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PAUL AT EPHESUS, Acts 19:1-41.
Rebaptism of the Twelve. John’s Disciples , Acts 19:1-7 .
1. Upper coasts From his visit to Jerusalem, (Acts 18:22-23,) and brief residence at Antioch, Paul had taken the circuit of his Churches in Asia Minor, and was now ready, according to his promise, (Acts 18:21,) to fulfil his apostolic mission in the illustrious city of EPHESUS. Four great city Churches had been formed by him in Asia Minor, four in Europe, and between these Ephesus was to stand, a tall observatory, from which both fours could be contemplated, as at a bird’s eye view a central medium of communication, through which the Churches of the East and West, Asia and Europe, could maintain the communion of saints as one great Christian republic. His success in this purpose was very complete. Here a holy Church of Christ was built, to which a most loving epistle was addressed. Over this Church a Timothy first presided. Then a John here resided, wrote probably here his epistles, and laid here his earthly remains. Here, too, tradition affirms the mother of Jesus lived, died, and was entombed. To this as the head of the “Seven Churches of Asia,” is made the first Apocalyptic address. (Revelation 2:1.)
Descending from the upper coasts, that is, the Phrygian and Galatian highlands, near the high sources whence the Meander and Cayster flow down to the sea, on both sides of Ephesus, as Paul moved down from the east, he would behold the city lying on a plateau, less than five miles square, flanked on the left by the long mountain ridges of the Coressus and the Prion, along whose summit the city wall extended, with the buildings lining the lower slopes. Nearer at hand, on the margin of the slope, stood the theatre, so memorable in Paul’s history, whose remains are the largest of the kind extant. More distant, and near the harbour, was the temple of Diana, one of the wonders of the world. Beyond was the blue AEgean, which Paul had so lately crossed on his voyage from Corinth. and which he was soon to re-cross on a brief visit to that same Corinth. The great religious characteristic which Paul was to encounter in Ephesus was the overwhelming power of the worship of the great goddess Diana, (Greek, ARTEMIS.)
Certain disciples These disciples appear not to be pure Johnites, who had never heard of Jesus; but imperfectly informed Christians, who had never heard of the effusion of the Holy Ghost. Followers of John, unknowing of Jesus, would hardly be called DISCIPLES.
CHRISTIANITY AMONG THE GENTILES. From Chapter Acts 13:1, to End of Acts.
Through the remainder of his work Luke’s subject is the evangelization of the Gentiles, and his hero is Paul. His field is western Asia and Europe; his terminal point is Rome, and the work is the laying the foundation of modern Christendom. At every point, even at Rome, Luke is careful to note the Gospel offer to the Jews, and how the main share reject, and a remnant only is saved. And thus it appears that Luke’s steadily maintained object is to describe the transfer of the kingdom of God from one people to all peoples.
I. PAUL’S FIRST MISSION From Antioch, through Cyprus, into Asia, as far as Lystra and Derbe, thence back to Antioch, Acts 13:1 Acts 14:28.
2. Have… Holy Ghost Dr. Hackett renders this question, Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed? Observing signs of their defective Christianity, Paul puts the question preparatory to a fuller work. Their answer also Dr. H. would render, We did not hear, when baptized, even if there be a Holy Spirit. By the term Holy Ghost, as by them used, we do not understand the Divine Spirit as an essential existence, but the Holy Spirit as a conscious manifestation and movement then in the Church. (See note on John 7:39, where a similar meaning exists in the words.)
4. Baptism of repentance John’s baptism when received obligated the people to repent anew of sin in expectation of a soon-coming Messiah. By accepting the rite they acknowledged the obligation and the expectation. Yet when Messiah came he required a new baptism, obligating a consecration to him, whereby the Spirit of promise would be poured out upon them, and they be emancipated into the full liberty of the sons of God.
Christ Jesus Messiah Jesus. John’s baptism obligated faith in the Messiah; John’s testimony obligated faith in Jesus as Messiah. (See notes on John 1:19-42.) The Gospel of the apostle John, indeed, written by him at this same Ephesus, clearly indicates in its first chapter the need, from the great number of Johnites in that locality, of a clear testimony that the Baptist himself did most explicitly affirm Jesus to be the Messiah.
5. Were baptized We have here an unquestionable proof of a rebaptism; namely, of a once baptized disciple of John now baptized into the faith of Jesus.
6. Spake with tongues We have here a miniature Pentecost, a new outpouring of the charismatic Spirit upon a new twelve.
Preaching to Jews and Gentiles, confirmed by rare Miracles. 8-12.
8-12. When Paul paid his brief visit (Acts 18:20-21) to Ephesus the Jews seemed to welcome him, and desired his stay. He now returns, and is heard by them for a period of three months. He declares the kingdom of God and Jesus its king, and a division takes place. The majority, hardened into the usual Jewish obstinacy, and the leaders proclaimed their hostility before the multitude; but, overawed by the spiritual power of Paul, already manifested, and being perhaps but a feeble minority in Ephesus, they did not, like the Jews of Corinth, appeal to the Roman magistracy, nor, like those of Philippi, attempt a mob.
9. School of one Tyrannus Ephesus was a Greek city; literature, philosophy, poetry, and rhetoric flourished here. Driven from the synagogue, therefore, the apostle took to the school; doubtless a school of a Greek rhetorician. Here he found a roomy apartment and full congregations.
10. All… in Asia In the vigour of his manhood, in the plenitude of the Spirit, in the tide of expanding success, did this mighty apostle now make a profound impression not only upon this idolatrous city of Diana, but upon all the border Asia. Aided by his faithful fellow ministers, and, perhaps, by his consecrated twelve, he could not only thunder the law and the Gospel from the academic hall of Tyrannus, but in the surrounding rural territory, and even the other great Asiatic cities. Thousands who came to Ephesus to worship in the cloisters of Diana, came to hear the Gospel of the Saviour at the school of Tyrannus. Other thousands heard that same Gospel from the apostle’s faithful missionaries; so that literally “all Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus.”
HISTORICAL NOTE III.
Nero It was in about the month of October, A.D. 54, that the news of the Roman Emperor CLAUDIUS’ death and of NERO’S accession found Paul in the second of his three years’ preaching at EPHESUS. (See Hist. Note 2 at Acts 9:31.) His reign more than covers the future years of Paul’s ministry. While he was thus planting the Gospel in the empire, Burrus, the statesman, and Seneca, the philosopher, were endeavouring to sow the seeds of wisdom and morality in the heart of the young future Emperor, NERO. Under the influence of those lessons, for the first five years of his reign Nero was one of the best of rulers. But he lived to destroy the lives successively of Burrus, Seneca, and Paul.
12. Handkerchiefs or aprons While Paul is the great preacher in the desk of Tyrannus, he is also the humble mechanic in the shop of some tent-maker. Hence these, his handkerchiefs, were the sudaria, the sweat-clothes, with which literally he had wiped the perspiration from his face. And these aprons were the semi-cincta, the ordinary overalls, bound upon the front of his person, so as to protect it from the dirt of his labour. (See note on Acts 8:24.)
While earnestly engaged in founding a Church in Ephesus, Paul was not permitted to forget his already established Churches. Some disorders in the Church of Corinth obliged him, in deep sorrow, to pay a brief visit across the AEgean, and administer tender reproof and correction. Yet he left the offenders with a solemn warning, (as he himself tells us, 2 Corinthians 13:2,) “If I come again I will not spare.” On his return, across the same AEgean, to Ephesus, he wrote a brief letter, (previous to his two great Corinthian epistles,) which has not been preserved, enforcing his rebukes, and requiring them to separate wholly from fornicators. To this lost letter he alludes, 1 Corinthians 5:9-12.
Heathen Exorcism Punished by its own Demons the Sons of Sceva and the Demoniac , Acts 19:13-20 .
13. Vagabonds Called by the Romans circulatores. They were travelling claimants to the power of casting out demons and restoring the diseased. Similarly, nearly to our own times, travelling gipsies and other fortune-tellers have perpetuated old heathen superstitions even through the Christian ages.
Exorcists Men who, by the authority of the name of some powerful being, solemnly assumed to require the demon to depart so effectively as to be obeyed. For some occult reason Solomon, the king of Israel, was supposed to possess that mighty power over demons that used in adjuration would compel or frighten them to depart.
