fes'-tus, por'-shi-us Porkios Phestos):
The Roman governor or procurator who succeeded Felix in the province of Judea (Acts 24:27), and was thus brought into prominence in the dispute between Paul and the Sanhedrin which continued after the retirement of Felix (Acts 25; 26). Upon the arrival of Festus in Jerusalem, the official capital of his province, the Jews besought of him to send Paul from Caesarea to Jerusalem to appear before them, intending to kill him on the way (Acts 25:3). Festus at first refused their request, and upon his return to Caesarea proceeded himself to examine Paul (Acts 25:6). But on finding that the evidence was conflicting, and reflecting that, as the accused was apparently charged on religious rather than on political grounds, the Sanhedrin was a more suitable court for his case than a Roman tribunal, he asked Paul if he were agreeable to make the journey to Jerusalem (Acts 25:7-9). But Paul, who knew well the nefarious use that the Jews would make of the pleasure which Festus was willing to grant them, made his appeal unto Caesar (Acts 25:10,11). To this request of a Roman citizen accused on a capital charge (compare Acts 25:16), Festus had perforce to give his consent (Acts 25:12). But the manner of his consent indicated his pique at the apparent distrust shown by Paul. By the words "unto Caesar shalt thou go," Festus implied that the case must now be proceeded with to the end:
otherwise, had it been left in his own hands, it might have been quashed at an earlier stage (compare also Acts 26:32). Meantime King Agrippa and Bernice had arrived in Caesarea, and to these Festus gave a brief explanation of the circumstances (Acts 25:13-21).
The previous audiences of Festus with Paul and his accusers had, however, served only to confuse him as to the exact nature of the charge. Paul was therefore summoned before the regal court, in order both that Agrippa might hear him, and that the governor might obtain more definite information for insertion in the report he was required to send along with the prisoner to Rome (Acts 25:22-27). The audience which followed was brought to an abrupt conclusion by the interruption of Paul's speech (Acts 26:1-23) by Festus:
"Paul, thou art mad; thy much learning is turning thee mad" (Acts 26:24). Yet the meeting was sufficient to convince both Agrippa and Festus that "this man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds" (Acts 26:31).
While Festus displayed a certain contempt for what he regarded as the empty delusions of a harmless maniac, his conduct throughout the whole proceeding was marked by a strict impartiality; and his straightforward dealing with Paul formed a marked contrast to the dilatoriness of Felix. The praise bestowed upon the latter by Tertullus (Acts 24:2) might with better reason have been bestowed on Festus, in that he freed the country from many robbers (Sicarii:
Josephus, Ant, XX, viii-x; BJ, II, xiv, 1); but his procuratorship was too short to undo the harm wrought by his predecessor. The exact date of his accession to office is uncertain, and has been variously placed at 55-61 AD
(compare Knowling in Expositor's Greek Testament, II, 488-89; see also FELIX).
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