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The Riot in Ephesus October 21, 2016

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Acts 19:23-41.

Summary: In this passage, an Ephesian silversmith named Demetrius incited his fellow craftsmen against the local church, asserting that the success of Paul would:

  • lead them into a state of penury
  • besmirch the good name of Artemis.

The craftsmen responded to his argument by fomenting a riot in their city; a crowd rushed into the theater and extolled Artemis for two hours. Yet the city clerk was able to quell the riot; in particular, he asserted that:

  • the good name of Artemis would not be besmirched by the success of Paul
  • Paul – and the other believers in Ephesus – were not guilty of any crimes
  • the Roman authorities could punish the Ephesians for illegal rioting.

Given those facts, he dismissed the crowd.

Thoughts: In this passage, we see that Demetrius incited the other craftsmen in Ephesus against Christians. Calvin offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 27:

If he had suffered no loss from Paul’s teaching, he would have stayed at home quietly; he would not have bothered about the worship of Diana, nor would he have troubled anyone else. So why was he so zealous and active? It was because he himself was under attack. Realizing that he and his colleagues had no genuine or plausible excuse for causing any disturbance, he set about putting a different complexion on things.

Calvin adroitly exposes the rationale for the riot; basically, the craftsmen viewed Christianity as an economic threat that could affect their livelihoods. On a (possibly) tangential note, I wonder: when adherents to a particular religion react violently to any attack on that religion, do they perceive that attack as a personal affront? While some of them may be genuinely zealous for the deity – or deities – in question, others may be more inclined towards self-preservation. As Christians, we must strive to avoid this trap; any attack on our worldview must be viewed – first and foremost – as an attack on God Himself. Even though this is extremely difficult, we must seek His glory – denying ourselves in the process.

In verse 33, we see that the Jews were involved in the riot in Ephesus, as they wanted Alexander to address the crowd in the theater. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

Presumably the Jews did not push him forward to plead the nation’s common cause but brought him out because they wanted the people to murder him.

Did the Jews in Ephesus enjoy freedom of religion before the events of this passage? Did they attempt to convert any of the Gentiles in their city? Did the Roman law prohibit proselytizing? How did they respond to the riot? Did they encourage the Gentiles to persecute the local church? Did they enjoy freedom of religion after the events of this passage – or did the riot lead to increased scrutiny on the part of the Roman authorities?

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