25.And he wrote a letter.First, we must briefly admonish the readers who have not been conversant in histories, that this Felix was brother to Pallas, who being Caesar’s freeman, became equal with the chief of the city in wealth and power. Yea, moreover, the senate gave him the ornaments of the praetor, not without titles of filthy and shameful flattery. Therefore, seeing the servants of Claudius abusing his folly, did rule the Roman empire at their pleasure, and chiefly Narcissus and Pallas, no marvel if this latter did appoint his brother to be governor of Judea. The sum of the epistle tendeth to this end, that the chief captain may help Paul with his prejudice; F1413 and may admonish Felix of the injuries of his adversaries, and may so discredit them, that they may not be able to do him any hurt.
27.This man being taken.This was spoken odiously concerning the Jews, that he might purchase more favor for Paul, that a man, being a Roman, was by them sore beaten, and almost slain; also, he commendeth him for the right and privilege of his freedom, that he may be the more courteously handled. Furthermore, this commendation was not purchased by prayer or flattery, neither was it bought with money. How came it to pass, then, that the chief captain did show himself so courteous freely to an obscure man, and whom all men did hate, save only because the Lord had appointed him to be his servant’s patron? Therefore, we see how he governeth the tongues and hands of the infidels to the profit of those that be his.
29. Whom I perceived. In this place he acquitteth Paul, so far as his judgment could reach. But let us note that a profane man speaketh. For among the people of God it is an offense worthy of no less punishment, to corrupt the doctrine of godliness with wicked, and false opinions, than to do injury to, or commit wickedness among men. The Romans would not have suffered their superstitions, or reigned worshippings of their gods, to be freedom; F1414 but forasmuch as they made no account of the law of God, yea, seeing they were desirous to have the same quite put out, it was among them no fault to believe Moses and the prophets no more, or to trouble the Church with false opinions. Therefore, there was a law, that the governors should not meddle with such matters; but that those who were abiding in the provinces should so retain their religion, that if anything were done contrary to the same, the Roman magistrates should not meddle with the punishing thereof. This is the reason why the chief captain thinketh it no offense to have moved questions concerning the law. And under color hereof, unlearned men will have leave granted to themselves and others amiss to cause trouble. The Lord saith far otherwise, who doth more sharply punish the violating of his worship, than any injuries done to men. And surely nothing is more absurd than to let those who rob God of his honor escape scot free, F1415 seeing theft is punished. But as the chief captain careth not for the Jewish religion, so the false accusations and slanders of the Jewsare refuted, wherewith they would gladly have burdened Paul.
30. When it was showed to me.The second part of the epistle where the chief captain doth bring the adversaries into contempt, F1416 because they went about to kill Paul treacherously. Whence it is also gathered, that they trouble Paul unjustly, and that they sought so sore against his life without any cause. For if they had persecuted him lawfully, they would have trusted to the goodness of their cause, and not have suffered him to be judged according to law. Now, when as they seek to kill him, it appeareth that they have no reason.
32.And the next day.Though Luke did not express before that the soldiers were commanded to return before they came at their way’s end, yet it is certain, that they were appointed to accompany him only unto that place where the chief captain thought Paul would be safe; for he went out privily in the night. And the chief captain knew that so soon as they had finished some part of their journey, there was no farther danger, because the adversaries could have no hope to overtake him; and that it was no point of wisdom F1417 to send part of the garrison far away.
1. And after five days the chief priest Ananias came down with the elders, and one Tertullus, a rhetorician, who came before the governor against Paul. 2. And when Paul was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, Seeing that we live in great peace by means of thee, and seeing many things are restored in this nation by thy providence, 3. That allow we ever, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thanks. 4. But lest I become tedious unto thee, I pray thee hear us a little of thy courtesy. 5. For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of debate unto all the Jews throughout the whole world, and an author of the sect of the Nazarites: 6. Who did also go about to pollute the temple; whom when we had taken, we would have judged him according to our law, 7. But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him from us, 8. Commanding his accusers to come down unto thee: of whom thou mayest, if thou wilt inquire, know the certainty of all these things whereof we accuse him. 9. And the Jews added, saying that these things were so.
