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   Biblical Sites in Greece

    Corinth


Acts 18:1; 19:1; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1, 23; 2 Timothy 4:20

 

Because St. Paul spent more than one and one half years at Corinth during his Second Journey, the city remains important to students of the Book of Acts. This city was constructed in antiquity on a narrow isthmus, a cosmopolitan city that connected the Peloponnese and the Balkan Peninsula. Corinth had deep-water harbors on each side, with Cenchrea on the east end, and Lechaeum on the west. Thus the city's natural location made it a very wealthy commercial and shipping center.

The city also enjoyed a long and important history among Greek city-states from the Neolithic through Archaic Periods. Scholars agree that a Neolithic settlement was located near the Peirene Spring from about 4,000 BCE. That settlement eventually disappeared, but eight distinct settlements are known from the plain near Corinth by 2,000 BCE. By 1800 BCE, influence and invasion affected the development. Following the Dark Age of Greece (1100-800 BCE) with its characteristic invasion waves, the expansion of the Dorian people group was illustrated by their colonization of Syracuse and Corcyra from areas like Corinth.

Some scholars claim the archaic foundations of the organized city appear to date to the 8th century BCE. In the two centuries that followed, before the Classical Period, the city appropriated a number of myths that actually originated elsewhere. It adopted the Pegasus (winged horse) and the mythology of its capture by Bellerophon, a story that belonged originally to Asia Minor, and made it the symbol of Corinth.

By the Classical Period, Corinth was one of the powerhouse city-states, ranking with Sparta and Athens in value, though not as militarily strong. Corinth was essential to the routing of the Persians during the period, and played special roles in a number of campaigns. During the Peloponnesian Wars (the period of tensions between Athens and Sparta, 431-404 BCE), Corinth often found itself in a difficult position between the two cities. In general, the strategic position and economy aided the city in becoming a key player in many alliances. It was important to Philip II (who garrisoned the mount of Acrocorinth) and later even became the capital of the Aechean League for a short time before it aligned against the rising Roman power.

Because of its stance against the expansion of Roman power, the Roman General Mummius laid the city waste in 146 BCE. By 46 BCE, Julius Caesar re-colonized the area and gave it the status of Roman capital of Achaia. From that time Corinth enjoyed much freedom as an independent city.

The city had a large theater and was frequented by the Emperors of Rome for the Isthmian games. Several scholars note the population may have exceeded 400,000 for some of the Roman period. Another important attraction to the Roman city was in the Acrocorinth. This hill, about 1886 feet above the plain, formed a natural and impregnable defense for ancient Corinth. By the time of the Romans such defenses were not so important, but the establishment of the great temple of Aphrodite and its numerous temple prostitutes (the number in some sources is reported at more than 1000!) made the place notable to ancient historians.

The city agora or market place boasted nightclubs or bars (33 taverns have been excavated). The city was known for luxury, pleasure and especially immorality - a key to concern of St. Paul in his first letter to Corinthians. The city was a mixture population (Greeks, Romans, Jews, Italians, etc.) and attracted thousands by its reputation for "base" entertainment. Important trade links were maintained with Italy and Asia Minor via Ephesus.

St. Paul's initial visit to Corinth was on his Second Journey, when he arrived from Athens about 50-51 CE. He spent one year and six months there while working as a tentmaker and lodged with Aquila and Priscilla who moved to Corinth after the expulsion of Jews from Rome by Emperor Claudius (49 or 50 CE). St. Paul told Timothy and Silas to remain behind to strengthen churches when St. Paul was forced to leave Berea and they rejoined St. Paul in Corinth from Macedonia.

When they arrived, St. Paul was busy with forming the new congregation of followers as he "reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks." He began preaching in the Jewish community and when the leadership opposed him he departed from the synagogue and taught the disciples in the house of Justus located next to the synagogue. Among those who believed was the chief synagogue ruler, Crispus.

St. Paul was assured by a vision that Jesus would protect him if he remained in Corinth at the ministry task. Shortly after the vision the message was tested. He was brought to the judgment (bema) seat before Gallio (the newly appointed deputy of Achaia) by some local Jewish leaders who accused him of persuading people to worship God contrary to the law (Acts 18: 12-16).

Gallio chose not to involve himself in the matter and drove them away. This judgment seat that St. Paul was brought before has been uncovered in the center of the market place or agora. There were two lower steps that surrounded a high platform (five feet or so), covered with marble. The platform was more than thirty feet long, and had been restored by archaeologists.

The friends St. Paul met at Corinth (Aquila and Priscilla) became true partners in ministry. No doubt their encouragement helped to revive the Apostle after the terrible experiences associated with his second journey as he came into Macedonia and Achaia. In addition to their encouragement, we have record of their continued ministry after they departed Corinth and went to Ephesus. A Messianic teacher named Apollos taught about Jesus to the local believers, but taught about the baptism of John. Aquila and Priscilla knew from listening to St. Paul the message had progressed further and took Apollos aside and explained to him the more complete information.

Perhaps during those conversations Apollos gained the desire to move on to Corinth, for he continued the work that St. Paul had started there and was mightily used to further the ministry. (see Acts 18:23,24,26-28;19:1) St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans was written in Corinth. (Romans 16:23) St. Paul was evidently staying with a man named Gaius, St. Paul's host, and aided by the amanuensis Tertius who was scribed the letter. The first and second epistles to the Thessalonians were also written from Corinth (I Thessalonians 3: 6-7). Timothy returned from Thessalonica with reports on how the ministry progressed after St. Paul's forced departure.

St. Paul wrote the first Epistle to the Corinthians from Ephesus some time later. Timothy may have been the bearer of this letter to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 4:17). In the second Epistle to them (see 2 Corinthians 7) it appears that St. Paul may have sent Titus with a 'painful letter' that St. Paul had written to the Corinthians, rebuking them for tolerating immorality in their midst. That letter is widely believed to be "lost" and not part of the record of the New Testament.

It appears that Titus may have gone to Corinth with this letter or he may have gone after the letter got to the Corinthians and was able to receive from them, their earnestness to be right before God and deal with the sin issues. The second Epistle to the Corinthians, which may be actually a third letter, was written from Macedonia by St. Paul, which amongst other commended the Corinthians for their good response to the 'painful letter'.

 

 
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