On the premise that Matthew was published within five to ten years of the resurrection (ref. How would an early Matthew, written before Paul's writings, change our understanding of Paul's writings?), then should we understand Acts 19:19–20, as being meant to demonstrate the supremacy of Scripture (the written "word of the Lord") over magic books?

19 And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone … 20 So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing. (Acts 19:19–20 NASB95)

  • I presented an answer based on the info your provided. I might change my answer if you specified what verses in Mt. would impact our reading of Acts 19. I do not think Mt. would be considered scripture at this time even if it was known... but specific teachings in Mt. are worth considering in any case. Commented Apr 18 at 17:54
  • If those whom Jesus had selected as apostles were to collaborate in Jerusalem and publish a Gospel within several years of the resurrection (per the stated premise), it wouldn't be considered authoritative Scripture? I'll have to go looking for whether anyone has posted on whether any of the Scripture references in the NT are allowed to be understood as being inclusive of earlier NT writings.
    – Dan Moore
    Commented Apr 18 at 18:30
  • If they had collaborated, that would be different from a Gospel written by Matthew. But why is there no reference to this in Acts, when it preserves several letters and many speeches? There are some scholars who think Mt. was written first, but most affirm Markan priority. And why would Luke write a third account if the apostles had collaborated to publish Matthew? Commented Apr 18 at 20:41
  • Thanks for the opportunity to continue exploring this! Acts is also silent on the authoring of all of the NT writings, but we don't deny that they were written. But Acts does indicate that the apostles remained in Jerusalem, despite the sheep being scattered. We can only speculate as to what they were up to.
    – Dan Moore
    Commented Apr 18 at 20:47
  • As to why multiple Gospels were written, in my view Matthew was written for the benefit of the Jews and Jewish Christians, Mark shortly thereafter for the benefit of the Latins in Caesarea Maritima, Luke for the benefit of the Greco-Roman church a decade later, and John to add more to the story (and I'm still undecided on when).
    – Dan Moore
    Commented Apr 18 at 20:52

3 Answers 3


Acts 19

13 Then some itinerant Jewish exorcists tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those with evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” 14 When the seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish high priest, tried to do this, 15 the evil spirit said to them in reply, “Jesus I recognize, Paul I know, but who are you?

The issue here seems to be the unauthorized use of Jesus' name by the sons of Sceva. What brings fear and repentance upon the populace is the failure of the exorcism and the consequent scandal of these noblemen being overcome by the evil spirit so that "they fled naked and wounded from that house." (vs. 16) The burning of the magic books is presented as response to this. The authority of scripture is not mentioned.

Thus, an early date for Matthew would not change how we should understand Acts 19:19–20. Moreover, the putative fact of Matthew having already been written at this time is no basis for believing that it would have been considered as scripture yet. The statement "So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing" is best understood as meaning that the "preaching of the gospel" was prevailing rather than "the authority of written Christian scripture."

Conclusion: this episode demonstrates how God's spirit moved to bring people repentance after the scandalous scene of a high priests' sons being driven wounded and naked from the scene of a botched exorcism attempt. The prevailing of God's word in this case is not a reference to scripture but to the spread of the gospel.

  • Yes, I don't mean to diminish the significance of the defeat of the sons of Sceva for understanding the broader passage. However, I am trying to open up the possibility that the preaching of the gospel was inclusive of the reading from a written text, not unlike what Paul expects of Timothy: "give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching" (1 Tim. 4:13).
    – Dan Moore
    Commented Apr 18 at 18:36
  • 1
    As of yet I see no reason presume that scripture in 1 Tim 4 is anything other than Jewish scripture.... but I'm open to hearing more from you on this. Commented Apr 18 at 20:29
  • If we assume that 1 Tim was written around 60, then are we to assume that no NT writings were available by that time? Or is the contention that the church would not have accepted these as authoritative Scripture? How do you handle James 2:8 and 2 Peter 3:16? Sorry, I haven't been engaged here long enough to know where everyoe is coming from.I also contend that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 affirms NT writings, as OT writings are insufficient to make the Christian "man of God" fully equipped.
    – Dan Moore
    Commented Apr 18 at 21:01
  • +1. Good answer.
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 19 at 0:13

Short Answer: Acts 19:19–20 speaks of the supremacy of the name of the Lord Jesus over magic books not necessarily the written word of the Lord. The phrase "word of the Lord" in this context likely refers to the spoken proclamation of the Gospel rather than to the written Scriptures themselves.

  • 8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9 But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.
  • 13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.”

Paul has previously engaged in arguing and discussion in the lecture hall. He also seems to have been preaching in the name of Jesus.

The context is that in the city of Ephesus, Paul encounters people involved in various forms of occult practices, including magic and sorcery. However, Paul preaches the Gospel and demonstrates the power of the name of Jesus. This causes many people to repent and turn to faith in Christ.

The burning of the magic books is symbolic, in the sense that it shows a decisive break from their former practices and a renunciation of the occult. In other words, the people of Ephesus are publicly declaring their "allegiance" to Christ and their rejection of any power or any authority apart from Him. This is the transformative power of the Gospel. It also shows the supremacy of the name of Jesus over all other spiritual forces.

Furthermore, the subsequent statement in verse 20, "So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing." The Gospel was advancing in the face of adversity and spiritual darkness. It seems odd that "the word of the Lord" would be referring to the written word here rather than the Gospel itself.

  • I have to disagree. I think you may have misunderstood the question. The OP asks specifically about the Gospel of Matthew as written scripture, not scripture generally. Commented Apr 18 at 18:09
  • @DanFefferman I appreciate you checking my answer. You are right I misunderstood the initial question. I have edited it!
    – Jason_
    Commented Apr 18 at 19:48

Matthew as Scripture? It is a bit premature to designate Matthew as "scripture", in the generic sense of the word. And of course, the book wasn't universally considered part of the "Bible" until the consensus of the Church Councils much later.

Having said that, the book was recognized as authoritative from the start, having been written by the eye-witness to Jesus's complete ministry (Consider Acts 1:21-22). But the "Word of the Lord growing and prevailing", (mentioned by Luke in Acts 19:20), definitely refers to the evangelism of the disciples...which was accompanied by signs and wonders (Mark 16:17-20, Acts 1:8, Hebrews 2:3-4)

Demonic Confrontation But what is more evident here is the results that occur when Divinity confronts Demonic. What happened here in Ephesus is symptomatic of events throughout history when men of God come up against Magicians, demonic idolators...and demons themselves. When good confronts evil, good wins out!

Consider Moses versus the Magicians of Egypt (Exodus 7:8-13). Recall Elijah versus the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18). And then, the many times Jesus went against demons and evil spirits! (Gospels)

Name of the Lord Notice that the Name of the Lord Jesus was magnified! (vs. 17). So here, whether perhaps the "Word of Matthew" (as a stretch), or the preaching of the Gospel generally, the Good News prevailed over Evil because of the Lord! His NAME representing the Authority of Heaven at work on the earth.

And the logical thing for the people to do was to forsake Evil completely: burn the books, baby!!! ...and eventually, embrace the Holy Book, instead.

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