Acts 24


After five days, Ananias the high priest, the elders, and one

Tertullus, an orator, come to Caesarea to accuse Paul, 1.

The oration of Tertullus, 2-9.

Paul's defence, 10-21.

Felix, having heard his defence, proposes to leave the final

determination of it till Claudius Lysias should come down;

and, in the mean time, orders Paul to be treated with humanity

and respect, 22, 23.

Felix, and Drusilla his wife, hear Paul concerning the faith of

Christ; and Felix it greatly affected, 24, 25.

On the expectation of obtaining money for his liberation, Felix

keeps Paul in prison, 26,

and being superseded in the government of Judea by Porcius

Festus, in order to please the Jews, he leaves Paul bound, 27.


Verse 1. After five days] These days are to be reckoned from the

time in which Paul was apprehended at Jerusalem, and twelve days

after he had arrived in that city; see Ac 24:11. Calmet reckons

the days thus:-St. Luke says that Paul was apprehended at

Jerusalem when the seven days of his vow were nearly ended,

Ac 21:27; that is, at the end of the

fifth day after his arrival. The next day, which was the sixth,

he was presented before the Sanhedrin. The night following, he was

taken to Antipatris. The next day, the seventh, he arrived at

Caesarea. Five days afterwards, that is, the twelfth day after his

arrival at Jerusalem, the high priest and the elders, with

Tertullus, came down to accuse him before Felix.-But

See Clarke on Ac 23:32.

A certain orator named Tertullus] This was probably a Roman

proselyte to Judaism; yet he speaks every where as a Jew. Roman

orators, advocates; &c., were found in different provinces of the

Roman empire; and they, in general, spoke both the Greek and Latin

languages; and, being well acquainted with the Roman laws and

customs, were no doubt very useful. Luitprandus supposed that this

Tertullus was the same with him who was colleague with Pliny the

younger, in the consulate, in the year of Rome, 852; who is

mentioned by Pliny, Epist. v. 15. Of this there is no satisfactory


Verse 2. Tertullus began to accuse him] There are three parts in

this oration of Tertullus:-1. The exordium. 2. The proposition. 3.

The conclusion. The exordium contains the praise of Felix and his

administration, merely for the purpose of conciliating his esteem,

Ac 24:2-4; The

proposition is contained in Ac 24:5. The

narration and conclusion, in Ac 24:6-8.

By thee we enjoy great quietness] As bad a governor as Felix

most certainly was, he rendered some services to Judea. The

country had long been infested with robbers; and a very formidable

banditti of this kind, under one Eliezar, he entirely suppressed.

Joseph. Antiq. lib. xx. cap. 6; Bell. lib. ii, cap. 22. He also

suppressed the sedition raised by an Egyptian impostor, who had

seduced 30,000 men; see on Ac 21:38. He had also quelled a very

afflictive disturbance which took place between the Syrians and

the Jews of Caesarea. On this ground Tertullus said, By thee we

enjoy great quietness; and illustrious deeds are done to this

nation by thy prudent administration. This was all true; but,

notwithstanding this, he is well known from his own historians,

and from Josephus, to have been not only a very bad man, but also

a very bad governor. He was mercenary, oppressive, and cruel; and

of all these the Jews brought proofs to Nero, before whom they

accused him; and, had it not been for the interest and influence

of his brother Pallas; he had been certainly ruined.

Verse 3. We accept it always, and in all places] We have at all

times a grateful sense of thy beneficent administration, and we

talk of it in all places, not only before thy face, but behind thy


Verse 4. That I be not farther tedious unto thee] That I may

neither trespass on thy time, by dwelling longer on this subject,

nor on thy modesty, by thus enumerating thy beneficent deeds.

Hear us of thy clemency] Give us this farther proof of thy

kindness, by hearkening to our present complaint. The whole of

this exordium was artful enough, though it was lame. The orator

had certainly a very bad cause, of which he endeavoured to make

the best. Felix was a bad man and bad governor; and yet he must

praise him, to conciliate his esteem. Paul was a very good man,

and nothing amiss could be proved against him; and yet he must

endeavour to blacken him as much as possible, in order to please

his unprincipled and wicked employers. His oration has been blamed

as weak, lame, and imperfect; and yet, perhaps, few, with so bad a

cause, could have made better of it.

Verse 5. For we have found this man, &c.] Here the proposition

of the orator commences. He accuses Paul, ant his accusation

includes four particulars:- 1. He is a pest, λοιμος; an

exceedingly bad and wicked man. 2. He excites disturbances and

seditions against the Jews. 3. He is the chief of the sect of the

Nazarenes, who are a very bad people, and should not be tolerated.

4. He has endeavoured to pollute and profane the temple, and we

took him in the fact.

A pestilent fellow] The word λοιμος, pestis-the plague or

pestilence, is used by both Greek and Roman authors to signify a

very bad and profligate man; we have weakened the force of the

word by translating the substantive adjectively. Tertullus did not

say that Paul was a pestilent fellow, but he said that he was the

very pestilence itself. As in that of Martial, xi. 92:-

Non vitiosus homo es, Zoile, sed vitium.

"Thou art not a vicious man, O Zoilus, but thou

art vice itself."

The words λοιμος, and pestis, are thus frequently used.-See

Wetstein, Bp. Pearce, and Kypke.

A mover of sedition] Instead of στασιν, sedition, ABE, several

others, with the Coptic, Vulgate, Chrysostom, Theophylact, and

OEcumenius, read στασεις, commotions, which is probably the true


Among all the Jews] Bp. Pearce contends that the words should be

understood thus-one that stirreth up tumults AGAINST all the Jews;

for, if they be understood otherwise, Tertullus may be considered

as accusing his countrymen, as if they, at Paul's instigation,

were forward to make insurrections every where. On the contrary,

he wishes to represent them as a persecuted and distressed people,

by means of Paul and his Nazarenes.

A ringleader] πρωτοστατην. This is a military phrase, and

signifies the officer who stands on the right of the first rank;

the captain of the front rank of the sect of the Nazarenes; της

τωνναζωραιωναιρεσεως, of the heresy of the Nazarenes. This word

is used six times by St. Luke; viz. in this verse, and in

Ac 24:14, and in Ac 5:17; 15:5; 26:5; 28:22; but in none of

them does it appear necessarily to include that bad sense which we

generally assign to the word heresy.-See Clarke on Ac 5:17,

where the subject is largely considered; and see farther on

Ac 24:14.

Verse 6. Hath gone about to profane the temple] This was a heavy

charge, if it could have been substantiated, because the Jews were

permitted by the Romans to put any person to death who profaned

their temple. This charge was founded on the gross calumny

mentioned, Ac 21:28, 29; for, as they had seen Trophimus, an

Ephesian, with Paul in the city, they pretended that he had

brought him into the temple.

Would have judged according to our law] He pretended that they

would have tried the case fairly, had not the chief captain taken

him violently out of their hands; whereas, had not Lysias

interfered, they would have murdered him on the spot.

Verse 7. With great violence] μεταπολληςβιας, I rather think,

means with an armed force. Tertullus intimates that Lysias

interfered contrary to law, and brought soldiers to support him in

his infringement on their constitution. This is what he seems to

say and complain of; for the Jews were vexed with Lysias for

rescuing the apostle from their hands.

Verse 8. Commanding his accusers to come, &c.] Here Tertullus

closes his opening and statement of the case; and now he proceeds

to call and examine his witnesses; and they were no doubt examined

one by one, though St. Luke sums the whole up in one word-The Jews

also assented, saying, that these things were so. Whoever

considers the plan of Tertullus's speech, will perceive that it

was both judicious and artful. Let us take a view of the whole:-1.

