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THE CHURCH IN ASIA
1. THE SYRIAN VOYAGE AND THE RETURN TO EPHESUS.
(XVIII 18) AND PAUL TOOK HIS LEAVE OF THE BRETHREN, AND SAILED4242ἐξέλει, lit. “he set about the voyage”; contrast XX 6, ἐξεπλεύσαμεν aorist. THENCE FOR SYRIA, AND WITH HIM PRISCILLA AND AQUILA; AND HE SHORE HIS HEAD IN CENCHREÆ, FOR HE HAD A VOW. (19) AND THEY REACHED EPHESUS, AND HE LEFT THE OTHERS THERE. AND FOR HIMSELF, HE WENT INTO THE SYNAGOGUE, AND DELIVERED A DISCOURSE UNTO THE JEWS. (20) AND WHEN THEY ASKED HIM TO ABIDE A LONGER TIME, HE CONSENTED NOT; (21) BUT HE TOOK HIS LEAVE OF THEM, AND SAID, [“I MUST BY ALL MEANS PASS THE COMING FEAST IN JERUSALEM]; IF GOD PLEASE, I WILL RETURN UNTO YOU;” AND HE SET SAIL FROM EPHESUS. (22) AND, REACHING CÆSAREIA, HE WENT UP to Jerusalem, SALUTED THE CHURCH, AND then WENT DOWN TO ANTIOCH. (23) AND, HAVING SPENT SOME TIME there, HE WENT FORTH, AND MADE A PROGRESS IN ORDER from first to last THROUGH THE GALATIC REGION AND THE PHRYGIAN Region, CONFIRMING ALL THE DISCIPLES. . . . (IX 1) AND IT CAME TO PASS THAT PAUL, MAKING A MISSIONARY PROGRESS THROUGH THE HIGHER-LYING QUARTERS of Asia, CAME TO the capital of the province EPHESUS (Expositor, July, 1895, p. 39).
Just as in XX 6 the company sailed away from Philippi (Neapolis, where they really embarked, being omitted, p. 70), so here Paul sailed from Corinth, the harbour being left out of sight. Then the harbour is brought in as an afterthought: before actually embarking at Cenchreæ, the eastern port of Corinth, Paul cut his hair, marking the fulfilment of a vow which apparently was connected with safe embarkation from Corinth. Though the grammatical construction of v. 18 would suggest that Aquila made the vow, and one old Latin Version makes this sense explicit, yet the natural emphasis marks Paul as the subject here.
Aquila and Priscilla remained in Ephesus until the end of 55 (I Cor. XVI 19); but in 56 they returned to Rome, where they were in the early part of A.D. 57 (Rom. XVI 3). We may fairly suppose that Timothy came with Paul to Ephesus, and went up on a mission from thence to his native city and the other Churches of Galatia.
This is an important passage for dating the journey. If we accept the longer reading of v. 21 (which appears in the Bezan Text, and elsewhere), it is certain that Paul was hurrying to Jerusalem for the coming feast, which may be confidently understood as the Passover. But even with the shorter reading of the great MSS., it would be highly probable that the reason why he postponed accepting the invitation to work in Ephesus and hurried on to Cæsareia, could lie only in his desire to be present at Jerusalem on some great occasion; and the Passover is the feast which would attract him. Paul seems to have made a practice of beginning his journeys in the spring.
According to our view the whole journey took place thus. Paul was always eager to. profit by any “open door,” and an invitation from his own people to preach to them in Ephesus must have been specially tempting to him. Nothing but some pressing duty, which seemed to him to imperatively require his presence in Jerusalem at the feast, was likely to hurry him away from them. Further, the feast must have been close at hand, otherwise he could have waited some weeks before going on. Now, in A.D. 53, Passover fell on March 22; and navigation began as a rule only on March 5. But Paul took an early ship for Cæsareia, probably a pilgrim ship, carrying from Corinth and Ephesus many Jews for the coming Passover, and directing its course accordingly. In these circumstances he could not lose a day on the road, and could merely promise to return, “if God will “.
