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Saturday, August 10: Day 110 – Pergamon, Thyatira, Smyrna

The beauty of the beach must have been felt by everyone as there was boisterous singing until the wee hours of the night. (It is also the start of a week long vacation.) I woke at 5:30 and I could still hear singing… non-stop like a medley. It was over at 7:30am. It must have been time to go home and sleep. Omar said it was the young people.

We ate a breakfast fit for a king. The cats agreed. They are very persistent…kind of like shooing giant flies.


We drove by the Ida Mountains. A Canadian company was allowed by a Turkish government contract to cut down 3,000 hectares of trees. Greenpeace reported that they were cutting down 19,000. There is no government response so they smell a rat and are protesting daily.


Pergamon

Pergamon was a cultural center. Pergamon had a large library and was a rival of the library in Alexandria. Alexandria became jealous and had an embargo on papyrus and would not send any papyrus to them.

Pergamon had do something different. They used the skin of an unborn lamb (sheepskin). This Pergamon paper or parchment paper was superior because it could be recycled, both sides could be used, and one could wrap things in it. Papyrus was too fragile to carry for the early Biblical writings.
Cleopatra took some of the parchment back to Alexandria. One was not allowed to check out books from he library in those days. They were too valuable to remove. However, some librarians had taken a some books home to read so a few books survived during the time of the fire.
Trojans and Greeks fought together and defeated a bigger enemy. They were the underdogs but won. There were feasts and celebrations. They built an altar to Zeus in appreciation. The foundations remain.

This Pergamon Altar is now a showpiece in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. The reliefs depict them as gods beating the giants. Every altar must be located in a temple. Therefore, the whole mountain is a temple. There were many temples, even Egyptian temples.
In 133 B.C. King Attalus of Pergamon died. He did not have a legitimate son so he planned to give his empire to Rome. His illegitimate son started a revolt and many joined. Mithridates waged war on Roman empire and killed 80,000 Roman citizens. This was a big shock to Rome and they had to squelch it or other nations would try as well.
Julius Caesar uttered his famous words after a battle in Pergamon. “I came, I saw, I conquered.”

The 10,000 seat theatre is the steepest in the ancient world. It was built on the side of the mountain.

The road and theatre shared a common space so when the theatre was not used, they removed it. It was made of wood.

It is big business to have a temple. The temple was approved by the Emperor and became a capitol. He could collect taxes.

Trajan was Pergamon’s Emperor and they were building his temple when he died. Hadrian was the new Emperor. They asked permission to build it to him. It was approved and it would contain both names. It is the only temple dedicated to two emperors.

The only condition is that it had to be finished before he arrived. They worked day and night and were about finished when there as an earthquake. They built it quickly. It was a small temple with a large perimeter of columns around so that it seemed huge from a distance on top of the mountain. (This idea was certainly borrowed by Potemkin in the 18th century.)


Christians arrived in Pergamon in 47-48 A.D. This community was a recipient of one of the letters in Revelation. It is addressed to the Christians there.

Letter to Pergamon from the Bible

And to the angel of the church in Pergamon wrote:

The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:

13‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

14‘But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.

15‘So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

16‘Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.

17‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’

Commentary

A letter was sent to where there were “post offices”. The letters in Revelation were to different communities. They have found schools for post men. These are to a large area and if course, not to a building. However, the word of God is written for all times and we learn from these letters what a good and bad church looked like.

Antipas was one of the first Christian martyrs. Some scholars believe that the throne on the Pergamon altar was Satan’s throne.

Israelites had returned to pagan ways in the days of Baalam that we read in the book of Numbers.

Followers of Nichols were called Nicolitians. They professed belief in Jesus but lived like pagans. They claimed that belief is all that matters. You can eat meat sacrificed to idols. You can have sex outside of marriage; all that matters is that you believe. THIS IS WRONG THINKING. Sadly, this is what many Christians in the West are doing and professing. A Christian will be known by the fruit he bears.

People could not read but they had ears. A drum was sounded when information was given. Boom boom could be heard a great distance and everyone got their news this way. They could not read. Therefore, you can’t claim that you did not know. No excuses. You will hear it and spread it.

If one doesn’t hear the good news, it is the Christian’s fault. This is a grave reminder to all Christians; if someone does not hear, it’s our fault…our sin. For someone to hear, someone has to tell.

Manna is God’s provision for us. His care will continue in heaven. We will eat from the tree of life.

The white stone has several meanings:

There is a Greek tradition that begins in the army where deep friendships are formed. Two men write their names are on a white stone and they are exchanged. When one soldier gives his stone to his child, for example, the child can seek that other soldier out and present it to him. He will KNOW who it came from and will take are of the person who has the white stone.

Secondly, a gladiators slave name is changed to a freedom name on a white stone which he carries to show that he is free.

Lastly, when a person is accused of a crime, the judge handed down the verdict with a black stone indicating guilty or a white stone which frees the person and he is not guilty.

All three of these meanings could apply to this passage.


Thyatira

Pergamon King Attolus II established a garrison in 3rd century BC. The garrison had supporting business of iron and metal works for weapons and sheilds for the soldiers. Also, prostitutes were prevalent.

