Paul is too successful in Ephesus-at least as far as the idol-making lobbyists are concerned. There are Seven Wonders of the World. But the most beautiful, according to one writer who said he saw all seven, is a temple in Ephesus dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis. Romans call her Diana.
“I have seen the walls and hanging gardens of ancient Babylon, the statue of Olympian Zeus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the mighty work of the high pyramids, and the tombs of Mausolus,” wrote the Greek scientist Philon in the 200s BC. “But when I saw the temple at Ephesus rising to the clouds, all these other wonders were put in the shade.”
A lot of Ephesus citizens make their living off of Artemis. Artisans create statues and figurines of the goddess. Merchants sell them. And temple workers are happy for all the attention their goddess gets. Paul’s preaching has thrown the idol attention their goddess gets. Paul’s preaching has thrown the idol industry into a recession.
Demetrius, a silversmith czar who runs an idol-manufacturing business, calls a meeting of everyone connected with the industry. He says he’s worried about money and the diminishing respect for his industry. Then, implying that he’s more concerned about spiritual matters than cash, he says he doesn’t want to see Paul further erode the respect of “this magnificent goddess.”
Archaeologists found the name of Demetrius on a list of men honored as protectors of the Ephesus temple, though it could have been another man by the same name. Also discovered is evidence of a guild of silversmiths, with an inscription reading, “May the guild of the silversmiths prosper!”
Double-barreled motivation-money and religion-quickly blasts the meeting into a mob. Onlookers, lured into the drama of the moment, join the hunt for Paul.
What they find instead are a couple of Paul’s associates, whom they drag to the city amphitheater. Paul hears about this and wants to go and meet the mob. Officials talk him out of it. The mayor of the city goes to the theater and restores calm. He tells Demetrius and the trade workers to file a formal complaint instead of risking Roman intervention and punishment for causing a riot.