Magic in ancient Ephesus and Asia Minor was a common practice. Actually a type of magic class was named after Ephesus as ”Ephesia Grammata”. Scrolls with magical words written on them, rings granting people good luck, amulets which believed to protect the bearer, and necklaces extending life were easily found in ancient Ephesus. We know that there was a vast market for magical items in the commercial Agora of Ephesus.
Incident with the Seven Sons of Sceva
Sceva was an important priest in the Jewish community of Ephesus. His specialty was the exorcism. Sceva and his seven sons used to apply magics mentioned from Ephesia Grammata and Jewish sources to expel demons out of possesed citizens.
Sons of Sceva heard that Apostle Paul used the name of Jesus to expel demons out of people, and they decided to try the same. Sons of Sceva found a possessed man and said to the demon in him to be gone in the name of Jesus Christ and the demon said;
“Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”Acts 19
Ephesian Sorcerers Renounce Their Evil Magic and Convert into Christianity
Saint Paul’s mission in Ephesus was assisted by an enormous display of divine power. Many who tried to oppose Paul’s miracles were shocked by the possessed man’s words and knowledge of Paul. Luke says in Acts 19;
”God did powerful things through Paul, things quite out of the ordinary. The word got around and people started taking pieces of clothing—handkerchiefs and scarves and the like—that had touched Paul’s skin and then touching the sick with them. The touch did it—they were healed and whole.”Acts 19:11-12
The news of the incident with the sons of Sceva was heard by everyone in Ephesus quickly. Sorcerers who heard the failing and beating of the sons of Sceva knew their fake gods and fake magic’s time was over, and they gathered nearby the Agora of Ephesus and decided to renounce their magic, converting all into Christians as it is mentioned in Acts 19:17-20.
”And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.”Acts 19:17-20
The estimated price of these burned occult books in Ephesus was fifty thousand pieces of silver coins. A recent study shows that a daily payment of a standard worker in Ephesus was a silver coin in the Biblical times. We can consider Ephesus back then similarly paid to today’s New York or London. Knowing this you can understand the massive amount of the value of these books back then and what kind of breakthrough Paul gained in Ephesus.
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