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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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SCEVA . At Ephesus, where St. Paul worked ‘special powers’ ( Acts 19:11 ff.), certain itinerant Jews (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘strolling’ perhaps conveys too much the idea of ‘vagabond’) endeavoured to exorcise evil spirits by naming over them the name of Jesus. Among them were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish ‘chief priest’ (probably one of the high-priestly family). In Acts 19:16 the demoniac overcomes ‘both of them’ (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ). Sceva himself is not said to have been present. The incident led to many conversions, and several brought and destroyed their books of magic.

There is a difficulty in the text. Seven sons are mentioned in Acts 19:14 , and these are reduced to two in Acts 19:16 . Perhaps St. Luke is here abbreviating a written source which detailed the incident more fully, and explained that two out of the seven sons tried to exorcise this particular demon. Inferior MSS (followed by AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ) substitute ‘them’ for ‘both of them,’ and the Bezan Codex (D [Note: Deuteronomist.] ) omits the word ‘seven’ altogether, calls Sceva merely ‘a priest,’ and adds other phrases which are expansions of our text. But these seem to be but explanations of a difficult original text; and the RV [Note: Revised Version.] is probably correct. The word ‘seven’ could never have been inserted if it were not St. Luke’s.

Prof. Ramsay thinks that the whole passage is unworthy of Luke ( St. Paul the Traveller 6 , p. 272f.). But it is unsafe to judge first-century thought by that of our own day. The Apostolic age firmly believed in possession by evil spirits; and there is really nothing in this chapter unlike what we read elsewhere in NT.

A. J. Maclean.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Sceva'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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Monday, July 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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