Acts 25 Study Notes
25:1-3 The new governor, Festus, went up from his palace in Caesarea to Jerusalem, probably to get a sense of the most important Jewish city in the realm. Hoping to seize on his unfamiliarity with the case, the Jewish leaders tried to coax him into sending Paul to Jerusalem, giving them a chance to renew their plans for ambush.
25:4-5 Festus was known to be much more honest and able than his predecessor Felix or his successor Albinus. Nevertheless, Festus would have depended on the backing of local officials to maintain peace and order. Therefore, we might expect him to accept the Jews’ request.
25:6-8 Having sinned neither against Caesar nor Jewish law, Paul was a victim of a smear campaign aimed to snuff out Christianity.
25:9-11 Likely aware of the ongoing plan to murder him, Paul avoided Jerusalem by invoking his right as a Roman citizen to appeal directly to Caesar. Not all such appeals were granted by local governors, but Festus was glad to shift this case to another jurisdiction and free himself of the pressure to appease the Jews (see note at 26:32).
25:12 The council was only a local advisory body but would have probably included an expert in Roman law. Scholars disagree about whether Festus was obligated to grant Paul’s request.
25:13 Herod Agrippa II visited Caesarea with his sister Bernice, who had a checkered sexual and marital history. Herod was the last of the Herodian rulers. Festus was sly to bring Herod into the controversy over Paul, for Herod had responsibility for the temple and appointing the Jewish high priest. Thus he had an interest in the charges that Paul had violated the temple.
25:14-19 Festus portrayed himself in the best possible light. He had expected a more serious charge, like fomenting insurrection and revolution. He came to understand that the major issue was whether Jesus, who had died, was now alive.
25:20 Realizing that the theological debate was beyond him, Festus attempted to put a good spin on the push for Paul to go to Jerusalem for trial.
25:21-22 Perhaps Herod had heard of Jesus and was curious what Paul would say about him.
25:23 The entrance of Agrippa and Bernice must have been quite an occasion, with the honored guests and other people forming an elaborate entourage.
25:24 Paul’s appearance before Agrippa had several similarities to Jesus’s appearance before Herod Antipas.
25:25 Festus had not previously made it known publicly that he thought Paul was innocent. Since Paul had made his appeal to Caesar, Festus was now free to admit, without repercussion, that he believed the charges were groundless (see note at 26:30-31).
25:26-27 Festus found the case not only groundless but perplexing. He hoped Agrippa would be able to help him think of a way to specify to the emperor the charges laid against Paul.