Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.Acts 24:1-9. Arrival of the Accusers. Speech of Tertullus, their advocate
1. And after five days] Most naturally this means after St Paul’s arrival in Cæsarea, and the events narrated at the end of chap. 23 But it may mean five days after the departure of the Apostle from Jerusalem. The chief captain would give notice to the high priest of what he had done as soon as it was safe to do so. After learning that they must go to Cæsarea with their accusation, the enemies of St Paul would spend some little time in preparing their charge for the hearing of Felix, and in providing themselves with an advocate. And as they would not probably travel with as much haste as St Paul’s convoy did, five days is not a long interval to elapse before they arrived in Cæsarea.
Ananias the high priest] He would be sure to be hot against the Apostle after that speech about the “whited wall.”
descended] Rev. Ver. [came down], i.e. from the capital to the sea-coast city of Cæsarea.
with the elders] The best MSS. have “with certain elders.” It is not likely that all the elders came. There would be some, who belonged to the Pharisees, who would rather have spoken in favour of St Paul. Those who came would be Sadducees, and so only a portion of the Council.
and with a certain orator named Tertullus] Rev. Ver. “and with an orator, one Tertullus.” This man, as we may judge from his name, which is a modification of the Latin Tertius, was a Roman, and would be chosen because of his knowledge of Roman law, and his ability to place the case before Felix in such a light as to make it seem that Paul was dangerous to the Roman power, and not merely a turbulent and renegade Jew. We see below that he endeavoured to do this.
who informed, &c.] Better with Rev. Ver. “And they informed.” Thus it is shewn that the relative in the original refers not merely to Tertullus but to the whole deputation. The verb is one which St Luke uses in other places (Acts 25:2; Acts 25:15) of the laying a formal information before a judge. It is also used, Esther 2:22, of Esther laying the information of the plot of the two chamberlains before king Ahasuerus.
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,2. And when he was called forth] There is nothing in the original to represent “forth” which is consequently omitted by the Rev. Ver. The “calling” referred to is that of the crier of the court calling on the case.
Tertullus began to accuse him] St Luke has given us but the digest of the advocate’s speech. The seven verses, in which it is included, and a large part of which is occupied with compliments to the judge, would not have occupied three minutes in the delivery.
Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness] [much peace] The orator seizes on almost the only point in the government of Felix on which he could hang any praise. By severity he had put down false Messiahs, and the partizans of an Egyptian magician, as well as riots in Cæsarea and Jerusalem, so that the country was in a more peaceful condition than it had been for a long time past.
and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence] Better (with Rev. Ver. and in accordance with the oldest MSS.) “and that by thy providence evils are corrected for this nation.” The word rendered “providence” is found 2Ma 4:6 where what is literally “without the king’s providence” is rendered “unless the king did look thereto.” It was by the severe looking thereto of Felix that disorders were corrected, though we learn from Tacitus (Hist. Acts 24:9; Ann. xii. 54) that his severity in the end bore evil fruit, and it seems probable that his main motive in suppressing other plunderers was that there might be the more left for himself.
We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness.3. we accept it always [Better, in all ways] and in all places] The word rendered “in all ways” is only found here in N. T. and does not mean “always.” Some would join “in all ways and in all places” with the former part of the sentence thus: “evils are corrected for this nation in all ways and in all places.” “We accept it” means “we acknowledge and are glad of it.”
most noble [R. V. excellent] Felix] The adjective is the same title which was given to Felix in the letter from Claudius Lysias, and which is afterwards given to Festus by St Paul (Acts 26:25).
Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words.4. be not … tedious] The notion in the verb is that of stopping a person’s way and so hindering him. Tertullus would imply that Felix was so deeply engaged in his public duties that every moment was precious.
