Ephesus

Ephesus was a luxurious eastern city, the metropolis of the entire area. The word Ephesus means "desirable". The most famous city of Ionia; colonists from Athens had founded it about 1000 BC. It was an opulent city with an ample harbor, colonized by the Athenian Androclus, it was a meeting place of many currents of Hellenistic thought and the capital of proconsular Asia. Located about 40 miles South East of Smyrna, it is about halfway between Jerusalem and Rome, the approximate center of the Roman Empire. In Paul's day the population was some 250,000. Ephesus was a proud, wealthy, busy port, the market place of Asia Minor and called "The Treasure House of Asia." In the first century, trade followed the river valleys and Ephesus stood at the mouth of the Cayster which commanded the richest hinterland in Asia Minor. Ephesus was closely connected with Alexandria and considered a commercial rival along with Syrian Antioch. Now located near the town of Selšuk in Turkey

Amidst its splendor, it was given up to the magic arts and idolatrous superstitions of the Orient. Ephesus could well be called "superstition city," everyone lived in a superstitious atmosphere. Ephesians worshipped the Asiatic goddess Artimus and her supreme glory and fame was the temple of Artimus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Romans called her Diana and not only at Ephesus, or Asia, but throughout the world, the goddess Diana, the great mother, was worshipped. Pictured with many breasts, she was the goddess of virginity and motherhood from primitive times. Within the columns of the temple of Artemis, eerie priests and miracle workers abounded. With the occult worship of Artemis and the widespread practice of magic, the city was preoccupied with the black arts. The worship of Artemis included lewd and vile practices such as prostitution and mutilation in the rituals. This made the residents easy prey to false magicians and vulnerable to demonic influences appealing to the flesh. She became the home of criminals and the temple possessed the right of asylum. There were the famous charms and spells From all over the world people came to buy magic parchments called "Ephesian Letters" that guaranteed to bring travel proptection, children to the barren, success in love or business and they would wear them as amulets and charms. It was this Ephesus of ignorance and darkness that Saint Paul came to on his missionariy journey.

The letter of Paul to the Ephesians was written at the same time as Colossians, during Paul's imprisonment at Rome, carried by Tychicus on the journey to Asia. The believers in Ephesus worked themselves to the state of exhaustion for the sake of Jesus. Their labor cost them something... You cannot bear them who are evil... Many Christians are more interested in peace than in purity of doctrine. Tradition and ceremony are the conditions under which the Holy alone existed and was accessible. Obedience, respect, reverence, were the most important religious feelings.

The church at Ephesus is the first of the seven candlesticks of the apocalypse. Traditionalism and the ritualism so closely connected with it are prominent characteristics of the Greek Church, but this is just what shows how far it has departed from the gospel in the value which it attaches to orthodoxy, to sound doctrine but without the vital spirituality of Jesus. They had lost their first love to the point that the candlestick is threatened to be taken from its place.

Ephesus in the first century was a dying city, given to parasite pursuits, living like Athens on a reputation, a curious meeting place of old and new religions, of East and West. The Ephesian epistle was addressed to the church in Ephesus, but intended also as a circular letter to neighboring churches. Paul wrote Ephesians epistle in 61 or 62 from prison in Rome. Paul had done some of his most successful work from around 54 to 57 and there was such a multitude of converts, almost overnight Ephesian Christianity became one of the most powerful influences in the city, and, soon, one of the most famous churches in the world. There were many Jews of the city who were more or less influenced by Christianity, not to mention the many Gentiles. At Ephesus Paul had found a door for effective work wide open and the ones that opposed him did so because he was so successful that trade in silver shrines were effected. Pliney wrote back to Trajan that Christians had become so numerous that Heathen Temples were almost deserted. Christian churches included large and influential elements of the population.

According to Eusebius, John spent his last years in Ephesus. Ephesus became his chief residence and Mary, the mother of Jesus was also there under John's care. This was the time before church buildings or denominations, they met in halls or homes or wherever they could. There was not one great central temple, but many perhaps hundreds of small congregations, each under its own pastor - yet the letter is addressed to "The Church at Ephesus". Hundreds of congregations: yet One Church. John opposed the doctrines of Nestorius, Paul the idolatry.

Pauls's mission was so successful that the temple priests noted a steep decline in the number of pilgrims, and merchants and innkeepers complained of a loss of business.

Timothy was bishop of the church founded by St. Paul. In 262, Ephesus was destroyed by the Goths and never rose to its former glory.
[BD 101, 291, 294, 298, 326, 328, 326, 328, 334, 338, 345, 353, 355, 357, 359]



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