47. Because We are Disabled to Fulfill the Divine Standards

…Yes, if you accept the authority, recognize this authority and you place yourself under this authority… or you put an x to this authority?

Actually, hell is made by God, not for the human, but for the devil and his followers. The human is going to arrive finally in hell only if he follows the devil – is not going to be kicked out from the Paradise by God.

I tell you that the Book of Life has to do with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and God likes and is ready with the pen on his hand to write the names of everybody inside this book, but He needs everybody to proceed and to say look, the blood of Jesus. Many people will not come, the records to be registered, because they will follow another direction, another lord. His Judgment is going to be one day, and everybody has to prove in quads which authority recognizes and to which kingdoms’ citizen is.

“And what’s the connection with good and evil?” I asked.  

Evil is the conspiracy. Evil is the rebellion, even the “not” recognition of the legal authority.

I said, “I feel like there is another bigger picture to that.”

Yes, yes. Our dysfunction and our problem is not hubris. It is hamartia. If we had decided to become hubrists, then is not any room for repentance for us. That is our decision because we identify ourselves with The Hubrist, who consciously although he was the carrier of the light, of the Divine Light to the creation, he had face to face contact with God, decided to become rebellious. Satan.

He was the greatest of the angels. The closest to God angel.

I commented, “Satan. He was The Hubrist. But we are the sinners.”

That is right, because we are disabled to fulfill the divine standards, is not a conscious decision to be enemies of the god.

I said, “It’s an inability.”

Yes, it is our inability that makes us sinners, not our conscious.  Yet, our conscious consciously made decision yet to be enemies of the god.

I began, “And this judgement is…”

For this. For this. Yes. Are you an enemy? A proclaimed enemy of the authority?

March 2015, My conversation with our Greek scholar

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.)

45. Travel with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Corinth, Greece | Romans 16:23 | Acts 19:22 | 2 Timothy 4:20 | 1 Corinthians 16:19 | 1 Corinthians 11:5,6

The Apostle Paul visited Corinth in the middle of the first century AD. According to scholars, the Apostle Paul came back to Corinth at least three times. After his first visit he stayed in Corinth one year and a half. (At Ephesus he stayed three entire years.)

From Corinth, Paul authored First and Second Thessalonians (considered to be the first books of the New Testament.) He also wrote the New Testament book of Romans from Corinth, and for some scholars even the letter to Galatians. The Apostle Paul developed correspondence with the Church of Corinth, from which we have two letters, First and Second Corinthians. The Church of Corinth had as a member of the church one of the richest people of the Mediterranean world, the treasurer Erastus. And here we have God’s humor, perhaps it was Erastus, the sexy one, who delivered the sex slaves of the temple from sex slavery.

Corinth, one of the oldest cities of the Mediterranean world, became especially important after Alexander the Great, due to transport and commercial activity between the east and west. Corinth became a crossroad where three major ancient commercial arteries met on the way to Rome:

  1. The Spices Avenue went through Antioch of Syria on the way to Rome which also had to go through Corinth.
  2. The Silk Avenue from China went through Ephesus on the way to Rome and also went through Corinth.
  3. The Ivory Avenue went from Central Africa through Alexandria of Egypt to Rome which made it necessary to pass through Corinth.

In times past the ships were portaged over a paved pathway. In the Diolkos of today a significant, but narrow canal has been dug out.

A tugboat and small ship approach the canal, then the canal lowers, and finally, the tugboat and small ship pass through the Diolkos.

There was a proverb which said that not everybody can sail to Corinth because you needed to be extraordinarily rich, a commercial person, a ship owner, able to face spending time and money. This ancient proverb highlighted the expense of coming through Corinth. To go around and make the rounder of Peloponnese was risky due to rough seas caused by the northern winds pushing to northern Africa. The Diolkos was an impressive and expensive service for ships.

At the end of the Diolkos, in the middle of the plain, is the Acropolis of Corinth. Notice the top of the summit.

The summit of the Acropolis had enough space (according to the archaeologists) for more than 5000 people to dwell permanently. It was one of the biggest Acropolis in all the ancient world. In the second century before Christ after the subsection of Macedonia, Corinth became the main stronghold of resistance against the Romans. But the Roman Senate gave an order to General Mummius to destroy Corinth in 146 BC. The Roman army entered and leveled the city, totally destroying it. Then for 100 years there was a prohibition against reinhabitation in Corinth. But then commercial transport dysfunctions directly affected the economy of Rome and poor organization of the Isthmian Games caused complaints from Greeks in all of the Mediterranean world. For more than 1000 years the Isthmian games had been organized in Corinth every two years (the second most important games after the Olympic Games.)

So, Julius Caesar, shortly before his assassination in the year 44, decided that Corinth had to be rebuilt. But, after the assassination of Julius Caesar, his successor Octavian Augustus rebuilt the city. Octavian Augustus is considered to be the founder of Corinth – he gave the order to rebuild. 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. After Corinth was rebuilt, the new city became the capital of the Province of Achaia. The Province of Achaia expanded north up to the edges of the Thessalian Plain including the Rocks of Meteora, and all the way south including all of Peloponnese.

Corinth was one of the most important cities of the empire, and the richest city, at least during the Roman Imperial period. Very special and important cities of antiquity were included in that province including Athens, Thebes, Sparta, sanctuaries of inter-Greek and international significance, and the sanctuary of Olympia where the Olympic Games were held every four years, the sanctuary of Isthmus of the Isthmian Games, the Oracle of Delphi, and the Temple of Demeter in Eleusis where the Eleusinian mysteries were held every year. But Corinth came into a deep decline in 410 AD – from which it never recovered. This sudden decline was due to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and the conquest of Rome by the Gauls. Up to that time, Corinth was in the middle of the empire. Suddenly Corinth found itself to be a bordering city of the Eastern Roman Empire.

In 1858 an earthquake leveled the city once more. So, the Greek state moved the city to the sea front, eight kilometers northeast, where it is today – leaving the terrain of the ancient city to the archaeologists. The American Archaeological School and the Greek Archaeological Service were eager to discover the classical City of Corinth. They came and started their research. Visitors and archeology schools come to Greece for something that they cannot find in other places.

They do not come to Greece for Roman ruins because these can be found in other places of the Mediterranean world. Archeological schools come to Greece to find classical ruins. But because of the well-preserved Roman period layer of the ancient city the archeologists in search of classical ruins were not allowed to remove the Roman ruins. It was thought they would be trying to find something that possibly was not underneath the Roman ruins anymore – because in many cases the Romans recycled prior building material. So gradually, the archaeologists lost their interest in digging for classical ruins in Corinth. The Roman layer, dating back to the time of Octavian Augustus, makes Corinth a major biblical archeological site worldwide.

Now, let us look at Corinth. Do not forget to travel with your Bible when you visit, and you will have an incredibly special experience walking among the ruins.

Start your tour of Corinth by finding an ancient inscription outside of the official fenced site. This inscription is extremely important for Christian apologetics and is known as the Erastus Inscription.

Who was Erastus? When writing the letter to the Romans from Corinth, Paul included greetings from the treasurer of the City of Corinth, Erastus. The Apostle Paul sent greetings from the members of the Church of Corinth to Rome. Erastus was the richest person of the richest city (Corinth) of that time. He was a person with international influence and impact, and very few people in the city could see him because he was guarded and protected. Erastus’ position of Civic Office of the Treasurer was a particularly important elected position. The candidates for the Civic Office of Treasurer would prove their economic power by offering infrastructure and monuments to Corinth. Then they served in office and after the Treasurer finished his civic office position he would then come back and offer more infrastructure, more treasures, and monuments to Corinth. Rich candidates were chosen to serve as treasurers because:

  1. A rich person had experiences administrating his own wealth.
  2. With a rich person there was less possibility of stealing and misusing public treasures for personal gain.

Paul’s record of greetings from the treasurer of the City of Corinth, Erastus, caused a big problem for the rationalists of Europe in the 19th century. Professors from Tübingen University in Germany could not accept that a personality like Erastus, the Treasurer of the City, was one of Paul’s converts. The professors proved to be persecutors and fighters against the historicity and the authenticity of the New Testament, claiming that the Apostle Paul preached only to a Jewish sect, only to the poor and slaves.

Proclaiming their atheism, the Tübingen rationalists said they were able to give a reasonable answer for everything that was supernatural, both in classical literature and in the New Testament. They claimed the Apostle Paul was a sneaky, common person who sought to impress the poor members of the Church of Rome. The rationalists accused Paul of this trick – to write in such a way to make himself important as a friend of Erastus, the Treasurer of Corinth and Erastus, claiming Erastus was his own convert. The Professors of Tübingen said this friendship and conversion was something that never could have happened. For them, even from a distance, Paul could never have had contact with such a personality of the Mediterranean world as the Treasurer of Corinth.

Another element that supported the atheists was the unusual name Erastus. The name Erastus is an extremely rare and peculiar name, a name not found in inscriptions, nor found in literature. The actual meaning of the name Erastus is “sexy.” So, who could call his son sexy? The name Erastus comes from the Greek word eros and means, “The person who is worthy to be erotically loved.”

According to the Professors of Tübingen, the Apostle Paul wrote the title, Treasurer, in his greeting, but being afraid his letter, written in Corinth, would be published before being sent to Rome, he signed the title but did not put the real name of the current treasurer. The rationalists claimed that instead of using a real name, Paul used a funny, peculiar name so that if the letter were found in Corinth, nobody could accuse Paul of using a false relationship. For the rationalists, Erastus the treasurer was nothing, but a fictional personality made up by the Apostle Paul for his own reasons.

In the 19th century there was no answer to that argument from the Christian side. But the answer came later in another way. On April 15, 1929, while digging in the area of the Theater of Corinth, the American Archaeological School discovered a pavement. On the side of the pavement, they discovered a benefactors inscription and dedication. Both the inscription, the Erastus Inscription, and the pavement are precisely dated to the middle of the first century AD, the time when Paul was in the city during his first visit to Corinth.

This inscription proved that Erastus was not a fictional personality, but a real person and the treasurer of the city when Paul was in the city. Paul was not afraid to mention his name. These two things, Paul’s writing of Erastus in the New Testament and the pavement inscription make Erastus a historically identified personality. City treasurer Erastus, convert of the Apostle Paul, offered this pavement as a gift to the city, honored to serve Corinth as treasurer. So, the inscription of Erastus brought down the whole argument of the 19th century Professors of Tübingen University. Erastus offered this pavement after he finished his services as treasurer.

The area of the Corinthian Theater is where the Erastus Inscription was found, on one of the roads. And when the theater was discovered, it was also discovered that the area had been used as a marble quarry during the Middle Ages. (And so today we have very pure remains of the foundations of the theater.) The Corinthian Theater is considered to be one of the oldest and biggest, comparable only with the theater of Ephesus, having a capacity of between 19,000 to 23,000 people.

I would like you to see a map of the ancient city of Corinth. The brown line you see identifies the city walls. (This map can be found in the best book ever published on Corinth, Ancient Corinth, by Nicos Papahatzis. I ordered mine from Amazon.) Look at the bottom of the map for the Acrocorinth/Ακροκόρινθος.

Of all this huge city the only excavated part is a little spot, less than 5%.

The Erastus Inscription originally was bronze, inlaid on limestone. But most of the bronze was gone when it was found, except in two little spots of punctuation points. But still, the inscription is clear.

Written in a Greek speaking city, the inscription is not in Greek. The inscription is in Latin. Erastus, the benefactor, was not just one of the rich people of the city, he was also a member of the Roman administration. Latin was the language of the administration only. Remember also that the Apostle Paul, a Roman citizen, wrote his letter to the Romans in their own language, Greek. Greek was the common language among the different communities, even in Rome.

Unfortunately, unfortunately, the inscription is preserved poorly because the authorities today have forgotten about the big issue of the 19th century with Tübingen University. To them, the Erastus inscription is nothing, just a detail of Roman history. But the most unfortunate thing is the lack of interest from Christians. If the Christians could sponsor local archaeological services for preservation, the Erastus Inscription would have a better fate and better conditions.

The Erastus inscription is in Latin. The inscription reads: Erastus pro aedilitate sua pecunia stravit.

Here we have the letters E, R, A.

Then we have three more letters PRO and another dot. PRO means for/in return, it means to pay back. And then we have the word aedilitate, a Latin word that comes from the term aedile. Aedile is equivalent with the Greek term οἰκονόμος. Erastus pro aedilitate = Erastus for the time he was a treasurer. And then we go to read the second line. S.P. is an abbreviation of the Latin words sua pecunia. Sua pecunia means “on his own money.” Then we have the word stravit, paved.

Erastus pro aedilitate sua pecunia stravit =  Erastus for the time he was a treasurer on his own money paved. In Latin, the word aedile means steward and in Greek οἰκονόμος means treasurer. In the letter to Romans the Apostle Paul uses the Greek term οἰκονόμος for treasurer.

Remember what I told you about how rare and peculiar his name is? His name means “sexy.” The name Erastus is not found in inscriptions or in literature. In the Bible, this name is mentioned not once, neither twice, but three times. Open your Bible to read about Erastus.

  1. Romans 16:23 “Gaius, my hosts and of the whole church salute you. Erastus the treasurer of the city salutes you and Quartus the brother.”
  2. Acts 19:22 “He sent two of his helpers (diακονούντων)Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia where he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.”

The word helper (diακονούντων) means free will servant. (At that time, the term Διακονούντων was not an office in the church structure.) And the question of the rationalists was, “How is it possible such a rich and proud Greek like the Treasurer of Corinth, would become a free will servant to a poor working Jewish preacher?” They thought, “No way.” Easily we could speak about two different persons. The rich one who paved this road- the treasurer, and the poor one, the servant. But because the name Erastus is so rare, we are closer to the truth If we accept that we have one person, a rich person who became the free will servant of a poor working Jewish preacher, for his own reasons.

Remember we have this name in the Bible three times and the third time clarifies the whole issue about how many Erastus’ we have in Corinth.The Apostle Paul here speaks about the Erastus, the well-known Erastus of Corinth, who went back home.

3. 2 Timothy 4:20. “Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus who was ill at Miletus.”

You can step on this pavement, a pavement made by a person you already know from the Bible. How would you feel? To step upon this pavement is to test the historicity and the authenticity of the New Testament – by your own figure! Even in Jerusalem you will not find such a place. Remember, that what is mentioned about Jerusalem took place in the square kilometer of the Old City. And when we visit Jerusalem, we find that the churches and later buildings have destroyed the authenticity of the place.

But the Greek Biblical sites are free of later editions and buildings, they are preserved and maintain their authenticity. You can touch them with your own figure, and know the importance, the historicity, the authenticity of the New Testament, which was doubted so many times, and still is by many.

The Acropolis of Corinth appeared as an institution and as a structure in the middle of the second millennium before Christ. It rose as a summit, the upper part of the city, and there the palace was the established sanctuary of the King Priest.

Remember we spoke about the sanctuary of the King Priest in Philippi also? A famous Corinthian King priest related with the Acropolis in that era of legend is Sisyphus. Have you heard about the Sisyphean torture? Yes. Sisyphus was an impious hubrist, King of Corinth. His palace was  up there. And remember we spoke about a fear of judgment in Hades and about the classification of souls and the size of the gap called Abyss. Do you remember these things? The Elysian Fields for the pious and the place of the torture, the hell for the hubrists. And remember also that hubris was punished. Not massively like Dante said in Middle Ages that all the sinners are boiled at the same time, but personally, their hubris received – with personalized punishment. The internal personal punishment was related to the way hubris had been expressed hubris against divinity. So, when Sisyphus was judged in Hades, the decision was that he had to be down there, in judgment, in a place similar to the place where his palace used to be – like this hill in Corinth. His punishment was to roll a stone up to the top. And just when he arrived at the top, the stone was rolled down again, and he had to repeat the same effort eternally, the Sisyphean torture.

Another legendary mythological figure related to the Acropolis of Corinth is the Flying Horse Pegasus. Pegasus first touched the Earth at the summit of the Corinthian Acropolis and at this very spot a spring of fresh water came up. Still, at the top of these rocks, this freshwater spring exists. The place up there is where water is self-sufficient.

Then, when the monarchy was abolished, the Acropolis of Corinth was dedicated to the patron goddess Aphrodite (not the Virgin Goddess of Wisdom, but the beautiful Goddess of Prostitution.)

At the time of the Apostle Paul, Strabo of Amaseia was a famous geographer and historian. We know from Strabo that at the top of the summit, in the first century AD, were more than 1000 Girls, and a large number of boys too (possibly bigger than girls, we do not know exactly.) They offered their bodies for temple, sacred, prostitution. They were the slaves of the temple. And they were slaves. They belonged to the temple. Their duty was to come in groups, down to the city, to find (not clients, but…) worshippers.

If you look at the summit, you see the wall. In the middle of the wall, you see a part that is a little bit higher (a little to the right in the photo) with some little structures at the top. That used to be the main gate to the sanctuary. This gate was closed, at the end of fourth century AD when Theodosius I abolished and destroyed the ancient pagan religion. But still today, if somebody steps on the top of this wall, he can see under his feet the ruins of a build, a path in the form of a zigzag. The slaves of the temple came down to the city in groups, like small processions, to offer their bodies as if they were little temple shaped monuments, memorial monuments. (You see memorial monuments, little churches, on the sides of roads in Greece.) The slaves’ body was considered to be a little temple for the venerators to enter and to worship the Goddess. They offered their bodies to everyone for free, and they accepted donations.

Remember, the Apostle Paul, at least two times repeats in First Corinthians, “Corinthians, be careful, your body is not the temple of Aphrodite, but the temple of the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 16:19) This sense, the concept of the body being a temple,  comes from this place. So, “Corinthians, be aware in your body the Holy Spirit should be worshipped, not Aphrodite.”

There was not a visitor of the city, rich or poor, local or foreigner who had not included in his schedule, the veneration of the Goddess through the slaves. They had become the main attraction of Corinth, and the city was famous in all the Mediterranean world because of them.

The most well-known proverb, and there were many about Corinth, was one word, Corinthizing. Corinthizing means the experience of all kinds of fleshly pleasures without limits. These slaves, coming down to the city to find worshipers, had to distinguish themselves from the other prostitutes (and the city had all kinds of prostitution.) They had two ways to make themselves known.

  1. The first was an inscription carved under the sandals with both letters – which said, “Follow me.” So, stepping upon the dusty roads of the city, wandering around this inscription was printed on the dust. Anyone who was interested in finding them just followed the inscription in the dust. Unbelievably cheap and effective advertisement.
  2. The other way for them to make themselves known was a sight, a sign from a distance. They kept all their heads shaped. So, if somebody saw a lady from a distance with a shaved head, they knew who she was without a second thought. Remember that until the middle of the 20th century in Europe there were a lot of ladies who had never cut their hair since birth, because the hair for a lady was a part of her owner and an essential part of her beauty

The prostitute slave’s impact on history was tremendously strong. Still today, the official term in the Greek law for a male or a female prostitute is the slave of the temple. In many European places, especially in the countryside, if they want to expose a lady caught committing adultery, the first thing they do to her is to shave her head. I do not know if you have read that right after the Second World War was a major event all through Europe, with a special emphasis in France, Netherlands, and Norway. All the ladies who had cooperated with the German army, they were all caught, and their head was shaved according to the Corinthian manner. So, everybody in the city could  see who these ladies were during the war and what was their activities.

Definitely, Apostle Paul having been in the city, a year and a half was time enough to have contact with people in the city. The slaves of the temple were seeking, they were looking for everyone, especially new people in the city to offer themselves for the veneration of the Goddess. Definitely, some of them heard his message and they accepted the message of Apostle Paul.

But as we understand, for a man a short time was enough time for his hair to get long enough so not to be distinguished (because even at that time the men kept short hair.) But a woman who never cut her hair since birth, needed a long time until her hair could get so long, so as not to be distinguished.

And obviously, this is the cultural context of why the Apostle Paul demands from all the ladies of the Church of Corinth to be covered with a scarf – to protect these ladies, the short-haired prostitutes, from discrimination. You know, these ladies had been the common vases of men and definitely had not any chance to create a family.

Then, they came in the church. And the Apostle Paul likes to offer them the same status as all the members of the church. How? His main problem was not to persuade the poor slave ladies of the temple to be covered with a scarf. His main problem was to persuade the others, the proper ladies of the church who were proud of their long hair, to cover their long hair – for which they were proud.

Open your Bible to 1 Corinthians 11:5,6: “For every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head. It is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off. And if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.”

It is obvious that the apostle Paul puts a dilemma in front of the church of Corinth: My dear ladies, you have to all be shaved or all covered. And because some of you have been shaved you transmit a wrong message and that is shameful to you. Please, be all covered. And this is obviously the reason the Apostle Paul institutionalized uniformity in the church: under cover these ladies could find asylum. This gave the scarf a spiritual, a symbolic, meaning. Many times, the Apostle Paul is accused as anti-woman. But if we study his life, we see exactly the opposite. He does the best he can even for these ladies, the slaves of the temple, giving them the same status in the church as the others.

What do you think it was like for a person, lady, or gentleman, who belonged to this prostitute group to one day go to the High Priestess of the temple of Aphrodite and say, “My dear High Priestess, I changed my faith. Now I believe in another God…and goodbye.” Do you think it was so easy for them? They were property of the temple. Slaves. Somebody had to buy them at the price that the temple should ask. And as you understand, young slaves were extremely expensive. Somebody had to redeem them, and somebody did it. So, we had these new people in the church and the church was called to face that problem. If there was not a redeemer of these people, we would never have to speak about the scar and the problem of the church in First Corinthians 11:5, 6. What do you think about that dilemma? We do not know how we would solve the problem. The Bible does not directly tell us the solution, but the Church of Corinth had as a member of the church one of the richest people of the Mediterranean world, the treasurer Erastus. And here we have God’s humor, perhaps it was Erastus, the sexy one, who delivered the sex slaves of the temple from sex slavery.

43. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Berea, Greece | Acts 16:12 | Acts 17:10-15

Berea, Greece was once a part of the Kingdom of Macedonia. In 148 BC Andriscus was assassinated and the Kingdom of Macedonia (a Roman providence) was divided into four portions (with communication restrictions put in place between the people of the four portions – to keep the people subject to the Romans. Restrictions between the portions of Macedonia were removed with the establishment of Pax Romana, although the divisions remained for administrative reasons.

1. The first portion of the Kingdom of Macedonia in 148 BC included Eastern Macedonia (Philippi, Greece) and is mentioned in Acts 16:12.

Acts 16:12 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a city of the first portion of the district of Macedonia, a city or village with special privileges.

The first portion of the Kingdom of Macedonia includes the little village of Philippi, Greece – “a city of the first portion of the district of Macedonia”. New Testament translators sometimes use the terms “living city” or “leading city” in Acts 16.12. However, Philippi was not a living city or a leading city. It was small like a village. Philippi, Greece was included as a city of the first portion of the district of Macedonia.

2. The second portion of the Kingdom of Macedonia in 148 BC included the center of Macedonia (Thessaloniki, Greece)

3. The third portion of the Kingdom of Macedonia in 148 BC included Western Macedonia (Berea and Mount Olympus, Greece)

Berea, Greece was in what is known as the third portion of the Kingdom of Macedonia (148 BC.) The city of Berea today bases its economy on agriculture. Bereans cultivate and export various fruits: peaches, apricots cherries, pears, apples, and even kiwi.

4. The fourth portion of the Kingdom of Macedonia in 148 BC included Northern Macedonia (which is more or less at the same place where there is now a modern Slavic state having this name.)

We do not see antiquities in Berea because the ancient city is buried beneath the city. We do not see any original buildings, but we do see the locations of antiquity.

1. The first important location of antiquity in Berea, Greece is the area of the river with a spring.

In antiquity, Jews gathered outside of the pagan city of Berea, beside living water, beside the spring of living water. (As we saw in Philippi at the River of Lydia.)

Gathering outside of the city, next to living water, was a Jewish tradition that indicated piety.  However, in most of the Jewish communities of the Diaspora, gathering by the living water was abolished after 2 BC.

2. The second important location from antiquity in Berea, Greece is the Jewish Quarter.

One of the two gates of the Jewish Quarter was developed in the Middle Ages into what was called the Middle Age Jewish Ghetto. The ghetto (with the style of building attached house), was built by the Jews for their own protection, but in many cases, the attached houses turned into a trap for the inhabitants. This happened in 1943 when the Germans blocked both gates of the Jewish Quarter. The Germans got into the site of eight hundred people, who were all arrested, and all removed.

The Jewish Quarter here was plundered but was not destroyed (like it was destroyed in Thessaloniki.) In Thessaloniki, the Jewish people were 100,000. And they were scattered throughout the whole city. So, it was difficult for the German army to find them. The Germans, who had been friendly with a high rabbi who had a German education, persuaded the rabbi to give to the German authorities all the names and addresses of the Jewish families of Thessaloniki. So, the Germans went from house to house. They arrested the people; they plundered their houses and destroyed their houses. Thessaloniki, before the war had thirty synagogues, and of them only one survived. It had been given by the Jewish community of Thessaloniki to the Red Cross to become its headquarters. There was a very systematic effort to erase even the memory of the biggest Jewish city of that time.

Since the classical time, Jewish presence was in the city of Berea. The Jewish Quarter survives, but the Jewish people of the quarter decided to move to Israel. Today two families remain in the city, and they don’t dwell in the Jewish Quarter; they dwell in the city. The Jewish Quarter was sold to non-Jewish people, but it is under protection because of its architectural style of attached buildings. The Jewish Quarter was originally located outside of the city walls along the side of the river.

3. The third important location from antiquity in Berea, Greece is the location of the city walls dating back to the pre-Christian era. The lower part of some houses in Berea are built on city walls.

The only remaining Jewish property in the Berean Jewish Quarter is the synagogue, which is the location of ancient Jewish scrolls – holy books.

In the synagogue holy books notes were inscribed in the margins of the books. As in all religious institutions of antiquity (from the early Middle Ages up until the seventh century A D) notes were written by the people responsible for the religious institution. These notes are related to the unique events of the institution. The notes were written like calendars or diaries – especially important today for scholars because the notes provide very precise historical information. In the seventh century AD, the Masoretes prohibited the use of written notes, and written additions, on the scrolls of the Torah and on other religious scrolls of the synagogue. So, these incredibly special and especially important scrolls were not used in the daily use of the synagogue. They were pachue, out of use, but still very precious relics.

So, in the margins of the Jewish scrolls of Berea, notes had been written in the scrolls. These notes were all in Greek. And in an incredibly special scroll, we have a note about the visit of the Apostle to Berea. It starts out with some background information, “when politarches [πολιτάρχης] of the city were (this and these people) and proconsul of the province of Macedonia, (this person)…” 

Then the note says something significant about the visitor to Berea: “Our synagogue was visited by a brother from Jerusalem called Saul, who came here and spoke to us about the resurrected Messiah.”

This note kept that scroll hidden.

Until 1943, the Berean Synagogue preserved 13 scrolls. One of them was a Torah, written in Aramaic and dated by the Jewish scholars of Thessaloniki back to the second century before Christ, which means the same time as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The existence of the Scroll of Berea was kept secret by the Jewish community due to the note about Paul’s visit, which was on the margins. The famous Scroll of Berea is a strong indication of the antiquity of the Jewish Quarter in Berea.

Then in 1943, the German army plundered the synagogue of Berea and the Jewish Quarter. Eight hundred Jewish people were arrested in Berea. All of the Jewish treasures of Berea were brought to Berlin, Germany for storage in a place, called by the Germans, the Jewish Museum. After the Holocaust, only 144 Jews survived.

But the survivors went to the storage place of Jewish antiquities, the Jewish Museum, and they demanded back the Scroll of Berea (not all of the scrolls, just this specific scroll). However, the Jewish Museum storage was under Russian administration because Targaryen Jews had authorized the antiquities to Russian administration due to some Russians who were close to some Targaryen.

In the beginning, for a while, Hungarian Jews had tried to use the Berean Scroll, because they didn’t have any other scrolls to use. Then the Hungarian Jews decided to sell it to a Hungarian, a Jewish collector who had moved, at that time, to Austria.  His name was Ernest Klein, a rich Jewish rabbi. Ernest Klein refused any cooperation to research the scroll. Later with his treasures, he again moved, this time to Canada. And since then, nobody has seen the scroll again.

The Jewish survivors of Berea started to make noise about the scroll, and they wrote letters to different governments, the Greek government, and the Austrian government, and they wrote articles in newspapers demanding the scroll back.  But all the noise about the scroll ended when the Jewish community in Berea decided to move to Israel. And since then, nobody remembers the Scroll of Berea anymore.

The fact is, if that scroll truly exists today, then it is a secondary source of historical information outside of the Bible. It is a secondary source about the Apostle Paul – which would then automatically make the Apostle Paul a historically identified personality. The Apostle Paul, so well-known to Christian readers of the Bible, is not considered scientifically a historical personality because we don’t have at least two written sources from his time to cross-reference information about him.

Some buildings in the Jewish Quarter have been purchased by the municipality, and they house state institutions now. But definitely, the current Jewish Quarter preserves its architectural character, which goes back to the 17th century, 16th century, or something like that. Because of the constant renovation in Berea, you cannot find buildings or parts of buildings older than the 16th century. But the location of the Jewish Quarter remains the same.

For the city’s expansion, the main gate of the Jewish Quarter was demolished by the Ottoman authorities at the end of the 19th century. Today the modern city of Berea has expanded, and the Jewish Quarter is (almost) in the center of the city.

Some years ago, the whole road, the pavement, was preserved. But the municipality decided to bury it and preserve only some of it for antiquity and as a memory of the city. We can see what remains from the right-hand side. If you enter the main street of the Jewish Quarter look on the left side for the building of the municipality, an old building with flags. Look just outside of the walk and you can see a part of the pavement of the ancient Jewish Quarter Road. The main street of the modern city is identified with the ancient Main Street.

 At the end of the road, is the town square, the Agora, in the same location as in the ancient Agora. Still today it is the same square, the same center for the city. The city walls followed the line of the road all the way to the Agora. At the crossroads, there used to be a gate. The city walls were there until the end of the 19th century, relatively recently, crossing to this way, outside of the city. It is particularly important for us to know the limits of the historical city. 

City walls were not just for the time of the war.  City walls, during the old days, were to protect the city and the citizens all the time. During the night, the gates were closed and everything that happened in the city was under control. What if a crime happened in the city at night? Yes, the criminal who had offered a problem inside the city walls could easily be arrested because he couldn’t escape the city. The city walls were the main factor of security.  But also, if somebody had decided, at night, to stay outside of the city walls, he had to face the security problem by himself. 

In the Jewish Quarter, we can see the development of a special building system by the Jewish people who had decided to live outside of the pagan cities of antiquity, outside of the city walls. The Jewish people built their houses, one attached to the other, without any space or any yards between the houses, forming a kind of city wall on the outside with an inner, central, little agora built for the whole community.

In Berea there is a part of the city wall from the Ottoman time.

People could enter and exit the Jewish Quarter only from certain gates. And so, the communication of the quarter was under control.

Today you can see houses in the Jewish Quarter. You see houses that are still inhabited, some are abandoned. Gradually the old houses are renovated. Some of them are turned into boutique hotels, two of them at least.

You can see the building style, one building attached to the other with no space between.

Imagine archaeologists digging at this location. They would find the city wall, and a layer of dirt at the top but all the wooden parts and the adobe would be gone. Do you remember that we also saw short walls in Philippi, Greece?

From the site of the synagogue, you can read the New Testament passage that relates to Berea.

Remember, the Apostle Paul escaped by night from Thessaloniki, Greece, and arrived in Berea, Greece after covering a distance of two days.

Remember Paul was a stranger to the Bereans, a carrier of strange ideas. The Apostle Paul was a strange foreigner with strange ideas. The Jewish community of Thessaloniki, which related to the Jewish community of Berea, was against him.

Paul was a very suspicious person and although he was a very suspicious person the Bereans helped him to escape. Paul had escaped from Thessaloniki by night to come to Berea and the Bereans gave hospitality to him. Paul only stayed in Berea a brief time, not very long, because when the Thessalonian Jews discovered that he had escaped from Thessaloniki to Berea, the Thessalonian Jews came after Paul. They were against Paul.

