Biblical References for Travel to Israel, Greece, Cyprus, and Malta

 

This region holds a Scriptural history that echoes the Holy Land’s—a motivating factor for Bible-believing Christians who travel there. Whether walking the streets of Rome, cruising to Malta or sailing the Greek isles, faith-based travelers become immersed in New Testament narratives on a uniquely enriching journey. Storied destinations lie around every corner, and Christian pilgrims eager to study the early decades of the church will discover them more deeply when guided by knowledgeable scholars. 

Malta 

Located 60 miles south of Sicily, modern-day Malta is as unique as it is breathtaking.

Acts 27-28 tells us that, around 60 A.D., Paul was shipwrecked in an unfamiliar bay while traveling under custody to Rome. Here, you’ll visit the Church of the Bonfire, where Paul encountered friendly locals, healed a man and miraculously survived a snakebite before continuing on to Italy. As you marvel at how this unexpected detour resulted in Malta becoming one of the first Roman colonies to accept Christianity, you’ll leave asking yourself if the shipwreck was a random event…or if was it part of God’s perfect plan.

Athens

For history buffs, Athens needs no introduction. From the Parthenon to its temples dedicated to Athena, Zeus and Hephaestus, it is a treasure trove of ancient ruins. Athens was once the center of one of the most influential civilizations in the world. It was into this context that Paul gave his famous, rousing sermon on Mars Hill (Areopagus), addressing the city’s philosophers. He used his knowledge of local culture to build a case for the Gospel (Acts 17).

As you climb the rough-hewn stairs, carved into the marble hilltop of the Acropolis, you can read this sermon for yourself. Its text (in Greek) is displayed on a bronze plaque across from the entrance. Can you imagine hearing the Gospel proclaimed so boldly in the midst of such a hostile environment? Surrounded by idols and pagan gods, Paul pointed people to the truth. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples made by human hands” (Acts 17:24). In a world that still worships what is false, we have that same opportunity every day of our lives.

 Corinth

 One of the oldest cities in the world, Corinth dates as far back in history as 6,000 B.C., which makes it home to countless ruins and archeological sites—including the remains of the ancient Temple of Poseidon. It’s surrounded by picturesque lakes and even hot springs, making the region a vacation destination even apart from its biblical history.

But it’s that history that makes Corinth such a meaningful destination. Located on an isthmus halfway between Athens and Sparta, ancient Corinth was one of the wealthiest and most important port cities in Greece. More than 2,000 years ago, it may even have been twice the size it is today. From this temporary home, Paul wrote his influential letter to the Romans, his epistles to the Thessalonians and established the Corinthian church.

Paul spent more than a year here during his second missionary journey, working as a tentmaker at the home of his ministry partners, Priscilla and Aquila. Acts 18:4 tells us about this prolific period of ministry, and today you can visit the ruins of the ancient marketplace where these three Believers sold their tents. It won’t be hard to imagine the bustling streets Paul stood on, meeting and no doubt evangelizing whomever he met.

Kusadasi, Turkey

This city of 65,000 on the Aegean coast meets every expectation for cruise travelers, from its bustling rug shops to countless seaside cafés offering delicious Turkish coffee. But the true draw of Kusadasi lies nine miles away at the impressive archaeological sites of ancient Ephesus.

Once a most prominent seaport, Ephesus was a center of worship for the goddess Artemis. Paul established a church here during his second missionary journey. He later lived in the city for more than three years. The disciple John is thought to have spent time here as well in the years following the Resurrection. Also mentioned in Revelation, the area’s early Christians were the recipients of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

You’ll reflect on Paul’s message when you visit the ruined Temple of Artemis. Many Ephesians feared the message of the Gospel would “discredit” the name of this goddess (Acts 19:27). In fact, a mob gathered against Paul in the city’s enormous outdoor amphitheater, the ruins of which are a central point of interest. But while the name of Jesus is still proclaimed worldwide today, all that remains of this once great temple is a single column. The people of ancient Ephesus were right to worry.

Rhodes

Paul’s Visit

Paul visited the island while returning to Jerusalem from his third missionary journey. Acts 21:1 (NIV) “After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Cos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara.” One tradition says that Paul’s ship landed in a harbor at Lindos on Rhodes, and another tradition says that he traveled throughout the island spreading the gospel. There is no evidence for either tradition.

Cyprus

Paphos

 Biblical Paphos, also called “Nea Paphos” or “New Paphos,” was founded around 320 BC by Nikokles, the city’s last Greek king. Paphos served as the island’s capital until the Byzantine period, when it was moved to Salamis. During the Ptolemaic period (ca. 300-58 BC) New Paphos was a significant port city. The Romans seized control of Cyprus in 58 BC and incorporated it into the province of Cilicia. In 30 BC, it was made a separate Roman province ruled by a Roman military governor, and in 22 BC, it became a senatorial province ruled by a proconsul. The proconsul of the island when Paul visited (about AD 47) was a man named Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7).

Paul’s First Journey

“When [Barnabas and Paul] had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith…Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord. Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia” (Acts 13:6–8, 12-13, ESV).

Villa of Theseus

Roman villas with exquisite mosaic floors have been excavated at Paphos. The Villa of Theseus, a palatial house, gets its name from a mosaic depiction of Theseus and the Minotaur. It was built in the 2nd century AD, and is the largest residential building on the island of Cyprus, measuring 360 feet (112 m) by 250 feet (78 m). Since its discovery in 1966, the Villa of Theseus has been excavated by the Polish Archaeological Mission.

Tombs of the Kings

North of the city, the “Tombs of the Kings” belonged to the city’s upper class during the Hellenistic and early Roman periods. The tombs are cut into the rock and sometimes were designed to look like houses. It was common for offerings to be buried in the tombs with the deceased. These included small jugs called Rhodian amphorae which archaeologists used to date the tombs.

Minoan Palace

Seven Minoan palaces have been excavated on the island of Crete: Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, Gournia, Galatas, Petras, and Kato Zakros. The palaces share many features in common and were designed with facilities for fulfilling religious, economic, and royal functions. At Knossos, the palace is built around a large, rectangular paved courtyard that is twice as long as it is wide. The palace contains a large number of long, narrow storerooms, and its exterior walls have numerous projections and recesses.

Israel

 “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people”—Matthew 4:23.

Few locations are mentioned more often in the New Testament than Galilee—a lush, mountainous region east of Haifa in northern Israel. Most visitors arrive in Israel expecting vast expanses of rocky desert. Galilee upends their expectations. Here they’ll find orchards and vineyards. Its higher elevations result in more rainfall and lower temperatures, so it’s not uncommon to encounter fields of wildflowers here, plus streams and waterfalls. That’s one reason Galilee has gained a reputation as a peaceful resort region and a popular draw for tourists.

For spiritual pilgrims, of course, Galilee’s popularity isn’t due to its natural beauty. Jesus grew up in nearby Nazareth and spent most of His life and public ministry in this area. He taught here, called His disciples here and performed miracles here. In fact, of the thirty-three miracles documented in the New Testament, nearly a third of them took place in or around Galilee.

When travelers walk the shores of the Sea of Galilee, they are literally walking where Jesus walked. The spectacular landscape surrounding them was the setting for some of the most unforgettable moments in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Nof Ginosaur (Jesus Boat)

Three decades ago, locals accidentally discovered a small wooden vessel buried in the mud along the lake shore. This was a colossal find. The ancient boat dated back to the first century and represents a typical fisherman’s vessel—exactly the kind of craft someone like Peter would have been using when Jesus first approached him. A replica of this boat, known as “the Jesus Boat,” can be seen in a local museum and helps visitors better visualize so many stories from the Gospels.

Sea of Galilee Boat Ride 

Imagine climbing aboard a large, wooden boat and setting out on the Sea of Galilee, expecting a leisurely sailing experience and fresh air. But as the gentle waves lap against the hull, you think about Jesus and the disciples floating on these same peaceful waters, in a boat very similar to this one.

Mount of Beatitudes

Overlooking the lake, this beautiful green hillside isn’t just one of the most attractive spots on the shoreline. It has also been a site of Christian pilgrimage for centuries. Here is where Jesus is thought to have delivered His most famous message: The Sermon on the Mount. The hill forms a natural amphitheater, and the water behind the speaker amplifies the sound.

Capernaum

Located next to the Sea of Galilee, this village became Jesus’ adopted hometown and was the home of disciples including Peter, James and John. As such, Jesus worshipped and taught in the Capernaum synagogue. In fact, this was where He delivered His “I am the Bread of Life” message in John 6. Capernaum also became the setting for many of His miracles. Despite this sacred history, the village fell into ruin until its rediscovery in the 19th century. Today, excavation sites include the potential location of Peter’s house and one structure that may have been one of the earliest Christian churches in the world.

Tabgha

Southwest of Capernaum, a warm spring enters the lake near the foot of the Mount of Beatitudes. The higher water temperature and nutrient content attract fish, making this a favorite spot among ancient fisherman. As a result, it served as the location of many interactions between Jesus and the disciples, including Jesus’ third appearance to His followers after the Resurrection. This is when Jesus told Peter to “feed my sheep” (John 21:17). Traditionally, Tabgha is also the site where Jesus established Peter as the foremost among the disciples, saying “on this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). At this location, the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter is built over a flat rock where Jesus is thought to have been cooking fish in the John 21 account.

Magdala

This ancient port on the Sea of Galilee is located six miles from Capernaum. Matthew 15:39 says that Jesus traveled here by boat and He may have preached here during His years in ministry. By the end of the first century, Magdala might have been home to 40,000 residents. It’s most famous resident, of course, was Mary Magdalene, the first person to witness Jesus after the Resurrection. Most recently, Magdala has become known as a bustling archaeological site, home to a Jewish synagogue built 50 years before Christ’s birth and the ornate “Magdala Stone” discovered here. Further excavation has revealed an entire Jewish town, which today helps visitors better understand what life was like for Jesus and His earliest followers.

