For you have brought here these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)These men, which are neither robbers of churches.—Better, robbers of temples. It was not unusual for the writers of the Elizabethan age to apply the term, which we confine to Christian buildings, to heathen temples. They would speak, e.g., of the “church” of Diana, or the “chapel” of Apollo. The corresponding noun for “robbing temples,” or “sacrilege,” is found in inscriptions discovered by Mr. Wood (vi. 1, p. 14) among the ruins of the Temple, as denoting a crime to which the severest penalties were attached. The testimony to the general character of St. Paul and his companions, as shown both in word and deed, indicates the quietness and calmness with which they had preached the truth. They persuaded, but they did not ridicule or revile. This was, probably, more than could be said for Alexander and the Jews who put him forward. (See Note on Acts 19:33.)
Which are neither robbers of churches - The word "churches" we now apply to edifices reared for purposes of Christian worship. Since no such churches had then been built, this translation is unhappy, and is not at all demanded by the original. The Greek word ἱεροσύλους hierosulous is applied properly to those who commit sacrilege; who plunder temples of their sacred things. The meaning here is that Paul and his companions had not been guilty of robbing the temple of Diana, or any other temple. The charge of sacrilege could not be brought against them. Though they had preached against idols and idol worship, yet they had offered no violence to the temples of idolaters, nor had they attempted to strip them of the sacred utensils employed in their service. What they had done, they had done peaceably.
Nor yet blasphemers of your goddess - They had not used harsh or reproachful language of Diana. This had not been charged on them, nor is there the least evidence that they had done it. They had opposed idolatry; had reasoned against it; and had endeavored to turn the people from it. But there is not the least evidence that they had ever done it in harsh or reproachful language. This shows that people should employ reason, and not harsh or reproachful language against a pervading evil; and that the way to remove it is to enlighten the minds of people, and to convince them of the error of their ways. People gain nothing by bitter and reviling words; and it is much to obtain the testimony of even the enemies of religion as Paul did of the chancellor of Ephesus - that no such words had been used in describing their crimes and follies.
nor yet blasphemers of your goddess—This is a remarkable testimony, showing that the apostle had, in preaching against idolatry, studiously avoided (as at Athens) insulting the feelings of those whom he addressed—a lesson this to missionaries and ministers in general.Neither robbers of churches; for they had not entered into their temple.
Nor yet blasphemers of your goddess; Paul had barely preached this truth amongst them, not upbraiding them for their idolatry; as Michael, the archangel, brought no railing accusation against the devil, when he contended with him, Judges 1:9.
which are neither robbers of churches; or "temples"; or, as the Arabic version renders it, "robbers of the vessels of the temple", sacrilegious persons; they have not stolen anything out of the temple of Diana, nor any other:
nor yet blasphemers of your goddess; they have not made mention of her name, much less said anything against her, at least this officer did not know that they had; and if he had, he did not stick to tell an officious lie to screen them, as did the Egyptian midwives in favour of the Hebrew women.For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Acts 19:37. Γάρ] justifies the expression used, προπετές, rashly, without consideration.Acts 19:37. γὰρ: “for,” i.e., they had done something rash.—τοὺς ἄνδρ. τούτους: Gaius and Aristarchus, ἱεροσύλους, “robbers of temples,” R.V., in A.V. “of churches,” the word “church” being applied as often in the Elizabethan age to pagan temples. Ramsay however renders “guilty neither in act nor in language of disrespect to our goddess,” i.e., to the established religion of our city, ἱεροσυλία = Latin, sacrilegium, and here for emphasis the speaker uses the double term οὔτε ἱεροσ. οὔτε βλασφ., “Churches, Robbers of,” Hastings’ B.D., Ramsay, and St. Paul, pp. 260, 282, 401, In 2Ma 4:42 we have the same word ἱερόσυλος, R.V., “Author of the sacrilege,” “Church-robber,” A.V., used of Lysimachus, brother of Menelaus the high priest, who perished in a riot which arose from the theft of the sacred vessels by his brother and himself (quoted by Ramsay, u. s.). Canon Gore, Ephesians, p. 41, note, however, points out that the word is used in the former sense of “robbers of temples,” in special connection with Ephesus by Strabo, xiv. 1, 22, and Pseudo-Heraclitus, Letter vii., p. 64 (Bernays); cf. Romans 2:22. The cognate noun is found in inscriptions at Ephesus, describing a crime involving the heaviest penalties, Wood, Ephesus, vi. 1, p. 14; Lightfoot, Cont. Rev., p. 294, 1878.37. For … robbers of churches] Better, robbers of temples with Rev. Ver. As the temple at Ephesus had a great treasure-chamber, the offence might not be unknown among them. All that was placed under the guardianship of the goddess would be for the time the property of the temple, to steal which would be sacrilege.
nor yet blasphemers of your goddess] The “yet” has nothing to represent it in the original, and the oldest MSS. read “our goddess.” In a popular address it is natural that such a speaker would identify himself with his fellow-citizens. We may gather from this verse that the language of St Paul and his companions had been measured when they had spoken about the special worship of Ephesus. They had inculcated the great principle that those were no gods which were made with hands and had allowed that to do its work. We find the same restraint put on himself by St Paul at Athens, though he was greatly moved to see the city wholly given to idolatry. Different conduct in either of these cities would most likely have deprived him of all chance of a hearing.Acts 19:37. Ἠγάγετε, ye have brought) hastily (raptim), into the theatre, as if to a tribunal, or to punishment.—τούτους, these men) Acts 19:29.—οὔτε, neither) i.e. they have neither by deed injured the temple, nor by word injured Diana.—οὔτε βλασφημοῦντας, nor yet blasphemers of) The apostles did not gather together many of the absurd stories out of their mythology, but set forth the truth of GOD, and in general terms the vanity of idols, Acts 19:26. They who believed, afterwards of themselves rejected false gods.Verse 37. - Temples for churches, A.V.; ,or for nor yet, A.V.; our for your, A.V. Ye have brought, etc. Ἄγειν is especially used of "bringing before a magistrate," "leading to execution," etc. (Luke 21:12; Luke 23:1; Acts 6:12; Acts 17:19; Acts 18:12; Mark 13:11). Robbers of temples; ἱερόσυλοι found only here in the New Testament. The verb ἱεροσυλεῖν occurs in Romans 2:22. Blasphemers of our goddess. If the A.V. is right, perhaps we may see in the phrase "your goddess" an indication that the town-clerk himself was more or less persuaded by St. Paul's preaching, that "they are no gods which are made with hands," and did not care to speak of Diana as his own goddess. It appears also that St. Paul had not launched out into abuse of the heathen gods in general, or Diana in particular, but had preached the more excellent way by faith in Jesus Christ, to draw them from their idols (1 Thessalonians 1:9).
The A. V. puts a droll anachronism into the mouth of the town-clerk of a Greek city. Render, rather, as Rev., robbers of temples.
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