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The First City Of The East

Antioch (a Greek name pronounced an-tee-awkh-ee-ah) was a major city of Syria (not to be confused with Antioch in Pisidia, in Turkey), on the Orontes River, about 16 miles inland from The Mediterranean Sea and 300 miles north of Jerusalem. After the decline of the Greek Empire (see Ancient Empires - Greece), the Romans (see Ancient Empires - Rome) made Antioch the capital city of the surrounding Roman Province, after which it rose to become one of the three most important cities of the Roman empire for some time, after Rome, to the west in Europe, and Alexandria, to the southwest in Egypt. Antioch became known as "the first city of the East."

"And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch"

Christianity took root in Antioch very early after Christ's ascension. Nicolas, a converted man from Antioch, was chosen by the apostles as one of "the seven" (see Deacon and Deaconess).


"6:3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of The Holy Ghost [see also The Cure For The Carnal Mind] and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 6:4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. 6:5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip [see Philip The Evangelist], and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch [see Proselytes]: 6:6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them." (Acts 6:3-6 KJV)

After the martyrdom [see Martyrs] of Stephen, one of the seven, the Christians of Jerusalem were widely scattered. Many found their way to Antioch which became a major Christian center; "the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch" (Acts 11:26 KJV), although the term Christian was not originally meant in a positive way (see Christianos).

"11:19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. 11:20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians [see also Hellenists], preaching the Lord Jesus. 11:21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.

11:22 Then Tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. 11:23 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. 11:24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.

11:25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul [see Saul Of Tarsus]: 11:26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." (Acts 11:19-26 KJV)

It was from Antioch that Barnabas and Saul (later to be known as the apostle Paul; ironically, it was Paul's pre-conversion persecution of Christians that drove many of them to Antioch) were sent on what eventually became known as Paul's First Missionary Journey.

"13:1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain Prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch [see Tetrarch and The Herods], and Saul. 13:2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. 13:3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. 13:4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus." (Acts 13:1-4 KJV)

About two years later, Paul returned to Antioch after a successful journey for the Gospel.

"14:26 And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. 14:27 And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. 14:28 And there they abode long time with the disciples." (Acts 14:26-28 KJV)

According to The Lord's purpose for him, Paul became The Apostle To The Gentiles. The council's famous letter to the Gentile Christians at Antioch attests to how Christianity was not merely transplanted there, but moreover grew there of itself.

"15:22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: 15:23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The Apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:

15:24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment [see What Law Was Nailed To The Cross?]: 15:25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 15:26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15:27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 15:29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood [see Clean and Unclean], and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

15:30 So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle [see Epistles]: 15:31 Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. 15:32 And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. 15:33 And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles. 15:34 Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still. 15:35 Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also." (Acts 15:22-35 KJV)

As explained in the letter to the Gentiles above, while they were not subject to things that were specific to Jews, that did not mean that God's Law was "done away" (see Grace Into Licentiousness and again, What Law Was Nailed To The Cross?). When Peter, the apostle to the Jews, came to Antioch, that subject was the point of contention between Paul (see Paul's Ministry) and Peter (see Peter's Ministry).

"2:11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 2:12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 2:13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 2:14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?" (Acts 2:11-14 KJV)

Fact Finder: In what ways were the apostles Peter and Paul very different? In what ways were they exactly the same?
See Peter and Paul

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