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Bible Commentaries
Acts 19

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-7

§ III. Arrival of the apostle Paul at Ephesus. He meets with certain disciples of John, whom he conducts to the full grace of Christ

Acts 19:1-7

1And [But] it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed [travelled] through the upper coasts [districts]1 came to Ephesus; and finding [found]2 certain disciples, 2He [And] said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed ? [Did ye receive the Holy Ghost, when ye became believers ?] And they said [But they replied]3 unto him, [No,] We have not so much as heard whether there be any [a] Holy Ghost. 3And he said unto them [om. unto them4], Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. 4Then said Paul [But Paul said], John verily [indeed, μὲν] baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which [who] should come after him, that is, on Christ [om. Christ5] Jesus. 5When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6And when Paul had [om. had, ἐπιθέντος] laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. 7And [But] all the men were about twelve.6


Acts 19:1-3. a. And it came to pass.—The ἀνωτερικὰ μέρη are the interior regions, such as Galatia and Phrygia (Acts 18:23), which were more elevated than the sea-coast on which Ephesus was situated. On a former occasion Paul had been forbidden by the Holy Ghost to labor on the western coast of Asia Minor, and when he returned from his second missionary journey, the visit which he paid to Ephesus was very brief. He was now permitted to remain during a much longer period in that city, and the divine blessing attended his labors.

b. Finding certain disciples.—Luke applies to the men of whom he here speaks, the term μαθητάς, i.e., Christians, unquestionably employing it in a wide sense. The apostle must have been induced by certain circumstances which he had noticed, to doubt whether these men had received the gift of the Holy Ghost at the time of their conversion. [“Not, as Engl, version: Have ye received, etc., but: Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye became believers?” This translation or interpretation of Alford, is fully adopted by Alexander and Hackett.—Tr.]. He accordingly addressed the question to them in direct terms. And yet this question, especially the word πιστεύσαντες [“which can bear no meaning than that of believing on the Lord Jesus” (Alf.).—Tr.] evidently presupposes that in point of fact they are Christians already. The word ἀλλά, with which their answer begins, implies that it is given in the negative, as if it began with “No !” [The negative is absorbed by ἀλλά; comp. 1 Corinthians 6:6; 1 Corinthians 10:20; John 7:48-49. (Winer: Gram. § 53. 7.).—Tr.].—They proceed even further, and without reserve declare that they did not ascertain from report, and still less from personal experience, whether a Holy Ghost exists. [“Here, again, not, as Engl, version: we have not heard—but: we did not hear, at the time of our conversion, etc.” (Alf.). Both here and in the former case, aorists are used.—Tr.]. Now the Holy Ghost in the answer must obviously be used in the same sense in which it occurs in the question, that is, the Holy Ghost as the gift of God in Christ, and as a Christian communication of the same to men. The meaning cannot be that they had at no time heard that there is a Holy Spirit of God. Those who received the baptism of John, must necessarily have also had a knowledge of God and of the Messiah, and, no doubt, likewise of the Spirit of God. We are, moreover, constrained to regard these disciples as Jews by birth; the silence of Luke respecting their Jewish descent certainly does not prove the contrary. Their own expressions do not in any manner suggest a pagan origin, and no traces whatever exist, which indicate that the number of the disciples of John had received accessions from the Gentile world.

c. Unto what then were ye baptized? This question can have no other meaning than the following: ‘To what then did the baptism which ye received, refer?’ The answer plainly shows that these men had not yet obtained clear views of the general subject. It is very true that they do not say: εἰς τὸν Ἰωάννην; such a reply, indeed, would have been inconsistent with the humility and the whole character of John the Baptist. And yet we cannot assume (as Meyer seems to do) that the men distinctly meant the following: ‘We were baptized unto that which constitutes the nature and purpose of John’s baptism, namely, repentance, and faith in the Messiah who was coming. Such was the case in point of fact, and these disciples were, without any doubt, baptized unto the (unknown) Messiah; still it would seem that their general conceptions of the subject were not clear, for Paul would not otherwise have given them preliminary instructions on this point, Acts 19:4. No facts are recorded which sustain the conjecture of Wetstein that these men had been instructed by Apollos, before he was himself made more thoroughly acquainted with Christianity.

Acts 19:4-7. a. John verily baptized.—Paul describes the nature of the baptism of John in brief but expressive terms: It imported—he says—only a change of mind; it was simply a baptism of repentance, combined with the obligation to believe on Him who should come after John. Ἵνα is not to be taken here in a strict sense, as if it implied a purpose or design, or meant: John baptized … in order that they might believe. (Meyer). The expression ἵνα πιστεύσωσι, Acts 19:4, stands, on the contrary (in accordance with the process by which concise expressions in the Greek language were resolved or weakened in the progress of time), for the infinitive, and merely states the subject to which the words and exhortations (λέγων) of John referred. [See this point—that the writers of the N. T. sometimes employed ἵνα, where according to the rules of Greek prose writers, a simple infinitive (pres. or aor. but not perf.) might have been expected—established, in Winer: Gram. N. T.§ 44. 8.—Tr.]. When Paul adds the words: that is, on Jesus, Acts 19:4, he connects the fulfilment with the promise, and testifies that although the baptism of John was not yet in point of fact a baptism unto Jesus, it nevertheless referred in its very nature to none other than to Him. In consequence of this declaration, these disciples of John were now baptized unto Jesus, as the Lord. (Εἰς τὸ ὄνομα, that is, unto faith in Him, and the confession of Him.). [See the Doctr. and Eth. views which are subjoined.—Tr.]

b. It is not here distinctly stated whether the apostle himself, or another person, administered the rite of baptism. It seems probable, however, that the latter was the case, because the imposition of hands is expressly attributed to Paul. As the result of this act, which was performed after the administration of full Christian baptism, the persons baptized now received the Holy Ghost, whose operations were made manifest, when they spake with tongues, and when the inspired utterances of their souls were heard.


1. These disciples of John, even before they receive that which is strictly Christian baptism, and before they advance to a full knowledge, and to the confession, of Jesus, are, nevertheless, already regarded as disciples that is, as Christians. Luke terms them μαθηταἰ, and Paul assumes that they are already baptized and converted. These circumstances show that even in the apostolic age there already existed a wider [as well as a narrower] circle of the discipleship of Christ, that is, of the Church. It is not the christianization of entire nations, and still less is it the combination of ecclesiastical and political relations, which lead to a division of the Church into a narrower and a wider circle; the cause is rather to be sought in the general fact of the extension of Christianity. The true boundaries of the two circles are determined exclusively by the relation in which men stand to the Person of Jesus Christ himself. Whoever is united with Him in spirit and in heart, by grace on the one hand, and by faith on the other, belongs to the narrower circle of His people. But he whose relation to the personal Redeemer is only distant, and, indeed, only external, belongs to the wider circle.

2. This is the last occasion on which the results of the labors of John the Baptist are mentioned in the New Testament. The extent of his labors, and the period during which their influence was felt, may be estimated, when we consider the fact, that in the Hellenic, commercial city of Ephesus, and about the year A.D. 55, or about a generation later than John himself, as many as twelve of his disciples suddenly present themselves, who, it is true, now become members of the church of Christ, but who had previously not advanced beyond John and his baptism. They had, indeed, rather retrograded, which is often the case with any tendency, when a long period of time passes by, and the original author of that tendency has passed away, and when, at the same time, no pure and living medium of communication (like the Scriptures and the Holy Ghost in the church of Christ), is retained. It may be remarked, besides, that the most satisfactory evidence of a willingness to make progress and to seek the truth, is found in the circumstance that these twelve men voluntarily received the baptism unto Jesus, and that the remaining disciples of John abandoned their distinctive character by entering the church of Jesus Christ, instead of resisting grace and truth in its fulness, and obstinately maintaining the position which they had previously held.—We simply add, in one word, that the so-called Christians of John (Mandæans) in Mesopotamia, have no historical connection whatever with John the Baptist; that name they never apply to themselves; it was only introduced by Christian travellers and learned men; see Herzog: Real-Encyk., art. Mendäer. [Vol. IX. 318–324.—Tr.]

3. The administration of Baptism in the case of these disciples of John, has been the occasion of many doctrinal discussions. The Reformers (Calvin and Beza), and later Lutheran theologians felt themselves constrained to interpret Acts 19:5 in such a sense, that it could afford no aid either to the views of the Anabaptists, on the one hand, or, on the other, to the dogma of the Council of Trent, according to which there was an essential difference between the Johanneic and the Christian baptism. In opposition to the Anabaptists, Calvin unfortunately adopted the expedient of interpreting Acts 19:5, not of the baptism of water, but of the baptism of the Spirit, so that Acts 19:6 simply furnishes an additional explanation of the meaning of Acts 19:5. But Acts 19:5 undeniably refers to the baptism of water. This circumstance, however, affords no aid to the opponents of infant baptism. The twelve men were baptized a second time, not because they had been baptized as children, but because the baptism which they had received, was not the full Christian Baptism—a circumstance which does not in the least degree sanction the repetition of Christian baptism. And with respect to the Romish canon, viz., that the baptism of John did not possess an efficacy equal to that of the baptism of Christ, no considerations derived from the Scriptures can be advanced against it; only doctrinal prejudices can lead to the opinion that the baptism of John differed from the baptism of Christ, not in its very nature, but only in certain accidental features. Now as that opinion is contradicted by the passage before us, its advocates offered violence to Acts 19:5, by representing it as a part of Paul’s address to the twelve men which begins in Acts 19:4 [see note 5 above, appended to the text.—Tr.]. It is not necessary to offer a refutation of such an interpretation. The twelve disciples had, at all events, not been baptized unto the Person of Jesus, and it was necessary to supply this want. The Holy Spirit is also given, but only in Jesus Christ, and for the sake of Christ. The true baptism, and, accordingly, fellowship with the Redeemer Himself, and not the imposition of hands, i.e., the apostolical sanction (as Baumgarten assumes), constitute the conditions on which the gift of the Spirit depends.


Acts 19:1. Paul came to Ephesus, and finding certain disciples.—Paul would not so often have found, if he had not so diligently sought. He that seeketh, findeth. The blessing of God always attended him, because his whole heart was devoted to His cause.—Although these people were still very feeble with respect to experience and knowledge, the Holy Spirit nevertheless numbers them already among the disciples. Even a beginner in religion deserves to receive this noble name, if he only possesses in the eyes of God a heart that earnestly desires salvation. A pastor should take special interest in such souls. They are the children whom we should cherish with the fidelity of a nurse. [1 Thessalonians 2:7]. (Ap. Past.).—The course of some Christians of more recent times, who recognize no Christianity as genuine and true, unless it appears in its perfect and complete development, manifests neither much love, nor much knowledge, and is not the course which the apostle adopted. (Menken).

Acts 19:2. Have ye received the Holy Ghost?—This was the theme of all the inquiries which the apostle addressed to the men. He endeavored to satisfy his own mind by various questions respecting the nature and progress of their conversion, and to ascertain whether their religious experience was of that thorough kind, which is the result solely of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in man. But all their replies amounted simply to the following: ‘We know nothing as yet concerning the Holy Ghost.’ (Williger).—And would not many disciples of our own day, whose Christian knowledge and Christian walk must, to a certain extent, be admitted, be compelled, if they honestly and sincerely replied to the same interrogation, to confess: ‘We know nothing as yet concerning the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of repentance, of regeneration, of adoption, of liberty, of love’?

Acts 19:3. unto what then were ye baptized?—Every Christian should daily address this question to himself, for “every one has much to learn and to practise with respect to baptism during his whole life, seeing that it is necessary for him at all times so to labor and strive that he may firmly believe all that baptism promises and offers, namely, the victory over the devil and death, the forgiveness of sins, the grace of God, Christ in his fulness, and the Holy Ghost with all his gifts.” (Luther).

Acts 19:4. Then Paul said, etc.—With what reverence the apostle here speaks of John! He does not attempt to depreciate that servant of God, but refers to the divine office which he held in his day, and shows that if men did not derive advantage from it, the cause could not be attributed to John. Such was the proper course; it is not well when one teacher despises and disparages another. (Ap. Past.).—After this point of time, no further mention of John the Baptist is made in the New Testament. Here at length he wholly gives place to Christ. (Bengel).

Acts 19:5. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.—Previously to the completion of the work of redemption the baptism of John as a baptism unto Christ, as unto Him who was to come, was the true baptism. But after Pentecost, the true baptism is a baptism unto Christ, referring to Him who has appeared—a baptism into Christ as into Him who is now present; and the intermediate work of his forerunner has ceased.—“Hence the baptism of John is no longer valid. If any man should say: ‘I baptize thee with the baptism of John the Baptist for the forgiveness of sins,’ he would not rightly baptize. For John’s baptism was simply a precursor or herald of the forgiveness of sins. We should, on the contrary, simply say: ‘All thy sins are forgiven thee through the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ; I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. That is, I take all thy sins away, and do not send thee to another, as John has done. ’But John was obliged to say: ‘Prepare yourselves; receive Him who will give you the Holy Ghost in baptism, and bring to you the forgiveness of sins.” (Luther).—Those were rebaptized, who had received the baptism of John, because he was not the foundation of our righteousness and the giver of the Holy Spirit, but merely the herald of the Spirit and of the saving grace which Christ, as the sole foundation and author of our righteousness, soon afterwards acquired for us. (Justus Jonas.).—It is true that he who comprehended the full and real meaning of the baptism of John, as of the forerunner of Jesus, did not need a new baptism as a follower of Jesus Christ. But whenever John was regarded as the head of a sect, and his baptism as a ceremony, the latter could neither be considered, nor could it operate, as a Christian baptism. (Rieger, and Ap. Past.).

Acts 19:6-7. And when Paul laid his hands … twelve.—These twelve men, in whose behalf the apostle prayed, and whom he blessed while laying his hands upon them, were endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They were a new band of disciples, appointed to be the seed of the church of God in Asia; and they resembled the twelve apostles, who had also previously been, in part, the disciples of John, and had, only after the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, become true disciples of Christ, and the living seed of regeneration for the whole world. (Williger).

(On Acts 19:1-7.) St. Paul, our teacher in pastoral life; I. His pastoral labors had the proper extent; II. They exhibited the corresponding diligence and zeal; III. They were guided by true wisdom. (Leopold).—Unto what then were ye baptized? I. Unto God the Father—then, ye have received the adoption as sons of God; II. Unto God the Son—then, ye have redemption in him through his blood; III. Unto God the Holy Ghost—then, ye have become the temple of God. (Leonh. and Sp.).—The resemblance of many Christians among us, to the disciples of John at Ephesus: I. Wherein it is seen, Acts 19:1-4; II. The religious experience which such Christians therefore need, Acts 19:5-7. (Lisco).—That they, too, belong to our number, who still occupy a lower grade of divine truth: I. Who are they? II. How can they be considered as, nevertheless, belonging to our number? (id.).—Have ye received the Holy Ghost?—the question considered as a test applied to all who call themselves disciples of Jesus. For it is only by the power of the Holy Ghost that, I. Our faith demonstrates its life and power, Acts 19:2; II. Our baptism, the blessings which it conveys, ver 3, 4; III. Our tongue, its consecration to the service of the Lord, Acts 19:6.—Unto what then were ye baptized?—the question viewed as a solemn admonition addressed to all baptized persons. It reminds them, I. Of the divine foundation of baptism: Jesus Christ, Acts 19:4-5; II. Of the sacred duties which flow from baptism: repentance and faith, Acts 19:4; III. Of the blessed fruits which proceed from baptism: the gifts of the Holy Ghost, Acts 19:6.—The twelve disciples of John, and the twelve disciples of Jesus, or, ‘One is your Master, even Christ,’ [Matthew 23:10]: I. Human masters may transmit their words; Christ alone can impart his Spirit; II. Human masters may teach the elements; Christ alone can conduct to the goal; III. Human masters may establish schools; Christ alone can found a Church.


Acts 19:1; Acts 19:1. a. [The original is μέρη, i.e., parts. On the word coasts, see note 8, appended to the text of Acts 13:42-52.—Tr.]

Acts 19:1; Acts 19:1. b. Tisch. and Lach. [and Alf.], in accordance with A. B. [Cod. Sin. ευριν], some minuscules, and Vulg. adopt the reading (in Acts 19:1) εὑρεῖν, and in Acts 19:2, ἐ͂ιπέν τε [found in A. B. D. E. Cod. Sin.], whereas the reading εὑρὼν—εῖ̓πε [of text. rec. from E. G. H.] is evidently a conjectural emendation.

Acts 19:2; Acts 19:2. εῖ̓πον [of text. rec. from G. H.] is wanting in several important manuscripts [A. B. D. E. Cod. Sin.], and is a spurious addition to the text. [Omitted by recent editors.—Tr.]

Acts 19:3; Acts 19:3. The reading πρὸς αὐτούς [of text. rec. from G. H.] is also spurious. [Omitted in A. B. D. E., Vulg., and by recent editors.—Cod. Sin. reads: ὁ δὲ ὲῖ̓πεν̇ Eἱς τί.—Tr.]

Acts 19:4; Acts 19:4. Xριστόν before Ἰησοῦν is found only in the two latest uncial manuscripts, and is undoubtedly spurious. [Omitted in A. B. E. Cod. Sin.; Vulg., and by Lach., Tisch., and Alf.—D. reads simply τὸν Xρ.—Mὲν, after Ἰωάννης is omitted in A. B. D. Cod. Sin., but found in E. G. H; it is rejected by Lach., Tisch., and Born., but retained by Alf., who, like Meyer, believes that it was dropped, because no corresponding δέ occurs in the words which Paul pronounced. But those interpreters who regard Acts 19:5, as the continuation of Paul’s address, find the correlative δὲ in that verse.—Tr.]

Acts 19:7; Acts 19:7. [For the Hebraistic δεκαδύο of text. rec. from G. H., and found also in some minuscules, fathers, etc., Lach., Tisch., and Born, read δώδεκα, from A. B. D. E. Cod. Sin., minuscules, etc. Alf. retains the less usual form of the text. rec.—Tr.]

Verses 8-20

§ IV. Other labors of the Apostle, who taught, and wrought miracles, in Ephesus

Acts 19:8-20

8And [But] he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God [boldly, and, during three months, discoursed concerning the kingdom of God, and sought to persuade]. 9But when divers [some, τινες] were hardened [hardened themselves], and believed not [and were unbelievers], but spake evil of that [and reviled the, τὴν] way before [in the presence of] the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily [discoursing day by day] in the school [lecture-room] of one [of a certain]7 Tyrannus. 10And [But] this continued by the space of [during] two years; so that all they which dwelt in [all the inhabitants of] Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus [om. Jesus8], both Jews and Greeks.11And God wrought special miracles [wrought not inconsiderable works] by the hands of Paul: 12So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons [So that they laid9 handkerchiefs and aprons from his skin on the sick], and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out10 of them. 13Then [But, δὲ] certain of the vagabond Jews, [of the wandering Jewish] exorcists, took upon them [undertook] to call [name] over them which [who] had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure [I adjure11 ] you by [the, τὸν] Jesus whom Paul preacheth. 14And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so [But there were several sons of Skeuas, a Jewish chief priest, seven of them, who did this, τοῦτο]. 15And [But] the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know [γινώσχω], and Paul I know [and of Paul I have knowledge, ἐπίσταμαι]; but [ye,] who are ye? 16And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them [overpowered both12], and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17And this was [became] known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and [a] fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 18And many that believed [many of those who had become believers] came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds [declared that which they had done]. 19Many of them also which used curious arts [But many of them who had observed superstitious practices] brought their [the, τὰς] books together, and burned them before [in the presence of] all men: and they counted [computed] the price [purchase-money] of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver [found that it was fifty thousand in money]. 20So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed [mightily the word of the Lord13 grew and prevailed].


Acts 19:8. And he went into the synagogue.—He continued to labor for three months. During this period neither the rulers nor individual members of the Jewish community offered any opposition to him; the apostle was enabled to speak with the utmost freedom and boldness concerning the kingdom of God, while he labored to win souls for it (πείθων). The conjecture that he spoke here with unusual gentleness (Baumgarten), is scarcely supported by the word ἐπαῤῥησιάζετο.

Acts 19:9-10. a. But when divers were hardened [when some hardened themselves].—Nevertheless, a crisis now arrived. There were some who gradually became less willing to hear, and who more and more positively refused to accept the offers of grace in Christ. (The imperfect tense, ἐσκληρύνοντο καὶ ἠπείθουν, indicates that this state of their souls was gradually developed, and was then permanently established). At length they proceeded so far, as to revile Christianity publicly in the synagogue.—(Ἡ ὁδός is the way of salvation which God has chosen and opened to men; see Acts 18:26). This conduct induced the apostle not only to renounce, on his own part, all fellowship with the synagogue (ἀποστάς), but also to withdraw the whole number of the Christians from it (ἀφώρισε). He then chose the lecture-room of a man named Tyrannus, who is otherwise unknown to us, as a place suited for the delivery of his discourses. The later Greeks gave the name of σχολαί to the places in which their philosophers taught. Now as the one which Paul selected, here receives this genuine Greek name, it would seem to be most natural to suppose that the owner himself was a Greek, and, perhaps, a public orator and a teacher of rhetoric. Indeed, Suidas speaks of a sophist who bore the name of Tyrannus, and who wrote a work entitled: περὶ στάσεως καὶ διαιρέσεως λόγοι, although he does not mention his abode, or the age in which he lived. The circumstance that Luke neither states in express terms that Paul now went to the Gentiles (as in Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6-7), nor describes Tyrannus as a proselyte (comp. Acts 18:7), is not of itself sufficient to sustain the conjecture (of Meyer) that this man was a Jewish rabbi and the proprietor of a private synagogue, or house of instruction (called בֵית מִדְרָש by the Jews). That Tyrannus was a Greek, is indicated both by the word σχολή, and by his proper name, which is found, it is true, in Josephus (Ant. xvi. 10. 3; Bell. i. 26. 3, the same person being meant in both passages) and in 2Ma 4:40 (where the reading is doubtful); but even here it does not occur as the name of an Israelite.

b. Disputing daily … dwelt in Asia.—This lecture-room was open to Paul, not only on the sabbath, but also at all other times, and was used by him for two years (A. D. 55–57); this period is undoubtedly to be understood as exclusive of the three months mentioned in Acts 19:8. [Τοῦτο, Acts 19:10, specially refers to the time which succeeded the three months during which Paul preached in the synagogue; probably, too, the time in which the events occurred that are mentioned after Acts 19:20, is also to be excluded. Then the expressions ἔτη δύο, Acts 19:10, and τριετίαν in Acts 20:31 (on which see the Exeg. note) coincide, as general designations of time. (Meyer; de Wette).—Tr.]. Ephesus was an important city, maintained a flourishing trade, and was the seat of the celebrated temple of Diana; Paul labored in it actively and uninterruptedly during a period of more than two years. In view of these facts, it may be easily conceived that this city became a centre for the evangelization of the entire province of Asia, in the narrower sense of the term [i.e., the Roman or proconsular province of Asia, of which Ephesus was the capital.—Tr.]. Thus the inhabitants of the western coast of Asia, far and wide, heard the word of the Lord. The expression πάντες οἱ κατοικ. obviously involves a hyperbole: still, the words ἀκοῦσαι τὸν λόγ. τοῦ κυρίου are not to be so understood as if all the people had heard Paul himself; they may also imply that many heard the word in a less direct manner, that is, from others. How many inhabitants of Asia Minor must have visited the temple of Artemis as pilgrims, or have travelled to Ephesus for business purposes during the several years of Paul’s residence in it! Now, while they were in the city, they may have gone to that lecture-room, which was open to all, and have heard Paul, whose preaching had already attracted public attention. On their return to their homes, they naturally related to others all that they had heard.

