When they arrived in Caesarea, they presented Paul and the letter [Lysias’s] to Governor Felix. He read it and then asked Paul what province he was from. “Cilicia,” Paul answered. “I will hear your case myself when your accusers arrive,” the governor told him . Then the governor ordered him kept in the prison at Herod’s headquarters.
Five days later Ananias, the high priest, arrived with some of the Jewish elders and the lawyer Tertullus, to present their case against Paul to the governor. When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented the charges against Paul in the following address to the governor: “You have provided a long period of peace for us Jews and with foresight have enacted reforms for us. For all of this, Your Excellency, we are very grateful to you. But I don’t want to bore you, so please give me your attention for only a moment. We have found this man to be a troublemaker who is constantly stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the cult known as the Nazarenes. Furthermore, he was trying to desecrate the Temple when we arrested him. You can find out the truth of our accusations by examining him yourself.”
Then the other Jews chimed in, declaring that everything Tertullus said was true. The governor then motioned for Paul to speak. Paul said, “I know, sir, that you have been a judge of Jewish affairs for many years, so I gladly present my defence before you. You can quickly discover that I arrived in Jerusalem no more than twelve days ago to worship at the Temple. My accusers never found me arguing with anyone in the Temple, nor stirring up a riot in any synagogue or on the streets of the city. These men cannot prove the things they accuse me of doing. But I admit that I follow the Way, which they call a cult. I worship the God of our ancestors, and I firmly believe the Jewish law and everything written in the prophets. I have the same hope in God that these men have, that he will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous. Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people.
After several years away, I returned to Jerusalem with money to aid my people and to offer sacrifices to God. My accusers saw me in the Temple as I was completing a purification ceremony. There was no crowd around me and no rioting. But some Jews from the province of Asia were there—and they ought to be here to bring charges if they have anything against me! Ask these men here what crime the Jewish high council found me guilty of, except for the one time I shouted out, ‘I am on trial before you today because I believe in the resurrection of the dead!’”
At that point Felix, who was quite familiar with the Way, adjourned the hearing and said, “Wait until Lysias, the garrison commander, arrives. Then I will decide the case.” He ordered an officer to keep Paul in custody but to give him some freedom and allow his friends to visit him and take care of his needs.Acts 23:33-24:23
In this segment It is like Paul changes from being passive to be active, behaving like someone who has a case to defend in a court of law. Before this Paul was being carried along by the whim and plans of others. There are some curious elements in what Luke has written for us. Such as why it took Ananias and the group from the Sanhedrin, including their lawyer Tertullus so long to get there. Maybe it was because they brought their lawyer along. We all know it takes a number of visits to the lawyer to make any headway. Clearly Ananias had to bring Tertullus up to speed. Although one would think they could have briefed him on the way. Maybe the first days before they left Jerusalem were spent negotiating his fee. Oops.
Why did Felix ask Paul which province he came from? Why didn’t he ask for his credentials as a Roman citizen. After all he was hearing this case primarily because Paul was a Roman citizen. Well in a way he was doing just that. He asked which province Paul was from because it determined whether Paul fell under his jurisdiction or not. Tarsus was located in the province of Cilicia, which was indeed under Felix’ jurisdiction. Having established that fact he told Paul they would have to wait until his accusers arrived. The questioning by Claudius Lysias was not official. That only happened in the context of removing Paul from danger once the crowd scene got ugly. Paul’s time before the Council in Jerusalem was highly illegal and informal and seemingly from previous comments the High Priest was trying to lay low, despite the fact he had been instrumental by plotting things behind the scenes. Now in Caesarea finally Paul faces what seems to be a true court of law – Roman law.
The Praetorium (the centre of operations for the Roman troops) were housed in Herod’s place. Clearly there must have been a courtroom set up in the complex which the Roman Praetorium guards used. Tertullus and Paul’s accusers were called in first and laid out the case for Felix and then Paul was called in. Notice the schmooze with which Tertullus begins. I don’t think Tertullus had been well briefed for him to suggest this case would last only a moment. He didn’t realise the holes that were inherent in his briefing by the High Priest. His client was not being honest with him. So he presented the same trumped up charges that were stated in Jerusalem before Lysias. Then he said, “You can find out the truth of our accusations by examining him yourself.” Well that was indeed true but the truth would bear no resemblance to what the High Priest and his buddies were claiming. At which point the group that had accompanied the High Priest were primed to give their “and-so-say-all-of-us” input.
Now finally Paul got the opportunity to defend himself. I have picked out the words he said above in italics. They are clear, concise and brief for a defendant’s statement in a court of law. In the NLT Paul’s defence amounts to 263 words. In Greek it is even more succinct; only 205 words. Felix was the Roman procurator for Judea. It is most likely he spoke Latin. I don’t know how many words would have been spoken if it were in Latin. There is no indication that Paul knew Latin but he may well have. Tertullus claimed this case would only take a moment, literally [suntomos] – a few words. That is what prompted me to count the words. Paul told Felix he could quickly resolve this case in 24:11 but he made it clear it would not be through the men currently present in the court room.
My accusers saw me in the Temple as I was completing a purification ceremony. There was no crowd around me and no rioting. But some Jews from the province of Asia were there—and they ought to be here to bring charges if they have anything against me!Ask these men here what crime the Jewish high council found me guilty of . . .Acts 24:18-20
It is a wonder Felix didn’t ask for the original accusers to be brought to the court – the Jews from the Province of Asia. Instead Felix tells the court he will wait not for the original accusers, the Jews from Asia [Minor] but for Lysias to come. What could Lysias have contributed?
Now is the moment for the question I included in the last Gems. Where was Lysias and how long did it take him to come to the court?
I would say it is clear he came with the mounted cavalry as far as Caesarea. I think it hardly likely that he himself turned back at Antipatris and went back to Jerusalem. He was the one who initiated the case being moved to Caesarea. It stands to reason that he would have gone all the way with Paul. It is also very clear that this a Jewish religious issue. Romans knew nothing about Jewish religious issues.
We have two surprises in store concerning this case which I will deal with in the next Gem.
See if you can determine what they are.
Like the Jewish or Roman context, the Christian community is all too often the scariest place for fallen or accused people to be heard.Ian Vail
The church needs to be an Oasis of hope, not Hype!Rick Godwin
Put your happiness in the hands of others and you will experience disappointment. Happiness comes from within.D. Riddley
It takes courage to love unconditionally.A R Bernard