We are looking at a second trial of Paul. This time with Felix, the governor of Caesarea. Tertullus, the high-priced lawyer for the Sadducees, gave his charges against Paul, but in some manuscripts there is an additional charge made against Claudius Lysias, the Roman commander, accusing him of wrongfully and violently interfering with Jewish justice:
“. . . and we wanted to judge him according to our law. But Lysias the commanding officer came and took him out of our hands with a great deal of violence, ordering those who accused him to come before you” —Acts 24:6b-8a
As I mentioned before, up to this point, Paul has only stood before religious authorities. Now he will stand before kings, as God had indicated at the time of his conversion]
This does add further emphasis to the charge that Paul defiled the temple. If this was a Jewish matter, one that Rome normally allowed the Jewish authorities to handle, then Claudius Lysias made a very serious mistake by interfering. The inference was that Felix should turn the matter back over to the Jews, and let them deal with it. The fact that Felix refused to pronounce any verdict until Claudius Lysias appeared would seem to add weight to the claim that these words were a part of the original text—and that the commander was indeed accused of doing something wrong.
Tertullus invited Felix to question Paul himself, confident that he would indict himself by his own testimony. What is important to know about that, Jewish (and perhaps Roman) law prohibited compelling a man to bear testimony against himself, but this didn’t seem to trouble Tertullus or the elders. There was more than one way that this could happen. Paul might offend Felix, as he had the high priest, as Paul was prone to do at times. On the other hand, in his uncompromising declaration of the gospel in which he dogmatically proclaimed his testimony and preached Christ, he might provoke Felix to find him guilty.
In addition to the skillful word-smithing of Tertullus, there was the Jewish “amen corner.” Luke tells us that as Tertullus was pressing his prosecution of Paul, the Jews joined in the verbal attack, affirming that these charges were true.
You have to appreciate the skill with which Tertullus had presented the prosecution’s case. It certainly sounded more convincing than what was presented to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. Given the way Paul’s case fell apart because of his words to the high priest, I am certain that Paul weighed his words carefully. His answer is a masterpiece. He outdoes Tertullus in the elegance of his defense, the only difference being that Paul is speaking the truth.
Paul’s testimony coming next . . .
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts