As part of my practice to review the previous year, I look back over the books I completed, I read through my journal entries, and I do a spiritual review using the Fruit of the Spirit.  I also take a look back at some of the topics and events that prompted me to write over the previous twelve months.  You may have already read some of these, but if not, the links will take you to each story.

 © Copyright Adrian Phillips and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

© Copyright Adrian Phillips and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License

I began last year in the Psalms, considering whether the imagery in some of the psalms are more pedestrian than we take them to be.  In Praise of Emails and Errands examines one of these psalms and asks whether or not we can find spiritual significance in the mundane, seemingly trivial chores of life.  This turned out to be somewhat of a theme for me this past year: Finding God in the everyday rhythms of life.

The Psalms, as a whole, turned out to be another theme as well.  In The Courts of God, I look at the imagery of being in the presence of God.  It should be no surprise that the same idea was being conveyed.  A person need not go to the Temple or other buildings to find God.  Wherever we find ourselves throughout the day, that space can become sacred space.

RoccoLast March we got a new dog, a one-year-old German Shepherd.  In Dog Training, I am reminded how much dogs can reflect our own emotions and energy levels.  Having a dog is like have a living, breathing barometer in the room giving me constant feedback on my own state of mind.  I will often find myself uttering something to the dog in frustration, only to hear the echo of God’s voice saying a similar message to me.

In May, I did a bit of housecleaning on my blog.  I combined the contents of another blog onto this site.  As a result, there is much new content related to my book, Ten Essential Words, on this site.  For a full index of that content, check out the Top Posts page.

I have already discussed the books I read, along with some of the posts that relate to my reading.  In December, I took time to reflect on all the transition that last year brought and reaffirmed my desire to be more present in each moment.  In Gift of the Present, I explore yet another reoccurring topic from last year: that of the past, present, and future.

As the holidays turn into a busy beginning to a new year, I hope you take some time to reflect on the past, live in the present, and trust God for your future.  Thanks for allowing me to share my own musings with you.  Please click the ‘Sign Me Up’ button on the home page to follow along this next year.  Not all content is posted to Facebook.

Peace and Blessings!

I recently had an opportunity to complete a brief interview for my author page on Smashwords.  I thought I would share it here as well.

When did you first start writing?

As a pastor, I wrote sermon outlines, but I always felt like there was so much more to explore in any given topic. There was one series I had taught a couple of time, and even after teaching through it more than once, I still had ideas bouncing around in my head on the topic. Then on a trip to Israel with a couple of good friends, one of these friends encouraged me to start writing. I came home and began writing my first book, Ten Essential Words, where I really took a comprehensive look at the Ten Commandments and their relevance for today’s world. I’ve been writing ever since.

Who are your favorite authors?

There are several authors that I love to read for different reasons. Brennan Manning, who recently passed away, has probably influenced me as much as anyone. His writing really reaches deep inside me and brings out emotions and insights that tend to get pushed aside. N.T. Wright and Dallas Willard bring an intellectual approach to the Bible and to faith that I really resonate with. Bruce Feiler‘s books on exploring the actual places and sites of the Old Testament hit close to one of my biggest passions: traveling to places rich with Biblical history.

What motivated you to become an indie author?

I had finally finished the manuscript to my first book. Like any unpublished author at the time, I sent several book proposals to publishers. I was investing time and money, getting no where. Meanwhile, I had this manuscript saved on my hard drive, not being read by anyone. I began reading a couple books about how the internet was opening channels up to people that have been traditionally controlled by a handful of big players – be it record labels, publishers, or mainstream media. I realized that I had a choice to continue to play the game of getting the attention of a publisher or to go the indie route and get my ideas out there available to people. It has been both challenging and rewarding.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

Reading a good book at a coffee shop, most likely. But outside of work and writing, I always have a couple books I am reading my way through. I am always planning my next travel adventure. And when time permits, I enjoy cooking and trying new restaurants. I enjoy food that has been prepared with passion!

