. Neither against the law, etc.—The more simple and direct the defence Isaiah, the more closely it resembles the mind and conduct of Christ, John 18:20-21. (Starke).

Acts 25:9. But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure.—Although men, who are not influenced by the fear of God, may, for a season, pursue the right path, they can at any time, when earthly motives are presented, deviate from it, and act deceitfully. Hence we should put confidence, not in men, but in God. Psalm 118:8-9. (Starke).

Acts 25:10-11. Then said Paul, I stand at Cesar’s judgment seat … I appeal unto Cesar.—Imperial and legal privileges, letters of safe-conduct, civil rights, etc, have been established, in order that the devout might be comforted, and the plans of evil men might be defeated. (Mark this, ye scorners!). Hence God has ordained the powers that be, and supplied laws and documents, legal rights and penalties, for the purpose of curbing a wanton spirit, and protecting defenceless and devout men. Romans 13:1-4. (Starke).—Besides the three national afflictions of war, pestilence and famine, there is a fourth—protracted law-suits, in which advocates are often the representatives of a boundless eternity. Paul’s suit did not yet come to an end. 1 Corinthians 6:7. (id.).—The apostle would not have appealed to the emperor, if he had not known that it was the divine will that he should bear witness also at Rome [ Acts 23:11]. By means of this appeal the Lord opened an avenue for his servant, so that the latter could make known his testimony of Jesus even in the capital of the world. (Ap. Past.).—He appealed to the emperor, not that he might obtain aid from a man like Nero, but that he might, by such an avenue, reach the city of Rome. His appeal Isaiah, at the same time, a striking rebuke of that false spirituality, which regards it as an unchristian course to appeal to the civil law and to the civil magistrates for aid in maintaining our rights. (Leonh. and Sp.).

Acts 25:12.—Hast thou appealed unto Cesar? unto Cesar shalt thou go.—“Yes, Festus, thou art rights—Paul must go to Rome, not, however, because thou and thy council have so decided, but because it was so appointed by the counsel of God. Thus even the highest authorities of the Roman Empire, (which was, in its very nature, hostile to the kingdom of heaven), were compelled to subserve the purposes and ways of the kingdom of Jesus.”—“The wheels of divine providence carry all things forward, and men are obliged to coöperate, although they do not know it. They imagine, however, that they do the work.” (Gossner).

ON THE WHOLE SECTION, Acts 25:1-12.—The noble firmness of the Christian in maintaining his rights: it differs, I. From the effrontery of the hypocrite; for it relies on a defence which is sustained by facts, Acts 25:7-8 : II. From the defiant spirit of the criminal; for it does not attempt to evade a legal investigation, Acts 25:9-10 : III. From the obstinacy of contentious men; for it submits to a just decision. (Bobe).

I appeal unto Cesar.

This language furnishes the evidence, I. Of a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men [ Acts 24:16]; II. Of an humble submission to the powers that are ordained of God; III. Of an evangelical and sober avoidance of an unnecessary martyrdom; IV. Of an unwearied zeal for the extension of the kingdom of God. (Leonh. and Sp.).

Impartiality and justice, the noblest ornaments of a magistrate: I. Festus does not decline to listen to the complaints against Paul, Acts 25:1-4; II. He receives the statements both of the accusers and of the accused, Acts 25:6-8; III. He allows the accused to appeal to the emperor, Acts 25:9-12. (Lisco).

How does a Christian maintain his rights? I. Without arrogance, Acts 25:6-8; II. Without fear, Acts 25:9-12. (id.).

The conduct of the Christian when a change of rulers occur: I. Towards those who depart; (a) he does not judge harshly, for he knows that they now stand before the Supreme Judge; (b) nor does he praise immoderately, for he now sees that the glory of the world is vanity. II. Towards those who assume office; (a) he neither entertains unreasonable hopes, for he knows that there is no new thing under the sun ( Ecclesiastes 1:9); (b) nor does he yield to anxious fears, for he believes the words: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever.” [ Hebrews 13:8].

