The First-Century Ephesian Artemis: Ramifications Of Her Identity -- By: Sandra L. Glahn

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 172:688 (Oct 2015)
Article: The First-Century Ephesian Artemis: Ramifications Of Her Identity
Author: Sandra L. Glahn

The First-Century Ephesian Artemis:
Ramifications Of Her Identity

Sandra L. Glahn

Sandra L. Glahn is Associate Professor of Media Arts and Worship, Dallas Theological Seminary, and Editor-in-Chief of DTS magazine.


Part 1 of a two-part series on Artemis of the Ephesians established that the Ephesians’ manifestation of the goddess had close connections with midwifery. Rather than being a fertility goddess, a mother figure, or a nurturer, she was a virgin in the strictest sense. Part 2 explores the ramifications of this knowledge for interpreting the instructions in 1 Timothy, including the instruction about modesty (2:9) and the enigmatic reference to being “saved through childbearing” (v. 15). The ascetic practices of Artemis worshipers may also account for the seeming proto-Gnosticism in the letter that has affected scholars’ views of Pauline authorship.

Numerous discoveries at the site of ancient Ephesus have shed new light on first-century backgrounds. One of the most significant of these discoveries is information about the distinctly Ephesian Artemis, the city’s preeminent goddess, and her cult at the time of the earliest Christians.1

The first article in this two-part series concluded that while many associate Artemis of Ephesus with extramarital sex, prostitution, and fertility, no evidence suggests that she ever, and certainly not in the first century, had such a connection. In fact, she was celibate. Yet this Artemis was strongly associated with childbirth and midwifery.2 As the legend goes, Artemis was born near

Ephesus, and—having watched her mother, Leto, writhe for nine days while delivering Artemis’s twin brother, Apollo—Artemis had special mercy on those giving birth.

In the first century, the primary cause of death for men was war, but for women it was childbirth. Researchers estimate that for the empire to maintain a minimum of zero population growth, the average wife had to bear five children.3 The pressure on wives to reproduce was great. Emperors provided incentives, and politicians passed laws relating to remarriage and childbearing to keep armies staffed. As the primary goddess associated with midwifery, Artemis played an enormous role in a culture that depended on marriage and reproduction for its survival.

Epigraphic evidence reveals that Artemis Ephesia’s followers...

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