Antioch, The Base Of Operations -- By: Sherman E. Johnson

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 12:3 (Summer 1983)
Article: Antioch, The Base Of Operations
Author: Sherman E. Johnson


Antioch, The Base Of Operations

Sherman E. Johnson

[Sherman E. Johnson is Dean Emeritus, Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley, CA.]

I

“.. . and in Antioch the disciples were first dubbed Christians” (Acts 11:26). The ending -ianos in Greek, ianus in Latin, meant a partisan or follower of someone, possibly in a good sense but not necessarily so. People in Antioch of Syria heard of a group who were enthusiastic about someone called Christos. This word that once had been an adjective (“an anointed one”) had now become a surname for Jesus, and the Antiochenes fastened the title “Christians” on this group. Soon the followers of Jesus accepted it as a title of honor, as it seems to be in I Pet. 4:16, and we find Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, early in the 2nd century, using it so.

The text in Acts shows, at any rate, that the Christians were noticed.

We know much more about Antioch and the story of Christianity in that city than we do about Paul’s ministry there. The notices in the Book of Acts are sparse, but its tradition is that in the early part of his apostleship the city was Paul’s base of operations. This book pictures him as returning there after two missionary journeys and then setting out again.

II

With the exception of Paul’s ministry, we have abundant knowledge of the history of Antioch. This comes first of all from ancient Greek and Roman historians, Church Fathers and chroniclers, and especially the great orator Libanius who lived in the city in the 4th century A.D.

These sources have been supplemented in the most extraordinary way by archaeology, in particular by the excavations conducted by Princeton University from 1932 through 1939, plus aerial photographs and the study of coins, inscriptions and other artifacts. The magnificent mosaic floors uncovered by the archaeologists in Antioch and its suburbs, Daphne, throw a flood of light on the appearance of the city and the daily life of its inhabitants. Since the mosaics are mostly copied from paintings and rug designs, they enrich our knowledge of pictorial and non-representational ancient art, and can be compared with mosaic floors from Carthage and other places in the Mediterranean. Many of the floors are preserved in the museum at Antioch (Antakya), but several are to be found in the Princeton University Art Museum, other American museums, and the Louvre.

A large floor from Daphne pictures, around its borders, a woman leading a child, a man driving donkeys, and even two men playing...

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