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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Acts 19

Verses 1-7

Acts 19:1-7 . Other Followers of John the Baptist at Ephesus.— Paul’ s return to Ephesus, promised in Acts 18:21, is made a part of this anecdote. His movements were not fully known, as we saw in Acts 18:21-23. [101] The story is, like that of Apollos, obscure; it exhibits a bizarre form of early Christianity ( cf. Acts 8:14 ff.). For “ into John’ s baptism” we should expect “ into John’ s name.” Speaking with tongues indicates (as in Acts 10:45 f.) the descent of the Spirit. The whole story is primitive.

[101] D reads here: “ When Paul wished to follow his own plan and to travel to Jerusalem, the Spirit said to him to return to Asia, and he went through the upper parts and came to Ephesus.”

Verses 8-10

Acts 19:8-10 . Paul at Ephesus.— After three months in the synagogue ( Acts 18:19-21, Acts 18:26) Paul finds it necessary, as in other places, to leave it, and takes his followers to the lecture room of Tyrannus, where he preaches to them. D and other authorities add, “ from the fifth to the tenth hour,” which corresponds to the time after the conclusion of business.

Verses 11-20

Acts 19:11-20 . Miracles, Exorcisms, Burning of Books of Magic.— Peter’ s shadow cured the sick ( Acts 5:15); Paul’ s minor articles of clothing do the same, according to the widespread belief of antiquity in the indirect communication of personal influence. The belief in possession is best known to us from the Gospels in Palestine; but Greek magical literature shows that it flourished vigorously in other countries also. A humorous story follows, about some wandering Jews who used the name of Jesus as an instrument of exorcism ( cf. Acts 8:19).

Acts 19:13 . I adjure you: i.e. “ to come out of him.” Sceva must be intended as a Jewish high priest, but there is none of such a name.

Acts 19:16 . both: should be “ all” (see Moulton, Prolegomena, p. 80 ).

Acts 19:17 . The name of the Lord Jesus is the power by which such things come to pass ( Acts 3:6 *).

Acts 19:18 . The deeds confessed might be such as we read of in magical papyri.

Acts 19:19 . curious arts: a euphemism for magic ( mg.) . These would be books of formulæ for compelling the assistance of spiritual beings, or securing the affections of a beloved, or for inflicting pain and spiritual torment. Ephesian charms had a special reputation.— 50 , 000 pieces of silver: say £ 2000 , but we do not know the rate at which such books were sold.

Verse 21

Acts 19:21 f. Paul’ s Plan of Travel.— The plan here stated (for “ in the spirit,” “ in his spirit,” or “ in spirit” may suffice) is that intimated in 1 Corinthians 16:5, which he says in 2 Corinthians 11:5 f. that he changed, and which eventually he carried out as far as to Corinth ( 2 Corinthians 2:12). His desire to visit Rome was an old one; see Romans 1:13-16; Romans 15:24. In Ac. the shadow of this journey has already been felt ( Acts 18:21; Acts 19:1, Cod. D). Timothy’ s journey to Corinth is also spoken of; in 1 Corinthians 16:10 he is to return to Paul before the latter sets out. The name Erastus occurs in Romans 16:23 and 2 Timothy 4:20, but it may be doubted whether one, two, or three persons are spoken of in the three passages (see Headlam, art. “ Erastus” in HDB).

Verses 23-41

Acts 19:23-41 . Tumult at Ephesus.— A change of religion (for “ the Way,” cf. Acts 9:2) bears hardly on certain trades. In ch. 16 the Gospel interfered with the trade of soothsaying; here the art of the silversmith suffers. This opens a large chapter in the early history of Christianity ( cf. Tertullian, On the Public Games; The Soldier’ s Crown) . Demetrius, to judge from his speech, is rather an employer than a craftsman. His business has been falling off, or he fears it may do so. The silver shrines would be used as mementoes of travel, but people would not purchase them if they ceased to believe in Artemis, and this was the evident outcome of Paul’ s teaching. The silversmiths and allied trades are therefore called together, and it is pointed out that not only the trade but the goddess herself must suffer if the preaching goes on. The audience fully agrees, works itself up, and vents its feelings in the cry or invocation, “ Great Artemis of the Ephesians” ( cf. D). The feeling overflows the city; the population flocks to a meeting in the theatre. Two of Paul’ s companions are hurried there. Aristarchus is of Thessalonica ( Acts 20:4); Gaius is called a Macedonian ( cf. 1 Corinthians 1:14, Romans 16:23), but in Acts 20:4 * is perhaps said to be of Derbe. Paul is kept by his friends from going to the theatre; so this was not the deadly peril of which he speaks in 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 4:9. Some of the Asiarchs also (imperial functionaries with certain religious duties connected with the temples and service of the Emperor in Asia) dissuade him from going to the meeting; he has thus attained an influential position at Ephesus. The meeting is graphically described, the shouts, the confusion, the want of purpose. A Jew named Alexander is put forward by his fellow-countrymen to speak; he no doubt was ready to disown the Christians and denounce them as the source of unrest, but the crowd refuse to listen to a Jew, and set up again the shout “ Great Artemis!” “ Great Artemis!” which goes on for two hours. Then the town-clerk, who doubtless has seen such outbreaks before, comes forward and with a little flattery quiets the people down. All know, he says, that Ephesus is the Warden of great Artemis and of the image which fell down from heaven (not a pretty image if it was like the known representations of the goddess; Demetrius dealt more in temple-models, which might be more artistic). Robbing of temples ( Acts 19:37) was an offence with which Jews were liable to be charged (see Romans 2:22); the town-clerk vouches for those against whom this tumult has been got up, that they could do nothing of that sort, nor yet blaspheme the goddess. Demetrius is to proceed regularly in the courts if he has any lawful grievance, and any public question is to be settled in the regular meeting of the citizens. The town has gravely exposed itself by the tumult.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Acts 19". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/acts-19.html. 1919.