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Bible Trek

Ancient luxuries and Christianity | Bible Trek – Ephesus Series (Part 1) - 06

In this part of Ephesus, archaeologists have discovered luxury housing inhabited by society’s elite. Built into the hillside, these houses were sophisticated dwellings, complete with marble floors and even central heating. Paul’s time in Ephesus was successful; the gospel had spread and many had come to know about Jesus Christ. It is possible that the ancient fish symbol found inscribed in one of the houses here indicates that the gospel had also spread among the upper social classes. 

Quick read

Matthew 16.15–17

In a nutshell

This is the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Mark 1.1

The seven terraced houses of ancient Ephesus date back to the first century. Built into a hill, they belonged to the wealthy. We can tell, not only from the frescoes on the walls and the mosaic floors. The three-storey dwellings had courtyards, running water, heating and private baths.

The Apostle Paul’s missionary activity in Ephesus had been successful. The Book of Revelation, presumably written a few decades after Paul, directly addresses the church in Ephesus. By the second century, the city had its own bishop. 

Christian symbols in ancient Ephesus, such as the depiction of a fish in one of the terraced houses, indicate this early Christian presence. The Greek word for fish, ICHTHYS, can be read as an acronym: the letters are the first letters of the Greek words for ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour’. God had sent his son, the long-awaited Messiah (‘Christ’ in Greek), to save people from their sins. 

Vibia Perpetua was married, well-educated and wealthy. When the Roman Empire declared Christianity to be illegal, state-sanctioned slaughter broke out. Perpetua was put in prison but she refused to recant her claim that Jesus was Lord. The day of her death is recorded like this:

‘The day of their victory dawned and they marched from the prison to the amphitheatre joyfully as though they were going to heaven, with calm faces, trembling, if at all, with joy rather than fear …’ (The Acts of the Christian Martyrs, third century). 

What enabled believers like Perpetua to face martyrdom? Why would wealthy Christians in Ephesus inscribe ICTHYS on their walls risking their comfort and possibly their lives? 

‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16.16).

Peter encapsulates the reason why: Jesus was the promised saviour of the world. The early Christians had experienced the risen Jesus and his salvation deeply. 

Pray for the thousands facing persecution because of their allegiance to Jesus.

Read on, to find out more about the significance of Jesus’ person and mission.

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