Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Paul’s Trek from Athens to Corinth

Modern roads and motorized vehicles make it possible to travel from the Greek city of Athens to the ruins of ancient Corinth in about an hour. But in Paul’s day it was not as convenient. Back then there were two options. One could walk about 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) from Athens to the seaport of Piraeus, board a ship and sail 70 nautical kilometers (38 nautical miles) westward across the Saronic Gulf to Corinth’s southeast seaport of Cenchrea, then walk about 9 kilometers (6.5 miles) to the city. It would have taken about half a day of traveling, not counting the additional time constraints involved in the process.1 The other option was to journey across the narrow isthmus of land, a distance of approximately 83 kilometers (52 miles) that would have taken about two and a half days by foot. 


The biblical record simply reports that Paul left Athens and “came to Corinth” (Acts 18:1). No specifics are given about the route he took or his mode of transport. While he did eventually leave by sea (Acts 18:18), nothing definitive can be concluded about the circumstances of his arrival. 


The Likelihood of Land Travel


Luke tends to be explicit whenever Paul journeyed by sea;2 otherwise land travel is assumed. In fact, it seems that when Paul was afforded the opportunity, he preferred land travel over sea travel (Acts 20:13-14).


It is sometimes argued that the sea route from Athens to Corinth would have been more likely for Paul, since the land route was rather dangerous, particularly the mountainous region of the Sceironian Rocks near Megara. This area was named after Sceiron, the mythological bandit who robbed and killed travelers before he himself was killed by king Theseus. Apparently this section of road was notorious for outlaw activity (cf. Alciphron, Letter 3.34).3


The road conditions were also somewhat precarious. Strabo reports:


After Crommyon, and situated above Attica, are the Sceironian Rocks. They leave no room for a road along the sea, but the road from the Isthmus to Megara and Attica passes above them. However, the road approaches so close to the rocks that in many places it passes along the edge of precipices, because the mountain situated above them is both lofty and impracticable for roads. (Geography 9.3.1)4


Paul later informs the brethren at Corinth of the many challenges he faced in his missionary work, including near-death experiences, “dangers of robbers,” “dangers in the wilderness,” “sleeplessness … hunger and thirst … cold …” (2 Cor. 11:23, 26, 27).5 His trek from Athens to Corinth in (late) autumn of the year 50 was one of the rare trips Paul made alone, and these descriptions would certainly fit the land route.


Arrival in Corinth


It appears that Paul arrived in Corinth with depleted funds, indicated by the fact he immediately started making tents with Aquila and Priscilla for his livelihood (Acts 18:2-3). This enabled him to preach to the Corinthians “free of charge” until financial support from Macedonian churches arrived with Silas and Timothy (Acts 18:5; 2 Cor. 11:7-9). Had Paul spent all his money on sea fare? Had he been robbed along the way? Or would the lack of funds have required him to make the journey to Corinth on foot?


If Paul had traveled by land, he would have entered the city from the north along the Lechaeum road that leads to the city-center’s agora or forum. This would have been most conducive to promptly encountering fellow-tentmakers Aquila and Priscilla, locating the Jewish synagogue, and identifying a location for baptizing initial converts (Acts 18:1-8; 1 Cor. 1:14-16).6


Conclusion


Knowing exactly how Paul ended up in Corinth is not a matter of eternal consequence, and no biblical doctrine is affected either way. But for Pauline studies and Bible history, geography, and chronology geeks like me, it is a matter of keen interest. Although short of provable, it seems that a stronger case can be made for the land route taken by Paul from Athens to Corinth as he continued his second major missionary campaign.


--Kevin L. Moore


Endnotes:

     1 “There were no passenger vessels sailing regular schedules in Paul’s day. Cargo ships took passengers on a space available basis. The procedure is described by Philostratus in his Life of Apollonius of Tyana …. This vignette omits the haggling over the fare with a hard-eyed owner or his representative who was determined to get the maximum the market would bear. Presumably, maximum utilization of equipment was as much a concern then as it is today, but the ship’s departure had to await the coincidence of a favorable wind with favorable omens. Passengers, too, had to wait; they could not afford to go too far away because the vessel might sail at any moment” (Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, “On the Road and on the Sea with St. Paul: Traveling conditions in the first century,” Bible Review 1.2 [Summer 1985]: 38-47).

     2 Acts 13:4, 13; 14:26; 16:11; 17:14-15; 18:18-22; 20:3-6, 13-17, 38; 21:1-3, 6-8; 27:1–28:14. Possible exceptions are Acts 9:30 and 21:8.

     3 Alciphron was a Greek sophist who composed a three-volume collection of fictional letters descriptive of various classes of people. His historical period is debated, with proposed dates ranging from the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD, though many believe he was a contemporary of the 2nd-century AD novelist Lucian. In a letter from Limustes to Thrasocydoemus he writes: “Hard pressed for the bare necessaries of life, I joined a band of Megarian brigands, who lie in wait for travelers near the Sceironian rocks; and since then I have gained a dishonest livelihood without working.

     4 Today tunnels have been carved through this mountain pass for safer travel.

     5 Paul also mentions the “three times” he was shipwrecked and the night and day he spent in the deep (2 Cor. 11:25). While it is possible one of these shipwrecks occurred between Athens and Corinth, there is no explicit record of this alleged voyage, whereas at the time 2 Corinthians was written Luke reports no less than nine sea voyages Paul had taken. As far as sea travel is concerned, of the many trips Paul made, a prospective brief passage across the Saronic Gulf would have been one of the safer ones.

     A stone lintel, inscribed “synagogue of the Hebrews,” was discovered along the Lechaeum road. On the road’s east side before entering the agora are the remains of the ancient Fountain of Peirene, which in Paul’s day had plenty of water for public use.


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Image credit: http://www.doncronerblog.com/2017/03/greece.html

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

My Family’s Worship in Corinth

My family and I recently visited Greece. On Sunday we were in Loutraki, about 19 kilometers (12 miles) from the ruins of ancient Corinth. We self-toured the museum and the city’s ruins, highlighting the places and artifacts most relevant to the Bible.1 Then we walked a couple hundred meters from the fenced-in site to find the Erastus stone. Located adjacent to the remains of the ancient theater, it is a long block of limestone with a Latin inscription that includes the name Erastus. The inscription documents Erastus having laid the pavement stone at his own expense in return for the honor of the office of aedile.2


The name Erastus occurs in the NT three times (Acts 19:21-22; Rom. 16:23; 2 Tim. 4:20) in association with Paul, Timothy, and the Corinth church. The apostle Paul, writing from Corinth, describes Erastus as ὁ οἰκονόμος τῆς πόλεως (lit. “the steward of the city”).3 It’s hard to ignore the apparent link between the biblical record of our brother Erastus, a city official in Corinth, and the archaeological evidence of Erastus, a city official in Corinth. 


For our worship that afternoon, we sat in a shaded area near the inscription, feeling as if we were in some way including Erastus and connecting with the first-century church in Corinth.  


Singing and the Lord’s Supper 


We sang, “We Shall Assemble on the Mountain,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Man of Sorrows.”


For the Lord’s Supper we read a passage Paul had written to the Christians in Corinth:


“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible ones, judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor. 10:14-17).


After the Lord’s Supper we sang, “Jesus, Name Above All Names.”


The Bible Lesson:


Paul spent about 18 months in Corinth, working with Aquila, Priscilla, Silas, and Timothy, leaving behind an established community of Christians (Acts 18:1-18). A few years later he returned, and during the winter of 56-57 he and Tertius wrote the letter to the Romans wherein it is stated: “Gaius, the host of me and of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the steward of the city, and our brother Quartus, greet you” (Rom. 16:22-23).


Apparently the church was meeting in Gaius’ house, which was large enough to host a sizeable group.4 It would have been a Roman-style house (domus), similar to what we saw in Pompeii, where the main foyer (atrium) had the capacity to accommodate a maximum of 30-50 people. 


The mid-first-century church at Corinth had many problems, at the heart of which was a lack of love. As Paul concludes the letter of First Corinthians, he gives this admonition: “Let all you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14). Earlier in the letter he devoted a whole chapter to love, so let’s listen to these inspired words as Erastus and the other Christians in Corinth would have first heard them.


Having stressed the importance of love (1 Cor. 13:1-3), Paul then gives a description of love (vv. 3-8a):

Love is patient, not merely with circumstances but especially with people.

Love is kind, the other side of patience; a positive, active response.

Love is not envious or jealous, not displeased with another’s good fortune.

Love is not boastful, not self-asserting.

Love is not arrogant or prideful.

Love does not behave rudely or act unbecomingly.

Love does not seek its own, is not selfish, does not demand its own way.

Love is not easily provoked to anger, a selfish concern for one’s own personal rights or perceived needs.

Love “thinks no evil” (NKJ), or “does not take into account a wrong suffered” (NAS), or “keeps no record of wrongs” (NIV); it does not hold a grudge or preserve a mental list of another's mistakes.

Love does not rejoice in iniquity or unrighteousness, it has no pleasure in the prevailing of sin or the misfortunes of others.

Love rejoices with the truth: the joy of honesty, not indifferent toward moral issues, delights in the truth of God’s word. 

Love bears all things, willing to put up with petty imperfections.

Love believes all things, trusting, giving the benefit of the doubt.

Love hopes all things, eager anticipation of what lies ahead.

Love endures all things, does not easily give up on each other, the church, or the Lord.

Love never fails, it will endure forever (because God himself is love, 1 John 4:8).


Let’s make sure we consistently love God, each other, our church family, and our neighbors as we seek to draw others closer to the love of God and the God of love.


Singing and Prayer


We sang, “I Love You with the Love of the Lord,” and “Bind Us Together Lord.” Then we prayed.


--Kevin L. Moore


Endnotes:

     1 The museum houses a stone lintel inscribed “synagogue of the Hebrews” and a stone capital with images of menorahs and palm branches, evidence of a Jewish community and synagogue in ancient Corinth (Acts 18:4-8, 12-17). The synagogue was at one time located next to the house of Titius Justus (Acts 18:7). The ruins of the massive temple of Apollo and other smaller temples, which served among other things as community centers, are relevant to Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 8:10, “For if anyone sees you having knowledge eating in an idol’s temple …” These temples, along with many other pagan shrines, statues, and artifacts, show why Paul deemed it necessary to repeatedly warn the Corinthians about the dangers of idolatry (1 Cor. 5:10-11; 6:9-11; 8:1-13; 10:7, 14, 19-22, 28; 12:2; 2 Cor. 6:16a), along with reminders that as God’s people we are his sacred temple (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor. 5:1; 6:16). The agora or forum brings to life the admonition in 1 Cor. 10:25, “Eat whatever is sold in the marketplace without asking questions on account of conscience.” All around the agora are abandoned shops where the tentmaking business of Aquila, Priscilla, and Paul may have been located (Acts 18:1-3). Along the Lechaeum road leading to the agora are the remains of the public Fountain of Peirene, which would have been an ideal location for baptizing initial converts (Acts 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:14-16). The Bema, the large stone platform where Paul was brought before the Roman proconsul Gallio (Acts 18:14-16), still stands in the center of the agora.

     2 The stone is about 2.2 meters (7.5 feet) in length. A reconstruction of the worn, abbreviated inscription, probably covered originally with bronze lettering, reads: ERASTVS PRO AEDILIT[ATE] S(UA) P(ECUNIA) STRAVIT. In Rome the office of aedile, which included the maintenance of public buildings and regulating public festivals, was more prestigious during the Republic but lost much of its importance during and after the reign of Augustus. In the Empire-era the authority and responsibilities of this position varied in the different cities and colonies.

     3 Scripture references are my own translation, unless noted otherwise.

     4 Names associated with the first-century Corinth church, along with households and unnamed brethren, include Crispus, Titius Justus, Stephanas, Sosthenes, Gaius, Fortunatus, Achaicus, Tertius, Erastus, and Quartus (Acts 18:7, 8, 17; Rom. 16:22-23; 1 Cor. 1:1, 14, 16; 16:17; 2 Tim. 4:20); perhaps Epaenetus (textual variant in Rom. 16:5), and Phoebe of Corinth’s SE seaport of Cenchrea (Rom. 16:1). Also involved in this work at various times were Paul, Aquila, Priscilla, Silas [Silvanus], Timothy, Apollos, and Titus (Acts 18:1-18; 18:27–19:1; 1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10-12; 2 Cor. 1:19; 7:6-7; 8:6, 16-24; 12:17-18).


Erastus Stone

Related Posts: Kaitlyn's PostMy Family's Worship in RomeAncient Corinth

 

Image credit: https://beliefspeak2.net/2016/10/10/new-testament-inscriptions-erastus-of-corinth-acts-1922-romans-1613-2-timothy-420-holylandphotos-blog/

Also self-family-photo with the ruins of Apollo's temple in the background.

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

My Family’s Worship in Rome

My family and I recently visited Italy and were in Rome on a Sunday. From what little information we were able to find about the Lord’s church, there did not appear to be an English-speaking service, so we had our own worship in the apartment where we were staying.