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:5. For we have found this man a pestilent fellow] The Greek literally says “a pestilence.” The same word in the plural is translated “pestilent fellows” in 1Ma 10:61, and it is further explained there by “men of a wicked life.” When they say “we have found” it is implied that they have already spent some pains in detecting the evil ways of the prisoner.
and a mover of sedition] (insurrections, with oldest MSS. and Rev. Ver.). The first charge had been one of general depravity. On coming to particulars Tertullus puts that first which would most touch the Roman power, and against which Felix had already shewn himself to be severe. Insurrections were of such common occurrence that one man might at this time be readily the prime mover in many.
among all the Jews throughout the world] We must bear in mind that Paul had been assailed at a time when Jerusalem was full of strangers come to the feast. It is not improbable that from some of the Jewish visitors particulars had been gathered about the Apostle’s troubles at Philippi, Corinth, Ephesus and elsewhere, which in the minds and on the lips of his accusers would be held for seditious conduct, conduct which had brought him at times under the notice of the tribunals. This Tertullus would put forward in its darkest colours. “The world” at this time meant “the whole Roman Empire.” Cp. Cæsar’s decree (Luke 2:1) that “all the world” should be taxed.
a ringleader] The word is used in classical Greek of the front-rank men in an army.
of the sect of the Nazarenes] The adjective is used as a term of reproach equivalent to “the followers of him of Nazareth,” which origin was to the mind of the Jews enough to stamp Jesus as one of the many false Messiahs. Cp. on the despised character of Nazareth, John 1:46.
Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law.6. who also hath gone about [who moreover assayed R. V.] to profane the temple] The old English “gone about” was equivalent to “attempted.” Cp. Shaks. Mids. Nt. D. iv. 1. 212: “Man is but an ass, if he go about to expound this dream.” But the expression is somewhat obsolete now.
It is noteworthy that the Jews no longer adhere to their definite charge as made Acts 21:28, but only impute to St Paul the attempt at profanation.
whom we took] i.e. by main force. They would represent their proceedings as an arrest of a grave offender.
and would, &c.] These words, as well as Acts 24:7 and Acts 24:8 down to “come unto thee” are omitted in nearly all the oldest MSS., and by the Rev. Ver., while the Greek Text, in those MSS. where it is found, exhibits many variations. But in spite of this it is very difficult to see how the advocate could have avoided some allusion to the circumstances mentioned in these words. Of course he puts the matter in a light most favourable to the Jews. “We would have judged him according to our law” is very different language from that in which (Acts 23:27) Lysias describes Paul as in danger to be killed by the Jews. The action of Lysias too is described by Tertullus as one of great violence. Probably the Roman soldiers would not handle the mob tenderly. But Tertullus is trying to cast blame upon the chief captain and to represent his party as doing all things according to law.
according to our law] Tertullus identifies himself, advocate-like, with the Jews whose mouthpiece he is.
But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands,7. But the chief captain Lysias] If this verse be an interpolation, it differs from others in the Acts very greatly. In other parts of the book such insertions have merely been made to bring the whole of a narrative under view at once, and there has been no variation of an account previously given elsewhere. But here we have a passage not representing the facts as stated before, but giving such a version of them as might make Lysias appear to have been in the wrong, and to have exercised his power in Jerusalem most arbitrarily against men who were only anxious to preserve the purity of their sacred temple. As both the Syriac and the Vulgate represent the passage it is not quite satisfactory to reject it.
Commanding his accusers to come unto thee: by examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things, whereof we accuse him.8. commanding his accusers to come unto thee] Which Lysias had not done till Paul was removed beyond reach of pursuit.
by examining of whom] In the A. V. the relative “whom” is here naturally referred to “accusers.” A glance at the Greek shews that this cannot be, for it is in the singular number. The Rev. Ver. gives the literal rendering of the passage thus, “From whom thou wilt be able, by examining him thyself. to take knowledge, &c.” If the supposed interpolation be accepted as text, then “whom” and “him” would most properly be referred to Lysias. Felix might on the arrival of the chief captain question him and learn the truth of what had taken place. And with this the remark of Felix in Acts 24:22 fits in, “When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will determine your matter.” If however the doubtful words be rejected, then the pronouns must refer to St Paul. But it is curious, to say the least, that Tertullus should suggest to Felix that the truth of his case should be supported by an examination of the person accused. It has therefore been suggested that the word rendered “examining” has regard to some process of torture by which a prisoner might be forced to confess the truth. But for this no sufficient support has been found. The noun derived from this verb is employed (Acts 25:26) for the inquiry before Agrippa. On the whole there seems quite as much to be said in favour of the Textus Receptus from internal evidence, as can be brought against it by the evidence of MSS.
