Sunday, July 15, 2012

Acts, Chapter 19: Book-burning

Paul goes to Ephesus, where he finds some believers who have nevertheless never heard of the holy ghost. He asks them how far they've read in the book, and they say they stopped at John the Baptist. He reminds them that John was only a placeholder until the real messiah came along in the form of Jesus. So he lays his hands on them, and they immediately start speaking in tongues, which, by the way, never stops being creepy.

Paul also spends some time arguing in the synagogue, but when that doesn't go anywhere, he moves on to a school. Thank god I'm not American so school prayer was never an issue when I was a student. Anyway, within two years, everyone in Asia has been harangued by Paul. He also heals people with just a touch of a handkerchief or an apron, which was probably the most convincing part, frankly, given there was no medicine.

Some vagabond Jews, exorcists (v. 13) decide in the name of science to see if Paul's feats are replicable and try it out on one of the chief priest's seven sons. Alas, the demon replies Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? (v. 15). The poor crazy guy then leaps on them, tears their clothes off, and chases them, naked, out of the house. The other Jews and Greeks, fearing mental illness, turn to Jesus, because heck, nothing else is working. All the magicians, which is the closest you can get to a doctor if you don't have germ theory or anatomy classes, bring their books and burn them, an estimated loss of 50 000 pieces of silver. 

Paul continues on his peripatetic way, pissing people off. One of them is Demetrius, a silversmith who decorates the temples for Diana. He calls the other silversmiths together and notes that Paul is destroying their business, because hardly anyone wants silver shrines anymore. This throws the city into confusion, and they all rush to the theatre with two of Paul's travelling companions. When Paul himself shows up for his next hectoring session, his followers won't let him in. 

Inside the theatre, it's chaos, with some people saying one thing, others another, and most of them not even knowing why they're there. A Jew named Alexander, about whom nothing else is known, is thrust forward to explain, but the Greeks are in a right state and instead spend two hours chanting Great is Diana of the Ephesians (v. 34)

Finally the town clerk manages to settle them down by saying that of course no one is trying to take Diana away and so they shouldn't do anything rash. He points out that Paul's companions haven't done anything, so Demetrius and his followers should settle this in the sane way: lawsuits. This placates everyone, so they all go home. 

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