Bernice: Jewess, Roman Citizen, Concubine and Protector of Christians (Acts 25:13–26:32)

  • Detlev Dormeyer Faculty of Humanities and Theology; TU Dortmund University
Keywords: Acts of Apostles, Bernice, Hellenistic Judaism, Jewish, Greeks, Flavius Josephus, Tolerance


Luke is the only New Testament author who mentioned Bernice and appreciated her advice on tolerance (Acts 25:13–26:32). Bernice and Titus ensured in an exemplary manner that in Rome Paul and the Christians were tolerated and both are also models for transcending limits. For the reconstruction of Bernice's personality, I employ feminist hermeneutics. Bernice was the eldest daughter of the Jewish king Herod Agrippa I (10-44 CE) and was born one year after her brother Agrippa II, in the year 28 CE (Jos. Ant 132). At the age of 16, she married her uncle Herod, the king of Chalcis, and got the title Queen. After his death, Agrippa II followed, and Bernice moved in with him. According to Acts 25, during the interrogation of Paul by Festus in the year 60 CE Agrippa I and Bernice were still up together. Tacitus indicated that Bernice had begun a relationship with Titus in the year 67, although she was 11 years older. In the year 75 CE Bernice appears in Rome. For the readers of Acts, Agrippa II and Bernice guarantee in the fictitious trial the unhindered proclamation of the Christian message. As the official partner of Titus and officious ‘Caesaress’ from 75-79 and unofficial Augusta from 79-81, Bernice could have effectively guaranteed the freedom of speech of Christians at the time the Lukan narrative was written.