This is a remarkable photograph, not because I took it, but because is a direct visual display of bible history.In 66AD the Roman eastern flank was challenged by the Persians, and the Roman empire had no deep-water port on the Mediterranean sea-board. The port of Antioch in Syria, or modern Antakya in Turkey, had its port as indicated to the north of the mouth of the Orontes river near the modern Turkish beach at Çevlik. But it had issues: it was continually silting up, and so no deep keeled boats could enter the harbour. This photograph demonstrates the very silt that was the problem for the Romans!
Titus and Vespasian took troops and Jewish captives from Jerusalem to build a significant conduit through this mountain to harvest the waters collected from the range behind and divert it through the harbour and thus dispelling the silt.
This conduit was built under duress, and required rapid action, and no doubt the bent backs of the circumcision party (Acts 10:45 RSV) put blood, sweat and tears into this project, and on completion the troops again were diverted to their original task at Jerusalem.
Water still flows here today from the now earthquake damaged conduits, but stands as a testimony of the care of deity to allow the escape of followers of Christ from the siege conditions of Jerusalem, and find a temporary haven at Pella.
Antioch became an icon of the preaching of the truth to the gentiles, and was the sponsoring ecclesia of the missionary journeys of the apostle Paul, Acts 13:4; 14:26; 18:22. Other travels including the apostle Peter would have been via the port Acts 11:26; 12:25. Paul returned to Antioch on his return journey as evident from his interaction with Agabus, a prophet and early supporter of the ecclesia Acts 21:7-8 and would have left here with great hopes for the success of the Jerusalem poor fund in convincing the circumcision party of the need for grace as the prime-mover of acceptance with deity. But this task was to fail: after a short 10 day interval in Jerusalem Paul was taken to Caesarea and then onto Rome, from where the passionate message of the book of Hebrews was written to understand the spirit of grace was so important, particularly in light of the “little time” of the impending judgments of God on Jerusalem with the capture of many for the building of this tunnel project.
Paul would have left from the port, passing close to the location of where the tunnels would later be built. Named after Seleucus Nicator I, one of Alexander’s generals, the port and the city became the early foundations for the northern consolidated kingdom of the Greeks. Later known as the “king of the North” in Daniel 11, this kingdom would be the direct antagonist the Ptolemaic empire centered in Alexandria. The meat in the sandwich was the land of Israel, and significant conflicts would boil over in the “glorious land”.
Interestingly the only remaining ethnic Armenian village remaining in Turkey is not far from here at Vakifli, a reminder of the end of the Armenian orthodox church. Around 130 people only remain in the village. Further, the Titus tunnels stand under the shadow of Jebel (Mount) Archus, the home of the god Baal, but that is the subject of another story…