Christian Heritage Sites in Ephesus
History of Ephesus in the Bible
Ephesus played an important role in the spread of Christianity. Ephesus is mentioned multiple times in the Bible. The land Anatolia housed many important civilizations like Hitites, Urartians, Lydians, Amazons and many more. The land itself is also mentioned many times in the old testament and the new testament. In regards of old testament sites: Mount Ararat is located in the eastern part of Turkey close to the Armenian border. It is the mountain that Noah's Ark was landed. River Euphrates and river Tigris both sourced from the eastern part of Anatolia. South east of Turkey a city called Harran, thats where Jacob and Abraham lived. Not far away from the city of Harran, Antioch is located. Antioch was the city Paul and Peter lived. It was one of the 4 major cities of Roman Empire like Ephesus. Antioch is the city that the first church of the world was built and dedicated to St. peter. Besides that the Christian word ever pronounced in the city of Antioch too, meaning blessed with oil. Paul and Peter were among the early Christians who spread the word of Christianity. Paul was born in a city called Tarsus. After a miracle he was converted to be a Christian and made 3 missionary journeys out of Antioch. One of the Pauls contribution to Christianity was not only to convert Jews to the new religion but convert pagans too. He wanted to give them a united name and the first christian word was ever pronounced.
Who started the church at Ephesus ?
In his last of his second missionary journey Paul came to Ephesus with his companions like Luke, Silas, Timothy, Aquila, Priscilla... St. Paul is the one who founded the church at Ephesus. Promising his companions that he will come back, he departed Ephesus for Antioch. Less than a year he stayed in Antioch and came back to Ephesus in 53 AD. He lived in Ephesus over 2.5 years. Preached in school funded by a wealthy Ephesian named as Tyrannus and in the Synagogue of Ephesus. Both of the mentioned places have not been discovered by the Archaeologists. All the information regarding Paul's time in Ephesus is from the New Testament Acts Chapter 19. During the stay of Paul in Ephesus, Epapharas from Colosae came to Ephesus and met with Paul and later on extended Christianity in 3 cities of the Lycus river: Colosae, Hierapolis and Laodicea. Paul had visitors from Corinth and also received a letter from this church. He wrote Corinthians I as a reply to this letter. He made some miracles while he was in Ephesus. Furthermore, he cured the deceased people either touching them or with the cloths he used. Paul, to be able to earn his living he was selling tents probably in the commercial agora of Ephesus. His companions Aquilla and Priscilla were also wealthy people who made their wealth through tent making. Probably Paul was running a store with them. Paul leaned this profession from his father and grandfather. Both were the tentmakers of the Royal Roman Army. They were gifted with Roman Citizenship. Roman citizenship used to pass through from father to son. Therefore Paul was also a Roman citizen. Paul's mother was a Jew and father was Greek. In other words Paul was Jewish and Greek which made him preach in the Synagogue easily and talk with Greeks in the pagan temples of Ephesus. Since he was a Roman citizen, the Greek soldiers were not able to arrest him. Being Roman in Greek cities like Ephesus was having the first class citizenship.
Local silversmiths feared loss of income due to Paul's activities. Their income relied on the sale of silver idols of the goddess Artemis, whom they worshiped; the resulting a mob almost killed Paul (Acts 19:21-41) and his companions. Silversmith Demetrius said that Paul is converting people and because of himself they are going lose their jobs. Demetrius started huge riot against Paul in the Grand Theater of Ephesus. People started to shout as "Great is the Diana of Ephesus". Paul tried to enter the theater, but his companions did not let him do. From the Prythanion, a city clerk came and calmed down the people. According to some historians Paul was jailed in the watch tower watching the ships approaching to the city of Ephesus. Afterwards Paul was sacked from the city of Ephesus. He went to north for Troas. During a preaching in Troas a boy named Eftikus felt down and died. Paul made a miracle and gave life to the boy. Later, as Paul was passing near Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem, Paul chose not to stop. He stopped in Miletus instead and sent a message to the elders in Ephesus. He gathered with them in Miletus. Furthermore, he continued to Jerusalem and got arrested there. He claimed that he is a Roman citizen and only the Roman Emperor can judge him. Paul was taken to Rome.
Who wrote Ephesians ?
Before Paul got executed in Rome by Nero, in 61 AD during his house arrest, Paul wrote the 2 letters to his companion Timothy in Ephesus (Timothy No. 1 and Timothy No. 2) and a letter to Ephesians. All these three letters are in the New Testament. All of them sent by St. Paul from Rome to Ephesus in 61 AD.
Once Paul was in the city of Ephesus. He saw that the Christianity was already introduced. Contribution of Paul to the Ephesians was to introduce the Holy Spirit concept.
According to the Roman Catholics before Paul, in 38 AD, 5 years after the crucifixion John the Apostle and Virgin Mary came to Ephesus. Living downtown Ephesus was not a secure place for both Mary and John. Persecution to the Christians was still legal. Virgin Mary and John are lived to live on a mountain not very far from the city of Ephesus. After the assumption of Virgin Mary, John traveled through Anatolia to spread the word of Christianity. In the time of Domitian he was exiled to the island of Patmos. On the island of Patmos, he wrote the book of Revelation addressing 7 letters to the 7 churches in Asia Minor: Pergamum, Ephesus, Smyrna, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea and Thyatira.
Church of Ephesus in the Book of Revelation
Revelation 2: 1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. 6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
In John's letter to Ephesus, Ephesus receives praise for its perseverance, but criticism for forsaking its first love. John's 1st letter was addressed to the church of Ephesus. In that day Ephesus was the chief city of Asia Minor and ranked with Antioch and Jerusalem as one of the chief cities in the Christian world. Message was Ephesus change of intensity of devotion to Christ. John called for repentance. To repent meant not only to remember but also to return. To return to the first enthusiasm characterized by love. John warns if the church does not REMEMBER, REPENT and DO the things they did at first, its lamp stand will be removed from its place. To remove the lamp stand indicated loss of position. Like Ephesus losing its capital position due to earthquakes and silt.
During the excavations at Ephesus, more than 3,500 inscriptions have been found. Some of the most interesting are in a small cave on the slope of Bülbül Mountain (Nightingale Mountain). According to a local legend, when St. John brought the Virgin Mary to Ephesus from Jerusalem, they had no place to stay. John found this cave and hid Mary there for her safety. It was not until some time later that John located a more suitable home for Mary higher up on the mountain, known as Panaya Capoulu. In more recent years, the cave has been re-named “the Cave of St. Paul” due to the frescoes and inscriptions on the walls which refer to St. Paul.
The cave has been a Christian sacred site since the 1st or 2nd century. The walls were decorated with frescoes and inscriptions and white-washed several times, then re-painted with new images. Discovered under plaster on the walls are important 5th-century frescoes, with inscriptions, depicting the Virgin Mary, St. Paul and St. Thecla (a female disciple of Paul). This is the only known depiction of St. Paul at Ephesus and the earliest known appearance in the world of Paul and Thecla together.
The cave was discovered by a group of priests in 1892, while looking for the tomb of the Virgin Mary. Under the layers of plaster on the corridor walls are Greek phrases such as “the hidden of Mother of God” and “Paul help your servant”-written in charcoal and chalk. To protect these delicate and ancient wall frescoes, the cave is not open to the public. Unfortunately this site can not be visited during the private tours of Ephesus.
Documentary about the Cave of St. Paul in Ephesus :
Click Here to watch
Documentary of 7 Churches of Book of Revelation.
The tour guide who is filmed, is Mr. Denizhan Pekoz, the writer of this web site. Depending on availability you can book Denizhan for your Ephesus or Western Turkey Tour.