Friday, February 6, 2015

Jesus Supplants Artemis

23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. 24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”(Acts 19:23-27 (ESV)
The Way is what Christians were called early on, after Jesus who is the way the truth and the life. Evidently this is the name Paul uses for the church in Ephesus too. The popularity of Christianity though is now causing trouble in the local economy. People are abandoning the worship of Artemis, sometimes called Diana of Ephesus, but Diana was a Greek goddess of war, and though there is some over lap between here and Artemis, they are really two very different goddesses. Artemis was famous for her fertility and as one who watched over pregnant women. She was a very ugly goddess in reality. Her whole torso was covered with exposed breasts. But you can imagine how popular her worship must have been. Today men and women spend thousands upon thousands doing all sorts of procedures to have just one child. And pregnancy can still be an awful dangerous thing for a woman. People flocked to the temple, and would buy amulets and statues for their houses which they would then have blessed at the temple, or sometimes leave them there as a gift.

But now as Christianity becomes popular, people aren’t buying the gifts and the artisans aren’t smart enough to start making crosses or images of Jesus to replace the income lost. That probably would not have worked very well in the early church anyway, as it would have caused ire among the Jews, and drawn the attention of Romans. Though, the use of art in Christianity is a very early development. Still, the people as they learn about Christ find they don’t need any other gods. Christ being the creator of the world, who himself experienced birth, who lived their lives, had a mother of his own, and even died on their behalf truly became human. And a God who does that is concerned even with the minutest details of everyday life and more than happy to receive their prayers. The silversmiths are going to have to find new work. 

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