Acts 19:31
And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent to him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(31) And certain of the chiefs of Asia, which were his friends.—Better, Asiarchs. The title was an official one, applied to the presidents of the games, who were selected from the chief cities of the province. The office was an annual one. They were ten in number, and the proconsul nominated one of them as president. Their duties led them now to one city, now to another, according as games or festivals were held, now at Ephesus, now at Colophon, or Smyrna. As connected both with the theatre and with the worship of Artemis, they were probably officially informed of the occasion of the tumult. If, as seems probable from 1Corinthians 5:6-8, that Epistle was written at, or about, the time of the Passover, we may place the tumult at some period in the spring, when the people were keeping or expecting the great festival in honour of Artemis, in the month, named after the goddess, Artemision, spreading over parts of April and May (Boeckh. Corp. Inscript. Græc. 2954), and were therefore more than usually open to excited appeals like that of Demetrius. This would also account for the presence of the Asiarchs at Ephesus.

There is something significant in the fact that the Asiarchs were St. Paul’s friends. The manliness, tact, and courtesy which tempered his zeal and boldness, seem always to have gained for him the respect of men in authority: Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7), Gallio (Acts 18:14-17), Festus and Agrippa (Acts 25:9; Acts 26:28; Acts 26:32), the centurion Julius (Acts 27:3; Acts 27:43). The Asiarchs, too, from different motives, took the same course as the disciples. They knew that his appearance would only excite the passions of the crowd, be perilous to himself, and increase the disturbance in the city.

19:21-31 Persons who came from afar to pay their devotions at the temple of Ephesus, bought little silver shrines, or models of the temple, to carry home with them. See how craftsmen make advantage to themselves of people's superstition, and serve their worldly ends by it. Men are jealous for that by which they get their wealth; and many set themselves against the gospel of Christ, because it calls men from all unlawful crafts, however much wealth is to be gotten by them. There are persons who will stickle for what is most grossly absurd, unreasonable, and false; as this, that those are gods which are made with hands, if it has but worldly interest on its side. The whole city was full of confusion, the common and natural effect of zeal for false religion. Zeal for the honour of Christ, and love to the brethren, encourage zealous believers to venture into danger. Friends will often be raised up among those who are strangers to true religion, but have observed the honest and consistent behaviour of Christians.Certain of the chief of Asia - τῶν Ἀσιαρχῶν tōn Asiarchōn. Of the Asiarchs. These were persons who presided over sacred things and over the public games. It was their business to see that the proper services of religion were observed, and that proper honor was rendered to the Roman emperor in the public festivals, at the games, etc. They were annually elected, and their election was confirmed at Rome before it was valid They held a common council at the principal city within their province, as at Ephesus, Smyrna, Sardis, etc., to consult and deliberate about the interests committed to their charge in their various provinces (Kuinoel and Schleusner). Probably they were assembled on such an occasion now; and during their remaining there they had heard Paul preach, and were friendly to his views and doctrines.

Which were his friends - It does not appear from ibis that they were Christian converts; but they probably had feelings of respect toward him, and were disposed to defend him and his cause. Perhaps, also, there might have existed a personal acquaintance and attachment.

Would not adventure - Would not risk his life in the tumult, and under the excited feelings of the multitude.

31. And certain of the chief of Asia—literally, "And certain also of the Asiarchs." These were wealthy and distinguished citizens of the principal towns of the Asian province, chosen annually, and ten of whom were selected by the proconsul to preside over the games celebrated in the month of May (the same month which Romanism dedicates to the Virgin). It was an office of the highest honor and greatly coveted. Certain of these, it seems, were favorably inclined to the Gospel, at least were Paul's "friends," and knowing the passions of a mob, excited during the festivals, "sent (a message) to him desiring him not to adventure himself into the theater." Certain of the chief of Asia; such as had the oversight of the plays and shows in honour of their idol gods, and were usually their priests; and were of four countries; from whence they had their names of Asiarchs, Bithynarchs, Syriarchs, and Cappadociarchs. Whosoever these were, the providence of God is to be adored, who could out of his greatest enemies raise up deliverers for his servants. And certain of the chief of Asia,.... Or the Asiarchs; these were not princes of Asia, rulers or governors of provinces, or cities, or civil magistrates; but priests who presided over the games and diversions at the theatre, and had the management and command of things there. Such an one was Philip the Asiarch, the church of Smyrna makes mention of in their account of the sufferings and martyrdom of Polycarp (z), whom the people entreated that he would send out the lion to Polycarp; that is, out of the theatre which he had the command of; but he replied he could not do it, because he had finished the theatrical exercises: from whence it appears that he was the governor of the theatre, and had his title of Asiarch from thence, as these men had, wherefore this word should not be rendered, the "princes of Asia", as by the Vulgate Latin; nor the "chief of Asia", as by the Syriac and Arabic versions, and by ours, but rather the "Asian priests". The Ethiopic version not knowing who should be meant by them, only reads, "and some of Asia".

Which were his friends; they had a good opinion of the apostle, and a good liking of his doctrines, and wished well to his person, and were concerned for his safety; though they might not have been really converted, and truly disciples, as those in the preceding verse; for otherwise one would think they would have relinquished their office and place. These

sent unto him, messengers or letters,

desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre; they observed to him the danger he would expose himself to, and entreated he would show a greater regard to his life than to risk it in such a manner, a life might be so useful to many; and though they were the governors at the theatre, yet such was the rage and fury of the mob, that it was not in their power to restrain them from doing mischief, till such time as they were appeased.

