Thessalonian Politarch Inscription & its Bearing on Acts 17:6,8

February 21, 2018

Acts 17:6,8 mention the “rulers of the city” of Thessalonica, who beat and imprisoned Paul and Silas. Luke, the inspired writer of Acts, is a most careful historian. Different cities/districts used specific words to designate their rulers. Here Luke uses the word “politarch” (πολιτάρχης) which was a “very rare title for magistrates” (see Schaff below). Was Luke correct or was he mistaken?

Last month in London I was able to photograph a very important inscription, the Politarch Inscription of Thessalonica, removed from a Roman gateway of the city.

Inscription from Thessalonica using the word “politarchs” to designate rulers, as found in Acts 17:6,8. Photo ©Leon Mauldin. British Museum.

Church historian Philip Schaff, in a section entitled “The Acts and Secular History,” wrote:

The “politarchs” of Thessalonica, 17:6, 8 (Greek text: τοὺς πολιτάρχας, i.e., τοὺς ἄρχοντας τῶν πολιτῶν, praefectos civitatis, the rulers of the city).

This was a very rare title for magistrates, and might easily be confounded with the more usual designation “poliarchs.” But Luke’s accuracy has been confirmed by an inscription still legible on an archway in Thessalonica, giving the names of seven “politarchs” who governed before the visit of Paul.

The Thessalonian inscription in Greek letters is given by Boeckh. Leake, and Howson (in Conybeare and Howson’s Life and Letters of St. Paul, ch. IX., large Lond. ed., I. 860). Three of the names are identical, with those of Paul’s friends in that region-Sopater of Beraea (Acts 20:4), Gaius of Macedonia (19:29), and Secundus of Thessalonica (20:4). I will only give the first line:

ΠΟΛΕΙΤΑΡΧΟΥΝΤΩΝ ΣΩΣΙΠΑΤΡΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΚΛΕΟ. (Schaff, P., & Schaff, D. S. (1910). History of the Christian church (Vol. 1, p. 735). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Inscription in its original setting in Thessalonica. Photo ©Leon Mauldin. British Museum.

Schaff earlier in that section mentioned the significance and importance of such artifacts as pertains to the book of Acts:

Bishop Lightfoot asserts that no ancient work [as that of Acts, L.M.] affords so many tests of veracity, because no other has such numerous points of contact in all directions with contemporary history, politics, and typography, whether Jewish or Greek or Roman. The description of persons introduced in the Acts such as Gamaliel, Herod, Agrippa I., Bernice, Felix, Festus, Gallio, agrees as far as it goes entirely with what we know from contemporary sources. The allusions to countries, cities, islands, in Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy are without exception correct and reveal an experienced traveler. Ibid.732)

In other words, time and time again, Luke has been proven to be right! You can trust the Bible!

The British Museum Curator’s comments are interesting:

This large stone was built into a wall at the Vardar Gate of Thessalonica and was removed in 1877. The stone has been assumed to name city officials of the era. The inscription is important to New Testament scholars because it is one of the few stones that attests the existence of the office of politarch, mentioned in the Bible (Acts 17:6 and 8) and in only a few other literary sources. It is also curious because it mentions the mothers as well as the fathers of two of the politarchs. How the number of politarchs in this inscription should be counted varies among the modern editions; the translation here presents the usual interpretation of the inscription (see vom Brocke). (

I should mention that this inscription is not regularly on display. It took three days to get an appointment to go into the room where is it housed, but it was worth it!

Click images for larger view.



Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Akdamar (Aghtamar) Island, Lake Van, Eastern Turkey

February 9, 2018

Some homeschoolers I’m teaching this afternoon will be studying in their history, among other topics, the plight of the Armenians during the Ottoman Empire, including the bloody reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, 1876–1909. Reading the material on the Armenians put me in mind of a visit to that part of the world I made in 2007, where I visited a church that dates back to the 10th century.

Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Akdamar Island. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Wikipedia notes:

During his reign, King Gagik I Artsruni (r. 908-943/944) of the Armenian kingdom of Vaspurakan chose the island of Aght’amar as one of his residences, founding a settlement there. The only structure standing from that period is the Cathedral. It was built of pink volcanic tufa by the architect-monk Manuel during the years 915-921, with an interior measuring 14.80m by 11.5m and the dome reaching 20.40m above ground. In later centuries, and until 1915, it formed part of a monastic complex, the ruins of which can still be seen to the south of the church.

