May 31, 2016

 

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

 

 

Topic #IV: The Church Advancing to the End of the Earth (Chapters 12-28)            

                    

Subtopic F: Paul in Caesarea (23:23-26:32)                                     

                          

                                                                           

         Lesson: IV.F.2: Paul Before Felix (24:1-21)                                 

 

 

Acts 24:1-21 (KJV)

1 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.

2 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,

3 We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness.

4 Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words.

5 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:

6 Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law.

7 But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands,

8 Commanding his accusers to come unto thee: by examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things, whereof we accuse him.

9 And the Jews also assented, saying that these things were so.

10 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:

11 Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship.

12 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:

13 Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.

14 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:

15 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.

16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men.

17 Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.

18 Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult.

19 Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me.

20 Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council,

21 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.

 

 

 

Introduction

Paul’s removal to Caesarea began a two-year imprisonment in that city.  During these years he had his share of appearances at legal hearings where he stated his case (and therefore the case for the Gospel) before two governors and a king,—Felix, Festus, Herod Agrippa II, Drusilla, Bernice, and also before a varying number of high officials, thus further fulfilling the ministry to which he had been called (9:15).  These were days of high drama as well as of tedious confinement, but through it all Paul maintained his unswerving purpose to serve Christ and the Gospel.

 

It seems that nobody really knew what to do about him until he appealed to Caesar.  Forced into becoming a display for public view so often, the apostle probably felt like he was some freak at a sideshow.

 

 

Commentary

1 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.

 

The word “descended” means he came down since Jerusalem was at a higher elevation than Caesarea. The clause, “the high priest descended with the elders” brings to mind the picture of a flock of vultures descending on its prey.  They came well prepared.  They brought an advocate (lawyer) with them, one who knew how to present a case in flattering terms and with the utmost appeal to the judge.  Probably [8]Tertullus  was a Hellenistic Jew.

 

The first of the two governors to hear Paul’s case was Antonius Felix, the brother of Pallas, the freedman and favorite of the emperor Claudius.  It was through the influence of Pallas that Felix had been appointed to Judea.  Like his brother, he had been a slave, and with reference to this, one Bible scholar remarked that “with savagery and lust he exercised the power of a king with the disposition of a slave.  The information we have of Felix’s public and private life does not paint a pretty picture, at all.  Trading on the influence of his infamous brother, he indulged in every vice and excess, thinking “that he could do any evil act with impunity.”

 

Within five days of Paul’s arrival in Caesarea, the Jews were ready to present their case against him.  This suggests some haste on their part.  Perhaps the Sanhedrin was afraid that unless they acted quickly he might be released for want of a reason for holding him.  The delegation included [1]Ananias, the high priest, a number of elders, and a lawyer (lit., “orator”) named Tertullus, who was their spokesmen.  Words like “according to our law” in verse 6 suggest that he may have been a Jew.  On the other hand, he may simply have been identifying with his clients, for he seems to disassociate himself from the Jews in verse 2 when he calls them “this nation.”

 

 

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,

We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness.

Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words.

 

One would think that Felix was a paragon of virtue, the great peacemaker and benefactor of the Jewish nation, the Prince of Peace himself.  The words of Tertullus were blatant lies.  In fact, his very first statement, Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness” was a lie.  Paul could have rebutted Tertullus by asking him this one question: “Why did it require nearly 500 soldiers to protect one man in transit from Jerusalem to Caesarea? It was true that Felix had put down some revolts, but he had certainly not brought peace to the land.  In fact, during the time Felix was suppressing robbers in his realm, he was also hiring robbers to murder the high priest Jonathan, simply because he refused to cooperate with him.  Felix was known for his cruelty and treachery.  However, the lawyer was not interested in the truth, only in securing the conviction of Paul; and if that involves filling the ears of Felix with flatteries, that is what he would do; though, he must have been hard-pressed to find anything complementary to say.  He did say, or rather he implied that Felix must have been so busy with his reforms that he did not like to keep him from his work any longer than was necessary.  But the truth is that he had not made any improvements in the lives of the Jews and Gentiles of the region.  Instead, he had, in fact, made life miserable for the Jews, which was indicated by the increase in rebellious movements during his term in response to his total lack of sympathy for or understanding of them.  The one thing in his opening remarks that had any foundation in truth was that Felix had brought a kind of peace to the land by suppressing the robber bands that had infected it (24:2). So much for his reforms. 

