Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Acts 19:27

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

The temple of the great goddess Diana - From a number of representations of the Ephesian goddess Diana, which still remain, we find that she was widely different from Diana the huntress. She is represented in some statues all covered over with breasts, from the shoulders down to the feet; in others she is thus represented, from the breast to the bottom of the abdomen, the thighs and legs being covered with the heads of different animals. From this it is evident that, under this name and form, nature, the nourisher and supporter of all things, was worshipped: the sun and moon, being grand agents, in all natural productions, were properly introduced as her attributes or symbols. Because she was the representative of universal nature, she was called, in opposition to Diana the huntress and goddess of chastity, the Great goddess Diana; not only worshipped in Asia, but throughout the whole world; both the Greeks and the Romans unanimously conjoining in her worship.

Several statues of this Ephesian Diana still remain; and some beautiful ones are represented by Montfaucon, in his Antig. Expliq. vol. i. book iii. cap. 15, plates 46, 47, 48. From this father of antiquaries, much information on this subject may be derived. He observes that the original statue of Diana of Ephesus, which was in that noble temple, esteemed one of the wonders of the world, was made of ivory, as Pliny says; but Vitruvius says it was made of cedar; and others, of the wood of the vine. The images of this goddess are divided into several bands, or compartments; so that they appear swathed from the breasts to the feet. On the head is generally represented a large tower, two stories high. A kind of festoon of flowers and fruit descends from her shoulders; in the void places of the festoon a crab is often represented, and sometimes crowned by two genii or victories. The arms are generally extended, or stretched a little out from the sides; and on each one or two lions. Below the festoon, between the two first bands, there are a great number of paps: hence she has been styled by some of the ancients, Multimammia, and πολυμαϚος, the goddess with the multitude of paps: on one figure I count nineteen. Between the second and third bands, birds are represented; between the third and fourth, a human head with tritons; between the fourth and fifth, heads of oxen. Most of the images of this goddess are represented as swathed nearly to the ancles, about which the folds of her robe appear. Though there is a general resemblance in all the images of the Ephesian Diana, yet some have more figures or symbols, some less: these symbols are generally paps, human figures, oxen, lions, stags, griffins, sphinxes, reptiles, bees, branches of trees, and roses.

That nature is intended by this goddess is evident from the inscription on two of those represented by Montfaucon: παναιολος φυσις παντων μητηρ, Nature, full of varied creatures, and mother of all things. It is evident that this Diana was a composition of several deities: her crown of turrets belongs to Cybele, the mother of the gods; the lions were sacred to her also; the fruits and oxen are symbols of Ceres; the griffins were sacred to Apollo; and the deer or stags to Diana. The crab being placed within the festoon of flowers evidently refers to the northern tropic Cancer; and the crab being crowned in that quarter may refer to the sun having accomplished his course, and begun to return with an increase of light, heat, etc: The paps, or breasts, as has already been observed, show her to be the nurse of all things; and the different animals and vegetables represented on those images point out nature as the supporter of the animal and vegetable world: the moon and tritons show her influence on the sea; and the sun her influence on the earth. All these things considered, it is no wonder that this goddess was called at Ephesus the Great Diana, and that she was worshipped, not only in that city, but in all the world. In the worship of this deity, and in the construction of her images, the heathens seem to have consulted common sense and reason in rather an unusual manner. But we must observe, also, that among the Greeks and Romans they had two classes of deities: the Dii Majores, and the Dii Minores: the great gods, and the minor gods. The latter were innumerable; but the former; among whom was Diana, were only twelve - Jupiter, Neptune, Apollo, Mars, Mercury, and Vulcan; Juno, Vesta, Ceres, Diana, Venus, and Minerva. These twelve were adored through the whole Gentile world, under a variety of names.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

So that not only … - The grounds of the charge which Demetrius made against Paul were two: first, that the business of the craftsmen would be destroyed usually the first thing that strikes the mind of a sinner who is influenced By self-interest alone; and, second, that the worship of Diana would cease if Paul and his fellow-laborers were suffered to continue their efforts.

This our craft - This business in which we are engaged, and on which we are dependent. Greek: this part τὸ μέρος to meroswhich pertains to us.

To be set at nought - To be brought into contempt. It will become so much an object of ridicule and contempt that we shall have no further employment. Greek: “Is in danger of coming into refutation” εἰς ἀπελεγμὸν eis apelegmonSince what is refuted by argument is deemed useless, so the word comes also to signify what is useless, or which is an object of contempt or ridicule. We may here remark:

(1) That the extensive prevalence of the Christian religion would destroy many kinds of business in which people now engage. It would put an end to all that now ministers to the pride, vanity, luxury, vice, and ambition of people. Let religion prevail, and wars would cease, and all the preparations for war which now employ so many hearts and hands would be useless. Let religion prevail, and temperance would prevail also; and consequently all the capital and labor now employed in distilling and vending ardent spirits would be withdrawn, and the business be broken up. Let religion prevail, and licentiousness would cease, and all the arts which minister to it would be useless. Let Christianity prevail, and all that goes now to minister to idolatry, and the corrupt passions of people, would be destroyed. No small part of the talent, also, that is now worse than wasted in corrupting others by ballads and songs, by fiction and licentious tales, would be withdrawn. A vast amount of capital and talent would thus be at once set at liberty, to be employed in nobler and better purposes.