1. Seeing Ananias goeth down to Cesarea to accuse Paul, it maketh the conjecture more probable, which I brought before touching his priesthood. For it was not meet for the highest priest to take such a journey. Therefore some other man was highest priest at that time; and Ananias being one of the chief priests, forasmuch as he was in great authority, and was withal a stout F1418 man, did take this embassage upon him. He bringeth with him a train, and that of the worshipful company of elders, that the governor might be moved with their very pomp to condemn Paul. But forasmuch as Paul did use no eloquence, they had no need to hire a rhetorician to contend with him in eloquence. Moreover, they did exceed both in dignity and also in multitude, so that it was an easy matter for them to oppress a poor man, and such a one as was destitute of man’s help. Therefore it was a sign of an evil conscience, in that seeing they were men of great experience, exercised in public affairs, and skillful in matters pertaining to courts, they hire a rhetorician. Eloquence is, I confess, the gift of God; but in this matter they went about nothing else but to deceive the judge therewith. And Luke declareth this, therefore, that we may know that the Jews did omit nothing whereby they might oppress Paul; and that they might not only prove him guilty, F1419 but so dash him out of countenance, that he might not be able to defend himself; and so let us consider that it came to pass by the wonderful providence of God, that Paul did so stoutly endure such sore assaults. Wherefore, if it so fall out at any time that a godly man being alone be beset with a great number of enemies, let him call to mind this history, and let him be of good courage. As David doth likewise exhort us by his own example,
“If tents were pitched about me, I will not fear,
because thou art with me,” (<192703>Psalm 27:3).
2. Seeing we live in great peace.Tertullus useth a preface nothing appertinent to the matter; because he commendeth Felix wisdom and virtues that he may purchase favor. Therefore it is a filthy and flattering exordium. Not that I am of their mind who reprehend Tertullus for speaking the judge fair, and for seeking to win his favor. For it is not always disagreeing with the right and lawful form of pleading to commend the judge; and there may reasons be brought on both sides (as they say) touching this matter. But I mislike nothing but this which is altogether corrupt. For the rhetorician doth insinuate himself under false praises, that he may darken the matter which is called in question. For to what end doth he speak of peace and a well ordered state, save only that Felix may think that the safety of Judea consisteth in condemning Paul, and that he may examine the matter no further? Moreover, it appeareth by Josephus, how covetously, cruelly, and voluptuously, Felix behaved himself in that province. The unworthy and tragical murdering of the highest priest, Jonathas, because he set himself against his dissolute tyranny, was already past; F1420 and, finally, almost at the very same time, Claudius Caesar was enforced with the complaints of the whole nation, to put Festus in his place, and to call him to answer for himself.
Therefore we see how shamefully this orator did lie. And seeing all Paul’s adversaries sing the same song, we see that they be blinded with hatred and malice, and that they treacherously betray the state of their country; neither do they pass what befall them so Paul may die the death.
Where Erasmus translateth it, Many things are well done, the old interpreter seemeth to come nearer unto Paul’s meaning, who saith, that katorqwmata are wrought, which signifieth as much as reformations or dressings. Therefore Tertullus commendeth the industry of Felix, because he had cleansed Judea from many corruptions, and he restored many things which would otherwise have decayed; F1421 to wit, to the end he may the more greedily seek to purchase the favor of the nation (which he knew was otherwise offended with him) by the death of one man.
