Sinope — a Church of 1 Peter in Northern Turkey?

At the beginning of 1 Peter we read:

577_SinopePeter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood: May grace and peace be yours in abundance . . . .  —  1 Peter 1:1-2 (NRSV)

Bithynia, Paphlagonia, and Pontus were regions along the southern shore of the Black Sea that were merged into the Roman senatorial province of Bithyna et Pontus.  Jews from this region were present in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:9) and on Paul’s Second Journey Paul, Silas, and Timothy “… attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them” (Acts 16:7).

From 1 Peter 1:1 we learn that Peter addressed Jewish believers in this province as he wrote his epistle and it is probable the Silvanus carried the letter to churches in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1 Peter 5:4).

Sinope was a major city in this area and “. . . was a certain stop in Pontus for the messenger carrying Peter’s first letter” (Wilson p. 342).

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Tower and Wall Guarding the Entrance to the Sinope Peninsula
Click on Image to Enlarge

This tower and wall guarded the narrow entrance point into the peninsula.  The walls probably date back to the 4th century B.C. and were frequently refurbished.  They are 1.3 mi. (2 km.) long and over 80 ft. (25 m.) tall.  There are many towers and seven gates.

To view additional images of Sinope Click Here.

TNCSNCT03A modern statue of the Cynic philosopher Diogenes is located at the entrance to Sinope.  Diogenes was born in Sinope in 412 B.C. (or 404) and died in Corinth in 323 B.C. (the same year Alexander the Great died).

The barrel that he is standing on reminds one of the clay pot that he is reported to have lived in in the agora in Athens.  He is said to have gone about Athens in the daylight with a lamp in his hand looking for “an honest man.”  Because of his unusual behavior he was nicknamed the dog (note the pooch by his right foot)!  In Greek, the name Cynics is related to the Greek word for “dog.”

It is reported that when Alexander the Great said to him “Ask of me anything you like,” Diogenes replied “Stand aside, you’re in my light.”

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Two Sailing Ships on a Sarcophagus
These may be the type of boats that the Apostle Paul Sailed On
Click on Image to Enlarge

At Sinope there is also a wonderful museum.  One of the highlights in the museum is a sarcophagus that has a sailing ship and its “dinghy” engraved in bas relief.  On the other hand, the small vessel, with a sail(!), may not be in tow (note its own billowing sail), but rather another sailboat that is being depicted as being in the distance—and thus is smaller than the nearer vessel.

The Apostle Paul, and companions, may have sailed on such vessels.  On the large ship note the steering oars at the stern, the billowing main sail, and what looks like a jib near the bow of the boat.  Even the guy-lines are visible in the image.

An inscription on the sarcophagus reads: “Cornelius Arrianus is lying here.  His age is 60.”

As usual(!) Mark Wilson provides an excellent summary of the history of Sinope in his Biblical Turkey — A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor.  Istanbul: Yayinlari, 2010, pp. 341–345.

Tomb of Cicero — Along the Appian Way with Paul

Acts 28:11-16 describes Paul’s walk from the port of Puteoli (near modern Naples) to Rome—along the Appian Way. The via Appia is one of the first and most important Roman Roads that eventually connected Rome with the port of Brindisi on the Adriatic coast of Italy.  It was named after Appius Claudius Caercus who oversaw the completion of the first section of the road in 312 B.C.  It was built for Roman troupes to move quickly to the south in their war against the Samnites.  Eventually, it grew to become about 350 miles long.

About 40 mi. north of Puteoli, possibly at the beginning of day three of this journey—after having spent the night in Formia that is only a 1.5  miles to the southeast—Paul would have passed by the monument that is now called the “Tomb of Cicero”.

The “Tomb of Cicero”

A view looking southeast at the whole of the monumental “Tomb of Cicero.”  It is 78 ft. high and consists of a base of squared blocks that rests on a crepidoma of two steps.  A truncated, hollow, conical cone, that is missing its outer casing, surmounts the base.  There may have been a statue on the top of the cone honoring the man that was buried there.  The structure was situated in a walled garden (see below) and is in the shape of a truncated cone on a large square base.  It was restored in 1957.

