Acts 25


Porcius Festus being appointed governor of Judea, instead of

Felix, the Jews beseech him to have Paul brought up to

Jerusalem, that he might be tried there; they lying in wait to

kill him on the way, 1-3.

Festus refuses, and desires those who could prove any thing

against him, to go with him to Caesarea, 4, 5.

Festus, having tarried at Jerusalem about ten days, returns to

Caesarea, and the next day Paul is brought to his trial, and

the Jews of Jerusalem bring many groundless charges against

him, against which he defends himself, 6-8.

In order to please the Jews, Festus asks Paul if he be willing

to go up to Jerusalem, and be tried there, 9.

Paul refuses, and appeals to Caesar, and Festus admits the

appeal, 10-13.

King Agrippa, and Bernice his wife, come to Cesarea to visit

Festus, and are informed by him of the accusations against

Paul, his late trial, and his appeal from them to Caesar,


Agrippa desires to hear Paul; and a hearing is appointed for

the following day, 22.

Agrippa, Bernice, the principal officers and chief men of the

city being assembled, Paul is brought forth, 23.

Festus opens the business with generally stating the accusations

against Paul, his trial on these accusations, the groundless

and frivolous nature of the charges, his own conviction of his

innocence, and his desire that the matter might be heard by the

king himself, that he might have something specifically to

write to the emperor, to whom he was about to send Paul,

agreeably to his appeal, 24-27.


Verse 1. Now when Festus was come into the province] By the

province is meant Judea; for, after the death of Herod Agrippa,

Claudius thought it imprudent to trust the government in the hands

of his son Agrippa, who was then but seventeen years of age;

therefore Cuspius Fadus was sent to be procurator. And when

afterwards Claudius had given to Agrippa the tetrarchate of

Philip, that of Batanea and Abila, he nevertheless kept the

province of Judea more immediately in his own hands, and governed

it by procurators sent from Rome. Joseph. Ant. lib. xx. cap. 7,

sec. 1. Felix being removed, Porcius Festus is sent in his place;

and having come to Caesarea, where the Roman governor generally

had his residence, after he had tarried three days, he went up to

Jerusalem, to acquaint himself with the nature and complexion of

the ecclesiastical government of the Jews; no doubt, for the

purpose of the better administration of justice among them.

Verse 2. The high priest-informed him against Paul] They

supposed that as Felix, to please them, on the resignation of his

government, had left Paul bound, so Festus, on the assumption of

it, would, to please them, deliver him into their hand; but, as

they wished this to be done under the colour of justice, they

exhibited a number of charges against Paul, which they hoped would

appear to Festus a sufficient reason why a new trial should be

granted; and he be sent to Jerusalem to take this trial. Their

motive is mentioned in the succeeding verse.

Verse 4. Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea]

It is truly astonishing that Festus should refuse this favour to

the heads of the Jewish nation, which, to those who were not in

the secret, must appear so very reasonable; and especially as, on

his coming to the government, it might be considered an act that

was likely to make him popular; and he could have no interest in

denying their request. But God had told Paul that he should

testify of him at Rome; and he disposed the heart of Festus to act

as he did; and thus disappointed the malice of the Jews, and

fulfilled his own gracious design.

He-would depart shortly] So had the providence of God disposed

matters that Festus was obliged to return speedily to Caesarea;

and thus had not time to preside in such a trial at Jerusalem. And

this reason must appear sufficient to the Jews; and especially as

he gave them all liberty to come and appear against him, who were

able to prove the alleged charges.

Verse 5. Let them-which among you are able] οιδυνατοι, Those

who have authority; for so is this word often used by good Greek

authors, and by Josephus. Festus seems to have said: "I have heard

clamours from the multitude relative to this man; but on such

clamours no accusation should be founded: yourselves have only the

voice of the multitude as the foundation of the request which you

now make. I cannot take up accusations which may affect the life

of a Roman citizen on such pretenses. Are there any respectable

men among you; men in office and authority, whose character

is a pledge for the truth of their depositions, who can prove any

thing against him? If so, let these come down to Caesarea, and the

cause shall be tried before me; and thus we shall know whether he

be a malefactor or not."

Verse 6. When he had tarried-more than ten days] The strangeness

of this mode of expression suggests the thought that our printed

text is not quite correct in this place; and this suspicion is

confirmed by an examination of MSS. and versions: ημεραςου

πλειουςοκτωηδεκα, NOT more than EIGHT OR ten days, is the

reading of ABC, several others of great respectability, with the

Coptic, Armenian, and Vulgate. Griesbach admits this reading

into the text: and of it Professor White says, Lectio indubie

genuina: "This is doubtless the genuine reading."

Verse 7. The Jews-laid many and grievous complaints against

Paul] As they must have perceived that the Roman governors would

not intermeddle with questions of their law, &c., they no doubt

invented some new charges, such as sedition, treason, &c., in

order to render the mind of the governor evil affected towards

Paul; but their malicious designs were defeated, for assertion

would not go for proof before a Roman tribunal: this court

required proof, and the blood-thirsty persecutors of the apostle

could produce none.

Verse 8. While he answered for himself] In this instance St.

Luke gives only a general account, both of the accusations and of

St. Paul's defense. But, from the words in this verse, the charges

appear to have been threefold: 1. That he had broken the law. 2.

That he had defiled the temple. 3. That he dealt in treasonable

practices: to all of which he no doubt answered particularly;

though we have nothing farther here than this, Neither against the

law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against

Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.

Verse 9. Willing to do the Jews a pleasure] This was merely to

please them, and conciliate their esteem; for he knew that, as

Paul was a Roman citizen, he could not oblige him to take a new

trial at Jerusalem.

Verse 10. I stand at Caesar's judgment seat] Every procurator

represented the person of the emperor in the province over which

he presided; and, as the seat of government was at Caesarea, and

Paul was now before the tribunal on which the emperor's

representative sat, he could say, with the strictest propriety,

that he stood before Caesar's judgment seat, where, as a freeman

of Rome, he should be tried.

As thou very well knowest.] The record of this trial before

Felix was undoubtedly left for the inspection of Festus; for, as

he left the prisoner to his successor, he must also leave the

charges against him, and the trial which he had undergone.

Besides, Festus must be assured of his innocence, from the trial

through which he had just now passed.

Verse 11. For if I be an offender] If it can be proved that I

have broken the laws, so as to expose me to capital punishment, I

do not wish to save my life by subterfuges; I am before the only

competent tribunal; here my business should be ultimately decided.

No man may deliver me unto them] The words of the apostle are

very strong and appropriate. The Jews asked as a favour, χαριν,

from Festus, that he would send Paul to Jerusalem, Ac 25:3.

Festus, willing to do the Jews χαριν, this favour, asked Paul if

he would go to Jerusalem, and there be judged, Ac 25:9. Paul

says, I have done nothing amiss, either against the Jews or

against Caesar; therefore no man μεδυναταιαυτοιςχαρισασθαι, can

make a PRESENT of me to them; that is, favour them so far as to

put my life into their hands, and thus gratify them by my death.

Festus, in his address to Agrippa, Ac 25:16, admits this, and

uses the same form of speech: It is not the custom of the Romans,

χαριζεσθαι, gratuitously to give up any one, &c. Much of the

beauty of this passage is lost by not attending to the original

words. See Clarke on Ac 25:16.

I appeal unto Caesar.] A freeman of Rome, who had been tried for

a crime, and sentence passed on him, had a right to appeal to the

emperor, if he conceived the sentence to be unjust; but, even

before the sentence was pronounced, he had the privilege of an

appeal, in criminal cases, if he conceived that the judge was

doing any thing contrary to the laws. ANTE sententiam appellari

potest in criminali negotio, si judex contra leges hoc


An appeal to the emperor was highly respected. The Julian law

condemned those magistrates, and others having authority, as

violaters of the public peace, who had put to death, tortured,

scourged, imprisoned, or condemned any Roman citizen who had

appealed to Caesar. Lege Julia de vi publica damnatur, qui aliqua

potestate praeditus, Civem Romanum ad Imperatorem appellantem

necarit, necarive jusserit, torserit, verberauerit, condemnaverit,

in publica vincula duci jusserit. Pauli Recept. Sent. lib. v. t.


