Archaeology and the New Testament (X)

By Mike Willis

Larry Ray Haffley

Leaving Corinth, Paul went to Ephesus taking with him Priscilla and Aquila. He left them at Ephesus and made a quick trip back to Antioch to report to the congregation there the affairs of his work and then returned to Ephesus where he labored three years.

In Ephesus was located the Temple of Diana, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. With such a temple located there, the idolatry in that city would be competitive with that in Athens, perhaps differing only in the number of gods. Acts 19:24 refers to one named Demetrius who made silver shrines of Diana. No doubt the tourists visiting the temple bought these shrines as souvenirs and probably, also, as objects of worship. None of these silver shrines of Diana has yet been uncovered.

Pauls preaching here was quite effective. He showed that the magical arts practiced in that city were unprofitable and false. As a result, “Many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them.” 1 The books burned on this occasion can be identified through archaeological research. “These books or scrolls are the Ephesian grammata . . . these Ephesian writings were a familiar term in the Graeco-Roman world for magical texts, and involved a custom associated with the temple of Diana.”2

Thus, when Paul started opposing the worship of Diana, and hurting the silver shrine business. Demetrius stirred up a riot against Paul. The crowd began chanting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.” The shout of the mob is now shown to have been a common formula in the Artemis worship being attested by several inscriptions. 3 The mob rushed into the theater dragging two of Pauls companions since they could not locate Paul. This theater is “the structure to be seen today by the tourist on the western slope of Mt. Pion. It was 495 feet in diameter and would hold about 24,500 people in its heyday.” 4

Finally, the town clerk came out and quieted the mob. Again, excavations at Ephesus have shown that the town-clerk (grammateus) was the principal municipal officer. Findings have revealed the “use of the same term town-clerk for the democratic citys executive officer.5

In this manner most of the events at Ephesus have been convincingly confirmed by archaeology.

Pauls Arrest in Jerusalem

When Paul arrived in Jerusalem with the funds collected to relieve the poverty among the saints, he went out of his way to appease Jewish antagonism against him. However, mob action broke out against him among the Jews on the trumped-up charge that he had brought a Gentile into the temple.

Although he was not guilty as charged, the sanctity of the temple has been confirmed. In 1871, Clermont Ganneau found a Greek inscription which was placed in the precincts of the temple which said:

“No Gentiles may enter inside the enclosing screen around the Temple. Whoever is caught is alone responsible for the death which follows.” Thus, had Paul been guilty as charged, both he and the Gentile he supposedly took into the temple could have been put to death.


With this section, the study of archaeology and its relation to the study of the New Testament is about wrapped up. Probably, we have but touched the hem of the garment of bow archaeology confirms the historical accuracy of the New Testament. New discoveries will be made which will make any book now in print obsolete. Archaeology is a field of study in which one must constantly read in order to stay abreast of the new findings.

However, this study should have shown that archaeology has helped in the study of the New Testament.


1. Acts 19:19.

2. Merrill F. Unger, Archaeology and the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1962), p. 260.

3. Camden M. Cobern, The New Archaeological Discoveries and Their Bearings Upon the New Testament (New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1917), p. 468.

4. James A. Thompson, The Bible and Archaeology (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1968), p. 400.

5. Henry J. Cadbury, The Book of Acts in History (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1955), p. 41.

6. Op. Cit., Thompson, p. 314. End of Series

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 50, pp. 4-5
October 26, 1972