Tag Archives: Persian Empire

Paul spent a night at Cos (Kos)

Paul and his companions, including the physician Luke, made their way from Miletus to Cos (Kos).

And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. (Acts 21:1 ESV)

Cos is one of the islands belonging to a group of 12 called the Dodecanese. Patmos is also an island of this group. The Mycenaeans settled Cos in the 15th century B.C. In the centuries to follow the island came under the control of the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans. In modern times the island has been under Turkish and Italian control, and German occupation. Since 1948 it has been part of Greece. My only visit to Cos was a brief stop en route from Patmos to Rhodes in 1984. Here is one of the photos I made.

The harbor on the Island of Cos in 1984. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The harbor on the Island of Cos in 1984. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the time of Paul, Cos was noted as the birthplace of Hippocrates, the “father of medicine.” Hippocrates was associated with the Asclepium, ruins of which can still be seen. A Hellenistic gymnasium and some Roman ruins, including portions of a Roman road, may also be seen. There is also an archaeological museum.

Howard F. Vos describes the island with these words:

One of the most beautiful ports of the ancient world, Cos not doubt was most famous as a health resort. It was the site of the first school of scientific medicine and the sanctuary of Asclepius (Esculapius). The island had a healthful climate and hot ferrous and sulfurous springs, which the great Hippocrates (ca 460–377 b.c.), the father of medicine, first used to cure his patients. (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, revised.)

James Strahan, in the old Hasting’s Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, says,

It was renowned for its vines and looms, its literature and art, and above all for its temple of Æsculapius and school of medicine, which must have made it especially interesting to St. Luke.

According to Josephus, Herod the Great assisted the people of Cos with grain and other goods. (JW 1:424).

Two Other Good Sources:

Fant, C. E. and M. G. Reddish, A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey.

Wilson, Mark. Biblical Turkey: A Guide to Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor. This book deals with Turkey, but devotes ½ page to Cos as a Sidetrip.

Alexander the Great and the Book of Daniel

Josephus, the late first century Jewish historian, records the visit of Alexander the Great to the city of Jerusalem in the 4th century B.C. He recounts how Alexander “went up into the temple” and “offered sacrifice to God.” He says that the Book of Daniel was shown to Alexander. Alexander assumed, as have many commentators since that time, that Daniel was prophesying of Alexander.

Bust of Alexander in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bust of Alexander in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Here is a portion of the account from the Antiquities of the Jews. Notice especially section 337.

336 And when he had said this to Parmenion, and had given the high priest his right hand, the priests ran along by him, and he came into the city. And when he went up into the temple, he offered sacrifice to God, according to the high priest’s direction, and magnificently treated both the high priest and the priests.
337 And when the Book of Daniel was showed to him {a} wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended; and as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present; but the next day he called them to him, and bade them ask what favours they pleased of him;
338 whereupon the high priest desired that they might enjoy the laws of their forefathers, and might pay no tribute on the seventh year. He granted all they desired; and when they entreated him that he would permit the Jews in Babylon and Media to enjoy their own laws also, he willingly promised to do hereafter what they desired:  (Ant 11:336-338)

Read Daniel 8 for more details of the conflict between Alexander, who is compared to a male goat, and the Persian king who is likened to a ram.

As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. (Daniel 8:5 ESV)

The Cyrus Cylinder may not be as tolerant as some suggest

Dr. Jacob L. Wright, Candler School of Theology, offers a warning about using the Cyrus Cylinder as a model of toleration. He says,

As most historians who specialize in early Persian history would readily point out, the chief objective of Cyrus and his successors was no different than that of other imperial powers: to maintain control of their vast empire and to exploit the wealth of its subjects. Palace reliefs at Persepolis and Susa express this “vision of peace” in dramatic visual form: Delegations from various peoples are shown solemnly bearing precious gifts up to the enthroned king.

This perspective is in response to the lecture by Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, that we called attention to here.

The photo below shows a brick from Ur, in Southern Mesopotamia. According to the display sign in the British Museum the inscription in Babylonian cuneiform reads:

Cyrus, king of the world, king of Anshan, son of Cambyses, king of Ansham. The great gods delivered all the lands into my hand, and I made this land to dwell in peace.

The Biblical account of Cyrus allowing the Jews to return to their land and rebuild their temple is recorded in 2 Chronicle 36: 22-23 and Ezra 1:1-4.

Brick bearing name of Cyrus. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Brick with Babylonian inscription bearing name of Cyrus. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wright concludes his article with these words,

The values of tolerance that the Cyrus Cylinder has come to represent today must be held high. Yet in doing so, we must also heed the voices of those who opposed Persia’s imperial reach. Otherwise, we lose sight of the danger posed by any power that would organize the world primarily for the purpose of greater control, exploitation and expansion.

The complete article is available in The Huffington Post Religion section here.

HT: Jack Sasson