I had a major hard drive failure and have been more or less offline for the better part of two weeks. I did have everything backed up, fortunately. I highly recommend SyncToy 2.0 and an external hard drive. The following several posts are attempts at “catch up,” I’ll be finishing up the text of Acts this Sunday night. I plan on spending a week on the early church in Rome, them exploring James and Peter as alternatives to Pauline Christianity in the mid-first century the following weeks.
And now to Festus….
As soon as Paul arrives in Caesarea, prominent Jews from Jerusalem approach Festus for a “favor,” to release Paul to their custody. What we know about Festus is generally good, especially when compared to Felix. He dealt quickly with two separate messianic movements (Antiq. 20.8.10). Unfortunately, Festus died after less than two years in office (A. D. 61-62) and his replacement Albinius was not an able administrator at all.
Festus finds himself it a difficult situation politically. He needs the help of the “ruling Jews” to manage the province of Judea. The elite of Jerusalem included the former high priests and other Herodians. They were, by and large, interested in power and wealth (as most politicians are). There is a certain irony here, since these men do not represent a very large segment of the population on Judea in the mid first century! They are but one small splinter group of many at the time; Festus buys very little influence if he does do them this “favor.”
The language of their request points to a formal alliance, if Festus expects to have the support of the local elite, then he needs to hand Paul over to them for justice rather than release him. Festus sees that there is nothing about Paul that requires punishment; in fact, there are not real accusations being made against Paul! Paul’s accusers are not present, therefore the very basis of a case against him in Roman law is missing. This was Paul’s point in his defense before Felix (his accusers are the Asian Jews, who disappear when the action moves to Caesarea).
Luke only briefly comments on Paul’s defense, adding for the first time that he has neither offended the Temple or Caesar. This is the first time that Paul has emphasized that he is not guilty of anything under Roman law. Paul clearly realizes that his only chance at justice is to rely upon his citizenship.