J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on ActsActs 24
When the Jews were commanded by Lysias to present
their accusation before Felix, though disappointed in their first
plot, they still hoped to accomplish his destruction, and made no delay
in following up the prosecution.
(1) "Now, after five days, Ananias
the high priest, with the elders and a certain orator named Tertullus,
came down, and informed the governor against Paul."
It is most natural
to count these five days from the time that Paul left Jerusalem, as
that was the date at which the Jews were informed by Lysias of the
transfer of the case.
The orator, Tertullus, was employed to plead the case before
Felix, and the high priest and elders appeared as witnesses.
when he was called, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying:
that by you we have attained to great tranquility, and a prosperous
is effected for this nation by your foresight, in every respect
and in every place, we accept it, most excellent, Felix, with all
(4) But that I may not delay you too long, I entreat you to hear
us, in your clemency, a few words.
(5) For we have found this man a
pest, exciting sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a
ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.
(6) He also attempted to profane
the temple; when we seized him, and wished to judge him according
to our own law.
(7) But Lysias the chiliarch came, and with great
violence snatched him out of our hands,
(8) and commanded his accusers
to come before you. From him you yourself may be able, by examination,
to obtain knowledge of all these things of which we accuse him.
the Jews assented, saying that these things were so."
words with which this speech is introduced were not undeserved by
Felix; for he had restored tranquility to the country, when it was
disturbed, first by hordes of robbers; afterward by organized bands
of Assassins, and more recently, by that Egyptian for whom Lysias
at first mistook Paul. [Jos. Ant. B. 20, ch. viii: par. 5. Wars, B. 13.]
In suppressing all these disturbances, his
administration had been prosperous.
The accusation against Paul, sustained by the testimony of the
Jews, contained three specifications. It charged him, first, with
the Jews to sedition; second, with being the ringleader of the
sect of Nazarenes; third, with profaning the temple. Tertullus also
took occasion to vent his indignation against Lysias, for interfering by
violence, as he falsely alleged against him, with the judicial proceedings
of the Sanhedrim. Finally, he asserts that Felix would be able,
if he would examine Lysias, to gain from his lips a knowledge of all
of which they were now informing him.
(10) "Then Paul answered
(the governor nodding to him to
speak): Knowing that you have been for many years a judge for this nation,
I do the more cheerfully defend myself:
(11) for you are able to know that
there are not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in
(12) And neither in the temple, nor in the synagogues, nor about the
city, did they find me disputing with any one, or exciting sedition among
(13) neither are they able to prove the things of which
they accuse me.
(14) But this I confess to you, that according to the
way which they call a sect, I so worship the God of my fathers, believing
all things which are in the law, and those written by the prophets,
having hope toward God, which they themselves also entertain, that there
is to be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.
And in this do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of
offense toward God and man.
(17) Now after many years, I came to
present alms to my nation, and offerings,
(18) in the midst of which,
certain Jews from Asia found me in the temple, purified, not with a
multitude, nor with tumult.
(19) They ought to be here before you and
accuse me, if they have any thing against me.
(20) Or let these themselves
say if they found any wrong in me when I was standing before the
(21) except in reference to this one sentence which I uttered
when standing among them, Concerning the resurrection of the dead, I am
called in question by you this day."
This speech contains a distinct reply to each specification made by
Tertullus. In answer to the charge of stirring up sedition, he shows
first, that it had been only twelve days since he went up to Jerusalem.
As it had now been five days since he left there, and he had been in
prison one day previous to leaving, his previous stay there could have
been only six days, which would have afforded no sufficient time for
stirring up sedition. Moreover, they could not prove that he was
engaged even in disputation with any one, in the temple, in the synagogues,
or in any party of the city. As to being a ringleader of the
sect of the Nazarenes, he frankly confesses that he belongs to what
they call a sect: yet he believes all the law and the prophets, hopes
for a resurrection of the dead, and is habitually struggling to lead a
conscientious life. Finally, in reference to the charge of profaning
the temple, implying disrespect for the Jewish people, he declares
that the very object of his visit to Jerusalem was to bear alms to
the people; and that when the Jews from Asia seized him in the
temple, he was purified, and engaged about alms-giving, and the
offerings of the temple. In conclusion, he notes the significant fact,
that those who first seized him, and knew what he was doing, were
not there to testify; while he challenges those who were present to
state a single act of his that was wrong, unless it were the very heinous
offense of declaring that he believed, with the great mass of the Jews,
in the resurrection of the dead. The last point was made, and presented
in the ironical form which it bears, in order to show Felix that
it was party jealousy which instigated his Sadducee prosecutors.
