Ephesus in the New Testament

Ephesus New Testament

Early Christianity was mostly a city-based movement. If you’re used to thinking of Christians following in the footsteps of Jesus, whose ministry took place mostly (but not exclusively) in rural Galilee, this may come as a surprise. However, if we look closely at the facts of Christianity in the first century A.D., we will see the importance of cities such as Jerusalem, Antioch (in Syria), Rome, Corinth, and Ephesus ancient city.

At the end of the first century, Biblical Ephesus was perhaps the most important city for Christians. At first, Jerusalem was the center of attention. In the early second century, Rome was gaining power. Ephesus, on the other hand, was not only located in the heart of a Christian hotbed, but it was also a significant city in its own right. It was also connected to a number of notable Christians, including Paul, Timothy, John, and possibly even the Virgin Mary. (Today’s residents of Ephesus, as well as many Roman Catholics around the world, claim that Mary spent her last days on earth just south of Ephesus.)

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Christianity in Ephesus

Christianity’s rapid spread across the Roman world is aided by the fact that it was largely an urban movement. Cities served as crossroads for transport, commerce, and culture. If one can influence a major city in an area, one can also influence the entire region. If Paul were to establish a strong Christianity in Ephesus, for example, this would spread to other cities through Asia Minor.

Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians includes the first references to Ephesus in the New Testament. He writes these:

If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it? (1 Cor 15:32)

I do not want to see you now just in passing, for I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. (1 Cor 16:7-9)

Unfortunately, we have no idea what Paul means when he claims that he fought wild animals in Ephesus. The Ephesians were big fans of games in which African animals battled each other or humans. However, it seems that Paul is referring to a disagreement he had in Ephesus in a metaphorical context. Nonetheless, it is clear that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus, where he had been engaged in missionary work for a long time. During this time, he would have had to “fight with wild animals.” Maybe Paul was actually referring to the disagreement mentioned in Acts 19.

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