Turkey - Cradle of New Testament Christianity

Ken Rudge, St. Austell, England

The covers of the 1998 Precious Seed magazine feature pictures from a visit paid to the sites of the seven churches in Asia during the summer of 1996. They are of course in Turkey - long a forbidden land to foreigners, having that mystique of where East meets West and whose record of civil rights make every visitor extremely cautious. This country has now opened its doors to welcome the would be explorer. The turning point has been its need for western currency and its application to join the EEC.

This has made available to believers of today the opportunity to visit the sites of the seven churches that up until now only few had experienced. Dr. A. Tatford in the preface to his book, The Patmos Letters (Kregel lnc. 1969), speaks of his visit with a party of believers in 1968. Now thirty years on, it is only too evident that the difficulty he faced in finding and exploring the sites has completely changed. It is still true that three of the sites are largely covered by cities but even in these, archaeology has revealed a great deal more over the years. At the sites, where digging had only just begun then, further excavation has now produced buildings, monuments, and marbled roads, breathtaking in their grandeur. All the sites are clearly sign-posted and easily accessible. Only Laodicea remains as hills of rubble, still yet to be restored to its former glory.

What is still available to us is that which Dr. Tatford pointed out from his experience of his visit and that is, 'What we have seen proved an incentive to study afresh the messages . . . and seek a clearer understanding of their spiritual significance and their pertinence to the present day'. Every site holds several specific items relevant to the text of the letter written to the assembly. To the spiritual believer, these will speak with ever-present urgency to apply the truths in their own assembly testimony and to this generation.

Ephesus is the 'gem' of all the sites, recalling rich memories of the spiritual conflict suffered by the assembly and the struggle for a foothold in this satanic domain, 1 Cor. 16. 8, 9. Smyrna (modern Izmir), the only place still having Christians today, was stained by martyrs' blood. Pergamos' templed hill mark it as home to the worship of emperors and embracer of the doctrine of Balaam. Complacent Sardis with its elevated, impregnable fortress, Philadelphia's massive pillars witnessing to the promise to overcomers, together with the still standing arched doorway of the church at Laodicea, have all left indelible imprints on mind and heart. It is a journey of some 600 miles but will provide a spiritual landmark for any willing to make it.