Chapter 24

24:1-9 Paul is accused of being a trouble maker and attempting to defile the temple.

Having felt insulted, and the plan to assassinate Paul having failed, the high priest Ananias came personally to Caesarea with some of the sanhedrin elders and a trained orator to present the case against Paul. His name,Tertullus, suggests that he may have been trained in Roman law. He certainly knew how to present the charge that Paul was an agitator who had tried to profane the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. He kept his presentation very short to avoid the danger of cross-examination, and suggested that the governor could himself question Paul about the facts.

We might wonder why Luke included four chapters of such detailed information about the conduct of Roman justice in Paul's case. It certainly supports the view that Luke had prepared the Book of Acts as part of the evidence that would be needed for Paul's defense before the Roman Emperor (see the seven references to this in 25:10, 11, 12, 21, 25, 26:32, 28:19). It also helps us to understand Paul's constant contacts with the justice system that the Romans prided themselves on. Possibly Luke had in mind the training Christians would need to defend themselves in the trials and persecutions they would face. For us it illustrates Jesus's words, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21). And Paul's own words, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God" (Romans 13:1-4).

24:1 It took three or four days for Ananias to plan his revenge against Paul, and he came down to Caesarea, having obtained the services of a rytoros (orator) to act as attorney.

24:2-4 Tertullus' opening words of flattery mentioned the peace and helpful reforms the new governor had brought, and the Jewish people's gratitude for his graciousness. Actually a Roman historian described him as "a master of cruelty and lust who exercised the power of a king in the spirit of a slave" (Tacitus Histoies 5.19)

24:5 He then reported that the Jews had found Paul to be a loimos (a diseased plague-spot), which was a well-known term used in Greek to describe someone who was a danger to the health of society. He had also caused trouble among Jews throughout the Roman world, and he was the ringleader of the Nazarenes. Jesus was called nazoraios (from Nazareth, as in Luke 18:37, 24:19) so the orator used the term to suggest an obscure sect from a despised village in Galilee.

24.6 Having prepared the ground by an attack on Paul as a person (ad hominem argument) Tertullus introduced two lies without evidence to back them up. Paul did not in any way try to defile or dishonor the temple (see note on 21:27-28). And Paul was not seized lawfully by the Jewish authorities, but rather taken by a mob to lynch him by beating to death (21:30:31).

24:7 The KJV (I believe correctly) follows a few ancient manuscripts that read "we would have judged him according to our law. But the chief captain Lysias came and with great violence took him out of our hands." Tertullus knew that he had to undermine the report by Lysias to the governor, "This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them" (23:27). There is no reason for a scribe to invent and add to this text. Rather it was omitted to avoid a slur on a senior Roman officer.

24:8 The suggestion that the Governor should himself examine Paul was both flattery and an attempt to prevent across-examination of the false information Tertullus has given. (Lysias was not present, being back at his post as commandant of the garrison in Jerusalem, 24:22).

24:9 The NRSV misses the present continuous tense which could be translated "The Jews supported the charge by continually asserting as he spoke that this was true."

24:10-27 Paul's defense before Felix the Roman Governor in Caesarea

Paul stressed that the real question at issue was concerning his faith in the resurrection of the dead (24:15, 21), which was a religious doctrine which Felix understood very well (24:22, 24). But he also counterattacked, first by pointing out that Tertullus had not brought the "Jews from Asia" (24:19) who were the proper witnesses in this case. Secondly that the Jews who were supporting Tertullus (24:9) were silent about the crime Paul was meant to have committed. (24:20). The result was that Felix adjourned the proceedings until Lysias and the proper witnesses could come down and speak (24:22).

24:10 Paul avoided the flowery flattery of Tertullus (24:2-4), but he recognized Felix's experience in Jewish matters (actually only about five years as governor, but his wife was a Jewish woman, 24:24).

24:11 He then pointed out the fact that it had only been twelve days since he came to Jerusalem to worship in the temple (for the timing of events see 21:18, 27, 22:30, 23:11-12, 23:23, 24:1).

24:12-13 No evidence had been produced of any wrongdoing on his part.

24:14 Paul did admit he was a follower of the Christian way (see note on 22:4, which Felix knew very well, 24:22). He added that he believed everything written in the Old Testament law of Moses (torah) and the prophets (which probably included the historical books written by the prophets). This did not mean that none of the laws were changed (e.g. the kosher food laws of Leviticus 11), only that the Old Testament was God's true account of Jewish history.

24:15 Paul's faith in the resurrection was accepted by the mainly Pharisee rabbis, but often denied by the Sadducees (see Luke's note on 23:8). The reference to the righteous and unrighteous does not imply a future judgment based on good or bad works. But there is a choice of eternal life in the light of God or the darkness of eternal death (John 3:19-21).

24:16 Living by one's conscience was very important to Paul (as in 23:1, Romans 9:1, 1 Peter 3:16). A conscience can be badly set (weak, overscrupulous, as in 1 Corinthians 8:7, 12, 10:29). As he explained to Timothy, we need to distinguish a person's heart, their conscience setting (which could be wrong), and faith. "The aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith" (1 Timothy 1:5). In the case of Paul, he had lived by a conscience which had been badly set to persecute Christians. His conversion changed his heart to love the Lord, and he soon began setting his conscience to love instead of Pharisee legalism. The direction of his faith also clarified as he began looking to God as Father, Jesus the Messiah Son of God, and the Holy Spirit (as set out in Romans 8:11-17).

24:17-18 Paul then rehearsed what happened when he came to Jerusalem (21:26-27), but he added the information that he had brought aid for that church (1 Corinthians 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:14).

24:19 Paul then raised an important objection according to Roman law. The Jews from Asia who had caused the disturbance (21:27) were the essential witnesses in the case, and they had not been produced.

24:20-21 Then pointing at his accusers Paul asked them to state what crime he had committed when he stood before them in the council. He had already made clear that he was accused in a religious question of Pharisee faith in the resurrection as against Sadduccee denial of the supernatural (23:6-9, 24:15). And for a Roman governor Jewish religious faith was totally irrelevant in matters of justice.

24:22 Felix then (rather than "but") adjourned the case till the proper witnesses could appear, including Lysias the commandant of the Jerusalem garrison (21:31-39, 22:24-30, 23:-27).

24:23 Paul was put in protective custody where he had anesis (not liberty) from being chained, and his friends, probably including Luke (last mentioned among the "we" of 21:17), and members of the church in Caesarea (see 21:8-16), could bring him food and visit with him. In the Introduction I have suggested that during this imprisonment Paul sent Luke to collect the information for his Gospel, which was written at this time, and probably the beginning of Acts.

24:24 Instead of "when Felix came" the Greek verb (paraginomai) should here be translated "when Felix made a public appearance." His wife was Jewish, and she probably wanted to give Paul a chance to explain to her friends and the dignitaries in Caesarea what he believed (see the role of women in 17:4, 12). So this was not a judicial hearing, but rather an opportunity to hear and discuss Christian faith.

24:25 What Paul talked about was not Roman justice but dikaiosune which was God's purpose to make us right by the Spirit (see Romans Commentary, Introduction). For Paul self-control was not making ourselves right by self-discipline and legalism, but one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). And the coming judgment was the imminent end of the Jewish state in the attack on the city in AD 70 by the Roman legions (as Jesus had predicted, in Matthew 24 and Mark 13). But that judgment was not just on the Jewish citizens of Jerusalem, but it would be preceded by a period of wars and political confusion in the Roman empire (see Matthew 24:7). Felix was a favorite of the emperor Claudius (emporer 41-54 AD), but when Nero (emporer 54-68 AD) took over Felix would be sacked from his position as governor and disgraced when he returned to Rome (c. 57 AD). Luke mentions the arrival of Felix's successor Festus within two years of Paul's warning (24:27). In the confusion as Nero began exerting his cruel influence in the empire Felix did not proceed with the further hearing he had promised (24:22).

24:26 Under the pretext of wanting to hear more about Paul's faith, Felix again and again sent for Paul and kept on conversing with him (an imperfect tense). But the real motive was to suggest that a political contribution from the Christian church would help his situation. By the time Luke was finishing the Book of Acts Felix had been deposed and disgraced, so Luke could include the governor's devious behavior.

24:27 Two years later (probably AD 57 or 58) Porcius Festus arrived to take over the governorship. Felix could have terminated the case and released Paul, but Felix left Paul as a prisoner (dedemenon probably means in chains, as opposed to free in 24:23) as a favor to his opponents in Jerusalem (and perhaps in exchange for a bribe?).

Chapter 25