Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1-3. while Apollos was at Corinth--where his ministry was so powerful
that a formidable party in the Church of that city gloried in his type
of preaching in preference to Paul's
(1Co 1:12; 3:4),
no doubt from the marked infusion of Greek philosophic culture which
distinguished it, and which the apostle studiously avoided
Paul having passed through the upper coasts--"parts," the interior
of Asia Minor, which, with reference to the seacoast, was elevated.
came to Ephesus--thus fulfilling his promise
finding certain disciples--in the same stage of Christian knowledge as
Apollos at first, newly arrived, probably, and having had no
communication as yet with the church at Ephesus.
2. Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?--rather,
"Received ye the Holy Ghost when ye believed?" implying, certainly,
that the one did not of necessity carry the other along with it (see on
Why this question was asked, we cannot tell; but it was probably in
consequence of something that passed between them from which the
apostle was led to suspect the imperfection of their light.
We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost--This
cannot be the meaning, since the personality and office of the Holy
Ghost, in connection with Christ, formed an especial subject of the
Baptist's teaching. Literally, the words are, "We did not even hear
whether the Holy Ghost was (given)"; meaning, at the time of their
baptism. That the word "given" is the right supplement, as in
seems plain from the nature of the case.
4. Then said Paul, John . . . baptized with the baptism of repentance--water unto repentance.
saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should
come after him--that is, who should baptize with the Holy Ghost. The
point of contrast is not between John and Christ personally, but between
the water baptism of John unto repentance, and the promised
baptism of the Spirit from the hands of his coming Master unto
new life. As to all the facts, or at least the significancy, of this
baptism, which made the whole life and work of Christ another thing from
what it was conceived to be before it was vouchsafed, these simple
disciples were unenlightened.
5-7. When they heard this--not the mere words reported in
but the subject expounded according to the tenor of those words.
they were baptized--not however by Paul himself
in the name of the Lord Jesus--into the whole fulness of the new
economy, as now opened up to their believing minds.
6. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them . . . they
spake with tongues, &c.--See on
8-10. he went into the synagogue and spake boldly for
. . . three months, &c.--See on
Ac 17:2, 3.
9. when divers--"some."
were hardened, &c.--implying that others, probably a large number,
spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed--from the
synagogue, as at Corinth
and separated the disciples--withdrawing to a separate place of
meeting, for the sake both of the converts already made, and the
disputing--"discoursing" or "discussing."
daily in the school--or lecture hall.
of one Tyrannus--probably a converted teacher of rhetoric or
10. this continued . . . two years--in addition to the
former three months. See on
But during some part of this period he must have paid a second
unrecorded visit to Corinth, since the one next recorded (see on
Ac 20:2, 3)
is twice called his third visit
(2Co 12:14; 13:1).
2Co 1:15, 16,
which might seem inconsistent with this. The passage across was quite
a short one (see on
--Towards the close of this long stay at Ephesus, as we learn from
he wrote his
EPISTLE TO THE
also (though on this opinions are divided) the
EPISTLE TO THE
to First Corinthians, and
to Galatians). And just as at Corinth his greatest success was after
his withdrawal to a separate place of meeting
so at Ephesus.
so that all they which dwelt in--the Roman province of
Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and
Greeks--This is the "great door and effectual opened unto him"
while resident at Ephesus
which induced him to make it his headquarters for so long a period. The
unwearied and varied character of his labors here are best seen in his
own subsequent address to the elders of Ephesus
&c.). And thus Ephesus became the "ecclesiastical center for the entire
region, as indeed it remained for a very long period"
Churches arose at Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis eastward, either
through his own labors or those of his faithful helpers whom he sent
out in different directions, Epaphras, Archippus, Philemon
(Col 1:7; 4:12-17;
11, 12. God wrought special--no ordinary
miracles by the hands of Paul--implying that he had not been
accustomed to work such.
12. So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or
Ac 5:15, 16,
very different from the magical acts practiced at Ephesus. "God
wrought these miracles" merely "by the hands of Paul"; and the
observing that the name of Jesus was the secret of all his miracles,
hoped, by aping him in this, to be equally successful; while the result
of all in the "magnifying of the Lord Jesus"
showed that in working them the apostle took care to hold up Him whom
he preached as the source of all the miracles which he
13. vagabond Jews--simply, "wandering Jews," who went from place
to place practicing exorcism, or the art of conjuring evil spirits to
depart out of the possessed. That such a power did exist, for some time
at least, seems implied in
But no doubt this would breed imposture; and the present case is very
different from that referred to in
Lu 9:49, 50.
We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth--a striking testimony to
the power of Christ's name in Paul's mouth.
