Acts 25

From here to the end of the Book of Acts we see the captivity and trials of Paul to its final end in Rome. Governor Festus, unnamed chief priests, King Agrippa II with his sister*Bernice, Caesarea, all additional background leading up to Paul’s execution and the concurring Jewish revolt against Rome plus the Roman orator hired by the Sanhedrin to present their case against Paul all rolled into chapters 24 – 26. It is no wonder that there is so much tentativeness to actually conclude a trial with Paul. Roman authorities keep pushing it up the ladder finding reasons to delay sentencing an innocent man but holding him for Geo-political reasons.

Reading a glowing book

The Living Word of GOD -Connecting the dots of the history of mankind

*A student of the bible should understand that when a first person, place, or thing is identified in the bible, it isn’t an accident or something to fill a page. Emperoris one of those aha-moments in scripture. She is from Cilicia just as is Paul. She was part of the Herodian dynasty that ruled the Roman province of Judea from 55 to 93 C.E. Her father was King Herod Agrippa I. She was sister to Herod Agrippa II. She had a number of failed marriages not to make her the victim. During the First Jewish-Roman War (67 C.E.) she began a love affair with the future (Emperor) Titus Flavius Vespasian.

Acts 25:3 once again points out the deviant and abhorrent actions of the Jewish leadership. The Romans knew Jewish leadership and these people spelled trouble. Their continual trouble-making is but one reason they have been expelled from so many countries over the centuries. They continued to kick the dead horse and held grudges for years. Look at the middle east today…what has changed? Now they wanted Paul to be brought to Jerusalem so he could be killed while in route. A plan derailed by Governor Felix. Probably because Paul appealed to Caesar.derailed

Governor Festus being the new guy on the block denied permission to take Paul to Jerusalem for additional prosecution (perhaps persecution) by the Jewish courts. He kept this under his thumb and said he would judge, not the Jews of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin. At the same time as history records, the Romans knew that the Jews were a force with which they must be aware. He listened to the charges against Paul none of which they could prove. Acts 25:8 is the beginning of Paul’s defense and from his own mouth…

Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.”

Governor Festus wanting to placate the Jews asked Paul if he would go to Jerusalem to be tried. Paul responds that he is already standing in front of the “authority” of this area. Why go there only to stand in front of the same man? Paul is very forthright. He states in v11 that if he committed a crime worth death, he would not resist the executioner. At this point [Acts 25:11] Paul assures his trip to Rome by “appealing to Caesar;” i.e. Emperor Nero. There is great turmoil in the Roman Empire at this time; Emperor Nero the firebug and the pending Jewish revolt.

Acts 25:13 is interesting. Look back at the aster-ix on page one describing the shifty Bernice and her brother King Agrippa II. They show up at Caesarea; a brother and a sister. She was obviously of some influence over her brother. In v14 Governor Felix explains to King Agrippa that Paul is a left over case from the former governor Felix. Governor Felix had already tried Paul and found him innocent but to gain some favor with the insistent and persistent Jews he left Paul in prison. Now it is Governor Felix’s problem. He is very befuddled.

(v14) Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man left prisoner by Felix, and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews laid out their case against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him.

Felix explains to King Agrippa II (and) Bernice that the problem with Paul is Jewish religion, attitude, and some guy named Jesus. This would lead us to believe they did NOT KNOW about the crucifixion of Jesus only 20 years earlier. Since these Roman leaders were supposedly “in the know” due to their authority, political position and knowledge, we can deduce that the gospel message was still limited in its scope, reach, and frequency. Felix points out part of the argument between Paul and the Jews was that this Jesus was supposed to be dead per the Jews but yet he was very much alive per Paul.

ceremonialKing Agrippa II states that he would like to hear from this man named Paul. [v22]. Whether it was to see and hear from Paul or the pomp and circumstances provided him at this meeting Agrippa wanted (see verse 23) is unknown. However the bible includes “Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Sounds very ceremonial. Not an uncommon aspect of the Herods; Idumean by blood; that is offspring of Esau, twin of Jacob.

...but I found nothing deserving of death” explains Felix to Agrippa. What Governor Felix is searching for is an accusation worthy of “appealing to Caesar.” He would need to or to the Emperor with some degree of criminality for even sending Paul to Rome. As we close chapter 25 Felix states it in his own words: “For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner (to Rome), not to indicate the charges against him.”

Rev. Dr. Jstark
December 2018

Acts 23

When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.”

This oath comes from Acts 23:12. If these Jews stayed true to their oath, then they all died of thirst or hunger. What sinister plot is going to sway the hand of God? NONE!

none

Knowing that this period of Paul’s imprisonment in Jerusalem while under Roman protection began with his arrest and rescue by Roman Tribune Claudius Lysias, as recorded in the last chapter of Acts. This imprisonment [lasts until the conclusion of The Book of Acts]. [Coffman’s Bible Commentary]

Paul’s first defense was on the steps of the Roman Garrison’s barracks. See Acts 22 article. Keep well in mind that these are very likely to be some if not all of the same Sanhedrin bunch that condemned Jesus to the cross. Paul is not talking to a second or third generation of people. These are for the most part, the same Jewish leaders. How frustrated they must be at this point when the one they killed (Jesus) for his message did not stop the message. Paul, Peter, James, Phillip, and a large number (recall in our previous article…”thousands”) of people becoming believers and followers of this Messiah.

Acts emphasizes that simply being well-minded, good in consciousness, or sincere does not pave the path to Heaven. There is but one way to see the God the Father; it is by Jesus his only begotten son [John 6:44; John 14:6]. To be blunt…sell out to Jesus. Need more evidence? Look at John 16:2.

SELL OUT.jpg

SELL OUT 

[ESV] “People will tell you to *leave their synagogues and never come back. In fact, the time will come when they will think that by killing you they have done God a good service.”

*JIV NOTE: A pastor by the name of Schwartz and probably others is a modern day example of this prophecy. He accepted the pulpit call to a mid-west church in America only to be asked in very shot order to “leave” their church (synagogue). He preached the gospel and they said that there will be none of that around there.

Point being…these people as Jesus states from his own mouth in John 16:2 will be of good conscience, sincere, and well-minded. They have served god (little g) by arresting and killing Christians. It takes little knowledge to grasp at the probability of End Time leaders and Satan himself encouraging such sincerity. As we read on in Acts 23, we even personally find a time when those standing next to Paul are instructed by the High Priest Ananias to strike Paul (us) in the mouth for what Paul (we) states [Acts 23:2]. After being struck, Paul retorts that action of being struck without cause will come back right back at this high priest. What you have done to me will also me done to you. Paul did not know that this was the High Priest giving the order. He does not apologize but points out that now only did the Law of Moses forbid such action, but he, Paul, was obliged by the same Law of Moses to withhold criticizing their leadership (Acts 23: 5).

Paul may not have realized his statement to this high priest was prophetic. “Ananias was High Priest between 47 and 52 A.D. Then again up to 59 A.D. These secular dates help us to know the time period of this incident. An aside but of historical fact, Ananias was murdered by some of his own people after being acquitted of scandalous activities.” [Ananias“. Encyclopædia Britannica.] 1 (11th ed.)

In 66 C.E. The first Jewish revolt against the Romans started. It lasted until 70 or 71 C.E.

Now Paul uses his knowledge of the Sanhedrin make-up of Sadducee, Pharisee, and others. Pharisees believed in an after-life, a resurrection, final judgment and angels. The Sadducee did not. Paul brings this difference of opinion into the conference while in front of the Roman Tribune commander.

Acts 23:6… Paul knew that some of the men in the council meeting were Sadducees and some were Pharisees. So he shouted, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee and my father was a Pharisee! I am on trial here because I believe that people will rise from death.”

That comment is all it took. Now the accusers were in a fight between themselves (v6). Sadducee believed that once dead, eternally dead. No resurrection, no angels, no after life, no spirit. Once their argument got heated, the Pharisees stood up and contested that they see nothing wrong or of a crime committed by Paul (v9). The Pharisee vs. Sadducee fight got so heated and became so violent the Tribune commander ordered Paul to be taken back to the military barracks for protection.

JIV NOTE: There are not three groups of Synagogue peoples; Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes. Both Pharisees and Sadducees had members among them that were also scribes.

