PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS
|Paul at Ephesus||Paul at Ephesus||Paul's Long Ministry in Ephesus||Paul in Ephesus||The Disciples of John at Ephesus|
|19:4||Foundation of the Church at Ephesus|
|The Sons of Sceva||Miracles Glorify Christ||The Sons of Sceva||The Jewish Exorcists|
|The Riot at Ephesus||The Riot at Ephesus||The Riot in Ephesus||Paul's Plans|
|Ephesus: The Silversmiths' Riot|
READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.
1. First paragraph
2. Second paragraph
3. Third paragraph
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 19:1-7
1It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. 2He said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said to him, "No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." 3And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" And they said, "Into John's baptism." 4Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus." 5When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. 7There were in all about twelve men.
19:1 "upper country" This refers to an alternate route through the higher (i.e., elevation) country and to the churches started on Paul's previous missionary activity in South Galatia.
▣ "Ephesus" Michael Magill, NT TransLine, p. 413, #25, has an informative note.
"This was the capital city of Asia, where Paul was forbidden to go in 16:6. He stopped there briefly in 18:19-21, planning to return. Now he spends over two years here, 19:10."
▣ "disciples" The term implies they were believers (cf. v. 2, "when you believed," see Special Topics at 3:16 and 6:5) in Jesus as the Messiah through John the Baptist's messages or possibly through Apollos' preaching.
The Spirit apparently sent Paul by this upper route for the very purpose of helping these "disciples" know and experience the full truth of the gospel.
19:2 "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed" The fact that they are called "disciples" (v. 1) and the statement "when you believed" imply they were believers. This question links (1) the personal reception of the Spirit at the time one believed (aorist active indicative and aorist active participle) and (2) the Spirit's preparatory action, without which no one could even believe (cf. John 6:44,65; Rom. 8:9). There are levels and stages of the Spirit's work (cf. Acts 8:11, 15-17). The book of Acts itself should warn modern interpreters not to be dogmatic in the "necessary" elements and order of salvation. Acts records what occurred, not what should occur every time. Salvation is a personal relationship which involves the whole person, but often this is a progressive experience as the relationship deepens and more scriptural information is understood. See Special Topic at 2:40.
▣ "No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit" John's preaching could not have produced spiritual effect without the Spirit (cf. Rom. 8:6-11; I Cor. 12:3; I John 4:2). John mentioned the Spirit in his preaching (cf. Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:32-33), but it must be remembered that his was a message of preparation, not fulfillment (cf. Isa. 40:3; Matt. 3:3). John was the last OT prophet and transitional preacher and preparer for the coming of the Messiah. He pointed people to Jesus (cf. John 1:19-42).
19:3 "Into what then were you baptized" They were followers of John the Baptist. Apparently they were faithful to the light they had, but needed further clarification about the life, death, resurrection, and ascension (i.e., the gospel) of Jesus, just like Apollos (cf. 18:24-28).
19:3-4 "John's baptism" John's baptism involved repentance and expectation (cf. Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:15). However, it must be consummated by faith in Jesus. From history we know that there were several heretical groups that formed in the first century claiming to be followers of John the Baptist (Recognitions of Clement, chapter 60). Recording this account may have been Luke's way of nullifying the effect of these groups. John's ministry pointed away from himself and to Jesus (cf. John 1:19-42).
19:4 "believer in Him" See Special Topics: Believe at 3:16 and 6:5.
19:5 "They were baptized" See Special Topic at 2:38.
▣ "in the name of the Lord Jesus" Luke describes baptism as "in the name of Jesus" (cf. 2:38; 8:12,16; 10:48). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE NAME OF THE LORD at 2:21. Matthew describes baptism as "in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" (cf. Matt. 28:19). The baptism formula is not the key to salvation, but the heart of the person being baptized. To view the formula as the key is to place the emphasis in the wrong place. Salvation is not the sacramental correctness of a rite, but an entering into a repentant/faith relationship with Jesus. See note at 2:38.
As far as we know, Apollos, who also only knew the baptism of John, was not rebaptized! The Spirit was obvious in his powerful preaching and teaching.
