corner graphic

Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


Resource Toolbox
Additional Links


1. In Syria.-About 20 miles from the Mediterranean, the Orontes, turning abruptly westward, enters a fertile plain, 10 miles long and 5 wide, which separates the great Lebanon range from the last spurs of the Taurus. Here Seleucus Nicator, after his defeat of Antigonus at Issus in 301 b.c., discovered an ideal site for the capital of his Syrian kingdom, the Asiatic portion of the vast empire of Alexander the Great, and here he built the most famous of the 16 Antiochs which he founded in honour of his father Antiochus. Planned by Xenarius, the original city occupied the level ground between the river and Mt. Silpius, and, like all the Hellenistic foundations in Syria, it had two broad colonnaded streets intersecting at the centre, or Omphalus. The Seleucid kings vied with one another in extending and adorning their metropolis. A second quarter was added on the eastern side, perhaps by Antiochus I.; a third, the ‘New City,’ was built by Seleucus Callinicus on an island-similar to the island in the Seine at Paris-which has since disappeared, probably owing to one of those seismic disturbances to which the region has always been peculiarly subject; and a fourth, on the lowest slopes of Silpius, was the work of Antiochus Epiphanes. Henceforth the city was known as a Tetrapolis, or union of four cities (Strabo, xvi. ii. 4). Such was the magnificent Greek substitute for the ancient and beautiful but too essentially Semitic capital of Syria-Damascus. A navigable river and a fine seaport-Seleucia of Pieria-made it practically a maritime city, while caravan roads converging from Arabia and Mesopotamia brought to it the commerce of the East. It attained its highest political importance in the time of Antiochus the Great, whose power was shattered by the Romans at Magnesia. In 83 b.c. it fell into the hands of Tigranes of Armenia, from whom it was wrested by the Roman Republic in 65 b.c. Thereafter it was the capital of the province of Syria, and the residence of the Imperial legate. Pompey made it a civitas libera, and such it remained till the time of Antoninus Pius, who made it a colonia. The early emperors often visited it, and embellished it with new streets and public buildings.

During the Jewish wars (69 b.c.) ‘Vespasian took with him his army from Antioch, which is the metropolis of Syria, and without dispute deserves the place of the third city in the habitable world that is under the Roman Empire, both in magnitude and in other marks of prosperity’ (Job. Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) iii. ii. 4). In the 4th cent. Chrysostom estimated the population at 200,000, of whom 100,000 were then Christians, and probably he did not reckon slaves and children.

Antioch was called ‘the Beautiful’ (ἡ καλή [Athen. i. p. 20]), but its moral repute was never high. ‘In no city of antiquity was the enjoyment of life so much the main thing, and its duties so incidental, as in “Antioch upon Daphne,” as the city was significantly called’ (Mommsen, Prov. 2, 1909, ii. 128). The pleasure-garden of Daphne, 5 miles from the city, 10 miles in circumference, with its sanctuary of Apollo, its groves of laurel and cypress, its sparkling fountains, its colonnades and halls and baths, has come down through history with an evil name. Daphnici mores were proverbial, and Juvenal flung one of his wittiest jibes at his own decadent Imperial city when he said that the Orontes had flowed into the Tiber (Sat. iii. 62), flooding Rome with the superstition and immorality of the East. The brilliant civilization and perfect art of the Greek failed to redeem the turbulent, fickle, and dissolute character of the Syrian. Instead of either race being improved by the contact, each rather infected the other with its characteristic vices. Cicero flattered Antioch as a city of ‘most learned men and most liberal studies’ (pro Arch. iii.), but the sober verdict of history is different.

‘Amidst all this luxury the Muses did not find themselves at home; science in earnest and not less earnest art were never truly cultivated in Syria and more especially in Antioch.… This people valued only the day. No Greek region has so few memorial-stones to shown as Syria; the great Antioch, the third city of the empire, has-to say nothing of the land of hieroglyphics and obelisks-left behind fewer inscriptions than many a small African or Arabian village’ (Mommsen, op. cit. 130, 131f.)