Singing and the Lord’s Supper


We sang, “Be Still and Know that I am God,” “Create in Me a Clean Heart,” and “Jesus Let Us Come to Know You.”


For the Lord’s Supper we read a passage that Paul had written from Rome: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).1


At the close of the Lord's Supper we sang, “He Paid a Debt He Did Not Owe.”


The Bible Lesson:


Rome is not mentioned in the OT. But during the four centuries between the close of OT history and the beginning of NT history, Rome had grown from a tiny village to a city to a kingdom to a Republic to an Empire. When the NT record opens, Rome is the dominating world power. 


The first explicit reference to Rome in the NT is Acts 2:10, where Jewish “visitors from Rome” were present in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. When Christians were then forced to leave Jerusalem, taking the gospel with them (Acts 8:4), it is probable that the message of Christ was taken back to Rome, as Paul later writes to the “saints” living there (Rom. 1:7; 16:1-16). The NT records the names of at least 44 Christians who lived in Rome or at least spent time in Rome,2 along with many others who are unnamed.


The book of Acts closes with Paul having been confined to house arrest in Rome for two whole years (Acts 28:16-31). During this time he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. It appears that Paul was released, made subsequent travels, was imprisoned again in Rome, and then composed his final apostolic manuscript, the epistle we know as 2 Timothy. 


Not long before his death, with only Luke remaining with him, Paul penned these words from Rome: 


“As for you [Timothy], always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:5). At the end of his life Paul’s chief concern was for the continuance of the Lord’s work. All Christians are servants in God’s kingdom and therefore each of us has a ministry to fulfill. 


For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:6-7). Paul had no regrets about having given his life to Christ and spending the rest of it, despite the many challenges, to personal faithfulness and the relentless sharing of the gospel message. May we do the same.


“Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). The heavenly reward Paul anticipated is still available to us. Let’s keep our commitment to stay together as a family throughout this life and into eternity.


Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica ...” (2 Tim. 4:9-10a). We can’t always depend on other people. Inevitably there will be those who disappoint us and let us down. But this should never affect our dedication and service to the Lord.


“Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia” (2 Tim. 4:9b). Others left Paul for what appears to have been more noble reasons. Let’s be thankful there are other brothers and sisters in the church who are busy doing the Lord’s work.


“Luke alone is with me” (2 Tim. 4:11a). Paul had a true companion, brother, and friend in Luke. Loyalty, especially among those in Christ, is a true blessing. Let’s be like Luke.


“Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11b). This statement is somewhat ironic because several years earlier Paul did not think very highly of John Mark, causing a rift in his long-time partnership with Barnabas (Acts 15:37-40). With these words, however, we see what can happen when an apparent failure is given a second chance and when one is humble enough to forgive and encourage.


Singing and Prayer


We sang, “Blessed Assurance Jesus is Mine,” and “When We All Get to Heaven.” Then we prayed.


--Kevin L. Moore


Endnotes:

     1 The electronic version of the Bible I have on my phone is the ESV.

     2 Paul (Acts 28:14-31; 2 Tim. 1:17 ), Timothy (Phil. 1:1; 2:19; Col. 1:1; Philem. 1; 2 Tim. 4:9, 13, 21), Luke (Col. 4:14a; Philem. 24; 2 Tim. 4:11), Tychicus (Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:12), Onesimus (Col. 4:9; Philem. 10), Aristarchus (Col. 4:10a; Philem. 24), John Mark (Col. 4:10b; Philem. 24; 1 Pet. 5:13b), Jesus Justus (Col. 4:11), Epaphras (Col. 4:12; Philem. 23), Demas (Col. 4:14b; Philem. 24), Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25; 2 Tim. 4:18), Eubulus (2 Tim. 4:21), Pudens, Linus, and Claudia (2 Tim. 4:21), Peter (1 Pet. 5:13a), Silvanus (1 Pet. 5:12), Phoebe (Rom. 16:1), Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:2; Rom. 16:3), Epaenetus (Rom. 16:5), Mary (Rom. 16:6), Andronicus and Junia (Rom. 16:7), Ampliatus (Rom. 16:8), Urbanus and Stachys (Rom. 16:9), Apelles and Aristobulus’ family (Rom. 16:10), Herodion and Narcissus’ family (Rom. 16:11), Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis (Rom. 16:12), Rufus, his mother (Rom. 16:13) and Alexander (Mark 15:21), Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, and Hermas (Rom. 16:14), Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas (Rom. 16:15).


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Image credit: Photo taken at St. Peter’s Square in Rome.