Tag 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.

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 terms of image usage (Personal, Commercial, Web, etc.) please Check Here.

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

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.

Paphos Cyprus — Did Paul “preach” to Sergious 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.

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.