Thursday, July 13, 2017

Observation and query on Artemis in Acts 19

This observation and query is taken from my daily reading from last week (June 29) which covered Acts 19.

This is the single and only instance in the scriptures of any mention or reference to Artemis. The Holy Spirit in his wisdom introduced the saints in Christ to Artemis in this passage. The temple of Artemis was located in the city of Ephesus. Yet, the overall knowledge of Artemis with those who lead, teach and preach is dismal. Typically, a Sunday morning Bible study on the book of Acts chapter nineteen might meander through a low-grade PG-rated soft porn about sexual immorality and temple prostitutes. (Generally, a way is found to expound with great emphasis regardless of the book being studied, on Gnosticism. Yet, Gnosticism was a newcomer to Asia.

Artemis, on the other hand, had been around for centuries. It is telling that the apostle Paul merely alludes to Gnosticism in a closing note in the penultimate verse of the first letter to Timothy.) She was a female deity. One focus of Artemis was the women throughout Asia with particularly claims of Artemis being the savior of women through childbearing. The testimony of Demetrius makes it clear that Artemis was not some small town, local deity.

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

Although there were numerous beliefs of Artemis by her devotees and worshipers there are three beliefs that were prevalent throughout Asia. Artemis was 1) firstborn, 2) she was the savior, (of women) and 3) she presided over kings. Even a superficial study of Artemis will reveal these three beliefs as readily apparent to the casual reader.

Here’s an example of how the same could be said about Jesus. There are numerous beliefs of Jesus known to his disciples. The belief held by some seriously mistaken believers that Jesus is a brother of Satan or Lucifer is bizarre. It is a belief which is rejected as being absent from the scriptures and way out of harmony with the scriptures. There are, on the other hand, three main tenets concerning Jesus which are common throughout the world, 1) he is the Son of God, 2) he is Lord and Savior, and 3) he died and rose up from the dead through the power of the resurrection. However well or poorly these tenets might be understood might differ between individuals and groups, but these remain as fairly universal among those who believe in Jesus.

Today, the saints in Christ can readily recognize the above mentioned terms about Artemis as these relate and pertain to Jesus as 1) firstborn, 2) savior and 3) king. Our brothers and sisters in the first century would likely have recognized these as they pertained to Artemis. Completely overlooked is how Paul seized and appropriated these terms from the cult of Artemis and applied these to Jesus. Just as important and as a consequence of the failure to understand these things is how these beliefs factored in some problems and solutions concerning women in the ministry of Paul and Timothy. Another casualty of that lack of understanding is why Paul responded as he did to those problems. This is not a deep, dark unknown and obscure mystery.

The reference to these beliefs by the apostle Paul in his gospel message would rightly have resonated as familiar with devotees and worshipers of Artemis. Today, the effect of overlooking these things can not be underestimated nor dismissed in the struggles of the saints to understand  the apostle Paul's message. These things are as inseparable from Artemis as the gospel is inseparable from Jesus. Keep this in mind when you realize that the apostle Paul wrote six of his thirteen letters, (Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, I & II Timothy and Philemon) seven if Titus, who was on the island of Crete is included, to churches and individuals in Asia.

How do these three beliefs shape and impact your own struggle, understanding and teaching of the message of the apostle Paul?

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