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We are told in [Matthew 3:5] - "Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him" (3:5 τότε ἐξεπορεύετο πρὸς αὐτὸν Ἱεροσόλυμα καὶ πᾶσα ἡ Ἰουδαία καὶ πᾶσα ἡ περίχωρος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου) -- [Notice] that "Ephesus" (Ἔφεσος) is not a location listed by Matthew in the summarized regions of John's Baptized disciples.

Yet we learn later in Acts 19 verses 1-3 that twelve baptized disciples of John the Baptist were from Ephesus.

[Acts 19:1] "And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples" (19:1 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ τὸν Ἀπολλῶ εἶναι ἐν Κορίνθῳ Παῦλον διελθόντα τὰ ἀνωτερικὰ μέρη ἐλθεῖν εἰς Ἔφεσον καὶ εὑρών τινας μαθητάς)

We learn in [Acts 19:3] these Ephesian disciples were believers in John the Baptist : "And he [Paul] said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” (19:3 εἶπέν τε πρὸς αὐτοὺς, Εἰς τί οὖν ἐβαπτίσθητε οἱ δὲ εἶπον, Εἰς τὸ Ἰωάννου βάπτισμα)

And we learn in [Acts 19:2] that John the Baptist never told his Ephesian disciples a word about the Holy Spirit ? : " he [Paul] said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit .” (19:2 εἶπέν πρὸς αὐτούς Εἰ πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἐλάβετε πιστεύσαντες οἱ δὲ εῖπον πρὸς αὐτόν Ἀλλ οὐδὲ εἰ πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἔστιν ἠκούσαμεν)

  • How could a disciple of John the Baptist not hear about the Holy Spirit?

Did these Ephesian disciples of John the Baptist never hear John's message in [Matthew 3:11] “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (3:11 ἐγὼ μὲν βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς ἐν ὕδατι εἰς μετάνοιαν ὁ δὲ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἰσχυρότερός μου ἐστίν, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς τὰ ὑποδήματα βαστάσαι· αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί·)?

  • John appears to mention the Holy Spirit to his Judean disciples, but never shares his message of Matthew 3:11 with his Ephesian disciples (who never about a Holy Spirit).

  • Did the Ephesian disciples in Acts 19:1-3 actually get baptized by John the Baptist?

[Clarification] Why did John the Baptist's unexpected disciples from Ἔφεσος "Ephesus"(Acts 19:1-3) not get listed among his disciples (Mat 3:5) and claim John never mentioned Holy Spirit (Mat 3:11) to them?

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  • You seem to have forgotten the persecutions mentioned in Acts, which drove many Jews antithetical to Pharisaic rule (primarily Christians, but John also criticized the statu quo) outside the Holy Land.
    – Lucian
    Oct 26, 2021 at 15:30
  • @Lucian - Why would any disciples (Judean, Ephesian) of John the Baptist claim to have never heard of the Holy Spirit? Oct 26, 2021 at 15:34
  • John the Baptist spoke mainly about the need of water baptism and repentance from past sins and effort in leading a sinless life in the future, not so much about a spirit being given to assist in that endeavor.
    – Lucian
    Oct 26, 2021 at 16:30

3 Answers 3

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Why did John the Baptist's unexpected disciples from Ἔφεσος "Ephesus"(Acts 19:1-3) not get listed among his disciples (Mat 3:5)?

They might have moved to Ephesus after John died.

Why did they claim John never mentioned Holy Spirit (Mat 3:11) to them?

Acts 19:

2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

Barn explains:

We have not so much as heard ... - This seems to be a very strange answer. Yet we are to remember:

(1) That these were mere disciples of John's doctrine, and that his preaching related particularly to the Messiah, and not to the Holy Spirit.

(2) it does not even appear that they had heard that the Messiah had come, or had heard of Jesus of Nazareth, Acts . Acts 19:4-5.

These disciples were really ignorant in terms of knowledge.

(3) it is not remarkable, therefore, that they had no clear conceptions of the character and operations of the Holy Spirit. Yet,

(4) They were just in that state of mind that they were willing to embrace the doctrine when it was proclaimed to them, thus showing that they were really under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Despite their ignorance of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit was working on them!

God may often produce important changes in the hearts and lives of sinners, even where they have no clear and systematic views of religious doctrines. In all such cases, however, there will be a readiness of heart to embrace the truth where it is made known.

They didn't know the systemic doctrine, yet they were under the Holy Spirit's influence. In Acts 19:3, these uninformed Ephesian disciples met their hearts' needs in the person of Paul.

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  • Very Good answer. +1. Simple and direct.
    – Dottard
    Oct 26, 2021 at 20:38
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I’ve never read this as them being John’s disciples, but rather as disciples of Apollos, and that Apollos baptized them into John’s baptism and never explained the Holy Spirit to them. As we see in Acts 18:25, Apollos only knew the Baptism of John which would explain why Apollo’s disciples would have received only this baptism. Also note that he preached in Ephesus (vs. 24). So basically as I read it these are Apollo’s disciples not John’s, and since Apollos didn’t have complete instruction himself yet, what he preached to them was incomplete. Presumably he preached to these Ephesians disciples before Priscilla and Aquila instructed him more thoroughly (vs. 26).

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I believe they had heard of the Holy Ghost because John spoke of it! They said they had not so much as heard that there be any Holy Ghost or that they had not heard the Holy Ghost was given yet!

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