Acts 19:11-16. a. And God wrought special miracles [wrought not inconsiderable works].—In addition to the instructions which Paul imparted, Luke mentions also the acts of the apostle, or the miracles of healing which God wrought through him (by means of the imposition of hands, διὰ τῶν χειρῶν).—Δυνάμεις - - οὐ τὰς τυχούσας, i.e., extraordinary works of power; ὁ τυχών means: the person or thing casually met; hence it also means ordinary, unimportant. Luke relates two facts in Acts 19:12, as illustrations and evidences of the general proposition contained in Acts 19:11. The first is, that Paul expelled evil spirits, or healed persons who were possessed by them (this fact is mentioned in the second place, as it is connected with the incident of which an account is immediately afterwards inserted by him). The second fact is, that cloths which Paul had used for wiping his face, and which had come in contact with his skin, sweat-cloths and half-girdles [“i.e., going only half round the body, covering the front of the person” (Alex.).—Tr.], had been laid on the sick, after being directly carried from his person, and that the result was, that the sick were healed (σουδάριον [translated napkin in Luke 19:20; John 11:44; John 20:7—Tr.], from the Latin sudor, sudarium; σιμικίνθιον, [also from the Latin] semicinctium.). It is here, however, to be carefully observed that Paul himself by no means adopted such a course, but, on the contrary, as Acts 19:11 shows, healed by the imposition of hands. Other persons, however, who had confidence in him conceived the idea of employing such means, and yet, even in these cases, the sick were healed. [See the author’s Exeg. note on Acts 5:12-16. c.—Tr.]

b. And the evil spirits went out of them. And … seven sons, etc.—The sons of a Jewish chief priest attempted to imitate the apostle, who healed demoniacs in the name of Jesus. Their father, Skeuas, who is not otherwise known to us, may have been related to the family of the highpriest, or he may have been the chief of one of the twenty-four courses of the priests [see 1 Chron. Acts 24:0]. At that time, many persons of Jewish origin wandered about in the Roman empire as exorcists, workers of miracles, and conjurers or jugglers (Acts 19:13, and comp. Acts 13:6 ff.). When the seven sons of Skeuas ascertained that the name of Jesus had acquired a certain degree of authority in Ephesus, and that Paul had healed demoniacs when he pronounced that name, they, too, attempted to employ the name of Jesus for the purpose of exorcising and expelling demons. Two of the seven brothers made such an attempt in a particular case, as we learn from the word ἀμφοτέρων, Acts 19:16, which is the genuine reading [see note 6, appended to the text above.—Tr.]. The result was very unfortunate for themselves. The demon who possessed the man and spoke through him, addressed the exorcists in a contemptuous manner, as persons whom he did not know, and whose authority he did not recognize, as he did that of Jesus and of His apostle Paul; moreover, the possessed man himself, whom they had attempted to heal by means of their conjuration, attacked them with the utmost fury, and so roughly used them, that they fled from the house wounded and with garments torn, and, unquestionably, also covered with ridicule and disgrace. [“Naked, i. e., with their clothes torn partially or wholly off. The Greek word sometimes means imperfectly or badly clothed, e. g., Matthew 25:36; John 21:7; James 2:15.” (Alex.).—Tr.]

Acts 19:17-18. And this was [became, ἐγενετο] known.—This occurrence, which became known to the whole city, created a very great sensation, and, indeed, produced an indefinite fear of that mysterious power which was ascribed to the name of Jesus (φόβος); public opinion assigned a new and increased importance to that name (ἐμεγαλύετο). But in the case of those who were already converts, the effect of that occurrence was, that they came (ἥρχοντο) to the apostle, and openly confessed that which they had done (πράξεις). Those to whom the word πεπιστευκότες is applied, were certainly not persons who now only were converted, in consequence of the impression which that event had made on them (Meyer), but, as the perfect tense shows, who had been previously converted and had remained believers; see below, Doctr. and Eth. No. 4. The πράξεις which they set forth, were, unquestionably, not acts of faith which they had performed (Luther), for this interpretation is at variance not only with the New Testament sense of ἐξομολογ., which word regularly denotes the confession of sins [but not in Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21; Revelation 3:5, nor in two quotations from the Sept., viz., Romans 14:11; Romans 15:9.—Tr.], but also with the connection of the passage. Still, πράξις cannot be taken in the restricted sense of sorceries, but must be understood, in a more comprehensive sense, of sinful deeds in general.

Acts 19:19-20. Many of them also which used curious arts [superstitious practices].—Many who had practised magical arts or others of a similar nature, now brought their magical books (probably containing directions for soothsaying, and giving instructions in sorcery [or “magical formulæ, written amulets” (Alf.)]). Τὰ περίεργα πράξαντες, (res curiosæ,) is a mild expression, which, however, is often used in a special sense, to denote magical things. [The Engl. version: curious arts conforms to the Vulgate: qui fuerant curiosa sectati. Kuinoel says: Περίεργος proprie dicitur qui præter rem curiosus est et diligens, qui nimis sedulus est et curiosus in rebus sciscitandis et agendis, quæ ad ipsum non pertinent … . Hinc translatum vocabulum περίεργος ut Lat. curiosus ad eos qui magicarum artium studio tenentur, etc. See the references ad loc., e. g., Hor. Epod. xviii. 25, or, in some editions, xvii. 77.—Tr.]. It was precisely in Ephesus that magic, strictly so called, held its seat; it had originally been connected with the worship of Artemis. The Ἐφέσια γράμματα were especially celebrated; these were magical formulæ written on paper or parchment, which were either recited or carried as amulets for the purpose of protecting the owner from any possible danger, of escaping from any existing evil, or of securing his happiness. [“Eustathius says that the mysterious symbols called ‘Ephesian letters,’ were engraved on the crown, the girdle, and the feet of the goddess.” (Conyb. and H. II. 13).—Tr.].The owners themselves of these books [βίβλους, rolls, scrolls, etc. (Rob. Lex.)—Tr.] burned them publicly, as, at a former period, the work of Protagoras on the gods was burned by order of the government, and as the emperor Augustus directed books on soothsaying to be collected and burned. They then computed the value (τὰς τιμάς, the original cost), and found (εὖρον, found as the sum) that it amounted in money to 50,000. [Ἀργυρίου is here money, silver-money (Rob. Lex.) and δραχμή is omitted (Winer, § 64. 5).—Tr.]. The coin, in reference to which this calculation is made, was, without doubt, the drachma, the most common Greek silver coin, which circulated also among the Jews after the Captivity. Hence, as the drachma was equal to 7 Neugroschen or 24 Kreuzer, the whole amount may have been 11.000 or 12.000 Thaler, or about 20.000 Gulden. [Lechler here estimates the amount in German money only; the Neugroschen is equal to 21½ cents, the Gulden, to 40 cents, the Thaler, to 70 cents, in our money. Assuming the value of the drachma to have been at that time (for it varied considerably at different periods) equal to 15 cents (see Rob. Lex. art. ἀργύριον. 2.), the value of the books was about $7500. Alford estimates the amount in sterling money at 1770 pounds; Howson (Conyb. and H. II. 17) at 2000 pounds. Nothing more than an approximation can be furnished.—Tr.). Grotius and others, and quite recently, Tiele (Stud. u. Krit. 1858, p. 763 f.), suppose that the money was reckoned according to the Hebrew shekel, in which case the amount as stated above [in modern money], would be quadrupled [the shekel being equal to 56–62 cents, according to the estimates of different authorities.—Tr.]. But it is in the highest degree improbable that the owners, who were, without doubt, Greeks, should have estimated the value of the books in reference to a foreign coin, and not to one which circulated in their own country.

Acts 19:20. [So mightily, etc., that is, with such power did the doctrine of the Lord grow (referring to its external diffusion), and such power did it exhibit (in producing great results). (Meyer).—Tr.]


1. Christianity is not schismatic. That apostle who contended with the greatest earnestness for freedom from the law, and for the independence of the church of Christ, himself adhered to the synagogue as long as it was possible. It was solely in consequence of public blasphemies to which the truth was subjected, and from which the synagogue afforded him no protection, that he resolved to withdraw (ἀφορίζειν), and establish a perfectly independent congregation.

2. The healing of sick persons by means of linen cloths which had come in contact with the skin of the apostle, is certainly a circumstance that is in the highest degree surprising. Even if such a course was not advised and favored by him, as the narrative distinctly shows, he must, at least, have been aware of it, and have tolerated it. The circumstance itself cannot, indeed, (with Baur) be assigned to the category of relic-worship, since it is obvious that a healing and miraculous power was not supposed to reside in the cloths themselves, so that they could, on any subsequent occasion, be used as the means for healing the sick; the relief which they afforded, depended, on the contrary, on the living personality of the apostle, and it was a necessary condition of their efficacy as mediums of his miraculous power, that they should have been directly brought away from his person (ἀποφέρεσθαι�). It cannot be doubted that the faith of those sick persons was not only the condition on which their own susceptibility of being healed depended, but was also the principal motive which led to that course of action, during which it may readily be conceived that the name of Jesus was invoked in devout prayer. The fact, moreover, that a “magnetic rapport” may be established, might, possibly, be regarded as bearing a certain analogy to the use of those mediums of healing. Still, the impression cannot be effaced that this mode of affording relief constituted the extreme limit of the Christian miracles, and could not have been transcended without danger of going astray and actually resorting to magical rites. [“There was a special divine ordering, intended to communicate a healing influence to greater numbers and a greater distance, yet without allowing any doubt as to the source or channel of communication, such as might have arisen if the miracles had been performed by mere word of command, without actual proximity or contact, mediate or immediate, with the object.” (Alexander).—Tr.]

3. It is remarkable that the statement of the circumstances just mentioned, is immediately followed by the narrative of an actual magical abuse of the name of Jesus, apparently as if the latter were intended to serve as a warning. The Jewish conjurers attempted to use the name of Jesus in their superstitious and heathenish practices, but they utterly failed. They not only could not accomplish their design, but, besides, subjected themselves to personal ill treatment and to disgrace. Such a recompense was well deserved, for they had taken the holy name of the Redeemer in vain (Exodus 20:7). They hoped, first of all, to gain filthy lucre, and for such a purpose they were willing to employ the name of Jesus; and, in the second place, they expected that the mere utterance of the name of Jesus, without the faith of the heart, and without a personal fellowship with Him, would produce the desired effect on the demoniac. Now this is precisely the magical element in such a transaction, when a lifeless formula usurps the place of a morally determined will and a holy disposition. The conjurers themselves confess that they stand in no personal relation whatever to Jesus, by speaking of him as “the Jesus [τὸν Ἰησ. ὅν] whom Paul preacheth.” But Paul preached Jesus, because he believed on him: “I believed, and therefore have I spoken.” [1 Corinthians 4:13; Psalms 116:10]. On this account he could perform deeds which were impossible to others. This fact is, indeed, implied in the answer of the evil spirit. The latter knows Jesus as the Master and Conqueror even of the world of fallen spirits. He has a knowledge of Paul, who was endowed with power by Jesus Christ, because he was morally united with Him, in consequence of his genuine repentance and faith. The evil spirit, on the other hand, asks: “But who are ye?” In this case, their “inner man” had acquired no personality; the conjurers possessed neither intrinsic worth, nor that power which can be derived solely from a real and intimate union with the Redeemer.