And the Jews also assented, saying that these things were so.9. And the Jews also assented] [Rev. Ver. joined in the charge.] The verb implies much more than assent. They made common cause with their representative, and by their own language reiterated the accusation.
saying (R. V. affirming) that these things were so] Ananias and the elders must have first instructed their orator. So that the speech was what they had supplied him with, and must have their accord.
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:10–21. St Paul’s answer to the charge
10. Then Paul, &c.] When the governor had given him leave to speak the Apostle addressed his defence to the points charged against him. He had not excited the people, nor been the leader of any body of Nazarenes, nor had he polluted the temple.
thou hast been of many years a judge] We have arrived in the history at about a.d. 58 or 59, and Felix had been made procurator in a.d. 52. So that “many years” is about six or seven. But many of the governors were recalled before they had held office so long. In Acts 24:17 “many years” must be about four or five.
I do the more cheerfully, &c.] The best MSS. have the positive, “I cheerfully make my defence.” St Paul was so far of good courage, because the experience of Felix, and his knowledge of Jewish manners and customs, would enable him to appreciate the statements which related to the Apostle’s presence in Jerusalem.
Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship.11. because that thou mayest understand] Rev. Ver. taking a slightly different reading, “Seeing that thou canst take knowledge.” The Apostle means that it was easy to find evidence about all that had happened in such a short space of time. Beside which Felix’s knowledge of Jewish customs would tell him that this was just the time at which foreign Jews came to Jerusalem.
that there are yet but twelve days] The Rev. Ver. has the more modern English, which is also closer to the Greek, “that it is not more than twelve days.” The time may be accounted for thus: the day of St Paul’s arrival, the interview with James on the second day, five days may be given to the separate life in the temple during the vow, then the hearing before the council, next day the conspiracy, the tenth day St Paul reached Cæsarea, and on the thirteenth day (which leaves five days (Acts 24:1), as Jews would reckon from the conspiracy to the hearing in Cæsarea) St Paul is before Felix. See Farrar’s St Paul, ii. 338 (note).
since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship] The Rev. Ver. gets rid of the antiquated English by rendering, “since I went up to worship at Jerusalem.” But the A. V. gives more of the emphasis which St Paul intended to lay on the object of his visit. He went on purpose to worship. Was it likely that he would try to profane the temple? And the verb which he uses expresses all the lowly adoration common among Orientals. The Apostle probably chose it for this reason. He would have Felix know that it was in a most reverent frame of mind that he came to the feast.
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:12. And they neither found me, &c.] The Apostle gives a flat denial to the charge of insurrection, and challenges them to prove any single point of it. He had not even entered into discussion with any man.
raising up the people] Rev. Ver. “stirring up a crowd.” For the crowd was gathered by the Jews.
Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.13. neither can they prove (Rev. Ver., with MS. authority, adds to thee) the things, &c.] The proof must be such as the law required, not the mere multiplied assertions of the accusers. The verb implies a formal setting-forth of evidence, and is used by Josephus (De vita sua, 6) of an array of proof which he has set forth to shew that his fellow-countrymen did not enter on a war till they were forced.
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:14. after the way which they call heresy] Better (with Rev. Ver.) “after the Way which they call a sect.” The word is the same which is used in Acts 24:5 for the “sect” of the Nazarenes. St Paul employs the expression “the Way,” in that sense in which it soon became well known, to signify “the Christian religion.” See note on Acts 9:2.
so worship I the God of my fathers] Better, as Rev. Ver., “so serve I the God of our fathers.” The verb is not the same as in Acts 24:11. Here the notion is of service which a man is bound to pay. The Apostle means that he has cast off no morsel of his old allegiance. The adjective can equally be rendered by “my fathers” or “our fathers,” but St Paul’s aim is to shew that he has not severed himself from the ancestral faith of the whole nation, and so his thought would include himself with them.
believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets] The Rev. Ver. gives very literally “all things which are according to the Law, and which are written in the Prophets.” The Apostle thus testifies to his complete acceptance of all the Jewish Scriptures. Sometimes the division is given as “the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44), but more frequently, as in the text, only two sections are named (cp. Matthew 7:12; Matthew 11:13; Matthew 22:40; Luke 16:16; John 1:45).
