Great is Artemis and Allah akbar

Acts 19
28 When they heard this they were enraged, and cried out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
29 So the city was filled with the confusion; and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who where Paul’s companions in travel.
30 Paul wished to go in among the crows, but the disciples would not let him;
31 some of the Asiarchs also, who were friends of his sent to him and begged him not to venture into the theater.
32 Now some cried one thing, some another; for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.
33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander motioned with his hand, wishing to make a defense to the people.
34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all with one voice cried out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

A bit of background on this passage. Demetrius, a silversmith in Ephesus, was dismayed that so many were converting to Christianity thereby forsaking the worship of Artemis. He made idols and replicas of the Artemis temple you see. Each new decision to be a follower of Christ bit into his profits. So Demetrius got together the other craftsmen of the city. He wanted to use the threat of the loss of their livelihoods to get them riled up enough to stop Paul from preaching in the city and through out Asia Minor.

So Demetrius gets the craftsmen all riled up and they essentially start a riot in Ephesus. They grab themselves a couple of Christians and head off to the local gathering place. This is where we pick up the story. The mob doesn’t really have a clue what’s going on or what they’re rioting against but they know that, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

This episode reminded me very much of the mobs today in Muslim countries who gather to shout, “Allah akbar!” until they have no voice left. They are willing pawns of corrupt leaders who see their power over the people threatened. Any one of those Ephesian craftsmen could have said, well if they don’t want shrines we can make other things for them. Just as any Muslim leader or average person on the street can say, Allah akbar but we don’t need to kill ourselves or others to prove it.

Despite his best efforts Demetrius was unable to use the craftsmen to stop the preaching of the gospel in Ephesus and through out Asia Minor. And despite their shouts of Allah akbar those who kill, rape, and pillage in the name of their false religion will not stop the gospel.


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