Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Cult of Artemis and the Royal Priesthood

Sisters and brothers teaching and preaching the will of the Lord
in light of I Timothy 2 and Paul's letters.

The royal priesthood of believers

(My original, longer version of this article is on this blog. I do not purport to offer an exegesis of the text nor to cover or otherwise rehash the multitude of views for and against this subject. I am confident of the content and trust readers will ponder it themselves and respond accordingly.)

Sisters and brothers, the called out saints in Christ, the royal priesthood of believers, as Peter called us, (I Peter 3:9) stand out and apart from the world in which we live and minister. It is the royal priesthood which God in his divine wisdom ordained for the work of teaching and preaching the knowledge of his divine will. Yet, the same reluctant spirit of Moses to go to Pharoah is alive today. It manifests itself, not in the reluctance of the priesthood to go, but in how men have determined half of that priesthood, namely our sisters in the faith that is in Christ Jesus, ought not to go. Still, the royal priesthood is unlike any other in the world because of its call to minister to those who are in Christ as well as those who are in the world.

The world immerses men, women, youth and children in culture and although cultures differ between countries and the peoples of the world these cultures all have the common effect of diverting knowledge and worship away from the living God. There are too many facets, good and bad, in culture, nonetheless it is the call and duty of priests to teach, offer sacrifice and pray with and for those to whom they minister in the body of Christ and those to whom they minister in the cultures of the world. Condemning culture or casting those things we do not understand under the broad umbrella of culture does little to enlighten the saints. Similarly, “It was a first century cultural practice” as the default explanation to the saints in Bible class is as unconvincing, dry and lifeless as ancient temple ruins.

Broadly speaking, there are two views in the royal priesthood of believers attributed to Paul and which bear on the ministry and proclamation of the gospel by sisters and brothers in Christ. These include, in the order as presented by Paul in I Timothy, teaching and the exercise of authority by women, with the sole cause being to silence women, and the precedence of Adam in the order of creation, with the sole effect being silent women. Both of these views are exacted from Paul's ministry message in Ephesus to Timothy who, like Paul, ministered under the shadow of the temple of Artemis. The central text in this discussion is I Timothy 2:9-16. There's no question the words are Paul's anymore than their importance and prevalence in the church today. However, there is a question as to how we attribute our interpretation and meaning of Paul's words to these views as being what Paul intended.

This article is limited to the religious beliefs in the cult and culture of Artemis and how these relate to teaching and preaching in the priesthood of believers in the assembly of the saints.

Although this article is not about culture I believe a working definition of culture is helpful as we seek to minister, not to change culture, but to bring to the transformation of the new birth those who know not Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Culture is how different people can and do participate or interact in beliefs, customs and laws, but with no more commitment or shared beliefs then an afternoon in the park. An atheist, Muslim, or Christian can participate and interact equally in the soccer game or a moment of prayer at a family celebration whose beliefs, customs and views of law may be at vastly different odds with every one of those of the celebrating family. Such participation in that activity hardly constitutes an embrace of beliefs or conversion, but it is common in the interactions of people in culture.

Paul arrives in Ephesus

The transforming ministry of the work of the Spirit in Ephesus began with the arrival of the apostle Paul. It was not without some obstacles. He had been twice forbidden by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6,7) from speaking the word in the northern regions of Asia. He exited Asia west into Macedonia, worked his way south to Corinth before crossing the Aegean Sea east back into Ephesus in Asia.

The account by Luke of Paul’s arrival and departure from Ephesus on this second missionary journey is brief. Luke relates this in two verses in Acts 18:18-21. Paul continued on his way to Jerusalem.Then, after a short stay in Antioch he departed from there on another missionary journey. This time Luke is just as brief with his account of Paul’s journey through the upper country of north Asia saying only,

he departed, [from Antioch] and went through the region of Galatia, and Phrygia, in order, establishing all the disciples” (Acts 18:23) before [he] “came to Ephesus.” (Acts 19:1)

There he ministered for at least two years despite no mention of the removal of the prohibition from speaking the word in Asia Paul had received earlier from the Holy Spirit. It is significant it was here in Ephesus where Paul delivered through Timothy an instruction concerning the teaching and the exercise of authority to the royal priesthood of believers, or more specifically, to our sisters in the faith.

What was the purpose the Holy Spirit forbade Paul to speak in Asia?
What was the purpose the Holy Spirit forbade our sisters to teach in Ephesus?

Did the Holy Spirit intend for this instruction to remain in effect forever?

The mere colossal presence of the temple of Artemis may well have made Paul realize this was the place and purpose of the Holy Spirit’s guidance. His mission was as clear and as colossal as the temple itself: Dethrone and demolish Artemis and the female-dominant-oriented culture which prevailed in Asia. Yet, our understanding of Paul's mission and words is almost entirely on the basis of all things Jewish or the popular mystic allure and fascination of Gnosticism. The latter was one of various corruptions of the gospel which would hit the church, indeed that corruption began in Paul's lifetime, but Artemis had been around much longer and was well entrenched in Asia. Certainly, Gnosticism is a valuable study of the New Testament, but how can we study and understand Paul's message while remaining oblivious to Artemis?

Artemis of the Ephesians: three beliefs

Artemis, the daughter of Zeus, or Diana as she was known to the Romans, was introduced for the saints in Christ in Acts 19. Although Paul was literally on the sidelines and was mentioned by name he was not directly involved at that time in which a riot nearly broke out. It is the testimony of Demetrius which reveals Artemis was not merely an obscure local deity in Ephesus. She was well known and worshiped throughout Asia.

Artemis was to the Gentiles in Ephesus and Asia what
Yahweh was to the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea.

There were numerous and different beliefs attributed to Artemis, but this article is limited to three widely held beliefs and how these have come to affect the priesthood of believers. 1) The belief that her mother gave birth to Artemis first. Artemis then turned and assisted her mother give birth to her twin brother Apollo, 2) A belief evolved from this act by Artemis at the time of her birth with Artemis asserting herself as the savior of women, particularly, at childbirth, and 3) She presided over kings. Paul seems to allude and refers to all three of these beliefs in his writings which would likely have resonated as familiar with the saints in Christ who had come out of the cult of Artemis.

The apostle Paul wrote at least five letters to churches and individuals in Asia which include: Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and I & II Timothy. Titus, who was on the island of Crete 200 miles off the southwest coast of Asia, could possibly be included in this number.

Instructions to those who teach in a church on the brink

Some time after Paul’s departure from Ephesus it became apparent there were matters which demanded Paul’s urgent attention. There were men who had strayed, wanting to be teachers of the law whom Paul said they did not understand what they were saying despite their confident assertions. (I Timothy 1:7) This was an urgent matter given the battle zone conditions in Ephesus and Paul was clear on Timothy’s need to instruct those men not to teach strange doctrine and other matters they did not understand.

There was no need for similar instruction to silence or stop Philip’s daughters in Caesarea (Acts 21:9) who had the gift of prophecy. Paul stayed in Philip's house and was in a position to instruct or otherwise admonish Philip's daughters. The significance of this relates to the reluctant admission by some that although some sisters did prophesy in Corinth this was not in the assembly, but out in public to the unbelieving. This claim is contrary to what Paul stated that prophesy was a sign not for the unbelieving, but for those who believe. (I Corinthians 14:22) Similarly, the sisters in Corinth were not instructed to be silent or to cease their prophesying, but to do all things in an appropriate and orderly manner. (The silence Paul did invoke in Corinth and which is so distorted by many is no different than a modern day situation where a wife interrupts her husband who is an elder or preacher while he is addressing the congregation on the basis of their physical relationship as husband and wife, not as by the Spirit. Even then, Paul said, the Spirit is subject to those who speak and God is not a God of confusion. The instruction of silence would be just as fitting and appropriate were an elder to interrupt the preaching of the word on the basis that he must correct error which has been delivered to the congregation. While the need to confront error is true such a confrontation would make for nothing less than a carnal spectacle. The matter could be handled just as well by addressing the congregation and the individual after the message.)

The circumstances in Ephesus represented a potential situation for sisters in Christ to become embroiled or to be mistaken as being part of the carnal mind-set of those wanting to be teachers of the law. Perhaps even worse was the possibility they could be mistaken, in a teaching role, as dominant priestesses of the temple of Artemis or her broader cultural dominance in Ephesus. (It seems plausible that priestesses who had emerged from the cult of Artemis would have the means to possess gold, pearls and expensive clothing and it is they who are the specific reason for Paul's instruction on the matter of their outward appearance.) Either way, their association could potentially have produced a clash with Paul’s mission on Artemis as carried on by Timothy. It is an audacious stretch to smear to embroil our sisters with others in Ephesus with the false teaching which had emerged in the church on the basis, as some have stated, that there were some women who were gossipers and idlers. Paul never made any suggestion or statement that the women were involved in teaching false doctrine. Nonetheless, the church in Ephesus seemed on the brink of becoming another Corinth.

