Today we visited Ephesus. We were here before in 2007, but spent much more time here today. As we walked through the site and the museum I was reminded of Paul's time here and how for three years he lived and taught in the city.
Once again it was the religious context that impressed me the most. Everywhere one looks there is an altar to a god or an emperor. And if there isn't an altar there is some sort of symbol. It reminds me how much of an uphill battle it would be for Paul to preach a gospel about Jesus and the One God of Judaism to a population that was accustomed to having so many gods. Here are some examples that date from the time of Paul or just after.
Here at the gate is a set of carvings of Aesculapius and Hermes.
Just to the left inside the gate was a temple to the emperor Domitian. And here is a picture of me standing next to what remains of his statue.
This is a carving of Nike, the goddess of victory.
A little further down the street is Hercules.
On the right, a temple to Trajan. The ball in the one photo is his foot standing on the globe, which reminded me of the inscription in Pergamum that declared he was Lord of the land and the sea.
Finally, there is the goddess Artemis who got Paul into so much trouble in Acts 19.
Again, as I look at all of the gods that I encountered on such a short walk on just one street in ancient Ephesus it struck me that the early Christians had quite a challenge not only trying to proclaim the gospel, but also to live it. Living in a city where it seems like every other space was dedicated to a god, it must have seemed strange to be worshiping a god who forbid images and claimed that there were no other gods.