Acts 25:19
But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(19) Certain questions against him of their own superstition.—The word is of the same import as that used by St. Paul in Acts 17:22 (where see Note), and the use here shows its comparatively neutral character. Festus was speaking to a Jewish king, and would not knowingly have used an offensive term. He falls back, accordingly, upon one which an outsider might use of any local religion which he did not himself accept. What follows shows that he looked on St. Paul as not merely affirming, with other Pharisees, the general doctrine of a resurrection, but as connecting it with the specific witness that Jesus had risen from the dead.

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.But had certain questions - Certain inquiries, or litigated and disputed subjects; certain points of dispute in which they differed - ζητήματα τινα zētēmata tina.

Of their own superstition - δεισιδαιμονίας deisidaimonias. This word properly denotes "the worship or fear of demons"; but it was applied by the Greeks and Romans to the worship of their gods. It is the same word which is used in Acts 17:22, where it is used in a good sense. See the notes on that place. There are two reasons for thinking that Festus used the word here in a good sense, and not in the sense in which we use the word "superstition":

(1) It was the word by which the worship of the Greeks and Romans, and, therefore, of Festus himself, was denoted, and he would naturally use it in a similar sense in applying it to the Jews. He would describe their worship in such language as he was accustomed to use when speaking of religion.

(2) he knew that Agrippa was a Jew. Festus would not probably speak of the religion of his royal guest as superstition, but would speak of it with respect. He meant, therefore, to say simply that they had certain inquiries about their own religion, but accused him of no crime against the Roman laws.

And of one Jesus, which was dead - Greek: "of one dead Jesus." It is evident that Festus had no belief that Jesus had been raised up, and in this he would expect that Agrippa would concur with him. Paul had admitted that Jesus had been put to death, but he maintained that he had been raised from the dead. As Festus did not believe this, he spoke of it with the utmost contempt. "They had a dispute about one dead Jesus, whom Paul affirmed to be alive." In this manner a Roman magistrate could speak of this glorious truth of the Christian religion, and this shows the spirit with which the great mass of philosophers and statesmen regarded its doctrines.

19. questions … of their own superstition—rather, "religion" (see on [2112]Ac 17:22). It cannot be supposed that Festus would use the word in any discourteous sense in addressing his Jewish guest.

one Jesus—"Thus speaks this miserable Festus of Him to whom every knee shall bow" [Bengel].

whom Paul affirmed—"kept affirming."

to be alive—showing that the resurrection of the Crucified One had been the burden, as usual, of Paul's pleading. The insignificance of the whole affair in the eyes of Festus is manifest.

Superstition; so this heathen governor profanely calls the religion and worship of God’s own institution, and that in the presence of Agrippa and Bernice, who were both Jews, or, at least, brought up amongst them.

To be alive; to have been raised again from the dead; acknowledging, with them, that he had been indeed dead. But had certain questions against him of their own superstition,.... Or religion; as about their law, which they said Paul had spoke against; and about their temple, which they pretended he had polluted; and about the resurrection of the dead, which he asserted, and some denied:

and of one Jesus which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive; for it seems more was said on each side, than is recorded by Luke: the Jews objected to him among other things, his belief in Jesus of Nazareth, whom they traduced as an impostor and deceiver; Paul on the other hand argued, that he was the true Messiah; and in proof of it, affirmed that though they had put him to death, he was risen from the dead, and so was declared to be the Son of God with power: Festus, it is very likely, had never heard of Jesus before, and therefore speaks of him in this manner; or if he had, he had entertained a contemptible opinion of him, as well as of the Jewish religion; and which he expresses, even in the presence of the king, who had outwardly at least embraced it.

{5} But had certain questions against him of their own {d} superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.

(5) The profane and wicked take an occasion to condemn the true doctrine, because of private controversies and contentions of men between themselves: but the truth nevertheless abides safe and sure in the meantime.

