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Pergamum

Well I had started a blog post,ready in waiting so to speak, about Smyrna. But after our long flight (with an hour’s delay due to flight and lost luggage – 2 of our party sadly) we got out of the airport to be told we had a 2 hour coach journey as our guide decide Izmir (smyrna) wasn’t safe. Must admit not my understanding but I’m on a group tour etc etc.

So, off to Pergamum we went and arrived around midnight.

Pergamum had a reputation as a medical centre. Ever wondered where the snake symbol seen on some medical signs come from? It’s Pergamum. They used snakes to help cure people. Indeed a sign was put up coming into the Asclepium that said “Death is not permitted here”.

Pergamum was also one of the great kingdoms of the area for 2-300 years and ruled a large ykingdom able to dominate the land around being built on such a high acropolis. Pliny the Elder called it “the most famous place in Asia”. It had temples to Zeus, Athena, Dionysus and Asclepius (the god of medicine).

It also became a place of worship for the emperor cults with a temple to Augustus (probably built at the foot of the acropolis) and then one to the emperor Trajan built on the top of the acropolis. The city acted as the seat of the of the provincial assembly, whose leader was also the chief priest of the imperial cult.

Water came in from two aqueducts. Indeed one of them was so finely engineered that it dropped only some 30cm per kilometre to allow the water to flow at the right speed – a major piece of engineering.

Looking around Pergamum was great. You can see that so much more could be done if there was the money and so much remains un-excavated. I have put some pictures below. I might see if I can load extra pictures later onto a Flickr account.

The letter to Pergamum is the third letter written.

To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:

These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.

John, is talking here to a group of Christians who are trying to exist at the centre of the imperial cult where the governor has the right to use the sword. John therefore points to the ultimate governor, Jesus who wields a double-edged sword and how they owe their allegiance not to the imperial cult, satan, but to Jesus.

Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

John goes on to challenge the church most probably against synchretism with the local cults – no-one is totally sure about the Nicolaitans – some may have been joining in with the local cultic worship or celebrations – dangerous with cults like Dionysus around. Some seem to have decided that it didn’t matter if you mixed Christian practices with other pagan practices – still a real danger today with the massive sexual and consumer pressures on people.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

There have been different interpretations to do with the white stone (was it used to cast innocent votes in a court of law?). It may well have been linked to a white stele inscribed with a decree in 9BC stating that Augustus’s birthday be held as holiday. The Emperor made the same claims as Jesus – calling themselves lord, saviour, creator and god. It may well therefore be a call to stay faithful to Jesus. and that they too would be glorified.

Click pictures below to see larger versions in a slideshow:

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