From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
A Roman procurator of Judea, appointed by the emperor Claudius to succeed Cumanus. The event that led to the introduction of Felix into the narrative of Acts was the riot at Jerusa-lem (Acts 21:27). There Paul, being attacked at the instigation of the Asian Jews for alleged false teaching and profanation of the temple, was rescued with difficulty by Lysias the chief cap-tain. But Lysias, finding that Paul was a Roman citizen, and that therefore the secret plots against the life of his captive might entail seri-ous consequences for himself, and finding also that Paul was charged on religious rather than on political grounds, sent him on to Felix at Caesarea for trial (Acts 21:31–23:34). On his arrival, Paul was presented to Felix and was then detained for five days in the judgment hall of Herod, till his accusers could also reach Caes-area (23:33–35).
The trial was begun, but after hearing the evi-dence of TERTULLUS and the speech of Paul in his own defense, Felix deferred judgment (24:1–22). The excuse he gave for delay was the con-tinued absence of Lysias, but his real reason was to obtain bribes for the release of Paul. He therefore treated his prisoner at first with leni-ency and pretended along with DRUSILLA to take interest in his teaching. But these attempts to induce Paul to purchase his freedom failed ig-nominiously; Paul sought favor of neither Felix nor Drusilla and made the frequent interviews that he had with them an opportunity for preaching to them concerning righteousness, temperance, and the final judgment. The case dragged on for two years till Felix, upon his re-tirement, “desiring to do the Jews a favor … left Paul in prison” (24:27). (According to some MSS, the continued imprisonment of Paul was due to the desire of Felix to please Drusilla.)
Felix was the brother of Pallas, the infamous favorite of Claudius who, according to Tacitus (Josephus, Ann. xiii.14), fell into disgrace in A.D. 55. Tacitus implies that Felix was joint procura-tor of Judea along with Cumanus before being appointed to the sole command, but Josephus is silent about this. Both Tacitus and Josephus re-fer to his succeeding Cumanus, Josephus stating that it was at the instigation of Jonathan the high priest. There is some doubt about the chronolo-gy of Felix’s tenure of office. Harnack and Blass, following Eusebius and Jerome, place his acces-sion in A.D. 51, and the imprisonment of Paul in 54–56; but most modern commentators incline to the dates 52 for his accession and ca 58–60 for Paul’s trial. Felix was succeeded, after Nero recalled him, by FESTUS.
The testimony of Acts concerning the evil char-acter of Felix is fully corroborated by the writ-ings of Josephus (BJ ii.13.2–4; Ant. xx.8.5; cf. TacitusAnn xii.54). Although he suppressed the robbers and murderers who infested Judea, among them the “Egyptian” to whom Lysias refers (Acts 21:38), yet “he himself was more hurtful than them all.” When occasion offered, he did not hesitate to employ the Sicarii (see ASSASSINS) for his own ends, including the mur-der of the high priest Jonathan (Josephus Ant. xx.8.5). Trading upon the influence of his broth-er at court, his cruelty and rapacity knew no bounds; during his rule revolts became contin-uous, marking a distinct stage in that seditious movement which culminated in the outbreak of A.D. 66–70 (cf. HJP, II/2, 174–182). His leaving Paul in bonds was but a final instance of one who sacrificed duty and justice for the sake of his own unscrupulous selfishness.