We hit Ancient Corinth on day two in Greece – our visit to the site was sponsored by the Bishop of Corinth. His minion who wore black, carried worry beads and looked like a gangster watched our trek around the site, before we made our way to a newly minted “St Paul Centre” for an absolutely opulent (and free) lunch put on by the Bishop.
The site itself is amazing. There’s a museum filled with relics that have been uncovered in the dig. The chief archeologist gave us a run down of the landscape. The city of Corinth sits under a pretty impenetrable fort (more on that later) atop the Acrocorinth, it has a steady supply of water, is resource rich, and sits beside the Corinthian isthmus, a vital trade link between two major oceans.
The city was pulled apart by the Romans, who later rebuilt over the top of the Greek foundations in the late BCs. The dig has uncovered much of Roman Corinth, and gone deeper into Greek Corinth. One of the best bits from the head digger was a look at a little secret passage that they found in an underground Greek temple (no longer underground).
On the Roman Corinth front, the city puts the New Testament into real perspective – which I guess is the point of the visit. Standing in the centre of the city square you’re struck by the intersection of commerce, justice and religion. Roman business and Roman Law were inextricably religious. And the construction of the city and placement of idol statues (especially of deified emperors) hammered that home. The temple of Apollos is pretty impressive (some of its pillars still stand) but the imperial temple dominated the landscape, and could be spotted from just about anywhere in the city.
The coolest bit of the trip (Bible wise), was standing in front of the Bema, or justice seat, where Paul appeared before Gallio in Acts 18.
12 But while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before (AC)the judgment seat,
13 saying, “This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.”
14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you;
15 but if there are questions about words and names and your own law, look after it yourselves; I am unwilling to be a judge of these matters.”
16 And he drove them away from the judgment seat.
This is one of the only geographic points we have for Paul’s visit – so as we stood here and looked around, not only could we imagine the streets alive and an impending riot being quelled by Gallio’s prudent judgment, but we were standing somewhere where Paul himself stood, and where an event of some significance in the New Testament occurred. Gallio’s judgment, and reputation as a juror, meant Christianity was suddenly a legal religion in the empire.
There have been a couple more “aha” moments that will doubtless be the subject of subsequent posts. Stay tuned for our visit to a real castle. It was incredible.