Today we begin with a trip to the remains Nicea, known today as Iznik. Nicea is where the famous Council of Nicea was held in 325 AD. The Council of Nicea was called by Constantine the Great, who had converted to Christianity a decade earlier and replaced official persecution of Christianity with official support. The Council of Nicea was the first ecumenical (worldwide) council of the church and the first of Seven Ecumenical Councils recognized by most Christian denominations as having doctrinal authority. Around 300 bishops from across the Christian world attended. Unfortunatelly, the First Council of Nicea was held in the Senatus Palace, which sadly now lies beneath the waters of Lake Iznik. We, however, will get to see the ruins of the 4th-century St. Sophia Cathedral, which was the site of the Second Council of Nicea in 787.
Our next stop is Pergamum, one of the Seven Churches in Revelation. Revelation refers to Pergamum as the place "where Satan's throne is." This is not surprising since Pergamum was well known for its many temples, and as the city that became the site of the first cult of a living Roman emperor. At the time John wrote Revelation, Christians were suffering persecution for refusing to worship the emperor Domitian. We will visit the acropolis with its many temples, and the Asklepion, one of the famous healing sanctuaries in the ancient world. Overnight in Izmir at the Kaya Thermal Hotel.
Today we begin with a trip to the remains ancient Smyrna. The Christians in Smyrna are one of only two churches in Revelation that received only praise and no criticism. Two traits characterized this congregation: persecution and poverty. An example of the former is the death of Polycarp, the local Christian bishop, who was put to death here for his faith in Jesus in A.D. 156. We will see the ancient remains of the city's agora.
Our second tour site is the ancient city of Sardis, another one of the Seven Churches of Revelation. Jesus told Sardis, "I know thy works, that thou hast a name, that thou livest, and art dead" (Rev. 3: 1-6). Once the capital of a powerful empire, Sardis is credited with being the first city in antiquity to devise the necessary technology to mint coins and to dye wool. Compared to several of the sites we have visited, much of ancient Sardis remains. One can see the foundation and the massive columns of the Temple of Artemis, which was converted into a small chapel by the early Christians, the city's gymnasium, and what was once the largest Jewish synagogue in Asia Minor.
Our final tour site is the remains of the ancient city of Philadelphia. Besides Smyrna, Philadelphia is the only other church in Revelation to receive no criticism. We will see the remains of the Byzantine Church of St. John the Theologian. Dinner and overnight Pamukkale Spa Hotel Colossae.
Today we visit the three churches in the Lycus River Valley: Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Colossae. Hierapolis is mentioned once in the Bible at the end of Paul's letter to the Colossians. According to the earliest Christian tradition, Hierapolis was the home of Philip the Evangelist. The city was well known in antiquity for its hot springs that were believed to have medicinal properties. The high mineral content of the hot springs have also resulted in spectacular white-colored calcified cliffs that have the appearance of snow from a distance.Today we travel to Sardis, a city with a rich heritage, but with a church that was mostly criticized for its lack of spiritual life.
Our next stop is the famed city of Laodicea, located only a few miles away. Laodicea had a thriving textile industry, a medical school that produced a eye-lotion used as an eyesalve and as a cosmetic, and was a major banking center. While the gospel once energized this city (Col. 4:15), by the end of the first century Laodicea had become spiritual dead--though they thought they were alive. In Revelation 3:15-16, Jesus said to the Laodiceans, "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of my mouth." We will witness the newest excavations that are rapidly taking place there as well as visit the site that is already full of interesting remains.
Just a few miles away from Laodicea is ancient Colossae. Although Paul had not visited the city he wrote two letters to them several years later when he heard of some of the challenges they were facing. The first letter is Colossians, a general letter to the church warning them of false teachings. The second letter is written to Philemon, one of the members in Colossae. Paul appeals to Philemon to welcome back a runaway slave named Onesimus--not merely as a slave, but to grand him his freedom and accept him as a fellow brother in Christ. Unfortunately, little remains from ancient Colossae since the city has never been excavated.
This morning we visit Miletus, home of ancient philosopher Thales (640-546 B.C.), one of the fathers of Greek geometry, astronomy, and philosophy. It was here, in the first Christian century, that St. Paul, on his third missionary journey, called for the Ephesian elders and preached a powerful message to them (Acts 20:15-38). At the conclusion of his address he quoted an otherwise unknown saying of Jesus that has become famous, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). It was also here that St. Paul left his friend Trophimus, who was too ill to continue on his journey with Paul (II Timothy 4:20).
Before having lunch, we will stop briefly at Didyma--an ancient Greek city that had the largest temple dedicated to Apollo in the ancient world. It was second in importance only to the Temple of Apollo in Delphi. It was the oracle in Dydyma that advised the Roman emperor Diocletian in 303 to initiate his persecution of the Christians.
During the afternoon we will enjoy some free time swimming or sunbathing on our own private boat in the Aegean Sea.