Minggu, 01 September 2013

The Trace of Christianity in Turkey

A History of Evangelism

Turkey, at this moment, is a secular Islamic republic, but in its history this country once became a part of the Roman Empire (4th century),  Byzantine (4th – 13th century), and Latin  Empire (13th century) before fell for  the Ottoman Dynasty (1453-1922)whose King began spreading Islam in this region.  
Despite today’s reality, Turkey keeps many historical trails in Christian evangelism (the New Testament).  Some of the facts worth knowing  about Christianity trails are  :

1.   Turkey was the birthplace of several saint/ martyrs. Saint Paul was born in  Tarsus, a region on Southern Turkey, while St.Pauls’s  evangelism covered some areas in Turkey, and also Greece and Cyprus which are  neighbors.  Saint Timothy, Nicholas and  Polycarpus also came from Turkey. 

2.   Paul and Barnabas as apostles spread  the Bible in Anthiochia region for about one year. At that time, Anthiochia was a part of Syria . Now the area is in Turkey’s  region called Antakya. This has been the place where followers of Jesus Christ were called ‘Christians’ for the first time(Acts  11:25-27). From  Anthiochia, Paul and Barnabas conducted the first missionary journey  to Cyprus.

paul evangelism
St.Paul's Missionary Map (source:www.ccel.org)

3.  Paul visited Galatia  and Ephesus during his second missionary journey  with Silas (Acts  15:40 and so on), and also on his third journey. Galatia and  Ephesus were a part of Turkey . Galatia is now the modern Anatolia. Paul wrote his letters to the Christian communities  in these two places.  On his second journey, Paul  also came to Greek, Syria and Cicilia.  

4.   The seven churches in Asia (Revelation 1:12) to whom John wrote in the Book of Revelation, were spread on seven areas of Turkey :

evangelism map
Seven Churches of Asia (source: www.ccel.org)

·         Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) – until now is still called Ephesus
·         Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) – now  Izmir, Turkey’s third largest  city
·         Pergamon (Revelation 2: 12-17) – now  Bergama
·         Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) – now Akhisar
·         Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) – now Sart
·         Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) – now Alasehir
·         Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22), near the famous river ofAnatolia: Lycus river 

5. One of the oldest church that’s still preserved today, Saint Peter's Church, is in Antakya (former Anthiochia) . It was built by Saint Peter .  Saint Peter is said to stay in Anthiochia for some time. The church is carved on a cave , and was renovated on the 19th century based on Pope Pius IX’s order. 

6.    After Jesus died , it is believed that John the Apostle brought  Virgin Mary to Ephesus, on western Turkey. Virgin Mary lived on a slope of a hill, in a small stone-walled. She lived in the house until she died . The existence of the house was revealed from a vision received by a German Nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich, in the beginning of 19th century. Physical signs based on this record were then traced by two Lazarist missionary, nearly 1 century after the Sr.Emmerich’s vision.    
According to some literature, after her death, Virgin Mary’s body was found disappeared just like what happened to Jesus, and The Holy Virgin's Assumption has become a dogma in Catholic church.

virgin mary tomb
House of Virgin Mary (source: commons.wikimedia.org)

Today, the House of Virgin Mary in Ephesus becomes a sacred place for both Moslems and Catholics.  The House of Virgin Mary has been renovated and inside the small house there’s a brass-colored statue of Virgin Mary, and a small rug to kneel and pray. Taking photos inside the house is prohibited.

7.    St. John’s grave and The Basilica of St John  is located in Ephesus.
The Basilica was built on the 6th century, on the slope of Ayasoluk Hill, near Ephesus. The church was built by Saint John’s followers,  near to his grave. John the Apostle lived in Ephesus before being exiled  to Patmos Island by King Domitian. At Patmos, he wrote the Book of Revelation (Revelation  1:9).  During King Nerva’s administration, Saint John was released and made a comeback to Ephesus, lived there until the end of his life.  

st john ephesus
St.John's Basilica

Today this once-colossal  church is only ruins, with big marble pillars and tall walls still stand stoutly, waking imagination of how glorious this church must had been. 
st john tomb
St.John's Tomb Inside The Basilica

8. In Goreme, Cappadocia, there’re many ancient church carved on chalk cliff. Cappadocia has a very unique landscape with many chalk cliffs. Doors, windows, stairs, interiors, all were carved on it.    

Outside the Church

The ceilings were painted with pictures of Jesus and the Saints. These beautiful churches were developed in the 11th century, and now named as Church of the Buckle, Dark Church, Snake Church, St.Barbara's church, and Apple Church.

apple church
Painting Inside Apple Church

You can visit this Goreme Open AirMuseum and get inside the churches as well.