Artemis – The Lady of Ephesus. A reminder post that Christianity is fundamentally a religion about history

25 Mar

Christianity, like other religions, is a religion of history.  It has a past, it has an origin in space and time, it has a historical central figure and group of early followers.  But fundamentally separating Christianity from other religions is that Christianity is a religion about history.  The message of Christianity is about what has happened in history, in space and time, involving its historical figure, Jesus Christ.  Getting the history wrong will do little to change the nature and meaning of other religions.  But if Christianity is wrong about the history, Christianity is dead at its core.  If Christ never lived, never died, never rose from the dead, for instance, than the message of Christianity is as non-existent or dead as he was.  It has been said that in other religions, the historical events point to the the teachings.  But in Christianity, it is exactly the opposite.  The teachings point to the historical events.  Christianity is utterly dependent upon the historicity of its truth claims in a way that no other religion is.  If Confucius or Buddha or even Muhammad never lived, the teachings of their religions would be essentially in tact.  But if Jesus never lived, Christianity implodes, because the core teaching of Christianity us about historical events.  Skeptics and the enemies of Christianity know this, so they attempt to poke holes in the reliability of the gospels, try to show that gospel writers borrowed from pagan religions, construct alternate interpretations of the resurrection narratives, and even (at least on you-tube) posit that Jesus Christ is a myth.

I was reminded of this when reading Acts 19 this morning.  In Acts 19, a group of pagan temple worshipers and entrepreneurs led a riot against Christian teachings, crying “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:34).  They felt threatened by Paul’s teaching about the historical and risen Christ.  Their fear was the the message about Jesus would undermine belief in Artemis, a Greek goddess who had a temple dedicated to her in Ephesus.  If Artemis was worshiped at Ephesus, if there was a temple dedicated to her there, then once again, we see that the New Testament writers were attempting to write with historical accuracy, about events, places, times, names, occurring on their watch in living memory of hundreds of eyewitnesses who had the ability and incentive to prove them geographically and historically false.  This is precisely the claim of the NT writers, and especially Luke, who claims to be writing not only history but according to the claims of eyewitness whose testimonies can be verified, because “these things did not happen in a far away corner” (Acts 26:26).  And yet again, the NT writers get their history right.  In this case it was Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles.

Indeed, one of the Seven Wonders of the World is in fact the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Lady of Ephesus) in modern day Turkey.  There is a museum there today, with excavated artifacts of sculptures of Artemis (1st century; see pics below).  The Temple remains (only one column remains) are there to peruse.

A view of a landscape rising to a hilltop covered with small trees. There are many small hollows, ridges and tracks. The landscape is littered with the remains of marble buildings, including a single column standing to the left.

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