His defense, though he had no witnesses present to prove his
statements, had the desired effect upon Felix.
(22) "And when Felix
heard these things, knowing more accurately concerning that way, he put
them off, and said, When Lysias the chiliarch comes down, I will thoroughly
examine the matters between you.
In this decision he took Tertullus
at his word; for he had already said that he could learn all
about the affair by examining Lysias. But the decision is attributed
to his "knowing more accurately concerning that way," showing that
he had come to the same conclusion with Lysias, that Paul was
accused merely about questions of the Jewish
and not of crime against Roman law.
When the Jews were dismissed, if Felix had possessed a strict
regard for justice, he would have released Paul. As it was, he only
relaxed the rigor of his previous confinement.
(23) "And he commanded
the centurion that Paul should be guarded, but have relaxation,
and to forbid none of his friends to minister to him or visit him."
confinement was now the least rigorous which was considered compatible
with safe-keeping. He was under what was called the military
custody, being placed in charge of a soldier, whose left arm was
chained to Paul's right, and who was responsible with his own life
for the safety of his prisoner. The guards were relieved at regular
intervals, and the "relaxation" allowed Paul was, probably, an occasional
release from the
chain. [Life and Ep., vol. 2, p. 288.]
"Now, after some days, Felix came, with his wife Drusilla, who
was a Jewess, and sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in
Drusilla, according to Josephus, was a daughter of Herod
Agrippa, whose persecutions of the apostles, and miserable death,
we have considered in commenting on the
a woman of remarkable beauty, the lawful wife of Azizus, king of
Emesa, but was now living in adulterous intercourse with
Felix. [Ant. xx: 7, 1.]
Concerning Felix, Tacitus testifies, that "with every kind of cruelty
and lust, he exercised the authority of a king with the temper of a
slave." [Hist., B. v, ch. 9.]
Under the summons to speak concerning the faith in Christ,
Paul was at liberty to choose the special topic of discourse, and did
so with direct reference to the character of his hearers.
as he reasoned concerning righteousness and temperance, and judgment to
come, Felix, being full of fear, answered, Go your way for this time, and
when I have a convenient season, I will call for you."
version, "Felix trembled," may be true, but it is claiming more for the
effect of Paul's discourse than is asserted by Luke. He was "filled
with fear," which shows that Paul addressed him on these appropriate
topics, not in a spirit of bravado, but in that earnest and solemn
strain which alone can penetrate the heart. This feeling was the
beginning necessary to a change of life; but lust and ambition smothered
the kindling fires of conscience, and the common excuse of
alarmed but impenitent sinners was urged to get rid of the too faithful
monitor. It is a sad warning to all who thus procrastinate, that
to neither Felix nor Drusilla did the season ever come which they
thought convenient to listen to such preaching. Felix was soon dismissed
in disgrace from his office; and Drusilla, with a son by Felix,
perished in that eruption of Mount Vesuvius which ingulfed the cities
of Pompeii and
Herculaneum. [Jos. Ant. xx: 7, 2.]
Verses 26, 27
True to the character which Tacitus attributes to Felix,
Luke adds that
(26) "Hoping also that money would be given to him by
Paul, so that he would release him, he therefore sent for him the oftener,
and conversed with him.
(27) But after two years Felix received Portius
Festus as a successor; and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left
Having learned, from Paul's own lips, that he had
been up to Jerusalem to bear alms from distant Churches to the poor,
and knowing something, perhaps of the general liberality of the disciples
toward one another, he could have no doubt, judging them
according to the usage of the age, that they would be willing to purchase
Paul's freedom at a high price. That it was not done, shows
that the disciples had too elevated a standard of morality to buy
from a corrupt judge release from even unjust and protracted imprisonment.
These two years, if we judge from the silence of history, were the
most inactive of Paul's career. There are no epistles which bear this
date; and though his friends and brethren had free access to him, we
have no recorded effects of their interviews with him. The only moments
in which he emerges into our view, from the obscurity of his
prison, are those in which he appeared before his judges. We shall,
on this account, contemplate his conduct on these occasions with the