It began with Demetrius, a silversmith who had a large business manufacturing silver shrines of the Greek goddess Artemis. He kept many craftsmen busy. He called them together, along with others employed in similar trades and addressed them as follows: “Gentlemen, you know that our wealth comes from this business. But as you have seen and heard, this man Paul has persuaded many people that handmade gods aren’t really gods at all. And he’s done this not only here in Ephesus but throughout the entire province! Of course, I’m not just talking about the loss of public respect for our business. I’m also concerned that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will lose its influence and that Artemis—this magnificent goddess worshiped throughout the province of Asia and all around the world—will be robbed of her great prestige!”Acts 19:24-27
Well I had some interesting email yesterday and this morning. A couple of people commented they had never seen it like that before. i.e. They had never noticed the mismatch between the nature of the case and the kind of people Demetrius called together to address the issue. Yes, we need to pay careful attention to the details that Luke has given us. Very often his purpose is hidden in the way in which he has told the events to us. Others of you have written to me and said effectively the way you drew attention to the line-up of the facts we have and the way Demetrius went about presenting his case made the mismatch obvious.
I have told you before that the rabbis talk about needing to see things or the words used in the light of the “disposition of Messiah”. In other words how would Jesus have spoken the text before us? Where would He place the emphasis and how would He say the words on the page? You all know in this day and age it is hard to determine the tone of something in an email, a text or worse still a tweet where so few words are used. You have to gain the sense of the way in which the person telling the story would have said the words. How much more important is it to do that with the Word of God! That is the very point of the rabbinic idea of the disposition of Messiah. We need to know how Messiah would have said the words in order to rightly interpret them. Donald Trump needs to be careful because Tweeting things is not the best way to communicate. So much useful information is left out when it is condensed to a limited number of letters.
The fact that Demetrius called together the silver workers and those who worked in similar trades is a telling piece of information. If indeed the main issue was the damage done to the prestige of Diana (Artemis) then Demetrius ought to have summoned the religious leaders and those who served in the temple of Diana. Also he ought to have included the religious leaders of Ephesus or the Province of Asia, including the Proconsul whose job it was to maintain religious peace in the area. I guess I am made more sensitive to these matters after my recent time in court on jury duty. The judge made it very clear to us as jurors that we needed to decide this case on the basis of the evidence and what was said in the court. We were not to allow our opinion or our presuppositions to decide the case. Furthermore as the Foreman of the Jury, I had a specific task to perform to keep us on track and in line with the input the judge gave us.
That being the case, the words that Demetrius spoke to the crowd didn’t match his behaviour in calling attention to followers of the Way and actions of Paul. If it was purely a religious issue then those called to decide the case or give evidence or weigh up the evidence ought to have been experts in religious matters. But the ones Demetrius called to stir up things were those connected with the silverware industry. Luke tells us that Demetrius had a large silverware manufacturing business employing many. These were the ones he gathered in the amphitheatre. Then he proceeded to make the case about the harm done to the name of Diana and her prestige among her worshippers. Yeah Right!
When you are presenting your case you always lead with the strongest evidence relevant to the case at the beginning. Demetrius starts off his presentation with the words: “Gentlemen, you know that our wealth comes from this business. But as you have seen and heard, this man Paul has persuaded many people that handmade gods aren’t really gods at all. And he’s done this not only here in Ephesus but throughout the entire province! Of course, I’m not just talking about the loss of public respect for our business.“ He would lead us to believe that was not his main point. “I’m also concerned that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will lose its influence and that Artemis—this magnificent goddess worshiped throughout the province of Asia and all around the world—will be robbed of her great prestige!”
Of course it’s not. We can see that he was more concerned about the religious matters at stake here. That is why you spend most of your argument on the religious matter but lead with the issue of the harm to your business. (Did you detect my sarcasm in what I wrote? It is hard to include the disposition of Ian). Demetrius’ motivation was exposed by Demetrius himself. He ought to have distanced his business interests from the religious case at the outset or at least declared his involvement in the silverware industry. To not do that – declare any vested interest to the court so they could decide the case with the all the facts in front of them – would compromise the case.
My question at the end of the previous Gem – What do you think Demetrius’ motivation was? – helped focus some of you it seems. Demetrius’ prime concern was made clear in the words he used and the way he phrased his argument. Then he drops in statement: “Of course, I’m not just talking about the loss of public respect for our business.” No, of course not. That is why you have brought along all your friends who are silver workers too. We can see you are the ones who would be those public-spirited citizens who would be concerned for the influence of the temple and the honour of Diana’s prestige in worship.
Because Luke has told us of the events in the way he did we can see his account drips with sarcasm over Demetrius’ words and his heart motivation. Luke has highlighted that for us. I would love to hear Luke reading his own account of events before the court. We would see instantly by the way he spoke what he thought of Demetrius’ argument. It was like that too in case of domestic abuse that we heard as a jury in court. The women on the jury (all eleven others) saw right through the so-called evidence of the victim and pointed out the unlikeliness of her story being true. You can’t con those who have heard it all before.
But in this case the fact the Demetrius has stacked his supporters with those who have a vested interest in the outcome leads to what happens next. More in the next Gem.
Everyone has a photographic memory … it’s just that some forgot the film.Ian Vail
Little things affect little minds.Benjamin Disraeli
Next time you say, “I don’t like my job,” remember: No one cares. You aren’t paid to LIKE your job. You’re paid to DO your job!Anon
Be careful people can spot the one who is faking it a mile off. Your motivation will drip from your words.Ian Vail
The Lord is looking for those who will amen what God had said and leave their personal interests at the door.Ian Vail