Acts 19:14

ESV Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this.
NIV Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this.
NASB Now there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, doing this.
CSB Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish high priest, were doing this.
NLT Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this.
KJV And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.

What does Acts 19:14 mean?

Gentiles in the Roman Empire were surrounded by gods. From the idol in the niche in their house wall to the giant temples where people held feasts—and worse—for gods like Aphrodite in Corinth and Artemis in Ephesus, there was always something more to worship.

Many people, however, grew disillusioned with the endless parade. They looked to the east for supernatural forces that meant something. Some Jewish people took advantage of this. Like Bar-Jesus on the island of Cyprus (Acts 13:4–12), they talked about their powerful "invisible" God, making their audience think words like "YWHW," "Sabbath," and "Abraham" were parts of magical incantations. Ephesus was filled not only with gods, but also witchcraft. "Ephesian writing" is a phrase meaning magic spells. With witchcraft comes demons and demon possession. It was a perfect storm for Jewish exorcists.

There's a new player, however: Paul has come to Ephesus. Through the name of Jesus, he has been going through the city healing and expelling demons. The Jews take notice and add "Jesus whom Paul proclaims" to their bag of tricks. One such group of Jews claim to be the sons of a Jewish high priest. "High Priest" may be an assumed title—a marketing gimmick. Sceva may have claimed that only the high priest can say the name of God: a word of power. This would add to his sons' mystery.

There have been others who use the name of Jesus to control demons; Jesus and the disciples met one. John and the others tried to stop him, as he wasn't a disciple, but Jesus said to leave him alone: "For the one who is not against us is for us" (Mark 9:38–41). The sons of Sceva are not of the same class as that man. They know Jesus as a magical word that can bring them attention and, likely, money. The do not understand that the power is in Jesus, the person.
What is the Gospel?
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