Now we get the account of Paul’s ‘trial’ before Felix. A little about this guy: “Felix’s cruelty and licentiousness, coupled with his accessibility to bribes, led to a great increase of crime in Judaea. The period of his rule was marked by internal feuds and disturbances, which he put down with severity.” (Wiki)
OK, so he wasn’t an exemplary or fair governor; the lawyer who addresses him in v 2 is just sucking up with flattering lies. Also interesting to note that the lawyer, Tertullus, presumably did not want to refer to Paul’s followers as Christians (see v 5) since the term arises from Greek Christos (literally “Anointed One”, “Messiah”), and its use might imply Tertullus’ recognition of Jesus of Nazareth as a Davidic “Anointed One,” or “Messiah.”
The opening statements in the case are pretty much as expected; note that in v 14, Christianity is referred to as a cult. But Felix never rules on the case; he prevaricates for 2 years! The reason – because his wife is Jewish. I guess he figures he can’t win this one. Haha 😉
Who’s who in this chapter: Porcius Festus was procurator of Judea from about AD 59 to 62, although these dates (like all the others) are estimates. Herod Agrippa II (AD 27/28 – ca. 92 or 100, officially named Marcus Julius Agrippa, was the seventh and last king of the family of Herod the Great. He was the son of the first and better-known Herod Agrippa, and the brother of Drusilla (second wife of the Roman procurator Antonius Felix). He was educated at the court of the emperor Claudius, and voiced his support for the Jews to Claudius. He was also acquainted with the historian Josephus, having supplied him with information for his history. (Wiki)
So now we can make sense of the events of this chapter. It starts off with those pesky Jews conspiring again, but Paul must have 9 lives, because he dodges another bullet. Now he will be tried before Festus – how many times can he be tried for the same ‘crime’? This is round 3 already. But Festus tries to avoid delivering a verdict, too. It seems they’re all afraid of the same thing – rioting and insurrection. So Festus leaps at the opportunity to move the trial when Paul appeals to Caesar (v 12). Then Agrippa shows up to visit, and the men discuss the case. From the conversation, I can see the beginnings of our legal system. It’s an improvement on the OT, anyway. (But then how come Jesus didn’t get a fair trial? His case was only a few years earlier.) And from Festus’ remarks in v 18-19, and 24-27, it’s plain that he thinks the case is bizarre and Paul is just some kind of religious wing-nut.
Now Paul pleads his case to Agrippa; he begins with flattery. However, he does have a point in v 3; Herod Agrippa was Jewish. Now we get to hear Paul’s life story and his conversion for the third time – whoopee! In this version, he adds that the men accompanying him to Damascus were knocked to the ground. But his plea is passionate, and he makes a good case for free speech, at least. In v 22-23 he refers to OT prophesy, but there’s no specific passage mentioned; there are number that could apply, the most obvious being the ‘suffering servant’ stories in Isaiah, esp chapter 53. From v 24, I see that I was correct in the last chapter – Festus thinks Paul is nuts. But Paul is nothing if not bold, and next he tries to evangelize Agrippa – can’t you just see it?? The king is not impressed…
I have to admit, there is finally a story here worth following. I’m actually looking forward to learning Paul’s fate. Only 2 more chapters; I know he will get sent to Rome. Tune in for the finale tomorrow.