What are you working on next?

I am really excited to explore the New Testament letter of Ephesians from the context of the Greco-Roman world of the recipients. Most commentaries tend to either lack depth, avoiding any contextual discussion, or be so deep, dissecting the sentence structure of the original language to an extent that the larger narrative is lost. I wanted to take a letter like Ephesians and really tell the story: who where these people, how would they have heard Paul’s words, why did Paul write what he did, and what did it mean to be a Greek person in the Roman Empire trying to live out the message of Jesus. This past spring, I actually travelled to the archaeological site of Ephesus, so I am really excited to finish this project!

Back in the spring, I shared, through a blog series, my experience of using the Fruit of the Spirit as a reflective exercise and a way to periodically gauge one’s spiritual growth.  The response was great and I received some requests to publish my notes, blog posts, and my experiences to encourage others.  I am excited to announce that my new eBook, Connected to the Vine: A Reflective Guide to the Fruit of the Spirit, is now available!  Here is a brief description:

Fruit is a common metaphor found in the Bible.  It most cases, the imagery refers to the virtuous actions of those who follow Jesus.  This is why Jesus says, “By their fruit you will recognize them.”  Picking up on this metaphor, the Apostle Paul lists nine of these qualities in his letter to the Galatians that have come to be known as the Fruit of the Spirit.  Few would argue that these nine qualities on this list are good and noble qualities to embody.  But how are they manifested in the way we live?  Are these pieces of fruit qualities that we can nurture within ourselves or are they simply qualities that God forms within us?  After all, they are the fruit of God’s Spirit.

Connected to the Vine is a brief reflective study of the Fruit of the Spirit.  Each piece of fruit is examined for its biblical meaning, before applying it to modern life.  These qualities were meant to be put into action, and not only something felt within.  Each one also includes a couple of reflective questions to contemplate the presence of these qualities in the life of the reader.  There is also a section on how to utilize this guide for personal reflection or group study.  When periodically revisited, this guide can be a challenging tool to help cultivate these virtues and assist the reader to stay vitally connected to God.

As always, thanks for the words of encouragement and feedback.  If you enjoy the book, please like, rate, review – whatever the case may be.  It all helps spread the word!

Connected to the Vine is available at most online retailers, such as Amazon and iTunes.  For all formats, visit my Smashwords page or click the cover image on the sidebar of the home page.

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A recent interest of mine – and a reoccurring theme in the events of life – has been Greek Mythology, and the larger role of myth in our lives.  I realize that initially, most people will assume that mythology has very little to do with their lives.  But I have come to realize that my life needs a good dose of a mythic element to it.  I will attempt to explain how I arrived at this realization, and why this has anything to do with a book by John Eldredge.

Last year, in anticipation of a trip to Greece and Turkey that took place this past March, I began reading a collection of classic Greek myths.  I’m sure you are at least vaguely familiar with characters such as Jason and the Argonauts, Helen of Troy, Hercules, and the adventures of Odysseus.  I enjoyed reading the full accounts of these stories and began making connections to the larger meaning of these myths in Greek culture.

I also began to understand the role of myth in any given culture.  I posted my thoughts on how understanding mythology might give more insight into the Biblical book of Job.  This connection isn’t normally made because most today misunderstand myth.  For the majority of people, a myth is a fictional story, or even an outright lie – something akin to a fib.  If I say that Job is a mythic story, most will assume that I mean to say that the story of Job never really took place.  But that is not the true meaning of classical mythology.  Myths were ancient attempts to describe what was happening in the spiritual realm, where the gods were at work.  And myths today still serve to connect us to deeper truths and help us recognize where God is still working.

Myths are, first of all, stories: stories which confront us with something transcendent and eternal …  a means by which the eternal expresses itself in time.  (from Waking The Dead)

100 CharactersSo when I read another book, 100 Characters From Classical Mythology, something was tugging deeper at my soul, but I  didn’t know what it was.  I intended to write about the book, but I honestly didn’t know what I would say.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading it.

