The Helmet of Salvation 2

If you were stunned by multi–layered intricacy of the allusions in the helmet of salvation mentioned in the last post, it’s time to strap on your seatbelt. This is just the first sparkle of the treasure trove. Before we go on, it’s worth asking why — why the flowers, the gemstones, the kiss of heaven, the threshold, the covenant and all the rest of the dazzle?

In my view, it’s because the epistle to the Ephesians was written to a city of sorcerors. They knew about curses and charms, agreements with demons, gemstone amulets, the power of words, incantations as songs or musical invocations, arcane spells hidden in mathematics or within seemingly nonsensical phrases.

Before the riot in Ephesus instigated by the silversmith Demetrius which is recorded in Acts 19, many people turned to Jesus and burned their books of magic. This happened because the seven sons of the Jewish chief priest Sceva tried to cast out demons in ‘the name of Jesus whom Paul preached’.

In a town like Ephesus where magic was a way of life, there were no doubt many opportunities for a deliverance ministry such as that offered by the sons of Sceva. However they wound up seriously wounded and having to flee naked from a house when a man with an evil spirit jumped them and demanded, ‘Jesus I know and I know about Paul—but who are you?

As a result of this notoriety, Paul was able to spread the gospel message much more widely. Many Jews and Greeks repented of dabbling in the occult and threw their scrolls of magic on a huge bonfire. The value of these spells was a staggering fifty thousand drachmas—around 150 years’ wages for an average labourer.

Meantime, down in the Ephesus CBD, the silversmiths were getting agitated. Artisans like Demetrius who made silver shrines and figurines of Artemis found the success of Paul’s evangelistic efforts was seriously impinging on their profits. He called his fellow–tradesmen together: ‘Men…you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man–made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.’ When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ (Acts 19:23–28 NIV)

The end result was that Paul was bundled off quickly to Macedonia before he could come to harm.

At the end of his life, he wrote back to the converts in this same town—sophisticated, subtle–minded men and women who once valued magic as a means of control and who live in a milieu still dominated by the principalities and powers Paul has repeatedly addressed throughout his letter.

Surely there would have been one thing Paul would have been eager to convey, it was how to stand against Artemis—how to take captive every thought, align it to God’s word and steer clear of the incantations which summon spirits.

It was therefore needful to address the question of how God saw gemstones and flowers, music and mathematics, words and seals—all the good things of His creation which had been perverted to magical ends.

So, I believe that when Paul addressed the Christians of Ephesus and instructed them to put on the helmet of salvation, he was also firing a salvo at an old nemesis—Ephesian Artemis.

Many statues of this goddess have been found throughout Asia Minor. They commonly possess a ‘mural’ crown: a high coronet with ornamentation featuring the walls, ramparts or turrets of a city.

Such regalia amounts to a claim Artemis is worthy to rule, since she is to be considered the defender of any city in which she is worshipped.

By choosing to link helmet and salvation, I believe Paul was refuting this claim by referencing God’s promise to his people: No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. (Isaiah 60:18 NIV)

Would the Ephesians have recognised this allusion?

I think so.

I think there’s a strong chance Paul would have already proclaimed exactly this when he was in the city itself. Even if he didn’t, the Jewish believers amongst the Ephesians would recognised that, just a few lines earlier, Isaiah prophesied:

He put on righteousness as His breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on His head… (Isaiah 59:17 NIV)

Unmissable, really.

Just as the most unmissable aspect of Ephesian Artemis is not her ‘mural’ crown but her breastplate.


But that’s for next time.



  1. Great article! I had no idea about the deep magical/sorcery backdrop. brilliant.

  2. Hi David,
    There’s a great book by Clinton Arnold on this aspect:

    Not particularly accessible in terms of the writing – at least not as much as Powers of Darkness, but this isn’t quite on topic as much.

  3. Anne, you may know this but, for the true identity of Artemis (and all turret-crowned “goddesses”) see (for example) Alexander Hyslop’s The Two Babylons or The Papal Worship Proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and His Wife. The silversmiths’ business is still booming, and the magic is still here.

    In this magic-saturated world, I’m grateful for the whole armor of God, and try to remember that the command to put it on precedes the command to pray for all the saints. My view is more macro than yours. I see the armor as so obviously just what it is: being clothed with Christ, then praying for our fellow soldiers.

  4. Thanks again Anne.
    You know I stand in awe at God’s word. The more we read and study it the more fascinating and inspirational we discover it to be. I’m grateful for those such as yourself who are able to bring new insights and applications to the texts I know well.

    God bless your continued research.

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