What does Acts 19:19 mean?
ESV: And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.
NIV: A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.
NASB: And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they added up the prices of the books and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver.
CSB: while many of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in front of everyone. So they calculated their value and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver.
NLT: A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars.
KJV: Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
Verse Commentary:
The people of Ephesus are learning what real supernatural power looks like. Like all pagans in the Roman Empire, they have household idols and city gods; they are known for the temple of Artemis. They also have a culture of witchcraft, which attracts demons, which attract Jewish exorcists.

This is the state of the city when Paul arrives. In response to all the magic, the Holy Spirit empowers him to heal and expel demons in Jesus' name. Jewish magicians hear him and start using "Jesus" as a kind of magical word. When seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva enter a house and try to use Jesus' name to expel a powerful demon, the evil spirit attacks them, and the would-be exorcists run out in the street (Acts 19:11–16).

The whole city hears, and many of the practitioners of witchcraft immediately respond. Likely, they realize their spells and incantations don't really control demons, but Paul does. First, they reveal their practices, thus voiding them of power (Acts 19:17–18). Now, they burn their spells. "Ephesian writing," or Ephesia grammata, is a reference to written-down spells, some rolled into small containers and worn as amulets. If the pieces of silver are silver drachma, the value would be something close to 150 years' worth of a laborer's wages.

It's not uncommon for an unbeliever to see the power of Jesus and want to use it to gain influence and money. Simon the Magician did so in Samaria (Acts 8:9–24). But sometimes people are just waiting for rescue. When criticized for eating with unsavory people, Jesus said He came for the sick who need a doctor (Mark 2:15–17). When Zacchaeus heard Jesus, he gratefully accepted Jesus' message and His love and resolved to return what he had cheated (Luke 19:1–10). As Paul works, the demons flee left and right (Acts 19:12). Maybe the magicians just need someone to rescue them.
Verse Context:
Acts 19:11–20 gives the account of the Sons of Sceva in Ephesus. Witchcraft was endemic in Ephesus, and itinerant Jewish exorcists took advantage of the corresponding demonic activity. Paul has been healing and expelling demons in Jesus' name. But when the sons of Sceva attempt to use his faith in Christ as a formula, the demon beats them up. The people see how Paul has access to real power that can free them, and they abandon their magic and follow Jesus—much to the dismay of the guild that makes and sells idols of Artemis (Acts 19:23–27).
Chapter Summary:
Acts 19 recounts Paul's three-year visit in Ephesus. He starts by revealing how Jesus of Nazareth has brought to life the kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit validates Paul's message by healing those struck with physical ailments and demon possession. Amazed by Paul's authority over evil spirits, so many magicians turn to Christ that the craftsmen who make idols fear for their livelihoods. They nearly incite a riot before the town clerk settles them down. Paul realizes his time in Ephesus has ended, and he travels to Macedonia (Acts 20:1).
Chapter Context:
Acts 19 is the meat of Paul's third missionary voyage. He has already revisited the churches in central modern-day Turkey (Acts 18:23). Now he returns to Ephesus for a three-year stay. After firmly establishing the church there, rescuing many from pagan magic and the worship of Artemis, he returns to Macedonia and Greece. A threat on his life sends him back up to Macedonia and across to Troas. He meets briefly with the Ephesian elders to tell them they will not meet again (Acts 20). When he returns to Jerusalem, he is arrested and, eventually, taken to Rome.
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
Accessed 4/18/2024 12:28:13 AM
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