Acts Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 19

1. While Apollos was in Corinth, Sha’ul completed his travels through the inland country and arrived at Ephesus, where he found a few talmidim.
2. He asked them, “Did you receive the Ruach HaKodesh when you came to trust?” “No,” they said to him, “we have never even heard that there is such a thing as the Ruach HaKodesh.”
3. “In that case,” he said, “into what were you immersed?” “The immersion of Yochanan,” they answered.
4. Sha’ul said, “Yochanan practiced an immersion in connection with turning from sin to God; but he told the people to put their trust in the one who would come after him, that is, in Yeshua.”
5. On hearing this, they were immersed into the name of the Lord Yeshua;
6. and when Sha’ul placed his hands on them, the Ruach HaKodesh came upon them; so that they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.
7. In all, there were about twelve of these men.
A special group of people are considered here, those who, like Apollos (18:25&N), had known of God's involvement in "salvation history" up to the time of Yochanan the Immerser but had not known of Yeshua. After instruction, they are immersed into the name of the Lord Yeshua, that is, into all that he is (2:38&N, Ml 28:I9&N). Thereupon the Holy Spirit, of whom they had never even heard, visits them in power and with the same charismatic phenomena as were manifested in the one hundred twenty at Shavu'ot (2:4), in the people of Shomron (8:17), probably in Sha'ul (9:17), and in Cornelius and his household (10:44-48). 

8. Sha’ul went into the synagogue; and for three months he spoke out boldly, engaging in dialogue and trying to persuade people about the Kingdom of God.
9. But some began hardening themselves and refusing to listen; and when these started defaming the Way before the whole synagogue, Sha’ul withdrew, took the talmidim with him, and commenced holding daily dialogues in Tyrannus’s yeshivah.
10. This went on for two years; so that everyone, both Jews and Greeks, living in the province of Asia heard the message about the Lord.
-10 In Ephesus the development of opposition to the Gospel within the synagogue was relatively slow in coming — it took three months. But when it did come and grew strong enough to obstruct communication of the Gospel, Sha'ul did a strategic withdrawal to Tyrannus'sjtfsAivaA. The Hebrew word "yeshivah" comes from the word that means "sit"; it signifies a place for learning Torah. The Greek word so rendered, "schole" which gives us English "school," means "study hall," a place where students and teachers meet; it appears as a loanword in rabbinic literature, and probably no English word comes as close to its proper meaning as "yeshivah" — or, alternatively, "midrashah" ("school, college, academy, seminary"); the Yiddish word "shut" ("school") would also serve. But these Hebrew words, because they are "Jewish English" (see Section IV of the Introduction to the JNT), foreclose on a question worth exploring, namely, whether Sha'ul withdrew from the synagogue to a Jewish environment or a Gentile one? Or even more strongly, was he forgetting about the Jews altogether and instead "turning to the Goyim" (13:46, 18:6)?

The answer to the second question is definitely No, because the text states that he continued evangelizing all who would listen for two years; so that everyone, both Jews and Greeks... heard the message about the Lord. But the answer to the first depends on how one understands the social dynamics of the situation and on whether or not Tyrannus himself was Jewish; this will determine whether his scholi is properly thought of as a yeshivahlmidrashah.

As in most of his synagogue forays, Sha'ul's message split the congregation into those who agreed with him and those opposed (see 20:3N). The latter began hardening themselves and refusing to listen. Then they started defaming the Way of life proclaimed in Sha'ul's Gospel before the whole synagogue. In any given location Sha'ul normally began by evangelizing in the synagogue (13:5&N). But he also had a "Plan 'B'"ready for use if the synagogue environment should become too heated for effective communication of the Gospel, whereby he would take with him prominent Jews and others whom he had won to the Messiah and move out of the synagogue to a different center that would still impact the Jewish community. I learn this from the mention of Jason in Thessalonica (17:4-8&NN) andCrispus in Corinth (I8:8&N), and it suggests to me that Tyrannus is named here because he was a prominent Jew whose property Sha'ul was able to use. If Tyrannus was Jewish, his schole can properly be called a yeshivah. On the other hand, Luke may be telling us that at this point Sha'ul shifted from a Jewish base to a non-Jewish one, as he did in Corinth, when he moved to the house of the Gentile, Titius Justus (18:7&N).

