- fē´liks, an-tō´ni-us
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
from Latin felix, “happy”): A Roman procurator of Judea,
appointed in succession to Cumanus by the emperor Claudius. The event
which led to the introduction of Felix into the narrative of Acts was
the riot at Jerusalem (Act_21:27).
There Paul, being attacked at the instigation of the Asiatic Jews for
alleged false teaching and profanation of the temple, was rescued with
difficulty by Lysias the chief captain. But Lysias, finding that Paul
was a Roman citizen, and that therefore the secret plots against the
life of his captive might entail serious consequences upon himself, and
finding also that Paul was charged on religious rather than on political
grounds, sent him on to Felix at Caesarea for trial (Acts 21:31 through
23:34). On his arrival, Paul was presented to Felix and was then
detained for five days in the judgment hall of Herod, till his accusers
should also reach Caesarea (Act_23:33-35).
The trial was begun, but after hearing the evidence of Tertullus (see
TERTULLUS) and the speech of Paul in his own defense, Felix deferred
judgment (Acts 24:1-22). The excuse he gave for delay was the
non-appearance of Lysias, but his real reason was in order to obtain
bribes for the release of Paul. He therefore treated his prisoner at
first with leniency, and pretended along with Drusilla to take interest
in his teaching. But these attempts to induce Paul to purchase his
freedom failed ignominiously; Paul sought favor of neither Felix nor
Drusilla, and made the frequent interviews which he had with them an
opportunity for preaching to them concerning righteousness and
temperance and the final judgment. The case dragged on for two years
till Felix, upon his retirement, “desiring to gain favor with the Jews
... left Paul in bonds” (Act_24:27).
According to the Bezan text, the continued imprisonment of Paul was due
to the desire of Felix to please Drusilla.
Felix was the brother of Pallas, who was the infamous favorite of Claudius, and who, according to Tacitus (Annals xiii. 14), fell into disgrace in 55 ad. Tacitus implies that Felix was joint procurator of Judea, along with Cumanus, before being appointed to the sole command, but Josephus is silent as to this. Both Tacitus and Josephus refer to his succeeding Cumanus, Josephus stating that it was at the instigation of Jonathan the high priest. There is some doubt as to the chronology of Felix' tenure of office. Harnack and Blass, following Eusebius and Jerome, place his accession in 51 ad, and the imprisonment of Paul in 54-56 ad; but most modern commentators incline to the dates 52 ad and 56-58 ad. These latter interpret the statement of Paul, “Thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation” (Act_24:10), as referring to some judicial office, not necessarily that of co-procurator (see Tacitus), previously held by Felix in the time of Cumanus, and argue that this earlier connection of Felix with Judea supplied a reason for the advocacy by Jonathan of Felix' claims to the procuratorship on the deposition of Gumanus. The testimony of Acts as to the evil character of Felix is fully corroborated by the writings of Josephus (BJ, II, xiii). Although he suppressed the robbers and murderers who infested Judea, and among them the “Egyptian” to whom Lysias refers (Act_21:38), yet “he himself was more hurtful than them all.” When occasion offered, he did not hesitate to employ the sicarii (see ASSASSINS) for his own ends. Trading upon the influence of his brother at court, his cruelty and rapacity knew no bounds, and during his rule revolts became continuous, and marked a distinct stage in that seditious movement which culminated in the outbreak of 70 ad (so Schürer). His leaving Paul in bonds was but a final instance of one who sacrificed duty and justice for the sake of his Own unscrupulous selfishness. For more detailed information as to dates, etc., compare Knowling (Expos Greek Test., II, 477ff).
Taken from: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia by James Orr, M.A., D.D., General Editor