Did Paul’s ship dock at Perga or Attalia?

My friend and former student Darryl Smelser left a good comment regarding Perga for a post here. I thought I would elevate it to an entire post.

You point out that “Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark made their way from Paphos on Cyprus to Perga in Pamphylia,” which of course is correct. But as Perga is a bit inland from the sea, and Attalia was/is a port, I have pretty much assumed that as they traveled from Cyprus, the three men arrived *first at Attalia* and then went to Perga, and so toward Galatia. Why would not Luke have mentioned Attalia? I suppose the omission is due to the fact that in this part of the journey neither Attalia nor Perga were important to be mentioned, except for the fact that it was in Perga that John Mark turned back; thus it wins a mention. Does that seem to be sound reasoning to you? Would any ship delivering goods to Perga have ported at Attalia, or was there a closer port?

I think we can give no absolute answer to this question. Here is what I know about it.

Look at a good modern atlas of Turkey (Köy Köy Türkiye Yol Atlasi), and you will see the Aksu Cay (the ancient Cestrus River) about 3 miles east of Perga. Attalia (modern Antalya) is farther to the west.

Mark Wilson says,

Strabo (14.6.2) states that the Cestrus was navigable at this time and a road apparently linked the river with Perga. The city was 6 mi/10 km from the Mediterranean and linked to the coast via a road to its port at Magydus (Lara). (Biblical Turkey, 99).

Wilson continues in a sentence that seems to have a typo,

Perga was the port of entry Mark in Asia Minor for Paul, Barnabas, and John on their first journey (Acts 13:13). (100).

My first suggestion is that the word Mark somehow got moved from after John, to the line above. If so, then the sentence should be read as follows:

Perga was the port of entry in Asia Minor for Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark on their first journey (Acts 13:13).

Fant and Reddish say,

In ancient times Perga apparently had a port on the river, which was navigable, thus allowing the city to benefit commercially from the river. (Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, 265).

The Dictionary of the Apostolic Church (J. Hastings) recently became available through Logos community pricing. James Strahan says,

Paul and Barnabas were twice at Perga in their first missionary tour. In their outward journey they landed at the river-harbour and went up to the city (Ac 13:13).

The Roman Gate at Perga in Pamphylia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman Gate at Perga in Pamphylia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

5 responses to “Did Paul’s ship dock at Perga or Attalia?

  1. Excellent relic composition!!! Cheers Nonoy Manga

  2. Though they may not have arrived in Pamphylia at Attalia, they most certainly exited from there, which probably leads to the unnecessary inference that they arrived there by this same port. Acts 14.24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. 25 And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, 26 and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled.

  3. There is a good article about this:
    “Paul in Pamphylia (Acts 13.13-14a; 14.24b-26) : A Critical Note” by Douglas Campbell, in New Testament Studies (2000): 595-602. Includes a nice map and says that In Acts 13 Paul sails up the Cestros RIver to Perga and In Acts 14 departed from Attalia, which is exactly how Luke describes it.

    Bill Combs
    Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

  4. Thanks for the information! Looks like I may have to revise my maps. I tried to verify the Strabo reference, using two online sites to look up the passage cited by Mark Wilson, but the passage I found listed as 14.6.2 mentions nothing about the Cestrus or Perga. I’ll do some more searching when I have time in a day or two.
    -Darryl Smelser

  5. Pingback: Docking again at Perga | Ferrell's Travel Blog

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