David Couchman
David Couchman is the Director of Focus and the producer of the 'God: new evidence,' 'God and the Big Bang,' 'After Life?' and 'Jesus Myths' video series. More...

Digital Evangelism blog

Demetrius the silversmith at Ephesus

Ephesus was a port, and was one of the largest cities in the Roman World. It was also famous as the center for the worship of Artemis (also known as Diana). The temple of Artemis in Ephesus, at 110 x 49 meters (360 x 160 ft), was the largest building in the Greek world. Like all large religious centers, it attracted trade, with potters and - according to the Bible - silversmiths making shrines and images of Artermis. In 'Evidence and Paul's Journeys', Jefferson White says:

Archaeological excavations have uncovered a great number of terra-cotta shrines in the vicinity of the temple, but no silver ones. But this is not surprising, since no silver artwork has come down to us from the first century. Anything made with precious metals was sooner or later melted down. An inscription has been discovered in Ephesus that refers to a wealthy Roman who presented a silver image of Diana to the city theater, and there are other local inscriptions that refer to silver statues of Artemis. So it is not improbable that silver shrines were also made. (page 40)

Paul spent more than two years in Ephesus between 53 and 56 AD (Acts chapter 19 verses 1-41). As a result, many people became followers of Christ, both in Ephesus itself and in the surrounding towns and villages. One side-effect of this was that the bottom fell out of the market in Artemis shrines. One of the leaders of the shrine-makers was a man called Demetrius. He gathered the craftsmen together (the first recorded instance of a trade union?) and sparked a riot against Paul - see Acts chapter 19 verses 21-41.

The archaeologist John T Wood, who excavated Ephesus in the 19th century, found an inscription with the name Demetrius, a warden of the temple of Artemis in the year 57 AD (that is, just after the time Paul was there). This could be the person referred to in the Bible, but the name Demetrius was a common one. White says:

An inscription has been found in Ephesus, from the first century, that refers to a shrine-maker by the name of Demetrius. Was this the individual named in Acts? Unfortunately, the name Demetrius was extremely common in the ancient world, so the identification cannot be confirmed. (page 40)

Even if the person referred to is not the same, the archaeological evidence confirms the overall historical probability of the Acts account.

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