It is an unfortunate understatement that Paul’s words for unity, enlightenment and instruction, directed as much to our brothers as to our sisters in Ephesus, continue to be primarily a perpetual silence of our sisters. The determination to maintain that silence is often upheld by men purportedly by the Spirit. However, it is to be noted that too often it is their career status and accomplishments which are the qualifications by which it is determined they are worthy to lead the saints in Christ, not because they are, full of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 6) The fact that there are sisters who insist on the silence of their sisters and reject as offensive the idea of one of their own gender preaching and teaching is no more a understanding or submission to the will of the Lord than those brothers who beat their chest and in arrogant defiance declare, "not as long as I have anything to say about it." We know Paul was misunderstood at various times much to his dismay and sometimes utter frustration. Clearly, those misunderstandings of Paul were not limited to our first century brethren in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Today, one can only wonder about studies which emphasize language, historical interpretations and concocted, strained spins on first and twenty first century views on culture. These end result of these studies is that they are applied to the discussion on preaching and teaching by sisters in Christ with no more clarification or understanding in those studies than the exegesis of those same scriptures. Often these support or obscure a prohibition to teach written by Paul, but with little understanding or explanation as to why the Holy Spirit gave that prohibition and why Paul wrote it. Today, are men of a similar mindset who profess to be teachers and preachers any less to be admonished? How about those who want to be teachers, but who do not know what they say or about what they (despite their defiance) strongly affirm or any differently than Paul urged Timothy to admonish certain men in I Timothy 1.

The target of Paul’s message: Artemis, not our sisters

Unlike the contemporary emphasis on the silence of women  in I Timothy 2 Paul's primary objective emphasis was his unrelenting attack on Artemis. The notable absence of Artemis' name in Paul's writings may suggest he was mindful to not create or provoke a hostile reaction against the church even though he himself fought with “wild beasts” in Ephesus. (Note: This reference in I Corinthians 15:32 may be yet another subtle reference to Artemis who was the protectress goddess of wild beasts.) We know of similar measures he employed for the advancement of the kingdom of God whether it was consenting to Timothy’s circumcision (Acts 16:3) or Paul’s participation in temple rituals in Jerusalem. (Acts 21) In one instance Paul’s well-intended strategy to remain free of any obligations when he first preached in Corinth backfired on him. Men with no other intention than to malign Paul and cast reproach on him and the gospel were troubling the faith of the saints. A gospel message, they said, for which Paul could not even bring himself to receive the customary monetary gifts for traveling itinerants (while he instead relied on churches in Macedonia which supplied his needs through the arrival of Timothy and Silas, Acts 17:15; 18:5, II Corinthians 11:9) was a worthless gospel and one of which he was ashamed. Yet, Paul remained unfazed when he asserted he would do what he had done all over again. Such was his confidence in the cause of the gospel. (II Corinthians 11)

Every one of Paul’s five letters previously mentioned reverberate with declarations, references and allusions to Artemis and which, for Paul and the saints in Christ, constitute the basic tenets of our faith: 1) Jesus is firstborn, 2) Jesus is savior, and 2) Jesus is king. Paul delivers every one of these as affronts and assaults on the cult of ArtemisOur view of these tenets of faith without regard and in isolation from the Artemis cult being torn down and demolished by Paul and Timothy's ministry is as astounding as it is to the weakening and the peril of our faith.

It is a bitter irony that Paul's strategy to not permit women to teach during the battle to silence the cult of Artemis forever has silenced many of our sisters for too long through our own seriously questionable understanding of his words.

If Eve was to be a helper to Adam in the garden how is we fail to understand our sisters today are to be no less helpers in the preaching and teaching of the gospel? No, not every woman is called anymore than every man is called to preach and teach. However, whether or not those sisters are called is not a matter for brothers, anymore than sisters to forbid it, because it upsets them or they just don't think it is right. These weighty matters of the kingdom demand a response which enlightens and edifies the saints in the Spirit.

There is a muted argument (oh, the irony!) by some as to any question or discussion on Paul’s clear words regarding women and teaching. Quite simply, some saints reason, Paul is so clear on his instruction concerning our sisters there is no need to examine or study the matter. Really? The test of this reasoning is to compare and apply it with other equally simple, clear words spoken by Jesus to remove the eye and cut off the hand which caused us to sin. Who takes these clear words of Jesus literally without any discussion?

Jesus, the Son of God: three beliefs

The three aforementioned tenets of the cult of Artemis were that: 1) she was firstborn, 2) she was the savior of women, and that 3) she presided over kings.

However, Paul boldly asserts Jesus, not Artemis, is the firstborn. (Col 1:15, 18) Although Jesus was born to a woman (Galatians 4:4, Paul's only allusion to the virgin birth) He is the firstborn, not from woman, but through the resurrection declared to be the Son of God.

Then, Paul boldly asserts Jesus is the savior of man (kind), not only woman as was Artemis. Whatever the image revered (Acts 19:35) by the Ephesians which fell from Zeus Paul repeatedly asserts the purpose for which Jesus came (not fell) from heaven and was sent from heaven and to give himself as a ransom for all was to save mankind. (I Timothy 2:6)

Finally, Paul boldly asserts Jesus is king eternal (I Timothy 1:17) and has a kingdom (Col 1:13). All things, including thrones and dominions, were created by him, through him and for him. (Col 1:16) There were no kings before Jesus on his throne and there will be no kings to succeed him or preside over him or his eternal throne.

created, not born

Lastly, unlike Artemis who was born of a woman, Adam and Eve were created, not born, into this life. They were formed by the one who created all things. Paul’s specific mention that it was the man, Adam, who was created first is an enlightening if-you-must-know affront to Artemis’ claims of being first-BORN. It is also an enlightenment for his Gentile brethren, and not, as the saints are told, today, a primer or a reiteration on the Torah for a Jewish audience on the order of creation. It seems improbable Paul's focus was on who was deceived, deceived first or deceived completely, because ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) This is not an imperative command by Paul for our sisters to busy themselves bearing children, but that WHEN these sisters in Christ bore children their joy would be a two-fold affront to Artemis. 1) They could rejoice in the birth of their child, and 2) they could rejoice in their salvation which was in the Lord Jesus. Paul's mention of the disobedience by Eve was as much Adam's and, this, is the sin problem of man and woman. The indisputable truth is that salvation from sin for women (and all mankind) is through faith in Jesus, not childbearing or Artemis as savior.

Paul’s wording that the woman fell into transgression may be yet another allusion to the deception of Artemis as savior. The female goddess Artemis (born, not created) was as disobedient and deceived as was Eve. Anyone who would presume to declare themselves a savior when they themselves have fallen into transgression is quite deceived. Devotees of Artemis in Ephesus were familiar with the image which fell down from Zeus. (Acts 19:35) It may well be that Jesus himself alluded and played on the familiarity of that fall in his opening admonition to the churches in Asia of which Ephesus was the first which he addressed: Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I am coming to you swiftly, and will move your lamp stand out of its place, unless you repent. (Revelation 2:5) Salvation is the reason Jesus, the Son of God, came into the world. Unlike Artemis, there was redemption and salvation for Eve and all mankind from her deception, disobedience and fall.

Therefore, Paul's statement that woman is saved through childbearing is not concerning salvation from sins. It is not the woman, our sisters, upon whom Paul seeks to invoke and impose Eve's disobedience so as to lord it over them. Eve was unlike Artemis in that Eve was created; Artemis was born. Eve was like Artemis in that despite their reversed order of birth, Artemis being born first then her brother Apollo and Eve being created second to Adam; they both similarly fell into transgression and were deceived. Paul's peculiar wording that the woman has fallen into disobedience seems suggestive of something present, as in the present reality of the female goddess Artemis. Yes, Satan was/is the enemy, our adversary, and in Ephesus his name was Artemis for which reason young widows in Christ were to bear children . . . and give no occasion to the adversary for insulting. (I Timothy 5:14, the second of only two times Paul refers to women and childbearing and both are in this letter. I am mindful of the reference in Galatians 4 of Hagar, but Paul himself declares that childbearing reference is an allegory.) The salvation of the woman (and the man) is contingent upon their continued life of faith, love and sanctification with sobriety in Jesus, _ not Artemis. Let us not deceive ourselves about the disobedience of Adam. (Romans 5:14)


The apostle Paul was not timid about using tactics in the war to topple and dethrone the cult of Artemis. In the Ephesus church, under the shadow of the temple of Artemis, there was no time for the priesthood of believers to be party to a spectacle in the scheme of something far greater than men teaching what they did not understand or women teaching at all. There would come a time when sisters would help their brothers just as Eve with Adam in the garden, not in the care of a garden, but in the teaching and preaching ministry of the gospel. The time came for Paul himself after being forbidden two times by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in northern Asia. He finally arrived in Ephesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit began his transforming ministry with the royal priesthood of brothers and sisters, some by their teaching others by their silence, in Christ in Ephesus, but each supporting, helping and aiding as co-workers with Paul and later with Timothy.

I have attempted to avoid the tactic of modern day culture politics which is just as evident in the church as it is in the world. It is a tactic which infuses gender to foment this subject in pursuit of the equality of political correctness as well as the stiffness of egalitarianism and complementarianism exchanges. This is a key reason for the preferred use in this article of the biblical term, the royal priesthood, which does not distinguish between male or female. Other approaches to this subject include different views with different possible word meanings and interpretations of the text. The approach in this article has been devoid of the familiar and available excellent language and historical approaches to this subject. This perspective of the cult and culture of Artemis is rooted in Acts and the epistles of Paul and is separate from the common words and verses spun ceaselessly and with precious little accomplished. It is a perspective as valuable as gender, grammar studies and Jewish interpretations which have dominated the discussion.

There's a significant, if not powerful, account about how Artemis came to seize the children, specifically, little girls, of the people of Ephesus. It speaks loud volumes to what the church continues to do with little girls. Little boys do not escape the message even if it takes them some years to gain some understanding of it.

When the Ephesians learned a wild bear had killed a little girl they hunted it down and killed the bear. Artemis, protectress goddess of wild beasts, was enraged (clue: note how often anger appears in Paul's letters) and declared that thereafter virgin girls would be dedicated to serve in her temple. Of course, these girls grew up to be women whom Artemis "saved" time after time through their birthing experience. Later, when these women came to the knowledge of the love of God in Jesus they rejoiced, not only in their salvation, but in childbearing.

What is the point about Artemis and how the church brings up little girls? It is really a reversal in the church from what it was in the temple of Artemis: Little girls grow up from their early childhood being devout and dedicated only to reach that point as women. They reach that point where it becomes apparent they can no longer serve while simultaneously living in the reality that they are prohibited from teaching and preaching in the assembly of the saints.  Some little girls from their youngest years grow up actually thinking and being let to believe that they can and will, like anyone and everyone, teach and preach the gospel of the kingdom of God.

The obvious reality as it plays out in the church and for those little girls, then young girls, then women is that there are a lot (really?) nice things (serve communion? take up the collection? [but are prohibited from doing]) which they can do in the church, _ it's just not teaching and preaching in the assembly of the saints in Christ. Whatever nice and good thing they do they might do it as unto the Lord they are to do it _ divided, segregated by gender. It does not require great insight to discern the similarities towards women, our sisters in Christ and the church's past in America. The male leadership of the church was slow and reluctant to see the end of slavery and the emancipation of blacks in America. Little boys are not exempt from noticing these things. They grow up and as men can see, even though they if they do not have an understanding or comprehensive response to what they only see, the silence by their own brothers on the silence of their sisters is inescapable. Thereby, half the royal priesthood of believers continues to be silenced.

This is a call for the royal priesthood of brothers and sisters full of the Spirit to hold true to the calling of God to teach and preach the will of the Lord whether in the assembly of the saints or in the city park. This is not a matter of personal like or dislike, comfort or discomfort. I had no idea or intentions of a change of mind, that is, of my understanding on this matter when I began to examine it. The change of mind was not difficult, despite having not so much opposed our sisters in ministry as much as a misunderstanding that teaching and preaching. It was my just my own ignorance that the call of being about the Father's business was to be filled solely by men. It was when I stayed clear to avoid a rehash of the familiar arguments from both sides and examined not just a word/verse or passage, but the overall ministry of the apostle Paul that I, no, the Holy Spirit, brought me to gain the perspective reflected in this article.

The beliefs which exalted Artemis in Ephesus and throughout Asia were false. However, they represented a real source of belief for those who were captive until their eyes were opened through the preaching of the gospel by Paul and Timothy, then. The time has come, today. Who can forbid that brothers and sisters teach and proclaim that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father? Maranatha.

Selected reading:
Religious Cults Associated with the Amazons by Florence Bennett Anderson
A Woman Called by Sara Gaston Barton
Women in the Church: Reclaiming the Ideal by Carroll Osburn
I really appreciate the heart and spirit with which Carroll Osburn treads through the multiple views on the subject. He's got a great response to each, yet I was surprised at his own less-than-substantive conclusion on the subject. There's no doubt he is quite capable of expounding long on I Timothy 2, but I expected a bit more.
The Early Amazons: Modern and Ancient Perspectives on an Ancient Myth
Reading 1 Timothy 2:9-15 in Its Literary Context
The single most glaringly audacious assertion in the above article is  Doug Heidebrecht's mistaken alignment of our sisters with false teaching as one of the reasons for Paul's instruction concerning our sisters in the faith.The Cult of Artemis and the Royal Priesthood

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