Felix part 1

by John Thomas Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Felix part 1
Felix was Festus' predecessor. He imprisoned Paul but allowed him to speak in his defense. He hoped Paul would offer him a bribe, but he never did. Festus thought Paul was delusional, but he did not think that was cause for putting him to death or locking him up, so he let him go.
Antonius Felix was formerly enslaved but was promoted by Claudius Caesar to the governor's office. The Roman historian Tacitus described Felix as "cruel, licentious, and base." While in Judea, Felix was attracted to Drusilla, a daughter of Herod Agrippa I. The fact that Drusilla was already married made no difference to Felix. He enticed her away from her husband, Aziz, and they later married.
Felix was the governor of Judea and Samaria when the apostle Paul was arrested in Jerusalem for preaching the gospel (Acts 23:35). Because a mob was planning to kill Paul before he could come to trial, the Roman commander hustled Paul away in the night, accompanied by two hundred soldiers, so that Governor Felix could hear his case (Acts 23:23–24).
When Paul arrived in Caesarea, Felix, the governor, read an explanatory letter from the Roman commander who had sent Paul there, asked what province Paul was from, and then postponed his hearing until Paul's accusers could be present (Acts 23:33–35). Five days later, a company arrived; Ananias, the high priest, some Jewish elders, and a hired lawyer named Tertullus. Once the proceedings had begun, Tertullus and the Jewish leaders accused Paul of being a troublemaker who had attempted to desecrate the temple (Acts 24:5–6). Given his turn to speak, Paul politely denied the charges against him. He also pointed out that his actual accusers, Jews from Asia, were not present and that he had not been found guilty of any crime before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem (Acts 24:17–21).
Felix was well informed about this new sect of Jesus' followers called the Way. When he heard that Paul's case involved questions of religion, he adjourned the hearing until the Roman commander who had arrested Paul could be present. Paul's words must have intrigued Felix because he summoned Paul to hear more of his teaching; a few days later. Felix and Drusilla both "listened to Paul as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus" (Acts 24:24). However, when conviction came through Paul's words, Felix grew afraid and ordered him to stop talking. Although he gave Paul some freedom by allowing his friends to tend to his needs, Felix kept Paul in jail for two years, apparently waiting for a more "convenient" time (Acts 24:25). Felix hoped for a bribe from Paul, but one never came. When Felix was replaced as procurator, he left Paul in jail for his successor, Porcius Festus, to deal with.
It could be that another reason Felix left Paul in jail was that he was reluctant to pronounce judgment on an innocent man. Alternatively, possibly he did so to please Drusilla. A fear of political backlash from the Jews was also a factor (Acts 24:27). Felix was summoned to Rome upon losing the governorship, where his former Jewish subjects accused him of cruelty and corruption. Felix was found guilty but was spared the death penalty.

