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Bible Commentaries
Acts 19

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and CollegesCambridge Greek Testament Commentary

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Verses 1-99

19:1 7 . Paul returning to Ephesus finds there some disciples of John the Baptist

1 . And it came to pass that, while Apollos was at Corinth ] The digression concerning Apollos being ended, the history now returns to St Paul. Apollos found, no doubt, that Corinth was the most effective centre for his work in Achaia, and apparently made that his head quarters.

Paul having passed through the upper country ] The English word “coasts” (A. V.) is now confined in meaning to the sea-shore , formerly it signified any “border-land.” The parts actually visited by St Paul were far away from the sea. Indeed the adjective rendered “upper” signifies “that part to which men go up, away from the sea.” It is applied here to the more Eastern parts of Asia Minor. The Apostle’s journey was most likely through the districts of Lycaonia, Galatia and Phrygia which he had visited before.

came to Ephesus ] In fulfilment of the conditional promise made by him when he left (18:11),

and finding certain disciples ] The participle, indicated by the A. V., is not supported by the oldest texts. Read with R. V. “and found .” These men are called disciples , because they were, like Apollos, to a certain extent instructed concerning Jesus, and what they already knew drew them to listen to St Paul who could teach them more.

2. and he said unto them ] The different reading in the last verse renders a conjunction needful here, and this the oldest MSS. have.

Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed? ] The two verbs in the original are in the same tense, and there is nothing to justify the “since” of the A. V. The description of the state of these disciples is not easy to understand. St Paul addresses them as believers. But this perhaps is only because they presented themselves among the real Christian disciples, and his recent arrival made it impossible for him to know the history of all who appeared among the members of the congregation. He presumes they are believers from the company in which he finds them.

And they said unto him , Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Ghost was [given ] This rendering of the Revised Version makes the sense more clear than did the A V., but even yet requires explanation. Of the existence of the Holy Ghost no disciples of John could (as might be conceived from the A. V.) be ignorant, for in his preaching he had proclaimed that the baptism of Him who was to come after him should be with the Holy Ghost and with fire. But in the Greek where, as in this verse, the expression “Spirit” or “Holy Spirit” is found without an article (although in English we are forced to put “the” before it) it signifies not the personal Comforter, but an operation or gift of the Holy Spirit. Thus in John 7:39 , the A. V. rightly renders “the Holy Ghost was not yet given ,” although there is no verb for “given,” because the noun is without an article in the Greek, and so signifies “a spiritual outpouring.” These disciples at Ephesus, then, imply by their answer not that the name “Holy Ghost” was strange, but that they were unacquainted (as was the Baptist himself) with any special bestowal of the gifts of the Spirit.

3 . And he said ] The oldest authorities omit “unto them,” and it is more natural to do so in the account of these brief questions and answers.

Into what then were ye baptized? ] The New Testament phrase is “baptized in” or “into,” to express the close union with God into which men are brought by baptism.

And they said , Into John’s baptism ] They may have been disciples of Apollos and have been baptized by him before his more full instruction by Aquila and Priscilla.

4 . Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance ] More simply, And Paul said . The best MSS. omit the word for “verily.” Such was John’s description of his own baptism (Matthew 3:11 ), but after the day of Pentecost the language of the Christian preacher (Acts 2:38 ) is, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” These Ephesian disciples knew nothing of baptism for the remission of sins, or of the other sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, nor of the gift of the Spirit to the church, nor of the doctrines of faith in Christ and salvation by grace through faith.

saying unto the people, that they should believe ] The demand for faith makes the difference between the preaching of Christ and the preaching of John. The latter said “Prepare by repentance for the coming King,” Christ says (and John also spake of this) “Believe on me, for I am He that should come.”

on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus ] The oldest MSS. omit “Christ.” In his preaching John had constantly used the phrase “He that cometh after me.” This was the stage of instruction at which these disciples had arrived. They knew that John spake of one who was to come. St Paul’s teaching made clear to them that this was Jesus. The closing words of the sentence are a condensation of all the explanations by which the Apostle convinced them, that Jesus, whom he preached, was the prophet whom John announced. St Luke does not anywhere give speeches or arguments in extenso , but only so much as is needed to explain the results which he describes

5. And when they heard this ] The A. V. omits the conjunction which stands in the Textus Receptus . What they heard was not the mere statement that Jesus was the Messiah; but all the arguments with which St Paul demonstrated that this was so, and proved that in Him the Scriptures were fulfilled. The conviction need not have been sudden, though its description is brief.

they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus ] They followed the order appointed for admission to the privileges of the Christian covenant. No argument can be drawn from this verse for a repetition of baptism. These disciples had never received such a baptism as Christ ordained. John’s baptism was but a washing symbolical of the repentance which he preached; baptism into the name of Christ is the pledge of a covenant of salvation.

