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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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(Acts 23:24 ff.)

A freedman, and a brother of Pallas, Felix was the favourite of the Emperor Claudius. Tacitus (Hist. Acts 23:9) calls him ‘Antonius Felix.’ Of his public life prior to his appointment to his procuratorship in Palestine, nothing is known; of his private life, only that he had married a granddaughter of Antony and Cleopatra, whom Tacitus (loc. cit.) calls Drusilla, confusing her, no doubt, with the Jewish princess with whom Felix allied himself later. Suetonius knows of yet another marriage-also to a princess (Claud. 28).

Josephus and Tacitus are at variance as to the time and circumstance of the sending of Felix to Palestine. According to Josephus (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) ii. 12; Ant. xx. 6f.), Fells was appointed to succeed the procurator Cumanus, when the latter was condemned and banished for his misrule. According to Tacitus (Ann, xii. 54), Cumanus and Felix were contemporaneously procurators, the one of Galilee, the other of Samaria. It seems reasonable to follow Schürer (History of the Jewish People (Eng. tr. of GJV).] I. ii. [1890] 174) in giving preference in this matter to ‘the very detailed narrative of Josephus.’ This fixes the arrival of Felix in Palestine in a.d. 52, or early in the following year.

The historians are entirely at one in their estimate of Felix and of the manner in which he exercised his functions. His countryman Tacitus (Hist. v. 9) describes him as using ‘the powers of a king with the disposition of a slave,’ and says (Ann, xii. 54) ‘he deemed that he might perpetrate any ill deeds with impunity.’ Under his government the state of Palestine grew rapidly worse. If there had been occasional disorders under Cumanus, ‘under Felix rebellion became permanent.’ The boundless cruelty with which he repressed the more open opposition of the ‘Zealots’ to the Roman rule stimulated the formation of the secret associations of the ‘Assassins’ (Sicarii), whose hand was against all-Jew not less than Roman-who did not further their designs. Not less significant of the misery of the people was their readiness to answer the call of religious fanatics like ‘the Egyptian’ mentioned in Acts 21:38, whom Josephus (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xiii. 5) credits with a following of thirty thousand. In any such movement Felix suspected ‘the beginning of a revolt,’ and adopted measures which only served to increase the popular disaffection. For the intrigue by which he possessed himself of the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I.-the newly wedded wife of King Azizus of Emesa-see article Drusilla.

The cynical disregard of Felix for justice, and his inordinate greed are alike brought to view in his treatment of the Apostle Paul. Although possessed of information Concerning the Way,’ which would have justified him in releasing the prisoner when he was first brought before him, he decided to adjourn the case in definitely (Acts 24:22), partly to curry favour with the Jews, and partly to serve his own rapacious ends. The interview with the Apostle recorded in Acts 24:24 was probably intended by the procurator and his wife to be somewhat of a diversion-it ended for Felix in terror. He had frequent communing with St. Paul during the time he detained him as his prisoner at Caesarea; but seemingly on these later occasions Felix kept control of the conversation and directed it, though unavailingly, towards his mercenary aim.

Two years after St. Paul was brought to Caesarea, Felix was recalled to Rome in connexion with a strife which had broken out at Caesarea between the Jews and the Syrians in that town-the Jews asserting for themselves certain exclusive rights, which the others denied. The matter was referred to the Emperor. The investigation proved so damaging to Felix that ‘he had certainly been brought to punishment, unless Nero had yielded to the importunate solicitations of his brother Pallas’ (Jos. Ant. xx. viii. 9).

Of the subsequent life of Felix, nothing is known.

Literature.-H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Apostles as traced by St. Luke, 1905, pt. ii. p. 243; A. Maclaren, Expositions: ‘Acts, ch. xiii.-end,’1907, pp. 281, 287: G. H. Morrison, The Footsteps of the Flock, 1904, p. 362; M. Jones, St. Paul the Orator, 1910, p. 202; J. S. Howson, The Companions of St. Paul, 1874, p. 145: H. Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 2nd ser. 3, 1861, p. 179; W, H. M. H. Aitken, The Glory of the Gospel, n.d., pp. 193, 208, 223; C. H. Turner, ‘Eusebius’ Chronology of Felix and Festus’ in Journal of Theological Studies , iii. [1901-02] 120; S. Buss, Roman Law and History in the NT, 1901, p. 373.

G. P. Gould.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Felix'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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