Friday, May 30, 2014

MYTHBUSTERS (Acts Chapter 19)

Acts 19:23, “About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way.”

Ephesus was home to the temple of Artemis (Diana).  It was one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  According to one historian it took 220 years to build the temple.  It was 425 feet long and 225 feet wide.  The temple was surrounded by 127 Greek columns each bearing sculpted reliefs up the high of a man’s head.  The building was the largest in the temple history.  But Artemis was not real, she was only a myth.

Artemis herself was a goddess universally worshipped throughout the Greek world.  Her sphere was the uncultivated earth, the forests, and the hills.  Homer gave her the title, “lady of the wild things.”  She was popular amongst women because she was considered to be “the goddess of birth.”  Girls who served in her temple did so in short skirts with one breast bare.  She herself was depicted on coins and images as many-breasted.  She was thought to be a source of fertility.  But she was only a fable.

“The city of Ephesians (was) the temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky” (Acts 19:35).  The people believed in the sacred stone, which must have been a meteor.  Someone likely took the stone and carved it into the likeness of the goddess that they then worshipped.  Every year a huge month-long celebration in honor of Diana took place in Ephesus.  Thousands of worshippers from the ends of the earth came to the celebration.  All businesses were closed, all work ceased, and the people gave themselves to the celebration of the goddess’s birthday.  But the meteor was nothing but a rock, hardly deserving of worship or reproduction by craftsmen.

Life in Ephesus revolved around a mythical, not existent goddess.  They prayed to her, appealed to her, and did what they could to appease her so that they could be blessed by her.  And some made a profit off of her.  There were craftsmen, like Demetrius, who worked “to make silver shrines of Artemis” (Acts 19:24).  There was money to be made in the selling of little Diana’s, so Demetrius understood what was at stake in Paul’s preaching of the gospel.  Life in the city revolved around the worship of their mythical god, but, as Demetrius presciently realized, this Paul “has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods” (Acts 19:26).  She was not a god.  She had no ears to hear, no hands to bless.  She was a devilish invention of sin that worked to hold the people in bondage to a futile way of life. 

A riot ensued when the people became aware of the threat to their adored but mythical deity.  Demetrius was concerned lest, “the great goddess Artemis…be counted as nothing, and…may even be deposed from her magnificence, who whom all Asia and the world worship” (Acts 19:27).  The people heeded his concern and were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” (Acts 19:28).  “The city was filled with the confusion” (Acts 19:29).  Most didn’t have any idea what was going on (Cf. Acts 19:32).  Alexander, a Jew, was put forward to speak, but when they saw that he was a Jew, “for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” (Acts 19:34).  But she wasn’t great.  She didn’t even exist.

The town clerk eventually came forward and quieted the crowd.  He assured them that the city would do everything necessary to protect the goddess and her sacred stone.  But Demetrius and the Artemis worshippers had legitimate reason for concern.  Artemis was but a myth, the sacred stone but a rock, and the grandiose temple an edifice to an illusion.  But the deceived tenaciously served her.  Sin and its associated idols are not easily pried from the hearts of lost sinners.  The Apostle Paul would ultimately spend three years in Ephesus (Cf. Acts 20:31), preaching the powerful-to-save gospel in the shadow of the great but idolatrous temple (Cf. Romans 1:16).  Paul spoke of the true and living God who sent His Son who died for sins and rose from the dead to save lost sinners (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).  Some ultimately abandoned Diana to find true salvation in the “living and true God” (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9).  Nothing but ruins remain at the site of the temple of Artemis, but the powerful-to-save gospel is being preached to this day.  Artemis has long since lost her appeal, but the glorious gospel shines on.

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