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		at desk studying.

Lesson One

Introduction & Background to Ephesus

by Stacy R. Wood, Jr.


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Asia Map The city of Ephesus was located in western Asia Minor, on a plain, near the mouth of the Cayster River, under the shadow of the Coressus mountain range. As an important seaport it was located between the Maeander and Hermus Rivers, and its access to two river valleys allowed it to flourish as a commercial center. Its harbor was crowded with vessels, and it lay at the junction of roads, which gave it access to the whole interior continent. Due to the accumulation of silt deposited by these rivers, the present site of the city is approximately five to six miles inland on the west coast of what is now Asiatic Turkey.

Its markets were the "Vanity Fair" of Asia. The famous Greek historian, Herodotus said, "The Ionians of Asia have built their cities in a region where the air and climate are the most beautiful in the whole world; for no other region is equally blessed with Ionia. For in other countries, either the climate is over-cold and damp, or else the heat and drought are sorely oppressive" The natural historian and writer, Bliny the Elder, called Ephesus "The Light of Asia."

What Was The Government Of The City?

The earliest inhabitants of this area were a group of peoples called the Leleges and Carians. Around 1000 B.C., it became a Greek colony, when it was settled by Ionian Greek settlers, led by Androclus of Athens. In 560 B.C., Croesus of Lydia conquered Ephesus. In the city was a magnificent temple, called the Artemision. It was constructed in 547 B.C., for the worship of the Artemis, the goddess of wild animals.

The goddess Artemis was the hunter of wild game.Artemis was also the goddess of the hunt, vegetation, chastity and childbirth. She was identified by the Romans with Diana. She was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and the twin sister of Apollo. Among the rural populace, she was the favorite goddess. Her character and function varied greatly from place to place, but, apparently, behind all forms lay the goddess of wild nature, who's dance was accompanied by nymphs, in mountains, forests, and marshes. Artemis embodied the sportsman's ideal, so besides killing game she also protected it, especially the young.

In 356 B.C., Ephesus came under Persian control following the defeat of Croesus by Cyrus of Persia. On the night of July 21, 356 B.C., the Temple of Artemision burned to ground. The destruction of the Temple was celebrated and its devastation caused Herostratus, the author of the deed, to find enduring fame.

Alexander the Great was reportedly born 356 B.C., on the same day as the fire. In 334 B.C., he took over the area and offered to finance the ongoing reconstruction of the Temple. His offer was diplomatically declined. Then about 250 B.C., all Greece and Western Asia contributed to the Temple’s restoration. Finally, the restoration of the temple was completed. It took better than a century to finish this project.

In Paul's time it had become the residence of the Roman proconsul making it the capital of the Roman providence of Asia. It was a free city, and under the Romans the citizens enjoyed the right of a self-government. Its constitution was essentially democratic with the municipal authority vested in a Senate and assembly of the people. Depravation of morality caused the degenerate inhabitants of this city to descended to every type of flattery in order to maintain its favor with Rome.

What Was The Religious Importance And Focus Of The City?

The image of the goddess Diana was a many-breasted, mummy like figure of oriental symbolism.Ephesus, and the region that surrounded it, were impacted by a mixture of Greek and Oriental culture. Inhabitants of this region worshiped a goddess of fertility, identified with the Greek goddess Artemis, the virgin huntress, whom the Romans identified with their goddess Diana. The attributes of the Goddess Diana and the temple combined the Oriental influence with characteristics belonging to the Phoenician Goddess Astarte. However, the image revered as Diana was not a product of Grecian Art, but it was a many-breasted, mummy-like figure of oriental symbolism. The city of Ephesus was regarded as sacred to this goddess from the earliest period of its history. It was considered the sacristan and protector of Diana. (Act 19:27, 35).

The temple of Diana now is in ruins. The famed Temple of Diana was a Greek building of the Ionic order. The primary recognition of the city was for this Temple, which was ranked among the seven wonders of the world. The right of asylum was attached the Temple of Diana. Legend relates that when the temple was finished, Mithridates stood on its summit and declared that the right of asylum should extend in a circle round it, as far as he could shoot an arrow. The arrow miraculously flew a furlong, or a distance equal to one eigth mile. Thus, moral decay and contagion were encouraged.

