Date of Award
Master of Arts
Clifford A. Barbarick
Second Committee Member
Christopher R. Hutson
Third Committee Member
Kenneth L. Cukrowski
Scholars have read Acts 19:1-20 as a combination of stories serving different thematic interests. This has led to much confusion over several details in the text, and readings that follow this pattern miss the larger point Luke is making in this section. Acts 19:1-20 serves as the final scene in a three-part contest between believers and magicians (Acts 8:4-25; 13:4-12; 19:1-20). When one takes Acts 19:1-7 as a part of the larger narrative structure in 19:1-20, one can read the Ephesian disciples as the literary foils of the sons of Sceva. This reading highlights Luke’s overall message about magic in Acts. He does not simply use these scenes to argue that the believers are not magicians. Rather, he shows that the Way is a fundamentally different approach to divine power, characterized by submission and focus on the glory of God.
This study surveys the connection of magic in Acts to ancient understandings of magic. I argue that Luke does not include magic in his narrative for a purely apologetic reason. Luke’s concept of magic simply does not fit into the life of the believers. The theme of magic is also closely tied to Judaism in the narrative, showing a concern for the proper understanding of the divine.
I then turn my attention to the literary features of Luke’s style, specifically his reliance on parallelism to make comparisons and contrasts between characters in order to convey meaning. He employs this method throughout the narrative. This feature figures prominently in the first two scenes of the contest with magic, but most scholars have not seen its vital role in the third scene. Luke creates parallels between the Ephesian disciples and the sons of Sceva to highlight their disparate approaches to divine power.
By highlighting the parallels between the two groups in Acts 19:1-20, I argue that this final scene ultimately shows two examples of approaching power from God, one positive and one negative. This theme relates to the larger Lucan theme of confronting and overturning the power structures of this world in favor of the power structure that relies on God.
Anderson, Matthew R., "Disciples, Exorcists, and the Power of God: Reading Acts 19:1-20 as a Literary Unit" (2015). Digital Commons @ ACU, Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 5.