Archaeology and the Cities of Paul’s First Missionary Journey Part III: Archaeology and Paul’s Visit to Iconium, Lystra and Derbe -- By: Merrill F. Unger

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 118:470 (Apr 1961)
Article: Archaeology and the Cities of Paul’s First Missionary Journey Part III: Archaeology and Paul’s Visit to Iconium, Lystra and Derbe
Author: Merrill F. Unger


Archaeology and the Cities of Paul’s First Missionary Journey
Part III:
Archaeology and Paul’s Visit to Iconium, Lystra and Derbe

Merrill F. Unger

[Editor’s Note: This article is the third in a series of three on the general subject, “Archaeology and the Cities of Paul’s First Missionary journey.”]

Driven out of Pisidian Antioch by mob violence instigated by unbelieving Jews, the missionaries took to the Royal Road toward Lystra, but turned aside to visit Iconium first (present-day Konia). This was a journey of somewhat more than one hundred miles, but not nearly so rigorous as the ardent trip from Perga to Pisidian Antioch had been.

The city to which Paul and Barnabas took the gospel was a garden spot, situated in the midst of orchards and farms, but surrounded by deserts. Very similar in elevation, topography, and beauty to Syrian Damascus, Iconium must have looked inviting to the travel-worn soldiers of the cross after traversing the desolate tablelands along their route.

1. Location of Iconium and the Accuracy of Luke. Until the work of Sir William Ramsay in the first decade and a half of the twentieth century, the historical reliability of The Acts as a bona fide work of Luke was widely denied. An important detail of this critical suspicion existed in the matter of Luke’s clear implication in Acts 14:6 that Iconium was in Phrygia as distinguished from Derbe and Lystra which are said to be “cities of Lycaonia.” Despite the fact that Xenophon1 and Pliny2 agree with Luke in listing it among Phrygian cities, the fact that Cicero3 and Strabo4 assign it to Lycaonia, caused criticism to side against the genuineness of Lukan authorship and accuracy.

In 1910 Ramsay recovered the now well-known inscribed monument which demonstrated that Iconium was such a thoroughly Phrygian city that the Phrygian tongue was still employed in dedicatory notices as late as the middle of the third century A.D.5 Numbers of other inscriptions from Iconium

and its environs substantiate the fact that racially the city could be described as Phrygian and administratively as Galatian. When Paul visited the city, it was one of the important centers of population in the southern part of the Roman province of Galatia.

Emperor Claudius conferred on the city the title of Claudiconium, which appears on its coins, but not until the t...

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