January 4, 2011 // Uncategorized

St. Paul visits Derbe on his missionary journey

Where is Derbe where St. Paul made many disciples?
After St. Paul left the town of Lystra where some people tried to kill him, he fled to the town of Derbe in central Turkey. Here he preached the Gospel and made numerous disciples. Then St. Paul started to head for home, namely, the great city of Antioch in Syria. So he retraced his steps to dangerous Lystra, Iconium and Antioch in Pisidia.

In these three towns, St. Paul encouraged his new disciples to persevere in the faith and to endure the sufferings that may occur. In each town St. Paul established priests to say Mass and celebrate the sacraments. The New American Bible says these communities received priests only after a period of testing. St. Paul and St. Barnabas then went back to Perga to preach the Gospel and then continued to the seaport of Attalia (modern Antalya) on the Mediterranean coast and sailed back to Antioch in Syria. This ended St. Paul’s first missionary journey.

Scholars are not sure of the exact location of the town of Derbe in central Turkey. A. Edmonds mentions there are four possibilities: 1) Kerti Hoyuk where an altar stone has been found with an inscription of the names of Derbe and Bishop Michael carved on it. But this does not definitively establish the original site, because such stones are often moved. This particular stone is now in the museum at Konya in Turkey.
Either 2) Una Hoyuk or 3) Asiran Hoyuk, both tumuli (ancient burial mounds) near Karaman, may be the actual site of Derbe. Karaman is a green oasis on a plateau. Here there is a Seljuk citadel, a former monastery of dervishes and a mosque. Many Turkish-speaking Orthodox Greeks lived here.

4) Degli near Binbir Kilise and Madensehir also may be the site of Derbe. D. Darke says Binbir Kilise is a region of a “thousand and one churches,” an important monastic center from the 9th- 11th centuries A.D. Near the hamlet of Degli (or Degler) is the most impressive group of ruined Christian Byzantine churches and monasteries.

E. Blake says Derbe was the royal seat of the tyrant Antipater the Pirate. A hundred years before St. Paul was at Derbe, Antipater had entertained the famous Roman orator Cicero while he was governor of the neighboring province of Cilicia. Derbe was the last Roman city on the road to the East, so it was the point at which customs were collected.

A year or so later St. Paul, now accompanied by Silas, began his second missionary journey, and visited Derbe once again to give the church there renewed assurance and support. This shows St. Paul’s serious ties with Derbe. Later on, when St. Paul was traveling from Greece to Macedonia, he was accompanied by a number of helpers. One of these was Gaius from Derbe, again showing St. Paul’s influence in Derbe.

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