“No Obscure City”
After soldiers rescued the apostle Paul from an enraged mob in Jerusalem, the military commander asked him whether he was a notorious Egyptian seditionary. Paul replied that he was not: “I am, in fact, a Jew, of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city.” (Acts 21:39) To the citizens of Tarsus and even to outsiders, their city was by no means obscure or insignificant. It was not only an important commercial center but also an intellectual center with a famed university. The Greek geographer Strabo of the first century (A.D.) wrote in his Geography: “The people at Tarsus have devoted themselves so eagerly, not only to philosophy, but also to the whole round of education in general, that they have surpassed Athens, Alexandria, or any other place that can be named where there have been schools and lectures of philosophers.” An inscription has been unearthed that calls Tarsus “the great and wondrous metropolis of Cilicia.” Many of the coins of Tarsus were inscribed with the words: “Tarsus Metropolis, First, Fairest and Best.”—The Bible as History, p. 380; Light from the Ancient Past, p. 255; The Bible Was Right, chap. 24.