Antioch of Syria, centre of Christianity (Galatians 2)

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There are two cities in the New Testament by the name of Antioch; Antioch of Pisidia in Asia Minor, evangelized by Paul (Acts 13:14-50), and Antioch in Syria, an early centre of Christianity. Antioch of Syria was located on the Orontes River, about 24 km from the Mediterranean coast. Today this is the site of Antakya in southern Turkey, close to the border with Syria. Due to its status as a major commercial centre at the junction of trade routes running eastward to Mesopotamia, westward to the Aegean and south to Damascus, Palestine and Egypt, it was one of the greatest cities in the ancient world.

Paul, in Galatians 2:11-14, provided us with a look at church life in this early centre of Christianity, a place where Jewish and Gentile believers came together. It became the base of the early church as a result of persecution, which forced followers of Jesus to flee there from Judea during the first century (Acts 11:19). Paul and Barnabas spent much time in Antioch preaching and teaching (Acts 11:25-26, 15:35); Paul embarked upon his missionary journeys from there (Acts 13:1-3, 15:36-41, 18:23), and it was there that believers in Jesus were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). Excavations from 1932 to 1936 revealed the main street of first century Antioch, flanked by broad walkways, temples, shops and baths. Herod the Great paved the street with marble, and Tiberius later added colonnades.


 

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