The temple of Diana gave unity to the city and became the identification and character of its inhabitants. Impressed on its coins was the highest title of the city, Temple-sweeper‚servant of the great goddess. One of the most lucrative occupations of the people was the manufacturing and sale of miniature representations of the temple. These silver miniatures were produced and sold to be reverenced at home or carried about by travelers. Sales of the representative temples, to both foreign and domestic buyers, were massive.

The worship of Diana, from the earliest times connected Ephesus with the practice of sorcery. Mystical monograms, called "Ephesians Letters," were used by the people as charms or amulets. This city was the chief seat of necromancy, which is the exercise of communicating with the spirits of the dead in order to predict the future. Also they practiced exorcism, which is the expelling evil spirits by incantation. Along with these practices all forms of magic arts were used, such as spells, or rituals to produce supernatural effects and to control events in nature. Moreover, from Ephesus various superstitions were expounded, or put forth, by different priestly bodies.

The site of this once famous city is now occupied by an insignificant village called, Ajaloluk in nation of Turkey. In the Turkish language the city’s name means, "City of the Moon." This name clearly connects Ajaloluk with the city of Ephesus, as the worship center of Diana.

Next to Rome, Ephesus was the principal seat of Paul's labors. He devoted three years to the city of Ephesus. It is believed that the Apostle John closed his apostolic career in Ephesus. Nothing in early Church history is better vouched for than John’s residence and work in Ephesus, the center of the circle of churches established by Paul in Ionia and Phrygia. Timothy also served as an overseer in the church of Ephesus.

What Resulted When Paul Preached The Gospel In Ephesus

The Gospel was made known to all the Jews and Greeks dwelling at Ephesus by the Apostle Paul. The records of Ephesus show that in 52 A.D., he made a short visit to the city. He took Aquila and Priscilla with him and left them, as he entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews. (Acts 18:18-21).

The apostle Paul returned on his second missionary journey and stayed for two years. During this time he taught the Gospel to both the Jews and Gentiles of the city. There were special miracles worked by God through Paul’s hands. Even his handkerchiefs and aprons caused diseases and evil spirits to leave the people. (Acts 19:10-13).

Some vagabond Jews, the seven sons of an high priest named Sceva, took it upon themselves to practice exorcism by calling the name of the Jesus, whom Paul preaches, over one who had evil spirits. But the evil spirits answered there incantation by saying, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" Then the person in whom the evil spirit dwelled leaped on them and overpowered them. The sons of Sieva were overcome by the evil spirits and fled out of the house naked and wounded. This became known to all the Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus. It caused fear to fall upon them and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. (Acts 19:14-17).

Those who believed came confessing how they also practiced such things. Bringing their books, on the magic art, they burned them in the sight of everyone. These books were valued at fifty thousand pieces of silver. In 55 A.D., this burning of heathen books would have equaled almost $10,000. (Acts 19:18-19).

The word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed in Ephesus threatening the livelihood of those who made and sold the miniature silver Temples of Diana. Thus, Paul’s preaching caused a riot in the city when a silversmith by the name of Demetrius stirred up his fellow craftsmen against apostle.

The apostle Paul boldly proclaimed, "There are no gods made with hands." This turned many people away from the worship of Diana. His ministry was effecting their income throughout all Asia. The silversmiths were fearful that their craft and income was in danger of coming to an end. They were also concerned the temple of the great goddess Diana would be despised. So they stirred up the people against Paul, causing the mob to cry out, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." The whole city was filled with confusion and rushed with one accord into the theater after capturing Paul's traveling companions, Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia. In the massive theaterall the people cried out with one voice for about the space of two hours, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." Paul’s disciples would not allow him to enter the mob and asked him not to go into the theater. So Paul’s friend, Alexander, a Jew and the Town Clerk or Recorder, made defense for him. As an officer, with great authority, in charge of all city activities he quieted the people and asked them to do nothing rash. He encouraged the crowd to let Demetrius, with the other craftsmen, bring legal charges. And let the lawyers argue the case, because the citizens were in danger of being called in question by Rome. He then dismissed the assembly. (Acts 19:24-41).


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