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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature
Fe´lix. A Roman procurator of Judea, before whom Paul so 'reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come,' that the judge trembled, saying, 'Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season I will call for thee' (). The context states that Felix had expected a bribe from Paul; and, in order to procure this bribe, he appears to have had several interviews with the Apostle. The depravity which such an expectation implies is in agreement with the idea which the historical fragments preserved respecting Felix would lead the student to form of the man.
The year in which Felix entered on his office cannot be strictly determined. From the words of Josephus it appears that his appointment took place before the twelfth year of the Emperor Claudius.
Felix was a remarkable instance of the elevation to distinguished station of persons born and bred in the lowest condition. Originally a slave, he rose to little less than kingly power. For some unknown, but probably not very creditable services, he was manumitted by Claudius Caesar (Sueton. Claud. 28; Tacit. Hist. v. 9): on which account he is said to have taken the praenomen of Claudius.
The character which the ancients have left of Felix is of a very dark complexion. Suetonius speaks of the military honors which the emperor loaded him with, and specifies his appointment as governor of the province of Judea; adding an inuendo, which loses nothing by its brevity, namely, that he was the husband of three queens or royal ladies. Tacitus, in his History (v. 9), declares that, during his governorship in Judea, he indulged in all kinds of cruelty and lust, exercising regal power with the disposition of a slave; and, in his Annals (xii. 54) he represents Felix as considering himself licensed to commit any crime, relying on the influence which he possessed at court. The country was ready for rebellion, and the unsuitable remedies which Felix applied served only to inflame the passions and to incite to crime. Under his sway the affairs of the country grew worse and worse. The land was filled with robbers and impostors who do deluded the multitude. Felix used his power to repress these disorders to little purpose, since his own example gave no sanction to justice. Having a grudge against Jonathan, the high-priest, who had expostulated with him on his misrule, he made use of Doras, an intimate friend of Jonathan, in order to get him assassinated by a gang of villains, who joined the crowds that were going up to the temple to worship—a crime which led subsequently to countless evils, by the encouragement which it gave to the Sicarii, or leagued assassins of the day, to whose excesses Josephus ascribes, under Providence, the overthrow of the Jewish state. Among other crimes, some of these villains misled the people under the promise of performing miracles, and were punished by Felix. An Egyptian impostor, who escaped himself, was the occasion of the loss of life to four hundred followers, and of the loss of liberty to two hundred more, thus severely dealt with by Felix.
While in his office, being inflamed by a passion for the beautiful Drusilla, a daughter of King Herod Agrippa, who was married to Azizus, king of Emesa, he employed one Simon, a magician, to use his arts in order to persuade her to forsake her husband and marry him, promising that if she would comply with his suit he would make her a happy woman. Drusilla, partly impelled by a desire to avoid the envy of her sister, Berenice, was prevailed on to transgress the laws of her forefathers, and consented to a union with Felix. In this marriage a son was born, who was named Agrippa: both mother and son perished in an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which took place in the days of Titus Caesar. With this adulteress was Felix seated when Paul reasoned before the judge, as already stated ().
Paul, being apprehended in Jerusalem, was sent by a letter from Claudius Lysias to Felix at Caesarea, where he was at first confined in Herod's judgment-hall till his accusers came. They arrived. Tertullus appeared as their spokesman and had the audacity, in order to conciliate the good will of Felix, to express gratitude on the part of the Jews, 'seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence' (Acts 23; Acts 24). Paul pleaded his cause in a worthy speech; and Felix, consigning the Apostle to the custody of a centurion, ordered that he should have such liberty as the circumstances admitted, with permission that his acquaintance might see him and minister to his wants. This imprisonment the Apostle suffered for a period of two years, being left bound when Felix gave place to Festus, as that unjust judge 'was willing,' not to do what was right, but 'to show the Jews a pleasure.'
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Felix'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/kbe/f/felix.html.