The origin of the church in Turkey goes back to the events
immediately following the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus
Christ in Judea. On the Day of Pentecost Jews from Cappadocia,
Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia were gathered in Jerusalem
(Acts 2:9 - 10). Many of these became eyewitnesses to the outpouring
of the Holy Spirit and Peters subsequent sermon. Some were undoubtedly among the three thousand who believed on Jesus that day
(Acts 2:41). Returning home, these were the first Christians in
Anatolia. One of the most interesting accounts recorded by the early
church father Eusebius in his Church History (1.13) is a letter of Abgar V, king of Edessa. Abgar, dying of disease, wrote a letter,
requesting Jesus to heal him. In his reply Jesus stated that he
could not come but that a disciple would be sent later. After
Pentecost Thaddeus was sent by the apostles. When he prayed for
Abgar, the king was instantly healed. Abgar and his subjects
believed in Jesus, and the kingdom converted to Christianity. Syriac
Christianity, which persists in the region of Mardin, traces its
historical origins to this tradition.
Although Jesus had commanded the early believers to preach the gospel outside of Jerusalem (to the ends of the earth) (Acts 1:8), this did not happen until the martyrdom of Stephen. Jews from Cilicia and Asia found a willing accomplice to this murder in Saul (Acts 6:9ff.; 7:58 - 8:1). Although born a citizen of Tarsus, Saul had been brought to Jerusalem as a youth to receive formal training in Judaism (Acts 21:39; 22:3). On the road to Damascus Saul was dramatically converted, and after a time in Arabia and Jerusalem he returned to Tarsus (Acts 9:30; Gal.1:21). In the meantime those scattered by Stephens death traveled as far north as Antioch, preaching first to Jews and then to Gentiles. A church quickly formed with many believing in the Lord (Acts 11:19 - 24). Barnabas brought Saul from Tarsus to assist in discipling these new believers, and at Antioch these believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:25 - 26).
NEW TESTAMENT SITES IN TURKEY
Adramyttium (Edremit) Acts 27:2
After St. Paul's appeal before Herod Agrippa II and Festus to state his case to Caesar in Rome, he was taken by a centurion of the Roman Imperial guard (Acts 27:1) to the harbor at Caesarea, where they found a ship of Adramyttium to convey them to Asia Minor. From Asia Minor, they anticipated finding another ship to Rome (27:6). The contrary winds at Cyprus (27:4) were likely a foreshadowing that a Mediterranean storm was approaching. The storm system brought a fierce North-Easter the wind that brought down the boat they caught in Asia Minor, wrecking that ship.
Antioch (Antakya) Acts 6:5; 11:19-30; 13:1-3; 14:26-15:3; 15:22-35; 18:22-23
Josephus says that Antioch was considered the third most important city of the Empire, after Rome and Alexandria (Wars 3:2.4). He also comments on a large Jewish community that lived there and converted many Greeks to proselytes of Judaism (War 7:3.3). The combination of sea trade and desert trade on a constant east west flow, along with the political power seat placed there made the city's growth unrestrained. Two significant earthquakes preceded the years leading up to the visit by St. Paul, and some speculate this may have made people more receptive to the message of St. Paul. During the reign of Caligula (37-41 CE) and then Claudius (41-54 CE) the disastrous destruction caused the city to be rebuilt, and perhaps to be more open to spiritual warnings. The first group of believers called by their Greek term Christians was at Antioch (Acts 11:26). This was the sending church for St. Paul and St. Barnabas's Mission Journeys to Asia Minor, Macedonia and Achaia (Acts 13:2; 14:26; 15:25). This church felt the brunt of the dispute over Gentile born converts to Christianity that was resolved in the Jerusalem Council (Gal. 2:11-21; Acts 15)
Asia Acts 2:9; 6:9; 16:6; 19:10, 22, 2627; 20:4, 16,18; 21:27; 24:19; 27:2; Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 6:19; 2 Cor 1:8; 2 Tim 1:15; 1 Peter 1:1; Rev 1:4
Assos (Behramkale) Acts 20:13-14
The harbor was engineered and is not a natural one, according to a reference from the historian Strabo (Geography 13.1.57). Established about 1000 BCE by Aeolians from nearby Mitylene, the city passed through history with the succession of rulers of the Lydians, Persians, Pergamenes, and Romans. The ruins today stand as a marker for that C4 BCE city. Excavations have uncovered a temple to Athena that appears to have been built about 520 BCE. The interesting structure combines Doric and Ionic elements but sadly has been dismantled and shipped to museums in Paris, Boston and Istanbul. The agora, gymnasium, several baths, and a theatre complex resemble the organization of Pergamum . In the New Testament St. Paul left by boat and sailed to across to Mitylene on Lesbos Island (Acts 20:14) before eventually giving his great address at Miletos to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:15-38).
Attalia (Antalya) Acts 14:25-26
The city today bears the ruins of antiquity in a modest museum. A tower over the harbor (Hidirlik Kulesi) bears evidence of a lighthouse that existed on that location since the C2 CE, probably built over the mausoleum of a hero that stood at the time of St. Pauls visit. Also from that century is the three-arched Hadrianic gate built about 135 CE. The city became the seat of the Bishop from the rise of Christianity in the Empire until 1084, when the city was elevated again to the seat of the Archbishopric. It has Ottoman period walls, and two prominent mosques: the C16th CE Murat Pasa Mosque and the C18th CE Tekeli Mehmet Pasa Mosque
Bithynia (Nicomedia (Izmit);Nicea (Iznik)) Acts 16:7; 1 Peter 1:1
Cappadocia Province (Caesarea Mazaca (Kayseri)) Acts 2:9; 1 Peter 1:1
According to Herodotus, the people of Cappadocia were called Syrians by their neighbors in Anatolia. The name Cappadocian was first used by Persians. They called the land Cappadocia and the people living on it Cappadocian. There used to be a shield hanging on the ceiling long time ago. This does not exist anymore but the place where it was connected to the ceiling is still visible. At the eastern end of the nave which is connected to the vestibule there are four arched columns supporting the structure. There is an elevated corridor behind this nave.
Cilicia Acts 6:9; 15:23, 41; 21:39; 22:3; 23:34; 27:5; Gal 1:21
Cnidus Acts 27:7
The peninsula was known in antiquity for the defeat of the Spartan navy in 394 BCE at the hands of the Athenian admiral Conon (commanding a Persian fleet). The city is mentioned in 1 Maccabees 15:23 as having a Jewish population, and was a free city. St. Pauls struggling boat from Alexandria, Egypt (he was under custody and bound for Rome) came over against Cnidus in the journey.
Colossae (Honaz) Col 1:2
The omission of any reference by St. Paul to the great earthquake of 60 CE, causes many scholars to believe St. Paul had not yet heard the news, or the Epistle predates the quake (Tacitus records the quake, Annals 14.27). Epaphras visited St. Paul during his house arrest, and brought news of the Lycus Valley to St. Paul, refreshing him during the imprisonment.
Derbe (Ekinozu) Acts 14:6-7, 20-23; 16:1
The town was small, but the work of St. Paul and St. Barnabas yielded a number of followers. Among them, Gaius was converted and much later joined St. Pauls team on the third journey (cp. Acts 20:4). Following the strengthening that no doubt resulted from the encouragement of the growth in the movement at Derbe , St. Paul and St. Barnabas journeyed back to Lystra and Iconium (45 miles northwest), in spite of their prior reception (Acts 14:21-22) and strengthened the small flock of believers in each place. St. Paul and Silas made their way to Derbe on the Second Journey (Acts 16:1).
Ephesus (Selcuk) Acts 18:19-21, 24-26; 19:1-20:1; 20:16-17; 1 Cor 15:32; 16:8; Eph 1:1; 1 Tim 1:3; 2 Tim 1:18; 4:12; Rev 1:11; 2:1-7
The site was a known Roman haven, as a discovery of a statue of Julius Caesar suggests, along with a record that Antony and Cleopatra wintered there (33/32 BCE). The erection of an Egyptian style Serapis temple at the northeast corner of the Agora may have been by Cleopatra. A famous colossal head identified as Antony has also been found. The Austrian excavation team found a stone head now universally accepted as that of the Egyptian god Amon. Not always a period of comfortable relations, Ephesus didnt like Rome initially when Roman civil wars helped Brutus and Cassius then Antony. Hailed by Pliny as the great luminary of Asia and by Strabo as the greatest emporium of Asia, the city enjoyed frequent foreign guests, and built its tourism industry.
Euphrates River (Firat Nehri) Rev 9:14; 16:12
Galatia Acts 16:6; 18:23; Gal 1:2; 3:1; 2 Tim 4:10; 1 Pet 1:1
Haran (Harran) Acts 7:2, 4
Hierapolis (Pamukkale) Col 4:13
Inscriptions show there was a significant Jewish presence in the city. Another damaging quake came in 60 CE, affecting the Lycus cities, and requiring aid from Emperor Nero. The city may have been reached by St. Pauls ministry impact from Ephesus (Acts 19:10), but more likely came under the evangelistic preaching of Epaphras (cp. Col. 4:12-13; see Laodicea and Colossae). Stoic philosopher Epictetus stayed in the city for some time, as did Papias. Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus (190 CE) is quoted by Eusebius (Church History 3.31) as stating that the Apostle Philip was buried in the city, though scholars debate whether the reference is to the Apostle or the evangelist.