Paul before Fetusan instructive illustration of the truth that both the children of the world, and the children of the light, respectively, remain the same: I. The children of the world; (a) Paul’s accusers, Acts 25:2-3; Acts 25:7. They have “learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” They repeat the old falsehoods, and resort to their former base arts

the same, indeed which they had employed against Christ, in the presence of Pilate; (b) Paul’s judges. The frivolous and unprincipled Felix is succeeded by the proud Festus. The latter at first pursues a noble course, Acts 25:4-5, but soon afterwards abandons the cause of justice, like his predecessor, in order to gain the favor of men, Acts 25:9; in short, the name is changed, but the same worldly-minded character Revelation -appears. II. The children of God; (a) Paul is still the same, after an imprisonment of two years his undaunted courage, his lofty spirit, his composure and presence of mind are unchanged; the statements which he makes, are as lucid and as firm as those of any earlier day, Acts 25:8-10; but (b) he is also still the same in meekness and patience. He exhibits no revengeful feeling towards his malignant foes, no disposition to resist his unrighteous Judges, no impatience during the long period of his trial; on the contrary, he calmly submits to the authority of human law, and trusts with implicit confidence in the divine protection, Acts 25:12.

Paul’s appeal to the emperor, leads us to ask: Whither shall the Christian turn, when his rights are withheld? He may appeal, I. From the sentence of unrighteous men, to the judgment of the righteous; II. From the passions of the moment, to the justice of a future period; III. From the opinions of the external world, to the testimony of his own conscience; IV. From the tribunal of men to the judgment-seat of God.

Hast thou appealed to Cesar? unto Cesar shalt thou go. Whence did this decision, on which the life or death of Paul depended, proceed? I. From an external source; it was pronounced by Festus, as the magistrate invested with authority; II. From an internal source; Paul willed it, as the apostle of the Gentiles; III. From a heavenly source; it was sanctioned by the Lord, as the King of kings. (Application to important epochs in the life of the Christian.).

[ Acts 25:8. The judgment which we form of our own moral conduct: I. The necessity of forming an accurate judgment of, etc.; (a) else we cannot know whether we are growing in grace; (b) we unconsciously yield to many temptations; (c) we can entertain no well-founded hope of heaven. II. The difficulties which we here encounter; (a) the natural ignorance and perverseness of the human heart; (b) the suggestions of vanity; (c) our spiritual sloth. III. The means which may secure success; (a) continued meditation on the day of judgment; (b) diligent study of the Scriptures; (c) watchfulness, self-examination, and prayer.—Tr.].

Footnotes:

FN#1 - The singular is found in H, but the plural in A. B. C. E. G. Cod. Sin, Syr. Vulg. (principes sacerdotum). Alf. who retains the singular, says: “It has been imagined that ἀρχ. has been a correction to suit the former part of the narrative. But it is much more probable that οἱ ἀρχ. has been substituted for it, to suit the assertion of Festus, Acts 25:15.” This was the opinion expressed by de Wette in big last edition. Meyer says (3d edition, 1861): “The singular is a correction from Acts 24:1.” Lach, Tisch, and Born, adopt the plural.—Tr.]

FN#2 - The latter, adopted by the text. rec., and retained by Scholz, is found in G. H.—Lach, Tisch, Born, and Alf. read εἰς Κ.—Tr.]

FN#3 - Acts 25:5. ἄτοπον, instead of τούτῳ is indeed attested by four important manuscripts [A. B. C. E. also Cod. Sin, a number of minuscules, and Vulg. (crimen)]; it should, nevertheless, be cancelled with Tischendorf [in the edition of1849], as spurious; but it may have easily been interpolated as an explanation [“as a gloss on τι; see Luke 23:41” (Alford, from Meyer)], while the omission of the word [if it originally belonged to the text], would be improbable. [The word is omitted in G. H. and in a number of minuscules; it is dropped by the text. rec., and by Alf, but is substituted for τούτῳ by Lach. and Born.—“The word wickedness, although not printed in Italics, is supplied by the translators, being found neither in the common text nor in the critical editions; but several of the oldest copies have a Greek word (ἄτοπον) elsewhere rendered harm ( Acts 28:6), amiss ( Luke 23:41), unreasonable ( 2 Thessalonians 3:2). The idea of fault or crime is of course suggested even by the shorter reading, “if there be any thing in this (or the) man.” (Alexander).—Tr.]