14-17. seven sons of . . . Sceva . . . chief of the priests--head,
possibly, of one of the twenty-four courts.
15. the evil spirit answered, Jesus I know--"recognize."
and Paul I know--"know intimately," in contrast to them, whom he
but who are ye?
16. And the man in whom the evil spirit was--Mark the clear line of
demarcation here between "the evil spirit which answered and said"
and "the man in whom the evil spirit was." The reality of such
possessions could not be more clearly expressed.
leaped on them . . . so that they fled . . . naked and wounded--This
was so appalling a testimony at once against those profane impostors and
in favor of Paul and the Master whom he preached, that we wonder not
that it spread to "all the Jews and Greeks at Ephesus, that fear fell on
them," and that "the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified."
18-20. many that believed came and confessed . . . their deeds--the
dupes of magicians, &c., acknowledging how shamefully they had been
deluded, and how deeply they had allowed themselves to be implicated in
19. Many of them . . . which used curious arts--The word signifies
things "overdone"; significantly applied to arts in which laborious but
senseless incantations are practiced.
brought their books--containing the mystic formularies.
and burned them before all--The tense, here used graphically,
expresses progress and continuance of the conflagration.
counted the price . . . and found it fifty thousand
pieces of silver--about £2000 (presuming it to be the
drachma, the current coin of the Levant, of about 10d.
value). From their nature they would be costly, and books then bore a
value above any standard we are familiar with. The scene must have been
long remembered at Ephesus, as a strong proof of honest conviction on
the part of the sorcerers and a striking triumph of Jesus Christ over
the powers of darkness. The workers of evil were put to scorn, like
Baal's priests on Carmel, and the word of God mightily grew and
21, 22. After these things were ended--completed, implying something
like a natural finish to his long period of labor at Ephesus.
Paul purposed . . . when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to
go to Jerusalem . . . After I have been there, I must also see
Rome--Mark here the vastness of the apostle's missionary plans. They were all
fulfilled, though he "saw Rome" only as a prisoner.
22. So he sent into Macedonia . . . Timotheus and
Erastus--as his pioneers, in part to bring "them into remembrance
of his ways which were in Christ"
(1Co 4:17; 16:10),
partly to convey his mind on various matters. After a brief stay he was
It is very unlikely that this Erastus was "the chamberlain of the city"
of Corinth, of that name
he himself stayed in--the province of
Asia for a season--that is, at Ephesus, its chief city. (Asia is
mentioned in contrast with Macedonia in the previous clause).
23. the same time--of Paul's proposed departure.
way--So the new religion seemed then to be designated
(Ac 9:2; 22:4; 24:14).
24-26. silver shrines for--"of"
Diana--small models of the Ephesian temple and of the shrine or chapel
of the goddess, or of the shrine and statue alone, which were purchased
by visitors as memorials of what they had seen, and were carried about
and deposited in houses as a charm. (The models of the chapel of
our Lady of Loretto, and such like, which the Church of Rome
systematically encourages, are such a palpable imitation of this heathen
practice that it is no wonder it should be regarded by impartial judges
as Christianity paganized).
gain to the craftsmen--the master-artificers.
25. Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation--rather,
"with the workmen (or fabricators) of such articles," meaning
the artisans employed by the master-artificers, all who manufactured any
kind of memorial of the temple and its worship for sale.
26. ye see and hear--The evidences of it were to be seen, and the
report of it was in everybody's mouth.
that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul
hath . . . turned away much people--Noble testimony this to the extent
of Paul's influence!
saying that they be no gods which are made with hands--The universal
belief of the people was that they were gods, though the more
intelligent regarded them only as habitations of Deity, and some,
probably, as mere aids to devotion. It is exactly so in the Church of
27. So that not only this our craft is in danger . . .
but, &c.--that is, "that indeed is a small matter; but there is
something far worse." So the masters of the poor Pythoness put forward
the religious revolution which Paul was attempting to effect at
Philippi, as the sole cause of their zealous alarm, to cloak the
self-interest which they felt to be touched by his success
In both cases religious zeal was the hypocritical pretext;
self-interest, the real moving cause of the opposition made.
also the temple of the great goddess Diana . . . despised,
and her magnificence . . . destroyed, whom all Asia and the
world worshippeth--It was reckoned one of the wonders of the world.