This law was so very sacred and imperative, that, in the

persecution under Trajan, Pliny would not attempt to put to death

Roman citizens who were proved to have turned Christians; hence,

in his letter to Trajan, lib. x. Ep. 97, he says, Fuerunt alii

similis amentiae, quos, quia cives Romani erant, annotavi in urbem

remittendos. 'There were others guilty of similar folly, whom,

finding them to be Roman citizens, I have determined to send to

the city." Very likely these had appealed to Caesar.

Verse 12. Conferred with the council] From this circumstance, we

may learn that the appeal of Paul to Caesar was conditional; else

Festus could not have deliberated with his council whether it

should be granted; for he had no power to refuse to admit such an

appeal. We may, therefore, understand Paul thus: "I now stand

before a tribunal where I ought to be judged; if thou refuse to

hear and try this cause, rather than go to Jerusalem, I appeal to

Caesar." Festus, therefore, consulted with the council, whether he

should proceed to try the cause, or send Paul to Rome; and it

appears that the majority were of opinion that he should be sent

to Caesar.

Hast thou appealed unto Caesar, &c.] Rather, Thou hast appealed

unto Caesar, and to Caesar thou shalt go. The Jews were

disappointed of their hope; and Festus got his hand creditably

drawn out of a business with which he was likely to have been

greatly embarrassed.

Verse 13. King Agrippa] This was the son of Herod Agrippa, who

is mentioned Ac 12:1. Upon the death of his father's youngest

brother, Herod, he succeeded him in the kingdom of Chalcis, by the

favour of the Emperor Claudius: Jos. Antiq. lib. xx. cap. 4, s. 2;

and Bell. lib. ii. cap. 12, s. 1. Afterwards, Claudius removed him

from that kingdom to a larger one, giving him the tetrarchy of

Philip, which contained Trachonitis, Batanea, and Gaulonitis. He

gave him, likewise, the tetrarchy of Lysanias, and the province

which Varus had governed. Jos. Antiq. lib. xx. cap. 6, s. 1; Bell.

lib. ii. cap. 19, s. 8. Nero made a farther addition, and gave him

four cities, Abila, Julias in Peraea, Tarichaea and Tiberias in

Galilee: Jos. Antiq. lib. xx. cap. 7, s. 4; Bell. lib. ii. cap 13,

s. 2. Claudius gave him the power of appointing the high priest

among the Jews; Joseph. Antiq. lib. xx. cap. 1, s. 3; and

instances of his exercising this power may be seen in Joseph.

Antiq. lib. xx. cap. 7, s. 8, 11. This king was strongly attached

to the Romans, and did every thing in his power to prevent the

Jews from rebelling against them; and, when he could not prevail,

he united his troops to those of Titus, and assisted in the siege

of Jerusalem: he survived the ruin of his country several years.

See Bishop Pearce and Calmet.

Bernice, or, as she is sometimes called, Berenice, was sister of

this Agrippa, and of the Drusilla mentioned Ac 24:24: She was at

first married to her uncle Herod, king of Chalcis, Jos. Antiq.

lib. xix. cap. 9, s. 1; and, on his death, went to live with her

brother Agrippa, with whom she was violently suspected to lead an

incestuous life. Juvenal, as usual, mentions this in the broadest

manner-Sat. vi. ver. 155:-

Deinde adamas notissimus, et Berenices

In digito factus pretiosior: hunc dedit olim

Barbarus incestae, dedit hunc Agrippa sorori.

"Next, a most valuable diamond, rendered more precious by being

put on the finger of Berenice; a barbarian gave it to this

incestuous woman formerly; and Agrippa gave this to his sister."

Josephus mentions the report of her having criminal conversation

with her brother Agrippa, φημηςεπισχουσηςοτιτυδελφωσυνηει. To

shield herself from this scandal, she persuaded Polemo, king of

Cilicia, to embrace the Jewish religion, and marry her; this he

was induced to do on account of her great riches; but she soon

left him, and he revolted to heathenism: see Jos. Antiq. lib. xx.

cap. 7, s. 3. After this, she lived often with her brother, and

her life was by no means creditable; she had, however, address to

ingratiate herself with Titus Vespasian, and there were even

rumours of her becoming empress-propterque insignem reginae

Berenices amorem, cui etiam nuptias pollicitus ferebatur.-Suet. in

Vit. Titi. Which was prevented by the murmurs of the Roman people:

Berenicen statim ab urbe dimisit, invitus invitam.-Ibid. Tacitus

also, Hist. lib. ii. cap. 1, speaks of her love intrigue with

Titus. From all accounts she must have been a woman of great

address; and, upon the whole, an exceptionable character.