5. For we found this man.Tertullus doth aim at a double mark. The first is this, that Paul may be delivered to the Jews, because they be very skillful in matters which concern the worship of God and the law of Moses. But and if he deny this, he layeth to his charge a crime worthy of death, because he procured contention F1422 among the people. They knew that the Romans did hate nothing more, therefore they urge that the sorest against Paul. This doth Tertullus amplify when he saith, that Paul had moved the Jews throughout the whole world. But I wonder why he addeth that he is the author or chief of the sect of the Nazarites, which we know was rather a praise than a dispraise among the Jews. I think that they mean not those who, according to the old and lawful custom of the law, did consecrate themselves to God, but those troublesome murderers who did also vaunt and boast that they were zealous men.F1423 Some F1424 think that Nazarites are here put for Christians, which may very well be. But if we like the former exposition better, he doth craftily lay to Paul’s charge that he was one of that sect which the Romans did hate. For whereas these zealous men would above all other have been counted for notable observers of the law, they advanced a color of zeal as a banner to stir up the minds of the common people. Nevertheless, these good men, who are so zealous over their liberty, do not spare the chiefest maintainers thereof, so they may cause Paul to be hated by means of them. They would have commended the Nazarites as courageous defenders of the law, if it had not been in this matter, but now, as if they did infect the whole world, they seek to bring upon Paul great reproach by saying that he is one of them. Moreover, they slander Paul impudently, for no man did think that he was guilty of that crime. Therefore they lay to his charge, no less wickedly than maliciously, a crime which they take up at their foot, F1425 and invent without all color. But such is the careless security of hypocrites, that they think they may do whatsoever they will, so they color their doings with zeal.
6.Who went about to pollute the temple.It was a light and almost a frivolous accusation to lay this to his charge before the Roman governor, who could have wished that the temple had been turned topsy-turvy. But because nothing was more fit for procuring uproars than the polluting of the temple, he doth craftily accuse Paul thereof, as if he should say, that it was no thanks to him that Jerusalem was not on an uproar; and that he carried such a firebrand as might have procured sore hurt if he had not been prevented. Also he includeth that other thing, that because Paul had offended in matters of religion, it did belong properly to the Jews to give judgment in that matter. And here he complaineth also of the chief captain Lysias, because he robbed them of their right. Therefore his drift is, to obtain at the hands of the ruler that he will restore to them that which Lysias had taken from them. This is also not void of subtilty, in that Tertullus doth discredit the chief captain, because he dealt more courteously towards Paul than the priests would he should; and glancingly he bringeth him in suspicion, because he dare not openly accuse him. But the question is, whether they could hope that the governor would grant them so much, seeing the Roman magistrates alone were to sit upon life and death? I answer, that he maketh in this place some semblance of equity, as if they were purposed to handle him more gently than he deserved. For though they might not condemn any man to death, yet they might use some light chastisement as was scourging. Nevertheless, Tertullus doth not cease to desire before the president to have him put to death.
8.Having made inquiry. A good F1426 request, that the governor do not give sentence before he thoroughly examine and know the matter; and that he do not condemn Paul before he be lawfully convict. But how dare they put in these conditions, seeing their own consciences do accuse them of unjust dealing? I answer, that they had witnesses in readiness; and that they do not offer themselves to prove the matter until they do call them; F1427 though there were another end. For they did hope that Felix would be so persuaded with such glorious words, F1428 that he would turn over unto them the man whom they did accuse for a condemned man, whom they might handle at their pleasure. In sum, the more fierce they be upon him, and the more they were puffed up with some affiance they had in themselves, they think they shall get the upper hand by this means, because the party arraigned shall have no license granted to defend himself. Thus do false accusers boldly boast that their matter is plain, that they may blind the eyes of the judges.
10. And Paul answered, after that the governor had beckoned to him that he should speak, With a better mind do I speak for myself, forasmuch as I know that thou hast judged this nation this many years: 11. Seeing that thou mayest know that there are yet but twelve days since that I came up to Jerusalem to worship. 12. And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyman, or causing any concourse of people, neither in the synagogues, neither in the city: 13. Neither can they prove those things whereof they accuse me. 14. But this I confess to thee, that according to the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets; 15. And have hope toward God, that the same resurrection of the dead which they wait for, shall be both of the just and unjust. 16. And herein I study always to have a clear conscience toward God and toward men. 17. And after many years I came and brought alms to my nation, and offerings. 18. Wherein they found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, neither with unquietness [tumult]. 19. And certain Jews out of Asia, who ought to have been present here, and to accuse if they had any thing against me. 20. Or else let these same here say if they have found any iniquity in me when I stood (or seeing I stand) in the council; 21. Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, I am judged of you this day of the resurrection of the dead.
