Tag Archives: Miletus

God Fearers in the Synagogue and Early Church — Evidence from Miletus

MiletusMap3In the New Testament the book of Acts 13-28 describes the spread of Christianity primarily through the efforts of Paul and his companions.  As they traveled throughout Asia Minor and Greece some Jews and many Gentiles adopted the new faith.  Some of these Gentiles where already interested in the God of the Jews and involved in synagogue worship.  This group is mentioned several times in the book of Acts (Acts 13:16, 26, 43; 17:4, 17).

Clear evidence for the presence of a Jewish population living at Miletus, which Paul stopped at on the return leg of his Third Journey (Acts 20:15ff), is evidenced by an inscription that is located on the fifth row of seats on the southeast side of the large theater at Miletus (see below).

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Greek Theater Inscription
τόπoς Ειουδέων τῶν καὶ Θεοσεβίον”the place for the Jews and the God–worshipers” or
“the place of the Jews who are also God–worshipers”
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τόπoς Ειουδέων τῶν καὶ Θεοσεβίον

This inscription seems to mark “reserved seating” for Jews and possibly related “God–worshipers.” There are other “reserved seat” markings in this, and other, theaters.  As it stands the inscription reads “the place of the Jews who are also God–worshipers.”

But some have suggested that whom ever wrote the inscription may have inverted the “τῶν καὶ.” If this is the case, then the inscription could refer to two groups of people, Jews and Gentile God–worshipers (= “the place for the Jews and the God–worshipers”). Compare the same categories found in the book of Acts, although not quite the same terminology (Acts 13:16, 26, 43; 17:4, 17).

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The Theater at Miletus
The “God-Fearer” inscription is located where the two people are sitting near the center of the image
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Flooding at Miletus in Turkey (Acts 20:38)

Mark Wilson of the Asia Minor Research Center in Antalya Turkey comments that due to heavy rains the site of Miletus, including the grounds of the new museum and the 600 year old Ilyasbey Islamic Complex.  This is due to the flooding of the Büyük Menderes River (the ancient Meander River).

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The flooding of the South Agora
On the right (south) is the Ionic Stoa

The apostle Paul visited Miletus, modern Balat, at the end of his third missionary journey – about A.D. 57 (Acts 20:38).  From there he summoned the elders from the church at Ephesus, 28 mi. [45 km.] distant (as the crow flies), and after speaking to them – this is the major speech recorded on his third journey – they had a tearful parting as Paul headed for Jerusalem where he would be taken prisoner.  Miletus is also mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:20.

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Ilyas Bey Islamic Complex = Mosque
At Miletus — Constructed 1404

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Lion from the Bath of Faustina displayed on the grounds of the Museum at Miletus

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