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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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Antonius (Tacitus, Hist. 5:9) Claudius (Suidas), Roman procurator of Judaea, appointed by the emperor Claudius, whose freedman he was, to succeed Ventidius Cumanus, who was banished A.D. 53. Tacitus (Ann., 12:54) makes F. procurator of Samaria while Cumanus had Galilee. Josephus (Ant. 20:6, section 2, 7, section 1) makes him succeed Cumanus. Tacitus writes of Felix, "he exercised the authority of a king with the disposition of a slave in all cruelty and lust." He and Cumanus were tried before Quadratus for winking at robbery and violence and enriching themselves with bribes, according to Tacitus, and Felix was acquitted and reinstated. Having the powerful support of his brother Pallas, Claudius' freedman and favorite, he thought he could do what he liked with impunity. Pallas' influence continuing, Felix remained procurator under Nero.

Felix crushed the Jewish zealots under the name of "robbers," and crucified hundreds. He put down false Messiahs and the followers of an Egyptian magician (Josephus, Ant. 20:8, section 5, 6; Acts 21:88) and riots, but he once employed the zealot assassins (Sicarii) to murder the high priest Jonathan. "By unseasonable remedies he only aggravated" the evils of Judaea (Tacitus, Annals 12:54). These were the "very worthy deeds done by Felix's providence," which gave the nation "great quietness" according to the lying flatterer Tertullus' set oration against Paul (Acts 24:2, etc.). Claudius Lysias, the chief captain, sent Paul for judgment to Felix at Caesarea.

There Paul had two hearings before Felix. After the first hearing, Felix deferred the Jews until Lysias the chief captain should come. At the second Paul, before Felix and Drusilla, Felix's Jewish wife, who was curious to "hear him concerning the faith of Christ," so reasoned of "righteousness and temperance (both of which Felix outraged as a governor and a man, having seduced from her husband) and judgment to come" that Felix "trembled" before his prisoner, but deferred repentance, saying, "when I have a convenient season I will call for thee." (See DRUSILLA.) Greed of gain supplanted conscience, so that instead of repenting of his shameful life he would not even do common justice to Paul, but left him a prisoner because he got no bribe to set him free.

Felix could hardly have hoped for money from so poor looking a prisoner as Paul (which is implied in Lysias' surprise, presuming Paul had like himself bought Roman citizenship, Acts 22:27-28), had he not heard Paul stating in the former interview, "after many years I came to bring alms to my nation and offerings." This accounts for Felix "letting Paul have liberty and forbidding none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him." He doubtless hoped they would supply the money wherewith to buy his deliverance, an undesigned coincidence and so a mark of the truth of the history. After two years Porcius Festus succeeded, and Felix was accused by the Jews of Caesarea, at Rome, but escaped through Pallas' influence with the emperor Nero, A.D. 60.

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Felix'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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