when thine accusers are come; which Lysias, in his letter, informed him that he had ordered them to come; which shows the governor to have some sense of justice and integrity, being desirous to hear both sides before he judged of the affair, though there was so much said in the chief captain's letter in favour of Paul's innocence, and against his enemies.
And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's judgment hall; or palace: this was a place built by Herod the great at Caesarea, of whose magnificent buildings here Josephus gives a large account. For besides the famous haven or port which he made here, he adorned the place with splendid palaces, he built a theatre, and an amphitheatre, and a "forum" (h), which was either a market place, or a court of judicature; and if the latter, perhaps the same that is here meant, in a part of which, or in a place adjoining to it, the apostle was put. Here he was kept by a guard of soldiers, but not in close confinement; he had much liberty, and his friends and acquaintance had leave to come to him; see Acts 24:23. We read (i) of , which some interpret "the chamber of the judges of Caesarea"; or the place where they sat in judgment, and may be the same that is here meant; though others interpret it a prison; and so it seems was this judgment hall of Herod's.
(h) Joseph. de Bello Jud. l. 1. c. 21. sect. 5, 8. (i) Megillat Esther, fol. 85. 1.
and with a certain orator named Tertullus: this man, by his name, seems to have been a Roman; and because he might know the Roman, or the Greek language, or both, which the Jews did not so well understand, and was very well acquainted with all the forms in the Roman courts of judicature, as well as was an eloquent orator; therefore they pitched upon him, and took him down with them to open and plead their cause. The name Tertullus is a diminutive from Tertius, as Marullus from Marius, Lucullus from Lucius, and Catullus from Catius. The father of the wife of Titus, before he was emperor, was of this name (k); and some say her name was Tertulla; and the grandmother of Vespasian, by his father's side, was of this name, under whom he was brought up (l). This man's title, in the Greek text, is "Rhetor", a rhetorician; but though with the Latins an "orator" and a "rhetorician" are distinguished, an orator being one that pleads causes in courts, and a rhetorician a professor of rhetoric; yet, with the Greeks, the "Rhetor" is an orator; so Demosthenes was called; and so Cicero calls himself (m).
Who informed the governor against Paul; brought in a bill of information against him, setting forth his crimes, and declaring themselves his accusers; they appeared in open court against him, and accused him; for this is not to be restrained to Tertullus, but is said of the high priest, and elders with him; for, the word is in the plural number, though the Syriac version reads in the singular, and seems to refer it to the high priest.
(k) Sueton. in Vita Titi, l. 11. c. 4. (l) Ib. Vita Vespasian. c. 2.((m) De Oratore, l. 3. p. 225.
Tertullus began to accuse him; to set forth his crimes, which he introduced with a flattering preface to Felix:
saying, seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence; very likely he might refer to his purging the country of robbers; he took Eleazar, the chief of them, who had infested the country for twenty years, and many others with him, whom he sent bound to Rome, and others of them he crucified; and whereas there arose up another set of men, under a pretence of religion, who led people into the wilderness, signifying, that God would show them some signs of liberty; these seemed, to Felix, to sow the seeds, and lay the foundation of division and defection, which showed his sagacity, and which Tertullus here calls "providence"; wherefore, foreseeing what would be the consequence of these things, if not timely prevented, he sent armed men, horse and foot, and destroyed great numbers of them; and particularly he put to flight the Egyptian false prophet, who had collected thirty thousand men together, and dispersed them (n); and yet his government was attended with cruelty and avarice; witness the murder of Jonathan the high priest, by a sort of cut throats, who were connived at by him; particularly by the means of Dora his friend, whom he corrupted; and the pillaging of many of the inhabitants of Caesarea (o): so that this was a piece of flattery, used by Tertullus, to catch his ear, and gain attention, and insinuate himself into his affections.
(n) Joseph. Antiqu. l. 20. c. 7. (o) De Bello, l. 2. c. 13. sect. 7.
most noble Felix; Tertullus adds, that this the Jews did
with all thankfulness; as sensible of the obligations they were under to him; but this was all a farce, mere artifice, and wretched flattery.
I pray thee, that thou wouldst hear us of thy clemency a few words; he praises him for his humanity and good nature, and for his patience in hearing causes, and promises him great conciseness in the account he should give him; and entreats that, according to his wonted goodness, he would condescend to hear what he had to lay before him; all which was artfully said to engage attention to him.
