50. Travel with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Corinth, Greece | Acts 18:4-6 | I Corinthians 12:12-22 | Colossians 2:15 | I Corinthians 11 | I Corinthians 9:13 | 1 Corinthians 13 | Romans 12:1 | Matthew 11:11 | John 11:13

Now we are going to see the Archeological Museum of Ancient Corinth. First, I would like you to see a design.  Look at the hanging on the wall. We have an inscription on a door lintel. The first syllable of the word, synagogue, is missing.  And the second part of the second word is also missing, but definitely it says Hebrew. Clearly readable, the inscription says, Synagogue of Hebrews.

Do you emember the first place that the Apostle Paul went when he arrived at his destination? He went to the synagogue to preach the gospel, throughout his mission journey.

Until he came to Corinth.

In Corinth Paul made a distinction. Acts 18:4-6 says Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, He shook his garments and he said never again with you. Paul officially turned to the Gentiles.

Next, I would like us to see a small room dedicated to Asclepius, the god of healing. Briefly I would like to remind you of his story.  Asclepius was the son of Apollo, and a mortal lady, called Coronis. That means he was the son of a god and a human lady. Asclepius was born mortal and although immortal his father gave him enough education to know all about herbs and the use of herbs for medicine, to heal people. Asclepius arrived to set a high status of using herbs to heal peoplem, even that he rose people from death, which made two gods furious against him. These two gods were first, the mother earth. She went to Zeus complaining against Asclepius. saying to Zeus, “If your mortal grandson continues to raise people from death, then the weight on my chest is going to be unbearable and I am going to collapse.” The second god was the god of the underworld, Hades. You know, he had a nickname. Hades was called, by the Greeks, Pluto. Pluto, in Greek, means richness. And Hades was called “Richness,” because his kingdom was only getting richer and richer and never poorer. But, for the first time, the activity of Asclepius made Hades afraid, afraid to get poorer. Hades was also furious. And Hades went to Zeus and told him, “Look, this man disturbs the world order. You have to take him from the earth.” So, Asclepius died young, a young husband and young father. He left behind his wife and five orphans. He went down to Hades, went through the fair judgment, but because he was pious he went to the Elysian Fields. Even there, he never once made an expression against divinity, even though he left behind his widow and the orphans.  So, the gods thought once more about him, decided to invite him to Mount Olympus. In a divine banquet they shared ambrosian nectar with him, thus making him a participant of the divine nature. And who else could be more capable and competent to become the god of healing than somebody who had been born mortal and had gone all through the struggle of mortal life, including pain. Hades had tasted even death and for that reason, he became the god of compassion, mercy and healing.

This is a real prefiguration of Jesus Christ in the pagan world. (A prefiguration of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament is Melchizedek.) So, people went to his temple. His temples were the hospitals of antiquity, and his priests were the medical doctors of that time, which remind us of Galen and Hippocrates, and the Hippocratic call/oath. The people went to pray and to request not only the help of Asclepius but also to be helped by his priests.

What you see here are members of the human body, parts of human bodies. They are individual, not broken, statues of body parts. These statue parts were authored by sick people, as a visual request, a visual prayer, for healing. Each body part indicates the sick body part of a person who offered it at the Temple of Asclepius.

An individual body part standing alone, is a sick body part.

First Corinthians 12:12-22 says, “For just as the body is one and has many members and all the members of the body, though many are one body, so it is with Christ. For one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body, Jews and Greeks slaves or free, and all are made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member, but of many. If the foot should say because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say because I am not an eye, that did not belong to the body, that would make it not less a part of the body. For if the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear where would the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members of the body, each one of them as He chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts yet one body.

So, if you see somebody in your congregation, somebody standing in the corner alone, accusing the body, the problem is not with the body but with the individual member, who is a part of the body.

In the next room we have objects from the second period of  the Corinthian history, which starts with the time of Octavian and the restarting, the reinhabitation of the city of Corinth. The founder of the city was Octavian Augustus and in the Temple of the Imperial Worship we have found some statues, some Imperial portraits, depicting Octavian and his family. One of the best-preserved portraits of Octavian Augustus is at the Archeological Museum of Ancient Corinth.

Just remember that during his reign, Jesus was born, and Octavian is the one who ordered the world to be registered for the first time. And during that registration, Jesus, Mary and Joseph actually went to Bethlehem and Jesus was born.

