Artifacts at biblical Corinth: Jewish Presence

December 18, 2019

Fant and Reddish make these interesting observations about biblical Corinth:

No city in the ancient world both benefited and suffered from its location more than Corinth. Situated on the main north-south route between northern and southern Greece, and with two good ports that linked it to Italy on the west and Asia Minor on the east, Corinth quickly became a center for commerce. But the location of Corinth also had its downside. The city often found itself caught in the middle between hostile neighbors, Athens to the north and Sparta to the south. Armies crisscrossed its streets as often as merchants, and more than once the city had to arise from ashes and rubble. Today only Athens attracts more interest in Greece for its historic antiquities than Corinth. It ranks as a must-see location for every traveler to Greece. (A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, p.45).

Synagogue Inscription. There is a section of a lintel with a partial inscription, [Syna] goge hebr [aion], “Synagogue of the Hebrews.”

Synagogue Inscription at Corinth. Corinth Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

It is thought that this artifact is to be dated as late Roman or early Byzantine, and hence would post-date the time of the Apostle Paul.

But the Bible shows there was certainly a Jewish presence at Corinth in Paul’s day. In fact, upon Paul’s arrival there (2nd Missionary Journey), he stayed with fellow-tent-makers Aquila and Priscilla, who were Jews, and were there “because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome” (Acts 18:1-2). Claudius was emperor AD 41-54.

Roman Emperor Claudius. Istanbul Archaeology Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The text in Acts 18 continues, relating Paul’s “reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath” (v.4), and also including brief notation of the conversion of Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue:

3 and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers. 4 And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. 5 But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. 6 But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 Then he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized. (Acts 18:3-8).

 

Capital with Menorahs and Palm Branches. There is also on display at the museum there at Corinth a capital decorated with menorahs and palm branches. It is thought that this once decorated the top of a pillar, probably from the synagogue.

Capital with menorahs and palm branches. Corinth Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Paul’s one desire was to live in such a manner as to save as many as possible, whether Jews or Gentiles:

“To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” (1 Cor.  9:20-22).

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Paul’s Usage of Isthmian Games as Illustration

December 11, 2019

The Apostle Paul asked and answered a rhetorical question:

24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:27-27).

To illustrate the great effort and focus that should be expended and maintained for what Paul terms “an imperishable crown,” he points to the games (apparently the Isthmian games) as an example. The Isthmian Games were similar to the Olympic Games, and took place every two years at Isthmia near Corinth. This illustration would have struck home to Paul’s Corinthian audience.

Location of Isthmia in proximity to Corinth. Wikimedia Commons.

Our photo shows the ancient site of Isthmia. In addition to the excavation that may be seen here, at center (and slightly right, indicated by vertical metal stakes) you may see the Classical stadium starting line for the runners.

Ancient Isthmia. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The Isthmian Games occurred every two years and should have occurred during Paul’s stay (Acts 18:11); they were held in the spring of 49 and 51 C.E. When combined with the imperial games every fourth year (i.e., every other celebration of the Isthmian Games), the Isthmian Games were the Great (as opposed to the Lesser) Isthmia. There were four Greek games, often mentioned together: the Olympic, the Pythian, the Nemean, and the Isthmian. The Isthmian “were the most splendid and best attended” of the pan-Hellenic festivals next to the quadrennial Olympics.

Whether or not Paul attended the Isthmian Games, which would have occurred during his stay there, he would have known about them, and it seems plausible that he would have made use of them somehow to reach people passing through, as Diogenes the Cynic reportedly did. The Isthmian Games were well known among educated urban people throughout the Roman world. Large numbers would gather from many diverse cities, discussing current events, at the Isthmian Games (Polyb. 18.46.1). (Both genders would also be present.) Many gave readings and orations besides other entertainments; a local preacher might be ignored by the Corinthians, who were accustomed to him, yet draw a crowd of visitors. It was a strategic place to make announcements that would reach all Greece. (Keener, C. S., 2014. Acts: An Exegetical Commentary: 15:1–23:35 Vol. 3, pp. 2758–2760. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic).

Paul referred to the “perishable crown” that was awarded to the winner of the race. This may be visualized by our photo here:

A “perishable” crown. Wreath given to the victor, a Greek athlete. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Our photo features a close up of the head of a running athlete and dates back to the late Hellenistic period. This statue was retrieved from the Aegean Sea off the coast of Kyme, and is displayed at the Izmir Museum (biblical Smyrna).

Salvation is by grace through faith. At the same time God rightfully expects total commitment and devotion to Him.

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The Hearing Ear

May 16, 2019

Solomon said, “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, The LORD has made them both” (Pro. 20:12). The NLT reads, “Ears to hear and eyes to see–both are gifts from the LORD.” Much is said in the Bible about using one’s ears to hear, to truly listen, and in particular to hear God’s word; to hear words of wisdom.

Here are some selected texts, for example, from the Proverbs:

2:1 My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you,

3:3 My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands;

4:1 Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, And give attention to know understanding;

7:24 Now therefore, listen to me, my children; Pay attention to the words of my mouth:

8:6 Listen, for I will speak of excellent things, And from the opening of my lips will come right things;

8:32 ” Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways.

13:1 A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.

18:1 A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.

19:20 Listen to counsel and receive instruction, That you may be wise in your latter days.

23:22 Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old.

At Corinth, Greece, there is a museum on site with artifacts from the area. Included are some “offerings” to the healing god Asclepius (spelling varies) which were left at the god’s temple there at Corinth. The idea was that if one had been healed of his/her affliction they would then bring an offering in the form of that body part which had been restored.

Votive offering, an ear. On site museum at Corinth Greece. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Sign explaining the display. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

A fragment on display contains the name of the god. Greek letters transliterate, ASKL.

Sherd with Greek spelling of Asclepius. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

But it wasn’t Asclepius who made the ear, neither could he heal it. I’m put in mind of Paul’s referencing the former lives of the Galatians in their idolatry before they came to know the true God: “But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods” (Gal. 4:8).

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Seneca the Younger, Gallio’s Brother, Column at Corinth

February 12, 2015

Among the ruins visible today as one visits biblical Corinth, is a portion of a column bearing the name of Seneca.

Column fragment at Corinth bearing Seneca's name (Latin Ceneka). Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Column fragment at Corinth with Seneca’s name (Latin CENEKA). Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Seneca is of interest to students of Acts, because he is the brother of the Proconsul Gallio, before whom Paul stood trial at Corinth (Acts 18:12-17). Usually when Paul was brought before rulers for his gospel teaching he was promptly beaten and often imprisoned (2 Cor. 11:23-27). However here at Corinth Gallio could see that Paul was not a law-breaker, and threw the case out.

Wikipedia has this info on Seneca:

Lucius Annaeus Seneca (often known simply as Seneca /ˈsɛnɪkə/; c. 4 BC – AD 65) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature.

He was a tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero. While he was forced to commit suicide for alleged complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate Nero, he may have been innocent. His father was Seneca the Elder, his elder brother was Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeanus, called Gallio in the Bible, and his nephew was the poet Lucan.

The mention of Gallio in the text (Acts 18) is helpful in dating the events at that point in the ministry of Paul.

Gallio was the proconsul [Grk. anthupatos] of the Roman senatorial province of Achaia (Acts 18:12). Proconsuls generally served two-year terms, and such appointments offered potentially great financial rewards. Achaia’s administrative center was Corinth, a newly rebuilt city at the time and a busy commercial and transport center. The city had as many as 200,000 residents, and the province of Achaia may have had several million subjects. . .

An inscription at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi indicates that Gallio’s time in Corinth may be dated to AD 51–53. Thus, Paul’s appearance before Gallio probably occurred in the spring or summer of AD 51. (The Lexham Bible Dictionary).

In an article entitled “Paul, Dating, and Corinth: The Gallio Inscription and Pauline Chronology,” Gardner Gordon wrote:

Gallio’s younger brother, Seneca, was a philosopher, and apparently an inflammatory one. In AD 41, Emperor Claudius exiled this young thinker to the isle of Corsica. Usually, such disgrace tarnished the entire family. Whatever political ambitions Gallio may have had were effectively derailed by his brainy brother’s banishment. But in AD 49, Seneca was ushered back to Rome with a grand purpose: he was placed in the imperial court as the tutor to Claudius’ nephew and royal successor, a young, impetuous Roman named Nero. Undoubtedly, it was at this time that Seneca was instrumental in helping to secure a political post of proconsul for his older brother, Gallio.

That article may be read in its entirety by clicking here.

I have several posts on biblical Corinth, with photos and brief articles. Use search box at upper right.

