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Our full final day included a walk through Ephesus. This really the highlight of any tour to western Turkey. Although Perge and Heriopolis were large sites and restored very nicely, Ephesus has more to see and it is a far more significant location historically.

The drive from Izmir approaches the city at the upper entrance at the Magnesia Gate. There is an Odeon dating to A.D. 150 just inside the entrance to the site, but the first thing to interest me is the Square to Domitian, an indication of the strength of the imperial cult in Ephesus at the end of the first century and the early second century. In the Square to Domitian there is a reproduction of a Nike relief (the real on is in the Ephesus Museum). From this spot tourists can get a great photo of the sloping Roman street (the “Avenue of the Curate”) leading to the Library of Celsus and the Agora.

There are several interesting things to see on this street, including a public toilet and bathhouse. The entrance to the bathhouse has inscriptions dedicated to both the Empire and Artemis. For some reasons people love to see the ancient toilets, although Ephesus has roped these off so tourists can no longer take those awkward photos. The Hadrian temple has been largely replaced with replicas, but still offers a view of the imperial might of Rome in Ephesus.

Although an additional ticket is required, the Terrace Houses were a highlight for me. These six residences are across from the Hadrian Temple and demonstrate how the wealthy and elite citizens of Ephesus lived in the Roman period. These houses look like modern condos, with open air courtyards, water pipes (and at least one indoor toilet). Many of the walls have the original art and a few have ornate mosaic floors. The entire complex is covered to protect it from the elements, and the stairs work their way up the hill, exiting with a view of the street which passes by the agora, leading to the large theater. From this point on the hillside you could hike to the Cave of Paul and Thecla, assuming you have arranged for the visit (and paid the fee).

Terrace Houses at Ephesus

Terrace Houses at Ephesus

The Library of Celsus dates to the second century (completed about A.D. 114), so this is not the place Paul rented space from Tyrannus (Acts 19:9). Although the library was destroyed in a earthquake in A.D. 262, the reconstructed façade of the library is spectacular, with replica statues of Sophia (wisdom), Episteme (knowledge), Ennoia (intelligence) and Arete (virtue). The library was eventually converted into a bathhouse, although only a large pool remains.

Next to the library is the entrance to the entrance to the agora. This is the largest we have visited on this trip (525×240 feet), although very little has been excavated or restored. The Hellenistic agora sits lower than the street running from the Terrace Houses and the theater (Roman period). This theater seats up to 25,000 and is the location of the riot in Acts 19:21-34. Since it faces the harbor, the noise of the riot would not have been heard in the boule near the Magnesia Gate, explaining why it took some time for the town clerk to arrive. A street leads from the theater to the ancient harbor.

After our tour of Ephesus, drove a short distance to what is left of the temple of Artemis. There is not much to see, only a single pillar and a few stones remain. The temple of Artemis at Sardis was a far better was to see the grandeur of this kind of temple.

Following Artemis, we ate lunch at a Turkish rug factory. This is fairly typical of a tourist visit, and the shop gave a very interesting demonstration on how they obtained from the worms and how the women who make the rugs work the loom. They brought out about 50 rugs while we waited and I am glad someone in our group bought one to offset our free lunch. I would have preferred to skip the rugs and spend another hour at Ephesus, but that it was not a total waste of time.

We tried to visit the Basilica of Saint John, the traditional burial site of the apostle John. Despite a sunny morning during our walk through Ephesus, a serious rain storm rolled in while we were entering the church as we needed to retreat to the van.

It was much warmer in the Ephesus museum, and there is a great deal to see there. The museum houses some of the major finds from Ephesus, including two statures of Artemis, one dating to the first century.  These are on display at the very end of the walk through the museum along with the gigantic head and forearm from a statue of Domitian (or possibly Titus). In addition to these more spectacular displays, the museum has a large display of statutes from Ephesus, all very clearly arranged and labeled. A number of displays were dedicated to items discovered in the Terrace houses. These illustrate the lifestyle of the wealthy in the city. In the courtyard between the two buildings are several important inscriptions, but these lack transcription and translation.

