Jewish Inscription at Miletus Theater

April 22, 2010

Our last couple of posts have been on the biblical city of Miletus.  Remember it was here that Paul met with the Ephesian elders as he was finishing up the 3rd missionary journey and en route to Jerusalem (Acts 20:17ff.).

Any city of significance of biblical times had a theater.  Here is the theater of Miletus:

Miletus Theater. Photo by Leon Mauldin

One interesting discovery in the theater is an inscription which indicated the seating section for the Jews.  It is in the 5th row from below, and in the second section from the west.  The inscription is four feet long, with letters measuring 1 1/4 to 2 1/2 inches in height.

Jewish Inscription. Miletus Theater. Photo by Leon Mauldin

The inscription is written in Greek.  Transliterated it reads: “topos eioudeon ton kai theosebion.” Translation: “Place of the Jews, who are also called God-fearing” (Light from the Ancient East, by Adolf Deissmann, p. 451). In the book of Acts, “those who fear God”  are typically Gentiles (cf. Acts 13:26).  On this text in Acts, the NET Bibles notes,

“and those among you who fear God,” but this is practically a technical term for the category called God-fearers, Gentiles who worshiped the God of Israel and in many cases kept the Mosaic law, but did not take the final step of circumcision necessary to become a proselyte to Judaism. See further K. G. Kuhn, TDNT 6:732–34.

However the term as found in the inscription at Miletus does not seem to mean Jews and God-fearing Gentiles, but rather uses “God-fearing” to describe the Jews.  Adolf Deissmann writes,

As I read the actual inscription there at Miletus I wondered that it did not run “Place of the Jews and of those who are called God-fearing.” But there can be no doubt that “God-fearing” is here an appellation of the Jews (Ibid.452).

The inscription does not seem to imply segregation, but rather indicates “reserved seating.”  It further gives proof that there was a Jewish community there in Miletus in Roman times.

Topos Eioudewn twn kai Qheosebion

Miletus Agora, Two Views

April 22, 2010

At the biblical site of Miletus one can view the agora (market place). Looking across you can see the ionic stoa, a public building; to the right you can see the ruins of the Roman Nymphaeum (fountain).

Miletus Agora and Public Building. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The photo above was taken in summer 2006.  Our photo below (March 2010) shows the same area with the agora under water.

Miletus Agora Under Water. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

More to come on Miletus.


April 20, 2010

Miletus was a seaport on the Mediterranean, on the Bay of Latmus. Because of silting filling the gulf, the site is now more than five miles from the coast. The modern name of Miletus is Yeni-Balat. Miletus was a leading harbor during the Persian and Greek periods. Miletus was still an important trade center in Roman times. A temple devoted to the worship of Apollo was located at Miletus.

I had the opportunity in summer of 2006 to visit Miletus.  The photo below shows the ruins of the harbor, and the harbor monument. The circular base in center of photo is the foundation of the great harbor monument.

Miletus Harbor. Foundation of Great Harbor Monument. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Again I had the occasion to see Miletus last month.  This is a shot of the same area, but reflecting winter and spring rains.

Miletus Harbor March 2010. Monument foundation under water. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Note the building which can be seen in both photos, upper right.  This is the ruins of a synagogue.  There is no record of a church at Miletus in the context of Acts 20.

Bible and Spade has this to say regarding Paul’s brief stay at Miletus:

At the head of the harbor Paul would have landed on the marble paved street in front of the harbor stoa, stretching 525 feet along the south end of the bay. On his right he would have seen the large harbor monument built to honor the Emperor Augustus shortly after 31 B.C. The foundations of the Harbor Stoa and Monument are still there today, and not far from them is a partially excavated synagogue, which Paul may have visited. Had the Apostle walked through the center of town, as he no doubt did, he would have passed the Delphinion, the city’s chief religious center, where Apollo was worshiped. After walking 325 feet down the processional road he would come to the great South Agora, equal in size to some sixteen city blocks and surrounded by something like one hundred shops (Vol.2.4.103).

Biblical Significance. On the return route of the 3rd missionary journey, Paul asked the Ephesian elders to meet him here at Miletus (Acts 20:17). Miletus was 37 miles south of Ephesus. The elders accommodated Paul, and thus enabled him to stay near the harbor so that he would not miss the ship going on to Israel. It was here that he poured out his heart to them, admonishing them to take heed to themselves, and to all the flock among which the Holy Spirit had made them overseers (Acts 20:28). They prayed and wept freely; then he departed on the ship, sailing to Cos and the following day to Rhodes (one of the islands included on our tour). Reference is later made to Miletus in Paul’s final letter, in 2 Tim. 4:20, as he notes having left Trophimus there due to sickness.

Archaeological work has been conducted mostly by German teams from 1899-1914, 1938-9 and since 1955. We plan to share more photos of Miletus within the next day or two, including some of the areas referenced above in the Bible and Spade quote, so be sure to check back for more.

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