|Whatever may have been the calculations of his own wisdom and prudence, or whatever supernatural intimations may have reached him, Paul sailed, with his companions Barnabas and John, in some vessel, of which the size, the cargo, and the crew, are unknown to us, past the promontories of Drepanum and Acamas, and then across the waters of the Pamphylian Sea, leaving on the right the cliffs which are the western boundary of Cilicia, to the innermost bend of the bay of Attaleia.|
The chief associations of Perga are with the Greek rather than the Roman period: and its existing remains are described as being "purely Greek, there being no trace of any later inhabitants." Its prosperity was probably arrested by the building of Attaleia (Acts 14:25) after the death of Alexander, in a more favorable situation on the shore of the bay. Attaleia has never ceased to be an important town since the day of its foundation by Attalus Philadelphus. But when the traveler pitches his tent at Perga, he finds only the encampments of shepherds, who pasture their cattle amidst the ruins. These ruins are walls and towers, columns and cornices, a theater and a stadium, a broken aqueduct incrusted with the calcareous deposit of the Pamphylian streams, and tombs scattered on both sides of the site of the town. Nothing else remains of Perga, but the beauty of its natural situation, "between and upon the sides of two hills, with an extensive valley in front, watered by the river Oestrus, and backed by the mountains of the Taurus."
The coins of Perga are a lively illustration of its character as a city of the Greeks. We have no memorial of its condition as a city of the Romans; nor does our narrative require us to delay any longer in describing it. The Apostles made no long stay in Perga. This seems evident, not only from the words used at this point of the history, but from the marked manner in which we are told that they did stay, on their return from the interior. One event, however, is mentioned as occurring at Perga, which, though noticed incidentally and in few words, was attended with painful feelings at the time, and involved the most serious consequences.
It must have occasioned deep sorrow to Paul and Barnabas, and possibly even then some mutual estrangement: and afterwards it became the cause of their quarrel and separation. (Acts 15:37-39) Mark "departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work." He came with them up the Oestrus as far as Perga; but there he forsook them, and, taking advantage of some vessel which was sailing towards Palestine, he "returned to Jerusalem," (Acts 13:13) which had been his home in earlier years. (Acts 12:12, 25) We are not to suppose that this implied an absolute rejection of Christianity. A soldier who has wavered in one battle may live to obtain a glorious victory. Mark was afterwards not unwilling to accompany the Apostles on a second missionary journey; (Acts 15:37) and actually did accompany Barnabas again to Cyprus. (Acts 15:39) Nor did Apostle Paul always retain his unfavorable judgment of him (Acts 15:38), but long afterwards, in his Roman imprisonment, commended him to the Colossians, as one who was "a fellow-worker unto the Kingdom of God," and "a comfort" to himself:(Colossians 4:10) and in his latest letter, just before his death, he speaks of him again as one "profitable to him for the ministry." Yet if we consider all the circumstances of his life, we shall not find it difficult to blame his conduct in Pamphylia, and to see good reasons why Paul should afterwards, at Antioch, distrust the steadiness of his character. The child of a religious mother, who had sheltered in her house the Christian Disciples in a fierce persecution, he had joined himself to Barnabas and Saul, when they traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch, on their return from a mission of charity. He had been a close spectator of the wonderful power of the religion of Christ, - he had seen the strength of faith under trial in his mother’s home, - he had attended his kinsman Barnabas in his labors of zeal and love, - he had seen the word of Paul sanctioned and fulfilled by miracles, - he had even been the "minister" of Apostles in their successful enterprise; (See Acts 13:5) and now he forsook them, when they were about to proceed through greater difficulties to more glorious success. We are not left in doubt as to the real character of his departure. He was drawn from the work of God by the attraction of an earthly home. As he looked up from Perga to the Gentile mountains, his heart failed him, and he turned back with desire towards Jerusalem. He could not resolve to continue persevering, "in journeyings often, in perils of rivers, in perils of robbers." (2Corinthians 11:26)
"Perils of rivers" and "perils of robbers" - these words express the very dangers which Apostle Paul would be most likely to encounter on his journey from Perga in Pamphylia to Antioch in Pisidia. The lawless and marauding habits of the population of those mountains which separate the table-land in the interior of Asia Minor from the plains on the south coast, were notorious in all parts of ancient history. Strabo uses the same strong language both of the Isaurians who separated Cappadocia from Cilicia, and of their neighbors the Pisidians, whose native fortresses were the barrier between Phrygia and Pamphylia. "We have the same character of the latter of these robber-tribes in Xenophon, who is the first to mention them; and in Zosimus, who relieves the history of the later empire by telling us of the adventures of a robber-chief, who defied the Romans, and died a desperate death in these mountains. Alexander the Great, when he heard that Memnon’s fleet was in the Aegean, and marched from Perga to rejoin Parmenio in Phrygia, found some of the worst difficulties of his whole campaign in penetrating through this district. The scene of one of the roughest campaigns connected with the wars of Antiochus the Great was among the hill-forts near the upper waters of the Oestrus and Eurymedon. No population through the midst of which Apostle Paul ever traveled, abounded more in those "perils of robbers," of which he himself speaks, than the wild and lawless clans of the Pisidian Highlanders.
And if on this journey he was exposed to dangers from the attacks of men, there might be other dangers, not less imminent, arising from the natural character of the country itself. To travelers in the East there is a reality in "perils of rivers," which we in England are hardly able to understand. Unfamiliar with the sudden flooding of thirsty watercourses, we seldom comprehend the full force of some of the most striking images in the Old and New Testaments. The rivers of Asia Minor, like all the rivers in the Levant, are liable to violent and sudden changes. And no district in Asia Minor is more singularly characterized by its "water floods" than the mountainous tract of Pisidia, where rivers burst out at the bases of huge cliffs, or dash down wildly through narrow ravines. The very notice of the bridges in Strabo, when he tells us how the Oestrus and Eurymedon tumble down from the heights and precipices of Selge to the Pamphylian Sea, is more expressive than any elaborate description. We cannot determine the position of any bridges which the Apostle may have crossed; but his course was never far from the channels of these two rivers: and it is an interesting fact, that his name is still traditionally connected with one of them, as we learn from the information recently given to an English traveler by the Archbishop of Pisidia.
