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Acts 19:24-41 – Demetrius and the Silversmiths in Ephesus

Summary

In Ephesus, Demetrius the silversmith gathers his fellow workers who have seen a loss in demand for their product, statuettes of the great goddess Artemis. This loss is attributed to growing numbers of Christians who do not worship gods made with human hands.

Analysis

This story does not highlight a particular Christian leader but shows how a population, frightened by diminished revenue from their craft of creating statues of Artemis, calls upon patriotism and religious fervor to arouse the population against the Christians. Neither the patriotism nor the religious belief of the Christians is directly at issue, but rather the loss of money for the silversmiths. The endangerment of their economic well-being is nevertheless connected to the ongoing growth of Christianity and its success in turning new believers from adherence to false gods. The more observant Christians there are, the fewer persons purchase statuettes of Artemis. A way of life is threatened, both in the microcosm of economic production and well-being for the smiths and in the macrocosm of social organization in a major metropolitan area such as Ephesus.

Acts 19:24-41

24A man named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the artisans. 25These he gathered together, with the workers of the same trade, and said, ‘Men, you know that we get our wealth from this business. 26You also see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost the whole of Asia this Paul has persuaded and drawn away a considerable number of people by saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be scorned, and she will be deprived of her majesty that brought all Asia and the world to worship her.’

28 When they heard this, they were enraged and shouted, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ 29The city was filled with the confusion; and people* rushed together to the theatre, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s travelling-companions. 30Paul wished to go into the crowd, but the disciples would not let him; 31even some officials of the province of Asia,* who were friendly to him, sent him a message urging him not to venture into the theatre. 32Meanwhile, some were shouting one thing, some another; for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33Some of the crowd gave instructions to Alexander, whom the Jews had pushed forward. And Alexander motioned for silence and tried to make a defence before the people. 34But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours all of them shouted in unison, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ 35But when the town clerk had quietened the crowd, he said, ‘Citizens of Ephesus, who is there that does not know that the city of the Ephesians is the temple-keeper of the great Artemis and of the statue that fell from heaven?* 36Since these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. 37You have brought these men here who are neither temple-robbers nor blasphemers of our* goddess. 38If therefore Demetrius and the artisans with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls; let them bring charges there against one another. 39If there is anything further* you want to know, it must be settled in the regular assembly. 40For we are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.’ 41When he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

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10 February 2011

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