On reaching Cæsareia, he went up and saluted the Church. Dr. Blass considers that he went up from the harbour to the city of Cæsareia and saluted the Church there, and then “went down” to Antioch. That interpretation is impossible for several reasons. (1) It is impossible to use the term “went down” of a journey from the coast-town Cæsareia to the inland city Antioch. On the contrary, one regularly “goes down” to a coast-town (III 4, XIV 25, XVI 8, etc.). (2) The terms “going up” and “going down” are used so frequently of the journey to and from Jerusalem as to establish this usage. Usually the phrase is given in full, “they went up to Jerusalem”; but Dr. Blass accepts as Lukan a reading in XV 6, in which “to go up to the Elders” is used in the sense of “to go up to Jerusalem to the Elders”. If he admits that sense in XV 6, why not also in XVIII 22? Conversely, the phrase “to go down” is used XXIV 22, where the reader has to understand “from Jerusalem to Cæsareia”. Now, the aim of Paul’s journey to Jerusalem, having been put in the reader’s mind by the words of v. 21, is readily and naturally supplied in v. 22.
The shipload of pilgrims to Jerusalem, with Paul among them, landed at Cæsareia, and went up to Jerusalem to the Passover in regular course. Paul exchanged greetings with the Church (this phrase implies that he made only a brief stay), and went down to Antioch. There he received serious news about the Galatian Churches (p. 190); and with all convenient speed he went by the land route through Cilicia, to Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch. With the shortest stay that can be supposed, when he was seeing old and loved friends after years of absence, Paul can hardly have reached Derbe before July 53. We cannot allow less than two months for confirming the wavering Churches of Galatia, especially as on this visit (I Cor. XVI 1) he probably planned the collection for the poor in Jerusalem, which was made universal throughout his new Churches during the following three years. Thus he would have completed his work in Galatia by the beginning of September. Then he went on to Ephesus, taking the higher-lying and more direct route, not the regular trade route on the lower level down the Lycus and Mæander valleys. As he made a missionary progress through the upper lands, he can hardly have reached Ephesus before the end of September, A.D. 53, and October is a more probable time. Such a journey must have occupied much time, even if we cut it down to the shortest possible limits. The distances are very great, and progression was very slow; and even on a rapid journey many interruptions must be allowed for (as any one who travels in these countries knows only too well).
In interpreting v. 22, we had to understand that the thought of Jerusalem as Paul’s aim had been suggested to the reader’s mind by v. 21. That is the case when the longer form of v. 21 is accepted; but with the shorter text it becomes too harsh and difficult to supply the unexpressed thought in v. 22. We conclude that the longer form is the original text, and the shorter form is a corruption. But how did the corruption originate? A curious error appears in Asterius (c. 400, A.D.), and in Euthalius (probably c. 468), and therefore was probably part of the early tradition, according to which Pisidian Antioch, not Syrian Antioch, was alluded to in v. 22. By that misconception the whole journey is obscured, and especially a visit to Jerusalem in v. 22 becomes impossible. Two ways of curing the difficulty were tried. The Bezan Text retained the allusion to Jerusalem and the feast in v. 22, and explained the supposed failure to pay the visit by interpolating in XIX 1 the statement, “now when Paul wished according to his own plan to go to Jerusalem, the Spirit bade him turn away into Asia”. On the other hand, in the text of the great MSS., the reference to the intended visit to Jerusalem is cut out of v. 21. Each of these seems a deliberate and conscious effort made by some editor to eliminate a difficulty from the passage as it stood originally
2. APOLLOS, PRISCILLA AND AQUILA.
During the time that Paul was absent from Ephesus, there came thither an Alexandrian Jew named Apollos, a good speaker, and well read in the Scriptures. He had learned in Alexandria the doctrine of John the Baptist and his prophecy of the immediate coming of Christ; and this he preached in Ephesus with great fervour and detailed proof from Scripture. Priscilla and Aquila, having heard his preaching, instructed him with regard to the fulfilment of John’s prophecy. Afterwards he conceived the intention of crossing over to Achaia; and the Brethren gave him letters of recommendation to the disciples in Corinth. When he settled there he became an effective preacher, and a powerful opponent of the Jews, showing how in Jesus the prophecies with regard to the Anointed One were fulfilled.
This episode is obviously introduced, not so much for its own intrinsic importance, as for the sake of rendering the opening of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians clear and intelligible. A contrast is drawn there between the more elaborate and eloquent style of Apollos and the simple Gospel of Paul; and it is implied that some of the Corinthian Brethren preferred the style and Gospel of Apollos. The particulars stated here about Apollos have clearly been selected to throw light on the circumstances alluded to, but not explained in the letter.
In the Bezan Text the account of Apollos appears in a different form, which has all the marks of truth, and yet is clearly not original, but a text remodelled according to a good tradition. The name is given in the fuller form Apollonius; but Paul uses the diminutive Apollos; and Luke, to make his explanation clearer would naturally use the same form. Moreover, Luke regularly uses the language of conversation, in which the diminutive forms were usual; and so he speaks of Priscilla, Sopatros and Silas always, though Paul speaks of Prisca, Sosipatros and Silvanus. On that principle we must prefer the form Apollos.
Again, the text of almost all MSS. mentions Priscilla first; but the Bezan Text alters the order, putting Aquila first. Elsewhere also the Bezan Reviser shows his dislike to the prominence assigned to women in Acts. In XVII 12 he changes “not a few of the honourable Greek women and of men” into “of the Greeks and the honourable many men and women”. In XVII 34 he cuts out Damaris altogether. In XVII 4 he changes the “leading women” into “wives of the leading men” These changes show a definite and uniform purpose, and therefore spring from a deliberate Revision of the original Received Text.
The unusual order, the wife before the husband (so XVIII 18), must be accepted as original; for there is always a tendency among scribes to change the unusual into the usual. Paul twice (II Tim. IV 19, Rom. XVI 3) mentions Prisca before Aquila; that order was, therefore, a conversational custom, familiar in the company among whom they moved; though it must have seemed odd to strangers in later generations.
Probably Prisca was of higher rank than her husband, for her name is that of a good old Roman family. Now, in XVIII 2 the very harsh and strange arrangement of the sentence must strike every reader. But clearly the intention is to force on the reader’s mind the fact that Aquila was a Jew, while Priscilla was not; and it is characteristic of Luke to suggest by subtle arrangement of words a distinction which would need space to explain formally (pp. 85, 204). Aquila was probably a freedman. The name does indeed occur as cognomen in some Roman families; but it was also a slave name, for a freedman of Mæcenas was called (C. Cilnius) Aquila. There is probably much to discover with regard to this interesting pair, but in this place we cannot dwell on the subject.
The order in which the different threads of the narrative here succeed one another exactly recalls the method of XI 27-XII 25. There vv. 27-30 narrate the events in Antioch, and bring Barnabas and Saul to the gates of Jerusalem; next, the events in Jerusalem are brought up to date; and then the action of the envoys in Jerusalem is described. So here Paul’s journey is narrated, and he is brought to the frontier of Asia; next, the events in Ephesus are brought up to date; and then Paul’s entrance into Asia and his action at Ephesus are described.
(XIX 1) AND IT CAME TO PASS, THAT, WHILE APOLLOS WAS AT CORINTH, PAUL, HAVING PASSED THROUGH THE UPPER DISTRICTS, CAME TO EPHESUS. (8) AND HE ENTERED INTO THE SYNAGOGUE, AND SPAKE BOLDLY FOR THE SPACE OF THREE MONTHS, REASONING AND PERSUADING AS TO WHAT CONCERNS THE KINGDOM OF GOD. (9) BUT WHEN SOME WERE HARDENED AND DISOBEDIENT, SPEAKING EVIL OF THE WAY BEFORE THE MULTITUDE, HE DEPARTED FROM THEM AND SEPARATED THE DISCIPLES, REASONING DAILY IN THE SCHOOL OF TYRANNUS [FROM THE FIFTH TO THE TENTH HOUR]. (10) AND THIS CONTINUED FOR THE SPACE OF TWO YEARS.
The distinction between the period of preaching in the synagogue and the direct address to the Ephesian population is very clearly marked, and the times given in each case. In vv. 2-7 a strange episode is related before Paul entered the synagogue. He found twelve men who had been baptised by the baptism of John, and induced them to accept rebaptism. This episode I must confess not to understand. It interrupts the regular method of Luke’s narrative; for in all similar cases, Paul goes to the synagogue, and his regular efforts for his own people are related before any exceptional cases are recorded. The circumstances, too, are difficult. How had these twelve escaped the notice of Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos, and yet attracted Paul’s attention before he went to the synagogue? Perhaps the intention is to represent Paul as completing and perfecting the work begun by Apollos; rebaptism was, apparently, not thought necessary for Apollos, and now Paul lays down the principle that it is required in all such cases. But that seems distinctly below the level on which Luke’s conception of Paul is pitched. If there were any authority in MS. or ancient Versions to omit the episode, one would be inclined to take that course. As there is none, I must acknowledge that I cannot reconcile it with the conception of Luke’s method, founded. on other parts of the narrative, which is maintained in this book. Possibly better knowledge about the early history of the Ephesian Church might give this episode more significance and importance in the development history than it seems to possess.
