The sun is setting over the Aegean Sea, bringing another wonderful day to a close, a day rich in discoveries. Two ancient cities were on the program today, Miletus and Priene. Priene is not mentioned in Scripture, but Miletus is, as the starting point of the apostle Paul’s voyage back to Jerusalem, and the place where the saints bade him farewell with tears and sorrow (see Acts 20:16-38). It impresses by its huge Roman theatre, the installations around what was then the harbor, today completely silted up and far from the sea shore. Priene’s beauty lies in its classical Greek architecture from the 4th century B.C., its well preserved neighborhoods revealing what was a well laid-out city, its beautiful acropolis overlooking the plain, dominated by a steep and rocky hill in the background.
Christianity came to these shores, carried from Judaea by men of humble origins, who were confronted by a very sophisticated civilization. This civilization was in fact so advanced that it laid the basis for modern mathematics, philosophy, architecture, city planning, medicine, and became the inspiration for countless scientists, artists, poets and writers during the age of Enlightenment and beyond.
But all of this now lies in the dust. Certainly, the spirit of these men and women has endured. They have left a powerful mark on the world. World history and our own civilization are enormously indebted to them. But their legacy pales by comparison to the legacy left by Paul and the other apostles. Theirs is one that will endure forever. For with every generation, there are millions of men and women whose hearts are transformed by their witness and their writings. Millions around the world still find comfort, encouragement, guidance and wisdom from their pen. They labored on these shores, trod these paths, and marveled at the same buildings we now see covered in dust, weathered by time. But their sight went beyond what surrounded them, and beheld a hope we still hold dear today: that of a Savior returning in glory.