Syria: The Lasting Conquest
by Djinna Gochis
photos by Rev. Leon V. Kofod
The Syrian desert. As ever, it is hauntingly quiet, limitless, seemingly untouched by time
and so, somehow apart from a world filled with men of foolish passion.
But the peace and timelessness have at times been disturbed by such restless men as on a day in 35 A.D
A small caravan, destined for Damascus, slowly makes its way across the sands. A young zealot leads them lately, an approving witness at the stoning death of Stephen, a follower of the infant Christian religion.
Still breathing threats of slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, (Acts 9,60), this man of misguided convictions is travelling to the capital city with yet another message and mission of subjection for the oft-prostrated people of Syria. Saul of Tarsus plans to conquer the fast-growing Christian sect which poses a threat to Rome and to the Sanhedrin.
But the terrible mission is not to be. For as he rides, a heavenly light shines around him, and a voice asks: Saul, why dost thou persecute me?
In answer to this question, Paul poses another: Lord, what wilt thou have me do? And from that moment, there was Paul, Gods new instrument in Syria.
The converted Paul was a conqueror such as Syria or the world had never seen. In the past, various groups had successively subjugated part or all of Syria, because of the countrys strategic position on trade and military routes.
But Christianity would not be another bitter or temporary conquest, as those of untold centuries before and after
Excavations have revealed that as early as 2000 to 1600 B.C. Syria had accumulated wealth sufficient to invite the conquest of the covetous Egyptians.
Bounded on the north by Turkey, on the east by Iraq, on the south by the Holy Land, and on the west by Lebanon and the Mediterranean, Syria inevitably became one of the main battlefields and trade crossroads of the ancient world.
In successive waves, the Hittite, Assyrian, Persian and innumerable other hordes descended upon her lands, to loot what was then a country of great wealth and high cultural achievement. Into Damascus they came vying for the colonial textiles, for the Royal purple so necessary to the hierarchies of the ancient kingdoms; hoping to take from this Queen City of the East some of her bronze work, carved ivory and polished gems.
Following the example of so many others, the Roman legions under Pompey arrived in 64 B.C., to plunder the country once again. And it was during the Roman rule that the Christian mark was indelibly made in Syria
on that day in 35 A.D.
Christ walked among the people of Palestine, but little among those of Syria, save for Tyre and Sidon (now in present-day Lebanon). It seems strange that He did not do so, as the shore of Galilee on which He did walk many times actually touched a small section of Syrian land. Apparently, His work was for Paul and others to accomplish in Syria.
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