Ephesus (Fun Facts)

Established in the 10th Century BC, it came under Roman rule 129bc. Due to the continuous silting of the coastline of the Mediterranean it was finally abandoned in the 15th century.

Interestingly, most of the city lay underground and in ruins until some German archeologists began an excavation project in 1863-1868. Due to two world wars, the projects halted several times, and now under the Turkish government tourism is beginning to blossom in this historic area.

Read Acts 19 for the recounting of the major uprising that took place led by the idol makers against ‘the way’ which was undermining their revenue.

Ephesus was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Among many other monumental buildings are the Library of Celsus, and a theatre capable of holding 25,000 spectators. The streets are lined with various temples, even those built by Roman authorities for themselves who claimed divinity. One such Emperor, Domitian, who exiled John from the city to the island of Patmos (Revelation), built a a monument dedicated to his greatness in which all other gods were placed under him, as his face and name stood ‘high and above’ all other gods. This is probably the reference Paul is making about Christ as he encouraged the believers in Ephesus who lived among quite hostile neighbors.

The history of Artemis is quite fascinating. The Roman goddess Diana, of fertility is related. Temple prostitution, degradation of women, and all kinds of horrific practices of mutilation were normative in this City. Gnosticism was so dominant in this time, that what happened in the flesh or material world was of secondary consequence not only to the pagan worshipers but began to seep into Christianity as well. Paul, through his letters, and the work of the Church in this culture sought to root believers in both the invisible and visible worlds, to live at once in the reality of God – what we do in the flesh, how we treat one another, how we honor our neighbor, this matters, because God is not just a pagan invisible god, but in Christ we see He is also visible, and this flesh is not bad and unimportant, but to be honored, re-created through Christ’s life and salvation. In essence, the pagan world looked to escape this world, but Christ shows by coming into it, Creation is restored, and rebirthed by the Spirit – Christians aren’t trying to escape, we already have heaven in our hearts, here and now!

It is Christ, not Caesar, or pagan gods that sits, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (Eph 1:21).

This is the site of the 431AD Church council. It was surreal to walk among this place, knowing that folks like Cyril, and Nestorious, and many others debated, fought, and defended the heart of the Christian faith against many dangerous nuanced heresies that undermined either the full divinity of Jesus, or full humanity. So thankful I was able to take some courses which covered this founding creeds and histories of this era – what a blessing to have information come alive!

It is widely believed that the Apostle John lived most of his life in Ephesus, and because Christ commissioned him to take care of his mother Mary, that Mary too lived here. When Nerva became emperor John was pardoned and returned to Ephesus, where he lived the remainder of his days. Historians also maintain that John wrote his Gospel and three epistles in Ephesus.

Across from this incredible and unique library of it’s time, is a ‘pleasure house’ for sexual exploits. This was a fallen depraved city at it’s peak.

Historians say church here 3rd century built on John remains, then in 6th century emperor Justinian dedicated a basilica. Timothy was martyred on Pion Hill, today’s Panayır dağ. Others said to be buried there include Philip the Evangelist, Mary Magdalene
Tradition, probably based on New Testament inferences, made him first bishop of Ephesus, where he was allegedly martyred under the Roman emperor Nerva. I was able to get a photo of the hill, where Timothy was allegedly martyred.

Pion Hill, site of executions.

Several 5th century church councils took place here, the most famous in 431AD, where Christs full humanity and divinity, concurrently existing, as well as affirming the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father, making the Spirit not less, but equal with the Son, who was already embraced as equal with the Father.

In 356BC the famed temple Artemis was burned down. On that very night, per legend, Alexander the Great was born. Artemis the goddess of fertility.. exacting revenge? Alexander would soon be visiting these lands.

So much bloodshed in these lands. Power struggles, wars. In 88BC from Ephesus, Mithridates ordered every Roman citizen in the province to be killed which led to the Asiatic Vespers, the slaughter of 80,000 Roman citizens in Asia, or any person who spoke with a Latin accent.