He praises Felix to conciliate his favour. 2. He generally states

the great blessings of his administration. 3. He states that the

Jews, throughout the whole land, felt themselves under the

greatest obligations to him, and extolled his prudent and

beneficent management of the public affairs every where. 4. That

the prisoner before him was a very bad man; a disturber of the

public peace; a demagogue of a dangerous party; and so lost to all

sense of religion as to attempt to profane the temple! 5. That,

though he should have been punished on the spot, yet, as they were

ordered by the chief captain to appear before him, and show the

reason why they had seized on Paul at Jerusalem, they were

accordingly come; and, having now exhibited their charges, he

would, 6. proceed to examine witnesses, who would prove all these

things to the satisfaction of the governor. 7. He then called his

witnesses, and their testimony confirmed and substantiated the

charges. No bad cause was ever more judiciously and cunningly


Verse 10. Then Paul-answered] The apostle's defence consists of

two parts:-1. The exordium, which has for its object the praise

of his judge, whose qualifications to discern and decide on a

question of this nature he fully allows; and expects, from this

circumstance, to have a favourable hearing. 2. The tractation,

which consists of two parts: I. REFUTATION: 1. of the charge of

polluting the temple; 2. of stirring up sedition; 3. of being a

leader of any sect who had a different worship from the God of

their fathers. II. AFFIRMATION: 1. that he had lived so as to

preserve a good conscience towards God, and towards men; 2. that

so far from polluting the temple, he had been purified in it, and

was found thus worshipping according to the law of God; 3. that

what Tertullus and his companions had witnessed was perfectly

false; and he defied them to produce a single proof, and appeals

to those who had been witnesses of his conduct in Jerusalem, who

should have been there could they have proved any thing against


Thou hast been of many years a judge] Cumanus and Felix were,

for a time, joint governors of Judea; but, after the condemnation

of Cumanus, the government fell entirely into the hands of Felix;

and from Josephus we learn that this was now the sixth or seventh

year of his administration, which might be called many years, when

the very frequent removals of the governors of the provinces are

considered. See Jos. Antiq. lib. xx. 7, and see the margin.

A judge-κριτην, the same here in signification as the Hebrew

shophet, which means a ruler or governor. This was the title of

the ancient governors of Israel.

The more cheerfully] ευθυμοτερον, With a better heart or

courage, because, as thy long residence among us has brought

thee to a thorough acquaintance with our customs, I may expect a

proper decision in my favour, my cause being perfectly sound.

Verse 11. There are yet but twelve days] This is his reply to

their charge of sedition; the improbability of which is shown from

the short time he had spent in Jerusalem, quite insufficient to

organize a sedition of any kind; nor could a single proof be

furnished that he had attempted to seduce any man, or unhinge any

person from his allegiance by subtle disputations, either in the

temple, the synagogues, or the city. So that this charge

necessarily fell to the ground, self-confuted, unless they could

bring substantial proof against him, which he challenges them to


Verse 14. That after the way which they call heresy] See the

explanation of this word in Clarke's note on "Ac 5:17", and see before,

Ac 24:5, where what is here translated

heresy, is there rendered sect. At this time the word had no bad

acceptation, in reference to religious opinions. The Pharisees

themselves, the most respectable body among the Jews, are called a

sect; for Paul, defending himself before Agrippa, says that he

lived a Pharisee according to the strictest αιρεσιν, sect, or

heresy of their religion. And Josephus, who was a Pharisee,

speaks, τηςτωνφαρισαιωναιρεσεως, of the heresy or sect of the

Pharisees. LIFE, chap. xxxviii. Therefore it is evident that the

word heresy had no bad meaning among the Jews; it meant simply a

religious sect. Why then did they use it by way of degradation

to St. Paul? This seems to have been the cause. They had already

two accredited sects in the land, the Pharisees and Sadducees:

the interests of each of these were pretty well balanced, and each

had a part in the government, for the council, or Sanhedrin, was

composed both of Sadducees and Pharisees: see Ac 23:6. They

were afraid that the Christians, whom they called Nazarenes,

should form a new sect, and divide the interests of both the

preceding; and what they feared, that they charged them with; and,

on this account, the Christians had both the Pharisees and the

Sadducees for their enemies. They had charged Jesus Christ with

plotting against the state, and endeavouring to raise seditions;

and they charged his followers with the same. This they deemed a

proper engine to bring a jealous government into action.