6 . And when Paul , &c.] The gift of the Holy Ghost to these disciples appears to have been a special provision of the Spirit for the great work which was to change Ephesus, from the city wholly devoted to the goddess Diana, into the centre of Christian life throughout the west of Asia Minor for several centuries.

and they spake with tongues ] A Pentecostal outpouring, for as in Jerusalem the gift wrought its effect among the Jews then gathered there from every quarter, so was the Spirit given in this great centre of Gentile activity that a like result might follow, and that the amazement and marvel at such a power might win attention to the message and gain converts to Christ.

and prophesied ] Probably in this case to be understood of the exposition of Old Testament prophecy, and the power of preaching bestowed on them by the gift of the Holy Ghost. The foretelling of future events would be no such help to the cause of Christ as would the power of prophecy in the other sense.

7 . And all the men were about twelve ] The Revised Version “And they were in all about twelve men,” is a more strict rendering of the Greek, but it does not give a different sense, and “men” in that position receives an undue accent.

The verse has been the cause of much remark. Why the inspired historian should speak with an “about,” has been asked by some. With that we are not concerned, only to observe that the Spirit has not prompted him to speak otherwise. Some have seen in the number and the circumstances a resemblance to the Apostles and their supernatural endowment; others have looked back as far as the Patriarchs and have made of these men the beginning of another Israel. May it not be that the “about” was written to admonish us of the unprofitableness of such speculations? Cp. Joshua 7:5 .

8 20 . Paul preaches to the Jews first and afterwards to the Gentiles. The Word of God prevails mightily

8 . And he entered into the synagogue ] As the incident of John’s disciples is mentioned before anything else, it seems likely that St Paul found them among the few Christian brethren in Ephesus, and began his teaching of them before he commenced his visits to the synagogue.

and spake boldly for the space of three months ] Going there, that is, on all occasions of religious service, and so giving to his brethren of Israel a full opportunity of hearing all his reasoning, and inquiring whether what he taught was in accordance with the Scriptures. The abiding a longer time with them, which they had asked for (18:20) on his previous visit, does not seem to have gained him more adherents among the Jews. Perhaps he had noticed when the request was made that it was not with great fervour. Otherwise, it is not like the Apostle to pass by an opened door.

disputing [Better, reasoning ] and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God ] The Rev. Ver. has improved the translation in “reasoning,” but the italic “as to” before “the things” is needless. The first participle is the same word as in 17:2, and though “from the Scriptures” is not added here as there, we may surely understand it, and that the persuasion spoken of afterwards was no greater display of gentleness than the Apostle used at other times.

9 . But when divers were hardened, and believed not ] Perhaps there may be a little gain to those unfamiliar with older English in putting (as Rev. Ver. ) “some” for “divers,” there seems to be none in giving “and disobedient” instead of “and believed not.” The original looks back to the verb “persuade” in the previous verse. The Apostle tried to persuade , these men refused to be persuaded . That seems better expressed by the A. V.

but spake [better, speaking ] evil of that [ the ] way before the multitude ] The evil speaking is the final manifestation of the hardening. The Apostle continued his exhortations to stony-hearted hearers for three months, but when their obstinacy changed into malignity he left them. “The way” was soon given as a distinctive name to “the Christian religion.” See note on 9:2 and cf. below ver. 23.

It was not mere opposition to the arguments of the Apostle which these Jews employed, they took occasion to excite the crowds of the city against him. And it would seem from verse 33, where the Jews attempt to put forward a spokesman in the tumult, that they wished the heathen populace to understand that Paul was not approved of by his own nationality.

he departed from them ] i.e. ceased to take part in the public services at the synagogue.

and separated the disciples ] The Christian part of the congregation, with any of the Jews who were more interested than the rest in his teaching.

disputing [Better, reasoning ] daily ] The verb is the same as in the previous verse. Among these more sympathizing hearers, he would only have to set forward the arguments for the faith which he preached unto them. His teaching now could go on constantly, and was not confined to the synagogue times of service.

in the school of one Tyrannus ] The best authorities omit “one.” The teacher, whether a heathen or a Jew, was a man well known. Otherwise we can conceive no reason for the mention of a proper name. As the name is Greek, some have thought that the place meant was the lecture-room of a philosophic teacher; others, thinking that St Paul would hardly have chosen such a place for his preaching, have preferred to consider it a Jewish school or Beth-Hammidrash , in which his Jewish hearers would be more willing to assemble. Since the listeners are described, in the next verse, as being partly Jews, and partly Greeks, it is impossible to arrive at a conclusion. No doubt the Jews in Ephesus were numerous enough to render such “schools” necessary for their education, and in their intercourse with Gentiles they not unfrequently adopted a Gentile name in addition to their Jewish one. So Tyrannus may have been a Jew.

10 . And this continued by the space of two years ] The Rev. Ver. changes “by” into “for.” As Englishmen still take a house at so much “ by the week, or the year,” the older phrase might well be retained, as the Revisers do in 10:31. Speaking to the Ephesian elders at Miletus the Apostle says he ceased not to admonish the church there for “ three years.” The two statements need not be conflicting. To the two years mentioned here when the three months of verse 8 are added, and the time which may have preceded his teaching in the synagogue (see on ver. 8), the duration of the Apostle’s stay in Ephesus would be described in Jewish reckoning as “three years,” which in their mode of speech need only consist of one whole year, and parts of that which preceded, and that which followed it. Cp. The reckoning of three days between the crucifixion and the resurrection.

so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard , &c.] The oldest authorities omit “Jesus” from this clause. By Asia is meant “proconsular Asia” (see note on 2:10). The seed of the seven churches of the Apocalypse was sown in these two years. It is evident from the tumult described in this chapter that the Christian teaching was making as much way among the Gentiles as among the Jews. The language of St Luke here implies that the audience of St Paul was made up not of the settled inhabitants of Ephesus only, but of those who visited the city for business or pleasure, and carried news of the preacher and his message to all corners of the district. Philemon from Colossæ may have been one of St Paul’s converts during this time.

