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SCEVA (sē'va, Gr. Skeua). A Jew, who was a chief priest living in Ephesus, whose seven sons were exorcists (Acts.19.14-Acts.19.17). There were only synagogues in Asia Minor, so he could not have been an officiating high priest. The Jews, although scattered throughout the Roman world, remembered their ancestry; and priests were probably then as now singled out for honor in the synagogue. A demon-possessed man overpowered the sons of Sceva, and they fled the house naked and wounded.

SCEVA sē’ və (Σκευα̂ς, G5005). A Jewish “high priest” living in Ephesus (Acts 19:14-17). Not able to function as such in the synagogues of Asia Minor, either he had exercised the office at Jerusalem or he was a member of a highpriestly family, or he had been the chief of one of the twenty-four courses of priests for which he was still honored.

His seven sons traveled from place to place attempting to exorcise demons by using the name of Jesus, but on one occasion the evil spirit denied knowing them with these famous words: “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” (Acts 19:15). Lacking the authority of Paul (19:16) and Jesus, they were attacked by the demon-possessed man and had to flee “naked and wounded.” The incident was widely reported, with the result that awe and reverence for the name of the Lord Jesus came upon all the Ephesians. There was also a revival and renewal in the church; many of the believers confessed that they had not given up the practices of the occult and voluntarily surrendered their books of magic to a public bonfire. The power of the Gospel was signally demonstrated, and the word of the Lord prevailed over all the rival forces of evil.


R. B. Rackham, The Acts of the Apostles, 14th ed. (1951), 355, 356.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A Jew, a chief priest, resident in Ephesus, whose seven sons were exorcists (Ac 19:14 ). Ewald regards the name as being Hebrew shekhabhyah. He was not an officiating priest, as there were only synagogues in Asia Minor. He may have belonged to a high-priestly family, or perhaps at one time he had been at the head of one of the 24 courses in the temple.

In the narrative the construction is loose. There were seven sons (Ac 19:14), and it would appear (Ac 19:16) that in this particular case all were present. But (Ac 19:16) the demon-possessed man over-powered "both of them." Textus Receptus of the New Testament gets over the difficulty by omitting "both," but Codices Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, Bezae, so Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, von Soden, and the best critics, retain the difficult reading. The explanation is that Ac 19:14 states the custom: "who did this" being hoi touto poiountes, "who used to do this." Ac 19:15 and 16 state a particular case in which two took part, but the incident is introduced in a careless manner.

Ewald would translate amphoteron as "in both sides," but this is impossible. Baur understood "disciples" for "sons." Codex Bezae and Syriac have an interesting expansion which Blass considers original (Ac 19:14): "Among whom also the sons (Syriac `seven’) of a certain Sceva, a priest, wished to do the same, (who) were in the custom of exorcising such. And entering into the demon-possessed man they began to call upon the Name, saying, `We charge you by Jesus whom Paul preaches to come out.’ "