Iconium (Konya) Acts 13:51-14:5; 16:2
In addition to St. Pauls first visit to Iconium, he returned on the second journey and possibly on the third journey (Acts 16:1-4; 18:23). Certain of the Jewish community followed St. Paul from Iconium and harassed him again in Lystra, pushing the crowd to stone him (Acts 14:19). St. Paul recalls the problems he had in Galatia in his late writings (2 Tim. 3:11). St. Pauls concerns over the perversion to the Gospel message were directed at this and the surrounding communities in the Epistle to the Galatians. In addition, Peters first Epistle was likely written to this city, along with Lystra, Derbe and Pisidian Antioch (1 Pet. 1:1)
Laodicea (Denizli) Col. 2:1, 4:13-16; Rev 1:11; 3:14-22
Established in the C3 BCE by the Seleucid Antiochus II, the city was named after his wife Laodicea. Built on the Lycus Tributary of the Meander River, it was surnamed Laodicea on Lycus, to distinguish it from other similarly named cities. The city was apparently addressed with the nearby cities of Hierapolis and Colossae (Col. 2:1; 4:13-16) and was no doubt linked in trade and commerce with those cities. There was also development of a medical industry, based on the eye salves and Phrygian powders used in eye treatment (cp. Rev. 3:15-16). The banking and money exchange industry also thrived in the city, an ironic reality of the city that was called poor and naked and blind!. Positioned in the Lycus Valley a few miles from the hot calcium waters of modern Pamukkale, the tell affords a view to the north and east of the hot waters that pour out of the earth, and the distant snow capped mountains to the south. Drawing the hot water from a distance of more than four miles away, the water would arrive to the city lukewarm, and need to be reheated. Many have noted the irony of Rev. 3:15.
Lycaonia Acts 14:6
Lycia Acts 27:5
Lystra (Hatunsaray) Acts 14:6-23; 16:1-5
Though a Gentile and largely Latin speaking colony, the dialect was beyond the comprehension of St. Paul and St. Barnabas (Acts 14:11). Some scholars suggest that the team stayed in the home of Timothy during the visit on this journey (cp. Acts. 16:1). When a cripple was healed and began to walk the crowd at Lystra began to venerate the Apostle and his companion, believing them to be gods in human form. After numerous attempts to persuade them otherwise, St. Paul eventually found a forum to preach to them. During the time of St. Pauls visit, some of the Jewish community of Antioch and Iconium began to stir the town against St. Paul.
Magog (Lydia) Rev 20:8
Miletos (Milet) Acts 20:15-38; 2 Tim 4:20
Pharoah Neco made an offering at the Milesian Temple after his victory at Megiddo and recapture of Charchemish (608 BCE, cp. 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chron. 35:20). The offering did not help him from being overwhelmed a few years later by Nebuccadnezzar II (605 BCE). The Persians destroyed the the original harbor in 495 BCE, and the whole area was reconstructed in 479 BCE. This new improved city suffered a crushing blow at the hands of Alexander the Great (334 BCE) during his campaign through the region. Rebuilt again, the city boasted four harbors and three agora (market) areas from the Hellenistic through Roman times (325 BCE to 325 CE).
Myra (Kale; Demre) Acts 27:5
Though not extensively excavated, the city has significant remains. Julius the Centurion chose the ill-fated ship bound for Italy to take St. Paul for his requested presentation to Caesar (Acts 27:5-6). The contrary winds and waves eventually overwhelmed the vessel. Christianity took hold in the city, and a world famous Christian bishop of Myra. St. Nicolas is remembered in the restored C 11 CE Byzantine basilica. Nicolas was a late C4 CE bishop who served the people of his region with zeal, and is remembered as a particularly selfless and giving Christian. After a gift of three small bags of gold were left as dowry payments from three young women of Patara (to aid them in escaping a life of prostitution) the fame of his selfless acts grew in historical legend.
Mysia Acts 16:7-8
Pamphylia Acts 2:10; 13:3; 14:24; 15:38; 27:5
Patara (Ova) Acts 21:1
Alexandrian texts of Acts 21:1 state that St. Paul made his way to Tyre by means of Patara, but the Western text adds the and Myra that many scholars believe was a scribal error influenced by Acts 27:5-6. It is likely that the Alexandrian text reflects the original event, as the prevailing winds made Patara a better launch site for this long journey. Emperor Hadrian and his wife Sabina visited here (circa 130s CE), and a granary of Hadrian can still be seen west of the harbor marsh.
Perga (Perge) Acts 13:13-14; 14:25
As the capitol of the region of Asia Minor called Pamphilylia, this city was served by the port of Attalia (today called Antalya) on the Mediterranean Sea.
Just over five miles from the port, the city enjoyed the constant availability of products from both east and west, as well as the moderate climate of a Mediterranean city.
The city rivaled Ephesus in its beauty (though a bit smaller) and celebrated its Greek culture in architecture and presentation. St. Paul and St. Barnabas arrived here along with Baranabas nephew John Mark, who abandoned the team from here. This proved to be a point of contention that eventually divided St. Paul and St. Barnabas.
Pergamum (Bergama) Rev 1:11; 2:12-17
Pergamon (also Pergamos, Pergamum) received the third letter of the seven letters of the St. John to the Churches of Asia Minor. The impressive city has been variously described as the most illustrious city of Asia (Barclay); the most spectacular Hellenistic city of Asia Minor because of its imaginative town planning (Mellink, IDB, III: 734); and a royal city (Ramsay, Letters, p. 295).
Philadelphia (Alasehir) Rev 1:11; 3:7-13
The city may have been founded by Eumenes King of Pergamum (197-160 BCE) in the C2BCE, and the name was likely after his brother Attalus (later reigned 159-138 BCE), who through loyalty won the title Philadelphus (brother love). The city was handed over to Roman rule in 133 BCE on the death of Attalus III. The city may well have been founded for a social purpose. Ramsey states that the city was a missionary city from the beginning, founded to promote a certain unity of spirit, customs, and loyalty within the realm. Strabo noted the city was ever subject to quakes. After Emperor Tiberius aided in their rebuilding, it took the new name of Neocaesarea (New Caesar). Under Vespasians rule (69-79 CE), it changed names to Flavia. By the third century, paganism had held on in the face of a Christianizing Empire, and the city became known as little Athens for its dedication to deities. None of these names or epithets lasted, and today the modern city is called Alasehir
Phrygia Acts 2:10; 16:6; 18:23
Pisidian Antioch (Yalvac) Acts 13:14-50; 14:19, 21-23
The position guarded the road access from the south, as well as the so called high road from Ephesus to Syria. It was settled and maintained as the military command center of southern Galatia, and was located in the proximity of the border of Pisidia and Phrygia. Because it was near the border, the historian Strabo referred to the place as near Pisidia. The city was set atop a precipice described by Sir William Ramsey on his visit at the beginning of the twentieth century as an oblong plateau varying from 50 feet to 200 feet above the plain nearly two miles in circumference.
Pontus (Amisos (Samsun)) Acts 2:9; 1 Pet 1:1
Sardis (Sart) Rev 1:11; 3:1-6
The name Sardis is that of the stone, sardius (Greek: sardinos; carnelian, RSV, cp. Rev 4:3). The semi-precious stone is orange-brown but reflects deep red when light is passed through. It was an economic stronghold of the wool industry. The acropolis was built about 1500 feet above the plain on a ridge of the 5,800 foot high Mount Tmolus. The precipice was difficult to reach and was considered unassailable by an enemy. The lower city was more accessible. Today the site is a ruin, but nearby the small Turkish village bears the name Sart, and the memory of fabled characters such as Midas and King Croesus of Sardis live on. A great colonnaded marble road of 4600 feet in length divided the Roman city, whose population was estimated as large as 120,000 in the time of the St. John. A variety of inscriptions on extant statuary reveal the relationship with succeeding Emperors. Hadrian visited the city in 123 CE. Later, Emperor Diocletian reorganized Asia in (297 CE) and Sardis became capital of the revived district of Lydia. Melito, Bishop of Sardis, served in the second century, and some of his sermons have been preserved. Several representatives from Sardis attended the First Council of Nicaea (325), Council of Ephesus (431), and the so-called Robber Council of Ephesus (449). Sardis was conquered by the Arabs in 716 CE, and eventually by the Ottoman Turks in the 14th century.
Seleucia (Samandag) Acts 13:4
The seaport that was responsible for the tremendous wealth and expansion of Syrian Antioch was named after Seleucus Nicator I around 300 BCE. The port was founded first, then a trade route established, and finally the planting of a major city.
Located a few miles from the mouth of the Orontes River, the flow of goods made their way the fifteen miles to Antioch. There may have been about 30,000 inhabitants during the time of journeys of St. Paul. St. Paul and Joses Barnabas sailed from Seleucia to Cyprus St. Paul's First Journey.
Smyrna (Izmir) Acts 20:1(-); Rev 1:11; 2:8-11
It was here that Dolabella captured by seige, and slew, Trebonius, one of the men who treacherously murdered the deified Caesar; and he set free many parts of the city. (Strabo 14.1.37) and its roads were commended for their geometric design. With a stadium that likely seated as many as 20,000 people, and a well developed infrastructure, scholars believe the city grew to about 100,000 by the time of the St. Paul and St. John. Tacitus records the city had requested and gained permission to build a Neokorite Temple (to the Emperor Tiberius) in the following record:. At the same time, Sulla was called to witness that with his army in most critical position through the inclement winter and scarcity of clothing, the news had only to be announced at a public meeting Smyrna, and the whole of the bystanders stripped the garments from their bodies and sent them to our legions. The Fathers accordingly, when their opinion was taken, gave Smyrna the preference. (Tacitus, Annals 4.56).
Syria Matt 4:24; Luke2:2;Acts15:23,41;18:18;20:3;21:3;Gal 1:21
Tarsus Acts 9:11, 30; 11:25; 21:39; 22:3
Tarsus was the capital of the Roman Province of Cilicia, situated between the Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. The Province of Cilicia varied between 30 to 60 miles wide and was about 300 miles long. The city of Tarsus was about 10 miles inland of the Mediterranean on the alluvial plain, watered by the Cydnus and may have had as many as one half million inhabitants in the time of St. Paul. Ramsey described the city as about 70 feet above sea level on a level plain. This probably accounts for Augusts favor on the city. Athenodorus returned to Tarsus and established a reform to the city in15 BCE. Along with the reforms, he established a patrician class that probably included the family of St. Paul, who boasts of his association with the city (Acts 21:39). In addition to being the hometown of St. Paul (Acts 9:11; 21:39; 22:3), it was also the city St. Paul returned to after his escape from Jerusalem (Acts 9:30). Barnabas found St. Paul in the city and enlisted him to service at Antioch (Acts 11:25ff). St. Paul may well have visited on the Second and Third Mission Journeys (Acts 15:41; 18:22-23).
Thyatira (Akhisar) Rev 1:11; 2:18
The combination of a low plateau for an Acropolis and the sloping valley surrounding it, gave an impression of the city as more cosmopolitan and open, as opposed to the more austere cliffs at Pergamum. The church at Thyatira, visited by St. Paul (Acts 19:10) and represented by a convert who was away doing business in Philippi (Lydia, cp. Acts 16:14) was also more open to heresy. The letter of St. John to the church suggests that her openess and gentleness in the face of heresy (Jezebel and Nicolaitines) was her downfall (Rev. 2:18-23). About 150 AD, Montanus began a cult practice from Thyatira, claiming his prophetesses spoke with the voice of the Holy Spirit (hence, Montanism). The city was wealthy, but did not reach its zenith until the C2nd CE. Points of interest for the visitor today include the ruins of a temple. Thyatira's ancient ruins were left untouched until Rustem Duyuran began to excavate the site from 1968 to 1971. Numerous inscriptions were found (21 sent to Manisa Museum), along with the location of the colonnaded stoa and other public buildings
Troas (Dalyan) Acts 16:8-11; 20:1(-), 5-13; 2 Cor 2:12; 2 Tim 4:13
After the split with Barnabas, St. Paul and Silas proceeded to visit the churches of the First Mission Journey in Syria and Cilicia, and then on into southern Galatia (Acts 15:36-41) carrying the message of the Jerusalem Council to the churches. Eventually they headed west toward Europe. Stopping at Troas, St. Paul appeared to desire to turn north into the regions of upper Galatia, but received the vision of the Macedonian Man at Troas. He later described the experience as a door opening in the Lord (2 Cor. 2:12ff). This occurred during St. Paul's Second Journey (Acts 16:6-10). Years later he returned to Troas from his more than two year stay in Ephesus (Acts 19:8,10) toward the end of the St. Paul's third journey, before continuing on to Assos. During the last seven day stay at Troas, the fallen Eutychus was healed (Acts 20:8-12). Some suggest that St. Pauls urgent request to return a cloak he left in Troas (2 Timothy 4:13) may have reflected that St. Pauls departure from the city was hurried. Later church history recalls the reference to Ignatius, after writing three Epistles at Troas, set sail under arrest to Rome.
Trogyllium Acts 20:15 (KJV)