The Sign: Tongues Part 6
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
PONTUS PONN tus — a province in northern Asia Minor (modern Turkey) mentioned in the Book of Acts. Pontus was situated on the southern shore of the Pontus Euxinus, or the Black Sea. A mountainous area broken by fertile plains, Pontus produced olives, grain, and timber.
Pontus was made part of the Galatian–Cappadocian province of the Roman Empire by Nero in A.D. 64. It is mentioned twice in the Book of Acts. People from Pontus were in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:9) and it was the birthplace of Aquila, the husband of Priscilla (Acts 18:2). The First Epistle of Peter is addressed to “the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Pet. 1:1). From this, we may assume that Christians were living in Pontus.
ASIA AY zyuh — a Roman province in western ASIA MINOR which included Mysia, Lydia, Caria, and the coastal islands as well as western Phrygia. The borders of this province were, for the most part, those of the earlier kingdom of Pergamos.
The kingdom of Pergamos gained its independence from the SELEUCIDS with help from the Romans. By the time of AUGUSTUS, the first Roman emperor (27 B.C.—A.D. 14), Asia had become a senatorial province (a Roman political division governed by a proconsul), with Pergamos as its capital.
Three cities continued to compete for the role of the principal city: Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamos—the first three cities mentioned in the Book of Revelation (see Rev. 1:11; 2:1–17). Eventually, Ephesus became the chief commercial center and was known as the most prominent city of the province. The Roman Senate granted both Ephesus and Pergamos the right to have three imperial temples for the worship of the emperors.
Although scholars disagree on the time when Ephesus became the capital, it probably occurred after the death of the Apostle Paul and perhaps as late as the time of the emperor, Hadrian (about A.D. 129). The fact that the martyr Antipas is mentioned in connection with Pergamos (Rev. 2:13) argues for the capital’s being at Pergamos during the time the Book of Revelation was written.
The governor of a senatorial province was called a PROCONSUL, and the proconsulship of Asia became one of the most prized among all in the Roman Empire. The wealth and culture of Asia were legendary. When the New Testament mentions the officers of Ephesus, the term used is asiarchs (local elected authorities), or “officials of Asia” (Acts 19:31).
The seven cities mentioned in the Book of Revelation follow two principal north-south roads of Asia, beginning with Ephesus, the largest city, and ending inland with Laodicea. John must have known these cities of Asia fairly well because each of the letters (Revelation 2–3) alludes to some important fact about that city.
At the beginning of his second missionary journey, the Apostle Paul was “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6). Thus, he made his way to Troas, the northwestern seaport of Asia, and entered Europe (Acts 16:6–10). On his return trip, however, he visited Ephesus (Acts 18:9). On his third missionary journey, he spent more than two years in ministry in this region. During this time, “all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10).
10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews, and proselytes,
PHRYGIA FRIJ ih uh — a large province of the mountainous region of Asia Minor (modern Turkey), visited by the Apostle Paul (Acts 2:10; 16:6; 18:23). Because of its size, Phrygia was made a part of other provinces. In Roman times the region was split between two provinces. The cities of Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis belonged to Asia, while Iconium and Antioch belonged to Galatia.
The Apostle Paul visited Phrygia on two journeys (Acts 13:14–14:5, 21; 16:6). He apparently also passed through Phrygia on his third journey (Acts 18:22–24), although his letter to the Colossians suggests he did not found a church there (Col. 2:1). Jews who were at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost may have been the first Phrygian converts (Acts 2:10). Jews settled in Phrygia during the SELEUCID period. Some of them apparently adopted non-Jewish practices. Consequently, strict Jews became hostile to new ideas (Acts 13:44–14:6).
PAMPHYLIA pam FIL ih uh (a region of every tribe) — a Roman province on the southern coast of central Asia Minor (modern Turkey). The province consisted mainly of a plain about 130 kilometers (80 miles) long and up to about 32 kilometers (20 miles) wide. The capital city of Pamphylia, its largest city, was Perga (Acts 13:13–14).
Pamphylia is first mentioned in the New Testament in Acts 2:10. People from Pamphylia were among those present in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. In Pamphylia Paul first entered Asia Minor (Acts 13:13) during his first missionary journey. It was at Pamphylia that John Mark left Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:38). On his voyage to Rome, Paul sailed off the coast of Pamphylia (Acts 27:5).
This was that extensive country, well known, on the south of the Mediterranean, watered by the Nile. It extends 600 miles from north to south, and from 100 to 120 east and west. The language used there was the Coptic. At present, the Arabic is spoken. Vast numbers of Jews dwelt in Egypt, and many from that country would be present at the great feasts at Jerusalem. In this country, the first translation of the Old Testament was made, which is now called the Septuagint.
and in the parts of Libya
LIBYA LIB ih uh — a country of northern Africa west of Egypt (Ezek. 27:10), also called Phut (Ezek. 27:10, KJV) or Put (NIV, NRSV). Some people who lived in “the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene” (Acts 2:10) were in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. Simon, the man who carried Jesus’ cross, was from Cyrene, the New Testament name for Libya (Matt. 27:32).
CYRENE sigh REE neh — a city on the north coast of Africa founded by Dorian Greeks about 630 B.C. Cyrene was later the capital of the Roman province of Cyrenaica (ancient and modern Libya). Midway between Carthage and Alexandria—about 160 kilometers (100 miles) northeast of modern Benghazi—the city was built on a beautiful tableland nearly 610 meters (2,000 feet) above sea level.
Less than 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the sea, Cyrene attracted travelers and commerce of every kind. The city was renowned as an intellectual center; Carneades, the founder of the new Academy at Athens, and Aristippus, the Epicurean philosopher, and friend of Socrates, were among its distinguished citizens. The city surrendered to Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. and passed into the hands of Rome in 96 B.C.
Although Cyrene is not mentioned in the Old Testament, it was an important city in New Testament times because of its large Jewish population. A Cyrenian named Simon was pressed into service to carry the cross of Jesus (Matt. 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26). Cyrenians were present at Pentecost (Acts 2:10) and were converted and subsequently scattered in the persecution that followed Stephen’s death (Acts 11:19–20).
Once a very populous city, Cyrene declined for several reasons. In a Jewish revolt in A.D. 115–116, over 200,000 inhabitants of the city were killed in the rioting. A disastrous earthquake in A.D. 365 contributed to its further decline. With the Arab invasion of A.D. 642, the city came to an end. The site is now a wasteland occupied by Bedouins.
and strangers of Rome,
This literally means, "Romans dwelling, or tarrying;" i.e., at Jerusalem. It may mean either that they were permanently fixed, or only tarrying at Jerusalem. They were doubtless Jews who had taken up their residence in Italy and had come to Jerusalem to attend the great feasts. The language which they spoke was the Latin. Great numbers of Jews were at that time dwelling at Rome. Josephus says, that there were eight synagogues there. The Jews are often mentioned by the Roman writers. There was a Jewish colony across the Tiber from Rome. When Judea was conquered, about sixty years before Christ, vast numbers of Jews were taken captive and carried to Rome. But they had much difficulty in managing them as slaves. They pertinaciously adhered to their religion, observed the Sabbath, and refused to join in the idolatrous rites of the Romans. Hence they were freed and lived by themselves across the Tiber.
Native born Jews, or descendants of Jewish families.
PROSELYTE PROS eh lite — a convert from one religious belief or party to another. In the New Testament (Matt. 23:15; Acts 2:10), the term is used in a specific sense to designate Gentile converts who had committed themselves to the teachings of the Jewish faith or who were attracted to the teachings of Judaism. A full-fledged proselyte, or convert, to Judaism, underwent circumcision and worshiped in the Jewish temple or synagogue. They also observed all rituals and regulations concerning the Sabbath, clean and unclean foods, and all other matters of Jewish custom.