It was built about 550 B.C., of pure white marble,
and though burned by a fanatic on the night of the birth of Alexander
the Great, 356 B.C., was rebuilt with more
splendor than before. It was four hundred twenty-five feet long by two
hundred twenty broad, and the columns, one hundred twenty-seven in
number, were sixty feet in height, each of them the gift of a king, and
thirty-six of them enriched with ornament and color. It was constantly
receiving new decorations and additional buildings, statues, and
pictures by the most celebrated artists, and kindled unparalleled
admiration, enthusiasm, and superstition. Its very site is now a
matter of uncertainty. The little wooden image of Diana was as
primitive and rude as its shrine was sumptuous; not like the
Greek Diana, in the form of an imposing huntress, but quite
Asiatic, in the form of a many-breasted female (emblematic of the
manifold ministrations of Nature to man), terminating in a shapeless
block. Like some other far-famed idols, it was believed to have fallen
and models of it were not only sold in immense numbers to private
persons, but set up for worship in other cities
What power must have attended the preaching of that one man by whom the
death blow was felt to be given to their gigantic and witching
28, 29. Great is Diana of the Ephesians--the civic cry of a populace
so proud of their temple that they refused to inscribe on it the name of
Alexander the Great, though he offered them the whole spoil of his
Eastern campaign if they would do it
29. having caught Gaius and Aristarchus--disappointed of Paul, as at
(Ac 17:5, 6).
They are mentioned in
Ac 20:4; 27:2;
If it was in the house of Aquila and Priscilla that he found an asylum
that would explain
Ro 16:3, 4,
where he says of them that "for his life they laid down their own
rushed . . . into the theatre--a vast pile, whose ruins are even now
a wreck of immense grandeur [SIR C.
Asia Minor, 1839].
30-34. when Paul would have entered in--with noble forgetfulness of
unto the people--the demos, that is, the people met in public
the disciples suffered him not--The tense used implies only that
they were using their efforts to restrain him; which might have been
unavailing but for what follows.
31. And certain of the chief of Asia--literally, "And certain also
of the Asiarchs." These were wealthy and distinguished citizens of the
principal towns of the Asian province, chosen annually, and ten of whom
were selected by the proconsul to preside over the games celebrated in
the month of May (the same month which Romanism dedicates to
the Virgin). It was an office of the highest honor and greatly coveted.
Certain of these, it seems, were favorably inclined to the Gospel, at
least were Paul's "friends," and knowing the passions of a mob, excited
during the festivals, "sent (a message) to him desiring him not to
adventure himself into the theater."
33. they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him
forward--rather, "some of the multitude urged forward Alexander, the
Jews thrusting him forward." As the blame of such a tumult would
naturally be thrown upon the Jews, who were regarded by the Romans as
the authors of all religious disturbances, they seem to have put forward
this man to clear them of all responsibility for the riot.
conjecture, that this was Alexander the coppersmith,
has little to support it).
beckoned with the hand--compare
Ac 13:16; 21:40.
would have made his defence--"offered to speak in defense."
34. But when they knew he was a Jew, all with one voice, for the space
of two hours, cried out, Great is Diana, &c.--The very appearance of
a Jew had the opposite effect to that intended. To prevent him obtaining
a hearing, they drowned his voice in one tumultuous shout in honor of
their goddess, which rose to such frantic enthusiasm as took two hours
to exhaust itself.
35-41. when the town-clerk--keeper of the public archives, and a
magistrate of great authority.
the people--"the multitude," which the very presence of such an
officer would go far to do.
he said . . . what man . . . knoweth not that the city of the Ephesians
is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana--literally, the neocoros or "warden."
The word means "temple-sweeper"; then, "temple-guardian."
Thirteen cities of Asia had an interest in the temple, but Ephesus was
honored with the charge of it. (Various cities have claimed this title
with reference to the Virgin or certain saints)
and of the image which fell down from Jupiter--"from the
sky" or "from heaven." See on
"With this we may compare various legends concerning images and
pictures in the Romish Church, such as the traditional likenesses of
Christ, which were said to be "not made with hands"" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
36. Seeing that these things cannot be spoken against, &c.--Like a
true legal man, he urges that such was notoriously the constitution and
fixed character of the city, with which its very existence was all but
bound up. Did they suppose that all this was going to be overturned by a
set of itinerant orators? Ridiculous! What did they mean, then, by
raising such a stir?
37. For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of
churches--"temple-plunderers," or sacrilegious persons.
nor yet blasphemers of your goddess--This is a remarkable testimony,
showing that the apostle had, in preaching against idolatry, studiously
avoided (as at Athens) insulting the feelings of those whom he
addressed--a lesson this to missionaries and ministers in general.
38. if Demetrius have a matter--of complaint.
against any man, the law is open--rather, "the court days are being
and there are deputies--literally "proconsuls" (see on
that is, probably, the proconsul and his council, as a court of
39. if ye inquire--"have any question."
concerning other matters--of a public nature.
40. For we--the public authorities.
are in danger of being called in question--by our superiors.