Online Bible Commentary
Truth and Reason
Acts 26:24 Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!" 25 But he said, "I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. 26 For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe." 28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian." 29 And Paul said, "I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains." 30 When he had said these things, the king stood up, as well as the governor and Bernice and those who sat with them; 31 and when they had gone aside, they talked among themselves, saying, "This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains." 32 Then Agrippa said to Festus, "This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar." (NKJV)
The time is 59 A.D. Paul has been kept in confinement by the Roman governor in Caesarea for two years as a result of bogus charges filed against him by the Jews in Jerusalem. Caesarea was the political center for the Roman province of Syria, of which Judea was a part.
Paul is being held in light chains in Herod’s Palace. He has not been found guilty of any crimes, to the dismay of the Jews in Jerusalem who want him dead for promoting Christianity.
Paul has asked for a trial before Emperor Nero in Rome and Festus has consented. Now Paul has been brought before Herod Agrippa II, as Governor Festus seeks what he should say about the charges against Paul in the letter to be sent with Paul to Nero.
In this passage, Paul has just completed his defense and Festus violently objects (v. 24a). He basically calls Paul crazy, as a result of “much learning” (v. 24b).
Paul defends his speech by respectfully stating that he speaks “the words of truth and reason” (v. 25). Turning to King Agrippa II, Paul states that the King, as a Jew, believes that Paul’s words are true and reasonable (v. 26a).
Paul explains his claim by stating that the events of Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection were public events that Agrippa, as a Jew and as king, would surely have noticed (v. 26b). On the other hand, Festus was new to the area, having just been appointed governor, and may not have heard of the previous events in Jerusalem. Also, Festus was a Gentile, not a Jew.
Paul then asks the king if he believes the words of the prophets and then answers his own question affirmatively (v. 27). As a Jew, Agrippa II would have absolutely believed the words of the prophets.
The king responds "You almost persuade me to become a Christian" (v. 28). It is not clear if he is serious or joking, but Paul responds in all sincerity. He wishes that not only the king, “but also all who hear me today”, would become Christians, just like himself “except for these chains” (v. 29).
At this point, the king, his mistress Bernice, the governor, and “those who sat with them” leave the area and confer together (vv. 30-31a). They come to a common conclusion that "This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains" (v. 31b).
Then the king voices his opinion to Festus that "This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar" (v. 32). However, since Paul was a Roman citizen, his plea to appeal to “Caesar” had to be honored. Emperors always adopted the name of “Caesar” in honor of Julius Caesar, who died in 44 B.C., because he was instrumental in establishing the Roman Empire. Paul would be appealing to the current emperor, Nero.
Paul has referred to the Gospel as being truth and reason. The events of the Bible are historical and happened in public view. They are truth and reason.
Those doubters, like Festus, call the Gospel crazy. They call the Bible a book of fairy tales. They are ignorant. The word ignorant means lacking knowledge.
Paul was not lacking knowledge. In fact, Festus described Paul as having “much learning”. We all, both Christians and non Christians, should devote ourselves to “much learning” of the Bible. As we do, we will find, like Paul, that the Bible is truth and reason.