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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Amazon Women Warriors and their contribution to Christianity

Excerpt from soon to be released "When Will Eve Be Forgiven?"

During the time of Paul's ministry there was a strong dominant female influence in the nation. Women were not seen as weak, but as embodying what gave life and salvation. This influenced how Paul would evangelize the people of Ephesus.

Why would Paul write to Timothy who was in Ephesus at the time: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But woman will be saved through childbearing---if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with prosperity.” I want to examine this passage paying close attention to what was occurring in Ephesus at the time Paul wrote to Timothy: goddess worship.

It seems Paul wanted the masses to understand how a man and especially a woman could find salvation. In the Young’s Liberal Translation, New Century Version, New International Version, 21st Century King James Version, English Standard Version, and the Amplified Bible, the word “saved” is used in verse 15 of each Bible for this passage. The Darby Translation of the Bible uses the word “preserved” in the place of the word “saved.” The Message Bible elaborates more on the word “saved” in verse 15 with this sentence, “But this salvation only comes to those who continue …” What was happening during this time of Paul’s missionary journey making it important for him to emphasize the role of women in the church and daily living?

Ephesus had a long history of goddesss worship when Christianity arrived in about A.D. 51. For 1000 years, goddess worship dominated the region with many cults loyal to female ‘gods’. Ephesus began as a tree shrine by traveling Amazons, the beginning of goddess worship.

Amazons, a tribe of female warriors, are credited with founding Ephesus. These warrior women first lived in Caucasus and Asia Minor and were the founders of the city Themiscyra. They were governed by a Queen. Men were permitted in their presence only once a year to perpetuate their race. All new born sons were killed. It is reported that their right breast were burned off so they could better handle their bows and arrows.

Trees in general, as well as the world of trees, belonged to Artemis with the latter being the source of unborn souls. It was believed the fruit of the Tree of Life could give, depending on how it was obtained and when it was eaten, eternal life, great wisdom, or help during labor. Artemis was worshipped as a tree goddess.
Eternal life in early civilization, did not mean immortality, but rebirth; the continuing survival of the soul. Diana means Artemis in Greek and she was the illegitimate daughter of Leto and Zeus, a twin sister of Apollo. The Greek goddess Diana is depicted as a huntress with a bow and arrow usually in her hand. Even though there is some blending of the two goddesses, Artemis of Ephesus had a different depiction and attributes that the people of Ephesus worshipped her for.

The Amazons adored Artemis as a protector and leader. Artemis’ tree priestesses at Ephesus served under her title of Opis, meaning silent or awful. Virginity was strongly emphasized in the temple of Aremis. The only people allowed to enter the temple were men and women that were virgins. Married or sexually active women were excluded and could face death if they were not virgins. Artemis, especially when associated with Ephesus, is also defined as the destroyer, death bringer, and the guide between worlds and lives.

Her temple was more than just a religious shrine. It was the source of immense civic pride, an assurance of protection, a secure bank, a treasure trove of priceless artwork, and the center of the city’s thriving economy. The temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the World alongside the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassusos, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria. At the temple, the goddess was commonly known as Cybele, Mother of all Creatures, Lady of the Beasts, Artemis of the First Throne, Queen of the Cosmos, Lord, Saviour, heavenly Goddess, and Greatest and Holiest. Her pine cone tipped wand represented her motherhood. Just as she brought all life into the world, she took it back into herself in death. A firm belief developed that Artemis and Cybele were the same goddess. The people just had different understandings of her.

Artemis was worshipped throughout the area. She had centers in Italy that were considered holy groves. A festival at her main Roman temple in Aventin, was held on August 13. On the Island of Kythera, Artemis of Ephesus was worshipped. Her connection to sex and reproduction was directly acknowledged. Celtic hunters paid a fine for each animal taken into a communal fund and used to purchase a sacrifice to Artemis each year.