The Berean Jews took it as their responsibility to bring Paul to escape – by way of the sea. Taking a boat from Berea to Athens at that time was expensive. But they didn’t stop there. The Bereans bought passageway tickets for themselves too, and they escorted Paul down to Athens, approximately 500 km. To return from Athens, possibly they walked back to Berea, something that would take about a month, through very tight mountain ranges. Their hospitality was beyond the standards that we can conceive. Can you see yourself being so hospitable to a stranger with strange ideas?

Okay, if you like we can open the Bible to the New Testament book of Acts.

Acts 17:10-15. Five verses:

“The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night, and when they arrived, they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.”

Let’s go now to see a little bit more of the Jewish Quarter.

To find specific archeological information in the Jewish Quarter you would need to remove the existing buildings – something which cannot happen. The buildings you see are still standing and some are fully renovated inside and outside preserving parts of the original decoration.

What used to be the house of a rich commercial Jewish family, today houses the International Institute of Traditional Architecture and you can see a Jewish inscription and the dates according to the Jewish calendar – which counts time since the creation of Adam – this is why you see the numbers there. And they still use a lunar calendar and not a solar calendar, like we do.

The location of the Jewish Quarter is a very strong indication of antiquity.

Recently an old house was renovated into a boutique hotel. Today it is called, The House by the River.

The House by the River Ολγάνου 4 591 32 Véroia

According to the tradition of the local Jewish community, that corner was the place where once per year, just before Passover, the sacrifices were made and blessed.

This is not a door or a window, but something else.

So, this door was opened during the sacrifice time and the rabbi appeared there to bless the sacrifice. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the term kosher, which means purified food. Yes, the restrictions.

And of course, you see the living water. Remember we saw the same in Philippi, Greece. A necessary element for a pious Jewish community, something which was gradually abolished after the second century BC. In Greece, we have the privilege of having the oldest, found Jewish synagogue, which is the Synagogue of Delos, dated back to that time, the second century BC, and there is no older found synagogue, even in Israel than the Delos Synagogue outside of the city by the sea, living water.

Visit Havra Bridge, Berea Greece

We gathered at the bus, hungry, ready to arrive at the parking lot of our restaurant, before heading to our church concert and sleeping quarters for the evening.

38. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Greece | Daniel 8 | Acts 19:29 | 2 Corinthians 9:2,4 | Acts 17: 5-9

In the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, we can find a 1 A.D. Greek inscription, ΟΙ ΠΟΛΙΤΑΡΧΑΙ, important for Christian apologetics. ΟΙ ΠΟΛΙΤΑΡΧΑΙ means “The City Authorities.” Prior to 1887 this very specific term for The City Authorities had never been found inscribed anywhere. This caused doubt.


The Rationalists of the 19th century said, “We have an issue against the authenticity of the New Testament, a big issue, because Thessaloniki was a capital city at the time of the Apostle Paul. If The City Authorities of Thessaloniki were called politarches (πολιτάρχης) then we should see this in other sources as well, but we don’t. This very specific term, πολιτάρχης is not mentioned in any inscriptions. So, the rationalists reasoned that, this term, politarches πολιτάρχης, was made up by Christians much later than 1 AD. However, the story doesn’t end there.

Here’s what happened:

In 1885, Ottoman authorities decided to demolish the walls, as well as the Royal Gate of Thessaloniki, in order to expand the road and the city. While demolishing the Royal Gate, the workers arrived at the foundations and there they found a stone with some letters on it. And because they were not able to read Greek, they called the British counsellor of the city. He knew all about this issue of the politarches (πολιτάρχης) and he was a Greek scholar and a Christian. This man saw the stone. He was thrilled! For the first time, he found this term, πολιτάρχης, used outside of the Bible.

The Ottoman workers were semi-drunk and the counsellor asked them, “How much would you like to sell this stone for?” As the story says, they looked to each other and asked the counsellor, “Five kilos wine? Is that too expensive for you?” For five kilos of wine, this stone became a property of the British Museum and the inscription disproved the Rationalists of the 19th century.

In the city of Thessaloniki alone, 30 more inscriptions have been found with this specific, technical term, πολιτάρχης, meaning “City Authorities.” And not only that, in all of Macedonia from Berea to Philippi, we have found even more inscriptions in Asia Minor, Middle East and even Egypt. These inscriptions, found from Thessaloniki to Egypt, cover a time distance between fourth century BC to fourth century AD. Without a doubt, these inscriptions verify the book of Acts, and its author, Luke.

Costas points at these Greek letters, ΟΙ ΠΟΛΙΤΑΡΧΑΙ. New Testament author, Luke, used the very same term, politarches (πολιτάρχης) in the book of Acts.

Costas Tsevas points to ΟΙ ΠΟΛΙΤΑΡΧΑΙ 

Acts 17:5-9  But the Jews became jealous, and they brought together some scoundrels from the marketplace, formed a mob, and started a riot in the city. Attacking Jason’s house, they searched for them to bring them out to the public assembly. 6 When they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the πολιτάρχης (The City Authorities) shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too, 7 and Jason has received them as guests! They are all acting contrary to Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king—Jesus!” 8 The Jews stirred up the crowd and the πολιτάρχης (The City Authorities) who heard these things. 9 So taking a security bond from Jason and the others, they released them.

The word πολιτάρχης (noun, accusative, plural, masculine) is mentioned two times in Acts, chapter 17, verse six. and verse eight, and this very same specific, technical term was inscribed on the stone of 1 AD.

The inscription is dated 1 AD.

Now, look here, you know how to read Greek. ΟΙ ΠΟΛΙΤΑΡΧΑΙ. Οι is the plural masculine article, “The” and πολιταρχαι is “City Authorities.” For those of you who know Greek grammar, you will recognize that ΠΟΛΙΤΑΡΧΑΙ and πολιτάρχης are exactly the same word, in the same number, both first plurals, both dating 1 AD.

The importance of the inscription on the stone is its dating of 1 AD. Paul was not in Thessalonik before 1 AD and he was not there after 1 AD. But he was there in 1 AD, and the City Authorities were too.

1 AD Inscription of ΟΙ ΠΟΛΙΤΑΡΧΑΙ

Costas Tsevas showed us other stones at the Archeological Museum of Thessalonkik. This one, an offering pedestal, also includes the inscription of City Authorities on the last line.

Status pedastal with the inscription of City Authorities

34. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Classical Theater | Philippi, Greece

Is this a theater or an amphitheater? “Amphi” means both sides, as in amphibian or ambidextrous. An amphibian is an animal that lives in both water and the ground. Ambidextrous is a person who uses both sides equally, both right and left. So, an amphitheater is a round, fully round structure. This place in Philippi, Greece is not an amphitheater. It is a theater because it is only half.

The Greek word for theater, (θέατρο) comes from two words. God + using something from a distance: God (θεός ) and από. The meaning of the root of από is to use something from a distance.

Remember, today we ourselves are up on stage. We are the actors. And God is here watching us. Yes, this is how the two things are connected. God is using something from a distance. We are on the stage. God watches us from the seats.

Here is a close-up of theater seating in Philippi, Greece.

Greek theater was not just to amuse the people. The actors taught morals, the base of the Athenian political system. And for that reason, Greeks called their actors moral makers (ηθοποιός). Itho (ηθο) means maker and ethos (ήθος) is the morals. ­­The maker (actor) taught the morals of the Athenian political system. Theater was born in Athens and grew up alongside Athenian democracy.

The institution of the theater began during a celebration of the god Dionysus in Athens. Near the celebration at the temple of Dionysus, there was a threshing floor. (At the threshing floor, farmers smashed wheat ears to separate the useful wheat grain from the straw.) So, the threshing floor, close to the Temple of Dionysus, was a very convenient place for the farmers to celebrate Dionysus. The Greeks celebrated with dances at the threshing floor. And this is the very beginning of theater.

Greeks still today, celebrate saints (for most Greeks, the saints replace the ancient gods in their minds). Greeks go somewhere, in the yard of the church, or in the store, and they start dancing dances in circles. Have you ever seen Greeks dance in circles?

We know about Greeks dancing in circles. What about singing, and dancing in a circle, at the same time?

The word orchestra (ὀρχήστρα) means dancing and singing at the same time. Orkhéo (ὀρχέο) means to enter into a place singing and dancing. Orchestra comes from the first dance at the farmers’ threshing floor in Athens. Here is what happened:

At the end of sixth century, an Athenian man decided to jump into the middle of the threshing floor, into the middle of the circle of the dancers and the singers. He danced solo.

Greeks today also dance by themselves and sing songs, responding to the songs of the people who dancing and singing. The group of dancers and singers around the solo dancer/singer is called the orchestra.

The name of this man in the center of the orchestra was Thespis (Θέσπις). So, this is why, in some places, actors are called thespians (from the name of this Athenian man.)

It is really a miracle, how in a truly brief time, Greek theater grew from Thespis to Aeschylus. In less than 20 years it grew to Aeschylus with trilogies in front of the stage. This is the first actual drama, the classical drama.

Hopefully, we are going to be in Athens at the theater, the first theater of history, the theater of Dionysus, to talk a little bit more about classical drama.

Theater entrance

Ancient classical drama is close to what we call today, opera, which started from the orchestra. Opera started from dancing and singing at the same time.

Theater developed in two ways: tragedy and comedy.

  1. Tragedy was to teach the people to be pious, which was a way to avoid hubris in their life. Tragedy brought on the stage the stories of famous Greek hubrists’ interaction against the divinity. The people saw on the stage how people with hubris were punished. They witnessed the curse and the dislike of divinity expressed against a person with hubris, against their families, and generations after them. They showed that the hubrist’s curse remained until the day when a person from his family, even from the future generation of the author of the hubris, decided to face the Divine curse and make catharsis. Sophocles wrote a play about catharsis. Are you familiar with Antigone? Antigone was the older sister and daughter of Oedipus.
  2. The other way the ancient theater was developed was comedy. Comedy was like a mirror in front of the face of the spectator. With sarcasm and satire, comedy revealed to a person who he/she really was.

During Roman times, remember, this place was modified into an arena. And an iron fence was placed around the arena, tall enough to protect spectators from hungry animals that were brought into the orchestra. Animals entered through a floor gate. And remember, the animals were fed, in many cases, by fresh Christian flesh.

Unfortunately, the place where morals and the ethics of Athenian democracy were once taught, became the bloodiest place of the city, during the Roman times.

So, the orchestra turned into an arena, not only in Athens, and Philippi, but in all the Roman Empire. The coliseum arena became the place where Christians passed into glory. They died in front of the eyes of screaming crowds, who were full of joy, glad to see the blood and the cruel activity of the animals.

Of acoustic interest, Artist/Professor of Music at Moody Bible Institute, Dr. David Gauger, had two things about acoustics that people might be interested in.

1. Today’s orchestra took its name from the location where the musicians played. The physical location became the name of the instrumental group. So, today, the group of musicians (for example, those playing in a symphony) take on the title of orchestra.

2. We tend to think of sound radiating along a straight line, but sound radiates in a spherical pattern. The voice of an actor went directly from the stage to the audience, and it also bounced off the orchestra floor and into the audience as well. The two sound paths combined in the listeners’ hearing mechanism which made it sound louder. Amazing that the Greeks had a way to “amplify” sound (to make the sound louder for the listener) before electricity was ever invented.

Remember the story of Jesus talking from the boat to people on the shore? A related sound phenomena was utilized then also. The air above the surface of the water was cooled by the water. When Jesus spoke, the sound of His voice bounced back and forth in an acoustic tunnel (created by the waters’ surface and the cooler air layer) directing the sound more loudly to the people on the shore.

Philippi, Greece, Theater orchestra and seating

33. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Classical Theater, Lion’s Arena | Philippi, Greece

We see, in front of us now, the lower part of the façade of the theater in Philippi, Greece.

In front of the façade was a marble paved square upon which, at the Byzantine time, were workshops.

The walls of the workshops were built upon the marble pavement of the square.

Pillars, with muses depicted on them, supported arches with space between the arches.

In the Classical time, the time when this monument was a theatre, curtains covered the openings and behind the curtains were the actors’ chambers and storage area for the theater.

But when the Romans came, the Romans modified the theater making it into an arena. For that reason, they removed the curtains that hung between the pillars, and they built up the space between the pillars. So, when the archeologists found this place all of the spaces between the pillars were closed up with walls.

With this Roman modification, the actors’ chambers were turned into cages for lions and beasts. And open in the middle, (in the left of the above picture) was a kind of entrance which led to another ground chamber dug into the bedrock exactly in the middle of the orchestra.

Inside the orchestra used to be a mechanism, like a lift, bringing the lions right in the middle of the orchestra through a floor door. Have you seen the movie, Gladiator? It was something like that.

The archeologists, to restore the monument closer to its original function. removed the walls between the pillars, except for one – there for you to see (in the left-middle of the picture above) how this placed looked at the time of the Romans.

So, now you see the whole area: from where the lions entered the orchestra (on the left), the Roman façade in between the middle columns, and two Classical façades on the left and right of the Roman façade.

The classical façades are emptied from having a stone wall in front of them. Archeologists removed the Roman façade so that you can see where the curtains for the theater used to hang.

Let us go next inside the theater and I will explain the meaning of the orchestra to you.

32. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Prison of St. Paul | Philippi, Greece

People of the eighth century thought they found the Prison of Saint Paul! When the basilica, built on top of a chamber, collapsed, they assumed the basilica had been built there because it was the site of the Prison of the Apostle Paul. They developed the tradition that this chamber was a prison. But was it the long sought-after site of the prison of the Apostle Paul?

Written in Hebrew, Greek, and English, a sign points towards a chamber door, “Prison of Saint Paul.” Is this chamber the prison of the Apostle Paul? No, it is not.

It is not the prison of anyone. This is not a prison. The plaster on the inside is the hydraulic plaster of cisterns. But temples did have water cisterns, or wells, because people made blood sacrifices at the temple. It is a temple cistern.

Above the level of the Via Ignatia, from the time of the Apostle Paul and approximately four hundred years after him, all the flattop area was the place of a temple. A water cistern was placed here, but a prison was never placed among the temples.

When Theodosius removed the pagan temple, he recycled the building material and incorporated the old staircase into a new basilica.

The staircase is the older part, which leads up to the top, where we see the foundation of a pagan temple. Theodosius incorporated the old staircase into a basilica which he built at the top of the plateau.

The question remains, where is the prison of the Apostle Paul? We do not know. In historic places, like Philippi, tradition is stronger than fact itself. The Orthodox and Catholic Churches come to this place to have services once per year to honor the imprisonment of the Apostle Paul.

In other places of excavation, like in Athens, the prison is connected to the administrative section. And that makes sense. So, Paul’s prison may be behind the general’s office, an area which has not yet been excavated.

Excavation work around the general’s office stopped when the professor assigned to focus on the residential/urban area of Philippi, died. The work in that area went into transition. The transition is incredibly special.

One day in the future the area behind the administrative offices will be developed, and excavated, and then we will see if the prison of the Apostle Paul is behind the General’s Office in Philippi, Greece.

31. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Ruins of the Philippi Octagon | Philippi, Greece | 2 Corinthians 4:5

The early church gathered in a simple space, in the shape of a round. The church people sat facing one another. This makes sense because the emphasis in the early church was the equality of the body of Christ.

In 345 A.D, the church building was demolished but the marble mosaic floor was not destroyed. It remained intact and reused by the church community when the new owners of the Octagonal Church built a new building on top of the old mosaic.

The flooring of the church in Philippi was the common mosaic of the secular houses of its time. The flooring is not identified as a unique mosaic tile. The entrance to the room was in the middle of the long side, not through one of the short sides. So, a person entering the room, entered directly in the middle of the room. From the position of the entrance, we can suppose that the seats were placed all around the room, facing the door. (Lydia’s Chapel is a 1970’s, modern interpretation of the ancient Octagon Church in Philippi.)

Before we go further to speak of later additions on this building, let us open the Bible to 2 Corinthians. Paul wrote, in 2 Corinthians 4:5. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord with ourselves as your servants (slaves) for Jesus’ sake.

Paul here is saying, “Look, we proclaim Jesus Christ, not ourselves. We, Paul and Timothy, are your slaves.” Paul was not presenting the church people as slaves to Christ. He was saying, “We are slave to you all – We (Paul and Timothy) are slaves to you who are the church, the body of Christ.”

