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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Ephesus, Turkey

Who knew that Ephesus, Turkey was Asia Minor in the ancient world? Most New Testament scholars. The letters to the 7 churches in Revelation are written to Christians occupying parts of what is present day Turkey. Ephesus was a major crossroads in the ancient world as it was a port city. Today, the ancient city of Ephesus is no longer on the water. The sea has receded about 30 kilometers and the port city is Kusadasi, Turkey. Still, the ancient city of Ephesus is one of the most impressive rebuilt cities of the ancient world. It is thrilling to walk down "the main drag", paved with the original marble that has been there for thousands of years, to see the amazing architecture and structures that have been meticulously dug out and rebuilt and to ponder the Apostle Paul alongside of the early Christians seeking to perpetuate the message of Jesus Christ in the midst of the temple cult and emperor worship that was prominent in that day. Ephesus figures in three main parts of the Bible. Of course, we have the letter to the Ephesians, possibly written by Paul to the Christians living in Ephesus. We have the letter from John in Revelation to the Christians in Ephesus urging them to return to their first love. See Revelation 2.1-7. Finally, Ephesus figures prominently in Acts 19. Paul caused a huge riot in the ancient city because he was preaching against the worship of Artemis. He wanted to go the great theater to proclaim his message but the other disciples wouldn't let him for fear of his life. Acts is awesome reading. Just remember that the Asia that is referred to is modern day Turkey.
What a thrill to walk the streets where the Apostle Paul walked. We sat on the public toilets, an impressive construction in its day. Our modern plumbing surely has its roots in the structures that we saw. As you wander through the ancient city it is easy to see that it was once a thriving, bustling center of trade, wealth, philosophy, and life. To think that a significant part of my Christian heritage unfolded in this region is quite thrilling. The early Christians faced great opposition from the world around them. And yet our faith lives on. I walked where Paul walked. I stood in the theater and imagined what it would be like to address the 25,000 people that it holds. Thankfully, we didn't cause any riots this time around.