No city, however, after Jerusalem, is so closely associated with the Apostolic Church. From its very foundation it had in its population a strong Jewish element, attracted by the offer of ‘privileges equal to those of the Macedonians and Greeks’ (Jos. Ant. xii. iii. 1). The Jewish nation ‘had the greatest multitudes in Antioch by reason of the size of the city.… They made proselytes of a great many of the Greeks perpetually, and thereby, after a sort, brought them to be a portion of their own body’ (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) vii. iii. 3). While the Judaism of Antioch did not assimilate Hellenic culture so readily as that of Alexandria, and certainly made no such contribution to the permanent thought of the world, it yet did much to prepare the city for the gospel. ‘Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch,’ who was early won to Christianity, and is named among the Seven of the Jerusalem Church (Acts 6:5), was evidently one of that great number of Antiochene Greeks who had previously felt the spell of the Jewish faith. And it was the mixture of national element in the Church of Antioch-pure Greeks with Greek-speaking Jews-that peculiarly fitted her to play a remarkable part in the Apostolic Age. Her distinction was that, while unquestionably the daughter of the Jewish Christian community at Jerusalem, full of filial gratitude and devotion, she became the first Gentile Church, and the mother of all the others. The diaspora that followed the death of Stephen brought many fugitive Jewish Christian preachers to Antioch, and some Cypriotes and Cyrenians among them inaugurated a new era by going beyond the Hellenist Jews for an audience and preaching to ‘the Greeks also’ (Acts 11:20). καὶ πρὸς τοὺς Ἕλληνας is probably the correct reading, in spite of ‘many ancient authorities’ who have Ἑλληνιστάς; otherwise the historian’s words would be singularly pointless. The new evangelism resulted in many conversions (Acts 11:21), and the vigilant Church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas down, if not to assist in the work, at least to supervise it. It was the merit of Barnabas that he could not be a mere onlooker. Grasping the situation, and flinging himself impetuously into the novel movement, he went, apparently without consulting anybody, to Tarsus to summon Paul to his lifework. In Antioch the two men exercised a united and fruitful ministry for a year (Acts 11:22-26). It was at this time and in this place that ‘the disciples were first called Christians’ (Acts 11:26), the designation probably coming from the lively populace, who quickly noted the new phenomenon in their midst, and justified their reputation for the invention of nicknames. Their wit never spared anybody who seemed worthy of their attention.

‘The only talent which indisputably belonged to them-their mastery of ridicule-they exercised not merely against the actors of their stage, but no less against the rulers sojourning in the capital of the East, and the ridicule was quite the same against the actor as against the emperor.’ While Julian ‘met their sarcastic sayings with satirical writings, the Antiochenes at other times had to pay more severely for their evil speaking and their other sins’ (Mommsen, Provinces, ii. 134, 135).

But the ‘Christians’ gratefully accepted the mocking sobriquet bestowed upon them, changing it into the most honourable of all titles (cf. 1 Peter 4:16). And the first Gentile Church was now to become the first missionary Church. While Antioch was never wanting in respect for Jerusalem, contributing liberally to its poor in a time of famine, and consulting its leaders in all matters of doctrine and practice, her distinguishing characteristic was her evangelistic originality. Her heart was not in Judaea but in the Roman Empire. The fresh ideas of Christian liberty and Christian duty, which the mother-Church at Jerusalem was slow to entertain, found ready acceptance in the freer atmosphere of the Syrian capital. That the victory over Judaism was not easily won even there is proved by the fact that not only Peter but Barnabas vacillated under the alternate influence of cosmopolitan liberalism and Judaea n narrowness, till Paul’s arguments and rebukes convinced them of their error (Galatians 2:4-14). But contact with the great world and sympathy with its needs probably did more than the force of reason to lighten the Antiochene Church of the dead-weight of Judaism. Christians of Hellenic culture and Roman citizenship taught her a noble universalism, and it was accordingly at the instance of the Church of Antioch that the Council of Jerusalem sent to the Gentile converts a circular letter which became the charter of spiritual freedom (Acts 15:23-29). Above all, it was from Antioch that Paul started on each of his missionary journeys (Acts 11:1-3; Acts 15:36; Acts 18:23), and to Antioch that he returned again and again with his report of fresh conquests (Acts 14:26; Acts 18:22). It was master-minds of Christian Antioch who at length changed the pathetic dream of ‘a light to lighten the Gentiles’ into a reality.

