Saint Paul the Apostle | Travel and transport in St. Paul's Time | Tarsus : City of Saint Paul | Antioch on the Orontes : Headquarters of the Gentile mission | Seleucia Pieria : Port of Antioch on the Orontes | Saint Paul's First Journey | Ministry in Antioch on the Orontes | Saint Paul's second journey | Saint Paul's Third journey | Saint Paul's Journey to Rome


Antioch on the Orontes | Derbe |Lystra | Iconium | Antioch in Pisidia | Ephesus | Alexandria Troas | Corinth | Philippi | Thessalonica | Beroea | Alexandria Troas | Assos | Lesbos | Chios | Samos | Trogyllium | Miletus | Cos | Rhodes | Patara | Tyre | Ptolemais | Caesarea | Jerusalem

After a short stay in Antioch, in the spring of 53 St Paul set out on his third missionary journey. This time the main objective of his mission was again Ephesus, the largest city of the Roman province of Asia, to which the Holy Spirit had allowed him to go and preach but briefly during his previous journey. As he had done before, eager to visit the congregations in Galatia, St Paul preferred to travel overland, most probably by the route of his previous journey: by way of the Assyrian Gates, Tarsus, and the Cilician Gates into Lycaonia. It is very probable that he visited Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Antioch in Pisidia to see how the nucleus of each of these cities was doing. Acts informs us that after this point St Paul 'travelled through the interior of the country' (Acts 19:1) and arrived at Ephesus where he is said to have remained for almost three years. From the Lycus valley if he followed the Roman roads of the time he would have travelled through the 'Interior of the country' either by way of the Meander valley to Ephesus or through Philadelphia (Alasehir), Sardis and Smyrna (Izmir) to Ephesus.
When, later, the Apostle referred to Asia in his letters (1 Cor 16:19; 2 Cor 1:8), his readers would have understood that this was the large province on the west of Anatolia. At this time, it included the whole of the Aegean coast from Caria, through ancient Ionia and Aeolia to the southern shore of the sea of Marmara, a little to the east of Cyzicus. It embraced Troas, Mysia, Phrygia and Lydia and extended inland through the valleys and headwaters of the Hermus and Maeander rivers towards the central plateau and the eastern boundary with Galatia. It was the oldest and wealthiest of the Roman provinces of Anatolia and it contained several ancient and famous cities, including Miletus and Smyrna on the coast and inland, the old Lydian capital, Sardis; further north was Pergamum, the wealthy former capital of the Attalids. It was the last king of Pergamum Attalos III who, lacking a legitimate heir, had bequeathed his kingdom to Roman people upon his death in 1 33 BCE. But the greatest of all was Ephesus, the splendid capital and cult centre of Artemis.
The good climate and soil gave rich harvests and much of Asia was well settled, particularly in the Maeander valley, where St Paul would have known some people. The roads which ran along the river beds enabled the rural population to find a market for their agricultural produce in large coastal cities and the Aegean world beyond.
In antiquity, the easiest and safest route from Galatia to the Aegean coast followed the path of the Meander river. To reach this popular road the Apostle may have travelled by way of Apamea (Dinar), which had the largest Jewish community in the region, and Laodicea on the Lycus river (Eskihisar). Even if there were some Jewish people in Anatolia as early as the sixth century BCE, their number did not reach substantial Figures until the reign of the Seleucid king Antiochus III (223-1 87 BCE) when he moved two thousand families from Babylonia and Mesopotamia to the fortresses in west Anatolia. These new settlers were given vineyards and grain fields, economic privileges and were allowed to establish separate groups from the natives. The major objective of the king was to protect his valuable territories in Anatolia against the Galatians' raids from central Anatolia. They were the descendants of the Ten Tribes which were originally moved to Mesopotamia from Jerusalem in 597 and 586 BCE by the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, and were claimed to be separated from their brothers by 'the baths and the wines', that is by the luxuries of the Roman way of life according to the later Jewish literature. It seems that these Jewish communities survived into St Paul's time because most of the Roman edicts which confirm the privileges such as the freedom of sending money to the Jerusalem Temple, exemption from military service and freedom of worship, come from this region.
When he arrived in Ephesus St Paul's friends of the previous mission, Aquila and Priscilla, must have met and informed him about the work of Apollos and the followers of John the Baptist. St Paul had 'found some disciples' but they had never heard of a 'holy Spirit' and were baptised only with the baptism of John. St Paul rebaptized them in the name of the Lord Jesus.
In the autumn of 54 St Paul returned to the synagogue where he had preached during his previous short visit of three years earlier. He spoke of the Kingdom of God. The idea of a messianic Kingdom was familiar to the Jewish listeners since their childhood and for many generations. But St Paul was saying that it was through Jesus, the true Christ, that this Kingdom was to be ushered in and established. As elsewhere his teaching in the synagogue seems to have lasted only three months. Many of the Jews rejected his teachings.
For the next two years he preached the gospel in the school of Tyrannus who may have rented his halls to visiting lecturers. To strangers the Apostle would have appeared as one of the numerous philosophers who travelled from one city to another sharing his knowledge and ideas.
As did other artisans in the city, St Paul probably began his daily task as a tentmaker before sunrise and continued until closing time at 11 am as is clearly told in the Western text of Acts. In his speech to the Ephesian elders he reminded them that his hands served both his needs and his companions. Until about 4 pm when most of the artisans began to work again he would have been free to devote himself to the missionary work which was the objective of his stay in the city.
A story in Acts includes the Apostle's dealings with the exorcists of Ephesus. St Paul's miraculous powers were already well known. In Lystra he had healed a cripple (Acts 14:8-10], in Philippi he had exorcised a slave girl with a spirit of divination (Acts 16:16-1 8}, in Malta he would later heal the father of Publius, the chief man of the island, of fever and dysentery (Acts 28:7-8). He continued these practices in Ephesus, to the extent that the faithful touched their handkerchiefs or aprons to the Apostle and then carried them to the sick, crediting the clothes with miraculous healing power.
The fame of Ephesus in charm and magic preceded that of the other cities in the empire. Its cosmopolitan rich atmosphere attracted soothsayers, purveyors of charms, magicians or other people of similar tasks from me distant corners of the empire. Exorcising spirits in the name of Jesus was widely practiced in the early church, but the attempt by itinerant Jewish exorcists to do so was clearly usurpation of authority. Their attempt did not succeed, however, and they themselves were overpowered by the evil spirit they sought to control. The point of this story was intended for all Christians; that healings and exorcisms depended as much upon the integrity of the healer as upon the faith of the afflicted. As a result of this incident, some Ephesian practitioners of magic collected and burned their books, said to have been worth 'fifty thousand silver pieces' the equivalent of at least $10,000.
During the time of St Paul's missionary works Christian congregations of smaller or larger sizes are thought to have been established at Colossae (Col 1:1) and Hierapolis (Col 4:13) and at the seven cities of the Revelation: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyateira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. Whether St Paul visited all of these cities is not known. Groups of believers from the country around Ephesus, however, may have come to listen to his preaching and invite him to their cities for short stays. He had probably visited and met fellow Christians at some of these cities as he travelled from Antioch in Pisidia to Ephesus. The leader of the Christian community in Colossae was Epaphras 'our beloved fellow slave' (Col 1:7). He had been active in the evangelization of two other cities of the Lycus valley, Hierapolis and Laodicea (Col 4:13}. Later, while imprisoned in Ephesus, Rome, or Caesarea, St Paul addressed a circular letter to the Colossians which they were to share with the Christians in Laodicea. The church in Laodicea met in the house of Nympha (Col 4:15) just as in Ephesus the Church met in the house of Aquila and Priscilla (1 Cor 16:19), (Rom 16:5), and in Corinth in the house of Gaius (Rom 16:23).
