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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 24

 

 

Verse 1

1. After five days—Reckoned, doubtless, after the completion of the last transaction, namely, Paul’s arrival in Cesarea. Both Paul’s and Luke’s standpoint is at Cesarea.

Ananias the high priest—It is probably true that the rebuke of Paul in the Sanhedrin (Acts 22:3) rankled in the breast of the high priest; but it is also probable that the reports brought in from various directions at that Passover of the growth of Christianity, the diminution of the synagogues, and Paul’s leadership in the work, had produced in the rulers a strong sense of the necessity of striking him down. It is now the head of the Jewish State confronting the chief leader of the Christian Church before the Pagan court, (three great religions in triangular contact,) demanding his sacrifice.

Elders—The high priest is the prosecutor; the rest are his retinue.

Orator… Tertullus—A diminutive of Tertius; it is lengthened also into Tertullianus. The Greek for orator is ρητωρ, rhetor; (whence our word rhetoric,) originally meaning any public speaker, came to signify a professional pleader. In all the provinces there were numbers of Greek and Roman lawyers who made a living by managing the cases of the natives before the Roman courts. Indeed, it was the custom for young Roman lawyers to practice thus awhile in the provinces as a training for a higher practice in Rome. In Paul’s trial the only language understood by all was no doubt the Greek.


Verses 1-21

VI. PAUL’S TWO YEARS AT CESAREA, Acts 24:1 to Acts 26:32.

1. Paul’s First Roman Arraignment and Third DefenceBefore Felix, Acts 24:1-21.

Six arraignments did Paul encounter in a degree of climax; two before the Jews, and perhaps four before the Roman courts.

The first was on the stairs of Fort Antonia, (Acts 22:1;) the second before the Sanhedrin, (Acts 23:1;) the third (this) before Felix; the fourth before Festus and Agrippa, (Acts 26:2;) the fifth before Nero, with acquittal; and the sixth before Nero, resulting in the crown of martyrdom. In the present arraignment he is forever released from the Jewish, and fairly in the hands of the Pagan, power. Gentilism, unconscious as ever, has fairly rescued her apostle from Judaism, no more to surrender him. For awhile she will protect him from assault, but finally finish his career with the bloody axe.


Verse 2

2. Called forth—Felix has taken his seat upon the bema, an elevated platform; the high priest, rhetor, and elders are in readiness, and Paul is called or summoned from the prison apartment of the palace to its court room. Forthwith orator Tertullus opens (began) the indictment.

He avails himself most liberally of his free license (of which Paul would be deprived by his conscientiousness) of gaining the procurator’s good graces by the most fabulous flattery. His speech is divisible into two nearly equal parts—compliments to Felix and the charges against Paul. The governor was flushed with his late triumph over the Egyptian insurgent, and to this nearly the whole of the orator’s eulogy skilfully points.

We—Our learned barrister speaks in the name of his clients.

Thy providence—Thy foresight; one of the attributes claimed by the emperors and inscribed upon the public coin. (See Hist. Revelation, § 3, at Acts 21:17.)


Verse 4

4. Tedious—Tertullus did not fear that his compliments had grown to a tedious length, but that his coming accusations may. His charges are three: sedition, heresy, and sacrilege.


Verse 7

7. But—This verse and the next as far as the colon are not in the best MSS., and are held by the best critics to be interpolated. Their removal clears Tertullus of the impolicy of making a side issue with Lysias. Excluding the passage, we must make the whom of Acts 24:8 refer to Paul; otherwise to Lysias. The retention of the passage is strongly sustained by Felix’s expressed expectation of Lysias’ coming in Acts 24:22.


Verse 9

9. Jews… assented—Had Felix considered these as so many impartial witnesses the case against Paul was a sweeping one. But, unluckily for them, Felix comprehended the whole case. He saw it with just the eyes of Lysias. (See note Acts 22:10; Acts 22:29.)


Verse 10

10. Beckoned—The prosecutor is silent and seated. A nod from the judge permits Paul to speak. So veteran a pleader needs not, like the high priest and his elders, a lawyer to put his case.

Many years a judge—Paul has not much material for compliment, for he must confine himself to truth; but he makes a most dexterous use of what he has. He compliments the judge on his long tenure of office. Felix had ruled six or seven years; a long period for those times of rapid change by imperial caprice.

The more cheerfully—Skilful truth again. Felix had during his six years’ residence in Cesarea doubtless become familiar with the Christian Church there, where Philip the evangelist had long preached and where Paul had so lately visited, (Acts 21:8-15.) He had a Jewish wife, who evidently knew the history of Christ and of Christianity. (See note on Acts 24:24.)

Paul now in his reply answers to the charge of sedition, (11-13;) to the charge of heresy, (14-16;) to the charge of sacrilege, (17-21.)


Verse 11

11. Because—On the first charge, namely, of SEDITION, Paul takes the twelve days of which the present witnesses could testify of their own knowledge, and declares what his conduct was. Because that depends on I do answer.

To Jerusalem… to worship—Positively Paul now states his conduct to be that of a loyal Jew going to the religious capital, and his object being to worship there at the great national festival of the Passover. Negatively, he goes on to deny anything seditious, whether in temple, in popular assembly in any of the many synagogues, or in the streets of the city.


Verse 14

14. Heresy—On the second charge of HERESY he now replies (14-16) by professing his faith in the essentials of Judaism and avowal of conscientious life.

They call—But I do not admit to be so.

God of my fathers—My ancestral God, and, therefore, I am guiltless of breaking Roman law by deserting my ancestral religion.


Verse 15

15. They themselves—Literally, these themselves, pointing, says Kuinoel, to the Pharisees present, who had come with the Sadducees.

Allow—With Paul, taught by the resurrection and doctrines of Christ, the resurrection was an earnest and fundamental hope; with the Jews it was a mere allowance; that is, they conceded that it might be held without heterodoxy.

A resurrection—The doctrine of the resurrection of the righteous alone cannot be reconciled with this express declaration of the resurrection of the unjust.


Verse 17

17. Now—Upon the charge of SACRILEGE Paul gives a brief statement of the facts, and challenges the counter proof. (Acts 21:18-29.)

Many years—Rather, after some years more, referring to the period of four years since Paul’s last previous visit to Jerusalem. (Acts 18:22.)

Alms—This incidental mention of alms is the only allusion to the fact that Paul was all this four years largely engaged in taking collections from his various Churches for the poor Christians at Jerusalem, of which mention is so frequently made in his epistles. (Romans 15:25-26; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-4. See note Acts 11:29.) This is one of those undesigned coincidences, showing that both the Acts and Epistles are genuine documents.


Verse 18

18. In the templeActs 21:26-29.


Verse 20

20. These same here—Pointing at Ananias and his elders.


Verse 21

21. This one voiceVoice, exclamation. This sentence was uttered, we suppose, with a smile and a slight tone of irony that reminded the Sanhedrists of their own disorderly conduct in their last encounter with Paul, (Acts 23:6-10.) If that exclamation was sacrilege they may make the most of it; but what of their breaking up in an uproar?


Verse 22

2. Felix’s Last Dealings with Paul, Acts 24:22-27.

22. More… way—Felix had a more perfect knowledge of Christianity than would permit him to condemn Paul upon these charges. (Note Acts 24:10.)

Deferred them—This court stands adjourned for want of evidence to convict and of a bribe to acquit. Lysias… shall come—The high priest departs, and no Lysias comes.


Verse 23

23. Keep Paul—(Note Acts 23:25.)


Verse 24

24. Drusilla—Felix, the once Greek slave, was eminently successful in matrimonies, being called by Suetonius maritus reginarum trium, the husband of three queens, or kings’ daughters. The present Drusilla was great granddaughter of the first Herod, whose court was disturbed by the birth of Jesus, granddaughter of the Herod Antipas who beheaded John the Baptist, and who met Jesus before the crucifixion. With the hope of the Jews of a future Messiah, with the claims of Jesus to that title, and something of the rise of Christianity, she must have been acquainted.

When, therefore, she learned that Paul, the noted “ringleader” of the sect of “Nazarenes,” (as Tertullus called him,) was in the palace of Felix, she entertained much the same curiosity to see him that her grandfather Antipas did to see Jesus.


Verse 25

25. Reasoned—Or rather conversed. Righteousness, temperance— Namely, the righteousness and temperance required under Christ’s kingdom. Righteousness excludes all injustice or dishonesty; temperance (self-control) excludes all irregular or excessive indulgence of any lust or appetite. How the true law of righteousness would destroy him, Tacitus tells us by saying that “he presumed on committing all crimes with impunity.” How the law of self-control would condemn him was illustrated by his adulteress at his side.

Judgment to come—A vivid description of the second advent of this Jesus-Messiah to judge the unrighteous and the sensual, (Matthew 26,) such as Paul could draw, (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10,) completed Felix’s disturbance.

Trembled—The Greek word is was fearful, not trembled. It describes an internal alarm, not an external commotion.

Go—He probably interrupted Paul, as being unable to bear the terrible picture of his own character and impending doom.

A convenient season—Not a more convenient season for repentance. It does not appear that he had any thought of repentance; but, being discomposed by the exciting description of judgment, he says, Leave me; I will call you again when I have occasion.


Verse 26

26. Money—How little the preaching of righteousness had affected the man is plain from his expecting a bribe from the preacher! To release a prisoner for pay was forbidden by an express Roman law. Knowing, as Felix did, that Paul was “ringleader” of the sect of Nazarenes, and that he had brought moneys to Jerusalem, he easily inferred that the Nazarenes would readily ransom their chief.

Oftener—An exquisite meanness for this Roman ruler to send every now and then for his prisoner in the keep of his palace, fawning upon him for an offer of a bribe for liberation!


Verse 27

27. Two years—Two full years of confinement were thus apparently taken out of the apostle’s mature life. There is no record of action or epistle by him at this time. We cannot suppose that his faithful servitors, Luke, Timothy, and others, left him in neglect. Philip the evangelist, and his prophetic family, and perhaps Cornelius the centurion, were still at Cesarea.

Show the Jews a pleasure—As Felix obtained no bribe from Paul, so he determined to make Paul a bribe to the Jews. But he incurred all the meanness of the act without any compensation. The Jews followed him to Rome with charges; but the influence of his brother Pallas at court saved him.

Paul bound—The expression intimates that Paul was found by Festus in the prison apartments of his palace at Cesarea, bound with a chain fastened to the wrist of a Roman soldier.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Acts 24:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/acts-24.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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