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Who was Tyrannus in the Bible?

Tyrannus in the Bible

Tyrannus was the owner of a lecture hall or school in Ephesus. He is mentioned only once in Scripture, in conjunction with Paul’s ministry in Ephesus during his third missionary journey.

Paul had been teaching in the Jewish synagogue in Ephesus for about three months, preaching Christ and “arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God (Acts 19:8). The Jews did not respond positively, as was often the case when Paul spoke in synagogues. Luke records that the Jews “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” (Acts 19:9).

Paul had been rejected by the Jewish population in other urban centers as well. Each time, he left off speaking to the Jews and focused on the Gentiles instead (Acts 13:44–475; 18:5–6). It seems that he followed the same pattern in Ephesus: having been publicly opposed in the Jewish synagogue, Paul began to preach to the Greeks in the hall of Tyrannus.

Nothing is really known of Tyrannus’s background or spiritual standing, or even the function of his “lecture hall.” His name is Greek (meaning “prince” or “ruler”), and some scholars believe that Tyrannus was a teacher, philosopher, or rhetorician—an expert in persuasive speech—who rented out his hall to traveling philosophers and teachers. He may have simply been a businessman who permitted Paul to use the building. Others hold to the possibility that Tyrannus was a Jewish scholar or rabbi who had his own private synagogue or operated a school.

The Bible never indicates whether Tyrannus became a believer in Christ or if his faith had anything to do with allowing Paul to use his building. In fact, it’s possible that the lecture hall was named in honor of a former owner of the building or a respected teacher in the past and that Tyrannus was not alive during Paul’s time. The place could have been called “Tyrannus Lecture Hall” in the same way that a university today might christen a building “John Adams Hall.”

According to a footnote in the ESV, one Greek manuscript adds the detail in Acts 19:9 that Paul taught in Tyrannus’ lecture hall “from the 5th hour unto the 10th”; that is, from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. This period was typically when workers had their midday meal and rested from their work and the heat of the day. It’s possible that Paul would have worked at tentmaking during the other parts of the day (cf. Acts 18:3) and devoted this midday period of rest to evangelizing at Tyrannus’s lecture hall. Paul continued teaching there “for two years, so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10, CSB).

Although nothing in Scripture indicates that Tyrannus ever became a believer, he had a hand in assisting the spread of the gospel to multitudes of people in Ephesus and the surrounding region.

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Who was Tyrannus in the Bible?
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This page last updated: January 4, 2022