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Bible Commentaries
Acts 19

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Verse 1

While Apollos was at Corinth - It is probable that he remained there a considerable time.

Paul, having passed through the upper coasts - The upper, or more elevated regions of Asia Minor. The writer refers here particularly to the provinces of Phrygia and Galatia, Acts 18:23. These regions were called upper, because they were situated on the high table-land in the interior of Asia Minor, while Ephesus was in the low maritime regions, and called the low country.

Came to Ephesus - Agreeably to his promise, Acts 18:21.

And finding certain disciples - Certain persons who had been baptized into John’s baptism, and who had embraced John’s doctrine that the Messiah was soon to appear, Acts . Acts 19:3-4. It is very clear that they had not yet heard that he had come, or that the Holy Spirit was given. They were evidently in the same situation as Apollos. See the notes on Acts 18:25.

Verse 2

Have ye received the Holy Spirit? - Have ye received the extraordinary effusions and miraculous influences of the Holy Spirit? Paul would not doubt that, if they had “believed,” they had received the ordinary converting influences of the Holy Spirit - for it was one of his favorite doctrines that the Holy Spirit renews the heart. But, besides this, the miraculous influences of the Spirit were conferred on many societies of believers. The power of speaking with tongues, or of working miracles, was imparted as an evidence of the presence of God, and of their acceptance with him, Acts 10:45-46; 1 Corinthians 14:0. It was natural for Paul to ask whether this evidence of the divine favor has been granted to them.

Since ye believed - Since you embraced the doctrine of John that the Messiah was soon to come.

We have not so much as heard ... - This seems to be a very strange answer. Yet we are to remember:

(1) That these were mere disciples of John’s doctrine, and that his preaching related particularly to the Messiah, and not to the Holy Spirit.

(2) It does not even appear that they had heard that the Messiah had come, or had heard of Jesus of Nazareth, Acts . Acts 19:4-5.

(3) It is not remarkable, therefore, that they had no clear conceptions of the character and operations of the Holy Spirit. Yet,

(4) They were just in that state of mind that they were willing to embrace the doctrine when it was proclaimed to them, thus showing that they were really under the influence of the Holy Spirit. God may often produce important changes in the hearts and lives of sinners, even where they have no clear and systematic views of religious doctrines. In all such cases, however, there will be a readiness of heart to embrace the truth where it is made known.

Verse 3

Unto what - Unto what faith or doctrine. What did you profess to believe when you were baptized?

Unto John’s baptism - See the notes on Acts 18:25.

Verse 4

John verily baptized - John did indeed baptize.

With the baptism of repentance - Having special reference to repentance, or as a profession that they did repent of their sins. See the notes on Matthew 3:6.

Saying unto the people - The design of his preaching was to tarn the people from their sins, and to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. He therefore directed their attention principally to him that was to come, John 1:15, John 1:22-27.

That is, on Christ Jesus - These are the words of Paul, explaining what John taught. John taught them to believe in the Messiah, and Paul now showed them that the Messiah was Jesus of Nazareth. The argument of Paul is, that it was highly proper for them now to profess publicly that Saviour to whom John had borne such explicit testimony. “Jesus is the Messiah for whom John came to prepare the way; and as you have em braced John’s doctrine, you ought now publicly to acknowledge that Redeemer by baptism in his name.

Verse 5

When they heard this - When they heard what Paul had said respecting the nature of John’s baptism.

They were baptized ... - As there is no other instance in the New Testament of any persons having been rebaptized, it has been made a question by some critics whether it was done here; and they have supposed that all this is the narrative of Luke respecting what took place under the ministry of John: to wit, that he told them to believe on Christ Jesus, and then baptized them in his name. But this is a most forced construction; and it is evident that these persons were rebaptized by the direction of Paul. For:

(1) This is the obvious interpretation of the passage - what would strike all persons as correct, unless there were some previous theory to support.

(2) It was not a matter of fact that John baptized in the name of Christ Jesus. His was the baptism of repentance; and there is not the slightest evidence that he ever used the name of Jesus in the form of baptism.

(3) If it be the sense of the passage that John baptized them in the name of Jesus, then this verse is a mere repetition of Acts . Acts 19:4; a tautology of which the sacred writers would not be guilty.

(4) It is evident that the persons on whom Paul laid his hands Acts . Acts 19:6, and those who were baptized, were the same. But these were the persons who heard Acts . Acts 19:5 what was said. The narrative is continuous, all parts of it cohering together as relating to a transaction that occurred at the same time. If the obvious interpretation of the passage be the true one, it follows that the baptism of John was not strictly Christian baptism. It was the baptism of repentance; a baptism designed to prepare the way for the introduction of the kingdom of the Messiah. It will not follow, however, from this that Christian baptism is now ever to be repeated. For this there is no warrant in the New Testament. There is no command to repeat it, as in the case of the Lord’s Supper; and the nature and design of the ordinance evidently supposes that it is to be performed but once. The disciples of John were rebaptized, not because baptism is designed to be repeated, but because they never had been, in fact, baptized in the manner prescribed by the Lord Jesus.

In the name of the Lord Jesus - See the notes on Acts 2:38.

