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TERTULLUS, TERTULIUS (têr-tŭl'ŭs, Gr. Tertyllos). A diminutive of Tertius. It was the name of the professional advocate used by the Jews to state their case against Paul before Felix, procurator of Judea (Acts.24.1). Only a few words of Tertullus’s elaborate oration are given, but they are enough to reveal the nature of his rhetoric and the character of his accusation. He may have been a Roman, for there is a Latin ring to some of his phrases as they appear in Luke’s Greek, and his name is Latin, though this does not necessarily fix his nationality. He was obviously trained in the art of contemporary rhetoric, and what impressed Luke was his elaborate introduction, drawing positive attention toward Felix. (Calvin thought such a subterfuge “a sign of bad faith.”) It is rather a traditional courtesy; and the device, without the self-seeking flattery, is to be distinguished also in the opening phrases of Paul’s reply (Acts.24.10).

TERTULLUS tər tūl’ əs (Τέρτυλλος, G5472, diminutive of Lat. tertiufs, third). The professional orator hired by the Jews to state their case against Paul before Felix, Rom. governor of Judea (Acts 24:1-9). He may have been a Rom., judging from his Lat. name, although Rom. names were common among Jews and Greeks; or he may have been a Jew, since he identifies himself with his clients. However, it is a lawyer’s custom to do so.

With traditional courtesy he began his clever rhetoric by flattering the governorship of Felix beyond the facts. He attributed the riot in Jerusalem to the agitation of Paul, ringleader of an illegal sect who was detained in custody by the Jews for trying to “profane the temple.” Paul was thus made out to be an enemy of the public peace and of Jewish religion, both of which Felix was charged to uphold. The speech of Tertullus should be compared with the factual account of Acts 21:27-40, with the letter of Lysias the tribune (Acts 23:26-30), and with the reserve of Paul’s reply (Acts 24:10-21).


R. B. Rackham, The Acts of the Apostles, 14th ed. (1951), 442-444.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

ter-tul’-us, ter- (Tertullos, diminutive of Latin tertius, "third"):, An orator who descended with Ananias the high priest and elders from Jerusalem to Caesarea to accuse Paul before Felix the Roman governor (Ac 24:1). Tertullus was a hired pleader whose services were necessary that the case for the Jews might be stated in proper form. Although he bore a Roman name, he was not necessarily a Roman; Roman names were common both among Greeks and Jews, and most orators were at this time of eastern extraction. Nor is it definitely to be concluded from the manner of his speech (Ac 24:2-8) that he was a Jew; it has always been customary for lawyers to identify themselves in their pleading with their clients. His speech before Felix is marked by considerable ingenuity. It begins with an adulation of the governorship of Felix that was little in accord with history (see Felix); and the subsequent argument is an example of how a strong case may apparently be made out by the skillful manipulation of half-truths. Thus the riot at Jerusalem was ascribed to the sedition-mongering of Paul, who thereby proved himself an enemy of Roman rule and Jewish religion, both of which Felix was pledged to uphold. Again, the arrest of Paul was not an act of mob violence, but was legally carried out by the high priests and elders in the interests of peace; and but for the unwarranted interference of Lysias (see Lysias), they would have dealt with the prisoner in their own courts and thus have avoided trespassing on the time of Felix. They were, however, perfectly willing to submit the whole case to his jurisdiction. It is interesting to compare this speech of Tertullus with the true account, as given in Ac 21:27-35, and also with the letter of Lysias (Ac 23:26-30).