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.15. and have (R. V. having) hope … which they themselves also allow] (R. V. look for). Here the Apostle is of course alluding only to the Pharisees among his own people, but he puts them as representatives of the larger part of the nation. The Rev. Ver. renders “which these also themselves look for.” If the Apostle employed the words in that sense he would be turning towards the body of Jews in the court rather than to the Sadducees and their spokesman.
that there shall be a resurrection of the dead] The best MSS. give nothing for the last three words. St Paul adheres to the point which had before provoked the anger of Ananias and his party, and they must have been the more irritated because the words of the Apostle declare their opponents, the Pharisees, to be holding the true faith, and imply that such is the general belief of the Jewish people.
both of the just and unjust] Speaking in the presence of Felix, the Apostle seems to have chosen words to touch the conscience of the Procurator.
And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.16. And herein do I exercise myself] “Herein” i.e. in the worship, faith and hope spoken of in the two last verses. While holding this belief, and because I hold it, I try to keep my conscience clear. “I exercise myself” that I may, by constant training and striving, at length get near to what I aim after.
to have always a conscience void of offence, &c.] The Rev. Ver., to preserve the Greek order, puts “alway” at the end of the verse. A man who strove for such an object was neither likely to be a profaner of the Temple, nor a pestilent mover of sedition. His religion was worked into his life.
Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.17. Now after many years] He had come to Jerusalem on the return from his second missionary journey in a.d. 53. It was now a.d. 58, so that his absence had lasted four or five years (see note on Acts 24:10).
I came to bring alms to my nation] These consisted of the money which had been collected in the churches of Macedonia and Achaia at St Paul’s request, and which is often alluded to in his epistles (cp. 1 Corinthians 16:1; Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:4, &c.). There could be no desire to wound the feelings of the Jews in a man who had come for such a purpose. It is noticeable too that he describes the alms as not for the Christians only, but for his nation, conveying by the word the impression of his great regard for all the Jews.
and offerings] These were the sacrifices connected with the vow which he had undertaken. They must be offered in the Temple, and the offered was not likely to be one who thought of profaning the holy place.
Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult.18. Whereupon] According to the best MSS. the relative here, by its gender, must be referred to the “offerings” which have just been named. Read (with Rev. Ver.) Amidst which, i.e. engaged in offering which oblations.
certain Jews from Asia] These words should, according to all authorities, be placed in the latter clause of the verse. Read “Amidst which they found, &c.”
found me purified] i.e. abstaining from all things forbidden by the law of the Nazarites. See Numbers 6:3-8.
neither with multitude, &c.] The gathering of a crowd and raising a disturbance would have been the first steps towards some act of profanation. But even this he had not done. The original requires that we should continue the sentence, “but there were certain Jews from Asia,” as in the Rev. Ver. It was from the Asiatic Jews, perhaps those from Ephesus, that the uproar had at first been originated. It would appear also that part of Tertullus’ argument was derived from their information. Of these Asiatic Jews St Paul was now about to speak, but he checks himself, and does not say any word against them, only that they ought to have been here to explain the offence for which he had been assailed.
Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me.19. and object] Better (with Rev. Ver.), “and to make accusation.” They had set the cry against him, and now did not come to say what he had done wrong. They were probably on their way home, now that the feast was over.
Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council,20. Or else let these same here (R. V. these men themselves) say] i.e. the Sadducees with Ananias. The assailants of St Paul were of two classes, first the Asiatic Jews, who were furious against him because of his preaching among the Gentiles in their cities, then those in Jerusalem who hated him for preaching the resurrection. He challenges them both, and when the former do not appear, he turns to the other.
if they have found any evil doing in me] The oldest MSS. have “what wrong doing they found,” omitting “in me.”
while (Better, when) I stood before the council] Up to the moment, when in the presence of the council he had spoken of the resurrection and so produced a division in the assembly, there was no act of St Paul which had to do with any disturbance. The tumult in the temple and while he was speaking from the Tower-stairs was all caused by the Jewish mob.
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.21. except it be for this one voice] i.e. this exclamation or cry. From Acts 23:6 we see that St Paul lifted up his voice, when he mentioned the resurrection.
I am called in question by (R. V. with MSS. before) you] “To call in question” means “to put one on his trial.” Cf. Shaks. Henry IV. (pt. 2) i. 2. 68, “He that was in question for the robbery.”
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.22–27. Adjournment of the cause. Felix’s treatment of St Paul
22. having more perfect knowledge of that way] Better “the way,” i.e. the Christian religion, for which this soon became the accepted name. See on Acts 9:2. Felix was more likely to understand something of the relations between Judaism and Christianity, because he had a Jewish wife, Drusilla, daughter of Herod Agrippa I., one who had been brought by her position into connexion with the movements of the time.
For those introductory words of this verse represented in A.V. by “when he heard these things,” there is no Greek in the oldest MSS. Read (with Rev. Ver.) “But Felix, having, &c.”
When Lysias the chief captain shall come down] There had been nothing said in the letter of Lysias, so far as we have it, about his coming to Cæsarea, but no doubt he went often between Jerusalem and the residence of the governor. The language of this verse gives some support to the genuineness of Acts 24:7. (See note there.)
I will know the uttermost of your matter] Better, “I will determine.” Cp. Acts 23:15.
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.23. And he commanded a centurion] The Greek noun has the article, therefore the Rev. Ver. gives “the centurion.” It might perhaps be one of the two whom Lysias had put in charge of the conveyance of Paul (Acts 23:23). One might be appointed to go on to Cæsarea, while the other returned with the larger part of the convoy from Antipatris.
to keep Paul] The best MSS. omit the proper name. Read (with Rev. Ver.) “that he should be kept in charge.” The verb only conveys the idea of safe keeping, not of severe detention, and it is clear that for some reason Felix shewed himself well-disposed towards the Apostle. Either his conscience moved him, or his hope of gain, or perhaps the flattery and compliments of Tertullus had overshot their mark.
and to let him have liberty] Better, “and should have indulgence.” That is, there should be a relaxation of prison rules in his case.
and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance] In order to join on better with the previous clause, read (with Rev. Ver.) “and not to forbid any of his friends.” The original has a word stronger than “acquaintance.” It refers more particularly to such matters as country, home, family and friends, which are specially a man’s own. Here from our limited knowledge we are only able to think of Philip the Evangelist who would be particularly a friend of St Paul, but he had been more than once before in Cæsarea, and he had no doubt made himself known there as in other places. Those unnamed disciples of Cæsarea (Acts 21:16) would be among those who had a warm interest in St Paul, and it is clear from St Luke’s language that there were friends at hand and ready to visit the Apostle when they were allowed.
to minister or come unto him] The best MSS. have no Greek for “or come.” The verb “minister” implies the doing of those services of which a prisoner even under such liberal conditions must ever stand in need. They would be his means of communication with the outer world. And the cupidity of Felix may have suggested that through these friends the means might be supplied for purchasing the Apostle’s release.
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.24. And after certain days, when Felix came, &c.] To conform to the Greek more strictly, the Rev. Ver. reads “But after certain days, Felix came, &c.” It is difficult to say what is gained by this. Felix did not always reside in Cæsarea. After the first hearing of St Paul’s cause he had gone away for a time, but on his return he sent for the Apostle to question him on his doctrine. Perhaps those words about the resurrection of the just and the unjust had made him uneasy.
with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess] She was a daughter of Herod Agrippa I. and so sister of Agrippa II. and of Bernice. She had formerly been married to Azizus, King of Emesa, but had been induced by Felix to leave her husband, and become his wife. Though she had been only six years of age when her father died (Acts 12:23) she may have heard of the death of James the brother of John, and the marvellous delivery of St Peter from prison. For such matters would be talked of long after they had happened, and perhaps her father’s sudden death may have been ascribed by some to God’s vengeance for what he had done against the Christians. Her marriage with the Gentile Felix shewed that she was by no means a strict Jewess, and what she had heard of Jewish opposition to St Paul’s teaching may have made her, as well as her husband, desirous to hear him.
sent for Paul] The Apostle was lodged in some part of the procurator’s official residence (see Acts 23:35, note) and so was close at hand.
and heard him concerning the faith in Christ] The best MSS. add Jesus. What St Paul would urge was not only a belief in the Christ, for whose coming all Jews were looking, but a belief that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah whom they had so long expected.
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.25. And as he reasoned … and judgment [R. V. the judgement] to come] It was to be no barren faith which St Paul commended, but was to have its fruits in the life. Felix perhaps expected some philosophical dissertation on the subject of the resurrection, and the life after death. His own conduct, of which Tacitus (Ann. xii. 54, Hist. Acts 24:9) speaks as mean and cruel and profligate, would make the subjects on which St Paul addressed him peculiarly disturbing. For what if this man’s teaching should be true?
Felix trembled] The expression is much stronger. It implies that he was filled with fear. Therefore the Rev. Ver. gives “was terrified.” It can hardly be conceived that St Paul was ignorant of the character of those to whom he was speaking. Felix had been in office long enough to be well known. And the Apostle’s themes were exactly those by which he could find the joints in the governor’s harness. Of “righteousness” his life’s history shews no trace, and for temperance, i.e. self-control, the presence of Drusilla by his side proved that he had no regard. Well might such a man be full of fear at the thought, as St Paul would urge it home, of the judgment after death. But the influence of his terror passed away, for we do not read that the Apostle ever beheld such signs of penitence as led him to quiet the terror, by preaching Christ as the atonement for sin.
when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee] [Rev. Ver. call thee unto me]. The convenient season never arrived. Felix did not change his conduct. When two years more of his rule were ended and he was superseded by Festus, the Jews in Cæsarea brought an accusation against him before Nero, and had it not been for his brother Pallas’ influence he would have been punished for his cruelty and injustice. We have no record of how long he lived after his recall from Cæsarea.
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.26. He hoped also (Rev. Ver. withal) that money should have been (R. V. would be) given him of Paul] He had heard the Apostle speak of the contributions which he had gathered for the Jews in Jerusalem. His thought would naturally be that if he could raise money for the needs of others, he could do so for his own release.
that he might loose him] These words are unrepresented in the oldest MSS., and read exactly like a marginal explanation which in time made its way into the text.
wherefore (R. V. wherefore also) he sent … communed with him] The original gives two reasons why Felix sent for Paul. First he desired to hear about the faith in Christ, and secondly to give the Apostle a chance of offering him a bribe. The verb “communed” implies that he brought about somewhat of a friendly intercourse with his prisoner. In this way the proposal for any terms of release would have been made easy.
But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix' room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.27. But after two years] More literally the Rev. Ver. “But when two years were fulfilled;” and it may be that St Luke would indicate by his expression, that it was not a reckoning of time such as was usual among the Jews, where portions of a year were sometimes counted for a whole, but that the Apostle’s detention endured for two years complete.
Porcius Festus came into Felix’ room] Festus was made governor by Nero probably in a.d. 60 and died in about two years. Josephus (B.J. ii. 14. 1) gives him a far better character than his predecessor, but he had the same kind of difficulties to deal with in the outbreaks of the populace and the bands of assassins with which the country was infested. (Jos. Ant. xx. 8. 10) The Rev. Ver. “Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus” comes nearer to the literal rendering “Felix received Porcius Festus as a successor,” but does not make the meaning clearer, and to put “Felix” as the subject in this sentence and in that which immediately follows gives an awkward sound to the English, which was neatly avoided in A.V.
and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure] The literal sense is “to store up for himself favour with the Jews,” therefore the Rev. Ver. gives the proper rendering, “and desiring to gain favour with the Jews.” Of course it may be said that if he shewed favour to them he would gain favour with them. But what he particularly desired at this time was to blunt the anger which the Jews (especially those of Cæsarea) felt against him, that they might be less bitter in their charges against him on his recall. And so he used Paul as his “Mammon of unrighteousness” and left him detained that he might make himself friends thereby.
left Paul bound] [R. V. in bonds.] This seems to indicate that before his departure Felix withdrew the indulgence which had been previously granted to Paul, and put him in bonds, so as to give to his successor the impression, which the Jews desired, that he was deserving of punishment. It would be very interesting to know what St Paul did during the two years that he was kept at Cæsarea. Various conjectures have been ventured on, but none with any ground of certainty. Some, accepting St Paul as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, point to this period as the time of its composition. Others assign to this imprisonment those letters of the Apostle which speak so much of his bonds, viz. to the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians and Philemon, but the evidence in favour of Rome as the place whence they were written seems far to outweigh all that can be said on behalf of Cæsarea. Our only reflection on such a gap as this in the history of St Paul’s work must be that the Acts was not intended to be a narrative of any man’s labours, but how God employed now this servant, now that, for the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ. The remembrance of this will prevent us seeking from the book what it was not meant to give.