On Friday, May 20, Kathy and I made ourselves at home in the Hotel Amalia just long enough to be picked up and whisked away to the ancient city of Corinth where the Apostle Paul had an effective ministry. If you read the text in Acts 17 and 18 it relates Paul’s visits to both the cities we will be talking about here. Let’s forget the fact that we saw Corinth before we visited Athens and look at the order presented in Scripture. Paul came to Athens because things were getting too hot for him in Berea (Macedonia). He arrived in Athens ahead of the other members of his party and while he moved about the city one thing stood out loud and clear—these people were all avid idol worshipers. So he began to meet in the market place (the “agora” in Greek). This was the shopping mall of the ancient world. Almost every town or city had an agora where people gathered to shop, chat, talk politics and religion. Today they have the ruins of a large agora just next to the city’s main attraction: the Acropolis and its chief temple, the Parthenon, where the people worshiped the goddess Athena. When Paul was engaging the philosophers about the Christian Faith they were so curious about this “new thing” he was talking about that they wanted to hear it more in depth. So they brought him to a place called the Areopagus, or “Mars Hill” if you translate it from Greek to English. We stood on Mars Hill and had a commanding view of the Agora behind us and the whole Acropolis with its many temples just in front of us. Most interesting to the tourist today is the fact that Paul’s entire speech to the philosophers is inscribed on a bronze placque and fastened to the rocky wall of the Areopagus today. The Parthenon, which was built about the 6th Century B.C., has amazingly survived to the present day, although just now they are doing maintenance on its many columns. It can be seen from almost any place in this city of about 5 million people. In fact, this temple would have been handed down to us almost perfectly intact if it weren’t for the fact that the Turks occupied it in a war about two centuries ago and blew up the central section of it. We were told by our guide that so possessive were the citizens of Athens about their famed temple that when the Turks ran out of ammunition while occupying the Acropolis the Greek army offered to send them more ammunition if they would just leave the Parthenon intact (which they didn’t).
Back to Paul….. Paul and his party seemed to have made only a small dent on the idol worshipers in Athens and, with much regret, they moved on to their next target for the Gospel—Corinth. In order to get to Corinth today you must pass over a bridge which spans the two sections of Greece. In Paul’s day the bridge did not exist because the canal that separates upper Greece from lower Greece wasn’t built until the last century. This canal was actually begun in the first century to lessen the amount of time ships with cargoes had to sail around southern Greece to get to the port of Athens. Even the Roman emperor Nero attempted to do something about the canal but was unsuccessful. It was quite an engineering feat but an important one for the sake of commerce.
At any rate, when Paul and his party arrived at Corinth they entered a city that would severely test the power of the Gospel to change lives. Corinth had a reputation for immorality. The Acrocorinth, which was a high hill behind the city and used as a secure place to be used in defense of an enemy invasion, had a temple which employed “sacred” priestesses. During the day they occupied the temple but at night they came down into the town and walked the streets of Corinth as prostitutes. So Paul and his helpers had their work cut out for them as they sought to make godly disciples out of these people. But the Lord saw something no one else did and the Holy Spirit said to Paul: “Don’t stop talking. I have many people in this city.” That’s all Paul needed to hear as he set about attacking the devil on his own turf. So powerful was his message that the Jews and others dragged him before the authorities at a place called the “Bema,” where the law courts met. Gallio, the chief authority of this town, heard their case against Paul and dismissed it as being out of place in a public court of law, since it was about religious rules and names. The Bema still exists and is a major attraction for tourists today.
Bud & Kathy
Bud and Kathy Downs are making another trip to the Lands of the Bible-- first Turkey and Greece (from May 11 to 22) and then to Israel (from May 22 to June 8). We invite you to join us through our travel blog. We intend to post regular updates and pictures of Bible sites.