Jesus's Words

Chapter 15: Law Report.—Jews Versus Paul: Trials Five, With Observations

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Section 6: Trial V. and Last.—Place, Still Cæsarea

This requires some previous explanation.

A few days after the last preceding trial, came to Cæsarea, says verse 13, Agrippa and Bernice: Festus being still there: Agrippa, sub-king of the Jews under the Romans: Bernice, it may be presumed, his queen: saluting this their superior, their only business mentioned. Follows thereupon a conversation, of which Defendant is the subject, and which continues the length of fourteen verses. Defendant having appealed to Caesar, judge has determined to send him to Caesar accordingly. But, considering that, by the emperor, on the arrival of a man sent to him in the character of a prisoner, some assigned cause, for his having been put into that condition, will naturally be looked for; and, as the only offences, the Jew stands charged with, are of a sort, which, while to the heathen emperor they would not be intelligible, would to a Jew sub-king, if to any one, be sufficiently so;—thereupon it is, that he desires his sub-majesty to join with him in the hearing of the cause, and by that means put him in a way to report upon it.

Speaking of the accusers, Festus says to Agrippathey brought none accusation of such things as I supposed: but had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. And because I doubted of such manner of questions, I asked him whether he would go to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these matters. But ... Paul had appealed to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus...Acts 25:18b-21a Such, as above noticed, is the declaration which the historian puts into the mouth of Festus: and this, after having so recently made Paul tell Festus, that his, Paul's, having done no wrong to the Jews, was to him, Festus, matter of such perfect knowledge.(See Acts 25:12-27.)

Now then comes the trial, Acts 26:1. Scene, at Cæsarea, the Emperor's Bench. Lord chief justice, Roman governor Festus; Puisne judge, Jew sub-king Agrippa. Present, "Bernice...chief captains and principal men of the city." Special accusers, none. Sole speaker, whose speech is reported, the Defendant.

Points in Defendant's speech, these:

  1. 1. Verses 2 and 3. Patient hearing requested, acknowledgment of Agrippa's special confidence.
  2. 2. Verses 4 and 5. Protestation of Phariseeism.
  3. 3. Verses 6, 7, 8. Same false insinuation as before,—Phariseeism the sole crime imputed to him.
  4. 4. Verses 9, 10, 11. Confession or avowal, whichever it is to be called, of his proceedings six-and-twenty years before, against the Christianized Jews, shutting them up in prison, in pursuance of authority from "the chief priests," down to the time of his conversion-vision. See Table I. Conversion Table.
  5. 5. Verses 12 to 20. Account of this same vision. See that same Table.
  6. 6. Declaration. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Acts 26:21—For these causes? For what causes? If for being a Pharisee, or preaching the general resurrection, or even the particular one,—assuredly no. But, if for the breach of trust, in joining with the state offenders, the Christianized Jews, whom he was commissioned to apprehend;—joining with those state offenders, and then bringing out the vision-story for an excuse;—if telling everybody that would hear him, that the law of the land was a dead letter;—and, if the denying he had ever done so; and, for giving himself the benefit of such mendacious denial, rendering the temple an instrument of notorious perjury;—if it was for all this, that they "went about" indeed "to kill him,"—but to kill him no otherwise than in the manner prescribed by that same law,—Jewishly speaking, they were not to blame in what they did,—humanly speaking, nothing can be seen that is not altogether natural in it.

Conclusion: namely, if not of what he would have said,—at any rate, of what, according to the reporter, he was permitted to say:—it is formed by a passage, in which, in continuance of his plan for keeping up his interest with the Pharisee part of the council, his ingenuity employs itself in strengthening the connection between the particular resurrection of Jesus, and the general resurrection maintained by the Pharisees.

Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles. And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.Acts 26:22-24 In the mouth of a Roman, and that Roman so high in rank, the notion thus expressed had nothing in it but what was natural enough. As to the general resurrection, that was one of the above-mentioned "questions about their own superstition," which he therefore left to the Jewish judges: as to the particular resurrection, of this he had heard no better evidence than the defendant's: and what, in discriminating eyes, that was likely to be worth, the reader has by this time judged.

8. Defendant in reply: Not mad, but sober:—for confirmation, appeal to the Jewish sub-monarch, then and there present. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.Acts 26:25-26 Here would have been a place for the five hundred, by whom, after his resurrection, Jesus was seen at once—see above chapter—but, upon the present occasion, the general expression, here employed, was deemed preferable. He continues, King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.Acts 26:27

King Agrippa to Paul,Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.Acts 28b

Paul to Agrippa: I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.Acts 26:29 No bad trait of polite oratory this exception.

Assembly breaks up.—And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them: And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds. Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.Acts 26:30-32 Observation. In this observation, something of the obscure seems to present itself. For, Paul himself being the appellant, and that for no other purpose than the saving himself from death or bonds, he had but to withdraw the appeal, and, supposing a judgment pronounced to the effect thus mentioned, this was everything he could have wished from it. But, Paul having already, to judge from his Epistle to the Romans, laid the foundation of a spiritual kingdom in the metropolis of the civilized world,—it looks as if he had no objection to figure there, as we shall find him figuring accordingly, in the character of a state-prisoner, for the purpose of displaying, and in the eye of the Caesar of that day, a sample of his eloquence, in a cause so much greater than any in which that of the first Caesar could ever have displayed itself. Reason is not wanting for the supposition, that it was by what passed at the council, that the idea was first suggested to him: for the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.Acts 23:11 The Lord has commanded me so and so, is the sort of language in which he would naturally make communication of this idea to his attendants.

The circumstantiated and dramatic style of this part of the narrative, seems to add to the probability, that, on this occasion, the historian himself was present. On this supposition, though in the Greek as well as in the English, they are represented as if they had quitted the justice-room,—any conversation, that took place among them immediately after, in the street, might not unnaturally have been overheard by him. In 24:23, stands Felix's order of admittance, as above, for Paul's acquaintance, to minister or come to him. One other attendant has appeared, in the character of his sister's son, Acts 23:16; by whom information was given to Felix, that the men there spoken of were lying in wait for him to kill him. On the occasion of this invasion of his, it would have been interesting enough to have had a complete list of his staff.

Here ends trial fifth and last: and in the next verse it is, that, together with other prisoners, and the historian at least for his free attendant, he is dispatched on his voyage. And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus' band. And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched...Acts 27:1-2b

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