Lindos, Rhodes

September 1, 2010

At the highest point of the acropolis at Lindos, Rhodes, there are the remains of a temple devoted to the worship of the goddess Athena.  It is said that architectural remains belong to a temple built in the late 4th century B.C.

Temple of Athena at Lindos, Rhodes. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Often the worship of Athena is associated with the city of Athens, and its Parthenon, but the worship of this goddess was geographically widespread.  There was an important temple located at Pergamum, as well as Smyrna (two of the cities of the Seven Churches of Rev.2-3). There was a very visible temple devoted to Athena at the island of Assos (Acts 20:13).

One of the more striking impressions one receives in visiting the Bible lands is just how pervasive idolatry was.  Even today, evidences of such are seen everywhere.

When the Gospel was preached in the 1st century, there were many, such as the Thessalonians, who “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thes. 1:9). There can be no fellowship with, no agreement of “the temple of God with idols” (2 Cor. 6:16).  Wherever such temples as depicted in our photo existed, the charge was,

Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.  Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.  I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty (2 Cor. 6:17-18).

Natural beauty abounds at Rhodes.  Below is a photo of the harbor at Lindos.

Harbor at Lindos, Rhodes. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Click on photo for higher resolution.

Smyrna, the Poor, Rich Church

April 27, 2010

In Rev. 2 we have the letter to the church at Smyrna (modern Izmir).  This church received the shortest of the seven letters (Rev. 2:8-11), and it consists only of commendations.  Smyrna was one of the wealthiest cities of the Roman province of Asia, but the Christians there were poor; Jesus wrote, “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich)” (Rev. 2:9).   Their poverty may have been in large measure due to their unwillingness to compromise their convictions.  Christians who were exclusively loyal to Jesus Christ could not worship other gods, nor could they take part in emperor worship.  It may be difficult for us to imagine how pervasive idolatry was in the first century.  When the New Testament church came into existence, the residents of Smyrna had for centuries been worshiping the goddess Athena.  The ruins of her temple are pictured here:

Athena Temple in Smyrna. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The goddess Athena was in fact widely worshiped. Her image below is in the Izmir Museum:

Image of goddess Athena. Izmir Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Imperial worship was deeply entrenched at Smyrna, the practice of burning incense to Caesar and saying that “Caesar is Lord.”   Here is an image of one of the priests of the Imperial Cult, representative of the men who served in such temples and expedited emperor worship.

Priest of Imperial Cult. Izmir Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Those who made up the church at Smyrna were told, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). We learn that the faith that pleases God is based not on convenience, but on deep and abiding conviction.  What Jesus required in the 1st century He requires in the 21st century.

Visit to Smyrna

March 11, 2010

This morning we flew from Istanbul to Izmir to begin our visitation of the cities of the Seven Churches of Rev. 2-3.  Modern Izmir is biblical Smyrna.  We saw the harbor from Mt. Pagos, the acropolis of the city.  Unlike the harbors of Ephesus and Miletus, which have long since silted up, the harbor at Smyrna continues to be operational; it is in fact Turkey’s 2nd largest port city after Istanbul.

We also saw the ancient agora (market place) which dates back to the 2nd century A.D.

A highlight of our day today was a visit to the temple of Athena.  Actually the site is closed but we obtained permission to enter and take photos.  This temple’s history dates back to the 7th century B.C.  The site was quite overgrown, but we were very glad to be able to see it, from the standpoint of historical and biblical interest.

photo by Leon Mauldin

Temple of Athena in Smyrna. Photo by Leon Mauldin

New Testament Christians at Smyrna were surrounded by idolatry, and yet were expected by the Lord to have nothing to do with it.  Not only was there the worship of various gods and goddesses, but also Smyrna was the center for  Imperial worship.  (Today we planned to see a statue of a priest of the Imperial cult in the Izmir Museum, but we learned it was temporarily on loan to Moscow!) There was also persecution brought on by unbelieving Jews. It was the church at Smyrna that received instructions in the midst of such trying circumstances to “remain faithful even to the point of death” (NET, Rev. 2:10).

Tomorrow we are to travel to Pergamum (Bergama), where there is much to see of biblical interest.  From there we will travel to Thyatira (former home of Lydia of Philippi) .  All in our group continue to be well, and for that we are thankful.

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