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.