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Article Info
published: 3/31/13

Ephesus in the Bible



Ephesus in the New Testament

paul raphael
Paul by Raphael

Ephesus was a chief city of the Ionian confederacy and capital of the Roman province "Asia" (Mysia, Lydia, Caria), on the S. side of the plain of Cayster, and partly on the heights of Prion and Coressus, opposite the island of Samos.

A leading scene of Paul's ministry (Acts 18; 19; 20); also one of the seven churches addressed in the Apocalypse (Rev. 1:11; 2:1), and the center from from whence John superintended the adjoining churches (Eusebius, 3:23). Ephesus, though she was commended for patient labors for Christ's name's sake, is reproved for having "left her first love."

The port was called Panormus. Commodious roads connected this great emporium of Asia with the interior ("the upper coasts," i.e. the Phrygian table lands, Acts 19:1); also one on the N. to Smyrna, another on the S. to Miletus, whereby the Ephesian elders traveled when summoned by Paul to the latter city.

On a N.E. hill stands the church Ayasaluk, corrupted from hagios theologos, "the holy divine," John, Timothy, and the Virgin Mary who was committed by the Lord to John (John 19:26), were said to have been buried there. It was the port where Paul sailed from Corinth, on his way to Syria (Acts 18:19-22). Thence too he probably sailed on a short visit to Corinth see 1 Corinthians; also thence to Macedonia (Acts 19:21,27; 20:1; compare 1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 4:12,20).


Originally colonized by the hardy Atticans under Androclus, son of Codrus, it subsequently fell through the enervation of its people under Lydian and Persian domination successively; then under Alexander the Great, and finally under the Romans when these formed their province of Asia (129 B.C.). A proconsul or "deputy" ruled Asia. In Acts 19:38 the plural is for the singular.

He was on circuit, holding the assizes then in Ephesus; as is implied, "the law is open," margin "the court days are (now being) kept." Besides a senate there was a popular assembly such as met in the theater, the largest perhaps in the world, traceable still on mount Prion (Acts 19:29). The "town clerk" had charge of the public records, opened state letters, and took notes of the proceedings in the assembly.

His appeal, quieting the people, notices that Paul was "not a blasphemer of the Ephesian goddess," a testimony to Paul's tact and wisdom in preaching Christ. The friendly warning of the ASIARCHS (see) to Paul, not to venture into the theater, implies how great an influence the apostle had gained at Ephesus.

Besides being famed as the birthplace of the two painters Apelles and Parrhasius, and the philosopher Heraclitus, Ephesus was notorious for its magical arts and amulets of parchment with inscribed incantations (Ephesia grammata), valued at enormous prices (50,000 pieces of silver), yet freely given up to the flame when their possessors received a living faith (Acts 19:19).

In undesigned coincidence with Acts, Paul writing to Timothy (2 Tim. 3:13) says "seducers (goeetees, conjurors) shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." The "special miracles" which God wrought by the hands of Paul were exactly suited to conquer the magicians on their own ground: handkerchiefs and aprons from his body brought as a cure to the sick; evil spirits cast out by him; and when exorcists imitated him, the evil spirits turning on them and rending them.

The Diana of Ephesus, instead of the graceful Grecian goddess of the chase, was a mummy-shaped body with many breasts, ending in a point, and with the head of a female with mural crown, and hands with a bar of metal in each; underneath was a rude block. An aerolite probably gave the idea "the image that fell from heaven." After frequent burnings, the last building of her temple took 220 years.

Some read Pliny's statement, "the columns were 120, seven of them the gifts of kings"; the diameter of each is six feet, the height 60 feet, according to Ward's measurement. The external pillars according to Wood's arrangement are 88; the whole number, internal and external, 120. The glory of Ephesus was to be "a worshipper of the great goddess" (see margin), literally, a caretaker, warden, or apparitor of the temple (neokoros), and the silversmiths had a flourishing trade in selling portable models of the shrine. Perhaps Alexander the "coppersmith" had a similar business.

The "craftsmen" were the designers, the "workmen" ordinary laborers (Acts 19:24,25). The imagery of a temple naturally occurs in 1 Cor. 3:9-17 written here, also in 1 Tim. 3:15; 6:19; 2 Tim. 2:19,20, written to Ephesus; compare also Acts 20:32. Demetrius would be especially sensitive at that time when Diana's sacred month of May was just about to attract the greatest crowds to her, for 1 Cor. 16:8 shows Paul was there about that time, and it is probable the uproar took place then; hence we find the Asiarchs present at this time (Acts 19:31).

Existing ancient coins illustrate the terms found in Acts, "deputy," "town clerk," "worshipper of Diana." The address at Miletus shows that the Ephesian church had then its bishop presbyters. Paul's companions, Trophimus certainly and Tychicus possibly, were natives of Ephesus (Acts 20:4; 21:29; 2 Tim. 4:12.) Also Onesiphorus (2 Tim. 1:16-18; 4:19), Hymeneus and Alexander, Hermogenes and Phygellus, of Ephesus, were among Paul's opponents (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 1:15; 4:14).


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Source:

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain (with minor edits).