Then one of those moments took place where several seemingly unrelated trails suddenly merged together down a clear path forward.  It happened, appropriately enough, while in Athens, Greece.  Maybe it was spending the day walking among temples to Zeus, theaters to Dionysus, and statues of Poseidon that served as inspiration – I am certain all of that only fueled the inspiration.  But while on that trip, I began reading a book by John Eldredge called Waking The Dead.

One of the unexpected themes to emerge from the book was that when our hearts get overwhelmed with the mundane, the familiar, and busyness, we begin to lose touch with the larger narrative that God is at work in our hearts and we have a role to play in what God is up to in the world around us.  This is why we need to keep the mythic element alive in our hearts.  From Eldredge,

You will not think clearly about your life until you think mythically.  Until you see with the eyes of your heart.

Waking The DeadI realized that my heart was getting bogged down in errands to run, bills to pay, and obligations to meet.  I was losing touch with the larger story I am a part of.  I think that is why reading about the Trojan War and Perseus and Pegasus stirred something in me.  Eldredge helped connect that stirring to the passions God has set in my heart.

Greek mythology may not do much for you, but the principle is the same.  You can view whatever stage of life you are in through the lens of the reality before you – be it sitting in front of a computer screen all day, changing diapers, or paying off school loans.  Or you can view your life with the eyes of your heart and see the larger story you are a part of.  I have determined that I need more of the mythic element in my life.

Back in March I was able to travel to Greece and Turkey with my brother.  This is the last leg of the journey.  I have enjoyed sharing thoughts and images from a wonderful trip!  For a preview of the trip, read the A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey entry and read my thoughts on AthensCorinth, Ephesus, and Cappadocia.

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The drive back to Kayseri was much more revealing in the daylight.  The snow-capped Mount Erciyes was in clear view and served as a nice backdrop to our departure to Istanbul.  It was during the flight that we realized we were flying into the airport on the Asian side of the city, which is farther out than the airport on the European side.  For a couple liras we took an hour bus ride to Taksim Square, and then a taxi to our hotel.  Our hotel was located close to the historic Sultanahmet district and many of the main sites in Istanbul.  So after settling in our room we set off orienting ourselves to the city.  Hiking through the desolate landscape of Cappadocia was quite the contrast to hiking the urban streets of one of the largest cities in the world, yet there are many similarities as well.

Spice MarketWe had arrived in Istanbul early enough to have most of our afternoon and evening to explore the city.  We strolled through the Spice Market and the surrounding Egyptian Market.  We soon learned that Istanbul is like one giant Target store: If you found the right aisle, or in this case several city blocks, you could find anything you were in need of.  We wandered through the clothing district, the spice market, electronics, hardware supplies on several city blocks, food courts, the jewelry district, and even art and music supplies.  If you found one music store, you would surely find several others down the same block.  It was fascinating to just wander.

Blue MosqueBy evening, we found some of the primary sites of Istanbul.  The Blue Mosque was built in 1609, meaning it was relatively new as far as the architecture of the city goes.  It is an impressive structure.  It is located at the site of the great Hippodrome that hosted most of the sporting events in Constantinople for over a thousand years.  The area is now a park, but is still home to two or three of the monuments that would have been part of the stadium.  Facing the Blue Mosque is the Hagia Sophia, the primary church of the Byzantine Empire.  We located the Basilica Cistern nearby and managed to get in just before closing.  The cistern served as one of Constantinople’s main water supplies and has the capacity to store 100,000 tons of water.

MosaicThe next day we returned to the Hagia Sophia, as it was closed the previous evening.  It is an incredible space filled with Christian mosaics and Islamic calligraphy.  It is odd to see both side by side, but because it served as a church for the Byzantines and then was converted to a mosque when the Byzantine Empire fell in 1453, it is now a museum where both histories reside together.  Unfortunately, Turkish courts have just ruled that it could be converted back into a mosque, bringing into question the fate of much of the Christian artwork.  After a boat ride on the Bosphorus, we made our way up to the Galata Tower, which is a great place to take in the entire panorama of the city and watch the sunset.  We ended up back near the fish market on the shore of the Bosphorus, where we enjoyed a wonderful grilled fish sandwich while taking in the evening boat traffic and listening to the evening call to prayer.  It was one of those perfect simple moments that cannot be scripted.Istanbul

On Thursday, we took the train out to the old city walls, sometimes known as the Theodosian Walls.  Built in the 5th Century, they protected Constantinople for a thousand years.  Large sections of the wall still remain.  We took it easy the rest of the day as we had been going non-stop for most of the trip.  So the remainder of the day was spend walking the city, enjoying coffee, and perusing the markets.  The last day turned cold and rainy, so we stuck to indoor activities.  We went to the Grand Bazaar, which wasn’t quite as grand, having walked through many markets already.  Then we took in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, home to numerous artifacts from Turkey’s long history.  Still raining, we spent the evening in a coffee shop processing all we had taken in over the course of the trip.  The next day we would be heading home.

Like Cappadocia, Istanbul isn’t filled with New Testament history but it does play a key role in Christian history.   Here are some thoughts on Istanbul/Constantinople:

Insight #1Constantinople preserved a wealth of Christian history, while elsewhere it was crumbling.  When the Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to what would become Constantinople, one could argue that he extended the Roman Empire by an additional thousand years.  While one can also argue whether it was a good thing for Christianity to be subsequently aligned with the new Roman Empire in Constantinople, much of its history was shaped and preserved as Constantinople flourished.  Meanwhile, the city of Rome fell into decline and the Western Empire would come to an end in 476.  Over the next several hundred years, Constantinople became an immovable object against the surging tide of Islam.  Historians have pointed out that were it not for the strength of Constantinople strategically located between Europe and Asia, Islam could have become the dominant force throughout Europe.

Hagia SophiaInsight #2Faith is not housed in buildings.  As impressive as the Hagia Sophia was, it was not the dwelling place of God and faith.  Seeing the Hagia Sophia (and many churches throughout the Middle East as well) converted into a mosque, then a museum, and now potentially a mosque again, it is a reminder that God does not live in structures we build.  As I mentioned in my Athens post, Paul would point out that, “God does not live in your magnificent temples.”  Buildings can be impressive and communicate much about God, but God resides among people.  The modern church can learn from this as well.

Insight #3Disagree with ideas and beliefs, but don’t destroy history.  While structures do not contain faith, something is lost when structures are destroyed over faith.  It was a common theme to hear throughout the trip: An impressive piece of history was lost when one group destroyed it during a conflict.  Christians tore down temples, pagans destroyed churches, churches were converted to mosques and then back again, libraries were burned – there are so many stories like these.  From a historical perspective it hardly seems worth destroying so much history.  Argue, disagree, fight if you must, but leave art, books, structures, and monuments alone!  There is so much to be learned from these things.

Thanks for following along.  Even if very few read it all in its entirety, I enjoyed reliving it!

It’s been a busy week, but I want to continue processing my trip and share some stories from each place.  Back in March I was able to travel to Greece and Turkey with my brother.  For a preview of the trip, read the A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey entry and read my thoughts on AthensCorinth, and Ephesus.

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Our time in Ephesus was followed by a travel day.  Trains, planes, and automobiles!  We took the train back to Izmir, where we caught a flight to Istanbul, then a connecting flight to Kayseri in central Turkey.  By the time we got to Kayseri it was dark, which was disappointing because we knew the landscape was supposed to be spectacular.  Indeed, we didn’t even realize until our return that Kayseri sits at the base of one of the largest mountains in Turkey!  A car picked us up from the airport and took us to the town of Göreme.  When we finally arrived in Göreme we could begin to make out the strange formations Cappadocia is known for.

The landscape in Cappadocia has been strangely shaped by volcanic activity from times past, along with erosion over time from water.  The rock in the area is almost chalk-like – easy to chip away and carve.  The result is an area with deep ravines surrounded by tall cone-shaped rock structures, sometimes called fairy chimneys.  People have carved dwellings in these formations for thousands of years.Cappadocia

In keeping with that tradition, in the town of Göreme visitors can stay in hotels carved right out of the rock formations.  It’s one of those things you have to do to at least say you did it: stay in a cave hotel in Cappadocia.  Our room was spacious and comfortable with a modern bathroom.  Yet all the décor, save two chairs and a table, were carved right out of the rock.  It wasn’t until breakfast the next morning that we were fully able to take in the other-worldly landscape at which we had arrived.  The snow flurries in the air only made it that much more enchanted.

Cave PaintingsOur first stop was the Göreme Open Air Museum.  The museum is a small area of these chimney formations with numerous  churches and monasteries dating back to 1100 AD. Many of these structures have multiple levels connected by stairs or tunnels carved through the rock.  Because they are protected from the elements, many of the churches are still beautifully painted with images from the Bible.  It was easy to see how these paintings were used as a way of communicating the important narratives of the New Testament.

The entire museum area is surrounded by Göreme National Park and upon leaving the museum, we realized the entire park is, in essence, a giant museum.  I had read that it was relatively easy to set off hiking in a given direction and as long as you could keep the town of Göreme in sight from the higher vantage points, you would not get lost.  So we set out to test that theory!  Amidst snow flurries, we spent the day hiking, climbing up to openings in the rock, exploring cave houses and churches, and belly crawling through small tunnels, unknown as to where they might lead.  My brother described the area as a giant playground for adults!  Every so often, we would see a hiker or two off in the distance, but other than that we had the place to ourselves.  Later in the afternoon we climbed to the top of a ridge to locate the town off in the distance.  Not wanting to backtrack, we followed the ridgeline, hoping to find a safe place to descend down to the valley floor and make our way toward town.  It took longer than anticipated, but we finally located a way back down, found the main road, and headed back into Göreme.Goreme

The town of Göreme itself reminds me of a ski resort town.  Hotels encircle a main strip full of restaurants, shops, and a river running straight through town.  We were cold and exhausted and found the perfect coffee shop in the middle of town to warm up in and process the day.  Later we went looking for a place to eat.  Warning: do not stop to look at menus unless you are ready for the full sales pitch, or are very quick about it!  We did get quite the sales pitch at one place and the meal was wonderful – lamb cooked in clay pots, bread with assorted dipping sauces, and Turkish baklava.  We ate like kings!  My brother and I agreed that it was perhaps one of the better days of our lives.

Goreme National ParkThe next day we considered a couple side trips/activities, but decided on more of the same: this time hiking the Rose Valley trail through the park.  We began by running across a cave church structure, complete with a dining hall, dovecotes, a wine press, and a bee farm to harvest honey.  For lunch we climbed up to a platform that used to be a dwelling of some type and overlooked the ravine below.  When we were about spent at day’s end, we ran across a couple other hikers who told us of a large church just up the trail that was worth the climb.  We found the opening in the rock face and climbed up to a second level to find ourselves in a sanctuary as large as a decent-sized church building today.  Again, none of this is visible from the outside.  It was a nice way to end our hike.  We ended up in an adjacent village and found someone happy to drive us back to Göreme for some gas money.

What a truly magical place!

