Philadelphia, its Environs, cont’d

June 15, 2010

We continue in today’s post to explore biblical Philadelphia, the sixth of the seven cities with churches addressed in Rev. 2-3.

Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary gives this info regarding Philadelphia:

Philadelphia was situated on the Cogamus River, a tributary of the Hermus (modern Gediz) and was about 45 kilometers (28 miles) southeast of Sardis. It was founded by Attalus II (Philadelphus), who reigned as king of Pergamos from 159 B.C. until 138 B.C. Philadelphia was a center of the wine industry. Its chief deity was Dionysus, in Greek mythology the god of wine (the Roman Bacchus).

Volcanic activity has contributed to the fertility of the soil.  In ancient times as well as the present, Philadelphia is well suited for vineyards.  See our photo below.

Vineyards at Philadelphia. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Philadelphia and its environs were prone to earthquake.  Bible and Spade (1976, vol. 5) quotes the Greek geographer Stabo:

…the city Philadelphia [is] ever subject to earthquakes. Incessantly the walls of the houses are cracked, different parts of the city being thus affected at different times. For this reason but few people live in the city, and most of them spend their lives as farmers in the country, since they have a fertile soil. Yet one may be surprised at the few, that they are so fond of the place when their dwellings are so insecure; and one might marvel still more at those who founded the city. (Strabo 13.4.10; trans. Jones)

At the acropolis one may see a few artifacts of interest, such as this architrave fragment.

Architrave Fragment at Philadelphia. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

One may also view an ancient wall, as seen in our photo.

Ancient Wall in Philadelphia. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

A woman walked by in front of that wall.  Apparently she was gathering material for a broom.

Woman with broom materials at Philadelphia. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Every ancient city of significance had a theater.  The one at Philadelphia has not been excavated, but its slope and semi-circular form can easily be detected.

Unexcavated Theater at Philadelphia. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

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