Berean Insights

Serious Trouble in Ephesus

 At last the mayor was able to quiet them down enough to speak. “Citizens of Ephesus,” he said. “Everyone knows that Ephesus is the official guardian of the temple of the great Artemis, whose image fell down to us from heaven.

Since this is an undeniable fact, you should stay calm and not do anything rash.

You have brought these men here, but they have stolen nothing from the temple and have not spoken against our goddess.

 “If Demetrius and the craftsmen have a case against them, the courts are in session and the officials can hear the case at once. Let them make formal charges.

And if there are complaints about other matters, they can be settled in a legal assembly.

I am afraid we are in danger of being charged with rioting by the Roman government, since there is no cause for all this commotion. And if Rome demands an explanation, we won’t know what to say.”

Then he dismissed them, and they dispersed. (Acts 19:23-41)


The dust has now settled and the [grammateus] - local representative, the mayor, town clerk or ‘chancellor’ (Martin Luther) speaks to the crowd. Notice he is speaking to the crowd after the two-hour-chanting and when they have finally yelled themselves hoarse no doubt. He was clearly not a Roman official by what he said but rather a Greek local who has been invested with authority to ensure the Roman laws are observed.  i.e. let’s not make trouble in the eyes of the occupying forces.

Literally he says: Men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know:

  • Ephesus is the temple keeper of Artemis.
  • The sacred image fell down from heaven

Temple keeper was a term used to indicate a city was given the honour of looking after the temple for a particular deity but which could also be extended to other deities – i.e. all religions. The term literally means “temple sweeper”, used in a figurative sense of keeping the temple ritually clean. Making sure all the religious requirements were met.

The second thing everyone knew is a little more difficult to determine. What is written is “that which fell down from heaven / Jupiter”. I.e. something of substance which fell from heaven, or the gods. An air borne object, which seemingly was later set up as an image depicting Artemis. Notice how the translations handle this thing, this object [θεας]. A sacred stone, image, stone image, the one, who, which, her image, her holy rock, her statue, that which fell from the sky. (Indonesian “batu suci” “patungnya”). Commentators suggest an aerolite or meteorite which fell on Ephesus or its surrounding area and which was believed to be given by the gods. Many ancient religions reverenced meteors or space object which fell from the sky or “heavens”. Perhaps the object looked like a human female form or perhaps it was just a space rock which was later fashioned to look like their concept of Diana or Artemis. It’s cloudy, no intentional pun, but whatever the case the people of Ephesus were so convinced this was sent from the gods and therefore the mayor or chancellor is making the statement that the deity of Diana is beyond question; despite what Paul had been preaching about idols. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Paul preaching on Mars Hill and the Agora and before the Areopagus.   

These men before you and Paul have not spoken against our goddess or desecrated, stolen anything from the temple. In other words there is no religious case to be answered here. If Demetrius, as the instigator, still has an issue with this he can take it to court NOW. The courts are open and ready to hear the case. I think perhaps the mayor or chancellor was astute enough to discern Demetrius’ true motivation so deals with it in an open-ended way but gives Demetrius an out if he wishes to pursue the case. Which clearly he didn't because he didn't have a case in reality.  

Finally the mayor appeals to the threat of a likely Roman reaction if this unrest continued. The Roman authorities are going to want an explanation if this continues and we don't know what to say. Of course not, because confusion reigned at the height of the unrest and no one knew what was going on or what was behind it. Don't make this into something that is on-going. We won’t know what to say to the Romans and it will only lead to trouble.  

Just as quickly as the riot began it fizzled out. What a summary statement - Then he dismissed them, and they dispersed.


Moral of the story: pick the hill you’re prepared to die on. Some things are just not worth pursuing. Ian

Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose!

Your life is short. You have no clue when this ride will end. Stay present and live fearlessly! Rick Godwin

Fear is stupid. So are regrets. Winston Churchill



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