Felix represents many people intrigued by the gospel but recognizes that surrendering to it means losing status, power, or control of their own lives. Mere exposure to truth does not necessarily enlighten the heart, and Felix is an excellent example of that (Ephesians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 1:18). Like Felix, many know deeply that what they hear is true, yet their stubborn pride refuses to accept it. Judas Iscariot may have been one of those people. He was in close association with the Son of God for three years, witnessing miracles, healings, and other supernatural events. However, in the end, he chose to walk away.
Who was Felix?
In Acts 24, Paul is transferred to governor Felix to protect him from the Jews. Although he is twice called "most excellent Felix," Felix is well known as a terrible governor of Judea. As Keener observes, although Luke does not paint a flattering picture of Felix, he is more flattering toward the governor than any other ancient writer.
His full name was likely Marcus Antonius Felix. He was appointed as governor of Judea about A.D. 52 by the emperor Claudius. Felix and his brother Pallas have freed servants of Claudius' mother, Antonia. Both were favorites of Claudius, a favorite in the court; this led Felix to believe that he could do as he pleased. That Claudius would appoint freedmen to posts such as this was considered unusual by Roman standards. Since he was a formerly enslaved person, Tacitus thought his "servile nature" explained his inability to rule well.
Felix had a reputation for cruelty, he suppressed many of the bandits that had risen in Judea, but he did so by extreme violence. He made a deal with one of the leaders, promising safe passage, then captured him. When the Egyptian rallied people in the desert, Felix attacked, killing four hundred followers. Later he paid the sicarri, the knife-wielding assassins, to kill the high priest Jonathan who had complained to Rome about Felix, hoping for a better governor.
Sure as those robbers went up to the city as if they were going to worship God, while they had daggers under their garments; and, by thus mingling themselves among the multitude, they slew Jonathan; and as this murder was never avenged, the robbers went up with the most outstanding security at the festivals after this time; and having weapons concealed in like manner as before, and mingling themselves among the multitude, they slew sure of their enemies, and were subservient to other men for money; and slew others not only in remote parts of the city but in the temple itself also; for they had the boldness to murder men there, without thinking of the impiety of which they were guilty.
Like the other Roman governors of Judea, he was anti-Semitic, although it might be better to describe Felix as "Roman-centric." Nevertheless, this assassination is one of the factors which led to the Jewish revolt.
Felix was married to Drusilla, the daughter of Herod Agrippa I (Acts 24:24). Only six years old when her father died in 44, Julia Drusilla was initially betrothed to Epiphanes, the son of the king of Commagene (between Cappadocia and Syria), on the condition he converts to Judaism (including circumcision). When he was unwilling to do so, she was married to Azizus, the Syrian king of Emesa (about A.D. 53), at the age of 14. She was reputed to be very beautiful, as was her sister Bernice (Agrippa II's wife), who was jealous of her younger sister. Felix persuaded her to leave her husband and marry him, although he refused to convert. She and Felix had a son, Agrippa, who died in A.D. 79 during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
Felix persuaded Drusilla, then about 20, to leave her husband and marry him. There is no indication that he was forced to be circumcised; perhaps this was her father's will, not her own. Felix and Drusilla had a son, Agrippa, who died in 79 during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, and it is at least possible that Drusilla was with her son at the time. Felix also married the granddaughter of Anthony and Cleopatra.
Felix's mismanagement of the territory of Judea was one of the factors leading to the revolution in A.D. 66. Acts portray him as treating Paul fairly and find nothing which merits punishment. However, he is unwilling to challenge the Jewish authorities by simply releasing him for political reasons. Felix did nothing like politicians of all ages and left the matter to his successor, Festus.
Historical background
Marcus Antonius Felix was the Roman procurator of Judea Province (52 – 60 A.D.) that ruled after Ventidius Cumanus. He was the younger brother of the Greek freedman Marcus Antonius Pallas. According to Tacitus, Pallas and Felix descended from the Greek Kings of Arcadia. This man served as a secretary of the treasury during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Felix became the procurator by the appeal of his brother.
Suetonius (Lives of the Caesars v. 28) wrote that Felix was the husband of three wives. The second wife was Drusilla, daughter of Herod Agrippa I, Herod the Great, and the Maccabees (The Herods; Acts 24:24). Felix and the Judean Drusilla, had a son named Marcus Antonius Agrippa. This son died along with his mother and many of the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 24 August 79.
Felix was a cruel and reckless ruler. Tacitus said of Felix that he "considered that all malefactions would be forgivable with such influences behind him." He was backed by his brother, whom Claudius preferred. Despite revolt by the Jews against Rome, Felix maintained some order in Judea (Acts 24:1). This he did notwithstanding his poor administration.
Paul appears before Felix
The book of Acts records that the apostle Paul was arrested in Jerusalem. The Jews accused him of desecrating their temple (Acts 21). Moreover, because there was a plot against his life, the local Roman chiliarch Claudius Lysias transported him to Caesarea to stand trial before Felix (Acts 23:23–24), writing him the following letter:
Claudius Lysias,
To the most excellent governor Felix:
Greetings.
This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed. Coming with the troops, I rescued him, learning that he was a Roman. Moreover, I brought him before their council when I wanted to know why they accused him. I found out that he was accused concerning questions of their law but had nothing charged against him deserving of death or chains. Moreover, when it was told that the Jews lay in wait for the man, I sent him immediately to you and commanded his accusers to state the charges against him before you.

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