Although Acts does not mention it, the Apostle might have been imprisoned during his stay in Ephesus. In his letters to the churches in Greece, Macedonia and Asia he repeatedly refers to his sufferings. If this bondage took place in Ephesus, the charge which led to his imprisonment is not known. It has been suggested that the Ephesian Jews may have built up a cose against the Apostle, charging him with diverting sums of money which had been collected from the churches he knew, as a relief fund for Jerusalem and which he was carrying with him and that normally would have been sent to its destination. The Jews may have approached the Roman governor, and persuaded him to imprison St Paul.
Writing to the church in Corinth from Ephesus, St Paul says 'We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction that came to us in the province of Asia; we were utterly weighed down beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, we had accepted within ourselves the sentence of death' (2 Cor 1:8-9], and on another ocasion he refers to his fighting, so to speak, with beasts at Ephesus (1 Cor 15:32). In the Roman world of the period there were only two ways that a person would have fought wild animals. One was to be exposed to them in the arena, in which case, except miraculously, survivals are unknown or by becoming a professional beast-fighter, bestiarius, which was out of question in St Paul's case. It is very probable that, when he wrote the sentence, the Apostle imagined himself as a fighter of this kind struggling not in flesh but spiritually against the wickedness in Ephesus. The apocryphal Acts of Paul dwells on the Apostle's imprisonment in the city. Here, the Ephesians beceme angry at St Paul's speech and imprisoned him until he would be thrown to the lions. Eubola and Artemilla, wives of eminent Ephesian men, visited St Paul in the prison at night'desiring the grace of divine washing'. The Apostle took them to the Aegean shore and baptized them. The naming of the watch-tower, which was once the closest to the sea, in the Hellenistic walls of Ephesus as 'St Paul's prison' may have been inspired by this event. Also in his apocryphal acts, St Paul was put into the stadium and a huge lion was let loose on him. But the beast lay down at his feet. The other animals which followed the lion also did not touch the Apostle who stood like a statue in prayer. Then a hailstorm poured down killing the other wild animals, save the lion which escaped to the mountains. The hailstorm also killed some men and sheared off the governor's ear. Seeing what happened he accepted Christianity and was baptized.
St Paul had planned to stay in Ephesus until the feast of Pentecost saying 'because a door has opened to me wide, and productive for work' (1 Cor 16:8-9). Some scholars think that this wide-opened door was occasioned by the annual festival of Artemis which provided a splendid opportunity to do missionary work, for during it the city was crowded with people from all over Anatolia, the islands and Greece, The festival was held during the month of Artemision which fell sometime in April or May approximately to the Pentecost.
In the great Aegean coastal city of Ephesus a truly syncretistic goddess had for centuries attracted her devotees. Here the Anatolian fertility and earth mother goddess had been identified with their own goddess Artemis by the Greek settlers a thousand or so years earlier.
Though the Greek Artemis, the Roman Diana, a goddess of chastity, the hunt and associated with animals, would seem to bear little resemblance to a fecund earth mother deity, they were both nature goddesses and often in their representations, flanked by animals. Moreover, the temples of Artemis, like those of the goddess who preceded her, are always aligned to the west, rather than as with other gods, to the east. The statues of Ephesian Artemis are perhaps the most visible evidence of the syncretistic tendency of ancient religions and of the tolerance, indeed courtesy extended to the gods of others, from whom elements, or indeed the entire deity, might be adopted. With the influence of Greek art, by St Paul's time, her figure hod lost its large buttocks and big breasts, the symbols of fertility, and was on the way to assuming the slender shape of a Greek goddess. The most prominent feature of her image were the ovals covering her upper body from waist to neck. These are thought to represent the balls of bulls sacrificed for her during cultic ceremonies and nailed to a wooden statue of the goddess.
The temple of Artemis, the Artemision, which stood in its own precinct outside the city, to which it was joined by a processional way, was regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World in Hellenistic times, on account of its beauty and vast size. The cult statue stood in her shrine, in a long, narrow hall surrounded by 127 columns, forming a veritable forest of marble. The temple also offered sanctuary to criminals such as runaway slaves. It is not known if Onesimus, the slave from Colossae, when he sought St Paul in Ephesus [Phlm 10], had originally come to the city to shelter in Artemis' temple. Except for the opportunities it offered as a refuge, the city is situated too close to Colossae for a runaway slave.
As Demetrius, president of the silversmiths' guild claimed (Acts 19:27) Artemis, worshipped throughout Asia, was supported by the number of pilgrims who attended her festival. She brought great wealth to the city, not only through the sale of votives and various offerings, but because of the large numbers of people who came to her various celebrations and festivals. They had to be fed, lodged, entertained and generally looked after. There was extra work and extra money for everyone, be they jewellers, bakers, washerwomen, fishmongers, shoemakers, musicians, prostitutes, doctors or even lawyers. Festivals then, as now, were big business, producing revenue for the city that held them. But more than that, the city, namely its citizens, gained esteem and lustre and no city in Anatolia was more esteemed or illustrious than Ephesus.
St Paul's influence aroused the enmity of the guild of silversmiths who made miniature shrines and offerings for dedication to Artemis. An inscription1 which dates some forty years after the riot mentions a single offering of 29 images, probably similar to those of Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen. Made of gold and silver and weighing from 1.5 to 4 kg each, they were figures of the goddess with two stags and a variety of smybolic figures. These objects dedicated to Artemis, were carried in public processions throughout the city, and then placed in her temple.
Instigated by Demetrius, president of the guild, a riot broke out. St Paul's preaching obviously was threatening their trade. After Demetrius had called together the members of the guild and spoken to them about the economic consequences of St Paul's teaching, they angrily rushed forth into the street. Their momentum drew other people most of whom were ignorant of what was going on. On their way to the theatre they seized the Apostle's companions, Gaius and Aristarchus of Macedonia.
The scene of the riot was the Hellenistic theatre of Ephesus which was then being enlarged with the addition of new seats for spectators and a stage building. The Jews put forward a man named Alexander to address the mob, probably because they feared that the crowd might turn against them for their own hostility to images. The crowd refused to hear him and for about two hours shouted 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!'.
The 'clerk of the people' finally managed to calm the crowd. After all the most important of his responsibilities was avoiding disturbances of any kind in the city. He told them that the supremacy of Artemis was not in peril, that the Christians had neither robbed the temple nor blasphemed her, and everybody knew that her statue had fallen from the sky. Thus when St Paul preached that 'gods made by hands are not gods at all' (Acts 19:26) this was not questioning the origin of their goddess and that for any complaints and disputes the courts were available. He also pointed out that the real danger was not the loss of trade but rather 'being charged with rioting', for which the Roman authorities might punish the city.
St Paul wished to go among the crowd to defend himself, but was prevented from doing so by the disciples and 'some of the Asiarchs also, who were friends of his'.
Asiarchs were provincial officials responsible for the politico-religious organization of Asia in the worship of the goddess Roma and the emperors. They were in charge of the festivals and games, and while they were priesfs from a religious point of view, they were also officers of the imperial service. One of the titles of the reigning Asiarch was 'High Priest of Asia'. The reference in Acts to the representatives of the offical Roman cult as friends of St Paul is an important point. Acts does not inform us about the Apostle's imprisonment by the Roman authorities and his sufferings. On the contrary it tries to give the impression that St Paul and the other early Christians moved within the confines of Roman law as they preached a 'licit religion', and were protected by it. Just as the town clerk's speech sounds like defending the Christian message, so also is the reference to the Asiarchs as friends of the Apostle. Thus, St Paul's troubles were just the result of popular hostility, against which he was protected by friendly Roman officials.
It was soon after the riot that Paul left the city, probably following the advice of the Asiarchs. Acts does not inform us about St Paul's route to Macedonia. His second letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 2:12) mentions his going Jo Alexandria Troas first. His words give the impression that he may have not been able to preach here when he stopped during his second journey and now wanted to make it up. For this short trip if he did not take a boat but traversed the country, cities like Smyrna, Sardis and Pergamum, all with Jewish communities, stood on his way and he would have visited them.
