PAUL'S FIRST MISSIONARY JOURNEY
A GEOGRAPHICAL OVERVIEW
Where did Paul and Barnabas begin their missionary journey?
How did Paul know where to go?
Where did Paul and Barnabas go?
Seleucia was founded by Seleucus Nicator and is his place of burial. It was the port city for Antioch and lay about sixteen miles away. It was the busiest harbor in Syria and considered invulnerable because of the protection of surrounding mountains and its great fortifications. It did, however, change hands several times before Pompey made it a free city in 64 BC. It flourished under the Romans who built many public buildings and beautiful gates. Although the city is now in ruins, it is still impressive. The stones which made up the piers were twenty feet long, five feet deep, and six feet wide. A great canal was built out of solid rock to carry water from the mountains directly into the sea to avoid flooding (3,074 feet long with an average depth of twenty feet).
Cyprus, the home of Barnabas (cf. Acts 4:36), is an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It was the home for a large Jewish population, especially since Augustus leased the extensive copper mines on the island to Herod the Great.
Salamis, the largest city on Cyprus in Paul’s day, lies on the east edge of the island and is about 130 miles from Seleucia and the mainland of Syria. It boasted a large Jewish population with a number of synagogues. Although Paul did not revisit Salamis, Barnabas no doubt did (cf. Acts 15:39). Tradition states that Barnabas was martyred in Salamis during Nero’s reign.
Paphos, the most important town in western Cyprus, was the Roman center of government. It was also a center of the worship of the goddess Aphrodite, whose worship was very sensual in nature. Athanasius, a famous church father, referred to her as the "deification of lust." Here Paul was used by God to bring about the conversion of the Roman governor.
Perga was an important town in Paul’s day. It was a provincial capital and seaport on the Mediterranean coast and was situated near the mouth of the Cestris River. There must not have been a very large Jewish population for although we are told Paul preached here (cf. Acts 14:25), no mention is made of a synagogue. The city was a center for the worship of the Roman goddess, Artemis, who was known as the "queen of Perga." Perga never became a strongly Christian community, although for a time there was a church there. Today ruins of an immense theater can be seen which seated about 13,000 people.
Antioch in Pisidia was another community founded by Seleucus Nicator and named after his father. After the battle of Magnesia in 190 BC, the Romans made Antioch a free city. In 39 BC Mark Antony gave the city to King Amyntas of Galatia, after whose death in 25 BC it together with his entire kingdom became part of the Roman province called Galatia. In the year 6 BC Augustus made it a Roman colony and the military center of southern Galatia. In was a center of trade for wool, oil, skins, goat’s hair, and other goods. It boasted of many temples, theaters, and an aqueduct, the ruins of which can still be seen. It had a rather large Jewish population dating back to the city’s founding.
Iconium lies nearly ninety miles east southeast of Pisidian Antioch. The city and its name survive today in modern Konya, the capital of the Turkish province of the same name. It was and still is an important junction of the main east west roads of that area. It became an important center of Christianity. A church council was held there in 235 AD. Iconium is one of the few places where the Christian religion has never entirely been suppressed. Even today a school is maintained for the Christian training of young Armenian, Greek, and Turkish boys.
Lystra, which seems to have been a center of education and enlightenment in Paul’s day, was made a Roman colony by Augustus. It lay about eighteen miles southwest of Iconium. Very little else is known about this mission area explored by Paul and Barnabas.
Derbe lay on the Via Sebaste, or Imperial Road, just thirty miles southeast of Lystra. That section of the Via Sebaste was built by Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, the "Quirinius" who was governor of Syria when Jesus was born (cf. Luke 2:2). Derbe was a frontier town on the edge of the Roman province of Galatia. It was, therefore, a customs station for all trade entering the province.
Attalia, a seaport town in Pamphylia, was founded by Attalus II Philadelphus about 150 BC. It doesn’t appear that Paul did any mission work here, but it was the point of his departure at the end of his first missionary journey. Later there was a small Christian community in Attalia, which would indicate that Paul must have done some preaching, or that believers from surrounding areas brought the message into this community.
Where did Paul and Barnabas end their missionary journey?
Discuss the challenges facing Paul and Barnabas with regard to the travel conditions of their day, as well as, the advantages and disadvantages of Roman imperial rule for their mission efforts. Compare the challenges Paul and Barnabas faced with the challenges faced by modern Christian missionaries.
Paul and Barnabas were sent out by the congregation in Antioch. In the same way we call and send out missionaries today. Discuss ways in which we might be able to support our missionaries as they carry the gospel to other parts of our world.