Antioch gave rise to a school of Christian thought which was distinguished by literal interpretation of the Scriptures and insistence upon the human limitations of Jesus. Theodore of Mopsuestia was one of its best representatives. Between the years 252 and 380, ten Councils were held at Antioch. Antakiyeh is now but a meagre town of 600 inhabitants, though its environs ‘are even at the present day, in spite of all neglect, a blooming garden and one of the most charming spots on earth’ (Mommsen, ii. 129).

Literature.-C. O. Müller, Antiquitates Antiochenœ, Göttingen, 1839; Conybeare-Howson, St. Paul, London, 1872, i. 149ff.; W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and Roman Citizen, do. 1895, also Church in Rom. Emp., do. 1893, chs. ii.-vii., xvi.; A.C. McGiffert, Apostolic Age, Edinburgh, 1897; C. v. Weizsäcker, Apostolic Age, Eng. translation , London, 1897.

2. In Pisidia (Acts 13:14 Revised Version , . τὴν Πισιδίαν, ‘Pisidian Antioch,’ which is the correct reading, instead of . τῆς Πισιδίας).-This city was probably founded by Seleucus Nicator (301-280 b.c.) about the same time as Syrian Antioch, being another of the many cities which he called after his father Antiochus. It was intended as a garrison town and a centre of Hellenic influence in the heart of Asia Minor, commanding the great trade route between Ephesus and the Cilician Gates. Guided by Strabo’s description of the place (xii. viii. 14), as standing ‘on a height’ to the south of a ‘backbone of mountains, stretching from east to west,’ Arundell identified it in 1833 with the extensive ruins of Yalowatch, on the skirts of the long Sultan Dagh, about 3600ft. above sea-level, overlooking the great plain which is drained by the river Anthios.

After the battle of Magnesia (190 b.c.), which cost Antiochus the Great the whole of his dominions north of the Taurus, the Romans made Antioch a free city. In 39 b.c. Mark Antony gave it to king Amyntas, after whose death in 25 b.c. it became a city of the vast Roman province of Galatia. At some time before 6 b.c., Augustus raised it to the rank of a colony-Pisidarum colonia Cœsarea (Pliny, Historia Naturalis (Pliny) v. 24)-and made it the governing and military centre of the southern half of the province. Its importance increased when the first emperors found it necessary to pacify the ‘barbarian’ high-landers of Pisidia. ‘In the mountain-land proper no trace of Hellenistic settlement is found, and still less did the Roman senate apply itself to this difficult task. Augustus did so; and only here in the whole Greek coast we meet a series of colonies of Roman veterans evidently intended to acquire this district for peaceful settlement’ (Mommsen, Provinces, i. 336f.). Roman roads connected Antioch with all the other colonies founded in the district-Olbasa, Comama, Cremna, Parlais, and Lystra. The work of pacification was in especially active progress during the reign of Claudius (a.d. 41-54), in which St. Paul visited Antioch. The city was not yet ‘Antioch in Pisidia’ (Authorized Version ), being correctly styled by Strabo ‘Antioch towards Pisidia’ (. ἡ πρὸς Πισιδίᾳ καλουμένη [xii. viii. 14]), in distinction from Antioch on the Maeander; but St. Luke already calls it ‘Pisidian Antioch,’ to differentiate it from Antioch in Syria. The boundaries of Pisidia gradually moved northward till it included most of Southern Phrygia, and then ‘Antioch of Pisidia’ became the usual designation of the city. At a still later period Pisidia was constituted a Roman province, with Antioch as its capital.

