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Background

 
 

A BACKGROUND TO THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS


Geographical Location of Ephesus

Ephesus was located at the mouth of the Cayster river on the western coast of Asia Minor (Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible [ZPEB], volume 2, page 324).

Artemis (Diana) Worship

Popularity

According to Acts 19:27, it was a wide spread religion, “. . . she whom all of Asia and the world worship . . . (NASV)"

The Temple

The temple was 1.25 miles northeast of the city. The 180 by 377-foot building was counted as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. One hundred seventeen columns that were 60 feet in height and 6 feet in diameter supported the roof. The temple was used as a center of worship and as a bank. Today it is totally destroyed (presentation by Harold Hoehner).

The Idol

The idol was a fertility goddess and virgin huntress. She was invoked in childbirth. Child sacrifice may have been practiced in Artemis worship, but it was not practiced in the time of Paul. A Meteoric stone (mummy shaped and thought to represent the idol) was also worshipped according to Acts 19:35 (ZPEB, volume 1, pages 341-342).

The Priests

At one time the priests were girls dressed in Amazon-huntress fashion (ZPEB, volume 1, pages 341-342).

Its Commercial Importance

The city was a trade center but was having economic problems because of silting in its harbor. Because of this, the selling of images of Artemis and the temple to tourists was of great economic importance. Paul and his associates were in danger in riotous conditions (Acts 19) because they were persuading people not to buy images (Hoehner).

The Effect Artemis Worship had on the Ephesian Church

The Ephesian church represented a minor religion in the city. The church had no temple, no temple treasury, and no idol. And Christian missionaries in the city were threatened. The Ephesian believers could have felt second rate compared to the Artemis worshipers and the believers could have been fearful. Perhaps their circumstances would be like that of a home church meeting in downtown Kandahar during the reign of the Talaban.

History of the Ephesian Church

Second Missionary Journey (51-52 AD according to John Stirling, An Atlas of the Acts, page 15)

Paul experienced some success in reasoning with the Ephesian Jews but had to leave prematurely (Acts 18:19-21). He promised to return.

Third Missionary Journey

Paul found disciples of John the Baptist at Ephesus sometime between 53 and 56 AD according to Stirling, page 17. They believed in Christ and were baptized (Acts 19:1-7). For two years Paul taught in the area (Acts 19:10). Because of the uproar concerning the shrines, Paul left (Acts 19:23-20:1). Paul called the Ephesian elders to him at Miletus (Acts 20:17-38) around 56 AD per Stirling, page 19. At this time he warned of evil teachers from the outside and believers from within the church who would follow perverse things.

The Epistle to the Ephesians

Paul wrote the epistle during his Roman imprisonment. According to Stirling, page 23, this was during 62 AD. The Apostle calls himself a prisoner in Ephesians 3:1.

Timothy’s Ministry

After Paul’s imprisonment, he visited Ephesus. Stirling believes his movements after the acquittal were sometime during the period 62-63 AD, page 25. He went to Macedonia and left Timothy in Ephesus. Paul wrote 1 and 2 Timothy while he was in Ephesus. Paul told Timothy that he should not allow men to teach strange doctrines and that he should make love the goal of his instruction (e.g., 1 Timothy 4).

The Gospel of John

The Gospel of John may have been written in Ephesus between 85-90 AD (Charles Cadwell Ryrie, Ryrie Study Bible, Expanded Edition, New American Standard Version [RSB], page 1598).

The Book of Revelation

John’s famous letter to the Ephesians (Revelation 2:1-7) was written in the 90s AD (RSB, page 1893). Revelation 2:2-5 indicates that the Ephesian church did not endure the evil men, teachers of false doctrine, but they did lose their first love. They were warned that, unless they returned to their first love, they would lose the place of their lampstand (i.e., their local church would be dissolved).

Travels of the Apostle John

Tradition suggests that Ephesus became a headquarters for the Apostle John after he left Patmos (William Steuart McBirnie, The Search for the Twelve Apostles, page 112). McBirnie relies on Eusebius’ Historia Ecclesiastica, chapter 20, page 103. The Dictionary of the Christian Church (DOCC), page 356, indicates that the definitive edition of Historia Ecclesiastica appeared in 325 AD.

Third Ecumenical Council

This council was held in Ephesus in 43 AD to consider the doctrine of Nestorius. Nestorius taught the presence of the Divine and the human existed in our Lord in such a way that He was made two distinct beings. The majority of the council decided that our Lord’s two natures concurred in one person and substance. The council was a bitter struggle devoid of love (Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, page 167).

Robber’s Synod

The lack of love caused this reactionary synod to be held in Ephesus in 449 AD (DOCC, pages 344-345, 358). After the Third Ecumenical Council, a compromise was worked out that held to two natures of Christ but one person. This is the orthodox view of the church today (John F. Walvoord, Jesus Christ our Lord, pages 1144-145). At the Robber’s Synod, an obstinate supporter of the one nature even offended his supporters.

Malaria

Silt filled the Ephesian harbor and it became a breeding place for malaria carrying mosquitoes (ZPEB, volume 2, page 330).

Turks

In 1090, the Turks destroyed the city. It was rebuilt nearby but was plundered twice more by the Turks in the early 1400’s. Its church was turned into a mosque and the land occupied by the old city is now a marsh (S. Vailhe, Ephesus, Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05490a.htm).
 
Problems
 
The problems within the Ephesian church involved love and false teachers:
 
 
Copyright 2009 - Ken Bowles - 11/12/2009 Edition
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