8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (1 Thessalonians 1:8-10; emphasis mine NIV)
In the above passage in 1 Thessalonians, it tells us that the Thessalonian believers had “turned to God from idols“. Which idols had they turned away from?
Scripture does not tell us, nonetheless, during a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki in November 2011, I gathered that one of the idols that they may have worshipped is the goddess, Roma (please see the two photographs below; the former shows a headless statue of Roma and the latter is the signage that appeared in front of the statue):
The Thessalonian believers may have also been involved in Emperor worship. The photo below shows the door of the temple dedicated to Julius Caesar…
… and the accompanying poster suggests that Caesar was probably worshipped in Thessaloniki, together with his mythical ancestor, Aphrodite.
In addition, the Thessalonian believers may have been involved in the worship of Dionysius. The photograph below shows a statue of Dionysius, which was exhibited at the ‘The Gifts of Dionysius’ exhibition area of the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki in November 2011.
Indeed, an inscribed marble block found in Thessaloniki suggests that the city had been dedicated to Dionysius:
I learnt from the poster below (behind the head sculpture of Dionysus) at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki that the worship of Dionysus was linked with sexual orgies.
But who was Dionysus? According to Tom Horn’s book, Nephilim Stargates: The Year 2012 and the Return of the Watchers (with emphasis added):
Dionysus, the Thirteenth God of the Greeks, was the divine son of Zeus and of the mortal Semele. He was often depicted as the inventor of wine, abandon, and revelry, but this description seems inadequate in that it refers only to the basic elements of intoxication and enthusiasm which were used by the Bacchae (female participants of the Dionystic mysteries; also known as Maenads and Bacchantes) in their rituals to incarnate Dionysus. Followers of Dionysus believed he was the presence otherwise defined as the craving within man that longs to “let itself go” and to “give itself over” to baser earthly desires. What some might resist as the lustful wants of the carnal man, followers of Dionysus embraced as the incarnation of power that would, in the next life, liberate the souls of men from the constraints of the present world and from the customs which sought to define respectability through obedience to moral law. Until that day arrived, worshippers of Dionysus attempted to bring themselves into union with the god through a ritual casting off of the bonds of sexual denial and primal constraint by inviting him through to them via a state of ecstasy.
I suppose this explains why the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Thessalonian church singles out “sexual immorality” as a sin that the believers needed to avoid:
3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7; NIV; emphasis mine)
In ancient times, Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities (her Roman equivalent is Diana). Indeed, in Acts 19, we see that Artemis was much venerated in Ephesus. While visiting the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, I do not recall seeing any information about Artemis worship in Thessaloniki, however, when I visited a souvenir shop, I found the following idol souvenir: