The Berean Expositor
Volume 27 - Page 7 of 212
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The Acts of the Apostles.
Antioch: The centre of the second section
of the Acts (11:, 12:).
pp. 23 - 29
No student of Scripture needs to be told that a knowledge of the history of Jerusalem
is essential to the understanding of the O.T. This is so whether the point of view be the
chronicles of Israel's history, the prophecies of the minor or major prophets, the rise and
dominion of Nebuchadnezzar and his successors, or, to come to the N.T., the record of
the Gospels, the Acts, many of the epistles, and lastly the book of the Revelation. This
city dominates the opening section of the Acts. Whether it is the preaching of repentance
to Israel, or the evangelizing of JudŠa and Samaria, Jerusalem is the divinely appointed
centre. However, the second section of the Acts, which we are now to consider, takes us
outside the "promised land". Another city now comes into prominence. With this city
the evangelization of the Gentile world, the ministry of Paul and the name "Christian"
will for ever be associated.
What do we know of Antioch? With our present information, what sort of answers
should we give to a general knowledge paper covering its history and geography?
Antioch has been called the third city of the Roman Empire and its importance to all
Gentile believers is such that no apology is needed for the present article, which seeks to
bring before the reader something of the character and position of a city so intimately
associated with all that we as "Christians" hold dear.
For the sake of clearness we would remind our readers that two cities named Antioch
are mentioned in the Acts. The first is referred to in Acts 11: 19, 13: 1 & Gal. 2: 11,
and is a city of Syria, about 300 miles north of Jerusalem, whereas the second is in
Pisidia, in Asia Minor. Both were founded by Seleucas Nicator and both were named
after his father Antiochus. No place was so suited as Antioch for the great work that was
about to commence. It was called the Queen of the East, the third metropolis of the
world, and the official residence of the Imperial Legate of Syria was there.
In Paul's day, the population of the city numbered perhaps as many as 500,000 and
was composed of native Syrians, Greeks, Jews and Romans. There were the usual slaves
and artists, and the sychophants who, alas, characterized every oriental city where East
and West intermingled. So cosmopolitan was this place that Libanius said that he who
sat in the Agora of Antioch might study the customs of the world. We are indebted to the
writings of Josephus, and the books of the Maccabees for information concerning the
history and appearance of Antioch, all of which we must pass by owing to limitation of
space. Perhaps we may be justified in quoting from M. Renan's Les Apotres, a passage
which vividly brings before the mind the character of the city associated with the
evangelization of the Gentiles.