It has been a crazy few days of seeing the sites in Turkey. We had a sunny day in Nicea, followed by rains and floods near Troas, and a hailstorm on the top of ancient Pergamum. Through the ups and downs, we saw ancient cities of historical and biblical interest. Here are a few snapshots from those days:
This all that is left of the site of the early church’s first ecumenical council meeting place in Nicea. This pier led to Constantine’s palace on an island, but the island and palace have now sunk into Iznik Lake. On the island several hundered early church bishops (including St. Nicholas, perhaps) clarified the early church’s belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, in A.D. 325.
Nearly 2000 years ago, Paul was prevented by the Spirit from entering regions of Turkey and stopped in Troas instead, on his way to Macedonia during his second missionary journey (Acts 16:6-10). Our team was prevented from reaching Troas because heavy flooding made the streets impassable:
On Paul’s third missionary journey he walked from Troas to Assos, along the Aegean coast. Scholars are not sure why he walked while all of his companions traveled by sea (Acts 20:13). He may have needed time alone to prayerfully contemplate the prophecies Christians were sharing with him about future troubles in Jerusalem (Acts 20:22-24; 21:10-13). Here is the modern harbor at Assos:
At ancient Pergamum (recipients of a letter from the Apostle John in Revelation 2:12-17), we reached the top of the acropolis just in time to witness a hailstorm (thankfully, we had shelter). Within half an hour though, everything had cleared up, and we had wonderful views. This is the temple of Dionysus in Pergamum:
Pergamum was the first city in ancient Western Turkey to have an imperial cult temple (built in 29 B.C.). The temple, which is no longer standing, was dedicated to Augustus (this bust of Augustus was excavated from Pergamum, but I saw it in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum):
The imperial cult, with its expectations of ultimate allegiance given to Rome and its leaders, created pressures upon early believers. Because of this clash of competing loyalties, one believer from Pergamum, Antipas, had been martyred in Pergamum before John wrote to the believers in that city (Rev 2:12-13). This fits well with one emphasis from this class and trip: the kingdom of God will finally prevail over all rival kingdoms, but in the meantime believers may suffer for their devotion to Christ and his kingdom.