Ephesus: The Arena in Which Paul Preached

No visit to the historical islands and area around the Aegean Sea would be complete without a visit to Kusadasi and more importantly nearby Ephesus. A focal feature is the facade of the impressive Celsus Library named for Emperor Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus and completed around 117 A.D. Once the third largest library in the world it housed over 30,000 volumes.The imposing front is designed to look even more impressive. Upward it recedes at two degrees giving the upper floor the appearance of being further away and hence the building being larger than it was. The style gives us the word “mirage.” The facility itself is a liberal education. The facade features four female figures representing what the ancients considered the basis of learning. A person having the qualities represented by the statues would indeed be well educated. They are: Sophia, wisdom, which is scholarly learning or knowledge; and understanding of what is right or true coupled with just judgment or action.

Arete, virtue, the fulfillment of function or purpose, the act of living up to one’s potential. When translated “virtue” it means “to be the best you can be.” I have always found it comforting to know God never asked us to be “the” best at anything, but rather to be “our” best at everything we do. Such a person would indeed be virtuous.

Eunoia, thinking, is an exhortation to contemplating, meditating, that is, well thought or reasoned opinions. It is the ability to compute using logic and reason.

Episteme, knowledge, is a sort of science. It is the art of demonstrating as proof, that is, the ability to repeat a fact.

On our recent trip we visited Ephesus during the day and evening. The stadium was dated by an inscription to Nero, 54 – 68 A.D. The long Arcadian Way leads to the Great Theater seating 20,000. Here the Apostle Paul preached and for doing so was basically run out of town. The truths he proclaimed eventually became the primary faith of the region.

Nearby is the traditional sight where it is believed the Virgin Mary spent her last years and is buried. Also close by is the Basilica of the Apostle John built by Emperor Justinian over the spot where John is reputedly buried.

We visited the city by day viewing all the points of interest. By night the city has an ethereal ambiance. The Seabourn Cruise Company, with which we were traveling, reserved the historical sight for an evening performance of classical music by the Kusadasi String Ensemble just for cruise members. Tables and chairs were set up on the Arcadian Way with the attractively lighted theater as a background. Down this street walked such historical figures as Cleopatra, Mark Anthony, Hadrian, Caligula, Trajan, and the Apostles John and Paul.

Ephesus was a port city with lessons to teach us. The Romans cut the timber off the surrounding hills and did not practice reforestation. The port that once was six miles wide and seven miles long filled in by soil eroded from the hills and is now a fertile agricultural area. When the port filled in the city died.

Still carved in the large stone pavements are circles dissected by eight straight lines. It is a design formed by overlaying the Greek letters for Ichthus, meaning fish: iota, chi, theta, gamma, and zeta. Overlaid they form the dissected circle interpreted to mean “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.”

In this way the faith once decried in the city is noted by those who came to embrace it.