Acts 19:35–What Can It Mean?

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When St. Paul was in Ephesus, his Christian teachings riled up the pagans and the city nearly had a major riot. It was all the town clerk could do to avoid an insurrection.

“And when the townclerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddes Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter?” (Acts 19:35)

Whoa! They had an “image” there that had fallen down from heaven? Or maybe something–a meteorite, say–had fallen out of the sky once upon a time, and they’d shaped it into an idol. Or maybe it was just P.R.: the idol that they worshipped was just so old, no one remembered its true origin and a legend grew up that said the image had fallen down from Jupiter.

I’d go with the P.R. theory; but there is this, from Plutarch’s Life of Lucullus.

During the Third Mithridatic War (75-63 B.C.), the Romans and their enemies had just squared off to do battle when the whole business was interrupted by something bright and metallic, so bright it might have been on fire, suddenly falling from the sky, to land on the space between the armies; and all the lads skedaddled.

Plutarch lived too late to get this story from any eyewitnesses, but he must have thought the traditional account of the incident believable or he wouldn’t have included it in his history.

No, I don’t believe any of this has anything to do with space alien Space Brothers in UFOs controlling human history. But we do get some idea of what Paul was up against.

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Here is an ordinary stone idol of Diana of the Ephesians as a fertility goddess. This sort of thing was very deeply rooted in Paul’s mission field.

God wouldn’t have commanded us not to worship graven images if He didn’t think we’d always need that commandment.

5 comments on “Acts 19:35–What Can It Mean?

  1. I assure you, the human race is no more immune to idolatry and superstition now than it was then. Our idols are perhaps videos and sound bites, but people are as eager to worship something visible now as they ever were.

    1. No time to answer. I heard that they just announced a new smartphone that only costs $2,000 and sends everything you do to Googleplex. I gotta hotfoot it over to the pretentious Kumquat Store and get mine before they run out. 🙂

  2. Ephesus is a really great place to visit…in fact Mark Twain wrote about his visit in “The Innocents Abroad “. You can walk down the marble road and visit the amphitheater pictured in your post. In the terrace homes where the wealthy lived, you can see that someone had a mosaic floor done to represent Medusa—better watch where you step! And the temple of Diana is completely gone except for one solitary pillar. Well worth the visit if you ever he the chance!

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