10/09/17 Introduction to Ephesians
Ephesus was across the Aegean Sea from today’s Greece, and almost directly opposite Athens. It doesn’t exist today but was a few kilometres from the present town of Selçuk in western Turkey. In Paul’s day it was a major seaport on the coast of Ionia, with Smyrna to its north. By around 263 AD (when the Goths destroyed the city) the harbour had been silted up because of sediment from the (Cayster?) River. It was rebuilt, but then partially destroyed by earthquake in 614 AD. Arab attacks in 654-55, 700 and 716 caused much decrease in population. It came under Turkish rule in 1390, and finally “died” in the 15th century.
Ephesus may have had a population of around 150,000 although some estimates have placed it much lower, and even as high as 225,000. It was one of the largest cities of its time. The theatre of Ephesus (originally for Greek drama but later on for gladiator fighting) could seat 25,000 people and was considered to be the largest of such in the known ancient world.
1 Corinthians 15:32 – 32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.
Tradition has John’s gospel being written there between 90-100 AD, and that John and Mary (the mother of Jesus) lived there, although it is generally accepted that Mary remained at Jerusalem. Paul seems to have written I Corinthians from Ephesus – 1 Corinthians 16:7-9 – 7 For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. 8 But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. 9 For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and [there are] many adversaries.
Timothy was also at Ephesus – 1 Timothy 1:3-4 – 3 As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: [so do].
Onesiphorus, a Christian friend of Paul, lived in Ephesus where Timothy was ministering.
2 Timothy 1:16-18 – 16 The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: 17 But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found [me]. 18 The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.
The temple of Artemis (Diana to the Romans) in Ephesus was considered one of the seven wonders of the world.
The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, once stood 418' by 239' with over 100 marble pillars each 56' high. The temple earned the city the title "Servant of the Goddess".
In the classical period of Greek mythology, Artemis …. was the Hellenic goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and protector of young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women; she often was depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrows.
Artemis was sometimes represented in Classical art with the crown of the crescent moon, such as also found on Luna and others. (Wikipedia)
However, this Artemis was actually the Greek form of Diana and may not be the Artemis of Ephesus, who was more sensual in nature.
At Ephesus in Ionia, Turkey, her temple became one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It was probably the best known center of her worship except for Delos. There the Lady whom the Ionians associated with Artemis …. was worshipped primarily as a mother goddess, akin to the Phrygian goddess Cybele, in an ancient sanctuary where her cult image depicted the "Lady of Ephesus" adorned with multiple rounded breast-like protuberances on her chest. They have been variously interpreted as multiple accessory breasts, as eggs, grapes, acorns …….
Ephesian metalsmiths who felt threatened by Saint Paul's preaching of Christianity, jealously rioted in her defense, shouting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Of the 121 columns of her temple, only one composite, made up of fragments, still stands as a marker of the temple's location. The rest were used for making churches, roads, and forts. (Wikipedia)
This Artemis (known as Diana in the KJV but probably not the same) actually had more in common with Ishtar. The International Standard Bible Dictionary says A deity of Asiatic origin, the mother goddess of the earth, whose seat of worship was the temple in Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province of Asia. Diana is but the Latinized form of the Greek word Artemis, yet the Artemis of Ephesus should not be confused with the Greek goddess of that name.
She may, however, be identified with the Cybele of the Phrygians whose name she also bore, and with several other deities who were worshipped under different names in various parts of the Orient. In Cappadocia she was known as Ma; to the Syrians as Atargatis or Mylitta; among the Phoenicians as Astarte, a name which appears among the Assyrians as Ishtar; the modern name Esther is derived from it. The same goddess seems to have been worshipped by the Hittites …. It may be shown ultimately that the various goddesses of Syria and Asia Minor all owe their origin to the earlier Assyrian or Babylonian Ishtar, the goddess of love, whose chief attributes they possessed.
Acts 19:35 suggests that the image of Artemis fell down from heaven; perhaps a meteorite or similar. (the [image] which fell down from Jupiter)
Paul spent a few months there on his 2nd missionary journey, in 52 AD.
He had taken Priscilla and Aquila with him. Paul had taken a vow, for which reason he had shaved his head probably as a Nazarite.
Numbers 6:5 – All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth [himself] unto the Lord, he shall be holy, [and] shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.
Acts 18:18-21 – 18 And Paul [after this] tarried [there] yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn [his] head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow. 19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they desired [him] to tarry longer time with them, he consented not; 21 But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.
On Paul’s 3rd missionary journey he stayed at Ephesus for much longer, at least 2 years and 3 months, but probably longer again.
He was involved at the synagogue for 3 months (Acts 19:8), and then at the school of Tyrannous for 2 more years (Acts 19:9-10). Following this, Paul stayed (Acts 19:22) in Asia for a season, probably in Ephesus but perhaps elsewhere in the general vicinity. Acts 20:31 says that he didn’t cease warning them for a space of 3 years (Acts 20:31 – Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.) However, was he actually in Ephesus all that time or was he merely in the vicinity for some of that time?
While in Ephesus (or in Asia) for a season on his 3rd journey, Paul had certain serious disputes with the worshippers of Artemis (Αρτεμις Artemis) and the silversmiths who made a living from selling silver shrines to those worshippers. Note that the KJV says “Diana” but the Greek says “Artemis”. The silver shrines were either a miniature of the temple itself, or a small silver shrine for the placement of an image of Artemis.
Paul had turned a lot of people away from the worship of Artemis, and the local thriving silversmith business was suffering.
Acts 19:24-26 – 24 For a certain [man] named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; 25 Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. 26 Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands:
A crowd developed, then started a city-wide riot.
Acts 19:27-29 – 27 So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. 28 And when they heard [these sayings], they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great [is] Diana of the Ephesians. 29 And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.
Ultimately, after a while, the town clerk settled things and dismissed the people.
Acts 19:40-41 – 40 For we are in danger to be called in question for this day’s uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse. 41 And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.
After leaving Ephesus, Paul went to Corinth, and then returned via the island of Miletus which is about 58km south of Ephesus. While here he asked the elders of the Ephesus church to come and visit him. He tells them how he came to proclaim the gospel to them, and that they won’t see his face again after this. His charge to them is a clear statement of the duties and responsibilities of the Christian church.
Acts 20:17-31 – 17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. 18 And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, 19 Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: 20 [And] how I kept back nothing that was profitable [unto you], but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, 21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: 23 Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. 24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. 26 Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I [am] pure from the blood of all [men]. 27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. 28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Revelation 2 & 3. This church is known as the church of great works, but lacking love. They are told to regain that first love or else they will have their ministry removed from them.
Revelation 2:1-7 – 1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 4 Nevertheless I have [somewhat] against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. 6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
So, what happened to Ephesus? They were clearly a very devout group of people. Their church was vibrant and filled with well-meaning people. But Paul was led to tell them that they faced serious problems of apostasy in the years to come.
Acts 20:29-31 – 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
And, then they are told in that special letter in Revelation (around 95 AD?) that if they do not repent and regain their first love, they’ll be literally cut out of the ministry. Strong words indeed!
If you want works, though, just look at the Jehovahs Witnesses, yet they are as lost as can be! Or like so many of the cults, which have works and yet more works, but no love, for they are without the God of love. They are certainly devout worshippers. And the church at Ephesus was filled with devout worshippers, no doubt, yet probably no more devout than the worshippers of Artemis who shouted at Paul in Ephesus.
They had lost their first love, yet were trying to regain what they once knew, but all they could call upon was works – and they had works down to a fine art! They were going through all the motions, yet without God. The church at Ephesus died, and the city of Artemis-worshippers died as well. Today there is nothing left but ruins, just like all worship that is built upon rules and regulations, but has no love.
They should have noted Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 – 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.