 

 

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:

 

At this point in his opening remarks Tertullus turned to the charges against Paul.  There were three. For we have found this man a pestilent fellow.”That was the first charge, andit was a very serious one—that he was a troublemaker, the implication being perhaps that this pestilence (lit., a “plague” or “pest”) was contagious.  He was trying to make out that Paul was one of the rash of messianic revolutionaries who were appearing at that time; stirring up the people and forming “parties.”  Tertullus’ ploy was the familiar one of accusing Christians of treason in the hope of involving Rome in what was essentially a religious dispute (17:7; 18:12; 19:37).  Even though it was false, it put Paul in a dangerous position.  The only ground there could have been for any such charge might have been that the account of the uproar in Ephesus, and at Philippi, had reached Jerusalem.  Throughout the book of Acts Luke found it necessary to point out that such charges were false.  Every time Christianity was brought into contact with the Roman administrative system it was consistently confirmed to be a legitimate and law-abiding faith.  It was the Jews, not Paul, who stirred up insurrection and riot in city after city of the empire where Paul preached.  The charge against Paul could not stand impartial investigation.  It was inflammatory and liable to provoke a passionate rather than a reasoned response; hence it was a dangerous accusation.  It was a charge the Romans would not take lightly and it would have immediately grabbed Felix’s attention.  His entire administration had been marked by having to put down one insurrection in Judea after another.  He had done so decisively and cruelly.  He maintained the peace at any cost.

 

The second charge was that Paul was“a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.”The Jews would not call the believers “Christians,” because the name was derived from “Christ” or “Messiah.” Sometimes they were described contemptuously as “Nazarenes,” doubtless a reference to the fact that Jesus came from the despised town of Nazareth. When Philip sought to bring Nathanael to Jesus and Nathanael learned that Jesus was from Nazareth, his instant response was, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).  Similarly, when Nicodemus dared to stand up for Jesus before the Sanhedrin his colleagues sneered: “Art thou also of Galilee?  Search, and look; for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet” (John 7:52).  The scoffers had evidently overlooked Jonah, the only prophet to whom Jesus directly likened Himself and who came from Gath-hepher, just 3 miles northeast of Nazareth.

 

This second charge was certainly true.  Paul was “a ringleader of the Nazarene sect.” Paul was a Christian leader.  By linking the comment with the charge of provoking insurrection, however, Tertullus’ implied that the Christians as a whole were a dangerous and seditious sect and that Paul was one of their main collaborators.  The ramifications of the Jewish charge are now infinitely clear.  Should such a charge be made to stick for Paul, the whole Christian community would be viewed as a dangerous, revolutionary movement.  Fortunately, Tertullus could not substantiate the charge, and Felix was already too well informed about Christians to take it seriously: Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way . . .” (24:22a).

 

The third charge is found in verse 6.

 

 

Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law.

 

And from that charge, Tertullus moved to the next, that of sacrilege, for Paul, he said, had tried [2]“to profane the temple.” As a result of Paul’s attempted desecration, they had arrested him—the advocate made it sound as though this had been an official action, legally carried out, not the wild scene of mob violence that Luke has described in 21:30: “The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut.”  Tertullus implied that the Jews had fully intended to try Paul themselves. This charge was also false, but it had a small amount of truth in it seeing that Paul was in the Temple area when attacked by the mob—something Tertullus carefully avoided mentioning.  Half truths are always more difficult to refute than outright lies.  The buildup of lies, then, was carefully woven and presented as the truth by the orator and given  a cloak of respectability and credibility by the presence of no less an ecclesiastical dignitary than the high priest and members of his college of cardinals, as it were.  Such is always the way of organized religion in seeking to discredit and destroy God’s choicest saints.

