THE ACTS OF APOSTLES
Lesson 9: Chapters 19-20
The Church's Continuing Mission to the Gentiles:
St. Paul's Third Missionary Journey
When Paul was in doubt and fearful at Corinth You encouraged Him to continue to persevere in sharing the Gospel of salvation among the people. None of us are so strong, Lord, as to not need Your guidance and assurance of Your loving concern. You told Paul not to give up because there were many in Corinth destined for salvation. We cannot judge who is or isn't ready to take up the challenge of the Cross and travel the Narrow Path to salvation; therefore, help us to be Your ready instruments of truth to speak the words of salvation without fear or hesitation. We commit ourselves to travel the path You have set before us and to share the message of Jesus Christ in some way with everyone we meet. Whether we travel the thousands of miles that Paul traveled for the Gospel or only as far as our neighbor's house, help us to realize that the victory is the same when a soul fulfills his or her destiny and is called to eternal life. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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[At the end of the
second missionary journey] When they reached Ephesus, he left them [Pricilla
and Aquila] there, while he entered the synagogue and held discussions with
the Jews. Although they [the Jewish Ephesians] asked him to stay for a
longer time, he did not consent, but as he said farewell he promised, "I shall
come back to you again, God willing." Then he set sail from Ephesus.
Chapter 19: The Third Missionary Journey Continues in Ephesus
The setting of chapter 19 is the city of Ephesus on the west coast of Asia Minor. True to his promise, Paul has returned to Ephesus where he left Pricilla and Aquila in Acts 18:18-19a. Pricilla and Aquila opened their home to believes, establishing a church-home in the city of Ephesus (1 Cor 16:19). The adventures of Paul's missionary team in Ephesus can be divided into four parts:
Paul did not do all the evangelizing in this area.
Question: Who were the members of his missionary
team? See Acts 19:22, 29; 1 Cor 16:19; 2 Cor 12:18; Col 1:7 and 4:12-13.
Answer: He was assisted by Pricilla and Aquila whose home was a meeting place for Christians in Ephesus (1 Cor 16:19), by Timothy and Erastus who taught the converts (Acts 19:22), by Gaius and Aristarchus, disciples recruited by Paul in Macedonia (Acts 19:29), by Titus and others (2 Cor 12:18). Paul also appointed Epaphras to evangelize in his own city of Colossae, and Epaphras' mission successfully spread to Laodicea and Hierapolis (Col 1:7 and 4:12-13).
Colossae was located about eighty miles east of Ephesus. In this same region were the cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis. Paul wrote a letter to the Colossians and Laodicea is one of the seven cities to receive letters in the Book of Revelation
Acts 19:1-7 ~ St. Paul Baptizes Believers at Ephesus
1 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the country and came down to Ephesus where he found some disciples. 2 He said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers? They answered him, "We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." 3 He said, "How were you baptized?" They replied, "With the baptism of John." 4 Paul then said, "John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus." 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 Altogether there were about twelve men.
Acts 19:1 ~ 1 While
Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the country and
came down to Ephesus where he found some disciples.
Paul returns to Ephesus as he promised in Acts 18:21. He will say in his farewell address that he spend three years there (Acts 20:31), probably from 54-56 AD, with the years counted as the ancients counted. The mention of Apollos is a connection to what happened in chapter 18 where the gifted orator and Scripture scholar, Apollos of Alexandria, Egypt, left Ephesus after being properly catechized in the Gospel of Jesus Christ by the Christian couple Aquila and Pricilla. Apollos went to Corinth where he became a minister to the Christian community Paul founded there (1 Cor 1:12; 3:21; 4:6; 16:12). At this time Ephesus was regarded, along with Alexandria, Egypt, as one of the finest cities in the Roman Empire. It was a center of commerce with a mixed population of people from across the "known world" of the Empire.
... where he found some disciples. Paul's dear friends Aquila and Priscilla had a church-home in Ephesus where Christians came to worship (Acts 18:18-19; 1 Cor 16:19), but it is unlikely these twelve men were from their community because they were not properly catechized. Apollos was in Ephesus for a time but has since returned to Corinth where he is teaching the church (Acts 18:24, 27-28). Paul will write about Apollos' success at Corinth in his first letter to the Corinthians. Apollos became a lifelong friend and associate of St. Paul (see Tit 3:13). At Ephesus Paul discovers that there were some people who were at the same state of knowledge as Apollos before Priscilla and Aquila catechized him (Acts 18:24-26).
Question: What is the state of belief of these
people? See verses 2-3.
Answer: They had experience the baptism of repentance of St. John the Baptist in preparation for the coming of the Kingdom but not the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus Christ.
These people were apparently unaware that the promises of the Messiah had been fulfilled and that the gift of God's Spirit consequently was poured upon believers in abundant grace. This is not the first time the disciples have met people who have only experienced the baptism of St. John the Baptist or who had been baptized in the name of Jesus but had not yet received the Holy Spirit. In Acts 8:16 there were people in Samaria who had not yet received the Holy Spirit until Peter and John laid hands upon them (Acts 8:17).
Question: What happened when Paul baptized them
and laid hands upon them? What past event is recalled from their experience?
See Acts 2:4.
Answer: As a sign of the filling and indwelling of the Spirit of God, the people began to talk in languages previously unknown to them and to prophecy. It was an experience similar to the experience of the Apostles and disciples at Pentecost in 30 AD.
