Category Archives: Paul

The Cave/Grotto of Paul and Thecla at Ephesus

One of the most interesting early extra–biblical stories is the one of Paul and Thecla (2nd century A.D.; Thecla is said to have been a female companion of Paul and eventually [for most of her life] a respected preacher of the Christian faith).

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From right to left: Theocleia (mother of Thecla), Paul, and Thecla
Fresco from the Grotto of Saint Paul at Ephesus
Click on Image to Enlarge

At Ephesus there is a not–too–frequently–visited cave sometimes called “The Grotto of Paul” (= Cave of Paul & Thecla).  It is located on the northern slope of Bülbül Dag, away from the normal visitors’ routes through Ephesus.  It overlooks the site of ancient Ephesus from the south.

On the western wall of the grotto a painting portrays an event from the apocryphal book called The Acts of Paul and Thecla (ca. early second century A.D.).  The painting (5th/6th century A.D.) depicts the initial event described in the book, in the city of Iconium, where Thecla is looking from a window at Paul preaching while Thecla’s mother (Theocleia) looks on.  Thecla, against the wishes of her mother and her finance Thamyris, gave up her betrothal (engagement) in order to remain a virgin and to follow Paul.

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Detail of Thecla looking down from a window at Paul preaching
Paul’s raised hand is visible on the right
Click on Image to Enlarge

Eventually Thecla was separated from Paul and became a significant preacher and witness to her faith.  Her life and impact has been much discussed during the past thirty years and this painting has figured large in the discussions.

In addition, The Acts of Paul and Thecla contains the earliest physical description of Paul:

“And he [Onesiphorus] saw Paul coming [towards Iconium], a man small in size, bald-headed, bandy-legged, well-built, with eyebrows meeting, rather long-nosed, full of grace.”

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Paul and Theocleia (mother of Thecla) — Note the names spelled out in Greek
Also compare the artistic representation of Paul with the literary
Click on Image to Enlarge

The facial image of Paul in the fresco seems to match this description as do iconographic representations of Paul.

The cave seems to have served as a chapel from the early Byzantine period through the early 19th century.

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Vestibule to “The Grotto of Paul and Thecla” at Ephesus

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Plan of “The Grotto of Paul and Thecla”

The grotto is 50 ft. long 6.5 ft. wide and 7.5 ft. high gallery that was expanded to the south in the form of a “presbytery.”  It was excavated by Dr. Renate Pillinger from the University of Vienna in 1995.

Not familiar with the fascinating story of Paul and Thecla?  You can get a Kindle version of the story for only $1.99 in the New Testament Apocrypha—along with 43 other stories!

To view additional images of this Grotto and Frescos Click Here.

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Paul’s Trip from Chios to Miletus — A Second Thought

In a previous blog post (reproduced below) I cited Mark Wilson’s article that argued that the ship that Paul was on traveling from Chios to Miletus sailed on the east side of Samos—contrary to my mapping, in my Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, where I placed the route to the west of Samos (as do many other atlases).

Acts 20:15 The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Kios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus.

I find it interesting that

“Archaeologists in Greece have discovered at least 58 shipwrecks, many laden with antiquities, in what they say may be the largest concentration of ancient wrecks ever found in the Aegean and possibly the whole of the Mediterranean”
(as per the article “Ancient shipwrecks found in Greek waters tell tale of trade routes“)

These 58 wrecks were found in the Greek Fournoi archipelago that is located to the southwest of Samos.

It seems to me that in light of the above that

  1. This route was fraught with danger—as Wilson argued in his article.
  2. This north–south route west of Samos was frequently used by ancient mariners—dispite the potential danger invoved.

Thus, in light of #2, it seems very possible that the ship that Paul was on, that was sailing from Chios to Miletus, may very well have used this more direct route to the west of Samos (as I mapped in my Atlas)—rather than the longer interior route suggested by Wilson.


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The Strait of Mycale Looking Southwest
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download
Also, See Map Below

View looking west southwest at the Strait of Mycale.  On the left (east) side of the image is Mount Mycale which is in Turkey.  On the right (west) is the Greek Island of Samos.  The open water between them is the “Strait of Mycale”—only 1 mi. [1.6 km] wide!

The Apostle Paul probably passed this way as he sailed from Chios to Samos to Miletus—towards the end of his Third Journey.

Acts 20: 15 says: “And sailing from there [Mitylene], we [Paul and traveling companions on board a ship] arrived the following day opposite Chios; and the next day we crossed over to Samos; and the day following we came to Miletus.” (NASB)

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Map of the Strait of Mycale
Click on Image to Enlarge and Better Clarity

The route that Paul’s vessel took from Chios to Miletus is carefully examined by Dr. Mark Wilson at the beginning of his important article “The Ephesian elders come to Miletus: An Annaliste reading of Acts 20:15-18a.” He argues that the vessel that Paul was on sailed through the narrow straight between Samos and Turkey—the “Mycale Strait”— and possibly landed at the chief city of Samos—Pythagoras or at Troglilum closer to the (present) Turkish mainland.

For additional images of the Strait of Mycale and Samos Click Here.

The  map above is from: Eric Gaba, Wikimedia Commons user Sting [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Here are the “bibliographic details” of Wilson’s article, BUT to Download Your Copy Click Here:  WILSON, M.. The Ephesian elders come to Miletus: An Annaliste reading of Acts 20:15–18a. Verbum et Ecclesia, North America, 34, sep. 2013. Available at: <http://www.ve.org.za/index.php/VE/article/view/744/1751>. Date accessed: 18 Oct. 2013.

Jewish Presence In Asia Minor: Andriace

AndriakeMap031009Andriace (also Andriake) is a port city located on the southern coast of Turkey in an area known in ancient times as Lycia.  Andriace served as the port of Myra that is located 3 mi. [5 km.] to the northeast.  It evidently was a major point for the trans–shipment  grain.

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Granary of Hadrian at Andriace—the Port of Myra
Grain was stored in this facility for shipment to Rome
Paul’s ship stopped here on his way to Rome (Acts 27:5-6)
Click on image to Enlarge/Download

The grain came from the plain near Myra, and possibly from cargo ships, bringing it from Egypt.  From Andriace it was shipped to Rome or to other parts of the Roman Empire.

Although not mentioned specifically in the Bible, the apostle Paul probably changed ships in Andriace in A.D. 60 on his way to Rome after he had appealed to have his case tried before Caesar.  Acts 27:5–6 describes this portion of his trip from Caesarea to Rome in this way:

“when we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia.  There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board.”

Much of this must have transpired in Andriace, the port of Myra.

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View looking south at the apse of the Synagogue discovered at Andriace
Click on image to Enlarge/Download

View looking south at the “synagogue” that was discovered at Andriace.  On the left (east) side of the image, behind the people, Hadrian’s granary is visible.

The “apse” of the synagogue appears to be facing south—approximately towards Jerusalem—which is southeast of Andriace.  The proximity of this structure to the granary is also interesting.

Fifteen images of Andriace are available by Clicking Here.

A report on the excavations and inscriptions at Andriace can be found in Nevzat Çevik, Özgü Çomezoglu, Hüseyin Sami Öztürk, and Inci Türkoglu, “A Unique Discovery in Lycia: The Ancient Synagogue at Andriake, Port of Myra.”  Adalya XIII (2010), 335–66.

Paul in the Cities — Where Did They Eat?

The Apostle Paul resided in many cities of the Roman Empire including Tarsus, Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, and Rome.  As I lead tours to these ancient cities, we often wonder what life was like in them in the first century A.D.  One of the interesting “institutions” are the thermopolia—”fast food establishments” that were found in every large city.  For example, eighty–three thermopolia have been discovered at Pompeii, and more have been discovered at nearby Herculaneum and at Ostia—the port of Rome.  (be sure and see the final two paragraphs of this blog)

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View of a Fast Food establishment (thermopolium, popina, taberna) at Pompeii. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This is the Thermopolium of Vetutius Placidus (aka T. of Asellina) that is located on the lower floor of his house in Pompeii (Italy).  It is situated on the main street of Pompeii, the via dell’ Abbondanza.  Food and drink were sold and consumed here.  Note the large storage jars that are built into the masonry and marble counters.

On the back wall is a well–preserved lararium—a shrine dedicated to the household gods.   Among others Mercury, the god of trade, and Dionysus, the god of wine are depicted (maybe assisted sales?!).  A hoard of 6.6 lbs. of worthless coins were found in one of the jars.  It was evidently left behind when the owner fled Pompeii as ash rained down from the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius (picture below).  In the back of the shop, not visible, was a slightly more private eating area.  A staircase led to guest rooms on the second floor—a brothel?  These thermopolia were situated street side on the ground floor of apartment buildings and even elite houses.

The thermopolia were visited primarily by the lower classes as the upper classes would dine in the luxurious surroundings of their own homes.  The houses of lower classes of people rarely had kitchens, thus they would eat at an establishment such as this, or they would “carry out” the food to take back home.

Since many (most?) of the early Christians were from the lower classes, they probably frequented places like the local thermopolium.  And, it is very probable that Paul and other leaders of the Early Church did so as well in the cities that they resided in!  Is it not possible that in establishments like this that the Early Christians shared their belief in “Jesus is Lord”—rather than “Caesar is Lord?”

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A Thermopolium from nearby Herculaneum—also destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius.

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Mount Vesuvius that erupted in August of A.D. 79 covering Pompeii with ash and Herculaneum with a pyroclastic flow.

For use or publication of any of these images please see this link.

Paul in the Cities: Where did They Meet? 2 (Ask Eutychus! Acts 20:9)

Alexandria Troas — Paul on His Return to Jerusalem
on His Third Journey

Acts 20:7     On the first day of the week . . . Paul spoke to the people . . . and kept on talking until midnight.  8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.  9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead.

