Porcius Festus. Sent by Nero to succeed Felix as procurator of Judaea, probably in the autumn A.D. 60. To ingratiate himself with the Jews he asked Paul would he go up to Jerusalem for judgment there P But Paul, knowing there was little hope of an impartial trial there, as a Roman citizen appealed to Caesar (Acts 25-26). A few weeks afterward he gave Paul's case a hearing before Herod Agrippa II and Bernice his sister. Paul, spoke with such holy zeal that Festus exclaimed with a loud voice "Paul, thou art beside thyself, much learning doth make thee mad" (compare the same charge against Paul's Master, John 10:20; also 2 Corinthians 5:13-14); Paul replied, "I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak forth the words of truth and soberness." Then he appealed to Agrippa, "Believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest." Agrippa replied, "Almost (or as Wordsworth, 'on a short notice,' literally, 'in a short' time; but measure may be understood, which gives the KJV sense) thou persuadest me to be a Christian."
Paul answered, "I would to God that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day (including Festus) were both almost (in a small measure) and altogether (in a great measure) such as I am, except these bonds" (mark his refined courtesy in the exception). Had Agrippa yielded himself "altogether" to the convictions of conscience then, what an eternal blessing would have ensued to himself, what a reflex blessing probably to Festus! Compare in Caesar's palace at Rome, Philemon 1:12-14.
Both certainly were touched; and Festus, forgetting that it was his own proposal to try Paul at Jerusalem, the place where already Paul's life had been conspired against (Acts 23), and virtually to deliver him up to the Jews (Acts 25:11), that drove Paul in self defense to appeal to Rome, said, "This man doeth nothing worthy of death and bonds" (why then had he not released him?); and Agrippa, in compliment to Festus, laid the blame of his detention on Paul himself instead of on Festus, "This man might have been set at liberty if he had not appealed to Caesar."
A picture of the world's insincerity. Festus put down forcibly the Sicarii (assassin zealots), robbers, and magicians. Festus sided with Agrippa against the Jews as to the high wall they built to prevent Agrippa seeing from his dining room in the palace into the temple court, for it hindered the Roman guard also from seeing the temple from the castle of Antonia during the great feasts. The Roman emperor under the influence of Poppaea, a proselyte, decided on appeal in favor of the Jews. Festus after a procuratorship of less than two years died in the summer of A.D. 62.
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