19:6 "Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them" The laying on of hands is often mentioned in connection with the Spirit (cf. 8:16-17; 9:17), but not always (cf. 10:44, see Special Topic at 6:6). The Bible links the Spirit with the believer in three different ways:
1. at the time of belief
2. at the time of baptism
3. with laying on of hands
This diversification should warn us against dogmatism in the matter. Acts is not intended to teach a set pattern, but to describe the dynamic movement of the Spirit.
I must admit that these twelve disciples of John speaking in tongues is surprising to me. Usually in Acts tongues are evidence for the believing Jewish proclaimers that God
1. has accepted a new group or
2. broken down a geographical barrier (see full note at 2:4b)
What new group did these men represent? They were already disciples (cf. v. 1). Why did Luke choose to record this event? He chooses to introduce it with Apollos in chapter 18. This just does not fit the pattern, which probably means that modern interpreters are trying to fit an agenda or interpretive grid over Luke's writing that just does not fit! Maybe this event of speaking in tongues is more like those in Corinth!
There is an interesting variety in the way the NT describes the coming of the Spirit to individuals.
1. came upon (erchomai plus epi), cf. Matt. 3:16; Luke 19:6 [just epi, 2:25]
2. baptized with, cf. Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; 11:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5
3. descended upon, cf. Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22
4. coming upon (eperchomai plus epi), cf. Luke 1:35; Acts 1:8
5. filled with, cf. Luke 1:15,41,67; Acts 2:4; 4:8,31; 9:17; 13:9,52
6. poured out (ekcheō), cf. Acts 2:17-18,33; 10:45; Titus 3:6
7. received, cf. Acts 2:33,38; 8:15,17,19; 10:47; 19:2
8. given, Acts 5:32; 10:45; 15:8
9. fallen upon (epipiptō), cf. Acts 8:16; 10:44; 11:15
▣ "and prophesying" This term has OT connotations of ecstatic behavior (cf. I Sam. 10:10-12; 19:23-24). The context may support this interpretation. However, this term in I & II Corinthians (cf. I Cor. 11:4,5,9; 14:1,3,4,5,24,31,39) implies a bold proclamation of the gospel. It is difficult to define prophecy in the NT. Since the filling of the Spirit is often linked with a bold proclamation of the gospel, this may be the intent of this context also. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT PROPHECY at 11:27.
19:7 "There were in all about twelve men" Twelve is one of several numbers often used symbolically in the Bible, but here it seems to be historical. See Special Topics: Twelve at 1:22 and Symbolic Numbers in Scripture at 1:3.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 19:8-10
8And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
19:8 "he entered the synagogue" This was his standard pattern (cf. 9:20; 13:5,14; 14:1; 17:2, 10; 18:4,19,26).
▣ "speaking out boldly" This is a perfect middle indicative. It was one of the results of being "Spirit filled" (cf. 4:13,29,31; 9:28,29; 14:3; 18:26). Paul prays for this very thing in Eph. 6:19.
▣ "three months" This synagogue at Ephesus apparently allowed Paul to preach, teach, and reason with them for many Sabbaths. This in itself shows a degree of openness to the gospel and is a tribute to Paul's God-given abilities.
▣ "the kingdom of God" This is the central theme of Jesus' preaching. It refers to the reign of God in human lives now that will one day will be consummated over all the earth, as it is in heaven (cf. Matt. 6:10). See Special Topic at 1:3.
19:9 "some were becoming hardened and disobedient" All who hear the gospel have a choice (cf. 17:32, 34). This reflects the parable of the sower (cf. Matthew 13; Mark 4). It is the mystery of the iniquity (cf. II Cor. 4:4).
The term "hardened" (sklērunō) is an imperfect passive indicative (disobedient is an Imperfect active indicative), which implies the beginning of an action or a repeated action in past time. This is the very word used in Rom. 9:18 to describe God's hardening of Israel's heart and also the repeated verb in Hebrews 3 and 4 (cf. 3:8,13,15; 4:7) dealing with Israel's hardness of heart during the Wilderness Wandering Period. God does not actively harden the hearts of humans whom He loves and are made in His image, but He does allow human rebellion to manifest itself (cf. Rom. 1:24,26,28) and personal evil to influence His created ones (cf. Eph. 2:1-3; 4:14; 6:10-18).
▣ "speaking evil of the Way before the people" The gospel is so radically different from the exclusivism and performance-oriented mind set of Judaism that there was no common ground possible if the basic tenets of the gospel were rejected.
Luke's recurrent pattern of aggressive Jewish opposition to the gospel continues (cf. 13:46-48; 18:5-7; 19:8-10; 28:23-28).
▣ "the Way" See the notes at 18:25 and 19:23.
▣ "the school of Tyrannus" The codex Bezae, D, from the fifth century, adds that Paul taught from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., when most of the city had a rest period and the building was available. This may be an item of oral tradition. Paul would work at his trade during regular business hours and then teach during the rest period (cf. 20:34).
There have been several theories as to the identification of Tyrannus.
1. He was a sophist mentioned by Suidas. Suidas wrote in the tenth century, but used reputable sources back to classical times. His literary work is like an encyclopedia of political, literary, and ecclesiastical persons.
2. He was a Jewish rabbi (Meyer) who operated a private school for teaching the law of Moses, but there is no textual evidence for this position.
3. This was a building which was originally a gymnasium but later a lecture hall owned by or named after Tyrannus.
Paul had to leave the synagogue and apparently there were too many converts to use a house, so he rented a lecture hall. This allowed him some contact with the population of Ephesus.
19:10 "two years" In 20:31 Paul states the length of his entire time in the province (three years).
▣ "all who lived in Asia heard" This is an obvious hyperbole. Jesus often spoke in overstatements. It is simply part of the idiomatic nature of eastern literature.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 19:11-20
11God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out. 13But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, "I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches." 14Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15And the evil spirit answered and said to them, "I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" 16And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. 18Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. 19And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.
19:11 This is not the first time God used extraordinary miracles to confirm His truth and His speaker (cf. 3:1-10; 5:15; 8:6,13; 9:40-42; 13:11-12; 14:8-11). Superstition and occult practices were widespread and entrenched in Ephesus. God, being rich in mercy, allowed His supernatural power and authority, resident in His Messiah, to express itself through Paul to these Satanic-bound people. Oh, the mercy of God!
19:12 "handkerchiefs" These were possibly sweat bands tied around the head during work.
▣ "aprons" This refers to work aprons, somewhat like carpenters' aprons. These healings showed God's compassion, power, and confirmed the gospel and the ministry of Paul.
▣ "the evil spirits went out" Here these demons (cf. Luke 10:17) are called "evil spirits" (cf. Matt. 12:45; Luke 7:21; 8:2; 11:26; Acts 19:12,13,15,16). But Luke also calls them "unclean spirits" (cf. 5:16; 8:7; see Special Topics at 5:3 and 5:16). In Acts 16:16 the demon is called "the spirit of python (divination)." All of these phrases seem to be synonymous.
Paul often speaks of demonic categories like "all rule and authority and power and dominion" (Eph. 1:21), "the rulers and the authorities in heavenly places" (Eph. 3:10), or "against the rulers, against the power, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). These must refer to some levels of organized demonic spirits. But how, why, where, and who are all speculative because the Bible does not choose to reveal a detailed description of the spiritual realm. It does clearly reveal Christ's power (and His Apostles') over Satan and his kingdom of darkness and death. Jesus' "name" is above every name! Knowing Him brings salvation, peace, wholeness, restoration, and health.
19:13-16 "Jewish exorcists" Jewish exorcists were common (cf. Luke 11:19). This context clearly shows that exorcism is not by magic formula (names), but by personal relationship with Jesus. If this passage were not so sad it would be funny! Josephus tells of a Jewish exorcism rite in Antiq. 8.2.5 by one Eleazar, using Solomon's incantations.
19:13 "evil spirits" This refers to the demonic. The NT speaks often of this spiritual reality, but does not discuss its origin or details about its organization or activities. Curiosity, fear, and practical ministry needs have caused much speculation. There is never a gift of exorcism listed in the NT, but the need is obvious. Some helpful books are
1. Christian Counseling and the Occult by Kouch
2. Biblical Demonology and Demons in the World Today by Unger
3. Principalities and Powers by Montgomery
4. Christ and the Powers by Hendrik Berkhof
5. Three Crucial Questions About Spiritual Warfare by Clinton E. Arnold
See Special Topic: The Demonic at 5:16.
19:14 "Sceva, a Jewish chief priest" Modern scholars cannot find this name in any other writings. It is problematic for a Jewish high priest (archiereus) to be in Ephesus. There was a local synagogue, but the only Jewish temple was in Jerusalem. Luke uses this very word several times in his Gospel and Acts for the High Priest and his family in Jerusalem.
Some speculate that this man was somehow connected to the family of the High Priest, or possibly head of one of the twenty-four orders of priests set up by David (cf. I Chr. 24:7-19).
If this man and his sons were priests, it is surprising they did not use YHWH as the powerful name to control the spirits as does the magic or occult.
19:15 "I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul" This first verb is ginōskō; the second is epistamai. They are somewhat synonymous. Both are used often in Acts, but in this context there is obviously a distinction made between this demon's knowledge of Jesus as the Christ and Paul as His spokesperson.
19:17 Luke records this account to show how the Spirit was magnifying (imperfect passive indicative) Jesus (cf. John 14:25; 16:13-14).
19:18 "those who had believed" This is a perfect passive participle. The question is, were they believers in the occult or does this phrase refer to their new belief in the gospel? It is also possible that new believers in the gospel still were initially influenced by their past superstitions. See Special Topic: Greek Verb Tenses Used for Salvation at 2:40.
Previous occultists may have been convinced by what happened to the Jewish exorcists in vv. 13-16. The message of this incident, which showed the power of the person/name of Jesus, spread rapidly (cf. v. 17). These people would have been very conscious of the power of "the name."
▣ "kept coming" This is an imperfect middle indicative.
▣ "confessing and disclosing their practices" The ancient Mediterranean was awash in the occult. It was common belief that revealing one's magical formula made it ineffective. This was their way of repudiating their past occultic activities. There is a type of magic literature famous in the ancient world called "Ephesian writings"! This incident shows the gospel's superiority over the occult (cf. v. 20).
19:19 "magic" See Special Topic at 8:9.
The "books" (biblous) could refer to large books or small scrolls of papyri on which oaths or curses were written. These were worn as amulets. The huge price shows (1) how superstitious these people were and (2) how the gospel had set them free!
▣ "burning them in the sight of everyone" These were very expensive and sought after books and parchments. Their burning was these new believers' public repentance and profession of faith in Christ, not "the powers"!
19:20 The gospel message is personified (i.e., the word of the Lord) and summarized. Luke's summaries help us divide Acts into six sections (cf. 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20; 28:31).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 19:21-22
21Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome." 22And having sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.
NASB"Paul purposed in the spirit"
NKJV"Paul purposed in the Spirit"
NRSV"Paul resolved in the Spirit"
TEV, NJB"Paul made up his mind"
TEV (footnote)"Paul, led by the Spirit, decided"
Here is a combination of God's sovereignty and mankind's freewill. It is uncertain whether this use of the term "spirit" refers to:
1. the Holy Spirit or
2. the human spirit (cf. 7:59; 17:16; 18:25; Rom. 1:9; 8:16; I Cor. 2:11; 5:4; 16:18; II Cor. 2:11; 7:13; 12:18; Gal. 6:18; Phil. 4:23).
If it is the Holy Spirit, this is another example of divine leadership combined with appropriate human response.
Luke often has a brief comment to introduce events which occur later in his account. It is surely possible that Luke has Paul deciding to go to Jerusalem as a result of God's leading (i.e., die, v. 21; see full note at 1:16), not as the result of the riot caused by Demetrius and the guild of silversmiths in Ephesus (cf. vv. 23-41).
▣ "I must also see Rome" Paul needed (dei) to visit the church at Rome (cf. 9:15; Rom. 1:10) on his way to Spain (cf. Rom. 15:24, 28). He wanted them to know him and support his mission work. He also wanted to add his blessing/gift to their situation.
19:22 "Erastus" There is a man by this name mentioned in Rom. 16:23. He is called the city treasurer of Corinth. This name occurs again in II Tim. 4:20. It may refer to the same person, but this is uncertain.
▣ "he himself stayed in Asia for a while" The gospel had gloriously spread, affecting and converting the province (cf. I Cor. 16:9).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 19:23-27
23About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way. 24For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, was bringing no little business to the craftsmen; 25these he gathered together with the workmen of similar trades, and said, "Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business. 26"You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all. 27"Not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned from her magnificence."
19:23 "the Way" This was the earliest designation for Christianity. It speaks of the OT concept (ex. Ps. 1:1,6; 5:8; 25:4,8,9,12; 27:11; 37:5,7,23,34; 119:101, 105) of lifestyle faith (cf. Acts 9:2; 19:9,23; 22:4; 24:14,22; also possibly 18:25-26).
19:24 "silver shrines" This refers to small silver images (1) of the Temple of Artemis or (2) the meteorite which looked like a multi-breasted woman. Archaeology has found many silver images of this goddess, but none of the shrine (temple) itself. It was one of the seven wonders of the world. See note at 18:19, #4.
▣ "Artemis" The Artemis who was worshiped at Ephesus is not to be identified with Diana of the Roman pantheon. This goddess is closer to Cybele, the mother goddess. This religious practice had much in common with the fertility cults of Canaan (see M. R. Vincent, Word Studies, vol. 1, p. 271).
▣ "was no little business" This persecution had an economic basis (cf. vv. 25,27). See full note on Luke's purposeful understatements (i.e., litotes) at 12:18.
▣ "craftsmen" From this Greek word we get the English word "technician." In the ancient Mediterranean world guilds or associations of craftsmen were very popular and powerful. Paul would have been a part of the tent-making guild.
19:26-27 This gives us an insight into the success and permeation of Paul's ministry in Asia.
▣ "that gods made with hands are not gods at all" This reflects the OT concept of the vanity of idolatry (cf. Deut. 4:28; Ps. 115:4-8; 135:15-18; Isa. 44:9-17; Jer. 10:3-11).
19:27 There are numerous passages in Greek literature of the first century that mention Artemis of the Ephesians. Apparently there were thirty-nine separate cities of the Mediterranean world which were involved in the fertility worship of this mother goddess.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 19:28-41
28When they heard this and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" 29The city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia. 30And when Paul wanted to go into the assembly, the disciples would not let him. 31Also some of the Asiarchs who were friends of his sent to him and repeatedly urged him not to venture into the theater. 32So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together. 33Some of the crowd concluded it was Alexander, since the Jews had put him forward; and having motioned with his hand, Alexander was intending to make a defense to the assembly. 34But when they recognized that he was a Jew, a single outcry arose from them all as they shouted for about two hours, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" 35After quieting the crowd, the town clerk said, "Men of Ephesus, what man is there after all who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of the image which fell down from heaven? 36So, since these are undeniable facts, you ought to keep calm and to do nothing rash. 37For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38So then, if Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a complaint against any man, the courts are in session and proconsuls are available; let them bring charges against one another. 39But if you want anything beyond this, it shall be settled in the lawful assembly. 40For indeed we are in danger of being accused of a riot in connection with today's events, since there is no real cause for it, and in this connection we will be unable to account for this disorderly gathering." 41After saying this he dismissed the assembly.
19:28 This verse shows how closely the ancient world held religion and local traditions. Many people made their daily living in ways connected to the local pagan temples.
▣ "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians" This fertility goddess was often called "the Great." This may have been the temple's worship slogan.
19:29 "rushed. . .into the theater" The ruins of this very large Roman amphitheater still remain today. It held between 25 and 56 thousand people (estimates differ).
▣ "with one accord" Acts often uses the phrase "one accord" to describe the unity and fellowship of believers (cf. 1:14; 2:1,46; 4:24; 5:12; 8:6; 15:25), but also of how evil can unite (cf. 7:57; 12:20; 18:12). Unity itself is not the goal. It is the purpose of the unity which is crucial!
▣ "Gaius" He was from Derbe (cf. 20:4). This was a very common name, so definite identification is difficult (cf. I Cor. 1:14; III John 3).
▣ "Aristarchus" He was from Thessalonica (cf. 20:4; 27:2; Col. 4:10-11; Phil. 2:4).
19:30 "the disciples would not let him" Paul was a strong-willed man! However, he allowed other believers to influence some decisions (cf. v. 31).
19:31 "some of the Asiarchs" This term means "local elected officials," but was used in several senses. This is another technical term for local political officials used so accurately by Luke. Apparently they had become believers also, or at least friends of Paul. Again Luke shows that Christianity was not a threat to the local governmental authorities. It is verses like this one that cause some commentators to surmise that Acts was written to be read at Paul's trial in Rome. Again and again the church came into conflict with Jews, but not with government!
19:32 "the assembly" This is the same Greek word (ekklesia) used for the church. In Acts 19:32,39, and 41 it refers to an assembly of townspeople.
The early church chose this term because of its use in the Septuagint for "the assembly of Israel." See Special Topic: Church (ekklesia) at 5:11.
▣ "the majority did not know for what reason they had come together" It was a typical mob scene.
19:33 "Alexander" The local Jews wanted it to be understood that they were a separate group from these itinerant Christian missionaries, but it backfired on them. Whether this is the same man mentioned in II Tim. 4:14 is uncertain, but I Tim. 1:20 makes it doubtful.
▣ "having motioned with his hand" This was a cultural way of seeking silence so that one could speak (cf. 12:17; 13:16; 19:33; 21:40).
▣ "a defense" We get the English term "apology" from this Greek term, which referred to a legal defense. Luke used this verb often (cf. Luke 12:11; 21:14; Acts 19:32; 24:10; 25:8; 26:1,2,24) and the noun in Acts 22:1 and 25:16.
19:34 This shows either (1) the anti-Semitism of the Greco-Roman world or (2) this crowd's anger at Paul's ministry.
19:35 "the town clerk" This was the chief civil official, who acted as liaison with the Roman government in these cities with famous temples. The term is grammateus. It is used most often in Acts for Jewish scribes (cf. 4:5; 6:12; 23:9). In the Septuagint it referred to Egyptian leaders who submitted records to higher authorities (cf. Exod. 5:6) and to Jewish officers (cf. Deut. 20:5).
▣ "city of the Ephesians is guardian of the temple" The word for guardian is literally "temple sweeper" (neōkos, temple warden). This had become an honorific title, although originally it referred to the lowest temple servants.
▣ "the image which fell down from heaven" It was apparently a meteor shaped like a woman with many breasts. This was a perfect idol for a fertility cult. The term "heaven" is literally "which fell from Zeus (dios)."
19:37 The cause of the riot had no true basis and, therefore, was liable for Roman judicial discipline (cf. v. 40).
19:38-39 "let them bring charges against one another" Let them go through the proper channels provided for complaints. These two verses also have two first class conditional sentences.
19:38 "proconsuls" There were two kinds of Roman provinces, those controlled by the Emperor and those controlled by the Senate (Augustus, Acts of Settlement, 27 b.c.). The Roman provinces were governed by
1. senatorial provinces governed by proconsuls or propraetors
2. imperial provinces governed by legatus pro proetors
3. other lesser or problem provinces governed by praefectus
4. free cities governed by local leaders, but under Roman guidelines
5. client states like Palestine governed by local leaders, but with limits and restrictions
Ephesus was in a Senatorial province and thereby had a "proconsul." Proconsuls are mentioned three times:
1. Sergius Paulus, Cyprus, Acts 13:7-8,12
2. Annaeus Gallio, Achaia, Acts 18:12
3. no specific name, but the category, Ephesus, Acts 19:38
19:39-41 "assembly" This is the word ekklesia, which was used by the Greek city-states for a town assembly. It came to be used for the gathered church because in the Septuagint it translated the Hebrew term for "assembly" (Qahal).
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.
1. Are we to view vv. 2-6 as a proof-text for
a. rebaptism of some believers
b. the laying on of hands to receive the subsequent blessing of speaking in tongues?
2. Define prophesying (v. 6).
3. Why does Acts record Paul's encounter with both Apollos and these twelve disciples of John the Baptist?
4. Are vv. 11-12 normative for the church in all ages and cultures? Why/why not?
5. Why is exorcism not included in the lists of spiritual gifts?
6. Why are believers not given more biblical information on this subject?
7. What was the purpose of these miraculous events? (cf. v. 17)
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