October 6, 2010 // Uncategorized

Christianity spreads through Ephesus despite lesser gods

Where is Ephesus where the silversmiths rioted against St. Paul?
Ephesus is a city in western Turkey. At the time of St. Paul, Ephesus was the fourth largest city in the Roman Empire, following: 1) Rome in Italy; 2) Alexandria in Egypt; and 3) Antioch in Syria. Today Ephesus is one of the most extensively excavated archaeological sites in the world. Around the 10th century B.C. the Greeks brought their own goddess Artemis or Diana to Ephesus. They built the beautiful Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and the first temple to be constructed entirely of marble. The ancient author Pliny the Younger says the columns in front of the temple were carved with notable Greek events. The statue of Artemis stood in the inner sanctuary. E. Blake says the temple faced west, toward the sea and the setting sun. Now the temple is in ruins with a lone Ionian column.

Because of the great tourist attraction of the Temple of Artemis, Demetrius the silversmith was making money by making miniature shrines of the goddess Artemis. But St. Paul was preaching about Jesus and against the pagan gods, like Artemis, saying that man-made gods are no gods at all. Paul’s speech caused a riot by the silversmiths, because Paul was hurting their business. In spite of the riot, however, Christianity spread quickly in Ephesus and eventually supplanted the worship of Artemis.

One of the most beautiful structures in Ephesus is the ancient theater where the riot took place. It holds 24,000 people. The acoustics are magnificent. You can stand on the stage below, like St. Paul, and they can hear you on the highest row of seats. The top seats feature a view of the entire city.

Another imposing and magnificent structure in Ephesus is the Library of Celsus. A. Edmonds says that here thousands of parchments and papyri were stored. Then there is the Church of the Virgin Mary where the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus was held in 431 A.D. to give the Blessed Virgin Mary the title of “Mother of God.” Modern popes have visited this church. It is the first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Finally there is the House of the Virgin Mary five miles from Ephesus on a hill. The foundation stones of this house go back to the first century A.D. when Mary lived. The house has been converted into a chapel. The icons are reputed to have curative powers attested to by the crutches and braces left in the corner by healed pilgrims. When I visited this house, outside were lines of pilgrims getting holy water from the well. Even Muslims took the water. Modern popes have also visited the House of Mary.

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