This funeral building is located 1.5 mi. northwest of the Italian city of Formia on the via Appia—about 40 mi. northwest of Puzzuoli/Naples.  It is dated to the second half of the first century B.C.  It is said to be the funeral monument erected in memory of the orator Cicero (106-43 B.C.).  Cicero had a villa in nearby Formia (1.5 mi. to the southeast).  Since it is on the via Appia, Paul would have passed by it on his way from Puteoli to Rome (Acts 28:11–16).

The Base and Entrance to the Tomb of Cicero.

Above is a picture of the base of the “Tomb of Cicero”—looking west-northwest.  The modern staircase ascends the two-step crepidoma.  The modern doorway leads into the lower portion of the tomb.  It is built of hewn pieces of limestone.

The Garden of the Tomb of Cicero

This is a picture of one of the walls that surround the 272 x 232 ft. garden that the “Tomb of Cicero” was placed in.  The boundary wall, behind the olive trees, is Roman and built of opus reticulatum topped by some shaped limestone pieces.  The framed open doorway is original.

Additional photos of this monument, including the interior, are available Here.

The Martyrium (Memorial Chapel) of Philip at Hierapolis (Turkey)

Hierapolis is mentioned only once in the New Testament (Colossians 4:15) where Paul states that Epaphras was working there and in nearby Laodicea.

Memorial (Pilgrimage) Church Dedicated to Philip

Early Christian tradition states that Philip, along with his daughters, settled at Hierapolis.  It is probable that Philip the Apostle (= disciple of Jesus) is the actual person, although a confused tradition suggests that it was Philip the Evangelist (see his activities in the book of Acts).

Pilgrims’ Path Leading Up to the Martyrium of Philip

Tradition also states that Philip was martyred and buried here at Hierapolis.  On a hill northeast of the city a Martyrium—a memorial that was a focus of pilgrimage—was built in the fifth century AD.  In July 2011, the excavator, Francesco D’Andria announced that he had discovered the very Tomb of Philip in the vicinity.

I have posted 18 high-resolution images of the Martyrium of Philip.  Click Here to view.

New Testament Inscriptions — Erastus of Corinth (Acts 19:22; Romans 16:13; 2 Timothy 4:20)

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“Erastus in return for his aedileship laid (the pavement) at his own expense.” Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download (free).  The letters were originally filled with metal — see the image below.

Part of a pavement found near the theater of Corinth which mentions “Erastus” who was the aedile of the city.  An “aedile” was in charge of the financial matters of the city — and was very wealthy. The pavement was laid about A.D. 50.

The New Testament book of Romans was written by Paul from Corinth to the church in Rome in the spring of A.D. 57—on his third journey. In Romans 16:23 Paul says that “Erastus, the city treasurer [Ἕραστος ὸ οἰκονόμς] greets you . . . .”   It is very probable that the “Erastus” mentioned in Romans is the very same person who is mentioned in this inscription.

The two lines on the Latin inscription have been transcribed by John McRay in the following way:

ERASTVS PRO AEDILIT E
S P STRAVIT

McRay suggests that the full transcription can be translated as “Erastus in return for his aedileship laid (the pavement) at his own expense.”

From the following passages it is evident that Erastus was very involved in Paul’s ministry:

On his third journey, prior to the writing of the NT book of Romans, Paul wrote:

Acts 19:22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia [at Ephesus] a little longer.

and then in Paul’s final letter while imprisoned in Rome Paul wrote:

2Tim. 4:20 Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus

The image below is an example of an ancient inscription filled with metal — from the via Appia in the Italian city of Terracina.

An ancient inscription filled with metal (as the Erastus inscription originally was) on the via Appia in the Italian city of Terracina.


For an extensive discussion of the Erastus inscription and the various options that the various Latin and (NT) Greek terms suggest, see John McRay Archaeology and the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1991: 331–33.   To examine for purchase Click Here.

For a brief description of the biblical and historical significance of Corinth and a Map of the region Click Here.

A Fortress on Patmos

Although many think that Patmos was a barren Alcatraz-like island where John was exiled, this is not true (see Franz below).

