If you didn’t already know this, I am a complete and total geek. I love the historical context of scripture, and will spend way too much time trying to discover more about the settings of the time. Thankfully for you, my inner nerd produces short(er) summaries of all the information I learn so that others can benefit from my randomly acquired knowledge. And so, I give you a summary of my search to understand Ephesus.
Ephesus was a large city in Asia Minor, aka Turkey. As a major trade point with access to multiple bodies of water and an intricate road system, Ephesus was one of the economical centers of its time. It was also known for its worship of Diana or Artemis. This pagan goddess known in both Roman and Greek mythology was believed to be a great hunter, the goddess of fertility, and the protector of the poor. Ephesus was a city devoted to her, so much so that they spent over 200 years building a temple to her that later became one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Paul spent time ministering at the church of Ephesus during his third missionary journey around 57 A.D. At the end of his time there, an unruly mob of craftsmen began to riot because Christianity was beginning to destroy their business (Acts 19). The silversmith Demetrius and his colleagues made their profits constructing idols of Artemis, and Christianity threatened that by declaring that there was only one true God. The Christian way of life was so well known and radical that it became known as the “Way”. And, the Way was threatening the status quo in Ephesus.
The imagery of the riot in Acts 19 amazes me. It says that the disciples begged Paul not to venture into the theater because of the mob. The theater was a massive amphitheater that held over 25,000 people. Scripture says that there was a mass crowd in chaos- some were angry, many confused, and quite a few people didn’t even know why they were rioting. I am trying to imagine what kind of crowd Paul and the other believers faced as they served Jesus by witnessing in public places like the theater.
In my study of Ephesus, I came across this preview of Mark Driscoll’s Ephesians project. It talks a little more about life in Ephesus and is really interesting- especially the portions of economics, freed slaves, and community. If you have a few minutes, check it out. I would recommend fast forwarding the video to 2:40 and playing it from there.
Awesome, huh? Can you imagine the Christian couch surfing of the time? “Hey, you have a Jesus fish wheel symbol thing on your door, can I crash here?’ Don’t I wish traveling were the same way today; though, I prefer airplanes and cars to camels and foot.
Back to the book of Ephesians. Ephesians was penned somewhere around 62-65 A.D. while Paul was in prison in Rome. There is some debate as to whether Paul wrote the epistle and who the epistle was written to, but the evidence and opinion I have found leads me to believe that Paul is the author and the churches at Ephesus were the original recipients. Though, this epistle was meant to be a circular letter, passed from church to church.
Ephesians is unique in that it doesn’t contain the personal rebuke or correction of many of the other epistles. It is written to those who love God regardless of their location and background. Ephesians is a beautiful declaration of doctrine explaining how Christ relates to His church and the duty of the Church to respond to their relationship with Christ. My prayer is that this study of Ephesians will challenge each of the girls in my group to understand who God has created them to be as individuals and a community and to act with a remainder of their first Love Jesus. I’m excited to see what God does as we dive into His word and learn more about the early Church.