In our last post we saw Terullus, the high-paid lawyer for the Sadducees, give his testimony against Paul. He first charged that Paul is a troublemaker, who has a history of stirring up riots among the Jews wherever he went. What is a troublemaker? The interesting thing is that many Bible translations label Paul as a “troublemaker.” However, the New English Translation renders him as a “pest.” “Pest? No that is too tame of a word. A little dog yipping at your heal, that is a pest; a mosquito buzzing in your ear while you are trying to sleep, that is a pest. The word used here says that Paul was a disaster wherever he goes. He was like a lion who was determined to tear you to pieces. Tertullus has just praised Felix for a lengthy period of peace in Judea during his rule. If he accepted praise as a peacekeeper, then surely Felix would want to deal decisively and severely (as his habit was) with Paul, who was “a real troublemaker.” Oh, not like the trouble in River City:
Trouble, oh we got trouble,
Right here in River City!
With a capital “T”
That rhymes with “P”
And that stands for Pool,
That stands for pool.
We’ve surely got trouble!
Right here in River City,
Gotta figger out a way
To keep the young ones moral after school!
Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble…
Well, that the way Tertullus was trying paint the story. However, did you notice that there is no evidence offered, no testimony given to validate this charge against Paul?. Yes, there were riots in Jerusalem, but not because Paul started them; the Jews instigated these riots.
Also, Tertullus alleged that Paul was a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. Tertullus claimed that Paul was the leader of a cult, not a member of mainstream Judaism. If Tertullus can prove that, then Paul would not enjoy the protection the Roman government provided to the Jews. These Jewish leaders were trying to separate Paul from Judaism and distance him from their Jewish religion. Felix would almost certainly have understood that these Jews identified Paul with Jesus, a Jew who had been executed for crimes against Rome (or as they hoped he would remember it).
Tertullus also accused Paul of desecrating the temple. This is a particularly interesting charge. This is very similar to the way the Jewish religious leaders prosecuted their case against Jesus, these Jewish leaders are making a two-pronged attack against Paul. In truth, they would prefer to prosecute this case themselves, to find Paul guilty of crimes against Judaism, and then execute him (the same way the Sanhedrin had dealt with Stephen). Defiling the temple would be viewed as a Jewish crime, punishable by Jewish law. If they could win on this point, they could try Paul under Jewish law, or so they hoped. However, if they could not make their case on this point, they have already charged Paul with two crimes against Rome. At least they could let Rome execute Paul, as Rome had conducted the execution of Jesus.
So we will continue to look at Paul’s current trial as we continue . . .
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts