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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Acts 19

Verses 1-41


Ephesus

1-41. Paul at Ephesus. Opposition of the manufacturers of idols. St. Paul, leaving Antioch in S. Galatia (see Acts 18:23), approached Ephesus not by the usual level route leading through Colossæ and Laodicea (see Colossians 2:1), but through the northern and more mountainous route leading down the Cayster valley (see Acts 19:1, ’the upper coasts,’ RV ’the upper country’). He stayed at Ephesus over two years and three months, see Acts 19:8, Acts 19:10, Acts 19:22 (in Acts 20:31 the Apostle calls it three years), and making the city his centre, evangelised the whole of the province of Asia. According to D he did not originally intend to preach in Ephesus, but the Holy Spirit constrained him (contrast Acts 16:6). We hear little here of opposition from the Jews. The craftsmen and the uneducated classes were hostile, but the magistrates of the city (Acts 19:35) and of the province (Acts 19:31) were not unfriendly.

1. Ephesus] the capital of the Roman province of Asia, and the most important seaport of Asia Minor, was especially renowned for its great temple of Diana (Artemis), which was one of the wonders of the world. St. Paul chose it for a prolonged stay because (like Corinth) it was on the main line of communication between E. and W., and also because it was a great centre of religious pilgrimage: cp. Acts 19:27.

Certain disciples] They must have arrived since Apollos’s departure, otherwise Apollos would have instructed them more perfectly.

2. Have ye received] RV ’did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?’ Of course they had heard of the Holy Ghost, but St. Paul means, had they experienced that new power of holiness, that peace and love and joy which the ascended Messiah had first given at Pentecost, and was still ready to bestow on all believers. Whether there be, etc.] RV ’whether the Holy Ghost was given.’

3. Unto (RV ’into’) what then were ye baptized?] St. Paul assumes that if these men had received Christian baptism they must have heard of the Holy Ghost. It is probable, therefore, that the Trinitarian formula was used (see Matthew 28:19).

4. John’s baptism was only preparatory, and did not confer the special gift of the Spirit.

6. Laid his hands] As in Acts 8, the Holy Spirit was conferred, not at the actual immersion, but at the laying on of hands which followed. Spake with tongues] see on Acts 2:4.; And prophesied] cp. Acts 10:46. Inspired and fervent utterances of praise are meant.

9. That way] i.e. Christianity, see on Acts 9:2.

The school] Tyrannus was probably a Gentile, who made his living by keeping a ’school’ of philosophy. Paul no doubt appeared to the Ephesians as one of those wandering ’sophists’ or professors of philosophy, who were so numerous under the early Empire. D adds that St. Paul disputed ’from the fifth hour to the tenth,’ a probably authentic detail.

10. To this period is to be referred the foundation of the Seven Churches of Asia, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Tyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea (Revelation 1:11), and of Colossæ, Hierapolis, Troas.

11, 12. God condescended to work miracles through these handkerchiefs, having regard to the genuine faith of those who thus used them, and not to their superstition. It is not said that St. Paul approved the practice.

13. The exorcism of these vagabond Jews was simply the uttering of magical formulae. They thought that the mere words ’in the name of Jesus’ would produce the required effect.

15, 16. There are two historical difficulties in this narrative: (1) It seems strange that sons of so distinguished a person as a Jewish chief priest should be strolling exorcists. The reading of D, ’Sceva, a [heathen?] priest,’ removes this difficulty. (2) Seven sons are mentioned in Acts 19:14, and only two in Acts 19:16 (’mastered both of them,’ RV). It may be supposed that only two took part in this particular incident.

18, 19. The incident led to a reformation within the Church. Many converts had continued their magical practices after their baptism. They now came forward and publicly renounced them, proving their sincerity by burning their books of spells. Fifty thousand pieces of silver] 50,000 drachmas=£1,700, or, in actual purchasing power, much more.

21. Rome] There is evidence that Paul planned the evangelisation of the Western Empire many years before he actually undertook it: cp. Romans 1:10, Romans 1:13; Romans 15:22-24.

22. Timothy and Erastus (not the Erastus of Romans 16:23) were sent, partly to remind the Churches of Europe of the teaching and example of St. Paul, and partly to collect money for the poor saints at Jerusalem (Acts 24:17; 1 Corinthians 16:1, 1 Corinthians 16:10). Shortly after this 1 Corinthians was written.

23f. St. Luke mentions no persecutions or trials until the close of the Ephesian niinistry, yet we know that though ’a great door and effectual’ was opened to the Apostle, yet there were ’many adversaries’ (1 Corinthians 16:9); that he was in daily danger of death (Acts 15:30-31); that Prisca and Aquila to save his life ’laid down their own necks’ (Romans 16:3); and that he ’fought with beasts,’ i.e. savage enemies (1 Corinthians 15:32).

23. That way] i.e. Christianity (Acts 9:2, etc.).

24. Shrines] Many small terra-cotta and marble shrines of Artemis, containing a figure of the goddess, have been found near Ephesus. They were either dedicated in the Temple, or taken home by devout worshippers as memorials of their pilgrimage.

Diana] Really a native Asiatic deity, a personification of the reproductive and nutritive powers of nature. From certain quite superficial resemblances the Greeks identified her with their own Artemis, but her worship always remained Asian in type. The Temple had been burnt down 356 b.c., and rebuilt on a scale of sumptuous magnificence.

26. All Asia] The Temple had been built by contributions from the whole of Asia.

28. Were full of wrath] D adds, and ’running into the street’ cried out, etc. Great is Diana] D has, ’Great Diana of the Ephesians!’ an invocation of the goddess. This reading may be correct.

29. The theatre] would hold over 24,000 people.

31. The chief of Asia] Gk. the ’Asiarchs.’ They were officials, not of the city of Ephesus, but of the province of Asia, and were specially connected with the worship of the Roman emperor.

33. Since Alexander was a Jew, it seems probable that the Jews put him forward to explain to the angry mob that they had no sympathy whatever with St. Paul’s proceedings. The Jews’ contempt for idols was well known, and therefore there was imminent danger that they would be involved in a massacre directed against enemies of idolatry.

And they drew Alexander, etc.] or, ’and some of the multitude instructed Alexander.’ The reading is doubtful and the sense obscure.

35. The townclerk] This important official drafted the decrees of the senate and people, and sealed them when they were passed. He presided at the lawful assemblies of the people.

A worshipper] RV ’temple-keeper,’ Gk. neokoros, lit. ’temple-sweeper.’ A second-cent, inscription speaks of Ephesus as ’doubly temple-keeper of the Emperors, and temple-keeper of Artemis.’ From Jupiter] or, ’from heaven.’ The ’image’ (the word is not expressed in the Gk.) was probably not an idol, but a meteoric stone, in which the goddess was supposed to dwell.

37. Blasphemers] It is clear that St. Paul had expressed his views with gentleness and moderation.

38. The law, etc.] rather, ’the courts are open,’ or, ’court days are kept.’

Deputies] rather, ’proconsuls,’ the correct title of the Roman governor in a senatorial province like Asia. There was, of course, only one proconsul in Asia. The plural is colloquial,’ there are such things as law courts and proconsuls.’ Implead] RV ’accuse.’

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Acts 19". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/acts-19.html. 1909.