Whom Paul preacheth In the hall of Tyrannus they had heard Paul proclaim the divinity of Jesus.
14. Chief… priests It is evident from Acts 19:18-19, that the priesthood of Sceva, though a Jew, was in the service of Artemis. For the defeat of his sorcerer sons induced the people to burn their books of Artemisian rites.
15. Evil spirit answered Speaking from within the man and using his organs. (See note on Mark 5:1.)
Who are ye? The divine purpose is to enable Ephesus to realize that Jesus is divine, and supreme even over the great goddess. To this end: 1. Her jugglers are reduced to use his name as having been proved by Paul’s miracles to be mightier than any spell of their own. 2. The demon is compelled, in disobedience to the sorcerers, audibly to declare the supremacy of Jesus. 3. The Divine Power uses him as an instrument in punishing the sorcerers for their presumption in appropriating the name of Jesus. 4. In so doing the demon so reveals the utter hellishness of his own nature as to till the minds of the spectators with horror. (See notes on Mark 1:24; Mark 5:7.)
16. Leaped on them With such demoniac force upon the seven that their loose oriental garments are torn off, and they rush from the house naked and wounded, and glad to save their lives. Yet a well-sustained reading substitutes both for them; indicating that but two of the seven were involved.
17. Fear fell on them all Terror lest they suffer the awful penalty of tampering with the Artemisian sorceries.
Name… Jesus… magnified As superior to every other name, even that of Artemis, and as alone divine, and obeyed by the most terrible powers of hell. And this divine awe was universal, upon Jews and Greeks, so as to produce a deep impression upon Ephesus. (See notes on Acts 13:12; Acts 16:17.)
18. Many that believed That is, many who were members of the Church before this transaction.
Showed their deeds Revealed how in spite of their Christianity they had still indulged in pagan dealing with the lower powers of nature and demonism. And, as above remarked, even through the Christian centuries there has run a streak of this same paganism.
19. Many Other than Christian believers.
Curious arts Arts about which men may be more curious than wise; arts which true wisdom would let alone.
Books These books were manuscript scrolls and larger documents, containing the lore of the black art. The stupendous superstition of the Diana worship was formed into a dark science, with its subtle professors and its extended treatises. These manuscripts contained the doctrines, the prescriptions of magical drugs and herbs, and rubrics directing the mode of performing the various ceremonials. These were the celebrated ‘ Εφεσια Γραμματα , which, being inscribed upon the crown, the girdle, and the feet of the goddess, became impregnated with a mighty nature-power, and, being transcribed upon a scrap of parchment, were worn upon the person as a charm against any natural disease or other evil. Whoever carried about him these incantations would be victorious in every thing. King Croesus is said, upon his funeral pile, to have consoled his dying moments by repeating these mystic syllables. An Ephesian wrestler, while he concealed these charms upon his person, conquered his Milesian antagonist; but the scroll was stolen from his pocket, and he was vanquished.
Burned them Confession is cheap, but reformation is often costly. A false penitence would have sold these books, and kept both the money and the credit for piety.
Before all A blazing declaration that the temple and the idol deserved the same fate.
Fifty thousand… silver Nearly eight thousand dollars. For doubtless the books had a superstitious value far above the price of ordinary volumes of literature.
20. Grew the word As all these dark superstitions flowed from the one great Ephesian idolatry, so their exposure disgraced the system, and wrought a sense in men’s minds of the true divinity of Christianity.
21. After… ended In the present two verses Luke states Paul’s new mapping out of his future mission.
When he started last from Antioch, (Acts 18:23,) his plan was, after an orderly revisitation of his Galatian and Phrygian Churches, to fulfil his promise (Acts 18:21) to perform a full ministry at Ephesus. For more than two years has he now discharged that ministry, and the most stupendous superstition of the world is trembling before him. Yet he realizes that his present mission here of laying sure foundations for a future growth is nearly accomplished, and he begins to forecast his future. A great definite object now rises up before his mind. He will circuit around through his European Churches back to Jerusalem, and then ROME.