11 . And God wrought special miracles [Gr. powers] by the hands of Paul ] The language of the historian is noteworthy. God works, Paul is the instrument. (Cp. The mighty hand of Moses, Deuteronomy 34:12 .) The imperfect tense of the verb in the Greek implies that these manifestations of God’s power were continued during the Apostle’s stay. This was no mere spasmodic excitement over some powerful discourse. “By the hands” is probably only the Jewish mode of expressing “by.” See note on 5:12.

12 . so that from his body were brought unto the sick ] In the oldest MSS. the verb signifies “to be carried away from.” The Rev. Version brings out the meaning fully, and in a verse like this it is well to keep, as much as may be, the Greek order of the words. Read “Insomuch that unto the sick were carried away from his body.” St Luke is careful to intimate that the Apostle did not of himself adopt or recommend these methods, but the faith of the converts was such that it manifested itself in this way, and God was pleased to bestow blessings because of their faith. In the city of Ephesus where, as we find from this chapter, exorcism and “curious arts” of witchcraft and incantation were familiarly exercised, God appears to have made the cures that were wrought to be specially evidences of the power of faith. Paul does not go to the sick, and even the sons of Sceva (ver. 13) recognise that it is not to Paul, but to Jesus whom he preacheth, that the “powers” are to be ascribed. Thus was God’s minister made to differ from the pretenders to miraculous power with which the Ephesian people were familiar. A specimen of these may be seen in the life of Apollonius of Tyana, iv. 3 ( Kayser , p. 66).

handkerchiefs or aprons ] Some take the latter word to signify the cincture, by which the loose robes of the Orientals were gathered together round the waist. This would be expressed by “belts” or “girdles.” Others think they were the aprons used by the Apostle while working at his trade. The derivation of the word favours the latter sense. They seem to have been employed to cover the front half of the dress during work.

and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them ] The oldest texts omit the last two words. These converts acted on the popular belief, that virtue proceeded from the bodies of our Lord and His Apostles. St Luke notices this belief in his Gospel (8:44) and St Mark says of Jesus (5:30) “perceiving in himself that the power proceeding from him had gone forth.” The words of Scripture can hardly be made to countenance, though they recognise, the popular belief. Yet, even though these men employed means which were unnecessary and superstitious to display their faith, because of the reality of this faith God did not suffer it to lose its reward.

13 . Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists ] The best MSS. have “ And certain also , &c.” In addition to the real, though ignorant, faith of the converts alluded to in verse 12, some impostors, who had no faith, tried to win more credit for their jugglery by employing the names of Paul and Jesus. These were certain Jews who went about from place to place, professing by charms and spells to cure diseases. The A.V. “vagabond” conveys in modern language a moral censure, which probably these men well deserved, but which is not in the Greek. The Rev. Ver. has adopted strolling , which gives the sense of the original. We read in Josephus ( Ant . viii. 2, 5) that “God gave Solomon skill against demons for the help and cure of men. And he arranged certain incantations whereby diseases are assuaged, and left behind him forms of exorcism , wherewith they so put to flight the overpowered evil spirits that they never return. And this method of curing is very prevalent among us up to the present time.” The Jews at Ephesus were professors of this pretended art of healing.

took upon them to call [Better, to name ] over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus ] From an early date the traditional literature of the Jews ascribed great effects to the utterance of the incommunicable divine name. By means of this (they say) it was that Moses slew the Egyptian, and Elisha brought destruction on the mocking children “by the name of Jehovah.” We can understand therefore, if the fame of St Paul were become known, and the name of Jesus connected with his preaching and with the powers vouchsafed, how these men would make a pretence to the possession of the same secrets by which, as they would declare, the cures were wrought.

saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth ] The oldest texts give the singular, I adjure , and this no doubt is correct, for the words would be uttered only by the one person, who was performing the act of exorcism. It is easy to see how the plural form of the first part of the verse suggested the change.

14 . And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests ] The Greek says simply a chief priest , and so Rev. Ver. We cannot tell why the title is given to him, but it is most likely that the name was applied to the heads of the twenty-four courses of the Levitical priesthood, who are called in the Old Testament “heads of fathers’ houses.”

which did so ] i.e. which agreed to adopt this form of words in their exorcisms. There is no need to suppose that the whole seven were present in the case about to be named, but only that they were all exorcists, and in their wish to seem the best of their class they determined to use words which should connect them with the Christian preacher through whom many miracles were known to have been wrought.

15 . And the evil spirit answered and said ] The most ancient texts add unto them . They had taken upon them to use the name of Jesus, but the result was far contrary to their wishes and intentions. “Evil spirit” is used for the man in whom the spirit was. Cp. Mark 3:11 .

Jesus I know, and Paul I know ] The verbs are not the same, though it is hardly possible in a translation to mark the difference. In the first there seems to be intended a recognition and admission of power, in the other a recognition of an appointed ministry thereof. The spirit speaking through the man would intimate: I recognise that Jesus has power over evil spirits, and I know that Paul is a true servant of Jesus, through whom Jesus manifests His power.

but who are ye? ] Who are not followers of Jesus, and so are mere pretenders in the use of His name.

16 . And the man in whom the evil spirit was leapt on them ] With that power, more than natural, so often displayed by madmen.

and overcame them ] Here we have a singular variation from the texts of the oldest MSS. These read, both of them , a reading which seems to preserve for us the information that only two of the seven sons were present on this occasion. This reading is not likely to have been substituted for the more simple one, but it is easy to see how the simpler pronoun would come in after the mention of the seven , and when there was in the story only this hint that five of them were not there. It is no objection to the acceptance of this old reading, that other words in the verse referring to these brethren are plural, and not dual. Plural verbs and adjectives are not unfrequently used of dual subjects. The verb is more closely translated in the Rev. Ver. mastered .

and prevailed , &c.] He tare their clothes to shreds, and left marks of the fierce tearing on their bodies.

17 . And this was known to all ] It is better to render, with Rev. Ver. , the verb literally, “ became known .” It was no doubt a gradual spreading of the story. We may be sure that the “sons of Sceva” said little about it.

the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus ] Better, both Jews and Greeks, that dwelt at Ephesus . The A. V. does not shew “Jews and Greeks” to be an explanation of the preceding “all,” which it is in the original. Exorcists were plentiful enough at Ephesus, and the event would be looked on as a warning.

and fear … magnified ] The “fear” was the first feeling and the most widely prevailing, for that would touch all who heard the history; the magnifying of the Lord Jesus was the later effect produced among those to whom Jesus was becoming known and worshipped.

18 . And many that believed ] i.e. who had made a profession of their faith. It was clearly as yet but an imperfect faith. The Rev. Ver. had believed ” is the more correct tense.

came, and confessed ] Came before the Apostle and the Christian brethren, and in their fear owned that their profession had not been followed completely by their practice.

and shewed their deeds ] The verb implies “making a public announcement,” therefore “declaring” (as R. V. ) is perhaps nearer to the sense. The “deeds” were those courses of action, connected with witchcraft, sorcery, and exorcism, that were inconsistent with the Christian life. Thus “deeds of the body” is used for evil deeds only (Romans 8:13 ). Cp. Luke 23:51 .

19 . Many also of them which used curious arts ] The Greek has not the same word for “many” here, as in the previous verse. To mark this the Rev. Ver. has here “not a few.” The “curious arts” were magic, jugglery and all such practices as make pretence to supernatural agency. The word is used of magic arts both in classical and patristic Greek, and the kindred verb is used of Socrates (Plato, Revelation 8:0; Revelation 8:0 ) because of his statement concerning his inward spiritual monitor or dæmon.

brought their books together ] We have seen above that the Jews had receipts for incantations and exorcisms professedly dating back to the days of Solomon, and among the heathen population of Ephesus such writings were vastly abundant. Indeed “Ephesian letters” was a common expression, signifying charms composed of magic words and worn as amulets, and supposed to be efficacious against all harm. We are told of a wrestler who could not be thrown while he wore. such a charm, but who was easily overcome when it was taken away. Some of these amulets were said to be composed of the letters which were upon the crown and girdle and feet of the statue of Artemis in the temple at Ephesus. See Farrar’s St Paul , ii. 26, and the authorities there quoted.

and burned them before [rather, in the sight of ] all men . That is, where all might see who were there. We must remember that what they burnt were rolls of written material, not books after the modern fashion, which are extremely difficult to burn. Such a burning pile must have attracted much notice, and was a proof that the descent of the Holy Ghost (ver. 6) had wrought in Ephesus in the same way as aforetime in Jerusalem.

and they counted the price of them ] And in the sacrifice we must think not only of the cost of the books, but of the hopes of gain which were thrown also into the fire by those to whom “curious arts” had been a revenue.

and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver ] As the scene of this abjuration was among a Greek population, it is almost certain that the Attic drachma is the coin in which the reckoning is made. As 24 of these were a little more in value than our English pound, we may consider that more than two thousand pounds worth of rolls and slips of magic treatises was consumed.

20 . So mightily grew the word of God , &c.] The oldest Greek texts have “the word of the Lord ” (adopted by R. V. ), The full sense of the words rendered “mightily” is “with overpowering force and strength, which nothing could resist.”

21, 22 . St Paul’s Plans for his Journey from Ephesus

21 . After these things were ended ] The foundations of the Ephesian Church seemed fully laid, when sacrifices of such a kind had been made by the converts, and so St Paul feels that he may leave the seed sown in good hope that it will grow.

