Through the Bible in One Year

Day 236

Acts 23:26-24:16

Yesterday we saw the Roman commander make the decision that it was in everybody’s best interest to remove Paul from Jerusalem.  And the reason Paul had to be removed from Jerusalem because there was a plot to kill him.  We saw the Roman commander make military preparations to have Paul escorted to the Governor in Caesarea.  And now today we are going to see the letter that Roman commander wrote to his immediate superior, Paul being taken to Caesarea and the accusations that the Jewish leadership made against him before the Governor, along with the first part of Paul’s response to these accusations.

Claudius Lysias,

To His Excellency, Governor Felix:

Greetings.

This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin. I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment. When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him.—23:26-30

Lysias’s (the apparent name of the Roman commander) letter was preserved and made available to Luke.  It conveniently ignored any admission of mishandling by the commander.  He also may have misrepresented exactly when he learned of Paul’s citizenship, though the reference to rescue might refer to the protective custody phase of Paul’s imprisonment.  At any rate, Lysias gave information about the prisoner (and the situation) and put himself in the best possible light.

So the soldiers, carrying out their orders, took Paul with them during the night and brought him as far as Antipatris. The next day they let the cavalry go on with him, while they returned to the barracks. When the cavalry arrived in Caesarea, they delivered the letter to the governor and handed Paul over to him. The governor read the letter and asked what province he was from. Learning that he was from Cilicia, he said, “I will hear your case when your accusers get here.” Then he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.—23:31-35

Antipatris was about 35 miles away from Jerusalem.  Once there, the soldiers turned back, leaving Paul and the cavalry to go on to Caesarea.  This suggests the mission of the infantry was to get Paul safely out of Jerusalem and the surrounding area.  In Caesarea, the first question was of jurisdiction.  Since Cilicia was under his administration, Felix had to hear the case rather than extradite Paul to another governor.  The place of his custody was Herod’s palace in Caesarea.  It would have been a secure place to hold a person awaiting trial.

Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: “We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly.

“We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. [7] By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.”

The other Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.—24:1-9

Just a brief note before we began about this notation that you, [7].  Some manuscripts include here, “him, and we would have judged him in accordance with our law.  7But the commander Lysias came and took him from us with much violence, 8ordering his accusers to come before you.”

Paul’s hearing happened in less than a week.  The high priest and the elders brought a prosecuting attorney named Tertullus with them.  He was probably a Roman citizen like Paul.  If so, he was chosen to have the same sympathies from Felix’s court that Paul might have.  His speech was quite flamboyant at the beginning but fizzled out to mere pandering.  The actual charges were threefold: Paul was a troublemaker (a personal attack); he promoted sedition (a new charge); and he desecrated the Temple (patently false).

When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: “I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense. You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.—24:10-16

Paul’s purpose in speaking was not merely exoneration.  His address had three goals: to deny the charges, to affirm Christianity and to give a powerful testimony to Christ.  Paul answered the charges in order, ignoring the personal attack.  First, regarding the charge of sedition, he was at the temple merely to worship, not to stir up a riot or stir up a rebellion against Rome.  Second, nobody could bring any proof of desecration.  Most important, Paul got to the real issue—his faith, which he referred to as the Way.  His faith was not against the Law or the Prophets.  The crux of the issue at this point was the hope of resurrection, not these charges.  And that is where we will pick tomorrow as Paul concludes his defense and we see the end of Paul’s first trial before government officials.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

Job 16-19, 1 Corinthians 16, Psalm 40:1-10 and Proverbs 22:1

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