Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Following The Spread of the Early Church in Photos

Our ten day holiday from the end of August to the beginning of September was one to remember forever.  It gave us so much insight and a deeper understanding of how the early apostles carried the Good News of Jesus and the Kingdom of God to the then known world, and how it spread from there to be by far the largest "religion" in today's world.

We took over a thousand photographs!  Here we have selected just some of them to help you catch for yourselves something of what we experienced.

We flew to Thessaloniki and travelled by bus to Kavala, the old Neapolis where Paul and others landed before travelling the 10km inland to Philippi, the leading city in Macedonia at their time.

The numerous earthquakes have taken their toll on the Roman and hitherto Greek (Hellenistic) cities they visited, but still a lot is standing.  Even where there is little remaining from that era, at least the geography of the places is there to understand the locations.

In Acts 16, Paul, Silas, and Timothy traveled by foot through Turkey to Troy on the northwest coast.

After the Holy Spirit closed the doors to them to visit other places in Turkey, Paul had a vision in which a Macedonian man (a very tall race) called him to cross the sea to them.  Luke joined them as they set sail in a small ship towards Macedonia, stopping overnight on the island of Samothrace, with the coast of Macedonia in sight. Samothrace is visible on the horizon beyond the harbour of Kavala, previously known as Neapolis,
founded 700 yrs BC and
 today a busy fishing port.

From this lovely spot, Paul and his companions walked along the Egnatian Way, the ancient Roman road that stretched from Neapolis to Brindisi in the foot of Italy!
The tarmac road covers much of this today, but it was thrilling to walk along a section of it on our way inland to Philippi like Paul and co. It crosses a pass then follows the valley, past two big natural lakes on the banks of which lie Amphipolis (a town built on both sides of a river) and Apollonia, both mentioned in Paul's travels.
Philippi, being the capital of Macedonia, was huge and there is still lots more to be excavated. The Romans had occupied this ancient Greek city by Paul's time.  Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke made their way to the River Zegato at the foot of the hill of Philippi. There they met with Jews who gathered there to pray on the Sabbath.  Lydia, a wealthy tradeswoman from Thyatira near Troy, was one of them.  She was convinced by what Paul was preaching and, along with her household, was baptized there in
the river. The foursome stayed with her after that.

On another occasion on their way down to the river they set a slave girl free from a spirit fortune telling, much to the annoyance of her owners who would no longer get an income from her!  They dragged Paul and Silas to the authorities in the public square in the agora or forum (left) and the crowd joined in the attack.  After being whipped and beaten they were thrown into the inner gaol just to the right of the steps up from the forum with their feet secured. At midnight, as this battered pair were praying and singing, there was an earthquake which shattered their chains and burst open the doors. They stopped the frightened gaoler from killing himself,
assuring him they had chosen not to escape.  On his request they introduced him to Jesus and he and all his household were converted as they washed their wounds as they heard the stories.

The next day Paul, Silas and Timothy left along the Egnatian Way,                                                 passing through the cities of Amphipolis, built in a meander of the river, and Apollonia which both lie on the banks of two big natural lakes.  All that is left of the latter is the name given to the present day village there. According to tradition and the name of a nearby hill meaning 'of Paul' the apostles established churches there which became significant over the next few centuries. They continued on to Thessaloniki where many believed Paul's message but others opposed it and formed a mob. That night the new believers sent Paul, Silas and Timothy on to nearby Berea where they were
well received.  But the mob from Thessaloniki came hot on their heals to cause more trouble.  Some of the new believers took Paul by boat to Athens, leaving Silas and Timothy to catch up with Paul there later. This would have been several days journey, but we went by plane and stayed there in a hotel with a garden and swimming pool on the roof,  overlooking the floodlit Parthenon on top of the Acropolis - the high place of  a city with the temple of the main god or goddess.
We climbed up Mars Hill, on
which the Areopagus was built,
overlooking the Parthenon,where
philosopher Paul spent much time
debating with philosophers and the city council there. Paul did his research of Athens. The photo shows the tomb of the unknown soldier, but Paul found a shrine to the unknown god (built in case the Athenians had missed one of their hundreds!) and took this as his starting point to explain who the supreme God is.

TO BE CONTINUED ...... keep looking!

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