Tertullus [Tûrtŭl'lus]—derived from Tertius, and meaning, liar or impostor. A Roman advocate employed by the Jewish authorities to prosecute Paul before Felix, the Roman Governor or Procurator (Acts 24:1, 2; 25:8).
The style of his rhetorical address or brief was common to Roman advocates. With his power of glib eloquence as well as knowledge of Roman laws, the orator Tertullus sought to impress the mind of the judge. With the trick of his class, he began with flattery of the judge. All of the flattering epithets of the hired orator, however, stand out in striking contrast with “the righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come,” Paul later spoke about to the same ruler.
From flattery of the judge, Tertullus passed to invective against the defendant, charging him with crimes he never committed. Paul in his defense presented a marked difference between his own frank manliness and the advocate’s servile flattery. Tertullus could not rouse the conscience of Felix as Paul did. “Felix trembled,” as Paul pressed home the truth of the Gospel and sent for him “the oftener,” we read. What a tragedy it was that Felix did not follow his Spirit-impressed conscience!