Tag Archives: Paul

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.

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.

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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

Paphos Cyprus — Did Paul “preach” to Sergius Paulus here? (Acts 13:6–12)

CyprusMapCyprus  is mentioned 3 times in the Old Testament and 7 times in the New Testament.  It was the home of Barnabas (Acts 4:36) and was visited by Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark on Paul’s first missionary journey.

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View looking west northwest at the Atrium of the “House of Theseus” (= Proconsul’s Villa) at Paphos. In the center of the Atrium (there are several in the villa) is a small sunken pond. In the upper left of the image is an apse—an “exedra” used for gathering. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The “House of Theseus” is named after its main mosaic—that of Thesesus killing the Minotaur (at Knossos on Crete).  It is the largest Roman house discovered on Cyprus and an earlier version of it may very well have been the residence of Sergius Paulus, the proconsul (Roman governor of Cyprus), who is mentioned in Acts 13:4–12, and who was converted to “Christianity.”

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View looking southwest at one of the Audience Halls of the “House of Theseus” (= Proconsul’s Villa) at Paphos. Note the mosaic “carpet” of the hall.

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Theseus is the central figure in the mosaic with the raised club. He is slaying the “Minotaur” (half bull half human being that inhabited the Labryrinth of Knossos (on Crete)—thus making him eligible to marry the daughter of the king of Knossos, Ariadne. The Greek inscriptions clearly show Ariadne in the upper left part of the image, Crete in the upper right, “Labyrinth” in the lower left, and the name of “Minotaur” in the lower right the Minotaur part of the mosaic was destroyed in antiquity.

The “House of Theseus” is named after its main mosaic—that of Theseus killing the Minotaur (at Knossos on Crete).


Cyprus is located at the northeastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.  It is the third largest Mediterranean Island with a population of 800,000 people.  80% are Greek Cypriots, 11% Turkish Cypriots, and 9% are foreign residents.  It is about 3,572 sq. mi. [9,251 sq. km.] in size—about half the size of the US state of New Jersey.  This palace has been under excavation by a Polish team since 1966.

The Lighthouse at Patara

At the end of Paul’s third journey, as he was heading for Jerusalem, he and Luke changed ships at Patara—a port located on the Mediterranean coast of present day Turkey (see map below).

… we put out to sea [from Miletus] and sailed straight to Cos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara.  We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail.  After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo.  (Acts 21:1-3; NIV)

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View looking southwest at the square foundation and the cylindrical Lighthouse built upon it at Patara
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

A mysterious structure is located on the northern edge of the beach and on the western edge of the now silted harbor of Patara.  It is claimed that this is the ‘oldest preserved’ lighthouse in the world!

According to Dr. Mark Wilson (personal communication updating his book) writes that “the inscription should be dated to Nero’s eleventh tribunician power, thus between October 64 and October 65.”  And . . . “a second lighthouse (antipharos) still lies buried in the sand on the opposite side beneath Kurshunlutepe.”

The Greek inscription names “Marcus Sextius Priscus . . .  who served as governor until the reign of Vespasian in 71-72.”

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Entrance to the Circular Tower of the Lighthouse
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

View looking east at the doorway that is on the west side of the cylindrical tower.  Behind the student the solid interior cylinder is visible behind the modern supporting column.  There actually is an outer “cylinder” (the student is standing in it) that is constructed around a round central column and stairs are wedged in between the two parts.  The round central column is visible behind and to the right of the woman in the picture.  She is about 5 ft. 7 in. [1.5 m.] tall.

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Internal Staircase (woman is standing on it), the Outer Cylindrical Wall (just right of center) and the inner solid column with the staircase wedged in between them
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

A view of the interior staircase of the cylindrical tower.  In the center of the image the cylindrical exterior wall is visible and on the left side of the image the massive solid interior column.  Note how the staircase is bonded to both the exterior wall and the interior column. The woman in the image is about 5 ft. 2 in. [1.3 m.] tall.

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Note the location of Patara along with Cos and Rhodes
All mentioned in Acts 21:1-13

To view 14 images and commentary on the Lighthouse at Patara Click Here.
(Free of charge, without obligation and/or registration)

Dr. Mark Wilson’s comments on Patara and the lighthouse can be found in:  Mark Wilson, Biblical Turkey — A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor.  Istanbul: Yayinlari, 2010, pp. 90–99.

Ship Names — Paul’s Shipwreck—Part 3

In two previous posts I shared some images and thoughts on anchor stocks that are in the Malta Maritime Museum—here and here.  The final anchor stock that I want to mention is one that actually has Isis—the name of an Egyptian Deity—inscribed on it.

The name “Isis” is clearly visible on the left side of this anchor stock.

This is a detail of the name Isis, that appears in high relief, on this anchor stock.

Isis, an Egyptian deity, was a name (among others) commonly used for ships during the Roman Era.  There was a very famous ship called Isis that is mentioned by the ancient author Lucian that was about 180 feet long, 45 feet wide (beam), and 45 feet deep—I am not saying that this is an anchor stock from that ship, but it is interesting that the name appears here.

In his book Πλοἶον ἢ Εὐχαί (“The Ship, or The Wishes”) the sophist Lucian described the Isis when he saw it in Athens’ seaport Piraeus:

I say, though, what a size that ship was! 180 feet long, the man said, and something over a quarter of that in width; and from deck to keel, the maximum depth, through the hold, 44 feet. And then the height of the mast, with its huge yard; and what a forestay it takes to hold it! And the lofty stern with its gradual curve, and its gilded beak, balanced at the other end by the long rising sweep of the prow, and the figures of her name-goddess, Isis, on either side. As to the other ornamental details, the paintings and the scarlet topsail, I was more struck by the anchors, and the capstans and windlasses, and the stern cabins. The crew was like a small army. And they were saying she carried as much corn as would feed every soul in Attica for a year. And all depends for its safety on one little old atomy of a man, who controls that great rudder with a mere broomstick of a tiller!

(Wikipedia Isis (ship)

Please note that from Malta Paul sailed to Rome on:

Acts 28:11    After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux.
[Two Greek Deities]

In addition, I found another inscribed anchor stock in the Museo Nazionale in Reggio, this time with the name Hera on it.

An anchor stock in the Museo Nazionale in Reggio (Italy) with the name Hera on it.

Hera was believed to be the wife of the chief deity ZeusReggio is located in southern Italy, on the coast facing Sicily.  Reggio is considered to be ancient Rhegium.

Acts 28:11    After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island [=Malta]. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli.

Detail of the name “Hera”—in reverse order—on the anchor stock.

To view images of items on display in the Malta Maritime Museum check here.

The Largest Anchor Stock — Paul’s Shipwreck—Part 2

In my earlier post, I wrote of the 11 Anchor Stocks that are currently in storage at the Malta Maritime Museum—and I described how they worked.

Among the 11 is the largest ancient anchor stock ever to be discovered!

View of the largest anchor stock ever found from the ancient world. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This anchor stock weighs over 5,500 lbs [2,500 kg.] and is 13 ft. 6 in. long [4.1 m.].  A careful look at the left end of the anchor shows that it was not solid metal, but had a metal shell that encased a wood “soul.” (see below for what is an “anchor stock”)

Note the size of the Anchor Stock in comparison with the woman in the picture!

Gordon Franz (see below) quotes the Museum Archaeological Report that this “enormous Roman anchor stock [was] found lying on the seabed 120 feet below the surface 300 yards off Qawra Point….” [CR=near Salina Bay]. It is dated from “the second half of the second century BC to the middle of the first century AD.” It “… most likely came from an Alexandrian grain ship” [CR: like the one Paul was being transported on? Acts 27:6, 27–29].  It should be remembered that the large “Alexandrian” grain ships could be 180 feet long! — Paul traveled on two Alexandrian grain ships (Acts 27:6; 28:11)

It was discovered near Salina Bay, on the NE coast of Malta.  This is near two of the bays that are “traditional” candidates for the site of the shipwreck of Paul (Acts 27—28:10).


A modern reconstruction of an anchor (with an “Anchor Stock”—right side of image) from the Roman Period.

For a good discussion of the shipwreck, ancient anchors, etc.,  and a vigorous interaction with the views of Robert Cornuke, see Gordon Franz “Does the ‘Lost Shipwreck of Paul’ Hold Water?  Or, Have the Anchors from the Apostle Paul’s Shipwreck Been discovered on Malta?”

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.

Philippi (Greece) — Baptismal Site

Soon after Paul’s arrival at Philippi on his second missionary journey—on the Sabbath—he “went outside the gate to a riverside, where we [Luke included] were supposing that there would be a place of prayer”  (Acts 16:14).  There a woman named Lydia from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics” was converted to Christianity and was baptized (Acts 16:14–15).

Krenides River

The exact site of this event is not known, but its memory is preserved just north of the Krenides gate of Philippi, about 0.5 mi. [0.8 km.] west of the archaeological site.

Baptismal Church of Lydia

Continue reading

Paul at Assos — Final Part (Asia Minor/Turkey)

In two previous “posts” I described “Paul on the Road to Assos” (Acts 20:5-12) and “Paul’s Arrival at Assos” and the Temple of Athena at Assos.  The Assos that Paul visited was a well–established Greco Roman city.  Indeed, at one time the philosopher Aristotle had lived and taught in the city (ca. 347–343 B.C.).

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Ancient Theater at Assos with the Aegean Sea Below
Click on Image to Enlarge

As in other Roman cities, the citizens of the city would assemble as the ekklesia in the theater to discuss and debate civic affairs.

The city itself, like other Roman cities, were active in honoring/worshiping the Emperor, his family, and his predecessors.  In fact, in 1881 a bronze tablet was found at Assos that dates to A.D. 37—roughly 20 years before Paul’s visit.  This tablet “records the oath of allegiance that Assos’s inhabitants swore to the emperor Gaius [Caligula] when he gained power.  It reads:

“… Since the announcement of the coronation of Gaius … (Caligula), which all mankind had longed and prayed for, the world has found no measure for its joy, but every city and people has eagerly hastened to view the god [Caligula], as if the happiest age for mankind had now arrived.

It seemed good to the Council, and to the Roman business men here among us, and to the people of Assos, to appoint a delegation … to visit him and offer offer their best wishes and to implore him to remember the city and take care of it ….

We swear by Zeus the Savior and the god Caesar Augustus [Octavian] and the holy Virgin of our city [Athena Polias] that we are loyally disposed to Gaius Caesar Augustus and his whole house, and look upon as our friends whomever he favors, and as our enemies whomever he denounces.  If we observe this oath, may all go well with us; if not, may the opposite befall.
(reference below)

Thus again, Paul and his companions encountered the veneration (worship) of the Emperors even here at Assos.

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The Modern Port of Assos

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The modern harbor at Assos
The hotels on the right are located at the foot of the acropolis
Click on Image to Enlarge

Today the harbor as Assos serves the fisherman and a number of boutique hotels line its dock [on our tours we typically stay in one of these hotels].

However, the harbor that Paul left from for Mytilene was located a bit to the east of the modern harbor.

AssosHarborDiagNote the locations of the Modern and Ancient Harbors.

AssosAncientHarbor-01-2To view additional images of the site of Assos Click Here.

The quote above is from pp. 136–37 in Elwell, Walter A., and Robert W. eds. Yarbrough. Readings From the First–Century World: Primary Sources for New Testament Study. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998.

Paul on the Road to Assos (Asia Minor/Turkey)

Please don’t miss the important discussion in the comments to this post.

Towards the end of Paul’s Third Missionary Journey on his way to Jerusalem Paul stopped for about at week at (Alexandria) Troas (Acts 20:5-12; map below).  From there he walked by foot from Troas to Assos while his seven companions traveled by sea to Assos (Acts 20:13–14).

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A portion of the well-preserved Roman Road that leads, 31 mi., from Troas to Assos — See image below for instructive details
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

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Paul probably walked south from Troas to the Smintheion area and then turned east to Assos — the 31 mi. journey took over 2 days to complete
Enhanced map from the Pelagios Map Project — See Reference Below

The distance from Troas to Assos, “as the crow flies,” is about 21 miles while the Roman Road south out of Troas through the Smintheion areaa and then east to Assos covers a distance of about 31 mi.  Thus the walk must have taken him at least two days.

The Bible does not say why Paul chose to walk instead of taking the ship but Dr. Mark Wilson suggests that Paul may have received a prophetic word at Troas that imprisonment would await him in Jerusalem (compare Paul’s message at Miletus to the elders from the Ephesian church; Acts 20:22-23).  Wilson suggests that he may have been reflecting on the impact of this in light of his recent successes:

  • Three productive years at Ephesus and the spread of the gospel throughout the province of Asia
  • Recent resolution of the conflicts at Corinth
  • Successful fund-raising for the relief of the Jerusalem Church

Wilson goes on to compare the reflective agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:42) to Paul’s solitary reflective walk from Troas to Assos:

“So somewhere on the road between the harbor  at Troas . . . and the city gate at Assos Paul apparently accepted his personal cup of suffering.”
(Wilson, Biblical Turkey, p. 360)

References

Map from Pelagius Map Project (free).  [This is the most accurate map of Turkey during the Classical Period based upon the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Classical World; $376]

“In-Site — Paul’s Walk to Assos,” p. 360 in Biblical Turkey — A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor.  This 398-page book is filled with Wilson’s wonderful descriptions and insights on numerous biblical and extra biblical sites in Turkey.

For additional high-resolution images of Assos click Here and Here.