 

 

Paul’s years in Ephesus are perhaps his most fruitful times in ministry. Witherington comments that Luke intends this unit to be a “lasting model of what a universalistic Christian mission ought to look like” (Acts, 573). It is perhaps strange to think of this as the third missionary journey, since Paul stays in Ephesus for three years. This is Paul’s longest period of settled ministry and perhaps the most fruitful time in his entire career.  Christianity does in fact spread throughout Asia Minor and Ephesus becomes a center for Christianity into the early middle ages.

EphesusAs is his usual pattern, Paul begins at a synagogue (19:8-9). As we have come to expect by this point in Acts, Ephesus had a large Jewish population as well (Josephus, Antiq. 14.225-227, 16.162-168, 172-173). That Paul meets several important Jewish Christians in Ephesus (Aquila and Priscilla, Apollos, as well as some disciples of John) indicates the importance of Ephesus to the Jews.

Paul is able to spend three months in the synagogue arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. Paul is described as speaking freely (παρρησιάζομαι), the same verb used to describe Apollos in the synagogue (18:26) as well as Paul and Barnabas in the synagogue in Psidian Antioch (13:46).  The word refers to boldness or fearlessness in speech. Paul is not holding anything back in his time in the synagogue. The phrase “kingdom of God” likely refers to a whole range of topics Paul preaches on in synagogues. This would include arguing Jesus is the messiah, but also that the messiah would die and rise again.

Luke chooses an important word to describe the negative response of the synagogue to Paul’s preaching.  The NIV’s “obstinate” (σκληρύνω) is used in the Septuagint to describe hard-heartedness toward the word of God. For example, this the word used in Exodus for Pharaoh’s hear (4:3). In LXX Jer 7:26 the prophet describes resistance to the word of the Lord as “stiffening the neck.” In the Second Temple period, the writer of PsSol 8:28-29 says the nation “stiffened their neck” and was sent into exile as a result.

These Jews are acting like their forefathers, a point made also by Stephen in Acts 7.  The word describes a choice not to believe something, but also the fact that this stubbornness leads to a stronger unbelief.  This can be seen in the “hardening” of Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus (or Rom 9:18).  He chose to be stubborn, and then the Lord increased his stubbornness as judgment.

Unlike Paul’s previous experience in Philippi or Thessalonica, he is able to remain in the city of Ephesus for a long time, perhaps as long as three years.  In fact, Paul’s time in Ephesus might be his most successful ministry described in the book of Acts. What contributes to this success? Does Paul do anything different in Ephesus? Or is this a matter of being at the right place at the right time?

Ephesians is one of the books in the Pauline collection which is frequently assumed to be pseudonymous.  Despite the fact that Paul refers to himself four times in the letter (1:1, 3:1, 4:1, and 6:19-22), the majority of scholarship in the last 150 years denies the authenticity of the letter. Rather than written by the “historical Paul,” the letter was created in the late first century, perhaps as a companion to the book of Acts.

P49 Verso

While there are many variations on this argument, many introductions to Paul reject the letter as authentic on the basis of vocabulary, style, and theology.  For many, the letter does not sound enough like Romans, Galatians, or 1-2 Corinthians to be accepted as authentic.  Usually the letter of Ephesians is thought to be a post-Pauline compendium of Paul’s theology.  It was written by a disciple of Paul (“Paul’s best disciple,” Brown, 620).  Sometimes the reconstruction of the circumstances are quite complex. For example, Goodspeed suggested that Onesimus returned to Philemon, was released from his slavery and eventually became the bishop of Ephesus. After Acts was published, there was a great deal of interest in Paul, so Onesimus gathered all the various letters Paul sent to the churches of Ephesus as an introduction to Paul’s theology.  As Brown says, this is interesting but “totally a guess.”

There are some differences between Ephesians and the other Pauline letters.  For example, the common Pauline term brethren is missing (except 6:23), and the letter never calls the Jewish people “Jews” in the epistle, even though the Jews are an important part of his argument.  More surprising is the fact that the verb “to justify” is not used, even though while it is common in Galatians and Romans and might have been useful in the argument of 2:11-22.

Does it matter if Paul did not write the letter himself?  If the letter contains the actual “voice of Paul” then the letter can be considered Pauline.  By way of analogy, in the study of the Gospels there is a great deal of discussion over the words of Jesus.  When I read the words of Jesus in my ESV Bible, can I know that these are the real words of the historical Jesus?  The answer which satisfies me is that the words of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels are true “voice of Jesus,” even though they are not the actual words Jesus’ words were originally spoken in Aramaic, translated to Greek and then to English for me to read!

In the same way, even if Ephesians was not written by Paul, the true “voice of Paul” can be found in the letter.  As it happens I think Paul did write Ephesians, albeit much later in his life during his Roman house arrest.  The letter was intended to go to all the house churches in Ephesus and there is no burning problem which Paul has to address (as in Galatians or Corinthians).  This explains why the letter is generic in terms of theology and practice.

Considering Ephesians to be an authentic Pauline letter may change the way we envision Paul’s  theology.  While Romans and Galatians are concerning with justification and the struggle to define the Church as something different than Judaism, Ephesians is a witness to the universal church which includes Jews and Gentiles in “one body.”  Unity of the church seems to be Paul’s main theme in the letter.  Rather than drawing lines, Paul is arguing for unity among those who are “in Christ.”

How might taking Ephesians seriously change the way we think about various elements of Pauline Theology?

Most people in the ancient world believed in the power of protective magic.  According to Clint Arnold, Jewish magic was famous in the ancient world (Acts, 193).  In his monograph Magic in Ephesus he details magical practices in the Ephesus as well as Jewish use of magic and talismans to ward off evil.  It is no surprise to find people in Ephesus who are not only using magical items, but that Jews functioned as exorcists and magicians may come as a shock.  Many Jews found a lucrative trade selling incantations and amulets in Ephesus.

Jewish exorcists are well known in the anEphesian Amulet 1cient world, especially in Ephesus (see for example, Josephus Antiq. 8.42-49) and Jews were especially famous for magic. Jewish names were especially thought to have magical powers, as is illustrated by Paris Papyri 574, “I abjure you by Jesus the God of the Hebrews,” and “hail God of Abraham, Hail God of Isaac, hail God of Jacob, Jesus Chrestus, Holy Spirit, Son of the Father.”

Some of these Jewish exorcists have begun to use the names of both Jesus and Paul as “power words” to cast out demons. This is the only place in the New Testament where the Greek ἐξορκιστής (exorcist) is used.  Sceva is identified as a chief priest (not the high priest), although it is his sons who are attempting to cast out this demon.  When commanded, the demon reverses the usual process and “exorcizes” the exorcists! This humorous scene shows that the God of Paul is not to be manipulated like the other gods of the ancient world.

The news of beating of the sons of Sceva spreads quickly.  The text says that the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor (μεγαλύνω).  This does not necessarily mean people became believers. The word appears in Acts 5:13 to refer to the reputation the apostles gained in Jerusalem (“held in high regard by the people”), but certainly in that context  people were not converted to Christianity.

Luke reports that many who were already believers openly confessed their sin of magic and publicly burned their scrolls. Luke uses the perfect tense to describe these magicians – they have already believed in Jesus and were saved, but they had not given up their magical practices quite yet.  Perhaps burning their scrolls is an act of “self preservation,” as Witherington puts it.  Other magicians and exorcists had to be amazed at what had happened to the sons of Sceva, even if they were not willing to have a saving faith in the Lord Jesus (Acts, 582).

