EPH'ESUS (ef'e-sus). The capital of proconsular Asia; an opulent city on the W coast of Asia Minor, located on the banks of the Cayster and about forty miles SE of Smyrna. Its harbor was ample.

History. Ephesus was an ancient city when Paul arrived. By the middle of the second millennium B.C., settlers of Asiatic origin inhabited the site. During the eleventh century B.C., Athenians arrived and gradually assimilated the older population. After varying periods of independence and absorption into neighboring empires, Ephesus came into the Roman Empire in 133 B.C. as part of the province of Asia. Though suffering terribly during the civil wars of the first century B.C., Ephesus enjoyed great prosperity under Rome during the first and second centuries A.D., when the city must have had a population of about a half million. Here the Roman governor resided, and here Paul conducted the longest of his city ministries (two years and nine months, Acts 19:8,10). The city's importance lay in its political prominence, its economic clout derived from its position on major trade routes, and its religious leadership as a center for the worship of Diana, or Artemis. By the middle of the third century signs of decay appeared in the city, and in 263 Goths raided Ephesus and dealt it a blow from which it never recovered. By the tenth century the prosperous city of Roman times was completely deserted and invaded by marshes.

Religion. The Ephesians worshiped the Asiatic goddess Artemis, or Diana (see Gods, False), whose temple, one of the seven wonders of the world, made the city famous. After the temple was destroyed by fire (356 B.C.), it was immediately rebuilt. It is said that some of the magnificent columns are incorporated into the Church of St. Sophia.

There were many Jews in the city who were more or less influenced by Christianity (Acts 2:9; 6:9). Timothy was the bishop of the church founded by Paul. To this church Paul addressed one of his epistles. According to Eusebius John spent his last years in Ephesus. John opposed the doctrines of Nestorius, and Paul opposed the idolatry of those who made or worshiped shrines or practiced magic (19:13). His opposition resulted in a serious riot.

Several important councils were held in Ephesus, among which was the third ecumenical council (June 22-August 31, A.D. 431). A small Turkish town today represents the once noted city, which is called Ayasaluk.

Archaeology. The archaeological history of Ephesus began on May 2, 1863, when the British architect John T. Wood started his search for the temple of Artemis, or Diana. He did not actually discover the ruins of the temple itself (outside the city) until December 31, 1869; after that he worked for five years at the temple site. In 1904-5 D. G. Hogarth did further work on the temple. The temple platform was 239 feet wide and 418 feet long. A flight of ten steps led up to the pavement of the platform. The temple itself was 180 feet wide and 377 feet long, and the roof was supported by 117 60-foot columns. These were 6 feet in diameter and 36 of them were sculptured at the base with life-sized figures.

The Austrian Archaeological Institute began to excavate the city of Ephesus in 1897 and continued there for sixteen years under the leadership of Otto Bendorf and Rudolf Heberdey. In part subsidized by Rockefeller money, the Austrians worked there again from 1926 to 1935, and they have been working annually at the site since 1954. To date they have uncovered about 25 percent of the city. Today one can walk down the ancient streets past the odeion (covered concert hall), the Roman agora, the town hall, the temple of Hadrian, the magnificent library of Celsus (now restored), the Hellenistic agora, the great theater (where the mob scene of Acts 19 occurred), and much more. The Austrians have also done some work at the site of the temple of Artemis, or Diana, and on the Church of St. John, on the hill overlooking the temple. The traditional burial place of the apostle John was located there and was enclosed by a church in the fourth century and covered by a great domed church in the days of Justinian (527-565).

H.F.V.   (From The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)




Chief city of the Ionian confederacy and capital of the Roman province "Asia" (Mysia, Lydia, Caria), on the S. side of the plain of Cayster, and partly on the heights of Prion and Coressus, opposite the island of Samos. A leading scene of Paul's ministry (Acts 18; 19; 20); also one of the seven churches addressed in the Apocalypse (Rev 1:11; 2:1), and the center from from whence John superintended the adjoining churches (Eusebius, 3:23). Ephesus, though she was commended for patient labors for Christ's name's sake, is reproved for having "left her first love."

The port was called Panormus. Commodious roads connected this great emporium of Asia with the interior ("the upper coasts," i.e. the Phrygian table lands, Acts 19:1); also one on the N. to Smyrna, another on the S. to Miletus, whereby the Ephesian elders traveled when summoned by Paul to the latter city. On a N.E. hill stands the church Ayasaluk, corrupted from hagios (NT:40) theologos (NT:2312), "the holy divine," John, Timothy, and the Virgin Mary who was committed by the Lord to John (John 19:26), were said to have been buried there. It was the port where Paul sailed from Corinth, on his way to Syria (Acts 18:19-22). Thence too he probably sailed on a short visit to Corinth [see 1 CORINTHIANS (CORINTHIANS, FIRST EPISTLE TO THE)]; also thence to Macedonia (Acts 19:21,27; 20:1; compare 1 Tim 1:3; 2 Tim 4:12,20).

Originally colonized by the hardy Atticans under Androclus, son of Codrus, it subsequently fell through the enervation of its people under Lydian and Persian domination successively; then under Alexander the Great, and finally under the Romans when these formed their province of Asia (129 B.C.). A proconsul or "deputy" ruled Asia. In Acts 19:38 the plural is for the singular. He was on circuit, holding the assizes then in Ephesus; as is implied, "the law is open," margin "the court days are (now being) kept." Besides a senate there was a popular assembly such as met in the theater, the largest perhaps in the world, traceable still on mount Prion (Acts 19:29). The "town clerk" had charge of the public records, opened state letters, and took notes of the proceedings in the assembly. His appeal, quieting the people, notices that Paul was "not a blasphemer of the Ephesian goddess," a testimony to Paul's tact and wisdom in preaching Christ. The friendly warning of the ASIARCHS (see) to Paul, not to venture into the theater, implies how great an influence the apostle had gained at Ephesus.

Besides being famed as the birthplace of the two painters Apelles and Parrhasius, and the philosopher Heraclitus, Ephesus was notorious for its magical arts and amulets of parchment with inscribed incantations (Ephesia grammata), valued at enormous prices (50,000 pieces of silver), yet freely given up to the flame when their possessors received a living faith (Acts 19:19). In undesigned coincidence with Acts, Paul writing to Timothy (2 Tim 3:13) says "seducers (goeetees, conjurors) shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." The "special miracles" which God wrought by the hands of Paul were exactly suited to conquer the magicians on their own ground: handkerchiefs and aprons from his body brought as a cure to the sick; evil spirits cast out by him; and when exorcists imitated him, the evil spirits turning on them and rending them.

The Diana of Ephesus, instead of the graceful Grecian goddess of the chase, was a mummy-shaped body with many breasts, ending in a point, and with the head of a female with mural crown, and hands with a bar of metal in each; underneath was a rude block. An aerolite probably gave the idea "the image that fell from heaven." After frequent burnings, the last building of her temple took 220 years. See DIANA. Some read Pliny's statement, "the columns were 120, seven of them the gifts of kings"; the diameter of each is six feet, the height 60 feet, according to Ward's measurement. The external pillars according to Wood's arrangement are 88; the whole number, internal and external, 120. The glory of Ephesus was to be "a worshipper of the great goddess" (see margin), literally, a caretaker, warden, or apparitor of the temple (neokoros), and the silversmiths had a flourishing trade in selling portable models of the shrine. Perhaps Alexander the "coppersmith" had a similar business. The "craftsmen" were the designers, the "workmen" ordinary laborers (Acts 19:24-25). The imagery of a temple naturally occurs in 1 Cor 3:9-17 written here, also in 1 Tim 3:15; 6:19; 2 Tim 2:19-20, written to Ephesus; compare also Acts 20:32. Demetrius would be especially sensitive at that time when Diana's sacred month of May was just about to attract the greatest crowds to her, for 1 Cor 16:8 shows Paul was there about that time, and it is probable the uproar took place then; hence we find the Asiarchs present at this time (Acts 19:31). Existing ancient coins illustrate the terms found in Acts, "deputy," "town clerk," "worshipper of Diana." The address at Miletus shows that the Ephesian church had then its bishop presbyters. Paul's companions, Trophimus certainly and Tychicus possibly, were natives of Ephesus (Acts 20:4; 21:29; 2 Tim 4:12.) Also Onesiphorus (2 Tim 1:16-18; 4:19), Hymeneus and Alexander, Hermogenes and Phygellus, of Ephesus, were among Paul's opponents (1 Tim 1:20; 2 Tim 1:15; 4:14).

(from Fausset's Bible Dictionary, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1998 by Biblesoft)



(ef'-e-sus) (Ephesos, "desirable"): A city of the Roman province of Asia, near the mouth of the Cayster river, 3 miles from the western coast of Asia Minor, and opposite the island of Samos. With an artificial harbor accessible to the largest ships, and rivaling the harbor at Miletus, standing at the entrance of the valley which reaches far into the interior of Asia Minor, and connected by highways with the chief cities of the province, Ephesus was the most easily accessible city in Asia, both by land and sea. Its location, therefore, favored its religious, political and commercial development, and presented a most advantageous field for the missionary labors of Paul. The city stood upon the sloping sides and at the base of two hills, Prion and Coressus, commanding a beautiful view; its climate was exceptionally fine, and the soil of the valley was unusually fertile.

Tradition says that in early times near the place where the mother goddess of the earth was born, the Amazons built a city and a temple in which they might worship. This little city of the Amazons, bearing at different times the names of Samorna, Trachea, Ortygia and Ptelea, flourished until in the early Greek days it aroused the cupidity of Androclus, a prince of Athens. He captured it and made it a Greek city. Still another tradition says that Androclus was its founder. However, under Greek rule the Greek civilization gradually supplanted that of the Orientals, the Greek language was spoken in place of the Asiatic; and the Asiatic goddess of the temple assumed more or less the character of the Greek Artemis. Ephesus, therefore, and all that pertained to it, was a mixture of oriental and Greek Though the early history of the city is obscure, it seems that at different times it was in the hands of the Carians, the Leleges and Ionians; in the early historical period it was one of a league of twelve Ionfan cities.

In 560 BC it came into the possession of the Lydians; 3 years later, in 557, it was taken by the Persians; and during the following years the Greeks and Persians were constantly disputing for its possession. Finally, Alexander the Great took it; and at his death it fell to Lysimachus, who gave it the name of Arsinoe, from his second wife. Upon the death of Attalus II (Philadelphus), king of Pergamos, it was bequeathed to the Roman Empire; and in 190, when the Roman province of Asia was formed, it became a part of it. Ephesus and Pergamos, the capital of Asia, were the two great rival cities of the province. Though Pergamos was the center of the Roman religion and of the government, Ephesus was the more accessible, the commercial center and the home of the native goddess Diana; and because of its wealth and situation it gradually became the chief city of the province. It is to the temple of Diana, however, that its great wealth and prominence are largely due. Like the city, it dates from the time of the Amazons, yet what the early temple was like we now have no means of knowing, and of its history we know little excepting that it was seven times destroyed by fire and rebuilt, each time on a scale larger and grander than before. The wealthy king Croesus supplied it with many of its stone columns, and the pilgrims from all the oriental world brought it of their wealth. In time the temple possessed valuable lands; it controlled the fishcries; its priests were the bankers of its enormous revenues. Because of its strength the people stored there their money for safe-keeping; and it became to the ancient world practically all that the Bank of England is to the modern world.

