Antioch of Syria, Modern Antakya

April 11, 2017

This week I am enjoying the opportunity to present a Visualized Survey of the New Testament with the Mt. Olive church of Christ, in Mt. Olive, AL. Included in our studies is the book of Acts, in which we are told how the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch: “and when he [Barnabas] had found him [the Apostle Paul], he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26, ESV).

Antioch of Syria, today’s Antakya. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

It is thrilling to read how that here at Antioch men were “preaching the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11:20). Further, “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (v.21). Then the church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to help: “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.” A Christ-centered message, a Christ-centered conversion, and Christ-centered focus and purpose. Such key verses go a long way in helping us to see a biblical definition of a Christian!

Our photo shows Antioch with bridge crossing the Orontes River in foreground. I took this photo in May, 2007.

I have previously written on the biblical site of Antioch here and here. Antioch/Antakya is within Turkey, but is very near the Turkey/Syrian border.

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Antioch, on the Orontes River

August 7, 2012

In our post yesterday we mentioned that Antioch of Syria was located on the Orontes River.

Orontes River. Biblical Antioch was situated here. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary has this information:

Principal river of Syria which originates east of the Lebanon ridge (modern Asi [Turkish], Nahr el-’Asi [Arabic]), rises near Heliopolis (Bealbek) in the Beka Valley of Lebanon, and flows north some 250 miles through Syria and Turkey before turning southwest into the Mediterranean south of Antioch-on-the-Orontes (Antakya) to reach the coast just south of ancient Seleucia, the seaport of Antioch. This river is never actually mentioned in the Bible but was famous for its association with Antioch, which owed to the river the fertility of its district. Cities of the Orontes Valley include Antioch (Acts 11:19; 13:1), Hamath (2 Sam. 8:9; 2 Kings 17:24; 2 Chron. 8:4; Isa. 11:11), Qarqar, where King Ahab of Israel joined a coalition of Syrian kings warring against Shalmaneser III, and Riblah (2 Kings 23:33; 25:6, 21). Nahr el-’Asi (rebellious river) is the modern name of the Orontes (p.1231).

Bruce Metzer wrote:

Antioch was founded about 300 B.C. by Seleucus I. Nicator who named it either after his father or his son, both of whom bore the name Antiochus. It was situated about three hundred miles north of Jerusalem where the chain of Lebanon, running northward, and the chain of Taurus, running southward, are brought to an abrupt meeting. Here the Orontes breaks through the mountains, and Antioch was placed at a bend of the river, about twenty miles from the Mediterranean on the west. In the immediate neighborhood was Daphne, the celebrated sanctuary of Apollo (see II Maccabees 4:33), whence the city was sometimes called “Antioch-by-Daphne” to distinguish it from the fifteen other Asiatic cities built by Seleucus and named Antioch. Advantageously located for trade, being easily approached by caravans from the East and through its seaport, Seleucia, having maritime communications with the West, it grew under successive Seleucid kings until it became a city of great extent and of remarkable beauty. People would refer to it as “Antioch the Great,” “the Queen of the East,” and “the Beautiful.” One feature which seems to have been characteristic of the great Syrian cities—a vast street with colonnades, intersecting the whole from end to end—was added by Antiochus Epiphanes. Among ancient cities Antioch was distinctive in being the only one known to us to possess a regular system of street lighting. . . (Biblical Archaeologist: Volume 11:4).


The Disciples Were Called Christians First at Antioch

August 6, 2012

Luke narrates the preaching of the good news of salvation in the city of Antioch:

But some of them [disciples who scattered by the persecution in Jerusalem] were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. 22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. (Acts 11:20-27).

This is a very instructive passage, helpful in defining who is a Christian. A Christian is:

1. one who has heard Jesus preached (v.20).

2. one who believes (v.21).

3. one who turns to the Lord (v.21). This would include repentance from sins (Acts 2:38), confession of faith (Rom. 10:9,10), and baptism (Acts 22:16).

4. one who has been added to the Lord (v.24).

5. one who continues with the Lord (v.23).

Antioch (modern Antakya) was located in Syria in biblical days, but today is within the territory of Turkey.  Antioch is twelve miles east of the Mediterranean, on the southern bank of the Orontes river and near the slopes of Mt. Silpius.

Antioch of Syria. BibleAtlas.com.

Antioch turned out to be the beginning point for Paul’s preaching journeys (Acts 13:1ff).

Antioch of Syria. Modern Antakya, Turkey. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary has this info re: Antioch:

Built by Seleucus I Nicator (300 B.C.) as the capital of the Seleucid kingdom, it became the third most important city of the Roman Empire (after Rome and Alexandria). The layout of the city was a marvel. It was traversed from west to east by a colonnade of four rows of marble pillars between which lay three roads, a central road for the traffic of heavy vehicles and two outer ones for pedestrians, horses, and luxury carriages. A second colonnade began in the north at an island in the Orontes river and ran southward, and the city was thus divided into four districts by a gigantic, glittering, white-marble cross. North of the winding Orontes was the royal Seleucid palace, and on the northeast side of the city was the wall of Tiberius. The enchanting nature paradise of Daphne, where worshippers frequented the temple of Apollo, was to the south; its springs supplied ample water to the city. Archaeological excavations have uncovered mosaic floors of villas, an altar to unknown deities, a temple of Demeter, and numerous sculptures and images of deities (pp.60–61).