Philadelphia, Oxen and Garlands

June 21, 2010

Recent posts have featured the biblical city of Philadelphia, one of the cities with churches addressed in Rev. 2-3.  The Lord had only good things to say about two of those churches — Smyrna and Philadelphia.

Bear in mind that when we speak of churches we are not referring to church buildings, but the people, Christians, who made up those local congregations.

Note this artifact found at Philadelphia.

Oxen and Garlands at Philadelphia. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The oxen and garlands featured here put us in mind of Paul’s preaching at Lystra, as recorded in Acts 14:11-18, when the priest of Zeus intended to offer sacrifices of oxen and garlands to Paul and Barnabas, following Paul’s healing of the lame man:

When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.” And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM. “In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways;  and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”  Even saying these things, with difficulty they restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.

A couple of observations: Our text is from the New American Standard Bible, which makes us of capital letters, not for emphasis, but to indicate a quotation from the Old Testament(here cf. Psa. 146:6; Isa. 45:18).  Also, for “oxen and garlands,” the NIV renders, “bulls and wreaths.”

This was not an uncommon motif, as you can see from our photo below, taken in the Ephesus Museum:

Oxen and Garlands. Ephesus Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

In this photo, note that rams appear on either side, with the ox in the middle. Click on image for larger view.

Next we plan to visit Laodicia.

%d bloggers like this: