The 10th century Armenian church on Akdamar Island in Lake Van (Turkey) was restored and reopened as a museum by the Turkish government in 2007. About three months after the opening I was able to visit the church.
There are some marvelous frescoes and carvings of Bible stories inside and outside the church. The one pictured below shows the raising of Lazarus (John 11) and the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (John 12). Scenes such as these served to remind those who saw them of the biblical accounts. An Armenian translation of the (Greek) Septuagint Old Testament “was made for the Christian communities of eastern Asia Minor” about A.D. 400 (Price, The Ancestry of Our English Bible, 3rd rev. ed., 119). The New Testament translation was made about the same time (198). Price says,
Armenian manuscripts are very numerous, probably more numerous than those of any other version except the Latin Vulgate.
Earlier this week USA Today reported that the Turkish government allowed several Armenian Christian pilgrims to visit the Akdamar church last Sunday. This was the first time a service had been held in the church since it was “abandoned during the mass killings of Armenians 95 years ago.”
The media has directed much attention lately to the problems of minority religions in Turkey. The CBS news show 60 Minutes included a feature about restrictions on the Greek Orthodox in Turkey a few weeks ago.
The region around Lake Van in eastern Turkey was the ancient region of Urartu, known as Ararat in the Bible.
- Noah’s ark landed on the mountains of Ararat (Genesis 8:4).
- The men who assassinated the Assyrian king Sennacherib fled into the land of Ararat (2 Kings 19:37 = Isaiah 37:38).
- The kingdoms of Ararat may have joined other nations in the capture of Babylon (Jeremiah 51:27).