Sunday, September 01, 2013

A Trip to Ancient Corinth

View of Acrocorinth from Temple of Apollo
I recently traveled to Greece for a speaking engagement, and I had a day to make a side trip to the ancient ruins of Corinth. This was my first trip to Greece and Corinth. Both made a significant impact on my life and perspective on the biblical record of Paul, the Apostle's, ministry there. While the overall experience was deeply meaningful, I will stick to my day in Corinth.

The Lechaion Road
As you know from Acts 18:1-17, Paul came to Corinth from Athens and stayed there for a year and a half. He would have most likely walked through the city on the Lechaion road with Acrocorinth towering in the background and lined with shops. Here he may have met the Jewish couple from Rome who made tents like him. (Acts 18:2-3) The agora, or, marketplace, was the primary mission point for Paul. This was his habit most every where he went. (Acts 17:17)

Inscription of "synagogue of the Hebrews"








 Luke, the author of Acts, tells us Paul was in the "synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks." (Acts 18:4) The remains of the sign of the synagogue and a capital with menorahs engraved on it has been found in the ruins. The rhythm of marketplace and places of worship marked his strategy to engage the people he came to tell the Good News.



A couple of historical markers in the biblical record give us handles on verifying the dating of events while Paul was in Corinth. The most important one in both the biblical record and in the ruins of the ancient city is Paul's appreance before Gallio , who was "proconsul of Achaia." The dates of Gallio in Corinth can be externally supported to have begun around the autumn of AD 51. (Bruce, 351-352) This marker helps us date Paul's travels on either side of this incident and also addresses the challenged historical accuracy of Luke's writings.

The Bema or "place of judgment"
The second item that vividly sheds light on the biblical record is the "place of judgment," or bema, from which Gallio would have heard the case brought against Paul by the local Jewish leaders. (Acts 18:12) To see the steps that led to the podium or platform where the Roman official would have sat above the crowd in the forum and to stand above where the mob shouted their case against Paul gave me a visual of God's servant's courage and unwavering commitment to the One who sent him. Looking out on the crowd with the Temple of Apollo and the agora in the background must have been a daunting experience, but Paul never wavered in his message or resolve to complete his mission to the Ethnics.




Veiled Statue of Caesar Augustus
One last of many items I could comment upon was the statue of Caesar Augustus found in the city. The interesting tidbit, brought to my attention by Bruce Winter in a B. H. Carroll Colloquy and in his book After Paul Left Corinth, was that Augustus was veiled. (So was the bust of Nero housed in the Museum at Corinth.) Winter and the docent on our tour said they were veiled to reflect the practice of covering one's head while offering a prayer or libation to a god or gods. (Winter, 122) This documented practice may have been behind Paul's injunctions to men not to cover their heads when they pray or prophesy since Jewish men did this regularly in their worship. (Acts 11:2-16)

Yes, just as I carried a flag for B. H. Carroll to the summit of Mt. Rainier, I carried it to Greece with me. Since I did not have time to climb Acrocorinth, I chose the next most prominent object in the ruins, the "place of judgment" or bema.  

I have so much more to share and show, but I will have to save those for the next time I teach Paul and his writings, or 1 and 2 Corinthians.


No comments: