Thyatira… in the Roman Province of Asia Minor

One of the seven cities of the Roman province of Asia Minor, Thyatira was situated in a valley with no natural fortifications.

Seven cities of Asia Minor

Lydia, mentioned in Acts, was from Thyatira.

And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshipped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. Acts 16: 13,14

Thyatira was specially noted for the trade guilds which were possibly more completely organized there than of the other ancient cities. Every artisan belonged to a guild, and every guild, which was an incorporated organization, possessed property, made contracts, and wielded a wide influence. Each guild had its own ‘god’ and feasts were held to honour that god. All guild members were required to attend.

This posed several problems for Christian artisans…

You shall have no other gods before Me Exodus 20: 3

To belong to a guild, meant breaking the first commandment.

Not belonging to a guild meant not being allowed to practice a trade.

Was that why Lydia was in Philippi?

ancient pottery lamp


In Thyatira, there were guilds for carpenters, dyers, tanners, weavers, silversmiths, sellers of goods, tent-makers, coppersmiths and potters… it did not leave many options for the members of the early church whereby they could earn a living.


Yet there was another problem for the Christians.

Belonging to a guild meant they had to attend the feast or banquet… but this was followed by a feast of sexual immorality.

And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you form the peoples, that you should be Mine. Lev 20: 26

God did not change His mind between the Old Testament and New Testament.

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 1Pet 1:15

In recent parlance, the brethren in Thyatira were ‘between a rock and a hard place’. Yet some chose to keep their calling pure, and found ways to support themselves and their families, without joining the very powerful guilds.

When I researched all this for the Apostle John series of books, I was awed by how many pressures those brethren had to stand fast against.

Are we ‘soft’ in our age?

What do we ‘accept’ in order to obtain or keep a job?

These are questions I found myself asking myself as I worked through all that our early Christian forefathers endured. Yet many of them, perhaps most of them, were faithful. We still have the ‘faith once delivered’.

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. Jude 1: 3 NIV

So, we leave the ancient brethren in Thyatira, and are presented with some ponderings.

searching the scriptures






Hold the Faith… Pergamum

Back to the series…

Pergamum libraryPergamum was briefly the capital of the Roman province of Asia before the capital  was transferred to Ephesus.

Pergamum reached the height of its greatness under Roman Imperial rule and was home to about 200,000 inhabitants.


Seat Satan altar“Pergamum called “the dwelling place of Satan” from the book of Revelation. In part one, Gordon examines life in first-century Pergamum; the pagan cults devoted to the Roman emperor and the Greek gods Zeus and Asklepios; and the martyrdom of the Christian bishop Antipas.

In part two, Pergamum’s Altar of Zeus takes centre stage as it is excavated and taken to Germany where it later inspires the architecture of Adolf Hitler.



Death is not welcome at the healing centre

tunnel to healing centre

In the city of Pergamum, the Sanctuary of Asclepius grew in fame and was considered one of the most famous therapeutic and healing centres of the Roman world. Galen, after Hippocrates the most famous physician of antiquity, was born at Pergamum and received his early training at he Asclepeion.

Pergamum reached the height of its greatness under Roman Imperial rule and was home to about 200,000 inhabitants.

In Hold the Faith, part 1 in the Apostle John series, the apostle John visited Pergamum, and some time was spent in covering what happened to Antipas. My research was taken from many sources, but the one at the link above seems to encapsulate all the reports I read.

This is just one of the many examples of the cost that early Christians paid for their faith.


What would we think/do today? Looking around me I believe that the ‘cheer squad on the sidelines’ could be encouraging us to ‘go through the motions and pretend”. Our Christian ancestors did not. Should we perhaps think deeply about our faith and what our belief is worth?

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. Deut 30: 19

Worth considering


A heads-up for those who are interested in the Apostle John series… Grow in Grace, part 2 in the series, is back from the proof-reader. Look for it on Amazon soon.




Hold the Faith, research

I received a question, which I shall answer in this post, before continuing with the series.

“Where do you get your research to prove that John had children more so that he had a great grandson by the name of Benjamin?

Hold the Faith, part 1 in the Apostle John series is a work of fiction, with facts sprinkled throughout.

Copied from the ‘front-matter’ of the book.

This is a work of fiction. Other than the events recorded in the Holy Bible or drawn from extensive research, the people, names and situations are products of the author’s imagination. Other than what is drawn from Scripture and this research, any resemblance to actual persons, alive or dead, is purely coincidental

Who and what is real in the book?

The Apostle John.

Why I set the book in Ephesus is explained in a previous post

Fact: there was a thriving community of believers in Ephesus.

Apollos was a Christian preacher who had come to Ephesus (probably in the year 52-3), where he is described as “being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.”

Priscilla and Aquila, a Jewish Christian couple who had come to Ephesus with the Apostle Paul, instructed Apollos. “When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more adequately.”

The Apostle Timothy as well as John is also reported as being in Ephesus.

Some of these are mentioned in Hold the Faith, part 1 in the Apostle John series.

My purpose in writing this mixture of fact and fiction?

In our modern age, where we do everything at seemingly breakneck speed, it is often difficult to read the Bible and understand how our Christian predecessors lived.

  • They walked from town to town – no jumping in cars.
  • No text messages, emails or mobile phones – only painstakingly written documents

So, in Hold the Faith, I set out to explore how my early Christian ancestors lived. I also discovered what they faced… and I deepened my faith.

The gospel of John·

I should mention here that the initial impetus came from hearing an excellent and detailed Bible study on the gospel of John. It inspired me, intrigued me, and set me off exploring, looking for facts.


My purpose in ‘giving’ the apostle John a family was to bring out certain points of his life, teaching, and responses to questions about the gospel he was writing.

I have heard it said that it was John’s wedding at Cana. As well as the fact that it is not recorded who married at that famous wedding where Christ’s first miracle took place, according to traditions handed down, I believe it highly unlikely that John would marry, then immediately leave to travel with Christ for the three and a half years of His ministry.

I could fill several books with the vast amount of research I have done. Finding out the names of a possible family of the apostle research sourcesJohn was not in that research. That was part of what was covered by the ‘work of fiction’ notice at the start of the book.

·However, from Biblical accounts, the apostles were not celibate. Peter had a mother-in-law, which means that at some time he had a wife.

The evidence for Paul being married is fairly scant.

  1. He writes in 1 Corinthians 9:5:

    “Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?”

    The implication could be made that Paul was complaining about leaving some wife behind.

  2. In Galatians 1:14, Paul says:

    “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers”

    One of the traditions, especially if he was a member of the Sanhedrin (which he never outright claimed), is that eventually he would be married. That said, there is nothing to say that he had necessarily progressed far enough to require a wife.

So, some apostles took a wife with them on their travels. I hope that answers the question. 🙂

The story continues in Grow in Grace, part 2 in the series due for release at the end of August 2013. There is at least one more book after that.



Smyrna… in the Roman province of Asia

seven churchesSmyrna…

Long in ruins, Smyrna is the location of  one of the seven churches in the Biblical ‘Book of Revelation’. It is also the first place that the apostle John and Benjamin visit on their tour of the fellowships in Hold the Faith.


They would have entered Smyrna by the Ephesus gate, and come upon the Golden Way, a wide road connecting the temples of Zeus, and Cybele.

As they walked up this road, they would have seen many other temples, and pagan schools of science, medicine etc. There was a large amphitheatre where, what we would call ‘stage productions’ were played… and, as in Hold the Faith, ‘the games’ were held.

·Smyrna, from Mt Pagus

Although Smyrna was proud of its reputation for Caesar worship, neither this, nor the pagans were the main threat to the Christians in Smyrna… the Jews were. In the early days of the Christian church, the Jews were the greatest enemy.

Interestingly, the first ‘bishop’ of Smyrna was someone about whom little was written…


Bucolus was a disciple of St. John the Theologian, who consecrated him bishop of Smyrna. In Smyrna, there were few that were baptized. In the darkness of paganism, St. Bucolus shown as a bright candle. He distinguished himself with every virtue, especially meekness and humility. Before his death, Bucolus consecrated the glorious Polycarp as his successor to the espicopacy. He died peacefully and took up habitation with the Lord.

Myrtle tree, leaves

There is an interesting legend, that at the grave of Bucolus a myrtle tree grew, the leaves of which healed the sick.


A name more people are familiar with is Polycarp. (His background and early history is mentioned in Hold the Faith.) Some references cite him as the first bishop of Smyrna and of these, most say that it was the Apostle John who consecrated him as overseer (bishop). I calculated this out.  Polycarp was born in 69 AD, the Apostle John was sent to the Isle of Patmos by the Emperor Domitian, who died in 96 AD. At this point Polycarp would have been twenty-seven years old and if he had been ‘consecrated’ by the Apostle John, he would have been younger. Although this is not impossible, it seems more feasible that Polycarp followed his friend and mentor Bucolus in the position. (Yes, he could have been anointed as overseer by John after his release from the Isle of Patmos… but Hold the Faith was set between 92 AD and 94 AD. Grow in Grace continues the story.)

According to tradition, Polycarp was known for his care of the ‘flock’, especially the poor, widows and orphans. (Which is one of the commissions to the church.) He was also a fighter of false teaching…

He rejected the teachings of Marcion, an influential heretic who tried to create a “new brand” of Christianity by redefining God and rejecting Old Testament teachings. In his well-known thesis, Polycarp combats Gnostic heresies that were beginning to spread throughout the Christian church.

From the same source…

Because the Smyrnaean letter known as the Martyrdom of Polycarp states that Polycarp was taken on the day of the Sabbath and killed on the Great Sabbath, some believe that this is evidence that the Smyrnaeans under Polycarp observed the seventh day Sabbath.

William Cave wrote “… the Sabbath or Saturday (for so the word sabbatum is constantly used in the writings of the fathers, when speaking of it as it relates to Christians) was held by them in great veneration, and especially in the Eastern parts honoured with all the public solemnities of religion. This is plain, not only from some passages in Ignatius and Clemens’s Constitutions, but from writers of more unquestionable credit and authority. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, tells us that they assembled on Saturdays… to worship Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath.

The history of Polycarp and the church at Smyrna is colourful, and sobering. As with all my research for the Apostle John series, discovering the history of the early church both awed and humbled me. So far, we have it ‘easy’.

food for thought, quote

How would I have coped in those times? It is an interesting question, one that leads to others, about the sincerity of my faith. The early brethren often gave up their lives to ‘hold fast’ to their faith.





Hold the Faith… Ephesus

I have heard the saying “A day late and a dollar short”. Well, I am a day late in posting this, but the reason was not being a dollar short, but because I am so close to finishing Grow in Grace, I set everything else aside.smiley image

So, here is the blog… a day late

Ancient Ephesus

The book is set here, in the first century AD, because out of ‘reams’ of research, this was the most common location for the Apostle John, after he left Jerusalem… when he was not travelling.

A ‘potted version’ of why I located the Apostle John there…

View from the cross
What our Lord saw from the cross. Painting by Tissot. Brooklyn Museum

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, His mother… John 19:25a

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. John 19: 26,27 NIV

So why quote this in a post about the Apostle John in Ephesus? Because John took his aunt, Mary, mother of Christ, to his home.

Mary, according to Catholic church beliefs, died in Ephesus. Her ‘house’ became a shrine, as early as the 4th century AD and has been visited by three popes.

Ephesus in the first century AD

There were no Christian shrines there. In fact, Christians were a ‘new’ and detested group of people. As it says in the ‘blurb’ for Hold the Faith,

“They were hated by the pagans and by the Jews, who saw them as traitors to their beliefs. Mistrusted and persecuted by the Romans because they refused to worship the Roman emperor as god, many were sent to the lions and executed for their beliefs… yet they grew in faith and number. So too did another group, counterfeit Christianity… the beginnings of the various Gnostic opponents.”

artemisThe statue of Artemis, or Diana as the Romans called her, was a focal point of the worship of the city

“And when the city clerk had quieted the crowd, he said: “Men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple guardian of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Zeus?”
Acts 19: 35

(This was the time of the riot caused by the Apostle Paul’s teaching. The silversmiths were ‘upset’ with him because they were losing trade.)



I could use several books to enumerate the interesting and often amusing facts, stories and tales about ancient Ephesus. Most of them did NOT make it into Hold the Faith. For example… directions to the brothel

Nor did I have any of the characters using the public conveniences.latrine in eph



Finding out about the ancient cities, and how they lived, has certainly improved my understanding of our early Christian ancestors.

Hold the Faith cover imageHold the Faith is available for sale as an e-book on Amazon Kindle

as well as on Smashwords

For now, back to finishing the next part in the series, Grow in Grace, where the story of the Apostle John and the brethren continue’