Verse 6

And when Paul laid his hands ... - See the notes on Acts 8:17.

And they spake with tongues - See the notes on Acts 2:4; Acts 10:46.

And prophesied - See the notes on Acts 2:17; Acts 11:27.

Verse 7

And all the men - The whole number.

Verse 8

Persuading the things - Endeavoring to persuade them of the truth of what was affirmed respecting the kingdom of God.

Verse 9

But when divers - When some were hardened.

Were hardened - When their hearts were hardened, and they became violently opposed to the gospel. When the truth made no impression on them. The word “harden,” as applied to the heart, is often used to denote “insensibility, and opposition to the gospel.”

But spake evil of that way - Of the gospel - the way, path, or manner in which God saves people. See Acts 16:17; Acts 18:26; Matthew 7:13-14.

Separated the disciples - Removed them from the influence and society of those who were seeking to draw them away from the faith. This is often the best way to prevent the evil influence of others. Christians, if they wish to preserve their minds calm and peaceful; if they wish to avoid the agitations of conflict, and the temptations of those who would lead them astray, should withdraw from their society, and seek the fellowship of their Christian brethren.

Disputing daily - This is not a happy translation. The word used here διαλεγόμενος dialegomenos does not of necessity denote “disputation or contention,” but is often used in a good sense of “reasoning” Acts 17:2; Acts 18:4, Acts 18:19; Acts 24:25, or of “public preaching,” Acts 20:7, Acts 20:9. It is used in this sense here, and denotes that Paul taught publicly, or reasoned on the subject of religion in this place.

In the school of one Tyrannus - Who this Tyrannus was is not known. It is probable that he was a Jew, who was engaged in this employment, and who might not be unfavorably disposed toward Christians. In his school, or in the room which he occupied for teaching, Paul instructed the people when he was driven from the synagogue. Christians at that time had no churches, and they were obliged to assemble in any place where it might be convenient to conduct public worship.

Verse 10

This continued - This public instruction.

By the space ... - For two whole years.

So that all - That is, the great mass of the people.

Which dwelt in Asia - In that province of Asia Minor of which Ephesus was the principal city. The name Asia was used sometimes to denote that single province. See the notes on Acts 2:9. Ephesus was the capital; and there was, of course, a constant and large influx of people there for the purposes of commerce and worship.

Heard the word of the Lord Jesus - Heard the doctrine respecting the Lord Jesus.

Verse 11

Special miracles - Miracles that were remarkable; that were not common, or that were very unusual (οὐ τὰς τυχών ou tas tuchōn). This expression is Classical Greek. Thus, Longinus says of Moses that he was no common man - οὐχ ̓ ὁ τύχων ἀνήρ ouch ho tuchōn anēr.

Verse 12

So that from his body - That is, those handkerchiefs which had been applied to his body, which he had used, or which he had touched. An instance somewhat similar to this occurs in the case of the woman who was healed by touching the hem of the Saviour’s garment, Matthew 9:20-22.Unto the sick - The sick who were at a distance, and who were unable to go where he was. If it be asked why this was done, it may be observed:

(1) That the working of miracles in that region would greatly contribute to the spread of the gospel.

(2) We are not to suppose that there was any efficacy in the aprons thus brought, or in the mere fact that they had touched the body of Paul, anymore than there was in the hem of the Saviour’s garment which the woman touched, or in the clay which he made use of to open the eyes of the blind man, John 8:6.

(3) In this instance, the fact that the miracles were performed in this manner by garments which had touched his body, was a mere sign, or an evidence to the persons concerned, that it was done by the instrumentality of Paul, as the fact that the Saviour put his fingers into the ears of a deaf man, and spit and touched his tongue Mark 7:33, was an evidence to those who saw it that the power of healing came from him. The bearing of these aprons to the sick was, therefore, merely evidence to all concerned that miraculous power was given to Paul.

Handkerchiefs - The word used here σουδάρια soudaria is of Latin origin, and properly denotes “a piece of linen” with which sweat was wiped from the face; and then “any piece of linen used for tying up or containing anything.” In Luke 19:20, it denotes the “napkin” in which the talent of the unprofitable servant was concealed; in John 11:44; John 20:7, the “napkin” which was used to bind up the face of the dead applied to Lazarus and to our Saviour.

Or aprons - σιμικίνθια simikinthia. This is also Latin word, and means literally a half girdle, or covering half the person a piece of cloth which was girded round the waist to preserve the clothes of those who were engaged in any kind of work. The word “aprons” expresses the idea.

And the diseases departed - The sick were healed.

And the evil spirits - See the notes on Matthew 4:24. It is evident that this power of working miracles would contribute greatly to Paul’s success among the people.

Verse 13

The vagabond Jews - Greek: Jews going about - περιερχομένων perierchomenōn. The word “vagabond” with us is now commonly used in a bad sense, to denote “a vagrant; a man who has no home; an idle, worthless fellow.” The word, however, properly means “one wandering from place to place, without any settled habitation, from whatever cause it may be.” Here it denotes “those Jews who wandered from place to place, practicing exorcism.”