Such considerations respecting the physical peculiarities of the country now traversed by Apostle Paul, naturally lead us into various trains of thought concerning the scenery, the climate, and the seasons. And there are certain probabilities in relation to the time of the year when the Apostle may be supposed to have journeyed this way, which may well excuse some remarks on these subjects. And this is all the more allowable, because we are absolutely without any data for determining the year in which this first missionary expedition was undertaken. All that we can assert with confidence is that it must have taken place somewhere in the interval between the years 45 and 50. But this makes us all the more desirous to determine, by any reasonable conjectures, the movements of the Apostle in reference to a better chronology than that which reckons by successive years, - the chronology which furnishes us with the real imagery round his path, - the chronology of the seasons.
Now we may well suppose that he might sail from Seleucia to Salamis at the beginning, of spring. In that age and in those waters, the commencement of a voyage was usually determined by the advance of the season. The sea was technically said to be "open" in the month of March. If Apostle Paul began his journey in that month, the lapse of two months might easily bring him to Perga, and allow sufficient time for all that we are told of his proceedings at Salamis and Paphos. If we suppose him to have been at Perga in May, this would have been exactly the most natural time for a journey to the mountains. Earlier in the spring, the passes would have been filled with snow. In the heat of summer the weather would have been less favorable for the journey. In the autumn the disadvantages would have been still greater, from the approaching difficulties of winter. But again, if Apostle Paul was at Perga in May, a further reason may be given why he did not stay there, but seized all the advantages of the season for prosecuting his journey to the interior. The habits of a people are always determined or modified by the physical peculiarities of their country; and a custom prevails among the inhabitants of this part of Asia Minor, which there is every reason to believe has been unbroken for centuries. At the beginning of the hot season they move up from the plains to the cool basin-like hollows on the mountains. These yailahs or summer retreats are always spoken of with pride and satisfaction, and the time of the journey anticipated with eager delight. When the time arrives, the people may be seen ascending to the upper grounds, men, women, and children, with flocks and herds, camels and asses, like the patriarchs of old. If then Apostle Paul was at Perga in May, he would find the inhabitants deserting its hot and silent streets. They would be moving in the direction of his own intended journey. He would be under no temptation to stay. And if we imagine him as joining some such company of Pamphylian families on his way to the Pisidian mountains, it gives much interest and animation to the thought of this part of his progress.
Perhaps it was in such company that the Apostle entered the first passes of the mountainous district, along some road formed partly by artificial pavement, and partly by the native marble, with high cliffs frowning on either hand, with tombs and inscriptions, even then ancient, on the projecting rocks around, and with copious fountains bursting out "among thickets of pomegranates and oleanders." The oleander, "the favorite flower of the Levantine midsummer," abounds in the lower watercourses; and in the month of May it borders all the banks with a line of brilliant crimson. As the path ascends, the rocks begin to assume the wilder grandeur of mountains, the richer fruit-trees begin to disappear, and the pine and walnut succeed; though the plane-tree still stretches its wide leaves over the stream which dashes wildly down the ravine, crossing and recrossing the dangerous road. The alteration of climate which attends on the traveler’s progress is soon perceptible. A few hours will make the difference of weeks, or even months. When the corn is in the ear on the lowlands, ploughing and sowing are hardly well begun upon the highlands. Spring flowers may be seen in the mountains by the very edge of the snow, when the anemone is withered in the plain, and the pink veins in the white asphodel flower are shriveled by the heat. When the cottages are closed and the grass is parched, and every thing is silent below in the purple haze and stillness of midsummer, clouds are seen drifting among the Pisidian precipices, and the cavern is often a welcome shelter from a cold and penetrating wind. The upper part of this district is a wild region of cliffs, often isolated and bare, and separated from each other by valleys of sand, which the storm drives with blinding violence among the shivered points. The trees become fewer and smaller at every step. Three belts of vegetation are successively passed through in ascending from the coast: first the oak-woods, then the forests of pine, and lastly the dark scattered patches of the cedar-juniper: and then we reach the treeless plains of the interior, which stretch in dreary extension to the north and the east.
After such a journey as this, separating, we know not where, from the companions they may have joined, and often thinking of that Christian companion who had withdrawn himself from their society when they needed him most, Paul and Barnabas emerged from the rugged mountain-passes, and came upon the central table-land of Asia Minor. The whole interior region of the peninsula may be correctly described by this term; for, though intersected in various directions by mountain-ranges, it is, on the whole, a vast plateau, elevated higher than the summit of Ben Nevis above the level of the sea. This is its general character, though a long journey across the district brings the traveler through many varieties of scenery. Sometimes he moves for hours along the dreary margin of an inland sea of salt, - sometimes he rests in a cheerful hospitable town by the shore of a fresh-water lake. In some places the ground is burnt and volcanic, in others green and fruitful. Sometimes it is depressed into watery hollows, where wild swans visit the pools, and storks are seen fishing and feeding among the weeds: more frequently it is spread out into broad open downs, like Salisbury Plain, which afford an interminable pasture for flocks of sheep. To the north of Pamphylia, the elevated plain stretches through Phrygia for a hundred miles from Mount Taurus to Mount Olympus. The southern portion of these bleak uplands was crossed by Apostle Paul's track, immediately before his arrival at Antioch in Pisidia. The features of human life which he had around him are probably almost as unaltered as the scenery of the country, - dreary villages with flat-roofed huts and cattle-sheds in the day, and at night an encampment of tents of goat’s hair, - tents of cilicium (see p. 45), - a blazing fire in the midst, - horses fastened around, - and in the distance the moon shining on the snowy summits of Taurus.
The Sultan Tareek, or Turkish Royal Road from Adalia to Kiutayah and Constantinople, passes nearly due north by the beautiful lake of Buldur. The direction of Antioch in Pisidia bears more to the east. After passing somewhere near Selge and Sagalassus, Apostle Paul approached by the margin of the much larger, though perhaps not less beautiful, lake of Eyerdir. The position of the city is not far from the northern shore of this lake, at the base of a mountain-range which stretches through Phrygia in a south-easterly direction. It is, however, not many years since this statement could be confidently made. Strabo, indeed, describes its position with remarkable clearness and precision. His words are as follows:— "In the district of Phrygia called Paroreia, there is a certain mountain-ridge, stretching from east to west. On each side there is a large plain below this ridge: and it has two cities in its neighborhood; Philomelium on the north, and on the other side Antioch, called Antioch near Pisidia. The former lies entirely in the plain, the latter (which has a Roman colony) is on a height."
The position of the Pisidian Antioch being thus determined by the convergence of ancient authority and modern research, we perceive that it lay on an important line of communication, westward by Apamea with the valley of the Maeander, and eastward by Iconium with the country behind the Taurus. In this general direction, between Smyrna and Ephesus on the one hand, and the Cilician Gates which lead down to Tarsus on the other, conquering armies and trading caravans, Persian satraps, Roman proconsuls, and Turkish pachas, have traveled for centuries. The Pisidian Antioch was situated about half way between these extreme points. It was built (as we have seen in an earlier chapter, 4. p. 113) by the founder of the Syrian Antioch; and in the age of the Greek kings of the line of Seleucus it was a town of considerable importance. But its appearance had been modified, since the campaigns of Scipio and Manlius, and the defeat of Mithridates, by the introduction of Roman usages, and the Roman style of building. This was true, to a certain extent, of all the larger towns of Asia Minor: but this change had probably taken place in the Pisidian Antioch more than in many cities of greater importance; for, like Philippi, it was a Roman Colonia, Without delaying, at present, to explain the full meaning of this term, we may say that the character impressed on any town in the Empire which had been made subject to military colonization was particularly Roman, and that all such towns were bound by a tie of peculiar closeness to the Mother City. The insignia of Roman power were displayed more conspicuously than in other towns in the same province. In the provinces where Greek was spoken, while other towns had Greek letters on their coins, the money of the colonies was distinguished by Latin superscriptions. Antioch must have had some eminence among the eastern colonies, for it was founded by Augustus, and called Caesarea. Such coins as that represented at the end of this chapter were in circulation here, though not at Perga or Iconium, when Apostle Paul visited these cities: and, more than at any other city visited on this journey, he would hear Latin spoken side by side with the Greek and the ruder Pisidian dialect.
Along with this population of Greeks, Romans, and native Pisidians, a greater or smaller number of Jews was intermixed. They may not have been a very numerous body, for only one synagogue is mentioned in the narrative. But it is evident, from the events recorded, that they were an influential body, that they had made many proselytes, and that they had obtained some considerable dominion (as in the parallel cases of Damascus recorded by Josephus, and Berea and Thessalonica in the Acts of the Apostles) (Acts 17:4, 12) over the minds of the Gentile women.
On the Sabbath days the Jews and the proselytes met in the synagogue. It is evident that at this time full liberty of public worship was permitted to the Jewish people in all parts of the Roman Empire, whatever limitations might have been enacted by law or compelled by local opposition, as relates to the form and situation of the synagogues. We infer from Epiphanius that the Jewish places of worship were often erected in open and conspicuous positions. This natural wish may frequently have been. checked by the influence of the Heathen priests, who would not willingly see the votaries of an ancient idolatry forsaking the temple for the synagogue: and feelings of the same kind may probably have hindered the Jews, even if they had the ability or desire, from erecting religious edifices of any remarkable grandeur and solidity. No ruins of the synagogues of imperial times have remained to us, like those of the temples in every province, from which we are able to convince ourselves of the very form and size of the sanctuaries of Jupiter, Apollo, and Diana. There is little doubt that the sacred edifices of the Jews have been modified by the architecture of the remote countries through which they have been dispersed, and the successive centuries through which they have continued a separated people. Under the Roman Empire it is natural to suppose that they must have varied, according to circumstances, through all gradations of magnitude and decoration, from the simple proseucha at Philippi to the magnificent prayer-houses at Alexandria. Yet there are certain traditional peculiarities which have doubtless united together by a common resemblance the Jewish synagogues of all ages and countries. The arrangement for the women’s places in a separate gallery, or behind a partition of lattice-work, - the desk in the center, where the Reader, like Ezra in ancient days, from his "pulpit of wood," may "open the Book in the sight of all the people… and read in the Book the Law of God distinctly, and give the sense, and cause them to understand the reading," (Nehemiah 8:4- 8) - the carefully closed Ark on the side of the building nearest to Jerusalem, for the preservation of the rolls or manuscripts of the Law - the seats all round the building, whence "the eyes of all them that are in the synagogue" may be "fastened" on him who speaks, (See Luke 4:20) - the "chief seats," which were appropriated to the "ruler" or "rulers" of the synagogue, according as its organization might be more or less complete, and which were so dear to the hearts of those who professed to be peculiarly learned or peculiarly devout, - these are some of the features of a synagogue, which agree at once with the notices of Scripture, the descriptions in the Talmud, and the practice of modern Judaism.
The meeting of the congregations in the ancient synagogues may be easily realized, if due allowance be made for the change of costume, by those who have seen the Jews at their worship in the large towns of Modern Europe. On their entrance into the building, the four-cornered Tallith was first placed like a veil over the head, or like a scarf over the shoulders. The prayers were then recited by an officer called the "Angel," or "Apostle," of the assembly. These prayers were doubtless many of them identically the same with those which are found in the present service-books of the German and Spanish Jews, though their liturgies, in the course of ages, have undergone successive developments, the steps of which are not easily ascertained. It seems that the prayers were sometimes read in the vernacular language of the country where the synagogue was built; but the Law was always read in Hebrew. The sacred roll of manuscript was handed from the Ark to the Reader by the Chazan, or "Minister;" (Luke 4:17, 20) and then certain portions were read according to a fixed cycle, first from the Law and then from the Prophets. It is impossible to determine the period when the sections from these two divisions of the Old Testament were arranged as in use at present; but the same necessity for translation and explanation existed then as now. The Hebrew and English are now printed in parallel columns. Then, the reading of the Hebrew was elucidated by the Targum or the Septuagint, or followed by a paraphrase in the spoken language of the country. The Header stood while thus employed, and all the congregation sat around. The manuscript was rolled up and returned to the Chazan. (See Luke 4:20) Then followed a pause, during which strangers or learned men, who had "any word of consolation" or exhortation, rose and addressed the meeting. And thus, after a pathetic enumeration of the sufferings of the chosen people or an allegorical exposition of some dark passage of Holy Writ, the worship was closed with a benediction and a solemn "Amen." (See Nehemiah 8:6; 1Corinthians 14:16)
To such a worship in such a building a congregation came together at Antioch in Pisidia, on the Sabbath which immediately succeeded the arrival of Paul and Barnabas. Proselytes came and seated themselves with the Jews: and among the Jewesses behind the lattice were "honorable women" (Acts 13:50) of the colony. The two strangers entered the synagogue, and, wearing the Tallith, which was the badge of an Israelite, "sat down" (Acts 13:14) with the rest. The prayers were recited, the extracts from "the Law and the Prophets" were read; (Acts 13:15) the "Book" returned to the "Minister," (Luke 4:20) and then we are told that "the rulers of the synagogue" sent to the new-comers, on whom many eyes had already been fixed, and invited them to address the assembly, if they had words of comfort or instruction to speak to their fellow-Israelites. The very attitude of Apostle Paul, as he answered the invitation, is described to us. He "rose" from his seat, and, with the animated and emphatic gesture which he used on other occasions, (Acts 26:1, 21:40. See 20:34) "beckoned with his hand." (Acts 13:16)
After thus graphically bringing the scene before our eyes, Luke gives us, if not the whole speech delivered by Apostle Paul, yet at least the substance of what he said. For into however short a space he may have condensed the speeches which he reports, yet it is no mere outline, no dry analysis of them, which he gives. He has evidently preserved, if not all the words, yet the very words uttered by the Apostle; nor can we fail to recognize in all these speeches a tone of thought, and even of expression, which stamps them with the individuality of the speaker.
On the present occasion we find Apostle Paul beginning his address by connecting the Messiah whom he preached with the preparatory dispensation which ushered in His advent. He dwells upon the previous history of the Jewish people, for the same reasons which had led Stephen to do the like in his defense before the Sanhedrin. He endeavors to conciliate the minds of his Jewish audience by proving to them that the Messiah whom he proclaimed was the same whereto their own prophets bare witness; come, not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil; and that His advent had been duly heralded by His predicted messenger. He then proceeds to remove the prejudice which the rejection of Jesus by the authorities at Jerusalem (the metropolis of their faith) would naturally raise in the minds of the Pisidian Jews against His divine mission. He shows that Christ’s death and resurrection had accomplished the ancient prophecies, and declares this to be the "Glad Tidings" which the Apostles were charged to proclaim. Thus far the speech contains nothing which could offend the exclusive spirit of Jewish nationality. On the contrary, Paul has endeavored to carry his hearers with him by the topics on which he has dwelt; the Savior whom he declares is "a Savior unto Israel;" the Messiah whom he announces is the fulfiller of the Law and the Prophets. But having thus conciliated their feelings, and won their favorable attention, he proceeds in a bolder tone to declare the Catholicity of Christ’s salvation, and the antithesis between the Gospel and the Law. His concluding words, as Luke relates them, might stand as a summary representing in outline the early chapters of the Epistle to the Romans; and therefore, conversely, those chapters will enable us to realize the manner in which Paul would have expanded the heads of argument which his disciple here records. The speech ends with a warning against that bigoted rejection of Christ’s doctrine, which this latter portion of the address was so likely to call forth.
This address made a deep and thrilling impression on the audience. While the congregation were pouring out of the synagogue, many of them crowded round the speaker, begging that "these words," which had moved their deepest feelings, might be repeated to them on their next occasion of assembling together. And when at length the mass of the people had dispersed, singly or in groups, to their homes, many of the Jews and proselytes still clung to Paul and Barnabas, who earnestly exhorted them (in the form of expression which we could almost recognize as Apostle Paul's, from its resemblance to the phraseology of his Epistles) "to abide in the grace of God." (Acts 13:43. Compare Acts 20:24; 1Corinthians 15:10; 2Corinthians 6: 1; Galatians 2:21)
The intervening week between this Sabbath and the next had not only its days of meeting in the synagogue, but would give many opportunities for exhortation and instruction in private houses; the doctrine would be noised abroad, and, through the proselytes, would come to the hearing of the Gentiles. So that "on the following Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the Word of God." The synagogue was crowded. (Acts 13:44) Multitudes of Gentiles were there in addition to the Proselytes. This was more than the Jews could bear. Their spiritual pride and exclusive bigotry was immediately roused. They could not endure the notion of others being freely admitted to the same religious privileges with themselves. This was always the sin of the Jewish people. Instead of realizing their position in the world as the prophetic nation for the good of the whole earth, they indulged the self-exalting opinion, that God’s highest blessings were only for themselves. Their oppressions and their dispersions had not destroyed this deeply-rooted prejudice; but they rather found comfort under the yoke, in brooding over their religious isolation: and even in their remote and scattered settlements, they clung with the utmost tenacity to the feeling of their exclusive nationality. Thus, in the Pisidian Antioch, they who on one Sabbath had listened with breathless interest to the teachers who spoke to them of the promised Messiah, were on the next Sabbath filled with the most excited indignation, when they found that this Messiah was "a light to lighten the Gentiles," as well as "the glory of His people Israel." They made an uproar, and opposed the words of Paul with all manner of calumnious expressions, "contradicting and blaspheming."
Then the Apostles, promptly recognizing in the willingness of the Gentiles and the unbelief of the Jews the clear indications of the path of duty, followed that bold course which was alien to all the prejudices of a Jewish education. They turned at once and without reserve to the Gentiles. Apostle Paul was not unprepared for the events which called for this decision. The prophetic intimations at his first conversion, his vision in the Temple at Jerusalem, his experience at the Syrian Antioch, his recent success in the island of Cyprus, must have led him to expect the Gentiles to listen to that message which the Jews were too ready to scorn. The words with which he turned from his unbelieving countrymen were these:"It was needful that the Word of God should first be spoken unto you: but inasmuch as ye reject it, and deem yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo! we turn to the Gentiles." And then he quotes a prophetical passage from their own sacred writings. "For thus hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou shouldst be for salvation to the ends of the earth." This is the first recorded instance of a scene which was often re-enacted. It is the course which Apostle Paul himself defines in his Epistle to the Romans, when he describes the Gospel as coming first to the Jew, and then to the Gentile; (Romans 1:16, 2:9. Compare Romans 11:12, 25) and it is the course which he followed himself on various occasions of his life, at Corinth, (Acts 18:6) at Ephesus, (Acts 19:9) and at Rome. (Acts 28:28)
That which was often obscurely foretold in the Old Testament, - that those should "seek after God who knew Him not," and that He should be honored by "those who were not a people;" - that which had already seen its first fulfillment in isolated cases during our Lord’s life, as in the centurion and the Syrophoenician woman, whose faith had no parallel in all the people of "Israel;" (Matthew 8:5-10, 15:21-28) - that which had received an express accomplishment through the agency of two of the chiefest of the Apostles, in Cornelius, the Roman officer at Caesarea, and in Sergius Paulus, the Roman governor at Paphos, - began now to be realized on a large scale in a whole community. While the Jews blasphemed and rejected Christ, the Gentiles "rejoiced, and glorified the Word of God." The counsels of God were not frustrated by the unbelief of His chosen people. A new "Israel," a new "election," succeeded to the former. (See Romans 11:7; and Galatians 6:16) A Church was formed of united Jews and Gentiles; and all who were destined to enter the path of eternal life were gathered into the Catholic brotherhood of the hitherto separated races. The synagogue had rejected the inspired missionaries, but the apostolic instruction went on in some private house or public building belonging to the Heathen. And gradually the knowledge of Christianity began to be disseminated through the whole vicinity. (Acts 13:49)
The enmity of the Jews, however, was not satisfied by the expulsion of the Apostles from their synagogue. What they could not accomplish by violence and calumny, they succeeded in effecting by a pious intrigue. That influence of women in religious questions, to which our attention will be repeatedly called hereafter, is here for the first time brought before our notice in the sacred narrative of Apostle Paul's life. Strabo, who was intimately acquainted with the social position of the female sex in the towns of Western Asia, speaks in strong terms of the power which they possessed and exercised in controlling and modifying the religious opinions of the men. This general fact received one of its most striking illustrations in the case of Judaism. We have already more than once alluded to the influence of the female proselytes at Damascus: and the good service which women contributed towards the early progress of Christianity is abundantly known both from the Acts and the Epistles. (See Acts 16:14, 18:2; Philippians 4:3; 1Corinthians 7:16) Here they appear in a position less honorable, but not less influential. The Jews contrived, through the female proselytes at Antioch, to win over to their cause some influential members of their sex, and through them to gain the ear of men who occupied a position of eminence in the city. Thus a systematic persecution was excited against Paul and Barnabas. Whether the supreme magistrates of the colony were induced by this unfair agitation to pass a sentence of formal banishment, we are not informed; but for the present the Apostles were compelled to retire from the colonial limits.
In cases such as these, instructions had been given by our Lord himself how His Apostles were to act. During His life on earth, He had said to the Twelve,
"Do not provide gold, nor silver, nor money in your belts, Nor a provision bag for the way, nor two coats, nor shoes, nor a staff; for the workman is worthy of his food. And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and there remain until you leave. When you come into the house, salute it;
"And if the house is indeed worthy, let your peace be upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when you leave that house or that city, shake off the dust from your feet. Truly I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city." (Matthew 10:9-15, Holy Bible in Its Original Order - A Faithful Version (HBFV) where noted)
And while Paul and Barnabas thus fulfilled our Lord’s words, shaking off from their feet the dust of the dry and sun burnt road, in token of God’s judgment on wilful unbelievers, and turning their steps eastwards in the direction of Lycaonia, another of the sayings of Christ was fulfilled, in the midst of those who had been obedient to the faith:
"Blessed are you when they shall reproach you, and shall persecute you, and shall falsely say every wicked thing against you, for My sake. Rejoice and be filled with joy, for great is your reward in heaven; for in this same manner they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12, HBFV)
Even while their faithful teachers were removed from them, and traveling across the bare uplands which separate Antioch from the plain of Iconium, the disciples of the former city received such manifest tokens of the love of God, and the power of the "Holy Spirit," that they were "filled with joy" in the midst of persecution.
