Derbe Excavations Explore Pauline Site

Bible and archaeology news

The Derbe Excavations. AA Photo, via Hurriyet Daily News.

Excavations near Karaman in southern Turkey have begun to uncover remains from ancient Derbe, a site of Paul’s evangelizing in Acts 14-16. According to Dr. Mark Wilson,* director of the Asia Minor Research Center in Antalya, Turkey, Derbe was one of the only known New Testament sites left unexcavated in Turkey, along with Colossae and Lystra. Karaman governor Murat Koca told Hurriyet Daily News that “We think the place where he [Paul] lived is this tumulus. Works are continuing to prove this fact. This excavation has much importance to Karaman, because if we can find a work from the early period of Christianity, this place will be an important center for faith tourism.”

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.”

Read more in Hurriyet Daily News.

*Private correspondence with Dr. Mark Wilson, 9/5/13. My personal thanks go to Mark for informing us about the Derbe excavations. -N.W.

2 Responses

  1. links to the land | preachersmith says:

    […] * Derbe Excavations Explore Pauline Site; * Excavations at Derbe Have Begun; * Remains of First Religious Structure Discovered in Central […]

  2. Stan Malina says:

    As usual (in Turkey) commercial is the main goal! Were are the biblical (Christian) archaeologists in these biblical places???

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