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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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(Πάφος, the modern Baffo)

Paphos was a seaport near the western extremity of Cyprus, the last place visited by Paul and Barnabas in their missionary progress through the island (διελθόντες ὅλην τὴν νῆσον, Acts 13:6). There they were near one of the most famous shrines of paganism, the home of Aphrodite, the foam-born ‘Paphian Queen,’ Old Paphos being the centre of her worship for the whole earth. The city in which the apostles stayed, however, was New Paphos, the seat of the proconsul (ἀνθύπατος), the administrative centre of the island since its annexation by the Romans in 58 b.c. Originally no more than the port of Old Paphos, it possessed a good harbour, from which the apostles sailed for Pamphylia (Acts 13:13). Like the more ancient and famous city, it was devoted to the cult of Aphrodite, to whom it had erected ‘fine buildings’ (Strabo, XIV. vi. 3). It was about 10 miles N.E. of Old Paphos (Παλαιὰ Πάφος or Παλαίπαφος, the modern Kuklia), which stood on an eminence over a mile from the sea-the ‘celsa Paphos’ of Vergil (aen. x. 51). ‘Along the road’ between the two cities, says Strabo (loc. cit.), ‘the annual processions are conducted, when a great concourse both of men and women resort thither,’ not only from New Paphos, but ‘from other cities.’ In describing a pilgrimage which Titus made to this shrine on his way to the siege of Jerusalem, Tacitus expresses surprise at ‘the form under which the image is adored, a form found in no other place’ (Hist. ii. 2). What Titus saw was not the graceful, smiling Aphrodite of Greece, but the rude cultus-image of Phcenicia.

Cyprus was the meeting-place of two ancient faiths and civilizations-Hellenic and Syrian-each of which deeply influenced the other. Herodotus was not ill-informed when he heard ‘on inquiry’ that the temple at Paphos was built in imitation of a Syrian temple in Escalon (i. 105). Excavations have proved that the Paphian shrine had the character of a Phcenician temple, with large open courts and several small chambers, and the same type of building is represented on many coins. Fragments of marble cones and of an altar have also been found, and the idea that the conical stone was anointed in the Semitic fashion is confirmed by an inscription which mentions a festival of the temple called ἐλαιοχρίστιον.

Had St. Paul remained longer at Paphos, he would inevitably have come into conflict with this worship-which Athanasius branded as the deification of lust (τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν θεοποιήσαντες προσκυνοῦσιν [Contra Gentes, 9])-as he did later with that of Artemis at Ephesus. How long the Paphian cult maintained itself against Christianity can only be conjectured. St. Paul’s dispute with Elymas (q.v._) was purely personal.

Literature.-D. G. Hogarth, Devia Cypria, 1889; D. G. Hogarth and M. R. James, in JHS_ ix. [1888] 158f.; art._ ‘Aphrodite’ in Roscher_’s Lexicon.

James Strahan.

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

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

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