4. The confession, Acts 19:18. Many believers came, and declared that which they had done. It is a question of some importance, whether these persons had previously been converts, or whether they were converted only at this later point of time. It is the opinion of Meyer that they could not possibly have been converts of an earlier period, since a change of mind [or repentance, μετάνοια] was the [necessary] condition of faith [and baptism. (Meyer, 3d ed. note, p. 388.—Tr.]. But philological considerations [see the Exeg. note on Acts 19:17-18.—Tr.] do not sanction any other interpretation than that converts of an earlier period are meant. They had, to a certain extent, retained their heathenish superstition; their repentance and conversion had not thoroughly influenced all their opinions, feelings, and actions. Even their views of the sinfulness of the superstitious customs of the times, as well as of other practices, may never have been as clear and distinct as they became when this late event occurred. It is well known that long established customs maintain their ground with great tenacity; and even when an improvement has been made, heathenism may secretly resume its influence to a certain extent, and mislead those who are no longer actually out of the pale of Christianity. There can be no doubt that those who confessed, had been believers for a considerable time. But now the power of the Spirit of God was, in consequence of that remarkable event, decisively and triumphantly exercised in the work of renewal and sanctification. The Spirit imparted to these confessing believers the knowledge of sin, and wrought in them a sincere repentance (passiva contritio, genuine sorrow for sin, according to the Smalcald Articles, Part III. art. 3, and not activa, that is, a factitious and mechanical sorrow). [The author here alludes to a decree adopted at the fourteenth session of the Council of Trent, in which (cap. III.) the following statement occurs: “Moreover, the acts of the penitent, namely, Confession, Contrition and Satisfaction, are the matter, as it were, of this sacrament (of Penance).”—Tr.]. These believers, in the next place confess their deeds (confessio); and, lastly, they act in accordance with that confession—they bring their magical books and publicly burn them. The whole procedure, however, was not according to the Law, but strictly according to the Gospel. For, in the first place, they voluntarily adopted this course, moved by the Spirit, who convinced them of sin; they were not constrained by any objective ordinance, any external command, nor even any consideration derived from social life. In the second place, their acts do not in the least degree assume the character of a satisfactio operis, as if they expected to atone for sin in this manner, or acquire a claim to forgiveness and eternal life. Their acts are, on the contrary, voluntarily performed, and are the indispensable result of a genuine and sincere repentance, which impels the offender to free himself completely from sin, and from every allurement and opportunity to commit it.


Acts 19:8. And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly.—Paul’s mode of dealing with the twelve men (Acts 19:1-8), furnishes the pastor with a model for his own conduct in private life; we now receive information respecting his labors in public. (Rieger).—He did not, with those twelve men and the other few disciples, at the very beginning, creep into a corner, in order to seek edification for himself and them alone, as if no others existed; on the contrary, he regarded the rest of the Ephesians as also belonging to his pastoral district. For it is commanded that the Gospel should be preached on the house-tops. (Williger).

Acts 19:9. But when some were hardened … he departed … and separated the disciples.—The words: “Neither cast ye your pearls before swine” [Matthew 7:6], could be applied in the present case. Paul created no schism, for he separated the disciples not from the true, but from the false church. (Gossner).—Like a watchful shepherd, he discovered the mangy sheep, and separated the rest of the flock from them, so that the latter might not be infected. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 19:10. And this continued by the space of two years.—How blessed is the country, or city, or village, in which God causes the light of his Gospel to shine! (Starke).—But what a judgment will come on men, for whom the light shineth in their darkness, while they neither comprehend nor keep it! John 1:5; Revelation 2:5. (Leon, and Sp.).—So that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word.—Men are accountable to God for every opportunity which has been offered to them to hear the Gospel, even if they have not actually heard it. (Starke).—It is not merely by accident that Paul specially treats the subject of fellowship with the church precisely in his Epistle to the Ephesians. The city of Ephesus was the connecting link of the congregations in the East and the West, and the central point of the church in the province of Asia. During those two years of successful labor which Paul spent in Ephesus, four congregations were gathered in that province—the original congregation in Ephesus, and three offshoots, one in Colosse (Colossians 1:7; Colossians 4:12), one in Laodicea (Colossians 4:15-16), and one in Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13). Thus have we thrice seen four congregations, planted by apostolic hands, which grew up before us—twelve trees, proceeding from the root of Jesse, and flourishing unto the praise of the Lord: four in Lycaonia and Pisidia, four in Macedonia and Greece, and four in the province of Asia. The day’s-work of the apostle was, therefore, completed already at noon, before he turned his face towards Rome, Acts 19:21. (Besser).

Acts 19:12. So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, etc.—These were, however, not relics of a dead man, but articles used by a living and wonder-working apostle, at whose death, when his work was performed, these miracles ceased. Nor were those articles preserved, so that similar miracles might be wrought by them at a future time; the power did not reside in them, but proceeded from God and Christ, Acts 19:11. (Starke).—The handkerchiefs of Paul as little wrought miracles in Ephesus, as the shadow of Peter, at an earlier period, in Jerusalem (Acts 5-15). The healing power which was manifested, proceeded in both cases from the living Christ, whose strength was made perfect in the weakness of his instruments [2 Corinthians 12:9], so that rivers of living water flowed [John 7:38] alike from the body as from the spirit; and this power operated on the sick not by mere corporeal contact, but by the spiritual “rapport” of faith.—Why is the Romish worship of relics a dead, idolatrous worship? I. Because those who offer it expect salvation from a dead hand: from dry bones, and fragments of clothing and wood, but not from the hand of the living God, or of his servants who are filled with his Spirit; II. Because they receive salvation with a dead hand: depending on the dead works of pilgrimages and ceremonies, and not on a living faith as the internal medium.

Acts 19:13. We [I] adjure thee by [the] Jesus, whom Paul preacheth.—It was a righteous judgment of God, that the people to whose care the true word of God had been previously intrusted, should now, when they forsook the truth, addict themselves to the most degrading magic arts.—There were many impostors who attempted to imitate the apostles. But what was their aim? Not to teach the truth, nor to aid in the work of converting men; such a thought never occurred to them. They attempted to imitate the miracles and deeds which had raised the apostles to so high an eminence, and thus acquire similar distinction. False teachers still adopt the same course. It is not their object to impart a knowledge of the truth to others, and lead them in the way of salvation, but, rather, to gain power and influence; hence they adopt the color and the plumes of the true servants of God.—These men had no personal knowledge whatever of Jesus; they knew him only from common fame as “the Jesus whom Paul preacheth.” How wretched is the condition of a teacher, who speaks, indeed, of Jesus, but who has not the least knowledge of him, derived from the experience of the heart! He learns to speak “the language of Canaan” [Isaiah 19:18], to repeat from memory the most emphatic expressions of the servants of God, and to talk of “the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Is it a wonder that shame and disgrace should overtake him? (Ap. Past.).

Acts 19:14. Seven sons of … chief of the priests.—We are here reminded of the many mournful instances in which Satan has acquired an influence specially over the sons of priests. Should not such instances arouse all preachers, and impel them to pray most earnestly to Jesus in behalf of their children, even when these are still mere infants? (Ap. Past.).

Acts 19:15. Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?—Even the evil spirit is compelled to admit and confess that Christ and his servants have no concord with Belial; he well understands the difference between the righteous and the ungodly.—He who ventures to commence a contest with Satan, when he has received no authority and possesses no faith, will necessarily be put to shame. (Starke).—Men who boast of the truth, without knowing it, or presume to be teachers, without having themselves any knowledge, or announce the covenant of God, while they detest all wholesome restraint, or pronounce the name of Jesus with their lips, while in their hearts and works they deny Him [Titus 1:16], must expect to encounter Satan in all their ways, and to be dismissed with the words: ‘Jesus I know, but who are ye?” Even if such an answer is not now publicly made, it is internally conveyed, through the accusations of an evil conscience. For he who preaches the truth, which he himself does not believe, and proclaims the name of Jesus, of whom he is still an enemy, must necessarily feel in his own heart the sting of the reproach and the contemptuous language which the evil spirit addresses to these impostors.—“Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?”—are words addressed as a stern rebuke to false prophets and hypocritical disciples: for the purpose of, I. Exposing to them the falsehood of their hearts: they cannot deceive even Satan and the world, much less the God of truth, and the children of light; II. Convincing them of the total inefficiency of their arts; they cannot accomplish with these more than Gehazi with the staff of the prophet, 2 Kings 4:29-31; III. Directing them to the true source, from which alone the power to do the works of God is derived: the Spirit of Jesus and of his faithful witnesses.

Acts 19:16. Leaped on them, and overcame them … so that they fled, etc.—Satan rewards his most faithful servants with ingratitude. The one who serves him with the greatest zeal is at last subjected to his most severe torments. The flatteries of the beginning are ultimately changed into tortures. The only reward which his service affords is a “naked and wounded” soul. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 19:17. And fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.—Even demons are compelled to glorify Jesus, when God so wills it. The power of the name of Jesus is manifested alike when apostles expel demons, and when exorcists fail to expel them in that name.—The holy name of Jesus glorified: I. In his servants, by their victories; II. In his enemies, by their defeat.

Acts 19:18. And many … confessed, and shewed their deeds.—The power of sin lies in its secrecy; when silence is broken, its prop is likewise broken. (Pastor Blumhardt of Möttlingen, on the awakening of his congregation, caused by the confession of sins, 1844). It is true that a teacher cannot demand or compel such a confession of former abominations. But when it is voluntarily made, in consequence of the constraint of conscience and the impulse of the Spirit, the faithful teacher ought so to avail himself of it, as to conduct the troubled soul to true peace and deliverance. (Ap. Past.).—“We therefore teach what an admirable, precious and comforting privilege confession is, and we exhort men, that, in view of our great need, they should not despise such a rich blessing. Now if thou art a Christian, no compulsion, no command will be required, for thou wilt constrain thyself to confess. Hence when I exhort men to make a confession, I do nothing else than exhort every one to be a Christian.” (Luther: Brief Exhortation to Confession).

Acts 19:19. Many … brought their books … and burned them before all men.—The pernicious books which continue to abound in the world, seem to be a judgment that has come upon it. Such a burning of books should more frequently be arranged. (Rieger).—Although many modern Christians of liberal minds, may censure that act as one dictated by excessive scrupulosity, and although antiquarians may lament the loss of those treasures, we will not cast one stone at those Ephesians, in whom the first love (Revelation 2:4) was still burning, as little as we would at those earnest Christians of our own age who renounce, for the sake of the Gospel, not only all amusements, but also all gains which may be of a doubtful character. (Williger).—Booksellers and proprietors of circulating libraries should specially ponder this text. (Besser).

Acts 19:20. So mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed.—This one word: “So” [οὕτω] is truly a divine Amen, a testimony coming from heaven: ‘This is my beloved congregation in which I am well pleased.’ Lord! Grant thy grace, so that thou mayest bear such testimony in favor of every congregation which confesses thy name; and that the earnest efforts of thy people to free themselves even from the most secret cursed thing (Deuteronomy 7:26) may be made manifest, so that the world may have no other reproach to make except this—that they zealously follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord [Hebrews 12:14]. (Williger).