There is no record of Christianity in Ephesus before the arrival of Paul and his companions in about AD 51. Late in his life, Paul had made several curious references to myths and women in his letter to Timothy in Ephesus as in: 1Timothy 1:3, 4:7 and 2:13-14. Jewish stories of Adam and Eve had apparently merged with the mother-goddess myths so that Eve had become a mother-goddess. For that cult, all life issued from the mother-goddess, so they would naturally claim that Eve preceded Adam. Furthermore, wisdom came from the mother-goddess, so the revisionist version of creation would need to have Adam deceived by the serpent. This can be the reasoning behind Paul’s inclusion of how the woman was deceived by the serpent and the position of man as being before the woman and a position of strength and authority. Paul wanted to clear up any false teachings regarding the Christian creation account.

The disturbance over Diana (Artemis) is one of the most prominent stories in the book of Acts (Acts 19:23-41). There were 33 temples in the Greco-Roman world where Diana was worshipped. For over 1000 years, Diana with her temple provided a focal point for rich religious, economic, and cultural life of her worshippers. The temple was the center of drama and worship. Craftmen and silversmiths at Ephesus made their living crafting idols and statuettes to be sold to pilgrims and tourists coming to worship Diana. Demitrius, a leading silversmith preached, “the sanctuary of the great goddess Diana will cease to command respect; and then it will not be very long before she who is worshipped by all of Asia and the civilized world is brought down from her divine pre-eminence.”

She represented not only fertility, but resurrection in the shape of new birth, the eternal return of life to earth and, can be found in a number of early carvings such as the “Tree of Life.” Paul would have had to combat this idea of divinity in giving birth by the women in Ephesus and to make sure that childbirth was seen as a part of the Christian’s worship to God.

Not only was Artemis the guardian deity of Ephesus, she also figured as savior goddess in inscriptions. Inscriptions with “Artemis Savior” appears twice in Attica, once in Peloponnesos, three times in central Greece, once in Northern Greece, seven times at the Aegean Islands, including Crete, three times in Asia Minor, and three times in the broad area of Egypt, Nubia, and Cyrenaica.

Her cult idol (depiction) can be described as a person holding a staff with an elongated body with legs bond together in a mummy like fashion. The upper half of the front torso covered with protuberances resembling human breasts. There is some debate as to whether the protuberances are actually breasts, eggs, or the testicles of the bulls sacrificed to the goddess. The testicles affixed to the goddess, according to modern scholars, as a way of renewing her strength so that she might better assist her worshippers. This may be one of the reasons she is referred to as “many breasted Artemis.”

On her neck she wears a necklace of acorns. The oak tree was sacred to her and on her breastplate appears the signs of the zodiac. Because she was closely associated with death and the underworld, she became associated also with magic and astrology, thus the zodiac on her breastplate. A high crown tops her head with the turrets of the city of Ephesus. The lunar crescent became a symbol of virginity and adorns the brow of the Greek Artemis and Roman Diana because the ancient month was determined by the interval between one new moon and the next. This same interval also marks a certain recurring event in a woman, menses.

Her skirt is decorated with rows of animals, an indication of fertility. On the sides are bees adorned with crowns and wings symbolizing the actual insects and priestesses. The use of bees is due to the fact that Artemis her self was known as the “Queen Bee” and her castrated priests were called “drones.” The first idol of Artemis was carved out of wood and set in an oak tree at Ephesus by the Amazons. There are three marble copies of the cult statue that once stood in the temple on display in the Ephesus Museum. One of the statues is called Beautiful Artemis and it is from the first century AD. A second statue is called Great Artemis and it is from the second century AD.

By understanding the history of Ephesus, one can understand the need to combat the worship of Artemis as the one who can save and protect women. Paul would have had the daunting task of introducing Jesus as the savior of all people, man and woman. Artemis was the goddess women turned to for protection and assistance with fertility issues and childbirth. There would also be the women who would want to remain perpetual virgins so they could have access to her temple without the fear or penalty of death. Replacing a female goddess, a stable source of revenue, would also be a challenge for Paul and his endeavor to spread the gospel. So Paul’s battle was with a dominant female goddess and not with women at large.


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