Paul gives an incredible defense before Agrippa.
Paul had been brought before Felix, governor of the region. Felix was replaced by Festus (this change in leadership was also recorded by the Jewish historian, Josephus), and now Paul was brought before him. The Jews wanted Paul to be brought to Jerusalem to stand trial before them. “Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, ‘are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?’” (Acts 25: 9) Paul knew a trip to Jerusalem would end in his death so he requested that he be taken to Rome instead to stand before Caesar. After conferring with his counsel, Festus agrees.
(Some Bible critics suggest Luke was in error here because no counsel would have been needed. A Roman citizen’s right to appeal to Rome was absolute. However, under Roman law, a governor could immediately send the prisoner to Rome, or continue to investigate the case. Festus likely wanted to know if his counsel felt further investigation was warranted.)
This is pretty interesting that Festus would do what Paul asked rather than doing what the Jewish leadership wanted. Remember, after Paul was arrested, the Lord came to him and said, “…take courage! As you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” (Acts 23: 11)
It was at this time that King Agrippa and his wife came to Caesarea to meet the new governor, Festus. Festus took the opportunity to tell King Agrippa about Paul. Agrippa was interested and wanted to hear for himself what Paul had to say, so Paul was brought before him.
So the next day, Paul stood before King Agrippa and his sister Bernice. (Given the history of the time, it may seem strange that Bernice would be given such a prominent place in the court. However, in this case, it is consistent with what we can know about King Agrippa. Josephus wrote, when Agrippa was about to give an important speech to the people he placed his sister Bernice in a conspicuous situation, upon the house of Asamonaeans, which was above the gallery, and then he spoke to the people.)
Imagine the contrast between Agrippa and Paul:
- Agrippa was dressed in royal purple, Paul in prison garb.
- Agrippa on the throne, Paul in chains.
- Agrippa was a king, but a slave to sin. Paul is a chained prisoner rejoicing in the freedom from sin afforded by the grace of Jesus Christ.
You just have to imagine Paul standing before this prestigious group. He was alone from an earthly perspective, but he was not alone. The Holy Spirit was with him, and Paul spoke boldly.
Please read the account of Paul’s awesome defense recorded in Acts 26. After speaking before Agrippa it was agreed. “Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.’” (Acts 26: 32) Paul will be taken to Rome. This is another one of those verses Bible critics point to. They argue that Festus and/or Agrippa could have released Paul. Yes, they could have, but since Paul made his appeal, by releasing him they would, in effect, be deciding the case for Caesar. Also, they would have faced the question as to why they held a Roman citizen so long in the first place. So, Luke’s account is correct. Legally they could have released Paul, but politically it would have been a disaster for them.
(Next blog will be the final in this series about Paul as he travels to Rome.)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, Dan is a graduate of Otterbein College (now University). He graduated with a degree in education. From time to time Dan still substitute teaches. His interest in history led him to investigate the historical accuracy of the Bible. This, in turn, led to a full investigation of Apologetics.