Tertul'lus (Τέρτυλλος, a diminutive from the Roman name Tertius, analogous to Lucullus from Lucius, Fabullus from Fabius, etc.), "a certain orator" (Ac 24:1) who was retained by the high-priest and Sanhedrim to accuse the apostle Paul at Caesarea before the Roman procurator Antonius Felix. A.D. 55. SEE PAUL. He evidently belonged to the class of professional orators, multitudes of whom were to be found not only in Rome, but in other parts of the empire, to which they had betaken themselves in the hope of finding occupation at the tribunals of the provincial magistrates. Both from his name, and from the great probability that the proceedings were conducted in Latin (see especially Milman, Bampton Lectures for 1827, p. 185, note), we may infer that Tertullus was of Roman, or at all events of Italian, origin. The Sanhedrim would naturally desire to secure his services on account of their own ignorance, both of the Latin language and of the ordinary procedure of a Roman law-court; for the Jews, as well as the other peoples subject to the Romans, in their accusations and processes before the Roman magistrates, were obliged to follow the forms of the Roman law, of which they knew little. The different provinces, and particularly the principal cities, consequently abounded with persons who, at the same time advocates and orators, were equally ready to plead in civil actions or .to harangue on public affairs. This they did, either in Greek or Latin, as the place or occasion required.
The exordium of his speech is designed to conciliate the good will of the procurator, and is' accordingly overcharged with flattery. There is a strange contrast between the opening clause— πολλῆς εἰρήνης τυγχάνοντες διὰ σοῦ—and the brief summary of the procurator's administration given by Tacitus (Hist. 5, 9): "Antonius Felix per omnem saevitiam ac libidinem,jus regium servili ingenio exercuit" (comp. Tacit. Ann. 12:54). But the commendations of Tertullus were not altogether unfounded, as Felix had really succeeded in putting down several seditious movements. SEE FELIX. It is lot very easy to determine whether Luke has preserved the oration of Tertullus entire. On the one hand, we have the elaborate and artificial opening, which can hardly be other than an accurate report of that part of the speech; and, on the other hand, we have a narrative which is so very dry and concise that, if there were nothing more, it is not easy to see why the orator should have been called in at all. The difficulty is increased if, in accordance with the greatly preponderating weight of external authority, we omit the words in Ac 24:6-8, καὶ κατὰ τὸν ἡμέτερον...ἔρχεσθαι ἐπὶ σέ. On the whole, it seems most natural to conclude that the historian, who was almost certainly an ear- witness, merely gives an abstract of the speech, giving, however, in full the most salient points, and those which had the most forcibly impressed themselves upon him, such as the exordium and the character ascribed to Paul (Ac 24:5).
The doubtful reading in vers. 6-8, to which reference has already been made, seems likely to remain an unsolved difficulty. Against the external evidence there would be nothing to urge in favor of the disputed passage, were it not that the statement which remains after its removal is not merely extremely brief (its brevity may be accounted for in the manner already suggested), but abrupt and awkward in point of construction. It may be added that it is easier to refer παῤ ου (ver. 8) to the tribune Lysias than to Paul. For arguments founded on the words καὶ κατὰ...κρίνειν (yet. 6.) arguments which are dependent on the genuineness of the disputed words see Lardner, Credibility of the Gospel History, bk. 1, ch. 2;: Biscoe, On the Acts, 6:16.
We ought not to pass over without notice a strange etymology for the name Tertullus proposed by Calmet, in the place of which another has been suggested by his English editor (ed. 1830), who takes credit for having rejected "fanciful and improbable" etymologies, and substituted improvements of his own. Whether the suggestion is an improvement in this case the reader will judge: "Tertullus, Τέρτυλλος, liar, impostor, from τερατολόγος, a teller of stories, a cheat. [Q.y. — Was his true appellation Ter-Tullius, 'thrice Tully,' that is, extremely eloquent, varied by Jewish wit into Tertullus?]"