Paul purposed in the spirit ] i.e. had settled it in his own mind.

when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia ] Intending, no doubt, as was his wont, to visit the churches which had been founded on his previous mission (chapp. 16 18) from Philippi to Corinth.

to go to Jerusalem ] With contributions, as we know, collected throughout the other churches for the needs of the central organization of the Christian movement. See 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 . There this intended journey through Macedonia and to Corinth is alluded to, and the reason assigned for the Apostle’s lingering in Ephesus (ver. 8, 9) “I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost, for a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.” The opening of the door was manifest in the burning piles of magic books, of the many adversaries we read in this chapter in a description which might justify the Apostle in using the language of the Psalmist, “Great bulls of Bashan close me in on every side.” Perhaps such a thought was in his mind when he wrote of “fighting with beasts at Ephesus” (1 Corinthians 15:32 ).

saying. After I have been there, I must also see Rome ] Of the long cherished desire which he had to visit the Imperial City, the Apostle speaks Romans 1:13 , in which passage he intimates that the purpose had been often entertained, but hitherto disappointed.

22 . So he sent into Macedonia ] No doubt, that the contributions of the churches might be in readiness, and that there should be no gatherings when Paul himself came, as he says to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:2 ).

two of them that ministered unto him ] The verb is that from which the noun “deacon” is derived, and at first the chief duties of these ministers were in regard of the alms of the churches.

Timotheus and Erastus ] The former had laboured in Macedonia and in Greece when St Paul was there before; the latter is mentioned (2 Timothy 4:20 ) as having stayed at Corinth, at the later period when the second Epistle to Timothy was written. He can hardly be the same person as Erastus the chamberlain of the city of Corinth spoken of in Romans 16:23 .

but he himself stayed in Asia for a season ] We may perhaps infer from this that St Paul did not remain constantly at Ephesus, at all events when the congregation there became firmly established, out making that city his head-quarters, went but into other districts of the province of proconsular Asia.

23 41 . Heathen Outbreak against St Paul and his Teaching

23 . And the same time ] Literally, And about that time . There is some gain in accuracy of rendering of these connecting phrases. The literal rendering allows of the lapse of some period between the action of the converts in burning their magic books, and the uproar of the silversmiths. No doubt one movement was in part, but need not have been entirely, a consequence of the other, and the A. V. connects them more closely than is done by the original.

about that way ] Render, about the Way , see above on verse 9.

24 . For a certain man … shrines for Diana ] Better, shrines of Diana . These appear to have been little models in silver either of the temple or of the shrine in which the image was preserved. We may be quite sure that the ingenuity of Greek artists devised forms enough and sizes enough to suit all needs. Smaller specimens might be carried about and worn as ornaments and amulets at the same time; the larger could be kept in the houses of their possessors, and would be a sign of wealth as well as of devotion.

The Greek name rendered Diana is Artemis, but this Ephesian Artemis was totally distinct from Artemis the Greek goddess, the sister of Apollo. It is believed that the Ephesian worship was originally Asiatic, and that when the Greeks sent colonies to Asia Minor they found it already established there, and from some resemblance which they discovered in the worship they gave the Asian divinity the name of Artemis. The Ephesian Artemis was the personification of the fruitful and nurturing powers of nature, and so the image in the temple represented her with many breasts. Her whole figure is said to have been like a mummy, standing upright and tapering downwards to a point. Her crown and girdle and the pedestal on which the figure stood had engraved signs or letters, and the body was covered with figures of mystical animals. All these things would furnish abundant variety for the craft of the silversmiths.

brought no small gain unto the craftsmen ] The Rev. Ver. renders “ no little business .” The word no doubt means primarily “employment” by which a living is made. But we have it used twice in chap. 16:16, 19 of the “gain” made by the Philippian masters from the ravings of the girl who was possessed. And here too “gain” seems the better sense. It was because their gains were going that the uproar was made, and probably Demetrius himself, the most fierce of all the rioters, did none of the work, but through employing many workmen had a large share of the gains. He calls the gain a business or craft (the same word) in verse 25, that being, as has been said, the first sense of the word, but there is no need to cast aside the other sense of the word here.

25 . whom he called [Better, gathered ] together with the workmen of like occupation ] His own special craft was the carving and engraving of these shrines, as we learn from the word rendered silversmith. But before the work reached that higher stage, the materials had to pass through many hands in preparation, and from the smelter of the metal up to him who added the final touches of adornment and polishing, all were concerned in the threatened loss of trade.

and said our wealth ] He appeals to them at once because they are enriched and make gain by their craft.

26 . Moreover ye see and hear ] Better, And ye , &c. They were eyewitnesses of what had taken place in Ephesus, and the falling-off in the demand would be made known from all the country round, for the preaching and preachers spread far and wide.

that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia ] Beside Ephesus itself we have only notices through St Paul’s writings of churches founded at Colossæ, Laodicæa and Hierapolis. But in the Apocalypse we find beside these, Pergamus, Smyrna, Thyatira, Sardis and Philadelphia, places whose position shews us that through about two-thirds of the coastline of Asia important centres of Christian life were formed before that book was written, and we cannot doubt that from St Paul and his fellow-workers the Gospel was preached in all that district. Hence the alarm of Demetrius.

this Paul ] If we think of the bodily presence of St Paul which he himself always describes as insignificant, and which would be familiar to the hearers of Demetrius, we can fancy the scorn which would be thrown into the words as they fell from angry lips.

hath persuaded and turned away , &c.] From their devotion to Artemis, and so from the purchase of shrines.