The laying on of hands, since Old Testament times, has been a sign of transference of power and authority. From the time of the Apostles, and in fulfillment of Jesus' will, the gift of the Spirit of God has been imparted to the baptized by the laying on of hands which completes the grace of Baptism. In Hebrews, the inspired writer who is probably St. Paul says that baptism and the laying on of hands are part of the basics taught by Christ: Therefore, let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ and advance to maturity, without laying the foundation all over again: repentance from dead works and faith in God, instruction about baptisms and laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment (Heb 6:1-2). The imposing of hands is recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the Sacrament of Confirmation in which the grace received at Pentecost is perpetuated in the Church in every generation (see CCC 1288 and Paul VI, Divinae consortium naturae, 659). For other passages in the New Testament about the laying on of hands in addition to Acts 8:17 and 19:6, see 1 Tim 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim 1:6.
One of the manifestations of the indwelling of the power of the Spirit of God is speaking in "tongues." In the Greek text the word is glossa and is defined as "a language not naturally acquired." See 1 Cor 12:10, See 28, 30; 13:1, 8; 14:5-6, 18, 21, 22, 23 and See 39 where Paul writes about the "gifts of the spirit" of which "tongues" is a gift meant for prophecy. Some believe that speaking in "tongues" was only a manifestation of the Spirit in the early Church, yet all the other gifts of the Spirit are still manifested and so it is not unlikely that "tongues" is also still a legitimate gift.
Acts 19:7 ~ Altogether
there were about twelve men. That Luke records that there were "about twelve
men" is significant.
Question: What is the symbolic significance of the number twelve in the Old Testament and how is Luke using that same number symbolically now?
Answer: Twelve is the number of the old Israel (twelve tribes descended from twelve physical fathers). He clearly intends the number to symbolically represent the new Israel that is the Church descended from the twelve spiritual fathers of the Apostles who are now represented by their spiritual offspring in the church at Ephesus.
Acts 19:8-12 ~Paul Preaches to the Jews and Greeks at
8 He entered the synagogue, and for three months debated boldly with persuasive arguments about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some in their obstinacy and disbelief [grew hardened and disbelieved] disparaged the Way before the assembly, he withdrew and took his disciples with him and began to hold daily discussions in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years with the result that 11 so extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul 12 that when face cloths or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. [..] = literal translation IBGE, vol. IV, page 382.
As is his practice, Paul works hard to present the Gospel to his Jewish kinsmen during the period of three months. The "three months" may also be symbolic. Three is the number signifying some important event in God's divine plan, in this case, His plan for the conversion of the Jews at Ephesus.
Acts 19:9 ~ But
when some in their obstinacy and disbelief [grew hardened and disbelieved]
disparaged the Way before the assembly, he withdrew and took his disciples with
him and began to hold daily discussions in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.
But as is often the case, Paul has both success and opposition. When some Jews "disparaged" the Church, he withdrew. Their disparaging was probably blasphemous accusations against Christ and the Church; it was probably the same conduct that raised Paul's ire against the Jews at Corinth in Acts 18:6. "Hardness of heart" is not an accusation Jesus made against the Jews during His ministry, but it is an accusation applied to the Jewish leaders by Stephen (Acts 7:51) and now to the Jews of the Diaspora (lands outside of the Holy Land of Israel) by Luke. It signifies a stubborn resistance in the face of God's visitation (compare with Rom 2:5; 9:18; Heb 3:8, 13; 4:7).
Question: This accusation of "hardening" or stubbornness recalls what same characterizations in the Old Testament? See Ex 4:21; 7:3; 8:19; 13:15; Dt 2:30; 10:16; Ps 94:8; Is 63:17; Jer 7:26; 17:23 and 19:15.
Paul stopped preaching in the Synagogue and withdrew to a Hellenistic lecture hall. Greek philosophers met in the Agora (town square) to debate and discuss, but philosophers with students/disciples usually taught in an enclosed lecture hall. Presumably Paul continued to teach in the hall because a church home was too small to accommodate all the people. Luke uses hyperbola when he claims that all the inhabitants of the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord, Jews and Greeks alike (verse 10), but the statement has the effect of asserting the success of the mission at Ephesus ("word" is used here as a synonym for "mission").
Acts 19:10 ~ 1This
continued for two years with the result that 11 so extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the
hands of Paul...
Question: For how long did Paul continue to teach in Ephesus and what was the result? See verse 8.
Answer: He taught this way over two years and the result was that "all of Asia" heard the Gospel.
The two years in verse 10 should be added to the three months Paul was preaching in the Jewish synagogue in verse 8. This means he spent over two years in Ephesus. Paul will mention the time spent in Ephesus in his farewell address Acts 20:31 when he says: So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day, I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears. He says "three years" because the ancients counted parts of years as whole years. It is in the same way that the Church has always counted Jesus' earthly ministry as three years that included three successive Passovers.
Acts 19:11-12 ~ 11 so
extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul 12 that when face cloths or aprons that touched
his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil
spirits came out of them.
Paul's time in Ephesus was marked by supernatural acts that certified Paul's mission as a "visitation by God."
Question: What sort of supernatural acts accompanied Paul's teaching and what do they recall in an earlier mission? See Acts 5:15-16.
Answer: Sick people were healed and demons cast out simply by touching the sick and demon possessed with items that Paul had touched. These miracles recall St. Peter's miracles in Jerusalem when even his shadow cast over someone healed them.
The collection of these items touched by Paul supports that reverence for relics of the saints extends back to the very earliest years of the Church and the faithful's belief that miracles are associated with such relics. A relic is defined as "An object connected with a saint, e.g., part of the body or clothing or something the person had used or touched. Authentic relics are venerated with the Church's warm approbation. They may not be bought or sold..." (Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary, page 164).