In Alexandria Troas St Paul waited for a while for Titus to join him here. The latter had been sent to Corinth previously with the so-called 'severe-letter'. When he did not show up St Paul sailed to Neopolis then on to Philippi. St Paul's Greece and Macedonia sojourn took three months. Acts informs us that just as the Apostle was about to leave directly for Antioch on the Orontes by ship the Jews in Greece had prepared an ambush against him (Acts 20:3). While some of St Paul's party sailed to Alexandria Troas from here, St Paul and St Luke changed their minds and decided to travel overland to Macedonia which perhaps seemed safer. After arriving at Philippi the Apostle and his friend took a boat to Alexandria Troas and met their friends. Altogether they stayed here for a week.
On the Saturday evening St Paul, his friends ond some other Christians met in one of the houses in Alexandria Troas 'to break bread'2, a term probably meant a fellowship meal in anticipation of Jesus' return rather than the type recalling the Last Supper. The place they met was probably a building of three storeys with rooms encircling a central inner courtyard. Here after the dinner, St Paul began a very long lecture and 'talked on and on'; and the young Eutychus who was listening seated on a window sill of the third floor fell all the way down, on the floor of the room. He had fallen asleep, probably not only because of the long lecture but also the wine he may have had or the stuffy air caused by the resin torches or lamps in the room. Everybody thought that Eutychus was dead; but St Paul throwing himself on the young boy's body told the others that there was nothing to worry about and the boy was fine. After his medical miracle St Paul continued his talk which lasted until morning.
During this part of the journey the Apostle and his friends were separated for a short while. While his friends took a boat St Paul walked to Assos. The reason is not known. The Apostle's companions may have decided that the hand of the plotting Jews in Greece might have reached here and they did not want to put St Paul on a ship they did not know. Or St Paul may have wanted to be by himself for a while to clear his mind. The idea of taking his ministry to Rome, his final goal, heart of the Gentile world, had been on his mind for a long time, and he was perhaps trying to make up his mind. He walked to Assos, the closest city with a harbour and met his friends there. During this long walk it would have been impossible to miss the sight of the Hellenistic temple of Apollo Smitheon which was situated by the road some 15 km from Alexandria Troas. The temple housed a statue of Apollo crushing a mouse with his foot, made by the sculpter Scopas (active 370-330 BCE).
Set on a steep sloping hill, with spectacular views across the bay to Lesbos, Assos (Behramkoy) was a beautiful and ancient city. It was now long past its great days, when in the fourth century BCE, the eunuch Hermeias, a former student of Plato, ruled here and whose friend Aristotle lived here for three years and married Pythia, the ruler's niece. Most of the ruins which have reached the present belong to the city which stood here at the time of St Paul's visit. After walking for about 40 km from Alexandria Troas to Assos, St Paul had, probably, neither the energy nor interest for a sightseeing tour of the city. Upon arrival he probably did not go up the acropolis but walked down to the small harbour, which is still in use today, and boarded the small coaster his companions had token. The temple of Athena, which had stood on top of the hill since the sixth century BCE, would have been visible to him completely only after his vessel sailed some distance away from the harbour.
Thus the Apostle got on the boat and all together they sailed from Assos to south making stops at the islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos to Trogyllium. After spending a night on Samos, St Paul and his friends crossed to Anatolia and made another stop before Miletus at a point named Trogyllium, mentioned only in the Authorized Version of the Bible (Acts 20:15). It is thought to have been situated on the southern shore of the cape formed by Mt Mycale (Samsun Dagi) whose lip is only a kilometre from Samos. Except for the shrine of Poseidon dedicated by twelve Ionian cities on the opposite side of the promontory, which by St Paul's time had already lost its popularity, there is no information about any other settlement in this rugged area.
When St Paul's coaster sailed into the harbour of Miletus the city stood on a promontory. Today, its remains lie some distance from the sea, thanks to the activity of the Maeander river, moving and depositing silt which was already becoming a major problem then. The river was then on the opposite side of the gulf, but now partly encircles the site in a large loop round the north. The best example of the silting up process is the gentle mound beyond the city, once the island of Lade, off which, in 494 BCE, 80 Milesian ships fought in vain against the Persians during the Ionian revolt.
The origin of the Christian congregation in Miletus is not known. While St Paul may have visited the city during his long Ephesus stay and proclaimed the gospel, the Milesians may have also attended his preaching in Ephesus and been converted. The existence of a Jewish congregation in the city and their interest in public spectacles is also attested to by an inscription on one of the steps of the large theatre, which in Greek reads 'Place for Jews who were also god-fearers'. The last word theosebeis which may also be translated as 'worshippers of God' is, in addition to Acts, used in ancient literature and encountered in inscriptions after the third century CE. The expression is thought to refer to Gentiles with a sort of attachment to the local Jewish community, although the extent of their association is not known and its meaning is thought to have varied from one place to the other. Nevertheless, it is known that the word referred to other people than proselytes who were circumcised. The Miletus inscription is thought to refer to either the local Jews themselves who may have used the term allegorically, or to proselytes who had become Jews, loudaioi, after having been circumcised and retained their previous definition. Although excavations have brought to light the traces of the existence of a synagogue by the harbour it is not known if its history went back to St Paul's time.
A stop in Ephesus may have caused new problems for St Paul and his friends. He may have wished to avoid the risk of meeting his enemies. Nevertheless, it is not known if the Jewish community in Miletus fared better than that of Ephesus. From Miletus St Paul sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. It is not known where St Paul summoned the Ephesian elders. This is regarded one of the most touching episodes in the Acts of the Apostles. He reminded them of the opposition of the Jews in Ephesus which had caused him tears, trials, and imprisonment. That St Paul made such a brief visit to a place with a large Jewish community, with the express purpose of seeing the elders from Ephesus and presumably other Asian centres, suggests that by now he no longer took the gospel to the Jews, or at least, not here. Now he was on his way to Jerusalem expecting more affliction, which he saw as a culmination of his ministry. He was deeply concerned about heretics and schismatics in Ephesus, and he admonished the elders to remain alert, commending them to God. The elders wept that they would not see the Apostle again. Acts does not inform us about the length of the Apostle's stay here. After he decided that his mission here was over, putting the church in their care he walked to the harbour of farewell and embarked on a ship and continued his return voyage to Caesarea.
The Anatolian part of St Paul's return trip which began at Assos came to an end at the Lycian port of Patara. Until here the Apostle probably used one or more small coasters which sailed for short laps from one Greek island or port to the other carrying any kind of available passenger or merchandise along the coast of Anatolia. At Patara the Apostle and his companions had to find another vessel, obviously a larger one which could sail the high seas, bound to Tyre on the Phoenician coast (Acts 21 :l-2).
Patara on the south west Lycian coast was one of the principal cities of the region. Its original Lycian name was 'Pttara', later mistakenly thought to have derived from the Latin patera, a sort of cup. It obviously owed its existence to a narrow but long natural harbour at the mouth of the river Xanthus (Esen cayi) which is now flowing on the northwest of the ruins. The city was also famous for its oracle of Apollo, where it was believed, the god spent the winter, having been in Delos for the summer. Apollo was the most popular god in Lycia where he was worshipped as 'Lykeios', 'Wolf God' and had given the region its name5. Most of what is visible at the site today had not been constructed when St Paul changed ships here and dates mainly from the late first and more so, the second centuries. The only visible construction that St Paul might have seen on his very brief visit, was a small theatre which lay on a hillside to the south east, at the same spot asthe present day one half hidden by dunes and the forerunner of the colossal lighthouse which helped pilots to locate the entrance of the harbour at night situated an the same hill.
Sometime after St Paul stopped here Patara became one of the Roman grain supply stations and in the reign of Hadrian (1 17-38), who is known to have visited the city, a large granary was built on the western side of the quay. The giant rock-cut cistern situated on top of the mountain above the theatre whose history must have dated to the pre-Pauline period is clear evidence of the scarcity of the sweet water supply in this dry and hot region. The miracles of St Nicholas, who was born in Patara and would later become famous as the bishop of Myra in the fourth century, which are related to the discovery and purification of wells, were not incidental and show the value that the local people afforded to water.