The Road to Rome
Who, when they came to Caesarea and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him. And when the governor had read the letter, he asked of what province he was. And when he understood that he was of Cilicia; I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's judgment hall.
A brief background to a Roman trial and to Felix the judge of this trial.
Roman trials where set by the Twelve Tablets from 450 B.C. There will be two stages in this trial. First, the plaintiff will present his case, with witnesses and testimony. Then the defendant presents his defense.1
There are three changes to Roman law, known as the rule of law, in the Twelve Tablets. “There are three important principles of Roman law. An accused person was presumed innocent unless proven guilty. Secondly, The accused was allowed to face the accuser and offer a defense against the charge. Lastly, guilt had to be established “clearer than daylight” using solid evidence.”2
There was no cross examination of a witness, but there was room for speeches by each side between statements and witnesses. The verdict of the judge is supposed to be final. However, a defendant could appeal a decision that goes against him.
Supposedly, Roman trials use the official language of Rome, which is Latin.
The Governor of Judea and the judge for this case is Felix. His full name is Marcus Antonius Felix, who resided in Caesarea. When a slave becomes a Freedman, he takes the name of the family that set him free. Since this is the family of Mark Antony, they used his family name, Marcus Antonius.
Marcus Antonius Felix was from the province of Cilicia, the same province as Paul, except Felix was born a slave. Felix rose to freedom and power on the shirttails of his older brother Marcus Antonius Pallas. With the influence of Pallas, who was liked by Caesar Claudius, and the High Priest Jonathan, Felix was appointed governor of Judea.3
Marcus Antonia Pallas was the slave of Antonia Minor, a daughter of Mark Antony. As a slave of Antonia, Pallas was given the responsibility of financial secretary to her son Claudius. Before Claudius became Emperor, Pallas was given manumission.
Manumission is the process of liberating a person from slavery. For Roman manumission it requires the cooperation and consent of the master; the master has to want to release the slave.4 When Pallas received his manumission, he remained the financial secretary of Claudius. When Claudius became Emperor, Pallas remained his financial secretary. Pallas used his position to free his brother from slavery and get Felix appointed governor of Judea.
Felix was the governor of Judea from 52 A.D. to 60 A.D., at which time he was recalled to Rome, by Emperor Nero to stand trial for cruelty to Judeans while he was governor. He was found guilty, but he was not condemned to death, Nero allowed him to live, but we do not know the penalty Nero gave to Felix in place of death.
Tacitus, a Roman historian (56 -120 A.D.) said of Felix, “Claudius made Judea a province and entrusted it to Roman knights or to freedmen; one of the latter, Antonius Felix, practised every kind of cruelty and lust, wielding the power of king with all the instincts of a slave; he had married Drusilla, the grand-daughter of Cleopatra and Antony, and so was Antony's grandson-in law, while Claudius was Antony's grandson.”5
And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul.
Tertullus is a Roman orator and lawyer. His job is to prosecute the case for the Temple leadership because they have no understanding of Roman law.6 Since it is a Roman trial, with a Roman prosecutor, it is assumed that Tertullus is speaking in Latin. We have already seen that Paul speaks Greek and Hebrew, and it can be understood that he speaks Aramaic since it was the language of both Tarsus and Jerusalem.
If the Bible scholars are correct, and Tertullus is speaking in Latin, Paul is understanding what charges or accusations Tertullus has set before Felix because in verses 13 and 14 Paul knows what he has been accused of and in verse 10 he says he is speaking for himself. So, we could add Latin to Paul’s list of languages.
And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words.
You could melt butter with the words Tertullus is laying at the feet of Felix, “enjoy great quietness,” “worthy deeds,” “noble Felix,” “with all thankfulness.”
Great quietness? Within the last ten days Jerusalem has survived two riots, both requiring hundreds of Roman soldiers to break up and neither started by Paul. History does not acknowledge one worthy deed accomplished during the rule of Felix. The Judeans are the ones who press for charges against Felix back in Rome. Thankfulness is not a word Judeans would use to describe Felix; all of this is just flattery. Felix was convicted of cruelty toward the Judeans, this is all flattery!
Tertullus spends more time patting Felix on the back, then he spends accusing Paul of crimes. When you have no evidence you need to stay off topic to distract those who might be listening. A tactic you understand because you see it in operation in our time, every day by politicians.
When you cannot win your argument on the facts you invent side issues to distract and cover the holes in your account. Here Tertullus heaps praise upon the government to cover his lack of a case against Paul.
For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:
“Pestilent” is the Greek word loimos and basically means a plague, a deadly infection.7
The word “mover” is the Greek word kineo and means the cause of, to set in motion.8
“Sedition” is the Greek word stasis and means insurrection. Insurrection is a revolt against civil authority,9 “among the Judeans throughout the world.” The entire inhabited world!
“Ringleader” is the Greek word protostates and it means leader or champion.
Incendiary language used to paint Paul as the most dangerous terrorist the world has ever encountered. The charge, Paul inflames the world of Judeans against Roman authority. He is a deadly infection spreading across the world. “Flash bang” words to shock, intimidate, and leave in awe of this man’s wickedness.
Yet there was nothing in the letter from the Chief Captain Lysias about Paul challenging the authority of Rome. There have been no witnesses or testimony to back up these statements. The prosecution has presented no evidence for any of these accusations.
Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took and would have judged.
