On their first missionary journey, after traveling through Cyprus, Perga and Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13), Paul and Barnabas preach in Iconium, from where they were forced to flee “to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country; and there they continued proclaiming the good news” (Acts 14:6-7). After facing difficulties in Lystra, Paul “Went on with Barnabas to Derbe. After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, then on to Iconium and Antioch” (Acts 14:20-21). Using the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, Wilson notes the great distances covered in this brief statement: Travel from Derbe to Lystra (via Laranda) covered 81 miles, from Lystra to Iconium was another 21 and travel from Iconium to Pisidian Antioch would have taken the travelers across an additional 92 miles. Paul and Barnabas covered 192 miles to return to Pisidian Antioch before turning south back toward Perga on the Anatolian coast. In Acts 16, Paul returns to the area with Silas, where they meet the disciple Timothy.
In the free eBook Paul: Jewish Law and Early Christianity, learn about the cultural contexts for the theology of Paul and how Jewish traditions and law extended into early Christianity through Paul’s dual roles as a Christian missionary and a Pharisee.
Two inscriptions found at the site mention Derbe, giving modern scholars cause to associate the mound with the Christian site. So far, excavations have uncovered a stone quarry, graves and ancient walls, including one structure that Selçuk University professor Mehmet Tekocak describes as “a church-like structure.”
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*Private correspondence with Dr. Mark Wilson, 9/5/13. My personal thanks go to Mark for informing us about the Derbe excavations. -N.W.