A case in context-Ephesians

11 Jan

So my last post (other than Chuck Norris jeans) was about the importance of context. This post is a bit of a case study before I go off to bed. It’s only 9:00pm on a Saturday night as I start this but I’ve got a pretty bad cold I am fighting off.

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God
to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.”

Suppose someone asked you to read the book of Ephesians. What comes to your mind when you think of Ephesus? Probably nothing, especially if you are new to the scriptures. Now I affirm that you can pick up the letter and read the whole of it, within
the whole of the cannon of scripture and gain a lot of correct thoughts and through the Spirit of God find yourselves transformed. But I have a feeling that you can pick up quite a bit of baggage along the way.

So a few observations of Ephesus (which will come into play in future posts)

It was the place where East met West. This was no truer than in the case of the goddesses. From the East the goddess was named Cybele. Literally, “Big Momma.” As in I worship a Big Momma. From the West was the goddess Diana. From what we know about her she was known as the goddess of the hunt and the protector of small animals (common, you can’t have it both ways). They merged together as best we can understand in the goddess named Artemis. She was known as the eternal many breasted fertility goddess.

Now every goddess has to have a home town and Ephesus was neochorus to Artemis worship. This meant that she had her temple here. In fact it was one of the seven wonders of the world. Antipater, a second century B.C. historian said:

“I’ve seen Babylon’s walls wide enough to take traffic.
I’ve seen the statue of Zeus on the banks of the Alphesus.
I’ve seen the Hanging Gardens and the Sun’s Colossus.
The enourmous labour of the Pyramids towering upwards,
The immense tomb of Maussolus, but once
I’d set eyes on
The temple of Artemis with the clouds almost touching
It put all other marvels into the shade.
Except for Olympus
I’d say the Sun shed its light on nothing sublimer.”

One of the primary ways that the people understood and interacted with the goddess was through the seeking of blessings from Artemis. They believed that this was best acquired through praise of Artemis and being uninhibited towards their passions. So there became a month long festival called the Artemisia. Often times the population would swell to well over a million people (huge for ancient times…just imagine the plumbing problems alone) with pilgrims from all over.

Here are two descriptions of the Artemesia:

“The people of Ephesus thought it would be appropriate for the entire month which has this holy name to be consecrated
and dedicated to the goddess; by his decree, we have decided to establish the following cult in her honor: that the
month of Artemision should be sacred throughout all its days and that on those days of that month, feasts and the
celebration of Artemisia should take place, so that, in fact, the whole month should be consecrated to the goddess. The
greater the honor rendered to the goddess the surer our city is to remain ever more blessed with good fortune and
glory.”

“It was the monthly festival of Artemis and the whole place was full of drunken roysterers; the whol night long the
entire market-place was occupied by crowds of people.”

More to come next post. Let it soak in…it’ll make sense later.

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