In Acts 19, we are confronted with a Pauline encounter with the idolatrous culture of his times. As a preface, Paul had addressed idolatry throughout Asia, and was becoming quite known for his preaching and persuading. By Acts 19:17, 'the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified', [vs18] 'many believed and confessed', and then in vs 19, many who had used curious arts burned their books, and in replace, the word of God prevailed. That concise rendering illustrates some important points that summarizes my message: Truth is known through the Lord Jesus; once Truth is known, all other truth claims should be known to be false thus cast aside.

It is in the next verses that we find commerce-oriented Ephesians antagonistic to Paul’s preaching on Truth and the contradictions within an imagistic culture:

 
 
Acts 19:23
And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.  (24) For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; (25) Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.  (26) Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: (27) So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. (28) And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
 
   It is in verse 26 that Demetrius, a craftsman of silver, states to his fellow craftsmen, that Paul is known not just in Ephesus, but almost throughout all of Asia, decrying objects of worship made by hands.  Paul had gained notoriety by now due to his teaching that we can read in verse 8 of Acts 19, where it states Paul spoke boldly at an Ephesian synagogue for three months, reasoning and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. By reasoning, we can understand that Paul spoke to the intellects of this Ephesian synagogue. By persuading, we can understand that Paul sought to influence their wills, perhaps through his knowledge of Greek philosophy and study of rhetoric. Yet in verse 9, we also read that a forced departure took place, and thus Paul instead went to the local Greek school of Tyrannus.  This is where Paul finds great success, speaking to, presumably, students of Greek philosophy at a school where open lectures and intellectual freedom were exercised. Tyrannus was a Greek schoolmaster, and at that time, such Greek schools were quite commonplace. Paul spoke there for two years, so that all they, verse 10, which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. Paul, most likely knowing Plato’s literary dialogues, was able to reason with many of the Ephesians who attended this school of Tyrannus. Later on in verse 17, after some miracles take place, God is working through Paul so much that many Jews and Greeks sought to magnify the name of the Lord Jesus, (vs 18) causing many to believe and confess, and in verse 19, causing many to burn their books, most likely being books of false religions.
 
It was this domino effect that caused worry for Demetrius. He knew of Paul. He saw his fellow Ephesians turn away from the religious practices taking place at Ephesus. Demetrius’ work as a craftsman was a financial one, greatly tethered to the commerce of Ephesus, making statues or shrines of the goddess Diana, alternatively named Artemis, the Greek goddess of similar characteristics. An economic downturn followed at least for the craftsmen due in part to a lessened need for Artemesion statues. Demetrius’ disdain for Paul quickened. His concern was not true spiritual discernment but was of wealth and prosperity. Demetrius appeared to be concerned more for his finances then he did for the spiritual rightness that Paul brought to Ephesus. Yet, fearing too much transparency and feigning spiritual proclivity, he claimed that his concern was not merely that of financial ill, “but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worships”.
 

This portion in Acts is a record of a cultural exchange of Truth for image worship, and can be regarded as a Pauline approach to the critique of the system of technology, that is to say that the system of technology is comprised of: the creators of content, the communication media, the control of audience participation, and the commerce of consumption.

 

The Creators of Content are the technologists who use technology to create their meaning.

They are the craftsmen themselves for we find in Acts 19:24 the greek term ‘technites’, being translated into english as craftsmen, and stemming from techne. Techne as a term is often translated as a craft, trade, or occupation, and which is also the root of our English words technology, technique, and technical. A technites therefore would be ‘one who creates using their craft, trade, or occupation’. Thus, the creators are technites who use techne to create their meaning.

 

The Communication Media are the books, objects, images, and architecture dedicated to the worship of the representation of Diana.  In the context of Acts 19, it is media that is constructed with a false representation of reality, portraying false ideals, and contingent on the obscuring or masking of truth.

 

The Control of Audience Participation occurs through Demetrius’ acknowledgement of his concern that his craft is in danger, which pointedly implies that his priority is financial gain rather than spiritual gain.  In turn, this implies that the craftsmen are intentionally withholding spiritual truth from their customers in order to perpetuate their business practice.  This commercial practice became large enough to maintain false worship for all of Asia [‘whom all Asia and the world worshipped’, Acts 19:27]

 

            The Commerce of Consumption – this is the commercial practice throughout at least Ephesus if not all Asia, with a symbiotic relationship between Consumer and Producer.  While my model of Control of Audience Participation sounds as though the audience is released from accusation, the consumer is still responsible and need not act as a consumer, and as Scripture recorded, many had turned from idolatry to true worship such that the ‘Lord Jesus’ name was magnified’, and that many believed and confessed. Yet, prior to this conversion, many had Truth masked under the visual media that surrounded their lives.

 

            The audience is ultimately to blame for their devotion to Diana – their sin is inexcusable and their false belief should not be blamed solely upon the craftsmen nor the objects and images; while the craftsmen sure have sinned, the inanimate objects did not. Yet, it is also human nature to anthropomorphize inanimate forms into something seemingly real, and progress that notion into a false reality that can satisfy human desire, which is what we find the Ephesians did with their Diana imagery. To counter this sentiment, I quote Blaise Pascal, the 17th c. French mathematician and philosopher: "There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus."

            Pascal is also known for his critique of culture, his concern for a culture given to frivolity and inner desire. He wrote,  "People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive."