Great is Artemis of the Epheisans! (Acts 19:34)

Clinton Arnold’s ECNT (Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) on Ephesians is one of my favorite newer commentaries on this epistle of Paul.  It is laid out well, easy to read and follow, and it has great features (i.e. outlines, historical context sections, etc.) that make it a useful tool for studies in Ephesians.  In the introduction Arnold discusses Artemis/Diana, the chief goddess of ancient Ephesus.  Here are a few excerpts that show how influential the Artemis cult was in 1st century Ephesus.

“Her relationship to the city could best be described as a covenant bond and thus she was often called ‘Artemis of the Ephesians.’  The size and grandeur of her temple, located outside of the city walls in a sacred area, caused ancient writers to laud it as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. …Twice every week, a procession was held in which adherents paraded her statues, marching from the temple, through the Magnesian Gate, through the whole city, out the Coressian Gate, and back to the temple.”

“The influence of this goddess and the cult attached to her permeated every area of life for those who lived in this city.  The temple was the major banking center for the city, her image adorned the coinage, a month of the year was named after her, Olympic-style games were held in her honor (called the Artemisia), and she was trusted as the guardian and protector of the city.”

“…Artemis was a benevolent deity.  …She was an incredibly powerful deity and would sympathetically use her power on behalf of her devotees.  Thus, she was acclaimed ‘Queen of Heaven,’ ‘Lord’ (kuria), and ‘Savior’ (soteria).  …She could break the chains of fate, protect people from various kinds of tormenting spirits, and defend people against spirits coming to bring injury, sickness, plague, and harm.”

“According to Luke, many people who were devotees of this cult became Christians during Paul’s ministry there.  In fact, so many people were turning to Christ that it was beginning to have an adverse impact on the sales of silver shrines to the goddess.  This is what led to the guild of the silversmiths raising the alarm that caused the mob uprising in the theater (see Acts 19:23-41).”

Arnold does explain the Artemis cult in more detail which I can’t fit here.  This is incredibly helpful historical background material for students of the NT – specifically Acts and Ephesians.  Again, I highly recommend this commentary: Ephesians by Clinton Arnold.

rev shane lems
hammond, wi

5 thoughts on “Great is Artemis of the Epheisans! (Acts 19:34)”

  1. Does this jive with Dr. Baugh’s research? In other words does he take the stance of the feminists which is why in 1Timothy he forbids women from teaching or that of Dr. Baugh who argues against that?


    1. Trent – I don’t mean to sound rude, but I’m not exactly sure of the debate/discussion to which you refer. I haven’t read every word of this commentary, but the parts I’ve read are pretty level headed thus far. Sorry I can’t be of more help!


      1. You didn’t sound rude. Basically, what I meant is: does he advocate evangelical feminism? I think the ones who do usually refer to some feminist cult at that time (debunked by Baugh) which is the reason Paul silenced the women at the time.


        1. Ok, that helps. I remember Baugh debunking the idea of widespread temple prostitution. But so far I haven’t seen a feminist bent in Arnold – and I’ve read a few other NT things he’s written. I’ll keep my eyes open.


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