Acts of the Apostles: Week #8

paul-and-festusChapters 24-25 by Sister Mary Core, OSB

After 5 days, Ananias and some of the elders arrived from Jerusalem, so Paul can now have a formal trial before the procurator, Felix, in Caesarea.

Tertullus, the “attorney” for Ananias and the Jews, begins with laudatory words about Felix, certainly meant to sway Felix in favor of the Jews.

Finally, Tertullus gets to the point, and accuses Paul of being a “pest,” causing dissension in the empire and desecrating the temple.

Paul is then allowed to speak. He too, “butters up” Felix, and then begins his own defense.

After refuting their charges about the empire and the temple, Paul openly agrees that he is a follower of the “Way” and that as such, he has faithfully observed the Jewish Law, tried to live uprightly, and holds a belief in the resurrection of the dead.

Felix, who had some knowledge of the “Way,” postpones the trial until Lysias, the commander, can be present. Paul is kept in custody, and even given some freedoms by Felix who, over a period of 2 years, listens to Paul with the hope that he will pay a bribe to secure his freedom.

Paul never offers a bribe, and at the end of the 2 years Felix is replaced by Porcius Festus. Rather than freeing Paul, Felix thinks he can win points from the Jews by leaving him imprisoned.

Just 3 days after his arrival, Festus makes a personal journey to Jerusalem hoping to find the cause for Paul’s imprisonment. Staying in Jerusalem for a week and a half, Festus finally returns to Caesarea and on the next day has Paul brought before him. The Jews, who had come to Caesarea from Jerusalem, accuse Paul of many crimes, but none can be proved or have any foundation.

Paul makes an appeal to Festus, to take his case before the Emperor in Rome. As a Roman citizen, this is Paul’s right. Festus confers with his council and agrees to Paul’s request.

King Agrippa (Herod Agrippa II, great grandson of Herod the Great) and his sister Bernice come to Caesarea to meet the new procurator, Festus. This meeting gives Festus the opportunity to have Agrippa hear Paul’s story and possibly provide him with some credible charges or accusations with which he can send Paul to Rome.

Agrippa is interested in meeting this Paul, and Festus arranges a hearing for the next day. With great fanfare Agrippa and Bernice enter the hall and Paul is brought in. After introducing the situation, Festus invites Agrippa to speak with Paul.

These 2 chapters (24-25) place Paul squarely in the hands of the power of Rome.

Felix, whose wife Drusilla, is Jewish, seems intrigued by Paul and has him summoned numerous times. The question is whether Felix has some true interest in Paul’s teachings, or is simply hoping Paul will offer a bribe in order to gain his freedom.

When Festus takes over as procurator it’s apparent he wants this case (over 2 years old) off his hands. He moves quickly to have it resolved.

Note Luke’s parallel between the arrest of Jesus and Paul. Jesus is accused by the Jews, brought before Pontius Pilate, then taken to Herod, who returns Jesus to Pilate. Paul too, is accused by the Jews, brought before the procurator(s), allowed to defend himself before the Jewish King, but kept in the chains of Rome. As with Jesus, the Roman authorities are hard put to find any fault in Paul.

Upon Reflection …

Neither Felix nor Festus feel Paul has done anything for which he should be killed. Yet, their fear of having the Jews riot causes them to keep Paul imprisoned. Have you ever felt as if you were in a similar situation? That no matter what you do it will be wrong? How do you know what to do? Where is the truth in the story? To whom do you go for guidance and wisdom?

Note how both Tertullus and Paul ingratiate themselves with Felix. Have you ever done the same to make yourself “look good” or to sway someone in your favor?

Have you ever needed to defend yourself against false accusations? How did you defend yourself? By attacking the accuser? Peacefully and by speaking the truth? Asking others who know the truth to speak in your behalf? Being angry and wanting revenge? Sometimes , as Jesus did, we must simply remain silent in the face of falsehood and slander done to us.

For Closer Study … 

  • You might want to find out more about the Antonia Fortress and praetorium since they are important locations in these chapters.

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