 

Had Tertullus substantiated this charge, it would have obligated Felix to turn Paul over to the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin and almost certain death.  The accusation, however, was totally false and based on an erroneous conclusion by the Asian Jews:(They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)” (21:29). This probably is why they were not present to substantiate the charge [3](24:29).

 

Tertullus knew that the Jews had authority from Rome to arrest and prosecute those who violated Jewish Law.  True, the Romans thought that the Jews’ devotion to their traditions was excessive and superstitious; yet Rome wisely let them have their way.  The Jews were even permitted to execute guilty offenders in capital cases, such as Paul’s “offense” of permitting Gentiles to cross the protective barricade and enter the temple (Acts 21:28-29).  Tertullus argued that if Claudius had not interfered, the Jews would have tried Paul themselves, and this would have saved Felix and Rome a great deal of trouble and expense.

 

Paul was accused of promoting fanaticism and heresy.  It is difficult to see how this charge would particularly impress a man like Felix.  Obviously, the Jewish prosecution was trying to cover all its bases.

 

 

But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands,

Commanding his accusers to come unto thee: by examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things, whereof we accuse him.

 

Tertullus was relying on the presence of the high priest and members of the Sanhedrin to lend credibility to this out-and-out lie.  With a flourish he made his big bluff—let Felix examine the prisoner and see for himself.

 

In closing his argument, Tertullus’ hinted that Claudius Lysias should have been there personally and had not just sent the Jewish leaders to present the case.  Why was he absent?  Could he not defend his case?  Was he trying to “pass the buck” to others?  As far as we know, during the two years Paul was detained in Caesarea, Claudius never did show up to tell his side of the story.  We wonder why.

 

Such then was the propaganda speech of Tertullus.  And that is all it was, an attempt to brain wash Felix.  The facts were all against the prosecution, which could only sling mud, hoping that some of it would stick and hoping too, that the political weight of the Sanhedrin might intimidate the judge.  Undoubtedly the plea of Tertullus has been abbreviated by the author of Acts.

 

 

And the Jews also assented, saying that these things were so.

 

Felix doubtless took all this with the proverbial grain of salt.  He knew only too well the character of Ananias.  In fact, in terms of unscrupulousness, Ananias and Felix were birds of a feather.  Just the same, Felix was not likely to give Paul impartial judgment if he saw it as advantageous to himself.

 

The term “assented” means “joined in the charge,” that is, they indicated that they were in agreement with these charges made against Paul.  The “Jews” are the religious rulers who came down to press charges.

 

 

10 Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of [4]many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself:

 

Paul then proceeded to answer the charges of Tertullus’ (24:10-16), the Asian Jews (24:17-19) and the Jewish Council (24:20-21).  It is noteworthy that Paul does not mention any of Felix’s deeds as a benefactor of the Jewish people—probably because there were none. Paul avoided the absurd flattery of Tertullus.  He did, however, give a compliment to his judge.  Jewish religious and political matters were complex, and very few Roman governors tried to understand them.  At least Felix had been in office long enough to have acquired a working knowledge of Jewish affairs.  He would certainly know what a scoundrel Ananias was.  That may be the reason Felix did not take up the suggestion that he should question the prisoner.  Instead, he indicated that Paul should speak for himself.  Perhaps it was indicative of his sense of power that without a word, by a mere nod of the head, Felix gestured for Paul to begin his defense.

 

 

11 Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship.

 

Paul’s first point was that he was only a visitor to Jerusalem.  His coming to Jerusalem, he said, was “to worship.” In fact, this may be seen as his answer to all three charges—“reverence, not insurrection; conformity, not heresy; worship, not profanity.” It was less than two weeks since he had arrived in the city to participate in the festivities of Pentecost, and some of that time he had been in custody.  It was absurd to accuse him of hatching plots.  He had not had time to incite riot and insurrection in Jerusalem.  Moreover, the fact that he had come to Jerusalem “to worship” would defuse the charge that he deliberately committed sacrilege in the Temple.  There were other reasons for his coming besides this, as he himself stated and in verse 17, but naturally he mentioned first the one that represented his best defense.

