Unraveling the Weaved Web – Acts 24: 10 – 21
Tertullus, Paul’s accuser and the professional Roman lawyer, stood convinced he had weaved an escape proof case against Paul. He felt Paul sat straight-jacketed by his arguments before Felix.
However, Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ, freed himself from Tertullus’s inescapable chains. Paul revealed that the Jewish charges were theological rather than political.
Luke, the author of Acts, has Paul employee wise rhetorical skills in his defense. Paul began his rebuttal by seeking to gain Felix’s attention and sympathy in 24:10b, “Knowing that for many years you have been a judge to this nation, I cheerfully make my defense.” Paul reference to ‘many years’ probably included Felix’s years of ruling Samaria under Cumanus along with recent governing of Judea for a total of eight or nine years. Felix’s rule stood as lengthy when compared with a senatorial procuratorship of one year. Some debate exists between the Jewish historian, Josephus and the Roman historian, Tacitus as to the length of Felix’s tenure.
Paul’s use of captatio benevolentiae mentioned Felix’s ability to judge the Jewish nation. Tertullus included the same approach in his captatio benevolentiae as explained in the previous blog, A Weaved Web of Accusation, June 12, 2018. Paul happily submitted himself to the Roman procurator, Felix, with this Jewish matter of the resurrection. Paul reasoned that Felix’s experience in Jewish affairs prepared him to settle Paul’s case. Paul demonstrated confidence in his human judge that a defense attorney would utilize.
Next Paul related the background facts to the case in 24:11, “since you can take note of the fact that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship.” In the previous blog, Tertullus argued that Paul led a sedition in Jerusalem. Paul did not institute the stasis / stirs up dissension (v 5) or epistasis / causing a riot (v 12). Paul spoke like a lawyer as he mentions this was a mere twelve days ago. Paul asserted that he caused no strife in the temple, in the synagogues or in the city itself (v 12).
Paul added there is no proof of the charges made against him in the area of rebellion and strife among the Jewish people (24:13). Limiting the charges to Jerusalem demonstrated incredible insight on Paul’s part because the accusers only have eye-witness whose credibility rested in that local, not in the rest of the empire.
Paul’s argument refuted his accusers’ charges (24: 14-18). Tertullus inferred that Paul was the ringleader of the Nazarenes (24:5) hoping to gain Felix’s favor. Paul openly affirmed his relationship with the Nazarenes and readily admitted he worshiped the God of those in the Way. Paul’s accusers called these parties or sects. Paul asserted that he believed the Scriptures and the resurrection of the righteous and the dead. Paul’s point lead Felix to the conclusion that holding to such beliefs on the Scriptures and the resurrection could never amount to criminal charges such as Paul had been accused.
Paul continued to refute the charges against him by appealing to his blameless conscience before God and men. Paul asserted his coming to Jerusalem was commendable in Roman eyes. He carried an offering for the famine-stricken citizens of Jerusalem. Often Rome provided protection for such benevolent funds. Even when the accusers found Paul in the temple, there was no riot or leading of the citizens into rebellion (24:18). At the most, four men accompanied Paul. Paul paid for each of them to undergo the purification needed to enter the temple (Acts 21:23).
Paul’s summary of his argument was designed to move Felix’s emotions. This summary begins in 24: 18-20. Paul strategically unraveled Tertullus’s case by pointing out that no eyewitness accusers from among the Asians were present (24:18-19). Paul reminded Felix that the only place these opponents could make the charges existed in Jerusalem. Paul summed his defense by claiming the only thing he said in the presence of the Sanhedrin was one sentence related to the resurrection of the dead. Therefore, Paul asserted that the Jewish leaders and high priest can only give proper testimony in Jerusalem. They had testified under the watch care of Claudius Lysias, the Roman official in charge in Jerusalem.
Paul unraveled the charges against him with the fact that the only possible charge was that of a ‘theological’ nature as recorded in Acts 23:6. Thus, Paul’s defense shows the holes in the accusations made which ought to lead to the dismissal of charges. Without question Paul destroyed the case of the accusers by proving his only action was to state his belief in the resurrection.
Felix understood the essential nature of Paul’s defense. The connection between the captatio benevolentiae and the refutation of 24:18-20 demonstrated the case against Paul stood on theological grounds, not criminal insurrection. Felix ought to declare, “Case closed” But it was not so easy. Felix postponed the decision and ordered Paul be kept in prison with many liberties. Felix listened to Paul with his wife Druscilla. Paul presented the truth of the Gospel to Felix often and then Felix would send Paul away.
(all quotes and scripture references are to the NASB or The Greek New Testament, UBS, 5th edition).
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