The Bible and Culture

The Bible and Culture


The Ephesian Terrace Houses

posted by Ben Witherington

Probably the most exciting of all the archaeological developments in Turkey is what has been uncovered on a hill overlooking the Celsus Library in Ephesos by the Austrians. And the Austrians are both meticulous and thorough, and their work on the terraced houses is spectacular. They have even built a state of the art roof over the hill and a walkway and  stairway so one can climb around and see the site without interfering with the work.  I was fortunate enough to be given a private tour of the site before it became a public tourist attraction and as the year comes to the end, I thought I would share some of my favorite shots.
eph_homes01.jpg
Here is an overview of the site which shows some of the amazing wall painting and mosaics.  This was clearly the the high rent district in Ephesos, and various of these people could be called the literati– the well education ones.  They had mosaics of philosophers and deities inlaid in their walls.
Ephesus_frescoes_in_house_tb_n010500.jpg
The colors and range of depictions are as spectacular as you will find at Pompeii or Herculaneum.  Its just less well know and less well advertised than those in Italy.  Here for comparison is an image from Pompeii.
villa1.jpg

One of my favorite frescoes in Ephesos is the one of the Greek philosophers seen below. 

house2-unit3-5-courtyard-philosophers-c-newguide.jpg

You can just see the Greek names of the philosophers above the picture.  Here below is a clear shot from above of one particular house that has white and red walls with pictures of deities and nymphs in every square.
terrace-houses-at-ephesus.jpg
You begin to get a feel for how spacious some of these houses were.  The shot below shows you some of the brick arches connecting to marble columns.

terrace-houses-of-ephesus.jpg

There are many other shots I could share with you but before I draw some conclusions here is one of the now famous mosaic of the god Dionysius and Ariadne.
house2-unit2-mosaic-dionysus-c-newguide.jpg

Why is any of this of importance for our study of Paul and his letters?  Firstly there is the matter of social context. A text without a context is just a pretext for whatever you want it to mean.  In this case, this archaeological work tells us how people like the Asiarchs would have lived as members of the uber-wealthy in Ephesos, less than 2% of the population. As we know from inscriptional evidence at Miletus and elsewhere, there were indeed Asiarchs in Paul’s day in this very region, some of the leading men of the province of Asia, and it was they whom Paul was warned by to flee Ephesos. (Acts 19.31). But how had he become friendly with them? The answer is clear— Paul was a person of high social status both in terms of his education and in terms of the fact that he was a Roman citizen. As such he was able to circulate among the elite of the society, even though he chose to step down the social ladder and live at a more humble level, presumably so he could share the Gospel with any and all up and down the social ladder.  It may well be the Asiarch who helped Paul procure a public place to teach and share his message, for we learn that in Ephesos, Paul did this at the Hall of Tyrannus.   Ephesos was certainly one of Paul’s most important bases of operation in the Greco-Roman world, and according to Acts he spent over two years there, longer than he spent in any other city that we know of.   Here too in Ephesos Johannine Christianity would be established as well by the Beloved Disciple and John of Patmos.   The more we know about the context of the NT writings the better we understand those writings, and the Ephesian terrace houses illuminate the life of Paul in various ways.  No one should imagine that early Christianity was chiefly led by a bunch of illiterate peasants. The documents of the NT give the lie to that assumption, and none do a better job of refuting this assumption than the letters of Paul.  Paul was equally at home with the Asiarchs as with the humble slave or day laborer. As such he was the ideal messenger in the Greco-Roman world of salvation for not only the least, last, and lost, but also for the first, most, and found. 