Bethsaida

While many historical sites around the Sea of Galilee have a connection to the life of Jesus, few are mentioned as often in the Gospels as Bethsaida, located on the northern shore of the lake. Many of Jesus’ miracles were performed here, including the well-known account of Him giving sight to a blind man (Mark 8:22-26). Despite these miracles, the residents of Bethsaida frustrated Jesus, who once cursed this fishing village for its lack of faith (Luke 10:13). Here, visitors can see a cobblestone street that dates back to the New Testament and enjoy some of the best views of the Sea of Galilee.

One of the most scenic, peaceful regions of Israel, Galilee is home to historical sites right out of the pages of Scripture. If you’re looking to follow in the footsteps of Jesus in Israel, you’ll encounter reminders of His life and ministry everywhere you look

 Nazareth

Here, in Israel’s most well-known bustling, open-air living museum, sheep and goats graze around you. Chickens clamor as they peck along the stony soil. Donkeys pull rustic plows. Figs, almonds, barley and other ancient crops grow on a hillside, tended by young and old alike wearing 1st century garb. Seekers visiting Nazareth Village are transported back in time. Here, they discover much more than a history lesson: They watch the black-and-white details of the New Testament spring to vivid color before their eyes.

 

Caesarea Maritima (for those on the Day 3 tour 

In Caesarea Maritima, the apostle Peter baptized the first recorded gentile convert to Christianity — Cornelius, a centurion in the Roman army.

When this Italian soldier and his household believed in Jesus, they received the gift of the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues. This event astonished the Jewish Christians but validated the fact that salvation was for all people (Acts 10)

Caesarea Maritima (“by the sea”) was the scene of other significant events for Christians:

  • It was the headquarters of Pontius Pilate. From here the Roman procurator set out for the Passoverfestival in Jerusalem, where he sentenced Jesus to death.
  • Here the apostlePaul was imprisoned for two years and preached to the last of the Herods, King Agrippa II, who said that if he were to listen any longer to Paul’s persuasion he might become a Christian.
  • The city was the home of Philip the evangelist and his four daughters, who were prophetesses. Paul stayed with them when he returned from his missionary journeys.
  • At Philip’s home, a prophet named  Agabus bound Paul’s hands and feet with his belt, foretelling how the apostle would be handed over to the Romans.
  • After Jerusalemwas destroyed, Caesarea became the centre of Christianity in Palestine. A Church council held here in AD 195 determined that Easter should be celebrated on a Sunday.

Caesarea — not to be confused with Caesarea Philippi in Galilee – was founded by Herod the Great on the site of an ancient fortified town. In 22 BC, with no expense spared, he began building a new city and harbour.

Massive breakwaters gave safe anchorage to 300 ships, a sewage system was flushed by the tide, and a vast hippodrome seated more than 20,000 people at chariot races. Later an amphitheatre was built to present chariot races, gladiatorial combats, animal performances and theatrical events. Little wonder that Caesarea has been dubbed “Vegas on the Med.”

The desecration of Caesarea’s synagogue and the massacre of 20,000 Jews — in a single hour, according to the historian Josephus — culminated in the First Jewish Revolt, which ended with the AD 70 destruction of both Jerusalem and the Second Temple.

Christianity was accepted early in Caesarea. By the end of the 2nd century the city had a bishop, Theophilus of Caesarea, whose territory included Jerusalem.

Well-known Christian Fathers who were active in Caesarea included Origen and Pamphilius. The library they built up was second only to that of Alexandria (in the 7th century it held 30,000 works).

Eusebius, who became bishop in 314, was both the first Church historian and the first biblical geographer. Without his book of place names, the Onomasticon, many biblical sites would never have been identified. 

Philip arrives in Caesarea: Acts 8:40

Agabus prophesies Paul’s death: Acts 21:8-11

Peter visits Cornelius: Acts 10

God strikes down Herod Agrippa I: Acts 12:21-23

Paul is imprisoned in Caesarea: Acts 23:23—26:32

Crete 

Crete is a large island in the Mediterranean near the southern entrance to the Agean Sea. It is a rugged mountainous region, once inhabited by a people whose reputation was less than ideal. A Greek philosopher, Epimenides (c. 600 B.C.), characterized the Cretans as perpetual liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons (Titus 1:12).

Jews from this region were present in Jerusalem on Pentecost, and Christianity could have enjoyed its commencement on the island as a result of this historic occasion (cf. Acts 2:11).

From a consideration of the book of Titus, it is apparent that Paul visited Crete at some point following his first Roman imprisonment (Acts 28). Titus, a Greek convert of Paul’s (Galatians 2:3; Titus 1:4) had accompanied the apostle to the island and, in fact, was left there to assist in maturing the church, and to lend his opposition to certain false teachers (Titus 1:5-16). It is out of this background that Paul’s letter to Titus was written. The epistle provides needed instruction for the evangelist during his remaining time on the island. Titus was to rejoin Paul at Nicopolis (3:12).

With this historical backdrop, let us consider a portion of the letter to Titus.

“Put them in mind to be in subjection to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready unto every good work, to speak evil of no man, not to be contentious, to be gentle, showing all meekness toward all men. For we also once were foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Saviour, and his love toward man, appeared, not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour that, being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (3:1-7 ASV).

This is a great website for more details: https://www.seetheholyland.net/