Two young people that are depicted were his adopted sons who died before him and so neither of them succeeded Octavian on the throne. His successor, Tiberius, was the son of his wife, Livia. Tiberius was the emperor at the time of Jesus public life.

The last head is another Imperial portrait, among the best preserved, the Imperial portrait of Nero, the last of the Julio-Claudian family. Remember, he was crazy.

Nero did a lot of atrocities. I would like just to mention that Nero is the one who ordered the first, and one of the most severe, persecution against Christians, during of which Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome.

In the Archeological Museum of Ancient Corinth you see blown glass, a sign of luxury at that time, extremely expensive.

Blown glass was only invented at the first century before Christ, although we knew glass and materials since the beginning of the first millennium BC, especially in the area of Tyre and Sidon (modern Lebanon.)

Remember the two victories building the trophy? In Colossians 2:15 the cross of Christ is a resemblance with the trophy winner. Christ disarmed the rulers and the authorities and made a public spectacle, by the cross, He triumphed over them.

This kind of trophy depiction was also seen in Thessaloniki.

Next, we enter to see the statues of the Imperial Temple. What did the Romans do with their statues? Were these statues broken, or were the heads of the statues never made?

The Romans are considered to be the greatest copiers of history. They copied everything. They copied the classical art of the Greeks, nature and everything, so they made realistic portraits. And they were also the ones who made art industrialized.

So, during the Roman times, in marble workshops, they made prefabricated bodies by templates, and anyone who needed to make his own statue could buy a nice-looking body and could add only his head (a kind of Photoshop.)  You would never see that in the classical arts.

In the books of 1 and 2 Corinthians, we have to find and discover the cultural context. Why do I say these things to you? That is how we can see the simple message of God. For example, in 1 Corinthians 11, the problem of women and wearing scarves is not about whether to put on a scarf or not put on a scarf. The problem in Corinth, and the message of the God, is “Love your neighbor and do whatever is possible to show your love,” regardless of who it is. Even for the ladies of the temple and the scarves, the message of Paul about head covering is not about the head covering itself. Paul’s message is about the love shown even to the ladies who were at the margins of the society of that time, whose hair was cut off short. And to show them love, all of the ladies were to look alike. This hid the knowledge of who was formerly a temple prostitute. This is what we need to discover behind the cultural context. And in the case of the scarf, the message is love. The message is not the scarf. The scarf is the mean.

As you saw in Corinth, the Apostle Paul was very protective, trying to give everyone the same status of the good lifestyle in the church, even to the slaves from the temple. He was really the only one, and he was very revolutionary for the time, who said that there is no difference between man and woman. And remember that until that century, a woman depended on the man always. And the emancipated ladies were mostly prostitutes, and those ladies were the only women who had the right to go alone everywhere to speak directly with a man, equally, like a man to man.

Remember, another similar cultural context related to Corinth. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:13, “if by eating meat I scandalize my brother, I will never eat meat again in my life.” In that century it is not that the meat is bad, nor that the meat is sin. Sin and the bad thing is to scandalize the brother. So, Paul says, yeah, I’m ready not to eat meat again for showing my love to my brother.

In architecture there is a bit of a question about the ancient Greek orders, and generally the style of the Greeks. There are mainly three: the Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian. It is claimed that all of the styles, and the art of the ancient Greeks, were “inspired” by nature, and we know how highly Greeks appreciated and admired nature.

The Doric style is considered to be the most simple, possibly the oldest, and it was developed mostly among the Dorians. And this is why we have this name. Actually, the Dorians were appeasing the Athenians, who were living in the middle of Dorians because of their Athenian culture in the feminine. We have the comparison of a vase that they used most of the time to carry water, which was hauled by two sides, the women with the amphora and the man by the dagger. Definitely the Dorians were a more masculine, more warious people, and many times that made this comparison.

And then there is the Ioninian style that we see after the eighth century, mostly at the end of seventh and sixth century BC (possibly a little bit later) Ionic style is more elaborated. It comes from the Ions, who were richer Greeks dwelling in Asia Minor and the islands of the Aegean Sea. There is definitely a lot of effort to interpret the legacy of the Ionian style. With the development of the Ionic style, the ionic order, we see a capital decorated with spirals. They say that the spiral is the cap of a mushroom.

