Acts 18 – Paul at Corinth & Paul’s Second Journey

Finger Pointing Up

1 Corinth
Corinth, or Korinth was a city-state (polis) on the Isthmus of Corinth, the narrow stretch of land that joins the Peloponnesus to the mainland of Greece, roughly halfway between Athens and Sparta.

The modern town of Corinth is located approximately 3.1 mi northeast of the ancient ruins.

Since 1896, systematic archaeological investigations of the Corinth Excavations by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens have revealed large parts of the ancient city, and recent excavations conducted by the Greek Ministry of Culture have brought important new facets of antiquity to light.

We’ve viewed the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  Before we look at Paul’s third journey we’ll look at what some people call…

Acts 18
Paul at Corinth

1 After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth;

“Came to Corinth” – either by land along the isthmus (a distance of about 50 miles) or by sea from Piraeus, the port of Athens, to Cenchrea, on the eastern shore of the isthmus of Corinth.

2 And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.

“Pontus” – in the northeastern region of Asia Minor, a province lying along the Black Sea between Bithynia and Armenia.

3 And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.

“Tentmakers” – Paul would have been taught this trade as a young.  It was the Jews custom to provide manual training for sons, whether rich or poor.

4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.

5 And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.

2 Piraeus
Piraeus is a port city in the region of Attica, Greece.
Piraeus is located within the Athens urban area, 7 miles southwest from its city center (municipality of Athens), and lies along the east coast of the Saronic Gulf.

According to the 2011 census, Piraeus had a population of 163,688 people within its administrative limits, making it the fourth largest municipality in Greece and the second largest within the urban area of the Greek capital, following the municipality of Athens.

The municipality of Piraeus and several other suburban municipalities within the regional unit of Piraeus form the greater Piraeus area, with a total population of 448,997.

6 And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.

7 And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.

8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

9 Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:

18:9-10 – When God makes a promise you can count on it – Josh 1:5-9.

10 For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.

11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

12 And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat,

“Gallio” – the brother of Seneca, the philosopher, who was the tutor of Nero.  Gallio was admired as a man of exceptional fairness sand calmness.  From an inscription found at Delphi, it is known that Gallio was proconsul of Achaia in 51-52 A.D.

This information enables us to date Paul’s visit to Corinth on his second journey as well as his writing of the Thessalonian letters.

13 Saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law.

14 And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you:

15 But if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters.

16 And he drave them from the judgment seat.

3 The Black Sea
The Black Sea is a sea in south-eastern Europe. It is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean Seas and various straits.

The Bosphorus Strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the Strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean Sea region of the Mediterranean.
These waters separate eastern Europe and western Asia. The Black Sea is also connected to the Sea of Azov by the Strait of Kerch.

Ancient Black Sea shipwrecks is the study of shipwrecks found in the Black Sea which date to Antiquity.

In 1976, Willard Bascom suggested that the deep, anoxic waters of the Black Sea might have preserved ships from antiquity because typical wood-devouring organisms could not survive there.

At a depth of 150m, the Black Sea contains insufficient oxygen to support most familiar biological life forms.

17 Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things.

18 And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow.

19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews.

20 When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not;

21 But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.

22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch.

23 And after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.

24 And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.

25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.

26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.

27 And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace:

28 For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

Paul’s Second Journey
(Acts 15:36-18:22 — c. 49-52 AD)

When Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch in Syria at the conclusion of their first missionary journey, they reported on how God had “opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” throughout Galatia.

Meanwhile, some of the Jewish Christian began insisting that Gentile believers must be circumcised in accordance with Jewish law in order to become part of the church.

4 Pauls Second Journey

This controversy was settled by a church council in Jerusalem where it was agreed that the new Gentile converts be excused from being circumcised, while suggesting that they abstain from eating the meat of animals killed in pagan sacrifices, from sexual immorality and from eating the meat and blood of strangled animals.

A letter outlining the decision was sent to Antioch with Paul, Barnabas, and two Christians from Jerusalem, Judas Barabbas and Silas.

Bolstered by the council’s decision, Paul proposed a second missionary journey to Barnabas to strengthen the churches they established on their first journey, and to pass on the decision of the Jerusalem council.

5 Intact section of the Roman road north of Tarsus.
Intact section of the Roman road north of Tarsus.

But an argument between them over giving John Mark a second chance ended with them splitting up. Barnabas took John Mark with him on a separate mission to his native Cyprus, while Paul chose a new partner, Silas, who helped deliver the decision from the Jerusalem council.

Paul chose a new partner, Silas or Silvanus, a Roman citizen like himself, and an influential member of the Church of Jerusalem and embarked on a journey that began by revisiting the places Paul had worked on his 1st journey.

They worked in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and the regions of Phrygia and Galatia, then on to Troas, where Paul received a vision calling him to Macedonia.

Paul headed west through Philippi, Berea and Thessaloniki to Achaia and worked in Athens. After Athens he went to work in Corinth where he met Aquila and Priscilla. From Corinth Paul went to Ephesus. He took a ship to Caesarea, then back to Antioch in Syria.

The Journey Begins: Antioch to Galatia

Paul and Silas left Antioch in Syria and started overland northward, probably first to Paul’s hometown of Tarsus and then across the Taurus Mountains through the famed Cilician Gates.

In previous centuries Hittite, Assyrian, Persian, Greek and Roman armies had marched through this narrow pass (barely 65′ wide) on their way to conquest. Now it was just two men on their way to a more lasting conquest.

Once on the high Anatolian plateau (roughly 3,300 feet above sea-level), Paul and Silas turned westward to revisit the cities of Galatia — Derbe and Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch — where Paul and Barnabas had previously established congregations.

7 Temple of Apollo
Temple of Apollo

Instead, the Holy Spirit redirected their efforts and they found themselves heading for Troas in northwest Asia Minor, ten miles southwest of ancient Troy (of Homer’s Iliad fame).

At Troas (more properly Alexandria Troas), Paul had a vision which set the course for his missionary efforts over the remaining years of his life.

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; there stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying Come over into Macedonia and help us.

And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them (Acts 16: 9-10).

 Alexandria Troas

According to Greek historian Strabo (c. 63 BC – c.21 AD), the original settlement on the site was called Sigia.

6 Cilician Gates the famed pass through the Taurus Mountains.
Cilician Gates, the famed pass through the Taurus Mountains.

About 310 B.C. a new and far larger city was founded there by Antigonus I Monopthalmos, a general of Alexander the Great and ruler of one of the successor kingdoms established after the young ruler’s death in 323 B.C.

Antigonia forced the inhabitants of surrounding villages to relocate to his new city, which he named Antigonia after himself.

After the deaths of Antigonus and his son Demetrius at the battle of Ipsus in 302 BC, Lysimachus, another of Alexander’s generals, changed the name of the city to Alexandria, one of fifteen cities named after their ex-boss by his generals who took over parts his empire.

Because of its proximity to the fabled city of Troy (15 miles north), travelers called the city Alexandria Troas to distinguish it from others with the same name, most notably the Ptolemaic capital of Egypt.

