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Book of Acts Chapter 25 - Christogenea Internet Radio 01-03-2013
In Acts chapter 24 we saw that Paul was imprisoned in Caesareia for two years following his arrest in Jerusalem. The Roman procurator, Felix, was a man of noble Greek birth who was married to a Jewess not even half of his age, and he was a very corrupt man according to three historical witnesses: the Roman historian Tacitus, the Judaean historian Josephus, and Luke himself here in the Book of Acts. Felix's corrupt ways eventually cost him his long-held post as the procurator of Judaea, where he was succeeded by Porcius Festus. This Festus was procurator until 62 AD, when he died in office.
Porcius Festus, being of the Roman gens Porcia, was descended from a notable family. He was related to Marcus Porcius Cato, a plebeian farmer born about 234 BC, who became the Roman statesman commonly known as Cato the Elder, and his great-grandson, Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis who was born circa 95 BC, and became the Roman statesman commonly known as Cato the Younger. Cato the Younger's son, also named Marcus Porcius Cato, was a supporter of Brutus and Cassius, and he was one of Caesar's assassins. There were other politicians in the family.
Flavius Josephus mentions Festus several times in both his Antiquities and Wars of the Judaeans, however he had no ill report concerning him. Josephus did write negatively about his successor, Albinus, where he compared him to Festus in Wars, Book 2 [2:271-2722] where he said “ 271 Now it was that Festus succeeded Felix as procurator, and made it his business to correct those who made disturbances in the country. So he caught the greatest part of the robbers, and killed a great many of them. 272 But then Albinus, who succeeded Festus, did not execute his office as the other had done; nor was there any sort of wickedness that could be named but he had a hand in it.” So we see that Josephus had some regard for Festus, where he had none at all for either Felix his predecessor or Albinus his successor, and one was evidently as corrupt as the other. As we have seen many times in other Biblical contexts, Yahweh our God arranges for bad rulers in order to punish a sinful people. Paul, however, had to go to Rome, and Festus would help to fulfill his destiny. Surely the Judaeans would rather have slain him in Jerusalem.
Except for the resolution of a dispute between Herod Agrippa II and the high priests at Jerusalem, where Festus decided in favor of the priests, and the continuing decay in Judaean-Roman relations which ended in the general rebellion that would lead to the destruction of Jerusalem a few years afterwards, there seems to be little else worthy of note in Festus' term as procurator besides his having sent Paul of Tarsus to Rome. Upon the death of Festus, the murder of James was executed by certain of the Sadducees.
XXV 1 So Phestos having stepped into the government, after three days he went up into Jerusalem from Caesareia, 2 and the high priest and the leaders of the Judaeans appeared to him against Paul and exhorted him, 3 requesting a favor by him, that he would summon him to Jerusalem, making an ambush to kill him on the road.
The Greek word ἐπαρχία is rendered somewhat idiomatically as province in the King James Version. It is fully “the government of a province” (Liddell & Scott), and therefore it is simply government here.
In Acts chapter 24, we see that Paul defended himself before Felix and against the charges of the Judaeans only five days from his arrival in Caesareia. With that, Felix seems to have looked for excuses in order to defer judgment, and that resulted in Paul's having been left bound for two years. Luke does not give us any further details, however it is evident that the pressure which the Judaeans had put upon Festus, which is described here, they must also have put upon Felix in order to have Paul returned to Jerusalem. Luke relates that during those two years Felix had hoped for a bribe from Paul in order to be released. As Josephus had described, and which we presented here with Acts chapter 24, Felix had many of the Judaeans of Caesareia slain when their dispute with the Greeks related to local politics in Caesareia caused them to take up arms. Ostensibly, the deterioration in the relationship between Felix and the Judaeans may well have been a chief factor in delaying any decision concerning Paul of Tarsus. But whether Felix refused to return Paul to Jerusalem for better or for worse is immaterial: the hand of God is manifest in that from Acts chapter 19 it is evident that Paul knew that he had a destiny to preach the Gospel in Rome. In Acts 23:10-11, which records the events related to Paul's arrest two years prior to this time, this is stated explicitly:
Acts 23: “10 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle. 11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.”
4 So then Phestos replied to keep Paul in Caesareia, and himself to be about to go out shortly, 5 “Therefore those among you,” he said, “who are able to come down together, if there is anything out of place with the man must bring an accusation against him.”