(On Acts 19:8-20). The power of evangelical preaching, as it was demonstrated in Ephesus: I. In the acts of Paul, Acts 19:8-12; II. In the disgrace of the false workers of miracles, Acts 19:13-17; Acts 18-20. (Lisco).—How victoriously the simple word of God disenchants the enchanted world [probably an allusion to the title of B. Becker’s celebrated work, published in Amsterdam, in 1691, and entitled: The enchanted world.—Tr.]: I. It destroys the influence which the magic arts of unprincipled impostors might attempt to acquire over the hearts of believers, Acts 19:9; II. It breaks the magical bonds of Satanic possession by its vital and saving power; III. It exposes with unsparing earnestness the magical delusions of sanctimonious hypocrites, Acts 19:13-17; IV. It bursts asunder, by the power of sincere repentance, the magical chains which the previous years spent in the service of sin, had fastened, Acts 19:18; V. It consumes the magical books of a deceitful wisdom, in the fire of divine truth, ver; 19.—In what sense did Christ come into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil? [1 John 3:8]. I. What are these works? II. How does he destroy them? (See above, on Acts 19:12; Acts 19:15; Acts 19:17-18, for other sketches).—What is a right and true confession? That, of which, I. Faith is the root; II. Repentance, the vital power; III. A new obedience, the fruit, (Acts 19:18-19).—The evangelical Christian at the confessional: I. What should conduct him to it? Not a mere outward custom, nor the command of a despotic church, but the inward impulse of a penitent heart that seeks salvation; II. What should he find there? Not a burden of penitential acts imposed on the conscience by men, nor a license to commit new sins, but the comfort which grace imparts, when God pardons sin, and a new impulse, derived from the Spirit, to obey with a grateful heart.—Would that pyre at Ephesus be appropriately rekindled in our day? Yes—but only, I. For the appropriate books. The books which it would be proper to burn, are (a) not instructive works on any science, nor those which contain genuine poetry, nor any that refer to human law, but (b) those pernicious leaves which convey only a frivolous and barren knowledge; those seductive, magical books belonging to an impure literature, which seeks only to amuse; and the arrogant decrees of an unchristian tyranny which fetters the conscience (such as Luther burned near the gate of Wittenberg [Dec. 10, 1520]); II. With appropriate fire. This is (a) not the lurid flame of a narrow-minded puritanism, nor the sullen fire of a censorious fanaticism, nor the incendiary torch of revolution, but (b) the holy fire of that repentance which reminds man first of all of his own defects and sins (Acts 19:18)—of that love to the Lord, which joyfully sacrifices to him even the most precious objects (Acts 19:19)—and of that zeal for the house of God, which has no other desire than that His kingdom may come, alike into congregations, families and hearts, and into the government, into art and science, (Acts 19:20).—The burning of the books at Ephesus, or, The word of man, and the word of God, Acts 19:19-20 : I. The word of man: (a) it deceives; (b) it perishes, Acts 19:19; II. The word of God: (a) it saves; (b) it endures [1 Peter 1:25] forever, Acts 19:20.—[The burning of the books of magic at Ephesus, (Acts 19:19): I. The historical facts; (a) magical and superstitious practices (origin—views of deceivers and deceived); (b) nature and pecuniary value of the “books” in question. II. Motives in burning them; (a) consciousness of the guilt of such practices; (b) enlightened Christian faith. III. Effect on the spectators; (a) to weaken the influence of the prevailing superstition; (b) to lead men to1 repentance. IV. Lessons which the fact teaches; (a) respecting divine Providence, which controls all (Luke 21:18); (b) respecting the duties which we owe to the almighty God.— Tr.]


Acts 19:9; Acts 19:9. τινός after Tυρ. is wanting in several manuscripts, it is true [in A. B.; also Cod. Sin.], but it is quite probable that the word was dropped [by copyists. It is found in D. E. G. H. Vulg. It is omitted by Lach., Tisch., and Alf.—Tr.]

Acts 19:10; Acts 19:10. Ἰησοῦ after κυρίου is supported by only one uncial manuscript [by G., whereas it is omitted in A. B. D. E. H. Cod. Sin. Vulg.; hence it is dropped by recent editors generally.—Tr.]

Acts 19:12; Acts 19:12. a. ἀποφερ. is as fully sustained [by A. B. E. Cod. Sin.] as ἑπιφερ. [which is found in D. G. H.]; the former, moreover, could more easily have been changed into ἐπιφ. than the reverse, and is, therefore, to be regarded as the genuine reading. [ἀποφ. was probably changed to ἐπιφ. of text. rec., in order to suit ἐπὶ τ.ἀσθεν. (Meyer and Alf.); Lach. Tisch. and Alf. accordingly read ἀποφ; but Scholz and Born. retain ἐπιφ.—Tr.]

Acts 19:12; Acts 19:12 b. [For ἐξέρχεσθαι of text. rec. which is the “more usual word for the going out of evil spirits” (Alf., from Meyer), and which occurs in G. H., recent editors substitute ἐκπορεύεσθαι, from A. B. D. E. Cod. Sin.—Ἀπʼ αὐτῶν, inserted immediately after the verb in text. rec. from G. H., is omitted in A. B. D. E. Cod. Sin. Vulg., and is dropped by recent editors as a supplementary insertion.—Tr.]

Acts 19:13; Acts 19:13. ὁρκίζω is by far better supported [by A. D. E. (B. is doubtful); Cod. Sin. Vulg.] than the plural ὁρκίζομεν; the latter was substituted for the singular in order to correspond to ἐπεχείρησαν—λέγοντες. [The singular is adopted by recent editors generally.—Tr.]

Acts 19:16; Acts 19:16. ἀμφοτέρων before ἵσχυσεν is better sustained [namely, by A. B. D. Cod. Sin.] than αὐτε͂ν [of text. rec. from G. H. (Vulg. eos.). “The weight of MSS. evidence for this reading (ἀμφοτέρων) is even surpassed by its internal probability, etc.” (Alford).—Tr.]. Later copyists substituted αὐτῶν for ἀμφ., because the narrative does not elsewhere state that only two of the sons were connected with the transaction. If ἀμφ. had not been the original reading, it would undoubtedly never have been inserted. [ἀμφ. adopted by Lach., Tisch., Born., Alf., etc.—Tr.]

Acts 19:20; Acts 19:20. [The text. rec. exhibits κυρίου with A. B. Cod. Sin, etc., and this reading is retained by Lach., Tisch., and Alf.—D. E. exhibit θεοῦ in place of it. The Engl. version here deviates from the text. rec., and follows the ordinary text of the Vulg. (Dei); Cod. Amiatinus, however, exhibits Domini.—Tr.]

Verses 21-41

§ V. While the apostle is preparing to continue his journey to Macedonia and Achaia, a tumult occurs in Ephesus; the progress and end of it

Acts 19:21-41

21[But] After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed [to travel] through Macedonia and Achaia, [and then] to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome. 22So [But, δὲ] he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed [and he tarried] in Asia for a season. 23And [But] the same [at that, ἐκεῖνον] time there arose no small stir [occurred not an inconsiderable disturbance] about that [the, τῆς] way. 24For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which [who] made silver shrines [temples] for Diana [of Artemis], brought no small gain unto the craftsmen [artisans]; 25Whom he called [gathered] together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs [Men], ye know that by this craft we have our wealth [that from this trade our14 prosperity proceeds]. 26Moreover [And χαὶ] ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned [drawn] away much people, saying that they be [by saying, They are] no gods, which are made with hands: [hands.] 27So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; [But (δὲ) not only this department of our own is in danger of declining,] but also that [but also] the temple of the great goddess Diana [Artemis,] should be despised [(is in danger) of being set at nought], and her magnificence should be [her grandeur of being] destroyed,15 whom [whereas] all Asia and the world worshippeth [her]. 28 And [But, δὲ] when they heard these sayings [that], they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana [Artemis] of the Ephesians 2:0; Ephesians 2:09And the whole [om. whole16 ] city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre [confusion, and they rushed … theatre, and dragged with them Gaius … in travel]. 30And [But] when Paul would have entered in unto [wished to go among] the people, the disciples suffered him not [did not permit him]. 31And certain of the chief of Asia, which [And some of the Asiarchs who] were his friends, sent unto him, desiring [and besought] him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre. 32Some therefore [then, οὖν] cried one thing, and some [others] another: for the assembly was confused; and the more [greater] part knew not wherefore they were come together. 33And [But] they drew [brought forward]17 Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto [and intended to answer for himself before] the people. 34But when they knew [perceived]18 that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out [all lifted up one voice, and they cried about the space of two hours], Great is Diana [Artemis] of the Ephesians 3:0; Ephesians 3:05And [But] when the townclerk had appeased [quieted] the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there [is there then, γάρ] that knoweth not how [om. how] that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper [the guardian]19 of the great goddess [om. goddess20 ] Diana [Artemis], and of the image which fell down from Jupiter [from heaven]? 36Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against [Since this is therefore undeniable], ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly [commit no rash act]. 37For ye have brought hither these men, which [who] are neither robbers of churches [temples], nor yet blasphemers of your21 goddess. 38Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which [artisans who] are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open22 , and there are deputies [against any one (τινα,) there are court-days and proconsuls]: let them implead [bring charges against] one another. 39But if ye inquire any thing concerning other matters [seek for any thing further23 ], it shall be determined in a [the, τῇ] lawful24 assembly [of the people]. 40For we are [also, χαὶ γὰρ] in danger to be called in question for [of having charges brought against us on account of] this day’s uproar, there being no cause whereby [in view of which]25 we may give an account of this concourse. 41And when he had thus spoken [he had said this], he dismissed the assembly.


Acts 19:21-22. Paul purposed in the spirit.—[Ἐν τῷ πνεύματι, “i.e., under the divine direction, or in his own mind as determined by the Holy Ghost.” (Alex.). “Placed in his mind, purposed,” (Hackett). “Apud animum constituit, consilium cepit.” (Kuin.). Others interpret: “By the direction of the Holy Spirit.”—Tr.]. The terms here employed in describing the proposed route of the apostle, exhibit the journey through Macedonia and Greece merely as an episode, (and the latter is indeed very briefly narrated in Acts 20:1 ff.), whereas his visit to Jerusalem is represented as his main object. The present passage does not explicitly state his special purpose in proceeding to that city, but we ascertain from his Epistles (1 Corinthians 16:1 ff.; 1 Corinthians 2:0 Cor. Acts 8:0.; Romans 15:25 ff.) that he intended to collect alms for the congregation at Jerusalem, and he incidentally mentions the fact himself; sea below, Acts 24:17. But it is remarkable that on the same occasion he turns his eyes for the first time towards Rome, as the ultimate point to which it was necessary for him to proceed.—Before he himself departed from Ephesus, he sent two of his assistants in advance to Macedonia; of Erastus nothing further is known, in addition to the fact mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:20, as his identity with the Erastus mentioned in Romans 16:23 is Very doubtful. Ἐπεσχεν εὶς τ. Ἀσίαν, i.e., he tarried, his attention being still directed to Asia [where he now was. Meyer and de Wette concur in giving such an interpretation to εὶς, rather than to take it in the sense of for with Winer: Gram. § 50. 4. b.—Tr.]

Acts 19:23-24. There arose no small stir. Demetrius, the author of the disturbance, was an ἀργυροκόπος, i.e., a worker in silver, and, without doubt, the proprietor of a large manufacturing establishment, devoted to the preparation of articles of only one kind, namely silver temples of Artemis, that is, small models of the renowned temple of Diana, together with the statue. [On this temple, the city of Ephesus, etc. consult the very full account in Conyb. and Howson, Life, etc., of St. Paul. Vol. II. Acts 16.—“Whatever may have been the points of resemblance, there was also a great difference, at least between the Diana of the Latin poets and the Artemis of Ephesus, etc.” (Alex.).—Tr.]. It was a common practice to place such miniature temples in chambers [as household gods; see references in Conyb. loc. cit.—Tr.], and carry them along on journeys. Ammianus Marcellinus (XXII. 13) relates the following of the philosopher Asclepiades: deæ cœlestis argenteum breve figmentum quocunque ibat secum solitus efferre. Hence such a business must have been very lucrative when it was conducted on a large scale. Demetrius employed not only artists, strictly so called (τεχνῖται, Acts 19:24; Acts 19:38), but also a number of workmen or mechanics (ἐργάται, Acts 19:25), all of whom derived their support, and, to a certain extent, large gains, from their respective occupations. [Alii erant τεχνῖται, artifices nobiliores; alii ἐργάται, operarii. (Bengel).—Tr.]. The conjecture (of Beza and others) that the ναοί were not models, but silver coins presenting an image of the temple on one side, is supported by very feeble arguments.

