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Book Review: A Week in the Life of Ephesus by David A. deSilva

Book Review: A Week in the Life of Ephesus by David A. deSilva

Book Review: A Week in the Life of Ephesus by David A. deSilva

17 November 2020

Ancient Ephesus comes to life in this book exploring Paul’s time in the city and how it shaped the Church. Pictured is the Acarlar, Celsus Library in Ephesus. Photograph by Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz on Unsplash.

Reviewed by Phil Inglis

Reading David DeSilva’s book A Week in the Life of Ephesus reminds me of the experience I had watching Peter Jackson’s 2018 documentary They Shall Grow Not Old, based on silent black and white footage from World War One.

Through detailed research into antique textiles and paints, Jackson determined what the colours would most likely have been and then he used special-effects wizardry to repair and recolour the film footage.

The result was absolutely spectacular. The addition of colour brought the film to life and gave us a completely new understanding of what WW1 looked like. The documentary gave us greater empathy for the characters because we could relate to their world in a new way.   

In a similar manner, deSilva’s book uses detailed research to illustrate life in first-century Ephesus in a startling way. Reading the biblical accounts of Paul’s visit to Ephesus, and his later letter to the church in Ephesus, is like watching a black and white film reel; all the main information is there but it lacks a lot of life and colour.

DeSilva’s characters and dialogue restore much of that life and colour in an intriguing way. Suddenly the whole New Testament seems to be more alive for having a small amount of colour introduced in this way.    

It has to be noted that DeSilva’s book is not really a novel. It is probably best described as an artist’s rendering of a documentary – more interesting for the information it provides than the story it tells. The characters represent the main social groups of interest to us 21st century Christians; the conservative defenders of the Roman cult religion, the merchants, the Jews, and the Christians. 

The dialogue and other interactions of these characters and the people of the city illuminate the strains and tensions of various religious, political and economic concerns. DeSilva then reveals that these social, religious and economic currents are the issues that swirl around many of the cities of the Roman Empire and are the backdrop for The Revelation of John. 

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the New Testament, and particularly to readers of the book of Revelation. 

A Week In The Life of Ephesus is available at Koorong.



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