What kind of building was this group of believers meeting in?  Probably an “apartment building” (insula).  After 2,000 years do any still exist?  Yes!

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High Density Roman Housing at Ostia — the Port of Rome  View of a street on which the Casa di Diana is located. On the left side of the image note the high–density housing (insulae). There were at least three floors, with rooms arranged around a central courtyard where there was a communal fountain.  The upper stories were probably made of perishable materials such as wood.

The term insula refers to a multi–story housing block, that was subdivided into apartments for rent with shops on the ground floor.  Windows and balconies were the principal light sources for the tenants.  The insulae were probably first built of wood and thus susceptible to destruction by fire—a big problem!  (I am not aware of the preservation of any wooden insula)  Often times they were constructed of baked Roman bricks—like this example at Ostia.

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View of a street lined with apartment buildings (insulae) near the via Della Fontana at Ostia. The staircase on the left led up to the upper floors of the building—at least 3 stories high.  This large structure was probably owned by one person who rented apartments, shops, and workplaces to tenants.

The ground floor of insulae were usually shops and stores.  The best apartments were on the lower floors and sometimes were decorated with simple paintings and mosaics.  The upper apartments (on floors 2 and 3) were smaller, more difficult to reach, and dangerous (fire!)—because they were built out of wood!  The upper storeys were typically without heat, running water, and toilets.  The poor, who lived there, would sometimes dump trash and human excrement out of the windows into the street below!  Most of the people, poor and “middle class,” would live in these structures.

New Testament Importance:
Since Acts 20:9 mentions Eutychus falling from a third floor, the group of Christians that Paul was speaking to must have been meeting in a cramped, lower class apartment such as the above.  But to date, no such insulae have been found at Alexandrian Troas, but they were probably built of wood and have perished over the last 2,000 years!

Paul: From Asia Minor to Europe — From the Port of Alexandria Troas

One of my favorites follows:

Acts 16:11  ¶  From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis.

It was at Alexandria Troas (see map below), on Paul’s second missionary journey, that in a vision he received a call to proceed to Macedonia (Acts 16:8–11). Because of the use of “us” it seems that Luke joined Paul and Silas on this portion of the journey.

Troas is a site that is not often visited by visitors to Turkey—yet it is huge — about 1,000(!) acres [405 ha.] in size. It is situated 31.2 mi. [50 km.] northwest of Assos — via the ancient road system. It is 15.5 mi. [25 km.] south of Troy and is largely unexcavated.

There are three parts to the harbor of Troas—from which Paul set sail—the breakwater/quay?, Outer Harbor, and Inner Harbor (see below for pictures of all).

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Breakwater/Quay of Troas — It is very probable that Paul and his companions set sail for Samothrace/Neapolis (Europe) from this point (Acts 16:11) — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Protruding into the Aegean Sea are the remains of a Breakwater or Quay that protected the entrance of the harbor.

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Ephesus — The Commercial Agora

Ephesus was the major city of Asia Minor during the New Testament era. It was a major port – now silted up – located at the end of the Spice and Silk Road that ran west from Arabia and Asia to Ephesus on the Aegean Sea.

Paul visited the city on his second and third missionary journeys – staying there for about 3 years on his third journey. Ephesus is also one of the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation (1:11; 2:1–7). It is mentioned 18 times in the New Testament.

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View of the large square Commercial Agora. It was here that shops lined the four sides of the 360×360 ft. space. It is very possible that here Demetrius and other silver smiths sold their wares to pilgrims who were to visit the Temple of Artemis—one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It is even possible that Paul, and Pricilla and Aquilla, had a leather working shop in the area. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or download. BTW the “white” structure in the distance on the far left is the famous “Library of Celsus” (not in existence in Paul’s day).

During his three year stay Paul was evidently so successful in preaching the Gospel that the sale of silver statues of the goddess Artemis fell off significantly.  This led Demetrius and other silversmiths to instigate a riot protesting the ministry of Paul and his companions.  This lead to a gathering of the ecclesia in the great theater where a riot was in the making (Acts 19:23–28).

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View looking north down at the Commercial Agora (lower left). The large theater where the riot took place is in the upper right of the image and the “marble street” leads from the bottom of the photo to it. the Library of Clesus is the columned structure in the lower left of the image. Click on Image to Enlarge.

View looking south from the top northern edge of the theater. Right and above center, the open area with trees is the commercial agora. Probably Paul worked here, as did the artisans who made the silver images of Artemis. So it is no wonder that when the riot of the silversmiths, led by Demetrius, began (in the Commercial Agora?) that the crowd moved into the near by theater.

View looking south from the top northern edge of the theater. Right and above center, the open area with trees is the commercial agora. Probably Paul worked here, as did the artisans who made the silver images of Artemis. So it is no wonder that when the riot of the silversmiths, led by Demetrius, began (in the Commercial Agora?) that the crowd moved into the near by theater.

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For additional high resolution images of Ephesus Click on the Following:  General Images, Artifacts, Terrace Houses, Cave of Paul and Thecla, and Ships.