Imagine the Apostle Paul or Timothy as the leaders of the church and they say to you, “Look, do you know who we are? It is us, Paul, and Timothy. Church, we are your slaves.” A slave, a δούλος, was a property, like a piece of furniture. This would give the right to answer back a command, something like, “Take me on your shoulders now and bring me to my home,” or “Wash my face,” or other commands. The word slave is different from the word servant because a servant is a free person whose job is to be a servant.

Paul and Timothy presented themselves to the church people as slaves to Christ. “We are slave to you all – We (Paul and Timothy) are slaves to you who are the church, the body of Christ.” But that changed in Philippi, Greece. The focus on equality shifted when the leaders of the church, the ones who were the slaves, became the ruling caste.

In the early church of Philippi there are no signs of a built-in table, or an altar, or built-in seats (like thrones) for special church people. Everything in the room was portable and wooden. Nothing was built on the mosaic floor.

Then, a little platform, the bema, was the first thing added to the church building. The bema was a platform where somebody could start to speak to the people who were sitting all around, or it was for a place for The Lord’s Supper on the wooden platform/table.

In Philippi a mosaic tile, made by Porphyrios in honor of the apostle Paul, was marked by an inscription, “Porphyrios, bishop, made the embroidery of the basilica of Paul in Christ.”

Other old mosaic tiles are also around the Octagon Church in Philippi, Greece:

By the ruins of the Philippi Octagon, we can understand more about the process of how the church changed in its early history. In the fourth century the church passed from apostolic simplicity to the complexity of the state church.

In 391 A.D., Theodosius made the slaves of the church the ruling caste of the church, and part of the wall of the church was demolished, destroying the architectural symmetry of the building. An additional area was added, the apsidal area. From the outside the building seemed to be a square, but, inside it, was an octagon.

The synthronon became the new front row for the authorities of the state church. The synthronon became the common front for the authorities. Those who had been slaves became the rulers.

The early church preexisted the addition of the synthronon, but with the addition of the synthronon we had this weird thing in church: the authorities sat up in front, but the people still sat in the round, not facing the authorities.

Below is a picture of the white marble fence of presbyterium – remains. Shown to the right of the fence are the circular remaining holes for the support pillars to hold the fence.

The area in front of the leaders’ “thrones” was elevated and surrounded by a fence called the fence of presbyterium (or the fence of presbytery.) And the leaders, those who were formally slaves were now rulers (above and no longer equals.) The rulers could not sit at the same level as the common believers (their subjects.)

Theodosius said, “The church has to be a state religion.” So, all over the empire, independent church communities, churches which had developed their own personal character, had to form unions under the observation of a state officer. The state officer, called the Metropolitan Bishop, was appointed by the emperor to give an account of the state churches to the emperor. Bishop in Greek means overseer, the one who looks and is responsible for what is under him. The state church adopted a pyramidal administration.

If a church denied joining Theodosius’ scheme, it automatically was claimed as heretical. Regardless of what that local church believed, without ever being asked about doctrine, they were claimed as heretics. This is the first time in history when “the church” was no longer persecuted by the state, however the real church was persecuted by the state.

At the same time in history, the church adopted the sacrament of transubstantiation. So, the church authorities needed not a portable table, but an altar. And for that reason, inside the elevated section in front of the thrones they built an altar.

In 395 AD/fifth century, when the church became the state church it also became the owner of three city quarters.

The church was no longer a poor, persecuted, underground community. It had authority and treasures. Gold and silver coins from different periods up to the fifth century have been found on the flooring of the church. The pagan temple, which had coexisted and functioned alongside the state church up to this time, was not demolished. It became the property of the church.

The Via Ignatia ran along the site of the amphitheater. Part of the road connected with Via Ignatia was closed and turned into corridors of the church complex.

A vat was used for making wine and big jars were used for storing grain.

The church had a guest house and public baths.

A baptistery was added to the complex in the fifth century.

The little village of Philippi was excavated in 1950 and opened to the public in 2000.

Why wasn’t it open to the public for 50 years? The interpretation of the monuments created a fight among the three groups of archeologists: the Greek Orthodox, the French Catholic, and Greek and French Atheists. The Atheists said, “Look, we found the missing link between idolatry and Christianity. Look at the location of the pagan temple and the Christian church. They are next door to each other. ” The Atheists believed that Christianity was the development of ancient idolatry. The Greek Orthodox and the French Catholic found elements that did not fit with their present church tradition. They claimed their tradition was directly from Jesus Christ and the apostles, although their traditions are not identified with each other. Although they say they have the same spring, they are not the same.

For that reason, still today, the archeological announcements for Philippi are contradictory and not complete. You need to include the church history of the fourth century, match the dates, know what happened and why it happened.

Across the street from the little village of Philippi, Greece is the ancient theater, where Christians were persecuted.

30. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Burial Chamber | Philippi, Greece

Under this blue, square foundation is a burial chamber! Over this underground grave, a small pagan temple was erected in the second century B.C. where this human was worshiped. The pagan temple was erected, exceptionally, right over the grave of somebody, a real person.

Along the Ignatian Road, walking towards the site of the burial chamber/pagan temple, are numerous rocks and monuments. One of the more interesting stone monuments is labeled with a Latin inscription from the late Imperial Period – later Hadrian or Marcus Aurelius time period.

Latin inscription from the later Hadrian or Marcus Aurelius time period.
The underground burial chamber of a young man, a priest of the Cabeirian Mysteries.

Now, you have to know, that even the founders of the city were never buried in the city. Nobody was buried in the city! But we have this exceptional case of somebody so important to the people, for the society, who was buried in the city. His grave, underneath the foundations of a pagan temple, was found intact. And so, we know exactly who this man was by the inscriptions: a young man, priest of the Cabeirian Mysteries. Here we have a person who was a priest, practitioner of the ecstatic phenomenon and he was impressive to the people of Philippi. So, when he died, they buried him in the city to be an amulet for the city, a protection for the city and he was worshipped.

This young priest was a practitioner of ecstatic phenomenon. This ecstatic phenomenon, with predictions, and fire dancing, and other things, are mentioned in the Bible. We read about ecstatic phenomenon in Corinth, in the first letter to the Corinthians. A place of such rituals was the Island of Samothrace (opposite of Alexandroupoli) where the Apostle Paul spent an overnight before coming to Philippi (Acts 16:11.)

The Cabeirian Mysteries, like the Eleusinian Mysteries of Ilocandia, were mystical rituals regarding death, resurrection and theogony, and marriage between gods and humans. Phillip II met his wife, Olympias (Ολυμπια) at the Cabeirian Mysteries of Samothrace, and Son Alexander was born. Olympias, the Queen, claimed that Alexander was not Philipp’s son, but Zeus’ son – something that caused lots of inner problems in the family. Big problems.

29. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase |Temple of the Imperial Worship | Philippi, Greece

Here is a monument set up to honor a patron. Possibly, this person was a former slave who was set free by a certain man and then to honor this man, the former slave erected a monument here.

We read his titles and read the name with the ancient inscription, Pythōnos, and the inscription of his job and we learn that his man was proud to announce himself – that he belonged to Python.

So, the case of the slave girl in Acts 16, having a spirit of Python, was not unique to her.

Ecstatic phenomenon and activity were extensive in Philippi, Greece, just as it is in Europe today. Today a lot of people refer to the zodiacs, and go to predictors, fortune tellers and foreseers to find their future (and whom they are going to marry.)  In Greece and other European countries today this is quite common, even on television every morning there are foreseers of this kind. 

We have another monument of somebody who was proud to say I belong to Python. His name was Pythōnos.

Usually archeological sites have layers, with each layer built upon one another. The layers occur after destructions like war, or fire, or earthquake. These layers continue to build through the various destructions that occur for centuries and thousands of years. This makes archeologists incredibly happy because they make identifications based on each archeological layer.

Destruction creates archeological layers, layer after layer. However, we have cities and places where building material, from generation to generation, was not destroyed, but it was recycled and so from these places we do not have layers for identification.

Also, many cities in the world have been forgotten. Of all the mysteries, perhaps none captures the imagination as strongly as finding a lost civilization. There was a city, in the Amazon, created by people who were seeking God. The city was abandoned, then completely buried in the sand, and forgotten, and that was years ago.

Reparation in Philippi, Greece is ongoing today.

At the antechamber of one of the temples, is a sign, Corinthian Temple.

Look behind at the threshold, the gate, and you see a part of the temple pedestal where the Imperial statues were added. This is the site of the Temple of the Imperial Worship.

In the Imperial Roman Period was the economy nation and a phenomenon, which started with Alexander the Great, called syncretism where everyone was allowed to create his own title, his own gods and worship them.

When Octavian became emperor, he adjusted his title to the title “Augustus,” meaning “the respected one.” Up until this time, if someone did not want to mention the god’s specific name, Augustus was the name used to mention the god.

In this same time period people were traveling and, of course, their gods travelled with them. Their gods were added into the temples alongside the worship of the Egyptian gods of Greece. The Roman religious system and the Romans totally adopted the gods and almost completely forgot their old religious system. It was syncretism and the inquirer is given the impression of a fresh, multicultural religious model. In this multicultural, national, religious empire, the strongest tie of unity was the worship of the emperor. Everyone was obliged, regardless of their gods, to dedicate themselves to worshipping the emperor.

Improper behavior against certain gods was perceived a sacrilege, but improper behavior against the worship of the emperor was high treason. And this is what connected religion with politics. Since the time of Nero (64 AD) until the time of Constantine (313 AD) Christians were persecuted. The reason for their persecution was not because of Jesus. Nobody ever asked the Christians about Jesus or asked them to deny Jesus. Whenever they were accused, it was always the same accusation against them: They had another King.

Before Christ died on the cross, his accusation among the priests and the people of Israel, was that although you are a human you made yourself equal to God, so you deserve to die. This is the worst sacrilege.

If they had appeared in front of Pilot and said, “The man here says he is a god.” Then Pilot would have said, “Ok, welcome our new god. Prove that.” And that is all. But they changed the accusation and they said in front of Pilot, “The man says he is a king.” And this is conspiracy, conspiracy against the only king, Caesar.

For the Apostle Paul in Thessaloniki his accusation was essentially the same. Paul was brought in front of the Roman authorities, not in front of the court. The accusation against Paul was that he had another king. Paul was never accused of being a thief, or a murderer. The accusation against him was political treason.

Christians went through a test. They had to throw a bunch of incense into the fire of the altar and speak the words, “Caesar, lord.” And it was enough. The word lord in Greek was quite common and Caesar definitely was one of the lords. Caesar was a lord.

And I think it may not have been a problem for the Christians to say that Caesar is a lord, unless it was given to them that instance that connected that word lord with this Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ.

There were Christians who refused to go through so simple a test.

You know something, Eusebius of Caesarea says that during the time of the persecutions more than six million people were executed, or tortured to death, because they refused to go through this test, a test without even a mention of the name of Jesus Christ.

Christians, during this period of 250 years, were accused of being against the state. They were arrested, and they were brought to the Imperial Temple. These temples were everywhere, in the villages, in the towns, in the cities, everywhere. These temples were in the most proper and official place of the town square, in the agora, located in the center of town. Philippi, Greece had an Imperial Temple in the town square.

27. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Town Square, Agora | Philippi, Greece | Acts 16:19

Acts 16:12 refers to the little village of Philippi, Greece, a city of the first portion of the district of Macedonia. New Testament translators sometimes use the terms “living city” or “leading city” in Acts 16.12. However, Philippi was not a living city, or a leading city. It was small like a village, but a city of the first portion of the district of Macedonia.

Acts 16:12 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a city of the first portion of the district of Macedonia, a city or village with special privileges.

This is the New Testament village of Philippi. A little bit further, we will see part of it excavated.

The Apostle Paul arrived here in 50-51 AD. The Apostle Paul saw the ruins in poor shape 100 years before Marcus Aurelius. Greece does not have cathedrals and pilgrimage spots covering the ruins. We have the actual thing. Greece is free of later buildings being built on top of ruins, which maintains and preserves authenticity.

To explore Philippi, Greece we start with the most important part of Philippi – the town square, the center of the village.

See the main road of the ancient city, a part of the residential area with a side road which connected with the Via Ignatia, two city blocks divided by the city road and in the road the sewer system. 

We can see the theater and the acropolis.

Back in the time of monarchy, the palace sanctuary had been the most important place in the city. The palace sanctuary was the residence of the king-priest, and therefore, the center of religion and administration,

Religious activities occurred up at the acropolis and in the administration.

After monarchy was abolished a change occurred, religious activities occurred in the agora (another words for town square) and the agora became the most important place in the city. Crowds gathered in the town square for both political and religious reasons and sometimes the gatherings lasted a long time – which brought about the first appearance of commercial activity into the agora.

Eventually the town square became an economic and financial center, but the agora cannot be characterized by economic activity. The significance of the commercial, financial significance of the agora lags far behind the administrative and religious significance of activities in the agora. Far behind.

Yes definitely, there was commercial activity in the town square/agora, but it was not the most important activity of the town square.

The first town square in history, in Athens, began alongside Athenian democracy at the end of 6 BC. The town square was called ἀγορά, agora. The New Testament uses the Greek term, ἀγορά/agora. Later the Romans called the same place forum.

The Agora that you see here was built by Octavian Augustus and Mark Antony right after the battle of Philippi which took place here 42 BC.

Still today, many cities are built around a town square as the center of the city. A modern-day town square is surrounded by administrative court, and municipality buildings with a religious center, a cathedral, in the center of the city.

Paul and Silas, of the New Testament, were arrested and dragged to the agora.

The Apostle Paul and Silas were arrested in Philippi and then they were dragged. (Acts 16:19) To where? What was the agora? Was it a town square or was it a marketplace. Some New Testament translations suggest that Paul and Silas were dragged to the Greek marketplace. But, were they dragged to the supermarket to be judged? No, that does not make sense. The Greeks have never used their shops to judge people. Paul was dragged in the town square, not the marketplace.

So, please, please be careful with the translation of the term agora. The New Testament agora of Paul and Silas’s time was the town square, not a marketplace.

From the term agoraphobia, we do not find a description of the fear of buying and selling things.

Agoraphobia is the fear of being in an open-air place among crowds. If you find in the New Testament book of Acts, that your Bible translation of the word ἀγορά is translated as “marketplace” you should think about replacing it with the original word ἀγορά/agora, meaning town square or later in history, the forum.

The shape of the town square is small and rectangular. It has two short sides there and two long sides. Now, this long side here is neighboring Via Ignatia, the main road of the city, an incredibly famous, particularly important road for all the region. On this long side here, we have two water fountains, and, in the middle, we have an incredibly special place, a little platform, the bema. Costas is going to describe that next.

26. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Via Ignatia from the Gate of Neopolis to the Gate of Thrace | The Necropolis | Philippi, Greece

From the entrance at the main gate, the Gate of Neopolis, Via Ignatia passed through the village and exited through the Gate of Thrace. The ancient road, Via Ignatia, connected Neopolis and Philippi, Greece.

Via Ignatia traversed right through the middle of the little village of Philippi, dividing it into two parts.  

Architects built a ring road that goes around the antiquities and the ruins of Philippi.

The ring road joins Via Ignatia along its way to Drama, Greece. 

Ancient Philippi is surrounded by city walls.

We hope someday to see the ancient city gate rebuilt by archaeologists. Archaeologists have excavated part of Via Ignatia at the Old Gate of the ancient village.

The acropolis, a sacred place and not inhabited by citizens was protected by city walls.  The city walls go all the way up the hill to where the old acropolis used to be.

Dating back to 4BC, the time of Phillip II, is the foundation of a side little gate. Beside the gate was a tower so that the soldiers could see from above and protect the gate.

The square blocks on the right are the foundation for the protective tower of the gate that was once built here.

Right outside of the city walls is the cemetery, the necropolis, νεκρόπολις, i.e. the city of the death.

We walked, and ran, along the ring road as we approached Philippi.

Philippi was founded in 360 BC by Thasians, remodeled in 356 BC by Philip and renamed Philippi. In 42 BC we have the Battle of Philippi.

At one time there were two towers at the entrance gate of Philippi, Greece, where people could officially enter the city. You could see the right tower, but the left tower was buried under the road. The Apostle Paul, and those from Neopolis entered the Philippi from that gate.

Here are the signs located at the entrance to Philippi.