Rome cares nothing about the Temple in Jerusalem. This charge deals with what the Asian Judeans said to start the riot when Paul was in the Temple. Why are they not here?
according to our law but the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands,10
The best way to gain support while diverting attention away from your position of lies is to boldly proclaim your false charges, while building and emphasizing the side issues being used to blur a clear view of the lies.
For example. A discussion (debate) about family entertainment on the television.
Statement: “I long for the days when a television show had a wholesome family message, like giving a neighbor a helping hand.”
Response: “So, you long for the days of white supremacy and suppression of gender equality.”
The response does not address the statement. It is an attempt to misdirect the discussion, by making the other party look evil and oppressive, by attributing words to them that were never said or implied. It is called a straw man argument and we have this in abundance today.
The prosecution has no proof or witnesses for any of the charges wherein they accuse Paul. Therefore, they distract from their empty charges with excessive flattery, and grandiose charges of Paul being a worldwide ringleader against the civil authority of Rome, and finally, the violence and over reaction of the Chief Captain.
Straw men arguments are a distraction to cover and evade the real issue while pretending you fully covered the real issue.
Commanding his accusers to come unto thee: by examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things, whereof we accuse him. And the Jews also assented, saying that these things were so.
That is the end of the first stage of the trial, the prosecution has rested. They have brought no witnesses. There is no written testimony except that of the Chief Captain Lysias. But we have both positive and negative straw men at work.
What are the charges?
1.He is a plague, a deadly infection. 2.He has caused insurrection against Rome, among the Judeans, around the world. 3.He is the leader of this sect of the Nazarene. 4.He defiled our Temple.
The Judean council agrees with the prosecutor. When only one side is presented, when only one side is allowed to speak, it becomes a fearful picture of terror. But when both sides have presented, when both sides can speak freely the False Evidence that Appears Real is dispelled.
Now, stage two of the trial. Paul gets to face his accusers and present his defense.
Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself: Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship. And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me. But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men. Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult. Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me. Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council, Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day.
First, compare the opening of both the prosecutor and Paul in defense. Tertullus opens with flattery, upon flattery and Paul opens by showing honor or respect to the man and his position. Paul proceeds with his defense.
Paul states: 1.Why he was in Jerusalem – to worship, verse 11 2.What he was doing in Jerusalem – handling the charge of insurrection, verse 12 3.They have no evidence for any charges, verse 13 4.Handles the charge of ringleader, verses 14 thru 16
1.Why he was in Jerusalem - to bring an offering, verse 17 2.What he was doing – purifying himself in the Temple, verse 18 3.They have no witnesses to prove what they say, verse 19 4.Handles the charge of defiling the Temple – the council found no guilt in him, verse 20
It is a masterful demonstration of oratory skills. But wait, Paul has already told us he has no training in oratory skills or tools. So, what is happening here?
But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.
Both of these verses are spoken during the Christ Administration, but meant for application in the Revealing Administration. Then, principally we can see a practical application in the Administration of Grace. When you are brought before the authorities, trust God working in your gift of holy spirit.
Paul had the right words, and his defense was masterful, but Paul also presents no evidence and has no witnesses.
And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter.
Felix is stalling. Felix already knows the testimony and opinion of the Chief Captain Lysias, for it was in his letter to Felix, “to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds.” If Felix had wanted the Chief Captain there he would have been there.
Felix is stalling for time. But why?
And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him.
I opened with the background of Felix pointing out the cruelty that was his reputation and the charge against him in Rome. If he wanted to be cruel to Paul, Felix could have isolated Paul in a prison cell, away from friends and acquaintances. But Felix gives Paul liberty and allows people to come and see him or to minister unto him. But Felix does not render a verdict or release Paul from the custody of house arrest.
There are two reasons Felix does not end the trial and release Paul.
Acts 24: 26a
He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him…
…Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.
Felix was looking for a bribe from Paul and to give some good will to the Sanhedrin.
And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.
It is interesting that Felix wanted to know more, but he is never identified as one who believes. I can understand trembling considering the judgment of God, but that is only if you refuse the righteousness. God is willing to give to all who believe.
Perhaps the issue that prevents Felix from believing is his greed.
He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener and communed with him.
If Felix only sent for Paul to increase his odds of getting a bribe, then he was listening to Paul for the wrong reason. If anything can change a man’s heart, it is the words of God.
The word “communed” is the Greek word homileo and means, to converse with, to talk together. They had a lot of time to speak, for Felix held Paul under house arrest for the next two years.
God does not speak of any results from Paul’s ministry over these two years in Caesarea. But we have seen what can happen, even when Paul is limited to a single location. We saw the result in Asia when Paul was in Ephesus every day and we know also, the Word of God does not return void.
Acts chapter 24 lasts from 58 A.D. to 60 A.D., now it is time for a new governor as Festus comes to Caesarea.
1. World History Encyclopedia
2. What was the law of the twelve tables (bartleylawoffice.com)
3. Oxford Biblical Studies, Overview of Marcus Antonius Pallas.
4. Edinburgh University Classics, Roman Slavery
5. From the Histories of Tacitus, a Roman historian, 5.9
6. Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament, Acts 24
7. Acts 24 Commentary | Precept Austin
8. G2795 - kineō - Strong's Greek Lexicon (kjv) (blueletterbible.org)
9. G4714 - stasis - Strong's Greek Lexicon (kjv) (blueletterbible.org)
10. This verse according to most texts is not in the original manuscripts.
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