In 356 BC, on the very night when Alexander the Great was born, it was burned; and when he grew to manhood he offered to rebuild it at his own expense if his name might be inscribed upon its portals. This the priests of Ephesus were unwilling to permit, and they politely rejected his offer by saying that it was not fitting for one god to build a temple to another. The wealthy Ephesians themselves undertook its reconstruction, and 220 years passed before its final completion.

Not only was the temple of Diana a place of worship, and a treasure-house, but it was also a museum in which the best statuary and most beautiful paintings were preserved. Among the paintings was one by the famous Apelles, a native of Ephesus, representing Alexander the Great hurling a thunderbolt. It was also a sanctuary for the criminal, a kind of city of refuge, for none might be arrested for any crime whatever when within a bowshot of its walls. There sprang up, therefore, about the temple a village in which the thieves and murderers and other criminals made their homes. Not only did the temple bring vast numbers of pilgrims to the city, as does the Kaaba at Mecca at the present time, but it employed hosts of people apart from the priests and priestesses; among them were the large number of artisans who manufactured images of the goddess Diana, or shrines to sell to the visiting strangers.

Such was Ephesus when Paul on his 2nd missionary journey (Acts 18:19-21) first visited the city, and when, on his 3rd journey (19:8-10; 20:31), he remained there for two years preaching in the synagogue (19:8,10), in the school of Tyrannus (19:9) and in private houses (20:20). Though Paul was probably not the first to bring Christianity to Ephesus, for Jews had long lived there (2:9; 6:9), he was the first to make progress against the worship of Diana. As the fame of his teachings was carried by the pilgrims to their distant homes, his influence extended to every part of Asia Minor. In time the pilgrims, with decreasing faith in Diana, came in fewer numbers; the sales of the shrines of the goddess fell off; Diana of the Ephesians was no longer great; a Christian church was rounded there and flourished, and one of its first leaders was the apostle John. Finally in 262 AD, when the temple of Diana was again burned, its influence had so far departed that it was never again rebuilt. Diana was dead. Ephesus became a Christian city, and in 341 AD a council of the Christian church was held there. The city itself soon lost its importance and decreased in population. The sculptured stones of its great buildings, which were no longer in use and were falling to ruins, were carried away to Italy, and especially to Constantinople for the great church of Saint Sophia. In 1308 the Turks took possession of the little that remained of the city, and deported or murdered its inhabitants. The Cayster river, overflowing its banks, gradually covered with its muddy deposit the spot where the temple of Diana had once stood, and at last its very site was forgotten.

The small village of Ayasaluk, 36 miles from Smyrna on the Aidin R.R., does not mark the site of the ancient city of Ephesus, yet it stands nearest to its ruins. The name Ayasaluk is the corruption of three Greek words meaning "the Holy Word of God." Passing beyond the village one comes to the ruins of the old aqueduct, the fallen city walls, the so-called church of John or the baths, the Turkish fort which is sometimes called Paul's prison, the huge theater which was the scene of the riot of Paul's time, but which now, with its marble torn away, presents but a hole in the side of the hill Prion. In 1863 Mr. J.T. Wood, for the British Museum, obtained permission from the Turkish government to search for the site of the lost temple of Diana. During the eleven years of his excavations at Ephesus, $80,000 were spent, and few cities of antiquity have been more thoroughly explored. The city wall of Lysimachus was found to be 36,000 ft. in length, inclosing an area of 1,027 acres. It was 10 1/2 ft. thick, and strengthened by towers at intervals of 100 ft. The six gates which pierced the wall are now marked by mounds of rubbish. The sites and dimensions of the various public buildings, the streets, the harbor, and the foundations of many of the private houses were ascertained, and numerous inscriptions and sculptures and coins were discovered. Search, however, did not reveal the site of the temple until January 1, 1870, after six years of faithful work. Almost by accident it was then found in the valley outside the city walls, several feet below the present surface. Its foundation, which alone remained, enabled Mr. Wood to reconstruct the entire temple plan. The temple was built upon a foundation which was reached by a flight of ten steps. The building itself was 425 ft. long and 220 ft. wide; each of its 127 pillars which supported the roof of its colonnade was 60 ft. high; like the temples of Greece, its interior was open to the sky. For a further description of the temple, see Mr. Wood's excellent book, Discoveries at Ephesus.  E. J. BANKS