(d) This profane man calls the Jewish religion superstition, and that before King Agrippa, but it is no wonder: for the rulers of provinces, because of the majesty of the empire of Rome, used to think themselves better than kings.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 25:19. ζητήματατινα: plural contemptuously (Weiss).—δεισιδαιμονίας, see on Acts 17:22, “religion,” R.V.: in addressing a Jewish king Felix would not have used the term offensively, especially when we consider the official relation of Agrippa to the Jewish religion (see above, Acts 25:13), but he may well have chosen the word because it was a neutral word (verbum μέσον, Bengel) and did not commit him to anything definite.—περί τινος Ἰ.: we note again the almost contemptuous, or at least indifferent, tone of Festus. At the same time this and the similar passage Acts 18:15 are proofs of the candour of St. Luke in quoting testimonies of this kind from men of rank: in this “aristocratic ignorance of the Roman” Zeller sees a trait taken from life, so in Agrippa’s answer to Paul’s urgency, Acts 26:28. Festus does not even deign to mention the kind of death (but he accepts the fact of the death as certain); “crucem aut nescivit, aut non curavit,” Bengel; see further Luckock, Footsteps of the Apostles as traced by St. Luke, ii., p. 269.—ἔφασκεν: with the notion of groundless affirmation, “alleging”; see Page, in loco, and Meyer on Romans 1:22 (Revelation 2:2). Blass and Knabenbauer take it as = dictitabat.19. of their own superstition [R. V. religion]. The noun used here is cognate to the adjective employed by St Paul in speaking to the Athenians (Acts 17:22). It is a term which might be employed by any one without offence in speaking of a worship with which he did not agree. Addressing Agrippa, Festus would not wish to say a word that might annoy, any more than St Paul wished to irritate the Athenians by his speech.

of one Jesus] Neither in the hearing of the cause before Felix nor when Festus made his inquiry, does St Luke record any mention of the name of Jesus, but it is clear from the explanation here given that not only had Paul stated the doctrine of the Resurrection generally, which the Pharisees accepted, but had also asserted in proof of it that Jesus had risen and “become the firstfruits of them that sleep.”Acts 25:19. [Ζητήματα, questions) There is a great variety in questions. The most unimportant are often accounted as the most important, and the most important as the most unimportant. See that from your heart you estimate as of the highest importance questions concerning Jesus.—V. g.]—ἰδίας)—Truly the Jews seemed to the Gentiles to have something peculiar about them. Agrippa was not a Jew: otherwise Festus would not thus express himself to him. He was of the family of the Herods, an Idumean, a Proselyte; but, as usually happens in the case of great men, without any great zeal for religion. Festus therefore might have held Agrippa as a Gentile. Compare also ch. Acts 26:27.—δεισιδαιμονίας, superstition religion) A word middle between a good and bad sense; it is sometimes employed in the former, but oftener in the latter sense.—περί τινος, concerning a certain Jesus) Thus the wretched Felix speaks concerning Him, to whom even knee shall bow. [If ye refuse to believe, ye mockers and despisers! who is that Certain One ye shall see with wailing and lamentation?—V. g.]—τεθνηκότος, dead) Festus either did not know or did not trouble himself about the cross (crucifixion of Jesus).—ζῇν, to be alive) He does truly live. This is no doubt true: not a fiction.—V. g.]Verse 19. - Religion for superstition, A.V.; who for which, A.V. Certain questions ζήτηματα); Acts 15:2; Acts 18:15; Acts 23:29, etc. Religion (δεισιδαιμονία); see Acts 17:22, δεισιδαιμονεστέρους, where there is the same doubt as here whether to take it in a good sense or a bad one. Here, as Festus, a man of the world, was speaking to a king who was a Jew, he is not likely to have intended to use an offensive phrase. So it is best to render it "religion," as the R.V. does. But Bishop Wordsworth renders τῆς ἰδίας δεισιδαιμονίας his own superstition, Paul's, which agrees with the context. These details must have been among those "complaints" spoken of in ver. 7. Whom Paul affirmed to be alive. Notice the stress constantly laid by the apostle upon the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. If his own superstition is the right rendering, we have here the nature of it, in Festus's view, belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Superstition (δεισιδαιμονίας)

See on Acts 17:22. Better, religion, as Rev. As Agrippa was a Jew by religion, Festus would not have insulted him by applying the word superstition to his faith. Note, however, that he speaks of it as their own religion, not identifying Agrippa with them. It was a non-committal expression, since the word meant either religion or superstition according to circumstances. He left Agrippa "to take the word in a good sense, but reserved his own view, which was certainly the Roman one" (Meyer). There is, indeed, a similar tact in Paul's use of the word to the Athenians. He selected "a word which almost imperceptibly shaded off from praise to blame" (Trench).

Affirmed (ἔφασκεν)

The imperfect implies something habitual. "Paul kept asserting."

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