News from Ephesus

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This activity from the World Religions teaching manual challenges students to create a contemporary newscast about the riots of the silversmiths in Ephesus as described in chapter 19 of the Acts of the Apostles.

The student text points out that Christians in the Roman Empire were often in conflict with the Roman state over their refusal to worship the emperor. In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke tells a story in which Christians come into conflict with non-Christian Romans owing to the Christians' belief in only one God and the Romans' economic interest in making and selling images of the Roman gods. In this activity the students can explore the reality of the conflict between such different belief systems in a way that is both fun and enlightening.

The story of the riot of the silversmiths at Ephesus (Acts 19:23–41) has a contemporary ring to it. One way to promote the story's modern feel is to treat it as if it actually were a contemporary event. The students' job is to produce a classroom newscast about the event.

You will need to assign the following roles to the students:
  • news reporters and analysts (number may vary)
  • Demetrius, a silversmith
  • Gaius, Aristarchus, and Alexander (Paul's companions)
  • the town clerk and various other officials
  • bystanders (for person-in-the-street interviews)

The newscast should include the following elements:
  1. a detailed retelling of the event, based on the account in Acts of the Apostles
  2. interviews with the principal participants: Demetrius, Alexander, the town clerk (The account in Acts of the Apostles seems to indicate that Paul himself might have been "unavailable for comment" afterward. The students can make that decision.)
  3. interviews with secondary participants: Gaius or Aristarchus, other officials, bystanders
  4. news analysis: commentary by "experts" regarding the issues behind the uproar (religion, economics, conflict resolution)

The participants should feel free to mention any current events that might be comparable to the conflict at Ephesus. The idea is not to pretend to be living in the first century but to see this first-century event in a modern context.

The riot at Ephesus was a challenge to the status quo. As the students develop their newscast, be sure that they keep questions such as these in mind:
  • What are some groups that through demonstrations or other public protests challenge popular ways of thinking and often cause people to get angry?
  • What sort of economic motives make people want to protect the status quo?
  • Do you think economic concerns should stand in the way of preaching about one's religion?
  • Do you think concern for the religion of another should stand in the way of preaching about one's own religion?


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Published September 7, 2001.