Aug 9, 2013 David Lang

Sergius Paulus and Pisidian Antioch

Last week, my wife and kids participated in Vacation Bible School at our church. This has had two ongoing effects on our family. First, they brought back a cold which has inexorably worked its way through every member of the family! Second, since the VBS curriculum took several lessons from the life of Paul, they have come back with a lot of questions about Paul's conversion, his missionary journeys, and his imprisonment. We have therefore been spending time in family devotions surveying the chapters in Acts which deal with Paul's life and ministry.

The other day we were reading through Acts 13, which relates the events of Paul's first missionary journey. After the conversion of Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul at Paphos, Paul and Barnabas suddenly leave the island of Cyprus and head to Pisidian Antioch in what is now southwest Turkey. To show them this sudden change of location, as well as to explain the difference between this Antioch and the one at the beginning of the chapter, I naturally turned to the Accordance Bible Atlas.


Now, I have an icon for the Atlas in my workspace Toolbar, so I simply opened a map by choosing a map background from the pop-up menu associated with that icon. (I like the Light Browns background.) Once the map was open, I chose Paul's First Journey from the Route Layer pop-up menu.


Now I could show them how Paul and Barnabas started from Syrian Antioch, sailed to Cyprus (where Barnabas was from), crossed the island until they reached Paphos, then sailed to Attalia, passed through Perga, and arrived at Antioch of Pisidia. I then asked my family why Paul and Barnabas would decide to go there.

I have to admit that I asked the question before I was entirely sure the point I wanted to make was correct. You see, I vaguely remembered from somewhere that there is a connection between Sergius Paulus, the proconsul converted at Paphos, and the city of Pisidian Antioch. So while my family was pondering the question, I double-clicked the name Antioch on the map to look it up in my Bible Lands PhotoGuide.


Sure enough, a quick skim of that article reminded me that an inscription with the name Sergius Paulus had been found at Pisidian Antioch. This suggests that Sergius Paulus may have urged Paul and Barnabas to take their message to Pisidian Antioch because he had some personal connection there.

Sergius4 While explaining this to my family, it occurred to me that it would be clearer if I could actually show them the inscription. Unfortunately, the PhotoGuide does not include a photograph of the inscription itself. So I decided to search the rest of my library for any pictures of the Sergius Paulus inscription. I clicked the magnifying glass inside the Search All field of the Workspace toolbar and chose Image from the pop-up menu. Then I entered the word "Sergius" and hit return. Instantly I found several pictures of the Sergius Paulus inscription—in the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, the Biblical Archaeology Review archive, the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary on the New Testament, and Gundry's Survey of the New Testament.


Now that I had brought this interesting archaeological discovery to their attention, I needed to answer that all-important question: so what? I explained that for me, the so what is that Paul and Barnabas began their missionary work by going places where they had a natural connection: to Barnabas' native land of Cyprus, then to Pisidian Antioch because of its connection to Sergius Paulus. They didn't just go haphazardly from town to town, but chose their destinations strategically, going through whichever doors were most open to them.

Our family Bible study started out as an attempt to clarify the details about Paul's life, but thanks to Accordance, I was able to (re)discover an interesting detail that led to a meaningful application.

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