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Corinthian Helmet

October 30, 2014

From an entry entitled, “Weapons” in the Harper’s Bible Dictionary we read:

As in the modern world, advancements in ancient technology were quickly adapted for use in instruments of war. One of the most important steps in the history of weapons was the development of carburized iron, a phenomenon that occurred in the eastern Mediterranean toward the end of the second millennium B.C., but earlier improvements in metallurgy (i.e., the production of copper and bronze) had been applied to arms production for nearly two thousand years before the Iron Age. Naturally, the shape, size, and overall durability of dagger and sword blades and spearheads and arrowheads were affected by such improvements in copper, bronze, and iron technology. Another important weapon that improved over time was the chariot, whose speed and maneuverability were increased by changes in design and construction materials, including metals. Other major steps in the development of ancient weaponry include the invention of the composite bow, piercing battle-ax, “Corinthian” helmet, and siege engines (pp. 1123-1124).

The Metropolitan Museum in NY has several such helmets on display.

Corinthian Style Helmet. Photo by Leon Mauldin. Metropolitan Museum, NY.

Corinthian Style Helmet. Photo by Leon Mauldin. Metropolitan Museum, NY.

This Grecian helmet, made of bronze and dating back to 7th-6th century BC, put me in mind of some biblical texts:

–Isaiah 59:17:  He put on righteousness like a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle. (Reference here is to the Lord, YHWH).

–Ephesians 6:17: And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. The above Isaiah text provides background for this Ephesians passage. The New American Standard Bible uses all caps to indicate a quotation from the OT. The helmet is a vital part of the Christian’s armor listed in Eph. 6:10-17.

–1 Thessalonians 5:8: But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. A helmet protects the head. Here the hope of salvation possessed by Christians is said to be a helmet. Keep your helmet on. Keeping the hope of salvation constantly in the forefront of the mind serves to protect one against Satan’s devices.

I believe I’ll keep my helmet on!


Corinth, cont’d.

January 6, 2011

Acts 18:11 informs us that Paul remained in Corinth for a year and six months; in v. 18 we are informed that “Paul still remained a good while.” This was during Paul’s 2nd Missionary Journey. Paul was a tent maker, as were his fellow-workers, Aquila and Priscilla, that great husband-wife team (Acts 18:3). Our photo below features the ruins of some of the many shops that were in ancient Corinth.  It is not difficult to imagine these biblical characters working in one of these locations.

Shops at Corinth. Acrocorinth in background. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Acrocorinth is in the background. We have referenced this in some of the previous posts.

Of course during Paul’s stay at Corinth here his purpose was that of preaching the Gospel (Acts 18:11).  But he worked at his trade to help with the necessary financial support. Incidentally, these structures shown in our photo were the west shops of the city.

When Paul left Corinth, Aquila and Priscilla traveled with him, accompanying him as far as Ephesus, while Paul journeyed on to Jerusalem. We learn in Acts 18:18 that in their departure from Corinth they used the port of Cenchrea, shown in our photo below.

Cenchrea, Corinth's seaport. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We learn from Romans 16:1 that there was a congregation of Christians there, as Paul makes special mention and recommendation of Phoebe, “a servant of the church in Cenchrea.” It was at this time during Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey that he wrote the Christians at Rome from Corinth.  As Phoebe was traveling there to Rome, Paul asked, “that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also” (Romans 16:2).

The landscape in our Cenchrea photo would be what Christians such as Phoebe would have seen, as well as Paul and his companions.


Temple of Apollo at Corinth

December 28, 2010

The church at Corinth, which received two of the New Testament letters, 1 & 2 Corinthians, was situated in a world of sin and degradation.  By “church,” I’m not referring to the place that they met, but rather the people who had turned from their lives of sin and had been washed, sanctified, and justified “in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

A visual example of the idolatry so prevalent at Corinth can be seen in our photo, which shows the ruins of the temple of Apollo.

Temple of Apollo at Corinth. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Regarding this site BAS says,

The Temple of Apollo at Corinth was 700 years old by Paul’s time. On the hill directly overlooking the Roman city’s main forum, its sturdy Doric columns served as a dramatic reminder of Corinth’s ancient grandeur. But the temple was already in ruins; to Paul it would have served merely as a sermon illustration of the impotence of the Greeks’ “pagan” gods.

As noted above, the temple was in ruins in the days of Paul, but the centuries of pagan idolatrous influence was still very much there.

The Acrocorinth may be seen in the background.  It was there that the temple of Aphrodite was situated in ancient times.

The Apollo temple originally had 38 columns of the Doric order.  Today seven are standing.

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