Greece's Corinth was once a city of religious diversity

August 13, 2004|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

CORINTH, Greece - Corinth, the capital of the province of Achaia, was once a city of social, cultural, and religious diversity, including Jews. The Jews living there were more cosmopolitan and multicultural than those in Palestine.

Apostle Paul's visit in about 50 B.C.E. came at a significant time for mission work. In 49 B.C.E., when the Jews were expelled from Rome, a large number migrated to Corinth.

While Paul stayed in Corinth for almost two years, he met with Jewish refugees from Rome. Paul sought out two of them, Aquila and Prisca, because they were tentmakers like him. He asked if they could work together as business associates. Aquila and Prisca also became key leaders of the young Christian church (Acts 18:1-12, 1 Cor. 16:19).

About 150-200 followers of Christ were in Corinth at the time of Paul's writing his letters to them. Corinthian Christians lived in large, complex households and worshiped in house churches that reflected the city's diverse make-up.


As Paul arrived at Corinth, he would have seen lots of rock piles, ruins of ancient city walls. Rome had destroyed the old Corinth in 146 B.C.E. The city Paul entered was therefore young - not even a century old. In 44 B.C., a decree of Julius Caesar had re-founded Corinth as a Roman colony.

Paul spent most of his time establishing a church

Apostle Paul apparently spent most his time establishing a church in Corinth. He wrote the two books in the New Testament, the first and second book of Corinthians to the Corinthian Christians.

Acts 18:12-17 tells of Paul being brought before the tribunal. When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal.

They said, "This man is persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to the law." Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, "If it were a matter of crime or serious villainy, I would be justified in accepting the complaint of you Jews; but since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves; I do not wish to be a judge of these matters." And he dismissed them from the tribunal. Then all of them seized Sosthenes, the official of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of these things.

Paul stayed in Corinth for a while, then left for Ephesus. After he left, the Corinth church flourished for sometime.

Otis Clark, pastor of Indian Hills Christian Church, said after Paul left Corinth and went to Ephesus to do the most important work of his life, a delegation of Corinth church leaders came to him for advice.

They were concerned with morality, lawsuits, abuse of the Lord's Supper, false apostles, problems in marriages, disorderly conduct of assemblies and hierarchies concerning the resurrection.

A view of the ancient city looks different today than it did in Paul's time there.

Only a wall of a temple remains on Acrocorinth, a mountain overlooking this ancient city which at one time was one of the largest cities in Northern Greece. The old section of Corinth is in ruins with only a few columns of the Doric temple of Apollo and walls of public buildings standing.

A six-mile-long wall surrounded the city

Ancient Corinth was surrounded by a six-mile-long wall, except where the Acrocorinth stands. On this mountain stood a temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, whom the Corinthians credited for bringing wealth to their city.

The city once had shops, small shrines, fountains, baths and other public buildings. The center of the Roman city was organized to the south of the temple of Apollo. It was inhabited for centuries by Romans, Greeks, and other people until it was liberated from the Turks in 1822.

The Lechaion Road that originated at the seaport of Lechaion on the Gulf of Corinth, entered Corinth from the north, where it widened to more than 20 feet with walks on either side and led right into the marketplace.

The road, paved with flagstones, that was lined with sidewalks, places of worship, administrative buildings, arcades and shops.

Corinth was a prosperous economic center. The historian Strabo wrote, "Corinth is called wealthy because of its commerce, since it is situated on the Isthmus and is master of two harbors, of which the one leads straight to Asia, and the other to Italy; and it makes easy the exchange of merchandise from both countries that are so far distant from each other."

The Corinth canal was built in 1892 to open up ship trade.

The Corinthian economy was more wide-ranging than that of many other Roman colonies. In addition to agriculture, Corinth was known for manufacturing and trade, especially of bronze.

In recent years, archaeologists in Corinth have uncovered marketpplace, temples, fountains, shops, porticoes, baths and other monuments. Currently, archaeologists from Cincinnati, Ohio, are working there.

The investigations also extended to the fortress on Acrocorinthos, the prehistoric settlements, the Theatre, the Odeion, the Asklepeion, the cemeteries, the Quarter of the Potters, and other buildings outside the main archaeological site.

Information also was taken from Bible text and web site

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