What is Artemis in the New Testament?


By BibleAsk Team


Artemis, in the ancient Greek religion, is the goddess of the hunt, the Moon, wilderness, wild animals, and chastity. Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and Leto and the twin sister of Apollo. However, the Artemis recorded in Acts 19 is another deity of the Ephesians but she had the same name (Latin “Diana”) as the deity of Greek mythology. The upper part of the image of Diana was that of a female figure. And the lower part was a square column decorated with strange symbols such as bees, ears of corn, and flowers. There is a reproduction of this figure in the Vatican Museum which resembles an Oriental idol.

Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities and her temple at Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Ephesians boasted about their deity saying, “Doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven?” (Acts 19:35). The reference here is probably to a meteorite that fell from heaven.

Paul’ Ministry in Ephesus

But the Lord in His mercy expelled the darkness of idolatry in Ephesus by sending His light through the ministry of Paul (Acts 19:10), who did “extraordinary miracles” there (verse 11). As a result, “a number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly… In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (verses 19–20). The act of burning the sorcery books proved that internal belief in heart is always accompanied by external acts of repentance.

Consequently, “there arose a great disturbance about the Way” (Acts 19:23). And a silversmith named Demetrius said, “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business [selling Artemis shrines]. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty” (verses 25–27).

Obviously, Demetrius was enraged for his revenues declined rapidly as people stopped buying idols. Therefore, Demetrius caused a commotion shouting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:28). And they attempted to catch Paul but when they didn’t find him, they seized two of his companions and dragged them to the city theater. And for two hours the crowds praised Artemis (verse 34). Finally, the city clerk clammed the crowds down and asked them not to disrupt the peace of the city and get penalized for it (verse 40).

The End of Artemis

After that, Paul left Ephesus to continue his third missionary journey that he may spread the good news of the gospel to other cities that have not heard the truth. As Christianity spread, the worship of Artemis weakened, and her shrines were abandoned. When the Goths destroyed Asia Minor about A.D. 262 they stole the temple of Diana, and its destruction was completed centuries later by the Turks.

When converted to Christianity, the temple of Ephesus, provided materials for the church of St. Sophia, built by Justinian in Constantinople. Since the Turkish attack, the church has been used as a mosque. It is now a museum. The city of Ephesus was destroyed and the site of the temple was unknown until within the last century. Archeological diggings have shown the temple site and have revealed many inscriptions tied to it.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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