10. And Paul.The state of Paul’s defense is not conversant in the quality; but he denieth the crime that was laid to his charge; not that he was ashamed of the gospel, or afraid of the cross, but because that was no place to make any full confession of faith in. Therefore, omitting the cause of the gospel, which his accuser had not touched, he answereth simply unto the crimes whereof he was accused. But before he come thither, he saith that he doth the more willingly answer for himself before Felix, because he had long time been governor of Judea; because, peradventure, some new governor F1429 would have been sore moved hearing such things laid to his charge. He doth not commend the virtues of the governor, but he saith that he is glad, because he is of great experience, that he may judge more justly. F1430 This is surely a sincere and free manner of defending, to set matter against words. Yet Paul seemeth to gather amiss, that Felix can know the time of his coming, because he had been governor many years. I answer, that this is said therefore, because it is likely that he will deal more moderately; as if he should say, Because thou hast been acquainted with their conditions long time, I have the better hope that they shall not deceive thee. For want of skill doth make judges too credulous, and doth enforce them to make too much haste.
11. To worship.First, it is certain that he came for other causes, and he will afterward confess that this was the chief, that he might bring alms for the sustentation of the brethren. But we may well excuse him, because it was not of necessity that he should give an account of his coming; only he meant, by the way, to excuse himself of corrupt religion. Wherefore, though he came to Jerusalem for some other cause, yet this is always true, that he came with no other mind, but to profess himself to be a worshipper of God, and to approve the holiness of the temple by his worshipping. The other question is more hard, how he saith that he came to worship, seeing the religion of the temple was already abolished, and all difference of the temple F1431 taken away? I answer in this place likewise, that though he do not make his purpose known, yet he doth not lie or dissemble. For the faithful servants of Christ were not forbidden to worship in the temple, so they did not tie holiness to the place, but did lift up pure hands freely without making choice of places (<540208>1 Timothy 2:8). It was lawful for Paul to enter into the temple after he was come to Jerusalem, that he might make his godliness known, and there to use the solemn rites of the worship of God, because he was void of superstition; so he did not offer any propitiatory sacrifices which were contrary to the gospel. Therefore religion did not compel him to come to Jerusalem according to the appointment of the law, as if the sanctuary were the face of God as in times past; yet he doth not abhor the external worship which was unto men a testimony of godliness.
12. Disputing with any man.Paul had no need to deny any of these things if he had done them; because he might have answered for himself that it was well done. He had been one of the scribes which disputed daily; neither were they forbidden either by the law or by custom, but that they might assemble themselves together F1432 to be taught. Yea, to this end there were in divers places of the city synagogues, wherein they met together. Moreover, he knew that both Christ and also his apostles had done the same thing. Also he might easily have turned [retorted] back upon his adversaries the crime which they did object to him, who did daily use the very same things. But because he aimeth at no other thing at this present, but to refute the false accusations of his adversaries, and to prove that importunate men had unadvisedly molested him for no cause; he intreateth not of the lawfulness of the fact, (as they say) but only of the fact. And he standeth chiefly upon this point to refute that slander, because he was burdened to be F1433 a raiser of tumults. Therefore he concludeth that he was falsely and unjustly accused; because the adversaries had never proved those things which they had alleged. This ought to have been sufficient to discharge him, seeing he was thus burdened with wicked lies, whereas there rested in him not the very least suspicion that could be devised.