Since the Neolithic time, Greeks have lived with earthquakes. Philippi, Greece is a highly seismogenic place. The Greeks developed aseismic building methods – still in use today in the countryside.  They built stone foundations that were a little bit deeper than normal, affixed a wooden structure and filled it with adobe. Then they plastered the wall. This method provided flexibility to the whole building and absorbed vibrations from an earthquake, making it safe for the people inside.

This aseismic structure was particularly good because it was thermal insulated and very flexible in an earthquake. But it had a disadvantage: it must always be roofed. Without a roof, gradually the rain melts the building down to a layer of clay. A two or three floor building without a roof can be brought down to water level (where we were stepping now.) Then the knowledge of the use of the rooms in the upper floors totally vanished. We cannot reconstruct them, but today, we can gain a lot of information about them, information that fifty or sixty years ago the people could not even imagine.

You cannot take a shovel and start taking off dirt because every layer preserves elements of time, elements of a level. An archaeological dig today is a terribly slow process and extremely expensive.  

Massive excavation is considered a crime in archaeology. In some places, like in Israel, the state sometimes decides that entire layers, centuries and centuries of layers, be removed without any study, down to the layer that interests the government. You can see excavations in Jerusalem today with excavators, something that is totally improper in archaeological research because we must see gradual developments, studying the layers, from time to time, from period to period, from year to year and record it.

25. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Ruins of the Octagonal Church | Lydia’s Chapel aka Saint Lydia’s Baptistery | Philippi, Greece | Philippians 2:25-30

Back in the Golden Age of Theology, between the Constantinian decree of 313 AD and Theodosius I (391 AD) people were free to worship and buildings were built to house churches. The church was not a state institution.

Church buildings at that time were usually round but they could be circular, octagonal, or hexagonal.

The very first-round building was a building of the Athenian government in Athens at the time of democracy, 5 BC.

These are pictures of the ruins of the Octagonal Church in nearby Philippi.

The next picture is Lydia’s Chapel, also known as Saint Lydia’s Baptistery. The Chapel is a 1970’s, modern interpretation of the ancient Octagon Church in Philippi.

The flooring at the entrance of Saint Lydia’s Baptistery is a mural depicting south-eastern Europe. The mural shows Paul’s route to Ephesus, Troas, Neopolis, Philippi, Thessaloniki, Athens, Corinth and back to Ephesus. Mosaics are the most difficult way of making a mural.

In the early octagonal churches people looked towards the faces of one another, not towards an altar, bishop, throne, or pulpit because the emphasis in church doctrine was on all the members of the church body.

The original Octagon of Philippi would have had a small bema, a platform for a person to stand on and preach some words.

At the end of 4 AD holy communion commemorated the Last Supper of Jesus Christ. When the church became a state institution, and adopted the doctrine of transubstantiation, holy communion was no longer a supper, but a sacrifice.

And for a sacrifice they needed an altar. So, we had another structure, an altar added in the church.

In the middle of Lydia’s Chapel is a baptismal basin for infants and a wooden table for The Lord’s Supper.

At the dome of most church buildings we usually see a picture of Jesus depicted as the Almighty King, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords i.e. Jesus Everything.

However, at this chapel, high in the circular dome of the ceiling, is a wall mosaic depicting the baptism of Jesus.

Above His head is the symbol of the Holy Spirit.

On the other side of the dome (not shown) is a semicircular loop/spot which rises, depicting the voice of the Father. God the Father is not depicted because nobody has ever seen the face of the Father.

The eastern church does not depict God the Father. For that reason, it does not depict the Holy Trinity except symbolically, with one scene from the New Testament and one scene from the Old Testament. The scene here, from the New Testament, the baptism of Jesus Christ, depicts the Holy Trinity, to the Eastern Church.

The inside of the lower part of the dome depicts the fish in the living water where Jesus was baptized.

On the lower walls of the chapel are several other depictions, including the arrival of the Apostle Paul to Neopolis/Kavala (shown here,) a baptism, the Macedonian call to Paul outside the walls of Troas, the Apostle Paul meeting the ladies by the banks of the river, and two scenes of the imprisonment of the Apostle Paul.

The portraits in the chapel refer to local and general church history. 

In Lydia’s Chapel Epaphroditus holds a letter to the church in Philippi from the Apostle Paul.

Philippi was just a village, not rich, but the villagers of the church followed the Apostle Paul’s ministry. Both Corinth and Ephesus were rich capital cities and of course the members of those churches included rich people.

But when the church of Philippi heard that Paul was in prison in Rome they sent Epaphroditus from Philippi to Rome. Epaphroditus walked on Via Ignatia (Ignatian Road) up to the Adriatic Sea. It was a long journey of possibly a month or more, and then he had to find a ship to cross the Adriatic Sea to continue his walking on Via Appia (Appian Way) to Rome.  Epaphroditus risked being accused of being a cooperative of a prisoner, but he finally found Paul and gave aid to him. And then he was sick to death. The people of Philippi heard that their fellow man was dying in Rome and were incredibly sad.

But finally, Epaphroditus did not die. When Epaphroditus got well the Apostle Paul decided to give more joy to the people of Philippi, and he sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi with a letter (Philippians 2:25-30.) Epaphroditus was the carrier of the New Testament letter to Philippi, in which Paul expressed his gratitude to the people of Philippi for the aid that he received from them. The Apostle Paul was immensely proud to say to the Corinthians and Ephesians that he never became a load to anyone. His own hands helped him and his companions.

24. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | River of Lydia | Philippi, Greece | Matthew 27:27-28 | Mark 15:16-17 | Acts 16: 6-15

Why gather at the banks of the rivers? Living water is the water of the river and the sea, living water is not the water of the lake. Nor is it the water of the well. Living water was necessary for Jewish purification ceremonies.

After coming out of Egypt, Jewish people found themselves for the first time, scattered among the pagans (awful to them, because they considered the pagans at almost the same level as animals.) To a Jew, pagans were unclean.

Jewish slaves gathered by the rivers of Babylon to cry and grieve for the lost glory of Israel. They gathered outside of the pagan city by the banks of the rivers (Psalm of the Exile in the Old Testament is Psalm 157.) As the Jewish people gathered and read prophecy they were encouraged for the future. So informally, by the river, the Jewish synagogue began as an institution of the diaspora. The word synagogue is not a Hebrew word. It is a Greek word, meaning gathering.

According to Jewish tradition, Ezra was the one who made gatherings by the rivers of Babylon an institution, the institution of the synagogue. Then Cyrus gave the Jews permission to go back home and some of them returned to Jerusalem bringing the institution with them.

A synagogue is not a temple. The synagogue never replaced the temple and this is why there was the coexistence of the second temple with the synagogue throughout the days of Jesus until a little bit later when the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the temple.

The synagogue was mostly a place for teaching and social gathering. But the priesthood goes from the temple. The rabbi was not a priest. A rabbi could be anyone who was a scholar. The priests were of a certain tribe, from the tribe of Levi.

The habit of keeping the quarters in the synagogue outside, away from the unclean, impure, pagan cities gradually was abolished among the Jewish people when they became rich, more commercial and more political at the beginning of the 2nd century BC. Gradually Jewish communities and synagogues moved into the pagan cities, with some exceptions. The Apostle Paul visited the synagogue of Corinth, Athens and Thessaloniki. We have an exception of piety where we find Jewish people gathered outside of the city.

The first convert in Phillipi was a lady, not a Jew but a Greek, an immigrant. The name ascribed to her, Lydia, may be her personal name or her national name noted from the region of her hometown, Thyatira, a town in the region of Lydia. Possibly being the only foreigner in a small community she may have been called by her national name, Lydia (just as we call someone “The American,” or “The Greek.”)

Lydia seems to have been an emancipated lady. We have to say a few things about the emancipation of women in antiquity. Until the 20th century AD women in Europe did not vote. Women depended on a man, their father, or their brother, and when they got married, their husband. Still in some countries a wife takes the surname of her husband. Formerly, in Europe they took also the first name of their husband in the family court. So, we cannot talk about the emancipation of a proper lady.

There were improper ladies who decided not to be submitted to a man who they had their own houses. They hired other ladies to work for them. These ladies were colleagues. Colleagues to whom? To men. Their houses offered services, like Giza ladies of the Japanese tradition with prostitution as the source of their main income. Most of the time they were educated ladies, so philosophical debates and meetings were organized at their houses, with music, and amusement. Very often, instead of going to a cafeteria (which did not exist at that time) the men,went to the ladies’ houses to eat. In ancient society these ladies were almost equal to men. They could directly address their word to a man and look at their eyes. They could go alone to the center of the city, they could do work that usually the men did. They were equal, except that they were not accepted to vote. The voting of women in Europe and in many countries came after the second world war.

Lydia was not one of the colleagues. Lydia was something else.

Lydia, a business lady, did a job that usually was the job of a man. We assume that this lady, from Thyatira, was a widow with minor children and did not have the support that was expected for her and her children from her husband’s family. So, she had to raise up her children, take up the situation on her hands and move to where she could find the Roman Imperial of the job that she employed, possibly the job of her deceased husband.

Lydia was a purple maker and dealer.

Do you know how the purple was produced? From snails, plentiful in the Aegean Sea, belonging to the scientific family of Murex. People collected the snails from the sea. They had to keep them all alive. They chose the right number of snails for fabric they had to dye and then smashed them onto fabric. They could only use fabric which had been produced from animals, wool, and silk, not cotton nor linen. The color was not a fixed color, but nine different shades of the color purple, from deep red to red mixed with blue. The Eastern people called different shades “purple,” Here, red was called purple. At the River of Lydia today, scarves are sold which are red (not red mixed with blue.) They are labeled as “purple of Lydia.”

Remember in the New Testament Gospels, the description of the torture of Jesus? One of the Gospels, Matthew 27:27-28 says that He was flogged with a red garment and the other Mark 15:16-17 says, with purple. Somebody might say that we have a gospel disagreement, but we do not because for the Eastern Mediterranean people, including the Greeks, purple is, still today, the deep red.

Let us open the Bible to see what happened when the Apostle Paul arrived at Philippi by the banks of the River of Lydia.

Acts 16:6 They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in the province of Asia. 16:7 When they came to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this,16:8 so they passed through Mysia and went down to Troas. 16:9 A vision appeared to Paul during the night: A Macedonian man was standing there urging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 16:10 After Paul saw the vision, we attempted immediately to go over to Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. 16:11 We put out to sea from Troas and sailed a straight course to Samothrace, (very close to Andropolis) the next day to Neapolis (the Port of Kavala today),16:12 and from there we came to Philippi, (a ruin to visit today) which is a leading city (translated: a city colony) of that district  (translated: “city colony” of the first portion) of Macedonia.

The Romans divided Macedonia into 4 portions and at Philippi, we are at the first portion, which is Eastern Macedonia.

Acts 16:12 is better translated, “and from there we came to Philippi, a city colony of the first portion of Macedonia.” Philippi was not a leading city, it was a village, a city colony. Which was the leading city? The sub capital of the portion, the city of Amphipolis.

16:12b We stayed in this city for some days. 16:13 On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate to the side of the river, where we thought there would be a place of prayer, and we sat down and began to speak to the women who had assembled there. 16:14 A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira,a God-fearing woman, listened to us. The Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying. 16:15 After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me to be a believer in the Lord, come and stay in my house.” And she persuaded us.

Do you understand how risky it was for Lydia? She invited foreign men to her house, being herself, the head of the house. It was a very, very delicate situation. She could easily have been characterized in the society as not being a good woman.

The Holy Spirit prohibited to Paul for preach the gospel east and north.

After Alexander the Great, the world was divided into the cultured east and the barbarian west. It was very, very reasonable for Paul to go east. Even the Romans had the Proverb, in Latin, Ex oriente lux, meaning, the light comes from the east.

But the Holy Spirit prohibited Paul from preaching the gospel in the cultured east.

23. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Palia Mousiki Hall | Old Town | Acropolis | Ancient Port of Neopolis | Kavala, Greece

The Apostle Paul stepped out of his boat at the ancient port in Neopolis, now known as Kavala, Greece. Let me introduce you to Kavala.

The Acropolis of Kavala sits at the top of the peninsula where the old town is situated. Narrow roads take cars, vans and people up to the top of the peninsula.

Below the Fortress is the medieval aqueduct.

The narrow winding roads lead past portions of the town.

During the time of Ottoman rule churches were converted to mosques or mosques were built over churches. Here’s a mosque built on an early church site.

The Palia Mousiki Hall (formerly the Halil Bey Mosque), the terracotta colored building on the right, was built over an early Christian church, which seems to have had a 7 room seminary and a cemetery. Here is the excavation site, which also continues inside the hall, which was closed when we arrived.

The narrow winding road leads through the Old Town towards the Acropolis.

We reached the final stair climb at the top. The former Byzantine Acropolis of Christoupolis was destroyed in 1391. Part of it was incorporated in the early 15th century.

The Acropolis, as a place, as an institution, appeared in the middle of the 2nd millennium before Christ during the Mycenaean Period, the period of the Trojan War, which generally can be described also as the Late Bronze Age.

The term Acropolis is a combined term from άκρη, meaning summit and edge (from which we have in English the term acrobat – the person who likes to walk on the edge,) and πόλεις, meaning cities (and from that term we have police and politician -the guards of the city .)

The literal meaning of the word Acropolis means the upper city and was organized to be the palace sanctuary of the King Priest.

When the monarchy was opposed in Greece, the Acropolis remained the sanctuary of the patron gods of the city. The administration came down into the middle of the city. After Alexander the Great, all the cities, including Jerusalem, had some necessary standards.

The Temple of Jerusalem was considered the Acropolis of Jerusalem by the Greeks and the Romans. Don’t forget, at the time of Christ, Jerusalem was a gymnasium and a theater, both identified in the old city (and also a pagan temple in Jerusalem is identified) dedicated to the god Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. It was built on the side of Bethesda Pool.

As we traveled Kostas told us wecould trace all the standards of a city, down to a village, even Philipp, for all the Mediterranean world after Alexander the Great.

And in that frame, we would place the events described in the Book of Acts. We were going to the very places in Philippi that are described in The Book of Acts. But archaeologically we would see the sites built mostly at the time of Octavian Augustus after the topple of Philippi, 42BC.

We would be seeing Philippi, archeologically, a hundred years after the Apostle Paul visited the city.  We would see ruins of the city walls, just behind the grass, the inside the area of the walls and the terrain of little tiny Philippi, Greece. The Letter to the Philippians was addressed to the church of the little village of Philippi, almost 10 years after the Apostle Paul came there, the first time, from the prison of Rome. Although they were a small group they had never forgotten him.

The Apostle Paul walked the Ignatian Road from the Port of Kavala to Philippi.

The road, mostly buried under the modern road, was built in the 2nd century before Christ. It was the first infrastructure work built by the Romans outside of Italy. It was a military road that traversed the Balkans and connected the Adriatic with the Black Sea, with a length of approximately 1,100 km. Every Roman mile was marked by a milestone giving travel distance information to the travelers of that time.

We are going to Philippi at the River of Lydia where we would have an opportunity for worship on the banks of the river.

22. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Ignatian Road from Kavala Greece to the Adriatic Sea, Albania

The Kingdom of Macedonia was subject to the Romans in the year 168 BC. Soon after the Roman subjection, the Macedonians rebelled. Their rebellion made the Romans very severe with the people and the Romans divided Macedonia’s one province into four portions. The Romans put a restriction on the communication of the people, to each other and between each portion, to try to keep the Macedonians under control. The Roman Senate gave an order to the proconsul of Macedonia, which was the city of Thessaloniki, to build a military road which could quickly bring the Roman legions from Rome, Italy to the eastern provinces.  

In the second part of 2 B.C., the Roman army built The Ignatian Road. It took 20 years to build it. The road started from the Adriatic Sea (which is Albania today) from the city of Dyrrachium (at that time the whole area of Albania was called Illyricum) traversing Illyricum, Macedonia and Thrace. Crossing the Balkans, this road arrived at the Black Sea, at the city of Constantinople. The road was 1001 kilometers long. It was all paved.

At every Roman mile was a milestone written in Latin and Greek. It marked the distance between the two ends of the road, as well as the closest city to the spot. A traveler using this road knew, at every mile where he was, how far he had come, and the distance he had yet to cover. The Romans built stations every 45 to 60 kilometers for the Roman military garrison, with tiers for maintenance and stables for exchanging horses, in case they had to send a message from one place to another.

Right from the beginning it became a special major artery of communication and commercial transport. The safety of this guarded road was never missing.

All the stations that the Romans built, separated by 45 to 60 km, were built according to the topography of one day’s walk, so many of the stations developed into cities. On this road today,cities going through Greece, from Turkey to Albania, remain separated by the distance of 45 to 60 km.

After a while, with the establishment of Pax Romana, the people were very happy with the Roman administration and there were no more rebellions. Restrictions between the portions of Macedonia were removed, although the divisions remained for administrative reasons. The Ignatian Road became highly used. This road has always been used, since it was built until today, according to the political situation of Macedonia. 

Right after the Yugoslavian war , the Yugoslavian infrastructure was bombarded and communication between Asia and Europe was cut off. Then Greece was encouraged to renovate the road.

The Avenue of the Ignatia follows, in general lines, the old road. It is shorter because it now has bridges and tunnels that the original road did not have. But in many ways, it is fully identified with the old ancient road. For that reason, archaeologists had the opportunity to make excavations to verify how well the ancient engineers had built this road. In some cases where the soil was very soft, the ancient engineers  had dug five meters deep to find solid rock and then filled the space with rocks up to the level of the pavement. They did impressive work and that is why the road lasted so long.

It  Is very important for one more reason. It is the road that the Apostle Paul used when he arrived to preach the gospel not only in Macedonia but also in Illyricum.

In the book of Romans it says I preached from the gospel from Jerusalem to Illyricum – that means that Paul came to Macedonia as described in the book of Acts and then he went using this same road even to the Adriatic sea, Albania, where it is today using almost all the length of this road from Kavala west, which is 3/4 of the total distance.

For that reason, this road clearly can be called the Avenue of the Gospel on its way West, the Avenue of the Gospel entering Europe.

When we speak Biblically about the fulfillment of the time, it is not only referring to Israel, but to all the details in the preparation of the Ignatian Road.

The first mission field of history was the Mediterranean world, and these details include even the infrastructure and the condition of safety for the missionaries who traveled where the Holy Spirit addressed them to go. This is the history of this road.

There were a lot of independent Greek states in antiquity. One of them was Abdera, Thrace which was close to Alexandroupoli, the homeland of a very famous ancient philosopher named Democritus. Democritus, in 6 B.C. -without having microscopes, with just his mind -arrived at that conclusion that you can’t divide material after a certain point and if you break the basic particles of it then you produce energy. He is considered today the father of nuclear physics.

We were not yet in Macedonia yet. We would cross the River Nestos to enter Macedonia and go through Thrace.  

21. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Kavala, Christopolis, Biblical Neopolis, Greece | Philippians 3:20 | Acts 16:11 |

The people of Thasos, initially built the city port of Neapolis, now called Kavala. In the seventh century before Christ, Neopolis was built to help the people transport pine-wood raw material from the mainland to the island of Thasos, for building the ships of that time.

Searching for a good quality of wood, they also discovered that this area also had gold.  The ship builders came to negotiations with the local people and built a city in 360 B.C. The city was called Springs because of the springs that were close by.

When they started to dwell there, cultivating the land around there, they had trouble with the locals, around the town of Springs. So, they invited Phillip II to come and solve the problem. Phillip came, and being a very clever politician, he discovered all about the gold and so he kicked out from the city the people who had found it, the Thasians, and he built the city after his own name, Philippi.

The old city was on the peninsula, still surrounded by the city walls and at the top you see the citadel which is the acropolis of the Ancient Neopolis. 

In Philippi, Phillip II minted gold coins which were used by Alexander to start his campaign to Persia. When there was no more gold in the mines Philippi declined into an agricultural little village. It came back onto the stage of history and became very famous at the year 42 BC when outside of the city walls of Philippi was a very famous battle of the Roman civil wars.

At Philippi, the Army of the Republicans led by Cassius and Brutus (who had assassinated Julius Caesar, who had attempted to become an emperor/dictator, two years earlier) met to fight against the Imperial Army led by the successors of Julius Caesar, Octavian and Mark Anthony. Although the Republican Army was more capable, skilled and bigger they were defeated and both Cassius and Brutus committed suicide. The winners of that battle, finally, were the Imperials with their army, Octavian and Mark Anthony.

So the battle of Philippi marks the end of an entire period of Roman history, the Republican Period, and the beginning of a new period, the Imperial Period, something which made this battle extremely important in Roman history. This is the reason why both Octavian and Mark Anthony decided to remodel the City of Philippi, and to give the city (although it was really a village and not a city) all the rights of a Roman colony – to settle their veterans from both the armies and to give to Philippi freedom from taxes. So, Philippi got special privileges, a special political system, which applied directly to Rome.

In the letter of the Apostle Paul to Philippi we find a word related with policy and the political system, mentioned 2 times but is not mentioned in any other book of the New Testament.  This word, used by the Apostle πολιτευεστε, means, dealing in a political way (worthy of the Gospel) or our political situation/system (is in heaven.) In Philippians 3:20, Paul is saying, “Philippians, we are proud because you have an exceptional system offered to you by the Romans, but don’t forget that your political system actually is in heaven.” This is the little village that the Apostle Paul visited in the middle of the 1st century AD. There he established the first Christian church on European soil starting his mission west.

Before it came here the gospel was only in Asia.

The City of Philippi was a Christian center and a living city until the 8th century AD. At 8 AD there were earthquakes in the area and the city was ruined completely and abandoned and almost forgotten. Now the main city became the port city of Neopolis and so in the next century, 9 AD, Neopolis became a small Christian center and for the first time the city of Neopolis decided to change the name of their city, which didn’t look very much like the meaning of their name, New City, and to name the city the City of Christ. So, it was called Christopolis, the City of Christ, from 9th century to the 15th century.

In the 15th century the Ottomans came to the city and it became a became major station of their cavalry. The Ottomans came to the city, made a military base – a main station for their cavalry and from the word καβαλάριά, ka-va-la-ri-a, the city was renamed to Kavala, which is its present name. So, Kavala, Christopolis, and the Biblical Neopolis, are the same city.

Minarets are a sign of the mosques. The Muslim population in this area of Kavala is about 100,000 people, which is 1% of the Greek population. 

Right after the genocide against the Greeks, in Turkey in 1922, there was an exchange of population between Greece and Turkey. 300,000 Turks from Greece went to Turkey and approximately 2 million Greeks from Asia Minor came to Greece.  These people in Kavala decided to make up their own group, among themselves, and to  identify themselves as Greek Muslims, not Turks. This is the reason they were not included in that exchange of population by the treaty of Lausanne of 1922.

In the street stands a big aqueduct, Roman style, built 400 years ago (16th century.) It was built by Suleiman the Magnificent, who also built the walls of Jerusalem.

In Kavala there is a church dedicated to St. Nicholas in front of which is a monument with a mosaic commemorating the coming of the Apostle Paul to Kavala. On the mosaic the Macedonians are calling the Apostle Paul from Asia, from Troas to Europe. The mosaic shows the Apostle Paul coming out of his boat and stepping to the front of Neapolis. (Acts 16:11)

We are Christians today in the west because one day in the middle of the 1st century AD in this port of Kavala a ship came bringing a person holding some scrolls and the scrolls were the New Testament, the message of the gospel. Kavala, Greece is the gate of the gospel for all the western world. 

We departed from Neoplois to go to Drama, another city close to Kavala, where we had a performance.

Soon we would learn more about the Macedonian calling, the mission of the Apostle Paul to the west.

20. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Icon Workshop – near Varlaam Monastery, Meteora, Greece | Argos Zodhiates Bible Tourism Center – Leptokaria, Pierias Greece

The Icon Workshop near Varlaam Monastery in Meteora, Greece demonstrates the egg-tempura technique.  Egg-tempera, an art technique used since the 4th millennium before Christ, has been used continuously, age by age and time after time. Even today artisans copy old icons of Byzantine art.

The artisans start with a soft material prepared with honey and bone-clay, a piece of canvas. They hand draw onto the canvas a sketch taken from an original, old icon. First, they cover the background with a special blue and on the blue,  they apply gold leaf with a soft brush and fix it with a glue/adhesive. The glue is an animal glue which has been made in the same way since the Olympic times (of rabbit bones and skin.) Next, they mix egg tempura, a mix of natural color-powdered pigments found in nature, egg yolk and vinegar. The palettes of color are all accidents of nature, free minerals like Egyptian blue, and real 24 karat gold,   Gold leaf used in the icon is 22 microns (a human hair is 80 microns.) In the light the gold is almost transparent.

When the colors are ready, they apply the color to the canvas using many kinds of brushes. The colors are placed on the canvas from the darkest to the lightest. Very gradually the light comes. This layering has the very symbolic meaning of coming gradually from the dark to the light. In the tradition of the icon you will see the symbolic use of color.  Jesus is dressed in two colors, inside with red outside with blue.  The red depicts divinity and the blue depicts humanity. Mary is dressed in also dressed in two colors, but her attire inside is with blue and outside with red. For Mary, humanity is inside and divinity outside. We are dressed with Christ, the Apostle Paul said. 

When the painting on the canvas is finished it is put on a wooden board, very often made from cypress root because the cypress tree is the symbol for the immortality of the soul.

Finally, on the blue, with a soft brush, they add on to the face of the frame, adding a patina to make it look old like the original. On the back they will add a certificate.

Byzantine egg-tempura, an expensive, important artistic technique used in portraits and murals from 4 BC to the 16th century, is still copied today.

Later that evening we arrived for our lodging at Leptokaria Camp. Leptokaria Camp/”Argos Zodhiates” Bible Center is located in Leptokarya Pierias and it covers an area of about 10.5 acres, with the sea on one side and Mt. Olympus on the other. It is near the village of Leptokarya which has a beautiful coast line in Pieria. The Bible Center’s facilities were great. It was a cold night.

After a delicious breakfast we rode in the bus from Leptokaria to Alexadroupolis, a 4 1/2 hr. drive.

19. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Monastery of Varlaam | Meteora, Greece

Imagine going to the net! If you could not climb up to the top of the monastery at Varlaam in Meteora, the only way up was in the net. People, building equipment, material, and the goods, all had to be placed in a net and pulled up 300 meters.

The monks pulled their nets up and down with a net and pulley system.

Imagine climbing over the edge to get into the net! Don’t start down too soon for a very quick descent to the bottom. Kostas told us that’s how they knew it was time to replace the net!

The photo of the man in the net, on the cover of this book sold at the Varlaam Monastery bookstore, catches our imagination, doesn’t it?

Kostas pointed out the earliest music manuscript.

The monastery water storage system, as used by the monks in this 16th century, included this very large oak water barrel!

One of the most isolated places in the world, the Monastery of Varlaam is one of six monasteries in the area, all built on the top of great sandstone pillars.

We walked back down to the ground, climbed into the bus and rode until we found a great place to take a few pictures.

The Moody Symphonic Band played a concert that night.

18. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Varlaam Church at Meteora, Greece | Romans 5:12-21 | Matthew 16:18 | Revelation 20:14

This first icon in the antechamber depicts the spirit-fighting church in a very special moment, in the border between the present and the future life.

Varlaam Monastery

Imagine martyrdom, mostly in the time of the Romans. Some of them were so cruel that even the sickest human imagination counts them as sick, martyrdom, suffered by the church. Among them, a saint being skinned off alive, saints being grilled, another being boiled alive, another beheaded, thrown to death, water, a saint being crucified upside down and beside him another saint beheaded with some heads scattered around. Do you remember somebody who was crucified upside down? Peter, according to church tradition. And Paul was beheaded, being a Roman citizen. So, in this chamber, the antechamber of the narthex, we saw the spirit-fighting church depicted.

We walked inside the main room of the Church in Varlaam and faced the door. Kostos pointed up for us to see the crucifixion, and the sleep of Mary.

In the icon of the crucifixion, we saw Jesus on the cross (in the middle) and, on both sides, the 2 thieves. See the group of the women on the left and see John the Disciple? Mary and John have halos. On the right side do you see a Roman soldier coming also with a halo? How is that possible?

On the side of the arms of Jesus see 2 spots, each with a face inside. The one on the right is grey and the one on the left is red.  These depict the representatives of the material creation. The red one is the sun and the grey one, on the right, is the moon. They both look to the Creator. They are shocked; They run the races. This Is why you see the light hair blown by the wheat in front of their faces/ Yet these are the races that brought down. So then there was, for three hours, a total darkness over the earth.

Now I would like tell you about a detail related to the cross. Below the cross of Jesus, inside this cave is the skull of somebody and some bones. A little thing. Take a guess.  Whose skull is this? Adam. Yes, Adam’s head. Remember Adam, with his life up disobedience, brought death to the whole human race and Jesus according to Pauline theology, (the theology of the Apostle Paul, Romans 5:12-21) The last Adam brought life to the human race with his death of obedience. So, they have depicted both the Adams, the first and the last one. 

The second icon was an icon that marks a theological difference with the Catholic church. In the Catholic Church they speak about the ascension of Mary. They say that Mary was brought to Ephesus and from a house there sent to the heavens and so she never died.

So, in this icon you see Mary in her burial bed and Jesus is receiving an infant.

Varlaam Monastery Jesus Revivint an Infant

But if you go to Jerusalem the Orthodox Church points close to the garden of Gethsemane, the Church of the Mission, and inside there you can see the grave of Mary. The eastern church does not speak about the ascension of Mary but about the sleep of Mary. Here is an enlarged picture of the icon.

This is the only time when we see Jesus holding an infant (usually we see Mary holding the infant Jesus.) This is the soul of Mary; the soul departed from the body and embraced in the bosom of Jesus. Now she is depicted as an infant to show that although Jesus was her son, at the same time, He was her creator as well. 

Kostos pointed out another icon, and you will need to imagine this one, as I didn’t find a picture of it. I would like us briefly also to “see” an icon on an arch.

Very briefly, we see the resurrection being depicted. The Catholic Church depicts the resurrection by showing Jesus coming out from the grave, an empty grave (something that never somebody saw because we know from the Bible that when the first witnesses went out to the grave the grave was already empty.) But the Eastern church depicts the resurrection starting from a deeper place – from the Kingdom of Hades.

You see Jesus stepping upon the broken panels of Hades gates. He is in a glory (imagine the grey blue shade above and behind him depicts His glory; Jesus comes down from Hades after He has broken the gates of Hades. And you see an angel chasing the defeated enemy, this dark figure, poised, is Hades Himself.

Remember, when Jesus introduced the church in Matthews gospel? (Matthew 16:18) Jesus said, I am going to build my church on this rock and the Gates of Hades will not prevail on it.

Actually, translating the name Hades as Hell is a total mistake. Hades at the time of Jesus and forthcoming years after Him, for all the people of the Mediterranean world, was the name of a Greek god. Not a situation. Not hell, like in many English translations it is translated.

So the King of Death, the Ruler of the Underworld, is defeated and the angel is chasing him. 

Remember also, in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 20:14) the Apostle John says, In the last day Death, the personality, and Hades, as a personality, are going to be chained and thrown in the Lake of Fire.

You see Jesus coming down from the Kingdom of Hades drudging out of the graves an old couple, these are the forefathers of humanity, Adam and Eve.

Again, here we have the theology of the Apostle Paul who said that As through one person, death came to everybody, the same way, through one person, Jesus life and resurrection will come to everybody. (1 Corinthians 15.)

So, in the icon we are reading, do you see, can you imagine, that the representatives of the human race are taken out of their graves? Behind Adam you see some people with crowns. These are the Kings of Israel, pointing to Jesus, and on the other side you see the representatives of the Gentiles also pointing and looking to Jesus.  Among the representatives of the Gentiles, we see Abel, the first righteous, who was killed by his brother. We see Melchizedek, the chief priest of the Most High God, and also Noah. So we could say a lot.

Look here, imagine also, the assembly the cross, You see Jesus using a ladder to ascend on the cross and possibly you wonder if the painter knew the actual and historical circumstances of the crucifixion. Because definitely, somebody couldn’t be crucified using a ladder.

My question is Do you know somebody else outside of the Bible who was crucified, who was a famous historic personality?

Have you heard the name Spartacus? Who was Spartacus? Spartacus was a defeated, rebellious slave and Himself together with His 3000 followers were all crucified. Was Jesus like Spartacus, a defeated rebellious slave? He died as a slave, but was he like Spartacus?  No. Jesus willingly ascended to the cross and this is why you see the ladder there. Jesus offered Himself to become the sacrifice.

