Ephesians 5

Living With Each Other in the World

Idolatry in Ephesus

No covetous person, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ (Ephesians 5:5).

Physical idols were common in the Greco-Roman world. Four statues of Artemis (whom the Romans called Diana) were discovered in excavations at Ephesus in 1956. They were once part of the colossal Temple of Artemis located there, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The so-called Great Artemis stands 9.5 feet tall (3 m) and dates to the reign of Trajan (AD 98–117). The so-called Beautiful Artemis is 5.7 feet (1.8 m) tall and dates to about the time of Hadrian (117–138). In addition, a smaller statue and a copy of the smaller statue were also found. The head, hands, and feet of the statue shown here are restored. The pendants hanging from her chest may be related to the numerous pendants made of amber that were also recovered from her temple at Ephesus.

Judgment in the Greco-Roman World

Because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 5:6).

Paul here likely refers to the final judgment of God. Contemporary contexts of judgment with which Paul’s audience would have been familiar included judgment seats called the “bema.” City officials would pronounce judgment from a structure like this, which was usually located alongside the marketplace. This is the word used to describe the judgment seat of God (Rom 14:10) and Christ (2 Cor 5:10). The platform pictured here is the bema at Corinth from which Gallio heard the Jewish accusations against Paul in Acts 18:12, 16-17. (Compare Matt 27:19, which uses the same word for “judgment seat.”)


You were once in darkness, but now are light in the Lord (Ephesians 5:8).

Artificial light in Paul’s day came from lamps, candles, and torches. Most lamps were clay, although some metal examples are known, like the one shown here. The fuel they used was most commonly olive oil. Perhaps Paul was thinking of Jesus’s words, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16). This tabletop lampstand was photographed at the Ephesus Museum.

Keeping Time

Making the most of the time, since the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16).

Perhaps the most common way of keeping track of time in Paul’s day was the sundial. The typical Roman sundial consisted of a hemispherical bowl with lines incised within it. A short stick (gnomon) was attached to the top, projecting out over the bowl, and its shadow moved across the lines to indicate the time. This sundial from Ostia, the port city of Rome, was photographed at the Vatican Museums.

Household Law Codes

Wives . . . husbands . . . children . . . fathers . . . slaves . . . masters (Ephesians 5:22–6:9)

Using the style of household law codes, Paul instructs the Ephesian Christians how they ought to relate to one another as part of the household of God. Paul may also have in mind here the fact that moral conduct in accord with (and indeed beyond) the current cultural standards of the day would commend the message of the gospel to “those outside” (cf. Col 4:5; 1 Cor 9:19-23). One such code is known as the Gortyn Law Code, dating back to the 5th century BC. Gortyn was the capital of the Mediterranean island of Crete in Paul’s day. The building pictured here contains a copy of the code on the stones making up its walls.

The Greeks and Marriage

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife (Ephesians 5:31).

This loutrophoros from Athens, made in the 5th century BC, depicts a marriage. A loutrophoros was used to carry water for a bride’s pre-nuptial ritual bath; in funeral rituals, it was placed in the tombs of those who had died unmarried. This example was photographed at the British Museum.

Purchase the Collection:

Ephesians (Photo Companion to the Bible)

FREE Shipping plus Immediate Download