Bruce, F.F. The Book of Acts Revised. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988. Kindle Electronic Edition. “VI. Paul Plans to Visit Rome and Gets there by an Unforseen Route (19:21-28:31).” “D. Paul at Caesarea (23:31-26:32)” pp. 435-472.
From Jerusalem, where Paul was placed in protective custody, Paul was transferred to Caesarea, as recorded near the end of Acts 23. Bruce observes that the movement was very rapid. The infantry covered about 35 miles during the night (Bruce 1988, 435). At Antipatris the infantry left the convoy, which continued the remaining 27 miles. Felix, the governor, ascertained that Paul was from his jurisdiction so could fact trial there (Bruce 1988, 436). Felix was not known for his clemency. Bruce sums up some highlights of his reign and character, concluding that he was a relatively ruthless governor whose power and authority were probably preserved by advantageous marriages (Bruce 1988, 437).
Paul’s accusers did arrive five days later, to bring charges against him, as recorded in Acts 24. The charges begin, as customary, with a very flattering address to the governor (Bruce 1988, 439). The charges suggest that Paul was in the habit of stirring up dissent and rioting. Bruce notes that there is no hint of Paul being involved in unrest against the empire. In general, Christians were peaceful and avoided too much involvement with disputes against Roman law (Bruce 1988, 439). Bruce notes that the accusation of Paul as a ringleader among the Nazarenes suggests Felix may have known something of them. The more concrete charge, though, is of a violation against the temple (Bruce 1988, 441). This could result in Paul’s being placed back under the Sanhedrin’s jurisdiction. The case, however, was built on an alleged desire to bring a gentile into the temple courts.
Paul was given opportunity to present his case, beginning in Acts 24:10. His first defense was that he had been in Jerusalem only briefly and that he was not involved in revolutionary activity in the nine days before his arrest (Bruce 1988, 443). Paul moved on in verse 14 to an explanation that he had been faithful to historic Judaism and saw it as fulfilled in the hope of the resurrection. He had come to Jerusalem to bring a gift for the poor in Jerusalem. Bruce notes the importance of the gift coming from Gentile Christians to help Christians in Jerusalem, who had sent the Gospel to the Gentile world (Bruce 1988, 445). Paul’s work in no way violated Roman or Jewish law (v. 18). The tumult was instigated by Asiatic Jews. Felix stated that he understood the case. He kept Paul in custody until the tribune, Lysias, couldcome. He would then be able to exaqmine all the evidence. Bruce notes that this delay would help to prevent further offense to the Sanhedrin (Bruce 1988, 446).
Acts 24:24 and following describes Paul’s imprisonment, in which he was frequently interviewed by Felix. Bruce observes that Felix’ wife, Drusilla, may have been particularly interested in Paul’s message (Bruce 1988, 447). Two years later, Felix was replaced in the procuratorship by Porcius Festus, who retained Paul as a prisoner (Bruce 1988, 448). When Festus took office, leaders of the Sanhedrin asked for Paul’s transportation to Jerusalem. Festus chose the more cautious route of opening the case of Paul in Caesarea instead (25:4-5) (Bruce 1988, 450). When pressed by his accusers in Caesarea, Paul made an appeal to Caesar. This would prevent him from being open to assassination attempts in Jerusalem (Bruce 1988, 452). Bruce observes that Nero’s advisers in 59 were generally reliable. Nero was not a severe danger to Christians at the time of Paul’s appeal (Bruce 1988, 454).
Before Festus sent Paul to Rome he had a visit from King Agrippa and his sister, whom he persuaded to hear from Paul. Bruce notes that it was necessary for Festus to send a chrge with Paul, so he would hope for help in constructing a coherent report (Bruce 1988, 455). Bruce gives a brief biography of both Herod Agrippa (sone of Herod Agrippa I) and his sister, Julia Bernice (Bruce 1988, 456). It is significant that Paul’s audience was before a large number of high-ranking political officials. Bruce considers the irony that Paul is much better known today than those important players in the Roman empire (Bruce 1988, 459).
Paul’s response to Agrippa is recorded in Acts 26. Rather than making a defense against the charges lodged by the Sanhedrin, Paul made a defense of the Gospel and the hope he had in Jesus. Bruce considers this a defense of Paul’s Christian life (Bruce 1988, 461). Paul emphasized his hope in the resurrection, a traditional Jewish view (Bruce 1988, 463). The belief in the resurrection was validated in Jesus. Paul pointed out that he had opposed Christians and their message of Jesus until he was confronted by the risen Lord as he went to Damascus (Bruce 1988, 465). Paul’s commission from Jesus was to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles, which is precisely what Paul did (Bruce 1988, 467). In verse 21, Paul states that he was arrested in Jerusalem because of his obedience to Jesus. He had brought the Gospel to Gentiles. This led directly to the assumption that he had brought Gentiles into the temple (Bruce 1988, 468).
Festus interrupted Paul in Acts 26:24, accusing him of madness. Paul’s response was to suggest Agrippa and everyone else should be a Christian. Bruce considers that Festus found the discourse meaningless bcause it was so far from his experience (Bruce 1988, 471). Agrippa was not overly receptive either. Bruce surmises it may have been due to his political stands, which would not allow agreement without alienating a large number of people. The audience, however, did not consider Paul as guilty of any capital offense (Bruce 1988, 472). They agreed that Paul’s appeal to Caesar would require his transportation to Rome.