We could say a lot of things but there were other groups waiting in the hallway. Let’s continue outside to see the other environments of this monastic move.

17. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Varlaam Church at Metora, Greece

At the Varlaam church at Meteora, Kostas gave us an introduction to Greek icons (while I modeled a skirt based on historical usage at the Monastery.) The most important part of this picture is the golden halo seen in the icon behind me.

Look, first, at how the 3 main figures (Mary, Jesus, John the Baptist, and the angels) are depicted. There is no shape behind the figures, at all. The figures are flat. Do you see the abstractions and the lack of proportion?  The abstractions became, no longer the main characteristic of the primitive art, but also the main characteristic of the modern art, i.e. art that used abstraction on purpose, because of philosophical (theological in this case) ideas.  

See the name of Jesus being depicted on his halo? ὁ ὢ ν

Omicron, Omega, Nu.

I would like us to speak a little bit about the three letters: The omicron on the left side is faded out in my picture, but you can clearly see, in his halo, the Omega above and the Nu to the right.

These three letters form two words, ὁ ὢν “the/that being.”

  1. – Omicron is a word by itself. The/That. It is the definite masculine article.
  2. ὢν – Omega and Nu form another word, the participle of the verb “I am,” the verb “to be.”

The participle form of these two words, ὢν, was adopted by the Greek philosophers. This happened between two cities, Ephesus and Miletus, major cities of Asia Minor, Turkey today, Greek Ionia of that time It was also adopted in the Bible to describe God and Jesus generally. I say adopted because the Greek philosophers used it first! Here’s the history of how that happened.

In the 6th century BC, Greece had thinkers who were no longer satisfied with the Greek myths. Why? Myth, for them, was not able to explain the first origins of nature. So, they decided to find out if the origins of nature were part of myth. So they studied nature, intensively … and what did they discover? 

  1. They discovered, first, that nature is a chain, it is not compartmentalized. From the very little to the very big is a chain, a continuous chain.
  2. Secondly, they saw mathematics everywhere.  
  3. Thirdly, they discovered that all living nature (that means, plants, animals and humans in their outer form) has the same tendency to fulfill the same one mathematical formula, 2x + 1/x (which possibly is known to you from your mathematics class.) This is the tendency of all living nature.
  4. The ancient Greeks of Ionia, at that time, considered this mathematical formula the expression of the ideal and harmony and they called this formula the Golden, or Divine, Ratio.
  5. As their conclusion, these people considered nature as a unique mathematical artifact, not many artifacts in a row, but one single mathematical artifact. And they were the first who called this artifact, “Jewel.”  The Greek word for “Jewel” is Cosmos (Cosmetics in English.)
  6. And these people were the first who formed the idea that the concrete (the visible) went to the invisible (to abstraction.)

They became the first real philosophers, because they made up this question: “If what we see, all around us, is a perfect mathematical jewel (a Cosmos) then who is the “Jewel” maker? Who is the Cosmos maker?”

  1. Their answer to this question, was a conclusion that, “There should be, definitely, one mathematical mind (or more than one mathematical mind) able to express themselves, mathematically, in a way parallel to the human mind.
  2. So, through mathematics we can have with Him, or Them, a kind of communication.
  3. The second question became, Is this communicator one person (one mathematical mind) or more than one?
  4. They reasoned that many minds see the same reality from a different point of view, something which in art destroys harmony and for that reason, in all of art history, every single artifact, is signed by one artist who expresses his own personality.
  5. That made them to say that: behind this “Jewel,” this mathematical artifact, there should be one and only one great mathematical mind
  6. This great mathematical mind was not identified with the other gods of the myths.
  7. So, here we have the roots, the beginnings, of the concept of the great mathematical mind, the Creator, the Unknown God.

Now, while all these things were happening in philosophy, King Darius was expanding his empire from India to the West (remember we spoke about that in Thermopylae.)

Darius called for all these places, places where thoughts were being developed, so he created a wave of immigrant thinkers.

One of the immigrants was called Xenophanes. At the second part of the 6th century BC, Xenophanes, immigrated from Asia Minor (from the city of Colophon, close to Ephesus.) He, finally, with some other immigrants from Asia Minor, built a Greek city in South Italy and built his home.

Xenophanes was a carrier of his ideas.

  1. Since he brought his own ideas with him, he was the first person in history to make a severe criticism against Homer.
  2. He accused Homer of being sacrilegious; because Homer depicted divinity in a very brutal anthropomorphic way, attributing all the defects of human nature onto divinity. 
  3. And that, for Xenophanes was sacrilegious. 

The next “president” of this school was Parmenides.  Parmenides combined Xenophanes’ ideas and the duality that we see nature. In nature we see death and life, darkness and light, lies and truth.

So, Parmenides said,

  1. If everything we see around us is subjective, in possibility and death, then the Great Mind should be the light.
  2. If everything is in darkness and the light comes to destroy darkness, then the Great Mind should be identified with the light.
  3. And the Great Mind, in the many lights, is the only truth.
  4. As a conclusion Parmenides identified the Great Mind with the truly-existing-one, using the two words, ὁ ὢν.
  5. Parmenides was the first who spoke about “The Being,” using two words, ὁ ὢν (the participle form of the verb “I am.”)

At the 2nd century before Christ, in Alexandria, 72 pious Jewish scholars, sponsored by Ptolemy II, came to translate the Holy Books of Israel into Greek. 

  1. 72 wise Jewish men arrived to translate the name Jehovah.
  2. For the 72 men the translation came down to translating the name of Jehovah, “the God who presented Himself ” to Moses in front of the burning bush.
  3. So, they translated the Holy Name of the God, Jehovah, as “the God who presented Himself ” with a phrase in Greek, ὁ ὢν. They chose these two words, ὁ ὢν, to speak to the Greeks.
  4. ὁ ὢν, God who presented Himself to Moses in front of the burning bush, He is sending you to set them free.

The Apostle Paul based his speech on Mars Hill, in Acts 17 to the Athenian philosophers, on the concept of the great mathematical mind, the Creator, the Unknown God.

The Gospel of John, which is mostly addressed to the Greek mind, identifies Jesus as ὁ ὢν. Jesus uses these two words to present Himself and the Apostle John also uses these two words to present Jesus .

In the book of Revelation, the participle form of the verb “to be” is the only title that is continuously used from the beginning of the book to the end, to describe the Coming Messiah, Jesus Christ.

These two words, ὁ ὢν, connect The Being with

  1. The Great Mathematical Mind (from the Greek philosophers)
  2. Jehovah (from the Old Testament)
  3. Jesus (from Nazareth of the Gospel of the Apostle John) and
  4. The Coming Messiah (from the Book of Revelation.)

These two words, ὁ ὢν, are so important; The Being. Jesus “The Being” depicted in the icon at the church in Meteora, Greece is the truly existing one, presented to you – to set you free. 

Jesus, “The Being,” depicted in the icon at the church in Meteora, Greece, the truly-there-really existing one, presented to you – to set you free. 

15. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Meteora, Greece | Restaurant

In the Eastern church an icon is not just an artifact to be venerated, but it is a book which has to be read – a book where we don’t only see the actual event, because at the same time we can read the doctrine.

And that’s what we were going to do in an early church in a monastery – read icons, trying to see there the Biblical doctrine.

But we were going to start our tour with our lunch first, at a restaurant of the area which was self service – where we could see what they had and how much it would costs to buy it. If we didn’t want to eat, we had the option to drink a coffee or something as a general thing. We would have the opportunity to see a lot of dishes and to try the local cuisine.

The Greek people cook at home every day and so restaurants for the Greeks to eat in their home town do not exist. In the villages you will find that the restaurant in the village is only for the people who don’t have their family in the village. These people simply work there so they don’t have somebody to cook for them.

It was still winter time and so we didn’t have another choice of where we could stop to eat.

And finishing with that lunch we would start our monastic tour.

14. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Meteora, Greece | Monastery of Santa Barbara | Monastery of Mary’s Birthdate

It’s easy to travel today, by bus and using the stairs. However, for centuries and centuries, communication with a monastery used to be through a pulley, a rock and a net.

People, regardless of who they were, even if they were bishops, princes and kings, when they wanted to visit these monasteries they had to be placed in a net and to be pulled up 300 meters to the monastery.

Even the building equipment, material and the goods, all had to go up there with a pulley. Are you ready for that faith test?

Many times, this pulley helped people “to be glorified” very quickly. The pulley was going down, and the soul up at the same time.

Nearby, close to the Monastery of Santa Barbara, gardeners worked on a new vineyard.

In the front, panoramically, we saw Santa Barbara and at a shorter rock we saw the walls of the ruin Monastery of Mary’s Birthdate .

Winding through the mountains, the bus passed several monasteries and beautiful scenery.

13. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Meteora, Greece | Monastery of St. George

We looked forward to seeing the oldest music chant ever scored, from the 2nd century BC. After lunch we would see it in the monastery.

OK, music students, do you remember your modes? Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian.

The names of the modes correspond to places of the area where we were driving through. Some were on the other side of the Aegean Sea and all are related with places and tribes of Ancient Greece.

Ionian, the Ionic Tribe. Ionia was the coast of Asia Minor. The capital of Ionia was the city of Ephesus and on the Balkan part of Greece the only Ionians were the Athenians.

Dorian. Dorian was the tribe from which Sparta comes from. They had their own music, their own style.

Locrian. Locris was at the area on the left side of the plain where we were riding in the bus, (now because of the clouds we could not see the mountains), but there used to be Locris.

And Phrygian and Lydian are both in Asia Minor – regions and people who had their own style of music.

The first international community composed the different modes in the ancient Greek music, which was mostly the music of the temple and the theater. Costas told us he hoped we would have the opportunity to see the theater of Philippi and speak a little bit about the classical theater which is close to what we call. today, opera and scored by music.

Among the manuscripts we were going to see music books and the depiction of the Byzantine music (which is still the official church music of the Eastern Church) driven directly from the ancient Greek chant. Music in the 7th century was reformed by Pope Gregory the Great and we call it Gregorian Chant. The notes were simplified. We were going to see the notes first used, the Byzantine notes. Pope Gregory made them a little bit simpler, and they are the predecessors of the notes we use today in the modern art.

Music from Hydraulis – we knew about the Hydraulis, a type of organ with the pipes from written sources and the depictions. Now we go 14 centuries back. We know from the written sources that the Byzantine emperor had sent such an instrument as a personal gift to the King Pepin Sultan, 9th century in Europe, and this is how this instrument was introduced in the west and was developed into what we call church organum today. The Hydraulis is in the Delphi museum.

In a villa of this city they discovered, relatively well preserved, the actual instrument, a Hydraulis, from the second century before Christ. They were able to make a total reconstruction and so today we have one that produces music. It is on display in Delphi (the copy that produces music) and today we are sure that this is the actual predecessor of what we call church organum, which we thought, up to this discovery that it appeared in Europe at 12th century.

We continued our drive to Meteora, talking about music together. We passed an area with the reconstruction of separate scats (Sarakatsani huts) of nomadic shepherds, who had to build and unbuild their own houses to move further according to weather conditions so now they have made a style of museum or something so somebody can see how they made their tents and their huts, this is what we saw on the left side of the road.

Gregory, he was given the job of collecting all the orally transmitted tunes. At that time there was not a Catholic church nor Orthodox church. The western church was a part of the united, state church. The traditions of that time from east to west and the opposite were moving when the Catholic church was formed the transmission of traditions was cut off. There was not a relationship with the east any more, for more than 10 centuries. So, Gregory went everywhere and collected the chants from the various areas because oral tradition is not written down and it changes over time.  There was not only oral translation, there was written music and you will see that written music. Since at least the 5th century BC music was written, not just oral tradition. It was Gregory who simplified the notes we would see today in the monastery that are still the notes of the Byzantine church.

“This is where we will climb,” Costas teased.

“Extreme ‘sporters’ like you can climb up there.”


We went to a restaurant for lunch which was self-service where we could see what they had and how much it cost.

We had the opportunity to see a lot of dishes and to try the local cuisine.

Now in a minute we are going to have this rock in front of us and so you will have a better view of this little wide spot on the side of the cave mouth…hmmm…you see that? Just in front of us in the brown area of the rock just in the middle. Do you see it?

In many of these caves are still traces of inhabitation. A lot of extreme sport athletes come here from all over the world to climb to these rocks but they have firstly to get permission from the monastic community obviously because in some of these caves are some people and so they like to protect them from being disturbed. The life of these people is called with the special term, the term ascetic, ascetic life. This term comes from the word for exercise in Greek which is askētēs, which means exercise. So, these people they have their exercise, spiritual exercise there, living their ascetic life.

So, the first monastery is The Monastery of St. George – with the scarves.  I don’t know how many young men today would dare to do what men did here. Young men climbed to the monastery of St. George, without using ropes and other lanyards or any other means of help to them and they hung a scarf on the wall of the church so everybody in the village knew that a young man was no longer a boy but a real man and therefore they could have a family.

I don’t know if a lot of the area ladies had to marry people from other places – because the risk was very high for these young men. But the habit is active today for young men before they join the army. They prove that they are able to go to the army. So on the right hand side, on the face of the rock, you see the Monastery of St. George with the Scarves.

You can see it is not very easy for somebody to climb up there without any help. So, look at the scarves. Most of them indicate family relationships.

In front of us at the end of the road we saw a monastery, one of the smaller, of St. Nicholas and further, one o’clock we see Santa Barbara.  On the right at the top of the big rock used to be the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. Since the Ottoman time it has been in ruins. At the lower part of the Rock of the Holy Spirit you see a big cave and on the upper part you see the wooden structures of the hermitages and above you see Santa Barbara.

Communication with a monastery used to be, for centuries and centuries, through a pulley, a rock and a net. People, regardless of who they were, if they were bishops, princes or kings, to visit these monasteries they had to be placed in a net to be pulled up 300 meters to the monastery.  Even the building equipment, material and the goods, all had to go up there with a pulley. Are you ready for that faith test? Many times, this pulley help people to be glorified very quickly:  yes, after the pulley went down, the soul went up, at once.

The oldest and largest monastery, the Monastery of the Great Meteron, was founded by the Serbian King Ioasaph and his master Athanasios, when the king decided to reach it’s top. The Monastery of the Calligraphers, a rock without anything on its top today, was destroyed in the 17th century. Many precious manuscripts were produced there, but today those manuscripts belong to many different special libraries of the world.

9. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | 2nd Period in Church History | 64AD-313AD

The second period in church history is the period of the persecutions. It overlaps a little bit with the first period and starts in the year 64AD when Nero ordered the first persecution against the Christians, making an official distinction between the Christians and the Jews. Until 313AD, it is a period of  severe persecution against the Christians. The reason for the persecution was not that they believed in Christ.

During the Imperial Roman period we have the culmination of a phenomenon, which started by Alexander the Great, called syncretism.  Alexander was the king  and he had a totally different idea about who is the wise king. Alexander studied and considered the wise king, obviously, under the influence of his famous teacher Aristotle. Aristotle said, wise is the king who does not destroy a culture to impose his own culture but wise is the one who can find the positive elements of the different cultures to build the super culture. So, his suggestion was to preserve cultures and marry cultures to produce a super culture, in all the fields of life.

In this second period of church history Christians considered persecution their test of faith, of love to Jesus and of their unique opportunity to be faithful to direction, (Kostas didn’t like to say the word command) given through the New Testament about loving even the enemy. So, for these Christians persecution, a test of their faith, was an exercise to become more faithful, and more loving people,  even toward their executors.  

8. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | 1st Period of Church History

The first period of church history began with the early church apostles and comes to an end with the death of the Apostle John at the end of the first century AD.  He was the last apostle who died and the only one who had a natural death.

Some people might think about church history as beginning in the first century AD but then they leave a time gap and jump into 16th century church history. However, as you know, there never, ever, was, since the church was founded on the day of Pentecost, a period without the existence of the real church.

We left Volos, beginning our day of travel with a prayer and devotion. We stopped along the highway for gas and our enjoyed roadside stops.  Dave tasted strong coffee. It woke him up!

