Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire. It was located on the Orontes River near the Mediterranean coast in the western part of Roman Syria. The city was an important commercial and cultural center, and it became a major center for early Christianity. Many Jews as well as Gentiles lived there. Christianity was brought to Antioch by the Hellenists (Greek-speaking Christians) who fled from Jerusalem after the martyrdom of Stephen. In Antioch, Jesus' followers began to be called "Christians" (Acts 11:19-26). Some at Antioch began preaching the gospel to Gentiles. The community at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey to Cyprus and Asia Minor (Acts 13:1-3). Some Jewish Christians from Jerusalem objected to the Antioch congregation's practice of not requiring Gentile converts to be circumcised, and so Paul, Barnabas, and Titus were sent from Antioch to Jerusalem where it was agreed that circumcision was not necessary (Acts 15; Galatians 2:1-10).
AUTHOR: Robert Brusic, Seminary Pastor Emeritus