The same kind of events took place here as in Antioch, and almost in the same order. (See Acts 14:1-5) The Apostles went first to the Synagogue, and the effect of their discourses there was such, that great numbers both of the Jews and Greeks (i.e. Proselytes or Heathens, or both) believed the Gospel. The unbelieving Jews raised up an indirect persecution by exciting the minds of the Gentile population against those who received the Christian doctrine. But the Apostles persevered and remained in the city some considerable time, having their confidence strengthened by the miracles which God worked through their instrumentality, in attestation of the truth of His "Word. There is an apocryphal narrative of certain events assigned to this residence at Iconium: and we may innocently adopt so" much of the legendary story, as to imagine Apostle Paul preaching long and late to crowded congregations, as he did afterwards at Assos, (Acts 20:7- 11) and his enemies bringing him before the civil authorities, with the cry that he was disturbing their households by his sorcery, or with complaints like those at Philippi and Ephesus, that he was "exceedingly troubling their city," and "turning away much people." (Acts 16:20, 19:26) We learn from an inspired source (Acts 14:4) that the whole population of Iconium was ultimately divided into two great factions (a common occurrence, on far less important occasions, in these cities of Oriental Greeks), and that one party took the side of the Apostles, the other that of the Jews. But here, as at Antioch, the influential classes were on the side of the Jews. A determined attempt was at last made to crush the Apostles, by loading them with insult and actually stoning them. Learning this wicked conspiracy, in which the magistrates themselves were involved, they fled to some of the neighboring districts of Lycaonia, where they might be more secure, and have more liberty in preaching the Gospel.
It would be a very natural course for the Apostles, after the cruel treatment they had experienced in the great towns on a frequented route, to retire into a wilder region and among a ruder population. In any country, the political circumstances of which resemble those of Asia Minor under the early emperors, there must be many districts, into which the civilization of the conquering and governing people has hardly penetrated. An obvious instance is furnished by our Eastern presidencies, in the Hindoo villages, which have retained their character without alteration, notwithstanding the successive occupations by Mohammedans and English. Thus, in the Eastern provinces of the Roman Empire there must have been many towns and villages where local customs were untouched, and where Greek, though certainly understood, was not commonly spoken. Such, perhaps, were the places which now come before our notice in the Acts of the Apostles, - small towns, with a rude dialect and primitive superstition (Acts 14:11, 12, &c) - "Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia." (Acts 14:6)
We resume the thread of our narrative with the arrival of Paul and Barnabas at Lystra. One peculiar circumstance strikes us immediately in what we read of the events in this town; that no mention occurs of any synagogue or of any Jews. It is natural to infer that there were few Israelites in the place, though (as we shall see hereafter) it would be a mistake to imagine that there were none. We are instantly brought in contact with a totally new subject, - with Heathen superstition and mythology; yet not the superstition of an educated mind, as that of Sergius Paulus, - nor the mythology of a refined and cultivated taste, like that of the Athenians, - but the mythology and superstition of a rude and unsophisticated people. Thus does the Gospel, in the person of Apostle Paul, successively clash with opposing powers, with sorcerers and philosophers, cruel magistrates and false divinities. Now it is the rabbinical master of the Synagogue, now the listening proselyte from the Greeks, that is resisted or convinced, - now the honest inquiry of a Roman officer, now the wild fanaticism of a rustic credulity, that is addressed with bold and persuasive eloquence.
These introductory remarks prepare us for considering the miracle recorded in the Acts. We must suppose that Paul gathered groups of the Lystrians about him, and addressed them in places of public resort, as a modern missionary might address the natives of a Hindoo village. But it would not be necessary in his case, as in that of Schwartz or Martyn, to have learnt the primitive language of those to whom he spoke. He addressed them in Greek, for Greek was well understood in this border-country of the Lystrians, though their own dialect was either a barbarous corruption of that noble language, or the surviving remainder of some older tongue. He used the language of general civilization, as English may be used now in a Welsh country-town like Dolgelly or Carmarthen. The subjects he brought before these illiterate idolaters of Lycaonia were doubtless such as would lead them, by the most natural steps, to the knowledge of the true God, and the belief in His Son’s resurrection. He told them, as he told the educated Athenians, of Him whose worship they had ignorantly corrupted; whose unity, power, and goodness they might have discerned through the operations of nature; whose displeasure against sin had been revealed to them by the admonitions of their natural conscience.
On one of these occasions (Acts 14:8, &c) Paul observed a cripple, who was earnestly listening to his discourse. He was seated on the ground, for he had an infirmity in his feet, and had never walked from the hour of his birth. He looked at him attentively, with that remarkable expression of the eye which we have already noticed. The same Greek word is used as when the Apostle is described as "earnestly beholding the council," and "as setting his eyes on Elymas the sorcerer." (Acts 23:1, 13: 9) On this occasion that penetrating glance saw, by the power of the Divine Spirit, into the very secrets of the cripple’s soul. Paul perceived "that he had faith to be saved." These words, implying so much of moral preparation in the heart of this poor Heathen, rise above all that is told us of the lame Jew, whom Peter, "fastening his eyes upon him with John," had once healed at the temple gate in Jerusalem. In other respects the parallel between the two cases is complete. As Peter said in the presence of the Jews, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk," so Paul said before his idolatrous audience at Lystra, "Stand upright on thy feet." And in this case, also, the word which had been suggested to the speaker by a supernatural intuition was followed by a supernatural result. The obedient alacrity in the spirit, and the new strength in the body, rushed together simultaneously. The lame man sprang up in the joyful consciousness of a power he had never felt before, and walked like those who had never had experience of infirmity.
And now arose a great tumult of voices from the crowd. Such a cure of a congenital disease, so sudden and so complete, would have confounded the most skilful and sceptical physicians. An illiterate people would be filled with astonishment, and rush immediately to the conclusion that supernatural powers were present among them. These Lycaonians thought at once of their native traditions, and crying out vociferously in their mother-tongue, - and we all know how the strongest feelings of an excited people find vent in the language of childhood, - they exclaimed that the gods had again visited them in the likeness of men, - that Jupiter and Mercury were again in Lycaonia, - that the persuasive speaker was Mercury, and his companion Jupiter. They identified Paul with Mercury, because his eloquence corresponded with one of that divinity’s attributes. He was the "chief speaker," and Mercury was the god of eloquence. And if it be asked why they identified Barnabas with Jupiter, it is evidently a sufficient answer to say that these two divinities were always represented as companions in their terrestrial expeditions, though we may well believe (with Chrysostom and others) that there was something majestically benignant in his appearance, while the personal aspect of Apostle Paul (and for this we can quote his own statements) was comparatively insignificant.