So worship I the God of my fathers] I bring in no new object of

worship; no new religious creed. I believe all things as they

profess to believe; and acknowledge the Law and the Prophets as

divinely inspired books; and have never, in the smallest measure,

detracted from the authority or authenticity of either.

Verse 15. And have hope toward God, &c.] I not only do not hold

any thing by which the general creed of this people might be

altered, in reference to the present state; but, also, I hold

nothing different from their belief in reference to a future

state; for, if I maintain the doctrine of the resurrection of

the dead, it is what themselves allow.

Verse 16. And herein do I exercise myself] And this very tenet

is a pledge for my good behaviour; for as I believe there will be

a resurrection, both of the just and unjust, and that every man

shall be judged for the deeds done in the body, so I exercise

myself day and night, that I may have a conscience void of offence

toward God and toward men.

Toward God] In entertaining no opinion contrary to his truth;

and in offering no worship contrary to his dignity, purity, and


Toward men.] In doing nothing to them that I would not, on a

change of circumstances, they should do to me; and in withholding

nothing by which I might comfort and serve them.

Verse 17. Now, after many years, &c.] And as a full proof that I

act according to the dictates of this Divine and beneficent creed,

though I have been many years absent from my own country, and my

political relation to it is almost necessarily dissolved, yet, far

from coming to disturb the peace of society, or to injure any

person, I have brought ALMS to my nation, the fruits of my own

earning and influence among a foreign people, and OFFERINGS to

my God and his temple, proving hereby my attachment to my country,

and my reverence for the worship of my country's God.

Verse 18. Found me purified in the temple] And the Jews of Asia,

who stirred up the persecution against me in Jerusalem, found me

purified in the temple, regularly performing the religious vow

into which I had entered; giving no cause for suspicion; for I

made no tumult, nor had I any number of people with me, by whom I

could have accomplished any seditious purpose.

Verse 20. Any evil doing in me while I stood before the council]

The Jews of Asia, the most competent witnesses, though my declared

enemies, and they who stirred up the persecution against me,

should have been here: why are they kept back? Because they could

prove nothing against me. Let these, therefore, who are here,

depose, if they have found any evil in me, or proved against me,

by my most virulent adversaries, when examined before them in

their council at Jerusalem.

Verse 21. Except it be for this one voice] The Sadducees who

belong to that council, and who deny the resurrection of the dead,

may indeed blame me for professing my faith in this doctrine; but

as this is a doctrine credited by the nation in general, and as

there can be nothing criminal in such a belief, and there can

bring no accusation against me relative to any thing else, this,

of course, is the sum of all the charges to which I am called to

answer before you this day.

Verse 22. And when Felix heard these things] There is

considerable difficulty in this verse. Translators greatly vary

concerning the sense; and the MSS. themselves read variously. Mr.

Wakefield's translation appears to be as proper as most: Now

Felix, upon hearing these things, put them off by saying, When

Lysias the captain is come down, after I have gained a more exact

knowledge of this doctrine, I will inquire fully into your


Calmet's translation is nearly to the same sense:-

Felix, having heard these things, put them off to another time,

saying, When I shall have acquired a more accurate knowledge of

this sect, and when the tribune Lysias shall have come from

Jerusalem, I will judge of your business.

And this mode of interpretation is rendered the more likely from

the circumstance, that, previously to the coming down of Lysias,

Felix had sent for Paul, concerning the faith of Christ; and this

he appears to have done, that he might be the better qualified to

judge of the business, when it should come again before him.

See Clarke on Ac 24:20.

Verse 23. He commanded a centurion to keep Paul] He gave him

into the custody of a captain, by whom he was most likely to be

well used: and to let him have liberty; he freed him from the

chains with which he was bound to the soldiers, his keepers.

See Clarke on Ac 21:33.