Exorcists - ἐξορκιστῶν exorkistōn. This word properly denotes “those who went about pretending to be able to expel evil spirits, or to cure diseases by charms, incantations,” etc. The word is derived from ὁρκίζω horkizō, “to bind with an oath.” It was applied in this sense, because those who pretended to be able to expel demons used the formula of an oath, or adjured them, to compel them to leave the possessed persons. Compare Matthew 12:27. They commonly used the name of God, or called on the demons in the name of God to leave the person. Here they used the name Jesus to command them to come out. Such wanderers and pretenders are common in Oriental countries now. See Land and the Book, vol. i. 224, 510.

To call over them - To name, or to use his name as sufficient to expel the evil spirit.

The name of the Lord Jesus - The reasons why they attempted this were:

(1) That Jesus had expelled many evil spirits; and,

(2) That it was in his name that Paul had performed his miracles. Perhaps they supposed there was some charm in this name to expel them.

We adjure you - We bind you by an oath; we command you as under the solemnity of an oath, Mar 5:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:27. It is a form of putting one under oath, 1 Kings 2:43; Genesis 24:37; 2 Kings 11:4; Nehemiah 13:25 (Septuagint). That this art was practiced then, or attempted, is abundantly proved from Irenaeus, Origen, and Josephus (Antiq., book 8, chapter 2, section 5). See Doddridge. The common name which was used was the incommunicable name of God, Yahweh, by pronouncing which, in a special way, it was pretended they had the power of expelling demons.

Verse 14

One Sceva - Sceva is a Greek name, but nothing more is known of him.

Chief of the priests - This cannot mean that he was high priest among the Jews, as it is wholly improbable that his sons would be wandering exorcists. But it denotes that he was of the sacerdotal order. He was a Jewish chief priest; a priest of distinction, and had held the office of a ruler. The word “chief priest,” in the New Testament, usually refers to men of the sacerdotal order who were also rulers in the Sanhedrin.

Verse 15

Jesus I know - His power to cast out devils I know. Compare Matthew 8:29.

Paul I know - Paul’s power to cast out devils, Acts . Acts 19:12.

But who are ye? - What power have you over evil spirits? By what right do you attempt to expel them? The meaning is, “You belong neither to Jesus nor Paul, and you have no right or authority to at tempt to work miracles in the name of either.”

Verse 16

Leaped on them - Several such instances are recorded of the extraordinary power and rage of those who were possessed with evil spirits, Mark 5:3; Mark 9:29; Luke 9:42.

Verse 17

The name of the Lord Jesus was magnified - Acquired increasing honor. The transaction showed that the miracles performed in the name of the Lord Jesus by Paul were real, and were performed in attestation of the truth of the doctrine which he taught. Impostors could not work such miracles; and they who pretended to be able to do it only exposed themselves to the rage of evil spirits. It was thus shown that there was a real, vital difference between Paul and these impostors, and their failure only served to extend his reputation and the power of the gospel.

Verse 18

Their deeds - Their actions; their evil course of life. The direct reference here is to the magical arts which had been used, but the word may also be designed to denote “iniquity” in general. They who make a profession of religion will be willing to confess their transgressions, and no man can have evidence that he is truly renewed who is not willing to confess as well as to forsake his sins, Romans 10:10; Proverbs 28:13, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall find mercy.”

Verse 19

Curious arts - Arts or practices requiring skill, address, cunning. The word used here (περίεργα perierga) denotes properly “those things that require care or skill,” and was thus applied to the arts of “magic, jugglery, and sleight of hand” that were practiced so extensively in Eastern countries. That such arts were practiced at Ephesus is well known. The Ephesian letters, by which incantations and charms were supposed to be produced, were much celebrated. They seem to have consisted of certain combinations of letters or words, which, by being pronounced with certain intonations of voice, were believed to be effectual in expelling diseases, or evil spirits; or which, by being written on parchment and worn, were supposed to operate as amulets, or charms, to guard from evil spirits or from danger. Thus, Plutarch (Sympos., 7) says, “The magicians compel those who are possessed with a demon to recite and pronounce the Ephesian letters, in a certain order, by themselves.” Thus, Clemens Alex. (Strom. ii.) says, “Androcydes, a Pythagorean, says that the letters which are called Ephesian, and which are so celebrated, are symbols, etc.” Erasmus says (Adagg. Cent., 2) that there were certain marks and magical words among the Ephesians, by using which they succeeded in every undertaking. Eustath. a.d. Homer, Odyssey τ, says “that those letters were incantations which Croesus used when on the funeral pile, and which greatly befriended him.” He adds that, in the war between the Milesians and Ephesians, the latter were thirteen times saved from ruin by the use of these letters. See Grotius and Kuinoel.

Brought their books - Books which explained the arts, or which contained the magical forms and incantations - perhaps pieces of parchment, on which were written the letters which were to be used in the incantations and charms.

And burned them before all men - Publicly. Their arts and offences had been public, and they sought now to undo the evil, as much as lay in their power, as extensively as they had done it.

And they counted - The price was estimated. By whom this was done does not appear. Probably it was not done by those who had been engaged in this business, and who had suffered the loss, but by the people, who were amazed at the sacrifice, and who were astonished at their folly in thus destroying their own property.

