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Lystra, the City from the Bible

Lystra was a city mentioned in the Bible, a location where a number of important events have taken place. This city was of particular significance to Paul, a disciple of the Christian faith. The city was located near a small channel called Salama in modern-day Turkey. In the days of the Bible, however, this territory was part of the Roman Empire and a major colony in the eastern region of the nation (About: Lystra/col. Iulia Felix Gemina, Hatunsaray). During its existence, it was also called Colonia Iulia Felix Gemina (About: Lystra/col. Iulia Felix Gemina, Hatunsaray). In terms of religion, it appears that polytheism was a commonly preached worldview, with Hermes and Zeus being regarded as important figures. Zeus also appears to be the most commonly worshipped god, as seen in the presence of a Zeusian temple near Lystra. These gods can be identified in Acts 14:12 and 13, where the populace of the city first encounters apostles Paul and Barnabas. There is no evidence of a significant Jewish population in Lystra, as seen in the latter passage of Acts (14:19; 14-:20). The lack of a Synagogue in the vicinity of the city is also notable, as it prohibited the Christian apostles from finding common ground in Judaism and using it as a vehicle to preach their own beliefs. Additionally, the people of Lystra come under the influence of Jews from a neighboring city called Antioch.

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This town has been an important step in the missionary journey of both apostles Paul and Barnabas. The two, traveling during their first mission of spreading Christianity, made significant contributions to the city’s life. In particular, Paul used his faith to heal a lame man, allowing him to walk on his own two feet. This feat was seen as a demonstration of godly power, with many of Lystra’s people believing Paul and Barnabas to be incarnations of their polytheistic pantheon gods. It should be noted that Paul has also faced significant challenges with preaching in Lystra. In particular, the appearance of Jews from another city influenced the faith of the public, leading to them trying to stone Paul. This act, while a demonstration of a great lack of understanding, did not dissuade the apostle on his journey, with Paul soon rising up to continue his journey. The presence of a Jewish population in Lystra, as well as the neighboring cities, in addition to the belief in Zeus, led to problems with spreading the Christian faith in this territory. Believers living here faced persecution and had to build strong moral character.

Later on, during Paul’s life and mission, he also returns to Lystra, finding there another important figure in the Bible – Timothy. Despite the initial rejection of God’s teachings, a number of beliefs in Christianity still prevailed in the city, allowing faith to take root. From such beginnings, another disciple was subsequently born. During his second visit, Paul encouraged the people of Lystra to endure and be strong (Acts 14:21). Additionally, he wrote a letter to Timothy, in particular, bolstering his belief and outlining the man’s perspective on the missionary journey (Creasy, 2021). Timothy is encouraged by Paul’s stride, his miracle work, and the suffering the man had to ensure for his faith, all of which help to strengthen his own belief (2 Timothy 3:10-17). While not much is said about the other believers in the city, the arrival of Timothy was one of the most important events in that place’s relationship to Christianity.


About: Lystra/col. Iulia Felix Gemina, Hatunsaray. Lystra/Col. Iulia Felix Gemina, Hatunsaray – Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire. (n.d.). Web.

Creasy, B. (2021). St. Paul’s “Pastoral Letters”.

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