The port city of Ephesus, located on what is now the western coast of Turkey, was the crown jewel of Asia Minor. It had the population of nearly 250,000 people and was home to more than twenty pagan temples. Artistic beauty, cultural learning, erotic pagan worship, world trade, criminal activity, and sorcery flourished amidst great wealth. As residents of one of the most sophisticated cities of the Roman Empire, the Ephesians enjoyed such luxuries as running water, indoor toilets, fountains, gardens surrounded by magnificent columns, colonnaded streets paved with marble, gymnasiums and baths, a library, and a theater that could seat an estimated twenty-five thousand people.
At the heart of the city’s life and economy was the worship of Artemis, the ancient fertility goddess. The temple dedicated to Artemis was 450 feet long, 220 feet wide, had more than 120 columns sixty feet high and was one of the seven wonders of the entire world.
Because Artemis was considered to be so powerful and protective of her temple, people from all over the world deposited money there, which in turn was loaned out at a high rate of interest. Thus the Ephesians became extremely wealthy and naturally were very protective of the goddess who had made them successful, powerful, and rich.
It took passionate commitment and courage for the early Christians to stand up for their beliefs in their culture, and in the face of serious persecution. But the Christians of Ephesus publicly spoke out for Jesus and lived for him in a loving way. They endured great hardships for Jesus and never became weary of living for him.
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