Ac 19:1-41. Signal Success
of Paul at Ephesus.
1-3. while Apollos was at Corinth—where
his ministry was so powerful that a formidable party in the Church of
that city gloried in his type of preaching in preference to Paul's
1:12; 3:4), no doubt from the
marked infusion of Greek philosophic culture which distinguished it,
and which the apostle studiously avoided (1Co 2:1-5).
Paul having passed through the upper
coasts—"parts," the interior of Asia Minor, which, with
reference to the seacoast, was elevated.
came to Ephesus—thus fulfilling his
finding certain disciples—in the same
stage of Christian knowledge as Apollos at first, newly arrived,
probably, and having had no communication as yet with the church at
2. Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye
believed?—rather, "Received ye the Holy Ghost when ye
believed?" implying, certainly, that the one did not of necessity carry
the other along with it (see on Ac 8:14-17). Why
this question was asked, we cannot tell; but it was probably in
consequence of something that passed between them from which the
apostle was led to suspect the imperfection of their light.
We have not so much as heard whether there be
any Holy Ghost—This cannot be the meaning, since the
personality and office of the Holy Ghost, in connection with Christ,
formed an especial subject of the Baptist's teaching. Literally, the
words are, "We did not even hear whether the Holy Ghost was (given)";
meaning, at the time of their baptism. That the word "given" is the
right supplement, as in Joh 7:39,
seems plain from the nature of the case.
4. Then said Paul, John … baptized with the
baptism of repentance—water unto repentance.
saying unto the people, that they should believe
on him which should come after him—that is, who should
baptize with the Holy Ghost. The point of contrast is not between John
and Christ personally, but between the water baptism of John
unto repentance, and the promised baptism of the Spirit
from the hands of his coming Master unto new life. As to all the
facts, or at least the significancy, of this baptism, which made the
whole life and work of Christ another thing from what it was conceived
to be before it was vouchsafed, these simple disciples were
5-7. When they heard this—not the mere
words reported in Ac 19:4, but
the subject expounded according to the tenor of those words.
they were baptized—not however by Paul
himself (1Co 1:14).
in the name of the Lord Jesus—into the
whole fulness of the new economy, as now opened up to their believing
6. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them
… they spake with tongues, &c.—See on Ac 10:44,45.
8-10. he went into the synagogue and spake boldly
for … three months, &c.—See on Ac
9. when divers—"some."
were hardened, &c.—implying that
others, probably a large number, believed.
spake evil of that way before the multitude, he
departed—from the synagogue, as at Corinth (Ac 18:7).
and separated the
disciples—withdrawing to a separate place of meeting, for the
sake both of the converts already made, and the unsophisticated
daily in the school—or lecture
of one Tyrannus—probably a converted
teacher of rhetoric or philosophy.
10. this continued … two years—in
addition to the former three months. See on Ac
20:31. But during some part of this period he must have paid a
second unrecorded visit to Corinth, since the one next recorded (see on
Ac 20:2, 3) is twice called his third
visit (2Co 12:14; 13:1). See on 2Co 1:15,
16, which might seem inconsistent with this. The passage across was
quite a short one (see on Ac
18:19)—Towards the close of this long stay at Ephesus, as we
learn from 1Co 16:8, he
wrote his First Epistle to the
Corinthians; also (though on this opinions are divided) the
Epistle to the Galatians. (See Introduction to First Corinthians, and Introduction to Galatians). And just as at Corinth
his greatest success was after his withdrawal to a separate place of
meeting (Ac 18:7-10), so at Ephesus.
so that all they which dwelt in—the
Roman province of
Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews
and Greeks—This is the "great door and effectual opened unto
him" while resident at Ephesus (1Co 16:9), which induced him to make it his
headquarters for so long a period. The unwearied and varied character
of his labors here are best seen in his own subsequent address to the
elders of Ephesus (Ac 20:17,
&c.). And thus Ephesus became the "ecclesiastical center for the
entire region, as indeed it remained for a very long period" [Baumgarten]. Churches arose at Colosse,
Laodicea, and Hierapolis eastward, either through his own labors or
those of his faithful helpers whom he sent out in different directions,
Epaphras, Archippus, Philemon (Col 1:7; 4:12-17; Phm
11, 12. God wrought special—no
miracles by the hands of Paul—implying
that he had not been accustomed to work such.
12. So that from his body were brought unto the
sick handkerchiefs or aprons, &c.—Compare Ac 5:15, 16, very different from the magical
acts practiced at Ephesus. "God wrought these miracles" merely
"by the hands of Paul"; and the very exorcists (Ac 19:13), observing that the name of Jesus was
the secret of all his miracles, hoped, by aping him in this, to be
equally successful; while the result of all in the "magnifying of the
Lord Jesus" (Ac 19:17)
showed that in working them the apostle took care to hold up Him whom
he preached as the source of all the miracles which he
13. vagabond Jews—simply, "wandering
Jews," who went from place to place practicing exorcism, or the art of
conjuring evil spirits to depart out of the possessed. That such a
power did exist, for some time at least, seems implied in Mt 12:27. But no doubt this would breed
imposture; and the present case is very different from that referred to
We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul
preacheth—a striking testimony to the power of Christ's name
in Paul's mouth.
14-17. seven sons of … Sceva … chief
of the priests—head, possibly, of one of the twenty-four
15. the evil spirit answered, Jesus I
and Paul I know—"know intimately," in
contrast to them, whom he altogether disowns.
but who are ye?
16. And the man in whom the evil spirit
was—Mark the clear line of demarcation here between "the
evil spirit which answered and said" and "the man in whom the
evil spirit was." The reality of such possessions could not be more
leaped on them … so that they fled …
naked and wounded—This was so appalling a testimony at once
against those profane impostors and in favor of Paul and the Master
whom he preached, that we wonder not that it spread to "all the Jews
and Greeks at Ephesus, that fear fell on them," and that "the name of
the Lord Jesus was magnified."
18-20. many that believed came and confessed
… their deeds—the dupes of magicians, &c.,
acknowledging how shamefully they had been deluded, and how deeply they
had allowed themselves to be implicated in such practices.
19. Many of them … which used curious
arts—The word signifies things "overdone"; significantly
applied to arts in which laborious but senseless incantations are
brought their books—containing the
and burned them before all—The
tense, here used graphically, expresses progress and continuance
of the conflagration.
counted the price … and found it
fifty thousand pieces of silver—about £2000 (presuming
it to be the drachma, the current coin of the Levant, of about
10d. value). From their nature they would be costly, and books
then bore a value above any standard we are familiar with. The scene
must have been long remembered at Ephesus, as a strong proof of honest
conviction on the part of the sorcerers and a striking triumph of Jesus
Christ over the powers of darkness. The workers of evil were put to
scorn, like Baal's priests on Carmel, and the word of God mightily grew
and prevailed [Howson].
21, 22. After these things were
ended—completed, implying something like a natural finish to
his long period of labor at Ephesus.
Paul purposed … when he had passed through
Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem … After I have been
there, I must also see Rome—Mark here the vastness of the
apostle's missionary plans. They were all fulfilled, though he "saw
Rome" only as a prisoner.
22. So he sent into Macedonia … Timotheus
and Erastus—as his pioneers, in part to bring "them into
remembrance of his ways which were in Christ" (1Co 4:17;
16:10), partly to convey his
mind on various matters. After a brief stay he was to return (1Co 16:11). It is very unlikely that this
Erastus was "the chamberlain of the city" of Corinth, of that name
he himself stayed in—the province
Asia for a season—that is, at Ephesus,
its chief city. (Asia is mentioned in contrast with Macedonia in the
23. the same time—of Paul's proposed
way—So the new religion seemed then to
be designated (Ac 9:2; 22:4; 24:14).
24-26. silver shrines for—"of"
Diana—small models of the Ephesian
temple and of the shrine or chapel of the goddess, or of the shrine and
statue alone, which were purchased by visitors as memorials of what
they had seen, and were carried about and deposited in houses as a
charm. (The models of the chapel of our Lady of Loretto, and
such like, which the Church of Rome systematically encourages, are such
a palpable imitation of this heathen practice that it is no wonder it
should be regarded by impartial judges as Christianity
gain to the craftsmen—the
25. Whom he called together with the workmen of
like occupation—rather, "with the workmen (or fabricators) of
such articles," meaning the artisans employed by the master-artificers,
all who manufactured any kind of memorial of the temple and its worship
26. ye see and hear—The evidences of it
were to be seen, and the report of it was in everybody's mouth.
that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout
all Asia, this Paul hath … turned away much
people—Noble testimony this to the extent of Paul's
saying that they be no gods which are made with
hands—The universal belief of the people was that they
were gods, though the more intelligent regarded them only as
habitations of Deity, and some, probably, as mere aids to devotion. It
is exactly so in the Church of Rome.
27. So that not only this our craft is in danger
… but, &c.—that is, "that indeed is a small matter;
but there is something far worse." So the masters of the poor Pythoness
put forward the religious revolution which Paul was attempting
to effect at Philippi, as the sole cause of their zealous alarm, to
cloak the self-interest which they felt to be touched by his success
16:19-21). In both cases
religious zeal was the hypocritical pretext; self-interest, the real
moving cause of the opposition made.
also the temple of the great goddess Diana
… despised, and her magnificence … destroyed, whom all Asia
and the world worshippeth—It was reckoned one of the wonders
of the world. It was built about 550 B.C., of pure white marble, and though burned by a
fanatic on the night of the birth of Alexander the Great, 356 B.C., was rebuilt with more splendor than
before. It was four hundred twenty-five feet long by two hundred twenty
broad, and the columns, one hundred twenty-seven in number, were sixty
feet in height, each of them the gift of a king, and thirty-six of them
enriched with ornament and color. It was constantly receiving new
decorations and additional buildings, statues, and pictures by the most
celebrated artists, and kindled unparalleled admiration, enthusiasm,
and superstition. Its very site is now a matter of uncertainty.
The little wooden image of Diana was as primitive and rude as its
shrine was sumptuous; not like the Greek Diana, in the form of
an imposing huntress, but quite Asiatic, in the form of a many-breasted
female (emblematic of the manifold ministrations of Nature to man),
terminating in a shapeless block. Like some other far-famed idols, it
was believed to have fallen from heaven (Ac 19:35), and models of it were not only sold in
immense numbers to private persons, but set up for worship in other
cities [Howson]. What power must have
attended the preaching of that one man by whom the death blow was felt
to be given to their gigantic and witching superstition!
28, 29. Great is Diana of the
Ephesians—the civic cry of a populace so proud of their
temple that they refused to inscribe on it the name of Alexander the
Great, though he offered them the whole spoil of his Eastern campaign
if they would do it [Strabo in Howson].
29. having caught Gaius and
Aristarchus—disappointed of Paul, as at Thessalonica (Ac 17:5, 6). They are mentioned in Ac 20:4; 27:2; Ro 16:23; 1Co 1:14; and probably 3Jo 1. If it was in the house of Aquila and
Priscilla that he found an asylum (see 1Co 16:9), that would explain Ro 16:3, 4, where he says of them that "for his
life they laid down their own necks" [Howson].
rushed … into the theatre—a vast
pile, whose ruins are even now a wreck of immense grandeur [Sir C. Fellowes, Asia Minor, 1839].
30-34. when Paul would have entered
in—with noble forgetfulness of self.
unto the people—the demos, that
is, the people met in public assembly.
the disciples suffered him not—The
tense used implies only that they were using their
efforts to restrain him; which might have been unavailing but for
31. And certain of the chief of
Asia—literally, "And certain also of the Asiarchs." These
were wealthy and distinguished citizens of the principal towns of the
Asian province, chosen annually, and ten of whom were selected by the
proconsul to preside over the games celebrated in the month of May (the
same month which Romanism dedicates to the Virgin). It was an
office of the highest honor and greatly coveted. Certain of these, it
seems, were favorably inclined to the Gospel, at least were Paul's
"friends," and knowing the passions of a mob, excited during the
festivals, "sent (a message) to him desiring him not to adventure
himself into the theater."
33. they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the
Jews putting him forward—rather, "some of the multitude urged
forward Alexander, the Jews thrusting him forward." As the blame of
such a tumult would naturally be thrown upon the Jews, who were
regarded by the Romans as the authors of all religious disturbances,
they seem to have put forward this man to clear them of all
responsibility for the riot. (Bengel's
conjecture, that this was Alexander the coppersmith, 2Ti 4:14, has little to support it).
beckoned with the hand—compare Ac 13:16;
would have made his defence—"offered
to speak in defense."
34. But when they knew he was a Jew, all with one
voice, for the space of two hours, cried out, Great is Diana,
&c.—The very appearance of a Jew had the opposite effect to
that intended. To prevent him obtaining a hearing, they drowned his
voice in one tumultuous shout in honor of their goddess, which rose to
such frantic enthusiasm as took two hours to exhaust itself.
35-41. when the town-clerk—keeper of the
public archives, and a magistrate of great authority.
the people—"the multitude," which the
very presence of such an officer would go far to do.
he said … what man … knoweth not
that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess
Diana—literally, the neocoros or "warden." The word
means "temple-sweeper"; then, "temple-guardian." Thirteen cities of
Asia had an interest in the temple, but Ephesus was honored with the
charge of it. (Various cities have claimed this title with reference to
the Virgin or certain saints) [Webster and Wilkinson].
and of the image which fell down from
Jupiter—"from the sky" or "from heaven." See on Ac 19:27. "With this we may compare various legends
concerning images and pictures in the Romish Church, such as the
traditional likenesses of Christ, which were said to be "not made with
hands"" [Webster and Wilkinson].
36. Seeing that these things cannot be spoken
against, &c.—Like a true legal man, he urges that such
was notoriously the constitution and fixed character of the city, with
which its very existence was all but bound up. Did they suppose that
all this was going to be overturned by a set of itinerant orators?
Ridiculous! What did they mean, then, by raising such a stir?
37. For ye have brought hither these men, which
are neither robbers of churches—"temple-plunderers," or
nor yet blasphemers of your
goddess—This is a remarkable testimony, showing that the
apostle had, in preaching against idolatry, studiously avoided (as at
Athens) insulting the feelings of those whom he addressed—a
lesson this to missionaries and ministers in general.
38. if Demetrius have a matter—of
against any man, the law is
open—rather, "the court days are being held."
and there are deputies—literally
"proconsuls" (see on Ac 13:7); that is, probably,
the proconsul and his council, as a court of appeal.
39. if ye inquire—"have any
concerning other matters—of a public
40. For we—the public authorities.
are in danger of being called in
question—by our superiors.