Regardless of whether Tyrannus was Jewish or a Gentile "God-fearer," he would have been attuned to Jewish ways, since Sha'ul presumably met him in the synagogue. The Gentile scholar S. F. Hunter explores the options:
"Tyrannus may have been (1) a Greek rhetorician or (2) a Jewish rabbi.
(1) This is the common opinion, and many identify him with a certain Tyrannus, a sophist, mentioned by Suidas...

(2) Meyer thinks that as the apostle had not passed wholly to the Gentiles, and Jews still flocked to hear him, and also that as Tyrannus is not spoken of as a proselyte, this schole is the beth Midhrash of a Jewish rabbi. 'Paul with his Christians withdrew from the public synagogue to the private synagogue of Tyrannus, where he and his doctrine were more secure from public annoyance.1 (Meyer in loc.)

(3) Another view (Overbeck) is that the expression [Tyrannus's School] was the standing name of the place after the original owner."
(International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, p. 3030)

I discount "the common opinion" because it probably reflects "the common bias" of New Testament scholars against giving sufficient weight to the Jewish context of the Gospel when it was presented in the first century. I am satisfied that Tyrannus was a Jewish rabbi, and that what he had was a yeshivah — or, as above, a beit-midrash ("house of study") or midrashah (same). While one should not superimpose the modern Orthodox Jewish cultural concept of yeshivah on the New Testament, it is reasonable to suppose that Sha'ul, who had studied with Rabban Gamli'el (22:3&N), used methods developed in first-century Judaism, although he presented the content of the Gospel to Gentiles in a way that transcended Jewish culture (see 11:2O-23N, 1С 9:20-22&NN). It is important for modern Messianic Judaism to have available the concept of a Messianic yeshivah or midrashah. Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel should involve presenting the eternal Gospel in a Jewish religious, cultural and social environment. While today the word "yeshivah" to most Jewish people, means a school for Jewish studies, particularly Torah, Talmud, halakhah, etc., it is right for Messianic Judaism to appropriate this term and apply it to Messianic Jewish institutions of learning that relate seriously to the Jewish as well as the New Testament materials. This is one way to meet the challenge of Mt 13:52&N. 

11. God did extraordinary miracles through Sha’ul.
12. For instance, handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were brought to sick people; they would recover from their ailments; and the evil spirits would leave them.
An aim of the book of Acts is to show that in every way Sha'ul, the emissary to the Gentiles, had a ministry equal to that of Kefa, the leading emissary to the Jews (see Ga 2:7-9&N). With these verses compare Kefa's healing miracles of 5:15-16. Of course it is God who heals, not Sha'ul or Kefa. 

13. Then some of the Jewish exorcists who traveled from place to place tried to make use of the name of the Lord Yeshua in connection with people who had evil spirits. They would say, “I exorcise you by the Yeshua that Sha’ul is proclaiming!”
Jewish exorcists (Greek exorkistes, used only here in the New Testament). Josephus speaks of King Solomon's having learned "that skill which expels demons.... And he left behind him the manner of using exorcisms, by which they drive away demons so that they never return, and this method of cure is of great force unto this day. Indeed, I have seen a certain man of my own country, whose name was El'azar, releasing people who were demoniacal in the presence of Vespasian, his sons, his captains and the whole multitude of soldiers. The manner of cure was this: he put a ring that had a root of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils...." (Antiquities of the Jews 8:2:5)

Exorcism of shedim (Hebrew, "demons") is a theme in the Talmud. In medieval Jewish literature the term "dibbuk" becomes commoner. There are descriptions of Jewish exorcisms dating from the present century.

Given that demons are regarded as real and not imaginary phenomena (see Ml 4:1,24; 9:34; 11:20-21; Mk 5:11-17 and notes), it may be surprising that it is sometimes possible to use magical means, that is, demonic means, to expel them. Apparently there is some degree of order even in the demonic hierarchy, so that some demonic powers can expel other demonic powers. Nevertheless, ultimately "a house divided against itself cannot stand" (Mt 12:22-29&NN). And there are demons that do not respond to the means used by exorcists but only to prayer (Mk 9:14-29).

Tried to make use of the name of the Lord Yeshua, as if the name itself had magical powers. They were attempting to use the Messiah as a means to their own ends. But Yeshua himself is always the end, never the means to other ends.

1 exorcise you demons by the Yeshua that Slia'ul is proclaiming. Obviously these exorcists, though knowing nothing about Yeshua, had noticed that those who spoke of their faith in him had power (Mk 16:20). Like Shim'on (8:19) they were power-hungry, but they did not understand that the power comes from the Holy Spirit (1:8), who is given only to those putting their trust in Yeshua as Messiah, Lord and Savior. When used by those with such trust, his name is powerful in expelling demons (3:6, 9:34; Mk 16:17-18).