Fifty thousand pieces of silver - What coin the word ἀργυρίου arguriou here translated “silver” denotes, it is impossible to tell, and consequently the precise value of this sacrifice cannot be ascertained. If it refers to the Jewish shekel, the sum would be 25,000 (about 5,420 British pounds), since the shekel was worth about half a dollar (circa 1880’s). If it refers to Grecian or Roman coin - which is much more probable, as this was a pagan country, where the Jewish coin would not, probably, be much used the value would be much less. Probably, however, it refers to the Attic drachma, which was a silver coin worth about 9d. sterling, or not far from 17 cents, and then the value would be about 8,500 (1,875 British pounds). The precise value is not material. It was a large sum; and it is recorded to show that Christianity had power to induce people to forsake arts that were most lucrative, and to destroy the means of extending and perpetuating those arts, however valuable in a pecuniary point of view they might be. We are to remember, however, that this was not the intrinsic value of these books, but only their value as books of incantation. In themselves they might have been of very little worth. The universal prevalence of Christianity would make much that is now esteemed valuable pro, retry utterly worthless, as, for example, all that is used in gambling, in fraud, in counterfeiting, in distilling ardent spirits for drink, in the slave-trade, and in attempts to impose on and defraud mankind.

Verse 20

So mightily grew the word of God - So powerfully. It had such efficacy and power in this wicked city. That power must have been mighty which would thus make them willing not only to cease to practice imposition, but to give up all hopes of future gains, and to destroy their property. On this instructive narrative we may remark:

(1) That religion has power to break the hold of sinners on unjust and dishonest means of living.

(2) That those who have been engaged in an unchristian and dishonorable practice will abandon it when they become Christians.

(3) That their abhorrence of their former course will be, and ought to be, expressed as publicly as was the offence.

(4) That the evil practice will be abandoned at any sacrifice, however great. The question will be, what is right; not what will it cost. Property, in the view of a converted man, is nothing when compared with a good conscience.

(5) This conduct of those who had used curious arts shows us what ought to be done by those who have been engaged in any evil course of life and who are then converted. If what they did when they were converted was right - and who can doubt it? - it settles a great principle on which young converts should act. If a man has been engaged in the slave-trade, he will abandon it, and his duty will not be to sell his ship to one who he knows will continue the traffic. His property should be withdrawn from the business publicly, either by being destroyed, or by being converted to a useful purpose. If a man has been a distiller of ardent spirits as a drink, his duty will be to forsake his evil course. Nor will it be his duty to sell his distillery to one who will continue the business, but to withdraw his property from it publicly, either by destroying it, or converting it to some useful purpose. If a man has been engaged in the traffic in ardent spirits, his duty is not to sell his stock to those who will continue the sale of the poison, but to withdraw it from public use - converting it to some useful purpose, if he can; if not, by destroying it. All that has ever been said by money-loving distillers, or venders of ardent spirits, about the loss which they would sustain by abandoning the business, might have been said by these practitioners of curious arts in Ephesus. And if the excuses of rumselling people are valid, their conduct was folly; and they should either have continued the business of practicing “curious arts” after they were converted, or should have sold their “books” to those who would have continued it. For assuredly it was not worse to practice jugglery and fortune-telling than it is to destroy the bodies and souls of people by the traffic in ardent spirits. And yet, how few people there are in Christian lands who practice on the principle of these honest, but comparatively unenlightened men at Ephesus.

Verse 21

After these things were ended - After the gospel was firmly established at Ephesus, so that his presence there was no longer necessary.

Purposed in the spirit - Resolved in his mind.

When he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia - In these places he had founded flourishing churches. It is probable that his main object in this visit was to take up a collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem. See the notes on Romans 15:25-26.

To go to Jerusalem - To bear the contribution of the Gentile churches to the poor and oppressed Christians in Judea.

I must also see Rome - See the notes on Romans 15:24. He did go to Rome, but he went in chains, as a prisoner.

Verse 22

Timotheus - Timothy. He was a proper person to send there to visit the churches, as he had been there before with Paul, when they were established, Acts 16:3; Acts 17:14.

And Erastus - Erastus was chamberlain of Corinth (Romans 16:23), or, more properly, the treasurer of the city (see the notes on that place), and he was, therefore, a very proper person to be sent with Timothy for the purpose of making the collection for the poor at Jerusalem. Paul had wisdom enough to employ a man accustomed to monied transactions in making a collection. On this collection his heart was intent, and he afterward went up with it to Jerusalem. See 2 Corinthians 8:9, and notes on Romans 15:25-26.

Stayed in Asia - At Ephesus.

For a season - How long is uncertain. He waited for a convenient opportunity to follow them, probably intending to do it as soon as they had fully prepared the way for the collection. See Paley’s Horae Paulinae, p. 1, chapter 2.

Verse 23

No small stir - No little excitement, disturbance, or tumult τάραχος tarachos. Compare Acts 17:4-5. “About that way.” Respecting the doctrines of Christianity which Paul preached. See the notes on Acts 9:2; Acts 18:26; Acts 19:9.

Verse 24

A silversmith - The word used here denotes “one who works in silver” in any way, either in making money, in stamping silver, or in forming utensils from it. It is probable that the employment of this man was confined to the business here specified, that of making shrines, as his complaint Acts . Acts 19:26-27 implied that destroying this would be sufficient to throw them out of all employment. Silver shrines ναοὺς naous. Temples. The word “shrine” properly means “a case, small chest, or box”; particularly applied to a box in which sacred things are deposited. Hence, we hear of the shrines for relics (Webster). The word “shrines” here denotes “small portable temples, or edifices,” made of silver, so as to represent the temple of Diana, and probably containing a silver image of the goddess. Such shrines would be purchased by devotees and by worshippers of the goddess, and by strangers, who would be desirous of possessing a representation of one of the seven wonders of the world. See the notes on Acts 19:27. The great number of persons that came to Ephesus for her worship would constitute an ample sale for productions of this kind, and make the manufacture a profitable employment. It is well known that pagans everywhere are accustomed to carry with them small images, or representations of their gods, as an amulet or charm. The Romans had such images in all their houses, called penates, or household gods. A similar thing is mentioned as early as the time of Laban Genesis 31:19, whose images Rachel had stolen and taken with her. Compare Judges 17:5, “The man Micah had an house of gods”; 1 Samuel 19:13; Hosea 3:4. These images were usually enclosed in a box, case, or chest, made of wood, iron, or silver; and probably, as here, usually made to resemble the temple where the idol was worshipped.

Diana - This was a celebrated goddess of the pagan, and one of the twelve superior deities. In the heavens she was Luna, or Meui (the moon); on earth, Diana; and in hell, Hecate. She was sometimes represented with a crescent on her head, a bow in her hand, and dressed in a hunting habit; at other times with a triple face, and with instruments of torture. She was commonly regarded as the goddess of hunting. She was also worshipped under the various names of Lucina, Proserpine, Trivia, etc. She was also represented with a great number of breasts, to denote her as being the fountain of blessings, or as distributing her benefits to each in their proper station. She was worshipped in Egypt, Athens, Cilicia, and among pagan nations generally; but the most celebrated place of her worship was Ephesus, a city especially dedicated to her.

Unto the craftsmen - To the laborers employed under Demetrius in the manufacture of shrines.

Verse 25

With the workmen of like occupation - Those who were in his employ, and all others engaged in the same business. As they would be all affected in the same way, it was easy to produce an excitement among them all.

Sirs - Greek: Men.

By this craft - By this business or occupation. This is our trade.

Our wealth - Greek: our acquisition; our property. We are dependent on it for a living. It does not mean that they were rich, but that they relied on this for a subsistence. That it was a lucrative business is apparent, but it is not affirmed that they were in fact rich.

Verse 26

Ye see and hear - You see at Ephesus, and you hear the same in other places.

Throughout all Asia - All Asia Minor; or perhaps the province of which Ephesus was the capital. See the notes on Acts 2:9.

This Paul hath persuaded - We have here the noble testimony of a pagan to the zeal and success of the ministry of Paul. It is an acknowledgment that his labors had been most strikingly successful in turning the people from idolatry.

Saying that they be no gods ... - See the notes on Acts 14:14-15.

Verse 27

So that not only ... - The grounds of the charge which Demetrius made against Paul were two: first, that the business of the craftsmen would be destroyed usually the first thing that strikes the mind of a sinner who is influenced By self-interest alone; and, second, that the worship of Diana would cease if Paul and his fellow-laborers were suffered to continue their efforts.

This our craft - This business in which we are engaged, and on which we are dependent. Greek: this part τὸ μέρος to meros which pertains to us.

To be set at nought - To be brought into contempt. It will become so much an object of ridicule and contempt that we shall have no further employment. Greek: “Is in danger of coming into refutation” εἰς ἀπελεγμὸν eis apelegmon. Since what is refuted by argument is deemed useless, so the word comes also to signify what is useless, or which is an object of contempt or ridicule. We may here remark:

(1) That the extensive prevalence of the Christian religion would destroy many kinds of business in which people now engage. It would put an end to all that now ministers to the pride, vanity, luxury, vice, and ambition of people. Let religion prevail, and wars would cease, and all the preparations for war which now employ so many hearts and hands would be useless. Let religion prevail, and temperance would prevail also; and consequently all the capital and labor now employed in distilling and vending ardent spirits would be withdrawn, and the business be broken up. Let religion prevail, and licentiousness would cease, and all the arts which minister to it would be useless. Let Christianity prevail, and all that goes now to minister to idolatry, and the corrupt passions of people, would be destroyed. No small part of the talent, also, that is now worse than wasted in corrupting others by ballads and songs, by fiction and licentious tales, would be withdrawn. A vast amount of capital and talent would thus be at once set at liberty, to be employed in nobler and better purposes.

(2) The effect of religion is often to bring the employments of people into shame and contempt. A revival of religion often makes the business of distilling an object of abhorrence. It pours shame on those who are engaged in ministering to the vices and luxuries of the world. Religion reveals the evil of such a course of life, and those vices are banished by the mere prevalence of better principles. Yet,

(3) The talent and capital thins disengaged is not rendered useless. It may be directed to other channels and other employment. Religion does not make people idle. It leads people to devote their talents to useful employments, and opens fields in which all may toil usefully to themselves and to their fellow-men. If all the capital, the genius, and the learning which are now wasted, and worse than wasted, were to be at once withdrawn from their present pursuits, they might be profitably employed. There is not now a useless man who might, not be useful; there is not a cent wasted which might not be employed to advantage in the great work of making the world better and happier.

