was a city of Lydia, 28 miles from Sardis, in the valley of the Cogamis, a tributary of the Hermus, and conveniently situated for receiving the trade between the great central plateau of Asia Minor and Smyrna. The district known as Katakekaumene (‘Burnt Region’), because of its volcanic character, rises immediately to the N.E. of Philadelphia, and this was a great vine-producing region.
Philadelphia was founded and named by Attalus Philadelphus of Pergamos before B.C. 138. It was liable to serious earthquakes, but remained an important centre of the Roman province of Asia, receiving the name of Neo-Cæsarea from Tiberius, and, later on, the honour of the Neocorate (i.e. the wardenship of the temple for Emperor-worship). There is no record of the beginning of the Church at Philadelphia, but in the Apocalypse it is one of the seven churches to which, as heads of districts, special messages are sent. In its message (Rev 3:7-13 ESV)
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:7-13 ESV
It is said to have ‘a little strength’ (which perhaps refers to its recent origin), and to have set before it ‘an open door,’ which seems to refer to the opportunities it had of spreading the gospel in the center of Asia Minor. In 3:9 ‘the synagogue of Satan which say they are Jews and are not’ must mean that the Jews of Philadelphia had been lax, and had conceded too much to Gentile ways. But the message contains no reproach against the Christians, although they are bidden to hold fast that which they have, and the promise to him that over cometh is that ‘I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, … and mine own new name.’ Doubtless there is a reference here, as in the message to Pergamus, to the new name taken at baptism, and apparently sometimes kept secret.
Philadelphia was the seat of a bishop, but was not a metropolis until about A.D. 1300, when the importance of Sardis had become less. In the 14th cent., when the Greek Empire retained nothing on the mainland of Asia except a strip of territory opposite Constantinople, Philadelphia still resisted the Ottoman arms, though far from the sea and almost forgotten by the Emperors. In the words of Gibbon (ch. lxiv): ‘Among the Greek colonies and churches of Asia, Philadelphia is still erect, a column in a scene of ruins: a pleasing example that the paths of honor and safety may sometimes be the same.’ The date of its final capture is uncertain—probably A.D. 1391. Its modern name is Alaşehir.
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A.E. Hillard, Hastings Dictionary of the Bible
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