Violent Demonstrations in the Book of Acts

Image prison Saint-Paul Lyon

A prison named after Saint Paul,
who seems to have been in prison frequently

By Philiphotos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0],
via Wikimedia Commons

The book of Acts contains several accounts of violent or near-violent crowd episodes, which begin in response to the disciples’ preaching.

Here’s the list (I think):

7:57 ff – Stephen’s preaching incites a mob, which stones him to death

14:8-20 – first, crowds in Lystra want to sacrifice to Paul & Barnabas; later, they stone Paul after “outside agitation”

16:19-23 – Philippian crowd attacks Paul & Silas after they heal a slave girl with a “spirit of divination;” officials throw them in jail

17:1-9 – “Jews” and “ruffians” incite a riot in Thessalonica, attack the home of Jason

17:13 – Jews from Thessalonica “stir up and incite the crowds” in Beroea

18:12-17 – “the Jews” attack Paul, drag him before the tribunal, when charges are dismissed beat up Sosthenes “the official of the synagogue in front of the tribunal;” the tribunal pays no attention

19:21-41 – a long account of a confused riot or near-riot in Ephesus instigated by artisans threatened by the preaching against idols

21:27-36 – a riot begins in the Temple when Paul is rumored to have brought in Gentiles; more crowd violence arises in 22:23 after Paul’s preaching

23:6-10 – Paul instigates a violent argument between Sadducees and Pharisees

After this, the story turns to Paul’s testimony before various Roman officials, and the journey to Rome; no more riots. I can’t help being curious about how these episodes might have been described by other participants or observers.


About HAT

Heather Thiessen (HAT) is a happily married 60-ish, Bible-reading, Presbyterian Church Sunday School teaching and choir singing, small fuel efficient car driving, still pretty much 2nd wave feminist and generally out lesbian Hoosier mom. (There are no monochrome states.) From time to time she teaches religious studies to students at a small liberal arts college in Louisville, Kentucky.
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