(z) Apud Euseb. Eccl, Hist. l. 4. c. 15.

{8} And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.

(8) There ought to be in all Christians, and especially in the ministers, an invincible steadfastness which may not by any storms or assaults be overcome, which nonetheless must modestly allow itself to be governed by wisdom.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 19:31. Ἀσιαρχῶν: “the chief officers of Asia,” R.V., cf. Γαλατάρχης, Βιθυνιάρχης, Συριάρχης, etc.; Mommsen, Röm. Gesch., v., 318 (Knabenbauer), officers, i.e., of the province of Asia, and so provincial, not merely municipal officers. Each province united in an association for the worship of Rome and the Empire, hence Κοινὸν Ἀσίας, of which the Asiarchs would probably be the high priests. But in addition to their religious office the Asiarchs were called upon to provide games, partly if not solely at their own expense, and to preside over them. These festivals were called Κοινὰ Ἀσίας ἐν Σμύρνῃ, Λαοδικείᾳ, κ.τ.λ. It is doubtful whether the office was annual, or whether it was held for four years; but as an Asiarch still retained his title after his term of office had expired, there may evidently have been in Ephesus several Asiarchs, although only one was actually performing his duties (cf. the title ἀρχιερεῖς amongst the Jews, Acts 4:6; Acts 4:23). If there were a sort of Council of Asiarchs, this Council may well have assembled when the Κοινὰ Ἀσίας were being held, and this might have been the case at Ephesus in the narrative before us; such a festival would have brought together a vast crowd of pilgrims and worshippers actuated with zeal for the goddess, and ready to side with Demetrius and his followers. The title was one of great dignity and repute, as is evident from inscriptions which commemorate in various cities the names of those who had held the office. Whether the Asiarchs were in any sense high priests has been disputed, but see Polycarp, Mart., cf. Acts 12:2; Acts 12:21; on the whole subject “Asiarch” (Ramsay), Hastings’ B.D. and B.D.2; St. Ignatius and St. Polycarp, ii., p. 987, Lightfoot; Renan, Saint Paul, p. 353; Wendt, p. 318; O. Holtzmann, Neutest. Zeitgeschichte, p. 102.—φίλοι: not only does the notice show that St. Paul had gained at least the toleration of some of the leading men of the province, but that the attitude of the imperial authorities was not unfriendly. We cannot of course suppose with Zimmermann that the Asiarchs were friendly because the Apostle had been less opposed to the imperial cultus than to that of Diana, and that so far the Asiarchs stood with him on common ground. See Ramsay, Church in the Roman Empire, on the probable attitude of the priests, and cf. chap. 14—δοῦναι ἑαυτὸν: only here in N.T., cf. Polyb., v., 14, 9, the expression involves the thought of danger, so in A. and R.V.31. And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends] The Greek is one word, literally “Asiarchs.” These were officers in the various cities of proconsular Asia, who were appointed to preside over the games and religious festivals. The Rev. Ver. is “And certain also of the chief officers of Asia, being his friends.” In Ephesus, these officers would be men of some importance, for in addition to the other games over which they would preside, the whole month of May was sacred to Artemis, being called Artemision, and was given up to festivals in honour of the city’s idol. We read of an Asiarch at Smyrna in the narrative of the martyrdom of Polycarp (Euseb. H. E. iv. 15).

It would seem, from the fact that some of these prominent officials were friends to St Paul, that though presiding over the games and festivals for the satisfaction of the populace, they had no great care for Artemis or her worship.

sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre] The original says more than “desiring.” The Greek word is of frequent occurrence in the Gospels and is generally rendered “beseech,” which the Rev. Ver. has given here: sent unto him and besought him. The fuller rendering marks better the personal interest these officers had in the Apostle’s safety, and we gather from the narrative that they knew where he was, though the mob had not found him.Acts 19:31. Τῶν Ἀσιαρχῶν, of the rulers of Asia) those who administered the affairs of state, and were at that time over the sacred rites of Diana.Verse 31. - Certain also for certain, A.V. (the more natural order would be, and certain of the chief officers of Asia also); chief officers for chief, A.V.; being for which were, A.V.; and besought him not to for desiring him that he would not, A.V. Chief Officers of Asia. The Greek word is Asiarchs (Ἀσιάρχαι). The Asiarchs, ten in number, were officers annually chosen from all the cities of Proconsular Asia, to preside over all sacred rites, and to provide at their own expense the pub-lie games in honor of the gods and of the deity of the emperor. This necessitated their being men of high rank and great wealth, and Schleusner adds that they were priests. The name Asiarch is formed like Luciarchai, Syriarchai, Phoenicharchai, etc. We have here another striking proof of the enormous influence of Paul's preaching in Asia, that some of these very officers who were chosen to preside over the sacred rites of the gods, and to advance their honor by public games, were now on Paul's side. Of the chief officers of Asia (τῶν Ἀσιαρχῶν)

The Asiarchs. These were persons chosen from the province of Asia, on account of their influence and wealth, to preside at the public games and to defray their expenses.

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