Luxury and the vices associated with the wanton pursuit of pleasure and idleness had made the Antioch of he first century vile and immoral, corrupt and idolatrous. It was the center of Greek culture but its social life was debased, sensual, and shocking. The temple of Daphne stood among laurel trees just five miles outside the city and included immoral worship in the name of religion.

Antioch on the Orontes was the administrative capital of the Roman province of Syria. Its name comes from Antiochus, a Syrian King and stood near the mouth of the river Orontes, 15 miles from the Mediterranean. It was called "on the Orontes" to distinguish it from 15 other Antiochs. Seleucia was the seaport there and was the sailing port for the missionary journeys of Paul the apostle. It has suffered repeatedly from earthquakes. Antioch was the third city of the empire in the first century, with a population of about half million, only Rome and Alexandria would surpass her in numbers. Strategically situated on the East and West routes of commerce, Antioch became a magnificent city, rich and luxurious, lovely and cosmopolitan. Its main street was four miles in length and lined with majestic mansions. Antioch was the city preferred by Vespasian and Titus and was celebrated for its chariot races.

Jews and the later Christians were welcome at Antioch and became a place of great resort. Seleucus Nicator held out invitations and encouragement for everyone. Antioch was predominately Gentile but the Jews formed a large portion of the population, they were exceptionally active in proselytizing and had a large following among the Greeks. The persecuted Christians fled here after the death of Stephen and a strong Gentile church was being formed even before the Jerusalem council.

This new church had come together in numbers, unified to each other and devoted to God. Because of this unity and devotion, the church at Antioch early became the most prominent one in Asia and those of "the way" had first been called Christians here. The term was originally used as a derogatory reference to the "devotees of the Anointed One", in the Greek Christianoi but the movement soon adopted it.

It was here at Antioch that a new thing happened, the Lord Jesus was preached to the Greeks as well as the Jews. The news was so great that the Jerusalem church sent Barnabas among them around 43 and Paul was to follow a year later. The spirit of this oneness set Paul and Barnabas aside for a new mission to the Gentile world to extend this new unity that had been created in Antioch. God needed a new center from which to send out the new missionary movement and a new mother church was formed.

Antioch now became the first great Christian missionary center and was gradually to succeed Jerusalem as the center of Christian activity. Paul and Barnabas stayed another year instructing new disciples and for the first time in the history of the world, a joint Jewish-Gentile community was formed. The Christian family of Antioch were living and sharing side-by-side and praying together in the spirit of Jesus. Antioch was the center from which Christianity spread.
[311, 328, 332, 334, 345, 355, 12, 377, BD, 308]

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