Laodicea, a Wealthy City — a Poor Church

June 18, 2014

There is some beautiful scenery as you make the drive from the Mediterranean coast at Antalya (biblical Attalia) north and west to Laodicea.

En Route NW to Laodicea from Med. coast. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

En Route NW to Laodicea from Med. coast. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Laodicea was known to be a wealthy city. It was a banking center, had a medical school specializing in ophthalmology, and manufactured clothing, especially known for its black wool market.

It is always a danger that God’s people become like the world around them. Jesus addressed the church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-21) and rebuked them for their self-satisfied, complacent attitude:

Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see (vv.16-18).

Excavations have shown numerous indications of Laodicea’s wealth.

Columns lining street in Laodicea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Columns lining street in Laodicea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

W.M. Ramsay wrote:

It is characteristic of a city devoted to commercial interests and the material side of life, that the Church of Laodicea is entirely self-satisfied. It says, as the city said in A.D. 60, when it recovered its prosperity after the great earthquake without any of that help which the Imperial government was generally ready to bestow, and which the greatest cities of Asia had always been ready to accept, “I have grown rich, and have need of nothing.” It has never seen its real condition: it is poor and blind and naked (Letters to the Seven Churches, p.428).

Their complacency led to lukewarmness, and this nauseated the Lord (v.16). This is the only church of the seven addressed in Rev. 2-3 about which nothing good is said.

We have made several other posts on Laodicea. Use search box at upper right for more articles & photos.

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Imperial Cult Worship

April 11, 2014

A book I have found helpful in understanding the background of Revelation is Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins, by Steven J. Friesen (pub Oxford). Friesen states:

The signal development, first manifest in the dedications of the Temple of the Sebastoi but reflecting broader trends in society was the use of neokoros as a technical title for a city with a provincial temple of the emperors. The power of this innovation was explosive. In a matter of years it changed the public rhetoric of empire in Asia. Within a century it had transformed the discourse of Roman imperialism in the eastern Mediterranean. From the late first century onward, the most prestigious self-designation that could be employed by a city in Asia was neokoros, indicating the presence of a provincial temple where the emperors and their relatives were worshipped (p.150).

Neokoros literally means one who sweeps and cleans a temple; one who has charge of a temple, to keep and adorn it. It came to designate a city which maintained a temple for imperial worship. It is a historical fact that cities competed for this “honor.”

G. K. Beale observes, “Revelation presupposes that Christians were being required to participate to some degree in the imperial cult (e.g., 13:4-8,15-17; 14:9-11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4). . . in the Apocalypse persecution arises because of refusal to worship the ungodly king” (NIGTC Revelation, p.5).

Smyrna Inscription, designating it neokoros. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Smyrna Inscription, designating it neokoros. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This inscription found in biblical Smyrna (see Revelation 2:8-11; Smyrna was one of the seven churches of the Roman province of Asia addressed in Rev. 2-3), in lines 3 and 4 designates Smyrna as neokoros of Sebaston [Greek equivalent to Latin Augusti]. Dr. David McClister says, “This inscription is known in the scholarly literature as Smyrna 162. It is an honorary inscription for Cl(audius) Aristophanes Aurelianus,  dated AD 193/235” [lines 1 and 2), and further, “It appears to me to have been a statue base honoring this individual for his leadership in the emperor cult.”


In Sudbury

July 30, 2011

Our meeting for biblical studies in Sudbury, Canada got off to a good start last night. We are dealing with the theme, “Challenges Faced by the Early Church,” and making application to the church of the 21st century.

After last night’s meeting we gathered at the home of Denis and Danny Veilleux.

Sudbury, Canada. Gathering at home after meeting. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

John and Lisa Hains are the “bookends” in the photo. They drove up from Jordan. I asked John how long of a drive that was. His answer: “6 1/2 or 7 hours, not bad.”

I consider every such teaching opportunity to be a genuine privilege.

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The Victor’s Crown

July 25, 2011

In the letter to the church at Smyrna, a church which only received commendation from the Lord, Jesus said, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10, NKJV).

The word rendered crown is the Greek term stephanos. W. E. Vine observes that this word

denotes (a) “the victor’s crown,” the symbol of triumph in the games or some such contest; hence, by metonymy, a reward or prize; (b) “a token of public honor” for distinguished service, military prowess, etc., or of nuptial joy, or festal gladness, especially at the parousia of kings. It was woven as a garland of oak, ivy, parsley, myrtle, or olive, or in imitation of these in gold. In some passages the reference to the games is clear, 1 Cor. 9:25; 2 Tim. 4:8 (“crown of righteousness”); it may be so in 1 Pet. 5:4, where the fadeless character of “the crown of glory” is set in contrast to the garlands of earth. In other passages it stands as an emblem of life, joy, reward and glory, Phil. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:19; Jas. 1:12 (“crown of life “); Rev. 2:10 (ditto); 3:11; 4:4, 10: of triumph, 6:2; 9:7; 12:1; 14:14.

Greek athlete wearing the victor's wreath. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Vine continues:

It is used of “the crown of thorns” which the soldiers plaited and put on Christ’s head, Matt. 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:2, 5. At first sight this might be taken as an alternative for diadema, “a kingly crown” (see below), but considering the blasphemous character of that masquerade, and the materials used, obviously diadema would be quite unfitting and the only alternative was stephanos (see Trench Syn. Sec.xxxii).¶

Our photo features a close up of the head of a running athlete and dates back to the late Hellenistic period. This statue was retrieved from the Agean Sea off the coast of Kyme, and is displayed at the Izmir Museum (biblical Smyrna).

