Acts 19
Vincent's Word Studies
And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
Upper coasts (τὰ ἀνωτερικὰ μέρη)

Coasts is a bad rendering. Better, as Rev., "the upper country;" lit., parts or districts. The reference is to districts like Galatia and Phrygia, lying up from the sea-coast and farther inland than Ephesus. Hence the expedition of Cyrus from the sea-coast toward Central Asia was called Anabasis, a going-up.

Certain disciples

Disciples of John the Baptist, who, like Apollos, had been instructed and baptized by the followers of the Baptist, and had joined the fellowship of the Christians. Some have thought that they had been instructed by Apollos himself; but there is no sufficient evidence of this. "There they were, a small and distinct community about twelve in number, still preparing, after the manner of the Baptist, for the coming of the Lord. Something there was which drew the attention of the apostle immediately on his arrival. They lacked, apparently, some of the tokens of the higher life that pervaded the nascent church; they were devout, rigorous, austere, but were wanting in the joy, the radiancy, the enthusiasm which were conspicuous in others" (Plumptre, "St. Paul in Asia Minor").

He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?

The two verbs are in the aorist tense, and therefore denote instantaneous acts. The A. V. therefore gives an entirely wrong idea, as there is no question about what happened after believing; but the question relates to what occurred when they believed. Hence Rev., rightly, Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?

We have not heard

Also the aorist. We did not hear; referring back to the time of their beginning.

Whether there be any Holy Ghost

But, as Bengel observes, "They could not have followed either Moses or John the Baptist without having heard of the Holy Ghost." The words, therefore, are to be explained, not of their being unaware of the existence of the Holy Ghost, but of his presence and baptism on earth. The word ἔστιν, there be, is to be taken in the sense of be present, or be given, as in John 7:39, where it is said, "The Holy Ghost was not yet (οὔπω ἦν)," and where the translators rightly render, "was not yet given."

And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.
Unto what (εἰς τί)

Rev., more correctly into. See on Matthew 28:19.


The last mention of John the Baptist in the New Testament.. "Here, at last, he wholly gives place to Christ" (Bengel).

Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
And all the men were about twelve.
And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.
But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.
And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

See on Acts 2:9.

And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:
Special (οὐ τὰς τυχούσας)

A peculiar expression. Lit., not usual or common, such as one might fall in with frequently.

So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.
Body (χρωτὸς)

Properly, the surface of the body, the skin; but, in medical language, of the body.

Handkerchiefs (σουδάρια)

See on Luke 19:20.

Aprons (σιμικίνθια)

Only here in New Testament. A Latin word, semicinctia. Lit., something passing half-way round the body: an apron or waistband. Perhaps garments worn by Paul when engaged at his trade.

Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.
Vagabond (περιερχομένων)

Lit., going about. Rev., strolling.

Exorcists (ἐξορκιστῶν)

Only here in New Testament. The kindred verb, adjure, occurs Matthew 26:63, and means, originally, to administer an oath. These Jewish exorcists pretended to the power of casting out evil spirits by magical arts derived from Solomon.

And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.
Did (ποιοῦντες)

The participle denotes practice.

And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
I know - I know (γινώσκω - ὲπίσταμαι)

There is a purpose in using two different words to denote the demon's recognition of the Divine Master and of the human agent, though it is not easy to convey the difference in a translation. It is the difference between an instinctive perception or recognition of a supreme power and the more intimate knowledge of a human agent. A divine mystery would invest Jesus, which the demon would feel, though he could not penetrate it. His knowledge of a man would be greater, in his own estimation at least. The difference may be given roughly, thus: "Jesus I recognize, and Paul I am acquainted with."

Overcame them (κατακυριεύσας)

The best texts read both of them, which would imply that only two of the seven were concerned in the exorcism. Rev., better, mastered, thus giving the force of κύριος, master, in the composition of the verb.

And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Prevailed against (ἴσχυσε)

See on Luke 14:30; and Luke 16:3.

And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.
Was known (ἐγένετο γνωστὸν)

More correctly, became known.

And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.
Confessed and shewed (ἐξομολογούμενοι καὶ ἀναγγέλλοντες)

The two words denote the fullest and most open confession. They openly (ἐξ) confessed, and declared thoroughly (ἀνά, from top to bottom) their deeds. See on Matthew 3:6.

Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
Curious arts (τὰ περίεργα)

The word means, literally, overwrought, elaborate, and hence recondite or curious, as magical practices. Only here and 1 Timothy 5:13, in its original sense of those who busy themselves excessively (περί): busybodies. The article indicates the practices referred to in the context.


Containing magical formulas. Heathen writers often allude to the Ephesian letters. These were symbols, or magical sentences written on slips of parchment, and carried about as amulets. Sometimes they were engraved on seals.

Burned (κατέκαιον)

Burned them up (κατά). The imperfect is graphic, describing them as throwing book after book on the pile.

Counted (συνεψήφισαν)

Only here in New Testament. See on Luke 14:28. The preposition σύν, together, in the compound verb, indicates the reckoning up of the sum-total.

Fifty thousand pieces of silver

If reckoned in Jewish money, about thirty-five thousand dollars; if in Greek drachmae, as is more probable, about nine thousand three hundred dollars.

So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.
After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.
So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season.
And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.
The way

See on Acts 9:2.

For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen;
Silversmith (ἀργυροκόπος)

Lit., a silver-beater.


Small models of the temple of Diana, containing an image of the goddess. They were purchased by pilgrims to the temple, just as rosaries and images of the Virgin are bought by pilgrims to Lourdes, or bronze models of Trajan's column or of the Colonne Vendme by tourists to Rome or Paris.

Craftsmen (τεχνίταις)

In the next verse he mentions the workmen (ἐργάτας), the two words denoting, respectively, the artisans, who performed the more delicate work, and the laborers, who did the rougher work.

Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.
Wealth (εὐπορία)

See on ability, Acts 11:29. Lit., welfare. Wealth is used by the A. V. in the older and more general sense of weal, or well-being generally. Compare the Litany of the English Church: "In all time of our tribulation, in all time of our wealth."

Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands:
So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.
Craft (μέρος)

Lit., part or department of trade.

To be set at nought (εἰς ἀπελεγμὸν ἐλθεῖν)

Lit., to come into refutation or exposure; hence, disrepute, as Rev. Compare Acts 18:28, and see note there. Ἀπελεγμός, refutation, occurs only here in New Testament.


Or Artemis. We must distinguish between the Greek Artemis, known to the Romans as Diana, and the Ephesian goddess. The former, according to the legend, was the daughter of Zeus (Jove), and the sister of Apollo. She was the patroness of the chase, the huntress among the immortals, represented with bow, quiver, and spear, clad in hunting-habit, and attended by dogs and stags. She was both a destroyer and a preserver, sending forth her arrows of death, especially against women, but also acting as a healer, and as the special protectress of women in childbirth. She was also the goddess of the moon. She was a maiden divinity, whose ministers were vowed to chastity.

The Ephesian Artemis is totally distinct from the Greek, partaking of the Asiatic character, and of the attributes of the Lydian Cybele, the great mother of the gods. Her worship near Ephesus appears to have existed among the native Asiatic population before the foundation of the city, and to have been adopted by the Greek immigrants, who gradually transferred to her features peculiar to the Grecian goddess. She was the personification of the fructifying and nourishing powers of nature, and her image, as represented on current coins of the time, is that of a swathed figure, covered with breasts, and holding in one hand a trident, and in the other a club. This uncouth figure, clad in a robe covered with mystic devices, stood in the shrine of the great temple, hidden by a purple curtain, and was believed to have fallen down from heaven (Acts 19:35). In her worship the oriental influence was predominant. The priests were eunuchs, and with them was associated a body of virgin priestesses and a number of slaves, the lowest of whom were known as neocori, or temple-sweepers (Acts 19:35). "Many a time must Paul have heard from the Jewish quarter the piercing shrillness of their flutes, and the harsh jangling of their timbrels; many a time have caught glimpses of their detestable dances and Corybantic processions, as, with streaming hair, and wild cries, and shaken torches of pine, they strove to madden the multitudes into sympathy with that orgiastic worship which was but too closely connected with the vilest debaucheries" (Farrar, "Life and Work of Paul").


See on 2 Peter 1:16.

And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
Cried out (ἔκραζον)

The imperfect is graphic; they continued crying. This reiteration was a characteristic of the oriental orgiastic rites.

And the whole 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.
The theatre

The site of which can still be traced. It is said to have been capable of seating fifty-six thousand persons.

Having seized (συναρπάσαντες)

Lit., "having seized along with (σύν):" carried them along with the rush.

Companions in travel (συνεκδήμους)

Only here and 2 Corinthians 8:19. The word is compounded of σύν, along with, ἐκ, forth, and δῆμος, country or land, and means, therefore, one who has gone forth with another from his country.

And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not.
And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.
Of the chief officers of Asia (τῶν Ἀσιαρχῶν)

The Asiarchs. These were persons chosen from the province of Asia, on account of their influence and wealth, to preside at the public games and to defray their expenses.

Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.
And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people.
They drew (προεβίβασαν)

More correctly, urged forward. See on before instructed, Matthew 14:8.

But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
With one voice cried out

The reverberations of their voices from the steep rock which formed one side of the theatre must have rendered their frenzied cries still more terrific.

And when the townclerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter?
The town-clerk

Or recorder, who had charge of the city-archives, and whose duty it was to draw up official decrees and present them to assemblies of the people. Next to the commander, he was the most important personage in the Greek free cities.

Worshipper (νεωκόρον)

Lit., a temple-sweeper. See on Acts 19:27. This title, originally applied to the lowest menials of the temple, became a title of honor, and was eagerly appropriated by the most famous cities. Alexander says, "The city of Ephesus is the sacristan of the great goddess Artemis."

Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly.
Quiet (κατεσταλμένους)

Compare quieted (Acts 19:35). The verb means to let down or lower; and so is applied, metaphorically, to keeping one's self in check; repressing.

Rash (προπετὲς)

Lit., headlong.

For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.
Robbers of churches (ἱεροσύλους)

The A. V. puts a droll anachronism into the mouth of the town-clerk of a Greek city. Render, rather, as Rev., robbers of temples.

Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another.
The law is open (ἀγοραῖοι ᾶγονται)

Lit., the court-days are being kept. Rev., the courts are open. Compare Revelation 17:5.

Deputies (ἀνθύπατοι)

Proconsuls, by whom Asia, as a senatorial province, was governed. See Introduction to Luke.

But if ye inquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly.
For we are in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse.
Concourse (συστροφῆς)

Lit., a twisting together: hence of anything which is rolled or twisted into a mass; and so of a mass of people, with an underlying idea of confusion: a mob. Compare Acts 23:12.

And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.
Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent [1886].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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