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THE city of Ephesus, now completely destroyed, was one of the most important places in the eastern world. It was situated near the sea, on the western coast of Asia Minor, on the river Cayster, in the Roman Proconsular Province of Asia. It stood nearly opposite to the island of Samos, and its harbour was one of the most frequented of ancient times, being a highly convenient one for the commerce between the eastern and western world.
In very early days the Phoenicians had founded a city and built a temple in honour of some female deity, by the bank of the Cayster. Later on, in the year 19, before Christ, Ephesus became the capital of the province called Asia, and was governed by Proconsuls from Rome.
Important as the commerce of Ephesus undoubtedly was, the city was still more renowned as a religious centre. The temple of Diana * was one of the wonders of the ancient world. This was its chief glory, and drew to the city an immense number of strangers from all parts, while the various industries connected with the worship of the temple made many settle down as permanent inhabitants. An example of this is found in Demetrius, the silversmith, who made small silver models of the temple to sell among the pilgrims.* Before the time of our Lord there was a considerable Jewish colony at Ephesus, attracted by the commercial advantages of the city, and they no doubt were the pilgrims from Asia mentioned in Acts ii. 9. Asia would mean, not the continent, but that large portion of Asia Minor called the Province of Asia, extending along the western coast from Lycia in the south to Bithynia in the north, Ephesus being the capital.
*“Scribebat (S. Paulus) ad Ephesios Dianam colentes, non hanc venatricem quæ arcum tenet atque succincta est, sed illam multimammiam, ut scilicet ex ipsa quoque effigie mentirentur omnium eam bestiarum et viventium esse nutricem.”-ST. JEROME, in Epist. ad Ephesios.
The temple of Diana was situated on a hill outside the city, where at present nothing is seen except a small and very poor Turkish village. "The topography of the place is very simple," writes Mr. Lewin. “The city stood on the south of a plain about five miles long, from east to west, and three miles broad, the northern boundary being Mount Gallesius, the eastern Mount Pactyas, the southern Mount Prion or Pion, and on the west it was washed by the sea. The sides of the mountains were precipitous, and shut up the plain like a stadium, or racecourse. About half-way along the southern side of the plain stood a little forward the circular hill of Coressus, famous for its quarries of beautiful marble, the source of the surrounding magnifi
To the north-east of Coressus rose out of the middle of the plain a little mount, the seat of the modern village of Ayasaluch, or the Holy Divine (*Aylos Ocó loyos), as St. John was called, who passed his latter days at Ephesus. The Cayster entered the plain at the north-east corner, and flowed diagonally across it (but with many meanders) to the south-western side, where it discharged
* Acts xix. 24.
itself into the sea. As one entered the broad mouth of the river, and after ascending a little distance, but before reaching the city, one came to an opening on the right hand, leading in a south-eastern direction to what had originally been an extensive lake, once famous for its fish, but was now a broad basin artificially embanked, and filled with shipping. This was the celebrated port, the busy scene of the commerce of all nations. Ephesus itself covered Mount Coressus and part of the plain to the north of it, and extended on the west to the port, and on the south along the valley between Mount Coressus and Prion, or Pion, and covered part of Prion, or Pion, itself.” *
The temple, no remains of which are now visible, stood on a hill, and is said to have “gleamed like a meteor” in the eyes of those entering the city from the sea.
It was built of marble, which glittered in the sun. More inan two centuries were occupied in building this heathen shrine, which was 425 feet long, 220 feet broad, and possessed 127 pillars of marble 60 feet high, each one the gift of some king.
The famous statue of Diana was of wood, some authors telling us it was constructed of ebony, others of cedar, and others of vine wood.
The worship of Diana was very elaborate, and the temple was not only the most prominent building in the city, but its chief source of wealth and influence. The whole of the provinces of Asia contributed to its erection. In this temple in ancient times hung the masterpiece of the celebrated artist Apelles, the subject being Alexander the Great, grasping a thunderbolt.
* The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, by THOMAS LEWIN, M.A., vol. i., p. 319, in the magnificently illustrated edition of George Bell and Sons, London.
EPHESUS IN ST. PAUL'S TIME
The first time that we find St. Paul at Ephesus was on his journey from Corinth to Jerusalem, A.D. 53. He sailed, St. Luke tells us, from Corinth, and with him Priscilla and her husband Aquila, fervent converts to the faith. St. Paul on his arrival in Ephesus disputed with the Jews in the synagogue, as his custom was in every place, but he remained no long time in the city. “When they desired him, that he would tarry a longer time, he consented not, but taking his leave, and saying, I will return to you again, God willing, he departed from Ephesus." *
After St. Paul had gone, leaving Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus, the city was visited by a Jew named Apollo, or Apollos, "born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, mighty in the Scriptures." He had been a disciple of St. John the Baptist, and had been by him “instructed in the way of the Lord, and being fervent in spirit, spoke and taught diligently the things that are of Jesus, knowing only the Baptism of John.” Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching in the synagogue, and found that he knew little or nothing of the Christian religion, except the great truth that Jesus was the Messiah. They therefore took him home and "expounded the way of the Lord to him more diligently." He converted several in Ephesus, and then sailed for Corinth with letters of introduction from the Christians of Ephesus to those of Corinth. Here he laboured much, and we read of him in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, which was written at Ephesus. It is supposed that he afterwards became Bishop of Corinth. During his third apostolic journey St. Paul visited * Acts xviii. 20.
+ Acts xviii. 24.
Ephesus again, remaining this time for more than two years. Probably the Apostle lodged at first in the house of Aquila, who was, like him, a tentmaker. That St. Paul worked for his own maintenance at his trade we infer from what he himself tells us in his Epistle to the Corinthians. He was in Ephesus when he wrote that Epistle. *
The first incident after his arrival is described by St. Luke. t The Apostle found twelve disciples who had been converted by the preaching of Apollos, but on inquiry he discovered that they had not received Christian Baptism, but only that of St. John. He instructed and baptized them “in the name of the Lord Jesus," which means with Christian Baptism in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. He then confirmed them, and the Holy Ghost came down upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.
St. Paul first preached to the Jews of Ephesus, going into the synagogue, expounding the Scriptures, proving that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah, and explaining to them about the kingdom of God, that is, the Church. He persevered for three months, making many converts, but the majority hardened their hearts and resisted the grace of God.
As some of the Jews were inclined to inflame the multitude against the Apostle, he thought it more prudent to leave the synagogue and to address himself to the heathens. He therefore began “to dispute daily in the school of a man named Tyrannus.” † These public conferences "he continued for the space of two years," and great multitudes of Greeks as well as Jews heard the gospel
1 Cor. iv. 11, 12. + Acts xix. 1-8. I Acts xix. 9.