Saturday, June 5, 2010
Near the end of our trip, we finally arrived at one of my most anticipated sites: Corinth. Paul had more known dealings with this city than any other, having lived there 1.5 years, visited at least twice more, and writing at least 4 letters to the church at Corinth. (Our books of 1 and 2 Corinthians are actually the 2nd and 4th letters. The first and third letters are lost to history.) Corinth was also a booming metropolis in the first century with a massive commerce industry and a notorious reputation as the Sin City of antiquity. A temple was built for the Greek goddess Aphrodite in Corinth, and unbelievable perversity was offered as worship to her. An example of the city's wealth can be seen below in the exquisite mosaic that was originally on the floor of a wealthy Corinthian's dining room. This can be dated to very near the time of Paul.
One of the reasons Corinth attained so much wealth was its strategic location. It was built on an isthmus, and had harbors on both sides of the city. Cargo from ships would be loaded onto a rail system on the east, taxed by the city, and rolled to the west where it would be loaded on another ship, saving sailors days or even weeks on the sea. Though it was tried many times throughout history, in the late 19th century a canal was built that linked the two sides. The canal is approximately 1.5 miles long.
We know that while he was in Corinth, Paul worked for a time as a tentmaker with Aquila and Priscilla. It is likely that they had a shop in the local agora. The partially reconstructed shop below gives an idea of what Paul's tent shop may have looked like.
We also know that Paul first went to the Jewish synagogue in Corinth to preach the message about Jesus. For some time, archaeologists questioned if there actually was a Jewish synagogue in the city. With the discovery of this stone, however, all doubts were laid to rest. Though it is not easy to read, the upper stone reads "goge (H)ebr..." in Greek. While there are letters missing due to the break in the stone, there is no question what is being mentioned. Also, notice the menorahs on the stone below.
Here is Dr. Vang teaching about when Paul was taken by the Jews before Gallio, the proconsul of Corinth. This account is recorded in Acts 18:12-17. In a legal dispute, offended parties would take a defendant to the Proconsul, an official appointed by Rome for a one year term, from July 1- June 30. The Proconsul would sit on the "Bema" seat of judgement. This one event provides New Testament scholars the foundation for dating all of Paul's travels and ministry. More on that in the next post.
One other "rock of interest" is this stone. It was a marker outside the Corinthian theater which mentions of the patrons who financially supported the construction efforts, a man named "Erastus." He was, undoubtedly, one of the most important and wealthy men of the city to have overseen such a significant project. It should also be noted that as Paul closes his letter to the Romans, a letter he wrote from Corinth, he mentions in Rom. 16:23, "Erastus, the city treasurer and our brother Quartus greet you." It is highly likely that this is the same person, one of our Christian brothers.