FN#4 - Acts 25:6. The majority of the manuscripts [A. B. C. E, and Vulg.] exhibit: οὐ πλείους ὀκτὼ δέκα, and this reading should be regarded as genuine. Two manuscripts [G. H.] read: πλείους δέκα [and this is the reading adopted by text. rec.]; in one minuscule [no137], and several versions [Syr. etc.], the words οὐ πλείους were dropped. [E. omits οὐ; B. reads πλείονας.—The margin of the Engl. Bible has the following note: “More than ten days; or, as some copies read, no more than eight or ten days.”—Recent editors generally read: οὐ πλ. ὀκ. δέκα. Alford, quoting from Meyer, says: “The number of days is variously read: which has probably arisen from the later MSS, which have η for the ὀκτὼ of the more ancient ones; thus η (the letter of the Greek alphabet representing eight) has been omitted on account of the η (the particle disjunctive, meaning or) which follows.”—Cod. Sin. reads: ου πλειους ημερας οκτω η δεκα.—Tr.]

FN#5 - E.], and the simple form φέροντες [G. and H.], each of which is found only in one uncial manuscript. [But the latter is found in two.—Lach, Tisch, and Alf, read καταφ.—For αἰτιάματα, of text. rec., with many minuscules, recent editors read αἰτιώματα, with A. B. C. E. G. H. Cod. Sin.—Tr.]

FN#6 - Acts 25:11. οὖν is decidedly attested [by A. B. C. E. and Cod. Sin.]; γάρ [of G. H. Vulg. (si enim), and text. rec.], is evidently a correction. [“εἰ μὲν οὖν seemed to the copyists to contradict οὐδὲν ἠδικησα in the preceding verse.” (Meyer). Recent editors generally substitute οὖν for γάρ.—Tr.]


Verses 13-27

E.—AT THE REQUEST OF HEROD AGRIPPA, THE YOUNGER, FESTUS COMMANDS THAT THE APOSTLE SHOULD BE BROUGHT BEFORE HIM; THUS PAUL FINDS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR DEFENDING HIMSELF IN THE PRESENCE OF THE KING, IN A PUBLIC AND SOLEMN MANNER, AND OF BEARING A TESTIMONY WHICH IS NOT WITHOUT EFFECT

Acts 25:13 to Acts 26:32

§ I. Festus makes a communication to king Agrippa concerning Paul, and, at the king’s request, commands him to appear, for the purpose of being examined, in the presence of an assembly of distinguished persons

Acts 25:13-27

13And after certain days [But after some days had passed, διαγενομένων] king Agrippaand Bernice came unto Cesarea to salute Festus 14 And when they had been [had tarried] there many days, Festus declared [set forth] Paul’s cause unto [before] the king; saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix [left behind by Felix in confinement]:15 About whom, when I was at [came to] Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have [om. to have] judgment[FN7] againsthim 16 To whom I answered, It [that it] is not the manner [custom] of the Romans to deliver any man to die [to deliver up any man[FN8]], before that he which [who] is accused have the accusers face to face, and have license [have obtained an opportunity, τόπον—λάβοι] to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him [concerningthe accusation]. 17Therefore, when they were come hither [After they had then (οὖν) assembled here], without any delay on the morrow I [I did not defer the case, but on the next day] sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth [forward]. 18Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none [no] accusation of such things as I supposed [of such a nature as I conjectured]: 19But had [only] certain questions against him of their own superstition [relating to their own religion], and of [to] one Jesus, which [who] was dead, whom Paul affirmed to bealive [of whom Paul said that he was alive]. 20And because I doubted of such manner of questions [But as I was at a loss as to this investigation[FN9]], I asked him whether he would go [would wish to journey] to Jerusalem, and there be judged of [concerning] these matters 21 But when Paul had appealed to be reserved unto [But Paul now appealed to the circumstance that he wished to be kept for] the hearing[FN10] of Augustus, [of the emperor, and] I commanded him to be kept till I might [should] send him to Cesar 22 Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also [I would also wish to] hear the man myself. To-morrow, said Hebrews, [But he said, To-morrow] thou shalt hear him 23 And on the morrow [Accordingly (οὖν), on the next day], when Agrippa was [had] come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was [had] entered into the place of hearing [the audience-chamber], with the chief captains [the commanders], and principal menof the city, at Festus commandment Paul was brought forth [forward]. 24And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which [ye men who] are here [om. here, supplied by the translators] present with us, ye see this Prayer of Manasseh, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with [applied to] me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer 25 But when I found [But I perceived[FN11]] that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that [; and, as] he himself hath appealed to Augustus [to the emperor] I have determined [I resolved] to send him.[FN12] 26Of whom [however] I have no certain thing [nothing definite] to write unto my lord [to the sovereign, τῷ κυρίῳ]. Wherefore I have brought him forth [forward] before you, and especially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after [an] examination had [has taken place], I might have somewhat to write[FN13] [I may know what I should write].For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him [prisoner, without stating the charges against him].