And that he should forbid none of his acquaintance, τωνιδιων,

of his own people, his fellow apostles, and the Christians in

general, to minister or come unto him; to furnish him with any of

the conveniences and comforts of life, and visit him as often as

they pleased. This was an ample proof that Felix found no evil in

him; and he would certainly have dismissed him but for two

reasons: 1. He wanted to please the Jews, who, he knew, could

depose grievous things against his administration. 2. He hoped to

get money from the apostle, or his friends, as the purchase of his


Verse 24. His wife Drusilla] We have already seen that Felix was

thrice married: two of his wives were named Drusilla; one was a

Roman, the niece or grand-daughter of Antony and Cleopatra,

mentioned by Tacitus, lib. v. cap. 9. The other, the person in the

text, was a Jewess, daughter to Herod Agrippa the Great. See

Ac 12:1, &c. When she was but

six years of age, she was affianced to Epiphanes, son of

Antiochus, king of Comagene, who had promised to embrace Judaism

on her account; but, as he did not keep his word, her brother

Agrippa (mentioned Ac 25:13) refused to ratify the marriage.

About the year of our Lord 53, he married her to Azizus, king of

the Emesenes, who received her on condition of being circumcised.

Felix having seen her, fell desperately in love with her, and by

means of a pretended Jewish magician, a native of Cyprus,

persuaded her to leave her husband; on which Felix took her to

wife. She appears, on the whole, to have been a person of

indifferent character; though one of the finest women of that age.

It is said that she, and a son she had by Felix, were consumed in

an eruption of Mount Vesuvius. See Josephus, Antiq. lib. xx. cap.

7, and see Calmet and Rosenmuller.

Heard him concerning the faith in Christ.] For the purpose

mentioned in Clarke's note on "Ac 24:21", that he might be the more

accurately instructed in the doctrines, views, &c., of the


Verse 25. As he reasoned of righteousness] δικαιοσυνης; The

principles and requisitions of justice and right, between God and

man; and between man and his fellows, in all relations and

connections of life.

Temperance] εγκρατειας, Chastity; self-government or

moderation with regard to a man's appetites, passions, and

propensities of all kinds.

And judgment to come] κριματοςτουμελλοντος; The day of

retribution, in which the unjust, intemperate, and incontinent,

must give account of all the deeds done in the body. This

discourse of St. Paul was most solemnly and pointedly adapted to

the state of the person to whom it was addressed. Felix was

tyrannous and oppressive in his government; lived under the power

of avarice and unbridled appetites; and his incontinence,

intemperance, and injustice, appear fully in depriving the king of

Emesa of his wife, and in his conduct towards St. Paul, and the

motives by which that conduct was regulated. And as to Drusilla,

who had forsaken the husband of her youth, and forgotten the

covenant of her God, and become the willing companion of this bad

man, she was worthy of the strongest reprehension; and Paul's

reasoning on righteousness, temperance, and judgment, was not less

applicable to her than to her unprincipled paramour.

Felix trembled] "The reason of Felix's fear," says Bp. Pearce,

"seems to have been, lest Drusilla, who was a Jewess, and knew

that what she had done was against the law of Moses, might be

influenced by Paul's discourse, and Felix's happiness with her

disturbed. What is said of Felix, Ac 24:26, seems to show that he

had no remorse of conscience for what he had done." On the head of

Drusilla's scruples, he had little to fear; the king of Emesa, her

husband, had been dead about three years before this; and as to

Jewish scruples, she could be little affected by them: she had

already acted in opposition to the Jewish law, and she is said to

have turned heathen for the sake of Felix. We may therefore hope

that Felix felt regret for the iniquities of his life; and that

his conscience was neither so scared nor so hardened, as not to

receive and retain some gracious impressions from such a

discourse, delivered by the authority, and accompanied with the

influence, of the Spirit of God. His frequently sending for the

apostle, to speak with him in private, is a proof that he wished

to receive farther instructions in a matter in which he was so

deeply interested; though he certainly was not without motives of

a baser kind; for he hoped to get money for the liberation of the


Go thy way for this time] His conscience had received as much

terror and alarm as it was capable of bearing; and probably he

wished to hide, by privacy, the confusion and dismay which, by

this time, were fully evident in his countenance.

