Ver. 1. Disciples. These were apparently disciples of S. John the Baptist, who believed in Christ from his testimony, and had received no farther instruction, nor any baptism but John's. Calmet.
Ver. 2. S. Paul first inquires of them, if they have received the Holy Ghost by confirmation. Their answer is probably not to be interpreted with rigour; since they must have heard something of the holy Spirit, so often mentioned in the Old Testament, by whom the prophets are said to speak, &c. They meant, they did not know there was in the Church, any means of communicating this Spirit to the faithful. Idem.
Ver. 5. Baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, so called to distinguish it from the baptism of John; and that of Christ was given in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, according to the command of Christ himself. Wi.
Ver. 6. Imposed his hands on them, by which imposition of hands, was given the Holy Ghost in the sacrament of confirmation. Wi.
Ver. 12. Aprons. It is likely such as he used in working, cured diseases, and cast out devils. What wonder, then, if God work miracles by the relics of martyrs and saints, to testify the sanctity of his servants, and to encourage others both to give them a reasonable honour, and to imitate their lives? Wi.
--- Thus was fulfilled the promise which Christ had made his disciples, viz. that they should perform greater miracles than he himself had done. S. Chrysostom repeats more than once, that these clothes raised the dead, and that the apostles' shadow chased away all maladies, and triumphed over death. Perhaps the unprejudiced reader may observe in this verse some reason for paying due regard to the relics, or whatever has belonged to the saints.
Ver. 13. The Jewish exorcists. Among the Jews were some, who by calling upon the name of the true God, sometimes cast out evil spirits. But these sons of Sceva seeing S. Paul cast out devils, by calling upon the name of Jesus, thought fit to do the same, though they did not believe in Jesus Christ. And God punished them in this manner, as it is here related, at least two of them. Wi.
--- It is uncertain whether the Jews really possessed the power of exorcising demoniacs. From the 12th chapter of S. Matthew, one would be inclined to the affirmative opinion, as our Saviour seems to mention it as a thing well attested. The Jews pretended they received their exorcisms from Solomon. On the other hand, neither the Old nor New Testament ever approve of this power in them nor is it any where mentioned in Scripture that Solomon was the author of any such things. The old law was particularly severe in condemning every kind of enchantment. It is certain, that they, in the time here spoken of, added much superstition and magic to these rites. Tirinus et alii.
--- Josephus mentions remarkable instances of their power in exorcisms performed in his own presence, and in that of the emperor Vespasian, and his whole army. Lib. ii. c. 25. De Bello.
--- Extraordinary things might possibly be performed by magic and collusion between these impostors and the demons. That this power of expelling devils, resides in the Church, every page of primitive ecclesiastical history, testifies. Scripture is also equally explicit on this subject. The exorcisms, says S. Cyprian, are the spiritual torments and scourges of the demons. Ep. ad Demetrium.
--- It was for this reason the Jews, on this occasion, used the name of Jesus; a name terrible to the infernal spirits, to add power to their imprecations. Tertullian urges facts of this power in the Christians, with much energy and eloquence, in his Apology. Prudentius has recorded the same, with equal elegance, in his verse —
Nomine percussus Christi, nec fulmina verbi
Ferre potest. Agitant miserum verbera linguæ.
Ver. 18. Confessing and declaring their deeds, as penitents do in the sacrament of penance, and not only in general declaring or confessing themselves sinners. See Matt. iii. 6. Wi.
Ver. 19. Curious arts. By which are here meant books of divination and magic art, to which study the Ephesians were much addicted. The price of the books burnt, amounting to a great sum, even computing the 50,000 denarii, each of them at sevenpence half-penny English money. Wi.
--- The value of the books here destroyed might have amounted to £1000 sterling. The Christian emperors, Constantine the Great, Valentinian, Theodosius, Marcian, and Justinian, have made laws not less strict for destroying, than those of the Church for proscribing, the use of wicked books, where danger is likely to ensue. The danger of reading them is set forth by Eusebius, l. vii. c. 6; by S. Austin, l. iii. de bap. c. 14; by S. Gregory, l. v. ep. 64.
--- Such baneful productions should be destroyed; for although they may possibly produce no bad effect during the life of the present possessors, no one can pretend to say into what hands they will afterwards fall, nor what evil they may hereafter occasion.
Ver. 21. I must also see Rome. It is what S. Paul earnestly desired, and what the Spirit now revealed to him. See Rom. i. Wi.
Ver. 23. About the way of the Lord; that is, about Christian faith, and religion. Wi.
--- A great source of these troubles that ensued, was the preaching of the gospel.
Ver. 24. Who made silver temples for Diana.† Perhaps figures of Diana's temple in silver; or boxes and shrines, in which was the statue or figure of Diana. Wi.
[†] V. 24. Ædes argenteas, naouV argurouV.
Ver. 27. In danger of being vilified, and Diana of losing her reputation. They ought to have reflected, says S. Chrys. (hom. xlii.) that if such a poor man, as Paul, could destroy the worship, and the majesty of this great goddess, whom, as they say, all the world adored, how much greater and worthy of adoration must the God be, by whose power Paul could do this? Wi.
Ver. 28. Great is Diana of the Ephesians. This they shouted out without intermission for about two hours, though the greatest part knew not why they had met together. A true representation of an unthinking rash mob. Wi.
Ver. 31. Some also of the rulers of Asia. They are called friends to S. Paul, but it is uncertain whether they were Christians, or others, who favoured him, and wished him well. Wi.
Ver. 35. The town-clerk, &c. Lit. the scribe, or the recorder of the city.
--- Jupiter's offspring.† His daughter, according to the poets. The Greek text seems to signify a statue, or figure of Diana, which was pretended to have fallen from heaven, and from Jupiter. Wi.
--- Is a worshipper. Newkoron ousan; the word NewkoroV is found in this sense in the Arundelian marbles, and more frequently on ancient coins and inscriptions. Its derivation is from newV, a temple, and korh, a virgin, or rather korein, to cleanse and decorate; as if this city were especially destined to ornament the Diana of Ephesus, which the people supposed came to them not by the work of man, but a present from heaven.
[†] V. 35. Jovisque prolis, kai tou diopetouV. Simulachri a cælo dilapsi. See Suidas.
Ver. 37. Nor of blasphemy against your goddess. S. Chrys. takes notice, that to calm the people, he says more than was true. Wi.