Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, salutes you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers…
(see on Colossians 2:1).
Hierapolis. — On the north side of the valley of Lycus, opposite to the sloping hills which mark the site of Laodicea, is a broad level terrace jutting out from the mountain side, and overhanging the plain with almost precipitous sides. On this plateau are scattered the vast ruins of Hierapolis. It is here that the remarkable physical features which distinguish the valley display themselves in the fullest perfection. Over the steep cliffs which support the plateau of the city tumble cascades of pure white stone, the deposit of calcareous matter from the streams which, after traversing this upper level, are precipitated over the ledge into the plain beneath, and assume the most fantastic shapes in their descent. At one time overhanging in cornices fringed with stalactites, at another hollowed out into basins or broken up with ridges, they mark the site of the city at a distance, glistening on the mountain side like foaming cataract's frozen in the fall. Like Laodicea, Hierapolis was at this time an important and a growing city, though not like Laodicea, holding Metropolitan rank. Besides the trade in dyed wools, which it shared in common with the neighbouring towns, it had a source of wealth peculiar to itself. The streams to which the scenery owes its remarkable features are endowed with valuable medicinal qualities, while at the same time they are so copious that the ancient city is described as full of self-made baths. An inscription still legible celebrates their virtues, "Hail, fairest soil in all broad Asia's realm; hail, golden city, nymph Divine, bedecked with flowing rills, thy jewels," and (Esculapius and Hygeia appear on still extant coins. To the ancient magnificence of Hierapolis its ruins bear ample testimony. A city which combined the pursuit of health and gaiety had fitly chosen as its patron deity Apollo, the god alike of medicine and festivity, here worshipped as "Archegetes," the founder. But more important, as illustrating its religious temper, is the fact, that there was a spot called the Plutonium, a hot well or spring, from whose hot mouth issued a fatal memphitic vapour, from the effects of which the mutilated priests of Cybele alone, so it was believed, were free. Indeed this city appears to have been a chief centre of the passionate mystical devotion of ancient Phrygia. But in addition to this religious rites were borrowed from other parts of the East, more especially from Egypt. By the multitude of her temples Hierapolis established her right to the title of the "sacred city" which she bore. Though, at this time, we have no record of her famous citizens, such as graced the annals of Laodicea, yet a generation or two later she numbered among her sons one nobler far than the rhetoricians, sophists, millionaires, and princes, of whom her neighbour could boast. The lame slave, Epictetus, the loftiest of heathen moralists, must have been growing up to manhood when the first rumours of the gospel reached his native city. Did any chance throw him across the path of Epaphras, or of St. Paul? We should be glad to think that the greatest of Christian and the greatest of heathen preachers met together face to face. Such a meeting would solve more than one riddle, and explain some strange coincidences in their writings. Drawn by trade, and by its charms as a gay watering-place, a very considerable colony of Jews settled down in Hierapolis, which gave point to a Talmudic complaint, "The wines and baths of Phrygia have separated the ten tribes from Israel." After the destruction of Jerusalem one of the chief settlements of the Christian dispersion was here, which explains how the Phrygian Churches assumed such a prominence in the ecclesiastical history of the second century. Here settled Philip of Bethsaida, the early friend and fellow-townsman of St. John, who took up his abode in Ephesus, and the first apostle who held communication with the Gentiles (John 12:20). Here he died and was buried; and here, after his decease, lived his two virgin daughters, from whom Papias heard several stories of the first preachers of the gospel, which he transmitted to posterity in his work. Papias was, probably, a native of Hiera-polls, of which he afterwards became bishop. He was succeeded by Abercius, and Abercius by the great controversialist and apologist, Claudius Apollinaris, and presided at a council in this city at which Montanism was condemned. At a later ate the influence of both Hierapolis and Laodicea declined. They take no great art in the great controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries. Among their bishops there is not one who has left his mark on history. They take only a silent art in the great councils, and more than once wavered in their allegiance to the othodox faith.
Parallel VersesKJV: Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.