A Brief History of Ephesus

The earliest signs of settlement were during the period of the Hittites around1350 BC.  In 1000 BC Androclos came fromAthensand settled the area.  Myth states that the Greeks killed all the men and married the widows to begin a new settlement.

Temple of Artemis

By the 7th Century BC Ephesus had become more established and built a Temple to Artemis.  The Greek goddess Artemis (Roman, Diana) is goddess of virginity & hunting, however this particular temple god was believed to be a melding with the Phrygian goddess Kybele, which made Artemis at Ephesus goddess of childbirth and death.  The Temple was built opening to the West as opposed to the traditional way to the east.  In the 6th Century BC a massive replacement temple funded by the Lydians measuring 180’ x 377’ was built.  It contained 127 60’ columns.  Some say it was even bigger.  It was the largest temple in the Greek world and became one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient World. This was a huge economic boost and contributed to population growth and great wealth to the city.

In 356 BC the Templeof Artemiswas burned by an arsonist.  It was said that this was on the same day (July 1st) that Alexander the Great was born.  A smaller one was rebuilt starting in 323 BC.  Another interesting fact is that Mark Antony and Cleopatra went toEphesus where her sister was murdered at Mark Antony’s order on the steps of the temple.  The Goths destroyed theTemple and it was rebuilt again in 268 AD.


During the 6th Century BC Ephesus became a center of pre-Socratic thought much like its neighboring city, Miletus.  By the 1st Century BC it had grown to be the capital of the western side ofAsia.  There was a medical school, library, theater, baths, fountains, temples, an aqueduct and paved streets.   The main street was marble and very wide. Ephesus was also considered the world capital of slave trade.


Paul stayed atEphesusfor 3 years working with a thriving community of believers.  Tradition says that John and Luke died inEphesus.

The 1st Council of Ephesus in 431 AD (3rd General Council) was convened to condemn Nestorianism. (Disunity of Christ’s nature)

The 2nd Council of Ephesus in 449 AD was convoked by Emperor Theodosius II but because of the controversial proceedings it was labeled a Robber Synod.   Later it was repudiated at the Council of Chalcedon.

3rd Council of Ephesus in 475 AD ratified an encyclical of Emperor Basiliscus which condemned the Council of Chalcedon which repudiated the notion of a single nature in Christ, and defined that he has two natures in one person and hypostasis; it insisted on the completeness of his two natures, Godhead and manhood.  It also purported that Constantinople enjoyed an honor and authority second to, but comparable to, that ofRome.

The next 600 years were full of wars of conquering tribes in Anatolia.  One of those conquering tribes were the Seljuk Turks who were Islamic converts.  There were nine Crusades (1095-1272) as a result of this that affected Anatolia.  There was a dramatic decrease in Christian influence in this area and the city all but disappeared.  By the 15th centuryEphesus had been conquered by theOttoman Empire and was only a small village.  The harbor was silted up so ships were sent to nearby Ayasuluğ.(Selcuk)

The Church of Ephesus, Bold But Lacking

The church at Ephesusin the 1st century was living out their faith in a materialistic culture that was religiously pluralistic and boldly evil.  I was struck as I walked this site at how prominent the brothel and the numerous temples that promoted sexual immorality were.  It was also a center for philosophy and education that was strongly secular in nature.  .  It was full of wizards, sorcerers, astrologers, fortune tellers, secular philosophers, brothels, temple prostitutes and all sorts of evils.  Yet, even in the midst of this they resisted the false teachings and allurements of the day.  Christ commended them for opposing the Nicolaitans.

The Nicolaitans were a religious sect in Ephesusand Pergamumwhose members were denounced in Rev. 2:6 &15 for eating food sacrificed to idols and for sexual license. The church fathers considered them followers of Nicolas of Antioch mentioned in Acts 6:5and founders of libertine Gnosticism, which remained active beyond the second century. Though this suggestion is possible, not many scholars would regard it as historically reliable.[1]  They have also been linked to the type of heresy taught by Balaam (Num. 25:1–2; 2 Pet. 2:15), especially the pagan feasts and orgies that they apparently propagated in the first-century church.[2]

In spite of these areas of commendation theEphesuschurch was soundly rebuked that they had abandoned their first love.  Even though they had resisted the false teachers and restrained themselves from entering into the evil practices of the day Christ wanted more than just truth. John in his 3 letters talks about how truth and love must go together.  Warren Wiersbe reminds us that “Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.”

It is also important to note that 35 years earlier Paul had commended them for their love for the saints.  So when Christ reprimanded them for losing their first love I believe it had a two-fold meaning that they no longer had that deep passionate love for Him but they had also lost their love for others.

Christ’s exhortation was three fold.

  1. 1.     Remember how you were when you first believed, passionately loving God and loving people.  
  2. Repent from how you are now.  Acknowledge what you have done well but turn from the things you have not done well.  Seek God’s forgiveness and put the old ways aside.
  3. Return to the things you did at the beginning when you first became believers, which was passionately loving God and loving people.

If they could not make this change then their lampstand would be remove, which seems to indicate their prominence as an influencing church being used and blessed by Christ.  As we visited all seven churches it occurred to me that they all were now non-existent.

AutumnRidgeChurchis a lampstand in the region of Southeastern Minnesotawho rightly stands on the Word of Truth, loving God and serving people.  We need to continually examine ourselves and ask the question do we passionately love God and serve people.  If we are let us continue, but if we see ourselves waning let us remember, repent and return to passionately loving God and serving peoplealways holding on the hope of eternity with Christ.  ~Pat Wester

[1] Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row, P., & Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed.) (704).San Francisco: Harper & Row.

[2] Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., Butler, T. C., & Latta, B. (2003). Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (1190).Nashville,TN: Holman Bible Publishers.


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