Here are some of my thoughts as they relate to the Cappadocia region:

Insight #1Cappadocia isn’t mentioned often in the Bible, but it is mentioned.  In Acts 2, Cappadocia was listed as one of the places/languages people were able to hear being spoken when the Spirit fell on the believers in Jerusalem.  Later, the beginning of 1 Peter is addressed to Christian exiles scattered throughout what is now Turkey, with Cappadocia being listed among the regions.  These few references tell us that it was home to a Jewish population and subsequently a Christian population as well.  Paul traveled to the south of Cappadocia in order to focus on the prominent cities of Asia Minor, such as Ephesus.  But little doubt the message eventually spread north and east to Cappadocia.

Insight #2Although it didn’t play a prominent role in the New Testament, Cappadocia would help shape the church for the next several hundred years.  We know the message spread to Cappadocia because several figures in the early church came from Cappadocia, including Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa.  These leaders were instrumental in shaping the monastic movement in Christianity.  Monasticism was active in the region for the next thousand years.  Examples of cave monasteries abound in the region.

Cave EntranceInsight #3Cave living.  Having explored the area for a couple days, I am convinced that cave living would have been pretty comfortable for that time.  Like I mentioned above, it was flurrying the first day we hiked through the park.  But once in the caves, we could take our winter wear off and be fine – not to mention that we didn’t even have a fire going.  The carved out dwellings would have stayed cool in the summer and moderate in the winter.  There were places to raise bees for honey, wine presses, dovecotes, and stables for horses.  Most importantly, they were easily defended and safe from the elements, with passageways that could be sealed off if trouble arose.  There are many accounts of enemy armies being unable to even locate these cave cities because the residents would simply disappear into the hills or underground.

The last stop is Istanbul!

In March I was able to travel to Greece and Turkey with my brother.  I am continuing to process each place we visited, share some of our adventures, and take what I can from having been there.  For a preview of the trip, read the A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey entry and read my thoughts on Athens and Corinth.

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After spending about four days in Greece, we hopped a plane to Istanbul, Turkey and caught a connecting flight to Izmir.  From the Izmir airport, we took a train about an hour south to the town of Selçuk.  Unfortunately, the sun had already set, so there was not much to see.  Arriving in Selçuk, we found our hotel and were warmly greeted with some tea and good conversation with a man named Lucky.  I liked this place already!  Selçuk is a nice little town where shop owners want to sit and talk with you.  There are good places to eat, coffee shops, and sweet shops as well.  Right outside of the town, sits the site of Ephesus.  Many tourists come from the cruise ship port not far from Ephesus, but increasingly travelers are discovering that Selçuk is a great place to spend a couple of days away from the tourist town of Kusadasi.

PrieneNeither my brother or I are big on guided tours – they are always moving you on to the next stop before having adequate time to explore the present stop and the lunch buffets are usually pretty bad – but about the only way to see the ancient sites of Priene, Miletus, and Didyma was via guided tour.  Priene is the home to the Temple of Athena, which rests at the base of an imposing cliff face.  The site was abandoned when the shoreline receded.  The remote nature of the site means that much of the building material is still there, resembling a jigsaw puzzle dumped out over the site.  It is not mentioned in Scripture, but its proximity to Miletus suggests that the early church nearby would have had contact with Priene.

Across what used to be a bay, sits the site of Miletus.  Miletus boasted three harbors in its day, along with a 25,000 seat amphitheater, much of which is still intact.  The rest of the site was unfortunately flooded for the most part, but a large Roman bath complex is still there.  It must have been impressive in its day.  Miletus is mentioned in Acts 20: On Paul’s Third Journey, he sailed into Miletus where he met the elders from Ephesus, wanting to avoid getting delayed on his way to Jerusalem.  Today Miletus is about five miles inland from the coast and suffered the same fate as Ephesus and Priene when the river silted up, cutting the city off from the coastline.IMG_1110

The final stop of the day was Didyma, which wasn’t so much a town in Paul’s day as it was a temple complex to Apollo.  Today it is odd to see a town built up around the site, with kids and dogs running around and ruins lying in people’s backyards.  DidymaThe Temple of Apollo was the third largest Greek temple of its time and would provide some perspective to the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, given that little remains of what would have been the largest temple.  Walking among the ruins, we felt like we were on a movie set constructed for giants.  Didyma was linked to Miletus via a 12-mile sacred processional way.

The next day we walked through the site of Ephesus.  Having walked through many archaeological sites at this point, the prominent feature of Ephesus is just how large an area the site is.  From the upper entrance, you can walk through a marketplace, small temples, archways, an Odeon, only to realize you have not yet reached the main road through the city.  Curetes street leads you past several structures to the terrace houses (which are worth the extra admission price) and finally leaves you facing the Library of Celsus.  The main agora itself covers the area of two football fields, then you are awed at the 25,000-seat theater.  The theater overlooks Harbor Street that would have led to the docks.

Celsus LibraryThere are many areas that remain unexcavated or have not been kept up.  Ephesus had a population of 250,000, by some accounts the third largest city in the Roman Empire behind Rome and Alexandria.  Walking through the city, the surrounding hills – now just grassy hillsides – must have been covered with houses and shops.  Paul had truly entered the big city!

And you still would not have come upon the primary identity of the city: the Temple of Artemis, the largest temple in the empire.  We made our way through an orchard back to the main road and found the site of the temple.  There is little that remains, only its enormous footprint in the earth and a single reconstructed column.  I am glad we were able to visit Didyma to appreciate what it must have looked like.

There are many insights that can be gained by walking through these sites.  I hope to fill a book with them one day, but in the meantime here are some impressions:

Insight #1Pagan temples dominated the landscape of Asia Minor.  While pagan temples were an important part of every ancient city, the identities of the cities in Asia Minor were forged by their temples.  I admit that this is just my impression, but I got the sense that cities like Rome, Alexandria, and Athens would have continued on if you removed their temples.  But in Asia Minor, if you removed the temples you would be stripping places like Miletus, Priene, and Ephesus of their very identity.  Ephesus and Miletus (Didyma) were rivals primarily because of their rival temples.  So when Paul strolls through town and announces that “in [Jesus] the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple” (Ephesians 2:21), that announcement was challenging the very power structures and the livelihood of these cities.  This is especially true in Ephesus…

ArtemisInsight #2The Temple of Artemis and its influence on Ephesus.  It is difficult to overstate how much the identity of Ephesus was inextricably tied to the Temple of Artemis.  It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World for a reason.  Jerome Murphy-O’Connor notes that, “Artemis was part of the fabric of Ephesus, and the city was unthinkable without her.  Ministry in Ephesus, Paul mused, was going to be very different.”  In Athens when Paul announced that God does not live in your magnificent temples, the philosophers perhaps raised an eyebrow.  In Ephesus, that sentiment morphed its citizens into a violent mob.  This led to the uproar in the Great Theater.

Insight #3The scene at the Great Theater.  The Temple of Artemis contributed greatly to the economy of Ephesus.  Just as a modern-day sports team would draw fans throughout the region on game day contributing to the local economy, Artemis drew pilgrims from the region on a continual basis.  An entire industry sprang up around the production of small shrines of the temple and Artemis (available in the gift shop, no doubt) of which several have been unearthed in the region.  So Paul’s message was not just perceived as a religious threat to paganism, but also an economic threat to the livelihood of the city.Ephesus

This is what sparks the riot in Ephesus that spills into the Great Theater.  Acts 19 records that as the mob filled the theater, “they all shouted in unison for about two hours: ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!'”  Order was eventually restored but Paul was clearly shaken by the event.  Writing from Ephesus to the church at Corinth, Paul notes, “If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained?”  Later, Paul would write,

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia.  We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.

There is little doubt that seeing his colleagues being dragged into the Great Theater and he, himself being threatened, this event left an indelible mark on Paul’s psyche.

There is much more that could be said about Ephesus.  In fact, my next project is exploring these very themes in the letter of Ephesians.  But this will suffice for a trip update.

Next up: Cappadocia!