The Stadium in New Testament Times

Aphrodisias, located in southwest Turkey, was an ancient city of Caria in Asia Minor. It is not mentioned in the Bible, but is close to the cities of Laodicea, Hierapolis and Colossae. Robert F. Tannenbaum, an ancient historian, describes the location of the city this way:

A quiet, fertile valley folded into the Mediterranean hills, clear streams, tall poplars, ancient ruins more than 1,400 years old—a picture of pastoral quiet. (Biblical Archaeology Review, Sept/Oct 1986)

BibleMapper_Aphrodisiash

The map above is cropped from the set of BibleMapper maps now available at
https://biblemapper.com/blog//. Aphrodisias is clearly marked.

The site has been excavated since 1966, beginning under the direction of Kenan Erim of New York University. Marble was readily available at a nearby quarry and the excavation has brought to light a multitude of marble inscriptions and statues from the Roman period including a statue of the Emperor Domitian. Buildings include a theater, an agora, a bath, temples, and a well-preserved stadium.

Louw-Nida describes a stadium as an “open, oval area (frequently including a racetrack) around which was built an enclosed series of tiers of seats for those who came to watch the spectacles – arena, stadium.” When Paul spoke of running the race in 1 Corinthians 9:24, he used the Greek term stadion. The term was also used as a measure of distance and is found in John 6:19. It was about one-eighth of a Roman mile. Most large Greek and Roman cities had a stadium. The figure of the stadium is in mind in Hebrews 12:1-2, where a host of witnesses watch as we run the race.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

The stadium at Aphrodisias is the best preserved I have seen and I wanted to share with you the photo I made in 2012. Picture yourself in the stadium.

Aphrodisias

5 responses to “The Stadium in New Testament Times

  1. With all due respect, Heb. 12.1 witnesses do not watch us run the race. I mean, they might, but that’s not what the text is saying. they were witnesses to God’s former faithfulness recorded in ch. 11.

  2. Thank you. The stadium is larger than I thought.

  3. The Blue Guide Turkey by Bernard Mc Donagh says it measures 262 meters x 59 meters. For most US citizens this is 859.58 feet x 193.57 feet. The seating capacity is 30,000. (pg. 295).

  4. Very nice picture. Thank you.
    Can you give us some rough dimensions of this oval?
    How many spectators might have been able to sit there?

  5. jim11352@aol.com

    I really enjoy the pictures of your travels and the explanations that come with them.  Thank you very much.

    James R. Thomason, CPA422 River Bend DriveLoudon, TN  37774Phone – (865) 458-6872Fax – (865) 458-6871

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