Friday, August 15, 2008

The Mystery of Submission - Ephesians 5 (part 5 of 16)

Continued from here.

Cultural Background

Let’s get a little historical background before we move forward. The goddess Artemis reined in Ephesus. Her followers built one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, located within 30 miles the city. This temple was a key part of their geography and culture.[1] If you had visited Ephesus in those days, you would have identified right away the religion of the region, much the same way you see the minarets in Istanbul and know immediately Islam is a major presence.

Artemis was born first and delivered her twin brother Apollo; she saved women in child-bearing[2]; and she taught that women were spiritually superior to men. This created tension between the men and women of the culture. Where the women flaunted their prowess before men, like Artemis did before the gods, imagine how dramatic Paul’s words would have been. “Submit of yourselves as you do to the Lord.” Do it freely. Do it willingly. Go against the cultural grain. You belong to the Messiah now and his kingdom and his way of abundant life.

Some argue women are wired to submit to a man and they will use verse 22 to support it. Interview women and you might hear sardonic laughter and an insistence of the opposite! Even so, Paul rarely instructs believers to do anything that comes naturally. Saying he instructs them to do something naturally is about as redundant as someone commanding you to breathe. Breathing comes naturally. Submission doesn’t come naturally to any fallen human.

Now the Greek world was also patriarchal. Men were generally 10-15 years older than their wives and were providers for them in that society. Men owned private property, including their wives, were viewed as physically, intellectually, financially superior, and were the strength and glory of the family heritage.

Coming up... what does it mean to be the "head"...

[1] Acts 19 illustrates how entrenched Artemis was in the cultural imagination in Ephesians.
[2] Paul admonished believers in Ephesus that Messiah, not Artemis, was superior to saving women in childbearing (1 Tim 2:15).


Philip said...

This is a key post for me. The best part was the reference to Acts 19. I have read about Artemis and the whole cultural background multiple times but for some reason I at least do not remember Acts 19 being mentioned. Without this reference the argument has little weight I think, but it is strong to see in Acts the Ephesians being so proud of Artemis as theirs.

Good post.

Dale Fincher said...

Hey Philip,

The Acts 19 passage does make it more compelling. We see the influence in a story.

Yet, I will say that the extra-Biblical evidence is growing more compelling. Even phrases made to Artemis are captured in the writing of 1 Timothy where Jesus is given a higher position than the goddess. This includes inscriptions about birthing protection as well as Artemis being the goddess of inapproachable light.

I heard Frank Ames of Colorado Christian University give a very good lecture on this.