THE CHURCH IN ANTIOCH
Antioch of Syria (known as Antakya) was the third most important city of the Roman Empire, after Rome and Alexandria. There was a large Jewish community in the city from its founding in 300BC.
Antioch was also a prominent city during the early days of the Christian Church. Nicolas of Antioch was elected as one of the helpers in the early Church in Jerusalem. Many Christians fled Jerusalem after Stephen was stoned and settled in Antioch. It was here that the group of believers were first called "Christians".
Paul and Barnabas ministered in Antioch for a year and were sent out on their missionary journeys to Asia Minor, Macedonia and Achaia by the Church of Antioch. When more and more gentiles joined the Christian Church it became an issue if these Christians should also be circumcised and be subjected to Old Testament Jewish laws. Therefore the Church in Antioch sent delegates to the First Church Council in Jerusalem to solve the problem. The Council decided that Christians only need to follow a few basic Jewish rules and this was accepted and implemented by the Church in Antioch with joy.
Modern Antakya is situated in Turkey, 20km from the Syrian border. Archaeological excavations is still in progress and pilgrims can visit the Cave Church of St Peter which could be the oldest church building in the world.