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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(῎Εφεσος, according to one legend from ἔφεσις , the permission given by Hercules to the Amazons to settle here), an illustrious city (Athen. 8:361) in the district of Ionia (πόλις Ι᾿ωνίας ἐπιφανεστάτη, Steph. Byz. s.v.), on the western coast of the peninsula commonly called Asia Minor — not that this geographical term was known in the first century. The ASIA of the N.T. was simply the Roman province which embraced the western part of the peninsula. Of this province Ephesus was the capital. (See ASIA MINOR).
1. History. — It was one of the twelve Ionian cities in Asia Minor in the mythic times (Herod. 1:142), and said to have been founded by the Amazons, but in later times inhabited by the Carians and Leleges (Strabo, 14:640), and taken possession of by the Ionians under Androclus, the son of Codrus (Cramer, Asia Miswr, 1:363). Besides the name by which it is best known, it bore successively those of Samorna, Trachea, Ortygia, and Ptelea. Being founded by Androclus, the legitimate son of Codrus, it enjoyed a pre-eminence over the other members of the Ionian confederacy, and was denominated the royal city of Ionia. The climate and country which the colonists from Attica had selected as their future abode surpassed, according to Herodotus (1:142), all others in beauty and fertility; and, had the martial spirit of the Ionians corresponded to their natural advantages, they might have grown into a powerful independent nation. The softness, however; of the climate, and the ease with which the necessaries of life could be procured, transformed the hardy inhabitants of the rugged Attica into an indolent and voluptuous race: hence they fell successively under the power of the Lydians (B.C. 560) and the Persians (B.C. 557); and, though the revolt of Histioeus and Aristagoras against the Persian power was for a time successful, the contest at length terminated in favor of the latter (Herod. 6:7-22). The defeat of the Persians by the Greeks gave a temporary liberty to the Ionian cities; but the battle of Mycale transferred the virtual dominion of the country to Athens. During the Peloponnesian war they paid tribute indifferently to either party, and the treaty of Antalcidas (B.C. 387) once more restored them to their old masters the Persians. They beheld with indifference the exploits of Alexander and the disputes of his captains, and resigned themselves without a struggle to successive conquerors. Ephesus was included in the dominions of Lysimachus; but, after the defeat of Antiochus (B.C. 190), it was given by the Romans to the kings of Pergamum. In the year B.C. 129 the Romans formed their province of Asia. The fickle Ephesians took part with Mithridates against the Romans, and massacred the garrison: they had reason to be grateful for the unusual clemency of L. Cornelius Sulla, who merely inflicted heavy fines upon the inhabitants. Thenceforward the city formed part of the Roman empire. While, about the epoch of the introduction of Christianity, the other cities of Asia Minor declined, Ephesus rose more and more. It owed its prosperity in part to the favor of its governors, for Lysimachus named the city Arsinoe in honor of his second wife, and Attalus Philadelphus furnished it with splendid wharves and docks; in part to the favorable position of the place, which naturally made it the emporium of Asia on this side the Taurus (Strabo, 14:641, 663). Under the Romans, Ephesus was the capital not only of Ionia, but of the entire province of Asia, and bore the honorable title of the first and greatest metropolis of Asia (Bockh, Coap. Inscript. Graec. 2968-2992). The bishop of Ephesus in later times was the president of the Asiatic dioceses, with the rights and privileges of a patriarch (Evagr. Hist. Ecclesiastes 3:6). Towards the end of the 11th century Ephesus experienced the same fate as Smyrna; and, after a brief occupation by the Greeks, it surrendered in 1308 to sultan Saysan, who, to prevent future insurrections, removed most of the inhabitants to Tyriaeum, where they were massacred
2. Biblical Notices. — That Jews were established there in considerable numbers is known from Josephus (Ant. 14:10, 11), and might be inferred from its mercantile eminence; but it is also evident from Acts 2:9; Acts 6:9. In harmony with the character of Ephesus as a place of concourse and commerce, it is here, and here only, that we find disciples of John the Baptist explicitly mentioned after the ascension of Christ (Acts 18:25; Acts 19:3). The case of Apollos (Acts 18:24) is an exemplification further of the intercourse between, this place and Alexandria. The first seeds of Christian truth were possibly sown at Ephesus immediately after the great Pentecost (Acts 2:1-47). Whatever previous plans Paul may have entertained (Acts 16:6), his first visit was on his return from the second missionary circuit (Acts 18:19-21), and his stay on that occasion was very short; nor is there any proof that he found any Christians at Ephesus, but he left there Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:19), who both then and at a later period (2 Timothy 4:19) were of signal service. In Paul's own stay of more than two years (Acts 19:8; Acts 19:10; Acts 20:31), which formed the most important passage of his third circuit, and during which he labored, first in the synagogue (Acts 19:8), and then in the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9), and also in private houses (Acts 20:20), and during which he wrote the First Epistle to the Corinthians, we have the period of the chief evangelization of this shore of the AEgean. The direct narrative in Acts 19:1-41 receives but little elucidation from the Epistle to the Ephesians, which was written after several years from Rome; but it is supplemented in some important particulars (especially as regards the apostle's personal habits of self-denial, Acts 20:34) by the address at Miletus. This address shows that the Church at Ephesus was thoroughly organized under its presbyters. On leaving the city, the apostle left Timothy in charge of the Church there (1 Timothy 1:3), a position which he seems to have retained for a considerable period, as we learn from the second epistle addressed to him. (See TIMOTHY). Among Paul's. other companions, two, Trophimus and Tychicus, were natives of Asia (Acts 20:4), and the latter probably (2 Timothy 4:12), the former certainly (Acts 21:29), natives of Ephesus. In the same connection we ought to mention Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16-18) and his household (4:19). On the other hand must be noticed certain specified Ephesian antagonists of the apostle, the sons of Sceva and his party (Acts 19:14), Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 4:14), and Phygellus and Hermogenes (2 Timothy 1:15). (See PAUL). Ephesus is also closely connected with the apostle John, not only as being the scene (Revelation 1:11; Revelation 2:1) of the most prominent of the churches of the Apocalypse, but also in the story of his later life as given by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 3:23, etc.). According to a tradition which prevailed extensively in ancient times, John spent many years in Ephesus, where he employed himself most diligently for the spread of the Gospel, and where he died at a very old age, and was buried. (See JOHN (THE APOSTLE)). Possibly 'his Gospels and Epistles were written here. There is a tradition that the mother of our Lord was likewise buried at Ephesus, as also Timothy. Some make John bishop of the Ephesian communities, while others ascribe that honor to Timothy. In the book of Revelation (Revelation 2:1) a favorable testimony is borne to the Christian churches at Ephesus. Ignatius addressed one of his epistles to the Church of this place (τῇ ἐκκλησίᾷ τῇ ἀξιομακαρίστῳ, τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Ε᾿φέσῳ τῆς Ἀσίας, Hefele, Pat. Apostol. page 154), which held a conspicuous position during the early ages of Christianity, and was in fact, the metropolis of the churches of this part of Asia.
3. Location. — Ephesus lay on the Egoean coast, nearly opposite the island of Samos, 320 stadia from Smyrna (Strabo, 14:632). The ancient town seems to have been confined to the northern slope of Coressus (Herod. 1:26), but in the lapse of time the inhabitants advanced farther into the plain, and thus a new town sprang up around the temple (Strabo, 14:640). All the cities of Ionia were remarkably well situated for the growth of commercial prosperity (Herod. 1:142), and none more so than Ephesus. With a fertile neighborhood (Strabo, 14:637) and an excellent climate, it was also most conveniently placed for traffic with all the neighboring parts of the Levant. In the time of Augustus it was the great emporium of all the regions of Asia within the Taurus (Strabo, 14:950); its harbor (named Panormus), at the mouth of the Cayster, was elaborately constructed, though alluvial matter caused serious hinderances both in the time of Attalus and in Paul's own time (Tacitus, Ann. 16:23). The apostle's life alone furnishes illustrations of its mercantile relations with Achaia on the W., Macedonia on the N., and Syria on the E. At the close of his second missionary circuit, he sailed across from Corinth to Ephesus (Acts 18:19), when on his way to Syria (Acts 18:21-22): some think that he once made the same short voyage over the AEgaean, in the opposite direction, at a later period. (See CORINTHIANS, FIRST EP). TO. On the third missionary circuit, besides the notice of the journey from Ephesus to Macedonia (Acts 19:21; Acts 20:1), we have the coast voyage on the return to Syria given in detail (20, 21), and the geographical relations of this city with the islands and neighboring parts of the coast minutely indicated (Acts 20:15-17). To these passages we must add 1 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 4:12; 2 Timothy 4:20; though it is difficult to say confidently whether the journeys implied there were by land or by water. See likewise Acts 19:27; Acts 20:1.
As to the relations of Ephesus to the inland regions of the continent, these also are prominently brought before us in the apostle's travels. The "upper coasts" (τὰ ἀνωτερικὰ μέρη , Acts 19:1), through which he passed when about to take up his residence in the city, were the Phrygian table- lands of the interior; and it was probably in the same district that on a previous occasion (Acts 16:6) he formed the unsuccessful project of preaching the Gospel in the district of Asia. Two great roads at least, in the Roman times, led eastward from Ephesus; one through the passes of Tmolus to Sardis (Revelation 3:1), and thence to Galatia and the N.E., the other round the extremity of Pactyas to Magnesia, and so up the valley of the Mieander to Iconium, whence the communication was direct to the Euphrates and to the Syrian Antioch. There seem to have been Sardian and Magnesian gates on the E. side of Ephesus corresponding to these roads respectively. There were also coast-roads leading northwards to Smyrna, and southwards to Miletus. By the latter of these it is probable that the Ephesian elders traveled when summoned to meet Paul at the latter city (Acts 20:17-18). Part of the pavement of the Sardian road has been noticed by travelers under the cliffs of Gallesus. (See LEAKE'S ASIA MINOR, AND MAP).
