Partner with as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


Additional Links

EPHESUS . The capital of the Roman province Asia; a large and ancient city at the mouth of the river Cayster, and about 3 miles from the open sea. The origin of the name, which is native and not Greek, is unknown. It stood at the entrance to one of the four clefts in the surrounding hills. It is along these valleys that the roads through the central plateau of Asia Minor pass. The chief of these was the route up the Mæander as far as the Lycus, its tributary, then along the Lycus towards Apamea. It was the most important avenue of civilization in Asia Minor under the Roman Empire. Miletus had been in earlier times a more important harbour than Ephesus, but the track across from this main road to Ephesus was much shorter than the road to Miletus, and was over a pass only 600 ft. high. Consequently Ephesus replaced Miletus before and during the Roman Empire, especially as the Mæander had silted up so much as to spoil the harbour at the latter place. It became the great emporium for all the trade N. of Mt. Taurus.

Ephesus was on the main route from Rome to the East, and many side roads and sea-routes converged at it (Acts 19:21; Acts 20:1; Act 20:17 , 1 Timothy 1:3 , 2 Timothy 4:12 ). The governors of the provinces in Asia Minor had always to land at Ephesus. It was an obvious centre for the work of St. Paul, as influences from there spread over the whole province ( Acts 19:10 ). Corinth was the next great station on the way to Rome, and communication between the two places was constant. The ship in Acts 18:19 , bound from Corinth for the Syrian coast, touched first at Ephesus.

Besides Paul, Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21 f.) and Timothy (according to 1 Timothy 1:3 , 2 Timothy 4:9 ), John Mark ( Colossians 4:10 , 1 Peter 5:13 ), and the writer of the Apocalypse ( Revelation 1:11; Revelation 2:1 ) were acquainted with Asia or Ephesus.

The harbour of Ephesus was kept large enough and deep enough only by constant attention. The alluvial deposits were (and are) so great that, when once the Roman Empire had ceased to hold sway, the harbour became gradually smaller and smaller, so that now Ephesus is far away from the sea. Even in St. Paul’s time there appear to have been difficulties about navigating the channel, and ships avoided Ephesus except when loading or unloading was necessary (cf. Acts 20:16 ). The route by the high lands, from Ephesus to the East, was suitable for foot passengers and light traffic, and was used by St. Paul ( Acts 19:1; probably also Acts 16:6 ). The alternative was the main road through Colossæ and Laodicea neither of which St. Paul ever visited ( Colossians 2:1 ).

In the open plain, about 5 miles from the sea, S. of the river, stands a little hill which has always been a religious centre. Below its S. W. slope was the temple sacred to Artemis (see Diana of the Ephesians). The Greek city Ephesus was built at a distance of 1 2 miles S. W. of this hill. The history of the town turns very much on the opposition between the free Greek spirit of progress and the slavish submission of the Oriental population to the goddess. CrÅ“sus the Lydian represented the predominance of the latter over the former, but Lysimachus (b.c. 295) revived the Greek influence. Ephesus, however, was always proud of the position of ‘Warden of the Temple of Artemis’ (Acts 19:35 ). The festivals were thronged by crowds from the whole of the province of Asia. St. Paul, whose residence in Ephesus lasted 2 years and 3 months ( Acts 19:8; Acts 19:10 ), or roughly expressed, 3 years ( Acts 20:31 ). at first incurred no opposition from the devotees of the goddess, because new foreign religions did not lessen the influence of the native goddess; but when his teaching proved prejudicial to the money interests of the people who made a living out of the worship, he was at once bitterly attacked. Prior to this occurrence, his influence had caused many of the famous magicians of the place to burn their books ( Acts 19:13-19 ). The riot of 19:32 was no mere passing fury of a section of the populace. The references to Ephesus in the Epistles show that the opposition to Christianity there was as long-continued as it was virulent ( 1 Corinthians 15:32; 1Co 16:9 , 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 1:10 ).

The scene in Acts 19:23 ff. derives some Illustration from an account of the topography and the government of the city. The ruins of the theatre are large, and it has been calculated that it could hold 24,000 people. It was on the western slope of Mt. Pion, and overlooked the harbour. The Asiarchs (see Asiarch), who were friendly to St. Paul, may have been present in Ephesus at that time on account of a meeting of their body ( Acts 19:31 ). The town-clerk or secretary of the city appears as a person of importance, and this is exactly in accordance with what is known of municipal affairs in such cities. The Empire brought decay of the influence of popular assemblies, which tended more and more to come into the hands of the officials, though the assembly at Ephesus was really the highest municipal authority ( Acts 19:39 ), and the Roman courts and the proconsuls ( Acts 19:38 ) were the final judicial authority in processes against individuals. The meeting of the assembly described in Acts was not a legal meeting. Legal meetings could be summoned only by the Roman officials, who had the power to call together the people when they pleased. The secretary tried to act as intermediary between the people and these officials, and save the people from trouble at their hands. The temple of Artemis which existed in St. Paul’s day was of enormous size. Apart from religious purposes, it was used as a treasure-house: as to the precise arrangements for the charge of this treasure we are in ignorance.

There is evidence outside the NT also for the presence of Jews in Ephesus. The twelve who had been baptized with the baptism of John (Acts 19:3 ) may have been persons who had emigrated to Ephesus before the mission of Jesus began. When St. Paul turned from the Jews to the population in general, he appeared, as earlier in Athens, as a lecturer in philosophy, and occupied the school of Tyrannus out of school hours. The earlier part of the day, beginning before dawn, he spent in manual labour. The actual foundation of Christianity in Ephesus may have been due to Priscilla and Aquila ( Acts 18:19 ).

‘Ephesian’ occurs as a variant reading in the ‘Western’ text of Acts 20:4 for the words ‘of Asia,’ as applied to Tychicus and Trophimus. Trophimus was an inhabitant of Ephesus ( Acts 21:29 ), capital of Asia; but Tychicus was probably merely an Inhabitant of the province Asia; hence they are coupled under the only adjective applicable to both. It is hardly safe to infer from the fact that Tychicus bore the letter to the Colossians that he belonged to Colossæ (province Asia); but it is possible that he did.

A. Souter.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Ephesus'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse:
Next Entry