Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Acts, Chapter 24, Verse 2-3
2 When he was called, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, “Since we have attained much peace through you, and reforms have been accomplished in this nation through your provident care, 3 we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with all gratitude.

The scene in this verse is set with Paul being on trial for sedition with the Roman governor of Palestine Felix. The peace that Tertullus alludes to is worldly peace which is not Christ’s peace; it is the peace that is giving to an enslaved people to be happy with the scraps given them for their meager existence. They have their lives if they follow the rules but little liberty or power to pursue their personal dreams.

Paul on Trial[1]
A. The Accusers (vv. 1-4)
1. Their identification (v. 1)"And after five days Ananias, the high priest, descended with the elders, and with a certain orator, named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul."

a) Ananias--Ananias was a corrupt high priest. He saw Paul as a threat, so he wanted to get rid of him. That's why he was part of the entourage that went to accuse Paul.

b) The elders--They were key leaders out of the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of Israel.

c) Tertullus--Ananias and the elders didn't want to accuse Paul themselves, so they hired a professional case reader by the name of Tertullus. He was probably well versed in the legal procedure of Rome and spoke eloquent Latin. Verse 1 says that he "informed the governor." The high priest and the elders stood silently while Tertullus did the talking.

2. Their flattery (vv. 2-4) It was very common for orators in those days to do what Tertullus did. In verses 2-4 he laid the flattery on thick. The Latin description of what he did is Captatio Benevolentiae. That could freely be translated as a "soft-soap job." Tertullus buttered up Felix with flattery. There wasn't much good that could be said about Felix, so Tertullus spoke in generalities. But that was a common approach to obtain a favorable hearing. Felix knew what Tertullus said wasn't true, but he liked to hear it anyway. That was true of Herod in Acts 12:21-22. As he sat on his throne and gave a speech, the people said that he wasn't a man, but a god. Herod loved receiving such praise even though he had to know it wasn't true. So Tertullus flattered Felix, even though the governor was intelligent enough to know that the Jewish people hated him.

a) The hearing begins (v. 2a) "And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him [Paul]" We can't be sure if the hearing was formal or informal, but there is a clue it was informal because Felix decided to defer the case to a later date according to verse 22. So Felix calls Tertullus, who begins his accusation.

b) The flattery begins (vv. 2b-4)

(1)   Great peace (v. 2b) "Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness" Tertullus begins by telling Felix that he had brought peace. Yet Felix had made no contribution to Roman peace at all. The only occasion when Felix brought any peace was when he stopped a riot that shouldn't have started in the first place. He did such a bad job of it that he alienated everyone. He hadn't done anything that contributed to peace; Tertullus was just flattering him. Many of the Jewish people didn't see the Pax Romanus as peace at all. Calgacus, a chieftain who fought the Romans, said that where the Romans "make a desolation, they call it `peace'" (Tacitus, Life of Agricola, 29-30). It may have been peace for Rome, but it was oppression for everyone else.

(2) Great deeds (v. 2c) "And that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy provision." I got out twelve different books to try to find one good thing Felix did, and I couldn't find one. Whatever good Tertullus said he did history didn't record. Notice that Tertullus offered no specifics, only generalities. Felix had driven off an Egyptian impostor, which ignited a revolution. He did quell a few riots. But he certainly passed no reforms of any consequence. He did many bad things. He assassinated Jonathan, the high priest, because he didn't like him (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.8.5). That is not the way to become popular with the Jews. The historian Tacitus says that he "believed himself free to commit any crime" (Annals 12:53). In other words, he thought he could do any evil and get away with it. (Hmm sounds like some of our modern Politicians’) Tacitus also said that he indulged in every kind of barbarity and lust (Histories 5:9). I don't believe Felix had done very worthy deeds.

(3) Great thankfulness (v. 3) "We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness." Tertullus emphasized his statement with "always" and "all." I can imagine the Jewish leaders staring in disbelief. I know why they hired a lawyer; they could never have said what Tertullus did with a straight face. I know Felix didn't believe it. I think he enjoyed listening to the flattery because he knew the Jewish leaders had to stand there and endure what Tertullus said about him. There was certainly nothing noble about Felix at all.

(4) Great brevity (v. 4) "Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I beseech thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency [yieldedness--a willingness to give place to another] a few words." Tertullus claimed that he didn't want to continue to recite all the things he had been saying so as not to be tedious to Felix. The real truth was he didn't have anything more to say. The idea of not being tedious was very common. There is historical evidence that orators often began their speech by saying that it would be brief. They said that so they could elicit the concentration of the hearer at the beginning. Their speeches didn't always turn out to be brief, but it was a good way to win immediate attention. Felix enjoyed the flattery of Tertullus because the Jewish leaders had to listen to all his flattery. But that was Tertullus's job, and he did it well.


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