As we drove we saw Greek shrines along the side of the road.  Curiously they looked like miniature churches. Kostas explained that some years ago, forty years ago, fifty years ago, these were very rare. They were erected to mark  the way of the pilgrimage to the place where people could go to venerate at a church, a monastery. Today they are a lot of them everywhere and they have changed meaning.  Today they mean, at this very spot a car accident happened. So, most of them are memorials. Some of them are signs of gratitude from people who survived a car accident. When we see them, we don’t understand at once if they are erected to be memorials for somebody who died after a car accident or signs of gratitude for people that survived. Actually, these little miniature churches may have, inside of them, some idols, an incense burner and an olive oil candle but if you look inside and see the photo of a real person among the idols then you understand that there, we have a memorial.

We drove out of the city of Volos to catch the highway towards a monastery. Soon we would learn about the monastic movement in the Christian church, as well as the visual church arts, especially the Byzantine style which is considered to be the first modern style in the art history using, by purpose, extraction which up to that time was the main characteristic of primitive art.

7. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Volos | Iolcos | Mt. Pelion, Greece

We arrived and checked into our hotel in Volos, Greece, the place where our group would have our second concert performance.

In Volos we listened, and I was captivated by two Greek myths.

1. The Golden Fleece is a Greek myth, originating in the city of Volos.

The Golden Fleece myth teaches about a god, the god Apollo, who was exceptional, who had a personality, who was able to be seen speaking, delivering oracles, protecting the Argonauts, even providing a way for someone (Medea) to be purified after a crime had been committed.  The Campaign of the Argonauts to bring back the Golden Fleece from the Black Sea, started in the city of Volos – which was called Iolcos in antiquity. 

This very special myth, the Golden Fleece, speaks about the campaign of the Argonauts, important heroes of Greek mythology, and the giving of oracles.  It preaches. Why? Because this myth tells about a culture given from above. 

2. The Romantic Centaur is the second captivating myth from Volos.  It also tells about a culture given from above. 

The mount behind the city of Volos is called Mt. Pelion, famous because this is where mythical creatures, part humans from a very intelligent tribe, dwelt. Have you heard about the centaurs, half horse and half human? Centaurs became teachers of some very special humans.

Are you possibly familiar with the Centaur Romeiki (ρωμέικη) – the Romantic Centaur? 

The people of the area were celebrating the wedding of King Pirithous to Hippodamia and decided to invite the centaurs to the wedding reception. The centaurs got drunk, they became attracted to the human ladies and rushed them, even abducting  the newly married queen. The wedding celebration turned into a battle between humans and the wild nature, a battle which was on the side of the beasts rather than with humans.

But after a while, a god appeared, the god of culture, Apollo. Apollo decided to offer victory to the humans. He did it through a culture which could domesticate the wild nature and bring victory upon it.  So, the Lapiths, the people of the area, finally defeated the beasts, the intelligent beasts, the centaurs, because of their culture, a culture given to them from above, from a god, the god Apollo.

The theme is very, very familiar in Greek history. Greeks used the theme during the classical time, and they used it decorate several temples.  Centaur Romeiki, at the Acropolis of Athens, is part of the decoration of the Parthenon – the major temple of the goddess of wisdom.

The myths and teachings that belonged to Greek culture and religion, stories of gods, heroes, and explanations about the nature of the world, set up the stage for the day of Gospel, the day of  a new culture able to domesticate the wild nature and bring victory upon it.

6. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Thermopylae | Laconia, Greece

Here lies the actual battlefield of Thermopylae, where flowers still persist, over which the enormously big Persian army of one million seven thousand Persian men with all their military equipment had to pass.

For two days the Spartans held a line against them – only a few dozen yards long, between the steep hillside and the sea.  Constricting the battlefield, they prevented the Persians from using the vastness of their army and its resources  and imposed heavy casualties.

As the battle grew fierce, here was the only area where the Spartans could build two walls where they blocked themselves inside.

Here was the last stand of their resistance, the last people who were killed, were killed here.

At the top of the hill lies the plain all around, the flat area. That was the sea. The hill was a peninsula, connected with another hill, with a little valley. The pass came from the north at the foot of the mountain and entered to the valley, the road. The Spartans blocked the road, a little bit deeper than where we see it today. So here you have the real place and the real topography of the battle. On this battlefield the Spartans fought to the death. 

Here lies the Spartan grave.

“Hey you stranger, announce to the people of Laconice (Λακωνική, Laconia – the area of Sparta ) that we are here buried persuaded to their words – their law.”

The two walls on the hill were built, but there was also another stand built a little bit further, closer to the springs (but that was lost since the people who were coming from the mountain retreated there.)

Here we see the creek and the springs of Thermopylae.

5. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Thermopylae, Greece | Hebrews 12:1-2

“Have you heard the words, gymnasium and gymnastics?” They both come from the same root, from the word gymnos, which means naked and for that reason gymnasium literally means the place of the naked men.Gymnastics is the activity of the naked men, athletic nudity. Ancient Greek classical statues, depicting athletes, depicted the athletes naked. Athletic nudity came into the stadium from the battlefield, from heroic nudity.

The Battle of Thermopylae was on the edge between the pre-classical and the classical time and the common soldier of that time appeared in the battlefield like you see in the monument of the King of Sparta, naked, for two reasons.

First, if the soldiers would run out of arrows and their swords were  broken and their spears, they had to grasp their enemy with their hands and kill him by wrestling and boxing using only their hands. For that reason, their bodies were naked and rubbed with olive oil to be slippery.

At the latest phases of the battle they threw away all that was bothering them. They had only their hair, and their beard covered with a helmet, and when they grasped against the enemy with their hands, nakedness was to their benefit because usually the enemy was dressed. That is the first reason.

The second reason is that they went to the battlefield with a 50% risk of being  killed – and you know what happened after the battle. The winners came back to the battlefield to undress and disarm the dead bodies of the enemies to fix their trophy and prepare their triunes.

The Spartans didn’t like to leave behind spoils to their enemies to fix for their own trophy. That was the pride of the winner but at the same time was a shame for the memory of the dead one. So, they preferred to leave behind nothing but their dead bodies, which were totally useless to their enemies. This is heroic nudity.

Heroic and athletic nudity were common in antiquity and athletic nudity is used in the New Testament as an illustration of the transparency of the Christian life.

Do you remember which book of the New Testament speaks about athletic nudity? It’s in the book that no one could ever imagine – the book of Hebrews. The athletic life of the Greeks was a part of the religious life. For that reason, any participation in the  games, races or athletic events, was totally prohibited to the Hebrews.

But in Hebrews, where no one ever could expect it we find a very strong athletic illustration related with athletic nudity.

Hebrews Chapter 12: verses 1 and 2:

Being surrounded by a cloud of witnesses (the spectators of the stadium) let’s run our race – not putting down every weight as most translations say but everything which has a volume on our body – that means totally naked – and let’s run a race fixing our eyes to Jesus who is the author and the perfecter of our faith.

There are many Christians today who believe that the life, the human life, is divided into private and public – life behind doors and life out doors.  All of our life is public and we run our race of this life totally naked, in front of the eyes, not only to God and devil and demons but also in front of the eyes of the cloud of many other witnesses.

So, nothing is private. There are a lot of witnesses witnessing the most private moments of our life and this is what the Bible says.

Don’t deceive yourselves that there are things that no one ever will know because it’s totally private. Everything’s public.

Kostas asked, “Ok, are there any questions?”

Next he turned our attention to the monument of King Leonidas and the frieze under the monument.

He pointed out to us that the King of Sparta was depicted as an ancient soldier, a common soldier.

Under the monument, etched in the frieze, we looked closely to see the battle scene with naked soldiers and dressed soldiers, and soldiers with armors – these were mostly officers and noble men.

Rich with effort to support an armor, the officers and noblemen went to battle together with their servants. A full armor weighed approximately 45 kilos, over 90 pounds, and it was a little bit difficult for the well-armed people to move. In the battlefield the servants had the obligation to fight against the enemy, to protect themselves and to protect also their master.

We could see two reclining figures – one depicting the River Evrotas of Spartacus and the other the Mount of Taygetus, Spitogatos, giving the geographical frame of the King of Sparta.

We took our photos and then climbed a little bit to the top of the hill to see the grave and the battlefield.

4. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Thermopylae | Near Mount Kallidromo, Greece

As we drove towards Thermopylae, we listened to Costos Tsevas, our tour guide.  Soon we understood the importance of 4 days delay.

With an army of 1 million 700 thousand soldiers, escorted by an enormously big navy of 1 thousand and 400 ships (the world had never seen such an army nor such a navy) Xerses crossed the Bosporus and marched towards Athens through Thrace, Macedonia and Thessaly – making all the Greeks of the south scared to death. The only place the Greeks could stop Xerses, for a while, was at the pass of Thermopylae because there his army couldn’t be helped by his navy.

The Greeks gathered at the pass, a place close to some thermals (hot springs called Hot Gates) very close to Mount Kallidromo, where the road narrowed like a funnel into a very narrow strait where only chariots could go through. 5000 Greek soldiers from different city states from the south, came to Thermopylae to be led by the King of Sparta, Leonidas, and his 300 men. Together they built a wall and completely  blocked the straits.

When Xerxes arrived, it took two days for him to realize that he couldn’t go through it with all his army and all his heavy equipment, enormously big equipment, unless he could kick the Greeks out from there.

As seen in the movie 300, Xerxes found a local shepherd,  Ephialtes, who knew the area very well. Xerses gave him gold. The shepherd showed Xerses’ personal garrison, the Immortals (the most important part of Xerses’ army) an alternate mountain path, the path of Anopaia, which led to the rear of the Greek troops.

The Immortals, led by Ephialtes the traitor, started marching this mountainous path at dusk. The next day at dawn, they were at the top of the mount. The rising sun flashed on their bronze shields. The Greeks, from the foot of the mount, realized that the Persians now were above their heads.

Leonidas called to the Greeks, “You know, we are betrayed. After a while more Persians will be coming behind them. So, for that reason, go away, as there is still time for you. Go back to your homes and defend your homeland. But, me and my soldiers, we are going to stay because the Law of Sparta doesn’t allow us to leave the battlefield unless we are dead or winners.”

When Leonidas made that announcement 700 men from another little city close to Thebes, called Thespiae, appeared to Leonidas. They told him, “Look if you have decided to stay here with your men to die, we are going to do the same with you.” So, 300 Spartans and 700 Thesbians, under the King of Sparta (Leonidas) built another wall and blocked themselves in among these two walls. But by noon they were surrounded.

Xerxes sent a delegation to Leonidas asking for their weapons, the sign of surrender – also offering to Leonidas, and his soldiers, positions in his army. The answer from Leonidas was, “Having come, take them.”

The delegation came back once more, warning Leonidas, “Be reasonable. If every soldier throws only one arrow, it’s going to form above your heads, a cloud of arrows.”

Leonida’s answer was, “That’s better, because we are going to fight in the shade.”

That afternoon the Greek soldiers prepared a festival, like a wedding reception, celebrating their last day on earth and their departure to Hades. The next day the battle lasted less than two hours. They were all dead.

Xerxes went through the straits of Thermopylae – with four days’ delay. These four days were enough time for the city of Athens to be evacuated.

When Xerses arrived in Athens the city was empty. The city of Athens had been evacuated by the Athenians with their ships. With 85 ships they brought all the population to the Greek Islands.

But Xerses levelled the city. Then, when everything seemed to be over, forever, in Athens, the Persian navy made a fatal mistake. The Persian Admirals thought the shortest way from Athens to Corinth was through the Straits of the Island of Salamis. But, the Island of Salamis is very close to the mainland forming the straits. They entered to pass through the narrow strait with this enormously huge navy which also had responsibility for the food supplies for the Persian army.

The Greek navy of 120 ships, (85 of the ships were Athenian ships coming back from the evacuation of the city) divided into two groups and blocked the two exits of the straits. The Persians, under panic, started crashing upon their own ships. In their efforts to maneuver they destroyed their own navy which they left their army without food supplies.

Xerxes left Athens and went back home. The historians say that when Xerses returned from Greece, he married Queen Esther (described in the Book of Esther, in the Old Testament.)

The next year the Athenians came back in Athens, reconstructed the city and their political system (democracy.) That marks the beginning of the Golden Age of Athens – the Golden Age of the Athenian Democracy and the culture of democracy, as called by the Romans, Classical Culture.

This is why the Battle of Thermopolis is so important for the Western Culture.  If Xerxes had quickly gotten to the people of Athens and into the city, the people would all have been captives or dead and then we never would have had the time of democracy and the classical culture, which prepared the time of the New Testament.

After the Persians left Thermopylae, the local people gathered the dead bodies of the soldiers and the king to the place of their last stand of resistance at the top of a hill called Kolonos, Greece, which was a little peninsulate at that time. They cremated and buried them there.

Some years later after the Persian wars, Athenians, remembering their sacrifice, gave them a poem, an  opportunity to survive/to be remembered, saying  “Come HERE and put a little poem.” The poem engraved on the gravestone says, “Hey you stranger, go down to Laconia, to Sparta, and tell them that we are buried here in obedience to their laws.”

When we arrived at Thermopylae Kostas pointed out a roadside marker, an historical map of the battlefield.

I imagined water being next to the mountain, as it used to be. We stood in an area that, at the time of Xerses and Leonidas, was the sea. We saw the modern coastline of today and the coastline at the time of the battle.

We are here and just beside here is this short hill, behind the bushes and the trees, called Kolonos. This is the Greek town, and this is the Persian camp on the other side there. The mountainous path was here and leads to the back of the graves.  The mountainous path was at the very top of the ridge there, during the dawn the Persian immortals were up there and the sun rising from this direction was flashing on their shields. So, the Greek camp that was just behind this hill at the straits saw the bronze flashing shields up there and realized that the Persians were coming to their camp.

Three hundred Spartans and seven hundred Thespians under the orders of Leonidas, king of Sparta, decided to fight against the Persians and win or die defending the freedom of their country. According to the historian Herodotus, the Persian army consisted of about one million seven hundred thousand soldiers who were under the command of King Xerxes.

During the 1st century A.D., the philosopher Apollonios Tyanefs visited Thermopyles. Someone asked him which was the highest mountain in the world. He answered: Kolonos is the highest mountain in the world, because on this mountain the law keeping, and the noble self-sacrifice, have put up a monument, which has its base on the earth and reaches the stars.

Thoughtfully we left the map and walked toward the sights of Thermopylae, the monument of Leonidas and the grave on the hill.

3. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Thebes, Greece

Thebes, Greece is related to early church tradition which says that Luke the evangelist (who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts) was martyred in Thebes. Today there is a small Byzantine church in Thebes, where Luke’s grave is pointed out.

Thebes is also famous for 2 kings, Hercules, 2 generals and a poet.

King Cadmus, according to legend, invented the first phonetic alphabet (a change from the syllabic alphabet) and likely Jewish and other Eastern alphabets that are still syllabic, to the phonetic alphabet -the alphabet that the western world uses today.

The other King was the tragic King Oedipus. King Oedipus did all that He thought was possible to avoid his destiny, but, in the end, nobody can escape his destiny.

This story was brought to the classical theater in Athens by the author Sophocles.

So, we have another place that is related to the tragic story of Oedipus and his family. I remind you of Oedipus Rex, Antigone, and Oedipus at Colonus.

Thebes is considered to be the hometown of Hercules.

Also, two famous generals, Pelopidas, and Epaminondas, who were (for the first time in their history) defeated at Sparta and pushed Sparta back to its own city. 

Thebes is also known for the famous ancient Greek poet, Pindar.

The City of Thebes is still in the same ancient location and preserves its ancient name, Thebes. Excavations in the middle of the city have brought to light ancient tablets, dating back to the late bronze age – which is the second part of second millennium BC between 16th and 12th century BC.

In Athens, The Moody Symphonic Band unloaded their instruments from the bus, set up the stage and played their first concert in Greece. A bit of jet lag set in just before the concert, but jet lag did not stop them!

Concert at First Greek Evangelical Church Athens Amalias Avenue (off Lysikratous Street) Plaka, Athens

The evening ended with a drive back to The Greek Bible Institute.  We were welcomed with dinner, grateful and ready for a good night sleep, lodging in Koropi, Greece at the Cosmovision Center.

We woke up refreshed, ate a hearty breakfast, packed our suitcases, and counted musical instruments as they were loaded into the bus.

We drove toward Volos, Greece.

The Moody Symphonic Band looked forward to playing a concert in Volos, Greece.