Review the chart that compares Peter's mission with Paul's from Acts Lesson 6:
|The Parallels of Sts. Peter and Paul in the Gospel of Luke and Acts|
|Commissioned by Christ (Lk 5:8-11)||Commissioned by Christ (Acts 9:1-19)|
|A name change signified a change in mission (Lk 5:8)||A name change signified a change in mission (Acts 13:9)|
|First sermon in Jerusalem (Acts 2:22-36)||First sermon in Antioch, Pisidia (Acts 13:26-41)|
|Success followed by persecution (Acts 2:41; 4:1-4)||Success followed by persecution (Acts 13:48-50)|
|First accompanied by John (Acts 3:1; 8:14)||First accompanied by Barnabas (Acts 11:30; 12:25)|
|Healing a lame man (Acts 3:1-10)||Healing a lame man (Acts 14:8-11)|
|Filled with the Spirit (Acts 4:8)||Filled with the Spirit (Acts 13:9)|
|Many extraordinary healings (Acts 5:15)||Many extraordinary healings (Acts 19:12)|
|Authority in the laying-on-of-hands to bring the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17)||Authority in the laying-on-of-hands to bring the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:6)|
|Conflict with a magician (Acts 8:18-24)||Conflict with a magician (Acts 13:6-11)|
|Raised the dead (Acts 9:36-41)||Raised the dead (Acts 20:9-12)|
|Hostility from the Jews, beaten and threatened with death (Acts 5:17, 40; 12:1-5)||Hostility from the Jews, beaten and threatened with death (Acts 14:5; 21:27-32, 22:19; 23:12)|
|Miraculously released from jail (Acts 5:19-20; 12:6-11)||Miraculously released from jail (Acts 16:25-41)|
|Sent to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 10)||Sent to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 13:47)|
|Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013|
Acts 19:13-20 ~ Jewish Exorcists
13 Then some itinerant Jewish exorcists tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those with evil spirits, saying, "I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." 14 When the seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish high [chief] priest, tried to do this, 15 the evil spirit said to them in reply, "Jesus I recognize, Paul I know, but who are you?" 16 The person with the evil spirit then sprang at them and subdued them all. He so overpowered [overmastering them and had power/prevailed = ischuo against] them that they fled naked and wounded from that house. 17 When this became known to all the Jews and Greeks who lived in Ephesus, fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in great esteem. 18 Many of those who had become believers came forward and openly acknowledged their former practices. 19 Moreover, a large number of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in public. They calculated their value and found it to be fifty thousand silver pieces. 20 Thus did the word of the Lord continue to spread with influence and power [ischuo]. [..] = literal Greek, IBGE, vol. VI, page 382-83.
The Greek word ischuo means "to have or exercise force (literally or figuratively): to be able, avail, prevail, be of strength" (Strong's Greek Lexicon page 44). The Greek word archiereus in verse 14 should probably be translated as "chief" priest and not "high" priest. There was only one High Priest who lived with his family in Jerusalem and served in the Jerusalem Temple. The same Greek word archiereus is used in the New Testament for both a high or chief priest whereas there were two different words in the Hebrew to designate between a high priest or a chief priest. The High Priest had to be chosen from among the chief priests who were all descendants of the first High Priest, Aaron the brother of Moses. But from the context of the passage, it should probably be understood that the translation "chief" is the better choice. See the same Greek word used for the "high" in verse 14 to designate "chief" priests, for example, in Mt 2:4; 16:21; 20:18; 21:15, 23, 45; 26:3, 14, 47, 59; 27:1, 3, 6, 12, 20, 41, 62; etc.
In contrast to St. Paul's miracles of spiritual vitality and divine character, Luke provides an example of the falseness of magic and superstition. Luke records that the Jewish exorcists identify themselves as being the sons of the high/chief priest Sceva. It is unlikely that this is the name of their father since the etymology sceva in Latin appears to mean "untrustworthy" (Johnson, page 340). It is more likely that Luke is subtlety telling the reader that these men are untrustworthy and their claim that their father is a chief priest is also false. Their motivation would be to give themselves more credibility as descendants of Aaron. To claim their father was the High Priest would be going too far and no Jew would believe them. All the names of High Priests were known to the Jews and at this time just as all Catholic know the name of the Pope (see the list of Jewish high priests in the chart on the "Rulers of Judea" in Lesson 1 from the list in Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, page 377f).
That exorcism of demons was practiced by traveling Jewish
exorcists is recorded by Flavius Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, 8.2.5[42-49]).
Question: What did the Jewish exorcists attempt to do?
Answer: The itinerate Jewish exorcists had observed Paul's success in casting out demons in the name of Jesus and decided to usurp the same power for themselves with disastrous results.
They were not calling on the power of Jesus through belief in the Christ but through the exercise of a form of magic, trying to bend the power of Jesus to their will. That Luke records there were seven men is interesting. In Scripture seven is the number of completion and fulfillment. The point here may be not in the failed power of the seven men but the fullness of the Holy Spirit's power that cannot be usurped by the occult. Seven is also the number of the Holy Spirit.
Question: What is the difference between miracles
and magic? What does the Catechism or the Catholic dictionary say about
magic? See CCC 434 and 2115-17.
Answer: In a miracle the source of the power is God working through His prophet or minister or agent. In magic, a person attempts to court the secret influences of the invisible world as a demonstration of one's own power without consideration for being in accord with the will of God. All forms of divination (telling the future) and magic or sorcery by which one attempts to tame occult powers or gain knowledge apart from God is forbidden for Christians, including the practice of astrology.
Such activities involving the occult are like "playing
with fire," as the seven Jewish exorcists found out. In this amusing account,
the Jewish exorcists did not drive out the demon, but it did succeed in driving
Question: What effect did this demonstration of the wrong use of the "name of Jesus" have on the citizens of Ephesus? See verse 17-20.
Answer: The entire population recognized the power of Jesus Christ. Those who had become believers, however, saw the danger of such occult practices. They confessed their former practices and destroyed everything to do with the occult in their possession.
The books they burned contained magic potions and magic spells and formulas. The value of the items destroyed was a great sum, although it is impossible to calculate because Luke does not tell us the value of the silver coins only that the items were worth fifty thousand of them.
Acts 19:20 ~ Thus did the word of the Lord continue to
spread with influence and power [ischuo].
The Greek word ischuo, translated here as power and elsewhere as "prevail," is the same word used for the "overpowering of the exorcists by the demon spirit (IBGE, vol. VI, page 382-83; Johnson, page 342). It is the power of God that prevailed and not the spirit world or those drawn to the occult. And the Church continues to experience grown. This is the sixth statement of the Church's continuing growth (for previous statements in Acts see 2:47; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5). The "word" spread across the western half of Asia Minor and must have included the seven cities mentioned in Revelation chapters 2-3.
Acts 19:21-22 ~ St. Paul's Plans
21 When this was concluded, Paul made up his mind [proposed in the spirit] to travel through Macedonia and Achaia, and then to go on to Jerusalem, saying, "After I have been there, I must visit Rome also." 22 Then he sent to Macedonia two of his assistants, Timothy and Erastus, while he himself stayed for a while in the province of Asia. [..] = literal Greek, IBGE, vol. VI, page 383.
Paul felt the spiritual call to return to the faith communities he founded in Macedonia and Greece (the Roman province of Achaia) before ending the third missionary journey and returning to Jerusalem and Antioch. Luke also records Paul's desire to visit Rome (verse 21), a desire Paul will express in a letter to the Romans (Rom 1:13). It is a trip that is part of God's plan for his life. To prepare for his visit to the faith communities in Macedonia, Paul sent Timothy and Erastus while he visited other communities in Asia Minor, perhaps the cities of Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis that were evangelized by Paul's missionary partner Epaphras (Col 1:7 and 4:12-13).
Question: Why were the ministers of Christ
continually re-visiting communities that had been previously founded? See 2
Cor 11:13-26; Gal 2:4; 2 Pt 2:1; 1 Jn 4:1; Rev 2:12-16, 18-20.
Answer: It was necessary to ensure that these fledgling communities remained faithful to the truth of the Gospel and that they were not influenced by false teaching introduced from outside the community or from within.
In the modern age the Pope and the Magisterium continually work to safeguard the deposit of faith that was passed from Christ to His Apostles and from the Apostles to their successors down through the centuries. The Church is "catholic" in belief and in her expression of that belief. See the document "Why the Church of Jesus Christ is Both Roman and Catholic" on www.AgapeBibleStudy.com.
Acts 19:23-27 ~ Demetrius the Silversmith
23 About that time a serious disturbance broke out concerning the Way. 24 There was a silversmith named Demetrius who made miniature silver shrines of Artemis and provided no little work for the craftsmen. 25 He called a meeting of these and other workers in related crafts and said, "Men, you know well that our prosperity derives from this work. 26 As you can now see and hear, not only in Ephesus but throughout most of the province of Asia this Paul has persuaded and misled a great number of people by saying that gods made by hands are not gods at all. 27 The danger grows, not only that our business will be discredited, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be of no account, and that she whom the whole province of Asia and all the world worship, will be stripped of her magnificence."
Question: What was one of the consequences of the
newly converted Christians burning their occult books and discarding their
idols of pagan gods?
Answer: The makers of silver shrines began to see Christianity as a threat to their livelihood.
Artemis was a Greek goddess (the sister of the god Apollo) widely worshiped in the Hellenistic Age and throughout the Roman world. The Romans knew the goddess as Diana. The original Hellenistic Artemis was a virgin hunter, moon goddess and goddess of nature. However, the Ephesian Artemis was an Asian version of the Greek goddess and was seen as a mother goddess also known in Asia as Cybele, Atargatis and Ashtoreth who was a patroness of fertility and wild nature. This pagan goddess was one of the most widely worshiped female deities in the Hellenistic/Roman world and her temple in Ephesus was visited by a great many pilgrims who like all tourists purchased mementoes of their pilgrimage which were small silver shines to the goddess made by the silversmiths of Ephesus. The worship of Artemis of Ephesus has been described as "a perpetual festival of vice." The influence of the sexual immorality of Artemis worship was a continuing problem for the Christian churches in Asia Minor (see Rev 2-3).(1)
Acts 19:28-34 ~ The Riot of the Silversmiths
28 When they heard this, they were filled with fury and began to shout, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" 29 The city was filled with confusion, and the people rushed with one accord into the theater, seizing Gaius and Aristarchus, the Macedonians, Paul's traveling companions. 30 Paul wanted to go before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him, 31 and even some of the Asiarchs who were friends of his sent word to him advising him not to venture into the theater. 32 Meanwhile, some were shouting one thing, others something else; the assembly was in chaos, and most of the people had no idea why they had come together. 33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, as the Jews pushed him forward, and Alexander signaled with his hand that he wished to explain something to the gathering. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison, for about two hours, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians."
Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of a theater in Ephesus that could hold about 25,000 people. It was a logical site for a gathering of the citizens, and ancient documents record meetings of the popular assembly in theaters in times of crisis.
Acts 19:29 ~ The
city was filled with confusion, and the people rushed with one accord into the
theater, seizing Gaius and Aristarchus, the Macedonians, Paul's traveling
Gaius is a common Roman name (see 3 Jn 1), but this Gaius could be the same Gaius Paul baptized in Corinth (1 Cor 1:14) who is numbered among the "others" on the missionary journey and who became a "host" to Paul and to the Church (Rom 16:23). Gaius will be mentioned again in the list of Paul's missionary team in Acts 20:4. Aristarchus is another member of Paul's missionary team (Acts 20:4 and 27:2). He is also mentioned in Paul's letter to the Colossians (Col 4:10) and his letter to Philemon (verse 24). Paul may have been thinking of this frightening day when he wrote the Corinthians that he "fought with the beasts in Ephesus" (1 Cor 15:32) and of the "afflictions we experienced in Asia" (2 Cor 1:8).
Acts 19:30-31 ~ Paul wanted to go before the crowd,
but the disciples would not let him, 31 and
even some of the Asiarchs who were friends of his sent word to him advising him
not to venture into the theater.
As in other times when Paul's life was in danger, his companions stepped in to protect him. Asiarchs appear to have been men of influence in Ephesus who promoted the Roman imperial cult and who may have been political representatives for a league of cities in the Roman province of Asia. These were men of influence in the city.
Acts 19:33-34 ~ Some of the crowd prompted Alexander,
as the Jews pushed him forward, and Alexander signaled with his hand that he
wished to explain something to the gathering. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, they all shouted
in unison, for about two hours, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians."
We do not know anything about Alexander. Was he a leader in the Jewish community? The crowd evidently did not make a distinction between Jews and Jewish-Christians and refused to listen to Alexander. This man does not appear to be the Alexander Paul will mention in his letters to Timothy (1 Tim 1:20 and 2 Tim 4:14).
Acts 19:35-40 ~ The Town Clerk Restores Calm
35 Finally the town clerk restrained the crowd and said, "Your Ephesians, what person is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image that fell from the sky [fell from Zeus] ? 36 Since these things are undeniable, you must calm yourselves and not do anything rash. 37 The men you brought here are not temple robbers, nor have they insulted our goddess. 38 If Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a complaint against anyone, courts are in session, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 If you have anything further to investigate, let the matter be settled in the assembly, 40 for, as it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today's conduct. There is no cause for it. We shall not be able to give a reason for this demonstration." With these words he dismissed the assembly. [..] = literal Greek, IBGE, vol. VI, page 384.
The ancients thought meteorites were sacred objects. There may have been a meteorite that was housed in the temple, or the reference may have been to the image of the goddess or both.2 The noun grammateus used by Luke for the clerk is used by Luke everywhere else for the "scribes" who were the associates of the Pharisees (Lk 5:21, 30; 6:7), and for the scribes who participated in the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:5; 6:12; 23:9). In a Hellenistic city, the grammateus was a bureaucrat who functioned as the keeper of city records and is listed as such from inscriptions found at Ephesus and in other Greek cities, including Athens (Barrett, pages 934-5; Johnson, page 349). The town clerk is the voice of reason to the crowd.
Question: What does the clerk say in defense of
Paul and his associates?
The Romans took a very dim view or riots and military action against such illegal public protests were usually swift and brutal. All that Luke has to say about the famed Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the existence of a city theater, the authority of a city clerk in a Roman city, and the presence and prestige of Asiarchs is all confirmed by other literary sources and by archaeological evidence. His description also has the vividness of an eyewitness account.
Chapter 20: Paul's Missionary Team Leaves for Macedonia and Greece
The miracle at
Troas, Acts 20:7-12: But why did he speak at night? Because [Paul] was
about to depart and never see them again. Thus he does not tell them since
they are too weak, but he did tell the others. At the same time, the miracle
that took place made them remember that evening forever. Great was the
pleasure experienced by his audience; though interrupted, it was further
extended. So the fall took place to the benefit of the teacher. Besides, all
who were indifferent were about to be censured by that young man who underwent
death to hear Paul.
St. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, 43
The first six verses of chapter 20 describe the first stages of Paul's planned return to his home in Antioch via a visit to the mother church in Jerusalem. This is the beginning of the end of his third missionary journey. The passage is unclear, but it appears that Paul will return to the communities in Macedonia (20:1) and then will travel to Greece to visit Corinth from where he plans to sail for Syria. In Macedonia it is likely that one of the communities he encouraged (20:2) was the community of Christians in the city of Philippi who probably still met at Lydia's house (16:12-15, 40). Next Paul turns south and travels to Greece, stopping in Corinth. Many commentators suggest that during the three winter months of 57/58 AD in Corinth that Paul wrote his letter to the Romans (Fitzmyer, Acts, page 67). Luke has already mentioned Paul's plan to visit Rome in Acts 19:21. After a threat on his life, Paul returns to Macedonia, stopping at Philippi where he plans to set sail for Troas. Notice that Luke's "we/us" passages pick up again in Philippi. The "we/us" passages that have been absent since the middle of chapter 16 are reintroduced in this chapter (verses 5, 6 twice, 7, 8, 13 twice, 14 twice, 15 three times). Paul will set sail from Philippi and rejoin other members of his missionary team at Troas, a seaport city in Mysia on the northwest coast of Asia Minor (Acts 20:6).
Acts 20:1-3 ~ The Journey to Macedonia and Greece
1 When the disturbance was over, Paul had the disciples summoned and, after encouraging them, he bade them farewell and set out on his journey to Macedonia. 2 As he traveled throughout those regions, he provided many words of encouragement for them. Then he arrived in Greece 3 where he stayed for three months. But when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return by way of Macedonia.
Paul makes his farewell to the Christians of Ephesus in
what is probably the summer of 57 AD (1 Cor 16:18) and sets out across the
Aegean Sea for Macedonia, revisiting Christian communities on the way through
the territory. He was in Macedonia in the summer and into the fall (1 Cor 16:5-8). Luke does not mention it, but after leaving Macedonia Paul travels to
Corinth in Greece and spends the winter months there (1 Cor 16:6).
Question: What gifted Christian orator had been teaching in Corinth? See Acts 19:1.
Answer: Apollos had been teaching in Corinth.
Paul established a Christian community in Corinth about the year 51 AD, on his second missionary journey. It was while Paul was in Ephesus on his third journey that he received disquieting news about conditions in Corinth. Christians associated with a woman named Chloe (perhaps her church-home) wrote to tell Paul that the community was displaying open factionalism. Certain members were identifying themselves exclusively with either Paul or Apollo and it was for this reason that Apollo left (1 Cor 1:10-4:21; 16:12). There was also the problem of the faith community's unwillingness to take appropriate action against a member who was living publicly in an incestuous union (5:1-13), and other members were engaging in legal conflicts in Roman law courts, while still others may have been participating in religious prostitution or pagan temple sacrifices (6:12-20; 10:14-22). Paul needed to visit Corinth.
Question: How long did Paul remain in Greece? Why
did he leave?
Answer: He stayed for three months and left after a plot against his life was discovered.
It was three months as the ancients counted. Paul had planned to leave (from Corinth) and sail directly to Syria, but the plot against his life caused him to decide to return home by way of Macedonia (verse 3).
Acts 20:4-6 ~ Paul and his Companions Return to Troas
4 Sopater, the son of Pyrrhus, from Beroea, accompanied him, as did Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus from Asia 5 who went on ahead and waited or us at Troas. 6 We sailed from Philippi after [meta = amid] the feast of Unleavened Bread, and rejoined them five days later in Troas, where we spent a week.
Verse 6 can more literally translated: And we sailed amid the days of Unleavened from Philippi and came to them in Troas until/within five days where we remained seven days (IBGE, vol. IV, page 385.
Paul and his team returned to Philippi, which you will
recall was Paul's first European church and Lydia his first convert there
(16:12-40): A number of Paul's missionary team members are named in this
passage. Some we have heard of before and others are introduced for the first
time like Sopater who is also called Sosipater.
Question: Who is Sopater? See Acts 20:4 and Rom 16:21.
Answer: He is a Jewish Christian from Beroea and a missionary companion of St. Paul. Paul calls Sopater/Sosipater along with Timothy, Lucius and Jason his "kinsman," meaning fellow Jews, who join Paul in sending greetings to the church in Rome.
Paul's missionary companions in verse 4:
Paul sent this part of his team on ahead but kept Luke
with him (20:6). They sailed from Neapolis, the seaport of Philippi, to meet
Paul in Troas. Troas was located about ten miles (16 km) from ancient Troy.
In Paul's time Troas was known as the Roman city of Alexandria Troas. It was
an important seaport city in Mysia on the northwest coast of Asia Minor. The
city became a Roman possession in 133 BC and Caesar Augustus gave it the status
of a Roman colony sometime in the late 1st century BC, probably
because of its importance as the nearest seaport for travel from Europe into
the northwestern area of the Roman province of Asia.
Question: What significant event happened to Paul at Troas during Paul's second missionary journey? See Acts 16:8-10.
Answer: It was where Paul had his vision of a Macedonian man inviting him to come and preach the Gospel in Macedonia.
Acts 20:6 ~ We sailed from Philippi after [meta =
amid] the feast of Unleavened Bread, and rejoined them five days later in
Troas, where we spent a week.
Translating the Greek word meta as "amid" changes the entire understanding of this verse. Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament defines the word meta: I, 1a. "a preposition or adverb... in the midst of, amid, denoting association, union accompaniment. " Strong's Greek-English Lexicon defines meta as: "A primary prep. (often used as an adv.) denoting accompaniment: amid' ..." "After" can also be used for meta coupled with a past tense verb but depending on the context of the sentence.
Examples of Luke's use of this word are found in Luke 12:46; 22:37; 24:5 and Acts 1:26:
In none of these passages can meta be translated as "after" according to the context of the verse even though some are coupled with a past tense verb.
What makes the difference in this passage is that Luke consistently uses both "Unleavened Bread" and "Passover" to refer to the entire holy week. He combines the feast of Unleavened Bread on the 15th " 21st with the Passover on the 14th of Nisan for an 8-day feast: Now the feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was drawing near ... When the day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread arrived, the day for sacrificing the Passover lamb [the word lamb is not in the Greek], he sent out Peter and John .... (Lk 22:1, 7-8a). Therefore, the context of the sentence in Acts 20:6 supports the use of meta to mean that "amid" the 8-day celebration of Unleavened Bread Peter and his party left Philippi and sailed to Troas.
Question: What was significant about the feast of
Unleavened Bread in the old liturgical calendar of the Sinai Covenant and why
is it significant that Paul is still in Philippi at the time of this feast?
See Ex 23:14-15, 17; 34:18, 23; Lev 23:5-8; Dt 16:16; 2 Chr 8:13.
Answer: Unleavened Bread was an Old/Sinai Covenant "pilgrim feast," meaning that every man of the Sinai Covenant had to present himself before God's holy altar of sacrifice in Jerusalem for the week-long feast and its two Sacred Assemblies. For Paul the Old Covenant liturgical calendar and rituals of the old Law have no meaning because they have been fulfilled by Christ. But it would have been a good opportunity to preach to the Jews who didn't go to Jerusalem about Jesus fulfilling the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread in the sacred meal of Last Supper and in His crucifixion during this feast in 30 AD.
Question: How many days are there from the first
day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread until the celebration of the day
Resurrection of Jesus Christ? The Feast of Passover was always on the 14th
of Nisan and the Feast of Unleavened Bread began on the 15th and
extended to the 21st, on the lunar calendar. The 15th
day of the lunar calendar is always a full moon and the feasts were associated
with the spring equinox. See the chart on the feasts fulfilled by Jesus in Luke
Lesson 16, handout #3: The Eight Days of the First Three Jewish Annual Sacred
Feasts Fulfilled in Jesus' Passion and Resurrection.