Advertisement
Comments read comments(13)
post a comment
Quiddity

posted December 31, 2009 at 2:09 pm


Superb! Those colors are vivid and I hope there is a thorough documentation for posterity (e.g. photographs of every square inch).
I wonder what, if any, documents are found in that environment. In any event, just the standing structures tell us a lot about how life was lived in such a place. Have the identified a tent-maker’s shop, perchance?
I continue to be optimistic that much more is to be discovered in the Levant and nearby (both texts and sites) that will massively increase our understanding of how Christianity developed in the first centuries. Thanks to BW3 for keeping us informed.



report abuse
 

Stephen Hebert

posted January 1, 2010 at 7:31 pm


Excellent shots!
I had the opportunity to tour the terrace houses back in 2005 with a group of students from Harvard. I was blown away by the complex: frescos, mosaics, the basilica that is built into the greater structure. A marvelous place!
I definitely agree with you on the importance of archaeological work for our understanding of New Testament figures and texts. Thanks again for posting these shots.



report abuse
 

Jordan Wilson

posted January 10, 2010 at 1:47 pm


LOVE the photos! I wish they could have been of a higher resolution though. I would love to blow them up and scrutinize the details.



report abuse
 

payday loans toronto

posted July 26, 2010 at 9:29 pm


blog.beliefnet.com is great! People prefer taking payday loans with higher interest rates rather than going to pawn Payday loans also referred to as fast cash advance are readily available and do not



report abuse
 

Mr. Payday Easy Loans Inc.

posted September 8, 2010 at 4:05 am


Hi webmaster, commencers and everybody else !!! The blog was absolutely brilliant! Lots of superb information and inspiration, both of which we all need! Keep them coming… You all do such a superb job at such Concepts… can’t tell you how much I, for one appreciate all you do! hazshpbiscjaeouwpgpkfingqhbdkrzvnqb
Mr. Payday Easy Loans Inc.



report abuse
 

loans with bad credit

posted October 5, 2010 at 9:32 pm


This site is awesome. I constantly come across some thing new & different right here. Thank you for that data.



report abuse
 

payday loans online

posted December 18, 2010 at 1:07 am


This website is the most popular web property. hyffhlps



report abuse
 

student financial aid

posted December 18, 2010 at 8:08 pm


This website is the leading web site. gpgpldvi



report abuse
 

sample resume

posted December 22, 2010 at 7:05 am


This website is the perfect web property. ruodvswg



report abuse
 

football online

posted December 24, 2010 at 11:00 am


I am looking for ncaa 2011 football online dynasty. How can I find it?



report abuse
 

school grants

posted January 12, 2011 at 10:33 am


Excellent read about The Ephesian Terrace Houses
- Ben Witherington on the Bible and Culture!



report abuse
 

payday loans calgary

posted March 13, 2011 at 11:02 am


I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from. appreciate it



report abuse
 

Ephesian

posted May 19, 2012 at 7:52 pm


I loved you shots. I totaly agree with you that this project is a state of art!



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

The John Wesley Fellows Meeting at Candler---- The Senior Fellows
The John Wesley Fellowship began in 1977, with Steve Harper and yours truly being two of the first John Wesley Fellows chosen.  I have told the story of Ed Robb and AFTE  this past Fall on the blog so I will not repeat it.   Here are some of the senior fellows attending the meeting.

posted 5:46:30am Jan. 11, 2011 | read full post »

Guns and Religion--- Enough is Quite Enough
I was sitting at the traffic light when a pickup pulled up next to me.  On the back of the cab window was a bumper sticker saying 'Guns and religion. Now more than ever.'   Then I found the picture you see above, and then this one below......   My response to this nonsense above

posted 7:05:08pm Jan. 10, 2011 | read full post »

Revival 2011--- At My Home Church in Charlotte

posted 9:58:02am Jan. 10, 2011 | read full post »

The John Wesley Fellows Meeting at Candler---- The Art of Theology
The John Wesley Fellows meeting this January was held in Atlanta at Candler School of Theology, and its Dean,  Dean Love is a collector of art for the seminary, with some 50 or so paintings now gracing the walls of their beautiful new seminary building.  The art of choice comes from a West

posted 5:30:50am Jan. 10, 2011 | read full post »

Ancient Readers and Manuscripts--- William A. Johnson's Take
  In the American world of bigger is better (and more erudite) it is refreshing to find a smallish book  (207 pages of text, including some pictures)  that makes its points in detail with full primary source documentation and then resists the tendency to be verbose or erudite for all

posted 9:30:59am Jan. 07, 2011 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.