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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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a much celebrated city of Ionia, in Asia Minor, situated upon the river Cayster, and on the side of a hill. It was the metropolis of the Proconsular Asia, and formerly in great renown among Heathen authors on account of its famous temple of Diana. This temple was seven times set on fire: one of the principal conflagrations happened on the very day that Socrates was poisoned, four hundred years before Christ; the other, on the same night in which Alexander the Great was born, when a person of the name of Erostratus set it on fire, according to his own confession, to get himself a name! It was, however, rebuilt and beautified by the Ephesians, toward which the female inhabitants of the city contributed liberally. In the times of the Apostles it retained much of its former grandeur; but, so addicted were the inhabitants of the city to idolatry and the arts of magic, that the prince of darkness would seem to have, at that time, fixed his throne in it. Ephesus is supposed to have first invented those obscure mystical spells and charms by means of which the people pretended to heal diseases and drive away evil spirits; whence originated the ‘Εφεσια γραμματα , or Ephesian letters, so often mentioned by the ancients.

2. The Apostle Paul first visited this city, A.D. 54; but being then on his way to Jerusalem, he abode there only a few weeks,

Acts 18:19-21 . During his short stay, he found a synagogue of the Jews, into which he went, and reasoned with them upon the interesting topics of his ministry, with which they were so pleased that they wished him to prolong his visit. He however declined that, for he had determined, God willing, to be at Jerusalem at an approaching festival; but he promised to return, which he did a few months afterward, and continued there three years, Acts 19:10; Acts 20:31 . While the Apostle abode in Ephesus and its neighbourhood, he gathered a numerous Christian church, to which, at a subsequent period, he wrote that epistle, which forms so important a part of the Apostolic writings. He was then a prisoner at Rome, and the year in which he wrote it must have been 60 or 61 of the Christian aera. It appears to have been transmitted to them by the hands of Tychicus, one of his companions in travel, Ephesians 6:21 . The critics have remarked that the style of the Epistle to the Ephesians is exceedingly elevated; and that it corresponds to the state of the Apostle's mind at the time of writing. Overjoyed with the account which their messenger brought him of the steadfastness of their faith, and the ardency of their love to all the saints, Ephesians 1:15; and, transported with the consideration of the unsearchable wisdom of God displayed in the work of man's redemption, and of his amazing love toward the Gentiles, in introducing them, as fellow-heirs with the Jews, into the kingdom of Christ, he soars into the most exalted contemplation of those sublime topics, and gives utterance to his thoughts in language at once rich and varied. The epistle, says Macknight, is written as it were in a rapture. Grotius remarks that it expresses the sublime matters contained in it in terms more sublime than are to be found in any human language; to which Macknight subjoins this singular but striking observation, that no real Christian can read the doctrinal part of the Epistle to the Ephesians, without being impressed and roused by it, as by the sound of a trumpet.

3. Ephesus was one of the seven churches to which special messages were addressed in the book of Revelation. After a commendation of their first works, to which they were commanded to return, they were accused of having left their first love, and threatened with the removal of their candlestick out of its place, except they should repent, Revelation 2:5 . The contrast which its present state presents to its former glory, is a striking fulfilment of this prophecy. Ephesus was the metropolis of Lydia, a great and opulent city, and, according to Strabo, the greatest emporium of Asia Minor. Its temple of Diana, "whom all Asia worshipped," was adorned with one hundred and twenty-seven columns of Parian marble, each of a single shaft, and sixty feet high, and which formed one of the seven wonders of the world. The remains of its magnificent theatre, in which it is said that twenty thousand people could easily have been seated, are yet to be seen. But a few heaps of stones, and some miserable mud cottages, occasionally tenanted by Turks, without one Christian residing there, are all the remains of ancient Ephesus. It is, as described by different travellers, a solemn and most forlorn spot. The Epistle to the Ephesians is read throughout the world; but there is none in Ephesus to read it now. They left their first love, they returned not to their first works. Their "candlestick has been removed out of its place;" and the great city of Ephesus is no more. Dr. Chandler says, "The inhabitants are a few Greek peasants, living in extreme wretchedness, dependence, and insensibility; the representatives of an illustrious people, and inhabiting the wreck of their greatness: some, in the substructions of the glorious edifices which they raised; some, beneath the vaults of the stadium, once the crowded scene of their diversions; and some, by the abrupt precipice, in the sepulchres which received their ashes. Its streets are obscured and overgrown. A herd of goats was driven to it for shelter from the sun at noon; and a noisy flight of crows from the quarries seemed to insult its silence. We heard the partridge call in the area of the theatre and the stadium. The glorious pomp of its Heathen worship is no longer remembered; and Christianity, which was here nursed by Apostles, and fostered by general councils, until it increased to fulness of stature, barely lingers on in an existence hardly visible." "I

was at Ephesus, says Mr. Arundell, "in January, 1824; the desolation was then complete: a Turk, whose shed we occupied, his Arab servant, and a single Greek, composed the entire population; some Turcomans excepted, whose black tents were pitched among the ruins. The Greek revolution, and the predatory excursions of the Samiotcs, in great measure accounted for this total desertion. There is still, however, a village near, probably the same which Chisull and Van Egmont mention, having four hundred Greek houses."

St. John passed the latter part of his life in Asia Minor, and principally at Ephesus, where he died.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Ephesus'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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