Acts Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 25

1. Three days after Festus had entered the province, he went up from Caesarea to Yerushalayim.
Festus had just arrived from Rome, was unfamiliar with Judea and went to Jerusalem as soon as he could to acquaint himself with the leaders and the current issues. 

2. There the head cohanim and the Judean leaders informed him of the case against Sha’ul, and they asked him
3. to do them the favor of having the man sent to Yerushalayim. (They had plotted to have him ambushed and killed en route.)
The Judean leaders did not make a demand but made use of the opportunity to ingratiate themselves with Festus by giving him the pleasure of granting an apparently minor and harmless request. They counted on his ignorance of the reason why Sha'ul had been sent down from Yerushalayim in the first place, namely, because of a plot not unlike the one described here. They hoped Festus would send Sha'ul with a small guard that could be easily overcome. 

4. Festus replied that Sha’ul was being kept under guard in Caesarea, and that he was about to go there shortly himself.
Perhaps Festus was in fact familiar with why Sha'ul was in Caesarea; or he preferred to adhere to the normal course of Roman justice, rather than make an exception that could produce untoward consequences for which he would be blamed. Maybe he was simply too busy to deal with this special request so early in his term of office, or he may have suspected not all was "kosher." He plays safe, offers standard procedure, and the Judcan leaders can only accede. 

5. “So,” he said, “let competent men among you come down with me and press charges against the man, if he has done something wrong.”
6. After staying with them at most eight or ten days, Festus went down to Caesarea; and on the following day, he took his seat in court and ordered Sha’ul to be brought in.
Festus remained in Jerusalem only long enough to get his bearings (v. l&N), eight or ten days. The very next day after returning to Caesarea he arranged for Sha'ul's retrial. 

7. When he arrived, the Judeans who had come down from Yerushalayim stood around him, bringing many serious charges against him which they could not prove.
8. In reply, Sha’ul said, “I have committed no offense — not against the Torah to which the Jews hold, not against the Temple, and not against the Emperor.”
Once again no good case was made against Sha'ul, and once again he defended himself against the three major possible accusers — the Pharisees, concerned with the Torah; the Sadducees and cohanim. concerned with the Temple; and the Roman state, embodied in the Emperor. Luke omits the specifics of both accusation and defense. 

9. But Festus, wanting to do the Judeans a favor, asked Sha’ul, “Would you be willing to go up to Yerushalayim and be tried before me there on these charges?”
10. Sha’ul replied, “I am standing right now in the court of the Emperor, and this is where I should be tried. I have done no wrong to the Judeans, as you very well know.
11. If I am a wrongdoer, if I have done something for which I deserve to die, then I am ready to die. But if there is nothing to these charges which they are bringing against me, no one can give me to them just to grant a favor! I appeal to the Emperor!”
Progress on Sha" ul' s case ceased for two years while Felix waited, perhaps for a bribe (24:26). Now, with Festus showing himself uninterested in justice, Sha'ul decides to enter his appeal to be tried by the highest authority, a right available to Roman citizens since 509 B.C.E. Yeshua had promised that Sha'ul would one day go to Rome (23:11), and he himself had long wanted to go there (Ro 1:1O-15&N). His dream is fulfilled at 28:16. 

12. Then Festus, after talking with his advisers, answered, “You have appealed to the Emperor; you will go to the Emperor!”
13. After some days, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus.
King Agrippa. Herod Agrippa II, the last Herodian king, was raised in Rome and made king in 50 C.E., six years after the death of his father Herod Agrippa I (see 12:3N). His capital was Caesarea Philippi (modern Banyas), at the foot of Mount Hermon, some 40 miles northeast of Caesarea, where modern Israel, Lebanon and Syria meet.

Bernice was Agrippa's sister, so their relationship was incestuous. Felix's wife Drusilla (24:24) was sister of both. Bernice was later mistress of two emperors, Vespasian and Titus, and almost became Empress. Obviously she had long since given up whatever vestiges of Jewish religion and morals she might have once had. 

14. Since they were staying on there for some time, Festus had the opportunity to acquaint the king with Sha’ul’s situation. “There is a man here,” he said, “who was left behind in custody by Felix.
Agrippa and Bemice made an official visit to welcome the new procurator but stayed on longer than necessary for the purpose. Festus used the time discuss the perplexing but not pressing issue of Sha'ul. 

15. When I was in Yerushalayim, the head cohanim and the elders of the Judeans informed me about him and asked me to pronounce judgment against him.
16. My answer to them was that it is not the custom with Romans to give up an accused man just to grant a favor, before he has met his accusers face to face and had the opportunity to defend himself against the charge.
17. So when they arrived here with me, I did not delay, but took my seat in court the next day and ordered the man brought in.
18. “When the accusers stood up, instead of charging him with some serious crime as I had expected,
19. they disputed with him about certain points of their own religion, and particularly about somebody called Yeshua, who had died, but who Sha’ul claimed was alive.
Gallio in similar circumstances had refused to sit in judgment on a matter of internal concern among Jews (18:12-16). Festus was less wise. Nevertheless this Gentile's description of the dispute as one about certain points of their own religion is additional evidence that Messianic Judaism is a form of Judaism. 

20. Being at a loss as to how to investigate such questions, I asked him if he would be willing to go to Yerushalayim and be tried on these matters there.
21. But since Sha’ul appealed to be kept in custody and have his case decided by His Imperial Majesty, I ordered him held until I could send him to the Emperor.”
22. Agrippa said to Festus, “I myself have been wanting to hear the man.” “Tomorrow,” he replied, “You will hear him.”
23. So the next day, Agrippa and Bernice came with much pageantry; they entered the audience room accompanied by military commanders and the prominent men of the city. Then, at the command of Festus, Sha’ul was brought in.
24. Festus said, “King Agrippa and all of you here with us, do you see this man? The whole Judean community has complained to me about him both in Yerushalayim and here, crying that he shouldn’t be allowed to remain alive.
25. But I discovered that he had done nothing that deserves a death sentence. Now when he himself appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him.
26. However, I have nothing specific to write to His Majesty about him. This is why I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa — so that after we have examined him, I might have something to write.
27. It seems irrational to me to send a prisoner without also indicating what the charges against him are.”

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