Ephesian Amulet 2The people public confess their evil deeds.  This likely means they made public spells and magical words which were kept in secret.  Public confession would render them ineffective (Bruce, Acts of the Apostles, 412).  In addition to the public confession of guilt, many others bring magic texts to voluntarily burn. Public book burnings are common in the Greco-Roman world, subversive or dangerous texts were destroyed.  The best example is Augustus himself, who collected Greek Sibylline oracles and had them destroyed since they could be used to foment rebellion against the empire.

This points out that the new converts in Ephesus were not yet “de-paganized.”  Like the Corinthians, the converts in Ephesus struggled to integrate Christ and their culture.  What strikes me as odd is that the disciples of John the Baptist were not Christians because they had not yet received the Holy Spirit, but these magicians were in fact Christians (having received the Spirit), despite the fact they continued in a pagan practice after becoming “in Christ.”  I seriously doubt that Paul and the other missionaries approved of the practice, but there must have been some toleration at first since it took some time before the magicians renounced their trade.

What are the implications for modern evangelism, either in America or in other missions work?

Further reading in Magical Papyri: H. D. Betz, “Introduction to the Magical Papyri,” in The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986).

Acts 19-20 portrays Paul as a free man.  After his time in Ephesus Paul will return to Jerusalem to be arrested and eventually travel to Rome as a prisoner.  Witherington comments that Luke intends this unit to be a “lasting model of what a universalistic Christian mission ought to look like.” (Witherington, Acts, 573)

CelsusIt is perhaps strange to think of this as the third missionary journey, since Paul stays in Ephesus for three years. This is Paul’s longest period of settled ministry and perhaps the most fruitful time in his entire career.  Christianity does in fact spread throughout Asia Minor and Ephesus becomes a center for Christianity into the early middle ages.

As is his usual pattern, Paul enters the Synagogue (19:8-9).  As we might expect by this point in Acts, Ephesus had a large Jewish population as well (Josephus, Antiq. 14.225-227, 16.162-168, 172-173).  That Paul meets several important Jewish Christians in Ephesus (Aquila and Priscilla, Apollos, as well as some disciples of John) indicates the importance of Ephesus to the Jews.  The Jewish community dates to the third century B.C., and was the largest in the region. Lamps decorated with menorahs have been found in Ephesus, indicating a large Jewish population.

Paul is able to spend three months in the synagogue arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. Paul is described as speaking freely, (parrasiazomai), the same verb used to describe Apollos in the synagogue in 18:26 as well as Paul and Barnabas in the synagogue in Psidian Antioch in 13:46.  The word has the idea of freedom, but also boldness, fearlessness, etc.  Paul is not holding anything back in his time in the synagogue. The phrase “kingdom of God” likely refers to a whole range of topics Paul preaches on in synagogues, Jesus as the Christ, that the Christ had to die and rise again, and perhaps even the nature of the kingdom in the present era.

Luke chooses an important word to describe the negative response of the synagogue to Paul’s preaching.  The NIV’s “obstinate” is used in the Septuagint frequently to describe hard-heartedness toward the word of God.  These Jews are acting like their forefathers, a point made also by Stephen in Acts 7.  The word describes a choice not to believe something, but also the fact that this stubbornness leads to a stronger unbelief.  This can be seen in the “hardening” of Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus (or Rom 9:18).  He chose to be stubborn, and then the Lord increased his stubbornness as judgment.

Unlike Paul’s previous experience in Thessalonica, he is able to remain in the city of Ephesus for a long time, perhaps as long as three years.  In fact, Paul’s time in Ephesus might be his most successful ministry described in the book of Acts.

Ephesians is one of the books in the Pauline collection which is frequently assumed to be pseudonymous.  Despite the fact that Paul refers to himself four times in the letter (1:1, 3:1, 4:1, and 6:19-22), the majority of scholarship in the last 150 years denies the authenticity of the letter. Rather than written by the “historical Paul,” the letter was created in the late first century, perhaps as a companion to the book of Acts.

P49 Verso

While there are many variations on this argument, many introductions to Paul reject the letter as authentic on the basis of vocabulary, style, and theology.  For many, the letter does not sound enough like Romans, Galatians, or 1-2 Corinthians to be accepted as authentic.  Usually the letter of Ephesians is thought to be a post-Pauline compendium of Paul’s theology.  It was written by a disciple of Paul (“Paul’s best disciple,” Brown, 620).  Sometimes the reconstruction of the circumstances are quite complex. For example, Goodspeed suggested that Onesimus returned to Philemon, was released from his slavery and eventually became the bishop of Ephesus. After Acts was published, there was a great deal of interest in Paul, so Onesimus gathered all the various letters Paul sent to the churches of Ephesus as an introduction to Paul’s theology.  As Brown says, this is interesting but “totally a guess.”

There are some differences between Ephesians and the other Pauline letters.  For example, the common Pauline term brethren is missing (except 6:23), and the letter never calls the Jewish people “Jews” in the epistle, even though the Jews are an important part of his argument.  More surprising is the fact that the verb “to justify” is not used, even though while it is common in Galatians and Romans and might have been useful in the argument of 2:11-22.

Does it matter if Paul did not write the letter himself?  If the letter contains the actual “voice of Paul” then the letter can be considered Pauline.  By way of analogy, in the study of the Gospels there is a great deal of discussion over the words of Jesus.  When I read the words of Jesus in my ESV Bible, can I know that these are the real words of the historical Jesus?  The answer which satisfies me is that the words of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels are true “voice of Jesus,” even though they are not the actual words Jesus’ words were originally spoken in Aramaic, translated to Greek and then to English for me to read!

In the same way, even if Ephesians was not written by Paul, the true “voice of Paul” can be found in the letter.  As it happens I think Paul did write Ephesians, albeit much later in his life during his Roman house arrest.  The letter was intended to go to all the house churches in Ephesus and there is no burning problem which Paul has to address (as in Galatians or Corinthians).  This explains why the letter is generic in terms of theology and practice.

Considering Ephesians to be an authentic Pauline letter may change the way we envision Paul’s  theology.  While Romans and Galatians are concerning with justification and the struggle to define the Church as something different than Judaism, Ephesians is a witness to the universal church which includes Jews and Gentiles in “one body.”  Unity of the church seems to be Paul’s main theme in the letter.  Rather than drawing lines, Paul is arguing for unity among those who are “in Christ.”

How might taking Ephesians seriously change the way we think about various elements of Pauline Theology?

Most people in the ancient world believed in the power of protective magic.  According to Clint Arnold, Jewish magic was famous in the ancient world (Acts, 193).  In his monograph Magic in Ephesus he details magical practices in the Ephesus as well as Jewish use of magic and talismans to ward off evil.  It is no surprise to find people in Ephesus who are not only using magical items, but that Jews functioned as exorcists and magicians may come as a shock.  Many Jews found a lucrative trade selling incantations and amulets in Ephesus.

Jewish exorcists are well known in the ancient world, especially in Ephesus (see for example, Josephus Antiq. 8.42-49) and Jews were especially famous for magic. Jewish names were especially thought to have magical powers, as is illustrated by Paris Papyri 574, “I abjure you by Jesus the God of the Hebrews,” and “hail God of Abraham, Hail God of Isaac, hail God of Jacob, Jesus Chrestus, Holy Spirit, Son of the Father.”

Some of these Jewish exorcists have begun to use the names of both Jesus and Paul as “power words” to cast out demons. This is the only place in the New Testament where the Greek ἐξορκιστής (exorcist) is used.  Sceva is identified as a chief priest (not the high priest), although it is his sons who are attempting to cast out this demon.  When commanded, the demon reverses the usual process and “exorcizes” the exorcists! This humorous scene shows that the God of Paul is not to be manipulated like the other gods of the ancient world.

The news of beating of the sons of Sceva spreads quickly.  The text says that the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor (μεγαλύνω).  This does not necessarily mean people became believers. The word appears in Acts 5:13 to refer to the reputation the apostles gained in Jerusalem (“held in high regard by the people”), but certainly in that context  people were not converted to Christianity.

Luke reports that many who were already believers openly confessed their sin of magic and publicly burned their scrolls. Luke uses the perfect tense to describe these magicians – they have already believed in Jesus and were saved, but they had not given up their magical practices quite yet.  Perhaps burning their scrolls is an act of “self preservation,” as Witherington puts it.  Other magicians and exorcists had to be amazed at what had happened to the sons of Sceva, even if they were not willing to have a saving faith in the Lord Jesus (Acts, 582).

The people public confess their evil deeds.  This likely means they made public spells and magical words which were kept in secret.  Public confession would render them ineffective (Bruce, Acts of the Apostles, 412).  In addition to the public confession of guilt, many others bring magic texts to voluntarily burn. Public book burnings are common in the Greco-Roman world, subversive or dangerous texts were destroyed.  The best example is Augustus himself, who collected Greek Sibylline oracles and had them destroyed since they could be used to foment rebellion against the empire.

This points out that the new converts in Ephesus were not yet “de-paganized.”  Like the Corinthians, the converts in Ephesus struggled to integrate Christ and their culture.  What strikes me as odd is that the disciples of John the Baptist were not Christians because they had not yet received the Holy Spirit, but these magicians were in fact Christians (having received the Spirit), despite the fact they continued in a pagan practice after becoming “in Christ.”  I seriously doubt that Paul and the other missionaries approved of the practice, but there must have been some toleration at first since it took some time before the magicians renounced their trade.

What are the implications for modern evangelism, either in America or in other missions work?

Further reading in Magical Papyri: H. D. Betz, “Introduction to the Magical Papyri,” in The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986).

After a busy couple of weeks, I hope to “catch up” a bit on this blog.  This refers to to the last Sunday evening in March, the audio is here, and the PDF of my handout for that evening is also available.

Acts 19-20 is the section Acts in which Paul is a free man.  After his time in Ephesus Paul will return to Jerusalem to be arrested and eventually travel to Rome as a prisoner.  Witherington comments that Luke intends this unit to be a “lasting model of what a universalistic Christian mission ought to look like.” (Witherington, Acts, 573)

It is perhaps strange to think of this as the third missionary journey, since Paul stays in Ephesus for three years. This is Paul’s longest period of settled ministry and perhaps the most fruitful time in his entire career.  Christianity does in fact spread throughout Asia Minor and Ephesus becomes a center for Christianity into the early middle ages.

As is his usual pattern, Paul enters the Synagogue (19:8-9).  Paul is able to spend three months in the synagogue arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. Paul is described as speaking freely, (parrasiazomai), the same verb used to describe Apollos in the synagogue in 18:26 as well as Paul and Barnabas in the synagogue in Psidian Antioch in 13:46.  The word has the idea of freedom, but also boldness, fearlessness, etc.  Paul is not holding anything back in his time in the synagogue. The phrase “kingdom of God” likely refers to a whole range of topics Paul preaches on in synagogues, Jesus as the Christ, that the Christ had to die and rise again, and perhaps even the nature of the kingdom in the present era.

Luke chooses an important word to describe the negative response of the synagogue to Paul’s preaching.  The NIV’s “obstinate” is used in the Septuagint frequently to describe hard-heartedness toward the word of God.  These Jews are acting like their forefathers, a point made also by Stephen in Acts 7.  The word describes a choice not to believe something, but also the fact that this stubbornness leads to a stronger unbelief.  This can be seen in the “hardening” of Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus (or Rom 9:18).  He chose to be stubborn, and then the Lord increased his stubbornness as judgment.

Paul appears to stay in the synagogue until some begin to insult the “Way.”  This is another example of the contrast between Paul’s rational speech and the opponent’s method of personal attack; they do not engage in appropriate discussion of arguments based on scripture, but rather attacks on Paul and his teaching.

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