Mark Antony was welcomed by Ephesus for periods when he was proconsul and in 33 BC with Cleopatra when he gathered his fleet of 800 ships before the battle of Actium with Octavius

Miletus (fun facts)

Miletus was an ancient Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia, near the mouth of the Maeander River in ancient Caria. Like Ephesus, Miletus is long since silted up, now +8km inland. It was excavate late 1800- 1957. Before the 6th century BC Persian invasions, it was considered one of the wealthiest ancient Greek cities. It’s roots actually date to the Neolithic period – 12,000 to 6500BC!

Later half of 6th century bc (570-500) Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes founded the famed Milesian school of philosophy. These men paved the way for natural explanations of phenomenon and origins of the world. The first to suggest the earth was a sphere (wait, not flat!?) and believed it to be suspended somehow in space. Some of their ideas were out there, but the more you read and understand the context of the day, the mental models, the sheer lack of knowledge available, the more you come to appreciate their courage and brilliance. Talk about going against the flow, and being differentiated against rigid, and unflinching systems!

Miletus also had its own oracle like the more famous one in Delphi from the 6th-7th Century BC.

In 334BC Alexander the Great defeats Persians and claims Miletus. In 323AD when Alex died, Miletus came under the control of Ptolemy. Read Daniel chapter 11 for what many theologians consider to be what happened with the four winds being Alexander’s four generals who gobbled up his kingdom.

Apostle Paul in AD 57 met the elders of the church of Ephesus near the close of his Third Missionary Journey, as recorded in Acts of the Apostles (Acts 20:15–38). It is believed that Paul stopped by the Great Harbor Monument and sat on its steps

The great ‘Harbor Monument’ in Miletus, about 50 miles south of Ephesus where Paul greets the elders from Ephesus and Luke recounts the tearful goodbye as Paul heads to his chains awaiting in Jerusalem. Acts 20.

Another mention of Miletus is in 2 Timothy 4:20 – Paul left Trophimus, one of his traveling companions, to recover from an illness.

Clark overlooking the Miletus amphitheater. The original theater was smaller, then the Romans built two more decks! We loved not having any restrictions and being able to roam underneath in the tunnels! To think the pre-Socratics sat here, those that are responsible for the birth of rational, scientific thought – and unfortunately, also some of their ideas seeped into Christian tradition as well which led to thinking God was unable to dynamically be, to relate, to change and somehow so transcendent that the incarnation becomes a farce.
The early disciples, the first and and second century church walked these streets, lambs among wolves. For 2 1/2 years Paul stayed here and served the growing community.
Gladiator events took place here, for how many was this their final moments.
The amphitheaters were built into the sides of mountains, so you can see how time and degradation works away at the massive stones.
All along the West coast of Turkey in certain sections are ‘kabob’ outdoor drive-in spots – we actually have no idea what we ate, but it was delicious. I think it was lamb.

So much history, not enough time! We left Deb and the kids at the hotel, drove around 7 hours in total, and 4-5hrs in the baking hot sun. It was a long, but incredible day we’ll never forget!

Next time we go to Turkey, we need to 4-5 days to tour the 6 other churches from John’s revelation. Now that I’ve visited Ephesus, and studied a little of Revelation, it’s clear to me that he was not speaking of the ‘end times’ or things yet to come, but rather the cosmic, and material battles the world is undergoing, up until the final culmination of time, the victory of the slain lamb of God, over the present travailing darkness and it’s puppet regimes. Stepping into the history of Roman antiquity, it’s quite astounding to think anyone could have dreamed at the time, that the kingdoms of this world do, in fact, become dust, and the kingdom of Christ marches on, through an entirely different worldview – one of victory through suffering, through love.

We are wise to put our trust not in nations, not in any particular culture. Time is transient, it has no mercy and will do it’s work on the hardest of rocks and marble. What seems impenetrable, will be broken down, only through embracing death, like our Savior, will we too claim the rights to His victory over it through our own death, and subsequent life. We know we are eternal beings, made in teh image of a good, and perfect Creator. Fight as we might against our own mortality, our energy will wain, and give way to a better, more perfect life.