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Acts 25:13. King Agrippa and Bernice came.—This first visit of Herod, who came to offer his congratulations to the new governor, was, no doubt, made soon after the events occurred, which have just been related; hence, the expression ἡμερῶν—τινῶν, is to be taken in its literal sense. Herod Agrippa II. [sometimes called Agrippa the Second or Younger, to distinguish him from his father, Agrippa the First (Alex.) who is mentioned in Acts 13.—Tr.] was the last of the Herods; he was the son of Agrippa I, [and a great grandson of Herod, styled the Great, Matthew 2:1.]. In the year A. D48, he was placed [by the emperor Claudius] in possession of the principality of Chalcis, and four years afterwards, received, in place of it, the former tetrarchy of Philippians, in the north-east, beyond Jordan, together with the title of “king.” He was also intrusted with the guardianship of the temple, and obtained the privilege of appointing the high priest. Bernice was his own sister. [Her name, Βερνίκη (Βερενίκη, Βερονίκη) Isaiah, probably, the Macedonian form of Φερενίκη (Passow).—Tr.]. She had previously been married to her uncle Herod, the prince of Chalcis; after the death of the latter (A. D48), she lived with her brother, and, as it was believed, in incestuous intercourse with him [Jos. Ant. xx73.].

Acts 25:14-17. a. And when they had been there many days.—The case of Paul did not appear to the procurator to be so urgent, as to require that it should be at once made known to Agrippa; it was only after the latter had already spent some time in Cesarea, that Festus took an opportunity to state the subject to him. He probably expected that, as he was still a stranger in the country, he would he enabled to form a clearer judgment respecting Paul and his cause, by consulting Agrippa, whose experience and knowledge of Jewish affairs would enable him to give advice, particularly as his religion and that of the Jews was the same.

b. There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix.—It will at once be seen that Festus is desirous of demonstrating to the king, on the one hand, his own integrity of character and his conscientiousness and zeal in discharging the duties of his office, and of exhibiting, on the other, the great excellence of the Roman system of laws to Agrippa, who, although, his superior in rank, was virtually his vassal. All this appears, for instance, in his report, Acts 25:16, of the answer, which, as he alleges, he had given to the Jews, although that answer differs widely in its form the one which he really gave them, Acts 25:4-5.—The context here assigns to χαρίζεσθαι the meaning: to condemn one man in order to oblige another. Τόπον ἀπολ. λάβ., is a Latinized phrase, viz, locum respondendi accipere.

Acts 25:18-19. They brought none accusation of such things as I supposed.—The bitterness of feeling with which the Jews had assailed Paul, led Festus to imagine that they would accuse him of some very serious crime; but he soon ascertained that the whole case turned on certain religious questions. The Roman here designedly employs the word δεισιδαιμονία, which Agrippa might take in a good or a bad sense; see Acts 17:22 [Exeg. note, b.]. He says, moreover, τ. ἰδιάς δεισιδ., as if he regarded the prince himself as a pagan, or, at least, as a man who was too enlightened to be seriously influenced by the superstition of the Jews. [“Δεισιδ. religion, not superstition. Agrippa was known to be a zealous Jew, and Festus would not have been so uncourteous as to describe his faith by an offensive term.” (Hackett).—Tr.]. The remark which Festus made concerning Jesus, clearly shows, that, in the course of the former proceedings, much had been said, which Luke has not recorded. The general tone, moreover, of the remarks of the Roman is that which characterizes the conversation of one who is a mere man of the world; he glides over the most important and holy subjects, without manifesting any interest in, or any respect for, them, especially when he refers to the Person of Jesus, and to the testimony of Paul; the latter, (namely, that Jesus was alive,) he disparages by representing it be a mere assertion (φάσκειν).

Acts 25:20-22. And because I doubted, etc.—The procurator represents the proposal which he had made to Paul, namely, that the latter should proceed to Jerusalem and there be judged, as one that was well meant; he explains it as having proceeded from a wish to submit an investigation, which he did not himself feel competent to conduct, to a more appropriate tribunal. [“Τηρηθῆναι, Acts 25:21, does not stand elliptically for εἰς τὸ τηρηθ. (Grotius, Wolf, Heinr. and others); this infinitive, on the contrary, contains the object of ἐπικαλεσαμένου, or the matter of the appeal that was made.” (Meyer).—For ἐβουλόμην, without ἄν, see Winer: Gram. § 41. a2.—Tr.]. Σεβαστος, Augustus. [“This title was first conferred by the senate on Octavianus—and borne by all succeeding emperors.” (Alf.).—Tr.]

Acts 25:23-25. And on the morrow, etc.—The word φαντασία acquired among the later Greek writers, as Plutarch, Diodorus, etc, the signification of pomp, display, exhibition, procession. Fantasia signifies even yet, in all the western maritime regions of Turkey, lustre or splendor (Zeitschr. der deutsch-morgenländ. Ges. XI:3. p484). [Χιλιάρχοις, the tribunes of five cohorts stationed at Cesarea, Jos. Jewish War. iii42. (Meyer).—Tr.].—It was a numerous and splendid assembly before which Paul appeared. Festus, who presented him in a solemn manner, intentionally gave additional importance to the occasion, and, no doubt, also to himself, by alleging, in terms of exaggeration, that the whole Jewish community had applied to him in reference to this man.

Acts 25:26-27. Unto my Lord, τῷ κυρίῳ.—The Commander, Dominus, was a title which not only Augustus, but even Tiberius, had positively declined to accept, as it belonged to the gods alone, e. g., Tac. Annal. II:87; Suet. Aug. 53; Tiber. 27. But the emperors who succeeded them, willingly received this honorable appellation, and, at the time when the present events occurred, it was frequently employed. [“Caligula accepted the title—Herod Agrippa had applied it to Claudius—but it was not a recognized title of any emperor before Domitian. Suet. Dom. 13.” (Alf.).—Tr.]. Ἀσφαλές τι, i.e., a charge made in precise and definite terms.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. Although the frame of mind of this pagan officer did not qualify him for understanding religious truth, he nevertheless rightly perceived that the main difficulty between Paul and his Jewish opponents, referred to the Person of Jesus, and, specially, to the question whether He was, or was not, risen. That Jesus had died on the cross, was a fact which both parties admitted. But Paul maintained that He now lived, inasmuch as he had risen from the grave; the truth of this statement the Jews in the most positive terms denied. The conversion, indeed, of Paul, by which he became another Prayer of Manasseh, was originally established on his firm conviction of the truth: the Crucified One lives! It had been demonstrated to him by the appearance of Jesus. Hence his statement of that great fact, was the statement of an eye-witness—it was, strictly speaking, testimony, whereas Festus supposed that it was a mere assertion founded on a delusion. The resurrection of Jesus Isaiah, and must continue to be, the central fact of redemption through Christ—(a) in a historical point of view, since, without it, the church of Christ would not have obtained an historical existence and been perpetuated; (b) in a doctrinal point of view, in reference both to the Person and to the Work of Christ; (c) as the source of life and power, since He who believes in the Risen One, lives and receives divine strength through Him; (d) in view of the future, since all the Christian hopes of the individual and of mankind, depend on the resurrection-life of the Redeemer, and are sustained and confirmed by it.

2. It is true that Festus did not state his real motive, when he alleged that his own incompetence to investigate the case of Paul, had led him to propose that it should be transferred to Jerusalem. Still, his language, as given in Acts 25:20, shows that he formed a correct opinion of the case. Instead of claiming that, in view of his lofty secular position, he was qualified to understand and decide all manner of controversies, he does not regard it as incompatible with the dignity of his station to confess with all candor, that in this particular case, he was completely at a loss (ἀπορία), when a decision was asked of him. And, far from dictatorially and peremptorily deciding in a case involving a point of faith, he would prefer to submit the decision to suitable persons. This is an instance in which the magistrate most honorably confines himself within certain limits, rendering to Cesar the things that are Cesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. He is a model for every Christian government, with regard to the course which should be observed in matters that concern the faith and the Church.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Acts 25:14. And when they had been there many days.—The first days were doubtless devoted to amusements, such as are usually prepared to do honor to distinguished strangers. But when, after many days, these were exhausted, they turned their attention to the case of Paul. (Rieger).

Acts 25:16. To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans, etc.—It were to be wished that this equitable rule or principle of the Roman law were engraved on stone and brass, and placed in a conspicuous place in the palaces of great lords, and in all court-houses, but still more, that it were inscribed on the hearts of all judges and magistrates, Job 19:23-24. They are merely hangmen, and not Judges, who begin with the execution, and condemn an accused person, whether he be innocent or guilty, without giving him a hearing or a fair trial. The Gentiles were more rational and just, and they will be the judges of such men; Matthew 26:66. (Starke).—Festus describes, in his address to Agrippa, his own sense of justice and his impartial procedure, with much ostentation. But when we closely examine the whole transaction, it plainly appears that he did not express his real sentiments. We are told in Acts 25:9, that he wished to confer a favor on the Jews. He was disposed to employ indirect means for delivering up Paul to them in Jerusalem, and was prevented from executing his purpose solely by the appeal made to the emperor. He was a mere man of the world, who was anxious to be popular among all classes, and he trimmed the sails according to the direction of the wind. This is by nature the evil tendency of us all. We are very ready to set forth our own merits, and to justify all our actions, although our conscience may convict us of many human infirmities. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 25:19. But had certain questions against him of their own superstition (according to Luther’s version). [and the Engl. version.—Tr.],—Festus does not here speak of the Jewish religion with that respect which we would expect, since Agrippa, whom he addressed, was I himself a Jew. But as great lords are often supposed to entertain in their hearts very little regard for the religion which they externally profess, an insolent tongue does not hesitate to speak contemptuously of it in their presence. (Rieger).—And of one Jesus, which, was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. This report of Festus demonstrates that when Paul spoke in defence of himself before the chief council at Jerusalem, and, subsequently, before Festus, he did not confine himself to the general subject of the resurrection, but also taught and maintained this doctrine in its connection with the resurrection of Jesus. For it was a main point in his controversy with the Jews that, according to his testimony, that Jesus whom they had slain, had risen again, and was alive. Festus regarded the subject of the dispute itself as a mere matter of superstition, that was too trivial to claim attention. And yet it was (and still is) the central truth of the whole Christian faith—the prominent landmark which separated the Jewish (and modern) infidelity from the faith of the whole church of Christ. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 25:20. And because I doubted [was at a loss] etc.—We cannot listen without a feeling of abhorrence to the disparaging language which Festus, a pagan, and a man of the world, in his great ignorance, employs respecting the controverted point of the truth of the resurrection of Jesus; and yet we cannot but commend the moderation and equity which Hebrews, at the same time, shows; for he not only does not dictatorially pronounce judgment when such questions of faith or religion are presented; but is not even willing to admit the controversy before his judgment-seat. This pagan is governed in the present instance by better principles than many Christian rulers are, who do not scruple to treat religious controversies as if they were civil matters, to forbid the promulgation of doctrines and truths, under the penalty of excommunication, fire, and the sword, and to constitute themselves judges of the consciences of men. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 25:22. Then Agrippa said unto Festus, etc.—It was doubtless not simply by curiosity that Agrippa was influenced; such a feeling Festus had not made special efforts to awaken in him. A flash of lightning, or, at least, a gleam of light, had entered his soul; he had a presentiment that, in the present case, heavenly things were involved. (Williger).

Acts 25:23. When Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, etc.—How soon that glory faded away before the simple words of the man of God! (Williger).—Here again God provided for His servant a numerous audience, consisting of eminent and influential men, to whom it now became Paul’s duty to preach the Gospel. (All this was in accordance with the words: “He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel,” Acts 9:15). Paul had recently found a season of repose, and had been allowed to have intercourse with his friends ( Acts 24:23). Soon afterwards he was brought before Festus, when the hostile Jews were present, and on that occasion testified that Jesus, the Crucified One, was alive. He now bears witness in the presence of kings, princes, and a large assembly.—Here we adore the faithfulness of our God, who continually leads His servants forward and employs them, even when they are most despised by the world; He opens a door for them, when the world proposes to fetter and incarcerate them. But we also revere such a servant of Jesus, whom God could employ in every capacity—as a witness of his Lord’s sufferings—as an exhorter of the people—as a preacher of His resurrection—as the herald of His grace before emperors and kings. The Lord grant us, too, His grace, so that we may serve Him in all things, and, that, when He employs us, we may appear as faithful servants! (Ap. Past.).

Acts 25:24. Ye see this man.—“Behold the man!” John 19:5. (Williger).

Acts 25:26. Wherefore I have brought him forth … before thee, O king Agrippa.— Song of Solomon, too, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, Luke 23:7. (Williger).

Acts 25:27. For it seemeth to me unreasonable, etc.—Statesmen readily comprehend that it is an unreasonable course to imprison men, or inflict any other punishment upon them, on account of their religion; but their conduct is not always in accordance with their opinion. The supposed interests of the state may prevail even over reason, Matthew 23:3. (Starke).—When the highest civil authorities and tribunals, after receiving an appeal, at times respond by issuing unjust rescripts or decrees, one of the causes may be possibly found in the dishonesty of the official reports that had been transmitted; for the decision conforms to the report. O that princes, and men in authority, would see with their own eyes, listen to the complaints of the miserable and oppressed, and not invariably depend on the statements of their counsellors and officers! (id.).

ON THE WHOLE SECTION, Acts 25:13-27.—The judgment of the people of the world concerning matters of faith: I. The highest standard by which they are governed, is the civil law, as in the case of Festus, Acts 25:13-18; II. Their judgment respecting the objects of faith is depreciatory; they assign these to the domain of superstition, and even pride themselves on their inability to understand such questions, Acts 25:19-21; III. Their interest in such subjects proceeds, as in the case of Agrippa, from curiosity, or is awakened by external circumstances, Acts 25:22. (Lisco).

Why should those be accounted blessed, who are persecuted for the truth’s sake? I. Because it is precisely by such persecution that their innocence is most plainly proved, Acts 25:18 ff.; II. Because persecution affords them an opportunity to bear witness to the truth, Acts 25:22 ff. (id.).

The principles of an impartial administration of justice, as stated by Festus. Acts 25:14-27 : I. All should be done that properly belongs to such an administration of justice; (a) with respect to the accusers—to receive and hear them patiently, Acts 25:15; Acts 25:17-18; (b) with respect to the accused—to listen with impartiality to their defence, and protect their persons against the craft and violence of their enemies, Acts 25:16; Acts 25:18; Acts 25:21. II. All should be avoided that does not belong to it; (a) not to claim the right of judgment in matters of faith, Acts 25:19-20; Acts 25:26; (b) not arbitrarily to anticipate the decision of a higher Judges, Acts 25:25, but rather conscientiously to prepare the way for it, Acts 25:26-27.

Mere intellectual culture, an incompetent guide in matters of Christian truth: I. It regards the most precious articles of the Christian faith as the offspring of superstition, and consequently as not being worthy of attention, Acts 25:19-20; II. It regards the living Head of the Church as “one Jesus which was dead,” and it is not conscious of His vital power and gracious presence, Acts 25:19; III. It regards the chosen servants of God as eccentric and incomprehensible men, with whom it knows not how to deal, Acts 25:24-27.

Festus and Paul, or, The plain man of God, elevated far above the distinguished man of the world. He is elevated far above him, I. By that internal nobility which his adoption as a child of God, confers, and before which all the pride of rank fades away, Acts 25:23; II. By the wide field of view which faith opens, with respect to which all mere secular culture is compelled to confess its ignorance, Acts 25:19-20; Acts 25:26; III. By the firm bearing which his unblamable walk before God enables him to maintain, while the loose morality of the world fluctuates between right and wrong, truth and error, Acts 25:9; Acts 25:20; Acts 25:26.

