Thyatira, a church that welcomed Jezebel

May 27, 2010

The city of Thyatira was another of the cities mentioned in Rev. 2-3, where the “seven churches which are in Asia” were addressed by the Apostle John.  Map below, by Scott Richardson, shows the location of Thyatira as well as the other cities.

Map Seven Churches of Asia. By Scott Richardson.

The modern name of Thyatira is Akhisar.  The New Bible Dictionary states:

It occupied an important position in a low-lying ‘corridor’ connecting the Hermus and Caicus valleys. It was a frontier garrison, first on the W frontier of the territory of Seleucus I of Syria, and later, after changing hands, on the E frontier of the kingdom of Pergamum. With that kingdom, it passed under Roman rule in 133 bc. But it remained an important point in the Roman road-system, for it lay on the road from Pergamum to Laodicea, and thence to the E provinces. It was also an important centre of manufacture; dyeing, garment-making, pottery and brass-working are among the trades known to have existed there.

You will remember that Lydia, the first convert in Philppi, was a seller of purple from Thyatira (Acts 17:14). For our previous post see

Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary observes,

Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of many trade guilds and unions here. Membership in these trade guilds, necessary for financial and social success, often involved pagan customs and practices such as superstitious worship, union feasts using food sacrificed to pagan gods, and loose sexual morality.

This evidently explains the reference to Jezebel in the letter.  In the OT, Jezebel was the wicked woman from Phonecia that Israel’s king Ahab married.  She brought with her Baal worship, with all of its immorality.  Within the church at Thyatira there was a modern Jezebel, the counterpart of the one in the Old Testament. She was calling herself a prophetess, and deceptively teaching church members there that it was permissible for them to commit sexual immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols (Rev. 2:20).  To make matters worse, she had been given opportunity to repent, but did not want to repent (v.21).

She was wrong to teach this, and the church was wrong to put up with her!

Thyatira. Modern Akhisar. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

There is not a great deal to see of ancient Thyatira, because as is so often the case, a modern city has been built on the biblical site.  But a limited amount of excavation has been done.  Some Roman ruins of arches and other fragments can be seen in the photo below.

Thyatira. Roman Ruins. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Photo below shows Roman columns which have been uncovered.

Thyatira. Roman Columns. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

More to come!

Thyatira, home of Lydia

March 20, 2010

Today our group visited Corinth and then Cenchreae. The day was beautiful weather-wise, and thus provided great opportunities to take photos which we plan to share on this blog as well as use in other teaching/publishing formats.

For today I want to backtrack a bit and go back to Thyatira, one of the Seven Churches addressed in Revelation 2-3, and also home of Lydia, the first convert in Philiipi (Acts 16:14).  Philippi, where we meet Lydia, is described as “a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony” (Acts 16:11, ESV). Philippi is now in Greece, north of where we are presently (Athens).

The text reads, “We remained in this city some days.  And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.   One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.   And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us” (Acts 16:12-15, ESV).

Thyatira, Lydia’s former home, was known for its trade guilds. “No other city seems to have had so many guilds as Thyatira: coppersmiths, bronze workers, tanners, leather workers, dyers, workers in wool and linen, potters, bakers, and slave dealers” (Biblical Sites in Turkey, by Blake and Edmonds, p.132).

Regarding the purple dye, Todd Bolen observes, “Thyatira was most known for the dyeing of purple cloth, a fact which Homer even references in his Iliad.  There are two theories as to how the dye was made.  One theory holds that the dye came from sea slugs and shells found in the Mediterranean; the other postulates that the dye was extracted from the roots of plants.  Thyatira’s inland location most supports the latter theory.”

With that in mind, we post here a photo of the madder root from which the purple dye comes:

Madder Root. Photo by Leon Mauldin

Notice the color of the wool dyed with the madder root in these next two shots:

Wool dyed with madder root. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Close up of wool dyed with madder root. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Look at this small carpet; note the part of the pattern which was dyed with the madder root.

Carpet dyed with madder root. Photo by Leon Mauldin

The city of biblical Thyatira is modern Akhisar, with a population of about 100,000. Very little has been excavated; archaeological excavation was done by Rustem Duyuran  from 1968 to 1971. The ruins of the basilica in the photo below date to the 5th or 6th century A.D. The white objects on your right are architectural fragments of arches, columns, etc., and date back to Roman times.

Ruins of Thyatira, home of Lydia. Photo by Leon Mauldin

The church that met in the ancient city was commended for its love, faith, service and patient endurance (Rev. 2:19). However, Jesus went on to say, “But I have this against you: you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and teaches and deceives My slaves to commit sexual immorality and to eat meat sacrificed to idols” (Rev. 2:20).  The wicked Jezebel of Old Testament fame had a modern counterpart.  She was condemned for her false teaching and evil influence, and the church was wrong to fellowship her.

More later!

Pergamum, where Satan’s throne was located

March 12, 2010

Today we visited the sites of Pergamum and Thyatira.  En route to Pergamum Harold Comer read the text from Rev. 2 which contains the letters to the churches in those respective cities, and made appropriate comments.  Jesus said that Pergamum was the place where Satan’s throne was.  He may have had reference to the altar of Zeus which was so prominent in the city.  Others suggest that the worship of Roman emperors was meant.  There were also temples to Athena, Dionysus, Serapis, Asclepius and others, so it could be that all of these combined meant that Satan’s influence was deeply entrenched there. Sometimes people are heard to say that if they had lived in the 1st century it would have been much easier and simpler to be a Christian then; that is simply not true!  Christians at Pergamum were called upon to live holy lives in the midst of idolatry, immorality, and false religion.

Here is a group shot which shows the temple of Emperor Trajan (reigned A.D. 98-117) in the background.

Group Shot at Pergamum.

The altar of Zeus would have been seen for miles around.  The friezes of the battle scenes were disassembled and removed to Berlin where they are on display. You can see the steps leading up to the altar as well as the square outline of its parameter in this photo:

Altar of Zeus at Pergamum. Photo by Leon Mauldin

Altar of Zeus. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Pergamum has the steepest theater in the world; it follows the natural incline of the slope.

Pergamum Theater. Photo by Leon Mauldin

Tomorrow we are to continue our biblical study tour as we journey to Aphrodisias, Philadelphia, and Hierapolis.

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