Tarsus of Cilicia

Tarsus was the capital city of the Roman province of Cilicia from 72 A.D. (see Ancient Empires - Rome). Before then it was a major linen and lumbering center during the time of the Greeks (see Ancient Empires - Greece and The Seleucids), and before that it was the seat of the provincial governor during the time of the Persians (Ancient Empires - Persia). Tarsus was known for its wealth and for its great schools which are said to have rivalled Athens and Alexandria. Located in what is today southern Turkey, it was situated adjacent to the Cydnus River, about 10 miles north of The Mediterranean Sea.

Tarsus is mentioned by name only 5 times in The Bible, all in relation to the apostle Paul who was born there.

"Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus [see On The Road To Damascus]. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." And the Lord said to him, "Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying." (Acts 9:8-11 RSV)

"But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how on the road he had seen The Lord, who spoke to Him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of The Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists; but they were seeking to kill him. And when the brethren knew it, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him off to Tarsus. So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was built up." (Acts 9:27-31 RSV)

"News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad; and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to The Lord with steadfast purpose; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a large company was added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians." (Acts 11:22-26 RSV)

"Paul replied, "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; I beg you, let me speak to the people." And when he had given him leave, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people; and when there was a great hush, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying: "Brethren and fathers, hear the defense which I now make before you." And when they heard that he addressed them in the Hebrew language, they were the more quiet. And he said: "I am a Jew, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as you all are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders bear me witness [see Stephen and Martyrs]. From them I received letters to the brethren, and I journeyed to Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished. "As I made my journey and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' And I answered, 'Who are you, Lord?' And He said to me, 'I am Jesus of Nazareth Whom you are persecuting.'" (Acts 21:39-22:8 RSV)

Fact Finder: Who accompanied Paul/Saul on his first missionary journey?
Acts 13:2
See also:
Paul's First Missionary Journey
Paul's Second Missionary Journey
Paul's Third Missionary Journey
Paul In Athens
Paul's Journey To Rome
Paul In Rome

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