(from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)



[EFF uh sus]-a large and important city on the west coast of Asia Minor where the apostle Paul founded a church (see Map 7, C-2). A number of factors contributed to the prominence which Ephesus enjoyed.

The first factor was economics. Situated at the mouth of the river Cayster, Ephesus was the most favorable seaport in the province of Asia and the most important trade center west of Tarsus. Today, because of silting from the river, the ruins of the city lie in a swamp 8 to 11 kilometers (5 to 7 miles) inland.

Another factor was size. Although Pergamum was the capital of the province of Asia in Roman times, Ephesus was the largest city in the province, having a population of perhaps 300,000 people.

A third factor was culture. Ephesus contained a theater that seated an estimated 25,000 people. A main thoroughfare, some 35 meters (105 feet) wide, ran from the theater to the harbor, at each end of which stood an impressive gate. The thoroughfare was flanked on each side by rows of columns 15 meters (50 feet) deep. Behind these columns were baths, gymnasiums, and impressive buildings.

The fourth, and perhaps most significant, reason for the prominence of Ephesus was religion. The Temple of Artemis (or Diana, according to her Roman name) at Ephesus ranked as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. As the twin sister of Apollo and the daughter of Zeus, Artemis was known variously as the moon goddess, the goddess of hunting, and the patroness of young girls. The temple at Ephesus housed the multi-breasted image of Artemis which was reputed to have come directly from Zeus (Acts 19:35).

The temple of Artemis in Paul's day was supported by 127 columns, each of them 60 meters (197 feet) high. The Ephesians took great pride in this grand edifice. During the Roman period, they promoted the worship of Artemis by minting coins with the inscription, "Diana of Ephesus."

The history of Christianity at Ephesus began probably about A.D. 50, perhaps as a result of the efforts of Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:18). Paul came to Ephesus in about A.D. 52, establishing a resident ministry for the better part of three years (Acts 20:31). During his Ephesian ministry, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians (1 Cor 16:8).

The Book of Acts reports that "all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 19:10), while Paul taught during the hot midday hours in the lecture hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9). Influence from his ministry undoubtedly resulted in the founding of churches in the Lycus River valley at Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colossae.

So influential, in fact, was Paul's ministry at Ephesus that the silversmith's league, which fashioned souvenirs of the temple, feared that the preaching of the gospel would undermine the great temple of Artemis (Acts 19:27). As a result, one of the silversmiths, a man named Demetrius, stirred up a riot against Paul.

During his stay in Ephesus, Paul encountered both great opportunities and great dangers. He baptized believers who apparently came to know the gospel through disciples of John the Baptist (Acts 19:1-5), and he countered the strong influence of magic in Ephesus (Acts 19:11-20).

After Paul departed from Ephesus, Timothy remained to combat false teaching (1 Tim 1:3; 2 Tim 4:3; Acts 20:29). Many traditions testify that the apostle John lived in Ephesus toward the end of the first century. In his vision from the island of Patmos off the coast of Asia Minor, John described the church of Ephesus as flourishing, although it was troubled with false teachers and had lost its first love (Rev 2:1-7). In the sixth century A.D. the Roman emperor Justinian (A.D. 527-565) raised a magnificent church to John's memory in this city.

Ephesus continued to play a prominent role in the history of the early church. A long line of bishops in the Eastern church lived there. In A.D. 431 the Council of Ephesus officially condemned the Nestorian heresy, which taught that there were two separate persons, one divine and one human, in the person of Jesus Christ.

(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)