Cilicia, Cyprus, and Syria

When the apostle Paul described his native city of Tarsus in Cilicia as “no ordinary city” (Acts 21:39), he wasn’t just spouting empty hometown pride. The whole region of Cilicia, along with the city of Tarsus, already formed a key part of the Hittite Empire even before Moses’ time, and the land had been fought over by virtually all the major civilizations throughout Bible times. Likewise the island of Cyprus–the home region of Paul’s coworker Barnabas–had a similar history as an ancient and prestigious civilization. And the nearby city of Antioch, the home church of Paul and Barnabas, had once been the capital of the mighty Seleucid Empire, and by the time of Paul it was one of the largest cities in the entire Roman Empire. Antioch was where believers were first called “Christians.”

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