THE DEVELOPMENT OF CHRISTIANITY AND THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF ASIA MINOR
ANATOLIA DURING THE TIME OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
Few people realize that approximately 60% of the place names mentioned in the Bible located in Turkey. According to the Old Testament, Noah's children and the animals he saved in the ark began the repopulation of the Earth from Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey. Abraham's call to greatness came in Harran, in southeast Turkey. This city was called Ur of the Chaldeans. Archaeologists have found that the Hittites, Urartians, Assyrians, Phrygians, Cimmerians, Lydians and many other nations who were important to the Old Testament once lived here. King Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria, conquered both Israel and Urartu. The people of the Bible have left records of their activities in Turkey that span the ages from Noah to St. Paul. Here also rise the two rivers that bounded Eden. Lake Hazar south of Elazig in the Taurus mountain range is the source of the Tigris. The Euphrates comes from the snows and rains that fall on the mountains in eastern Turkey.
ANATOLIA DURING THE TIME OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
Up until the unification of the greater part of Asia Minor under the Roman Empire, its history had been one of a succession of small states. Roman control began in 190 B.C. when the Seleucid ruler Antiochus the Great was defeated at Magnesia, and spread in 133 B.C. when the first Roman province of Asia was organized in the region near Ephesus. Bithynia, Pontus and Cilicia then came under Roman rule. Shortly before the Christian era, Galata and Cappadocia fell under Roman influence. It was in Antioch; today's Antakya in southern Turkey that the disciples were first called "Christians" (Acts 11:26). The destruction and plunder of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Romans under Titus was followed by a great emigration, conducive to the spread of Christianity in all directions. The first Christian community came to encompass the Mediterranean area from Syria to Spain. Paul and his writings were very important in the spread of Christianity and the blending of Hebrew and Near Eastern thought. The period of the early development of Christianity was one of peace and stability but after the re-organization of the Roman Empire by Diocletian in 297 A.D. the area was again split into small political units. Christianity provided a common language and religion.
ST. JOHN OF PATMOS
We find John's letters to the seven churches of first century Asia Minor, written during the era of the Roman Empire in the Book of Revelation. The seven churches correspond to the seven congregations found in these cities: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.
THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF REVELATION
EPHESUS: Revelation 1:11, 2:1-7; Acts 18, 19-28; 19:1-41 Ephesians
SMYRNA (IZMIR): Revelation 2:8-11
PERGAMON: Revelation 2:12-17
THYATIRA: Revelation 2:18-29; Acts16:14
SARDIS: Revelation 3:1-6
PHILADELPHIA: Revelation 3:7-13
LAODICEA: Revelation 3:14-22; Colossians 2:1,4:13 -16
ST PAUL THE APOSTLE AND HIS JOURNEYS
Saint Paul, born of a Jewish family in Tarsus around 10 CE, inherited Roman citizenship. This citizenship was a valuable right normally gained with much hardship if at all. The most important privilege was to enjoy legal protection with the right of appeal to the Emperor in person, which proved to be very useful later in his career. Even if condemned to death, Roman citizens could not be crucified. It is thought that during the floggings he endured (2 Cor 1 1:25), Paul may have not revealed his citizenship because he wished to follow Christ in his suffering.
There are differing opinions about why the Apostle chose the name by which he is known today. 'Paulus' the name by which he was known, was probably chosen because of its similarity to his Hebrew name 'Saul'. It has also been suggested that the Apostle may have chosen the name after his first Gentile convert known by name, Sergius Paulus in Cyprus. In any case, 'Paul' was a rare name even among Gentiles.
Acts and his letters make it clear that St Paul worked to support himself and those who were with him. The nature of his work is clearly stated as tent-making when he stayed with Aquila and Priscilia. (Acts 1 8:3). In his address to the elders of Ephesus the Apostle says 'these very hands have served my needs' (Acts 20:34); also he says 'we toil, working with our hands' (1 Cor 4:12) and 'nor did we eat food received free from anyone. On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked, so as not to burden any of you' (2 Thes 3:8). These remarks also answer the questions about financial sources of the Apostle's missionary journeys. In spite of the gifts he seems to have received from Christian communities for which he expresses his gratitude, most of the time he relied on his own resources, a fact which is often hinted at in his letters and clearly expressed in the one addressed to the Philippians. 'I find myself, to be self-sufficient...still, it was kind of you to share in my distress' (Phil 4:1 1,16).
It is probable that St Paul's family had made their money furnishing the Roman legionaries with large tents. The Roman legions stationed in Syria used either leather or the traditional goat-hair tents similar to those of the present day nomads which you can still see in present day Turkey. Tent-making may have included not only the manufacture and the repair of these large, military tents, but also a range of related leather and woven goods. There would have also been considerable demand for awnings, booths and canopies from vendors at market places and elsewhere. Since there were many Roman legions based on the upper Euphrates and in Syria tent-making may have been a very profitable profession.
Within the family and Jewish community he was called Saul, Paul being the Latinized form he used when speaking Greek; this he did well and idiomatically, as befitted one who had grown up in a cosmopolitan and largely Greek city. Paul would also have spoken Aramaic, and as he had a strict Jewish upbringing, which was followed by study in Jerusalem where he trained to be a rabbi, he would have known Hebrew too.
If St Paul's family were not members of the Pharisees, then at some stage he became one; this was a sect that observed strict ritual purity and adherence to Mosaic law. The Pharisees and other similar Jewish sects regarded the Christian movement as a threat and so it is as a persecutor of the Christians that St Paul first appears in Acts. He is not included among the Twelve Apostles, but regarded as the Thirteenth Apostle. By the sixth century he replaced St Matthias, who had taken the place of the traitor Judas Iscariot after the latter's death (Acts 1:26).
St Paul was converted to Christianity after a vision of the risen Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Blinded, he was led to Damascus and there, after three days of fasting and praying, he recovered his sight, was filled with the Holy Spirit and then baptized (Acts 9:3-19; 22:6-16; 26:12-18). St Paul's theology is attributed to his conversion. He claimed to have received his gospel 'through a revelation of Jesus Christ' (Gal 1:12); this in turn led to his proclamation of salvation through the reconciling grace of God; thus the death of Christ for the atonement of sins was God reconciling the world to himself through Christ.
St Paul, like the prophets of the the Old Testament, saw himself as chosen by God task, to be an apostle, or messenger to the Gentiles. For him the Christian message, that Christ died to atone for the sins of man and for the salvation of man, was resurrected and ascended to heaven, was both the fulfilment of Jewish messianic hopes and the basis for a united humanity; love, reconciliation and salvation were central themes of his theology.
After his conversion, there followed a period of solitude in Arabia, a word which is probably to be understood as somewhere in 5yria, before he refurned to Damascus, where he spent three years preaching the doctrine of the crucified and risen Christ. This antagonized the Jews of Damascus. 'But his disciples took him one night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket' (Acts 9:25). He returned to Jerusalem where he met Saints Peter and James, the brother of Christ, and he was then sent as an apostle to his native city of Tarsus. Later he was brought by Saint Barnabas to help him in Antioch on the Orontes (Antakya). There erupted a controversy mostly due to Jewish purity laws, which made Jews reluctant to eat with non-Jews. As the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine were central to Christian fellowship, there was clearly an impasse. St Paul decided to convert Gentiles, which insured that Christianity did not remain just another Jewish sect and later became a universal religion.
First Journey of St Paul:
From Antioch on the Orontes, in about 47 CE, Paul and Barnabas set out on their first main missionary journey to Cyprus. They then continuedto Pisidia and southern Galatia in central Anatolia, returning to Antioch on the Orontes next year by sea from Attaleia (Antalya) by way of Palestine.
Second Journey of St Paul:
Around 49-52 CE accompanied by Silas and Timothy after Lystro, St Paul travelled through Cilicia to Galatia, then to Alexandria Troas on to Greece, returning by sea to Caesarea and from there to Antioch on the Orontes by way of Ephesus.
Third Journey of St Paul:
On his third missionary journey, 53-57, St Paul again visited the Galatian cities on his way to Ephesus where he remained and lived for about three years. From Ephesus he visited Greece by way of Alexandria Troas, then finally leaving from Miletus. After his third missionary journey, St Paul went to Jerusalem. There he caused a riot by the Jews, who thought, mistakenly, that he had broken Jewish law by taking Gentiles into the Temple. He was arrested, but as a Roman citizen, was treated fairly. St Paul was then taken to Caesarea, where the Roman governor kept him in prison to avoid problems with the Sanhedrin. When the next governor tried to send him to the Sanhedrin for trial, St Paul claimed his right as a Roman citizen to be put on trial at Rome. His last brief visit to his native land was while being taken as a captive to Rome, when ships were changed at Andriace, port of Myra in Lycia. He arrived there about 60 CE and lived under house arrest for two years. The unfinished narrative of Acts closes with him awaiting trial. The circumstances of St Paul's death are not known and there is conflicting evidence. The most widely accepted view is that he was killed in about 62 during the persecution of Christians in Nero's reign as told in the apocryphal Acts of Paul.