14. But I confess.Because they had laid to Paul’s charge impiety and the polluting of the temple, he purgeth himself of both now, that Felix may understand that his adversaries were moved with evil will. F1434For though the religion, which is pretended, be false and preposterous, yet the study thereof did oftentimes find favor with men, who took no great heed. Wherefore it was to be feared lest Felix, if he had conceived any sinister suspicion of Paul, should not only have pardoned the zeal of the priests, but also have granted their requests. Wherefore Paul doth also refute this point of the accusation; and that so, that he doth not touch the faith of the gospel, because (as we have said) that was no fit place for making confession thereof. But what is this that he saith, that he worshippeth God according to the way which they call heresy? Some think that this is added like to a concession; because the enemies take that in evil part which ought to be attributed to judgment and right election; as if Paul had said, that that form of religion which he had followed is, indeed, called heresy, but unworthily. But seeing that name was not infamous either among the Jews or Gentiles, it is unlikely that he maketh answer before a profane man, touching that which they counted everywhere rather a commendation than any vice. When Christians have conference together, the Spirit of God commandeth that heretics be counted detestable; and he teacheth us to beware of heresies, because they bring upon the Church plague, dissension, and wasteness. Therefore, it is a thing not to be suffered among the people of God, whose safety consisteth in the unity of faith. But because the Jews did then openly boast of their sects, that excuse, whereof we spake of late, was superfluous. Therefore, it remaineth that he do either mean that he is a Pharisee, or that he call the Jewish religion or the profession of the gospel (without infamy) heresy; because they were distinguished from the use and custom of all nations. Seeing he did before confess himself to be a Pharisee, there shall no inconvenience ensue, if we say that he doth repeat the same now; especially seeing he speaketh shortly after of the resurrection of the dead. But because this first point doth only contain a confession concerning the worship of the God of the fathers, I think that he doth rather speak generally of the Jewish religion, or of the Christian faith which did flow thence. Paul was a citizen of Rome, notwithstanding as he came of the Jews by his ancestry, he confesseth that he continueth in the religion which he had learned of the fathers. And to this end doth the adverb of likeness tend; for it showeth a known thing, namely, the manner of worship whereunto the Jews were addicted. He maketh express mention of the God of his fathers, because it was not lawful for a man that was a Roman to receive the doctrine of the law unless he had come of the Jews. Also he toucheth his adversaries, which handle him so cruelly; whereas, notwithstanding, they both worship one God. I (saith he) worship the same God (according to the manner delivered by mine ancestors) which they themselves worship, and even as they worship him. Neither doth that hinder because he was fallen from the ceremonies of the law, and was content with the spiritual worship of God. For Paul thinketh it sufficient for him to wipe away that blot of impiety which his adversaries had falsely cast upon him. Therefore the Papists are ridiculous, who feign that Paul alloweth [approveth] all manner [of] antiquity. We, say they, worship the God of our fathers with Paul, as the custom was delivered to us from hand to hand; as if (even they themselves being judges) it were sufficient for the Jews or Turks to hold up the same buckler against the faith of Christ. But the apostle meant nothing less than simply to ground religion in the authority of ancestors, and to defend his godliness with that defense, which might have been common to all the superstitions of the Gentiles; he meant only to stop the mouth of his adversaries. Nevertheless, he taketh this for a plain matter, that the fathers, from whom the Jewish religion came, were good and sincere worshippers of God; so that the Jews, which were not degenerate, might well boast, that the God of their fathers whom they worshipped was the only Creator of heaven and earth; and that the country gods F1435 of all the rest of the world were mere and vain inventions.
Believing all things.A short exposition of the sentence next going before. For, because he had not simply affirmed that he worshipped God, but did add this word outwv, or so: he doth now set down how he worshippeth God. Whereby it appeareth what great heed he taketh for fear he entangle himself in those accidental F1436 superstitions which reigned among the Jews. As if any of us do at this day answer the Papists, that he worshippeth the God whom they profess, as we be taught out of the law and out of the gospel. By this let us learn that God is not rightly worshipped, so that our obedience can please him, unless it be of faith, which is the only ground-work of godliness. For he (to the end he may prove himself to be the servant of God) doth not thrust upon them bare ceremonies; but he saith flatly that he believeth. Furthermore, this place containeth a profitable doctrine, that this is the only foundation of right and true F1437 faith, for a man to submit himself to the Scripture, and reverently to embrace the doctrine thereof. Furthermore, Paul doth in this place divide the Scripture into the law and the prophets, that he may the more plainly prove that he doth not dissent from the universal consent of the Church.