We need to go back to verse 3 for some clarification. Paul called this so-called high priest a “whitewash or painted wall” that covers dirt behind it. History tells us what Paul was very likely indicating but the bible does not. Ananias had “purchased” his position of high priest. The ESV Study Bible points out that Ananias was a particularly bad high priest; a bad guy even before he became high priest. Josephus says he confiscated for himself the tithes given the ordinary priests and gave lavish bribes to Romans and also Jews (cf. Antiq. XX, 205-7 [ix.2], 213 [ix.4]). He was hated by what we would call Jewish nationalists. They wanted Israel first; others second or third. Ananias muddied this water with politics, Roman alliances, bribes, and seeking favors with a gratitude debt.

Anianias was a brutal and scheming man, hated by Jewish nationalists for his pro-Roman policies. When the [Jewish] war with Rome began in A.D. 66, the [Jewish] nationalists burned his house (cf. Jos. War II, 426 [xvii.6]) and he was forced to flee to the palace of Herod the Great in the northern part of Jerusalem (ibid., 429 [xvii.6]). Ananias was finally trapped while hiding in an aqueduct on the palace grounds and was killed along with his brother *Hezekiah (ibid., 441-42 [xvii.9]).

JIV NOTE: *Not Hezekiah the Judean King. *Rome burned the Temple to the ground in 70 C.E.

So for him to be a legal high priest in the line of Aaron was a real stretch and a whitewash facade. He wasn’t even a Levite. Paul either in ignorance or the possibility of knowing that Ananias got the office by politics and bribery did not recognize him as legitimate therefore his “whitewash” comment.

Here we find another visitation from heaven either in a vision or angelic. Verse 11 says this message from above tells Paul that what he has done in Jerusalem he must also do in Rome. This assures Paul that he is not going to die at the hands of this mob or in this city. But, this did not mean the contemptible Jews heard that message. They plotted to once again kill Paul. They go to Ananias and ask him to have the Roman Tribune bring Paul to the Sanhedrin so he could better clarify his position. While being transferred to the Sanhedrin from the military barracks these 40 some men would attack and kill Paul. We have no clue what they would do with the Roman guard with Paul.

We now see this article’s opening statement about some Jews who had taken a vow to not eat or drink until Paul is silenced by death. Once again these guys must starve to death because God had just assured Paul that he “must go to Rome.” In Acts 23:16 we discover something about Paul we did not know up to now. He had a nephew, son of Paul’s sister. His nephew heard of the plot, went to the army barracks, and told Paul. Paul sent his nephew with another soldier to the commander of the Romans in Jerusalem. He relays the same message of the plot the nephew overheard directly to the commander.

Now we see something by default. The Romans may have conquered and ruled the land but to some degree did not trust and perhaps feared Jewish revolts. Why? We find that answer in how the commander reacts. Acts 23:23 states:

Then the commander called two army officers. He said to them, “I need some men to go to Caesarea. Get 200 soldiers ready. Also, get 70 soldiers on horses and 200 men to carry spears. Be ready to leave at nine o’clock tonight.”

The Roman commander did not wish a standoff against these Jewish insurgents. He order Paul transferred out of Jerusalem immediately; by 9:00 that same evening. He sends Paul to Governor Felix along with a letter of some explanation. By now the commander had to wonder about these Jews. Why were they so determined to kill a man who some of their own leadership, the Pharisees, claimed he was not guilty of any crime against the State of Judaism.

Verse 26 is where we discover the name of this commander and Tribune…Claudius Lysias. It is in the heading of the letter to Governor Felix that Luke includes in this passage of Acts. He explains in a short note that there was almost a riot in Jerusalem requiring he call out the troops to protect a man named Paul. He ordered a command of troops to take Paul to Felix; one well prepared to defend themselves and Paul if necessary. Once out of town, the horse soldiers continue on with Paul to see Felix.

Secular histories tell us that the First Jewish War against the Romans was between 66 and 70 C.E. Now we may better understand the tensions that already existed in this land.

Governor Felix asks Paul what country is he from. Paul tells him Cilicia. He then agrees to hear the case once Paul’s accusers arrive. He is held in the great palace that King Herod had built for himself long ago.

Rev. Dr. Jstark

November 2018