Notes on the letter to Philadelphia

  • Philadelphia appears to have been founded by Pergamum, perhaps at the time of their conquest of Lydia and Phrygia.
  • It was the gateway from the west into Phrygia; as such it was an important military point, and also a base for the spreading of Greek culture into Phrygia and Lydia.
  • The city was named in honor of the great love and loyalty between Eumenes II of Pergamum and Attalus II Philadelphus, his younger brother and successor.
  • After the earthquake of AD 17, the Caesar Tiberius canceled the city’s taxes for five years; Philadelphia took the name Neocaesarea in gratitude, and used that name for at least a couple decades.
  • This began a period of frequent earthquakes, which made it unsafe to be indoors. Strabo writes, “Philadelphia . . . has not even its walls secure, but they are daily shaken and split in some degree. The people continually pay attention to earth-tremors and plan their buildings with this factor in mind. . . . Different parts of the city are constantly suffering damage. That is why the actual town has few inhabitants, but the majority live as farmers in the countryside.”
  • During the reign of Vespasian, the father of Domitian, Philadelphia again took on another name: “Flavia,” in honor of the Flavian family to which Vespasian belonged. The reason is uncertain, but Vespasian was noted for his generosity to cities that suffered disasters.
  • The volcanic soil around Philadelphia was excellent for growing grapes, but not especially good for anything else; Strabo says nothing else grew there.
  • Though little is known about the synagogue in Philadelphia, it seems likely it was founded out of the large and prosperous Jewish community in Sardis.
  • The struggling church in its poor, half-ruined city is promised a secure place in the glorious, eternal city of God.
Posted in Sermons and tagged .

Leave a Reply