Daily Archives: June 5, 2012

Did Paul’s ship dock at Perga or Attalia?

My friend and former student Darryl Smelser left a good comment regarding Perga for a post here. I thought I would elevate it to an entire post.

You point out that “Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark made their way from Paphos on Cyprus to Perga in Pamphylia,” which of course is correct. But as Perga is a bit inland from the sea, and Attalia was/is a port, I have pretty much assumed that as they traveled from Cyprus, the three men arrived *first at Attalia* and then went to Perga, and so toward Galatia. Why would not Luke have mentioned Attalia? I suppose the omission is due to the fact that in this part of the journey neither Attalia nor Perga were important to be mentioned, except for the fact that it was in Perga that John Mark turned back; thus it wins a mention. Does that seem to be sound reasoning to you? Would any ship delivering goods to Perga have ported at Attalia, or was there a closer port?

I think we can give no absolute answer to this question. Here is what I know about it.

Look at a good modern atlas of Turkey (Köy Köy Türkiye Yol Atlasi), and you will see the Aksu Cay (the ancient Cestrus River) about 3 miles east of Perga. Attalia (modern Antalya) is farther to the west.

Mark Wilson says,

Strabo (14.6.2) states that the Cestrus was navigable at this time and a road apparently linked the river with Perga. The city was 6 mi/10 km from the Mediterranean and linked to the coast via a road to its port at Magydus (Lara). (Biblical Turkey, 99).

Wilson continues in a sentence that seems to have a typo,

Perga was the port of entry Mark in Asia Minor for Paul, Barnabas, and John on their first journey (Acts 13:13). (100).

My first suggestion is that the word Mark somehow got moved from after John, to the line above. If so, then the sentence should be read as follows:

Perga was the port of entry in Asia Minor for Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark on their first journey (Acts 13:13).

Fant and Reddish say,

In ancient times Perga apparently had a port on the river, which was navigable, thus allowing the city to benefit commercially from the river. (Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, 265).

The Dictionary of the Apostolic Church (J. Hastings) recently became available through Logos community pricing. James Strahan says,

Paul and Barnabas were twice at Perga in their first missionary tour. In their outward journey they landed at the river-harbour and went up to the city (Ac 13:13).

The Roman Gate at Perga in Pamphylia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman Gate at Perga in Pamphylia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.