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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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Tyre, the ancient mother of colonies and mistress of the seas, ‘the merchant of the peoples unto many isles’ (Ezekiel 27:3), ceased to be politically important under the Greeks and Romans. But, along with the sister-city of Sidon, it still retained its commercial prosperity, though they had now a very formidable rival in Alexandria. ‘Both,’ says Strabo (XVI. ii. 22), ‘were formerly, and are at present, illustrious and splendid cities, but which of the two should be called the capital of Phœnicia is a matter of dispute among the inhabitants.’ Confined to an island-rock with a surface area of only 140 acres, in which room had to be found not only for dwelling-houses but for factories, dockyards, a canal, and a great temple, Tyre solved the problem of space in an un-Oriental manner by running up buildings of many stories, ‘of more even than at Rome’ (ib.). Since the time of a memorable siege by Alexander the Great (332 b.c.), the island had been connected with the mainland by a mole half a mile long, which was gradually widened by the accretion of sand-it is now ⅓; of a mile broad. In the Roman period, when ‘the great number of dyeing works’ rendered the city ‘unpleasant as a place of residence’ (ib.), suburbs began to rise along the coast, on or near the site of Old Tyre, Palae-Tyrus.

The Tyrians were devoted to the worship of Melkart (‘king of the city’), whom the Greeks identified with Hercules (as in CIG [Note: IG Corpus Inscrip. Graecarum.] 122, c. [Note: . circa, about.] 180 b.c.). The coming of Christianity to Tyre was foreshadowed when many of its inhabitants journeyed to Galilee to see the Prophet of Nazareth, and when He returned their visit (Mark 3:8, Luke 6:17, Mark 7:24, Matthew 15:21). Luke relates that the dispersion of Christians from Jerusalem, consequent upon Stephen’s death, sent preachers to Phœnicia, who confined their message to the Jews (Acts 11:19); and, further, that the story of Paul’s first missionary journey and of ‘the conversion of the Gentiles’ was told to ‘all the brethren’ of Phœnicia before it was heard by the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:3). Acts 21:3-5, which is a ‘we-section,’ gives an indication of the measure of progress made by the new faith in Tyre by a.d. 56 (C. H. Turner in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) i. 423a), when Paul and Luke landed there at the end of the third missionary journey. They ‘found the disciples,’ but the verb (ἀνευρότες) implies that they had to ‘look them up’-quaerendo reperire (F. Blass, Acta Apostolorum, Göttingen, 1895, p. 225)-evidently because the Christians were still numerically a feeble folk in the great heathen city. They are not called a church, yet among them were some who spoke ‘through the Spirit,’ with the rapt utterance of NT prophets. At the end of a week of fellowship, ‘they all, with wives and children,’-the language still suits a small company of converts-escorted Paul and his comrades outside the city. On the beach there was enacted a sacred and pathetic scene very similar to the one at Miletus (20:36-38), and with this the story of nascent Christianity in Tyre suddenly ends.

The Elder Pliny refers to the prosperity of Tyre, in the middle of the 1st cent., and indicates its staple trade in the words: ‘Nunc omnis ejus nobilitas conchylio atque purpura constat’ (Historia Naturalis (Pliny) v. 17). Jerome, at the end of the 4th cent., calls it still the first commercial city of the East, ‘an emporium for the commerce of the whole world’ (Com. ad Ezk on 26:7, 27:2). Septimins Severus made it a Roman colony, and among its illustrious citizens were Origen and Porphyry. From 1124 to 1291 it was an impregnable stronghold of the Crusaders. Deserted by the Christians after the fall of Acre, it was destroyed by the Muslims. It is now an unimportant town among scattered fragments of ruins (see Phœnicia).

Literature.-A. P. Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, new ed., London, 1877, p. 270; W. M. Thomson, The Land and the Book, do., 1910, pp. 155-172; C. Baedeker, Palestine and Syria4, do., 1906, pp. 267-269.

James Strahan.

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

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Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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