(La·o·di·ceʹa), Laodiceans (La·o·di·ceʹans).
A city in the western part of Asia Minor, the ruins of which lie near Denizli, about 150 km (90 mi) E of Ephesus. It was known earlier as Diospolis and Rhoas but was evidently rebuilt in the third century B.C.E. by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus II and named after his wife Laodice. Situated in the fertile valley of the Lycus River, Laodicea lay at the junction of major trade routes and was linked by roads with cities such as Ephesus, Pergamum, and Philadelphia.
Laodicea enjoyed great prosperity as a manufacturing city and as a banking center. Indicative of the city’s great wealth is the fact that when it suffered extensive earthquake damage in the reign of Nero, it was able to rebuild without any financial assistance from Rome. (Tacitus’ Annals, XIV, XXVII) The glossy black wool of Laodicea and the garments made therefrom were widely known. The seat of a famous medical school, this city probably also produced the eye medicine known as Phrygian powder. One of the main deities venerated at Laodicea was Asclepius, a god of medicine.
This city had a major disadvantage. Unlike the nearby city of Hierapolis, with its hot springs famed for their healing properties, and Colossae, with its refreshing cold water, Laodicea had no permanent water supply. From a considerable distance away, water had to be piped to Laodicea and likely was lukewarm on reaching the city. For the initial part of the distance the water was conveyed by means of an aqueduct and then, closer to the city, through cubical stone blocks that were bored through the middle and cemented together.
Laodicea seems to have had a considerable number of Jews. According to a letter from Laodicean magistrates (as quoted by Josephus), the Jews, in compliance with the injunction of Gaius Rabirius, were allowed to observe their Sabbaths and other sacred rites. (Jewish Antiquities, XIV, 241-243 [x, 20]) At least some of the Jews there were quite wealthy. This may be deduced from the fact that, when Governor Flaccus ordered the confiscation of the annual contributions that were meant for the temple at Jerusalem, the amount reportedly was found to be more than 20 pounds of gold.
In the first century C.E., a Christian congregation existed at Laodicea and apparently met in the home of Nympha, a Christian sister there. Doubtless the efforts of Epaphras contributed to the establishment of that congregation. (Col 4:12, 13, 15) Also, the effects of Paul’s work at Ephesus likely reached as far as Laodicea. (Ac 19:10) Although not ministering there personally, Paul was nevertheless concerned about the Laodicean congregation and even wrote a letter to them. (Col 2:1; 4:16) However, some scholars believe that Paul’s letter may have been simply a duplicate of the one he sent to Ephesus. Of course, that is only a theory, an effort to account for the fact that the Bible contains no letter from Paul to the Laodiceans, although Paul wrote to them. The letter to Laodicea may simply have contained information not necessary for us today, or it may have repeated points adequately covered in other canonical letters.
The congregation at Laodicea was one of the seven in Asia Minor to which the glorified Jesus Christ, in a revelation to John, addressed personal messages. (Re 1:11) At that time, toward the close of the first century C.E., the Laodicean congregation had little to commend it. Though materially rich, it was spiritually poor. Instead of the literal gold handled by the Laodicean bankers, instead of the garments of glossy black wool made locally, instead of the eye medicine doubtless produced by the Laodicean medical profession, instead of the boiling hot medicinal waters from the springs of nearby Hierapolis, the Laodicean congregation needed things like these in a spiritual sense. It needed “gold refined by fire” to enrich its personality (compare 1Co 3:10-14; 1Pe 1:6, 7), white outer garments to give it an irreproachable Christian appearance with no unchristian features that were as shameful as bodily nakedness. (Compare Re 16:15; 19:8.) It needed to have spiritual “eyesalve” applied to take away its blindness to Bible truth and Christian responsibilities. (Compare Isa 29:18; 2Pe 1:5-10; 1Jo 2:11.) It could buy these things from Christ Jesus, the one knocking at the door, if it let him in hospitably to entertain him. (Compare Isa 55:1, 2.) It needed to become stimulatingly hot (compare Ps 69:9; 2Co 9:2; Tit 2:14) or refreshingly cold (compare Pr 25:13, 25), but not to stay lukewarm.—Re 3:14-22.