Acts 19:19
Parallel Verses
New International Version
A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.

King James Bible
Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.

Darby Bible Translation
And many of those that practised curious arts brought their books [of charms] and burnt them before all. And they reckoned up the prices of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.

World English Bible
Many of those who practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. They counted the price of them, and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver.

Young's Literal Translation
and many of those who had practised the curious arts, having brought the books together, were burning them before all; and they reckoned together the prices of them, and found it five myriads of silverlings;

Acts 19:19 Parallel
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible

Which used curious arts - Τα περιεργα. From the use of this word in the Greek writers, we know that it signified magical arts, sorceries, incantations, etc. Ephesus abounded with these. Dio Cassius, speaking of the Emperor Adrian, says, Ὁ Αδριανος περιεργοτατος ην και μαντειαις και μαγγανειαις παντοδαπαις εχρητο. "Adrian was exceedingly addicted to curious arts, and practised divination and magic." These practices prevailed in all nations of the earth.

Brought their books together - The Εφεσια γραμματα, or Ephesian characters, are celebrated in antiquity; they appear to have been amulets, inscribed with strange characters, which were carried about the body for the purpose of curing diseases, expelling demons, and preserving from evils of different kinds. The books brought together on this occasion were such as taught the science, manner of formation, use, etc., of these charms.

Suidas, under Εφεσια γραμματα, Ephesian letters, gives us the following account. "Certain obscure incantations. - When Milesius and Ephesius wrestled at the Olympic games, Milesius could not prevail, because his antagonist had the Ephesian letters bound to his heels; when this was discovered, and the letters taken away, it is reported that Milesius threw him thirty times."

The information given by Hesychius is still more curious: Εφεσια γραμματα. ην μεν παλαι Ϛ'· ὑϚερον δε προσεθεσαν τινες απατεωνες και αλλα· φασι δε των πρωτων τα ονοματα, ταδε ΑΣΚΙΟΝ, ΚΑΤΑΣΚΙΟΝ, ΛΙΞ, ΤΕΤΡΑΞ, ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ, ΑΙΣΙΟΝ· Δηλοι δε, το μεν Ασκιον, σκοτος· το δε Κατα σκιον, φως· το δε Λιξ, γη· τετραξ δε, ενιαυτος· Δαμναμενευς δε, ἡλιος· Αισιον δε, αληθες. Ταυτα ουν ἱερα εϚι και ἁγια. "The Ephesian letters or characters were formerly six, but certain deceivers added others afterwards; and their names, according to report, were these: Askion, Kataskion, Lix, Tetrax, Damnameneus, and Aislon. It is evident that Askion signifies Darkness; Kataskion, Light; Lix, the Earth; Tetrax, the Year; Damnameneus, the Sun; and Aision, Truth. These are holy and sacred things." The same account may be seen in Clemens Alexandrinus; Strom. lib. v. cap. 8, where he attempts to give the etymology of these different terms. These words served, no doubt, as the keys to different spells and incantations; and were used in order to the attainment of a great variety of ends. The Abraxas of the Basilidians, in the second century, were formed on the basis of the Ephesian letters; for those instruments of incantation, several of which are now before me, are inscribed with a number of words and characters equally as unintelligible as the above, and in many cases more so.

When it is said they brought their books together, we are to understand the books which treated of these curious arts; such as the Εφεσια γραμματα, or Ephesian characters.

And burned them before all - These must have been thoroughly convinced of the truth of Christianity, and of the unlawfulness of their own arts.

Fifty thousand pieces of silver - Some think that the αργυριον, which we translate piece of silver, means a shekel, as that word is used Matthew 26:16, where see the note; 50,000 shekels, at 3s., according to Dean Prideaux's valuation, (which is that followed throughout this work), would amount to 7,500.

But, as this was a Roman and not a Jewish country, we may rationally suppose that the Jewish coin was not here current; and that the αργυριον, or silver coin, mentioned by St. Luke, must have been either Greek or Roman; and, it is very likely that the sestertius is meant, which was always a silver coin, about the value, according to Arbuthnot, of two-pence, or 1d. 3q3/4., which answers to the fourth part of a denarius, rated by the same author at 7 3/4d. Allowing this to be the coin intended, the 50,000 sestertii would amount to 403. 12s. 11d.

The Vulgate reads, denariorum quinquaginta millium, fifty thousand denarii, which, at 7 3/4 d., will amount to 1,614. 11s. 8d. The reading of the Itala version of the Codex Bezae is very singular, Denariorum sestertia ducenta. "Two hundred sesterces of denarii;" which may signify no more than "two hundred sestertii of Roman money:" for in this sense denarius is certainly used by Cicero, Orat. pro Quint.; where ad denarium solvere, means to pay in Roman money, an expression similar to our word sterling. This sum would amount to no more than 1. 12s. 3 1/2d. But that which is computed from the sestertius is the most probable amount.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge


Acts 8:9-11 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria...

Acts 13:6,8 And when they had gone through the isle to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus...

Exodus 7:11,22 Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt...

Deuteronomy 18:10-12 There shall not be found among you any one that makes his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that uses divination...

1 Samuel 28:7-9 Then said Saul to his servants, Seek me a woman that has a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her...

1 Chronicles 10:13 So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not...

2 Chronicles 33:6 And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments...

Isaiah 8:19 And when they shall say to you, Seek to them that have familiar spirits, and to wizards that peep, and that mutter...

Isaiah 47:12,13 Stand now with your enchantments, and with the multitude of your sorceries, wherein you have labored from your youth...

Daniel 2:2 Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans...

curious. [Periergos,] curious, that is, magical arts, in which sense the word is used in the Greek writers. The study of magic was prosecuted with such zeal at Ephesus, that [Ephesios gramma,] the Ephesian letters, certain charms, or words used in incantation, became much celebrated in antiquity.

and burned.

Genesis 35:4 And they gave to Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears...

Exodus 32:20 And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it on the water...

Deuteronomy 7:25,26 The graven images of their gods shall you burn with fire: you shall not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it to you...

Isaiah 2:20,21 In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship...

Isaiah 30:22 You shall defile also the covering of your graven images of silver, and the ornament of your molten images of gold...

Matthew 5:29,30 And if your right eye offend you, pluck it out, and cast it from you...

Luke 14:33 So likewise, whoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple.

Hebrews 10:34 For you had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods...

fifty. Probably Attic drachms; which at

7.?d. each, would amount to


10s. or at,

9d. each, to


Would-Be Exorcists
'...Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?' --ACTS xix. 15. These exorcists had no personal union with Jesus. To them He was only 'Jesus whom Paul preached.' They spoke His name tentatively, as an experiment, and imitatively. To command 'in the name of Jesus' was an appeal to Jesus to glorify His name and exert His power, and so when the speaker had no real faith in the name or the power, there was no answer, because there was really no appeal. I. The only power which can cast out the evil
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture: The Acts

Have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? It appears, by what follows these words, that the question here related especially to those gifts of the Holy Ghost which were given, in the first age of the church, as a sign of God's power, and a witness that the work of the gospel was from God. Yet although this be so, and therefore the words, in this particular sense, cannot to any good purpose be asked now; yet there is another sense, and that not a lower but a far higher one, in which we
Thomas Arnold—The Christian Life

The Scriptures
Q-II: WHAT RULE HAS GOD GIVEN TO DIRECT US HOW WE MAY GLORIFY AND ENJOY HIM? A: The Word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him. 2 Tim 3:16. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,' By Scripture is understood the sacred Book of God. It is given by divine inspiration; that is, the Scripture is not the contrivance of man's brain, but is divine in its origin. The image of Diana was had in veneration
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

Christ's Exaltation
'Wherefore God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name, &c.' Phil 2:2. We have before spoken of Christ's humiliation; we shall now speak of his exaltation. Before you saw the Sun of Righteousness in the eclipse; now you shall see it coming out of the eclipse, and shining in its full glory. Wherefore God has highly exalted him;' super exaltavit, Ambrose. Above all exaltation.' Q-28: WHEREIN CONSISTS CHRIST'S EXALTATION? A: In his rising from the dead, his ascending into
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

Cross References
Luke 15:8
"Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn't she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?

Acts 8:9
Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great,

Acts 19:18
Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done.

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