Among the sites our group was able to visit in Corinth was the bema, the judgment seat, mentioned in Acts 18:12-17:
When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat, 13 saying, “This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.” 14 And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you. 15 “But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters.” 16 And he drove them from the judgment seat. 17 Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things.
We also saw the Erastus inscription:
Paul wrote the New Testament letter of Romans from Corinth, 3rd Missionary Journey. In Romans 16:23 we read, “Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you, and Quartus, a brother.”
In 1929 an inscription was discovered at Corinth naming an Erastus as the one who paid for the paving of the street. The inscription reads “ERASTVS. PRO. AED. S. P. STRAVIT” which is translated, “Erastus in return for his aedilelship laid [the pavement] at his own expense.” It would seem that the Erastus of the inscription is the same as the one mentioned in the biblical text.
We also saw the famous ruins of the temple of Apollo.
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 Apollo temple originally had 38 columns of the Doric order. Today seven are standing.
We also drove to the base of the Acrocorinth. What a view!
Finally, time for lunch at the Corinth Canal.
This nice restaurant is on the eastern side of the Corinth Canal. You might see someone you know.
On our way to the archaeological site of Corinth our group made a couple of very important stops. The first was to see the Corinth Canal.
The narrowest point of the isthmus of Corinth is only 4 miles wide. A canal was engineered and completed between 1882 and 1893. Nero (A.D. 67) had the idea of building a canal at that exact route utilized by the modern engineers. He planned to use 6,000 Jewish prisoners as his work force, but the idea was abandoned.
The canal cuts through the Isthmus of Corinth, separating the Peloponnesian peninsula from the Greek mainland. It connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Aegean Sea. On the site is a sign with info:
In ancient times there was a paved road that stretched across the isthmus, called the diolkos, which enabled cargo and smaller ships to be hauled overland, thus avoiding the dangerous circumnavigation of the Peloponnese.
Our photos below show two remaining portions of the western end of the diolkos. Photos are on the south side of the canal.
The BAS has this information re: this site in their collection, The Biblical World in Pictures commenting on their photo taken in the same area as mine above:
In Paul’s day a stone-paved sledway, called the Diolkos, was used to haul ships and their cargoes across the isthmus. At both ends of the road the pavement continued down beneath the waterline, allowing the shallow-draft ships to be floated onto and off of the sleds. The sleds were then pulled out of the water and across the isthmus by mule-power.
This view of the Diolkos is near the western end, looking beyond to the Gulf of Corinth (and the mountains along its northern coast sheltering the oracle shrine of Apollo at Delphi). At the right can be seen the western outlet of the modern canal. The stone pavement of the Diolkos clearly shows the ruts formed by sled runners over centuries of use. Corinth, of course, controlled the Diolkos traffic. Moreover, since ship crews and passengers using this route had to leave their vessels temporarily at Corinth anyway, they had less reason to make an additional port-call at Athens’ harbor on the Piraeus. Thus, many more travelers of the Roman era passed through Corinth than through Athens.
In our previous post of September 28, I reported that our tour group (of 45 passengers) had arrived safely and were set to begin our Steps of Paul and John Tour. We had a great tour, visiting sites from southern to northern Greece, then crossing the Dardanelles and exploring Troas, Assos, the cities of the Seven Churches, also Colossae and Hierapolis, and finally concluding in Istanbul.
I had intentions of making posts in this blog during the tour, but due to several factors, it turned out to be more workable to use my Facebook account and make posts on my phone. But now that we are back in the states we plan to report on the tour on this site. In upcoming posts I want to begin at Corinth, and basically follow our itinerary with appropriate posts. In this post however, I want to “fast-forward” to Assos, and look at the wonderful Roman road there which we were able to see for the first time. But first, a group photo taken at Thessaloniki, Greece. The famous White Tower is in the background.
The Road from Troas to Assos.
Assos is only mentioned on one occasion in Scripture. On Paul’s return trip on his 3rd Missionary Journey, after departing from Troas, he walked on to Assos and rejoined his traveling companions there. Paul had preached all night, only stopping at midnight when Eutychus fell from the 3rd floor, and was taken up dead. Paul raised him from the dead. Acts 20 continues the narrative:
11 Now when he [Paul] had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. 12 And they brought the young man [Eutychus] in alive, and they were not a little comforted. 13 Then we went ahead to the ship and sailed to Assos, there intending to take Paul on board; for so he had given orders, intending himself to go on foot. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene (Acts 20:11-14).