Answer: The day of the week depends on the year for all the other feasts except the Feast of Firstfruits (Jesus' Resurrection) and Pentecost which always fell on the "first day of the week" which was the day after the Jewish Sabbath. The day of Jesus' Resurrection would have fallen on the Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox within the 8 days of the observance of Passover and Unleavened Bread. Paul had to be either in Philippi or Troas for the Feast of the Resurrection.
Biblical scholar Luke Timothy Johnson maintains that the
mention of Paul's vow in 18:18 (which he interprets as a Nazirite vow) and this
passage that mentions the Feast of Unleavened Bread demonstrates that Paul
still faithfully kept the Old Covenant Jewish rituals and traditions (Johnson,
Question: But what evidence is there in Acts, in St. Paul's letters, and in Old Testament Scripture to refute this claim? See Acts 15:1-2, 7-35; 21:18-21; Gal 5:1-6; Num 6:13, 18; Dt 16:16; 2 Chr 8:13.
Answer: If Paul was obedient to the Old Law and Jewish ritual customs and had taken a Nazirite vow, he would have gone to Jerusalem to cut his hair. If he was keeping the old rituals of the holy days, he would have gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the pilgrim feast of Unleavened Bread, and St. James would not have told him that he had a reputation of teaching all the Jews to abandon Moses and not to observe their "customary practices." To live under the Old Law is entirely contrary to Paul's position previous to these incidents. Paul has rejected circumcision which was the sign of membership in the Old Covenant and the most powerful symbol of Old Covenant rituals and at the Council of Jerusalem the Church decided that the old rituals are not necessary for Christians.
Paul left Philippi in Macedonia in the spring of 58 AD (Acts 20:6) after having spent nearly a year in Greece and Macedonia. This may have been the time he traveled to Illyricum (Rom 15:19). It was also during this time that it is believed Paul wrote several of his letters:
As his third missionary journey comes to an end, he is already thinking about moving westward into the lands of the Roman Empire, and his letter to the church in Rome may be an attempt to gain their financial support as he had the support of the community in Antioch for his first three missionary journeys.
Acts 20:7-12 ~ Paul Restores a Young Man to Life
7 On the first day of the week when we gathered to break bread, Paul spoke to them because he was going to leave on the next day, and he kept on speaking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were gathered, 9 and a young man named Eutychus who was sitting on the window sill was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. Once overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and when he was picked up, he was dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself upon him, and said as he embraced him, "Don't be alarmed; there is life in him." 11 Then he returned upstairs, broke the bread, and ate; after a long conversation that lasted until daybreak, he departed. 12 And they took the boy away alive and were immeasurably comforted.
The "first day of the week" is Sunday. It is the day
Christians regularly met to worship because it was the day of the week that
Jesus was raised from the dead, and they called it "the Lord's Day" (Mt 28:1; 1
Cor 16:2; Rev 10:1).
Question: Paul's action in throwing himself on top of the young man to bring him back to life recalls what Old Testament miracles by God's prophets? What did those Old Testament miracles prefigure? See 1 Kng 17:2; 2 Kng 3:34; and Lk 4:26.
Answer: The prophet Elijah restored the son of the widow of Zarephath to life, and the prophet Elisha restored the son of the Shunamite woman to life. In both miracles the prophets laid on top of the boys they healed. Jesus spoke of Elijah restoring to life the son of the Gentile widow of Zarephath in His homily to the Synagogue at Nazareth. These miracles of the Old Testament prophets restoring someone to life prefigured the Gospel message of salvation raising to new life both Jews and Gentiles.
The Feast of the Resurrection could have been celebrated in Philippi and that was why Paul waited five days, or it was celebrated on "the first day of the week" (Sunday) in Troas. The Christians of Troas are meeting in a three story building. The "breaking of the bread" was the reason for their meeting and is the way early Christians referred to the celebration of the Eucharist (see the Didache 9:3-4). Paul's homily is long because he knows he will never see them again. St. Augustine writes: Either, therefore, it was after the close of the seventh day that they had assembled [Saturday night at sundown; for Jews and Jewish Christians the day began at sundown, which would technically be Sunday]; namely, in the beginning of the night that followed and that belonged to the Lord's day or the first day of the week [Sunday], and in this case the apostle, before proceeding to break bread with them as is done in the Sacrament of the Body of Christ, continued his discourse until midnight, and also, after celebrating the Sacrament, continued still speaking again to those who were assembled, being much pressed for time in order that he might set out At dawn upon the Lord's day. Or if it was on the first day of the week, at an hour before sunset on the Lord's day, that they had assembled, the words of the text, "Paul preached to them, ready to depart the next day," themselves expressly state the reason for his prolonging his discourse, namely, that he was about to leave them and wished to give them ample instruction" (Letter 36.12.28).
During the homily and before the Eucharist, the young man
fell to his death.
Question: If this was the memorial of Jesus' Resurrection, what is significant about what happened to the young man who fell from the window and died but was restored?
Answer: If it was the Feast of the Lord's Resurrection, which we now call Easter, how amazing and yet appropriate it was that on the day the Lord Jesus was raised from the dead that Paul raised young Eutychus from the dead.
Acts 20:13-16 ~ The Journey to Miletus
13 We went ahead to the ship and set sail for Assos where we were to take Paul on board, as he had arranged, since he was going overland. 14 When he met us in Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. 15 We sailed away from there on the next day and reached a point off Chios, and a day later we reached Samos, and on the following day we arrived at Miletus. 16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus in order not to lose time in the province of Asia, for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if at all possible, for the day of Pentecost.
