Why Festus, Not Felix? Paul’s “Caesarem Appello” -- By: Michael J. G. Gray-Fow

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 59:3 (Sep 2016)
Article: Why Festus, Not Felix? Paul’s “Caesarem Appello”
Author: Michael J. G. Gray-Fow


Why Festus, Not Felix? Paul’s “Caesarem Appello”

Michael J. G. Gray-Fow1

Abstract: This essay addresses the question of why Paul waited to appeal his case to Caesar until Festus had succeeded Felix as governor of Judea. It examines the sequence of events in the light of the character and background of the two men, of Paul’s own experiences at the hands of Roman authorities, and of the relevant Roman laws and procedures bearing on his case.

Key Words: Paul, Felix, cognitio, Roman citizen, provocatio, Porcian Laws, Roman legal procedures, Romans 16, Aristobulus, Narcissus, trial, appello Caesarem

I. Introduction

In the summer of AD 60, the newly-arrived Roman governor of Judea, Porcius Festus, was faced by an appeal from his court to the emperor’s judgment in Rome.2 The appellant was the apostle Paul, exercising his right of provocatio as a Roman citizen. Paul had languished in custody for two years under Festus’s predecessor Claudius (or Antonius) Felix, and the question here is why Paul waited until Festus became governor before appealing his case to Caesar.

The answer lies in what Paul discovered about the new governor and how he came by that knowledge. Paul’s imprisonment followed a riot in Jerusalem where he was arrested by the Roman commander (who later claimed to have rescued him on discovering he was a Roman citizen).3 Whisked off by night to Caesarea and the governor to protect him from a murder plot, he spent the next two years in jail while Felix hoped he would buy his release. When Felix’s term ended he left Paul in custody “to please the Jews,” which if true perhaps indicates Felix’s concern that adverse reports of his brutal if effective governorship should not follow him to

Rome.4 The book of Acts says Porcius Festus was confronted with this problem prisoner only three days after he arrived.5

II. Paul’s Background

Despite his own writings and the volumes written about him we know very little about Paul the man. A second-century description (Acts of Saint Paul) may contain a genuine recollection of a small bald-headed man with crooked legs, a rather hooked nose, and eyebrows that met. Accurate or not, it became the dominant artistic image.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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