Kos is a Greek island in the south eastern Aegean Sea, four kilometres from the coast of mainland Turkey. The island measures 40 by 8 kilometres and only appears once in the Bible in Acts 21:1, where it is translated as Coos. Today the principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is Kos town; a city that was built in 366BC. It possessed a good harbour, which is still in use today, and had one of the largest agoras or markets in the ancient world, measuring 300 metres by 50 metres.

In ancient times, Kos was famous for silk production and mosaics, many of which were removed to Rhodes and other places in Roman and Byzantine times.

One of the most famous people from Kos was Hippocrates, known as the father of modern medicine. A medical school was established there called the Asclepion and people travelled there for various treatments. Some other major Asclepions were at Pergamos in Turkey and Epidavros which is about 35 kilometres south of Corinth.

Treatment was offered in two parts, medical and religious, and patients were encouraged to sleep and dream about the god Asclepius coming to heal them. Asclepius was known by the Greeks as the first physician and was regarded as the son of Apollo. The symbol of Asclepius was a serpent on a pole, a symbol which appears today on medical facilities and ambulances around the world. It is somewhat similar to the serpent Moses fastened to a pole.

The Hippocratic school of healing promoted methodical and documented record keeping of patients’ ailments and treatments and encouraged doctors to be professional, disciplined, honest, understanding and serious. After students finished their training, they would swear the Hippocratic Oath, which bound them to use their medical knowledge for good, to respect privacy and to ensure that patients were not abused. Even today, medical students swear a modified version of the Hippocratic Oath on finishing their studies.

In Acts 21:1 we read, “And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the day following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara”. Luke doesn’t always record the various stopping places in a journey but here he did because being a physician he would have been familiar with the Asclepion and probably knew some of the physicians and teachers there because it was one of the prominent healing and teaching centres in the world.The Asclepion is 3.5 kilometres from the port of Kos, so it might have been possible for Luke to visit the centre there during an overnight stop. It is also likely that there were people on the same ship as Luke and the Apostle Paul, travelling to Kos for treatment, and we can only imagine the conversations they would have had on the voyage.

It is interesting to note that the careful attention to detail that Luke was schooled in as a physician shines through in his writings. For example, he is particularly careful to note the various types of different rulers in the book of Acts and this verifies that he was indeed an eye-witness to many of Paul’s travels. Furthermore, his style of Greek points to a man who was well-educated. In fact, his vocabulary in the Gospel of Luke and in Acts is the largest in the New Testament with 3120 different words. All of this reveals a man who was highly observant; something, no doubt, he developed through the discipline and training he received as a physician.