But also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised - This temple, so celebrated, was regarded as one of the seven wonders of the world. It was 220 years in building before it was brought to perfection. It was built at the expense of all Asia Minor. The original object of worship among the Ephesians was a small statue of Diana, made of wood, but of what kind of wood is unknown. Pliny says that the temple was made of cedar, but that it was doubtful of what kind of wood the image was made. Some have said that it was of ebony. Mucian, who was three times consul, says that the Image was made of vine, and was never changed, though the temple was rebuilt seven times (Pliny, 16:79). See Vitruvius, ii. 9. It was merely an Egyptian hieroglyphic, with many breasts, representing the goddess of Nature - under which idea Diana was probably worshipped at Ephesus. Since the original figure became decayed by age, it was propped up by two rods of iron like spits, which were carefully copied in the image which was afterward made in imitation of the first.

A temple, most magnificent in structure, was built to contain the image of Diana, which was several times built and rebuilt. The first is said to have been completed in the reign of Servius Tullius, at least 570 b.c. Another temple is mentioned as having been designed by Ctesiphon, 540 years before the Christian era, and which was completed by Daphnis of Miletus and a citizen of Ephesus. This temple was partially destroyed by fire on the very day on which Socrates was poisoned, in 400 b.c., and again in 356 b.c., by the philosopher Herostratus, on the day on which Alexander the Great was born. He confessed, upon being put to the torture, that the only motive he had was to immortalize his name. The four walls, and a few columns only, escaped the flames. The temple was repaired, and restored to more than its former magnificence, in which, says Pliny (lib. xxxvi. c. 14), 220 years were required to bring it to completion.

It was 425 feet in length, 220 in breadth, and was supported by 127 pillars of Parian marble, each of which was 60 feet high. These pillars were furnished by as many princes, and 36 of them were curiously carved, and the rest were finely polished. Each pillar, it is supposed, with its base, contained 150 tons of marble. The doors and panelling were made of cypress wood, the roof of cedar, and the interior was rendered splendid by decorations of gold, and by the finest productions of ancient artists. This celebrated edifice, after suffering various partial demolitions, was finally burned by the Goths, in their third naval invasion, in 260 a.d. Travelers are now left to conjecture where its site was. Amidst the confused ruins of ancient Ephesus, it is now impossible to tell where this celebrated temple was, once one of the wonders of the world. “So passes away the glory of this world.” See the Edinburgh Encyclopedia’s “Ephesus” also Anacharsis’ Travels, vol. vi. p. 188; Ancient Universal Hist., vol. vii. p. 416; and Pococke’s Travels.

And her magnificence - Her majesty and glory; that is, the splendor of her temple and her worship.

Whom all Asia - All Asia Minor.

And the world - Other parts of the world. The temple had been built by contributions from a great number of princes, and doubtless multitudes from all parts of the earth came to Ephesus to pay their homage to Diana.

Verse 28

Were full of wrath - Were greatly enraged - probably at the prospect of losing their gains.

Great is Diana ... - The term “great” was often applied by the Greeks to Diana. Thus, in Xenophon (Ephes. i.), he says, “I adjure you by your own goddess, the great (τὴν μεγάλην tēn megalēn) Diana of the Ephesians.” The design of this clamor was doubtless to produce a persecution against Paul, and thus to secure a continuance of their employment. Often, when people have no arguments, they raise a clamor; when their employments are in danger of being ruined, they are filled with rage. We may learn, also, that when people’s pecuniary interests are affected, they often show great zeal for religion, and expect by clamor in behalf of some doctrine to maintain their own interest, and to secure their own gains.

Verse 29

Confusion - Tumult; disorder.

Gaius - He had lived at Corinth, and had kinky entertained Paul at his house, 1 Corinthians 1:14; Romans 16:23.

Aristarchus - He attended Paul to Rome, and was there a prisoner with him, Colossians 4:10.

With one accord - Tumultuously; or with one mind or purpose.

Into the theatre - The theaters of the Greeks were not only places for public exhibitions, but also for holding assemblies, and often for courts, elections, etc. The people, therefore, naturally rushed there, as being a suitable place to decide this matter.

Verse 30

Would have entered in unto the people - Probably to have addressed them, and to defend his own cause.

Verse 31

Certain of the chief of Asia - τῶν Ἀσιαρχῶν tōn Asiarchōn. Of the Asiarchs. These were persons who presided over sacred things and over the public games. It was their business to see that the proper services of religion were observed, and that proper honor was rendered to the Roman emperor in the public festivals, at the games, etc. They were annually elected, and their election was confirmed at Rome before it was valid They held a common council at the principal city within their province, as at Ephesus, Smyrna, Sardis, etc., to consult and deliberate about the interests committed to their charge in their various provinces (Kuinoel and Schleusner). Probably they were assembled on such an occasion now; and during their remaining there they had heard Paul preach, and were friendly to his views and doctrines.

