Ephesians for the Common Man: Intro Pt. 1

I’ve been a Christian for over 30 years. During that time, I have read the entire bible many times but always passages here and there. I don’t remember ever reading through, verse by verse, chapter by chapter and book by book.  I’ve studied topics, themes, people but never have I studied a particular book. In 2014, I posted a series of posts on Ephesians but last January, I determined to actually study Ephesians and learn it well enough to be able to discuss it intelligently with anyone. While not the shortest (nor by far the longest) book of the bible, but is has only six chapters so I figured I could complete it in a year.Oh, child, how naive I was. Here we are a year later and I’m still learning chapter one. What a wonderful chapter. Blessings and promises abound. So, at this point, I’m going to start posting as I learn. I pray God will give me enough years to finish.

Your comments below will be an encouragement to continue.  Lets jump right in:

No study of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians should be undertaken without first reading the book of Acts 19:1-41 because in order to understand Paul’s letter, we must first understand his background with the city. Then, the student should understand just why Ephesus was important. I will not post the full text of Acts 19:1-41 but I will include here a great description of the city written by Wilber Fields (copyright 1960 and freely given to the public).  I quote:

EPHESUS

In Paul’s time, Ephesus was religiously like Rome, and commercially like New York.

The city lay in the Roman province of Asia, on the west end of what is now Turkey, about three miles from the coast, near the mouth of the Cayster River. It stood on the sloping sides of two hills and in the river valley between them.

A little city grew on the site in ancient times. Legend said that the mother-goddess of the earth was born there. And there her temple was built. The temple was burned and rebuilt seven times during the centuries, each time on a grander scale. Rich King Croesus even helped build one of the temples. In 356 B.C., the night Alexander the Great was born, the temple burned, It was rebuilt to be one of the seven wonders of the world, and was there when Paul came to Ephesus.

The Cayster River valley extended far inland toward the east from Ephesus. It was connected by highways to the chief cities of the province. At Ephesus itself an artificial harbor was built, accessible even to the largest ships, Thus, Ephesus was the most accessible city of Asia, both from land and sea.

As ships came up the canal into Ephesus from the seacoast, the city could not be seen from a distance because of its position in the valley. But at a certain point, the city appeared, spread out before them, with its theater (seating 24,000) on the hillside and the temple of Diana on the lowlands.

Even in ancient times, however, engineers had trouble keeping the harbor and canal dredged of silt from the river.

Commerce flourished in Ephesus. Priscilla and Aquila may have left Corinth for Ephesus (Acts 18:1-2; Acts 18:26) because Ephesus was famous for the manufacture of luxurious tents and marquees, as well as to prepare the way for Paul’s ministry there.

Paul’s labors in Ephesus turned many of the Ephesians from Diana, A substantial church flourished there. Timothy and the apostle John (probably) preached there. In 262 A.D. when the temple of Diana burned again, the influence of Diana had so weakened that it was never rebuilt again. A church council was held there in 341 A.D. The city declined. Many of its stone buildings were in ruins, and the stone was used elsewhere, some even in Santa Sophia church in Constantinople,

The Turks captured the city in 1308, murdering its inhabitants, destroying its remaining buildings, The Cayster River, overflowing its banks, buried the site of Diana’s temple and the low part of the city under many feet of silt. There is no city at all on the site of Ephesus today. A Turkish village named Seljuk is about a mile from the site. Most of the buildings of Seljuk are made of stone from the ruins of Ephesus.

A most interesting account of a modern visit to Ephesus can be found in H. V. Morton’s In the Steps of St. Paul.

DIANA OF THE EPHESIANS

At some time in the remote past the Assyrians or Babylonians in their vain imaginations conceived of a female deity, a mother goddess of the earth, They called her Ishtar. Other tribes and nations adopted the idea and borrowed some of the legends connected with her. But they often gave the goddess their own names and developed forms of worship and traditions of their own. Always, however, the worship was of man’s own invention (not from God) and very vile. Her rituals included sacrifices and ceremonial prostitution.

The Cappadocians called her Ma, the Phoenicians, Astarte, the Phrygians, Cybele. In Egypt, she was Isis; in Asia (the province containing Ephesus) she was called Diana, or Cybele, The legends were started that (1) she was born in the woods near Ephesus, and that (2) there her image (of ebony wood) had fallen from the sky from Jupiter (also called Jove or Dios). Some speculate that originally she was a meteorite.

Later Ephesus fell to the Greeks, and the Greek and Asiatic civilizations blended. The Greeks believed in a virgin goddess called Artemis, the swift twin sister of Apollo, the goddess of chastity, the woods, and the hunt. The Greek name of Artemis was given to the dark Asiatic goddess. In fact, her name in the Greek New Testament is actually Artemis. Some of the Greek colonists in Asia represented the Ephesian Diana as Greek on their coins.

At first, the figures of Diana were crudely carved of wood. In later times, metal images were made, showing her with a headdress representing a fortified city wall. The upper part of her body was covered with breasts to show that she was the mother of all life. (However, Sir William Ramsay believed that these “breasts” actually represented the ova of bees. The bee was the symbol of Ephesus, and is found on most of its coins. The temple staff included a crowd of priests or “drones” who dressed like women. Also there was a crowd of priestesses known as Melissai, who represented the worker bees. The goddess was the queen bee.) The lower part of her body was wrapped up like an Egyptian mummy. Later images show her with stags or lions, possibly because some associated her with the Greek goddess Artemis hunting. On most coins showing the goddess two lines run from her hands to the ground. These probably represent rods which were necessary to keep her in an erect position, because of her top-heavy shape.

The temple of Diana was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was built on marshy ground, but uncommon pains were taken to give it a good foundation. It was 220 by 425 feet, with its roof supported on 107 pillars, each 60 feet high. It was nearly 220 years in the process of completion.

The temple of Diana was not only a place of worship, but a museum of the best statuary and painting. It owned valuable lands and controlled the fisheries. Its priests were the bankers of its enormous revenues. Because of its resources, the people stored money there for safe-keeping. It became to the ancient world practically all that the Federal Reserve system is to the United States.

An annual feast, called the Artemisia, attracted thousands of pilgrims to Ephesus from all parts of the world. No work was done for a month, while great crowds enjoyed a daily program of athletic games, plays, and sacrifices. Thousands of shrines of Diana were purchased by the visitors to take home as souvenirs or objects of veneration (Act. 19:24). These shrines were crude models of the temple with a female figure inside. They were made of clay, marble, or silver.

The worship of Diana may have contributed to the start of the worship of the Virgin Mary. It is a remarkable coincidence that one of the earliest churches in honor of Mary was built at Ephesus on the site of the famous temple of Diana, and that in that same city a synod (council) was held in 431 which first designated Mary as “Mother of God.”

A frog pond now covers the site of Diana’s temple, and a snowy water weed fills the pond. The site was discovered and excavated by J. T. Wood in 1870.

When we know something about dark Diana, we can better understand why Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Walk not as the other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ” Eph. 4:17-20.”

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