Luke was with Paul while the rest of the missionary team
continued on to Troas. Troas, you will recall, was located at the extreme
northwest region of the province of Asia and the peninsula of Asia Minor. Chios
is also spelled Kios.
Question: Consulting a Bible map or a map of Paul's journeys on the website, where are the other cities that are mentioned located?
Answer: Assos was located on the opposite side of the peninsula from Troas. Mitylene was a harbor on the southeastern shore of the island of Lesbos. Chios/Kios was a large island that was located along the western coast of Asia Minor. Samos was one of the most important islands in the Aegean. Miletus was located about 35 miles (56 km) south of Ephesus.
Assos was about 20 miles (32 km) away from Troas by land. The journey along the coastline, however, was about 40 miles (64 km), so Paul had enough time to make the land journey before meeting up with the rest of his companions.
Acts 20:16 ~ Paul
had decided to sail past Ephesus in order not to lose time in the province of
Asia, for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if at all possible, for the day
It was not possible for Paul to make it back to Jerusalem before the memorial of the Lord's death and resurrection, but he had fifty days to make it back to Jerusalem to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the Church. Pentecost (Weeks) had been a Jewish feast, but it was now numbered among the feasts of the New Covenant Church and Paul has an appointment to keep with God's plan for his destiny there.
Acts 20:17-35 ~ St. Paul's Farewell Speech to the
Presbyters of Ephesus
17 From Miletus he had the presbyters of the church at Ephesus summoned. 18 When they came to him, he addressed them, "You know how I lived among you the whole time from the day I first came to the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with all humility and with the tears and trials that came to me because of the plots of the Jews, 20 and I did not at all shrink from telling you what was for your benefit, or from teaching you in public or in your homes. 21 I earnestly bore witness for both Jews and Greeks to repentance before God and to faith in our Lord Jesus. 22 But now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem. What will happen to me there I do not know, 23 except that in one city after another the Holy Spirit has been warning me that imprisonment and hardships await me. 24 Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the Gospel of God's grace. 25 But now I know that none of you to whom I preached the kingdom during my travels will ever see my face again. 26 And so I solemnly declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, 27 for I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. 30 And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them. 31 So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day, I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears. 32 And now I comment you to God and to that gracious word of his that can build you up and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated. 33 I have never wanted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. 34 You know well that these very hands have served my needs and my companions. 35 In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
There were probably two reasons why Paul did not go to Ephesus:
So he decided to ask the presbyters at Ephesus to come to him. The presbyter in the early Church was a member of a group (we now call them "priests") who advised a bishop and taught the faithful. Together they formed the presbytery, which, under the leadership of a bishop, was the governing body of a faith community. The presbyter was commissioned by the bishop (in this case St. Paul) to teach, celebrate the Eucharist, and baptize. Their rank is above that of deacons but below bishops. In some translations the Greek word presbyter is translated "elder." Paul will advise Timothy and Titus on the qualifications of a presbyter in 1 Timothy 5:17-22 and Titus 1:5-6 (see CCC 1544-45, 1554, 1562, 1567-68).
Paul's farewell address to the ministers of the church at Ephesus is his third long discourse in Acts:
Paul's farewell address to the priests of Ephesus is
essentially his last will and testament.
Question: What are the main points of Paul's address?
The saying of Jesus that Paul quotes is not recorded in the Gospels. When Paul says: Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood, he is referring to the Blood of the Savior.
Acts 20:36-38 ~ The Farewell
36 When he had finished speaking he knelt down and prayed with them all. They were all weeping loudly as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him, 38 for they were deeply distressed that he had said that they would never see his face again. Then they escorted him to the ship.
At the end, Paul prays with the priests of Ephesus; these are men he ordained to ministerial service, and they are like sons to him after teaching and serving with them for what Paul calls three years. It is a painful parting but they all commend their lives to God and His will for their future whatever that may be.3
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: Is Paul's message to the priests of Ephesus valid for priests today? We should have a high standard for our priests, deacons and those who serve as lay ministers in our parishes. What would you list as the qualities a priest should have? What is your obligation to help him meet those standards? See Paul's advice on the character and attributes of a presbyter in 1 Timothy 5:17-22 and Titus 1:5-6.
Question: What is the meaning of the saying of Jesus that Paul quoted: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35)?
1. The temple of Artemis at Ephesus, known as the Artemision, was rebuilt in 250 BC after an earlier temple was destroyed by fire on the night Alexander the Great was born in 356 BC. It was listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The temple was later destroyed by the Goths in 263 AD and very little of it remains today.
2. There is a similar legend concerning image of the goddess Athena that was believed to have fallen from heaven for the Athenians (Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.26.7). Most ancient pagans believed that even if a craftsman made an idol that the deity guided the creation of the image and it was therefore divine. Sadly, even Aaron used this excuse in the creation of the image of the Golden Calf (Ex 32:21-24).
3. For the period of Paul's life not covered by Biblical sources, I referred to the writings of Clement, Bishop of Rome (martyred circa 96/100AD). Clement who was baptized and later ordained by St. Peter served as Peter's assistant and became a friend of Paul's when he was imprisoned in Rome in 61 AD. He may be the Clement mentioned by Paul in Philippians 4:3. In his letter to the church at Corinth, St. Clement recorded that Paul had suffered imprisonment seven times preaching both in the East and in the West, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the West, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Clement's reference to "the West" may be a reference to the journey to Spain to spread the Gospel, a plan Paul outlines in his letter to the Romans (Romans 15:24, 28). St. Clement is the 4th Bishop of Rome after St. Peter, counting Peter as the 1st Bishop of Rome. See The Epistles of Clement, Chapter V; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 9, pages 230-231.
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Catechism references for Acts chapters 19-20 (* indicates Scripture is either quoted or paraphrased in the citation):