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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Acts 24

 

 

Verse 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.

A Deputation from the Sanhedrim, employing a professional pleader, formally accuse Paul before Felix the Procurator ()

And after five days - or, on the 5th day after their departure from Jerusalem,

Ananias the high priest descended with the elders - or, 'certain elders' [ presbuteroon (Greek #4245 ) tinoon (Greek #5100 ), though regarded as a gloss by a number of critics, is better attested, and is adopted by Lachmann and Tregelles. Tischendorf in this case, contrary to his usual authorities, adheres to the Received Text, toon (Greek #3588 ) presbuteroon (Greek #4245).] These were a deputation from the Sanhedrim.

And with a certain orator named Tertullus - one of those Roman advocates who trained themselves for the higher practice of the metropolis by practicing in the provinces, where the Latin language, employed in the courts, was but imperfectly understood, and Roman forms were not familiar.

Who informed (or 'laid information before,') the governor (or 'put in the charges') against Paul. The name Tertullus (a diminutive from Tertius), which was common among the Romans, shows his Latin descent.


Verse 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,

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 - or 'excellent results flow from thy care.' This very word "providence" was a common one, even on the coinage, to express the imperial care for the right administration of the country.


Verse 3

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

We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. In this flattery there was a measure of truth, for Felix did act with some vigour and success in suppressing lawless violence; as is attested both by Josephus (Ant. 20: 8, 4), and by Tacitus (Annals 12: 54).


Verse 4

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

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


Verse 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:

For we have found this man a pestilent fellow [loimon (Greek #3061)] - 'a plague,' 'a pest,'

And a mover of sedition among all the Jews - exciting disturbances among them,

Throughout the world, [oikoumeneen ( Greek #3625), as in Luke 2:1 ]. This was a first charge, and it was true only in the sense explained on Acts 16:20.

And a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes - a second charge, and true enough.


Verse 6

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

Who also hath gone about ('who even attempted') to profane the temple. This was a third charge, and it was wholly false.

Whom we took ('whom we also seized'), [and would have judged according to our law.


Verse 7

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

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 8

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

Commanding his accusers to come unto thee.] "[And would have judged according to our law. 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.]" This long bracketed passage has hardly any support, while all the principal manuscripts want it. If genuine, this is very hard to account for, while their insertion (at first in the margin) may have been designed to bring before the reader-out of Acts 21:23 : the facts here omitted. But it is hardly to be supposed that this obsequious pleader would make so false and calumnious a charge against a public officer as that in Acts 24:7.

By examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things whereof we accuse him - as if the matter were quite safe in Felix's hands.

Paul's Defense ()


Verse 9

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

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 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:

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. He had been in this province for 6 or 7 years, and in Galilee for a longer period.

I do [the more] cheerfully answer for myself - [ euthumoos ( G2115a) is far better attested than - euthumoteron ( G2115a) of the Received Text.] Paul uses no flattery, but simply expresses his satisfaction at having to plead before one whose long official experience of Jewish matters would enable him the better to understand and appreciate what he had to say. Acts 24:11

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

Because that thou mayest understand (canst easily learn), that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem - namely, first, the day of his arrival in Jerusalem (Acts 21:15-17); second, that of the interview with James (Acts 21:18 , etc.); third, that of the vow ( Acts 21:26); fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh, days of the vow, ending in the arrest (Acts 21:27 etc.); eighth, that of his appearance before the Sanhedrim (Acts 22:30; Acts 23:1-10); ninth, that of the conspiracy and its defeat ( Acts 23:12); tenth, the despatch of Paul from Jerusalem on the evening of the same day (Acts 23:23; Acts 23:31 ); and the remaining period referred to in Acts 23:33; Acts 24:1 . This short period is mentioned to show how unlikely it was that he should have had time to do what was charged against him.

For to worship - a very different purpose from that imputed to him.


Verse 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:

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:


Verse 13

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

Neither can they prove, [parasteesai (Greek #3936 ) is the true reading: the Stephanic Received Text (but not the Elzevir) adds me (Greek #3165 ), which makes no sense]

The things whereof they now accuse me. Having specified several particulars, he challenges proof of anyone of the charges brought against him. So much for the charge of sedition.


Verse 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: But this I confess unto thee - in which Felix, however, would see no crime,

That after the way which they call heresy, [hairesin (Greek #139)] - literally, and better, 'a sect.'

So worship I the God of my fathers, [too (Greek #3588) patroooo (Greek #3971) Theoo (Greek #2316)] - 'the ancestral' or 'father God.' There are two arguments in this statement. First, Our nation is divided into what they call 'sects'-the sect of the Pharisees and that of the Sadducees; and all the difference between them and me is, that I belong to neither of these, but to another sect, or religious section of the nation, which, from its Head, they call Nazarenes: for that reason, and that alone, am I hated. Second, The Roman law allows every nation to worship its own deities; I claim protection under that law, worshipping the God of my ancestors, even as they do, only of a different sect of the common religion.

Believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. Here, disowning all opinions at variance with the Old Testament Scriptures, he challenges for the Gospel which he preached the authority of the God of their fathers. So much for the charge of heresy.


Verse 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.

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. The bracketed word [nekroon ( Greek #3498)] seems clearly not genuine. This appeal to the Faith of his accusers shows that they were chiefly of the Pharisees, from which it would appear that the favour of that party-to which he owed in some measure his safety at the recent council (Acts 23:6-9) - had been quite momentary.


Verse 16

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

And herein , [ en (Greek #1722) toutoo (Greek #5129)] - rather, 'on this ground,' 'accordingly,' or, in view of that awful day just referred to (2 Corinthians 5:10),

Do I exercise myself. The "I" here is emphatic [autos (Greek #846 )]: q.d., 'whatever they do, this is my study,'

To have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men. (Compare Acts 23:1; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 2:17 ): q.d., 'These are the great principles of my life, and how different from turbulence and sectarianism!'


Verse 17

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

Now after many ('several') years - years' absence from Jerusalem.

I came to bring alms to my nation - referring to the collection from the churches of Macedonia and Greece, which he had taken such pains to gather. This only allusion in the Acts to what is dwelt upon so frequently in his own Epistles (Romans 15:25-26; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-4 ) throws a beautiful light on the truth of this History. (See Paley's Horae Paulinae, chapter 2:1.)

And offerings - connected with his Jewish vow (see next verse).


Verse 18

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

Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult - not polluting it by my own presence, and neither gathering a crowd nor raising a stir.


Verse 19

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

Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me. If these Asiatic Jews had any charge to bring against him, in justification of their arrest of him, why were they not there to substantiate it?


Verse 20

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

Or else (passing all that preceded my trial before the Jewish Sanhedrim) let these same here say, if they have found ('if they found') any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council. No doubt his hasty speech to the high priest might occur to them, but the provocation to it on his part was more than they would be willing to recall.


Verse 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.

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. This would recall to the Pharisees present their own inconsistency in befriending him then, and now accusing him.

Decision Deferred, and Paul Kept Prisoner, though not a Close One ()


Verse 22

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.

And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way - `the way' (see the note at Acts 9:2 ),

He deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain ('the chiliarch' or 'tribune') shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter. Felix might have dismissed the case as a tissue of unsupported charges. But if, from his interest in the matter, he really wished to have the presence of Lysias and of others concerned, a brief delay was not unworthy of him as a judge. Certainly, so far as recorded, neither Lysias nor any other parties appeared again in the case. It would seem, however, from Acts 24:23 , that at that time his prepossessions in favour of Paul were strong. The probability is, that while unable to condemn-being convinced of the futility of the charges against him-yet unwilling to enrage the Jews by an acquittal, he made his desire to confer with Lysias a pretext for delaying judgment.


Verse 23

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.

And he commanded a centurion ('the 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.

Felix, having invited Paul to explain before himself and Drusilla the Faith of Christ, trembles under his preaching, but dismisses him to a more convenient season-After keeping him prisoner for two years, Felix is succeeded by Porcius Festus, the apostle being left bound ()


Verse 24

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.

And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess. This beautiful but infamous woman was the third daughter of Herod Agrippa I., who was eaten of worms (see the note at Acts 12:1 ), and a sister of Agrippa II, before whom Paul pleaded, Acts 26:1-32 . She was (says Josephus) 'given in marriage to Azizus, king of the Emessenes, who had consented to be circumcised for the sake of the alliance. But this marriage was soon dissolved, after the following manner: When Festus was procurator of Judea, he new her, and being captivated with her beauty, persuaded her to desert her husband, transgress the laws of her country, and marry himself' (Ant. 20: 7. 1, 2). Such was this "wife" of Felix.

He sent Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Perceiving, from what he had heard on the trial, that the new sect which was creating such a stir was represented by its own advocates as but a particular development of the Jewish Faith, he probably wished gratify the curiosity of his Jewish wife as well as his own, by a more particular account of it from this distinguished champion. And no doubt Paul would so far humour this desire as to present to them the great leading features of the Gospel. But from


Verse 25

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.

And as he reasoned, [dialegomenou (G1256 ) 'discoursed')]

Of righteousness, temperance , [engkrateias ( Greek #1466)] - 'sobriety,' 'self-control,' and ('the')

Judgment to come. He discoursed of "righteousness," with reference to the public character of Felix; of "temperance," with reference to his private immorality; and of "the judgment to come," when he should be called to an awful account for both.

Felix trembled , [emfobos ( Greek #1719) genomenos (G1096 )] - 'became afraid;' and no wonder. For he ruled, says Tacitus ('Annals,' 5: 9; 12: 54), with a mixture of cruelty, lust, and servility; and relying on the influence of his brother Pallas at court, he thought himself at liberty to commit every sort of crime with impunity. How noble the fidelity and courage which dared to treat of such topics in such a presence, and what withering power must have been in those appeals which made even a Felix to tremble!

And answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season I will call for thee. Alas for Felix! This was his golden opportunity, but-like multitudes still-he missed it. Convenient seasons in abundance he found to call for Paul, but never again to "hear him concerning the Faith in Christ," and writhe under the terrors of the wrath to come. Even in these moments of terror he had no thought of submission to the Cross or a change of life. The word discerned the thoughts and intents of his heart, but that heart even then clung to its idols; even as Herod, who "did many things, and heard John gladly," but even in his best moments was enslaved to his lusts.


Verse 26

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.

He hoped also that money should have been given him - `at the same time also hoping that money would be given him'

Of Paul [that he might loose him]. (This bracketed clause is evidently an explanatory gloss without authority.) Bribery in a judge was punishable by the Roman law, but the spirit of a slave (to use the words of Tacitus) was in all his acts, and his "communing with Paul" - as if he cared for either him or his message-simply added hypocrisy to meanness. The position in life of Paul's Christian visitors might beget the hope of extracting something from them for the release of their champion; but the apostle would rather lie in prison than stoop to this!

Wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him - under pretext of 'anxious inquiry' after salvation, perhaps, and very possibly curious to know more of this new religion and the prisoner's connection with it; but secretly hoping to weary him out, or his friends, and thus extract from them a bribe to set him at liberty: thus rendering any real benefit by all these interviews hopeless.


Verse 27

But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix' room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.

But after two years. What a trial to this burning missionary of Christ to suffer such a tedious period of inaction! How mysterious it would seem! But this repose would be medicine to his spirit: he would not and could not be entirely inactive, so long as he was able by pen and message to communicate with the churches; and he would doubtless learn the salutary truth that even he was not essential to his Master's cause. That Luke wrote his Gospel during this period, under the apostle's superintendence, is the not unlikely conjecture of able critics. Percius Festus - of whom little is known. He died, as we learn from Josephus (Ant. 20: 8. 9, to 9. 1), a few years after this.

Came into Felix' room. Poor Felix was recalled on accusations against him by the Jews of Caesarea, and only acquitted through the intercession of his brother at court (see Josephus, Ant. 20: 8. 10).