In Roman times, it was a significant port for ships travelling between Anatolia and Europe.

Its strategic position near the entrance to the Hellespont made it a convenient place to transfer goods passing between the northern Aegean and the interior of Asia Minor.

Its artificial harbor provided shelter from the prevailing north winds.

Some ships sailing from Alexandria Troas crossed the Mediterranean to Neapolis (modern Kavalla, Greece), the starting point of the Via Egnatia, the main land route west to Rome.

8 Baths of Herodes Atticus at Alexandria Troas
Baths of Herodes Atticus at Alexandria Troas

During the reign of Augustus (September 23, 63 B.C. – August 19, 14 A.D.) a colony of Roman merchants was established within the city.

At this time the Province of Asia was administered from Alexandria Troas by Herodes Atticus, whose magnificent odeum on the Acropolis of Athens still bears his name.

The principal extant monuments in Alexandria Troas were erected by him during his term of office there.

In the Footsteps of Paul — Alexandria Troas

At the time of Paul, Alexandria Troas was a Roman colony, with a governmental organization modeled after that of Rome.

At some point a church was started there, because Paul stopped to preach there on this third missionary journey.

9 Remains of the dock at the harbor.
Remains of the dock at the harbor.

Today the extensive, but rather overgrown site of the ancient city occupies a lonely area 50 miles south of Çanakkale.

Today the circuit of the old walls (6-miles in circumference) can be traced, and in places they are fairly well preserved.

Below, partial restoration the Temple of Apollo Smintheus (Apollo the Mouse Slayer).

Apollo had the power to send famine and epidemic diseases, usually with mice, to those who disrespected or insulted him. He was also invoked to kill the mice that caused disease and plague.

Emperor Trajan built an aqueduct which can still be traced. The harbor had two large basins, now almost choked with sand. Below, the inner harbor.


Samothrace is a mountainous Island in the northeastern Aegean Sea, about 25 miles off the southern coast of Asia Minor, with peaks rising over 5,000 feet.

It was a convenient place to for boats to anchor rather than risk sailing at night.

10 Samothrace Mountains From Boat
Samothrace Mountains From Boat

According to Homer, Poseidon watched the fighting at Troy from its highest peak, Mt. Fengári (5,380′).

As implied by its name, Samothrace (“Thracian Samos”) was originally populated by Thracians, who founded a sanctuary of the “great gods” there.

About 300 BC, the first Greeks arrived and from then on the cult grew and developed.

Under Roman control, beginning in 168 BC, the cult of the mother goddess Kybele, which originated in Asia Minor, became associated with that of the great gods*.

Only with the spread of Christianity in the 5th century AD did the cult come to an end.

* Our knowledge of the cult of the “great gods” remains imperfect owing to the secrecy maintained by its practitioners.

A central place was occupied by the Thracian mother goddess, two divinities of the underworld, a vegetation god and others who were revered as protectors of nature, and later as patrons of sailors.

After spending the night at Samothrace, the missionaries sailed for the port city of Neapolis.


Today, the site of ancient Neapolis (“new city”) is occupied by modern Kavala, a name derived from the Latin caballo meaning “horse.”

It is the second largest city in northern Greece, after Thessaloniki.

11 Neapolis

One of the most attractive of Greece’s large cities (population 56,000), in Paul’s day Neapolis was the port city for Philippi, 9 miles to the north.

It sat on a neck of land between two bays, each of which served as a harbor.

The city was founded in the 6th century BC by settlers from the island of Thassos, but the area has been inhabited since Neolithic times (3,000 BC).

It became Roman in 168 BC and served as a base for Julius Caesar’s assassins, Brutus and Cassius, before their defeat at nearby Philippi.

Below, Byzantine fortress on the hill of Panadia, extended in the middle of the 16th century by Ibrahim Pasha, Grand Vizier of Suleiman the Magnificent.

Below, Kamares aqueduct in Kavala constructed 1550 by Ibrahim Pasha.

12 Kavala Port
Kavala Port

Neapolis knew great prosperity thanks to its strategic location — its proximity to the gold mines in the nearby Pangaion hills and its position on the Via Egnatia, the important east-west Roman highway through Macedonia.

Below, outside Kavala is a section of the Via Egnatia, or Egnatian Way, which the four missionaries followed north to Philippi.


From Neapolis, Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke headed for the important city of Philippi, nine miles inland across a steep mountain ridge.

As the foursome came to the top of the rise they could see the city lying at the foot of its acropolis and intercepting the Via Egantia, the main east-west highway of the Roman Empire.

Philippi, Site of the First Church on European Soil

In the 368 BC, settlers from the island of Thasos founded a town there called Krenedes, after the springs (krenai) in the vicinity.

Unable to protect their settlement, they requested the help of Philip II (359-336 BC) of Macedon (the father of Alexander the Great).

13 Kamaras Aqueduct
Kamaras Aqueduct

He assisted them, but then seized the town because he needed the rich gold deposits in the nearby Pangaion hills to finance his battles to control Greece.

He enlarged and fortified the town and renamed it after himself.

But Philippi  (from Greek philippos, from philos, “friend” and hippos, “horse,” meaning “lover of horses”) was of little importance until the construction of the Via Egnatia (Egnatian Way), as it guarded the narrow gap through which the great  roadway had to pass.

In 42 B. .the plain outside Philippi was the scene of a momentous battle that decided the fate of the Roman Empire.

After assassinating Julius Caesar, Brutus and Cassius fled east and were forced to confront the pursuing armies of Octavian and Antony.

After the loss of a large part of their forces in two successive battles, and with defeat imminent, Cassius and Brutus killed themselves.

Octavian later defeated Antony and Cleopatra in a sea battle at Actium, Greece in 31 BC, and went on to become the first emperor, renamed Augustus.

23 Basilica A
Basilica A

Afterward, Philippi was re-founded by Octavian with retired army veterans who were given land in the area so that the frontier city would have a military presence.

Thereafter Philippi grew from small settlement to a city of dignity and privilege with the title Colonia Augusta Julia Philippines’s which gave the Philippians Roman citizenship, exempting them from taxes.

They prided themselves on being Romans (Acts 16:21), dressed like Romans and often spoke Latin (numerous inscriptions in Latin are found around the site).

No doubt this was the background for Paul’s reference in Philippians 3:20:

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Footsteps of Paul — Philippi

22 Octagon Church Mosaic Floor
The mosaic floor octagon church, Philippi.

The excavations of ancient Philippi lie on both sides of the modern highway which follows the line of the old Via Egnatia. Generally the remains seen today are Roman or early Christian. 

Below, on the south side of the modern highway is the city’s large rectangular Agora (230′ by 485′), dating from the time of Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD).

It must have been built over the agora of Paul’s time.

The agora (from Greek agrarian, “to assemble”) was a public square where goods were sold; also where trials and assemblies were held (in its original context, Agora meant “I address the public;” eventually it came to indicate the marketplace also).

23 Philippi Theater
Philippi Theater

The paving stones of the ancient Via Egnatia (below) can be seen alongside the concrete embankment of the modern road.

You can easily imagine Paul and Silas walking here with Lydia, her family and the other members of the fledgling Philippi congregation.  

The most conspicuous church, designated “Basilica B,” is on the south side of the Agora.

It was built in the 6th century by an architect from Constantinople who modeled it after the great church of St. Sophia in his home city.

While attempting to add its dome, the eastern wall collapsed, so that the sanctuary was never dedicated.

The west end, still standing in 837 AD, fell leaving only the narthex to be converted into a small church in the 10th century.

14 Map of the 2nd missionary journey
Map of the 2nd missionary journey

The extensive remains include its massive corner piers and some pillars topped by capitals with interesting acanthus-leaf decoration.

Below, southwest of Basilica B are the well-preserved public latrines, with many of its fifty marble seats still intact. Waste was carried away by running water in a trough beneath the seats.

Immediately east of the Agora are the remains of a 5th century octagonal church (below) inscribed in a square.

It had an inner colonnade of 20 columns on seven sides with a marble iconostasis (altar screen) on the eighth.

It was built on the site of an earlier chapel constructed by Porphyries, the bishop of Philippi.            

Below, Greek inscription from the earlier chapel. It reads: “Porphyries, bishop, made the embroidery [mosaic floor] of the basilica of Paul in Christ.”

It dates the earlier structure to about 343 AD, when the Serdica council, which Porphyries attended,  took place.

On the north side of the Octagon church was a cross-shaped baptistery (below). The church was approached from the Via Egnatia by a great gate.

North of the agora, across the modern highway and up a flight of steps, are the ruins of another church, “Basilica A” (below), probably destroyed by an earthquake soon after its construction, then used as a quarry.

20 Basilica B remains

The large three-aisled church was built toward the end of the 5th century AD. It had a marble floor and was ornately furnished. 

Its north walls, with remains of its frescoes, still stand to a considerable height. Against the east the east slope of the acropolis is the ancient theater (below).

It dates back to the founding of the city by Philip II in the mid-4th century BC, but it has been remodeled a number of times.

It had seating for about 5,000. One of the oldest edifices in Philippi, it was certainly in its prime at the time of Paul’s visit.  

15 Philippi City Center
Philippi City Center

Now, as then, Philippi was dominated by its acropolis (below, with remains of bathhouse).

At its summit are three massive medieval towers built on the ruins of the Macedonian walls. The climb is recommended for the view of the agora and the surrounding plain.

On the ascent are the ruins of a sanctuary to three Egyptian deities, Isis, Serapis and Harpocrates. 

Philippi was protected by a six-mile long circuit of walls starting from the summit of the acropolis and descending the steep slope on the south side to encompass a large part of the area at the base of the hill.

The earliest part dates to the time of Philip II; the latest to Justinian I (527-565 AD).

Paul preaches the Gospel in Philippi

At Philippi, Paul did not follow his usual pattern of first going to the Jewish synagogue. Philippi had no synagogue, and it is assumed the Jewish population was small.

Also, there are no Old Testament quotes in Philippians. For whatever reason, the Jews and “God-fearers” (those who honored the Jewish beliefs but were not full converts, i.e., circumcised) of Philippi chose to meet outside the city near the river.17

One of the more memorable incidents of Paul’s second missionary journey took place outside the Philippi city walls: “On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river where we expected to find a place of prayer.

We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God.

The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. 

If you consider me a believer in the Lord, she said, come and stay at my house. And she persuaded us (Acts 16:13-15).

Today, the baptism of Lydia from Thyatira (in Turkey; one of the Seven Cities of Revelation), the first baptism on European soil, is commemorated on the banks of the Gangites river, beyond the Krenides Gate and about 3/4 mile west of the ancient city center. 

21 Public Latrines
Public Latrines

I especially recall the sound of rushing water and the pink rose bushes sprinkled around the area.

Our visit here was made more memorable when a member of my tour group, Kongo Kimura, from Hilo, Hawaii, chose to be baptized here.

Luke recorded another significant incident at Philippi

One day, as the missionaries were heading for the riverside sanctuary, a strange confrontation brought them to the attention of the whole city:

Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future.

She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.”

She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned round and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!”19

At that moment the spirit left her. When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market-place to face the authorities.

They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten.

After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully.

Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken.

At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.


  The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped.

But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-you and your household.”

Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.

At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.

The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God–he and his whole family.”

Across the modern highway from the agora and just west of the aforementioned “Basilica A” is a small crypt  designated as the “Prison of Paul.”

However, a guidebook sold at the site states that this “prison” was, in reality, a double water cistern converted into a place of worship.

The tradition that Paul and Silas were imprisoned there dates from the 5th century. There is no proof that they were held in this specific locale.18

The next day the city magistrates sent some of their men to the jailer to have Paul and Silas released.

But Paul became outraged that he and Silas, who were Roman citizens, had been beaten and imprisoned without a trial.

Rather than leave quietly, as the officials wanted, Paul demanded an escort out of the city. He was not being difficult.

It was important for him to be seen leaving with dignity so as to ensure the future of the new church members he left behind. But before he left, he visited Lydia’s house to encourage the new believers.

Of all the churches he established, Paul had a special bond with the Philippians.

No church supported him with more genuine love, prayers and gifts, as the opening to Paul’s later letter to them shows:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now (Phil 1:3-5).

The next target city for Paul, Silas and Timothy was Thessaloniki (Roman Thessalonica), 100 miles west of Philippi, continuing along the Via Egnatia.

Philippi to Thessaloniki

24 Bathhouse in Philippi
Bathhouse in Philippi

Spring of 50 AD – From Philippi, Paul, Silas and Timothy traveled west along the Via Egnatia, passing through Amphipolis and Appolonia on their way to Thessaloniki (Greek), Thessalonica (Roman), the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia.


Amphipolis was about 32 miles west of Philippi and 3 miles from the Aegean Sea on the Via Egnatia.

Its name, meaning “around the city” (from amphi, “around,” and polis, “city”), is derived from the fact that Strymon (Strimón) River curved around the site on which it was built.

Originally a Thracian town called Ennea Hodoi (“Nine Roads”), it was colonized by Athens in 437 BC. A Spartan named Brasidas seized it in 424 B.C. and defeated the Athenian Cleon, who tried to recapture it in 422 B.C.

It was officially returned to Athens in 421 B.C. but actually remained independent, despite Athenian attempts to regain control.

Philip II of Macedonia occupied it in 357 B.C., and it remained under Macedonian control until 168 BC, when Rome made it a free city and the prosperous capital of the first district of Macedonia.

25 Gangites River Outside Philippi
Gangites River Outside Philippi

A strategic transportation center, it controlled the route from northern Greece to the Hellespont to the east, including the western approach to the timber, gold, and silver of Mount Pangaion in Thrace.

Excavations have revealed traces of the ancient walls, Roman aqueduct and gymnasium (below).

Outside the ancient city, immediately west of the bridge over the Srymon River, is a 4th century burial monument known as the “Lion of Amphipolis” (below).

The site of the ancient city is now occupied by the modern Greek town of Amfípoli.


A maritime city of Macedonia located 38 miles east of Thessaloniki on the Via Egnatia; its name means “belonging to Apollo.”

Apparently Paul did not preach here or in Amphipolis because neither had a significant Jewish population.

On their arrival in Thessaloniki, Paul, Silas and Timothy “as usual” made their way to the synagogue.


26 Baptistry of the Lydians Outside Philippi
Baptistry of the Lydians Outside Philippi

Thessaloniki was a port city about 100 miles west of Philippi and 190 miles northwest of Athens.

The city was founded about 315 BC by King Cassander of Macedon, who named it after his wife Thessalonikeia, a half-sister of Alexander the Great.

Little is known about her except that she was born under favorable circumstances — her father Philip II’s conquest of Thessaly.

Her name means “victory (niki or nica) in Thessaly.” The city continued to develop until Rome defeated Perseus, the last Macedonian king, in 168 B.C.

Rome divided the former kingdom into four independent “free” districts, then, in 146 BC, established it as a province with Thessaloniki as its capital.

At the time of Paul it had a population of about 200,000, making it the largest city in Macedonia.

28 Lion of Amphipolis
Lion of Amphipolis

Thessaloniki was located in a natural amphitheater on the slopes of the Kortiates Mountains at the head of the Thermaic Gulf, with a view (when not obscured by a prevailing haze) of fabled Mt. Olympus across the bay.

It was an important trade and communication center at the junction of the Via Egnatia and the road north to the Danube.

Walking in the Footsteps of Paul — Thessaloniki:

Paul first came to Thessaloniki in 50-51 AD during his second missionary journey, and there established the second Christian community in Europe (after Philippi).

As in all Greek/Roman cities this new church was up against various cults, including ones to the Egyptian deities Serapis and Isis. Zeus was honored, as were Asclepius, Aphrodite. Dionysus and Demeter.

29 Appolonia Wall Remnant
Appolonia Wall Remnant

There was also evidence of a cult to a number of gods collectively called Cabiri who were thought to promote fertility and protect sailors, especially important in a port city like Thessaloniki.

Their importance is evidenced by coins from the first century AD which depict the Cabiri as the city’s tutelary deities.

Unlike Philippi, most of the ancient city still lies under the modern city, now Thessaloniki, popularly called Saloniki. Still there are a number of ruins to help pilgrims envision what the city was like at the time of Paul.

Among those that can be seen is:

Agora – Located in the center of town is the agora, about 70 by 110 yards, which dates about 100 to 300 AD.

The remains of shops can be seen today, but only about one-fourth has been excavated; the rest is under the surrounding buildings.

A third century odeum (small covered theater) is preserved on the east side.

It is also possible that a second agora was located close to the harbor, and that the Jews, who came to Thessaloniki possibly less than a decade after the city’s foundation, located their synagogue in the vicinity.

During the 1st cent. B.C., a large Jewish community formed near the port, therefore this may have been the synagogue where Paul taught.

As attested by a marble inscription, the city also had a Samaritan synagogue.  42 Roman Road Preserved in Veoria

Below, Circular bathhouse at the agora measuring nearly 25 feet in diameter, at the center of which was a sauna. Adjacent to this room were two pools for hot and cold water and a rectangular hall.

City walls and acropolis – The upper part of the city was built on the cliffs of the quarry from which the stone for the walls came. Originally built shortly after 315 BC, the walls were 5 miles in length, from 10′ to 15′ thick and 33″ to 39″ high.

In the 4th century AD, they were extensively strengthened by emperor Constantine.

Later they were reinforced by the Byzantines and, in the final phase (14th and 15th centuries), towers were added by the Turks.

Until the second half of the 19th century they completely surrounded the town.

30 Thessaloniki View of the Modern City
Thessaloniki View of the Modern City

Today only about 2 1/2 miles remain; the sections nearest the waterfront were pulled down by Turkish authorities in the 1869. 

Paul made a visit to Thessaloniki in 56 AD. Both of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians were written from Corinth: 1 Thessalonians, in 52 AD, and 2 Thessalonians, perhaps about 6 months later, in 51 – 52 AD.

With a population of over a half-million people, Thessaloniki (popularly, Saloniki) is the most populous city in Greece after Athens.

It serves as capital of the region of Macedonia and the province of Salonika.

The second largest port in Greece after Piraeus (near Athens), it has an impressive waterfront, backed by wide and well-planned streets.

The city’s industries produce textiles, soap, carpets, tobacco products and ships. Exports include agricultural products and hides as well as manganese and chrome ores.

Landmarks Dating After the Time of Paul:

White Tower (115′ high) – Built in 1530 on older foundations and was once part of the city walls during the Turkish rule.

One sultan executed his rebellious bodyguard here in 1826 and locals began calling it the “Bloody Tower.”

The sultan took umbrage and painted it white It is no longer painted white and it provides a beautiful focus for an evening walk along the waterfront.

Basilica of Agia Sofia – Originally built in the 8th century AD, its name means “Holy Wisdom,” two attributes of Christ.39 Palace of Galerius

A mosaic inside the dome depicts the Ascension. The capitals of the interior columns are believed to be from the original church. 

St. Demetrios Church – Originally built shortly after 463 AD and rebuilt in the 7th century and again in 1948, it is the largest church in Greece.

Located north of the ancient agora, it was built over the place where a young Roman soldier named Demetrios (now the city’s patron saint) was imprisoned, tortured and burned by the Romans in 305 AD for preaching the Gospel.

The oldest part of the church, the crypt below the altar, was once the Roman baths near the agora. The remains of the Roman road can be seen in the crypt.

Triumphal Arch of Galerius (below) – In the 4th century AD, Thessalonika was one of the four capitals of the Roman Empire and served as the seat of co-emperor Galerius (311 AD), who was absolutely opposed to Christianity.

During the great persecution of 303-311, he issued several edicts authorizing the deaths of Christians and the destruction of Christian property.

Only one of the monument’s four sides remains. Reliefs on the piers depict the emperor’s military campaigns.40 Synagogue in Berea Modern Veroia 

Palace of Galerius – A large complex with a wide atrium, throne hall, the royal session hall, temples, barracks, dormitories, fountains and more, built around 300 AD.

Rotunda – A colonnaded street once ran north to the Rotunda (right side of above photo), originally built as a mausoleum for Gallerius’ remains.

It was never used as such. Ironically it later became a church (St. George’s). The damaged minaret to the west is a relic of the time when it was converted into a mosque.

RotundaPaul preaches the Gospel in Thessaloniki

While in Thessaloniki, Paul supported himself, as usual, by making tents (“Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you” 1 Thessalonians 9:2.).

For three Sabbaths, Paul discussed the Gospel with the Jews in their synagogue to show them that Jesus’ death and resurrection fulfilled the scriptures.41 Monusment to Paul

Some of the Jews were convinced by his arguments, as were many God-fearing Greeks and “not a few prominent women” of the city. But other Jews, resenting Paul’s success, “rounded up some bad characters from the market-place, formed a mob and started a riot in the city.”

