Acts 26:24
And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.
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(24) Festus said with a loud voice.—The description may be noted as one of the touches of vividness indicating that the writer relates what he had actually heard. The Roman governor forgot the usual dignity of his office, and burst, apparently, into a loud laugh of scorn.

Much learning doth make thee mad.—The Greek gives a neuter plural: Thy many writings are turning thee to madness. The word was one which was used by the Jews for the collected body of their sacred writings and traditions, as in the “letters” of John 7:15 and the “holy Scriptures” of 2Timothy 3:15. Festus had probably heard the Law and the Prophets of Israel so described, and knew that St. Paul had with him “books and parchments” (2Timothy 4:13), which he was continually studying. That one who had been crucified should rise from the dead and give light to the Gentiles seemed to him the very hallucination of insanity. So have men at all times thought of those who lived after a higher law than their own, whether their faith rested, as in St. Paul’s case, on an outward objective fact, or, as in Wisdom Of Solomon 5:4, on a true faith in the Unseen.

Acts 26:24. And as he thus spake for himself — And was making his defence; Festus — Astonished, it seems, to hear him represent this despised gospel of Jesus of Nazareth as a matter of such high and universal concern, and designed to be the means of illuminating both Jews and Gentiles, and thinking the vision he had related, as introductory to that assertion, quite an incredible story; said, with a loud voice — Which reached the whole auditory; Paul, thou art beside thyself — To talk of men’s rising from the dead! and of a Jew’s enlightening, not only his own nation, but the polite and learned Greeks and Romans! Nay, Festus, it is thou that art beside thyself; that strikest quite wide of the mark. And no wonder: he saw that nature did not act in Paul; but the grace that acted in him he did not see. And therefore he took all this ardour, which animated the apostle, for a mere start of learned phrensy. Much learning doth make thee mad Πολλα σε γραμματα εις μανιαν περιτρεπει, much study drives thee to madness. Perhaps he might know that Paul, in his present confinement, spent a great deal of time in reading; and this was the most decent turn that could be given to such a mad charge. Doubtless, Paul had a great deal more to say in defence of the gospel which he preached, and for the honour of it, and to recommend it to the good opinion of his noble audience. He had just fallen upon a subject that was the life of the cause in which he was engaged, the death and resurrection of Jesus: and here he was in his element, his soul was animated, his mouth was opened toward them, and his heart enlarged: and it is a thousand pities that he should have been interrupted, as he now was, and not permitted to say all he designed.

26:24-32 It becomes us, on all occasions, to speak the words of truth and soberness, and then we need not be troubled at the unjust censures of men. Active and laborious followers of the gospel often have been despised as dreamers or madmen, for believing such doctrines and such wonderful facts; and for attesting that the same faith and diligence, and an experience like their own, are necessary to all men, whatever their rank, in order to their salvation. But apostles and prophets, and the Son of God himself, were exposed to this charge; and none need be moved thereby, when Divine grace has made them wise unto salvation. Agrippa saw a great deal of reason for Christianity. His understanding and judgment were for the time convinced, but his heart was not changed. And his conduct and temper were widely different from the humility and spirituality of the gospel. Many are almost persuaded to be religious, who are not quite persuaded; they are under strong convictions of their duty, and of the excellence of the ways of God, yet do not pursue their convictions. Paul urged that it was the concern of every one to become a true Christian; that there is grace enough in Christ for all. He expressed his full conviction of the truth of the gospel, the absolute necessity of faith in Christ in order to salvation. Such salvation from such bondage, the gospel of Christ offers to the Gentiles; to a lost world. Yet it is with much difficulty that any person can be persuaded he needs a work of grace on his heart, like that which was needful for the conversion of the Gentiles. Let us beware of fatal hesitation in our own conduct; and recollect how far the being almost persuaded to be a Christian, is from being altogether such a one as every true believer is.Festus said with a loud voice - Amazed at the zeal of Paul. Paul doubtless evinced deep interest in the subject, and great earnestness in the delivery of his defense.

Thou art beside thyself - Thou art deranged; thou art insane. The reasons why Festus thought Paul mad were, probably:

(1) His great earnestness and excitement on the subject.

(2) his laying such stress on the gospel of the despised Jesus of Nazareth, as if it were a matter of infinite moment. Festus despised it; and he regarded it as proof of derangement that so much importance was attached to it.