Which were his friends - It does not appear from ibis that they were Christian converts; but they probably had feelings of respect toward him, and were disposed to defend him and his cause. Perhaps, also, there might have existed a personal acquaintance and attachment.

Would not adventure - Would not risk his life in the tumult, and under the excited feelings of the multitude.

Verse 32

Some therefore cried one thing ... - This is an admirable description of a mob, assembled for what purpose they knew not; but agitated by passions, and strifes, and tumults.

And the more part knew not ... - The greater part did not know. They had been drawn together by the noise and excitement, and but a small part would know the real cause of the commotion. This is usually the case in tumultuous meetings.

Verse 33

And they drew Alexander - Who this Alexander was is not known. Grotius supposes that it was “Alexander the coppersmith, who had in some way done Paul much harm 2 Timothy 4:14; and whom, with Philetus, Paul had excommunicated. He supposes that it was a device of the Jews to put forward one who had been of the Christian party, in order to accuse Paul, and to attempt to cast the odium of the tumult on him. But it is not clear that the Alexander whom Paul had excommunicated was the person concerned in this transaction. All that appears in this narrative is, that Alexander was one who was known to be a Jew, and who wished to defend the Jews from being regarded as the authors of this tumult. It would be supposed by the pagan that the Christians Were only a sect of the Jews, and the Jews wished, doubtless, to show that they had not been concerned in giving occasion to this tumult, but that it was to be traced wholly to Paul and his friends.

The Jews putting him forward - That he might have a convenient opportunity to speak to the people.

Would have made his defence - Our translation, by the phrase “his defense,” would seem to imply that he was personally accused. But it was not so. The Greek is simply, “was about to apologize to the people”; that is, to make a defense, not of himself particularly, but of the Jews in general. The translation should have been “a defense.”

Verse 34

But when they knew - When they perceived or ascertained.

That he was a Jew - There was a general prejudice against the Jews. They were disposed to charge the whole difficulty on Jews - esteeming Christians to be but a sect of the Jews. They were, therefore, indiscriminate in their wrath, and unwilling to listen to any defense.

With one voice - Unitedly, in one continued shout and clamor.

About the space of two hours - The day, from sunrise to sunset, among the Greeks and Romans, was divided into twelve equal parts, John 11:9. An hour, therefore, did not differ materially from an hour with us. It is not at all improbable that the tumult would continue for so long a time, before it would be possible to allay the excitement.

Cried out ... - This they at first did to silence Alexander. The shouting, however, was continued in order to evince their attachment to Diana, as would be natural in an excited and tumultuous mob of pagan worshippers.

Verse 35

And when the town-clerk - ὁ γραμματέυς ho grammateus. The scribe; the secretary. This word is often used in the Bible, and is commonly translated “scribe,” and is applied to “public notaries in the synagogues; to clerks; to those who transcribed books, and hence, to men skilled in the law or in any kind of learning.” Compare 2 Samuel 8:17; 2 Kings 12:11; Ezra 7:6, Ezra 7:11-12; Matthew 5:20; Matthew 12:38; Matthew 13:52; Matthew 15:1; Matthew 23:34; 1 Corinthians 1:20. It is, however, nowhere else applied to a pagan magistrate. It probably denoted “a recorder; or a transcriber of the laws; or a chancellor” (Kuinoel, Doddridge). This officer had a seat in their deliberative assemblies, and on him it seems to have devolved to keep the peace. The Syriac, “Prince of the city.” The Vulgate and Arabic, “Scribe.”

Had appeased the people - καταστείλας katasteilas. Having restrained, quieted, tranquillized, so as to be able to address them.

What man is there - Who is there that can deny this? It is universally known and admitted. This is the language of strong confidence, of reproof, and of indignation. It implied that the worship of Diana was so well established that there was no danger that it could be destroyed by a few Jews, and he therefore reproved them for what he deemed their unreasonable fears. But he little knew the power of that religion which had been the innocent cause of all this tumult; nor that, at no very distant period, this despised religion would overturn not only the worship of Diana at Ephesus, but the splendid idolatry of the mighty Roman empire.

Is a worshipper - νεωκόρον neōkoron. Margin, temple-keeper. The word used here does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It is derived from νεὼς neōs, for ναὸς naos, a temple, and κορέω koreō, to sweep, to cleanse. But among the ancients, the office of keeping their temples was by no means as humble as that of sexton is with us. It was regarded as an office of honor and dignity to have charge of the temples of the gods, and to keep them in order. The term was also given to the cities that were regarded as the special patrons or worshippers of certain gods and goddesses. They esteemed it an honor to be regarded as the special keepers of their temples and images, or as having adopted them as their tutelar divinities. Such was Ephesus in regard to Diana. It was considered to be a high honor that the city was everywhere regarded as being entrusted with the worship of Diana, or with keeping the temple regarded by the whole world as especially her own. See Schleusner on this word.

And of the image - A special guardian of the image, or statue of Diana.

Which fell down ... - Which was reigned or believed to have been sent down from heaven. See the notes on Acts 19:27. It is probable that the image was so ancient that the maker of it was unknown, and it was therefore reigned to have fallen from heaven. It was for the interest of the priest to keep up this impression. Many cities pretended to have been favored in a similar manner with images or statues of the gods, sent directly from heaven. The safety of Troy was supposed to depend on the Palladium, or image of Pallas Minerva, which was believed to have fallen from heaven. Numa pretended that the ancilia, or sacred shields, had descended from heaven. Herodian expressly affirms that “the Phoenicians had no statue of the sun polished by the hand, but only a certain large stone, circular below, and terminated acutely above in the figure of a cone, of a black color, and that they believed it to have fallen from heaven.” The same thing was affirmed of the ancient Minerva of the Athenian Acropolis (Paus., Att. 26); of the Paphian Venus, and the Ceres of Sicily (Cic. in Verr., v. 187). It has been supposed by some that this image at Ephesus was merely a conical or pyramidal stone which fell from the clouds - a meteorite - and that it was regarded with superstitious reverence, as having been sent from heaven. See the Edinburgh Encyclopedia’s article, “Meteorites.”

From Jupiter - See the notes on Acts 14:12.

Verse 36

Seeing then ... - Since no one can call in question the zeal of the Ephesians on this subject, or doubt the sincerity of their belief, and since there can be no danger that this well-established worship is to be destroyed by the efforts of a few evil-disposed Jews, there is no occasion for this tumult.

Be quiet - Be appeased. The same Greek word which is used in Acts . Acts 19:35, “had appeased the people.”

To do nothing rashly - To do nothing in a heated, inconsiderate manner. There is no occasion for tumult and riot. The whole difficulty can be settled in perfect consistency with the maintenance of order.

Verse 37

For ye ... - Demetrius and his friends. The blame was to be traced to them.

Which are neither robbers of churches - The word “churches” we now apply to edifices reared for purposes of Christian worship. Since no such churches had then been built, this translation is unhappy, and is not at all demanded by the original. The Greek word ἱεροσύλους hierosulous is applied properly to those who commit sacrilege; who plunder temples of their sacred things. The meaning here is that Paul and his companions had not been guilty of robbing the temple of Diana, or any other temple. The charge of sacrilege could not be brought against them. Though they had preached against idols and idol worship, yet they had offered no violence to the temples of idolaters, nor had they attempted to strip them of the sacred utensils employed in their service. What they had done, they had done peaceably.

Nor yet blasphemers of your goddess - They had not used harsh or reproachful language of Diana. This had not been charged on them, nor is there the least evidence that they had done it. They had opposed idolatry; had reasoned against it; and had endeavored to turn the people from it. But there is not the least evidence that they had ever done it in harsh or reproachful language. This shows that people should employ reason, and not harsh or reproachful language against a pervading evil; and that the way to remove it is to enlighten the minds of people, and to convince them of the error of their ways. People gain nothing by bitter and reviling words; and it is much to obtain the testimony of even the enemies of religion as Paul did of the chancellor of Ephesus - that no such words had been used in describing their crimes and follies.

Verse 38

Have a matter against any man - Have a complaint of injury; if injustice has been done them by anyone.

The law is open - See the margin. Ἀγόραιοι Agoraioi ἄγονται agontai, that is, ἡμέραι hēmerai. There are court-days; days which are open, or appointed for judicial trials, where such matters can be determined in a proper manner. Perhaps the courts were then held, and the matter might be immediately determined.

And there are deputies - Roman proconsuls. See the notes on Acts 13:7. The cause might be brought before them with the certainty that it would be heard and decided. The Syriac reads this in the singular number “Lo, the proconsul is in the city.”

Let them implead one another - Let them accuse each other in the court. The laws are equal, and impartial justice will be done.

Verse 39

But if we inquire - If you seek to determine any other matters than that pertaining to the alleged wrong which Demetrius has suffered in his business.

Other matters - Anything respecting public affairs; anything pertaining to the government and the worship of Diana.

In a lawful assembly - In an assembly convened, not by tumult and riot, but in conformity to law. This was a tumultuous assemblage, and it was proper in the public officer to demand that they should disperse; and that, if there were any public grievances to be remedied, it should be done in an assembly properly convened. It may be remarked here that the original word rendered assembly is what is usually in the New Testament rendered church - ἐκκλησία ekklēsia. It is properly rendered by the word “assembly” - not denoting here “a mixed or tumultuous assemblage, but one called out, or convened in the legal manner.” The proper meaning of the word is “what is called out.” “The church, the Christian assembly ἐκκλησία ekklēsia of the faithful,” is made up of those who are called out from the world.

Verse 40

To be called in question - By the government; by the Roman authority. Such a tumult, continued for so long. a time, would be likely to attract the attention of the magistrates, and expose them to their displeasure. Popular commotions were justly dreaded by the Roman government; and such an assembly as this, convened without any good cause, would not escape their notice. There was a Roman law which made it capital for anyone to be engaged in promoting a riot. Sui coetum, et concursum fecerit, capite puniatur: “He who raises a mob, let him be punished with death.”

Verse 41

Dismissed the assembly - τὴν ἐκκλησίαν tēn ekklēsian. The word usually translated “church.” Here it is applied to the irregular and tumultuous “assemblage” which had convened in a riotous manner.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Acts 19". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/acts-19.html. 1870.
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