Acts 25:16
To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him.
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(16) To whom I answered . . .—The facts of the case are stated with fair accuracy, but there is a certain measure of ostentation in the way in which Festus speaks of “the manner of the Romans.” It was, perhaps, natural that a procurator just entering on his term of office, should announce, as with a flourish of trumpets, that he at least was going to be rigidly impartial in his administration of justice. It is fair to state that, as far as we know, his conduct was not inconsistent with his profession.

To deliver any man . . .—The use of the same verb as that which St. Paul had used in Acts 25:16 shows that the arrow shot at a venture had hit the mark. Festus is eager to repel the charge. The words “to die” (literally, unto destruction) are not found in the best MSS., and seem to have been added by way of explanation. The language of the procurator is strictly official. The accused and the accusers are to stand face to face, and the former is to have an opening for his apologia, or defence, in answer to the indictment.

25:13-27 Agrippa had the government of Galilee. How many unjust and hasty judgments the Roman maxim, ver. 16, condemn! This heathen, guided only by the light of nature, followed law and custom exactly, yet how many Christians will not follow the rules of truth, justice, and charity, in judging their brethren! The questions about God's worship, the way of salvation, and the truths of the gospel, may appear doubtful and without interest, to worldly men and mere politicians. See how slightly this Roman speaks of Christ, and of the great controversy between the Jews and the Christians. But the day is at hand when Festus and the whole world will see, that all the concerns of the Roman empire were but trifles and of no consequence, compared with this question of Christ's resurrection. Those who have had means of instruction, and have despised them, will be awfully convinced of their sin and folly. Here was a noble assembly brought together to hear the truths of the gospel, though they only meant to gratify their curiosity by attending to the defence of a prisoner. Many, even now, attend at the places of hearing the word of God with great pomp, and too often with no better motive than curiosity. And though ministers do not now stand as prisoners to make a defence for their lives, yet numbers affect to sit in judgment upon them, desirous to make them offenders for a word, rather than to learn from them the truth and will of God, for the salvation of their souls But the pomp of this appearance was outshone by the real glory of the poor prisoner at the bar. What was the honour of their fine appearance, compared with that of Paul's wisdom, and grace, and holiness; his courage and constancy in suffering for Christ! It is no small mercy to have God clear up our righteousness as the light, and our just dealing as the noon-day; to have nothing certain laid to our charge. And God makes even the enemies of his people to do them right.It is not the manner ... - He here states the reasons which he gave the Jews for not delivering Paul into their hands. In Acts 25:4-5, we have an account of the fact that he would not accede to the requests of the Jews; and he here states that the reason of his refusal was that it was contrary to the Roman law. Appian, in his Roman History, says, "It is not their custom to condemn men before they are heard." Philo (DePraesi. Rom.) says the same thing. In Tacitus (History, ii.) it is said, "A defendant is not to be prohibited from adducing all things by which his innocence may be established." It was for this that the equity of the Roman jurisprudence was celebrated throughout the world. We may remark that it is a subject of sincere gratitude to the God of our nation that this privilege is enjoyed in the highest perfection in this land. It is a right which every man has: to be heard; to know the charges against him; to be confronted with the witnesses; to make his defense; and to be tried by the laws, and not by the passions and caprices of people. In this respect our jurisprudence surpasses all that Rome ever enjoyed, and is not inferior to that of the most favored nation of the earth.

To deliver - To give him up as a favor χαρίζεσθαι charizesthai to popular clamor and caprice. Yet our Saviour, in violation of the Roman laws, was thus given up by Pilate, Matthew 27:18-25.

Have the accusers face to face - That he may know who they are and hear their accusations. Nothing contributes more to justice than this. Tyrants permit people to be accused without knowing who the accusers are, and without an opportunity of meeting the charges. It is one great principle of modern jurisprudence that the accused may know the accusers, and be permitted to confront the witnesses, and to adduce all the testimony possible in his own defense.

And have licence - Greek: "place of apology" - may have the liberty of defending himself.

16-21. to deliver any man to die—On the word "deliver up," see on [2111]Ac 25:11. To condemn any man indicta causa, without sufficient cause alleged and proved, is not only against the laws of the Romans, but of the Jews, Deu 17:4; nay, against the law of nature and of all nations. Yet malice had so far blinded the enemies of St. Paul, that they go about such things as a heathen reproves, and the very light of nature condemns.

To whom I answered,.... As follows:

it is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die; or to give any man to destruction; to pass sentence of death upon him, without hearing his cause, and purely at the request of another, and merely to gratify him:

before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face; so as to speak to his face, or before him, what they have to charge him with:

and have licence to answer for himself, concerning the crime laid against him; and this was also according to the law of the Jews, John 7:51 though Festus, from such an application to him by the chief priests and elders, might conclude that their manner was different, he being ignorant of their laws and customs; but their prejudice to the apostle carried them to act such an illegal part, or at least to desire it might be acted: it is one of the Jewish canons, that it is unlawful for a judge to hear one of the contending parties, before the other is come in.

To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to {c} deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him.

(c) The Romans did not used to deliver any man to be punished before, etc.

Acts 25:16. ἔθος, see Acts 6:14.—χαρίζ., p. 489.—πρὶν ἢἔχοι, cf. Luke 2:26, the only two passages where a finite verb occurs after πρίν in N. T., see further Burton, pp. 52, 129, 133, and Plummer, Luke, l. c.κατὰ πρόσωπον, see on Acts 3:13.—τόπον: “opportunity,” Romans 15:23, Ephesians 4:27, Hebrews 12:17, Sir 4:5, cf. Jos., Ant., xvi., 8, 5 (Polyb., i., 88, 2).

16. to deliver any man to die] The best MSS. omit the Greek for the last two words. Rev. Ver. renders “to give up any man.” The verb is the same as in Acts 25:11, and implies the granting as a favour. The language throughout shews that the Jews thought the influence of their party was enough to gain from Festus the condemnation of this so obscure a prisoner, whatever might be the merits of his case.

and have licence to answer for himself] The Greek word for licence is literally “place,” and is here used figuratively for “opportunity.” So Romans 15:23 St Paul says “having no more place in these parts,” by which he means that there is no further opportunity for preaching the Gospel there. So Rev. Ver. gives “have had opportunity to make his defence.”

Acts 25:16. Ῥωμαίοις, Romans) Would that none of those things, which the Romans were not wont to do, were done among Christians!

Verse 16. - That it is for it is, A.V.; custom for manner, A.V.; to give up for to deliver... to die, A.V. and T.R.; the accused for he which is accused, A.V.; have had opportunity to make his defense concerning the matter for have license to answer for himself concerning the crime, A.V. To give up (above, ver. 11, note). Have had opportunity to make his defense (τόπον ἀπολογίας λάβοι); see Acts 22:1, note. Acts 25:16Opportunity (τόπον)

Lit., place. An unclassical use of the word.

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