Antioch in Pisidia

The City of Both Joy & Persecution

Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.”
Acts 13:13-15

Historical Spotlight

According to tradition, the city of Antioch in Pisidia was founded by Seleucus Nicator, a high ranking officer serving under Alexander the Great. After the collapse of Alexander’s Empire, Seleucus Nicator was successful in carving out a vast empire for himself where he carried out Alexander’s legacy of founding cities and spreading Greek culture. Among the many cities founded by Seleucus Nicator, sixteen of them would be named Antioch, in honor of his father Antiochus. The Seleucids poured wealth into Antioch in Pisidia, making it grand as well as strong in defense against the warlike Galatians living nearby.

After a few centuries of Seleucid rule Antioch in Pisidia and the region in general came under Roman rule. The Romans approached Antioch in Pisidia in much the same way as the Seleucids did, seeking to make it a strong military center against the native Pisidians who were prone to raids and revolt. Alongside the normal settlers sent to Antioch in Pisidia by Rome, the empire chose the city as a center for retiring Roman legionnaires, a group that would create a strong pro-Rome and militaristic culture.

This settlement practice resulted in a distinctly Roman city in a region that was otherwise culturally Greek. The language of the city was Latin rather than Greek and the cult of the deified Emperors was particularly strong. The vast Temple of Augustus at the heart of the city illustrates this perfectly. Antioch in Pisidia was also one of only a few cities to have a copy of “The Deeds of the Divine Augustus” written in Latin.

For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freedfrom everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

Acts 13:36-39, spoken by Paul at Antioch in Pisidia

Antioch in Pisidia in Christian History

After the founding of the city, the Seleucids brought in settlers from the western reaches of their territories on the Aegean Sea, though whether the significant Jewish population of Antioch in Pisidia was brought from west or other Seleucid territories such as Syria or Babylon is uncertain.

In Acts 13 we see Paul and Barnabas, after seeing the Proconsul Sergius-Paulus accept Christianity, make their way north across the Mediterranean, through the mountains of Pamphilia and Pisidia and arrive at the city of Antioch. Home to a significant Jewish community we see in Acts 13:14 that Paul enters the Synagogue on the Sabbath where he preaches a sermon that is recorded in the latter half of chapter 13. As was the case in Cyprus, many who heard accepted the teaching, but a fraction of the Jews stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas. Driven out of the city, Paul and Barnabas “shook the dust from their feet against them” and went on to Iconium.

While Paul would return to the region in his second and third missionary journeys little is said about what happened there.

As Christianity began to spread throughout the Roman world and beyond, the church at Antioch in Pisidia grew into an important center with numerous churches being built including one built on the site of a first century synagogue, possibly the very site where Paul gave his sermon in Acts 13.

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