Only members of guilds could donate money to Apollo, have shops, burn incense, have idols, or sing hymns. Therefore, Christians could not have businesses and were poor.

Persecution of Christians was not just religious, it was economics as well. They could not make money to even buy a grave. There were no signs of Christian graves.

In the 2nd century AD the Pope got permission from the Emperor that the poor Christians must have a grave. This is when the catacombs in Rome were established. Here is the first time that a cross was used to denote a Christian. Up until this time, a fish was used.

Two shekels/year were collected to send to the synagogue in Jerusalem. Once the temple was destroyed, the Jews asked if they could give their money to the local authorities instead.

In return, we want to be able to observe our Sabbath, not serve in the army, and support our businesses. The Jews accepted the rules of the city.

Church buildings began to be built by the 4th century. The church remnants in Thyatira are from the 5th century.

The modern bustling city of Akhisar is a bustling city of 100,000. Akhisar means white castle. Hmmm. I wonder if the hamburger chain in the USA should change to Akhisar.

Akhisar is built on top of the ancient city of Thyatira so excavation is difficult. The excavation site is small.


Letter to Thyatira from the Bible with Commentary

18And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write:

The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this:

There was a Temple of Apollo. He was a god but also a son of a god. This verse purposes refers to Son of God which is Jesus NOT Apollo.

Also, metalworks were big business here so references to fine brass, a mix of tin and copper would be known.

19‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.

20‘But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.

Jezebel was the evil queen of King Ahab. We read about her wickedness in the Old Testament. Ahab did not try to stop her. Jezebel leads those around her to do things that God forbids.

21‘I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality.

God is so patient. We are called to repent.

22‘Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.

Again, her immorality can cause physical and spiritual sickness. This could even refer to venereal diseases. Repentance is offered not once, not twice, but three times!!

23‘And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.

If you are evil and do evil things, it is likely that your children will as well.

24‘But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them—I place no other burden on you.

Ones who run from evil that is all around you, that is enough to show your faithfulness. God won’t require anymore.

25‘Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.

Keep and secure your faith.

26‘He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS;

27AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father;

Overcomers of evil and keepers of the faith will share in the blessing of heaven.

28and I will give him the morning star.

29‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’


Smyrna

Smyrna is in the modern city of Izmir with a population of 5 million. It is the third largest city and on the Aegean Sea exporting many containers at its ports.

Normally, the streets are very crowded but today traffic is light. Tomorrow is a big Muslim holiday called Eid al-Adha meaning Festival of the Sacrifice.

This celebration is about Abraham and the sacrifice of his son. (Judeo-Christians understand this to be Issac, whereas Muslims claim Ishmael.) Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son but God sent a different sacrifice.

Jesus is the sacrifice that we accept as sinners and is God’s only son.

During Eid, the lamb is bound except for the right hand leg. It is sacrificed and then there is feasting. Half is given to others would cannot afford a lamb. The eldest son hosts and it is a time for visiting relatives. Monetary gifts might be given to the children. It lasts 4 days. The first day is sacrifice. Today the younger ones use this time off to go on vacation.


Ancient Smyrna is on a hill. The Lydians founded a small village there but it was wiped out. The second founder was Alexander the Great. He had a vision from Athena that told him to extend Smyrna toward the sea from the hill.

We are able to see part of a wall from that time and also a bare spot where a theatre once stood. They plan to excavate and are starting to relocate people. The agora was the meeting place and had shops of all sizes.

Polycarp was an Apostle of John. At 86 years old, his companions took him to Philadelphia since he was a bishop and they were starting to persecute Christians. While he was gone, the governor of Smyrna was killing Christians until he returned. He returned and they asked him to denounce Jesus in front of everyone.

“I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong.” “How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? You threaten me with a fire that burns for a season, and after a little while is quenched; but you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment that is prepared for the wicked.”

Polycarp was burned at the stake and was pierced with a spear for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor.

He was smiling and there was no smell of burned flesh but only that of myrrh. Smyrna means myrrh.

The agora was built in the 2nd century. It had two floors. On the ground floor, there were shops and the numerous arches supported the portico above.

Letter to Smyrna from the Bible with Commentary

8And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:

The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:

This refers to Jesus of course but also was significant to the people of Smyrna. Their city was obliterated and burned (dead) and Alexander the Great brought it back to life 300 years later.

9‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

Riches are your spiritual blessings. How can you be poor? Real Jews are accepting Jesus as the Messiah. You are experiencing difficulties but still didn’t deny.

10‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

There was a court but Romans don’t have prisons. Courts with their sentences were carried out immediately. They would not spend their resources on prisoners.

One could be a lawyer if they could read and write. The courts on the ground floor have some original graffiti. Prison may have meant that they were headed to be martyred.

This verse may serve to recall how Daniel in the Old Testament was in a Babylonian jail for 10 days prior to wrestling Babylonians. He was more powerful, not weaker. Tribulations make you stronger.

11‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’

Second death refers to eternal separation from God…forever.


It was a full day. We arrived at our hotel for the next few days. It is a charming 18th century Greek home with antiques and wall frescoes throughout. We used the outdoor pool after long hot days. The property was large with amazing sunsets.

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