Acts of the Apostles 19.21-41
21Now after these things had been accomplished, Paul resolved in the Spirit to go through Macedonia and Achaia, and then to go on to Jerusalem. He said, “After I have gone there, I must also see Rome.” 22So he sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he himself stayed for some time longer in Asia. 23About that time no little disturbance broke out concerning the Way. 24A man named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the artisans. 25These he gathered together, with the workers of the same trade, and said, “Men, you know that we get our wealth from this business. 26You also see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost the whole of Asia this Paul has persuaded and drawn away a considerable number of people by saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be scorned, and she will be deprived of her majesty that brought all Asia and the world to worship her.” 28When they heard this, they were enraged and shouted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29The city was filled with the confusion; and people rushed together to the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s travel companions. 30Paul wished to go into the crowd, but the disciples would not let him; 31even some officials of the province of Asia, who were friendly to him, sent him a message urging him not to venture into the theater. 32Meanwhile, some were shouting one thing, some another; for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33Some of the crowd gave instructions to Alexander, whom the Jews had pushed forward. And Alexander motioned for silence and tried to make a defense before the people. 34But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours all of them shouted in unison, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 35But when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Citizens of Ephesus, who is there that does not know that the city of the Ephesians is the temple keeper of the great Artemis and of the statue that fell from heaven? 36Since these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. 37You have brought these men here who are neither temple robbers nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38If therefore Demetrius and the artisans with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls; let them bring charges there against one another. 39If there is anything further you want to know, it must be settled in the regular assembly. 40For we are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” 41When he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.
I was getting confused as to which journey we have begun now with Paul – it is the third journey – I have attached a map of this journey in case you are also confused! Paul has spent some time in Ephesus at this point, and was planning to go on across to Macedonia and Achaia (lower Greece). He had sent Timothy and Erastus on ahead. But before Paul could leave, a riot broke out.
The riot was started by a silversmith named Demetrius. Ephesus was a center of worship of the goddess Artemis, whose statue was said to have fallen from the sky. It is thought that perhaps this image was a meteor, or might have been carved from such. Whatever the goddess was, it was images of her shrine, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, that were made and sold by the Ephesian silversmiths, including Demetrius. As the new Christian church grew, and the new Christians rejected idols, it was beginning to cut into the silversmiths’ business. Once again, it is when the faith impacts commerce that Paul gets into trouble! Isn’t that true today? People want to be called Christian – but they cling tightly to whatever makes money, which is our idol today.
The rioters head to the theater, where there is much confusion and shouting. The town clerk, however, quiets the crowd, telling them to bring their complaints before a legal court, “for we are in danger of being charged with rioting today.” In the days of Roman rule, a riot brought a swift and deadly response from the Roman army. It was what the temple authorities feared in Jerusalem, and what the people in Ephesus feared. These were occupied lands and the “pax Romana”, the peace of Rome, was bought with considerable blood. No one dared even give the appearance of a riot. And so, the silversmiths and other merchants and citizens were dismissed and went home.