The Trial Before Festus, 1-12
Acts 25:1 Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, 2 where the chief priests and Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. 3 They urgently requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. 4 Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. 5 Let some of your leaders come with me and press charges against the man there, if he has done anything wrong.”
Acts 25:6 After spending eight or ten days with them, he went down to Caesarea, and the next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. 7 When Paul appeared, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many serious charges against him, which they could not prove.
Acts 25:8 Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.”
Acts 25:9 Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?”
Acts 25:10 Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. 11 If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!”
“I appeal to Caesar!” – ‘It was Nero to whose superior justice Paul appealed against the vacillations of his deputy, Festus (Acts 25:10-11), and Nero whose God-given authority he had studiously supported in writing to the Romans (Rom. 13:1-7). There is a horrible and tragic irony in this: ‘he does not bear the sword in vain’ (v. 4). We do not know the outcome of Paul’s appeal, but the Christians of Rome were treated for their loyalty to one of the most barbaric pogroms in history.’ (NBD)
Acts 25:12 After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”
Festus Consults King Agrippa, 13-22
Acts 25:13 A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. 14 Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. He said: “There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. 15 When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned.
Acts 25:16 “I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over any man before he has faced his accusers and has had an opportunity to defend himself against their charges. 17 When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in. 18 When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19 Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. 20 I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. 21 When Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.”
“Their own religion” – ‘In Acts 25:19 Festus the Roman procurator of Judea, in a speech to King Agrippa and Queen Bernice, uses the term deisidaimonía to characterize the religion of Paul’s Jewish accusers. Here the term is appropriately rendered “superstition,” since Festus’s attitude toward Judaism, like that of most Romans, would have been largely negative. Judaism was frequently characterized pejoratively by pagans as deisidaimonía or superstitio, i.e., as a “superstition”. Christianity was closely associated with Judaism, and Christians were labeled with the contradictory epithets of “atheists” (MPolyc 9:2; Diogenes 2:6) on the one hand and “superstitious” on the other.’ (ISBE)
Acts 25:22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear this man myself.”
He replied, “Tomorrow you will hear him.”
Paul Before Agrippa, 23-27
Acts 25:23 The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high ranking officers and the leading men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 Festus said: “King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something to write. 27 For I think it is unreasonable to send on a prisoner without specifying the charges against him.”
The Emperor – lit. ‘Augustus’. The title was first applied to Octavian (Lk 2:1), and then past down to future Emperors of Rome; in this case, Nero.