We should be glad to know more about the lecture room of Tyrannus. It played the same part in Ephesus that the house of Titius Justus adjoining the synagogue did in Corinth. Here Paul regularly taught every day; and the analogy which we have noticed in other cases (pp. 75, 243) between his position, as it would appear to the general population, and that of the rhetors and philosophers of the time, is very marked. There is one difference, according to the Bezan Text of v. 9: Paul taught after the usual work of the lecture-room was concluded, i.e., “after business hours “. Doubtless he himself began to work (XX 34, I Cor. IV 12) before sunrise and continued at his trade till closing time, an hour before noon. His hours of work are defined by himself, I Thess. II 9, “ye remember our labour and toil, working day and night “; there, as often in ancient literature, the hours before daybreak are called “night,” and his rule at Thessalonica may be extended to Ephesus. Public life in the Ionian cities ended regularly at the fifth hour; and we may add to the facts elsewhere stated a regulation at Attaleia in Lydia that public distribution of oil should be “from the first to the fifth hour”4343In an inscription, Bulletin de Corresp. Hellen., 1887, p. 400.. Thus Paul himself would be free, and the lecture-room would be disengaged, after the fifth hour; and the time, which was devoted generally to home-life and rest, was applied by him to mission-work.
In the following narrative the powers of Paul are brought into competition with those of Jewish exorcists and pagan dabblers in the black art, and his superiority to them demonstrated. Ephesus was a centre of all such magical arts and practices, and it was therefore inevitable that the new teaching should be brought in contact with them and triumph over them. There can be no doubt that, in the conception of Luke, the measure of success lay in the extent to which Divine power and inspiration was communicated to a new Church; and perhaps the whole description may be defended as the extremist example of that view. But it seems undeniable that, when we contrast this passage with the great scene at Paphos, or the beautiful though less powerful scene with the ventriloquist at Philippi, there is in the Ephesian description something like vulgarity of tone, together with a certain vagueness and want of individuality, very different from those other scenes. Such details, too, as are given, are not always consistent and satisfactory. The seven sons in v. 14 change in an unintelligible way to two in v. 16 (except in the Bezan Text); and the statement that the seven were sons of a chief priest, looks more like a popular tale than a trustworthy historical statement. There is no warrant in the text for the view sometimes advocated, that Sceva was merely an impostor who pretended to be a chief priest. The money value of the books that were destroyed is another touch that is thoroughly characteristic of the oriental popular tale. The inability of the vulgar oriental mind to conceive any other aim, object, or standard in the world except money, and its utter slavery to gold, are familiar to every one who has seen the life of the people, or studied the Arabian Nights: in the West one sees nothing like the simple, childish frankness with which the ordinary oriental measures all things by gold, and can conceive of no other conscious aim except gold. So far as the oriental peasant is natural and unconscious, he is interesting and delightful, and his complete difference of nature at once attracts and holds at a distance the man of Western thoughts; but so far as he consciously attempts to conceive motives and form plans, gold is his sole standard of value.
In this Ephesian description one feels the character, not of weighed and reasoned history, but of popular fancy; and I cannot explain it on the level of most of the narrative The writer is here rather a picker-up of current gossip, like Herodotus, than a real historian. The puzzle becomes still more difficult when we go on to v. 23, and find ourselves again on the same level as the finest parts of Acts. If there were many such contrasts in the book as between vv. 11-20 and 23-41, I should be a believer in the composite character of Acts. As it is, I confess the difficulty in this part; but the existence of some unsolved difficulties is not a bar to the view maintained in the present treatise (p. 16).