Then they went to the house of Jason, where the disciples were staying, planning to drag them before the city officials.

Unable to find Paul and his group, the instigators seized Jason* and some other Christians and brought them before the city magistrates, shouting:

These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house.

They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.

Sound familiar? This last charge (“another king, one called Jesus”) sounds very much like the one made against Jesus before Pontius Pilate.

32 Thessaloniki Odeon in Agora
Thessaloniki Odeon in Agora

Alarmed by this, the magistrates made Jason and the others post bond before setting them free. After dark, “the brothers” sent the missionaries away to Berea, 45 miles to the west-southwest.

*Jason is the Greek version of the Semitic names Joshua or Jesus. He would later join Paul in Corinth (see Rom 16:1).

From Thessaloniki to Athens 

“As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea,”  fifty-seven miles west-southwest (about a three-day journey).

Their companion, Timothy, is not mentioned; possibly he stayed in Thessaloniki or went back to Philippi and later rejoined Paul and Silas in Berea.

In the Footsteps of Paul — from Thessaloniki to Berea

First recorded in 500 BC, Berea belonged to the kingdom of Macedon and, in 168 BC, it became part of the Roman province of Macedonia.

Its modern-day successor, Veroia, is pleasantly situated on the slope of the Bermios range in the valley of the Haliacmon River (below).

31 Thessaloniki Ancient Agora
Thessaloniki Ancient Agora

Below, Restored Jewish synagogue (All the Jews in Berea were murdered when they were shipped them off to concentration camps by the Nazis during the German occupation of Greece in World War II).

Below, monument with mosaics commemorating the visit of Paul to Berea.

Below, mosaic depicting a man asking Paul to preach the gospel in Macedonia.

Paul Preaches the Gospel in Berea

“On arriving [in Berea, Paul and Silas] went to the Jewish synagogue.” There, Paul found sympathetic ears for his ideas, presumably because the synagogue included upper-class Greek converts (God-fearers), both male and female.

They received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men (Acts 17:11-12).

34 Thessaloniki Wall
Thessaloniki Wall

The names of at least one of his converts is known: Sopater, son of Pyrrhus, who accompanied Paul to Jerusalem seven years later.

But the harmony depicted in Acts did not last. When the hostile  Jews of Thessaloniki heard that Paul was preaching in Berea, they followed him and stirred up the people against him.

While Silas and Timothy stayed behind, Paul was quickly escorted out of town, some twenty miles to the coast.

Paul and his escort then traveled south to Athens, either by boat or via the road along the coast, and those accompanying him returned to Berea to instruct Silas and Timothy to rejoin Paul as soon as possible.

Paul in Athens

54 AD – While waiting for Silas and Timothy to join him, Paul had the chance to wander the streets and public areas of one of the great cities of the ancient world.

Athens lies on a small plain extending southward to the Saronic Gulf, a branch of the Aegean Sea.

The city center, seven miles from the coast, forms a single metropolitan area with the port of Piraeus.

35 So Called White Tower
So Called White Tower

Athens is surrounded by mountains; most are of limestone or marble, from which the ancient buildings of the city were constructed.

There is evidence of human occupation at the site before 3000 BC. In ancient times the city was called “The Athenses,” a plural name since it began as a group of villages.

In 86 BC, the Roman general Sulla burned the city’s arsenals and shipyards, and leveled its walls when the city attempted to break away from Rome.

After the sea battle near Actium, Greek in 31 BC, in which Athens sided with Mark Antony, emperor Augustus (27 BC-14 AD) punished Athens by taking away its right to grant citizenship and mint coins, and the proconsul would administer the province from Corinth.

By the time of Paul, Athens was considered a university town and seat of intellectualism. Although fallen from its former greatness of the 5th century B.C., when it was renowned for its philosophers, artists, artists, playwrights and statesmen, it was still the most famous intellectual center of the Roman Empire.

It was famous for its temples, statues and monuments, but it had lost its position as a political and commercial power to Corinth.

Following in the Footsteps of Paul — Athens

33 Roman Bath
Roman Bath

Modern Athens, a city of over 4,000,000.

Below, Athens Acropolis (from Greek akron, “edge” or “summit,” and polis, “city”) – Where Athens itself began; a 512-foot-high hill in the center of the city.

From the Acropolis, one can see virtually all of Athens, except for its furthest urban sprawl. Beyond lie the protective mountain ranges, famous today as in antiquity for fine marble and honey.

It is easy to see why this abrupt, steep-sided rock, was chosen as the first citadel of ancient Athens. Once fortified, it was virtually impregnable, although defenders were hampered by the lack of water.

Still, the Acropolis was a fitting home for the virgin warrior goddess, Athena. Many of the temples built there were shrines to Athena.

Propylea – Monumental entrance to the Acropolis (below). To reach the Acropolis, Paul, like all visitors today, ascended a monumental staircase on the west side.

It had been built by the emperor Claudius less than ten years before Paul’s arrival. The Propylea sits on a wedge-shaped rock whose irregularities governed of the building itself.

38 Gallerius Arch

The terrain may have defeated the project, which was never completed.

In essence, the propylea has a central hall flanked by two wings, one of which contained a gallery, with many pictures by the legendary artist Polygnotos depicting both legendary and historical figures. 

 Temple of Athena Parthenos (virgin); familiarly known as the Parthenon Dedicated in 438 BC, the Parthenon is 238′ long, 111′ wide, and 65′ high, with 8 Doric columns on its short sides and 17 on its long sides.

There is scarcely a straight line in the entire building. The architects realized that straight lines can create clumsy optical illusions: verticals bend, horizontals sag.

To compensate for such tricks of the eye, each column bows at the center (known in Greek as “entasis”) and each horizontal rises gradually in the middle.

Every column slants inward slightly to give the impression of soaring height (if the axes of each column were extended upward, they would meet a mile overhead).

It took ten years to construct and fifteen to sculpt the decoration. In its prime, the Parthenon was decorated with great bronze rosettes and painted in red and blue.

36 White Tower at Night
White Tower at Night

The natural honey-hue of the Parthenon marble was hidden in antiquity.

Visitors will have to decide whether they are disappointed, or relieved, not to have seen the Parthenon and its neighboring temples bedecked with color.

The Parthenon’s main function was to house a 30-foot-high gold and ivory statue of Athena (below).

Most of the damage seen today is the result of an attempt by the Venetians to seize the Acropolis back from the Turks in 1687.

The Turks used the Parthenon as a powder magazine and the Venetian commander lobbed an artillery shell through the roof and blew it apart.

Below, Erechtheum (built between 421 and 406 BC) and located to the north of the Parthenon – Dedicated to the goddess Athena Polis (Athena of the City) and the god Poseidon Erechtheus, the ancient patron of the city. (Erechtheus was a mythical hero later identified with Poseidon).

Tradition says the Erechtheum was built on the very spot where Athena and Poseidon had their contest for possession of Athens.