And a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world: sedition was severely punished by the Romans, being what they carefully watched and guarded against, and was what the Jews were supposed to be very prone unto; and Tertullus would suggest, that the several riots, and tumults, and seditions, fomented by the Jews, in the several parts of the Roman empire, here called the world, were occasioned by the apostle: the crime charged upon him is greatly aggravated, as that not only he was guilty of sedition, but that he was the mover of it, and that he stirred up all the Jews to it, and that in every part of the world, or empire, than which nothing was more false; the Jews often raised up a mob against him, but he never rioted them, and much less moved them against the Roman government: and to this charge he adds,
and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes; not Nazarites, as Calvin seems to understand the passage; for these were men of great repute among the Jews, and for Paul to be at the head of them would never be brought against him as a charge: but Nazarenes, that is, Christians, so called by way of contempt and reproach, from Jesus of Nazareth; which name and sect being contemptible among the Romans, as well as Jews, are here mentioned to make the apostle more odious.
whom we took; as they did in the temple, and dragged him out of it:
and would have judged according to our law; which was another untruth, for they had him not before any court of judicature; they brought no charge in form against him, nor did they examine his case, and inquire into the truth of things, or hear what he had to say, but fell upon him, and beat him; and if it had not been for the chief captain and his soldiers, would have destroyed him, so far were they from proceeding according to their law: it seems by Tertullus calling the law, "our law", that he was a Jewish proselyte; or else he speaks after the manner of lawyers, who call what is their clients, theirs.
and with great violence took him away out of our hands; for he came with an army, and rescued him, Acts 23:27 Some copies add, "and sent him to thee"; and so the Syriac version reads.
By examining of whom; not the accusers, but either the chief captain, as some think, or rather Paul:
thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things whereof we accuse him; so impudent was Tertullus, and of such effrontery and assurance, that he feared not to say, that the governor, by examining Paul himself, would easily come to the knowledge of the things he was accused of, and plainly see that he was guilty of them; so that there would be no need of their attestations, or of producing witnesses against him.
Saying, that these things were so; that Paul was such a person, and was guilty of the crimes he had set forth; and that the chief captain had taken the steps, and done the things he had related.
answered as follows:
forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation; some say he was in the thirteenth, others in the tenth year of his government; some copies read a "just judge"; but this does not so well agree with the character of Felix; See Gill on Acts 24:27.
I do the more cheerfully answer for myself; since if he had been such a mover of sedition everywhere, he must in this course of years have known or heard something of it; and seeing also he could be no stranger to the temper of the Jews, that they were given to envy, revenge, lying, and perjury, and therefore would not easily believe all they said, or rashly take their part, but rather would pity the apostle, who had fallen into such hands, and do him justice.
that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship; that is, from the time that he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, to the present time, in which he stood before Felix, pleading his own cause; which may be reckoned, thus, he came in one day from Caesarea to Jerusalem, Acts 21:16 the next day he visited James and the elders, Acts 21:18 on the third day he purified himself in the temple, Acts 21:26 where he was taken and used ill by the Jews; on the fourth day, he was brought before the sanhedrim, and defended himself, Acts 22:30 on the fifth day forty Jews conspire to take away his life, Acts 23:11, on the sixth day he came to Caesarea, being sent there by Lysias, Acts 23:32 and five days after this, which make eleven, Ananias, and the elders, with Tertullus, came down to accuse him; and this day was the twelfth, on which his trial came on. And of these twelve days he was a prisoner nine, and therefore could not have done so much mischief, and stirred up so much sedition as was insinuated; and in opposition to the charge of profaning the temple, he observes that he came up to Jerusalem to "worship"; namely, at the feast of Pentecost.
neither raising up the people; stirring them up to sedition, and tumult, to rebel against the Roman government:
neither in the synagogues; where there were the greatest concourse of people, and the best opportunity of sowing seditious principles, and of which there were many in the city of Jerusalem. The Jews say (p) there were four hundred and sixty synagogues in Jerusalem; some say (q) four hundred and eighty:
nor in the city; of Jerusalem, in any of the public streets or markets, where there were any number of people collected together; the apostle mentions the most noted and public places, where any thing of this kind might most reasonably be thought to be done.
(p) T. Hieros. Cetubot, fol. 35. 3.((q) Ib. Megilla, fol. 73. 4.
that after the way which they call heresy; referring to the charge of his being a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes, Acts 24:5 and meaning by the way the Christian religion, or the doctrines of Christianity, which the Jews called heresy; and as early as this were the Christians, by them, called heretics: so we read (r) of , "a prayer against the heretics", which Samuel (the little) composed before, or in the presence of R. Gamaliel the elder, he approving of it; which R. Gamaliel was Paul's master; and some have thought, that Samuel the little, the composer of this prayer, was Saul himself; so that he knew very well that the Christian doctrine was called heresy, and the Christians heretics, for he had called them so himself in the time of his unregeneracy; but now he was not ashamed to profess that way, and walk in it, and according to it worship God, as follows:
so worship I the God of my fathers; even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, suggesting, that by embracing Christianity, he had not denied, and gone off from the worship of the one, only, living, and true God, the God of Israel; and that there was an entire agreement between the saints of the Old Testament, and the Christians of the New, in the object of worship; the Vulgate Latin version reads, "so serve I the Father, and my God"; that is, God the Father, who is the Father of Christ, and the God and Father of believers in him:
believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets; which the Sadducees did not; and strictly adhering to these, and not to the traditions of the elders, as did the Scribes and Pharisees; so that since he believed whatever was contained in the sacred writings, he could not be charged justly with heresy; and as he believed, so he taught nothing but what was agreeably to the Scriptures of the Old Testament.
(r) Ganz Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 25. 2. Vid. T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 28. 2. & 29. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Tephilla, c. 2. sect. 1.
which they themselves also allow; that is, some of the Jews, not the Sadducees, for they denied what is afterwards asserted; but the Pharisees, who believed the immortality of the soul, and its existence in a future state:
and that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust; agreeably to the doctrine of Christ in John 5:28. In this article the Pharisees of those times were sounder than the modern Jews; for though the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is one of their thirteen articles of faith, and is a fundamental one, which he that does not believe, cannot be said to be of the Jewish religion; yet they limit it entirely to the righteous (s), and will not allow that the wicked shall rise again: and this notion obtained also very early; for in their Talmud (t) it is reported, as the saying of R. Abhu, that
"the day of rain is greater than the resurrection of the dead; the resurrection of the dead is for the righteous, but the rain is both for the righteous, and the wicked.''
Though Abarbinel (u) says, that the sense of this expression is not, that they that are not just shall have no part in the resurrection, but that hereby is declared the benefit and reward to be enjoyed at the resurrection; that that is not like rain, from whence both just and unjust equally receive advantage; whereas only the reward is for the righteous, but not for the ungodly: moreover, he observes, that this saying was not received and approved of by all the wise men, particularly that R. Joseph dissented, and others agreed with him; and as for himself, he openly declares, that that assertion, that the just among the Israelites only shall rise again, is foreign from truth, since the Scripture affirms, Daniel 12:2 "that many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake"; but if there should be no other than the righteous in the resurrection, they would without doubt be very few; besides it is said, "some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting contempt"; and Isaiah says, Isaiah 66:24 "and they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me"; which shows, that the ungodly shall rise again, to receive their due punishment: and Manasseh ben Israel (w), in the last century, argued for the resurrection of both the godly and ungodly, from the same passages of Scripture; and yet he was not of opinion, that the resurrection would be general and common to all men, only that some of all sorts, good, and bad, and middling, would rise again, and which he supposed was the sense of the ancients. It is certain the Jews are divided in their sentiments about this matter; some of them utterly deny that any other shall rise but the just; yea, they affirm (x), that only the just among the Israelites, and not any of the nations of the world shall rise; others say that all shall rise at the resurrection of the dead, excepting the generation of the flood (y); and others (z) think, that only they that have been very bad, or very good, shall rise, but not those that are between both; but certain it is, as the apostle affirms, that all shall rise, both just and unjust: the just are they who are made so by the righteousness of Christ imputed to them, and who being created anew unto righteousness and true holiness, live soberly, righteously, and godly; the unjust are they who are destitute of righteousness, and are filled with all unrighteousness; and these latter, as well as the former, will rise again from the dead; which is clear, not only from the words of Christ, and the writings of the apostles, but from the Scriptures of the Old Testament, particularly Daniel 12:2 and also from the justice of God, which requires that they who have sinned in the body, should be punished in the body; wherefore it is necessary on this account, that the bodies of the wicked should be raised, that they with their souls may receive the full and just recompense of reward; and likewise from the general judgment, which will include the righteous and the wicked, and who must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, to receive for the deeds done in the body, whether good or evil; in order to which there must be a resurrection of them; to which add, the account the Scripture gives of the punishment of the wicked in hell, which supposes the resurrection of the body, and in which the body and soul will be both destroyed. Indeed there will be a difference between the resurrection of the just and of the unjust, both in the time of their rising, the dead in Christ will rise first at the beginning of the thousand years, the wicked not until they are ended; and in the means and manner of their rising; they will be both raised by Christ, but the one by virtue of union to him, the other merely by his power; the just will rise in bodies not only immortal, and incorruptible, but powerful, spiritual, and glorious, even like to the glorious body of Christ; the wicked will rise with bodies immortal, but not free from sin, nor glorious: yea, their resurrection will differ in the end of it; the one will rise to everlasting life and glory, the other to everlasting shame and damnation.
(s) Maimon. in Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 11. sect. 1. Kimchi in Isaiah 26 19. Aben Ezra & Saadiah Gaon in Daniel 12.2.((t) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 7. 1.((u) Prefat. in Isa. fol. 3. 1. (w) De Resurrectione Mortuorum, l. 2. c. 8. (x) Vid. Pocock, Not. Miscel. in port. Mosis, p. 183. (y) Pirke Eliezer, c. 34. (z) Vid. Menassah ben Israel, ut supra.
to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man; that is, to discharge every duty which God requires, and to give to every man what is due to him; so as to please God, and not offend men, neither Jew nor Gentile, nor the church of God; and so as that conscience may be clear of guilt, and may not be defiled with sin, being purged and purified by the blood of Christ. By a "conscience void of offence", is meant a good conversation; which as it respects God, lies in a carefulness not to offend him, but to do his will; and as it respects men, a shunning what may give offence, or be a stumbling to them; and though this cannot be perfectly attained to in each of its branches, yet there is in every good man a concern to have such a conscience; and the consideration of the resurrection of the dead, the general judgment, and a future state, induce him to it.
I came to bring alms to my nation; the collections which were made among the Gentile churches, particularly in Macedonia, for the poor saints at Jerusalem, Romans 15:25.
and offerings; either for the day of Pentecost, according to the usages of that feast, or the offerings on the account of the vow of the Nazarite, Acts 21:26. The Vulgate Latin version adds, "and vows"; unless the spiritual and evangelical sacrifices of prayer and praise can be thought to be meant, since the ceremonial law was now abrogated; though it is manifest the apostle did at some times, and in some cases, comply with the Jews in the observance of it, in order to gain some.
certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple; and therefore could not be said to profane it; this he observes in answer to the charge of his attempting to profane it, and acquaints the governor how that was; as that having joined himself to four men that had a vow upon them, and being in the temple purifying himself with them, certain Jews that came from Ephesus, in Asia, who knew him there, and had a pique against him, found him here; not profaning the temple, as they pretended, but acting according to the worship and service of it; and that,
neither with a multitude; for there were but four men with him;
nor with tumult; making any noise and riot, or stirring up persons to sedition and rebellion.
and object, if they had ought against me; either with respect to sedition, or blasphemy, error or heresy, if they were capable of proving anything.
if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council; or "Jewish sanhedrim"; when he was brought before them by the chief captain, Acts 22:30 meaning, if any evil was then done by him, or any iniquity proved upon him, let it be declared; for as for his imprecation, or prophecy, that God would smite the high priest, he excused himself on that head, as not knowing it was the high priest.
that I cried, standing among them; whereby they were thrown into confusion and division among themselves: and it was this,
touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day; see Acts 23:6.
having more perfect knowledge of that way; the Christian religion, which the Jews called heresy, and Paul had embraced; the sense is, either that he had a more perfect knowledge of it than he had before; and by what Paul had said, he saw that it was not contrary to the law, nor had any tendency to promote sedition and tumult; or rather, when he should have more perfect knowledge of this new way, called the sect of the Nazarenes, he would determine this cause, and not before: wherefore
he deferred them; put them off to longer time, and would make no decision in favour of one side or the other:
and said, when Lysias the chief captain shall come from Jerusalem to Caesarea,
I will know the uttermost of your matters: as for the way, or religion of the Christians, he proposed doubtless to consult other persons; and as for the profanation of the temple, and especially about stirring up of sedition, he would inquire of Lysias about that; and when he had got full information of these particulars, then he promised them to bring things to an issue, and finish the cause.
and to let him have liberty; not to go where he pleased, or out of the place of confinement, for then there would have been no need of the after direction, not to prohibit his friends from coming to him; but to free him from his bonds and close confinement; which was done, partly on account of his being a Roman, and partly because he took him to be an innocent man, and it may be because he hoped to receive money from him:
that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him; but that they should have free access to him, and the liberty of conversation with him; which layouts granted show that he was inclined to the side of Paul, both through the defence that he had made for himself, and through the letter which Lysias sent him, as well as through the knowledge he had gained by long observation and experience, of the temper and disposition of the Jews, their priests and elders.
when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess; to Caesarea, having been to fetch her from some other place, or to meet her: this woman was the daughter of Herod Agrippa, who was eaten by worms, Acts 12:23 and sister to King Agrippa, mentioned in the next chapter; but though she was born of Jewish parents, and so a Jewess, as she is here called, yet her name was a Roman name, and is the diminutive of Drusus; the first of which name took it from killing Drausus, an enemy's general, and who was of the Livian family; and the name of the mother of Tiberius Caesar was Livia Drusilla; Caius Caligula, the Roman emperor, had also a sister whose name was Drusilla (a); this name Herod took from the Romans, and gave to his daughter; though the masculine name is often to be met with in Jewish writings; we frequently read of , "Rabbi Drusai" (b); Herod Agrippa (c) left three daughters, born to him of Cypris, Bernice, Mariamne, and Drusilla; and a son by the same, whose name was Agrippa; Agrippa when his father died was seventeen years of age, Bernice was sixteen, and was married to her uncle Herod; Mariamne and Drusilla were virgins, but were promised in marriage by their father; Mariamne to Julius Archelaus, son of Chelcias, and Drusilla to Epiphanes, the son of Antiochus, king of Comagene; but after Herod's death, he refused to marry her, being unwilling to embrace the Jewish religion and relinquish his own, though he had promised her father he would; wherefore her brother Agrippa married her to Azizus king of the Emesenes, who was willing to be circumcised; but this marriage was quickly dissolved; for Felix coming to the government of Judea, seeing Drusilla, was enamoured with her beauty; and by the means of one of his friends, one Simon a Jew, and a native of Cyprus, who pretended to be a magician, he enticed her from her husband, and prevailed upon her to marry him:
he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ; which he did, chiefly on account of his wife, who being brought up in the Jewish religion, had some notion of the Messiah the Jews expected, and could better understand what Paul talked of than he did; who at this time doubtless showed, that Christ was come, and that Jesus of Nazareth was he; that he is truly God and man, that he died, and rose again from the dead on the third day, and that he has obtained salvation for sinners, and that whoever believes in him shall be saved; this was the faith in Christ Paul discoursed of, and Felix and his wife heard; but it does not appear that it was attended with the power of God, to the conversion of either of them; it seems to have been merely out of curiosity, and as a diversion to them, and to do his wife a pleasure, that he sent for Paul and heard him.
(a) Sueton. in Vita Tiberii, sect. 3, 4, & in Vita Caligulae, sect. 7. (b) Shemot Rabba, sect. 35. fol. 136. 4. & sect. 43. fol. 140. 4. Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 14. 4. & 18. 2. Juchasin, fol. 88. 1.((c) Joseph. de Bello Jud. l. 2. c. 11. sect. 6. Antiqu. l. 19. c. 9. sect. 1. l. 20, c. 6. sect. 1, 2.
Felix trembled; his conscience was awakened, accused him of the injustice and incontinence he had been guilty of; and his mind was filled with horror, at the thought of the awful judgment he could not escape, which Paul had described unto him; nor could he bear him to discourse any longer on these subjects:
and answered, go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee; he signifying he was not at leisure now to hear him any longer; when he had a spare hour he would send for him, and hear him out; but this was only an excuse to get rid of him now, and lull his conscience asleep, and make it quiet and easy; which he was afraid would be more and more disturbed, should he suffer Paul to go on preaching in this manner: it is a saying of R. Judah (e),
"say not when I am at leisure I will learn, perhaps thou wilt never be at leisure.''
(d) Tacit. Hist. l. 5. (e) Pirke Abot, c. 2. sect. 4.
that he might loose him; from all confinement, and set him at entire liberty:
wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him; but not about religious matters, but about his civil affairs; suggesting he would release him for a sum of money, which the apostle did not listen to, being unwilling to encourage such evil practices, or to make use of unlawful means to free himself.