Reviews of

Wealth in Ancient Ephesus and the First Letter to Timothy

In 1 Timothy, Eisenbrauns, Ephesus, Gary G. Hoag, New Testament, Paul, Sam J. Rogers, Women on September 8, 2016 at 2:00 pm


2016.09.17 | Gary G. Hoag. Wealth in Ancient Ephesus and the First Letter to Timothy: Fresh Insights from Ephesiaca by Xenophon of Ephesus. BBRSup 11. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2015. ISBN: 9781575068299.

Review by Sam J. Rogers, University of Manchester.

Many thanks to Eisenbrauns for providing a review copy.

Gary Hoag’s revised dissertation aims to shed light on key words and phrases in 1 Timothy using Xenophon’s Ephesiaca and local Ephesian archaeological and epigraphical evidence. In each section, Hoag presents a cogent argument with ample linguistic and archaeological evidence to read 1 Timothy within an Ephesian socio-cultural context. Though some conclusions may be overstated, Wealth in Ancient Ephesus and the First Letter to Timothy is a positive contribution to current scholarship and largely succeeds in its aims.

In the introduction, Hoag lays out a history of scholarship and a summary of the problems his book will address. According to Hoag, scholars have described the author of 1 Timothy’s ethics in reference to the rest of the New Testament as consistent, inconsistent or recently alternating. Hoag focuses on the social and culture settings in Ephesus which shaped the author’s language and intent to better understand why these instructions were written and how the Ephesian community may have understood them. Situating 1 Timothy’s ethical commands within a unique Ephesian setting is not new,[1] but Hoag contends that scholarship has largely ignored Xenophon of Ephesus’ Ephesiaca, a potentially key piece of evidence for a socio-cultural understanding of 1 Timothy. Traditionally, the Ephesiaca has been dated to the fourth/fifth century CE, but newer evidence dates the work to the mid-first century CE, placing the work squarely within the cultural setting of 1 Timothy.

In chapter 1, Hoag summarizes the Ephesiaca and describes his method for his project. Since the Ephesiaca is a romance novella, Hoag defends its use in his project as one of many tools with which scholars can understand Ephesian culture and ultimately 1 Timothy. Hoag’s method combines a historical-critical method with literary and social dimensions to create a balanced approach to his project. [2] Hoag’s social-cultural analysis relies to some extent on older social-scientific research (p. 23), which has been strongly critiqued recently.[3] Because of a reliance on “pivotal values,” Hoag may overstate the role honor played in social practices[4] and perhaps generalizes women in Ephesus.[5] However, the multi-textured approach of Hoag’s method keeps such overstatements to a minimum and strengthens his overall conclusions.

In chapter 2, Hoag analyzes the socio-cultural contexts of wealthy Ephesians in the first century CE. Hoag accomplishes two main goals in this chapter. First, he provides ample evidence that the portrayal of wealth, honor and shame, and patronage detailed in the Ephesiaca are rooted in reality. Second, Hoag summarizes the importance of Artemis to the Ephesians, particularly to the wealthy and to women. Outside of the Ephesiaca, Hoag outlines a litany of epigraphical and numismatic evidence within Ephesus to buttress these sociological points. Hoag’s conclusion in this chapter will not come as a surprise to many scholars, but importantly he grounds his conclusions in the new literary evidence of the Ephesiaca and further material evidence.[6]

In chapter 3, Hoag analyzes 1 Timothy 2:9–15. Hoag notes that Ephesian women wore braids (πλέγμασιν) as an imitatio of Artemis. Anthia, the female lead in Ephesiaca, wears these braids as she leads a procession in honor of Artemis in Ephesus. According to Hoag, the prohibition in 1 Timothy against “braids” implies far more than an ornate hairstyle; it prohibits an outward show of piety for Artemis of Ephesus. Likewise, Hoag theorizes that “costly clothing” is also aimed at women outwardly imitating Artemis. Hoag is inclined to see Artemis cultic implications in 1 Timothy 2:9–10 in light of Anthia’s dress while imitating Artemis (p. 82). Hoag highlights the connection between Artemis and Isis, present in the Ephesiaca and successfully contributes new insights to this difficult passages. Concerning the interpretation of αὐθεντεῖν, Hoag argues the Ephesian women who learn “in silence with full submission” are engaging in a “countercultural” activity. Ephesian women competed for important roles in service of Artemis and were expected to honor Artemis in ways “that do not reflect this humble posture” (p. 88). Hoag’s discussion of chastity, purity, and virtue are especially helpful in this section, but his picture of Ephesian women may be too generalized.[7] In addition, it remains unclear to this reader if the wealthy women serving Artemis overlap significantly with the kinds of wealthy women within 1 Timothy’s target audience. However, Hoag’s analysis here brings forward the weight Artemis may have had on the Ephesian community and is largely successful at integrating the Ephesiaca as new evidence.

In chapter 4, Hoag analyzes 1 Timothy 3:1–13 with a view towards greediness, stewardship, and various other aspects of wealth. Hoag focuses on the “leaders” in Ephesus (his term for the ἐπίσκοπος and διάκονος). According to Hoag, those who wished to become leaders claimed their noble blood rather than cultic qualifications. These wealthy noblemen expected to retain their relationship to the empire and to Artemis as patrons of Ephesus whilst continuing as leaders in the Ephesian community. The wealthy patrons may have been prone to self-promotion as benefactors. The qualifications and prohibitions against self-promotion as motivation in 1 Timothy 3:1–13 rejects these cultural ideas. Hoag notes this call to stewardship is consistent with the NT corpus. Hoag’s analysis of dishonest gain and noble birth are illuminating for this 1 Tim passage.


In chapter 5, Hoag focuses on slaves and masters in 1 Timothy 6:1–2a. Hoag has a well-documented discussion on (1) masters as benefactors and (2) the role-reversal of slaves as benefactors in antiquity and the Ephesiaca. Rejecting both these positions, Hoag concludes that both slaves and masters should behave in such a way to honor their divine patron. His rendering of 1 Timothy 6:2a (“they should serve one another even better, because they are believers and beloved recipients of God’s beneficence”) will perhaps be too controversial for some, but his conclusion that slaves and masters should behave in a way to bring honor to their deity patron is a welcome insight. When exploring the idea of God or Jesus as benefactor, Hoag finds evidence of God and Jesus as benefactors rather than people as benefactors for the early Christian community. Since Jesus and/or God as a benefactor of the early churches is a quite disputed issue, a longer discussion on Jesus’ role as benefactor, patron, broker, mediator, or some combination of these roles would have been helpful.[8] In addition, Hoag limits his discussion of εὐεργεσία to the NT canon and ignores at least four other occurrences which do not describe God alone as benefactor (see e.g., p. 143n40). Hoag’s limitation here hinders his linguistic argument.

In chapter 6, Hoag explores 1 Timothy 6:2b–10 concerning false teachers and godliness. Hoag continues his analysis of εὐσεβεία in a cultic context. Hoag largely echoes his previous findings in this chapter, but he indicates that false teachers may be imitating the wealthy servants of Artemis with their εὐσεβεία. From here, Hoag argues the phrase “myths and endless genealogies” likely refers to the Artemis/Isis myths and tracing one’s noble birth for better social currency. According to Hoag, the warning against heretical teachings largely centers on an Artemisian worship context including greed, prayers, and doctrines promoting the worship of Artemis. Hoag’s emphasis on Isis in Ephesus is clear and illuminating for this passage.

In chapter 7, Hoag continues his comparison with the wealthy in Ephesus and 1 Timothy 6:17–19. Hoag determines that 1 Timothy’s author urges the wealthy to abandoned their riches stored in the Artemisium and “calls them out of the cultural institution of benefaction attested by some ancient sources as contributing to haughtiness and to set their hope on God,” (p. 225). Instead, the wealthy Ephesians should share their possessions as equals since they receive their wealth from God their benefactor. The rich and poor are under God’s benefaction and are obligated to share and enjoy the benefits. Therefore, 1 Timothy is consistent with Jesus’ teachings (e.g., Mk 10:17–31) and Pauline teaching (e.g., 2 Cor 8–9). Though this reader was not convinced the abolishment of benefaction is at stake in 1 Timothy, Hoag’s ethical conclusions concerning God as benefactor are quite helpful in light of the NT corpus.

In sum, Hoag’s thesis succeeds in providing “fresh insights” on both wealth in Ephesus and ethics in 1 Timothy. Hoag’s work especially shines when he discusses the Artemis/Isis cult’s impact on the issues of childbearing, piety, and virtue within the Ephesian community. Where his thesis may be less successful, however, is in the few generalizations mentioned above that invite nuance. Still, Hoag plausibly demonstrates the value of the Ephesiaca for NT interpretation and shows that wealthy Ephesian leaders must cast aside Artemis as a benefactor and turn to God as their sole benefactor. In doing so, wealthy Ephesians change their actions towards their own community to imitate their new benefactor with good deeds. Hoag’s book is warmly recommended.

Sam J. Rogers
University of Manchester [at]

[1] E.g., Richard Clark Kroeger and Catherine Clark Kroeger, I Suffer not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11–15 in Light of Ancient Evidence (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992).

[2] Hoag’s method is modeled after Vernon Robbins’ method as outlined in Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring the Texture of Texts (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1996).

[3] See e.g., James G. Crossley, Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism (New York: Routledge, 2011), 169–88; Markus Bockmuehl, review of Bruce J. Malina, The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology, Bryn Mawr Classical Review, April 2002 (; Zeba Crook, “Honor, Shame, and Social Status Revisited,” JBL 128.3 (2009): 591–611.

[4] See this critique among others in F. Gerald Downing, “‘Honor’ Among Exegetes,” CBQ 61 (1999): 53–73.

[5] On this generalization of women in honor/shame analyses, see Zeba Crook, “Honor, Shame, and Social Status Revisited,” JBL 128.3 (2009): 594–610.

[6] E.g., the connection between Diana/Artemis/Isis represented in coins (p. 29–31), which prepares the reader for the discussion of the Isis creation myth associated with Artemis in chapters 3 and 6.

[7] For example, Hoag writes that “‘all’ women placed their trust in Artemis. Of course, this is a broad statement, but it reflects ancient thinking. Women served the goddess with piety. They trusted the goddess to watch over them,” (p. 81, referring to the 3rd century CE Athenaeus, Deipnosophistai 15.694D) and “the learning setting as illustrated in Ephesiaca for women in Ephesus is not depicted as quiet, and women do not take a submissive posture. Women are portrayed in a context of recitation and indoctrination. They go to the Artemisium daily to perform their cultic duties… and they take fiercely competitive rather than humbly submissive posture to vie for different priestess roles…” (p. 92).

[8] E.g., referred in Malina and Neyrey’s work: Bruce J. Malina, The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 147–152; Jerome H. Neyrey, “God, Benefactor and Patron: The Major Cultural Model for Interpreting the Deity in Greco-Roman Antiquty,” JSNT (2005), 465–492. However, see Downs’ warning against taking benefaction and early Christianity too far since Paul never uses patronal language to describe the Christian’s relationship with God, opting for kinship language instead. David J. Downs, “Is God Paul’s Patron? The Economy of Patronage in Pauline Theology,” in Engaging Economics (eds., B. Longenecker and K. Liebengood; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 130–156.



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