The Majority Text has only “if there is anything with this man”. Which the King James Version did not follow. The text of the Christogenea New Testament is in agreement with the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B), Ephraemi Syri (C) and Laudianus (E). The Greek word ἄτοπος is literally out of place, or without place, where the King James Version has wickedness.
Paul, being a Roman citizen and born in Kilikia, could not lawfully be forced to stand trial in Jerusalem, and therefore it is evident that Festus may have already known something about him and his circumstances, although Luke has not related anything.
6 And spending among them not more than eight or ten days, going down into Caesareia, the next day sitting upon the judgment seat he ordered Paul to be brought.
The Codex Laudianus (E) has “among them more than eight or ten days”, the Majority Text has “among them more than ten days”, both of them wanting the negative particle. The text follows the Codices Alexandrinus (A) and Ephraemi Syri (C), and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B) which each vary slightly.
Throughout the pages of Josephus, Tacitus, and other contemporary historians, it is evident that in Rome and in the provinces, when the government changed hands the cases of those who stood accused were reviewed, and often charges against individuals were simply dropped. There is an example of this in the life of Pontius Pilate, who had been accused of the murder of certain Samaritans, and who had been recalled to Rome to face the accusations. However before he arrived there the emperor Tiberius had died and therefore Pilate never faced the charges [Antiquities, Book 18]. It is evident that Paul, being bound when Festus came to office, his case would have had to be reviewed. While there must have been other matters for which Festus went to Jerusalem, this certainly would have been on the agenda of things for Festus to investigate.
7 And upon his arriving [returning to Caesareia] there stood about him the Judaeans who came down from Jerusalem, bringing down many and severe charges which they were not able to prove, 8 upon Paul’s answering in defense that “Neither against the law of the Judaeans nor against the temple nor against Caesar have I done anything wrong.” 9 But Phestos wishing to bestow a favor upon the Judaeans, replying to Paul said “Do you wish, going up to Jerusalem, to be judged there by me concerning these things?”
There is no reason whatsoever for Paul to be offered a trial in Jerusalem, except that Festus had for some reason or another desired to satisfy the Judaeans. Lawfully, Paul could only be sent to Jerusalem for a trial if indeed he consented to it, and he had absolutely no reason to do so. The Judaeans not being able to prove their case, Paul should have been released. Of course, if he had been released, the Judaeans would have sought to kill him unlawfully, as Luke informs us at the opening of this account that they really sought for him to be sent to Jerusalem so that they could ambush him on the road, something they had before planned on doing, when Paul was first arrested. Evidently, they would not have objected to killing his Roman guards as well.
10 And Paul said “By the judgment seat of Caesar I am standing, where it is proper [or perhaps <necessary] for me to be judged. I have done nothing wrong to the Judaeans, as even you well recognize. 11 So then if I am a wrongdoer and have done anything worthy of death, I do not ask to be excused from dying. But if there is nothing of these things which they accuse me, no one is able to gratify them. I appeal to Caesar!” 12 Then Phestos conversing with the council answered “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you shall go!”
Paul was born to a Judaean family which resided in Tarsus, in Kilikia, by which he was a Roman citizen. Here he is asserting the privileges he had as a Roman citizen. His citizenship gave him an advantage that Judaeans born in Judaea did not have, and only by that could he make the claim that it was a necessity for him to be judged by Caesar and not by the Judaeans. If Paul were not a Roman citizen he would not have had such recourse. Christ, being born in Judaea, was not a Roman citizen and therefore He had no such recourse even if He wanted it, and so Pilate had no choice but to take the course which he relented to, turning him over to the Judaeans. Festus, if indeed he cared about Roman law, could not do so with Paul.
Knowing that the Word of God had destined the Christ to die outside of the walls of Jerusalem, and that Paul was destined to announce that very thing in Rome, we see that the hand of God is manifest in the formation of the laws of man, since no other choice was possible in either case.
Festus should have released Paul, since the Judaeans could not prove their case. That, of course, would have angered the Judaeans against him as soon as he had become the administrator of their province. When Paul was not released, he had little choice but to appeal to Caesar. Festus must have been pleased that he did, since therefore the Judaeans could not harbor a just grievance towards him for not surrendering Paul to them, and since Paul's fate being taken out of his hands he would then be relieved of any resulting injustice.
13 And some days passing, Agrippas the king and Bernika arrived in Caesareia greeting Phestos. 14 And as they spent many days there, Phestos referred to the king the things about Paul saying “There is a certain man left behind by Phelix in bonds, 15 concerning whom upon my coming into Jerusalem the high priests and the elders of the Judaeans appeared requesting a judgment against him. 16 To whom I replied that it is not a custom with the Romans to give any man freely before when he being accused would have the accusers face to face and would receive opportunity for a defense concerning the charges.
As we had explained while presenting Acts chapter 23, the Judaeans pretended to the law, but were consistently portrayed by Luke as having had a complete disregard for either the laws of men or of God. They were also often portrayed in that manner by Josephus. Yet Paul, writing his epistle to the Romans even before his arrest in Judaea, had already commended them for their society, which was based upon the rule of law. Luke's testimony here informs us that Festus professed a regard for the laws of his nation, and by that Paul was able to go to Rome, even if it was only to face Nero the madman.
Agrippas here is Herod Agrippa II. He was the son of Herod Agrippa I, the Herod who was described as having been “eaten by worms” in Acts chapter 12, and he was the nephew of Herod of Chalcis. He was the grand-nephew of Herod Antipas, who was called “Herod the Tetrarch” in the Gospels. This Herod Agrippa II was initially given the kingdom of his uncle, but Claudius later took it away and made him governor of the tetrarchy of Herod Philip I and Lysanias. Herod Philip I was the brother of Herod the Tetrarch, who took his wife, an act for which John the Baptist had admonished him. Nero later restored Herod Agrippa II to rule over most of the lands that were once ruled by his father and his uncle, making him king over them. Herod Agrippa II was also granted the supervision of the temple in Jerusalem, and with that he had the right to appoint the high priest. Flavius Josephus describes his frequent exercise of that authority, and during his rule the occupant of the office of high priest was changed often, and usually for political purposes. Of course, Herod had no authority over the Roman procurator of Judaea, and he had no jurisdiction over Paul.
As we explained at length discussing Acts chapter 24, Herod Agrippa II was the brother of Drusilla, who was the wife of Felix the former procurator, and they are en route to Rome at this very time. This Bernice, or Bernika (some later manuscripts have Berenika) is also one of his sisters, and Josephus repeats the alleged rumor that they had an incestuous relationship for many years. Josephus mentions Agrippa and Bernice together in several places, such as at Wars 2.17.6 (2:426) where he relates that their palaces were burned down by rebels at the outbreak of the Judaean war.
Josephus reports the rumor of the illicit relationship between Agrippa II and Bernika, however it is not clear that he accepts it, and he seems to allow Bernika's own denial to stand where he describes it thus, from Antiquities, Book 20:140: “ 145 But as for Bernice, she lived a widow a long while after the death of Herod, [king of Chalcis], who was both her husband and her uncle. But, when the report went that she had sexual intercourse with her brother, [Agrippa junior,] she persuaded Polemo, who was king of Cilicia, to be circumcised, and to marry her, as supposing that by this means she should prove those calumnies upon her to be false; 146 and Polemo was prevailed upon, and that chiefly on account of her riches. Yet did not this matrimony endure long; but Bernice left Polemo, and, as was said, with impure intentions. So he forsook at once this matrimony and the Judaean religion”. This marriage to Polemon II, who was king of Pontus, Colchis and Cilicia, took place around 50 AD and had already long failed by this time. Agrippa and Bernika had, of course, supported the Romans at the outbreak of the war in Judaea, and they both survived the war, after which they are reported as having gone to Rome. However what later became of either of them is unclear.
In Acts 23:35 we see that Felix had commanded that Paul be kept in “Herod's judgment hall”, as the King James Version has it, where the Christogenea New Testament has “the quarters of Herodas”, and therefore it is evident that Herod Agrippa II kept a residence in Caesareia, which was outside of his own kingdom, yet being charged with the supervision of the temple and having close ties to Judaea it seems expedient for him to have done so, since Caesareia was the provincial capital of Judaea. So we see here in Acts 25:13 and 14, that Herod and Bernika spent a considerable amount of time here in Caesareia, for which they conveniently had their own residence.
To return to Festus' address to Agrippas:
17 Therefore upon their coming here [Paul's accusers from Jerusalem], not making any delay the next day sitting upon the judgment seat I ordered the man to be brought, 18 concerning whom the accusers standing brought not any charge of which I suspected evil, 19 but they had certain disputes with him concerning their own religion [or superstition, as Paul uses a closely related word in a negative sense in Acts 17:22 and his address to the Athenians] and concerning a certain Yahshua [Ἰησοῦς] who is dead whom Paul asserts is living. 20 And I being perplexed concerning the dispute of these things said that if he wished, to go into Jerusalem and there to be judged concerning these things. 21 But upon Paul’s appealing for him to be kept for a decision by Sebastos, I ordered him to be kept until when I shall send him up to Caesar.”
The word sebastos is the Greek equivalent of the Latin term augustus, and while Augustus was originally adopted as a title by Octavian, who is now known popularly as Caesar Augustus, here it is a title of respect for Nero. Where we see the phrase Caesar Augustus in Luke 2:1, the Greek for Augustus is actually a transliteration of the Latin term, and not the synonymous Greek word Sebastos which we see here. The New College Latin & English Dictionary by John C. Traupman says at “Augustus” that it was an “honorary cognomen of Octavius Caesar after 27 B.C. and of subsequent emperors”. The words sebastos in Greek and august in Latin mean sacred, reverenced or venerable. Strictly speaking, while Luke's using the title was only a matter of record, Christians should see the name as impious, being a facet of the pagan Roman cult of the emperors, and the elevation of man to an object of worship.
22 Then Agrippas to Phestos: “I have wished also to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” he said, “you shall hear him.”
The Codices Ephraemi Syri (C) and Laudianus (E), and the Majority Text have this verse to read: “Then Agrippas said to Phestos: 'I have wished also to hear the man myself.' But he: 'Tomorrow,' he said, 'you shall hear him.'” The text follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A) and Vaticanus (B). Throughout the New Testament the Greek is often very terse, or perhaps laconic would be the better adjective.
Festus is only giving Herod Agrippa II the opportunity to hear what Paul had to say, and Paul was happily compliant. Of course, Christ Himself would not even speak to or acknowledge his Edomite great-uncle, Herod the Tetrarch. However the mission of Paul was quite different from that of Christ, and Paul complied. Herod Agrippa II was an Edomite, and Paul must have been fully cognizant of that fact. Paul himself had already written about the Edomite presence among the leaders of Judaea in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, which was written at least nine years before this time, and also about the general Edomite population among of the people Judaea, when he wrote his epistle to the Romans nearly three years before this time. Ostensibly, Paul was happy to speak about Christ before Herod for the sake of all those who would then be given the opportunity to hear the Gospel, but not on account of Herod himself.
The evidence of Paul's own philosophy in this very regard is manifest in the first chapter of his epistle to the Philippians, which was written from Rome some time after this event here in Acts, where he says: “12 Now I wish you to know, brethren, that those things concerning me have gone still more to the advancement of the good message, 13 so that my bonds in Christ have become manifest to the whole Praetorium [where he refers to the court of Nero] and to all the rest; 14 and most of the brethren among the number of the Prince, trusting in my bonds, venture more exceedingly to speak the word of Yahweh fearlessly. 15 Some indeed even because of envy and strife, but some also by approval are proclaiming the Christ. 16 Surely these out of love, knowing that I am set for a defense of the good message, 17 but those out of contention are declaring the Christ not purely, supposing to stir up tribulation in my bonds. 18 What then? That in every way, whether in pretext or in truth, Christ is declared, and in this I rejoice. And surely I will rejoice. 19 For I know that this for me will result in preservation, through your supplication and the additional fortune of the Spirit of Yahshua Christ 20 in accordance with my eager expectation and hope, seeing that in nothing shall I be ashamed, but with all freespokenness - as always - even now Christ shall be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”
Paul therefore must have seen this occasion as yet one more opportunity to preach the Gospel of Christ, in spite of Herod and all of the Edomites among the Judaeans, and not on account of them. At the end of that same chapter in his epistle to the Philippians, Paul tells us that the Christian lack of fear before the enemies of God is for them a sign of their certain destruction, where he tells them “ 27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. 29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; 30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” As he spoke here before Agrippa, he would later speak before Nero.
23 So the next day, Agrippas and Bernika coming with much fanfare and entering into the auditorium with the commanders and eminent men of the city, then upon Phestos’ order Paul was brought forth.
Caesareia was no small town. It had been the provincial capital of Judaea since 6 AD, and it was also a port city, as we see here in Acts that it was a frequent stopping place, and the port-of-call for Paul's own journeys from Anatolia (Acts 9:30, 18:22, 21:8). While we are not informed whether many witnesses were present to observe Paul's trials before Felix or Festus, we can safely imagine gatherings comparable to the provincial courts in the other provinces, which must have been considerable. Here Luke draws a picture which allows us to imagine that many hundreds, if not thousands, of people must have been present to see this spectacle. For this is the governor of a well-populated province, and the king of a well-populated and neighboring region to the north. The population of the town has been estimated at over 125,000, covering an urban area of nearly 4 square kilometers.
24 And Phestos said: “King Agrippas, and all those men who are here with us, see him concerning whom all the multitude of the Judaeans entreated me both in Jerusalem and here, crying out that it is no longer fitting for him to live!
Of course Paul had the anti-Christ Edomite Judaeans against him, of which were comprised the majority of the leaders and probably all of the high priests and the party of the Sadducees. But he also had many of the Judaean Christians incensed against him, as we had seen in Acts chapter 21, that there were “many myriads ... among the Judaeans who are believing, and all being zealous of the law.”
25 But I comprehended [א and the MT have “comprehending”] him to have done nothing worthy of death, yet he himself having appealed to Sebastos, I have decided to send him.
It is evident that Festus would not let him go, yet he portrayed the appeal by Paul to Caesar as being the reason why he now must hold him and send him to Caesar, and would later use this appeal as an excuse as to why he could not release him. In truth, even after appealing to Caesar, Festus may well have released Paul if he desired to do so.
26 Concerning which I do not have anything certain to write with authority, on which account I have brought him before you, and especially before you, King Agrippas, that upon there being an examination, I would have something that I may write [E and the MT have “something to write”]. 27 For it seems to me irrational, sending a prisoner and not indicating the charges against him.”
The Greek phrase τῶ κυρίῳ, is “with authority” here, where the King James Version has “to my lord”, however the pronoun my is not found in any of the manuscripts. The phrase is the Dative Case of the adjective κύριος, along with the definite article. It must be asked, why would Festus use a phrase such as “to my lord” in reference to Agrippa, who was certainly not his lord, or in reference to Caesar, who was the master of both men, and ruler of all?
The word κύριος, which is an adjective, where it appears along with a definite article is commonly a Substantive, which is a word or phrase from another part of speech that is used as a noun. This is how κύριος is used in the Bible nearly everywhere that it appears, as a title for either God or men. However two other uses of κύριος were altogether ignored by the translators of the King James Version, and many who have followed them: that the word is first only a simple adjective in Greek, and while it is used as a title when it appears as a Substantive, neither is the Substantive limited to use as a title.
In their Greek-English Lexicon, Liddell & Scott have at κύριος, in part: “I. of persons, having power or authority over, lord, or master of...having authority...authoritative, decisive, dominant... authorised, ratified, valid...of times, etc., fixed, ordained, appointed...legitimate, regular, proper...of words, authorised, vernacular...” and then “B. as Substantive...a lord, master...”
Paul used this word κύριος in several places in its primary sense as an adjective, where in the Christogenea New Testament it is “with authority” or “by authority” in Romans 14:6 (thrice); I Corinthians 11:11; II Corinthians 11:17 (with κατά); Ephesians 4:17 and 6:1; I Thessalonians 5:12; Philemon 20; “of authority” at Ephesians 6:4; and with παρά it is “as appropriate” at Ephesians 6:8 and II Tim. 1:18. In the writings of Luke I have found such use of the word only twice, where with the Article and in the Dative case the phrase (τῶ κυρίῳ) is rendered “with the authority” in Acts 14:23, and “with authority” here in Acts 25:26. Here the King James Version rendering of this phrase as “unto my lord” is absurd not only because a word for “my” does not exist in the text of any of the Greek manuscripts, but also because Festus never planned to write Agrippa of the matter. Rather, Festus had to write Caesar of the matter, whom Paul had appealed to and to whom Paul was going to be sent.
When the Roman commander Claudius Lysias had sent Paul as a prisoner to the procurator Festus, he sent along a letter explaining why he had done so. Now Paul is forced to appeal to Caesar, and Festus must write something authoritative explaining to Nero why Paul had been sent as a prisoner to him. Festus did not really know why the Judaeans wanted to execute Paul, because he only saw a religious dispute peculiar to the Judaeans. Paul, being a Roman citizen, could not be executed unless he committed an offense worthy of execution under Roman law.
Here appears Herod Agrippa II, a man of authority and a man who was informed of all of the disputes among the Judaeans, whom Festus must have perceived as someone who should have been able help him explain exactly why Paul was being kept bound, so that he could formulate charges that could be sent along with Paul to Nero. For these reasons, Festus needed Agrippa to hear Paul and those accusing him, as much as Agrippa desired to hear Paul.