Ephesos Metropolis of Asia: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Its Archaeology, Religion and Culture

By Helmut Koester, ed.
Valley Forge, PA : Trinity Press International (1995). 357 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Dennis Swanson
9.1 (Spring 1998) : 110-111

This work, a collection of thirteen essays originally delivered at the Harvard Divinity School symposium on Ephesus (rendered "Ephesos" throughout the work), is part of the Harvard Theological Studies series (the present volume is number 41 in the series).

The layout and design of the book are well-conceived. There are an adequate subject index, a fine glossary, and frequent illustrations (both drawing and photographs) depicting various site diagrams and archaeological finds. A fine, annotated, pull-out map of ancient Ephesus is in the back of the book.

The articles have footnotes, which this reviewer prefers over the current trend toward notes at the rear of a book. The articles themselves reflect high scholarship, but in places a very low view of Scripture. For instance, the editor writing on "Ephesos in Early Christian Literature" states that "the Letter to the Ephesians is not a genuine letter of Paul's" (122 n. 14). Elsewhere he states that the Pastoral Epistles are "deutero-Pauline," composed "not earlier than the end of the first century, but probably as late as the fourth or fifth decade of the second century" (124). All the names of places and persons of the Pastorals are regarded as "fictional" (124); thus any use of these books to reconstruct a chronology of Paul's life and ministry is erroneous. A letter to the Ephesians is posited by the editor, but he concludes that Romans 16 is that letter which later editors mistakenly attached to the end of that epistle (122-23). Such theories lead to rather dubious conclusions, such as Philemon and Philippians being written during an "Ephesian imprisonment" (122), a "rivalry" between Paul and Apollos (126), a "cult" of John the Baptist in Ephesus which thought of him as the Messiah (125), and questioning whether Revelation 2:1-7 was written to a church at Ephesus (133). The editor has consistently rejected inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture in his works (see "What is - and Is Not - Inspired," Bible Review 11/5 [October 1995]:18, 48).

The other articles, though not friendly to conservative views of Scripture, are nonetheless helpful as background studies. White's article on "Urban Development and Social Change in Imperial Ephesos" (27-80) is quite helpful. Friesen's article on the Emperor Cult in Ephesus and the Book of Revelation (229-50), while retaining some of the aforementioned flaws, does have a helpful discussion on the dating of Revelation. He adopts a traditional dating during the reign of Domitian as preferable (245-46) to a dating during the reign of Nero. Limberis' article on the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 430) and the theotokos (Mary as "Bearer of God") controversy is also very helpful.

All in all, this work reflects most of the current thinking in liberal circles as related to biblical studies. Those who can extract background and historical information as it relates to Ephesus will find useful bits and pieces. Those who are looking for sound interpretation of the text and helpful exegetical data will be as disappointed as this reviewer was.