Acts 26 – Paul Tried Before Agrippa & The Roman Army and the Occupation of the Holy Land

Finger Pointing Up

1 Rome conquered
Rome conquered Jerusalem in 70 AD.
During the following triumph march Roman soldiers carried the most holy objects from the temple through the streets of Rome.
These were the menora and the table of showbread. Scene from a replica of the Titus arch, Rome.

We know that Paul goes to prison so tomorrow we’ll look at…

Acts 26
Paul Tried Before Agrippa

1 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:

2 I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:

3 Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.

2 A newly translated Gree
A newly translated Greek inscription recovered from the ancient town of Oinoanda in southwest Turkey reveals that the Roman army relied on the services of a mixed martial arts champion to recruit new soldiers to the army.
The early third-century C.E. inscription honors Lucius Septimius Flavianus Flavillianus who was a revered champion in wrestling and pankration, a bloody fighting sport that had only two rules: no eye-gouging and no biting.

“Expert in all customs and questions…among the Jews” – Agrippa as king controlled the temple treasury and the investments of the high priest, and could appoint the high priest.  He was consulted by the Romans on religious matters.

4 My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;

5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers:

“The hope of the promise made of God” – including God’s kingdom, the Messiah and the resurrection.

7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.

8 Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?

9 I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

10 Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.

11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.

12 Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,

3 This painting depicts
This painting depicts a relief of light-equipped legionaries attacking (expediti) in close order, notice they are carrying their shield (scuta) and javelin(pilum).
The relief was from the base of a column from a Roman legionary fort in Germany now at the Landezmuseum, Mainz.

Legionaries were infantry soldiers who were the major armed forces of the Roman army.
They were recruited from Roman citizens, usually as young as 19 but many as early as 14 years old. 4 foot 11 inches was the minimum height.

Augustus had 25 legions of approximately 6,000 soldiers each. A legion was formed of 10 Cohorts (540 men in each Cohort). Each Cohort was subdivided into 6 Centuries (90 men formed a Century), and each legion had a wing of 120 cavalry.

13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.

14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

“To kick against the pricks” – a Greek proverb for useless resistance – the ox succeeds only in hurting itself in kicking the pricks on the goad (pointed sticks to driver cattle).

15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.

16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;

17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,

18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:

20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

21 For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.

22 Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:

23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

24 And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.

25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.

4 Yodfat Jotapata
Yodfat (Jotapata) is the ruins of an ancient fortified village, the site where the famous siege at the time of the great revolt against the Romans.
Josephus Flavius, then the northern commander of the revolting Israelites, stood up against the mighty forces under the command of Vespesian.

After days of siege all the defenders committed suicide, but Josephus surrended himself to Vespesian and later became a writer of the Roman and Jewish history, and provided the details of the tragic story.

26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.

“Was not done in a corner” – this gospel is based on actual events, lived out in historical times and places.

27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.

28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

“Almost thou persuades me to be a Christian” – the Greek phrase has the sense of either “by few words” or “in a short time” you will persuade me to become a Christian.

His answer is an evasion of Paul’s question and an answer to what he anticipates Paul’s next question to be.  His point is that the will not be persuaded by such a brief statement.

29 And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.

30 And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them:

31 And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds.

32 Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.

The Roman Army
and the Occupation of the Holy Land

5 A Galea
A Galea was a Roman soldier’s helmet. Some gladiators, myrmillones, also wore a bronze galea with a face mask and a decoration, often a fish on its crest.
The exact form or design of the helmet varied significantly over time, between differing unit types, and also between individual examples – pre-industrial production was by hand – so it is not certain to what degree there was any standardization even under the Roman Empire.

The Roman army was arguably the greatest single military organization in world history, as it was consistently victorious and maintained its identity and traditions for nearly a thousand years.

The early Roman armies were composed entirely of property-owning citizens because service in the army was regarded as a privilege. 

Wealthier citizens formed the cavalry and poorer citizens the infantry (a necessary arrangement, since troops provided their own gear).

Allies provided the manpower for specialized forces, such as archers.  As Rome grew to be a world power, however, this arrangement proved inadequate.

In 107 B.C., C. Marius reformed the army and accepted landless recruits, equipping them at state expense.

This was the beginning of professional Roman armies that owed their allegiance to their generals and also expected from them rich rewards for years of loyal service.

In 88 B.C., Sulla used his legions to seize power in Rome itself, and this precedent began a series of civil wars.

Julius Caesar employed his armies to end the republic and establish himself as dictator, but the turmoil did not end until Augustus established the empire and placed all legions under his direct command.

Although Rome produced a number of great generals, the secret of Roman success lay in the legendary discipline of its troops.

Ancient battles, because they were fought face-to-face and were bloody affairs, tended to be extremely short, typically ending as soon as one side panicked, broke ranks and fled.

Romans, when confronted, for example, with a furious onslaught of Gauls, simply refused to break ranks, and after a few minutes of fighting the Gauls turned and ran.

6 Roman roof tile
Roman roof tile found in Britain with the emblem of the twentieth legion, the boar.

The Carthaginian Hannibal, the greatest general Rome ever faced, inflicted a terrible defeat on the Roman army at Cannae in 216 B.C. Even so, Roman perseverance won out, and Hannibal ultimately lost the Second Punic War.

The presence of Roman armies in Judea created an explosive situation.

The Jews despised the Romans as pagans and were offended at the presence of Roman war standards, with the idol-like eagle at the top, in close proximity to their temple.

Fanatics and messianic pretenders, such as Bar-Kokhba, assured the Jews that God would intervene if they were to rise up against Rome.

For their part, Romans sometimes infuriated Jews with needless insults.

Two Jewish revolts (66-70 A.D. and 132-135 A.D.) both ended in catastrophic defeat for the Jewish people.

…imprisonment in the Roman World: Prison Versus House Arrest.

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