Acts 19:12
So that from his body were brought to the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons.—Both words are, in the original, transliterated from the Latin, the former being sudaria, used to wipe off sweat from brow or face; the latter semicincta, the short aprons worn by artisans as they worked. We ask how St. Luke, passing over two years of labour in a few words, came to dwell so fully on these special facts. The answer may be found (1) in St. Luke’s own habit of mind as a physician, which would lead him to dwell on the various phenomena presented by the supernatural gift of healing; (2) a further explanation may be found in the inference suggested in the Note on Acts 19:9. Such a report of special and extraordinary phenomena was likely enough to be made by a physician like Tyrannus to one of the same calling, and probably of the same faith. The picture suggested is that of devout persons coming to the Apostle as he laboured at his craft, and carrying away with them the very handkerchiefs and aprons that he had used, as precious relics that conveyed the supernatural gift of healing which he exercised. The efficacy of such media stands obviously on the same footing as that of the hem of our Lord’s garment (see Note on Matthew 9:20-21), and the shadow of Peter (see Note on Acts 5:15), and, we may add, of the clay in the healing of the blind (see Note on John 9:6). The two conditions of the supernatural work of healing were a Divine Power on the one hand, and Faith on the other, and any external medium might serve to strengthen the latter and bring it into contact with the former. Cures more or less analogous, ascribed to the relics of saints, admit, in some measure, of a like explanation. Without pretending to draw a sharp line of demarcation between the natural and supernatural in such cases, it is clear that a strong belief in the possibility of a healing work as likely, or certain, to be accompanied by any special agent, does much to stimulate the activity of the vis medicatrix Naturæ which before was passive and inert. It is not unreasonable to see in the works of healing so wrought a special adaptation to the antecedent habits of mind of a population like that of Ephesus. It was something for them to learn that the prayer of faith and the handkerchief that had touched the Apostle’s skin had a greater power to heal than the charms in which they had previously trusted.

19:8-12 When arguments and persuasions only harden men in unbelief and blasphemy, we must separate ourselves and others from such unholy company. God was pleased to confirm the teaching of these holy men of old, that if their hearers believed them not, they might believe the works.So that from his body - That is, those handkerchiefs which had been applied to his body, which he had used, or which he had touched. An instance somewhat similar to this occurs in the case of the woman who was healed by touching the hem of the Saviour's garment, Matthew 9:20-22.Unto the sick - The sick who were at a distance, and who were unable to go where he was. If it be asked why this was done, it may be observed:

(1) That the working of miracles in that region would greatly contribute to the spread of the gospel.

(2) we are not to suppose that there was any efficacy in the aprons thus brought, or in the mere fact that they had touched the body of Paul, anymore than there was in the hem of the Saviour's garment which the woman touched, or in the clay which he made use of to open the eyes of the blind man, John 8:6.

(3) in this instance, the fact that the miracles were performed in this manner by garments which had touched his body, was a mere sign, or an evidence to the persons concerned, that it was done by the instrumentality of Paul, as the fact that the Saviour put his fingers into the ears of a deaf man, and spit and touched his tongue Mark 7:33, was an evidence to those who saw it that the power of healing came from him. The bearing of these aprons to the sick was, therefore, merely evidence to all concerned that miraculous power was given to Paul.

Handkerchiefs - The word used here σουδάρια soudaria is of Latin origin, and properly denotes "a piece of linen" with which sweat was wiped from the face; and then "any piece of linen used for tying up or containing anything." In Luke 19:20, it denotes the "napkin" in which the talent of the unprofitable servant was concealed; in John 11:44; John 20:7, the "napkin" which was used to bind up the face of the dead applied to Lazarus and to our Saviour.

Or aprons - σιμικίνθια simikinthia. This is also Latin word, and means literally a half girdle, or covering half the person a piece of cloth which was girded round the waist to preserve the clothes of those who were engaged in any kind of work. The word "aprons" expresses the idea.

And the diseases departed - The sick were healed.

And the evil spirits - See the notes on Matthew 4:24. It is evident that this power of working miracles would contribute greatly to Paul's success among the people.

12. So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, &c.—Compare 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 very exorcists (Ac 19:13), 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" (Ac 19:17) 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 wrought. Handkerchiefs or aprons; our habit and attire being so different from what was used so long since, it cannot but occasion some variety in rendering these words; which some think to signify two things; and some, but one and the same part of their clothes or dress: the words are both originally, Latin; the former so called from its use to wipe away sweat; the other, from its being usually tied about such as wore it.

The diseases departed from them; God by such small and unlikely means wrought these miracles:

1. That the power of Christ (whom Paul preached) might the more clearly appear. And:

2. That such as were absent might have a high value for Christ and the gospel, though they had never seen Paul, or heard him preach. Such extraordinary works were also wrought by God to magnify the words preached by Peter, Acts 5:15, as our Saviour had foretold and promised, John 14:12. So that from his body were brought unto the sick,.... The Ethiopic version renders it, "from the extremity", or "border of his garment"; and the Syriac version, "from the garments which were upon his body"; were brought and put upon the sick; that is, of the clothes which the apostle wore, some of them were taken and carried to sick persons, and used by them: particularly "handkerchiefs" or "aprons"; the former were such as he might use to wipe his face with, and remove sweat, or any filth from the body; and the latter, what he might wear as a mechanic, when working at his trade:

and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them; who were afflicted and possessed with them; these were some of the special and uncommon miracles wrought by the hands of the apostle, and which were wrought in an uncommon way; and which most clearly showed that they were wrought by a divine power.

So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 19:12. ὥστε καὶ: so that even to the sick, i.e., to those who could not be reached by the hands of the Apostle.—χρωτὸς: the σουδ. and σιμικ. had been in contact with the body of the Apostle, and thence derived their healing power; so in LXX used for both בָּשָׂר, and עוֹר (twice), see Hatch and Redpath; Zahn, Einleitung, ii., 435, sees in its use here the use of a medical term, so Hobart, p. 242.—σουδάρια: Latin, sudaria, used for wiping off sweat, as the noun indicates, cf. Luke 19:20, John 11:44; John 20:7.—σιμικίνθια: Latin, semicinctium, only here in N.T., aprons worn by artisans at their work, cf. Martial, xiv., 153. Oecumenius and Theophylact apparently regarded the word as simply = handkerchiefs, but the meaning given is far more likely both from the etymology of the word and its use in Martial. For other Latinisms see Blass, in loco, and Wetstein.—ἀπαλ. ἀπʼ αὐτῶν, cf. Luke 12:58, Hebrews 2:15, here in connection with sickness, and this use is very frequent in medical writers, Hobart, p. 47; the word is found with ἀπὸ both in classical writers and in the LXX. It should also be noted that here as elsewhere St. Luke distinguishes between natural diseases and the diseases of the demonised, and that he does so more frequently than the other Evangelists, Hobart, pp. 12, 13, so “Demon,” Hastings’ B.D., i., p. 593, cf. especially Luke 6:17; Luke 8:2; Luke 13:32, which have no parallels in the other Gospels.—πονηρὰ: is applied to evil spirits by St. Luke three times in his Gospel and four times in this passage, and only once elsewhere, St.Matthew 12:45, although the word is very frequent in St. Matthew’s Gospel and in the Epistles; the word was constantly used by medical writers in connection with disease, Hobart, u. s. Blass quotes as a parallel to the present passage εἰ αἱ νόσοι ἀπαλλαγείησαν ἐκ τῶν σωμάτων (Plat.) Eryx, 401 c.—τά τε πνεύματα … Were the aprons brought for the healing of the diseases and the banishing of the demons equally? The τε seems to indicate that this was the case (Weiss, Wendt); Blass on the other hand holds that it is not said that the demons were driven out by the sudaria. According to some interpretations of the verse the carrying of the aprons to the sick is only to be regarded as a result of the wonderful impression made by St. Paul’s miraculous power; the writer says nothing of the effect of these aprons, although he places both the healing of the diseases and the expulsion of the demons amongst the δυνάμεις of St. Paul. From this point of view the carrying of the σουδάρια would only illustrate the superstitious practices which showed how often, in the homes of culture, quackery was also found, and the Evangelist gives them no word of commendation, see also note on Acts 19:15. On the other hand we must remember that the miracles are distinctly spoken of as οὐ τὰς τυχ., and even in the means employed we may perhaps see a possible appeal to the populace, who would recognise that these charms and amulets in which they put such confidence had not the same potency as the handkerchiefs and aprons of the Apostle. But in this accommodation to special forms of ignorance we are never allowed to forget that God is the source of all power and might.12. so that from his body were brought unto the sick] In the oldest MSS. the verb signifies “to be carried away from.” The Rev. Version brings out the meaning fully, and in a verse like this it is well to keep, as much as may be, the Greek order of the words. Read “Insomuch that unto the sick were carried away from his body.” St Luke is careful to intimate that the Apostle did not of himself adopt or recommend these methods, but the faith of the converts was such that it manifested itself in this way, and God was pleased to bestow blessings because of their faith. In the city of Ephesus where, as we find from this chapter, exorcism and “curious arts” of witchcraft and incantation were familiarly exercised, God appears to have made the cures that were wrought to be specially evidences of the power of faith. Paul does not go to the sick, and even the sons of Sceva (Acts 19:13) recognise that it is not to Paul, but to Jesus whom he preacheth, that the “powers” are to be ascribed. Thus was God’s minister made to differ from the pretenders to miraculous power with which the Ephesian people were familiar. A specimen of these may be seen in the life of Apollonius of Tyana, iv. 3 (Kayser, p. 66).

handkerchiefs or aprons] Some take the latter word to signify the cincture, by which the loose robes of the Orientals were gathered together round the waist. This would be expressed by “belts” or “girdles.” Others think they were the aprons used by the Apostle while working at his trade. The derivation of the word favours the latter sense. They seem to have been employed to cover the front half of the dress during work.

and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them] The oldest texts omit the last two words. These converts acted on the popular belief, that virtue proceeded from the bodies of our Lord and His Apostles. St Luke notices this belief in his Gospel (Luke 8:44) and St Mark says of Jesus (Mark 5:30) “perceiving in himself that the power proceeding from him had gone forth.” The words of Scripture can hardly be made to countenance, though they recognise, the popular belief. Yet, even though these men employed means which were unnecessary and superstitious to display their faith, because of the reality of this faith God did not suffer it to lose its reward.Acts 19:12. Χρωτὸς, from his body) χρὼς, the skin, the outermost part of the body. Here evidently (his) miraculous power reached its highest point.—σιμικίνθια, semi-girdles, narrow aprons) with which they used formerly to be girded.—ἀπʼ αὐτῶν, from them) We read of evil spirits having often excited (caused) a disease, which might seem to be due to natural causes.Verse 12. - Insomuch for so, A.V.; unto the sick were carried away from his body for from his body were brought unto the sick, A.V.; went out for went out of them, A.V. and T.R. From his body (χρωτός); literally, the skin, but used here by St. Luke for the body, in accordance with the usage of medical writers "from Hippocrates to Galen" (Hobart). Handkerchiefs; σουδάριον, the Latin word sudarium, properly a cloth for wiping off the sweat. It is one of those words, like κουστωδία κεντυρίων σημικίνθιον, κοδράντης, etc., which exactly represent the political condition of things at the time of the writers, who were living in a country where Greek was the language of common intercourse, but where the dominion was Roman. It is found in Luke 19:20; John 11:44; John 20:7, and here. Aprons; σιμικίνθια, more properly written σημικίνθια. It is the Latin word semicinctium, a half-girdle; the Greek word is ἡμιζώνιον. According to some, it was a narrow girdle, but according to others, and with more probability, an apron covering only half, i.e. the front of the body. It only occurs here in the New Testament or elsewhere. The careful mention of these cures of the sick may also be connected with St. Luke's medical profession. As regards these unusual modes of miraculous cure, comp. Acts 5:15. It might well be the Divine purpose, in the case of both Peter and Paul, to invest with such extraordinary power the very persons of the apostles who were to stand forth as his messengers and preach in his Name. In St. Paul this parity of miraculous energy stamped his apostleship with an authority equal to that of St. Peter. Body (χρωτὸς)

Properly, the surface of the body, the skin; but, in medical language, of the body.

Handkerchiefs (σουδάρια)

See on Luke 19:20.

Aprons (σιμικίνθια)

Only here in New Testament. A Latin word, semicinctia. Lit., something passing half-way round the body: an apron or waistband. Perhaps garments worn by Paul when engaged at his trade.

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