13 “But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. 15 And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and[a] the day after that we went to Miletus. 16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.” (Acts 20:13-16)
Luke often summarizes Paul’s journeys in the Acts of the Apostles. Today’s text is one such summary. Paul was on his journey to Jerusalem in order to deliver an offering from Gentile churches to the believers in Judea and Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-27; I Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8-9).
Paul’s journey involved having his companions set sail from Troas for Assos, while he traveled to Assos by land. Assos was a seaport of Mysia in the Roman province of Asia (Minor) and off the coast of the Agean Sea… The Roman writer Pliny identified the town as having been founded by the kings of Pergamum and called Apollonia. Assos was located on the top and terraced sides of an inactive volcanic cone 770 feet (234.6 meters) in height. The Greek philosopher Aristotle lived there for several years. It was also the birthplace of Cleanthes, a Stoic poet quoted by Paul (Acts 17:28). Today Assos is known as Behram Kevi.
When Paul met Luke and the others with him at Assos, they sailed to Mitylene. Mitylene was the main city on the island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea near the northwestern coast of Asia Minor. Mitylene was a seaport with two harbors. Originally it had been built on a small island separate from Lesbos. In NT times it was connected with the main island by a raised roadway across a narrow stretch of water.
Sailing from Mitylene, the travelers arrived the next day at Chios. Chios remains a rocky, mountainous island in the east-central area of the Aegean Sea. Though not particularly fertile, Chios (Kios) was nevertheless noted for its wine, figs, and gum mastic. It is separated from the mainland by a five-mile (8-kilometer) strait. In Paul’s day its principal city, Kios (modern Scio), was a free city in the Roman province of Asia.
The next day, Paul and his companions arrived by ship to Samos. Samos is a small Greek island located off the coast of Asia Minor in the Aegean Sea near the promontory of Trogyllium. This Ionian island was positioned southwest of Ephesus and northwest of Miletus. In Paul’s day, it was a prosperous commercial center and considered autonomous by Rome. In his wish to bypass Ephesus, Paul anchored near Samos on his journey to Jerusalem at the close of his third missionary journey.
Leaving Samos, the next day Paul arrived in Miletus. Miletus was an Important Greek city located at the mouth of the Meander River. It was settled by Crete as early as 1339–1288 bc. Miletus had contact with the Hittite Empire. Her king, in fact, was claimed as a vassal by the Hittite ruler. Excavations indicate that Miletus, once destroyed by fire, was later surrounded by a defensive wall (13th century bc). Miletus became an important city in the ancient world. Her traders carried the furniture and woolens for which she was known to many foreign ports.
Paul and his companions conducted this so-called island hopping journey in order to bypass staying in Ephesus. Tensions may have still been running high in the aftermath of the riot (Acts 19:21-41). Also, Paul was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem by the Day of Pentecost and a visit to Ephesus might have required him to stay for some time.
My reason for taking the time to survey these various cities is the same as Luke’s. It is to demonstrate that Paul was a historical person who visited historical cities and ports existing in the ancient world. Paul’s life and ministry can be historically verified. The apostle was not a myth and neither was, is, the Gospel he preached.
Soli deo Gloria!