Purposed ”By the phrase purposed in spirit we must doubtless understand neither a direct intimation of the Spirit, such as he had received during his first residence in this region, (Acts 16:7,) nor yet an ordinary act of human deliberation and decision; but rather an act of the inner life, in which the energy of the Divine Spirit and of the spirit of Paul cooperated together in one common purpose.” Baumgarten. (See our note on Luke 1:3.)
Go to Jerusalem By this phrase Luke implies that the circuit through Europe was subsidiary, and his aiming at Jerusalem was the main object.
How was this? Luke does not inform us, and we must learn Paul’s mind in this from Paul himself.
The later Church at Jerusalem, under the terrible pressure of the hostile temple and haughty priesthood, was always half Judaized and quite pauperized. (See note on Acts 11:29.) Toward the apostle of the Gentiles their face was repulsive. (See note on Acts 15:12.) Toward them, in return, St. Paul looked with deep pity for their narrowness, yet with reverence for their position as the mother Church, and with a strong desire at once to relieve their necessities and win their hearts both to himself and to Christ, the Divine Incarnate. (See note on Acts 12:19.) With these views he organized a system of extensive money contributions from all his Gentile Churches, with which in hand he purposed, attended by the chosen delegates of the Churches, to revisit the Jerusalem Church.
22. Sent… two To prepare his way in the Churches for his visit, he sends, about the Passover of his third year in Ephesus, two harbingers, Timothy and Erastus, purposing, on account of the great and effectual door opened in Ephesus, to remain himself fifty weeks longer, namely, until the ensuing Pentecost. For his own account of these facts see 1 Corinthians 16:5-10, written to the Corinthians from Ephesus during this interval of fifty weeks. Erastus was probably the chamberlain of Corinth, whither he is now going, and is subsequently honourably saluted in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. (Romans 16:23; 2 Timothy 4:6.)
From Ephesus at this time was sent PAUL’S THIRD LETTER, THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS. (A.D. 57.)
24. Shrines The shrines were portable images or models of the temple of Artemis, or rather of the central chapel enclosed by the temple, and in which the image of the goddess was encased. The shrine was made of wood or metal, and probably contained an image of the great image. As the goddess was worshipped not only in “all Asia,” but “all the world,” these shrines were in great demand for world-wide exportation. They were supposed to communicate all those blessings of health, vigour, safety, offspring, and prosperity of which the original nature-goddess was author. To secure those blessings the shrines were worn about the person, retained in the home, or deposited in some neighbouring temple. Hence we see they were the material of an abundant trade for their manufacturers in Ephesus.
Demetrius If not proprietor of the entire manufactory or sale of the shrines, this person was at any rate qualified in brain and tongue for leading a stirring movement. The preaching of Paul, the growth of his Church, the spreading scepticism chording with the advancing civilization of the age, was making its impression. Of this the shrine market was test, and was exhibiting unwelcome proofs. A counter movement was imperatively necessary.
The Commotion at Ephesus on behalf of the great Goddess (Diana) Artemis , Acts 19:24-41 .
The great Ephesian goddess Artemis (improperly here transformed into the Latin goddess Diana) was, as the picture of her image here exhibited illustrates, the personification of earth or NATURE in her generative, productive, and nourishing energies and manifestations. Like earth, she bore a mural coronal, a crown of walls; and, as the nourishing all-mother, she exhibited a countless number of nippled breasts. As generative nature-goddess she presided over human conception and childbirth, and her temple was once burned on the birthnight of Alexander the Great, because the great goddess was absent attending the great man’s infantile advent. As cherishing nature-goddess, the Ephesian spells derived from her person such energizing strength as to give all-conquering power to those who wore them. Hence, too, she was patron of health and of medicine, of the preparation of herbs, drugs, and charms, which could cast out demons, invigorate the corporeal system, and guard from danger and harm. Hereby she was a fountain of sorcery and juggle. Magical science flourished under her shadow. She stood in dark connection with subterranean and infernal powers and agencies. From her precincts a body of magical professors sprang, and travelling wizards and exorcists sallied forth into all adjacent regions.
26. Not… Ephesus… all Asia Demetrius doubtless exaggerates: but there is truth enough left after all deductions to impress us with the powerful and broad success of Paul’s assaults. He and his ministers confine themselves not to the hall of Tyrannus, but circuit into adjacent country and city. Dissatisfaction is prevailing through this intellectual region of Ionian Greeks, with their past systems, and the soul is hungry for higher and more cheering truth. How dear to many a heart must have come the welcome message of life and immortality of the incarnate Son of God!
No gods… made with hands But did the pagan really hold the image to be not solely the representative and reminder of the god, but the actual god himself? No doubt, we reply, there were enlightened minds of antiquity who affirmed not only that the image was not the god, but that no image could ever represent the Divine. Passages so affirming can be quoted from different philosophers. But then it is equally true that pages of passages could be quoted identifying the god with the image. Image-makers were called θεοποιοι and θεοπλασται , god-makers and god-moulders. And Plutarch says that the Greeks were “Neither taught nor accustomed to call brazen, sculptured, or stone figures images or honours of the gods, but gods themselves.” The converted philosopher, Arnobius, assures us of himself, when a pagan, “If ever I saw a lubricated stone, being smeared with olive-oil, I addressed it with adulation, as if a present power dwelt within it, and begged the benefactions of the senseless block.” After Christianity spread its influence, however, paganism itself grew more reflective and more careful of its language.
27. Our craft Literally, our part; that is, our branch or share in the common interests concerned.
Temple With a fine show of religious public spirit Demetrius assumes, in words, that our share of interests is altogether subordinate to the great point of the honour and universal worship of the great Artemis. Our impoverishment is rather an evil; but it is horrible to think of our dishonoured religion!
This temple of Artemis (Diana) was indeed reckoned one of the seven wonders of the world. Central within the whole structure was a small roofed chapel or cella containing the sacred image. The temple itself enclosing the chapel was an immense oblong four hundred and twenty-five feet in length and two hundred and twenty feet in breadth. The whole was without roof, being in fact rows of columns, colonnades, surmounted by a horizontal entablature. The whole was simply an honorary open columnar structure, enclosing the cell that enclosed the goddess.
28. Great There were in mythology the twelve Dii Majores, Greater Gods, and Artemis was not generally reckoned one of them. Nevertheless Great was the special title applied by her worshippers throughout “the world.” Here, as in many other cases, vociferation supplies the place of argument. Loud and well repeated utterance is sometimes the only effective support of a false cause.
They heard… full of wrath The oratory of Demetrius takes full effect. Having a common interest, these pagan brethren have a common piety and a common wrath, and their wrath has a common object. Woe to our apostle if he is found in Ephesus!
29. Gaius Same name as the Latin Caius. This Gaius, mentioned only here, being a Macedonian, must not be identified with Gaius of Derbe, (Acts 20:4,) and probably not with Gaius of Corinth, (Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14.)
Aristarchus Name signifying most excellent ruler. He was a native of Thessalonica, and is here first mentioned as endangered for Paul. He seems to have left Ephesus with Paul for Greece; to have returned with him from Greece to Palestine (Acts 20:4) as one of the seven; to have sailed with him from Palestine to Rome, (Acts 27:2,) and there to have been his “fellow-prisoner” (Colossians 4:10) and “fellow-labourer,” (Philemon 1:24.) In short, he seems to have been Paul’s faithful attendant from this time until his appearance before Nero. How much earlier he joined Paul we know not, as the mentions of him are incidental.
One accord into the theatre As the ancient theatre was a place not merely of dramatic gatherings, but for public assemblies of all sorts, especially for city affairs, this mob spontaneously, without very well knowing what it is about, moves to the theatre. This was all the more readily done, as the temple where the first assemblage seems to have taken place and the theatre were in sight of each other. The theatre of Ephesus was a structure of immense size. It was semicircular in form, able to hold thirty thousand occupants, with seats receding and ascending back.
After they were fairly in the theatre, from the business-like character of the place the mob became an assembly, (Acts 19:32,) though not a very deliberative one, “for the most part knew not wherefore they had come together.”
30. Paul… entered They had not searched very judiciously for their victim, as it is clear that he was within the excited city. Paul probably believed that on being admitted into the theatre he could so address the assembly as to calm its fury. Such is the spontaneous confidence of great personality endowed with a natural mastery over men. What would have been his success is very doubtful, for the fears of friends, both private and official, prevented the experiment.
31. Chief of Asia Asiarchs. So the rulers of different provinces were called Syriarchs, Cypriarchs, etc. These were wealthy and honourable citizens who were elected to preside over the sacred rites and to institute public games, which, however, they were to do at their own expense. The president or the college of Asiarchs was styled High Priest, precisely the same title in the Greek as belonged to the supreme Jewish pontiff. The citizen who had once been Asiarch, permanently retained the honorary title, so that these noble friends of Paul may have been only men of Asiarch dignity. It is altogether probable, officials of Artemis as they were, that, like the more elevated minds of the age, they secretly disbelieved the divinity of the goddess; and if they were not Christians, coincided more with Paul’s monotheism than with the superstition of the populace.
32. Cried one thing… confused The embarrassment of the leaders against Paul was now complete. Could their mob have caught him in the street they could have easily murdered him. Had he entered the theatre, he might have been summarily dispatched. But as the crowd unconsciously moving into the theatre has assumed something of a deliberative form, then coolly to propose and debate any measure to make way with him would have brought the Roman government to say something about it. Nothing takes place now but incoherent and contradictory exclamations. At last a movement is made to put forth a single speaker, namely, Alexander.
33. They A portion of the crowd. That there should be three Alexanders, all of Ephesus, each coming into relation with Paul, and each mentioned as a well known character, is quite inadmissible. The facts were, perhaps, thus: Certain friends of Paul nominated Alexander, a Jewish convert, to make defence for the prisoners, and the Jews, in order to expose the apostate to danger, push him on, but his Jewish features induce the crowd to clamour him down. After that he became a heretic ( 1 Timothy 1:25) and an enemy of Paul, (2 Timothy 4:14.)
The Jews The Jews pushed him forward after he was prompted by other parties. Those other parties not being Jews, but intending a defence, must have been friends to the prisoners, probably Christians.
35. Townclerk The keeper of the city records city recorder. Coins exist, associating the title with that of the proconsul, and so indicating a high rank. The townclerk here performs the duties of a modern mayor.
He said The tact, moderation, and good sense of the townclerk’s speech have been much applauded since its delivery. But perhaps his administration would have been more commendable had his interference taken place two or three hours earlier.
Worshipper Literally, temple-sweeper, expressing a servile office. But so great a goddess was Artemis that it was a proud prerogative for Ephesus, among the cities of Asia, to be her humble servitor, and wear the title as a badge of honour.
Fell down from Jupiter Literally, the Jove-fallen. Pliny says that there was a modern image of Artemis at Ephesus which had outlasted seven rebuildings of the temple. The pretence of having fallen from heaven was made in favour of other idols of antiquity, as the Palladium of Troy, the ancile at Rome, and the image of Cybele at Pessinus. The notion may have arisen from the descent of meteoric stones; but in fact this image of Artemis seems to have been of wood. It bore more resemblance to the rude images of Hindooism than to Greek statuary, and was probably a remnant of an old eastern idolatry found by the Greeks when they colonized Ionia.
37. Robbers of churches The Greek pagan phrase signifies temple-pillagers or blasphemers. Some have supposed the townclerk here, in giving the Christians so quiet a character, to have slipped into a smooth untruth. But it must be remembered that Paul was not present; and the two who were apprehended may have been, for-all that appeared, as innocent as the townclerk made them.
38. Law is open Literally, the court days are going on.
Deputies In regular succession appointed, though but one at a time. By deputies are meant Roman proconsuls.
Implead Contest in law with.
39. Lawful assembly An assembly regularly called and legally authorized; as this was not. To move an unlawful tumult was a capital offence, and Demetrius was now quite as much in danger as Paul.
41. Dismissed the assembly The movement of Demetrius had suddenly miscarried; his victim had escaped, and the Church stood intact under Roman law. Yet, on the other hand, the supremacy of Artemis had been reasserted, and the lost ground was so far recovered as that Ephesus felt herself as unanimously as ever pagan and Artemisian. But the words before which the religion, the idol, and the temple should wane away into ruin had been spoken. The spot where the edifice once stood cannot now be identified, and its very materials have been embodied into some of the churches of Christendom.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Acts 19". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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