4. THE CHURCH IN THE PROVINCE OF ASIA.
(XIX 10) THIS CONTINUED FOR THE SPACE OF TWO YEARS, SO THAT ALL THEY THAT DWELT IN ASIA HEARD THE WORD. . . . (21) NOW AFTER THESE THINGS WERE ENDED, PAUL PURPOSED IN THE SPIRIT, WHEN HE HAD MADE A PROGRESS THROUGH MACEDONIA AND ACHAIA, TO GO TO JERUSALEM, SAYING, “AFTER I HAVE BEEN THERE, I MUST ALSO SEE ROME”. (22) AND, HAVING SENT INTO MACEDONIA TWO OF THEM THAT ASSISTED HIM, TIMOTHY AND ERASTUS, HE HIMSELF STAYED IN ASIA FOR A WHILE.
The work in Asia, which had been Paul’s aim in A.D. (p. 198), was now carried out. The long residence suits the greatness of the work, for Asia was the richest. one of the largest, and in many ways the leading province of the East.
Ephesus, as the seat of government, was the centre from which the whole province of Asia could best be affected (p. 104); and the effect of Paul’s long work there extended far over that vast province, but chiefly, of course, along the great lines of communication. For example, Churches arose in three cities of the Lycos Valley, Laodiceia, Colossai, and Hierapolis, though Paul himself did not go there. All the seven Churches mentioned in the Revelation were probably rounded during this period, for all were within easy reach of Ephesus, and all were great centres of trade. It is probable that they, being the first foundations in the province, retained a sort of representative character; and thus they were addressed in the Revelation (perhaps as heads over districts), when there were certainly other Churches in the province.
In the ordinary communication between the capital and the other cities of the province, the influence from Ephesus would be carried to these cities; but that was not the only way in which these other Churches grew. Paul had with him a number of subordinate helpers, such as Timothy, Erastus, Titus, etc. The analogy of many other cases in the early history of the Church would leave no room to doubt that helpers were often employed in missions to the new Churches; and, as Timothy joined with Paul in the letter to the Colossians, it may be inferred that he had been working in that city. The clear conception of a far-reaching plan revealed in v. 21 is confirmed by Rom. XV 24 (see p. 255).
It has been argued by some (and notably by Lightfoot) that Paul made a short visit to Corinth, during his Ephesian mission. But this conjectural visit (II Cor. XII 14, XIII 1) is more likely to have been made from Philippi, (p. 283), for clearly (Acts XIX 9, 10) Paul resided in Ephesus throughout the period Oct. 53 to Jan. 56. In the latter part of autumn 55 he sent to Corinth the First Epistle; and at that time his intention was to remain in Ephesus till Pentecost 56 (XVI 8), and then to go through Macedonia to Corinth. But this was an alteration of a previous plan to sail direct from Ephesus to Corinth, thence going to Macedonia, and returning to Corinth, from whence he should sail for Jerusalem (II Cor. I 16). That intention was abandoned, and a letter, I Cor., was sent instead: the full knowledge of the state of things in Corinth, which is revealed in that letter, was gained by the report of some envoys (XVI 17, compare p. 284). The abandonment of the plan was doubtless due to the conviction that the success of the work in Asia demanded a longer residence. He, therefore, cut out of his programme the first of these two proposed visits to Corinth, and restricted himself to one, which he should pay after a progress through Macedonia (I Cor. XVI 5). He sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia, instructing the former to go on to Corinth, and he told the Corinthians, IV 17, that Timothy was coming, “who shall put you in remembrance of my ways which be in Christ”. Finally, when his Asian work was cut short, he went from Philippi to Corinth, April 56 (see Preface).
The analogy of this case strengthens our interpretation of the Galatian letter (p. 190). In each case Paul had to encounter a serious and dangerous situation in a distant Church. In the case of Corinth, he could not go, but sent a substitute and a letter explaining that the substitute was on the way, and the bearer would give the reason why Paul could not go then; but he adds in the letter a promise to go later, though “some of them fancied that he was not coming”. In the case of Galatia he was able to go immediately, and sent off a hasty letter in front, the bearer of which would announce that he was following. But on the usual theory, Paul, in that serious emergency In Galatia, neither thought of going there, nor of explaining that he could not go.
No allusion to Timothy occurs between XVIII 5 (where he rejoined Paul at Corinth) and XIX 22. According to the analogy of Luke’s method (p. 46 f.), this shows that he was understood by the author to have been attached to Paul’s service during the intervening period, ready for any mission, such as that to Galatia, or this to Macedonia. According to I Cor. IV 17, Timothy was to go on to Corinth: Luke speaks only of Macedonia. Both are correct; it becomes clear from II Cor. that Timothy did not go on to Corinth, and that Paul found him in Macedonia: probably he met Titus on his way back to report to Paul the result of the first letter, and waited instructions before going on. See p. 285.
The plan of staying in Ephesus till Pentecost was interrupted by a popular riot. Already in the autumn of 55 Paul spoke of the difficulties in Ephesus caused by the opposition of the vulgar populace (p. 230, I Cor. XV 32); and the character of the city shows how inevitable that was. The superstition of all Asia was concentrated in Ephesus. Throughout the early centuries the city mob, superstitious, uneducated, frivolous, swayed by the most commonplace motives, was everywhere the most dangerous and unfailing enemy of Christianity, and often carried the imperial officials further than they wished in the way of persecution. Moreover, round the great Ephesian temple, to which worshippers came from far, many tradesmen got their living from the pilgrims, supplying them with victims and dedicatory offerings of various kinds, as well as food and shelter. During the year 55, the tension in Ephesus grew more severe: the one hand, the teaching spread so fast that Paul was tempted to remain longer than he had intended (p. 275): on the other hand, his success only enraged and alarmed the opposing forces. “A great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries” (I Cor. XVI 9): “after the manner of men I fought with beasts in Ephesus” (ib. XV 32, p. 230).
The most sensitive part of “civilised” man is his pocket; and it was there that opposition to Christian changes, or “reforms,” began. Those “reforms” threatened to extinguish some ancient and respectable trades, and promised no compensation; and thus all the large class that lived off the pilgrims and the temple service was marshalled against the new party, which threatened the livelihood of all.
5. DEMETRIUS THE SILVERSMITH.
The scene which follows is the most instructive picture of society in an Asian city at this period that has come down to us. It is impossible here to treat it so fully as it deserves; and we can only enumerate the more striking points, and refer to previous discussions. A certain Demetrius was a leading man in the associated trades, which made in various materials, terra-cotta, marble and silver, small shrines (naoi) for votaries to dedicate in the temple, representing the Goddess Artemis sitting in a niche or naiskos, with her lions beside her. Vast numbers of these shrines were offered to the goddess by her innumerable votaries. The rich bought and offered them in more expensive materials and more artistic form, the poor in simple rude terra-cotta. The temple and the sacred precinct were crowded with dedications; and the priests often cleared away the old and especially the worthless offerings to make room for new gifts. The richer tradesmen made shrines in the more expensive material, and silver was evidently a favourite material among the wealthy. Demetrius, then, must have had a good deal of capital sunk in his business. He called a meeting of the trades, doubtless in a guild house where they regularly met, and pointed out that Paul, by teaching the worthlessness of images, was seriously affecting public opinion and practice over almost the whole province Asia,4444In an inscription, Bulletin de Corresp. Hellen., 1887, p. 400. and endangering their business as well as the worship of the goddess. The tradesmen were roused; they rushed forth into the street;4545I formerly erred as to the sense of Asia in XIX 26, 27, Church in R. E., p. 166. a general scene of confusion arose, and a common impulse carried the excited crowd into the great theatre. The majority of the crowd were ignorant what was the matter; they only knew from the shouts of the first rioters that the worship of Artemis was concerned; and for about two hours the vast assembly, like a crowd of devotees or howling dervishes, shouted their invocation of “Great Artemis”. In this scene we cannot mistake the tone of sarcasm and contempt, as Luke tells of this howling mob; they themselves thought they were performing their devotions, as they repeated the sacred name; but to Luke they were merely howling, not praying.
A certain Alexander was put forward by the Jews to address the mob; but this merely increased the clamour and confusion. There was no clear idea among the rioters what they wanted: an anti-Jewish and an anti-Christian demonstration were mixed up, and probably Alexander’s intention was to turn the general feeling away from the Jews. It is possible that he was the worker in bronze, who afterwards did Paul much harm (II Tim. IV 14).
Our conception of the scene assumes that the Bezan reading in 28, 34 (μεγάλη Ἄρτεμις) is original. The accepted text, “Great is Artemis,” gives a different tone to the scene: that is the quiet expression in which a worshipper recognises and accepts a sign of the goddess’s power, drawing an inference and expressing his respect and gratitude. “Great Artemis” was a common formula of devotion and prayer, as is attested by several inscriptions; and it gives a more natural and a far more effective tone to the scene.