It is famous for the six Maidens (their proper name) holding up the roof of the porch on the south side of the temple with their heads.

They are more popularly called “Caryatids” (below) after the beautiful women of Karyai on the Peloponnese Peninsula. Those seen today are copies.

49 Erechtheum

This porch had no entrance; it was intended only to balance the building. Within the temple was an ancient wooden idol and an olive wood statue of Athena Polis.

Like the great statue of Athena in the Parthenon, this statue also received a new robe at the time of the Panathenaic festival.

In the 6th century BC the city was the scene of the world’s first attempt at democratic government.

Ancient Agora – The Athens agora began as a large public area on either side of the sacred way leading from the western city gate to the Acropolis.

45 Athens Acrolpolis
Athens Acrolpolis

Later it functioned primarily as the center of commercial life; markets were held there, and it was the site of transactions of all kinds.

In later times the agora also became a religious center with temples, altars and commemorative statues.

In the hillside south of the agora were springs that were piped down into sheltered draw basins (fountain houses).

Along the western side a nondescript group of rooms housed the Athenian council before the construction of a theater-like assembly hall (bouleuterion) and the circular building (tholos) in which the council members ate their meals.

Roman Agora – Roman leaders, beginning with Julius Caesar, built their own agora, or forum, as an extension of the ancient agora.

As seen today it is a mixture of monuments from different eras. The agora was a colonnaded courtyard with shops, al equal in size, on the east side, which were rented by traders. Other traders sold goods in the remaining free space.

The most famous structure in the Roman Agora was the “Tower of the Winds,” (below) an octagonal building, with representations of the eight major winds.

The structure featured a combination of sundials, water clock and a wind vane.

Paul preaches the Gospel in Athens

The episode in Athens address an important question: How do you tell the Gospel message to those who are ignorant of God, the Bible, the Messiah and the resurrection?

With Jews in their synagogues Paul shared a common background, but when speaking in the Athens Agora or meeting with the city council he had to face the problem of communicating to a people who were neither Jews nor God-fearers, but pagans.

37 St. Demetrios Church Interior

Yet he found a common ground which enabled him to make contact-our common humanity and our common world-both gifts of a benevolent Creator.

As Paul passed the time in Athens waiting for Silas and Timothy, he toured the city, but he became “greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.”

According to the Greek writer Plutarch (c.46-c.120 AD), there were twenty-thousand statues of gods in Athens, and Roman satirist Petronius stated it was easier to find a god in Athens than a man; the city was full of idols.

It was said that Athens had more idols than all of the remainder of Greece combined. There was the altar of Eumenides (dark goddess who avenges murder) and the Hermes (statues with phallic attributes).

There was the altar of the Twelve Gods, the Temple of Ares (or Mars, the god of war), the Temple of Apollo Patroos.

Paul would have seen the image of Neptune on horseback, the sanctuary of Bacchus, the forty foot high statue of Athena, the mother goddess of the city.

All kinds of Muses and gods of Greek mythology were represented. It is little wonder that Paul was overwhelmed by what he saw.

Paul spent some of his time debating with the Athenian Jews and God-fearers in the city’s synagogue.

He also headed for the agora, or marketplace (below, Odeon of Agrippa, a large concert hall in the ancient agora), to talk with anyone who would listen.

Apparently there were many willing to do so because Acts adds that “all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas” (Acts 17:21).

46 Propylea Monumental Entrance to Acropolis
Propylea, Monumental Entrance to Acropolis

Among the audience were a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers who “began to dispute with him.”

The Epicureans, named for their founder, Epicurus, believed the gods were too remote to influence the world, and that death utterly ended all existence.

They stressed that taking the gods out of the picture opened the way to intellectual pleasure as the ultimate goal in life (new-age atheists?).

The Stoics were named for the stoa poikile (“painted porch”}, the roofed colonnade in the agora where Zeno, their founder, taught (a Greek Orthodox church now occupies the site).

They believed that God existed in everything and that people should live in accord with nature, recognizing their own self-sufficiency and independence.

Restraint from all emotion, they stated, brought true happiness and wisdom. They refused to show joy or sorrow (like Spock on Star Trek).

These philosophers initially scorned Paul, calling him a “babbler” (Greek spermologos), literally a bird that picks up seeds, implying that he went around collecting intellectual tidbits.

Some even thought that when he spoke of “Jesus and the resurrection” (“anastasis”) he was referring to a pair of new gods. Yet they invited him to appear before the Aeropagus to explain his doctrine.

51 Herodes Atticus Theater
Herodes Atticus Theater

The Areopagus was the city’s governing council and it met at a 377-foot-high rocky hill immediately northwest of the Acropolis called the Aeropagus, or “hill of Ares,” from which it took its name. 

The Romans knew Ares, the Greek god of thunder and war, as Mars, and today the Aeropagus is familiarly known as Mars Hill. Steps cut in the rock (below) lead to the top. 

Centuries earlier the Athens council governed a powerful city-state. But by the time of Paul it retained jurisdiction only over educational and religious matters, including the introduction of foreign divinities.

Paul honored a request by the Athens council to explain his beliefs.

Standing before the Aeropagus he told the Athenians that as he strolled around the city he had seen one of their altars inscribed, “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD” (see right column).

He used this as a starting point for his sermon, stating that the God he spoke of “does not live in temples built by hands.

And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:24-25).

He also spoke about the resurrection of the dead, and some of the council members sneered and mocked him.

48 30 foot high gold and ivory statue of Athena
30-foot-high gold and ivory statue of Athena

Although several schools of philosophy believed in the immortality of the soul, the Greeks regarded the idea of “bodily” resurrection as completely ludicrous.

But some of those in attendance wanted to hear more. A few were convinced, including “Dionysus, a member of the Aeropagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.”

After this meeting, Paul left Athens via the Sacred Way and traveled westward along the Saronic Gulf to Corinth.


Following his limited success at Athens, Paul traveled to Corinth, hoping for better response to his message.

In a distance of forty miles he moved from the intellectual center of Greece to its most splendid commercial center.

This was the first of his three visits to the Corinth, and he remained at least 18 months (spring of 50 – fall 51 AD) — his first extended stay in one city.

To support his missionary activities, he again worked as a tent-cloth maker.

Undoubtedly he chose Corinth because of its central location and because of its large Jewish community.

During his stay he wrote both his first and second letters to Thessalonians.


53 Tower of the Winds in the Roman Agora
Tower of the Winds in the Roman Agora

Corinth (of uncertain derivation, means “satiated”) stood on the narrow isthmus connecting the Greek mainland with the Peloponnesus, the near-island at the southern end of the Greek peninsula.

The city site was about 40 miles west of Athens on an elevated plain at the foot of the imposing Acrocorinth, a rocky hill rising 1,886 feet above sea level.

Earliest history

Stone tools and pottery attest to settlement in the area before 3,000 BC. But the history of the city really began in the 1st millennium BC with its settlement by the Dorian Greeks.

In the 8th and 7th centuries BC, the city, then known as Ephyra (“guard” or “lookout”), founded colonies at Corfu and Syracuse.

50 Caryatides Close Up
Caryatides Close Up

Under the tyrants Cypselus (about 657-629 BC) and his son Periander (about 629-585 BC) it reached great power and prosperity, dominating extensive trade routes.

But with the rise of Athens, Corinth fell into decline. It was allied with Sparta in the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) and with Athens in the Corinthian War (395-386 BC).

As a member of the Achaean League, it came into conflict with Rome.

In 146 BC it was captured, burned and sacked by the Roman consul Mummius, who killed the men, and sold the women and children into slavery.

For a century, it lay in ruins until about 100 years before Paul arrived on his first visit.

Corinth at the Time of Paul

When Paul came to Corinth about 50 A.D., the city was relatively young, having been re-founded as a Roman colony in 44 B.C. by Julius Caesar.

“Now after Corinth had remained deserted for a long time, it was restored again, because of its favorable position, by the deified Caesar.” – Strabo, Geography

The emperor repopulated his new city mostly with freed slaves (libertini) from Greece, Egypt, Syria and Judea.

52 Theater of Dionysus
Theater of Dionysus

In his honor it was called Colonia Laus Julia Corinthiensis, and it rose quickly to became, along with Alexandria, Rome, Antioch and Ephesus, one of the most important cities in the Roman Empire, famous for its luxury, architecture and ceramics.

While Athens was the intellectual center of Greece, Corinth was the undisputed commercial center. Under Augustus, Corinth was made capital of the province of Achaea and seat of its proconsul (Acts 18:12).

Except where protected by the Acrocorinth, which served as the city’s acropolis, it was surrounded by a six-mile wall.

All trade from the north of Greece to Sparta and the Peloponnesus passed through Corinth, as did the greater part of east-west traffic.

Ships from Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt docked at the port of Cenchrea (below) on the Saronic Gulf to the east (see Rom 16:1 and Acts 18:18).

55 Areopagus

Those ships from Italy, Sicily and Spain stopped at Lechaion (below, satellite view) on the Corinthian Gulf to the north.

A great lighthouse and Poseidon temple guided ships into the harbors, filling the city’s markets and the warehouses on the wharves with goods from the around the empire and beyond:

  • spices from India,
  • silk from China,
  • linen from Tarsus,
  • marble from Turkey, Greece and North Africa,
  • timber from Italy.

Upon docking at either port, small ships were placed on rollers and pulled across the isthmus by slaves on a four-mile-long marble slip-way (diokolos, “haul across”).

The cargoes of large ships were unloaded and carried across the isthmus to ships docked at the opposite port.

Otherwise ships had to travel an extra 200 miles around the extreme southern tip of Greece, known as Cape Malea (now Cape Matapan).

Rounding Cape Malea was as dangerous as rounding Cape Horn in later times. The Greeks had two sayings: “Let him who sails round Malea forget his home,” and, “Let him who sails round Malea first make his will.”

58 Diolkos Remains

In 66 AD, 16 years after Paul first came to the city, Nero began cutting a canal through the isthmus utilizing 6,000 Jews recently captured by general Vespasian (later emperor) in the Jewish War.

But he abandoned it when when Egyptian scientists told him the sea would “flood and obliterate the island of Aegina.”

Today, that distance is crossed by the 75′ wide Corinth Canal completed between 1882 and 1893.

Because of its proximity to major ports to the east and west, many sailors, merchants, adventurers and retired army veterans resided in Corinth.

It was a place of energy, wealth and noise. It also had a reputation as a corrupt and wicked city.

The verb ‘Korinthiazesthai’ (‘to Corinth’) in popular Greek meant to fornicate, and ‘Corinthian girl’ was synonymous for a prostitute.

Paul’s letters to the Corinthians address several questions of marriage and sexual morality.

56 Areopagus

Shortly after Paul left Corinth, one of the church members became involved in a sex scandal. With this in mind, read 1 Cor 6:9,10:

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Corinth also derived much wealth from its many pagan temples and shrines where homage was paid to foreign as well as civic deities like Isis, Serapis, Astarte, Artemis, Apollo, Hermes, Heracles, Athena and Poseidon.

It had a famous temple dedicated to Aesklepius, the god of healing where patients left terra cotta replicas of body parts with the hope that their ailments would be healed.

The most significant pagan cult in Corinth, however, was to Aphrodite whose temple was located atop the Acrocorinth.

It had more than 1000 temple prostitutes dedicated to the goddess. In the evening they would descend the acropolis to ply there trade on the city streets.

According to historian Strabo, it was because of them that the city was “crowded with people and grew rich.” It is little wonder that Paul had so much to say in his first letter to the Corinthians about the sacredness of the body:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple (1 Cor 3:16-17).

57 Corinth City Center
Corinth City Center

Being near the town of Isthmia (3.7 miles east), where Olympic-style games were held every two years, the Corinthians enjoyed the athletic contests and the wealth brought by visitors.

The games were probably held the year after Paul arrived and he used them to emphasize the need for self-control to win a lasting prize:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last for ever (1 Cor 9:24-25). 

Touring the Ancient City

Luckily, the modern city of Korinthos was not built on the ancient site and there is much to see from the time of Paul:

Temple of Octavia or Temple E (1st century) (below) – Thought to have been dedicated to Octavia (27 BC-14 AD), the sister of Emperor Augustus, it was built on a small platform on the ruins of a 3rd century B.C. temple; part of the foundation and a three pillars remain.

The temple represents the imperial cult of Rome, which was spread throughout the empire. 

Agora (from Greek ageiro, “to gather”) – The center of city life and the place where all the business and most of the political activities were conducted.

A line of shops divided the rectangular agora into unequal southern and northern sections.

54 Odeum of Agrippa in Greek Agora
Odeum of Agrippa in Greek Agora

After the re-establishment of the city in 44 BC, the Roman colonists may have located the agora at a different site from the one occupied by the earlier Greek city.

After the re-founding the inscriptions are predominantly in Latin rather than Greek.

Here, among the offices of the city magistrates and the shops where goods and foodstuffs were sold, we can imagine Paul beginning to talk about of Jesus. 

Row of shops (below) – along the west end of the Agora, with Acrocorinth.

 “Bema” (“court,” NIV; “judgment-seat,” ASV and KJV) – An elevated platform at the center of the line of shops dividing the agora, it stood at a point highly visible to the crowds gathered there.

Originally covered with white and blue marble, it had benches on the back and part way on the sides.

Along the rear of the platform rose an elaborate superstructure of some sort of which there are only fragmentary remains. The entire complex was open to the sky.

It served as a public speaker’s platform and a judgment seat for magistrates. It was possibly here that Paul was brought before Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, by the Jews of Corinth (Acts 18:12-17).

60 Corinth Agora

Periene Fountain (below) – For centuries, pilgrims worshiped at these sacred springs.

The fountain was situated east of the Lechaion road and the townspeople went through the six arched openings to reach the water basins (water still flows through them).

After a period of neglect between 146 BC and 44 BC, the fountain was developed and renovated during a series of seven Roman periods.

In the courtyard is a rectangular basin supplied with water from chambers 2 and 4.

It was constructed in the middle of the courtyard during the 4th Roman Period and was called a “Hypaithros Krene.” It was accessed by stairways on its northeast and northwest corners.

59 Octavia Temple
Octavia Temple

During the 5th Roman Period a rectangular concrete platform was constructed at the south end of the Hypaithros Krene. 

Temple of Apollo (below) – Built in 600 BC, it somehow survived the destruction of the city by Rome in 146 BC.

It measured 174′ by 69′. Seven of the original thirty-eight columns still stand. 

Each was 24′ high and 6′ in diameter and, unlike many in Greece, were carved from single blocks of local limestone instead of being assembled with drums.

Plaster made with marble dust was used to give them a marble-like appearance.

Lechaion Road – Corinth’s main north-south street (cardo maximus) from the agora to the northern port city of Lechaion on the Corinthian Gulf. Staircases on either end make it obvious the road was not meant for vehicles.

64 Lechaion Road
Lechaion Road

Early Christians struggled with the problem of whether it was acceptable to eat meat that had been offered to idols (see Rom 14; 1 Cor 8, 10).

One of Paul’s conclusions:

Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. (1 Cor 10:25-26).

Synagogue Inscription – In 1898, a block of white marble was found near the propylea which once formed the lintel over a doorway.

It had a broken Greek inscription, dating between 100 BC and 200 AD, that read [Syna]goge Hebr[aion] “Synagogue of the Hebrews.”

It may have marked the entrance to the synagogue where Paul taught, or a later building on the same site.

The poorly cut letters indicate it was not a wealthy synagogue, in accord the Paul’s characterization of the Corinthian Christians in 1 Cor 1:26.

The synagogue was probably located on the east side of the street. As indicated by the remains of house walls, this was mainly a residential area.

Consequently the house of “Titus Justus” (Acts 18:7) could have easily been “next door.”

62 Periene Fountain
Periene Fountain

Fountain of Glauke (below) – A water reservoir where women of the town came to fill water jars.

Its four cisterns were carved from the same limestone ridge where the Temple of Apollo stands and may have been built at the same time.

It is in the form of a large cube measuring roughly 49 feet by 45 feet and 24 feet high.

The fountain may have been destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC but elements of it were repaired and restored when the new city was built in 44 BC.

Among those sending messages was one “Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works…send(s his) greetings” (Rom 16:23).

In 1929 archaeologists excavating in Corinth in a paved square just east of the city’s theater discovered a broken inscription dating to the second half of the 1st century AD, reading:

“ERASTVS PRO AEDILIT[AT]E S P STRAVIT” (“Erastus, in return for his aedileship, laid [this pavement] at his own expense”).

An “aedile” is either a city engineer or chief of public works, and there is every reason to believe that the Erastus in this inscription is the same person Paul referred to in his letter to the Romans.

Paul preaches the Gospel in Corinth

According to Acts, when Paul first came to Corinth, he met “a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla.”

The couple had recently come there because the emperor Claudius had ordered all the Jews expelled from Rome.

Like Paul, they were tent makers, or rather tent-cloth makers (Greek skenopoios, tent maker), and Paul mo

65 Propylaea Monumental Entrance Arch
Propylaea Monumental Entrance Arch

ved in with them so they could work together.

This allowed him to go to the synagogue every Sabbath to preach to the local Jews and God-fearers.

His work also provided him an opportunity to preach among his fellow trades-people.

Clubs or guilds were among the social units at this time, and leather workers, like Paul, Aquila and Priscilla, would have belonged to such an association, which served the double function of providing business contacts and fellowship.

In Greek the words club, association, assembly and church are all the same (ekklesia).

Certainly, the church at Corinth included many trades-people who worked with Paul during his stay.

Unlike Athens, where Paul attempted to take his message to the elite intellectual class, at Corinth he turned to the working-class, the dock workers, the sailors, the innkeepers, those who were poor in every respect, those who were exploited, those on whose backs the prosperity of the ruling class was built.

During this time, Timothy and Silas arrived from Macedonia with a gift, probably a money subsidy, which allowed Paul to preach full-time.

61 Bema with Acrocorinth Beyond
Bema with Acrocorinth Beyond

While speaking in the synagogue a number of Jews took offense at Paul’s words and, on one occasion, shouted insults at him.

In response, Paul “shook out his clothes” in front of them, a gesture to show he was breaking relations with them. He then said to them,

Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.

Henceforth, he stopped going to the synagogue, and went “next door to the house of Titius Justus” to set-up an alternate teaching center.

However, he did attain some small but significant success with the Jews for, as Acts tell us, the president of the synagogue, Crispus, and his household, along with many Corinthians, were baptized.

At one point in his stay, Paul may have become discouraged. Acts records that one night he had a vision from God telling him to keep preaching fearlessly and that “no-one (was) going to attack and harm” him because of the great number of believers in the city.

The situation changed, however, when a new Roman proconsul named Gallio was appointed to govern Achaea.

In a “united attack” the Jews brought Paul before Gallio at the “court” in the agora where they accused him of “persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law,” that is the Jewish law.

But Gallio dismissed the charge, telling them to settle the matter themselves. Then he ordered the area cleared.

66 Erastus Inscription at Theater

Immediately, Acts says, “they all turned on Sosthenes,” the new synagogue president, and beat him. It is not clear from Acts why Sosthenes was punished or even who the “they” were.

Whether it was the Jews themselves or someone else with anti-Jewish feelings is not known.

After reporting this incident, Acts states that “Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time.”

During his eighteen months in Corinth, Paul worried particularly about the new Christians in Thessaloniki.

But when Timothy returned from a pastoral visit there with news about their faith and growth, Paul wrote them a commendation letter which also answered several questions concerning the second coming of Christ.

This is the letter we call First Thessalonians, and it is the earliest writing in the New Testament, even earlier than the four Gospel.

From Corinth Back to Antioch in Syria

Almost three years had elapsed on this second missionary journey and it was time for Paul to return to Antioch. Accompanied by his friends and coworkers, Aquila and Priscilla, he set sail from Cenchreae (remains below), Corinth’s eastern port, for Ephesus.

63 Apollo Temple with Acrocorinth
Apollo Temple with Acrocorinth

In a letter written from Ephesus to the Corinthians, Paul exulted: “a great and effectual opportunity has opened to me, but there are many adversaries” (1 Cor 16:9).

Paul spent a short time in Ephesus. His tent-cloth making business partners, Aquila and Priscilla, and perhaps Timothy, remained to continue his work.

They were joined by a Jew named Apollos who spoke boldly in the synagogue: “He vigorously refuted the Jews in a public debate, proving from the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 18:24-28).

Paul promised “if it is God’s will” to return to Ephesus, then he sailed on to Caesarea (below) in Palestine…

 …before heading back to Antioch in Syria (below, Orantes/Asi River).

It is estimated that the 2nd journey lasted from 49-52 A.D.

…the Seven Wonders of the Medieval Mind.

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