Paul before Felix
24 Five days later, the high priest Ananias came down [from Jerusalem to Caesarea] with some elders and an attorney named Tertullus [acting as spokesman and counsel]. They presented to the governor their [formal] charges against Paul. 2 After Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began the complaint [against him], saying to the governor:
“Since through you we have attained great peace, and since by your foresight reforms are being carried out for this nation, 3 in every way and in every place, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with all gratitude. 4 But so that I do not weary you further, I beg you to grant us, by your kindness, a brief hearing. 5 For we have found this man to be a public menace and one who [a]instigates dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the [heretical] [b]sect of the Nazarenes. 6 He even tried to desecrate the temple, but we took him into custody [c][and we intended to judge him by our Law, 7 but Lysias the commander came, and with great force took him out of our hands, 8 and ordered his accusers to come before you.] By interrogating him yourself concerning all these matters you will be able to determine [the truth about] these things with which we charge him.” 9 The Jews also joined in the attack, declaring and insisting that these things were so.
10 When the governor nodded for him to speak, Paul answered,
“Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I make my defense cheerfully and with good courage. 11 As you can easily verify, it has been no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 Neither in the temple, nor in the synagogues, nor elsewhere in the city did they find me carrying on a discussion or disputing with anybody or causing a crowd to gather. 13 Nor can they present evidence to you to prove what they now bring against me. 14 But I confess this to you, that according to [d]the Way, which they call a [divisive and heretical] sect, I do worship and serve the God of our fathers, [confidently] believing everything that is in accordance with the Law [of Moses] and that is written in the Prophets; 15 having [the same] hope in God which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of [the dead], both of the righteous and of the wicked. 16 In view of this, I also do my best and strive always to have a clear conscience before God and before men. 17 Now after several years I came [to Jerusalem] to bring to my people charitable contributions and offerings. 18 They found me in the temple presenting these offerings, after I had undergone [the rites of] purification, without any crowd or uproar. But there were some Jews from [the west coast province of] Asia [Minor], 19 who ought to have been here before you to present their charges, if they have anything against me. 20 Or else let these men tell what crime they found [me guilty of] when I stood before the Council (Sanhedrin, Jewish High Court), 21 other than for this one statement which I had shouted out as I stood among them, ‘For the resurrection of the dead I am on trial before you today.’”
22 But Felix, having a rather accurate understanding about the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.” 23 Then he ordered the centurion to keep Paul in custody, but to let him have some freedom, and [he told the centurion] not to stop any of his friends from providing for his needs.
24 Several days later Felix came with his wife [e]Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him talk about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control [honorable behavior, personal integrity], and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for now, and when I find [a convenient] time I will send for you.” 26 At the same time he was also hoping to get money from Paul [as a bribe]; so he continued to send for him quite often and talked with him. 27 But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded [in office] by [f]Porcius Festus; and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned.
Paul before Festus
25 Now Festus arrived in the province, and three days later he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea [Maritima]. 2 And [there in Jerusalem] the chief priests and the leading men of the Jews brought charges against Paul [before Festus], and they repeatedly pleaded with him, 3 asking as a concession against Paul, that he would have him brought to Jerusalem; (meanwhile planning an ambush to kill him on the way). 4 Festus answered that Paul was being held in custody in Caesarea [Maritima] and that he himself was about to leave shortly. 5 “So,” he said, “let those who are in a position of authority among you go there with me, and if there is anything criminal about the man, let them bring charges against him.”
6 Now after Festus had spent no more than eight or ten days among them, he went down to Caesarea, and on the next day he took his seat on the tribunal (the judicial bench), and ordered Paul to be brought [before him]. 7 After Paul arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many serious charges against him which they were not able to prove, 8 while Paul declared in his own defense, “I have done no wrong and committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.” 9 But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul, “[g]Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial there in my presence [before the Jewish Sanhedrin] on these charges?” 10 Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done nothing wrong to the Jews, as you also very well know. 11 Therefore, if I am guilty and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not try to escape death; but if there is nothing to the accusations which these men are bringing against me, no one can hand me over to them. I [h]appeal to Caesar (Emperor Nero).” 12 Then Festus, after conferring with [the men who formed] his council, answered, “You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you shall go.”
13 Now several days later, [i]Agrippa [II] the king and [j]Bernice [his sister] arrived at Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus [the new governor]. 14 While they were spending many days there, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man here who was left as a prisoner by Felix. 15 When I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews [told me about him and] brought charges against him, petitioning for a sentence of condemnation against him. 16 I told them that it was not the custom of the Romans to hand over any man [for punishment] before the accused meets his accusers face to face and has the opportunity to defend himself against the charges. 17 So after they arrived together here, I did not delay, but on the next day took my place on the tribunal and ordered that the man be brought before me. 18 When his accusers stood up, they brought no charges against him of crimes that I was expecting [neither civil nor criminal actions], 19 instead they had some points of disagreement with him about their own [k]religion and about one Jesus, a man who had died, but whom Paul kept asserting and insisting [over and over] to be alive. 20 And I, being at a loss as to how to investigate these things, asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding these matters. 21 But when Paul appealed to be held in custody for a decision by the Emperor [Nero], I ordered him to be kept in custody until I could send him to Caesar.” 22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” Festus replied, “you will hear him.”
