The Perils of Pergamum -- By: Raymond L. Cox

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 06:4 (Autumn 1977)
Article: The Perils of Pergamum
Author: Raymond L. Cox

The Perils of Pergamum

Raymond L. Cox

[Raymond L. Cox, a frequent contributor to BIBLE AND SPADE, is pastor of the Salem, Oregon Foursquare Church. He has traveled extensively in Bible lands and has written over 1650 articles on biblical and archaeological subjects. In addition, he is the author of four books.]

Pergamum is mentioned in only one Biblical context. The church there was one of seven in the province of Asia to which Jesus addressed messages in the early chapters of the book of Revelation. The King James Version translates the name “Pergamos,” for what reason no one has ever satisfactorily explained. The proper rendering is “Pergamum.”

The church at Pergamum had been ministering for some decades when Jesus directed the apostle John, “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write..” (Revelation 2:12). The “angel” is generally understood to be the pastor. How did the gospel get to this heathen mecca?

There were Jews from the Roman proconsular province of Asia in the audience to which Peter preached on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 2:9). Perhaps some of them were among the 3,000 converts to Christ on that occasion. After the feast they would return to their hometowns. Since Pergamum vied with Ephesus for recognition as the leading town in the province, it’s likely that a few at least of its citizens took back the new faith to their neighbors.

Or perhaps the church was planted at Pergamum during the first two years of Paul’s residence at Ephesus during his third missionary journey. All the citizens of Pergamum heard the gospel then, for Luke reports “All they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10).

Pergamum’s ruins tower in Turkey today, but in New Testament times this whole area was inhabited by Greeks who never were rivalled as a race of colonists until the British came along. A few Greeks hung on into the 1920’s at the site where the Turkish town is now called Bergama (Turks often change P to B) which echoes the ancient name, and a church functioned there for centuries. But the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey deported the aliens and with them the last Christians.

The first time I visited Pergamum I purchased a bus ticket for the 75 mile trip from Izmir (biblical Smyrna) for the equivalent of 38 cents! That was ten years ago. Even now costs in Turkey are rock-bottom, as the Turks devalue their Lira whenever America’s dollar drops in value. I ...

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