Paul purposefully traveled overland by himself, and then rejoined his traveling companions on the ship at Assos. The route over land was 31 miles! Luke does not supply the reason why Paul chose to leave the group and travel overland to Assos. A statement Paul made in the larger context of our passage may be helpful: “And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me” (Acts 20:22-23).
Though not knowing the details, Paul knew that his freedom would soon be taken away, that he was about to enter a period of confinement/imprisonment once he arrived at Jerusalem. On the ship there would be little if any opportunity to be alone. It would seem that those miles on his walk from Troas to Assos furnished time for deep thought and prayer. For sure it would be the final such opportunity before he became “Paul, the Prisoner” (from the point of his arrest in Jerusalem, Acts 21:26ff, until Acts concludes at 28:30-31, Paul will be a prisoner in chains).
In 2006, former professor Ferrell Jenkins and I made a personal study trip to western Turkey, including Assos and Troas. It was not until then that I “connected the dots” and saw what would have been involved in that two day journey by land. Later, Dr. Carl Rasmussen posted photos of the well-preserved road connecting Troas and Assos: https://holylandphotos.org/browse.asp?s=1,3,7,20,55&img=TWNAAS24. More recently, Dr. Meg Ramey featured this road in an article in BAR, November/December 2019 issue. She reported that “Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has caught the vision for preserving and promoting this sacred way.” See https://www.troycultureroute.com/route/.
In short, more than two years ago, when I was putting together the itinerary for this trip, I wanted to include a walk on this road if at all possible. I asked Orhan, who has served as our guide before, to help me with this. He had never seen this little known road, but promised he would make it happen. Because of the pandemic, our trip which was originally scheduled spring ’20, was rescheduled for fall ’20, and then again for the dates of September 27 – October 8, 2021. So finally (Oct 3) the time had come to be on the road to Assos. The group did not know the “surprise” that I had planned for them, but all seemed very pleased!
Here is a closer view:
Our guide Orhan was delighted to learn of this road. Here he is pointing out markings indicating this road as part of the Paul Trail in this area.
We are thankful for safe arrival in Athens, Greece early afternoon, to begin our tour “In the Steps of Paul and John,” seeing biblical sites in Greece and Turkey. Forty-five passengers make up our group. This afternoon is free time, getting settled in our hotel and having dinner, and hopefully a full night’s rest (our time zone is 8 hours ahead of Central Standard Time, though our group is from all over the US.).
Tomorrow we begin with a visit to Corinth. In this photo below you can see the ruins of the temple of Apollo, and in the background, the acrocorinth.
Today Assos is in a village called Behramkale, in the Turkish province of Çanakkale.The philosopher Aristotle lived at Assos 348-345 BC.
Craig Keener writes, “The temple of Athena in Assos may have been six centuries old by Paul’s day. The city also hosted the imperial cult.” (Acts: An Exegetical Commentary: 15:1–23:35 (Vol. 3, p. 2982). This of course serves as a reminder that idolatry was thoroughly pervasive in the biblical world, both that of the Old as well as the New Testament. Idolatry was truly everywhere! The Gospel entered the world in the first century to challenge that along with every false system, to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:4,5).
Our photo below shows some of the remaining columns of the temple there at Assos, captured as the sun was setting. Note the little girl at lower right for a sense of scale.
Former professor Ferrell Jenkins and I photographed Assos at evening and then again the following morning. This was in 2006, on a personal study trip.
Biblical mention of Assos is found in Acts 20:11-14: “Now when he [Paul] had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. And they brought the young man [Eutychus] in alive, and they were not a little comforted. Then we went ahead to the ship and sailed to Assos, there intending to take Paul on board; for so he had given orders, intending himself to go on foot. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene” ( NKJV).
The Roman province of Pontus is mentioned three times in the New Testament in the following passages:
There were residents of Pontus (among many other) present for the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the day on which the Gospel message of salvation through the resurrected Christ was preached for the first time: “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia” (Acts 2:9).
Paul’s dear friend and fellow-tentmaker Aquila, was from Pontus: “And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome” (Acts 18:2).
The Apostle Peter wrote the letter of 1 Peter to Christians in Pontus (and other Roman provinces): “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. . .” (1 Pet. 1:1).
The coast of Pontus was colonized by the Greeks ca. 700 BC. Sinope was a major port city of Pontus located on the Black Sea. This is in Turkey’s territory today.
Diogenes, the Cynic philosopher (ca. 412 BC – 323 BC), was a famous resident of Sinope. He was notorious for carrying a lamp during the daytime in Athens, claiming to be looking for an honest man.
At the base of this statue is a plaque relating another legend about Diogenes and Alexander the Great.
Plutarch relates the story of what happened when Alexander sought out Diogenes at Corinth:
  And now a general assembly of the Greeks was held at the Isthmus, where a vote was passed to make an expedition against Persia with Alexander, and he was proclaimed their leader. Thereupon many statesmen and philosophers came to him with their congratulations, and he expected that Diogenes of Sinope also, who was tarrying in Corinth, would do likewise.  But since that philosopher took not the slightest notice of Alexander, and continued to enjoy his leisure in the suburb Craneion, Alexander went in person to see him; and he found him lying in the sun. Diogenes raised himself up a little when he saw so many persons coming towards him, and fixed his eyes upon Alexander. And when that monarch addressed him with greetings, and asked if he wanted anything, ‘Yes,’ said Diogenes, “stand a little out of my sun.”  It is said that Alexander was so struck by this, and admired so much the haughtiness and grandeur of the man who had nothing but scorn for him, that he said to his followers, who were laughing and jesting about the philosopher as they went away, “But verily, if I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes.” (Plutarch’s Lives, Alexander, 14:1-3).
The city of Syracuse, located on the southeast coast of Sicily, was founded in 733 BC by Greek settlers from Corinth. Some names associated with Syracuse include Aeschylus, considered the father of the Greek tragedy. The philosopher Plato was in Syracuse. Syracuse was the birthplace of Archimedes, the famous mathematician and most influential scientist of the ancient world.
But to the Bible student, it is its mention in connection with Paul’s journey (as a prisoner, among 276 passengers) to Rome that gives this ancient site special interest. Of that point in the sea voyage portion of the trip Luke writes, “And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days” (Acts 28:12). Here is a photo of the harbor.
Syracuse is rich in archaeological remains, including Roman and Grecian.
The Roman amphitheater was built in/on a natural rocky outcrop. The building would have been crowned with a portico. The inscriptions on the marble parts of the balustrade designate the seats of the dignitaries from Siracusa. There were eight entrances from the crypta onto the arena.
Fodor’s Italy has this info:
The well-preserved and striking Anfiteatro Romano (Roman Amphitheater) reveals much about the differences between the Greek and Roman personalities. Where drama in the Greek theater was a kind of religious ritual, the Roman amphitheater emphasized the spectacle of combative sports and the circus. This arena is one of the largest of its kind and was built around the 2nd century AD. The corridor where gladiators and beasts entered the ring is still intact, and the seats (some of which still bear the occupants’ names) were hauled in and constructed on the site from huge slabs of limestone. (Fodor’s Italy 2014 Kindle Locations 21621-21622).
Another important site at Syracuse is the Altar of Hieron (perhaps dedicated to Zeus) built in the Hellenistic period by King Hiero II. It is the largestaltar known from antiquity.
The Lexham Bible Dictionary has info on this Grecian period of ancient Syracuse, including references to Hieron I & II.
Syracuse became prominent in the affairs of Sicily under the rule of Gelon from 485–478 BC and his brother Hieron I from 478–467 BC. It flourished after the establishment of a popular government in 466 BC (Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica, Hist. 11.68–72). The Syracusans successfully withstood the siege by the Athenians in 414 BC (Thucydides, Hist. 6, 7).
The most famous of the later rulers was Hieron II (275–216 BC). Perhaps the most famous resident of Syracuse, the mathematician and inventor Archimedes, flourished during Hieron’s rule. Under Hieron’s grandson and successor Hieronymus, the Romans under Marcellus conquered the city and it fell in 212 BC (Livy, History of Rome 24.21–33). After that, Syracuse was the capital of the Roman province of Sicily. Wentz, L. Syracuse. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary).
We are very sorry to learn of today’s earthquake in the Aegean which has resulted in multiple deaths, 12 in Izmir, on the western coast of Turkey, and 2 (teenagers) on the Greek island of Samos, as well as 400+ injuries. Our thoughts and prayers go out on behalf of those impacted by this tragedy.
The island of Samos is of interest to Bible students because of its mention in Acts 20:15, in the context of Paul’s return on his 3rd Missionary Journey, making his way back to Jerusalem.
Samos is a
Place-name meaning “height.” Small island (only 27 miles long) located in the Aegean Sea about a mile off the coast of Asia Minor near the peninsula of Trogyllium. In the strait between Samos and the mainland, the Greeks defeated the Persian fleet about 479 B.C. and turned the tide of power in the ancient Near East. Traveling from Jerusalem to Rome, Paul’s ship either put in at Samos or anchored just offshore (Acts 20:15). (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, p.1438).
The rendering of the ESV on Acts 20:15 is: “And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched [emp. mine, L.M.] at Samos; and the day after that we went to Miletus.” They could have just stayed overnight in the ship in the harbor, departing the next morning, or they could have deboarded the ship to actually be on the island itself (briefly of course). The text does not say.
Though the biblical text only mentions Samos this once (Acts 20:15), I welcome the opportunity to visit such sites, and to be able to share photos and use such in teaching.
I had occasion to make a brief visit to Samos in 2006, along with friend Ferrell Jenkins, when we were en route to Kuşadasi. See his article here. Samos is just off the western coast of Asia Minor. There are impressive remains of a temple devoted to the goddess Hera at Samos (see Fant & Reddish, pp. 118-125), but our limited time at Samos that day did not permit our seeing this.
On that trip we had flown from Athens, Greece to Samos, then we took the ferry from Samos to Kuşadasi, Turkey, which would serve as our “base” while we visited nearby Ephesus and other biblical sites.
After the virgin Mary was informed by the angel Gabriel that by “the power of the Highest” she would conceive “and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS” (Luke 1:31,35), she then went to visit her relative Elizabeth, who was at that time the 6-months expectant mother of John the Baptist. “Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth” (vv. 39-40).
To be clear, the text does not specify which city of Judah in which Zacharias (the priest) and his wife Elizabeth resided. It was a city in the “hill country” of Judah. However the traditional site is that of En Kerem (spelling varies), located about 5 miles west of Jerusalem.
R. Riesner, in his entry entitled, “The Birthplace of John the Baptist” states,
To visit Elizabeth, Mary went “into the hill country [oreinē], to a city of Judah” (Lk 1:39). The Greek word describes the district around Jerusalem (Pliny Nat. Hist. 5.14). A literary tradition that can be traced back to the sixth century identifies the birthplace with En-Kerem (Arabic Ain Karim), seven kilometers west of Jerusalem (ELS 44ff.). Remains of two fourth-century churches indicate, however, that the tradition stretches back to a still-earlier time (GBL II.776). (Archeology and Geography. In J. B. Green & S. McKnight (Eds.), Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (p. 34). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Sign indicating our entry into the city:
This photo gives you a feel of the surrounding countryside:
The Church of the Visitation commemorates Mary’s visit to Elizabeth.
Here is a view of the top of the Church of the Visitation:
Of course the point not to be lost is that when Mary heard the wonderful news that she would become the mother of the Messiah, she traveled from her home in Nazareth to visit Elizabeth, wife of Zacharias the priest, in a city in the hill country of Judea. There Elizabeth “was filled with the Holy Spirit,” and spoke, significantly, not about her own child (John) but about Mary, and the child she would have: “But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
Hopefully some of our photos can help visualize the area in which this important visit took place.
The closing chapters of the book of Revelation describe for the reader “how beautiful heaven must be.” That heavenly, holy city, new Jerusalem where God “shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4, NASB). Moving on to the final chapter, John writes, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life– water as clear as crystal– pouring out from the throne of God and of the Lamb, flowing down the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life producing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month of the year. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:1-2, NET Bible).
What was lost in the beginning in the Garden of Eden, access to the Tree of Life, is regained in heaven! Oh how I want to be among that number there in that beautiful city! The Tree of Life, along with the Water of Life! This is depicting eternal life, the people of God at home with God.
In the text above, the imagery of a river of water flowing through the main street of the city brings to mind the layout of the city of Perga of Pamphylia (today southern Turkey) mentioned in the context of Paul’s First Journey (Acts 13:13-14; 14:25).
Our photo shows how Perga’s water supply flowed down the main street of the city, with the street on either side, to the sides of which various shops and businesses would have been located (where the standing columns can be seen). Images such as these help us to understand and visualize the description employed in our text. The two large structure at the far end are towers that stood at the gate that go back to the Hellenistic period, to the time of Alexander the Great.
To the side of the street a number of ancient columns are still standing.