In this text, the chief of Asia are the Asiarchae.
The Asiarchae were a group of wealthy and influential men chosen from the important cities of Asia to preside over the Roman Empire's annual religious festivals and public games held each May to honor the Roman gods and the Emperor. It was from their ranks that the high priest of the imperial cult was appointed annually.
The duties of the Asiarchae included:
1. Presiding over all the public events associated with the festivals and games.
2. To insure that all religious services and honors of the emperor (at the events) were performed and observed properly.
3. To promote the cult of the emperor and of Rome.
4. To secure allegiance to Rome.
Because their duties were semi-religious, some scholars believe that the Asiarchae may have been called priests and their office a priesthood.
According to The Expositor's Bible Commentary: "Each year, an Asiarchae was elected for the entire province, and an additional Asiarchae was elected for each city that had a temple honoring the emperor. Once their election was confirmed and made valid at Rome, the members of the league bore their titles for life…and while it (the league) did not have political authority, it served Rome's interests by securing loyalty to Roman rule."(Zondervan, 2007)
Each man served for one year but could be re-elected.
According to Manners and Customs of the Bible - #849: "to being a member of the Asiarchae was a greatly coveted position. It was important that all the men serving be wealthy. Their duties took them to various cities throughout the empire and the games at which they officiated were costly. While being a member of the Asiarchae was a high honor, they were still required to meet all of their own expenses." (James Freeman, Whitaker House, 1996.)
Among each group who served, one was designated as the president. How the officiating duties were divided is still a matter of scholarly controversy. Whether all presided over the games as a group or whether one was made chief and the others assisted is still not known. No matter the way it happened, while performing their ceremonial tasks, all members dressed in purple and wore garlands on their heads.
The introductory text is the conclusion of the account of Paul's wishing to preach in the 24,500 seat theatre in Ephesus and the crowd taking offense. Paul's friends among the Asiarchae warned him of the crowd's riotous mood and Paul was saved from encount-ering a mob. Bible commentators have speculated that while these Asiarchae friends of Paul's may not have been Christian converts, it would appear that they held a respect for Paul and possibly his work.
Copyright by Ancient Bible History - Eden Games Inc.