 

It’s obvious, from the text that Paul had not preached in the temple or the synagogues, nor had he preached anywhere in the city.  (Years before, Paul had made an agreement with Peter and the Jerusalem elders that he would not evangelize the Jews in Jerusalem.  See Galatians 2:7-10.) Nobody could prove that he was guilty of leading any kind of rebellion against the Jews or the Romans.

 

 

12 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:

13 Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.

 

There it was.  Paul gave the bold and unequivocal answer to the charges brought against him—they were lies.  Truth was on his side.  Anyone could make accusations.  It was the proof that mattered.  His accusers had no proof because there was no proof.

 

Again we cannot help but wonder where Paul’s friends and fellow-believers were at this time, the hour of his trial. James, where are you?  We have no doubt that Luke and Titus and Paul’s Gentile friends would be glad to help if they could, but their testimony might be twisted by this court, as the Sanhedrin would certainly use the presence of Paul’s Gentile friends as “proof” he had admitted Gentiles into the temple courts.  But James!  James, though a Christian, had a good reputation with all the Jews.  Where are you, James?  Come forward and explain why Paul was in the Temple in the first place.  And you others—you four men with the vow.  Come and tell how Paul paid your expenses so that you could properly terminate your vow.  What are you?  Come and bear witness to the fact he was with you, not with any Gentiles, and that, far from committing a sacrilege, he was offering sacrifice.

 

For his second answer to the charge Paul stated that he had not stirred up any crowds—not in the temple area, not in the Jewish synagogues, not anywhere in the city.  There had been quite a crowd in the temple area, but it was the Asian Jews—not Paul—who incited it: “some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple; they stirred up the whole crowd and seized him” (21:27).  If the Romans wanted to charge someone with disturbing the peace, they had best look elsewhere, not to Paul.

 

Finally, Paul replied with his third response, the Jews simply could not give any proof for their accusations that would stand up in court.

 

 

14 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:

 

Next, he dealt with the charge of “heresy.”  It was true that he was a follower of “the Way,” which they call a “sect”; a party within Judaism.  Actually “sect” became a common designation for the Pharisees.  It is obvious that Tertullus was using “sect” in a derogatory sense.  As a member of “the Way” the apostle was careful to point out that it was no more an illegal sect of Judaism than those sects to which his accusers belonged.

 

There had been a time when Paul had shared his accuser’s estimate of “the Way,” but he regarded it now, not as a deviation from the Jewish religion, but as its fulfillment (13:32); the true, the only way of the Lord for His people.  His claim was that his religion was their religion; carried to its ultimate conclusion. Being a Christian, he said, did not make him an apostate.  He was still a loyal Jew.  He still worshipped “the God of my fathers.”

 

Paul did have something to confess.  He confessed his absolute faith in divine revelation, in the Law and the Prophets (OT), in the Hebrew Bible.  And also that he differed from his accusers in the way he handled the Bible.  He took it at its face value, as the Word of God to be believed unreservedly, interpreted literally, and obeyed utterly.

 

Paul had no doubt that the Lord Jesus fulfilled all the revealed Biblical criteria of the Messiah of Israel, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world.  The rabbinical Jews in the seminaries of his day were already elevating the traditions of the elders above the revelation of Scripture.  The Talmud was already in process of evolution, and the coming fall of Jerusalem would give it added emphasis.  It would cement the Jews in their unbelief by ultimately replacing divine revelation altogether as the source of authority

 

Paul’s “believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets” was a thrust at both Pharisees and Sadducees in the Sanhedrin.  It was a familiar maxim in the Scriptures, but perhaps, it was chosen deliberately for the sake of his argument, to make the point that the Scriptures included prophecy and they must look beyond themselves for fulfillment.  But the Sadducees rejected much of the Old Testament, while both they and the Pharisees rejected the Old Testament’s witness to Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27).  In contrast Paul viewed the entire Old Testament as the inspired Word of God and believed everything it taught.

 

Paul was already sorry for the trick he played back in Jerusalem where he had pitted one against the other—Pharisees verses Sadducees—over the resurrection.  “I take my stand on the Bible,” he said to Felix.

 

 

15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow (‘look for’), that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the [6]just and unjust.

 

This was a poke at both the high priest and the governor.  That there was to be a resurrection to life and a resurrection to judgment was a well-founded and well-established Jewish belief.  However, it is not necessary to conclude that Paul is suggesting here that the resurrection of all men will occur at a single time.  1 Corinthians 15:23, 24 suggests that the resurrection of those who are in Christ occurs before “the end,” when the final resurrection will occur.  Paul had not deviated from orthodoxy in proclaiming the resurrection.  If anyone had abandoned orthodoxy, it was Ananias and the Sadducees.  The preaching of the resurrection was the triumphant message of the early church.  The memory of Christ’s resurrection was still fresh in men’s minds.  It could not be refuted by facts, as he himself knew well enough—that was why he had resorted, in his unconverted days, to force.  But have you ever notice that the Resurrection is the very center of Christianity?  It has been from the very beginning, friend.  “What think thee of Christ?” is always the test.  Did He die for your sins?  How was He raised from the dead?  Paul immediately comes to the core issue of Christianity: the Resurrection.

 

Paul’s words had a certain ominous tone.  To mention the resurrection of the unjust could only imply one thing—the coming judgment.  Paul was not about to miss the opportunity for witnessing.  Even the Gentiles present, who might not comprehend the idea of the resurrection, would have some understanding of judgment (24:25).  Paul’s reference to the resurrection is the high point of his witness in all the speeches of Acts 23-26.  This was not by accident.  Paul’s confidence in the [5]resurrection constituted the real point of contention with the other Jews

 

Let the unjust beware, whether Jew or Roman, priest or procurator.  There would be a resurrection.  There was a higher court.  Men were accountable to God for their behavior.  “I believe in resurrection,” said Paul.  Paul shared this hope with the Pharisees—“Brothers, I am a Pharisee, as were my ancestors! And I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead!” (23:6; NLT)—though it must be questioned whether they subscribed to his precise expectation that all would be raised. He said this in 24:16 (NLT): “Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people.” And then in 23:1 (NLT) he said this: “Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience!”

 

 

16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men.

 

This time the high priest was not able to order someone to hit Paul in the mouth.  Paul quietly affirmed again his rule of life—to have a clear conscience before God and man.  He always tried, he said, to keep God’s law and man’s law.  He would not do anything that would cause another to stumble.  The expression “void to offense” comes from a verb that means to stumble.  Paul’s rule of life precluded any possibility of his being guilty of the things of which he was accused.

 

 

17 Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.

 

The time had come for Paul to explain exactly what he was doing in Jerusalem and why he had gone there in the first place—“to bring alms to my nation,” i.e., to do good to his fellow Jews by bringing them money and relief for the poor. This may be a reference to the collection from the Gentiles for the believers in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26).   This certainly did not sound like a man coming to cause sedition and strife.  No doubt Felix was astute enough to realize that Paul could produce ample witnesses of the fact that he had brought monetary aid to Jerusalem.  It also kindled his curiosity. “To bring . . . my nation . . . offerings” refers back to his presence in the temple to accompany others in fulfilling their vows (21: 26).

 

 

18 Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult.

19 Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me.

 

Paul briefly summarized the events covered in Acts 21:27-30—his presence in the temple for purification in connection with the vows of the four Nazarites and the disturbance created by the Asian Jews.  He explained that he was observing the rights of purification in the Temple when all the commotion occurred.  The absence of the Asian Jews at his trial comes as no surprise. Luke already had explained that their accusations that Paul had violated the temple, was based on a totally false conclusion drawn from having seen him earlier in the city with Trophimus: “(They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)” (21:29).

 

He had been taken into protective custody by the Romans to save him from being torn apart by a mob incited by Asiatic Jews.  He had been quietly minding his own business.  Why were his real accusers not present at the trial?  They ought to have been present to make their own accusations, if in fact they had anything to say against him.  It was a telling point, for Roman law was very strong against accusers who abandoned their charges.  They had made themselves scarce.  Obviously they knew they had nothing with which to substantiate their charge, and certainly they had every cause to fear an impartial investigation into Paul’s activities and their riotous behavior.  So much for the affair in the Temple court.  He was innocent.