(3) Festus regarded, probably, the whole story of the vision that Paul said had appeared to him as the effect of an inflamed and excited imagination, and as a proof of delirium. This is not an uncommon charge against those who are Christians, and especially when they evince unusual zeal. Sinners regard them as under the influence of delirium and fanaticism; as terrified by imaginary and superstitious fears; or as misguided by fanatical leaders. Husbands often thus think their wives to be deranged, and parents perceive their children that, and wicked people assume the ministers of the gospel to be crazy. The frivolous think it proof of derangement that others are serious, anxious, and prayerful; the rich, that others are willing to part with their property to do good; the ambitious and worldly, that others are willing to leave their country and home to go among the Gentiles to spend their lives in making known the unsearchable riches of Christ. The really sober and rational part of the world they who fear God and keep his commandments; they who believe that eternity is before them, and who strive to live for it - are thus charged with insanity by those who are really deluded, and who are thus living lives of madness and folly. The tenants of a madhouse often think all others deranged but themselves; but there is no madness so great, no delirium so awful, as to neglect the eternal interest of the soul for the sake of the pleasures and honors which this life can give.

Much learning - It is probable that Festus was acquainted with the fact that Paul was a learned man. Paul had not, while before him, manifested particularly his learning. But Festus, acquainted in some way with the fact that he was well-educated, supposed that his brain had been turned, and that the effect of it was seen by devotion to a fanatical form of religion. The tendency of long-continued and intense application to produce mental derangement is everywhere known.

Doth make thee mad - Impels, drives, or excites thee περιτρέπει peritrepei to madness.

24. Festus said with a loud voice—surprised and bewildered.

Paul, thou art beside thyself, much learning doth make thee mad—"is turning thy head." The union of flowing Greek, deep acquaintance with the sacred writings of his nation, reference to a resurrection and other doctrines to a Roman utterly unintelligible, and, above all, lofty religious earnestness, so strange to the cultivated, cold-hearted skeptics of that day—may account for this sudden exclamation.

Thou art beside thyself; this was the opinion of Festus concerning Paul, and such is the opinion of carnal and worldly men concerning such as are truly godly; as the prophet who came to Jehu was counted a mad fellow, 2 Kings 9:11, and the friends of our Saviour thought him to be

beside himself, Mark 3:21. And it cannot be otherwise; for good men and bad men have quite different apprehensions concerning most things; and what one calls good, the other accounts evil; and what is wisdom to the one, is madness to the other.

Much learning doth make thee mad; much study many times increasing melancholy, which a sedentary and thoughtful life is most exposed unto. Paul is reckoned to have been skilful in the Hebrew, Syriac, Greek, and Latin tongues; to have been well read in the poets; and certainly he was an excellent orator, as appears all along in his defence he made for his doctrine, and his life: but there was yet somewhat more than all this; Festus might feel a more than ordinary effect from Paul’s words, and not knowing of the Spirit by which he spake did attribute it to his learning, or madness, or to any thing but the true cause of it.

And as he thus spake for himself,.... Asserting the integrity and innocence of his past life and conversation, in proof of which he appealed to the Jews themselves; setting forth the prejudices to the Christian religion he had been under; declaring the heavenly vision that had appeared to him, and the divine orders he had received; alleging, that in his ministry there was an entire harmony between him, and the writings of Moses, and the prophets, for which the Jews professed a veneration; as he was thus vindicating himself, ere he had well finished his apology,

Festus said with a loud voice; that all might hear, and being moved with resentment at what he had heard; and it may be, he was displeased with Paul that he took so much notice of Agrippa, and so often addressed him, and appealed to him, when he scarce ever turned to, or looked at him:

Paul, thou art beside thyself; not in thy senses, or right mind, to talk of such an appearance and vision, and especially of the resurrection of a person from the dead. This is no unusual thing for the ministers of the Gospel to be reckoned madmen, and the doctrines they preach madness and folly: our Lord himself was said to be beside himself, and to have a devil, and be mad; and so were his apostles, Mark 3:21 and it is not to be wondered at that natural men should entertain such an opinion of them, since what they deliver is quite out of their sphere and reach: Festus added,

much learning doth make thee mad; the apostle was a man of much learning, both Jewish, Greek, and Roman; and Festus perceived him to be of great reading by his making mention of Moses, and the prophets, writings which he knew nothing at all of. And as this sometimes is the case, that much reading, and hard study, do cause men to be beside themselves, he thought it was Paul's case: so the philosopher (f) suggests, that men of great wit and learning, and who are closely engaged in study, whether in philosophy, or politics, or poetry, or in technical affairs, are inclined to be melancholy, and phrenetic.

(f) Aristotel. Problem. sect. 30.

{8} And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.

(8) The wisdom of God is madness to fools, yet nonetheless we must boldly confirm the truth.

Acts 26:24. While he was thus speaking in his defence, Festus said with a loud voice (μεγ. τῇ φωνῇ, see on Acts 14:10), Thou art mad, Paul! ταῦτα is to be referred to the whole defence (as to ἀπολογ. τι, see on Luke 12:11), now interrupted by Festus (observe the present participle), but in which certainly the words spoken last (οὐδὲν ἐκτὸς κ.τ.λ.) were most unpalatable to the cold-hearted statesman, and at length raised his impatience to the point of breaking out aloud. His profane mind remained unaffected by the holy inspiration of the strange speaker, and took his utterances as the whims of a mind perverted by much study from the equilibrium of a sound understanding. His μαίνῃ! was indignant earnestness; with all the more earnestness and bitterness he expressed the idea of eccentricity by this hyperbolical μαίνῃ, the more he now saw his hope of being enlightened as to the true state of matters grievously disappointed. Comp. Soph. O. R. 1300: τίς σʼ, ὦ τλῆμον, προσέβη μανία! That solicitude of the procurator (Acts 25:26), which naturally governed his tone of mind, was much too anxious and serious for a jest, such as Olshausen takes it to be. Nor does μεγάλῃ τῇ φωνῇ suit this, on which Chrysostom already correctly remarks: οὕτω ην κ. ὀργῆς ἡ φωνή. The explanation, thou art an enthusiast! is nothing but a mistaken softening of the expression. So Kuhn (in Wolf), Majus (Obss. IV. p. 11 ff.), Loesner, Schleusner, Dindorf. However the furor propheticus may be nourished by plunging into πολλὰ γράμματα, the μαίνῃ in this sense is far less suited to the indignation of the annoyed Roman; and that Paul regarded himself as declared by him to be a madman, is evident from Acts 26:25—(ἀληθείας κ. σωφροσ.).

τὰ πολλά σε γράμματα)] multae literae (Vulgate), the much knowledge, learning, with which thou busiest thyself. See on John 7:15. Not: the many books, which thou readest (Heinrichs, Kuinoel, Hildebrand), for, if so, we cannot see why the most naturally occurring word, βιβλία or βίβλοι, should not have been used.

The separation of πολλά from γράμ. by the interposition of σε puts the emphasis on πολλά. Bengel correctly adds: “Videbat Festus, naturam non agere in Paulo; gratiam non vidit.”

Acts 26:24. ἀπολ.: the present participle, indicating that Festus broke in upon the speech, cf. Acts 4:1.—μεγ. τῇ φ.: raising his voice, because interrupting in surprise and astonishment, and no doubt with something of impatience if not of anger (Chrysostom).—Μαίνῃ: a hyperbolic, but not a jesting expression; the mention not only of a resurrection, but the expressed belief that this Christ Whom Festus could only describe as “one who was dead,” Acts 25:19, should bring light not only to Jews but even to Gentiles, to Romans like himself, was too much—such a belief could only result from a disturbed brain, cf. Acts 17:32 for the effect of the announcement of a resurrection and a judgment on the polished Athenians, cf. St.John 10:20, where our Lord’s words provoked a similar pronouncement by the Jews, the learned Jews of the capital. μαίνεσθαι: “qui ita loquitur ut videatur mentis non compos esse,” Grimm, cf. Acts 12:15, 1 Corinthians 14:23, opposite to σωφροσύνης ῥήματα ἀποφθ. (see also Page’s note); cf. the passage in Wis 5:3-4, and Luckock, Footsteps of the Apostles, etc., ii., p. 263.—τὰ πολλά σε γράμματα: “thy much learning,” R.V., giving the force of the article perhaps even more correctly, “that great learning of thine”. It is possible that the words may refer simply to the learning which Paul had just shown in his speech, of which we may have only a summary, and γράμμ. may be used of the sacred writings from which he had been quoting, and to which in his utterances he may have applied the actual word, and so Festus refers to them by the same term, cf. 2 Timothy 3:15. Others refer the word to the many rolls which St. Paul had with him, and which he was so intent in studying. It is possible that the word may be used here as in John 7:15, of sacred learning in general, of learning in the Rabbinical schools, and perhaps, as it is employed by a Roman, of learning in a more general sense still, although here including sacred learning = μαθήματα, cf. Plat., Apol., 26 D. If books alone had been meant βιβλία or βίβλοι would have been the word used.—περιτρέπει εἰς μανίαν: “doth turn thee to madness,” R.V., cf. our English phrase “his head is turned,” literally “turn thee round” (Humphry), cf. Jos., Ant., ix., 4, 4, ii., 4, 1. It is possible that Festus used the expression with a certain delicacy, since in using it he recognises how much wisdom Paul had previously shown (Weiss, Bethge). After such an expression of opinion by Festus, and owing to the deference of Agrippa to the Romans, Knabenbauer thinks that the king could not have expressed himself seriously in the words which follow in Acts 26:28.