27 . so that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought ] This is an instance where the Rev. Ver. , though more literal, gains nothing in force, and loses in diction. “And not only is there danger that this our trade come into disrepute.” The requirements of the connexion would be sufficiently met by, “and not only is this, &c.”

The word for “craft” means literally our “interest,” our “share” (i.e. in the profits of trade).

but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana ] This was one of the wonders of the ancient world, and the glory and pride of all the Ephesians, and the recent explorations of Mr Wood (see Wood’s Ephesus ) have made us aware of the grandeur of the edifice and the consequent reason for this pride. Even the fragments of the architecture in the British Museum make it plain that the whole temple must have been a work of unsurpassed magnificence. No expense had been spared on its building, and the munificence of worshippers maintained it in full splendour. It was also used as a divinely-secured treasure-house, and those who made use of it in this way no doubt paid liberally for the protection. Tradition said, as it said of many another heathen idol, that the image in the shrine fell down from heaven. The description of this image (see ver. 24) is taken from coins which were current at the date when the Acts of the Apostles was written.

should be despised ] More literally (as Rev. Ver. ) “ be made of no account .” As would be the case if men began to think that they were no gods which were made with hands. In his eagerness to save the trade, Demetrius forgets to put forward what the townclerk mentions afterwards (verse 35), that the image was held to have come down from heaven. He is only interested in the support of what supplied his wealth.

and her magnificence should be destroyed ] According to the best supported reading: and that she should even be deposed from her magnificence . The Greek word rendered “magnificence” is not unfrequently used to express the “majesty” of God.

whom all Asia and the world worshippeth ] For wealth from the East, as well as from Greece, was bestowed on this gorgeous shrine.

28 . And when they heard these sayings ] The A.V. indicates that there is no Greek for the two last words. It is enough, with the Rev. Ver. , to say “ this .”

they were full of wrath ] The verb in the original expresses that the anger grew as they listened. So better, filled with , as Rev. Ver. Demetrius had appealed to them in such wise as to excite them more by each fresh argument. Their self-interest first, and their pride and superstition afterwards.

and … Diana of the Ephesians ] Here as before (ver. 24) the Greek name is Artemis.

29 . And the whole city was filled with confusion ] The oldest texts omit “whole” and add an article before “confusion.” It is the special tumult which is meant. The city was not so much interested in the gains of the silversmiths, but equally with them in the glory and magnificence which Ephesus had, as the seat of the worship of Artemis. So that the noise, that began in the meeting which Demetrius had gathered, was taken up by the whole Ephesian population, and they needed a wider space for the crowds now pouring together from every side. The word for “confusion” intimates that the throng gathered in great excitement.

and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel ] These men must have been seized by the crowd because they were not able to find Paul. We may see therefore that between the meeting of the craftsmen and the greater assembly in the theatre, there had been search made by the mob that they might lay hands on the Apostle. It is interesting to note that the companionship of these Macedonian converts gives evidence of the permanent effect of the labours of St Paul in that country on his previous journey. The brevity of the record in the Acts makes it important to observe such indications wherever they are given undesignedly. This Gaius is not identical with any other of the same name met with in Acts 20:4 , and Romans 16:23 , 1 Corinthians 1:15 . Of Aristarchus we hear again in 20:4 and 27:2, for he accompanied St Paul in his voyage to Rome and is mentioned in the Epistles written at that time (Colossians 4:10 ; Philemon 1:24 ). As natives of Colossæ, and most probably Philemon himself, came to Ephesus and heard the preaching of St Paul there, Aristarchus may have been personally known to those to whom the Apostle sends his greeting in the above-named letters.

they rushed with one accord into the theatre ] To preserve the order of the Greek, the Rev. Ver. places this clause before the preceding. The A.V. is more in agreement with the genius of the English language. The theatre was the scene of all the great games and exhibitions of the city. Its ruins still remain and give evidence that when this crowd assembled there it was a building that could hold 25,000 or 30,000 people (see Wood’s Ephesus , p. 68; Fellowes, Asia Minor , p. 274). As Gaius and Aristarchus were not Jews, but the former perhaps of Roman extraction, if we may judge by his name, and the latter a Greek, with rights which even the Ephesian mob would not venture to outrage, we do not read of anything more done to them, than their being dragged along with the crowd towards the place of meeting. It might be thought that they could tell how St Paul was to be found, and when they could not, they were let go.

30 . And when Paul would have entered in unto the people ] This scarcely gives the idea of St Paul’s wish, which the Greek contains. Read, with Rev. Ver. , was minded to enter in . Through a strength not his own, the Apostle, feeble in frame though he seems to have been, waxed bold in danger and where an opportunity appeared to be offered of testifying unto Christ.

the disciples suffered him not ] The Christian brethren, to some of whom the storm that was rising would be known much sooner than to the Apostle, had evidently conveyed him from his usual abode, and were taking care of him until the excitement was allayed. They would tell him, of course, all that they heard of what was doing, and it was on hearing this, that he wanted to go and appear before the crowd in the theatre.

