They Were Just Rose Bowl Queens

Despite the received opinion to the contrary, I do not believe that cult prostitution was practiced in Greek (and Roman) regions of the NT era. The evidence bought to support this institution in the cities of Corinth and Ephesus was found wanting in our brief survey of Strabo and a few other authors. Finally, we looked at some of the positive evidence from Ephesus to show that the priestesses of Artemis—wrongly thought by many today to be a fertility or mother goddess—were no more than daughters of noble families, wise terms of office involved them in the honorary public roles and the financial obligates which typified priestly offices in Greek state cults. A priestess of Artemis compares better with a Rose Bowl queen or with Miss Teen America than with the cult prostitute. Indeed, there are some hints in the literature (e.g., Xenophon of Ephesus) that the girl-priestesses may have been chosen because they best resembled the chaste maiden-goddess.

Hopefully our Ephesian cult prostitutes will soon disappear from our literature and from our pulpits, for these chimera only exist in the minds of people beyond the realm of purely historical accuracy into that of ecclesiastical controversies over women’s ordination; indeed, the false notion of Ephesian cult prostitutes is a central prop for a radical reinterpretation of 1 tim 2:9–15 which must now be given serious examination.

—S. M. Baugh, “Cult Prostitution in the New Testament Ephesus: A Reappraisal,” 459–60.

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