Verse 26. He hoped also that money should have been given him]

Bp. Pearce asks, "How could St. Luke know this?" To which I

answer: From the report of St. Paul, with whom Felix had frequent

conferences, and to whom he undoubtedly expressed this wish. We

may see, here, the most unprincipled avarice, in Felix, united to

injustice. Paul had proved before him his innocence of the

charges brought against him by the Jews. They had retired in

confusion when he had finished his defence. Had Felix been

influenced by the common principles of justice, Paul had been

immediately discharged; but he detained him on the hope of a

ransom. He saw that Paul was a respectable character; that he had

opulent friends; that he was at the head of a very numerous sect,

to whom he was deservedly dear; and he took it, therefore, for

granted that a considerable sum of money would be given for his

enlargement. Felix was a freed man of the Emperor Claudius;

consequently, had once been a slave. The stream rises not above

its source: the meanness of the slave is still apparent, and it is

now insufferable, being added to the authority and influence of

the governor. Low-bred men should never be intrusted with the

administration of public affairs.

Verse 27. After two years] That is, from the time that Paul came

prisoner to Caesarea.

Porcius Festus] This man was put into the government of Judea

about A.D. 60, the sixth or seventh year of Nero. In the

succeeding chapter we shall see the part that he took in the

affairs of St. Paul.

Willing to show the Jews a pleasure] As he had not got the money

which he expected, he hoped to be able to prevent the complaints

of the Jews against his government, by leaving Paul, in some

measure, in their hands. For it was customary for governors, &c.,

when they left, or were removed from a particular district or

province, to do some public, beneficent act, in order to make

themselves popular. But Felix gained nothing by this: the Jews

pursued him with their complaints against his administration, even

to the throne of the emperor. Josephus states the matter thus:

"Now when Porcius Festus was sent as successor to Felix, by Nero,

the principal of the Jewish inhabitants of Caesarea went up to

Rome, to accuse Felix. And he certainly would have been brought to

punishment, had not Nero yielded to the importunate solicitations

of his brother Pallas, who was at that time in the highest

reputation with the emperor."-Antiq. lib. xx. cap. 9. Thus, like

the dog in the fable, by snatching at the shadow, he lost the

substance. He hoped for money from the apostle, and got none; he

sought to conciliate the friendship of the Jews, and miscarried.

Honesty is the best policy: he that fears God need fear nothing

else. Justice and truth never deceive their possessor.

1. Envy and malice are indefatigable, and torment themselves in

order to torment and ruin others. That a high priest, says pious

Quesnel, should ever be induced to leave the holy city, and the

functions of religion, to become the accuser of an innocent

person; this could be no other than the effect of a terrible

dereliction, and the punishment of the abuse of sacred things.

2. Tertullus begins his speech with flattery, against which

every judge should have a shut ear; and then he proceeds to

calumny and detraction. These generally succeed each other. He

who flatters you, will in course calumniate you for receiving his

flattery. When a man is conscious of the uprightness of his cause,

he must know that to attempt to support it by any thing but truth

tends directly to debase it.

3. The resurrection of the body was the grand object of the

genuine Christian's hope; but the ancient Christians only hoped

for a blessed resurrection on the ground of reconciliation to God

through the death of his Son. In vain is our hope of glory, if we

have not got a meetness for it. And who is fit for this state of

blessedness, but he whose iniquity is forgiven, whose sin is

covered, and whose heart is purified from deceit and guile!

4. We could applaud the lenity shown to St. Paul by Felix, did

not his own conduct render his motives for this lenity very

suspicious. "To think no evil, where no evil seems," is the duty

of a Christian; but to refuse to see it, where it most evidently

appears, is an imposition on the understanding itself.

5. Justice, temperance, and a future judgment, the subjects of

St. Paul's discourse to Felix and Drusilla, do not concern an

iniquitous judge alone; they are subjects which should affect and

interest every Christian; subjects which the eye should carefully

examine, and which the heart should ever feel. Justice respects

our conduct in life, particularly in reference to others:

temperance, the state and government of our souls, in reference

to God. He who does not exercise himself in these has neither the

form nor the power of godliness; and consequently must be

overwhelmed with the shower of Divine wrath in the day of God's

appearing, Many of those called Christians, have not less reason

to tremble at a display of these truths than this heathen.

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