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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

(Λύστρα, which is fem. sing in  Acts 14:6; Acts 21;  Acts 16:1, and neut. pl.[Note: plural.]in  Acts 14:8;  Acts 16:2,  2 Timothy 3:11)

Lystra was a Roman garrison town of southern Galatia, built on an isolated hill in a secluded valley at the S. edge of the vast upland plain of Lycaonia, about 18 miles S.S.W. of Iconium. Itself 3,780 ft. above sea-level, it had behind it the gigantic Taurus range, whose fastnesses were the haunts of wild mountaineers living on plunder and blackmail. It was the necessity of stamping out this social pest that raised the obscure town of Lystra into temporary importance. In 6 b.c. Augustus made it an outpost of civilization, one of ‘a series of colonies of Roman veterans evidently intended to acquire this district for peaceful settlement’ (T. Mommsen, The Provinces of the Roman Empire , Eng. translation, 1909, i. 337). The others were Antioch, Parlais, Cremna, Comama, and Olbasa. In all these cities the military coloni formed an aristocracy among the incolae or native inhabitants. Latin was the official language, and Greek that of culture, but the Lystrans used among themselves ‘the speech of Lycaonia’ ( Acts 14:11), of which no trace is left, except that ‘Lystra’-which the Romans liked to write ‘Lustra,’ on account of its resemblance to lustrum -is, like ‘Ilistra’ and ‘Kilistra,’ which are also found in the country, doubtless a native place-name. The site and colonial rank of Lystra were alike unknown till 1885, when J.R.S. Sterrett’s discovery of a pedestal in situ , with an inscription containing the words Colonia Iulia Felix Gemina Lustra , settled both these points. Coins bearing the same legend have since been found.

Lying some distance westward from the great trade-route which went through Derbe and Iconium, Lystra can never have been an important seat of commerce. Still it was prosperous enough to attract some civilians as well as soldiers to its pleasant valley. Its blending of Greek and Jewish elements is strikingly illustrated by the mixed parentage of Timothy, whom St. Paul circumcised ‘because of the Jews that were in those parts’ ( Acts 16:1;  Acts 16:4). No mention, however, is made of a synagogue in Lystra, and probably the Jewish colony was small. Some measure of Greek culture among the Lystran natives is prima facie suggested by the existence of a temple of Zeus ‘before the city’ (πρὸ τῆς πόλεως,  Acts 14:13)-cf. S. Paolo fuori le Mura at Rome-as well as by the naïve identification of Barnabas and St. Paul with Zeus and Hermes. But these facts prove nothing as to the real character of the Lystran worship, for the arbitrary bestowal of classical names upon Anatolian gods-an act of homage to the dominant civilization-had but little effect upon the deep-rooted native religious feeling. The motive of the priest who wished to sacrifice to the supposed celestial visitants (v. 13) does not lie on the surface. That he acted in good faith, being thrilled with awe before superhuman miracle-workers, is more probable than that, knowing better, he cleverly used a wave of religious excitement to serve his own base ends. All the Lystrans were probably familiar with the legend-told by Ovid, Met. viii. 626ff.-that Zeus and Hermes once visited Phrygia in the disguise of mortals, and found no one willing to give them hospitality, till they came to the hut of an aged couple, Philemon and Baucis, whose kindness Zeus rewarded by taking them to a place of safety before all the neighbourhood was suddenly flooded, and thereafter metamorphosing their cottage into a magnificent temple, of which they became the priests.

It is stated ( Acts 14:19) that, during St. Paul’s sojourn in Lystra, Jews came thither from Antioch (130 miles) and Iconium (18 miles), but whether in the ordinary course of trade, or on set purpose to persecute the Apostle, is not made quite clear. The close connexion between Antioch and Lystra is proved by a Greek inscription on the base of a statue which Lystra presented in the 2nd cent.: ‘The very brilliant sister Colonia of the Antiochians is honoured by the very brilliant colony of the Lystrans with the Statue of Concord’ (J. R. S. Sterrett, Wolfe Expedition in Asia Minor , 1888, p. 352). Lystra was more closely associated with its Phrygian neighbour Iconium than with the more distant Derbe, though the latter was, like itself, Lycaonian ( Acts 16:2). At Lystra the apostles had experience of the swift changes of the native popular feeling, as well as of the malice of their own race. First they were worshipped as gods come down to bring healing and blessing; then St. Paul was stoned as a criminal not fit to live (cf.  2 Corinthians 11:25). Timothy was an eye-witness of the cruel assault of the rabble ( 2 Timothy 3:11). The Apostle re-visited Lystra in the homeward part of his first missionary tour ( Acts 14:21); again in his second journey ( Acts 16:1); and, if the South-Galatian theory is correct, once more during the third journey ( Acts 18:23). Little is known of the later secular or sacred history of Lystra. The veterans whom Augustus planted there ‘notably restricted the field of the free inhabitants of the mountains, and general peace must at length have made its triumphal entrance also here’ (Mommsen, op. cit. ). Having thus completed the work of a border fortress, the colony of Lystra lost its raison d’être , and the town sank back into its original insignificance.

James Strahan.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

(See Acts 14; Acts 16.) A town of Lycaonia, Timothy's birthplace. He doubtless heard of Paul's miraculous healing of the cripple, followed by the people's and priests' offer of sacrifices to Paul as Mercury and to Barnabas as Jupiter before the city (Its Tutelary God Whose Statue Stood There) , which worship the apostles, rending their clothes in horror, rejected, and told them they were men like themselves, and that they preached the duty of "turning from these vanities unto the living God, who made all things," and who heretofore bore with their ignorance, though even then He "did not leave Himself without witness in giving rain, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." Then, with a mob's characteristic fickleness, from adoration they passed to persecution, stoning Paul at the instigation of Jews from Antioch and Iconium. But though left as dead outside the city, while the disciples stood round him he rose up and came into the city, and next day went to Derbe; then back to Lystra to "confirm the souls of the disciples" gathered in there, "exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."

Paul's holy courage under suffering, when he might have had adoration instead by compromise of principle, doubtless in part influenced Timothy ( 2 Timothy 3:10-11) in embracing Christianity, whether he actually witnessed the apostle's afflictions (as Paul's epistle to Timothy implies), or only heard of them. The incidental allusion to Timothy's knowledge of his sufferings is an undesigned coincidence between the epistle and the history, indicating genuineness. A forger of epistles from Acts would never allude to Timothy's knowledge of persecutions, when that knowledge is not recorded in Acts but is only arrived at by indirect inference. Moreover, "Derbe" is omitted in the list of the scenes of Paul's persecutions ( 2 Timothy 3:11), though usually joined with Lystra, in minute agreement with the history, which mentions no persecution at Derbe. In  Acts 16:1 Timothy appears as already a Christian. Paul then circumcised him, to conciliate the Jews there ( Acts 16:3). Hamilton (Res. in Asia Min., 2:313) identifies Lystra with the ruins Bin bir Kilisseh, at the base of the conical volcanic-formed hill Karadagh.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

LYSTRA (modern Khatyn Serai ). A city situated about 18 miles S.S.W. of Iconium in the south of the Roman province Galatia and in the Lycaonian part of that province, connected with Pisidian Antioch by the direct military ‘Imperial road,’ which did not pass through Iconium (Ramsay in Studies in the History and Art of the Eastern Provinces of the Roman Empire , p. 241ff.). Both Pisidian Antioch and Lystra were ‘colonies’ (see Colony) established by the Emperor Augustus in a.d. 6 to make the Roman occupation more effective, and the official language of these was Latin. Hardly any remains of the city exist above ground. No trace of the temple of Zeus-before-the-City (  Acts 14:13 ) has been found, but it is probable that a college of priests was attached to it. The sacrifice to Barnabas and Paul as Zeus and Hermes (or rather the national Lycaonian gods corresponding to these) took place at the entrance to it. The town appears not to have been much Grecized, and the uncultivated populace expressed themselves in Lycaonian. There were Jews in Lystra (  Acts 16:1 ), but there was evidently no synagogue. Timothy was a native of Lystra, which was visited by St. Paul four times in all (  Acts 14:6;   Acts 14:21;   Acts 16:1;   Acts 18:23 ), and addressed by him in the Epistle to the Galatians.

A. Souter.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [4]

Lystra was a town in the ancient kingdom of Lycaonia in Asia Minor ( Acts 14:6). When the Romans took control of Asia Minor, they redivided it to form a number of provinces. Lycaonia was split between the provinces of Galatia, Cappadocia and Cilicia, with Lystra falling within Galatia.

When Paul and Barnabas first visited Lystra, they healed a crippled man. The local people were impressed and, thinking Paul and Barnabas were two of the Greek gods, they prepared to offer sacrifices to them. Because Paul and Barnabas did not understand the local language, they were not aware at first what was happening. When they found out, they quickly stopped the people and proclaimed publicly the nature of the one and only true God ( Acts 14:8-18).

Jews from neighbouring Antioch stirred up the people of Lystra against the missionaries, and Paul was nearly killed ( Acts 14:19-20). The wounds Paul received at this time may have been those he referred to when he later wrote to these Christians ( Galatians 6:17). Timothy, who came from Lystra and who accompanied Paul on some of his missionary travels, may have witnessed the incident ( Acts 16:1-2;  2 Timothy 3:10-11).

Morrish Bible Dictionary [5]

City of Lycaonia, in Asia Minor. Paul and Barnabas fled thither from Iconium, and there cured a cripple, which caused the inhabitants to think they were gods, to whom they would have offered sacrifices had not the apostles restrained them. Soon afterwards however, being incited by the Jews, they stoned Paul and left him for dead. The labours of the apostles were not in vain, an assembly of saints was gathered there. It was again visited by Paul on his second missionary journey, when he met with Timothy, and attached him to his mission.  Acts 14:6-21;  Acts 16:1,2;  2 Timothy 3:11 .

Smith's Bible Dictionary [6]

Lys'tra. This place has two points of interest in connection, respectively, with St. Paul's first and second missionary Journeys:

(1) as the place where divine honors were offered to him, and where he was presently stoned,  Acts 14:1;

(2) as the home of his chosen companion and fellow missionary Timotheus.  Acts 16:1.

Lystra was in the eastern part of the great plain of Lycaonia, and its site may be identified with the ruins called Bin-Bir-Kilisseh , at the base of a conical mountain of volcanic structure, named the Karadagh .

People's Dictionary of the Bible [7]

Lystra ( Lys'Trah ). A city of Lycaonia, the site was recovered by Sterrett, 1885. Paul visited this place twice, the first time in company with Barnabas,  Acts 14:1-28, when he was saluted as the god Mercury, but afterward stoned; the second time in company with Silas.  Acts 16:1-40. Timothy was probably born here.  2 Timothy 3:11.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [8]

A city of Lycaonia, near Derbe and Iconium, and the native place of Timothy. Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel here; and having healed a cripple, were almost worshipped. Soon after, however, Paul was stoned there,  Acts 14:6,21   16:1   2 Timothy 3:11 . It is now a small place called Latik.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [9]

a city of Lycaonia, the native place of Timothy. The Apostle Paul and Barnabas having preached here, and healed a cripple, were taken for gods. But so fickle are human praise and popular encomiums, that, in the space of a few hours, those who had been deemed gods were regarded as less than mortals, and were stoned by the very persons who so lately deified them. See Acts 14.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [10]

The birth place of Timothy. Here Paul and Barnabas preached, and wrought a miracle on a man lame from his birth. We have the history,  Acts 14:6, etc.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [11]

 Acts 14:2-7 Acts 18:23 2 Timothy 3:10,11

Holman Bible Dictionary [12]

 Acts 16:1 Acts 14:8-10

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [13]

( Λύστρα ,  Acts 14:6;  Acts 14:21;  Acts 16:1; Τἀ Λύστρα ,  Acts 14:8;  Acts 16:2;  2 Timothy 3:11), a city in Asia Minor, of much interest in the history of Paul and Timothy.

We are told in the 14th chapter of the Acts that Paul and Barnabas, driven by persecution from Iconium ( Acts 14:2), proceeded to Lystra and its neighborhood, and there preached the Gospel. In the course of this service a remarkable miracle was worked in the healing of a lame man ( Acts 14:8). This occurrence produced such an effect on the minds of the ignorant and supersittious people of the place that they supposed that the two gods, Mercury and Jupiter, who were said by the poets to have formerly visited this district in human form, (See Lycaonia), had again bestowed on it the same favor, and consequently were proceeding to offer sacrifice to the strangers ( Acts 14:13). The apostles rejected this worship with horror ( Acts 14:14), and Paul addressed a speech to them, turning their minds to the true Source of all the blessings of nature. The distinct proclamation of Christian doctrine is not mentioned, but it is implied, inasmuch as a Church was founded at Lystra, which in post-apostolic times was so important as to send its bishops to the ecclesiastical councils (Hierocles, Synecd. page 675). The adoration of the Lystrians was rapidly followed by a change of feeling. The persecuting Jews arrived from Antioch in Pisidia and Iconium, and had such influence that Paul was stoned and left for dead ( Acts 14:19). On his recovery, he withdrew, with Barnabas, to Derbe ( Acts 14:20), but before long retraced his steps through Lystra ( Acts 14:21), encouraging the new disciples to be steadfast. It is not absolutely stated that Paul was ever in Lystra again, but, from the general description of the route of the third missionary journey ( Acts 18:23),it is almost certain that he was. (See Paul).

It is evident from  2 Timothy 3:10-11, that Timothy was one of those who witnessed Paul's sufferings and courage on the above occasion; and it can hardly be doubted that his conversion to Christianity resulted partly from these circumstances, combined with the teaching of his Jewish mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois ( 2 Timothy 1:5). Thus, when the apostle, accompanied by Silas, came, on his second missionary journey, to this place again (and here we should notice how accurately Derbe and Lystra are here mentioned in the inverse order), Timothy was already a Christian ( Acts 16:1). Here he received circumcision, "because of the Jews in those parts" ( Acts 16:3); and from this point began his connection with Paul's travels. We are doubly reminded here of Jewish residents in and near Lystra. Their first settlement, and the ancestors of Timothy among them, may very probably be traced to the establishment of Babylonian Jews in Phrygia by Antiochus three centuries before (Josephus, Ant. 12:3, 4). Still it is evident that there was no influential Jewish population at Lystra: no mention is made of any synagogue, and the whole aspect of the scene described by Luke (Acts 14) is thoroughly heathen. As to its condition in heathen times, it is worth while to notice that the words in  Acts 14:13 ( Τοῦ Λιὸς Τοῦ Ὄντος Πρὸ Τῆς Πόλεως ) would lead us to conclude that it was under the tutelage of Jupiter. Walch, in his Spicilegium Antiquitatuem Lystrensium (Dissert. 1 in Acta Apostolorum , Jena, 1766, volume 3), thinks that in this passage a statue, not a temple, of the god is intended.

Pliny (5:42) places Lystra in Galatia, and Ptolemy (5:4, 12) in Isauria; but these statements are quite colnsistent with its being placed in Lycaonia by Luke, as it is by Hierocles (Synecd. page 675). This city was south of Iconium, but its precise site is uncertain, as well as that of Derbe, which is mentioned along with it. Colossians Leake remarks that the sacred text appears to place it nearer to Derbe than to Iconium; for Paul, on leaving that city, proceeded first to Lystra, and thence to Derbe; and in like manner returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch of Pisidia (see Walch, Diss. in Act. Apost. 3:173 sq.). He also observes that this seems to agree with the arrangement of Ptolemy (5:4, 12), who places Lystra in Isauria, and near Isaura, which seems evidently to have occupied some part of the valley of Sidy Shehr, or Bey Shehr. Under the Greek empire, Homonada, Isaura, and Lystra, as well as Derbe and Laranda, were all included in the consular province of Lycaonia, and were bishoprics of the metropolitan see of Iconium. Considering all the circumstances, Colossians Leake inclines to think that the vestiges of Lystra may be sought with the greatest probability of success at or near Wiranc Khatuiz, or Khatzun Serai, about thirty miles to the south of Iconium. "Nothing," says this able geographer, "can more strongly show the little progress that has hitherto been made in a knowledge of the ancient geography of Asia Minor than that of the cities which the journey of St. Paul has made so interesting to us, the site of one only (Iconium) is yet certainly knovwn" (Tour and Geogr. of Asia Minor, page 102). Mr. Arundell supposes that, should the ruins of Lystra not be found at the place indicated by Colossians Leake, they may possibly be found in the remains at Karahissar, near the lake Bey-shehr (Discoveries in Asia Minor.) Still more lately, Mr. Hamilton (Researches in Asia Minor, 2:319) identifies its site with the ruins called Bin-bir-Kilisseh (the "Thousand and one churches"), at the base of a conical mountain of volcanic structure named the Karadagh (generally thought to be those of Derbe, but which, according to his arguments, must be sought elsewhere, perhaps at Divle), as being more considerable (a bishop of Lystra sat in the Council of Chalcedon, according to Hierocles, Synecd. page 675), and on the direct road from Iconium to Derbe. Another traveler ascended the mountain, and says, "On looking down I perceived churches on all sides of the mountain, scattered about in various positions.... Including those in the plain, there are about two dozen in tolerable preservation, and the remains of perhaps forty may be traced altogether" (Falkner in Conybeare and Howson, St. Paul, 1:202). Comp. Mannert, Geogr. VI, 2:189 sq.; Forbiger, Handb. 2:322.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [14]

lis´tra  : The forms Λύστραν , Lústran , and Λύστροις , Lústrois , occur. Such variation in the gender of Anatolian city-names is common (see Harnack, Apostelgeschichte , 86; Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler , 128). Lystra was visited by Paul 4 times (  Acts 14:6 ,  Acts 14:21;  Acts 16:1;  Acts 18:23 - the last according to the "South Galatian" theory), and is mentioned in   2 Timothy 3:10 f as one of the places where Paul suffered persecution. Timothy resided in Lystra (  Acts 16:1 ).

1. Character and Site:

Lystra owed its importance, and the attention which Paul paid to it, to the fact that it had been made a Roman colonia by Augustus (see Antioch ), and was therefore, in the time of Paul, a center of education and enlightenment. Nothing is known of its earlier, and little of its later, history. The site of Lystra was placed by Leake (1820) at a hill near Khatyn Serai , 18 miles South-Southwest from Iconium; this identification was proved correct by an inscription found by Sterrett in 1885. The boundary between Phrygia and Lycaonia passed between Iconium and Lystra. (  Acts 14:6 ) (see Iconium ).

The population of Lystra consisted of the local aristocracy of Roman soldiers who formed the garrison of the colonia , of Greeks and Jews (  Acts 16:1 ,  Acts 16:3 ), and of native Lycaonians ( Acts 14:11 ).

2. Worship of Paul and Barnabas:

After Paul had healed a life-long cripple at Lystra, the native population (the "multitude" of  Acts 14:11 ) regarded him and Barnabas as pagan gods come down to them in likeness of men, and called Barnabas "Zeus" and Paul "Hermes." Commentators on this incident usually point out that the same pair of divinities appeared to Baucis and Philemon in Ovid's well-known story, which he locates in the neighboring Phrygia. The accuracy in detail of this part of the narrative in Acts has been strikingly confirmed by recent epigraphic discovery. Two inscriptions found in the neighborhood of Lystra in 1909 run as follows: (1) "Kakkan and Maramoas and Iman Licinius priests of Zeus"; (2) "Toues Macrinus also called Abascantus and Batasis son of Bretasis having made in accordance with a vow at their own expense (a statue of) Hermes Most Great along with a sun-dial dedicated it to Zeus the sun-god."

Now it is evident from the narrative in Acts that the people who were prepared to worship Paul and Barnabas as gods were not Greeks or Romans, but native Lycaonians. This is conclusively brought out by the use of the phrase "in the speech of Lycaonia" ( Acts 14:11 ). The language in ordinary use among the educated classes in Central Anatolian cities under the Roman Empire was Greek; in some of those cities, and especially of course, in Roman colonies, Latin also was understood, and it was used at this period in official documents. But the Anatolian element in the population of those cities continued for a long time to use the native language (e.g. Phrygian was in use at Iconium till the 3rd century of our era; see Iconium ). In the story in Acts a fast distinction is implied, and in fact existed, between the ideas and practices of the Greeks and the Roman colonists and those of the natives. This distinction would naturally maintain itself most vigorously in so conservative an institution as religious ritual and legend. We should therefore expect to find that the association between Zeus and Hermes indicated in Acts belonged to the religious system of the native population, rather than to that of the educated society of the colony. And this is precisely the character of the cult illustrated in our two inscriptions. It is essentially a native cult, under a thin Greek disguise. The names in those inscriptions can only have been the names of natives; the Zeus and Hermes of Acts and of our inscriptions were a graecized version of the Father-god and Son-god of the native Anatolian system. The college of priests which appears in inscription number 1 (supporting the Bezan variant "priests" for "priest" in  Acts 14:13 ) was a regular Anatolian institution. The miracle performed by Paul, and his companionship with Barnabas would naturally suggest to the natives who used the "speech of Lycaonia" a pair of gods commonly associated by them in a local cult. The two gods whose names rose to their lips are now known to have been associated by the dedication of a statue of one in a temple, of the other in the neighborhood of Lystra.


Ramsay, Cities of Paul , 407 ff. On the new inscriptions, see Calder, The Expositor, 1910,1 ff, 148 ff; id, Classical Review , 1910,67 ff. Inscriptions of Lystra are published in Sterrett, Wolfe Expedition , and in Jour. Hell. Stud ., 1904 (Cronin).

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [15]

Lys´tra, a city of Lycaonia in Asia Minor, to which Paul and Barnabas fled from the danger which threatened them at Iconium . Here, Paul having miraculously cured a cripple, they were both adored as gods; but afterwards, at the instigation of the Jews, Paul was stoned and left for dead . Timothy was a native of Lystra . This city was south of Iconium, but its precise site is uncertain, as well as that of Derbe, which is mentioned along with it.