How truthful and how vivid is the scene brought before us! and how many thoughts it suggests to those who are at once conversant with Heathen mythology and disciples of Christian theology! Barnabas, identified with the Father of Gods and Men, seems like a personification of mild beneficence and provident care; while Paul appears invested with more active attributes, flying over the world on the wings of faith and love, with quick words of warning and persuasion, and ever carrying in his hand the purse of the "unsearchable riches."
The news of a wonderful occurrence is never long in spreading through a small country town. At Lystra the whole population was presently in an uproar. They would lose no time in paying due honor to their heavenly visitants. The priest attached to that temple of Jupiter before the city gates, to which we have before alluded, was summoned to do sacrifice to the god whom he served. Bulls and garlands, and whatever else was requisite to the performance of the ceremony, were duly prepared, and the procession moved amidst crowds of people to the residence of the Apostles. They, hearing the approach of the multitude, and learning their idolatrous intention, were filled with the utmost horror. They "rent their clothes," and rushed out of the house in which they lodged, and met the idolaters approaching the vestibule. There, standing at the doorway, they opposed the entrance of the crowd; and Paul expressed his abhorrence of their intention, and earnestly tried to prevent their fulfilling it, in a speech of which only the following short outline is recorded by Luke.
This address held them listening, but they listened impatiently. Even with this energetic disavowal of his divinity and this strong appeal to their reason, Paul found it difficult to dissuade the Lycaonians from offering to him and Barnabas an idolatrous worship. (Acts 14:18) There is no doubt that he was the speaker, and, before we proceed further in the narrative, we cannot help pausing to observe the essentially Pauline character which this speech manifests, even in so condensed a summary of its contents. It is full of undesigned coincidences in argument, and even in the expressions employed, with Apostle Paul's language in other parts of the Acts, and in his own Epistles. Thus, as here he declares the object of his preaching to be that the idolatrous Lystrians should "turn from these vain idols to the living God," so he reminds the Thessalonians how they, at his preaching, had "turned from idols to serve the living and true God." Again, as he tells the Lystrians that "God had, in the generations that were past, suffered the nations of the Gentiles to walk in their own ways," so he tells the Romans that "God in His forbearance had passed over the former sins of men, in the times that were gone by;" and so he tells the Athenians, (Acts 17:30) that "the past times of ignorance God had overlooked." Lastly, how striking is the similarity between the natural theology with which the present speech concludes, and that in the Epistle to the Romans, where, speaking of the Heathen, he says that atheists are without excuse;
"Indeed, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest among them, for God has manifested it to them; For the invisible things of Him are perceived from the creation of the world, being understood by the things that were made - both His eternal power and Godhead - so that they are without excuse; Because when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but they became vain in their own reasonings, and their foolish hearts were darkened. While professing themselves to be the wise ones, they became fools." (Romans 1:18-22, HBFV)
The crowd reluctantly retired, and led the victims away without offering them in sacrifice to the Apostles. It might be supposed that at least a command had been obtained over their gratitude and reverence, which would not easily be destroyed; but we have to record here one of those sudden changes of feeling, which are humiliating proofs of the weakness of human nature and of the superficial character of religious excitement. The Lycaonians were proverbially fickle and faithless; but we may not too hastily decide that they were worse than many others might have been under the same circumstances. It would not be difficult to find a parallel to their conduct among the modern converts from idolatry to Christianity. And certainly no later missionaries have had more assiduous enemies than the Jews whom the Apostles had everywhere to oppose. Certain Jews from Iconium, and even from Antioch, (Acts 14:19) followed in the footsteps of Paul and Barnabas, and endeavored to excite the hostility of the Lystrians against them. When they heard of the miracle worked on the lame man, and found how great an effect it had produced on the people of Lystra, they would be ready with a new interpretation of this occurrence. They would say that it had been accomplished, not by Divine agency, but by some diabolical magic; as once they had said at Jerusalem, that He who came "to destroy the works of the Devil" cast out devils "by Beelzebub the prince of the devils." (Matthew 12:24) And this is probably the true explanation of that sudden change of feeling among the Lystrians, which at first sight is very surprising. Their own interpretation of what they had witnessed having been disavowed by the authors of the miracle themselves, they would readily adopt a new interpretation, suggested by those who appeared to be well acquainted with the strangers, and who had followed them from distant cities. Their feelings changed with a revulsion as violent as that which afterwards took place among the "barbarous people" of Malta, (Acts 28:4-6) who first thought Apostle Paul was a murderer, and then a God.
The Jews, taking advantage of the credulity of a rude tribe, were able to accomplish at Lystra the design they had meditated at Iconium. (Acts 14:5) Apostle Paul was stoned, - not hurried out of the city to execution like Stephen, the memory of whose death must have come over Apostle Paul at this moment with impressive force, - but stoned somewhere in the streets of Lystra, and then dragged through the city-gate, and cast outside the walls, under the belief that he was dead. This is that occasion to which the Apostle afterwards alluded in the words," once I was stoned," in that long catalogue of sufferings, to which we have already referred in this chapter. Thus was he "in perils by his own countrymen, in perils by the Heathen," - "in deaths oft," - "always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in his body… Alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in his mortal flesh."(Compare 2Corinthians 4:8-12 and 11:23 27)
On the present occasion these last words were literally realized, for by the power and goodness of God he rose from a state of apparent death as if by a sudden resurrection. Though "persecuted," he was not "forsaken," - though "cast down," he was "not destroyed." "As the disciples stood about him, he rose up, and came into the city." (Acts 14:20) We see from this expression that his labors in Lystra had not been in vain. He had found some willing listeners to the truth, some "disciples" who did not hesitate to show their attachment to their teacher by remaining near his body, which the rest of their fellow-citizens had wounded and cast out. These courageous disciples were left for the present in the midst of the enemies of the truth. Jesus Christ had said, (Matthew 10:23) "when they persecute you in one city, flee to another;" and the very "next day" (Acts 14:20) Paul "departed with Barnabas to Derbe."
