Acts 19:38 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Acts 19:38, NIV: "If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges."

Acts 19:38, ESV: "If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another."

Acts 19:38, KJV: "Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another."

Acts 19:38, NASB: "So then, if Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are in session and proconsuls are available; have them bring charges against one another."

Acts 19:38, NLT: "'If Demetrius and the craftsmen have a case against them, the courts are in session and the officials can hear the case at once. Let them make formal charges."

Acts 19:38, CSB: "So if Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a case against anyone, the courts are in session, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another."

What does Acts 19:38 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

It's unclear if Demetrius meant for his movement to go this far. He's concerned that so many people are following Paul and his God that the idol-selling market will dry up. Demetrius brings his concerns to the other craftsmen, and they choose advertising-by-protest: they incite a crowd to affirm their devotion to Artemis and march through the street (Acts 19:23–28).

Two hours of chanting later, a mob fills the theater—most of them with no idea why. They have grabbed Paul's companions Gaius and Aristarchus but don't seem to know what to do with them (Acts 19:29, 32). The theater is also used as the public forum; perhaps the magistrates will arrive and listen to their concerns.

Instead, the city clerk, the liaison between the Ephesian government and the Roman representatives, arrives. Once he gets the crowd quieted, he points out how foolish they're being. Gaius and Aristarchus haven't done anything. That is, they haven't blasphemed Artemis or sacrilegiously attacked her temple, which would have been a capital offense (Acts 19:37). If Demetrius and the other craftsmen want to accuse Paul of breaking the law, they need to do so before the proconsuls in court. As it stands, they are in danger of rioting, which the Romans will not look kindly on (Acts 19:40).

A proconsul—a title literally meaning "for the council"—was a magistrate who governed under the authority of the Roman senate, not the emperor, in a territory that did not quarter a Roman legion. It's possible the city clerk uses the plural because this is the time shortly after proconsul Marcus Junius Silanus was murdered; two other officials would be splitting the responsibilities until his replacement could arrive. Or he could be using the word in general.

The courts handled financial disputes, and the civic meetings addressed insults against the city and its deities. By telling Demetrius that "the courts are open," the city clerk may be showing he knows this is a financial complaint and has little to do with real devotion to Artemis.