Paul before Agrippa
23 So the next day Agrippa and [his sister] Bernice came with great pageantry, and they went into the auditorium accompanied by the military commanders and the prominent men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 Then Festus said, “King Agrippa and all you gentlemen present with us, you see this man [Paul] about whom all the Jewish people appealed to me, both at Jerusalem and here, loudly insisting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 But I found that he had done nothing worthy of death; however, since he appealed to the Emperor [Nero], I decided to send him [to Rome]. 26 But I have nothing specific about him to write to my lord. So I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the investigation has taken place, I will have something to put in writing. 27 For it seems absurd and unreasonable to me to send a prisoner [to Rome] without indicating the charges against him.”
Paul’s Defense before Agrippa
26 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You are [now] permitted to speak on your own behalf.” At that, Paul stretched out his hand [as an orator] and made his defense [as follows]:
2 “I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, since it is before you that I am to make my defense today regarding all the charges brought against me by the Jews, 3 especially because you are an expert [fully knowledgeable, experienced and unusually conversant] in all the Jewish customs and controversial issues; therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.
4 “So then, all the Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation [the Jewish people], and in Jerusalem. 5 They have known me for a long time, if they are willing to testify to it, that according to the [l]strictest sect of our religion, I have lived as a Pharisee. 6 And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers.(A) 7 Which hope [of the Messiah and the resurrection] our twelve tribes [confidently] expect to realize as they serve and worship God in earnest night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews! 8 Why is it thought incredible by [any of] you that God raises the dead?
9 “So then, I [once] thought to myself that it was my duty to do many things in opposition to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; I not only locked up many of the saints (God’s people) in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being condemned to death, I [m]cast my vote against them. 11 And I often punished them [making them suffer] in all the synagogues and tried to force them to blaspheme; and in my extreme rage at them, I kept hunting them even to foreign cities [harassing and persecuting them].
12 “While so engaged, as I was traveling to Damascus with the authority and commission and full power of the chief priests, 13 at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven surpassing the brightness of the sun, shining all around me and those who were traveling with me. 14 And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice in the Hebrew dialect (Jewish Aramaic) saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? [n]It is hard for you to kick [repeatedly] against the [o]goads [offering pointless resistance].’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 Get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you [to serve] as a minister and as a witness [to testify, with authority,] not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you, 17 [choosing you for Myself and] rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you,(B) 18 to open their [spiritual] eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness and release from their sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified (set apart, made holy) by faith in Me.’(C)
19 “So, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but I openly proclaimed first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent [change their inner self—their old way of thinking] and turn to God, doing deeds and living lives which are consistent with repentance. 21 Because of this some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 But I have had help from God to this day, and I stand [before people] testifying to small and great alike, stating nothing except what the Prophets and Moses said would come to pass— 23 that the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed) was to suffer, and that He by being the first to rise from the dead [with an incorruptible body] would proclaim light (salvation) both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
24 While Paul was making this defense, Festus said loudly, “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great education is turning you toward madness.” 25 But Paul replied, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent and noble Festus, but [with a sound mind] I am uttering rational words of truth and reason. 26 For [your majesty] the king understands these things, and [therefore] I am also speaking to him with confidence and boldness, since I am convinced that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner [hidden from view, in secret]. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the [writings of the] Prophets [their messages and words]? I know that you do.” 28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time [and with so little effort] you [almost] persuade me to become a Christian.” 29 And Paul replied, “Whether in a short time or long, I wish to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become such as I am, except for these chains.”
30 Then the king stood up, and [with him] the governor and Bernice, and those who were sitting with them; 31 and after they had gone out, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything worthy of death or [even] of imprisonment.” 32 And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to [p]Caesar (Emperor Nero).”
- Acts 24:5 Inciting rebellion was a serious crime under Roman law.
- Acts 24:5 The Romans had forbidden the establishment of any new religion.
- Acts 24:6 Early mss do not contain the remainder of v 6, v 7, nor the first part of v 8.
- Acts 24:14 See note 9:2. Paul was probably referring to Jesus Himself.
- Acts 24:24 Youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I.
- Acts 24:27 Festus served about two years as governor (procurator). He was regarded as a fairly capable governor, superior to both his predecessor and his successor.
- Acts 25:9 Paul was offered a choice because of his rights as a Roman citizen.
- Acts 25:11 Roman citizens had the right to be tried before Caesar.
- Acts 25:13 Herod Agrippa II was the seventh and last of the Herods mentioned in the NT.
- Acts 25:13 Eldest daughter of Herod Agrippa I.
- Acts 25:19 Or superstition.
- Acts 26:5 Paul probably is referring to the school of Shammai, which flourished from 30 b.c. to a.d. 20. Gamaliel, Paul’s teacher in the school of Hillel (22:3), discussed and interpreted the teachings of both schools, and often agreed with the teachings of Shammai, so Paul was familiar with Shammai as well as Hillel.
- Acts 26:10 Lit cast down my (black) pebble. In ancient times a vote cast by throwing a white pebble meant acquittal, and a black one, condemnation.
- Acts 26:14 An ancient Greek proverb dating back to the time of Euripides.
- Acts 26:14 These were wooden shafts (like broomsticks) with a pointed piece of metal on one end, used by the farmer to keep an ox going in the right direction as it pulled a plow. Jesus was “prodding” Paul to take the proper direction in his life, and Paul had been resisting.
- Acts 26:32 Nero was the fifth and last of the Roman emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He ruled after the death of Claudius and actively persecuted Christians. Both Paul and Peter were martyred during Nero’s reign (a.d. 54-68).