Among the more marked physical features of the peninsula are the two large rivers, Hermus and Mseander, which flow from a remote part of the interior westward to the Archipelago, Smyrna (Revelation 2:8) being near the mouth of one, and Miletus (Acts 20:17) of the other. Between the valleys drained by these two rivers is the shorter stream and smaller basin of the Cayster, called by the Turks Kutschuk-Mendere, or the Little Maeander. Its upper level (often called the Caystrian meadows) was closed to the westward by the gorge between Gallesus and Pactyas, the latter of these mountains being a prolongation of the range of Messogis, which bounds the valley of the Maeander on the north, the former more remotely connected with the range of Tmolus, which bounds the valley of the Hermus on the south. Beyond the gorge and towards. the sea the valley opens out again into an alluvial flat (Herod. 2:10), with hills rising abruptly from it. The plain is now about 5 miles in breadth, but formerly it must have been smaller, and some of the hills were once probably islands. Here Ephesus stood, partly on the level ground and partly on the hills.
Of the hills, on which a large portion of the city was built, the two most important were Prion and Coressus, the latter on the S. of the plain, and being, in fact, almost a continuation of Pactyas, the former being in front of Coressus and near it, though separated by a deep and definite valley. Further to the N.E. is another conspicuous eminence. It seems to be the hill mentioned by Procopius (De AEdif. 5:1) as one on which a church dedicated to the apostle John was built; and its present name Ayasaluk is absurdly thought to have reference to him, and to be a corruption of his traditionary title ὁ ἄγιος θεόλογος . (See generally Cellarii Notit. 2:80.)
4. Government. — It is well known that Asia was a proconsular province; and in harmony with this fact we find proconsuls (ἀνθύπατοι, A.V. "deputies") specially mentioned (Acts 19:38). Nor is it necessary to inquire here whether the plural in this passage is generic, or whether the governors of other provinces were present in Ephesus at the time. Again, we learn from Pliny (5:31) that Ephesus was an assize-town (Jorum or conventus); and in the N.T. narrative (Acts 19:38) we find the court- days alluded to as actually being held (ἀγοραῖοι ἄγονται , A.V. " the law is open") during the uproar; though perhaps it is not absolutely necessary to give the expression this exact reference as to time (see Wordsworth in loc.). Ephesus itself was a "free city," and had its own assemblies and its own magistrates. The senate (γερουσία, or βουλή ) is mentioned not only by Strabo, but by Josephus (Ant. 14:10, 25; 16:6, 4 and 7); and Luke, in the narrative before us, speaks of the δῆμος (Acts 19:30; Acts 19:33, A.V. "the people") and of its customary assemblies (ἐννόμῳ ἐκκλησίᾷ, Acts 19:39, A.V. "a lawful assembly"). That the tumultuary meeting which was gathered on the occasion in question should take place in the theater (Acts 19:29; Acts 19:31) was nothing extraordinary. It was at a meeting in the theater at Caesarea that Agrippa I received his death-stroke (Acts 12:23), and in Greek cities this was often the place for large assemblies (Tacitus, Hist. 2:80; Val. Max. 2:2).
We even find conspicuous mention made of one of the most important municipal officers of Ephesus, the "town-clerk" (q.v.) (γραμματεύς ), or keeper of the records, whom we know from other sources to have been a person of great influence and responsibility. It is remarkable how all these political and religious characteristics of Ephesus, which appear in the sacred narrative, are illustrated by inscriptions and coins. An ἀρχεῖον , or state-paper office, is mentioned on an inscription in Chishull. The γραμματεύς frequently appears; so also the Ἀσιάρχαι and ἀνθύπατοι. Sometimes these words are combined in the same inscription; see, for instance, Bockh, Corp. Inscr. 2999, 2994, 2996. The later coins of Ephesus are full of allusions to the worship of Diana in various aspects. The word νεωκόρος (warden, A.V. "worshipper") is of frequent occurrence. That which is given last below has also the word ἀνθύπατος (proconsul, A.V. "deputy"); it exhibits an image of the temple, and, bearing as it does the name and head of Nero, it must have been struck about the time of Paul's stay in Ephesus. The one immediately preceding it bears the name (Cusinius) of the acting γραμματεύς ("town-clerk") at the time.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Ephesus'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/e/ephesus.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.