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View looking west into the modern harbor of Patmos. The “mountain/hill” in the background is the Citadel of Patmos that is called the Kastelli. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

On the central portion of Patmos, the “Kastelli” (acropolis) towers over the main harbor at an altitude of 1,550 ft. [472 m.].

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View looking south at the west gate on the summit of Kastelli (the acropolis) of Patmos. Note the well-preserved exterior staircase.

The woman in the image is actually standing in the entrance–way.  The original line of fortifications is from the Hellenistic Period (third century B.C.), although this gate may have been rebuilt in more recent times.

fortification-towerView looking southeast at six courses of stone of one of the towers on the north slope of the acropolis of Patmos that is called the “Kastelli” (acropolis).  These fortifications date to the Hellenistic Period—that is about the third century B.C.  Compare the style of the well–preserved Hellenistic fortifications found at Priene and Assos—both in Turkey.

To view additional images of the Acropolis/Kastelli on Patmos Click Here.

For a helpful article describing the Patmos that John was exiled to, see Gordon Franz, “The King and I (Part 2).” Bible and Spade 12 (2000): 115–23.  It is also available on Gordon Franz’s web site Life and Land but without graphics.

Nazareth: Perfect Crusader Capitals — Scenes from the Gospels and Acts

One of the places in Nazareth that is rarely visited is the Archaeology Museum of Nazareth.  It is actually located below the plaza on to which visitors to the Church of the Annunciation exit!  Of the displays, pride of place must go to the five capitals of the crusade era, unearthed by Father Viaud at the beginning of the 1800s, in a grotto dug to the north of the crusade Basilica, close to the grotto of worship.

View of the only rectangular capital called the “Fides–Ecclesia.” Click on Images to Enlarge and/or Download.

The central capital shows a scene that has been open to several interpretations and represents a crowned woman holding a cross, while she travels to the left accompanied by a barefoot man among figures of the devil.
Some academics see the scene as the Byzantine theme of the liberation of Adam through the decent of Christ to the underworld. On the other hand, others identify the crowned woman with the Church Mother, holding the hand of an apostle, helping him to stand up to temptations, represented by the demons armed with bows and ready to shoot their arrows.

The capitals are made of high quality “sultan” stone.  The background surface is rough while the figures are very smooth.  The five, apparently unused, capitals from the Crusader Period depict episodes from the canonical apostles and from apocryphal writings regarding the life of the apostles.

View of one of the four octagonal capitals called the “Capital of Saint Peter.”

This capital represents two images of scenes from the life of the apostle Peter, taken from the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.
The three arches on the right in all likelihood represents the episode of the apparition of Jesus to the apostles, after the resurrection, at the lake of Tiberias. Peter, throwing himself from the boat to reach the shore, holds his hand out to Jesus, who is calling him. Below the three left arches there is a scene of the resurrection of the disciple Tabitha, in the city of Jaffa, by the hand of Peter, as told in the Acts of the Apostles. The apostle lifts the disciple from her deathbed, while three witnesses observe the prodigious miracle.

View of one of the four octagonal capitals called the “Capital of Saint Thomas.”

This capital is one of the four octagonal capitals. Below six arches, a unique scene is depicted, narrating the episode of the meeting between Saint Thomas and Jesus Christ, after the resurrection.
Thomas, absent at the time of the first apparition, is put to the test by Jesus who is showing the apostle the wound on his ribs, which Thomas had previously not believed in when hearing the take from the other apostles.
Christ is recognizable by the halo and the cross. The other saints present at the scene are the apostles: among these can be noted Peter, to the right of Christ and the brothers James and John in the arch on the left [not visible in image].

 


The Crusader Period in the Holy Land is from 1099 until 1291.  However, after the battle of the Horns of Hattin on July 4, 1187 the rule of the Crusaders was doomed.

Samothrace — Seldom Visited by Tourists, BUT Visited by Paul (Acts 16:11)

Samothrace is a Greek Island that lies 25 mi. south of the Greek mainland.  This mountainous island was the home of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods where famous religious ceremonies took place.

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The sacred hall called the Hieron where the mysterious sacred rites took place Click On Image to Enlarge/Download

On Paul’s Second Journey he traveled by ship from Troas (in Asia Minor) to Neapolis (in Europe).  Acts 16:11 notes that the trip took two days

From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis.

It is clear that the ship overnighted at Samothrace before continuing on to Neapolis—the port city of Philippi.

There is no indication that Paul ever stepped off the ship, but if he did (which I think is probable), he may have visited the “Sanctuary of the Great Gods.”  Since their rituals were practiced at night, he may have even witnessed—from afar—some of the rites.

Samothrace

It was here that the famous “Winged Victory/Nike of Samothrace” was discovered—the original is now on display in the Louvre in Paris.

The original of the Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Louvre.

On his third journey, Paul made the same trip, in the reverse direction, in 5 days (Acts 20:6)—evidently, the winds were not as favorable on that trip (in the spring of the year).

To view the Original “Winged Victory of Samothrace,” Click Here.

To view 18 images, with commentary, of Samothrace Click Here.

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Foundations of a mysterious Cult Building on Samothrace

Unique Tombs from 2200–2000 BC

Dhahr Mirzbaneh is a site located about 16 mi. northeast of Jerusalem. The hillsides in the area are covered with tombs from the Middle Bronze I Age (2200-2000 B.C.).

Cut Away of MB I Tombs During Construction of the “Alon Road”

View looking northwest. When the “Alon Road” was being constructed in the 1970’s, the construction workers cut through the hillside of Dhahr Mirzbaneh exposing a side, “cut-away,” view of a number of Middle Bronze I (2200-2000 B.C.) tombs.  Some scholars place the migration of Abram from Ur to the Land of Canaan during this period.

A perfect “cut-away” view of such a tomb is visible on the left side of the image. The shaded semi-circular area is a tomb chamber, and to its left the “cut-away” outline of a vertical shaft (partially filled with rubble) is visible.

On the right side of the image more exposed tomb chambers are visible.

Detail of MB I (2200–2000 BC) Tomb

View of a MB I (2200-2000 B.C.) tomb which was sliced in half by road building activity.

A typical MB I tomb consisted of a vertical shaft, 4 to 9 ft. [1.2 to 3 m.] deep, cut into the rock. At the bottom of the shaft one or more chambers radiated from it. Usually only one person was placed in each chamber.

To the left of the leg of the man, the shaded arched outline of a burial chamber is clearly visible – it had an arched top and a flat horizontal floor. To the left of the chamber, partly shaded, is the outline of the vertical shaft, which led down from the surface to the burial chamber. This shaft is partly filled with rubble.

To view more images of Dhahr Mirzbaneh, and a map, Click Here.

July 4 in USA — Lycian League — A Model for the Founding of the USA

QUICK — what was the Lycian League?  Not many of us know, but Alexander Hamilton and James Madison knew!  Yes, the “Lycian Confederation” is mentioned four times in the Federalist Papers that were produced between 1787–1788 (#9, 16, 45).  Over 2,000 years ago it met in Patara—the same place where Paul and Luke changed ships on their way to Jerusalem (Acts 21:1-3).

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View of the exterior of the reconstructed Council Chamber (Bouleuterion) at Patara
January 2014 — Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

So what was the Lycian Confederation/League?  First, Lycia was/is a geopolitical region located along the Mediterranean Coast of modern Turkey, often called the Turquoise Coast­ because of its beauty! (see map below) The 23 cities that made up the Confederation/League were located along the Mediterranean coast or in the nearby rugged Taurus Mountains (but the number of cities varied from time to time).

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View of the interior of the Council House at Patara
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

The Lycian Confederation is the first known democratic union in history!  One of the features of this Confederation is that they committed themselves to be governed by a central assembly (Greek: synedrion) that they themselves elected.  However, in fairness, the larger cities were allotted more representatives than the smaller ones.  Large cities such as Xanthos, Patara, Myra, Pinara, Tlos, and Olympos were allotted three representatives each (the maximum allowed).

The Lycian Confederation met at Patara—almost certainly in the Bouleuterion pictured above.  It was thus here (at the out-of-the-way site of Patara) that proportional representative government first got its start.  And, it was not until the founding of the United States (2,000 years later!!) that this concept was revived in the US House of Representatives (note the semi-circular seating arrangement of its chamber)!!

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The Rugged Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean Coast of Lycia
The cities of the Lycian Confederation were located along the coast or in the mountains
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The league itself may go back to around 205 B.C.  This early form of the league would have had the power to decide questions of war, peace, and alliances.   In 168 B.C., while still under Roman control, the Romans allowed these cities to still assemble together to govern themselves as a unit—but the power to decide questions of war, peace, and alliances were now Rome’s prerogative.

This body elected persons who administered the Lycian League for a year at a time.  The council elected judges.  Voted proportional taxes.  A league court decided disputes between the cities.

189_PataraMapI have posted 5 photos of this historic meeting place on my web site,
both before and after it was excavated/reconstructed.

For a great summary article on the Lycian League and Patara see the article in Saudi Aramco World 2007.

Jews, Proselytes, and God-Fearers at Aphrodisias

In the New Testament, particularly in the book of Acts and in the ministry of the Apostle of Paul, Jews, Proselytes, and God-fearers are mentioned (see for example Acts 2:11; 6:5; 13:16, 26, 43; 17:4, 17).  Because of Paul’s activities in Asia Minor (= modern Turkey), Christian scholarship has been interested in finding evidence of these groups in that area.  Unfortunately, there is little archaeological indication of first-century Judaism in the region.  However, synagogues from the Late Roman Period have been found at sites such as Sardis, Priene, Andriace, etc.  And later inscriptions mentioning “God-fearers” have been discovered at Miletus and Sardis.

At Aphrodisias a unique find related to the Jewish presence in the city was discovered—that mentions all three categories noted above.  It is a 9 ft. tall marble block that was found during the construction of the Aphrodisias Museum.

This 9 ft. tall marble block lists over 120 donors to a synagogue. Click on this and following images to Enlarge and/or Download—and to read the Greek Inscription.

The marble block is engraved on two sides—both visible in the photo.  It is a list of over 120 donors to a synagogue and is composed of three categories of names—all males: Jews, recent converts to Judaism (proselytes), and unconverted members of the synagogue community (“godfearers;” theosebeis).  It evidently dates to ca. AD 350–500) and probably served as a doorpost in a synagogue.  (Please see below for sources used in this blog post)

There are about 121 names on this front side of the marble block.

This main list is divided into two sections—see the blank space between the upper and lower portions of the list. First come men who have distinctly Biblical names or names favored by Jews, such as Benjamin, Judas, Joseph, Jacob, Samuel, Zachary, and names such as Amantios (loving), Eusabatios (the good Sabbath).

The second portion of the list is headed with the word theosebeis (“god fearers” ΘΕΟΣΕΒΙΣ ) who are gentiles who have a strong chosen affiliation with Judaism but who are not themselves Jews. They have traditional Greeκ-Roman names such as Alexandros or Eutychos.

Several local councilors head the list of god fearers, and ten of the Jews and seventeen of the God-fearers list their professions. They are all tradesmen who range from food-providers to painters to leather-workers, to sculptors and builders. The pillar probably stood outside the local synagogue and is a striking testimony to the proud place of the Jewish community in the city, to continuing fluid religious interaction in the fourth century AD, and especially to the high valuation of craft professions among this group of like-minded monotheists. (from the description in the Aphrodisias’ Museum)

This is a view of the “side” of the inscribed pillar.

This side also lists the names of members of the Jewish community and includes “14 men with predominantly Hebrew names (including three proselytes) and two Godfearers.” (Chaniotis, p. 40)

Compare the quality of this side inscription with that on the front of it. Chaniotis argues the ‘these two distinct carving styles suggest that the inscription on the front face was carved first, when the stone was still lying flat on the ground and was fully accessible to the engraver, while the text on this side face was carved at a later date—once the pillar had already been installed in the synagogue and the engraving had to be completed from atop a ladder.’ (p. 40)

For detailed pictures of this Inscription see Here.


Chaniotis, Angelos. “Godfearers in the City of Love.” Biblical Archaeology Review 36, no. 3 (May/June 2010): 32–44, 77.

Fairchild, Mark R. Christian Origins in Ephesus & Asia Minor. Istanbul: Arkeoege, 2015.