Thursday, June 16, 2011

Acts 23: Paul's "Day" In Roman Court Begins

Flattery and lies. Kiss up and kick down. That about describes the "litigation strategy" of Paul's accusers before the Roman governor Felix in Caesarea.

By contrast, Paul tersely acknowledges the governor's authority to judge, and gets right to the point with accurate, verifiable fact after fact after fact. And, being Paul, he testifies to the power of the resurrection. In this first hearing he does not mention Christ, perhaps that is because he knows that Felix "was well acquainted with The Way" (v. 22). In the second and subsequent hearings, at which Felix is joined by his Jewish wife Drusilla, Paul presents the whole gospel. Felix is afraid of the message of judgment but greedy for a bribe, so he keeps calling for Paul, who keeps coming to share the gospel.

Eventually Felix is recalled to Rome for mishandling ethnic riots and is replaced by a new governor of the Jews with the unfortunate name of Porcius. Historical accounts say he was, however, wiser and more honest than his predecessor.

Drusilla was the daughter of Herod Agrippa 1 (the "godlike" one whose stomach was filled with worms), and was married at age 15 to Azizus King of Emesa before deserting him after a year and marrying Felix. Her son, also named Agrippa, died in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Thus, hopefully, ended the miserable line of proud, violent persecutors and sometime killers of godly men (John the Baptist, Jesus, James, Peter, John, Paul, etc. etc.).

As the conclusion of Acts approaches, I wonder why Luke spends so much time on the details of the ups and downs of Paul the Litigator. Maybe it has something to do with dignifying the gospel message in the eyes of Roman readers by presenting it in a positive light before an institution they knew and respected and indeed took pride in as a lynchpin in the Pax Romana: the courts. Think Billy Graham in Yankee Stadium.

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