As you know, I haven’t said anything so far about the place we have the most interest in: Ephesus. The problem I am experiencing is time to write, limited internet access, and a weak internet signal. I love uploading pictures but the last place we visited the wi-fi signal was so poor it was taking at least one half hour to upload one picture. Right now we are aboard our cruise ship and the internet is expensive and too weak a signal to reach our room, so we have to scout out just the right place on the ship to make a strong connection. So, what I have decided to do is to write the blog in Word and then cut and paste it into Weebly who hosts our church website.
I feel that I don’t need to explain the importance of Ephesus to you. Acts 19 gives some input about the city and what the Apostle Paul did there on his second journey. Ephesus was an old city when Paul visited it. Most of the public buildings were put there by Lysimacus, (4th Century B. C.) one of Alexander the Great’s generals. As you may know, when Alexander died at 33 years of age he had already conquered most of the Western world of that time. Lysimacus (various spellings and pronunciations) inherited that part of the world in which Ephesus was located. So he started a building program that made Ephesus the most prominent city of Asia Minor (present day Turkey) during the 1st Century, when Paul visited it. This is also the city in which the Apostle John lived with Mary the mother of Jesus (according to tradition and the testimony of the early church fathers). Today it is the most visited city in all of Turkey—millions come here to see these fantastic ruins.
We began our tour by visiting the House of the Virgin Mary which sits on a high hill overlooking Ephesus. It may or may not be a true story about Mary’s place here (nothing in the Bible about this) but tradition and the early Christian writers mention it. It has become a shrine of the first order, since three popes have visited it in recent times. We then proceeded to enter the city by the old city gate (no longer standing). We then pass by bath houses, administrative buildings and some local housing before making a right turn and moving down the main street (covered with marble—in fact almost everything is covered with marble and it is all still here). We pass by all kinds of temples dedicated to gods or emperors and come to an area that has been recently excavated, referred to as the “slope houses.” These are apartment houses for the well-to-do, and what they have found is stunning (for someone like me who loves archeology and all its findings that touch upon Biblical places, events and people). These discoveries all date from Roman times (1st Century B.C. to about 1st Century A.D.). All the Roman frescoes and mosaics found at Pompei have also been found here. I was shocked by how pristine they all looked, as if they were just done about a week ago.
Coming out of the slope houses we end up right in front of the Library of Celsus. The façade was in pieces all over the ground when I last visited here (1966)—50 years ago. Today the Turkish government has restructured them to look as they did in Roman times. Our guide said the greatest library in the world was found in Alexandria, Egypt; the second greatest library was in Pergamum (we saw that a day earlier) and the third was here, the Library of Celsus. Moving down “Marble Street” we come to the great auditorium. Here is where we link up with Bible history. The Roman theater was the largest ever found from Roman times. It contained seating for 25,000 people. Since Roman theaters were built to seat 10% of the population, it means that the population of Ephesus in Paul’s time was at least 250,000 people. Ephesus was the most important city of Asia Minor, as I said earlier, and that was why the Apostle Paul wanted to convert this city for Christ. And judging by what the book of Acts says about what happened here he was very successful in establishing a church in this city and penetrating the darkness of paganism that had fallen upon this place.
One story about a personal experience I had here in the theater: In 1963 I visited Ephesus with another (older) pastor and with a car full of people who were interested in seeing this place. We were in the theater when my Pastor friend (Joe Hill) and I decided to test the acoustics by shouting “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” (Read Ephesians 19 for more context on this). One of the visitors was a man from Rome named Giovanni Roda. He asked why we were shouting these words. We took him aside and read the whole story in Acts 19 about Paul’s visit here. When we were done he was shocked by this story and said he had no idea that there were such interesting events in the Bible. We said to him, “You should read the Bible sometime—there are lots of interesting things in it.” And what we said to him, unfortunately, needs to be said to so many Christians who attend our churches today!
Bud & Kathy
Bud and Kathy Downs are making another trip to the Lands of the Bible-- first Turkey and Greece (from May 11 to 22) and then to Israel (from May 22 to June 8). We invite you to join us through our travel blog. We intend to post regular updates and pictures of Bible sites.