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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

No information is forthcoming concerning Porcius Festus, who succeeded Felix in the procuratorship of Judaea , other than that supplied by  Acts 24:27;  Acts 26:32 and by Josephus, Ant . xx. viii. 9f., ix. 1, and Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II xiv. 1. According to Josephus, Festus set himself with vigour and success to restore order to his province, which he found distracted with sedition and overrun by bands of robbers. ‘He caught the greatest part of the robbers, and destroyed a great many of them.’ More particularly it is added that he ‘sent forces, both horsemen and footmen, to fall upon those that had been seduced by a certain impostor, who promised them deliverance and freedom from the miseries they were under, if they would but follow him as far as the wilderness. Accordingly, those forces that were sent destroyed both him that had deluded them and those that were his followers also.’ The only other incident in the administration of Festus which Josephus relates shows him, in association with King Agrippa II., withstanding ‘the chief men of Jerusalem’ ( Ant . xx. viii. 11), and permitting an appeal to Caesar-an interesting combination in view of the narrative in Acts. The circumstances, as stated by Josephus, were those: Agrippa had made an addition to his palace at Jerusalem, which enabled him to observe from his dining-hall what was done in the Temple. Thereupon ‘the chief men of Jerusalem’ erected a wall to obstruct the view from the palace. Festus supported Agrippa in demanding the removal of this wall, but yielded to the request of the Jews that the whole matter might be referred to Nero, who upheld the appeal and reversed the judgment of his procurator.

Josephus evidently regards Festus as a wise and righteous official, affording an agreeable contrast to Albinus, his successor, of whom he says that ‘there was not any sort of wickedness that could be named but he had a hand in it’ ( Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xiv. 1).

Turning to the Book of Acts, we find that there, while justice is done to the promptness with which Festus addressed himself to his duties and to the lip-homage he was ready to pay to ‘the custom of the Romans,’ he appears in a less favourable light, and the outstanding fact meets us of the estimate which St. Paul formed of him. St. Paul preferred to take his chance with Nero to leaving his cause to be disposed of by this fussy, plausible official. ‘I appeal unto Caesar,’ is the lasting condemnation of Festus. He was persuaded that the Apostle was innocent of the ‘many and grievous, charges’ brought against him, yet he was quite prepared to sacrifice him, if thereby he ‘could gain favour with the Jews’; hence the preposterous proposal of a re-trial at Jerusalem. The noble use which St. Paul made shortly after of the opportunity given him by Festus to speak for himself before Agrippa and Berenice should not blind us to the callousness of the man who planned that scene with all its pomp and circumstance, and deliberately exploited a prisoner in bonds for the entertainment of his Herodian guests. Festus died after holding his office for a brief term-‘scarcely two years’ (Schürer, History of the Jewish People (Eng. tr. of GJV).] I. ii. [1890] 185). See articleDates for discussion of the chronology of the procuratorship of Festus.

Literature.-S. Buss, Roman Law and History in the NT , 1901, p. 390; C. H. Turner, ‘Eusebius’ Chronology of Felix and Festus’ in Journal of Theological Studies iii. [1901-02] 120; G. H. Morrison, The Footsteps of the Flock , 1904. p. 362; M. Jones. St. Paul the Orator , 1910, p. 212; A. Maclaren, Expositions  : ‘Acts, ch. xiii.-end,’ 1907, p. 322.

G. P. Gould.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [2]

During his short governorship of Judea (AD 60-62), Festus had to judge the difficult case of Paul. The Jews knew that Festus was inexperienced in Jewish affairs and tried to take advantage of this to win their case against Paul. But Festus was aware of their cunning ( Acts 25:1-5). He therefore arranged a proper trial and as a result was convinced of Paul’s innocence. However, wanting to win the goodwill of the Jews, he refused to release Paul. Tired of this constant injustice, Paul appealed to the Emperor ( Acts 25:6-12).

Festus now faced a difficulty. He had to send a person to the Emperor, without knowing the offence of which the person was supposedly guilty. He did not understand what made the Jews hate Paul. When Herod Agrippa, an expert on Jewish affairs, arrived at the governor’s palace, Festus explained his problem. He was pleased to give his visitor the opportunity to hear Paul’s case ( Acts 25:23-27). Agrippa confirmed that Paul was innocent, but since Paul had appealed to the Emperor, Festus had no alternative but to send him to Rome ( Acts 26:32).

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [3]

Portius Festus succeeded Felix in the government of Judea, A.D. 60. Felix his predecessor, to oblige the Jews, when he resigned his government, left St. Paul in bonds at Caesarea, in Palestine,  Acts 24:27 . Festus, at his first coming to Jerusalem, was entreated by the principal Jews to condemn St. Paul, or to order him up to Jerusalem, they having conspired to assassinate him in the way. Festus answered, that it was not customary with the Romans to condemn any man without hearing him; but said that he would hear their accusations against St. Paul at Caesarea. From these accusations St. Paul appealed to Caesar, and by this means secured himself from the prosecution of the Jews, and the wicked intentions of Festus, whom they had corrupted.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [4]

Festus ( Fés'Tus ).  Acts 24:27. Porcius Festus was appointed by Nero to succeed Felix as procurator of Judea, about 60 or 61 a.d. Before him Paul had to defend himself, but removed his cause from the provincial tribunal by appeal to Caesar.  Acts 24:27;  Acts 25:1-27;  Acts 26:1-32. Festus administered his government less than two years, and died in Judea.

Holman Bible Dictionary [5]

 Acts 24:27PaulHerod

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [6]

Porcius Festus was the successor of Felix as the Roman governor of Judea, to the duties of which office he was appointed by the Emperor Nero in the first year of his reign. One of his first official acts was hearing the case of the Apostle Paul, who had been left in prison by his predecessor. He was at least not a thoroughly corrupt judge; for when the Jewish hierarchy begged him to send for Paul to Jerusalem, and thus afford an opportunity for his being assassinated on the road, he gave a refusal, promising to investigate the facts at Caesarea, where Paul was in custody, alleging to them, 'it is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have license to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him' . On reaching Caesarea he sent for Paul, heard what he had to say, and, finding that the matters which 'his accusers had against him' were 'questions of their own superstition, and of one Jesus which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive,' he asked the Apostle whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem, and there be tried, since Festus did not feel himself skilled in such an affair. Paul, doubtless because he was unwilling to put himself into the hands of his implacable enemies, requested 'to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus,' and was in consequence kept in custody till Festus had an opportunity to send him to Caesar. Agrippa, however, with his wife Bernice, having come to salute Festus on his new appointment, expressed a desire to see and 'hear the man.' Accordingly Paul was brought before Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice, made a famous speech, and was declared innocent. But having appealed to Caesar, he was sent to Rome.

Festus on coming into Judea found the country infested with robbers, who plundered the villages and set them on fire; the Sicarii also were numerous. Many of both classes were captured, and put to death by Festus. He also sent forces, both of horse and foot, to fall upon those that had been seduced by a certain impostor, who promised them deliverance and freedom from the miseries they were under if they would but follow him as far as the wilderness. These troops destroyed both the impostor and his dupes.

King Agrippa had built himself a splendid dining-room, which was so placed, that, as he reclined at his meals, he commanded a view of what was done in the Temple. The priests, being displeased, erected a wall so as to exclude the monarch's eye. On which Festus took part with Agrippa against the priests, and ordered the wall to be pulled down. The priests appealed to Nero, who suffered the wall to remain, being influenced by his wife Poppæa, 'who was a religious woman.' Festus died shortly afterwards. The manner in which Josephus speaks is favorable to his character as a governor.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [7]

(festal), PORCIUS (Graecized Πόρκιος Φῆστος ), the successor of Felix as procurator of Judaea ( Acts 24:27; Joseph. Ant . 20:8, 9; War , ii. 14, 1), sent by Nero, probably in the autumn of A. D. 55. (See Felix). A few weeks after Festus reached his province he heard the cause of the apostle Paul, who had been left -a prisoner by Felix, in the presence of Herod Agrippa II. and Bernice his sister. Not finding any thing in the apostle worthy of death or of bonds, and being confirmed in this view by his guests, he would have set him free had it not been that Paul had himself previously ( Acts 25:11-12) appealed to Caesar. In consequence, Festus sent him to Rome. (See Paul). Judaea was in the same disturbed state during the procuratorship of Festus, which had prevailed through, that of his predecessor., Sicarli, robbers, and magicians were put down with a strong hand (Ant. 20: 8, 10). Festus bad a difference with the Jews at Jerusalem about a high wall which t-hey had built to prevent Agrippa seeing from his palace into the court of the Temple. As this also hid the view of the Temple from the Roman guard appointed to watch it during the festivals, the procurator took strongly the side of Agrippa, but permitted the Jews to send to Rome for the decision of the emperor. He, being influenced by Poppaea, who was a proselyte (Joseph. Ant. 20:$, 11), decided in favor of the Jews. Festus probably died in the summer of A. D. 62, and was succeeded by Albinus (Joseph. War, 20:9, 1). The chronological questions concerning his entrance on the province and his death are too intricate and difficult to be entered on here, but will be found fully discussed by Anger, De temporum in Act. Apost. ratione, p. 99 sq.; and 'Wieseler, Chronologie der Apostelgeschichte, p. 8999. (See Chronology). Josephus implies (War , ii, 14, 1) that Festus was a just as well as an active magistrate.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [8]

The name of a poem by Philip James Bailey ( q. v .), first published in 1839, but extended to three times its length since, a poem that on its first production produced no small sensation.