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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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Bithynia (Βιθυνία) was a fertile and highly civilized country in the N.W. of Asia Minor, bounded en the W. by the Propontis and the Bosporus, on the N. by the Euxine, on the S. by the range of Mysian Olympus, and on the E. by a doubtful line, some distance to the right of the river Sangarios (Strabo, xii. iv. 1; Pliny, v. 43). One of the kings of Bithynia changed the history of Asia Minor by inviting the marauding Galatians to cross the Bosporus (278 b.c.). Nicomedes iii., the last king, made the Romans his heirs (73 b.c.), and after the expulsion of Mithridates of Pontus (64 b.c.), Pompey formed the dual province of Bithynia et Pontus, which was governed by a proconsul, residing at Nicomedeia. On the division of the provinces by Augustus in 27 b.c. it remained senatorial.

The presence of Jews in Bithynia is indicated by Philo (Leg. ad Gaium, 36). In his second missionary journey, St. Paul, always drawn to the great centres of Graeco-Roman civilization, attempted with Silas to enter Bithynia (ἐπείραζον εἰς τὴν Βιθυνίαν πορευθῆναι), intending probably to evangelize Nicaea and Nicomedeia, but the Spirit of Jesus, who was leading them on westward, did not permit them (Acts 16:7). The province which so nearly became an apostolic mission-field had not, however, to wait long for the gospel. 1 Peter 1:1 affords evidence of the early introduction and rapid progress of Christianity in the province of Bithynia. Details, however, are wanting.

‘For Bithynia, like Cappadocia, we have no primitive Christian record: but it could hardly remain long unaffected by the neighbourhood at Christian communities to the South-West, the South, and probably the East; even if no friend or disciple took up before long the purpose which St. Paul had been constrained to abandon, when a Divine intimation drew him onward into Europe’ (F. J. A. Hort, First Ep. of St. Peter: I. 1-II; 17, 1898, p. 17).

In a.d. 112 the younger Pliny was sent to govern the province of Bithynia, which had become disorganized under senatorial administration. His correspondence with Trajan bears striking testimony to the expansion of the Christian religion, which seemed to him a superstitio prava immodica (Epp. x. 96, 97). Not only in the cities but in the rural villages the temples were almost deserted and the sacrificial ritual interrupted. While the letters describe a state of things which was true of the province as a whole, there are some indications that Amisos in the Far East was the first city on the Black Sea to which Christianity spread (Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire, 1893, p. 224f.).

Literature.-W. Smith, DGRG [Note: GRG Dict. of Greek and Roman Geography.] i. [1856] 404; Carl Ritter, Kleinasien, i. [1858] 650ff.; E. G. Hardy, Plinii Epistulae ad Trajanum, 1889; W. M. Ramsay. Hist. Geog. of Asia Minor, 1890; Conybeare-Howson, Life and Epistles of St. Paul, new ed., 1877.

James Strahan.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Bithynia'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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