Paul has been transferred to the governor Felix for protection from the Jews.  After five days Ananias, the high priest, along with some elders and lawyers, go to Felix to accuse Paul.

Felix is well known from history as a particular bad governor of Judea.  His full name was likely Marcus Antonius Felix.  He was appointed as governor of Judea about 52 by the emperor Claudius.  Felix and his brother Pallas were freed slaves of Claudius’ mother Antonia.  Both were  favorites of Claudius. a favorite in the court, this lead Felix to believe that he could do as he pleased. That Claudius would appoint freedman to posts such as this was considered unusual by Roman standards (Seutonius, Claud. 28).

Antonius_FelixFelix did indeed have 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 attack, killing four hundred followers. He used the sicarri, the knife wielding assassins, to take kill Jonathan, the high priest (Antiq. 20.163, JW 2.256).  Jonathan had complained to Rome about Felix, hoping for a better governor.  Like the other Roman governors of Judea, he was anti-Semitic, although this might be better stated that he was Roman-centric.  No one but a citizen of Rome really counted for much in the ancient world!

He was married to Drusilla, the daughter of Herod Agrippa I.   Only six years old when her father died in 44, Julia Drusilla was originally betrothed to Epiphanes, the son of the king of Commagene (between Cappadocia and Syria), on the condition that he convert 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 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 also married the granddaughter of Anthony and Cleopatra (Seutonius, Claud. 28). Felix and Drusilla had a son, Agrippa, who died in 79 in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius (Antiq. 20.144.), and it is at least possible that Drusilla was with her son at the time.

Felix’ mismanagement of the territory of Judea was one of the biggest factors in the revolution that began in 66.  For all of this he treats Paul fairly and finds nothing which merits punishment — although he is unwilling to challenge the Jewish authorities by simply releasing him.  Like politicians of all ages, Felix simply did nothing and left the matter to his successor, Festus.

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