Verse 14. Declared Paul's cause unto the king] Festus knew that

Agrippa was better acquainted with such matters than he was; and

he wished, in some sort, to make him a party in this business.

Verse 15. Desiring to have judgment against him.] Instead of

δικην, judgment, καταδικην, condemnation, sentence of death,

is the reading of ABC, and several others, which is probably

genuine. This is evidently the meaning of the place, whichever

reading we prefer. Nothing could satisfy these men but the death

of the apostle. It was not justice they wanted, but his


Verse 16. It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man

to die] χαριζεσθαιτιναανθρωπον, To MAKE A PRESENT of any man;

gratuitously to give up the life of any man, through favour or

caprice. Here is a reference to the subject discussed on

Ac 25:11.

Before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face,

&c.] For this righteous procedure the Roman laws were celebrated

over the civilized world. APPIAN, in his Hist. Roman., says: ου

πατριονσφισινακριτουςκαταδικαζεσθαι. It is not their custom to

condemn men before they have been heard. And PHILO De Praesid.

Rom., says: τοτεγαρκοινουςεαυτουςπαρεχοντεςδικασταςεξ




ειναιδικαια. "For then, by giving sentence in common, and hearing

impartially both plaintiff and defendant, not thinking it right

to condemn any person unheard, they decided as appeared to them to

be just; without either enmity or favour, but according to the

merits of the case." See Bp. Pearce. England can boast such laws,

not only in her statute books, but in constant operation in all

her courts of justice. Even the king himself, were he so inclined,

could not imprison nor punish a man without the regular procedure

of the law; and twelve honest men, before whom the evidence has

been adduced, the case argued, and the law laid down and

explained, are ultimately to judge whether the man be guilty or

not guilty. Here, in this favoured country, are no arbitrary

imprisonments-no Bastiles-no lettres de cachet. Lex facit

Regem: the law makes the king, says Bracton, and the king is

the grand executor and guardian of the laws-laws, in the eyes of

which the character, property, and life of every subject are


Verse 18. They brought none accusation of such things as I

supposed] It was natural for Festus, at the first view of things,

to suppose that Paul must be guilty of some very atrocious crime.

When he found that he had been twice snatched from the hands of

the Jews; that he had been brought to Caesarea, as a prisoner, two

years before; that he had been tried once before the Sanhedrin,

and once before the governor of the province; that he had now lain

two years in bonds; and that the high priest and all the heads of

the Jewish nation had united in accusing him, and whose

condemnation they loudly demanded; when, I say, he considered all

this, it was natural for him to suppose the apostle to be some

flagitious wretch; but when he had tried the case, and heard their

accusations and his defence, how surprised was he to find that

scarcely any thing that amounted to a crime was laid to his

charge; and that nothing that was laid to his charge could be


Verse 19. Questions-of their own superstition] περιτηςιδιας

δειδιδαιμονιας; Questions concerning their own religion.

Superstition meant something as bad among the Romans as it does

among us; and is it likely that Festus, only a procurator, should

thus speak to Agrippa, a KING, concerning his own religion? He

could not have done so without offering the highest insult. The

word δεισιδαιμονια must therefore simply mean religion-the

national creed, and the national worship, as I have at large

proved it to mean, in the observations at the end of Ac 17:34.

And of one Jesus, which was dead, &c.] In this way does this

poor heathen speak of the death and resurrection of Christ! There

are many who profess Christianity that do not appear to be much

farther enlightened.

Verse 20. I doubted of such manner of questions] Such as,

whether he had broken their law, defiled their temple; or whether

this Jesus, who was dead, was again raised to life.

Verse 21. Unto the hearing of Augustus] ειςτηντουσεβαστου

διαγνωσιν; To the discrimination of the emperor. For, although

σεβαστος is usually translated Augustus, and the Roman emperors

generally assumed this epithet, which signifies no more than the

venerable, the august, get here it seems to be used merely to

express the emperor, without any reference to any of his

attributes or titles.

Verse 22. I would also hear the man myself] A spirit of

curiosity, similar to that of Herod, Lu 23:8.

As Herod, the father of this Agrippa, had been so active an

instrument in endeavouring to destroy Christianity, having killed

James, and was about to have put Peter to death also, had not God

sent him to his own place, there is no doubt that Agrippa had

heard much about Christianity; and as to St. Paul, his conversion

was so very remarkable that his name, in connection with

Christianity, was known, not only throughout Judea, but through

all Asia Minor and Greece. Agrippa, therefore might naturally wish

to see and hear a man of whom he had heard so much.

Verse 23. With great pomp] μεταπολληςφαντασιας; With much

phantasy, great splendour, great parade, superb attendance or

splendid retinue: in this sense the Greek word is used by the

best writers. Wetstein has very justly remarked, that these

children of Herod the Great made this pompous appearance in that

very city where, a few years before, their father, for his PRIDE,

was smitten of God, and eaten up by worms! How seldom do the

living lay any of God's judgments to heart!

The place of hearing] A sort of audience chamber, in the palace

of Festus. This was not a trial of Paul; there were no Jews

present to accuse him, and he could not be tried but at Rome, as

he had appealed to Caesar. These grandees wished to hear the man

speak of his religion, and in his own defense, through a principle

of curiosity.

Verse 26. I have no certain thing to write] Nothing alleged

against him has been substantiated.

Unto my Lord] The title κυριος, Dominus, Lord, both Augustus

and Tiberius had absolutely refused; and forbade, even by public

edicts, the application of it to themselves. Tiberius himself was

accustomed to say that he was lord only of his slaves, emperor or

general of the troops, and prince of the senate. See Suetonius,

in his life of this prince. The succeeding emperors were not so

modest; they affected the title. Nero, the then emperor, would

have it; and Pliny the younger is continually giving it to Trajan

in his letters.

Verse 27. For it seemeth to me unreasonable, &c.] Every reader

must feel the awkward situation in which Festus stood. He was

about to send a prisoner to Rome, to appear before Nero, though he

had not one charge to support against him; and yet he must be

sent, for he had appealed to Caesar. He hoped therefore that

Agrippa, who was of the Jewish religion, would be able to discern

more particularly the merits of this case; and might, after

hearing Paul, direct him how to draw up those letters, which, on

sending the prisoner, must be transmitted to the emperor.

This chapter ends as exceptionably as the twenty-first. It

should have begun at Ac 25:13, and have been continued to the end

of the twenty-sixth chapter, or both chapters have been united in


1. FROM St. Paul's appeal to Caesar, we see that it is lawful to

avail ourselves, even in the cause of God, of those civil

privileges with which his mercy has blessed us. It is often better

to fall into the hands of the heathen than into the hands of those

who, from mistaken views of religion, have their hearts filled

with bitter persecuting zeal. Those who can murder a man,

pretendedly for God's sake, because he does not think exactly with

them on ceremonial or speculative points of divinity, have no

portion of that religion which came down from God.

2. The Jews endeavoured by every means to deny the resurrection

of our Lord; and it seems to have been one part of their

accusation against Paul, that he asserted that the man, Jesus,

whom they had crucified, was risen from the dead. On this subject,

a pious writer observes: "What a train of errors and miseries does

one single instance of deceit draw after it; and what a judgment

upon those, who, by corrupting the guards of the sepulchre, the

witnesses of the resurrection of our Lord, have kept the whole

nation in infidelity!" Thus it often happens in the world that one

bad counsel, one single lie or calumny, once established, is the

source of infinite evils.

3. The grand maxim of the Roman law and government, to condemn

no man unheard, and to confront the accusers with the accused,

should be a sacred maxim with every magistrate and minister, and

among all private Christians. How many harsh judgments and

uncharitable censures would this prevent! Conscientiously

practised in all Christian societies, detraction, calumny,

tale-bearing, whispering, backbiting, misunderstandings, with

every unbrotherly affection, would necessarily be banished from

the Church of God.

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