And Felix, willing to show the Jews a pleasure - `to earn the thanks of the Jews' (which, however, he did not),

Left Paul bound. He does not appear to have been bound from the time when Lysias act him free (Acts 22:30) until Felix, on being superseded, had him again manacled, for the mean purpose of ingratiating himself with the Jews; and in this condition he was afterward brought forth before Herod Agrippa ( Acts 26:29 ).

Remarks:

(1) The skill with which our apostle adapted his addresses to his audience, and to the occasion, has been before remarked. Here we have a striking illustration of it. In his reply to Tertullus, it was easy to rebut the charge of sedition. He had but to challenge proof of it, and ask why the witnesses of it were not there to substantiate the charge. But the charge of being "the ringleader of the Nazarene sect" he meets with studious and noteworthy precision: admitting that in the way which they called "a sect" he discharged his religious duties; but protesting that he did this only to "the God of his fathers," and that his Faith, instead of being a deviation from the ancestral creed, was but the submission of his heart to "all things which were written in the law and the prophets;" in particular, that he held, with his accusers themselves, the hope of a Resurrection, "both of the just and of the unjust;" that he was at pains to have at all times an uncondemning conscience toward both God and men that his errand to Jerusalem, at the time when he was charged with breach of law, was a purely religious one-to bring alms to his nation and present offerings to God; that he was found in the temple in the quiet and orderly discharge of religious duty; that he was ready to meet any witness who had aught to lay to his charge; and that what had raised all the hubbub, which had issued in his being sent down to Caesarea for trial, was nothing but an exclamation in the Jewish Sanhedrim about his faith in the Resurrection, which had set the Pharisees who held it and the Sadducees who denied it to quarrelling with each other about him, thus bringing the tribune down to preserve the peace.

In this line of defense, with the exception of what he says on the charge of sedition, the apostle confines himself rigidly to the charge of apostasy from the ancestral Faith-not giving even an outline of the facts of the Gospel, as being unsuitable on such an occasion. But observe how entirely he changes his ground when standing before Felix and Drusilla at a private interview, that they might "hear him concerning the faith in Christ." That he would omit all mention of that "Faith," is not for a moment to be supposed. But brief appears to have been all that was said on that subject. The couple before whom he stood were living an infamous life, not to speak of Felix as a governor. The opportunity, therefore, of dealing faithfully with them being too precious to be lost, the apostle comes right up to their consciences, discoursing to them of "righteousness, temperance, and the judgment to come," with such sharp, down-bearing power, that Felix trembled under it. After what had happened to the Baptist for this kind of fidelity, a less disinterested servant of Christ would have chosen topics less unpalatable, for which sufficient excuse might have been found in the object for which the interview was arranged-to "hear him (not on such topics, but) concerning the faith in Christ." But Paul was his Master's servant, not his own, and "exercised himself to have always a conscience void of offence," first, "toward God," and then only (and in the highest sense) "toward men." - A noble model!

(2) It is not said that Drusilla trembled under Paul's preaching; and there is not the least ground to think that she did. Though a Jewess, and as such likely to understand better and be more alive to what Paul was saying, just for that reason was she the less likely-after having so shamelessly overridden all her early convictions-to be staggered by anything that Paul preached. Felix certainly was the less hardened of the two; and, as has been seen ever since the days of Jezebel, bad women are doubly bad. (3) In spiritual things, as in things temporal, the pregnant words of the poet are true-`There is a tide in the affairs of men.'

(4) The strong probability at which we have hinted (on Acts 24:27), that the two years' imprisonment of Paul were turned to blessed account, will bring to the recollection of many the cases of such as John in the isle of Patmos, of Luther in the castle of Wartburg of Bunyan in the jail at Bedford, and of Rutherford in the prison at Aberdeen: for which the Church of God, as long as it exists upon earth, will have cause to be thankful. Thus, "maketh He the wrath of man to praise Him."

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Acts 24:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/acts-24.html. 1871-8.

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