On the South-Galatian theory, in the form advocated by Ramsay (Church in Rom. Emp., 74ff.), Antioch is regarded by St. Luke as belonging to the Phrygio-Galatic region (τὴν Φρυγίαν καὶ Γαλατικὴν χώραν, Acts 16:6), Phrygian being a geographical term and Galatic a political, the one used by the Greeks and the other by the Roman government. In Acts 18:23 the region is simply called ‘Phrygian,’ and if, as many think, Φρυγίαν is here to be taken as a noun, the sense is still much the same (see Galatia and Phrygia). St. Paul’s first mission to Antioch was so successful that the whole political regio of which this colony was the centre soon heard of the new faith (Acts 13:49). In no other Asian city, except Ephesus, was the influence of his preaching so far-reaching. His success was no doubt in great measure due to the strong Jewish element in the population, even though it was Jewish persecution that compelled him to leave the city for a time (Acts 13:45; Acts 13:50). The early Seleucid kings settled Jews in many of their cities, and gave them the same civic rights as the Greeks, finding them to be trusty supporters and often real Hellenizers. Antiochus the Great settled 2000 Jewish families in Lydia and Phrygia (Jos. Ant. xii. iii. 4), many of whom must have found a home in Antioch. Trade doubtless attracted others to so important a centre, and thus the Jewish leaven had been working for a long time before Christianity was introduced. Ramsay thinks that ‘the Jews are likely to have exercised greater political power among the Anatolian people, with their yielding and easily moulded minds, than in any other part of the Roman world’ (Hist. Com. on Gal., 193); and their spiritual influence was at least as great. St. Paul found many ‘devout proselytes’ in Antioch (Acts 13:43), and his presence attracted ‘the whole city’ to the synagogue (Acts 13:44). While the native Phrygian type or religious feeling was more eastern than western, and thus had a certain natural affinity with the Semitic type, the Phrygian Jews, whose laxity gave deep offence to the rigidly orthodox, no doubt increased their power among their neighbours by their freedom from bigotry. The attraction of the Jewish faith for Gentile women (τὰς σεβομένας γυναῖκας, Acts 13:50) was a familiar theme in ancient writings (Juvenal, vi. 543; Jos. Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) ii. xx. 2); and the influence of ‘women of honourable estate’ (τὰς εὐσχήμονας), not only in Antioch but in Asia Minor generally, is one of the most striking features in the social life of the country (Conybeare-Howson, St. Paul, i. 219; Ramsay, Church in Rom. Emp., 67). Strabo (loc. cit.) mentions another fact which may help to explain the rapid progress of Christianity in Antioch: ‘In this place was established a priesthood of Mçn Arcaeus, having attached to it a multitude of temple slaves and tracts of sacred territory. It was abolished after the death of Amyntas by those who were sent to settle the succession to his kingdom.’ This drastic action of the Romans had removed one of the greatest obstacles to the new faith-the vested interests of an old and powerful hierarchy.

Literature.-F. V. J. Arundell, Discoveries in Asia Minor, London, 1834, i. 281f.; Conybeare-Howson, St. Paul, do. 1872, i. 204f.; W. M. Ramsay, Hist. Com. on Gal., do. 1899, pp. 196-213, Church in Rom. Emp., do. 1893, passim; J. R. S. Sterrett, Wolfe Expedition to Asia Minor, Boston, 1888, p. 218f.

James Strahan.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Antioch'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

Search for…
Enter query in the box:
Choose a letter to browse:
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M 
N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  Y  Z 

Prev Entry
Next Entry
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology