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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Porcius Festus was the successor of Felix as the Roman governor of Judea, to the duties of which office he was appointed by the Emperor Nero in the first year of his reign. One of his first official acts was hearing the case of the Apostle Paul, who had been left in prison by his predecessor. He was at least not a thoroughly corrupt judge; for when the Jewish hierarchy begged him to send for Paul to Jerusalem, and thus afford an opportunity for his being assassinated on the road, he gave a refusal, promising to investigate the facts at Caesarea, where Paul was in custody, alleging to them, 'it is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have license to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him' (). On reaching Caesarea he sent for Paul, heard what he had to say, and, finding that the matters which 'his accusers had against him' were 'questions of their own superstition, and of one Jesus which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive,' he asked the Apostle whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem, and there be tried, since Festus did not feel himself skilled in such an affair. Paul, doubtless because he was unwilling to put himself into the hands of his implacable enemies, requested 'to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus,' and was in consequence kept in custody till Festus had an opportunity to send him to Caesar. Agrippa, however, with his wife Bernice, having come to salute Festus on his new appointment, expressed a desire to see and 'hear the man.' Accordingly Paul was brought before Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice, made a famous speech, and was declared innocent. But having appealed to Caesar, he was sent to Rome.

Festus on coming into Judea found the country infested with robbers, who plundered the villages and set them on fire; the Sicarii also were numerous. Many of both classes were captured, and put to death by Festus. He also sent forces, both of horse and foot, to fall upon those that had been seduced by a certain impostor, who promised them deliverance and freedom from the miseries they were under if they would but follow him as far as the wilderness. These troops destroyed both the impostor and his dupes.

King Agrippa had built himself a splendid dining-room, which was so placed, that, as he reclined at his meals, he commanded a view of what was done in the Temple. The priests, being displeased, erected a wall so as to exclude the monarch's eye. On which Festus took part with Agrippa against the priests, and ordered the wall to be pulled down. The priests appealed to Nero, who suffered the wall to remain, being influenced by his wife Poppæa, 'who was a religious woman.' Festus died shortly afterwards. The manner in which Josephus speaks is favorable to his character as a governor.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Festus'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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