LETTER TO THE APOSTLE PAUL
Paul, I went on a trip to Turkey a number of years ago. Travelling with a group on a tour I saw many places you visited and lived in.
Almost 2,000 years have passed since you were there. A great deal has changed.
I didn’t go as far east as Tarsus where you were born; it was too dangerous. But 2,000 years before your time it was the ancient capital of the Hitites, a port on the Mediterranean. Now a town of 20,000 people, it’s 15 kilometres from the sea. Further east is the town of Harran where Abraham lived. People still live in the ancient domed houses built of stone.
I’ve been reading about your three missionary journeys in the book of Acts. Remember Iconium, the city far inland on the volcanic plateau with the amazing natural rock sculptures? It’s called Konya now. You and Barnabas stayed there a while and preached until you had to escape from being stoned to death.
The bussling port of Ephesus has been in ruins for centuries and the Aegean Sea has retreated several kilometres away. I walked round the ruins, wondering where you had lived. As I was standing in the horse shoe shaped theatre, I imagined what it must have been like when the townspeople shouted for two hours: “Great is Artemis, goddess of the Ephesians!”
The silversmiths making models of the temple of Artemis had started the riot of course, not wanting their business to decline because of Jesus. You would be pleased to know, Paul, that the temple is gone. There are just a few scattered rocks sinking into the swamp.
I visited Patara, but there’s not much to see of the ruins in the sand dunes. It’s a nature reserve for breeding turtles now. A man called Saint Nicolas was born there aboutt 250 years after you visited. The story they tell about him now, is of a fat man dressed in red with a long white beard, who is supposed to come down your chimney and leave presents at Christmas. He doesn’t have much similarity to the real Saint Nicolas who was the Archbishop of Myra.
I remember reading that you stopped at Myra on your way back to Jerusalem on your third trip. What did you think of those tombs high in the cliff face, carved 500 years before you were born? I think they really look impressive with the big pilars in front.
Miletus is in ruins too. Hard for you to believe it when it was such an intellectual and cultural centre. The water table has risen and hundreds of little frogs are hopping about. People can still find the inscription on the front tier of theatre seats: “Place of the Jews also called the God-fearing.”
When you called the Ephesus church leaders to meet you in Miletus, telling them they would never see you again, they cried. They must have loved you.
After you arrived back in Jerusalem, the authorities took you prisoner and sent you to Rome. We still read the letters you wrote in jail.
Many things have changed since the time of Abraham and the Hitites, through to your time, Paul, and on to the present in 2013.
But the God of Abraham is our God too. And he doesn’t change.
God bless you,