 

 

20 Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council,

21 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 (‘before you’) this day.

 

Having successfully demonstrated that all of Tertullus’s accusations were totally without supporting evidence, Paul proceeded to the one genuine charge that could be brought against him.  There were even “witnesses for the prosecution” present to support this charge—namely, the high priest and elders who had come with Tertullus who had been present when Paul appeared before the Sanhedrin.  They could testify to the one issue that surfaced in that hearing—Paul’s belief in the resurrection of the dead: “Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” (26:8).  Paul now had the whole trial scene in his own control. He had the issue where he wanted it where it really was.  He had broken no law—certainly no Roman law, and not even the Jewish religious law.  The resurrection was the bone of contention with the Jews.  And most Jews shared that conviction in principle.  What separated him from his fellow Jews was that he was a follower of “the Way,” that he believed that the Messiah had come and the resurrection had begun in Christ.  The stakes were high.  Paul was on trial for nothing less than his Christian faith.  It was essential that the Roman courts realize this was a matter of Jewish religious conviction and not a matter involving Roman law.  Ananias was no doubt grateful that Paul said nothing about his slap in the face; it was not legal for a Roman citizen to be treated that way.

 

The Sanhedrin itself was divided on the issue of the resurrection.  He had only appealed to those in the counsel who, he knew, would take his side on the issue.  Still, his conscience would not let him overlook that this [9]trick of his had caused a disturbance.  The fact remained, however, the real point at issue was a theological one—the resurrection.  Paul had plenty of supporters among orthodox Jews who believed in that.  Again, Paul made his point very well, for that meeting in Jerusalem with the Sanhedrin had been an official inquiry into his case, and all that it established was Paul’s belief in the resurrection.  (Remember the Book of Acts is a record of the early church’s witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who was the first one to be raised from the dead; Acts 1:22).  What then was his crime?  That he believed in the resurrection?  What sort of a crime was that?  It was no crime at all.

 

Paul was not so much concerned with clearing himself—although his defense was a very able one—proving the Christian faith to be a legitimate interpretation of the Old Testament, the sacred book of the Jews, and indeed its due fulfillment.  Christians, therefore, should share in the privileges of the [7]religio licita granted to the Jews.  The wise and effective testimony is apparent to all.

 

 

 

 

 

Special Notes:

 

[1] Ananias was high priest until a.d.59.  The date of this trial was most likely in a.d. 56-57.

[2]Evidently the Romans did grant the Jews the right to enforce their ban on Gentile access to their sacred precincts.

[3] Note that both Jesus (Mark 14:57) and Stephen (Acts 6:13) were also charged with violating the temple.

[4] Felix had been governor for four or five years at the time of Paul’s trial.  Paul’s reference to many years may include the additional four years or so when Felix served in Samaria as a subordinate in Cumanus immediately prior to his becoming procurator. 

[5] The Jews of Paul’s day were very much divided over the idea of the resurrection.  The Sadducees denied the idea altogether.  Some intertestamental Jewish sources speak only of the resurrection of the just, others of a resurrection of all persons.  In his epistle Paul never explicitly referred to the resurrection of the unjust but characteristically connected resurrection with believers (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), although passages that speak of a final judgment could be construed to imply the twofold resurrection (2 Corinthians 5:10).  The resurrection of both just and unjust is elsewhere clearly attested in the New Testament (John 5:28).

[6]Just and unjust. A general resurrection.

[7] Religio licita ("permitted religion," also translated as "approved religion") is a phrase used to describe the special status of Judaism under Roman Imperial rule. Religio licita  is not an official term in Roman law.

[8] Tertullus  was a common name in the Roman world.

[9] The issue over which Paul was constantly bumping heads with the Sadducees was the ‘resurrection of the dead.’ His ‘so called’ “trick” was bringing up the issue of resurrection when he was on trial before the Sanhedrin, knowing that it would cause uproar.

 

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