24–32. Interruption by Festus. Appeal to Agrippa. Consultation and decision

24 Festus said with a loud voice] Probably what had last fallen from Paul seemed to him little better than lunatic ravings. The Gospel of the Cross did appear as “foolishness” to the Gentile world. And this Gospel he had just heard in all its fulness: that the Christ by suffering of death and rising to life again should be the source of true enlightenment both to Jews and Gentiles.

Paul, thou art beside thyself [R. V. mad]. As the same word is taken up in the following verse, it is better that it should be rendered alike in both places.

much learning doth make thee mad] Lit. (with R. V.) “doth turn thee to madness.” But there is nothing gained by construing thus, and much is lost in English vigour. “Much learning” is literally “the many writings.” As in John 7:15, where the same word is rendered “letters,” it may mean study and learning generally. But it seems better to take it of those writings (viz. the Old Testament) to which Paul had been appealing. For as a religious literature no nation, not even the polished Greeks, had anything to place in comparison with the Sacred Books of the Jews.

Acts 26:24. Μαίνῃ Παῦλε, thou art mad, Paul) It is thou, Festus, who art mad. Festus saw that it is not nature which acts in Paul: he was not capable of seeing grace: wherefore he supposes that it was a Jewish kind of enthusiastic phrensy, of the same kind as was that among the Gentiles, according to their own fables. He does not ascribe to Paul habitual madness, but a particular act and feeling of madness then: comp. ch. Acts 12:15.—γράμματα, learning) Festus accounts the apostle’s ardour as the effect of overmuch learning [Pedantry].

Verse 24. - Made his defense for spake for himself, A.V. (ἀπολογουμένου, as ver. 2); saith for said, A.V.; mad for beside thyself, A.V.; thy much for much, A.V.; turn thee to madness for make thee mad, A.V. With a loud voice. Another detail, betraying the eyewitness of the scene described. Thou art mad (μαίνῃ); Acts 12:15; John 10:20; 1 Corinthians 14:23. Much learning (τὰ πολλά γράμματα). So John 7:15, "How knoweth this man letters (γράμματα)?" is equivalent to Whence hath this man this wisdom? (Matthew 13:54). And ἀγράμματος ιν Acts 4:13 is "unlearned." The excited interruption by Festus shows that he was unable to accept the truths enunciated by the apostle. The ideas of fulfilled prophecy, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of a crucified Jew giving light to the great Roman world, were" foolishness unto him," because he lacked spiritual discernment. He thought the apostle's glowing words must be the outcome of a disordered mind. Turn thee to madness (εἰς μανίαν περιτρέπει). The word μανία (mania) occurs only here in the New Testament. But it is the technical name in medical writers for the disease of μανία, mania, and is also common in classical writers. The verb for "doth turn" (περιτρέπει) is also peculiar to St. Luke, being found only in this place. It is used by Plato, but specially by medical writers, as is also the substantive formed from it, περιτροπή, spoken of the "turn" taken by a disease, and the simple verb τρέπει and τρέπεται: e.g. ἔτρεψε γνώμην ἐς μανίην: ἐς σκυθρωππὸν ἡ μανίη τρέπεται: τοῖς μαινομένοισι ἄλλοτε μὲν ἐς ὀῤγὴν ἄλλοτε δὲ ἐς θυμηδίαν (mirth) ἡγνώμη τρέπεται, etc. (Hobart, p. 468). Acts 26:24Much learning doth make thee mad (τὰ πολλά σε γράμματα εἰς μανίαν περιτρέπει)

The A. V. omits the article with much learning: "the much knowledge" with which thou art busied. Rev., "thy much learning." Doth make thee mad: literally, is turning thee to madness.

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