But before we leave Lystra, we must say a few words on one spectator of Apostle Paul's sufferings, who is not yet mentioned by Luke, but who was destined to be the constant companion of his after-years, the zealous follower of his doctrine, the faithful partner of his danger and distress. Paul came to Lystra again after the interval of one or two years, and on that occasion we are told that he found a certain Christian there, "whose name was Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess, while his father was a Greek," and whose excellent character was highly esteemed by his fellow-Christians of Lystra and Iconium. It is distinctly stated that at the time of this second visit Timothy was already a Christian; and since we know from Apostle Paul's own expression, - "my own son in the faith," - that he was converted by Paul himself, we must suppose this change to have taken place at the time of the first visit. And the reader will remember that Apostle Paul in the second Epistle to Timothy (2Timothy 3:10, 11) reminds him of his own intimate and personal knowledge of the sufferings he had endured, "at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra" - the places (it will be observed) being mentioned in the exact order in which they were visited, and in which the successive persecutions took place. We have thus the strongest reasons for believing that Timothy was a witness of Apostle Paul's injurious treatment, and this too at a time of life when the mind receives its deepest impressions from the spectacle of innocent suffering and undaunted courage. And it is far from impossible that the generous and warm-hearted youth was standing in that group of disciples, who surrounded the apparently lifeless body of the Apostle at the outside of the walls of Lystra.
We are called on to observe at this point, with a thankful acknowledgment of God’s providence, that the flight from Iconium, and the cruel persecution at Lystra, were events which involved the most important and beneficial consequences to universal Christianity. It was here, in the midst of barbarous idolaters, that the Apostle of the Gentiles found an associate, who became to him and the Church far more than Barnabas, the companion of his first mission. As we have observed above, there appears to have been at Lystra no synagogue, no community of Jews and proselytes, among whom such an associate might naturally have been expected. Perhaps Timothy and his relations may have been almost the only persons of Jewish origin in the town. And his "grandmother Lois" and "mother Eunice" (2Timothy 1:5) may have been brought there originally by some accidental circumstance, as Lydia (Acts 16:14) was brought from Thyatira to Philippi. And, though there was no synagogue at Lystra, this family may have met with a few others in some proseucha, like that in which Lydia and her fellow-worshippers met "by the river-side." (Acts 16:13) Whatever we conjecture concerning the congregational life to which Timothy may have been accustomed, we are accurately informed of the nature of that domestic life which nurtured him for his future labors. The good soil of his heart was well prepared before Paul came, by the instructions (2Timothy 1:5) of Lois and Eunice, to receive the seed of Christian truth, sown at the Apostle’s first visit, and to produce a rich harvest of faith and good works before the time of his second visit.
And now we have reached the limit of Apostle Paul's first missionary journey. About this part of the Lycaonian plain, where it approaches, through gradual undulations, to the northern bases of Mount Taurus, he was not far from that well-known pass which leads down from the central table-land to Cilicia and Tarsus. But his thoughts did not center in an earthly home. He turned back upon his footsteps; and revisited the places, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, where he himself had been reviled and persecuted, but where he bad left, as sheep in the desert, the disciples whom his Master had enabled him to gather. They needed building up and strengthening in the faith, (Acts 14:22) comforting in the midst of their inevitable sufferings, and fencing round by permanent institutions. Therefore Paul and Barnabas revisited the scenes of their labors, undaunted by the dangers which awaited them, and using words of encouragement, which none but the founders of a true religion would have ventured to address to their earliest converts, that "we can only enter the kingdom of God by passing through much tribulation." But not only did they fortify their faith by passing words of encouragement; they ordained elders in every church after the pattern of the first Christian communities in Palestine, and with that solemn observance which had attended their own consecration, and which has been transmitted to later ages in connection with ordination, - "with fasting and prayer," - they "made choice of fit persons to serve in the sacred ministry of the Church."
Thus, having consigned their disciples to Him "in whom they had believed," and who was "able to keep that which was entrusted to Him," (Acts 14:23. Compare 2Timothy 1:12) Paul and Barnabas descended through the Pisidian mountains to the plain of Pamphylia. If our conjecture is correct, that they went up from Perga in spring, and returned at the close of autumn, and spent all the hotter months of the year in the elevated districts, they would again pass in a few days through a great change of seasons, and almost from winter to summer. The people of Pamphylia would have returned from their cold residences to the warm shelter of the plain by the seaside; and Perga would be full of its inhabitants. The Gospel was preached within the walls of this city, through which the Apostles had merely passed on their journey to the interior. But from Luke’s silence it appears that the preaching was attended with no marked results. We read neither of conversions nor persecutions. The Jews, if any Jews resided there, were less inquisitive and less tyrannical than those at Antioch and Iconium; and the votaries of "Diana before the city" at Perga (see p. 143) were less excitable than those who worshipped "Jupiter before the city" at Lystra. (Acts 14:13) When the time came for returning to Syria, they did not sail down the Oestrus, up the channel of which river they had come on their arrival from Cyprus, but traveled across the plain to Attaleia, which was situated on the edge of the Pamphylian gulf.
Attaleia had something of the same relation to Perga which Cadiz has to Seville. In each case the latter city is approached by a river-voyage, and the former is more conveniently placed on the open sea. Attalus Philadelplus, king of Pergamus, whose dominions extended from the north-western corner of Asia Minor to the Sea of Pamphylia, had built this city in a convenient position for commanding the trade of Syria or Egypt. When Alexander the Great passed this way, no such city was in existence: but since the days of the kings of Pergamus, who inherited a fragment of his vast empire, Attaleia has always existed and flourished, retaining the name of the monarch who built it. Behind it is the plain through which the calcareous waters of the Catarrhactes flow, perpetually constructing and destroying and reconstructing their fantastic channels. In front of it, and along the shore on each side, are long lines of cliffs, over which the river finds its way in waterfalls to the sea, and which conceal the plain from those who look toward the land from the inner waters of the bay, and even encroach on the prospect of the mountains themselves.