Sometimes the question is raised as to whether Jesus meant to be faithful as long as you live or to be faithful to the point of death. The answer is, “Yes.” Yes to both.

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Laodicea, I wish you were cold or hot!

July 6, 2010

This is the wording to the lukewarm church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:14), one of the seven churches in the Roman province of Asia addressed in Rev. 2-3.  At first glance it would seem plausible to assign the meaning of fervent and zealous to “hot,” and “cold” would mean to just quit altogether.  However, a look at the setting and characteristics of the city may well be the basis for this statement of Jesus.

Laodicea, though a wealthy city, was known for its tepid, lukewarm water, which was brought in from the south of the city, five miles distant.

Laodicea. Water was piped in from the south. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

It doesn’t appear that it was too appetizing as you see the tendency of the pipes to clog, as illustrated in our photo. These are some sections of pipe excavated by archaeologists.

Laodicea Clogged Pipes. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The water distribution tower shows the poor quality of Laodicea’s water.

Clogged Pipe at Laodidea's Water Distribution Tower. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

But back to our point about the setting of Laodicea.  Nearby to the east Colossae was known for its cold refreshing water.  Cold can be a good thing!

Cold refreshing water at Colossae. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Just to the north and within sight of Laodicea is Hierapolis.  It was known for its hot thermal springs.  Hot is good!  Hot water has medicinal value; Hierapolis became a healing centers. The sign below was photographed there listing all sorts of benefits.  Roman emperors were among those who made the journey here.

Hieraoplis. Hot thermal springs have medicinal value. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Again, cold water is good and refreshing; hot water is good for healing, but lukewarm, what good is that?  The church had taken on the characteristic of the city, and had likewise become lukewarm. What Jesus wanted the church to do was not to become cold in the sense of quitting; he wanted them to “be zealous and repent,” to turn from their lukewarmness.

Study and see if you think this fits.  It is consistent with Jesus’ other references to Laodicea’s wool, wealth, and eye care and using these as the basis of His admonitions (Rev. 3:18).

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More on Laodicea

June 28, 2010

One interesting find at Laodicea in a large house just off Syria Street, was this filter connected to indoor plumbing.

Water Filter at Laodicea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The right side and center is for water entering the building, while the left side is designed for water leaving the building. In another post we want to discuss further the water situation at Laodicea.

In our articles/photos posted on the Seven Churches of Rev. 2-3, we have repeatedly seen evidence of temples devoted to various pagan gods.  It is difficult to overstate how widespread and pervasive idolatry was in the biblical world, in both Old Testament as well as New Testament times.  At Laodicea one can see the remains of a temple, known as Temple A, located on the north side of the city.

Temple A. Laodicea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Of course, every city of significance had a theater.  Pictured here is the Hellenistic theater, located on the west side of the city.

Hellenistic Theater at Laodicea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Click on image for larger view.  More to come.

Laodicea, cont’d.

June 26, 2010

In our previous post we saw a startling difference between the Laodiceans’ assessment of themselves, and the Lord’s evaluation.  They thought they were rich and in need of nothing; Jesus said that spiritually they were “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev.3:17).  They were blissfully unaware of their true condition before God! Further, their lukewarmness was a condition that nauseated the Lord.

That’s why we have the Bible. Therein is revealed how to be saved by the provisions of God in Jesus Christ, and then further teaching furnishes the Christian with what God wants His people to be.  In other words, to avoid the condemnation of the Lord, and to have His approval, requires constant looking at the Scriptures as the standard, and examining self in light of that Word.

But we want to explore further the city itself where the church addressed in Rev. 3 was located.

Besides the evidence of many public buildings and facilities, archaeologist have also excavated some private residences, such as the one in this photo. Note the storage jar at left center.

Private Residence at Laodicea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Such storage jars would have been used in homes for storage of grain and other such items.  Such items are indicative of considerable purchasing power.

Storage Jar in Private Residence at Laodicea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Still more to come on Laodicea.  Click on image for larger view.

Laodicea, the Church that Nauseated the Lord

June 25, 2010

Laodicea is the seventh of the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2-3. Laodicea was a biblical city of great importance: it was a wealthy banking center, it was known for its black raven wool and the manufacture of clothing; also it was known for its invention of eye salve.   Located in the Lycus River Valley, Laodicea was strategically situated on an east-west travel route.  Nearby Hierapolis was known for its medicinal hot springs; neighboring Colossae was known for its cold refreshing water.  Laodicea was noted for neither; its water was tepid, lukewarm and sickening. With these things in mind, consider Jesus’ assessment of the church, which had taken on the lukewarm characteristics of the wealthy city:

15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth! 17 Because you say, “I am rich and have acquired great wealth, and need nothing,” but do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, 18 take my advice and buy gold from me refined by fire so you can become rich! Buy from me white clothing so you can be clothed and your shameful nakedness will not be exposed, and buy eye salve to put on your eyes so you can see! (Rev. 3:15-18, NET).

Since 2000, extensive excavation has been done at Laodicea, and continues through the present. Much of the work has been to reveal some of the major streets of the city, including the main street featured in our photo here. This street was called Syria Street.

Laodicea Syria Street. Main Street in City. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The scoring of pavement stones made by chariot wheels may be seen at some points in the street.

Grooves in Street Made by Chariot Wheels. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Syria Street as well as other streets would have been lined with shops on either side.  Our photo below depicts a mosaic at the entrance of an ancient shop.

Laodicea Mosaic at Shop Entrance. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

More to come on Laodicea.  Remember to click on photo for larger view.

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