Acts 19:25-27. Whom he called together, etc.—Demetrius was a man on whom many hundreds may have depended for their support; the decrease of the sale of the articles which he manufactured, furnished him with tangible means for measuring the influence of the apostle in discouraging the worship of Artemis; hence he was prompted to collect all the workmen, both of the higher and of the lower class (οῦς scil. τεχνίτας, καὶ τοὺς—ἐργάτας, Acts 19:25), who were connected with his business, and very artfully roused their passions. In his address he states two distinct facts, and from them draws an inference. He first refers to the fact that their particular branch of trade [μέρος, Acts 19:27] yielded large profits; he refers, in the second place, to the fact that Paul (ὁ Π. οὐτος, spoken contemptuously, and intended to increase the ill feeling of the hearers) had effected a vast and extensive change of opinion among the people, and opposed the worship of the images of the gods (οἱ διὰ χειρῶν γενόμενοι). When Demetrius asserted that a large multitude in Ephesus, and, indeed, in the whole province (Ἀσία, that is, Asia proconsularis), had been induced to adopt new views, he may have intentionally resorted to the language of exaggeration, in order the more successfully to provoke the people; still, even when such an allowance has been made, it remains an established fact that the apostle had exercised a very decided influence, for in any other case, the whole charge against the latter would have been manifestly pointless. From these facts Demetrius proceeds to draw a twofold inference: ‘Our branch [μέρος], our interest, is in danger of suffering (ἀπελεγμὸς, refutation, contempt, from ἐλέγχω), and, what is more (ἀλλὰ καὶ), the temple of Artemis will be set at nought, and the majesty of the goddess herself will be lowered (αὐτή, the goddess herself, as distinguished from her temple. Μεγαλειότης refers to the title ordinarily applied to the Ephesian Artemis—ἡ μεγάλη, e. g., Xen. Ephes. I.). Demetrius intended by this statement to appeal alike to the self-interest and to the religious fanaticism of his hearers, although he hypocritically represents the interest of the goddess as a higher and more important consideration than any other.

Acts 19:28-30. Great is Diana of the Ephesians.—The address of Demetrius made an impression; the fanatical passions of the men to whose interests he had appealed, were powerfully excited, and at first found a vent in this exclamation. His workmen, with loud and exciting outcries, passed through the city in every direction, and soon produced a general tumult. All the people rushed to the theatre, in which, in Greek cities, public meetings were frequently held, especially when popular assemblies were convoked without a direct legal call. As the apostle himself could not, at the moment, be found, his attendants were violently dragged along by the multitude; they were Aristarchus, a native of Thessalonica (Acts 20:4; Acts 27:2; [Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:21.]), and Gaius [the Greek form of the Latin Caius.—Tr.], a native of Macedonia, a different person from Gaius of Derbe, mentioned in Acts 20:4 [and from Gaius, mentioned in Rom 16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14. (Meyer).—Tr.]

Acts 19:31. And certain of the chief of Asia [some of the Asiarchs].—Some of them, without having become Christians, were, nevertheless, kindly disposed to the apostle, and sent him a message, warning him not to venture into the theatre. These Asiarchs [Ἀσιάρχαι] were officers elected by the cities of Asia proconsularis, who were required to exhibit games in honor of the gods at their own expense—a patriotic honorary office. [In other provinces such officers were respectively called Bithyniarchs, Syriarchs, Galatarchs, etc. (Meyer).—Tr.]

Acts 19:32-34. Some therefore cried one thing, etc.—A graphic description of that tumultuous assembly of the people is here presented. Alexander [who is, without any valid reason, supposed by some interpreters to be the person mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 4:14. (Meyer).—Tr.] was thrust forward by the Jews, while others of the multitude made room for him in order that he might come forward (προεβίβασαν) and address the people. He was certainly not a Christian (as Meyer and Baumgarten assume, in accordance with the opinion of Calvin, in which case the Jews must have thrust him forward from malice), but an unconverted Jew. Those who suppose that he was a Christian, deduce this inference from the fact that he intended to defend himself before the people. But it may be easily conceived that the popular feeling made no distinction between the Christians and the Jews, as the latter had long been known as opponents of paganism. It may have been the case that the Jews wished Alexander, who was perhaps an experienced public orator, to speak in their behalf, and thus transfer the blame from themselves to the Christians. But when he attempted to speak, the people observed that he was a Jew, and would not permit him to utter a word; on the contrary, the fanaticism which was now aroused, burst forth in the united and incessant outcry which the workmen of Demetrius had already commenced.

Acts 19:35-41. a. And when the townclerk.—Te γραμματεὺς was an officer whose duty it was to prepare, publish, and preserve, all the documents and decrees of the body politic to which he belonged; this office of a “secretary of state” was of considerable importance in the cities of Asia Minor. The incumbent, in the present case, at length prevailed on the assembled multitude to observe silence, and succeeded in allaying the excitement by the address which he delivered. The word γάρ, which follows τίς, implies that an effort to obtain silence had already been made.—Νεωκόρος originally designated a servant of the temple, or one whose duty it was to cleanse and adorn it; the word was afterwards employed as an honorable appellation, and was applied, in its connection with the priesthood, in the sense of keeper and guardian of the temple; the title was bestowed even on imperial persons, in order to confer honor upon them. The expression τὸ διοπετὲς [“adj. (Διός, πίπτω), fallen from Jove, heaven-descended” (Rob. Lex.), ἄγαλμα being understood; see Meyer ad loc.—Tr.] here denotes the wooden image of Artemis in the temple, so named, as, according to tradition, it had fallen from heaven.

b. Ye men of Ephesus, etc.—The address of this officer is intended to calm the excited multitude, and to prevent the commission of any rash and inconsiderate acts. With this view he reminds his hearers, in the first place, of certain well known and undisputed facts respecting the Ephesian worship of Diana, Acts 19:35. In the second place, he makes the juristical remark that the men who had been arrested, were guilty of no crime against Artemis or her temple. [“The latter statement of the Grammateus, in reference to Paul and his associates, has been variously understood, by some as a mere falsehood, meant to calm the mob; by others as a true description of Paul’s abstinence from all direct warfare against idol worship; by a third class, as describing only his forbearance as to particular deities, or forms of heathen worship, which, according to Josephus, was practised also by the Jews; and lastly, as not denying even this kind of attack, but only an offensive and insulting method of conducting it.” (Alex.). The townclerk, however, is not speaking of Paul, but only of Gaius and Aristarchus, who stood before him (τ. ἄνδ. τούτους).—Tr.]. Hence—the townclerk proceeds to say—it was necessary, either that Demetrius and his associates should commence an action in due form against these men, and charge them (λόγος, discourse, a matter of complaint) with a private and personal offence, or else, if it was desired that their offence should be made an affair of the state, that a regular assembly of the people should be convoked, which alone would be a competent court, Acts 19:37-39. Ἀγόρ, ἡμέραι, dies forenses s. judiciales habentur. Ἀ νθύπατοι, in the plural, conveys the sense: ‘There is always a proconsul on the spot.’ The words of this prudent man: ἡ ἔννομος ἐκκλησία imply with sufficient distinctness, even if somewhat indirectly, that the concourse before him was no regular assembly of the people, but rather a mob, and was by no means authorized to adopt any measures which could be recognized as legal. He directs the attention of his hearers, in the last place, to the circumstance that they had reason to apprehend that an account would be demanded of them respecting the present tumult, Acts 19:40. [“The Roman government watched every appearance of insubordination or sedition in the provinces with a jealous eye. … It was a capital offence to take any part in a riotous proceeding.” (Hackett).—Tr.]. τάρ before κινδ, implies that this anxiety respecting a possible accusation of insurrection, was a sufficient reason for resorting to the legal process indicated in Acts 19:39. Μηδενὸς αἰτιόυ ὑπ. is not masculine (Vulg.) in the sense: “No man being chargeable with it,” but neuter, implying: “Since no ground exists on which we can justify this συστροφή”—a word chosen in a spirit of mildness and forbearance, rather than στάσις.


1. The route announced by the apostle at Ephesus, embraced, in the first instance, Macedonia and Greece, and, afterwards, Jerusalem and Rome. Like the Redeemer, who, when His time was come, “steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51), Paul continually looks back to the city in which the Lord was crucified, and in which he founded His first congregation. But the apostle’s glance and desire refer even to a more distant point—to Rome, to which he purposed in the spirit—by divine guidance and illumination—to proceed, Acts 19:21. The revelations which Jesus had made in a direct manner, after his conversion, respecting the work assigned to him, now assume the form of dictates of his own soul—of resolutions adopted by a divine necessity.

2. The alarming tumult in Ephesus, which, like that at Philippi, proceeded from a purely pagan source, may also be traced, it is true, to base feelings engendered by the pecuniary losses of the authors (Acts 16:19). There is, however, a difference to be found between the two cases, in so far as, at Ephesus, the material interests of a particular guild or trade were essentially interwoven with the local worship of that pagan city. The whole procedure strikingly foreshadows the many later outbursts of fanaticism against Christianity and the pure Gospel, when purely selfish motives assumed the guise of zeal in the service of religion.

3. A holy zeal and carnal passions are as widely different from each other as day is from night: the former proceeds from a disinterested. love of God, and from a sincere desire to promote His honor; the latter proceed from a selfish and corrupt source. The former always acts with energy and perseverance, but also with self-possession and intelligence; the latter are always fitful and extravagant, confused, reckless, and irrational, Acts 19:32. The former produces good and abiding results; the latter either endanger or destroy, or else (Acts 19:30-31) consume themselves, and expire in infamy.

4. The representations made by the townclerk imply that the apostle, as well as his assistants, had altogether refrained from mocking and blaspheming the heathen gods; in any other case, his words would not only have produced no effect, but would rather have called forth contradictions, and increased the excitement of the people. This fact is, moreover, indirectly established by the inflammatory address which Demetrius made to his associates in trade, since if he had possessed any proofs that the worship of Artemis had been actually assailed, he would certainly have availed himself of them for his own purposes. With this view the conduct of the apostle at Athens, which was prudent, moderate, and as generous as possible, fully accords. Hence the example of the great apostle of the Gentiles does not sanction that method of approaching pagans, according to which all that is irrational and foolish in their religion is exposed in offensive and insulting terms. That method may indeed cut to the quick, but it does not enlighten and heal. The apostolical procedure assumes a positive, not a negative, character. The testimony concerning the true God and His Christ, our Redeemer, or the preaching of the Gospel, is a power of God [Romans 1:16], which enlightens, builds up, and saves, and it is only by this truth and this power that error and sin can be successfully refuted and rebuked.


Acts 19:21. After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit etc.—Paul does not believe that a time of repose had now arrived; he is eager to proceed further, as if he had hitherto accomplished nothing. He has already gained possession of Ephesus and Asia; he resolves to proceed to Macedonia and Achaia; his view is directed to Jerusalem; he meditates an expedition to Rome, and, afterwards, to Spain (Romans 15:24). No Alexander, no Cæsar, no other hero, ever exhibited such a lofty spirit as that which animated this little Benjamite [an allusion either to Psalms 68:27, or to Augustine’s explanation of the apostle’s name (the Latin paulus), and to his tribe, Romans 11:1.—Tr.]. The truth concerning Christ, faith in Him, and love to Him, had enlarged his heart, and made it wide as the ocean. (Bengel).—There are times when the burdens and cares of our office seem to be almost too great to be borne, and when we exclaim with Elijah: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life” [1 Kings 19:4]. But there are also other times, in which we can soar aloft in spirit, and, inspired by the dignity of our office, take such views and form such resolutions respecting the future, as are here ascribed to Paul. (Rieger).—Jerusalem and Rome are two peculiar, and, in their spiritual and secular relations, very remarkable cities. At the beginning, much that was good, and, afterwards, much that was evil, was widely diffused from them as central points. Much blood of the saints, crying for vengeance, has already been shed in them, and will yet be shed, Matthew 23:35; Revelation 18:24. It is worthy of remark that it was necessary for Luther also to see Rome, before the Reformation commenced, (id.).—God often fulfils the desires of his people, not in strict accordance with their opinion, but in that form which, as he judges, will most surely conduce to His honor and to their salvation. Paul desired to see Rome, but he was brought thither as a prisoner. (Starke).—Whatever changes might occur in the condition of this witness of Jesus, he never lost sight of Jerusalem and Rome, the scenes of his sufferings and martyrdom. Such was the course which the Lord had prescribed, and he hastened to finish it, even as Jesus went forward to meet the cross and death. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 19:23. No small stir about that way.—This “way” did not correspond to the wishes of all men, for it required them to abandon their trade and forsake their own ways. Hence they create a disturbance, and Satan always desires to obstruct the narrow way. (Gossner.)—It is obvious that, Luke does not intend to conduct us through pagan lands and cities, without showing us that dark abyss from which destructive influences were to proceed, that would cause the Church to shed many tears and pour forth her blood. (Baumgarten).—When Paul was on the point of commencing the journey, God permitted him to be exposed to serious danger in Ephesus, in order that he might, from every spot, carry forth with him the marks [Galatians 6:17] of the sufferings of Jesus, and, while enjoying the blessing of the Lord, might also bear after Him the cross. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 19:24. For a certain man named Demetrius, etc.—It appears that the cause of the tumult was covetousness under the disguise of religion. Demetrius, the silversmith, is a type of all those dishonest religious zealots, who pretend that they are governed by zeal for sound doctrine, the honor of God, and the preservation of truth and order, while their real object is solely to retain their income, ease and honors. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 19:25-26. Sirs, ye know, that by this craft we have our wealth … this Paul hath … turned away much people, etc.—The Gospel of Jesus cannot possibly maintain peace with the dead idols which the people of the world worship, and it rebukes the sinful lusts and evil works which give pleasure to them. Is it a wonder that such preaching should arouse the hatred, envy and jealousy of men who will not abandon their gods?—There are certain sins peculiar to trade and business in general, which long hinder the conversion of persons who are so occupied. Many tradesmen adopt it as a principle that usury, fraud, and unrighteous gains, are, as it were, allowable in their business. It is by the influence of this delusion that Satan retains such men in his service. A wise teacher will regard it as his duty to endeavor to expose and destroy all hidden snares of this character. (Ap. Past.).—Wherever Jesus Christ, the true Lord of all men, appears, He attracts to Himself the hearts, the love, the prayers, the outward works and also the outward sacrifices of men, and these are withdrawn from the idols to which they had been hitherto offered. If the idols of pagans and the idols of Christians could sigh and weep, they would begin to sigh and weep whenever the Holy Ghost opens an avenue among the nations. Heathen priests have often proclaimed falsehoods to their people, when the latter yielded to the influence of the Gospel, and have said: ‘Our God has complained and sighed in his temple, because his sacrifices have been withheld.’ But who is it that thus complains and sighs? He who is hidden behind the idol, and who derives his gains through that medium. (Ahlfeld).—Tetzel, in his day, and Leo, the enlightened pope, spoke precisely in the same manner. (Besser).—Even at the present time, in the bosom of Christendom, selfishness renews this opposition to divine truth in the hearts of men, both in science and in the outward life. Is it not selfishness, when the arrogant understanding of man will not submit in obedience to Jesus Christ? Is it not selfishness, when the carnal mind will not consent to abandon the lusts of the flesh and the lusts of the world? Is it not selfishness, when the natural will attempts by its own resources to create a righteousness which shall avail before God? (Leonh. and Sp.).

Acts 19:27. But also that the temple … should be despised, etc.—How skilfully avarice can conceal itself under the mantle of zeal for religion! (Quesnel).

Acts 19:28. Cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.—Many mechanics make an idol of their trade. (Starke).—True religion is not maintained by means of tumults, (id.).—Who was the instigator of such a tumult and uproar? Was it Elijah, who troubled Israel [1 Kings 18:17-18], or Jezebel, with all those who, like herself, were idolaters? (Gossner).—Do you shudder at the sight of such blindness on the part of people, who, in many other respects, possessed so much intelligence? Do not, however, believe that such shuddering is the sole effect which this scene should produce. Let this tumult, even if you glance merely at its original source, be a warning to you. Let the history of recent times teach you how corrupt individuals have been able to gain many adherents, to use the ignorant as their instruments, to attract by promises, to alarm by threats, and, when they assumed the guise of rectitude, to flatter human passions and employ the worst means, and have thus deluded entire congregations and large masses of men, so that these were not ashamed blindly to follow their blind guides. (Apelt).—A certain, external zeal may be enkindled even in favor of the truth or of portions of it, and attract a host of followers, who convert a holy zeal for the Lord into the unholy cry; “Great is our Diana!” Thus, in the age of the Reformation, the controversy respecting Original Sin (namely, whether it belonged to the very nature or substance of man, or only adhered to him as an accident or quality not essential to his nature) was carried even into drinking-houses, and divided the meanest peasants into two parties, who usually decided the question by means of their clubs. (Williger).

Acts 19:29. And the whole city was filled with confusion.—Here we have a faithful description of a riot. One or two evil-minded men begin it; then it extends, and, like a mighty torrent, soon overflows town and country. (Starke).

Acts 19:30. And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not.—Christians should indeed be firm, but not obstinate. (Lindhammer).—When the servants of God, who are full of His Spirit, are in danger of being carried beyond proper limits by their zeal, He often warns and restrains them even through the medium of others who have not the Spirit in the same measure. Even the most intelligent man does not always act with intelligence. (Gossner).—When the blind passions of the mob rage and foam like the stormy ocean, even the loudest voice which the witnesses of the truth could lift up, will not be heard, and, at such moments, Paul himself can adopt no other course than that of observing silence.

Acts 19:31. And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, etc.—An upright teacher will always retain faithful friends, even among men of distinction and authority, although the world may hate him. Herod highly esteemed John [Mark 6:20], however cruelly he ultimately persecuted him. Joseph and Nicodemus were secretly attached to Jesus. The genuine purity, integrity and truth, which our words and works ought to reveal, if we are the servants of Christ, will always secure the esteem and confidence of intelligent people of the world, although they may not themselves as yet be converted. A servant of Jesus will not court the favor of the world; but when God provides for his servants friends who are eminent and influential men, the latter are the instruments which a gracious Providence employs for the protection and aid of such servants in the various circumstances in which they are placed. (Ap. Past.).—Man’s favor and God’s grace are both desirable, when both may be found; but when man’s favor is withheld, God’s grace alone will suffice. (Old proverb).

Acts 19:32. Some therefore cried one thing … knew not wherefore they were come together.—This is still the case, in our day, with the ignorant multitude, when political and religious agitators attempt to gain adherents. Many an honest German burgher (Spiessbürger) has, of late years, joined in a cry with others at a popular assembly, subscribed an address, or voted at an election, and never knew what the subject really was. In such cases the intelligent man and upright Christian may sadly smile, and, with the dying Huss, exclaim: O sancta simplicitas! And he may devoutly remember the compassionate prayer of our merciful Highpriest: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do!’ [Luke 23:34].

Acts 19:33. And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, etc.—The excited mob of pagans was soon joined by malignant Jews; the latter intended to set forth Alexander as their speaker, who doubtless desired to defend the Jews, but, above all, to make a new attack on Paul. He was not, however, allowed to speak. We cannot read this narrative without shuddering; and when we reflect on all that Paul endured on that occasion, we can readily understand his meaning when he compares that trial to a struggle with wild beasts, 1 Corinthians 15:32. (Rieger).

Acts 19:34 About the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.—Men are never made drunken by the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:13), but often by the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. (Ephesians 2:2).—That spirit often extends to them the intoxicating cup of pride and falsehood, filled to the brim, so that while they adore their idols, and thus virtually glorify themselves, they become deaf to the voice of truth, and are incapable of sober reflection. ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians!’ This cry is still repeated, and the name alone of the idol is changed. The popular ideas and the heroes of the day are usually indebted for the honor and applause which they temporarily receive, to this cry of the foolish multitude. And yet this cry by no means proves that they possess any intrinsic worth. When Satan perceives that his time is nearly at an end, his fury is redoubled. The loud outcry at Ephesus plainly proved that the party which raised it, was approaching its dissolution. (Leonh. and Sp.).

Acts 19:35-36. And when the townclerk had appeased the people, etc.—Tumults and insurrections are often more successfully suppressed by an eloquent tongue, than by a strong arm and a heavy sword. (Starke).—It is true that the townclerk’s address is not an apostle’s sermon; still, it shows that the speaker was a prudent, considerate, firm and just man, whom many Christian rulers might take as their model. He first of all calms the people, and gains their confidence by the assurance that the reputation of their city was incapable of being successfully assailed. But then his subsequent remarks do not accord with the sentiments of the people; he does not justify their course, neither does he place the persecuted disciples in their power. (Leonh. and Sp.).

Acts 19:37. These men, which are neither robbers of churches [temples], nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.—The Christians of Ephesus on this occasion receive a recompense for having walked according to the rule which Paul gave to Titus: “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.” Titus 3:1-2. (Besser).—We can here perceive with what prudence the apostles must have borne testimony against the heathen idols, since they could not be accused of having blasphemed Diana. Carnal weapons afford no substantial aid to the cause of truth. (Rieger).—It was not Paul’s custom to assail the idols of the pagans in direct terms. He first of all preached Jesus Christ to them, and built up in them that which was new; the old then fell of itself to the ground. (Ahlfeld.).—Neither does it afford us, who are preachers, any aid, when we disparage the idols of the world, unless, at the same time, we magnify the name of Christ.

Acts 19:38. If Demetrius and the craftsmen … have a matter … the law is open, etc.—It is a mercy of God when a wise government exists, which is able to maintain law and order, and repress arbitrary conduct and injustice. (Leonh. and Sp.).—Paul here experienced the truth of all that he had said in praise of government: “He [It, i.e., civil government] is the minister of God to thee for good, etc.” Romans 13:4. (Williger).

Acts 19:41. And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.—Their wrath, which had been so quickly enkindled, was as quickly extinguished. (Chrysostom).—Thus the tumult was suppressed by the wisdom and eloquence of the townclerk, whom the grace of God employed as an instrument for delivering His servants from danger, and defeating the enemies of the Gospel. But the roots of such enmity cannot be destroyed except by the silent power of the divine word, and by the winning language of the Holy Ghost, who is the true defender of the people of God. O Lord Jesus, whom the winds and the sea obey, assuage thou the raging of the nations and of our own flesh and blood against thee (Rieger); calm our hearts, and teach them to obey thy truth, and to enjoy the blessed peace of thy life! (Leonh. and Sp.).

(On Acts 19:21-41). The uproar raised in Ephesus against the Gospel of Christ: I. Originating in selfishness; II. Maintained, by delusions; III. Triumphantly suppressed by the power of divine grace. (Leonh. and Sp.).—Lessons taught by experience respecting the self-deception of seditious men: I. They claim that they have lofty aims, but are controlled by the basest selfishness; II. They suppose that they act with freedom, but they are the blind tools of artful deceivers; III. They profess to act with intelligence, but they are guilty of the most absolute folly; IV. They boast that they contend for justice, but they commit the grossest acts of injustice; V. They entertain the wildest expectations, but ultimately gain nothing. (Bobe).—The tumult of the Ephesians, a warning for our times: I. In its remote source and its immediate cause;II. In its progress and results. (Apelt.).—The struggle which selfishness constantly maintains with the Gospel: I. The means which it employs, Acts 19:25-27; II. The results produced, Acts 19:28-30. (Lisco).—The hostility of idolaters to the Gospel: I. Its sources, Acts 19:23-27; II. Its external form, Acts 19:28-29. (id.).—Rules for our conduct towards men excited by their passions, which the address of the Ephesian townclerk furnishes: I. To recognize every element of truth in their complaints; II. To unfold any mistakes which they have made; III. To recommend lawful remedies; IV. To show the guilt and danger of disorderly proceedings, (id.).—The Lord, protecting his church even by means of of its enemies: I. He exposes their impure motives, and thus demonstrates the righteousness of His own cause: (a) the superstition, (b) the selfishness—of the Ephesian rioters; II. He converts the internal self-contradiction of sin into means for sustaining the truth: (a) the pagans reject an alliance with the Jews against the Christians—a victory of the truth, Acts 19:33-34; (b) the tumult terminates to the injury of its authors—the good cause suffers no harm, Acts 19:38-40. (id.).—The silversmith Demetrius and his associates, in modern times: they are, I. The abject slaves of money, whose eager search for temporal gains, banishes every thought on eternal things, Acts 19:24-25; II. The Wind adherents of the established order, who, at every new movement of the Spirit, dread the loss of comfort, and even fear that the world will be destroyed, Acts 19:26-27 : III. The self-satisfied priests of the Beautiful, who, in their idolatrous worship of Nature and Art, are unwilling to acknowledge a consciousness of sin and of their need of grace, Acts 19:27. (Compare Goethe’s poem, entitled: ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians,’ and his confession in his correspondence with Jacobi: “I cannot help it that I am one of the Ephesian silversmiths; I have spent my life in contemplating, admiring, and adoring the wonderful temple of the goddess (Nature), and in imitating her mysterious forms, and I cannot possibly derive any pleasure from the attempt of any apostle who obtrudes on his fellow-citizens another, and, moreover, a formless God,”—as Jacobi did, in his work: On Divine Things). [According to Jacobi’s philosophy, God is, essentially, only a moral idea. Herzog: Real-Enc. VII. 354).—Tr.]. IV. The hypocritical zealots in the cause of the church and religion, whose sanctimonious zeal for the house of God, is only a veil that conceals their selfish purposes, Acts 19:27.—‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians,’ but still greater is the God of the Christians: I. The kingdom of nature is great and glorious, but our true home and our true peace can be found only in the kingdom of grace. II. The works of art and science which the human mind has produced, are great and beautiful, but when art and science are not controlled by the divine Spirit, and directed by the light of the Christian revelation, they go astray and enter very dark and dangerous paths. III. The power of the human will is great and mighty, but we cannot, even with the best intentions, render a pure service to the holy God, or build a temple that is worthy of Him, unless His Spirit cleanses the heart, and converts it into His sanctuary, and unless His strength is made perfect in our weakness [2 Corinthians 12:9]. IV. The history of temporal kingdoms (like Greece and Rome) records great and memorable deeds, but Christ’s kingdom of the cross triumphs over all of them; Ephesus is in ruins, and the temple of Diana is destroyed, but even the gates of Hell shall not prevail against His Church.—The tumult at Ephesus, an awful image of rebellion against the Gospel of God, which is continually renewed: I. In the benighted heathen world, by the brutal and, indeed, the Satanic spirit of heathenism: the dark scenes presented by the missionary field, such as the bloody persecution in Madagascar, the mutiny in India, etc. II. In unconverted Christendom, by a carnal mind, which will not submit to the rebukes of God’s word, and by the materialism of the age, which will not recognize heavenly things. III. In the hearts even of upright Christians, by the pride of reason, by self-righteousness, and by the flesh, which dreads the cross.—‘Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? … He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision,’ Psalms 2:1-4 : I. The raging of the heathen: (a) their madness, Acts 19:23-29; (b) their blindness, Acts 19:32. II. The derision of the Lord: (a) He rules, in serene majesty, over His raging enemies; (b) He puts to shame their devices, before the whole world, Acts 19:35-40.—Christ, the almighty Master of the tempest, even when unchained nations begin to rage: I. In the hour of danger, he places his people in the ark of safety: Paul, Acts 19:30-31. II. He casts rocks into the sea, against which the raging waves dash in vain: the townclerk, Acts 19:35 ff. III. He allows the storm of passion to expend its strength, and then subside: the appeased assembly, Acts 19:35-41. IV. He conducts the vessel of his church on its voyage in safety: Paul’s progress, in the following chapter.—The messengers of the Gospel, opponents, it is true, but not blasphemers, of heathenism, Acts 19:37 : the proof is derived, I. From their Christian prudence; with all their zeal for the house of the Lord, they are not foolishly zealous; II. From their Christian love; the indignation with which they survey the abominations of heathenism, is surpassed by the pity with which they behold the misery of the heathens; III. From their Christian wisdom; even in the gloom of heathenish folly, a spark of primitive truth may be perceived [comp. 17–22 ff.].—The townclerk of Ephesus a model, both as a man of the people, and as a statesman: I. His undaunted courage; II. His calmness and discretion; III. His impartial justice; IV. His benevolent spirit.—[Acts 19:35-41.—The address of the townclerk of Ephesus: I. The circumstances which led to it: (a) the decline of idolatry; (b) the powerful influence of the Gospel; (c) the selfish passions of men. II. Its course of reasoning: he refers (a) to the apparently unfounded apprehensions of the multitude, Acts 19:35 : (b) to the obvious innocence of the accused parties, Acts 19:37; (c) to the unlawful proceedings of the people, Acts 19:40. III. Its effect: (a) it delivered the apostle and his associates from personal danger; (b) it disappointed the malice of hostile pagans and Jews (Acts 19:33); (c) it strengthened the faith of the believers.—Tr.].


Acts 19:25; Acts 19:25. ἡμῖν is far better sustained [by A. B. D. E. and Cod. Sin.] than the genitive ἡμῶν [of text. rec. from G. H.]; the latter is a much easier reading. [Lach., Tisch., Born. and Alf. readἡμῖν.—Tr.]

Acts 19:27; Acts 19:27. [The text. rec. reads οὐδὲν λογισθῆναι,μἐλλειν τε καὶ καθαιρεῖσθαι τὴν μεγαλειότητα. Lach. and Tisch. read οὐθὲν λογισθήσεται, μέλλει τε καὶ καθ. της μεγαλειότητος. Alf. reads οὐθὲν λογισθῆναῖ, μέλλειν δὲ καὶ καθ. τῆς μεγ.—οὐδὲν in D. E. G.; οὐθὲν in A. B. H. and Cod. Sin.; λογισθήσεται in A. D. E. Syr.; λογισθῆναι in B (e sil). G. H. and Cod. Sin.; μέλλει in A (original); μέλλειν in B (e sil). E. G. H. and Cod. Sin.; τὲ in A. E., and Cod. Sin.; δὲ in B. G. H.; τὴν μεγ. in G. H.; τῆς μεγ. in A. B. E. and Cod. Sin.—Meyer regards the two infinitives λογ., μελ, although so well attested, as corruptions of the other and original readings, which some copyists did not understand. De Wette, on the other hand, maintains that the infinitive λογ., governed by κινδ., is the true reading, but was not not so understood by copyists.—Tr.]

Acts 19:29; Acts 19:29. ὅλη [found in D. E. G. H.] is evidently a later addition, and does not occur in some of the ancient manuscripts [not in A. B. Cod. Sin., etc.] and versions [not in Vulg., but in Syr.; the word is omitted by Lach., Tisch., and Alf.—Tr.]

Acts 19:33; Acts 19:33. προεβίβασαν [of text. rec.] is not indeed supported by stronger external evidence [by D (corrected; previously κατεβ.). G. H.] than συνεβίβασαν [which latter is the reading in A. B. E., Cod. Sin. and is adopted by Lach. and Tisch.]; still, the former is to be received as the genuine reading [and is adopted by Alf.], as the latter (συνεβ.) affords no intelligible sense. [Meyer adheres to the reading of the text. rec., and de Wette remarks that δυνεβ i.e., they instructed is “nonsense.”—Tr.]

Acts 19:34; Acts 19:34. [ἐπιγνόντων of text. rec., found only in some minuscules, is “a corruption to avoid the pendent nominative” (Alf.). Recent editors adopt ἐπιγνόντες from A. B. D. E. G. H. and Cod. Sin. The nominative is an anacoluthon; see various instances in Winer: Gram. § 63. I. 1.—Tr.]

Acts 19:35; Acts 19:35. a. [For a worshipper (Wicl.; Tynd., Cran., Geneva, Rheims), the margin of the Engl. Bible substitutes the more accurate version: the temple-keeper.—Tr.]

Acts 19:35; Acts 19:35. b. [θεᾶς of text. rec., from G. H., is omitted in A. B. D. E. Cod. Sin., Syr. Vulg., and dropped by Lach., Tisch. and Alf.—Tr.]

[21]ὑμῶν [of text. rec.] is better attested [by B (e sil). E. G. H. Vulg.] than ἡμῶν [which is found in A. D. E (corrected), and also Cod. Sin., and adopted by Lach.]; a copyist would have more easily changed the former into the latter, than the reverse.—[θεὰν of text. rec. in the same verse, from D. E (corrected)., is changed into θεόν by recent editors in accordance with A. B. D (corrected). E (original). G. H. Cod. Sin.—Tr.]

Acts 19:38; Acts 19:38. [For the law is open (Tynd., Cranm., Geneva), the margin of the Engl. Bible furnishes the more accurate version: the court-ways are kept. The original, accented in the text. rec. thus; ἀγοραῖοι, is now usually accented thus: ἀγοραῖοι. Winer recognizes the distinction; see his Gram. N. T. § 6. 2. The word ἠμἔραι, or, according to Meyer, αύνοδοι, conventus forenses, Vulg., is understood, Winer, § 64. I. 5. For the meaning of the word with the circumflex, see above, Exeg. note on Acts 17:4-5.—Tr.]

Acts 19:39; Acts 19:39. a. περαιτέρω is found indeed in only one uncial manuscript, the Vatican [B], and in about 15 minuscules, whereas most of the manuscripts [A. B. G. H. Cod. Sin., Vulg. (alterius rei)] and fathers read περὶ ἑτέρων [as in text. rec.]. The former, however, is certainly the genuine reading, and was altered simply because it is a word which is rarely found. [It is adopted by Lach. and Tisch., with whom Meyer concurs; but Alf retains πρὶ ἐτ., and regards the other as a mistake of the copyist; nor is de Wette inclined to receive the word.—Tr.]

Acts 19:39; Acts 19:39. b. [For lawful assembly (Geneva, Rheims), the margin of the Engl. Bible offers the less accurate version: ordinary assembly. The article denotes that a legal assembly is meant, which was to be held at a certain well-known time.—Tr.]

Acts 19:40; Acts 19:40. οὐ after περὶ οῦ̓, is supported, it is true, by three uncial manuscripts [A. G. H.; also Cod. Sin.]; it is, nevertheless, (in accordance with the opinion of Tischendorf,) to be cancelled as a spurious reading. [It is omitted in B (e sil). D. E., and although received by Griesbach, is generally rejected by more recent editors.—Tr.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Acts 19". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/acts-19.html. 1857-84.
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