The Matter Set Before King Agrippa

22 Jun

King Agrippa, the son of Herod of Acts 12, came to Caesarea to with his sister, Bernice, of offer Festus his royal welcome to the east (Acts 25:13). The meeting occurred sometime in 59 CE either during the summer just after the Pentecost holy day or during the autumn just after Tabernacles, which includes several annual holy days.[1] Since Paul’s journey to Rome occurs some weeks after the fast (Acts 27:9 – i.e. the Day of Atonement), Agrippa’s visit probably occurred just after the autumn holy days, showing Festus spent the summer months in vain, wondering what to write to Caesar concerning Paul (cp. Acts 25:26).

Anything the king does in public is done with great pomp, and his majesty’s willingness to hear Paul’s case is no exception (cp. Acts 25:23). Together with King Agrippa and Bernice, Festus had called all the principle men of Rome who resided in Caesarea. Festus’ mention of all the Jews in Acts 25:24 must be understood as the representatives of all the Jews. That is, the leaders of the Jews who spoke for the nation accused Paul both at Jerusalem and then in Festus’ court at Caesarea. In Acts 25:25 Festus says Paul was innocent of any capital offense against Rome, which agrees with Paul’s statement in Acts 25:10 and Festus’ own admitted assessment of the affair to Agrippa in Acts 25:18-19. This is the bungled mess Festus sets before the royal court together with Rome’s principle men—what can be done about the man, Paul?

Once Paul was given permission to speak (Acts 26:1), Paul thanked the king and acknowledged the Agrippa’s expertise in Jewish affairs, saying he was pleased to appear before him, thus implying Paul believe the king to be an unbiased expert—quite unlike those authorities who accused him and into whose hands Festus thought to place him (cp. Acts 25:7, 9). Paul’s defense before the king stated simply was that he, Paul, was a good Jew. He was not a renegade as the charges against him imply. In future blogs I hope to consider both the content of Paul’s defense before Agrippa and, since this speech includes Luke’s third account of Paul’s conversion, a comparison of all three conversion accounts, noting similarities and differences each has with the other two. For now, however, I will simply offer an overview of Paul’s defense.

Paul presents himself before Agrippa as a good Jew, just as he had done before the Jewish people at Jerusalem in Acts 22, the Sanhedrin (Acts 23), and as he had done before Felix at Caesarea in Acts 24. He began by showing he was raised as a Pharisee (Acts 26:6) and even zealously persecuted the very Way he embraced that day (Acts 26:9-12), under the authority of those very people who were his accusers and responsible for his present predicament. What changed Paul’s position was a heavenly vision of the risen Jesus (Acts 26:13), who had sent him to testify of both what he saw and to preach God’s forgiveness to both Jews and gentiles by opening their eyes to the truth in an effort to transfer them from the powers of darkness (the enemy) to the power of light (God). Paul claimed that, because he was faithful to this vision and heavenly commission, that he was persecuted by the authorities, which basically means the authorities at Jerusalem don’t believe in the resurrection, but, because Paul does, he ought to be killed.

[1] Feast of Trumpets occurs on the 1st day of the 7th month in the Jewish calendar; then comes the Day of Atonement on the 10th and Tabernacles with holy days on the 15th and 21st of the month—occurring during our September-October.

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Posted by on June 22, 2013 in Gospel, Kingdom of God, Paul in chains


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