Matthew Poole's Commentary
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 Paul is accused before Felix by Tertullus in the name
of the Jews.
Acts 24:10-21 He answereth in defence of his life and doctrine.
Acts 24:22,23 The hearing is deferred.
Acts 24:24,25 Paul preaching freely before the governor and his
wife; Felix trembleth.
Acts 24:26,27 Felix hopeth for a bribe to release Paul, but in
vain; and going out of his office leaveth him bound.
After five days, from the time that Paul was come to Caesarea: the malice and fury of the persecutors was very great, they stick not at any travail and pains to do mischief; and surely we ought to be as earnest in doing good, or their zeal will condemn us.
A certain orator; a lawyer to form the indictment against Paul, or to aggravate his fault, and to desire judgment upon him. Such advocates usually were the chiefest orators, as Demosthenes in Greece, and Cicero at Rome; and Tertullus seems to have been a crafts master, whom the Jews hired to draw up an accusation against Paul.
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,When he was called forth; when Paul was sent for to appear, being under the custody of the soldiers who brought him to Caesarea.
Seeing that by thee, &c.: it being one of the rules of art, which an orator seldom forgets, to endeavour to obtain the judge’s favour, Tertullus commends Felix, who indeed had delivered that country from some robbers (like banditti, or moss troopers) that did infest it; but is commended for little else amongst the historians, who brand him for extraordinary covetousness and cruelty.
We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness.We accept it; we commend and admire it. It is most certain, that inferiors enjoy many benefits by the means of their governors, who bear the burden for the people, watching and caring for them; and that a bad government is better than none; and therefore not only Tertullus, (who may well be thought to speak out of flattery), but St. Paul himself, Acts 24:10, speaks with great respect unto Felix.
Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words.Be not further tedious unto thee; hinder thee, or take thee away from other occasions: this is another artifice of an orator, to promise brevity, especially when he speaks to men of employment or business.
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:A pestilent fellow; a pest, or plague, the abstract being put for the concrete, as implying, that no word he could use could properly signify the mischievousness of that man, whom he falsely charges with
sedition (not that the Jews would have disliked him for that, had it been true, but) to make St. Paul the more odious, and in danger of his life.
The sect, or heresy, which in common use was then taken more favourably, for any doctrine.
Of the Nazarenes; of the Christians; for they who out of Judea were called Christians, in Judea were called Nazarenes. The Jews did call our Saviour and his followers thus, it being accounted an ignominious term; and they who were born at Nazareth disgraced by it, as appears by Nathanael’s question, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? John 1:46. Yet this name is most glorious, as imposed upon our Saviour by God himself, Matthew 2:23.
Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law.Hath gone about to profane the temple; by bringing into the temple (as they falsely suggested) uncircumcised persons: but Tertullus does not mention this, or show in what Paul had profaned the temple; for Felix himself being uncircumcised, it would have reflected upon him too much, to be accounted, by the Jews, amongst such profane ones, as were enough to defile their temple and worship.
Would have judged according to our law; they had a law, it seems, whereby it was death to bring strangers into the temple; and some think, that by the Romans they had yet power allowed them to put it in execution:
See Poole on "Acts 21:28". And this was their aim all along, viz. to take away his life.
But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands,So they call the bringing of soldiers, to hinder them from acting violently; and as far as they dare, they accuse Lysias, whom they thought not to favour them.
Commanding his accusers to come unto thee: by examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things, whereof we accuse him.By examining of whom; not that the Jews would have any witnesses produced, and fairly examined; but the pronoun being singular, it refers to Paul, whom Tertullus would have examined, and put to the question, or racked, that he might confess what they would have had him guilty of: or it is as if he had said, (so impudent is impiety), that Paul himself could not deny (if he were asked) the accusation which was brought against him.
And the Jews also assented, saying that these things were so.The high priest, and the rest of the senate that came with him, acknowledged (as the manner was) that Tertullus had spoken their sense, and what they had to say; and some think that this their assent went further, and that they offered themselves as witnesses to the truth of what he had said.
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:Beckoned unto him, by some sign with his hand. Though St. Paul would not flatter Felix with notorious untruths, as Tertullus had done, yet he speaks very respectfully, and mentions his continuance in the government; the rather, because, if he had been so seditious a person as Tertullus would have represented him to have been, Felix could not but have heard of him, and of any mischief that had been done by him.
Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship.That thou mayest understand, either by what thou hast heard already, or by what the witnesses, when examined, will declare.
There are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem; there were but twelve days since Paul’s coming to Jerusalem; seven of them he had spent there, until the time of his purification was accomplished; and the other five days he had been in custody, and at Caesarea: by which St. Paul proves how unlikely it was, that in so short a time he, being a stranger in those parts, should raise any tumults.
For to worship; he being so far from designing any mischief, that he only intended to worship God.
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:Disputing, or discoursing. Although it seems not to have been unlawful, after the sacrifices were offered, to discourse about the meaning of any place in the law or the prophets; for thus our Saviour is said to have heard and asked questions of the doctors in the temple, Luke 2:46; yet St. Paul would hereby show how far he was from doing aught that was unlawful, in that he had forborne to go to the utmost of what might have been lawful.
Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.They could not prove either of those crimes they charged him with, viz.
1. Raising of sedition; or,
2. Profaning of the temple, which they had accused him of.
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:But this I confess; he makes here a good confession, and is indeed a follower of Christ, who before Pontius Pilate is said to have witnessed a good confession, 1 Timothy 6:13.
Heresy: this word is of a middle signification, being sometimes taken in a good sense, as Acts 26:5, and thus the Greeks did use it sometimes when they spake of their philosophers; though the Jews called the doctrine of Christ so in the worst acceptation of the word; which doctrine this blessed apostle is not ashamed to own. Yet he does withal truly assert, that he worshipped no other God than the God of his fathers, but worshipped him whom Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (whom they so much gloried in) had worshipped; and that he had no other religion than what was taught in the law and the prophets, from whom they themselves had received theirs.
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.Which they themselves also allow; the wiser sort amongst them, the Pharisees, (though bad was the best), and yet they were not for this opinion persecuted by the Sadducees.
A resurrection of the dead; the resurrection of the dead is again owned as the chief matter Paul preached upon, and in which all his other doctrines and opinions did centre, it being indeed the foundation of that faith and manners, 1 Corinthians 15:13, of that belief and holy life, which St. Paul preached upon.
Both of the first and unjust; that both sorts, even that all such, rise again at the last day, we have assurance given, Matthew 25:32,33Jo 5:28,29; which was also foretold expressly unto the Jews, Daniel 12:2, though it hath found so many since amongst them that have denied it.
And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.And herein; or at this time, and in this business; or for this reason, to wit, because I believe the resurrection.
I exercise myself; I am altogether taken up with it; this is my one thing necessary, Luke 10:42.
To have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men; that I may not offend God or man in any thing; but that I may be without blame at the judgment seat of God or man. They only are blessed and happy, whose belief concerning another world makes them endeavour after holiness in this world.
Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.After many years; it is thought fourteen years, which we find mentioned, Galatians 2:1; and therefore the more unlike to have any seditious practices there, where he had so little acquaintance.
I came to bring alms to my nation; and he was so far from designing mischief to his nation, that his charity to them put him upon this journey.
And offerings; which in his condescension to the Jews, and hoping to gain their good will, he brought according to the law; as Acts 21:26. For whilst Jerusalem and the temple stood, those offerings were in a sort permitted; but God, in that general destruction of both city and temple, put an end to them all.
Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult.Whereupon; upon my bringing up those alms now mentioned; whilst I was employed for the good of my countrymen who now accuse me.
Purified in the temple; performing all things which the law did require of Nazarites, or those who had made a vow, and in which their legal purification did consist.
Neither with multitude, nor with tumult; the multitude was of their own gathering together; and the tumult, if any, was made by themselves. It is no new thing that Christians should be charged with those mischiefs which their enemies themselves did to make them odious.
Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me.Who ought to have been here; the Jews of Asia, who had caused all this stir, having seen Trophimus with Paul in the streets of Jerusalem, and maliciously presuming that he had brought him into the temple with him. Now these were the only proper witnesses, who might therefore be now absent, because they could testify nothing to the purpose, and when they thought seriously upon it, their consciences might accuse them for the clamour they had made against the apostle, Acts 21:28. As for the other Jews, they could only testify, by hearsay, which is not sufficient.
Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council,St. Paul is willing to allow the present Jews’ testimony about such things as they could know, having themselves heard and seen them; which was what passed in the council when Paul was brought before it, Acts 23:1,9. The sense of a Deity was more quick upon men; and they might then be trusted under the security of an oath.
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.As if he had said, Let them object, if they can, any other fault: but if this be a fault, to hold the resurrection of the dead, I do acknowledge it, and there need no other proof concerning it: not that he held any evil to be in this opinion; but he speaks ironically, knowing that they durst not renew their quarrel about it.
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.Some understand by that way:
1. The custom or manner of the priests to calumniate Paul; or:
2. The religion of Moses, and how and in what it differed from the religion of Christ: either of which Felix might know, and by either of them conclude Paul to be innocent. But:
3. By that way, as frequently in this book, Acts 9:2, and Acts 22:4, is meant the Christian religion itself, which Felix, not only from Paul’s apology, and Lysias’s account of the whole matter, but by divers other means, (it having made so great a noise in the world), could not be ignorant of.
Some read, he deferred them till he could have a more perfect knowledge of that way, and till Lysias, the chief captain, should come down. For there being two things laid to Paul’s charge;
1. His evil opinions in matters of religion; and:
2. His causing a sedition: as to the first, Felix would not determine it till he had had better information about those things which St. Paul was accused for to hold. As to the latter, it being matter of fact, which Lysias was present at, he would hear his testimony or evidence, looking upon him as one indifferent and unconcerned between them.
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.To let him have liberty; not so confined as to be kept in a dungeon, or more inward prison; but to have the liberty of the prison, yet so as with a chain about him; as appears, Acts 26:29 Acts 28:20.
Acquaintance; relations or disciples; for there was a church at Caesarea, Acts 10:48 21:8. When it is expedient for us, God can add the comforts of these outward enjoyments, relations and friends, unto us; and that his and our enemies shall contribute towards it.
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.Felix came with his wife; having been out of town to meet and conduct his wife.
Drusilla; who was daughter of Herod the Great, and sister of that Agrippa of whom mention is made in the two following chapters; a most libidinous woman, who had left her husband Aziz, and, whilst he yet lived, was married to this Felix, who was taken with her beauty. Yet Paul preached
the faith in Christ, the gospel, unto such, not knowing what persons, or in what hour, God might call.
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.These two, righteousness and temperance, the Christian religion do indispensably require; and all true worship without these, will not make up our most holy religion, or give to any the title of a religious or a holy man. But Paul chose rather to discourse of those than any other virtues, because Felix was most defective in them. He would lay his plaster where there was a sore, though it pained the patient, and he should get little thanks for his labour. Had great men but such faithful preachers, it might contribute very much to hinder them in their career of sin, and by that means help to mend the world.
Temperance; or continence; the want of which is charged upon both these great persons, being taxed by historians for adultery; so that Paul preaches here as John Baptist did once to Herod, very suitably, though not gratefully. Yet in the discharge of his duty he meets with no trouble, not so much as a reproach, which probably the sense of the judgment to come might contribute to.
Judgment to come; whatsoever is present, this is certainly to come: and the secret reflections that wicked men have upon it in the midst of their fullest enjoyments, mingle fears and terrors with them. Hence their surda vulnera, misgivings and inward guilt; as its contrary, the peace of God, passeth all understanding.
Go thy why for this time; Felix, not liking such discourse, the subject being too quick and searching for him, put it off longer. And so men put off the consideration of their duties, and of the judgment that will pass upon every one according unto what he hath done in the flesh, till the Judge be, as it were, set, and their case called.
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.This speaks the charge to be true that the historians give of Felix concerning his covetousness; for taking hold of that part of Paul’s accusation, Acts 24:5, that he was the ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes, he supposed that, there being so many thousands of them, they would give large sums for the life and liberty of this their supposed captain. This did speak Felix (according to his birth) to be of a servile and base spirit, that for money could transgress the laws of God, and the Roman laws too.
But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix' room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.After two years, either from Paul’s being in bonds, which history St. Luke is here setting down; or, as others, after Felix had been governor two years over Judea; for that St. Paul speaks, Acts 24:10, is not thought to have been true as to this place, though he had governed the neighbouring parts some years before.
The Jews had accused Felix unto the emperor for his barbarous cruelty and exactions, insomuch that had it not been for his brother Pallas (a great favourite) he had lost his life: yet he did not wholly escape punishment, but was sent bound by Festus, his successor, unto Nero. Sic transit gloria mundi; and, Man being in honour continueth not.