Jerusalem To Rome

The Acts of the Apostles

By Charles Fremont Sitterly


Advance from the Capital of the Province to that of the Empire A. D. 44 To A. D. 62

Chapter 25

Paul’s Address before Festus



Now, Festus, three days after he had come into his province, went up from Cęsarea to Jerusalem. Then the High Priests and leading men of the Jews informed him against Paul and besought him as a special favor and in prejudice against him to have Paul brought to Jerusalem, they meanwhile forming a plot to kill him on the road. But Festus, on the contrary, replied that Paul was being held in custody in Cęsarea and that he himself was in haste to proceed there.

“Let, therefore,” he said, “your influential men who can, go down with me, and if there is anything amiss in the man, impeach him.”

After remaining with them not more than eight or ten days he went down to Cęsarea. The very next day he took his place on the bench and ordered Paul to be brought before him.



It is now midsummer of the year 59. Festus arrives from Rome and almost at once proceeds to Jerusalem, as always the real center of the life of Palestine. Of course the high prelates of the nation are his chief entertainers and guests, and they decide to make Paul’s case a prime subject of settlement by fair means or foul. They discuss the case openly and on its merits in the presence of the Procurator and absence of the defendant, and finally make it a point of special favor that it be cited back to their own Council for trial and final disposition. The plot to have Paul’s blood will not die. It would almost seem that their persistence in pleading aroused the suspicions of Festus. At least he gathered that the case was of considerable importance and that he ought personally to inquire into it, and if so, that it would be better to have the trial take place at Cęsarea, especially as he did not propose to stop long enough at Jerusalem to give it attention there. The conspirators, of course, consented, hoping to have their favor granted from Cęsarea and to carry out their plot still. They therefore sent down a commission to press the petition, taking for granted that the real trial when the case was argued anew would be as they desired. Thus they failed to organize a strong presentation of their side, and it worked inevitably to their disadvantage. Festus’s character and business capacity come out by the tokens of vigor and address with which he opens his administration. The very first day of his residence at the palace in Cęsarea sees Paul led into court for another legal examination.  


Paragraph 2. PAUL’S APPEAL TO THE EMPEROR. Verses 7-12.

When Paul arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem rose up on all sides of him and raised a number of grave charges against him, none of which they could prove. Paul answered, in defense,

“I have not trespassed in any respect against the law

of the Jews, nor against the Temple, nor against Cesar.”’

Festus, however, since he wished to gain favor with the Jews, asked Paul,

“Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there stand trial before me on these charges?”

“I am standing before Czsar’s tribunal,” said Paul, “and there I must be tried. I have done no wrong at all to the Jews, as you also can see better than ever. If, however, I am a criminal or have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die. But if there is nothing in any of the charges they lay against me, then no one can hand me over as a favor to them. I appeal to Cesar!”

Then Festus, after conference with the Council, replied :

“Do you appeal to Cesar? To Cesar you shall go.”  


In striking contrast to the former hearing, no orator now opens the case for the prosecution, but the whole group of Jewish commissioners spring to the floor as soon as Paul enters the hall and rushing to the front surround him with almost threatening aspect and gestures. Meanwhile they all pour forth a stream of the most serious. charges partly addressed to the court and partly to the prisoner without any decency or order and without deigning to offer the slightest legal evidence. Paul, when at length his accusers have run out of further power of enlargement and perhaps begin to realize that they have done their cause more harm than good— for they really were sent down not to argue the case but to get it remanded to Jerusalem—makes a dignified and all-inclusive reply. With no heat nor elaboration nor argument he denies any guilt whatever on the three counts which had been pleaded at the first hearing.

“If, your Excellency, these men are intending to charge me with either infracting in any criminal way the laws of the empire, of the Jewish people, or of the Temple, I plead again not guilty.”

“Are you willing to have the case referred back to Jerusalem in case I go up to the hearing?” asks Festus.

“This is the seat of civil government, your Excellency, and this is a civil case,” replies Paul. “If I am a criminal let it be proved, and I will abide the consequences, even to death. But this method of charging all the language will bear and without any semblance of legal proof, such as promises to be the case if referred to a lower court, cannot satisfy a Roman citizen. I appeal to the Emperor.”

Thus again their overconfidence has overshot the mark, and instead of getting Paul back into their own power they have so maneuvered that he will now be covered by the very shield of all-powerful Rome. Festus holds brief council with his state’s attorneys to see that no legal form is overlooked and that he has their advice that the case will warrant sending up to the supreme tribunal, and, on assurance to that end, asks,

“Do you appeal to Cesar?”

Paul courteously and gravely nods assent.

“To Cesar you shall go!” says Festus. At last Paul shall “see Rome also.”



Some days later Agrippa, the king, and Bernice came down to Cęsarea to pay their respects to Festus. As they prolonged their stay there, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king.

“There is a man here,” he said, “left a prisoner by Felix. When I was in Jerusalem, the High Priests and the elders of the Jews made charges and begged me to  


Luke is right in making Paul the hero of his book. We see by this time how extremely interesting and at the same time important are the episodes detailed by his master hand. No matter how many times he repeats the same incident in Paul’s career, it sparkles anew, as new facets are inevitably turned upon us. No matter though the same inevitable conflict is sure to rise every time he goes into a



give sentence against him. I, however, told them that it was not the custom among Romans to give any man up as a favor before the accused met his accusers face to face and had a chance to defend himself against the charges brought against him. When, therefore, they came here along with me I made no delay, but the next day took my seat on the bench and ordered the man to be brought in. But when his accusers came forward they did not charge him with any such offenses as I supposed, but the accusations against him were about matters of their own religion and about a certain Jesus who had died. Paul maintained that He was alive. As I was at a loss how to take up these matters, I asked if he were willing to go to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges. But Paul made appeal to have his case held for the decision of the Emperor; therefore, I ordered him to be held in custody until I could send him up to Cesar.”

“I have been wishing to hear the man myself,” said Agrippa.

“You shall hear him to-morrow,” Festus replied.  


Jewish synagogue and is asked to speak, yet it draws us on and chains our attention as breathlessly the fifth as the first time. Luke had a-great portrait to draw and at the same time Paul had a great painter to limn his likeness. Now another of those splendid Herods comes across the stage, and he is just as vile as the rest. Yet Bernice, being both his sister and his wife, is, if possible, worse. They come down from Cęsarea Philippi to Caesarea Palestine to greet the new Procurator and his wife. One day Festus narrates the case and character of Paul to get an opinion from his guest on how to frame the document remitting his prisoner to Rome. He rehearses it in even fuller detail than Luke has already given, and so strangely does it strike the king that no sooner is Festus through than Agrippa says:

“You have awakened my interest in the man. He must be a unique fellow, one of those Nazarene fanatics as you say, but what fiber is developed by that new sect! Do you remember the story we are always hearing about John the Baptizer and the Nazarene Himself? I think I heard of this Paul somewhere, it may be at Damascus or Antioch. Before we go let me see him and hear him speak and afterward I will help you with the paper.”

“An excellent idea,” answers Festus. “To-morrow is a holiday, and we will set a hearing in the Pretorium for the afternoon. He is a very interesting speaker, and we will make something of a spectacle of the occasion.”  


So on the following day, when Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp and entered the audience chamber with the Tribune and chief men of the city, by the command of Festus, Paul was led in.

“King Agrippa,” said Festus, “and all who are assembled with us, you are looking on a man about whom the entire body of Jews at Jerusalem and here also have made complaint to me. They loudly protest that he ought not to live any longer. I, however, could not find that he had done anything deserving death, and as he himself appealed to the Emperor, I have decided to send him. But I have nothing to write the Sovereign that is definite about the case. Therefore, I have brought him before you all and especially before you, King Agrippa, that I may have something to write after this examination. For it seems unreasonable to me in sending forward a prisoner not to signify the particulars against him.”



Festus orders attendance for the day following of a very brilliant assembly, and enters into it himself with great enthusiasm. When we recall that this case of Paul has repeatedly been prominent in the eye and court of Cęsarea for two years past, and then read Luke’s account of this last day’s doings, we get some suggestion of what a subtle personality the Gentile Apostle had. Festus begins the business with a rehearsal of the case in outline and openly states his dilemma and doubt as to whether it ought to go to the Emperor at all. By the Jews both in Caesarea and Jerusalem the prisoner is claimed to be unworthy of life.

“My predecessor, I am told, liked the man and would gladly have freed him, had not the charges been so grave, but he himself did not believe them. I have carefully gone into the case and can find no real cause for criminal action. But as this man is a Roman citizen and has appealed to Rome, I have so ordered, and now I am at a loss how to state the case strongly enough to warrant the expense and attention which such matters generally involve. I shall be extremely grateful if you would give attention to the facts as they come out and afterward your judgment, and yours especially, King Agrippa, since you have lived much in Rome and sat at times in the imperial law courts when notable cases were passed upon.”