Saturday, June 14, 2014

2014 - Turkey: Following the Footsteps of Paul: Part 2


Ephesus (present day Selcuk) is perhaps the most impressive archeological site in Turkey, and once surged with crowds passing its statues, fountains, columns, monuments, temples, residences, grand library, agora (market), and theaters.  It used to be a major port on the Aegean Sea, but river silting now has it about 5 miles from the ocean.  Here's a photo of the entrance road (click to enlarge photos)...

Paul visited Ephesus on his second and third missionary journeys.  On the third journey, Paul spent a lengthy time here, teaching and preaching. Acts 20:13 says he was here for three years and while here wrote his letter, 1 Corinthians, and perhaps portions of 2 Corinthians.  In 1 Timothy 1:3, Paul urges Timothy to continue helping the Ephesian Christians deal with false teachings, and twice in 2 Timothy (1:16-18 and 4:12), Paul mentions Ephesus.  John also mentions Ephesus in Revelation 2: 1-7, listing it first of the seven churches cited, and praising the Christians here for their works, their labors, and their endurance.

The Great Theatre (below) was built in the first century B.C. by the Greeks.  The Romans then rebuilt it from 81 to 117 A.D., ultimately with a three story facade bringing its capacity to nearly 25,000 spectators!

A free public toilet served the citizens and visitors.  The seats were arranged around three sides of an open colonnaded courtyard.  Fresh water flowed beneath the seats for flushing, and also in the channel in front of the seats for cleaning.

 My favorite building on this entire trip to the ruins of Turkey and Greece was the facade of the Library of Celsus which was built in the 2nd century A.D. as a monument and grave for the proconsul of the Roman province of Asia by his son.  The sarcophagus of Celsus is in a burial chamber beneath the floor.  The interior was three stories, the upper two of which contained about 12,000 scrolls making it one of the largest libraries in the ancient world!  

Four statues are found in niches in the lower story of the facade representing the virtues of wisdom, moral excellence, thought, and knowledge.  The original statues are in the Ephesus Museum in Vienna, with copies in the niches now. Two are pictured here...

Here's a video of my visit:



John the Apostle was in Asia from 67 A.D. onward, and tradition says he brought Mary, the mother of Jesus, with him to Ephesus. He was exiled to the Island of Patmos from 84 to 95 A.D. after which he returned to Ephesus, wrote, and around the age of 100 died and was buried here.  As early as the 4th or 5th century, a Christian church was built over his simple grave, and in the 6th century, Emperor Justinian had an impressive domed basilica, the Church of St. John the Theologian, built to replace the earlier church.  (Click to enlarge all photos.)

The hillside and church were protected by defensive walls built in the 8th and 9th centuries A.D. against Arab raids. This is the main entrance through the arched gateway, flanked by square guard towers on each side.

The church is now being partially restored...

John's supposed grave is found at the transept of the church, marked by this marble slab and four columns. The nave originally was roofed with six large domes, the largest of which was over the grave.



Izmer, located on the Aegean Sea, is the modern name for Smyrna and is the third largest city in Turkey. Excavations make it clear that Izmer's past goes back 8500 years! Situated by a harbor, it grew and prospered.

It sits about 35 miles north of Ephesus. It is known as the birthplace of Homer, author of the epics Iliad and Odyssey, two of the basic sources of western culture.

John mentioned Smyrna in Revelation (2:8-11) as one of two churches that received only praise and no criticism, and though the Christians here were in poverty, John said they were spiritually rich (Revelation 2:9).

Below is the West Portico, one of the columned galleries that surrounded the courtyard of the agora. The agora was first constructed at the end of the 4th century B.C., and stage by stage, as additions and renovations were made, it took its present form by the end of the 2nd century A.D.

The agora or marketplace is the area that has been excavated, and it is surrounded by the modern city on all sides. More ruins are beneath the current city but cannot be excavated. This photo below is from the current street level, showing the agora below, and the next two were taken from below the arches, at the level of the shops.



Sardis (present day Sart) came to prominence in the first millennium B.C., and the ancient storyteller Aesop  (c. 620-564) is reputed to have spent time here.  The earliest biblical reference may be found in Obadiah 20, written in 6th or 5th century B.C., and if correct, would show a large Jewish population here at that time. In Revelation, the church at Sardis is one of the seven churches to which John sent a written message (1:11 and 3:1-6) warning them to be alert lest Christ come in judgement "like a thief."

Here we are walking along the outside wall of the synagogue which was lined with shops and residences built in the 4th century A.D., many of which have been determined by inscriptions and artifacts to have been owned by Jews and Christians. Examples include restaurants, a hardware store, a business for dying cloth, and a glassware store.

The bath-gymnasium complex dominates the skyline...

...and its interior is very impressive. 

The Temple of Artemis  was the fourth largest Ionic temple in the world at 300 feet long and 160 feet wide.  It was begun around 300 B.C.  Two complete columns still stand as seen here...

The entrance to the synagogue (which was the largest non-Palestinian synagogue ever discovered) has this forecourt entrance with fountain and columns in the center...

Three doors from the forecourt bring you into the main hall which has two large shrines between the doors (click to enlarge photo.) One shrine likely held the Torah scrolls.  The entire main room was a massive 197 feet long and 59 feet wide.

In this main hall, marble wall mosaic decorations were added in the 4th century A.D. with plaques denoting the donor. Many held the honorary title "Citizen of Sardis" and at least eight of the donors were identified as city council members or holders of other governmental offices, showing that the Jewish citizens held numerous government positions.


(Information taken from A Guide to the Biblical Sites of Greece and Turkey by Clyde Fant and Mitchell Reddish, a book I heartily recommend to anyone traveling to these sites.  All photos are my own.)


No comments: