Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Paul, coming to Ephesus, finds certain disciples who had not received the gift of the Holy Ghost, knowing only the baptism of John, but receive it through the imposition of his hands, Act 19:1-7. He preaches for three months in the synagogues, Act 19:8. Many being hardened, he leaves the synagogues, and teaches daily in the school of Tyrannus for two years, Act 19:9, Act 19:10. He works many miracles, Act 19:11, Act 19:12. Account of the vagabond exorcist Jews, and the seven sons of Sceva, Act 19:13-17. Many are converted, and burn their magical books, Act 19:18-20. Paul purposes to pass through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, and afterwards to Rome; but, having sent Timotheus and Erastus to Macedonia, continues a little longer in Asia, Act 19:21, Act 19:22. Demetrius, a silversmith of Ephesus, raises an uproar against Paul, which, after some tumultuous proceedings, is appeased by the town clerk, vv. 23-41.
And it came to pass - while Apollos was at Corinth - The Codex Bezae begins this chapter differently. But then Paul was desirous, according to his own counsel, to go to Jerusalem, the Spirit commanded him to return into Asia: then, passing through the upper parts, he came to Ephesus. This addition is also found in the Latin or Itala part of the same MS., and in the margin of the later Syriac.
Paul having passed through the upper coasts - That is, through those parts of Asia Minor that lay eastward of Ephesus, such as Galatia, Phrygia, and probably Lycaonia and Lydia; and it is in reference to Ephesus that these are called the upper coasts. See their situation on the map.
Have ye received the Holy Ghost - It is likely that these were Asiatic Jews, who, having been at Jerusalem about twenty-six years before this, had heard the preaching of John, and received his baptism, believing in the coming Christ, whom John had proclaimed; but it appears that till this time they had got no farther instruction in the Christian religion. Paul, perceiving this, asked them if they had received the Holy Ghost since they believed? For it was the common privilege of the disciples of Christ to receive, not only the ordinary graces, but also the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit; and thus the disciples of Christ differed from those of John, and of all others. John baptized with water; Jesus baptized with the Holy Ghost. And to this day the genuine disciples of Christ are distinguished from all false religionists, and from nominal Christians, by being made partakers of this Spirit, which enlightens their minds, and convinces of sin, righteousness, and judgment; quickens their souls, witnesses to their conscience that they are the children of God, and purifies their hearts. Those who have not received these blessings from the Holy Spirit, whatever their profession may be, know nothing better than John's baptism: good, excellent in its kind, but ineffectual to the salvation of those who live under the meridian of Christianity.
We have not so much as heard whether, etc. - That is, they had not heard that there were particular gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit to be received. They could not mean that they had not heard of the Holy Spirit; for John, in his baptism, announced Christ as about to baptize with the Holy Ghost, Mat 3:11; Luk 3:16; but they simply meant that they had not heard that this Spirit, in his gifts, had been given to or received by any one.
That they should believe on him which should come after - John baptized them with the baptism of repentance; this was common to all the baptisms administered by the Jews to proselytes; but telling them that they should believe on him who was coming, was peculiar to John's baptism.
When they heard this, etc. - As there is no evidence in the New Testament of persons being rebaptized, unless this be one, many criticisms have been hazarded to prove that these persons were not rebaptized. I see no need of this. To be a Christian, a man must be baptized in the Christian faith: these persons had not been baptized into that faith, and therefore were not Christians: they felt this, and were immediately baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. This is a plain case; but let one instance be produced of a person being rebaptized, who had before been baptized in the name of the holy Trinity, or even in the name of Jesus alone. In my view, it is an awful thing to iterate baptism when it had been before essentially performed: by "essentially performed," I mean, administered by sprinkling, washing, or plunging, by or in water, in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, being invoked at the time. Whoever has had this has the essence of baptism, as far as that can be conferred by man; and it matters not at what period of his life he has had it; it is a substantial baptism, and by it the person has been fully consecrated to the holy and blessed Trinity; and there should not be an iteration of this consecration on any account whatever. It is totally contrary to the canon law; it is contrary to the decisions of the best divines; it is contrary to the practice of the purest ages of the Church of God; it is contrary to the New Testament, and tends to bring this sacred ordinance into disrepute.
They spake with tongues, and prophesied - They received the miraculous gift of different languages; and in those languages they taught to the people the great doctrines of the Christian religion; for this appears to be the meaning of the word προεφητευον, prophesied, as it is used above.
Spake boldly - three months - We have often remarked that St. Paul, in every place, made his first offers of salvation to the Jews; and it was only when they rejected it, that he turned to the Gentiles; see Act 18:6. And the same line of conduct he pursues here: he goes to the school of Tyrannus, at least a public place, to which all might resort, when they obstinately rejected the Gospel in the synagogue.
Disputing and persuading - Διαλεγομενος, και πειθων, Holding conversations with them, in order to persuade them of the truth of the doctrine of Christ.
When divers were hardened - Τινες, When some of them were hardened; several no doubt felt the power of Divine truth, and yielded consent. Our term divers, one of the most bald in our language, has too general a meaning for this place.
Behold the effect of the word of God! It is a savour of life unto life, or death unto death, according as it is received or rejected. The twelve men mentioned above received it affectionately, and they were made partakers of the Holy Ghost; the others were hardened, for they refused to believe; and they calumniated the doctrine, and became Satan's preachers among the multitude, to prejudice them against Christ and his religion.
Separated the disciples - Paul, and those converted under his ministry, had doubtless been in the habit of attending public worship in the synagogue: but, on the persecuting conduct of these Jews; he and his converts wholly withdrew from the synagogue, and took a place for themselves; and constantly afterwards held their own meetings at a school room, which they hired no doubt for the purpose.
The school of one Tyrannus - For σχολῃ, the school, one MS. has συναγωγῃ, the synagogue; and, for Tyrannus, some have Tyrannios. Some have considered the original word as being an epithet, rather than the name of a person; and think that a prince or nobleman is intended, because τυραννος, tyrant, is taken in this sense: but this is a most unlikely conjecture. It appears that the person in question was a schoolmaster, and that he lent or hired his room to the apostles; and that they preached daily in it to as many, both Jews and Gentiles, as chose to attend. It is very likely that Tyrannus was a Jew, and was at least well affected to the Christian cause; for we have many proofs that individuals among them kept schools for the instruction of their youth; besides the schools or academies kept by the more celebrated rabbins. See Schoettgen and Vitringa. The school of Tyrannus might have been such a place as Exeter Hall, and such like places for public and especially for extraordinary religious meetings in London.
By the space of two years - The schoolhouse of Tyrannus was his regular chapel; and it is likely that in it he taught Christianity, as Tyrannus taught languages or sciences.
All they - in Asia heard the word - Meaning, probably, the Proconsular Asia, for the extent of which see the note on Act 16:6.
Jews and Greeks - For, although he ceased preaching in the synagogues of the Jews, yet they continued to hear him in the school of Tyrannus. But it is likely that Paul did not confine himself to this place, but went about through the different towns and villages; without which, how could all Asia have heard the word? By Greeks, we are to understand, not only the proselytes of the gate, but the heathens in general.
God wrought special miracles - Δυναμεις τε ου τας τυχαυσας, Miracles of no ordinary kind, i.e. extraordinary miracles.
Handkerchiefs or aprons - Σουδαρια η σιμικινθια, Probably the sudaria were a sort of handkerchiefs, which, in travelling, were always carried in the hand, for the convenience of wiping the face; and the simikinthia were either the sashes or girdles that went about the loins. These, borrowed from the apostle, and applied to the bodies of the diseased, became the means, in the hand of God, of their restoration to health.
The diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them - Here, there is a most evident distinction made between the diseases and the evil spirits: hence they were not one and the same thing.
Certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists - Τινες απο των περιερχομενων Ιουδαιων εξορκιϚων; Certain of the Jews who went about practicing exorcisms. Vagabond has a very bad acceptation among us; but, literally, vagabundus signifies a wanderer, one that has no settled place of abode. These, like all their countrymen, in all places, went about to get their bread in what way they could; making trial of every thing by which they could have the prospect of gain. Finding that Paul cast out demons through the name of Jesus, they thought, by using the same, they might produce the same effects; and, if they could, they knew it would be to them an ample source of revenue; for demoniacs abounded in the land.
Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests - The original Ιουδαιου αρχιερεως, dignifies a Jewish high priest; but it is not probable that any sons, much less seven sons of a Jewish high priest, should be strolling exorcists: it is therefore likely that υἱοι Σκευα τινος ἱερεως, the sons of Skeva, a certain priest, as it stands in the Codex Bezae, is the true reading. The whole verse in that MS. reads thus: Among them there also the sons of Skeva, a priest, who wished to do the same: for they were accustomed to exorcise such persons. And entering in to the demoniac, they began to invoke that Name, saying, We command thee by Jesus, whom Paul preacheth, to go out. And the evil spirit angered, and said unto them, Jesus I know, etc. It has been often remarked that in our Lord's time there were many of the Jews that professed to cast out demons; and perhaps to this our Lord alludes, Mat 12:27. See the note there.
Josephus, in speaking of the wisdom of Solomon, says that he had that skill by which demons are expelled; and that he left behind him the manner of using exorcisms, by which they are cast out; and that those arts were known among his countrymen down to his own time; and then gives us the following relation: "I have seen a certain man of my own country whose name was Eleazar, releasing people that were demoniacs, in the presence of Vespasian, his sons, his captains, and the whole multitude of his soldiers. The manner of the cure was this: He put a ring, that had a root of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon, to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils; and, when the man fell down, immediately he adjured him to return into him no more, making still mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantations that he had composed. And when Eleazar would persuade the spectators that he had such power, he set at a little distance a cup of water, and commanded the demon, as he went out of the man, to overturn it; and, when this was done, the skill and wisdom of Solomon were showed very manifestly." Joseph. Antiq. book viii. cap. 2, sect. 5. Whiston's edition.
That there were such incantations among the Jews we know well, and that there are still such found, and that they are attributed to Solomon; but that they are his remains to be proved; and could this even be done, a point remains which can never be proved, viz. that those curious arts were a part of that wisdom which he received from God, as Josephus intimates. Indeed, the whole of the above account gives the strongest suspicion of its being a trick by the Jewish juggler, which neither Josephus nor the emperor could detect; but the ring, the root, the cup of water, the spell, etc.; all indicate imposture. Magicians among the Jews were termed בעלי שם baaley shem, Masters of the Name, that is, the name of Jehovah יהוה by a certain pronunciation of which they believed the most wonderful miracles could be wrought. There were several among them who pretended to this knowledge; and, when they could not deny the miracles of our Lord, they attributed them to his knowledge of the true pronunciation of this most sacred name.
Jesus I know, and Paul I know - In the answer of the demoniac, the verb in varied: τον Ιησουν γινωσκω, και τον Παυλον επιϚαμαι· ὑμεις δε τινες (τινος) εϚε. I acknowledge Jesus, and am acquainted with Paul; but of whom are ye? Ye belong to neither; ye have no authority. And he soon gave them full proof of this. This distinction is observed in my old MS. Bible: I have knowe Jesu, and I wote Poule; forsothe who ben yee.
And the man in whom the evil spirit was, etc. - Thus we find that one man was more powerful than these seven brothers; so that he stripped them of their upper garments, and beat and wounded the whole! Was not this a proof that he derived his strength from the evil spirit that dwelt in him?
The name of the Lord Jesus was magnified - They saw that there was a sovereign power in the name of Jesus, which could not be imitated by these lying exorcists: they therefore reverenced this name, and despised those pretenders.
Exorcisms or adjurations of evil spirits were very frequent in the primitive Church: the name of Jesus was that alone which was used. The primitive fathers speak strong and decisive words concerning the power of this name; and how demons were tormented and expelled by it, not only from individuals, but from the temples themselves. Exorcists formed a distinct class an the Church; hence we read of presbyters, deacons, exorcists, lectors, and door-keepers. The adjuration was commonly used over the catechumens, before they were admitted to baptism. Gregory of Nazianzen, and Cyril of Jerusalem speak much of this rite. See my Succession of Sacred Literature, under Cyril, and Gregory Nazianzen; and see Suicer, under εξορκισμος.
Which used curious arts - Τα περιεργα. From the use of this word in the Greek writers, we know that it signified magical arts, sorceries, incantations, etc. Ephesus abounded with these. Dio Cassius, speaking of the Emperor Adrian, says, Ὁ Αδριανος περιεργοτατος ην και μαντειαις και μαγγανειαις παντοδαπαις εχρητο. "Adrian was exceedingly addicted to curious arts, and practised divination and magic." These practices prevailed in all nations of the earth.
Brought their books together - The Εφεσια γραμματα, or Ephesian characters, are celebrated in antiquity; they appear to have been amulets, inscribed with strange characters, which were carried about the body for the purpose of curing diseases, expelling demons, and preserving from evils of different kinds. The books brought together on this occasion were such as taught the science, manner of formation, use, etc., of these charms.
Suidas, under Εφεσια γραμματα, Ephesian letters, gives us the following account. "Certain obscure incantations. - When Milesius and Ephesius wrestled at the Olympic games, Milesius could not prevail, because his antagonist had the Ephesian letters bound to his heels; when this was discovered, and the letters taken away, it is reported that Milesius threw him thirty times."
The information given by Hesychius is still more curious: Εφεσια γραμματα. ην μεν παλαι Ϛ'· ὑϚερον δε προσεθεσαν τινες απατεωνες και αλλα· φασι δε των πρωτων τα ονοματα, ταδε ΑΣΚΙΟΝ, ΚΑΤΑΣΚΙΟΝ, ΛΙΞ, ΤΕΤΡΑΞ, ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ, ΑΙΣΙΟΝ· Δηλοι δε, το μεν Ασκιον, σκοτος· το δε Κατα σκιον, φως· το δε Λιξ, γη· τετραξ δε, ενιαυτος· Δαμναμενευς δε, ἡλιος· Αισιον δε, αληθες. Ταυτα ουν ἱερα εϚι και ἁγια. "The Ephesian letters or characters were formerly six, but certain deceivers added others afterwards; and their names, according to report, were these: Askion, Kataskion, Lix, Tetrax, Damnameneus, and Aislon. It is evident that Askion signifies Darkness; Kataskion, Light; Lix, the Earth; Tetrax, the Year; Damnameneus, the Sun; and Aision, Truth. These are holy and sacred things." The same account may be seen in Clemens Alexandrinus; Strom. lib. v. cap. 8, where he attempts to give the etymology of these different terms. These words served, no doubt, as the keys to different spells and incantations; and were used in order to the attainment of a great variety of ends. The Abraxas of the Basilidians, in the second century, were formed on the basis of the Ephesian letters; for those instruments of incantation, several of which are now before me, are inscribed with a number of words and characters equally as unintelligible as the above, and in many cases more so.
When it is said they brought their books together, we are to understand the books which treated of these curious arts; such as the Εφεσια γραμματα, or Ephesian characters.
And burned them before all - These must have been thoroughly convinced of the truth of Christianity, and of the unlawfulness of their own arts.
Fifty thousand pieces of silver - Some think that the αργυριον, which we translate piece of silver, means a shekel, as that word is used Mat 26:16, where see the note; 50,000 shekels, at 3s., according to Dean Prideaux's valuation, (which is that followed throughout this work), would amount to 7,500.
But, as this was a Roman and not a Jewish country, we may rationally suppose that the Jewish coin was not here current; and that the αργυριον, or silver coin, mentioned by St. Luke, must have been either Greek or Roman; and, it is very likely that the sestertius is meant, which was always a silver coin, about the value, according to Arbuthnot, of two-pence, or 1d. 3q3/4., which answers to the fourth part of a denarius, rated by the same author at 7 3/4d. Allowing this to be the coin intended, the 50,000 sestertii would amount to 403. 12s. 11d.
The Vulgate reads, denariorum quinquaginta millium, fifty thousand denarii, which, at 7 3/4 d., will amount to 1,614. 11s. 8d. The reading of the Itala version of the Codex Bezae is very singular, Denariorum sestertia ducenta. "Two hundred sesterces of denarii;" which may signify no more than "two hundred sestertii of Roman money:" for in this sense denarius is certainly used by Cicero, Orat. pro Quint.; where ad denarium solvere, means to pay in Roman money, an expression similar to our word sterling. This sum would amount to no more than 1. 12s. 3 1/2d. But that which is computed from the sestertius is the most probable amount.
So mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed - The Codex Bezae reads this verse thus: "So mightily grew the word of the Lord, and prevailed; and the faith of God increased and multiplied." It is probable that it was about this time that St. Paul had that conflict which he mentions, Co1 15:32 : If I after the manner of men, have fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, etc. See the note there. It means some severe trials not here mentioned, unless we may suppose him to refer to the ferocious insurrection headed by Demetrius, mentioned at the end of this chapter.
Paul purposed in the spirit, etc. - Previously to this he appears to have concerted a journey to Macedonia, and a visit to Corinth, the capital of Achaia, where he seems to have spent a considerable time, probably the whole winter of a.d. 58; see Co1 16:5, Co1 16:6; and afterwards to go to Jerusalem; but it is likely that he did not leave Ephesus till after pentecost, a.d. 59. (Co1 16:8) And he resolved, if possible, to see Rome, which had been the object of his wishes for a considerable time. See Rom 1:10, Rom 1:13; Rom 16:23.
It is generally believed that, during this period, while at Ephesus, he wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians. He had heard that some strange disorders had entered into that Church: -
1. That there were divisions among them; some extolling Paul, beyond all others; some, Peter; others, Apollos.
2. He had learned from Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, whom he saw at Ephesus, Co1 16:17; Co1 7:1, that several abuses had crept into their religious assemblies.
3. That even the Christians went to law with each other, and that before the heathens. And,
4. That a person professing Christianity in that city, had formed a matrimonial contract with his step-mother. It was to remedy those disorders that he wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians, in which he strongly reprehends all the above evils.
So he sent into Macedonia - He desired Timothy to go as far as Corinth, Co1 4:18, and after that to return to him at Ephesus, Co1 16:11; but he himself continued in Asia some time longer; probably to make collections for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Erastus, mentioned here for the first time, appears to have been the chamberlain, οικονομος, either of Ephesus or Corinth; see Rom 16:23. He was one of St. Paul's companions, and is mentioned as being left by the apostle at Corinth, Ti2 4:20.
No small stir about that way - Concerning the Gospel, which the apostles preached; and which is termed this way, Act 9:2, where see the note.
Silver shrines for Diana - It is generally known that the temple of Diana at Ephesus was deemed one of the seven wonders of the world, and was a most superb building. It appears that the silver shrines mentioned here were small portable representations of this temple, which were bought by strangers as matters of curiosity, and probably of devotion. If we can suppose them to have been exact models of this famous temple, representing the whole exterior of its magnificent workmanship, which is possible, they would be held in high estimation, and probably become a sort of substitute for the temple itself, to worshippers of this goddess who lived in distant parts of Greece. The temple of Diana was raised at the expense of all Asia Minor, and yet was two hundred and twenty years in building, before it was brought to its sum of perfection. It was in length 425 feet, by 220 in breadth; and was beautified by 127 columns, which were made at the expense of so many kings; and was adorned with the most beautiful statues. To procure himself an everlasting fame, Erostratus burned it to the ground the same night on which Alexander the Great was born. It is reported that Alexander offered to make it as magnificent as it was before, provided he might put his name on the front; but this was refused. It was afterwards rebuilt and adorned, but Nero plundered it of all its riches. This grand building remains almost entire to the present day, and is now turned into a Turkish mosque. See an account of it in Montfaucon, Antiq. Expliq. vol. ii., with a beautiful drawing on plate vi., No. 20. See also Stuart's Athens. There were also pieces of silver struck with a representation of the temple of Minerva on one side: many coins occur in the reigns of the first Roman emperors, where temples, with idols in the porch, appear on the reverse; and several may be seen in Muselius, in the reigns of Trajan, Adrian, Antoninus Pius, etc. A beautiful representation of the temple of Diana at Ephesus may be seen on a medal engraved by Montfaucon, in his Antiq. Expliq. Suppl. vol. ii. plate 33. It has eight Doric columns in front, which Pliny says were sixty feet in length. In the entrance, the figure of Diana is represented with a sort of tower upon her head; her arms are supported by two staves; at her feet are represented two stags with their backs towards each other. The sun is represented on the right side of her head, and the moon as a crescent on the left. On each side and at the bottom of this temple are the words, πρωτων Ασιας Εφεσιων. Some think that the medals here referred to are the same that are meant by the silver shrines made by Demetrius and his craftsmen. See the note on Act 19:27.
Brought no small gain - There were many made, many sold, and probably at considerable prices.
By this craft we have our wealth - The word ευπορια not only signifies wealth, but also abundance. It was a most lucrative trade; and he plainly saw that, if the apostles were permitted to go on thus preaching, the worship of Diana itself would be destroyed; and, consequently, all the gain that he and his fellows derived from it would be brought to nought.
This Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people - From the mouth of this heathen we have, in one sentence, a most pleasing account of the success with which God had blessed the labors of the apostles: not only at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, they had persuaded and converted much people; for they had insisted that they could be no gods which are made with hands; and this the common sense of the people must at once perceive.
The temple of the great goddess Diana - From a number of representations of the Ephesian goddess Diana, which still remain, we find that she was widely different from Diana the huntress. She is represented in some statues all covered over with breasts, from the shoulders down to the feet; in others she is thus represented, from the breast to the bottom of the abdomen, the thighs and legs being covered with the heads of different animals. From this it is evident that, under this name and form, nature, the nourisher and supporter of all things, was worshipped: the sun and moon, being grand agents, in all natural productions, were properly introduced as her attributes or symbols. Because she was the representative of universal nature, she was called, in opposition to Diana the huntress and goddess of chastity, the Great goddess Diana; not only worshipped in Asia, but throughout the whole world; both the Greeks and the Romans unanimously conjoining in her worship.
Several statues of this Ephesian Diana still remain; and some beautiful ones are represented by Montfaucon, in his Antig. Expliq. vol. i. book iii. cap. 15, plates 46, 47, 48. From this father of antiquaries, much information on this subject may be derived. He observes that the original statue of Diana of Ephesus, which was in that noble temple, esteemed one of the wonders of the world, was made of ivory, as Pliny says; but Vitruvius says it was made of cedar; and others, of the wood of the vine. The images of this goddess are divided into several bands, or compartments; so that they appear swathed from the breasts to the feet. On the head is generally represented a large tower, two stories high. A kind of festoon of flowers and fruit descends from her shoulders; in the void places of the festoon a crab is often represented, and sometimes crowned by two genii or victories. The arms are generally extended, or stretched a little out from the sides; and on each one or two lions. Below the festoon, between the two first bands, there are a great number of paps: hence she has been styled by some of the ancients, Multimammia, and πολυμαϚος, the goddess with the multitude of paps: on one figure I count nineteen. Between the second and third bands, birds are represented; between the third and fourth, a human head with tritons; between the fourth and fifth, heads of oxen. Most of the images of this goddess are represented as swathed nearly to the ancles, about which the folds of her robe appear. Though there is a general resemblance in all the images of the Ephesian Diana, yet some have more figures or symbols, some less: these symbols are generally paps, human figures, oxen, lions, stags, griffins, sphinxes, reptiles, bees, branches of trees, and roses.
That nature is intended by this goddess is evident from the inscription on two of those represented by Montfaucon: παναιολος φυσις παντων μητηρ, Nature, full of varied creatures, and mother of all things. It is evident that this Diana was a composition of several deities: her crown of turrets belongs to Cybele, the mother of the gods; the lions were sacred to her also; the fruits and oxen are symbols of Ceres; the griffins were sacred to Apollo; and the deer or stags to Diana. The crab being placed within the festoon of flowers evidently refers to the northern tropic Cancer; and the crab being crowned in that quarter may refer to the sun having accomplished his course, and begun to return with an increase of light, heat, etc: The paps, or breasts, as has already been observed, show her to be the nurse of all things; and the different animals and vegetables represented on those images point out nature as the supporter of the animal and vegetable world: the moon and tritons show her influence on the sea; and the sun her influence on the earth. All these things considered, it is no wonder that this goddess was called at Ephesus the Great Diana, and that she was worshipped, not only in that city, but in all the world. In the worship of this deity, and in the construction of her images, the heathens seem to have consulted common sense and reason in rather an unusual manner. But we must observe, also, that among the Greeks and Romans they had two classes of deities: the Dii Majores, and the Dii Minores: the great gods, and the minor gods. The latter were innumerable; but the former; among whom was Diana, were only twelve - Jupiter, Neptune, Apollo, Mars, Mercury, and Vulcan; Juno, Vesta, Ceres, Diana, Venus, and Minerva. These twelve were adored through the whole Gentile world, under a variety of names.
The whole city was filled with confusion - Thus we find the peace of the whole city was disturbed, not by an apostle preaching the Gospel of Christ, but by one interested, unprincipled knave, who did not even plead conscience for what he was doing; but that it was by this craft he and his fellows got their wealth, and he was afraid to lose it.
Rushed - into the theater - The theatres, being very spacious and convenient places, were often used for popular assemblies and public deliberation, especially in matters which regarded the safety of the state. There are several proofs of this in ancient authors. So Tacitus, Hist. ii. 80, speaking concerning Vespasian, says: Antiochensium theatrum ingressus, ubi illis consultare mos est, concurrentes et in adulationem effusos alloquitur. "Having entered into the theater of the Antiochians, where it was the custom to hold consultations, the people running together, and being profuse in flattery, he addressed them." Frontinus, in Stratagem lib. iii. cap. 2, speaking of a public meeting at the theater at Agrigentum, observes, ubi ex more Graecorum locus consultationi praebebatur; which, according to the custom of the Greeks, is the place for public deliberation. See several examples in Kypke.
Certain of the chief of Asia - Τινες των Ασιαρχων; Some of the Asiarchs. The Asiarchs were those to whom the care and regulation of the public games were intrusted: they were a sort of high priests, and were always persons of considerable riches and influence. These could not have been Christians; but they were what the sacred text states them to have been, αυτῳ φιλοι, his friends; and foreseeing that Paul would be exposed to great danger if he went into the theater, amidst such a tumultuous assembly, they sent a message to him, entreating him not to go into danger so apparent. Query: Did he not go, and fight with these wild beasts at Ephesus? Co1 15:32.
Some - cried one thing, and some another - This is an admirable description of a tumultuous mob, gathered together without law or reason; getting their passions inflamed, and looking for an opportunity to commit outrages, without why or wherefore - principle or object.
For the assembly was confused - Ἡ εκκλησια; The same word which we translate church; and thus we find that it signifies any assembly, good or bad, lawful, or unlawful; and that only the circumstances of the case can determine the precise nature of the assembly to which this word is applied.
They drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward - From this and the following verses it is pretty evident that this Alexander was brought forward on this occasion by the Jews, that he might make an oration to the multitude, in order to exculpate the Jews, who were often by the heathens confounded with the Christians; and cast the whole blame of the uproar upon Paul and his party. And he was probably chosen because he was an able speaker; and when he beckoned with his hand; to gain an audience, the Greeks, knowing that he was a Jew, and consequently as much opposed to the worship of Diana as Paul was, would not hear him; and therefore, to drown his apology, τῳ δημω, for the people, viz. the Jews, they vociferated for the space of two hours, Great is Diana of the Ephesians! There does not seem any just ground from the text to suppose that this Alexander was a Christian; or that he was about to make an apology for the Christians: it is generally believed that he is the same with Alexander the coppersmith, of whom St. Paul speaks, Ti2 4:14, and whom, with Philetus, he was obliged to excommunicate, Ti1 1:20. By the Jews putting him forward, we are to understand their earnestness to get him to undertake their defense, and criminate, as much as possible, St. Paul and his companions, and the Christian cause in general; which he would no doubt have done, without vindicating the worship of Diana, which, as a Jew, he would not dare to attempt.
When the town-clerk - Ὁγραμματευς, Literally, the scribe. The Syriac has reisha damedinato, the chief or prince of the city. The later Syriac has, the scribe of the city. Some think that the word recorder would do better here than town-clerk; and indeed it is evident that a magistrate of considerable authority and influence is intended - the mayor or sovereign of the city.
Ye men of Ephesus - The speech of this man may be thus analyzed:
1. He states that there was no need of a public declaration that the Ephesians were worshippers of Diana; this every person knew, and nobody attempted to contest it, Act 19:35, Act 19:36.
2. That the persons accused were not guilty of any public offense, nor of any breach of the laws of the city, Act 19:37.
3. That, if they were, this was not a legal method of prosecuting them, Act 19:38, Act 19:39.
4. That they themselves, by this tumultuous meeting, had exposed themselves to the censure of the law, and were in danger of being called into question for it, Act 19:40. See Dodd.
Is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana - The word νεωκορος, neocoros, which we translate worshipper, signified at first, among the ancient Greeks, no more than sweeper of the temple, and answered nearly to our sexton: in process of time, the care of the temple was intrusted to this person: at length the neocori became persons of great consequence, and were those who offered sacrifices for the life of the emperor. Whole cities took this appellation, as appears on many ancient coins and medals; and Ephesus is supposed to have been the first that assumed this title. At this time, it was commonly known as belonging to this city. "What man is there that knoweth not that the city of the Ephesians is the Neocoros of the great goddess Diana?" As if he had said: "The whole city is devoted to her worship: it is reputed an honor to our highest characters even to sweep her temple, and open and shut her doors. Besides, we offer to her the highest sacrifices; and are intrusted with the religious service that pertains to the emperor's safety."
Of the image which fell down from Jupiter? - The original image of the Ephesian Diana (see on Act 19:27 (note)) was supposed to have descended from heaven; which intimates that it was so old that no person knew either its maker or the time in which it was formed, and it was the interest of the priests to persuade the people that this image had been sent to them as a present from Jupiter himself. Several images and sacred things were supposed, among the heathens, to be presents immediately from heaven. Euripides states the image of Diana of Tauri to be of this kind; and calls it διοπετες αγαλμα, the image fallen from Jupiter. Numa pretended that the ancilia, or sacred shields, had come from heaven. In imitation of these, many of the Italian papists believe that the shrine of our lady of Loretto was also a Divine gift to their country. St. Isidore, of Damietta, says that the heathen, in order to induce the people to believe that such images came from heaven, either banished or slew the artists that had formed them, that there might be no evidence of the time in which, or the persons by whom, they were made: this point secured, it was easy to persuade the credulous multitude that they had been sent from heaven. The story of the Palladium, on which the safety of Troy was said to depend, is well known. It was an image of Minerva, and also supposed to have descended from Jupiter.
These men - are neither robbers of churches - Ἱρεσυλους; Spoilers of sacred places. As his design evidently was to appease and conciliate the people, he fixed first on a most incontrovertible fact: These men have not spoiled your temples; nor is there any evidence that they have even blasphemed your goddess. The apostles acted as prudent men should: they endeavored to enlighten the minds of the multitude, that the absurdity of their gross errors might be the more apparent; for, when they should know the truth, it was likely that they would at once abandon such gross falsehood.
If Demetrius - have a matter against any man - If it be any breach of law, in reference to Demetrius and the artists, the law is open, αγοραιοι αγονται; these are the terms of law, public courts, times of sessions or assize; or, rather, the judges are mow sitting: so the words may be understood. And there are deputies, ανθυπατοι, proconsuls, appointed to guard the peace of the state, and to support every honest man in his right: let them implead one another; let the one party bring forward his action of assault or trespass, and the other put in his defense: the laws are equal and impartial, and justice will be done to him who is wronged.
But if ye inquire any thing concerning other matters - In which the safety of the state, or the national worship, is concerned, know that such a matter is not the business of the mob; it must be heard and determined in a lawful assembly, εν τη εννομῳ εκκλησιᾳ, one legally constituted, and properly authorized to hear and determine on the subject.
For we are in danger, etc. - Popular commotions were always dreaded by the Roman government; and so they should by all governments; for, when might has nothing to direct its operations but passion, how destructive must these operations be! One of the Roman laws made all such commotions of the people capital offenses against those who raised them. Qui caetum et concursus fecerit, capite puniatur: "He who raises a mob shall forfeit his life." If such a law existed at Ephesus - and it probably did, from this reference to it in the words of the town-clerk or recorder - then Demetrius must feel himself in great personal danger; and that his own life lay now at the mercy of those whom he had accused, concerning whom he had raised such an outcry, and against whom nothing disorderly could be proved.
He dismissed the assembly - Την εκκλησιαν. Another proof that the word εκκλησια, which we generally translate church, signifies an assembly of any kind, good or bad, legal or illegal.
1. How forcible are right words! From the conduct of this prudent, sensible man, we may learn how much influence persons of this character may have, even over the unbridled multitude. But, where the civil power associates itself with the lawless might of the many, There must be confusion and every evil work. What a blessing to the community is the civil law! Were it not for this, the unthinking multitude would destroy others, and at last destroy themselves. Law and justice are from God; and the civil power, by which they are supported and administered, should be respected by all who regard the safety of their persons or property.
2. Though the ministry of St. Paul was greatly blessed at Ephesus, and his preaching appears to have been very popular, yet this sunshine was soon darkened: peace with the world cannot last long; the way of the Lord will always be opposed by those who love their own ways.
3. How few would make an outward profession of religion, were there no gain connected with it! And yet, as one justly observes, religion is rendered gainful only by some external part of it. For this very reason, the external part of religion is always on the increase, and none can find fault with it without raising storms and tempests; while the internal part wastes and decays, no man laying it to heart. Demetrius and his fellows would have made no stir for their worship, had not the apostle's preaching tended to discredit that by which they got their wealth. Most of the outcries that have been made against all revivals of religion - revivals by which the Church has been called back to its primitive principles and purity, have arisen out of self-interest. The cry of, the Church is in danger, has been echoed only by those who found their secular interest at stake; and knew that reformation must unmask them and show that the slothful and wicked servants could no longer be permitted to live on the revenues of that Church which they disgraced by their lives, and corrupted by their false doctrines. He that eats the Church's bread should do the Church's world: and he that will not work should not be permitted to eat.