The words of Agrippa concerning Paul: “I would also hear the man myself,” ( Acts 25:22), according to the various meanings which have been assigned to them: I. As the wish inspired by mere curiosity, which simply seeks entertainment for the passing hour; II. As the wish prompted by a secular desire for knowledge, expecting interesting matters of information; III. As the wish which a devout desire for salvation inspired, animated by the consciousness that spiritual instructions were needed (applied to our practice of attending public worship, hearing sermons, reading books of devotion, etc.).

Paul, the servant of God, in the presence of princes and rulers at Cesarea; we observe in the scene before us, I. The glory of the Lord, who (a) opens a door for his servants even when they are fettered or imprisoned; (b) and whose word knocks alike at the lofty palace and the lowly hut; II. The fidelity of His servant, who every where delivers his testimony for the Lord, (a) not dazzled by the splendor of human greatness; (b) nor enfeebled by the chains of his personal afflictions.

The audience-chamber of the governor at Cesarea: I. A magnificent apartment, exhibiting earthly glory—the display made by the assembled nobility, etc, Acts 25:23; soon afterwards, II. An apartment in which holy doctrines were proclaimed, when the apostle offered his testimony, Acts 26:1-23; and, ultimately, III. A judgment-hall of the divine majesty—when the apostolical discourse exposed the secrets of the heart, Acts 26:24-32.

Footnotes:

FN#7 - The text. rec. reads δίκην, with E. G. H, whereas A. B. C, Cod. Sin. (Vulg. damnationem) exhibit καταδίκην. Lach, Tisch, Born, and Alf. adopt the latter.—Tr.]

FN#8 - Acts 25:16. In some manuscripts [G. H.], and versions [Syr. etc.], ἄνθρωπον is followed by εἰς ἀπώλειαν [as in text. rec.]; the two words are obviously an explanatory addition. [They are not found in A. B. C. E. Cod. Sin, and are omitted by many recent editors—Tr.].

FN#9 - Instead of doubted of such, etc. (Wicl, Tynd, Cranmer), the margin of the Engl. Bible offers the following version: I was doubtful how to inquire hereof. “The marginal version .. is probably nearer to the sense of the original, than that given in the text, though both are paraphrases rather than translations.” (Alex.).—Τούτου before ζήτησιν, of text. rec., with H, is changed to τούτων by Lach, Tisch, and Alf, in accordance with A. B. C. E. G, Cod. Sin, Syr.—Lechler’s translation indicates that he retains the singular.—Tr.]

FN#10 - For hearing, the margin proposes judgment. The Greek word is .. “applied in the classics to any discriminating judgment and decision.” (Alex.).—For πέμψω, of text. rec., with G. H, Lach, Tisch, Born, and Alf. read ἀναπέμψω with A. B. C. E. Cod. Sin.—Tr.]

FN#11 - Acts 25:25. a. καταλαβόμενος is indeed sustained by less decisive external evidence than κατελαβόμην, but the internal evidence in the same degree sustains the former, rather than the latter; if the finite verb had been originally employed, it would, unquestionably, not have been changed into the participle. [The participle, as adopted by the text. rec., is found in G. H, and is retained by Alt.; but Lach, Tisch, and Born, with A. B. C. E. read κατελαβόμην. Vulg, ego vero comperi.—Cod. Sin. (original) read καταλαβομενος, which a later hand, C, altered to κατελαβομην.—Tr.]

FN#12 - Acts 25:25. b. [αὐτόν after πέμπειν, of text. rec., with E. G. H, is dropped by Lach, Tisch, and Alf, in accordance with A. B. C. Cod. Sin, Vulg.—Tr.]

FN#13 - The last word of the verse in the text. rec. is γράψαι, as found in E. G. H, and this reading is retained by several editors (Knapp, Scholz, etc.). Lach, Tisch, and Alf. read γράψω with A. B. C, Cod. Sin.—Tr.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Acts 25:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/acts-25.html. 1857-84.

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Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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