31 . And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends ] The Greek is one word, literally “Asiarchs.” These were officers in the various cities of proconsular Asia, who were appointed to preside over the games and religious festivals. The Rev. Ver. is “ And certain also of the chief officers of Asia, being his friends .” In Ephesus, these officers would be men of some importance, for in addition to the other games over which they would preside, the whole month of May was sacred to Artemis, being called Artemision, and was given up to festivals in honour of the city’s idol. We read of an Asiarch at Smyrna in the narrative of the martyrdom of Polycarp (Euseb. H. E . iv. 15).

It would seem, from the fact that some of these prominent officials were friends to St Paul, that though presiding over the games and festivals for the satisfaction of the populace, they had no great care for Artemis or her worship.

sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre ] The original says more than “desiring.” The Greek word is of frequent occurrence in the Gospels and is generally rendered “beseech,” which the Rev. Ver. has given here: sent unto him and besought him . The fuller rendering marks better the personal interest these officers had in the Apostle’s safety, and we gather from the narrative that they knew where he was, though the mob had not found him.

32 . Some therefore , &c.] As the craftsmen had not secured St Paul there was no central object to which attention could at once be called, and one general cry raised.

for the assembly was confused ] The confusion in the city (ver. 29) had become intensified by the rush to the theatre.

and the more part , &c.] All that would be heard by many would be the shouts of the mob, from which nothing could be gathered about St Paul as the offender. Amid cries of “Artemis for ever” or “Hurrah for Demetrius,” little would be learnt of how the tumult had begun.

33 . And they drew ( Rev. Ver. brought ) Alexander out of the multitude ] There is a various reading in the verb here; and the sense may be “And some of the multitude instructed Alexander.” The verb in the Text. Recept . is the same which is used of the daughter of Herodias being instructed by her mother what she should ask. What appears to have been intended was that Alexander should explain on behalf of the Jews, that he and his fellow-Jews had no more sympathy with St Paul than the heathen multitude. It is just possible that this Alexander may be the same with him who is mentioned 2 Timothy 4:14 .

the Jews putting him forward ] This appears to make it clear that he was no Christian. For the Jews could have had no interest in bringing forward anybody who would speak in defence of St Paul. But they were clearly concerned in hindering, if they could, this uproar, raised against one who to the heathen would be counted as a Jew, from developing into a general attack on their race. We see that this might be no unlikely result, for the crowd, recognising the Jewish face of the intending speaker, would not hear a word that he had to say.

And Alexander … his defence unto the people ] Better, a defence . There was no charge against which he had to defend himself, and he need never have been heard of, had not the Jews put him forward to be the mouthpiece of their disclaimer.

34 . But when they knew that he was a Jew ] Better (with Rev. Ver. ), perceived . The stamp of his nationality was on his face, and no doubt on his dress also.

all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out ] They now had one object against which to direct their uproar and thus became all of one cry. It is clear from this that Jews were not popular, and that as a Jew was the object at which Demetrius and the workmen were excited, the whole body of Jews might well be anxious lest an attack should be made on all the race.

Great is Diana ( Artemis ) of the Ephesians ] The cry, first raised by the workmen, now became general, and was persisted in with all the energy of a fanatical mob.

35 . And when the townclerk ] It is not easy to find an English word which comes at all near the significance of this title. “Recorder” has been proposed, because he had charge of the city archives, and Luther calls him “chancellor.” He was a most important personage, and his title is found at times on the coinage, and he gave name in some places to the year, like the Archon at Athens. Through him all public communications were made to the city, and in his name replies were given. It is this part of his duty which has led to the rendering “town-clerk.”

had appeased the people ] Better (with the Rev. Ver. ) had quieted the crowd . The appeasing was done afterwards by his speech. All that he could effect at first, was by the influence of his presence, to induce the assembled mob to mitigate their clamour and give him a hearing.

he said ] Gk. he saith . The speech is full of ability, and shews that the man was fitted for his eminent position. It seems to shew also that the higher classes (as has been noticed in the case of the Asiarchs) were not so devoted to the service of the goddess as were the common people.

Ye men of Ephesus … is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana ] The oldest MSS. omit “goddess” and only read “the great Artemis.” The word rendered “worshipper” is literally “temple-sweeper.” The name no doubt was first used to imply that any office in the service of so magnificent a goddess was a grand distinction; and not in Ephesus only did the worshippers of a special divinity apply this title to themselves. The Rev. Ver. gives “temple-keeper.”

and of the image which fell down from Jupiter ] The same was said of the Palladium of the Trojans (Verg. Aen . ii. 183). The first clause of the speech is directed to point out how uncalled for their uproar is. There is no need for them to shout about the greatness of the Ephesian goddess. Everybody in the world is aware how devoted the city is to her worship and how glorious is her temple.

36 . Seeing … cannot be spoken against ] Better, gainsaid with Rev. Ver. Paul had spoken, and others would speak, against the worship, nobody could gainsay the facts, they were incontrovertible.

ye ought to be quiet ] The verb is the same as is used in verse 35, of his own quieting the people, which is another reason why the rendering there should be changed.

and to do nothing rashly ] The last word is better taken as an adjective, “rash.” The word describes the headstrong, outrageous uproar for which there was no reason, and from which no good could come, and also their conduct in seizing two persons who were not the offenders and against whom, as it appears, they could take no proceedings.