The latest and the most elaborate style is the Corinthian. The Corinthian style appeared at the end of the fifth century BCE or beginning of fourth century – which means in the middle of the classical time. They say that the sculptor and the architect who invented the Corinthian style is Polykleitos. Polykleitos was from Argos, and he came to Corinth in a visit, and he was wandering in the cemetery of the city. He saw the grave of a little girl and upon the grave a basket was left, along with some offerings and covered by a marble plaque. Wildflowers grew up around the plaque, and so that was the inspiration for Polykleitos to make the Corinthian capital. The Corinthian capital, and the Corinthian style became very popular during the Renaissance and that is why today we see a lot of Corinthian style on public buildings in Europe and United States. Here is a Corinthian column:

In regard to relics, both Orthodox and Catholics highly respect the relics of the saints. They believe that some very high standing scenes are not decomposed. So, they have relics of the whole body. Definitely what we see, when we come close to that relic, is a mummy. In Corfu they have one of these saints and they are very proud about that saint. But, you know, nobody can say, “Who’s mummy is this?” If it is the mummy of the saints’ spirit, or another mummy (because no mummy, or neither really, writes on it, “I belong to this person, or to the other person.”)

A man in Corfu told us that a mummy makes miracles happen. The mummy walked through the wall and then he walked back. And that is why the Turkish fled. This kind of miracle is described from generation to generation, all the way back to the pre-Christian time. The cult status of the ancient Greeks made miracles. The studies of the Catholic Church make miracles as well. Bones are venerated. And so, we can miss the sense of our salvation, which is the blood of Jesus Christ. The devil likes to keep people enslaved to the bones, and miracle scenes, and all these kinds of things.

In describing ecstatic appearances in 1 Corinthians 13, definitely, they are real. Yes, I speak about the devil and the devil does these things. Miracles are not only made by God, and miracles do not identify God. Teaching identifies God. And the teaching of the Holy Spirit is the word, the doctrine, that identifies God. This is reasonable worship (refer to Romans 12:1.) But, the miracle is common between God and Satan. Remember Moses, and all the miracles Moses made in front of the Pharoah? And the witches of the Pharaoh did the same miracles, except one. The snake, the stick snake of Moses, ate the stick snakes of the others.

The miracle definitely is ecstatic. And all these things about fire dancing, and all those things, is real. You see that. They are not a trick, but they do not identify divinity and God. So, first of all, try to disconnect from all these miracles, and all these things, and point to a supreme way, the way of love. Corinth is a very good opportunity for somebody to see these things closer and in context.

In regard to the end times. John the Baptist never spoke about the end of the times. He never spoke about future events, nothing. But Jesus said, in Matthew 11:11, that there is not greater born from a woman than John. And Jesus said that. And prophecy comes to an end with John the Baptist. John 11:13 says “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.” Jesus says that because he, John was the prophet.

In Corinth there are many good places for meals. Here the Moody Symphonic Band members ate a lamp chops dinner, followed by giving a concert in Greece.

49. Travel with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Corinth, Greece | 2 Corinthians 10:4 | 1 Corinthians 10:25 | 1 Corinthians 13 | Romans 12:1 | Amos 7:10-12 | 1 Corinthians 10:4

Peirene, the main fountain of Corinth, is a prehistoric fountain, used in the classical time and even prior to that. The villagers could come with their jars to take fresh water from the spring.  Peirene was in use until the Second World War.

Behind the arches are water containers.

In front of the arches is a shallow swimming pool for the hot summer days of the city. So, when the people came to the fountain, loaded with the heavy clay jars for water, they had the opportunity to refresh  themselves in the pool.

For that reason, Peirene became really attractive to the people of the temple; to find thirsty worshipers and to expose their beauty also.

Geographically, topographically we are in a lower place. Look back and see the height of the summit.

Just beside the fountain, you see a square area surrounded by columns.

2 Corinthians 10:4 says that our weapons are not fleshly weapons but spiritual weapons for demolishing every spiritual stronghold/reason against the knowledge of God. When the Apostle Paul wrote these lines, the stronghold up at the summit was not yet a military base. It was the stronghold of prostitution, the spiritual stronghold, in the sight of which the entire mega city of Corinth was living. And remember that the life of the city was interwoven with the activity lent by this spiritual stronghold.

It was excavated in earlier layers. The earlier layers prove that there we have another expansion of this temple. But, during the Roman time, the meat market was there. So, this place is described as the Roman meat market, or as Apollos precinct.

Remember, the Christians in Corinth asked the Apostle Paul, if they were allowed to go to the meat market to buy sacrificial meat (1 Corinthians 10:25.) Being in this location in Corinth, you understand exactly why sacrificial meat was in the meat market. The meat market was located near the Temple of Apollo. Think about where the temple was – where the sacrifices took place, and think about how close the meat market used to be. Next to the meat market, we have the partially excavated public baths of the city.

And on the other side, we have a row of shops at the top of which used to be a big room, like a basilica. And at the very end just on the left side of the staircase, semi excavated, is a semicircular building.

On that destruction layer, archaeologists found a lot of elements of Jewish presence in the city. We are not “allowed” to say that this is the synagogue – because no elements were found on site intact, that had all been destroyed at the destruction layer. But there are archaeologists who believe that, possibly, there had been a synagogue. Definitely, if this is not the synagogue, the synagogue should be very close because of all the Jewish elements found at the place. Some of these Jewish elements are on display in the museum today.

Now I would like to speak a little bit about The Temple of Apollo, and then the other fountain of the city which was a sacred fountain.

The whole site of the ruins of Appollo’s Temple dates back to sixth century BC, which is almost a century prior to the Acropolis of Athens. Every column is monolithic – that is, one single stone.

The Temple of Apollo is one of three temples in Corinth that the Romans left intact when they leveled the city.

The first temple was the temple of Aphrodite. The second temple was the Temple of Poseidon by the Sea – the inter Greek center where the Isthmian games were organized. The third temple was the Temple of Apollo which was located in the middle of the “ghost city” – the city of Corinth, which was totally leveled for 100 years and turned to piles of stones and ruins.

Right in the middle of the leveled city of Corinth, was the Temple of Apollo, intact and fully functioning. And the question is why? What made the Romans not even touch this temple, when they totally leveled the rest of the entire city?

The answer, possibly, is that just on the other side of the sea, we have the Oracle of Delphi, the main Temple of Apollo, a major and highly respected international religious center for the Mediterranean people. Obviously, the Corinthian Temple of Apollo was a branch of it. This temple in Corinth fulfilled certain functions. Perhaps in honor of these functions it was not destroyed. The other possible reason that the Temple of Apollo in Corinth was not destroyed along with the destruction of the rest of Corinth, was the character of the god, Apollo, himself.

While Apollo was the god of light, music, culture, he also was the god of ecstatic phenomenon – the oracles, the predictions, the mystical advisors. And this is what was delivered in Delphi and to all the centers of Apollo. (Four ladies depicted among the prophets of the ceiling of Sistine Chapel were all priestesses of Apollo.) And when we say ecstatic phenomenon, we do not mean only the predictions. We also mean other things, like for instance, forcing/driving the body with nails without feeling pain and without blood coming out. Or fire dancers.

You know that fire dancers are still in Greece. Once per year, on the day of Saint Constantine, fire dancing is incorporated in the religious activity of the Orthodox Church. We have people who light big fires in their villages in a very ecstatic situation, holding the icons of St. Constantine and Helen, escorted by a certain music (the drum, pipes) and they start dancing with bare feet and bare footed they enter dancing into the fire. And they dance upon the lit coal until is totally extinguished without being harmed at all. And this is not a trick is ecstatic.

Remember what we said about the ecstatic phenomenon in Philippi – the slave girl possessed by the spirit of Python, or the man who was called Pythianos, or the priest who was buried in the city for the protection of the city? The ecstatic phenomenon (and all of its practitioners) were so impressive to the eyes of common people that it was considered to be an open gate to the supernatural world of the gods. The people were afraid of their curse, and definitely they wished for  their blessings. Obviously, this is a good reason for the Roman army to preserve The Temple of Apollo instead of destroying it. This temple was not touched at all.

Now if that is so, then, the function of this temple, and its existence right in the middle of the city (being one of the two “cathedrals” of the city during the Apostle Paul’s time) made Paul write one of the best chapters of the New Testament, chapter 13 of First Corinthians, the chapter of love. 1 Corinthians 13 starts with a summary of the ecstatic phenomenon. “If I speak the tongues of the angels and the humans, if I have the whole knowledge, or the whole faith, to move mountains…” Paul equalizes the ecstatic phenomenon briefly described there, with the supreme sacrifice. “If I give to the poor all that I possess, even my body to be burned in the fire…” and Paul compares the supreme sacrifice with the ecstatic phenomenon which was highly appreciated in Corinth, with love. And he finds love superior.

And next we come to Romans 12:1 to speak about the reasonable sacrifice. In most English translations it says, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” What are reasonable services?  Reasonable service is the logical worship – compared to the types of worship that were out of the control of the logic of the mind. Those were the ecstatic ones.

Now we have to make a distinction between ecstasy, prediction and prophecy. Prediction is ecstatic. Prophecy is not prediction. Prophecy, προφητείαν, is something else.

Τhe term προ in Greek means” in front” or “before somebody” and the verb φητείαν in Greek means “I speak.” I speak in front, or before somebody, was initially used among the Greeks during the time of monarchy. At that time even the Kings did not have “email” to let their subjects know about their future visits. So, they had to send a messenger to pre-announce the coming of the King. The messenger was sent to speak before, or in front of the king, so that the people, the subjects of the King, could prepare for the reception of the king. So, initially, the term prophecy had nothing to do with ecstatic practices at all.

And the next question is, why do we call the prophets of the Old Testament “prophets?” The reason is that their main duty was not to predict the future. Their main duty was to preannounce the coming of the King, the coming of the Messiah. To complete their service, some of them had to judge personal lives, sometimes the lives of their kings (Amos 7:10-12.) Imagine the shepherd, Amos. He went to stand before King Jeroboam to say you are wrong.  Prophets definitely needed credentials. As credentials, God gave them partial predictions of a partial knowledge of the future. And so, they could complete their service – which was the preannouncement of the coming Messiah, the coming King. Remember, the greatest of the prophets is John the Baptist, not Isaiah. Nor Moses. It is John the Baptist. John the Baptist  never performed any miracles. He never spoke about future wars, or the end times. Why is he the greatest prophet? John the Baptist is the actual prophet, the prophet.

If the Bible promoted prediction, then it should have a calendar telling what is going to happen. But it does not. On the contrary, the Bible promotes faith. And faith is the opposite of knowledge. We do not know the future (and we do not like to know the future.) We do not walk by sight, but we walk on faith. And this is what a believer is promoted to do.

We do not know how the Corinthians discovered that inside this rock layer there was a stream of water, but they chiseled the rock and then turned the rock into a rock fountain. These Corinthians, from time to time, came to the Glauke fountain to take blessed water.

The Glauke Fountain, related with the major religions of the city and was surrounded by temples:

  1. The Temple of Apollo, whose ruins are seen in Corinth,
  2. The Temple of Hera, where according to legend the children of Medea, the witch wife of Jason, were buried here)
  3. The Temple of Athena, discovered and then reburied (becoming a parking lot.)
  4. And there was one more temple, the Temple of Zeus the most High.

And now I would like one of you to read one more verse: 1 Corinthians 10:4, “And all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them and the rock was Christ.”

Is the Apostle Paul telling the Corinthians: “My dear Corinthians, you go often to your sacred rock fountain to take blessed water. You need to know that there is another spiritual rock fountain from where you can take spiritual food and drink, and that is Christ.”  Here we have an event from the Old Testament mentioned only once in the whole New Testament. Do you think it is by accident that Paul mentions it in First Corinthians?

You could spend more than two full days just wandering around, reading the Bible, trying to find images. Corinth is so rich.

46. Travel with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Corinth, Greece | Romans 12:1 | Mark 16:15 | Acts 15:11 | John 19:13 | Matthew 27:19 | Acts 12 :21 | Acts 25:6 | Acts 25:10

The Apostle Paul uses his experience in the city of Corinth, Greece to clarify his message. For example, Paul used a visible, touchable illustration of daily life in Corinth when he wrote Romans 12:1.

At the time of the Apostle Paul, two cults were present in Corinth, the Cults of Aphrodite and Apollo.

  1. In the worship of Aphrodite, the human body was considered a temple. So, Paul writes, Romans 12:1 “Present your bodies a reasonable, logical sacrifice” (not living sacrifice, which is a poorer translation.)
  2. In the worship of Apollo, there was the practice of ecstatic worship. We talk about ecstatic worship when we talk about the temple in the middle of the city.  

In Corinth we have already seen the area of the theater, the Erastus Inscription, and just on the side of the parking place are the ruins of the Auditorium. A museum is built at this corner.

And now we stand here, in front of the ruins of the Temple of the Imperial Worship.

Let us look at the Temple of the Imperial Worship in Corinth. This is one of two major temples in the area of the Agora. These ruins are the foundations of the first temple, where you see Corinthian style. Look at the capitals.

Compare the Corinthian style columns (above) and with the style of the columns in the second temple below. Notice the less decorative elements at the top of the columns.

In modern terms, one temple is the Classical Time Cathedral, and the other is the Roman Time Cathedral. (One temple uses Corinthian capitals and the other uses Doric capitals on the tops of the columns.)

Christians, for 250 years, were under persecution, not because they worshiped Jesus, but because they refused to worship the Emperor. Christians were brought to the Temple of the Imperial Worship to go through a simple test, the test of worship. They were given a bunch of incense, enough incense for them to throw into the flames of the altar and pronounce two words, “Caesar Lord.” There were Christians who refused to go through that simple test. What happened after that refusal? They were accused of high treason, tortured, and in the long term executed to death in public places – like the theater we saw here (and the theater of Philippi.) This is why the Temple of the Imperial Worship (these temples were everywhere, even in little villages like Philippi) was so important at the time of the persecutions against Christians. There is a Christian historian of fourth century AD called Eusebius of Caesarea. He said that during this time of persecution, 6 million people were executed or tortured to death because they refused to go through the simple test saying, “Caesar Lord,” and throwing some incense in the fire of the altar.

At the entrance to the agora is a space between a gate, which was where a staircase used to be. Where there used to be a staircase, today there is this corridor. And we have the religious section on the short side of the agora. The ruins on both sides of the corridor are the foundations of the temples. The Agora of Corinth is the biggest and the most complete agora excavated in the whole Mediterranean world.

These are the ruins of the Roman Forum, not the ruins of the Ancient Greek Agora. But here we do have all of the necessary elements of an Ancient Greek Agora.

Remember, Octavian Augustus gave the order to rebuild Corinth and the city walls were repaired in the public section, while the classical city, the residential area, was buried. New inhabitants were invited to dwell on the new terrain/surface built on top of the classical city.

In Corinth, high-status administrative offices were guarded. A fence divided the agora/square, forming a yard in front of the administrative section. The yard was for the guards, for the soldiers, and it was called the Yard of the Praetorian. The Praetorian Yard is mentioned in the New Testament in Mark’s gospel which describes the trial of Jesus. Mark said that only Jesus was brought into the Yard of the Praetorian. Mark 16:15 “The soldiers took Jesus into the Yard of the Praetorium and called out the entire regiment.”

Corinth also had a Court of the City, a court for the judgment of penal crimes.

The long section of the administrative section was for two kinds of administrative seats, municipal and provincial. The administration included

  1. The extraordinarily strong municipal administration, the Roman Proconsul.
  2. Corinth was the capital city of a province, and it had a strong provincial administration. Think about the four biggest cities (after Rome) which were Corinth, Alexandria of Egypt, Antioch of Syria, and Ephesus of Asia Minor. There is a rough estimation about the population which we believe was between 300,000 and 700,000 people. There is written information about Corinth by Athenaeus of the late 1st century/early 2nd century who said there was a time when Corinth had 450,000 slaves. It was a large city.
  3. So, we understand Corinth needed a strong bureaucracy to administrate this population.

Remember that the agora is not to be called a marketplace for the whole complex. Agoraphobia does not mean the fear of buying or selling things. Correct it in your Bible everywhere you find the phrase marketplace. Acts 15:11 “But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the agora (also called the forum, or town square but not the marketplace or  mall) before the authorities.” Stepping upon the remains of the marble pavement of the square, all paved with marble and at the end of the excavation you can see the ruins of the corridor. The oldest monument on the site dates back to the sixth century BC. At one corner we have the commercial section.

Archaeologists removed a part of the Roman layer to find out what was here during classical times. This area here, at the time of Apostle Paul, was all buried. They discovered that during classical times, there was  an expansion of the complex of the temple. And at this actual area, which is behind the ropes, was an Oracle.

One of the shops has a roof – because during the Christian time it was used as a chapel.

Next, we see the most important spot in the square of the agora, the Bema.

In Corinth, the Bema is a complex, and the Bema here is imperial size. We are in the capital city!

Can you see the end of the marble pavement and the mosaic floor behind it? Look around the mosaic floor at the marble benches with special decoration. The Bema was covered all around with marble decoration, like you see at this corner here. It was not just limestone blocks; It was all dressed in marble decoration. Part of the decorations (not shown) include a lions face, and a dolphin.

On the other side of the platform, we have a similar, symmetrical place, a place for the second rank of Roman officers. Up further was the place for the Supreme Office of the Roman Proconsul.

The Bema was not a court, nor a judgment seat.

Bema was the grandstand on which Roman authority was manifested, proclaimed and executed. (We can make a comparison with the July 4 grandstand of an American president.)

During religious and political events and events of the public life of the city, the Romans were not scattered among the crowds. But from higher up they could attend and participate in these events. And remember also that we said that only some very special people proceeded in front of the Bema, in order to be rewarded or publicly punished.

Now look at this column below. We know about this column, the stone of the block of shame, this is the only place where we have the column preserved. On the other John 19:13 “So, when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out.” Paul brought Jesus out because he was in the yard and sat down on the judgment seat. The term in the Bible is bematas which is related to the genitive of this word.

On the side of this column is a hole where there was fixed a ring. So, if somebody was brought here as an offender of the Roman administration for a political, high treason, the things we spoke in Philippi about, this column was the tool of his public punishment. And remember that for penal crime, the punishment was held in a different location. It was not necessary for penal crime punishments to be public.

But the punishment of the political crime for doubt, or conspiracy, was always publicly punished with the recognition of the Roman authorities. So, after the person was found guilty, his garments were taken off. Then he kneeled down and he embraced this column, and his arms were banded here, and his back was exposed to the whip, and he was publicly ashamed. And remember also that the people who were are ordered here were the ones who had willingly knelt in front of the authorities. Do you remember that also?

The term Bema is mentioned several times in the New Testament, and here we are going to see where it is found in the Gospels. It is mentioned in the Gospels by two eyewitnesses, Matthew and John. They describe the trial of Jesus Christ.

  1. Matthew 27:19 says that Pilate was sitting upon the Bema when his wife sent him a message to be away from this man because he was innocent.
  2. The second time Bema is mentioned is in John’s Gospel, John 19:13, and is a different description. “So, when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgement seat in the place called the stone pavement in Aramaic Gabbatha.”

Remember, there are two necessary components of an ancient Agora. One is the Praetorium and the second is the Bema. Do you think there was an Agora in Jerusalem? Yes, there was an agora in Jerusalem built by Greek and Romans conquerors, and yes, foreign to Jewish tradition. Their conquerors called the agora, Gabbatha, the main pavement of the city. On the main pavement of the city was the Bema.

So, when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out. John 19:13 Pilate brought Jesus out because he was in the yard and sat down on the judgment seat. The term in the Bible is bematas which is related to the genitive of this word which is there.

In Jerusalem, Pilate sat in front of a place similar to what is in front of you. The Bema of Jerusalem used to be at a place called the stone pavement, in Aramaic, Gabbatha.  Archaeological excavation sheds the light in Jerusalem – just beside Bethesda pool is a pagan temple dedicated to a Greek god at that time, the temple of Asclepius. We know In Jerusalem there was a theater and a gymnasium – but it has not been found yet.

Now, in the book of Acts this term is mentioned related with two cities

  1. Caesarea Maritima (Caesarea by the Sea)  In Acts 12 :21 “On an appointed day, Herod, putting on royal clothing and sitting down on the Bema, began to deliver a public address.” Do you remember how Herod died? Herod was speaking to the people of Tyre and Sidon and the people started clapping for him and screaming, “Your voice is not a human voice, but divine.” And obviously he started thinking, “Am I a human?” That directly offended the Divine, so Herod was struck and eaten alive by worms upon the Bema while he was speaking in front of the crowd.
  2. In Acts 25:6 the Bema is also mentioned, “On the next day, Festus sat down on the Bema and gave order for Paul to be brought.” When the Apostle Paul was brought in front of the ruler Festus. Acts 25:10, “Paul said, ‘Before the Bema of Caesar…” And so, the Apostle Paul made his request to be proceeded in front of the Bema of Caesar.

If you ever are visiting Rome, especially the Roman Forum, do not miss the Rostra (Latin for Bema.)