(2) the effect of religion is often to bring the employments of people into shame and contempt. A revival of religion often makes the business of distilling an object of abhorrence. It pours shame on those who are engaged in ministering to the vices and luxuries of the world. Religion reveals the evil of such a course of life, and those vices are banished by the mere prevalence of better principles. Yet,

(3) The talent and capital thins disengaged is not rendered useless. It may be directed to other channels and other employment. Religion does not make people idle. It leads people to devote their talents to useful employments, and opens fields in which all may toil usefully to themselves and to their fellow-men. If all the capital, the genius, and the learning which are now wasted, and worse than wasted, were to be at once withdrawn from their present pursuits, they might be profitably employed. There is not now a useless man who might, not be useful; there is not a cent wasted which might not be employed to advantage in the great work of making the world better and happier.

But also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised - This temple, so celebrated, was regarded as one of the seven wonders of the world. It was 220 years in building before it was brought to perfection. It was built at the expense of all Asia Minor. The original object of worship among the Ephesians was a small statue of Diana, made of wood, but of what kind of wood is unknown. Pliny says that the temple was made of cedar, but that it was doubtful of what kind of wood the image was made. Some have said that it was of ebony. Mucian, who was three times consul, says that the Image was made of vine, and was never changed, though the temple was rebuilt seven times (Pliny, 16:79). See Vitruvius, ii. 9. It was merely an Egyptian hieroglyphic, with many breasts, representing the goddess of Nature - under which idea Diana was probably worshipped at Ephesus. Since the original figure became decayed by age, it was propped up by two rods of iron like spits, which were carefully copied in the image which was afterward made in imitation of the first.

A temple, most magnificent in structure, was built to contain the image of Diana, which was several times built and rebuilt. The first is said to have been completed in the reign of Servius Tullius, at least 570 b.c. Another temple is mentioned as having been designed by Ctesiphon, 540 years before the Christian era, and which was completed by Daphnis of Miletus and a citizen of Ephesus. This temple was partially destroyed by fire on the very day on which Socrates was poisoned, in 400 b.c., and again in 356 b.c., by the philosopher Herostratus, on the day on which Alexander the Great was born. He confessed, upon being put to the torture, that the only motive he had was to immortalize his name. The four walls, and a few columns only, escaped the flames. The temple was repaired, and restored to more than its former magnificence, in which, says Pliny (lib. xxxvi. c. 14), 220 years were required to bring it to completion.

It was 425 feet in length, 220 in breadth, and was supported by 127 pillars of Parian marble, each of which was 60 feet high. These pillars were furnished by as many princes, and 36 of them were curiously carved, and the rest were finely polished. Each pillar, it is supposed, with its base, contained 150 tons of marble. The doors and panelling were made of cypress wood, the roof of cedar, and the interior was rendered splendid by decorations of gold, and by the finest productions of ancient artists. This celebrated edifice, after suffering various partial demolitions, was finally burned by the Goths, in their third naval invasion, in 260 a.d. Travelers are now left to conjecture where its site was. Amidst the confused ruins of ancient Ephesus, it is now impossible to tell where this celebrated temple was, once one of the wonders of the world. “So passes away the glory of this world.” See the Edinburgh Encyclopedia‘s “Ephesus” also Anacharsis‘ Travels, vol. vi. p. 188; Ancient Universal Hist., vol. vii. p. 416; and Pococke‘s Travels.

And her magnificence - Her majesty and glory; that is, the splendor of her temple and her worship.

Whom all Asia - All Asia Minor.

And the world - Other parts of the world. The temple had been built by contributions from a great number of princes, and doubtless multitudes from all parts of the earth came to Ephesus to pay their homage to Diana.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Persons who came from afar to pay their devotions at the temple of Ephesus, bought little silver shrines, or models of the temple, to carry home with them. See how craftsmen make advantage to themselves of people's superstition, and serve their worldly ends by it. Men are jealous for that by which they get their wealth; and many set themselves against the gospel of Christ, because it calls men from all unlawful crafts, however much wealth is to be gotten by them. There are persons who will stickle for what is most grossly absurd, unreasonable, and false; as this, that those are gods which are made with hands, if it has but worldly interest on its side. The whole city was full of confusion, the common and natural effect of zeal for false religion. Zeal for the honour of Christ, and love to the brethren, encourage zealous believers to venture into danger. Friends will often be raised up among those who are strangers to true religion, but have observed the honest and consistent behaviour of Christians.
Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 291-7

This chapter is based on Acts 19:21-41; 20:1.

For over three years Ephesus was the center of Paul's work. A flourishing church was raised up here, and from this city the gospel spread throughout the province of Asia, among both Jews and Gentiles. AA 291.1

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 281-97

This chapter is based on Acts 19:1-20.

While Apollos was preaching at Corinth, Paul fulfilled his promise to return to Ephesus. He had made a brief visit to Jerusalem and had spent some time at Antioch, the scene of his early labors. Thence he traveled through Asia Minor, “over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia” (Acts 18:23), visiting the churches which he himself had established, and strengthening the faith of the believers. AA 281.1

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Paul's Journeys
The Third Missionary Journey of Paul