Paul’s and John’s Churches in Western Turkey

Though both Paul and John likely had ministries based in Ephesus, their mission extended to other cities in Asia Minor. In recent days on the trip we saw some of these cities:

Smyrna:

Smyrna was the second city to receive a letter from John in Revelation. Here is the “basement” level of the agora in that city:

Smyrna agora 1

Sardis:

The fifth city whose church received a letter from John in Revelation, Sardis had a significant temple to Artemis (whose “headquarters” was in Ephesus):

Temple of Artemis in Sardis

Laodicea:

Paul addressed this church in his letter to the Colossians (Col 2:1, 4:13-16), and John wrote to them as the seventh of the churches he included in Revelation. Here is a main street going through the city:

Main road at Laodicea

Colossae:

This town is nothing but an unexcavated mound today, but Paul wrote to Colossae’s church, which had been planted by his co-worker Epaphras. Philemon and his slave Onesimus were also from this city. Here are sheep grazing on the side of Colossae’s acropolis:

Sheep at Colossae

Hierapolis:

This is the third of three cities mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Just a generation later, the bishop Papias served in the city. Hierapolis has calcium deposits on its hillsides known as travertines. This gives the terrain a snowlike appearance:

Travertines Hierapolis

The whole area of Asia Minor is known for its belief in spiritual forces, and this is illustrated with the Plutonium at Hierapolis. This opening in the earth emitted noxious fumes that were deadly to creatures. The people associated these fumes with the god of the underworld – Pluto. The opening has now been covered, with just a small cutaway leading to the pit:

Plutonium

These are cities that were steeped in paganism, idolatry, and emperor veneration. But the seed of the gospel of Jesus Christ found fertile ground in these unlikely places.

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1 Comment

Filed under Church History, New Testament, Turkey

One response to “Paul’s and John’s Churches in Western Turkey

  1. Greg, Thank you for such an interesting journey into these ruins that I would never have a chance to see. You sure were blessed to be able to travel and photograph these amazing places where our precious Paul and John traveled, lived and taught the Gospel.

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