37 . For … robbers of churches ] Better, robbers of temples with Rev. Ver. As the temple at Ephesus had a great treasure-chamber, the offence might not be unknown among them. All that was placed under the guardianship of the goddess would be for the time the property of the temple, to steal which would be sacrilege.

nor yet blasphemers of your goddess ] The “yet” has nothing to represent it in the original, and the oldest MSS. read “ our goddess .” In a popular address it is natural that such a speaker would identify himself with his fellow-citizens. We may gather from this verse that the language of St Paul and his companions had been measured when they had spoken about the special worship of Ephesus. They had inculcated the great principle that those were no gods which were made with hands and had allowed that to do its work. We find the same restraint put on himself by St Paul at Athens, though he was greatly moved to see the city wholly given to idolatry. Different conduct in either of these cities would most likely have deprived him of all chance of a hearing.

38 . Wherefore if … have a matter against any man ] i.e. have any charge which they wish to bring. For the concerns in which they are interested will be such as the legal tribunals can attend to.

the law is open ] This gives the general sense. The words are in the plural number and mean either “court- days are appointed,” i.e. there are proper times fixed when such causes can be heard; or perhaps better, because of the verb which seems to imply that the opportunity of legal action is even now open, “court- meetings are now going on.” This the Rev. Ver. appears to have adopted by rendering “the courts are open.”

and there are deputies ] The word is the same which in 13:7, 8, 12 should be rendered “proconsul,” and that word is rightly given here by the Rev. Ver. , for Asia was a proconsular province (see on this matter Conybeare and Howson, ii. 78). The difficulty in the present verse has arisen from the use of the plural number, for there was only one proconsul over a province at the same time, and there could only be one in Ephesus when the townclerk was speaking. But if we consider that he is speaking merely of the provision made by the institutions of the empire for obtaining justice in a case of wrong, we can see that his words need not occasion much trouble. “Proconsuls are (he says) an imperial institution. In every province like ours there exists such a supreme magistrate, and so there is no fear about obtaining redress for real injuries.” Another explanation (due to Basnage, and alluded to in the notes of Conybeare and Howson, u. s. ) is that after the poisoning of Silanus the proconsul, (as related Tac. An . xiii. 1) Celer and Ælius, who governed the province of Asia as procurators , might be intended by this plural title. Others have thought that there might be present in Ephesus some other proconsul from a neighbouring province, as Cilicia, Cyprus, Bithynia or elsewhere; but what was first said seems the easier explanation.

let them implead one another ] Implead is somewhat antiquated now, and the Rev. Ver. substitutes accuse . Of course the accusations would be only from the one side, which the other would be called on to answer.

39 . But if ye inquire any thing concerning other matters ] Rev. Ver. But if ye seek anything about other matters . The “seeking” which the townclerk means is by a legal process. If the matter were of such a character as to come before the proconsul, there he was, ready to hear the cause. It was, as we might say, “assize time.” But if the question was of another kind, one for the jurisdiction of the ordinary city courts, then they could apply at the proper time and place.

it shall be determined in a lawful assembly ] This conveys a wrong idea to the English reader. Of course the court where the proconsul sat was a “lawful assembly,” though the contrary might be inferred from A.V. The word rendered “lawful” signifies “appointed by law.” The days and time of the meeting of the city courts were defined by law. Thus the Rev. Ver. it shall be settled in the regular assembly ” is a better rendering, and distinguishes the ordinary, legal, appointed days of hearing in the regular courts, from the assize of the proconsul.

40 . For we are in danger to be called in question for this day’s uproar . The A. V. seems here to be incorrect. ‘The word for “uproar” ought not to be joined with “this day.” The construction is contrary to N. T. usage, and the adoption of it has caused some violence to be done to the other words. The verb rendered “called in question” is the verb used in verse 38 in the sense of “accuse,” while the word for “uproar” means “riot,” “sedition.” So the Rev. Ver. gives, as an alternative version, “For indeed we are in danger to be accused of riot concerning this day.” Of course the town-clerk did not want himself to call it riot , but he intimates to them that other people may do so. He only styles it a “ concourse .”

there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse ] Here the readings of the oldest MSS. raise a considerable difficulty. Their repetition of οὐ after περὶ οὖ gives another form to the sentence altogether. But it is not possible to decide with certainty whether the two letters in question should or should not be part of the text. Westcott and Hort place them in their text, but do not think that thus the reading is correct. The rendering of the Received Text is that of the A.V. The text with the additional οὐ is translated in the Rev. Ver. there being no cause for it: and as touching it we shall not be able to give account of this concourse .”

But the alternative rendering of the Rev. Ver. given above for the first clause of the verse may be taken, with the rendering of the Text, Recept . in the second clause. The Rev. Ver. adheres to “this day’s riot,” but this involves a transposition of the preposition in the Greek, of which no other example is found in the N. T.

41 . And … assembly ] This he could do in his official capacity. Probably the last argument which he used would have most weight with his audience. If such riotous conduct were reported at Rome it might lead to a curtailment of the privileges of their city.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 19". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/acts-19.html. 1896.
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