Question:

What does Laodicea mean?


Answer:

Laodicea is the name of a city in Asia Minor that wasn't too far from Colosse. The name of the city is a compound Greek word: laos means people, nation, or crowd; dike means custom, law, judgment, penalty, or punishment, depending on the context. From that, most conclude that the founders of Laodicea saw themselves as a people of justice or law-abiding people.

Since Laodicea was one of the seven churches of Asia selected to be mentioned in Jesus' letters in Revelation 2 and 3, you will find people who try to make a case that there were hidden meanings behind the names of the cities. It is more a problem of what comes first. People sometimes name their towns to reflect what is important to them. Sometimes the name of a place shapes the values of the people living there. But sometimes the two are just not connected at all. You have to be careful not to stretch a meaning too far.

It is clear to me that each letter uses what a city is noted for as an illustration of the problems that exist in that particular church. In Laodicea's case, it was a banking and financial center, which meant was was quite wealthy. When an earthquake destroyed parts of the city in 61 A. D., it refused aid from Rome and used its own resources to rebuild. It had a large clothing industry. The sheep in the area were noted for their soft, violet-black, glossy wool. It also had a famous medical center noted for its treatments of the eyes and ears. It was a popular retirement area for the wealthy. Because these people had retired, they concluded they had served their purpose and had reached their goal. As a result, they were indifferent to social issues of their day. One historian, Ramsay, describes Laodicea as a city of no extremes; a city that had no peculiar characteristics unless this lack of character was its character. One other factor that Jesus uses is that the water supply for the city came from hot mineral springs about five miles from the city. By the time the water reached the city, it was only slightly warm. The warm sulphur water was unpleasant to the taste and smell. Knowing this, the illustrations Jesus picked while talking about the problems in the church at Laodicea were particularly memorial to the people living there.