New Defender's Study Bible Notes
19:1 Ephesus. Ephesus was the greatest commercial city in Asia Minor, the capital of the province of Asia, with a busy harbor on the western coast. Its ruins are still beautiful and a great tourist attraction today.
19:2 since. A better rendering of this phrase would be “when ye believed.”
19:2 believed. These twelve Ephesian disciples were evidently considered disciples of Christ, rather than of John, since Paul recognized they had “believed.” Also, they would surely have been identified specifically as disciples of John had that been the case (compare John 3:22-26). John had, of course, preached that Jesus was the promised Redeemer and the Lamb of God. In some way, possibly through some of John’s disciples rather than John himself, they had learned of Jesus and had believed on Him. What they had learned, however, did not include the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and so was deficient, even though it had been enough to bring them salvation. In fact, John himself had been given the authority “to give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins” (Luke 1:77).
19:2 not so much as heard. This admission proves that the Ephesian disciples had not heard the message of John directly, since John had certainly preached about the Holy Spirit (e.g., Matthew 3:11; John 1:32-34) and was himself “filled with the Holy Ghost” (Luke 1:15).
19:3 John’s baptism. Paul here simply assumed they had been baptized, since they had believed and were disciples. In the New Testament, baptism always immediately followed saving faith, and is then followed by discipleship. This is the only case mentioned in the New Testament of anyone being “rebaptized.” Not even Apollos, who also had known “only the baptism of John” until Aquila and Priscilla gave him further instruction (Acts 18:25-26) needed to be rebaptized. The same was true of the twelve apostles. Presumably the difference was that the Ephesian disciples had been baptized by one or more of John’s disciples after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost when Christ’s disciples first began to baptize “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). Also, this was an important new stage in the spread of the gospel, with Ephesus destined to become a center like Antioch and Jerusalem. It was important that the ministry of John be thus tied in with that of Christ once and for all by a manifestation of the Holy Spirit as at Jerusalem and Antioch and in the house of Cornelius.
19:7 about twelve. It is perhaps significant that the number was the same as the number of the original apostles. Like the latter at Jerusalem, these became the nucleus of the important church at Ephesus. Very likely, they were “the elders of the church,” to whom Paul spoke with such earnestness on his last trip to Jerusalem (Acts 20:17-38).
19:10 two years. Compare Acts 20:31, indicating the Paul actually spent about three years altogether ministering in Ephesus.
19:10 dwelt in Asia. Although Paul himself probably did not travel around the province of Asia, many of his Ephesian converts did. It was probably during this period that the “seven churches of Asia” (Revelation 2 and 3), as well as the churches at Colosse and Hierapolis were founded. Paul’s letter to the Colossians indicates that he had not actually visited Colosse (note Colossians 1:4; 2:1), but knew all about it. The key role of Ephesus is further indicated by the fact that, according to firm testimony of the early Christians, the Apostle John later became its chief bishop, and that the first of the seven letters sent through him by Christ to the churches was directed to the church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7).
19:13 exorcists. The city of Ephesus was notorious in the ancient world not only for its idols but also for an abundance of magicians and other occultists. Demon possession was common and, therefore, there were also the practitioners of exorcism. The “wandering Jews,” who professed to be able to invoke the supposedly unpronounceable name of the Lord over those possessed, were among them. The seven sons of Sceva (who professed to be a chief priest), were not Christians, but they saw that Paul had been more effective than other exorcists in casting out demons, and so decided that the name of Jesus was itself strong magic.
19:19 price of them. The value of these books at today’s prices would be about a million dollars. This striking verse is a remarkable testimony both to the tremendous prevalence of pagan occultism in Ephesus and also to the wonderful power of the gospel to overcome all this.
19:27 Diana. Diana (same as Artemis) was not only the goddess of hunting, but was considered—at least in Asia and in many other places around the Graeco/Roman world—to be the “mother goddess” of all nature, much like Gaia, the goddess currently being widely promoted as Mother Earth in the New Age movement. The temple of Diana at Ephesus was so magnificent that it was considered one of the “seven wonders of the world” in ancient times.
19:29 into the theatre. This same theatre has been excavated, and could have held about 25,000 people. The temple of Diana (Acts 19:27) has also been excavated.
19:35 image which fell down. This tradition was derived from the fact that a large meteorite had fallen from the sky into Ephesus. It apparently had a shape which the pagan leaders of Ephesus interpreted as a many-breasted female which they identified as an image of the goddess. Copies of this image thereafter became both commercially and religiously profitable to the Ephesians. Renaissance scholars denied that such an event could ever have happened until other meteorite falls began to be documented in modern times.