Acts Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern
1. After five days, the cohen hagadol Hananyah came down with some elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they presented their case against Sha’ul to the governor.
Chananyah See 23:2-5&N.
Tertullus. Probably Jewish ("we," vv. 5-6); but his having a Latin name suggests that he may have had good Roman connections.
2. Sha’ul was called, and Tertullus began to make the charges: “Felix, your Excellency, it is because of you that we enjoy unbroken peace, and it is your foresight that has brought to this nation
3. so many reforms in so many areas. It is with the utmost gratitude that we receive this.
It was customary to begin a presentation in court with a compliment, in this case flattery so excessive as to contradict the facts (see Tacitus' remark at 23:24N).
4. But, in order not to take up too much of your time, I beg your indulgence to give us a brief hearing.
5. “We have found this man a pest. He is an agitator among all the Jews throughout the world and a ringleader of the sect of the Natzratim.
Tertullus presents the accusation against Sha'ul briefly but not well. Being a pest is hardly an indictable crime. "World" renders Greek oikoumeni, "the inhabited earth"; but Felix is not Caesar and does not have jurisdiction beyond his own district.
The sect of the Natzratim, a Hebrew word derived from "Natzeret" (Nazareth), the town where Yeshua the Messiah lived most of his life. The Greek word used here is "Nazoraios"; it is used six times in Acts and five times in the Gospels as descriptive of Yeshua himself, and in these places the JNT renders it "from Natzeret." Today a similarly derived Hebrew word, "Notzrim," is the ordinary word for "Christians"; after two thousand years it no longer refers to a group considered to be within Judaism. Most English translations use the term "Nazarenes" in this verse. See also Mt 2:23&N. Greek airesis gives us the English word "heresy," but its meaning here is "sect." It is used in Jewish literature to refer to other groups, including the P 'rushim — it does not necessarily have a negative connotation.
Tertullus wants Felix to understand the Natzratim as a Messianic group, and that any group supporting a Messiah is loyal to a different king and subversive of Roman hegemony.
6. He even tried to profane the Temple, but we arrested him.
He tried to profane the Temple. The Asian Jews thought he had actually done so (21:28), but by this time even his accusers realized he had not. Attempted profanation of the Temple is a reduced charge. We arrested him. This is a gross understatement — they wanted to lynch him (2!:30-32&N).
7. Some manuscripts include verses We wanted to try him under our own law, but Lysias the commander intervened. He took him out of our hands by force and ordered his accuser to appear before you.
Даже в тех рукописях, которые содержат дополнительную информацию, Тертулл уклоняется от объяснения того, почему вмешался командующий Лисий. Он не говорит, что тот хотел спасти Шауля от заговорщиков, грозивших убить его (23:12-24).
8. By questioning this man yourself, you will be able to learn all about the things of which we are accusing him.”
Even in the manuscripts which provide this additional information Tertullus avoids mentioning why Lysias the commander intervened, namely, to save Sha'ul from the plot on his life (23:12-24).
9. The Judeans also joined in the accusation and alleged that these were the facts.
10. When the governor motioned for Sha’ul to speak, he replied, “I know that you have been judge over this nation for a number of years, so I am glad to make my defense.
11. As you can verify for yourself, it has not been more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Yerushalayim;
12. and neither in the Temple nor in the synagogues nor anywhere else in the city did they find me either arguing with anyone or collecting a crowd.
Sha'ul raised no commotion in the Temple but went about his business quietly, in a manner consistent with his purpose of placating those Messianic Jews who were "zealots tor the Torah" (21:2Off.). It would have been counterproductive for him to have done anything which did not demonstrate that he "stays in line and keeps the Torah" (21:24).
13. Nor can they give any proof of the things of which they are accusing me.
14. “But this I do admit to you: I worship the God of our fathers (Exodus 3:15) in accordance with the Way (which they call a sect). I continue to believe everything that accords with the Torah and everything written in the Prophets.
The Way. See 9:2&N; 18:25-26; 19:9,23; 22:4, where "the Way" is used in the same technical sense to refer to the beliefs and practices of Yeshua's followers. The term implies that "the Way" is the right Way. "Which they call a sect" implies that his accusers regard it as one way among several, and a way they do not like. Sha'ul refers back to Tertullus' use of the word "sect" and neutralizes any possible negative overtone (v. 5&N). I worship the God of our fathers. This is precisely the response a present-day Messianic Jew makes to Jews who consider him apostate. The God we worship is the only God, Elohey-avoteynu, "the God of our fathers" (the phrase is found in the first blessing of the 'Amidah, the central synagogue prayer). Likewise today's Messianic Jew, with Sha'ul. believes everything that accords with the Torah "as upheld by the Messiah" (1С 9:2 l&N. Ga 6:2&N) and everything written in the Prophets, including the prophecies pointing to Yeshua as the Messiah (see Section VII of the Introduction to the JNT, Mt 5:17&N, Lk 24:25-27&N).
15. And I continue to have a hope in God — which they too accept — that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.
Which they too, the P'rushim but not the Tz'dukim, accept (see 23:6N). A resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. Only here does Sha'ul mention the resurrection of the unrighteous. For his teaching on the resurrection of the righteous see 1С I5&NN, 1 Th4:12-17&NN. Yeshua teaches the resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous at Yn 5:29&N; it is mentioned clearly in the Tanakh at Daniel 12:2. This dual resurrection underlies all passages speaking of future judgment, including Mt 25:31-46, Yn 12:48, Ro 14:10,2C 5:10 and Rv 20:4-6,11-15. Also see v. 21N below.
16. Indeed, it is because of this that I make a point of always having a clear conscience in the sight of both God and man.
Sha'ul makes a point of always having a clear conscience precisely because he has a clear awareness of coming judgment; see 1С 3:10-15, 9:25-27; Pp 3:12-17.
17. “After an absence of several years, I came to Yerushalayim to bring a charitable gift to my nation and to offer sacrifices.
To bring a charitable gift. Not mentioned in Chapter 21, but confirmed by Sha'ul in his own letters (Ro 15:25-31,1С 16:1-4, 2C 8:1-9:15, Ga 2:10).
The gift was not only for Messianic Jews but for unbelieving Jews as well, since they too are included in "my nation" (see Ro I5:25-31&NN and Ga 2:10&N, where believing Jews and Gentiles are enjoined to show kindness and charity toward Jews specifically.) That Sha'ul considered the Messianic Jewish community in Jerusalem part of the Jewish nation is not even an issue, nor should there be any question today that Messianic Jews are part of the Jewish people. (In spite of this the State of Israel's High Court of Justice in 1989 made Messianic Jews Israel's refuseniks — the only Jews in the world not to be considered Jews for purposes of Israel's Law of Return, which allows any Jew anywhere to immigrate to Israel and be a citizen.)
18. It was in connection with the latter that they found me in the Temple. I had been ceremonially purified, I was not with a crowd, and I was not causing a disturbance.
19. But some Jews from the province of Asia — they ought to be here before you to make a charge if they have anything against me!
But some Jews from Asia — they ought to be here.... Sha'ul interrupts his own more accurate report of what transpired in the Temple, perhaps to gain control of his hot temper before discussing in front of a non-Jewish judge the misbehavior of his fellow Jews. See 23:2-5&N.
20. Or else, let these men themselves say what crime they found me guilty of when I stood in front of the Sanhedrin,
21. other than this one thing which I shouted out when I was standing among them: ‘I am on trial before you today because I believe in the resurrection of the dead!’”
Other than this one thing...: "I am on trial... because I believe in the resurrection."
See 23:6-10&NN. Sha'ul not only believes in but has seen and heard Ihe resurrected Yeshua. His point is that a Jewish community divided on whether resurrection takes place at all is in no condition to judge him or other Messianic Jews on whether Yeshua is the Messiah. It would be as if Ferdinand Magellan's crew were to stand trial for claiming to have circumnavigated the globe before judges who differed on whether the earth is round or flat. The principle can be applied today. For example, if a group of people, Jewish or not, is divided over whether or not the Bible is God's inspired word to humanity, with most "right-wing" people, e.g.. Orthodox Jews and Evangelical Christians, saying it is, and most "left-wing" people, e.g.. Reform Jews, Liberal Christians and secularists, saying it is not or hedging, it would be confounding issues for a Messianic Jew to try to defend his faith before them all together; since they would already, for their own reasons, be in disagreement over a point that Messianic Judaism takes as given.
Sha'ul's defense before Felix responds to each of Tertullus' three points:
(1) During his twelve days in Jerusalem he incited no insurrection (vv. 5, 11-13),
(2) his being a Natzrati, a follower of Yeshua from Natzeret, is no ground for complaint (vv. 6b, 14-16), and
(3) he did nothing wrong, either in the Temple or elsewhere (vv. 6a, 16-18). Finally, he challenges his accusers to bring against him any charge that will stand up (w. 19-21).
22. But Felix, who had rather detailed knowledge of things connected with the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.”
When Lysias the commander comes down. There is no evidence that he ever did. Felix is simply putting off a decision in Sha'ul's favor lhat would alienate the leaders of the people he is ruling. See v. 26 for a clearer picture of Felix's motives.
23. He ordered the captain to keep Sha’ul in custody, but to let him have considerable liberty and not prevent any of his friends from taking care of his needs.
24. After some days, Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Sha’ul and listened to him as he spoke about trusting in the Messiah Yeshua.
Drusilla. the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I (see 12: IN). Since she was Jewish, it may have been from her that Felix acquired "a rather detailed knowledge of things connected with the Way" (v. 22). She died with her son in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii in 79 C.E.
25. But when Sha’ul began to discuss righteousness, self-control and the coming Judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “For the time being, go away! I will send for you when I get a chance.”
Righteousness, self-control and the coining Judgment. Sha'ul delivered a complete salvation message suited to the condition of his hearer: the past, when Yeshua through his atoning death made righteousness available to everyone (Ro 3:21-26, 5:8); the present, when the Holy Spirit empowers believers to lead increasingly holy lives, with self-control being not only necessary but possible (Ga 5:22-23); and the future, when everyone — including Felix, you and me — will be judged (1С 3:10-15).
Felix was frightened enough not to want to hear more about judgment, but not frightened enough to believe the Gospel, which offers an alternative to the divine penalty for sin, death. "How will we escape if we ignore such a great deliverance?" (MJ 2:3)
26. At the same time, he hoped that Sha’ul would offer him a bribe; so he sent for him rather often and kept talking with him.
He hoped Sha'ul would offer him a bribe. The "charitable gift" (v. 17) piqued his interest. Perhaps he thought the Gentiles who contributed to the Jewish nation might provide the funds to buy Sha'ul's freedom.
27. After two years, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; but because Felix wanted to grant the Judeans a favor, he left Sha’ul still a prisoner.
Porcius Festus, procurator of Judea from 59 to 62 C.E. The Porcia family had attained senatorial rank in Rome centuries earlier.
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