Two of Paul’s companions in travel, Gaius and Aristarchus, had been carried into the theatre with the crowd; and he himself was on the point of going there, but the disciples would not allow him, and his friends among the Asiarchs sent urging him not to risk himself among the mob. It is noteworthy that Luke, as usual, adds no comments or reflections of his own as to the danger in which Paul was placed. But the slightest consideration suffices to show that he must have been at this period in the most imminent danger, with the mob of a great Ionian coast-city raging against him. In the speech of Demetrius are concentrated most of the feelings and motives that, from the beginning to the end, made the mob so hostile to the Christians in the great oriental cities. Paul himself says, “concerning our affliction which befell in Asia, that we were weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power, insomuch that we despaired even of life” (II Cor. I 8). His immediate withdrawal from Ephesus, in the midst of his promising work, was forced on him.
It is a question whether the reading of some few MSS., “Gaius and Aristarchus a Macedonian,” should not be followed. Gaius, in that case, would be the native of Derbe mentioned in XX 4. Luke, himself a Macedonian, does not omit the little touch of national pride in Aristarchus; but he was not so interested in the nationality of Gaius. The peculiar phraseology, with the ethnic in singular (Μακεδόνα) following two names, and preceding συνεκδήμους, led naturally to the change (Μακεδόνας), which appears in most MSS. The epithet, “travelling companions,” seems to point forward to XX 4, as we have no reason to think that either Gaius or Aristarchus had hitherto been companions of Paul on a journey. Prof. Blass, recognising the probability that Gaius is the travelling companion of XX 4, accepts Valckenaer’s alteration of the text in that place, making Gaius a Thessalonian, and Timothy a man of Derbe; and that alteration would be very tempting, were it not for the insurmountable statement, XVI 1, that Timothy was a Lystran.
The reference to the Asiarchs is very important, both in respect of the nature of that office (on which it throws great light, though that opens up a wide and disputed field), and as a fact of Pauline history. The Asiarchs, or High Priests of Asia, were the heads of the imperial, political-religious organisation of the province in the worship of “Rome and the Emperors” (p. 134); and their friendly attitude is a proof both that the spirit of the imperial policy was not as yet hostile to the new teaching, and that the educated classes did not share the hostility of the superstitious vulgar to Paul. Doubtless, some of the Asiarchs had, in the ordinary course of dignity, previously held priesthoods of Artemis or other city deities; and it is quite probable that up to the present time even the Ephesian priests were not at all hostile to Paul. The eclectic religion, which was fashionable at the time, regarded new forms of cult with equanimity, almost with friendliness; and the growth of each new superstition only added to the influence of Artemis and her priests. My friend, Mr. J. N. Farquhar, Principal of the L.M.S. College, Calcutta, writes that he is struck with similar facts in the situation of mission work in India, and its relation to the priests and people.
Luke, having stated the accusation against Paul, does not fail to show up its utter groundlessness in the eyes of responsible officials. The speech of the Town-clerk, which is given at length, is a very skillful and important document, in its bearing on the whole situation, and on Luke’s plan (p. 304 f.). The Clerk was probably the most important official in Ephesus, and therefore in close contact with the court of the proconsul, who generally resided in that city; and his speech is a direct negation of the charges commonly brought against Christianity, as flagrantly disrespectful in action and in language to the established institutions of the State. He points out that the only permissible method of procedure for those who have complaints against a Christian is action before the courts of the province, or the assembly of the municipality; and he warns the rioters that they are bringing themselves into danger by their disorderly action.
This address is so entirely an apologia of the Christians that we might almost take it as an example of the Thucydidean type of speech, put into the mouth of one of the actors, not as being precisely his words, but as embodying a statesmanlike conception of the real situation. At any rate, it is included by Luke in his work, not for its mere Ephesian connection, but as bearing on the universal question of the relations in which the Church stood to the Empire (p. 306). The well-known rescripts of Hadrian to Fundanus, and of Antoninus Pius to the Greek cities, take their stand on the same permanent and obvious ground, which at all times formed the one statesmanlike principle of action, and the basis for the Church’s claim to freedom and toleration.
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