Compare this interesting story from the Jerusalem Talmud; it probably took place before 130C.E.:
"The case of Rabbi El 'azar ben-Daman, whom a serpent bit. There came in Ya'akov, a man of K'far-Sama, to cure him in the name of Yeshua ben-Pandira; but Rabbi Ishmael did not allow it. He said, 'You are not permitted, Ben-Damah.' Ben-Damah replied, 'I will bring you proof that he may heal me." But before he had finished bringing proof, he died. Rabbi Ishmael said, 'Happy are you, Ben-Damah, for you have departed in peace and have not broken through the ordinances of the wise; for on everyone who breaks through the fence of the wise, punishment comes at last, as it is written, "Whoever breaks down a fence, a serpent will bite him" (Ecclesiastes 10:8).' The serpent only bit him that a serpent might not bite him in the future. And what could Ben-Damah have said? '...Which, if a person do, he shall live by them' (that is, not die in them; Leviticus 18:5)." (Shabbat 14d)

Yeshua ben-Pandira is Yeshua from Natzeret (compare Tosefta Chullin 2:24 with Babylonian Talmud 'Avodah Zarah 16b-17a). The 5th-6th century Jewish anti-Gospel, Toledot- Yeshu, is clearer about this: it presents "Yeshu" (see Mt 1:21N) as the illegitimate son of Miryam and a Roman soldier named Pandira. Obviously Ya'akov from K'far-Sama (or K'far-Sechanyah; see below), whose role in the story is passive, was a Messianic Jew. What is important in connection with our verse is that it is taken for granted that Ya'akov would in fact have healed Rabbi El'azar Ben-Damah in Yeshua's name. That is, if a non-Messianic Jew does not allow a colleague's life to be saved through the power Yeshua gives his followers, he implicitly acknowledges that the power exists. A variant of this story told in Babylonian Talmud is even more explicit about this:

"A man is to have no dealings with the minim nor may he be cured by them, even to gain one hour of life. The case of Ben-Damah, Rabbi Ishmael's sister's son, whom a serpent bit. There came Ya'akov the mm of K'far-Sechanyah to cure him...." ('Avodah Zarah 27b)

Later the text comments on the quotation from Ecclesiastes,
It is different in regard to minut [the heresy of the minim, i.e., in this case, Messianic Judaism], which bites a man, so that he comes to be bitten afterwards."

Thus the last half of the story means this: Ben-Damah did not transgress the ordinances of the rabbis, he did not break down the "fence" around the Torah, by allowing a heretic (a Messianic Jew) to minister to him. So the literal serpent which bit him and caused his death saved him from being bitten by the figurative serpent of heresy and from suffering in the 'olam haba punishment worse than death.

This same story appears in three additional places in rabbinic literature: Tosefta Chullin 2:22-23; Jerusalem Talmud 'Avodah Zarah 40d^la; and Midrash Rabbah Ecclesiastes 1:8. 

14. One time, seven sons of a Jewish cohen gadol named Skeva were doing this;
A Jewish cohen gadol named Skeva (Greek Skevas). There is no record of a high priest with that name. Perhaps if his Hebrew name were known (see 13:9N) he could be identified. 

15. and the evil spirit answered them. It said, “Yeshua I know. And Sha’ul I recognize. But you? Who are you?”
Demons know who Yeshua is and recognize his power; see Mt 8:29, Ya 2:19. 

16. Then the man with the evil spirit fell upon them, overpowered them and gave them such a beating that they ran from the house, naked and bleeding.
Mark 5:4 gives another instance of a demoniac with supernatural strength. 

17. When all this became known to the residents of Ephesus, fear fell on all of them, Jews and Greeks alike; and the name of the Lord Yeshua came to be held in high regard.
Compare 5:11. 

18. Many of those who had earlier made professions of faith now came and admitted publicly their evil deeds;
Trust consists not merely in verbal professions of belief but in turning from sin. Often public confession of sin is the key, for the prayers and exhortations of other believers, as well as the fear of being ashamed in front of them, can keep one from giving in to temptation and returning to the sin one has confessed. The notion ihat sin can be kept private is surely a delusion: what is whispered now will one day be shouted from the rooftops. 

19. and a considerable number of those who had engaged in occult practices threw their scrolls in a pile and burned them in public. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, it came to fifty thousand drachmas.
A drachma was a day's wages for common labor; therefore think of fifty thousand drachmas as at least two million dollars. On the other hand, books and scrolls, since they were individually produced, were relatively much more expensive than now. Speculation: if the average believer had $200 worth of occult books to burn, ihe congregation numbered ten thousand. Ephesus was a major center for occult religion (vv. 23-35).

The destruction of these books was one of the best investments believers have ever made. Not only did they forsake publicly their former pagan ways, but the demonic contents of these books went up in flames, never to poison the minds of anyone again. We are not told that anyone suggested selling the books to pagans and "laundering" the proceeds by using them to advance the Gospel. 

20. Thus the message about the Lord continued in a powerful way to grow in influence.
21. Some time later, Sha’ul decided by the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and then go to Yerushalayim. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome.”
22. So he dispatched two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia; but he himself remained in the province of Asia for awhile.
23. It was at this time that a major furor arose concerning the Way.
24. There was a silversmith named Demetrius who manufactured from silver, objects connected with the worship of the goddess Artemis; and he provided no small amount of work for the craftsmen.
25. He called a meeting of them and of those engaged in similar trades, and said, “Men, you understand that this line of business provides us our living.
26. And you can see and hear for yourselves that not only here in Ephesus, but in practically the whole province of Asia, this Sha’ul has convinced and turned away a considerable crowd by saying that man-made gods aren’t gods at all.
27. Now the danger is not only that the reputation of our trade will suffer, but that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will come to be taken lightly. It could end up with the goddess herself, who is worshipped throughout the province of Asia and indeed throughout the whole world, being ignominiously brought down from her divine majesty!”
28. Hearing this, they were filled with rage and began bellowing, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
29. Soon the whole city was in an uproar. As one man, the mob rushed into the theater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Sha’ul’s traveling companions from Macedonia.
Demetrius' real motive, greed, is to be concealed for propaganda purposes by a veneer of civic pride. The flavor of his empty rhetoric is faithfully reproduced in v. 27. Verses 28-29 show that the scheme worked: the rabble were roused. 

30. Sha’ul himself wanted to appear before the crowd, but the talmidim wouldn’t let him.
31. Even some of the officials of the province, friends of his, sent a message begging him not to risk entering the theater.
32. Meanwhile, some were shouting one thing and others something else, because the assembly was in complete confusion, and the great majority didn’t even know why they were there.
33. Some of the crowd explained the situation to Alexander, whom the Jews had pushed to the front. So Alexander motioned for silence, hoping to make a defense speech to the people.
34. But as soon as they recognized that he was a Jew, they began bellowing in unison, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” and they kept it up for about two hours.
As soon as they recognized that he was a Jew. As in Philippi (16:12—13&N, 16:20-22&NN.). antisemitism was at home among these pagans. Pagan antisemitism is not directed specifically only at Sha'ul or his particular version of Judaism but at all Jews and at Judaism generally. 

35. At last, the city clerk was able to quiet the crowd. “Men of Ephesus!” he said, “Is there anyone who doesn’t know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone which fell from the sky?
The temple of the great Artemis. Artemis is the same as Diana in the Roman pantheon; Ephesus was the center of Artemis-worship. This temple was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Perhaps the sacred stone was a meteorite. 

36. Since this is beyond dispute, you had better calm down and not do anything rash.
37. For you have brought these men here who have neither robbed the temple nor insulted your goddess.
38. So if Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open and the judges are there — let them bring charges and counter-charges.
39. But if there is something more you want, it will have to be settled in a lawful assembly.
40. For we are in danger of being accused of rioting on account of what has happened today. There is no justification for it; and if we are asked, we will be unable to give any reasonable explanation for this disorderly gathering.”
41. And with these words, he dismissed the assembly.
Luke shows that there was opposition to the Gospel not only from nonbelieving Jews, but also from nonbelieving Gentiles acting on their own without Jewish instigation. It is necessary to point this out because some Jewish scholars, for example, Joseph Klausner (From Jesus to Paul, Boston: Beacon Press, 1961; p. 229), maintain that the book of Acts was written late, around 95 C.E., at a time when there was presumably no longer hope for reaching Jews with the Gospel, so that nothing would be lost by depicting Jews in the worst possible light. But Luke is reporting events in the history of the spread of the Gospel and has no reason to do such a thing. Rather, he gives examples of the kinds of problems that arose from all three relevant groups —Jews, pagans and the ruling Romans. 

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