Bible Prophecy Research
Title: Antioch
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Updated: April 16, 2002
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Antioch (Antakya) is a city in Hatay province in southern Turkey. Situated on the banks of the Orontes River about 22 km (14 mi) from the Mediterranean, Antioch has a population of 124,443 (1990). Its economy depends on olives and tobacco.

Of major importance in the ancient world, Antioch was established as the western capital of the Seleucid kingdom in 300 BC by Seleucus I Nicator, who named it in memory of his father,
Antiochus. Colonists were brought in from Athens and Macedonia, and the city remained the Seleucid capital until 64 BC, when it was taken over by the Romans. Eventually it became the third-largest city in the Roman Empire (after Rome and Alexandria). One of the earliest centers of Christianity, Antioch was the site of Saint Paul's first mission to the Gentiles; Saint Peter also preached there. The city was destroyed by earthquakes in AD 526 and 528. In 1517 it was taken by Selim I for the Ottoman Empire.

The division of the Roman Empire between two emperors, one ruling the west from Rome, the other the east from Constantinople, reflected, among other things, the strength of quite different civilizations that had persisted in the two areas. The Eastern, later called Byzantine, empire was Greek in language and, through its Hellenistic background, closely tied to the ancient civilizations of the Middle East, one of which, the Persian, was to be its chief rival for many years. The Western empire, Latin in language, was profoundly influenced both by its Roman past and by the Germanic invaders who began to overrun its territories. By the end of the 5th century these Germanic tribes had effectively put an end to the Western empire, leaving the head of the Western branch of Christianity, the patriarch or pope of Rome, as the sole symbol of unity in that area. Meanwhile, in the east, the emperor still ruled, and authority in the church was divided among the patriarchs of the three great sees of the church, Constantinople, Antioch in Syria, and Alexandria in Egypt.


The word catholic comes from the Greek word Katholikos, meaning "universal." It was first used by Ignatius of Antioch (d. about AD 107) to distinguish the entire body of Christians from individual congregations. Subsequently, the word distinguished true believers from false believers. After the break (1054) between the Western church and the Eastern church, it was used to identify the Western church; the Eastern church was called orthodox. At the time of the reformation in the 16th century, the Church of Rome claimed the word catholic as its title over the Protestant or Reformed churches. In England, catholic was retained to describe the reformed, national church, although a distinction was made between "Roman" Catholics and members of the Church of England. The term Anglo-Catholic was coined at the time of the Oxford Movement in the 19th century. In popular usage, Catholic commonly designates a Christian affiliated with the Church of Rome.

Orthodox church

One of the three branches of world Christianity and the major Christian church in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, the Orthodox church, also sometimes called the Eastern church, or  the Greek Orthodox, or Orthodox Catholic church, claims to have preserved the original and apostolic Christian faith. Figures for its worldwide membership range from 100 to 200 million, depending on the method of accounting.

The Orthodox church is a fellowship of administratively independent, or autocephalous (self-governing) local churches, united in faith, sacraments, and canonical discipline, each enjoying the right to elect its own head and its bishops. Traditionally, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul) is recognized as the "first among equal" Orthodox bishops. He possesses privileges of chairmanship and initiative but no direct doctrinal or administrative authority. The other heads of autocephalous churches, in order of precedence, are: the patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt, with jurisdiction over Africa; the patriarch of Antioch, now residing in Damascus, Syria, and heading Arab-speaking Orthodox Christians in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq; the patriarch of Jerusalem, with jurisdiction over Palestine; the patriarch of Moscow and all Russia; the patriarch-catholicos of Georgia (USSR); the patriarch of Serbia (Yugoslavia); the patriarch of Romania; the patriarch of Bulgaria; the archbishop of Cyprus; the archbishop of Athens and all Greece; the metropolitan of Warsaw and all Poland; the archbishop of Albania (presently suppressed); the metropolitan of Prague and all Czechoslovakia; and the archbishop of New York and North America.

The Orthodox church recognizes as authoritative the decisions of the seven ecumenical councils that met between 325 and 787 and defined the basic doctrines on the trinity and the incarnation. In later centuries Orthodox councils also made doctrinal definitions on grace (1341, 1351) and took a stand in reference to Western teachings. The Orthodox church accepts the early traditions of Christianity, including the same sacraments as the Roman Catholic church -- although in the Orthodox church infants receive the Eucharist and confirmation -- and the episcopate and the priesthood, understood in the light of Apostolic succession. Married men may become priests, but bishops and monks may not marry. The veneration of Mary, as Mother of God is central to Orthodox worship, and the intercession of saints is emphasized in the Orthodox liturgical tradition. After an early controversy on the subject, the images, or icons, of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the saints are now seen as visible witnesses to the fact that God has taken human flesh in the person of Jesus.

The Orthodox church has been generally quite open to the contemporary Ecumenical movement. One by one, the autocephalous churches have all joined the Protestant-initiated World Council of Churches, without modifying their own view on Christian unity, but considering the council as an acceptable forum for dialogue and cooperation with other Christians. The recent steps taken by the Roman Catholic church and the decrees of the Second Vatican Council were seen by the Orthodox as promising groundwork for the future, and this positive reaction was witnessed by several meetings between Orthodox and Catholic leaders, including participation by Vatican representatives in ceremonies marking the thousandth anniversary of Russian Christianity in 1988.

(Grolier's Encylcopedia, 1995)

Antioch: In Syria. The capital of the Greek kings of Syria, and afterwards the residence of the Roman governors of the province which bore the same name. This metropolis was situated where the chain of Lebanon, running northwards, and the chain of Taurus, running eastwards, are brought to an abrupt meeting. Here the Orontes breaks through the mountains; and Antioch was placed at a bend of the river, partly on an island, partly on the level which forms the left bank, and partly on the steep and craggy ascent of Mount Silpius, which rose abruptly on the south. In the immediate neighborhood was Daphne, the celebrated sanctuary of Apollo; whence the city was sometimes called Antioch by Daphne, to distinguish it from other cities of the same name.

No city, after Jerusalem, is so intimately connnected with the history of the apostolic was at Antioch that St. Paul rebuked St. Peter for conduct into which he had been betrayed through the influence of emissaries from Jerusalem (Gal 2:11,12) the disciples of Jesus Christ were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).

(Dr. William Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, 1872)

Seleucus Nicator...possessed with a mania for building cities and calling them after himself or his relatives, he founded no fewer than 37, of which 4 are mentioned in the NT--(1) Antioch of Syria (Acts 11:19), (2) Seleucia (Acts 13:4), (3) Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:14; 14:21; 2 Tim 3:11), and (4) Laodicea (Col 4:13-16; Rev 1:11; 3:14). The most famous of the 16 Antiochs, which he built and named after his father Antiochus, was Antioch on the Orontes in Syria. The spot was carefully chosen, and religous sanction given to it by the invention of a story that sacred
birds had revealed the site while he watched their flight from a neighbouring eminence. It was politically of advantage that the seat of empire should be removed from the Euphrates valley to a
locality nearer the Mediterranean.

When Christianity reached Antioch, it was a great city of over 500,000 inhabitants, called the "Queen of the East," the "Third Metropolis of the Roman Empire." In "Antioch the Beautiful" there was to be found everything which Italian wealth, Greek aestheticism, and Oriental luxury could produce. The ancient writers, however, are unanimous in describing the city as one of the foulest and most depraved in the world. Cosmopolitan in disposition, the citizens acted as if they were emancipated from every law, human or Divine. Licentiousness, superstition, quackery, indency, every fierce and base passion, were displayed by the populace; their skill in coining scurrilous verses was notorious, their sordid, fickle, turbulent, and insolent ways rendered the name of Antioch a byword for all that was wicked.

Antioch had the honour of being the birthplace of (1) the name "Christian" (Acts 11:26), and (2) of foreign missions. From this city Paul and Barnabas started on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-4), and to Antioch they returned at the end of the tour (Acts 14:26). The second journey was begun from an ended at Antioch (Acts 15:35-41, 18:22); and the city was again the starting-point of the third tour (Acts 18:23).

After the fall of Jerusalem, Antioch became the true centre of Christianity....From AD 252-380 Antioch was the scene of ten Church Councils. The Patriarch of Antioch took precedence of those of Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Alexandria.

(Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible)

Antioch, the ancient capital of the Greek kings of Syria, and long the chief city in Asia, located on the left bank of the Orontes River, 14 miles from the sea. The city was erected by Seleucus Nicator, founder of the Seleucid dynasty, about 300 BC, and was the most splendid of the sixteen cities built by him in honour of his father Anticohus. The city reached its greatest glory in the time of King Antiochus the Great, and under the Roman emperors of the first three centures.

Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch were the three greatest cities of the Roman world. At Antioch the Roman governor of Syria resided, and it was the favorite residence of the Roman emperors. It had a great library and a school of philosophy. It was destroyed by earthquakes ten times in the first six centuries.

(Universal Standard Encyclopedia)


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