Paul Before Felix

10 Aug

A few days after Paul was taken to Caesarea, Ananias, the high priest, and the other chief Jews arrived to accuse Paul in Felix’s court (Acts 24:1). However, nothing they claimed could be proved and, moreover, hadn’t even brought the men from Asia who claimed Paul had brought gentiles into the Temple complex in order to pollute the Sanctuary (Acts 24:12-13, 18-19). The most that could be said was: Paul had caused some commotion in the Sanhedrin by claiming he believed in a resurrection, but the chief priests allow for this (Acts 24:20-21), for the Pharisees among them believe such, though they, the Sadducees, do not.

Felix’s decision was to wait for Lysias, the chief captain at the Antonia and who had taken Paul into custody, arrived in Caesarea and gave his report of the matter. Nevertheless, it seems nothing was resolved, as far as Paul was concerned, because he was kept in Felix’s custody for two more years until Felix was replaced by Festus. Apparently, Felix would have set Paul free had Paul or one of Paul’s friends offered him a bribe, for this was Felix’s way (Acts 24:26-27). Nevertheless, since nothing was forthcoming, Paul was not released.

The timeline here is 58-59 or 59-60, depending upon which scholars are correct concerning the arrival of Festus to replace Felix. It was about this time that Jonathan, the high priest who had replaced Ananias cir. 52 CE and who had also replaced Caiaphas in 36 CE, was murdered during his second tenure in that office by Felix through conspiracy. The governor had used the scarii by bribing one of Jonathan’s friends to have Jonathan killed. It seems that Jonathan was a meddler in Felix’s affairs. Jonathan assumed he knew better than Felix, concerning how to govern the Jews, and he was responsible for Felix’s appointment [JOSEPHUS: Antiquities of the Jews; book 20, chapter 8, paragraph 5]. So, he may have been making demands upon Felix concerning Paul, because the fact that Paul remained in Roman custody was an embarrassment to Jonathan whose friends knew Jonathan had requested that Caesar appoint Felix as their governor. On the other hand, Felix could not have it become known that he permitted the Jewish court to judge and execute a Roman citizen for a charge pertaining only to their religious differences of opinion. In any event, Jonathan was killed, but Paul’s life was preserved.

Another interesting point is that Felix was married to Drusilla against the Jewish law. It seems his wife was a practicing Jew. She was an Edomite and the daughter of Herod Agrippa, the same who had executed James, John’s brother, which he probably had done at the advice of Jonathan, to whom Agrippa had offered the high priesthood,  or during the high priesthood of Matthias, Jonathan’s brother. So, the enemies of the believers in Jesus, including Paul, were very powerful. It seems during his final two years as governor of the Jews, Felix had called for Paul often, hoping for a bribe and thereby set him free. However, during one of those occasions, his wife was present. Apparently, Paul reminded the governor at that time of his wrongdoing concerning his wife, Drusilla. She had been the wife of another man, but Felix fell in love with her and stole her away contrary to the Law [JOSEPHUS: Antiquities of the Jews; book 20, chapter 7, paragraphs 1 & 2]. Paul mentioned that one’s passions need to be tempered or else face the judgment of God. This made Felix tremble (Acts 24:24-25), but not so much that he would release Paul. It seems “out of sight—out of mind” kind of manner of living contented Felix in these matters. So, he left Paul bound, that is, kept him in custody, until the arrival of Festus, and in that manner he was able to please the Jewish authorities (Acts 24:27), in that, at least he did not set Paul free.

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Posted by on August 10, 2011 in Paul in chains


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