Between 1116 and 1895 Aght’amar Island was the location of the Armenian Catholicosate of Aght’amar. Khachatur III, who died in 1895, was the last Catholicos of Aght’amar. In 1915, during the Armenian Genocide, the church was looted, and the monastic buildings destroyed.

Among the carvings on the outside of the church was this scene of David’s battle with Goliath.

David and Goliath. A scene on the outside wall of the Armenian church. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

To get to the island we took a boat from this location.

Dock where we secured a boat to go to Akdamar Island. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This area is very near the Ararat mountain range, where Noah’s ark came to rest (Gen. 8:4).

See Ferrell Jenkins article here.

Click images for larger view.

Mt. Sinai Region, a Panaroma

January 28, 2018

I took this shot of the Sinai region while walking up toward Mt. Sinai, looking at the area below, to give a feel for the geography of this part of the biblical world.

Rugged Region of Mt. Sinai. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Sinai Peninsula today is within Egyptian territory. You can see traditional Mt. Sinai itself in this photo, in upper right.

Mt. Sinai, upper right. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Click images for larger view.



Jerusalem, SW Temple Mount Panaroma

January 26, 2018

A panoramic view looking toward the SW corner of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Panorama of Jerusalem, SW corner of Temple Mount. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

At the base of the ancient wall on your left (western side) you can see stones lying in place. These were from the Herodian Temple of Jesus day, falling down to their present position in the 70 AD Roman destruction of Jerusalem. Though seemingly small in our photo, some of these broken stones weight tons.

The view straight across shows southern side of temple mount. The distant view at right center is the Mount of Olives, across from the Kidron Valley (which cannot be seen from this view.

This photo is from Spring, 2017.

Click image for larger view.

Ram Caught in a Thicket, from Ur of the Chaldeans

January 15, 2018

In 1927 the archaeologist Leonard Woolley uncovered spectacular finds in southern Mesopotamia, in the ancient city he had identified as Ur, home of Abraham. The treasury of his finds included this figure, known as “The Ram in the Thicket.”

Ram in the Thicket. British Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This statuette is composed of gold, silver, copper, lapis, shell and coral. Two of these were in what is called “the Great Death Pit.” The other is housed in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

This figure is illustrative of the ram which Abraham offered at Moriah, in the stead of Isaac his son (Gen. 22:13). This figure here is actually a male goat.

Interestingly, this artifact predates Abraham by a few centuries.

Fant and Reddish suggest that

. . . the discoveries at Ur are a significant indication of an amazing level of cultural sophistication in an early period in the locale identified as the birthplace of the father of the Hebrews. If Abraham and his family came from Ur, a city of such considerable cultural advancement, to the tents of the land of Canaan, it further dramatizes the biblical story of his sacrificial following lowing of the promises of an unknown God. (Clyde E. Fant; Mitchell G. Reddish. Lost Treasures of the Bible: Understanding the Bible through Archaeological Artifacts in World Museums, Kindle Locations 580-581. Kindle Edition.)

Paul & Barnabas Preached at Salamis, Cyprus

January 3, 2018

“. . . they sailed to Cyprus. When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews” (Acts 13:4,5). The preaching here at Salamis in Cyprus was the beginning of what is usually called Paul’s “First Missionary Journey” (Acts 13-14).

Salamis on the Island of Cyprus. Pictured here is area of the gymnasium. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Luke, the author of Acts, is very brief in his account of the preaching that took place here, without recording any results from the proclamation of the Gospel in the synagogues, quickly moving on in his narrative SE to Paphos, and continuing on from there. Our photo here shows the area of the gymnasium at Salamis.

It is interesting to note that Barnabas, Paul’s traveling companion and fellow-preacher, was from Cyprus (Acts 4:36).

Here is the harbor into which their ship would have sailed for their arrival at Salamis.

Harbor at Salamis, Cyprus. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We have previously posted on Salamis here here and here.

Beth Guvrin at Mareshah, Israel

December 15, 2017

Beth Guvrin in Israel was a Roman city on the outskirts of biblical Maresha (see Josh. 15:44; Micah 1:15).

Emperor Septimus Severus turned Beth Guvrin into a major administrative center (ca. 200 AD). I took this photo of the amphitheater on April 27, 2017.

Panorama of amphitheater at Beth Guvrin. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This amphitheater would have been used for animal and gladiator fights.

BTW: Often folks refer to theaters as “amphitheaters.” There is a difference: the amphitheater makes an oval shape while a theater only makes a half circle.

Click image for larger view.