Thursday, June 19, 2014

2014 Greece: Following the Footsteps of Paul - Part 4


Once a flourishing city on the important Roman highway, the Via Egnatia, which connected the Adriatic Sea with Byzantium, Philippi is only an archeological site today. Though settled as early as 5000 B.C., the colony of Krenides began here in 360 B.C.  Built on the plain of Drama, it was blessed with rich resources of timber, precious metals, and agricultural products. When threatened four years later by the Thracians, they sought the aid of the king of Macedonia, Philip the Second.  Oops!  Philip saw the town's potential, conquered it himself, and gave it his name.

Historically, the most important event took place here in 42 B.C. when the armies of Octavian and Mark Anthony defeated the armies of Brutus and Cassius (who together murdered Julius Caesar) on the plains outside the west wall of Philippi, bringing an end to the Roman Republic.

When Paul visited Philippi, he founded the first Christian church on European soil (49/50 A.D.)  The new religion prospered, and when the capital of the Roman Empire later moved to Constantinople, Philippi grew in importance and reputation.

The theatre was built by Philip II in the mid-4th century B.C., and 200 years later, renovations modified it for gladiatorial contests. Later still, an underground tunnel was added to bring in the wild animals.

The famous Octagon Church was built around 400 A.D. over the ruins of a chapel dedicated to the Apostle Paul in the mid-300s A.D.  The Octagon church survived for 200 years.  You can see the outline of the octagon shape with pillar bases on its foundation just beyond the decorative stone squares below (click to enlarge photos)...

Beneath the protective covered roof you see above is the interior of the church floor 
which includes the intricate mosaics seen below...

I don't recall what part of the ruins this is, but I liked the photo!

Built at the end of the 5th century A.D., "Basilica A" had a four-sided atrium with steps leading to the narthex of the church, which was paved with marble and had ornate frescoes and sculptural decorations.

Part of the agora commercial district with its individual shops...

In Acts 16, Paul visited Philippi with Silas and Timothy, in response to a vision Paul had at Troas around 49 A.D. in which a man from Macedonia said, "Come over to Macedonia to help us." (Acts 16:9-10.)  They then sailed from Troas to the island of Samothrace and thence to Neopolis (current city of Kavala), the port city for Philippi, which is in Macedonia (Acts 16:11-12.)

Paul and Silas healed a slave girl and they were arrested, flogged, and imprisoned.  In 1 Thessalonians 2:2, Paul writes that he had "suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi."
When an earthquake miraculously opened the prison doors and released their fetters, Paul and Silas remained in the cell and comforted the jailer who feared he would be punished for their escape. The jailer and his family then converted to Christianity (Acts 16:25-34.)

The next morning, the town magistrates tried to free Paul and Silas, but Paul refused and complained about how he and Silas, Roman citizens, had been illegally punished by the magistrates.  Fearing Roman retribution for mistreating Roman citizens, the magistrates apologized and asked Paul and Silas to leave the city (Acts 16:35-39.)

Paul maintained contact with his friends in Philippi, with letters and messengers (Acts 19:22; Philippians 2:22-23) and with later visits (2 Corinthians 2:13; 7:5; Acts 20:1-6.)  Paul's work here bore fruit and the church grew in size and later supported Paul in his other ministries, and Paul's Letter to the Philippians (probably written from prison in Ephesus or Rome) testifies to his affection for his friends in Philippi.

Looking for a place of worship on the Sabbath, Paul had met Lydia, a Gentile from Thyatira in Asia, who listened to Paul's message and then accepted Christ and was baptized (Acts 16:13-15.)  Some scholars have suggested that the location of this baptism is the Krenides stream, a half-mile from the center of Philippi, and this lovely Baptistry of St. Lydia, seen below, also an octagonal building, is built there and is open to the public.

The interior is ornately decorated in brilliant colors and one's eyes feast at every turn of the head...

Our study group also took the opportunity to hold a teaching session at the river led by Pastor Dave, and then some of us commemorated our baptisms by wetting our foreheads with water from the stream.

Here's a brief video of my visit:



Thessalonica was founded in 315 B.C. by Cassander, king of Macedonia, who had served as a general in Alexander the Great's army.  He named it for his wife, Thessalonike, daughter of Philip II.  It grew to be the premier city of northern Greece while under Hellenistic, Roman, and Greek control.
Among the famous personages who played roles in its history were Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Cicero, and Pompey, but none had as great an influence as the obscure Christian missionary of the first century, Paul of Tarsas.  The first written of the New Testament writings is believed by many to be Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians.

Upon leaving Philippi on his 2nd missionary journey, Paul and Silas traveled to Thessalonica (Modern Thessaloniki), a walk of over 95 miles.  Acts 17 relates his preaching in the Jewish synagogue on three sabbaths, and persuading Jews and Greeks alike as well as leading women of the community to believe in Christ.

In 1963, ground was broken for new law courts in an area destroyed by the great fire of 1917. Ruins from the 2nd and 3rd century A.D. were discovered and excavations began.  The Roman Forum (and likely the Hellenistic agora) were uncovered, as well as the odeon seen below, a theatre for music and performances, and later gladiatorial contests. (Click photo to enlarge.)

The modern city surrounds the ruins on all sides...

Remains from both the Roman Forum and the earlier Hellinistic agora were in this area, the commercial business district of the community...

Paul wrote that he worked "night and day" in Thessalonica to support himself and his companions (1 Thessalonians 2:9)

Philippians 4:16 says he needed additional income which was provided more than once by the church at Philippi, which indicates Paul probably remained in Thessalonica for weeks if not months. The Jewish community was angry at his success at converting their members.  They also feared the local officials would renounce the favored status they enjoyed.  Therefore, Paul's friends "that very night" whisked him out of the city to a safer place, Beroea (Berea), but they were soon followed and stirred up the populace there, too.  Paul therefore left Macedonia for Athens, probably by boat, and Silas and Timothy were instructed to join him as soon as possible (Acts 17:5-15.)



The site was occupied as early as 6500 B.C. and grew to a population of 90,000 by 400 B.C.  By 44 B.C. it was the provincial capital of Greece with a population some estimate as high as 700,000.  Corinth was most likely named for Corinthus, a son of Zeus.  A famous resident was the philosopher, Diogenes.

Corinth's geographical location fortuitously fostered commerce, providing ports linking it to Europe and Italy via the Adriatic Sea on the west and Asia Minor on the east via the Aegean Sea. But their location also put it squarely in the sights of its hostile neighbors, Athens and Sparta, and any other power needing to cross their land heading to conquests elsewhere.

Paul made three visits to Corinth.  The first with Timothy and Silas established the church in Corinth (Acts 18:1-18; 1 Corinthians 15: 1-2.)  Paul lived here for 18 months, earning his living as a leatherworker beginning in early 50 A.D.  His second visit was "painful" (2 Corinthians 2:1) because conflict in the church was what necessitated that he come.  The third visit (probably 55/56 A.D.) was after reconciliation when he received an offering from the Corinth church and took it to Jerusalem.  He never again returned to Greece.

The photo below is an artist's rendering of ancient Corinth (being held and explained by our extraordinary Greek guide, James.)

The 6th century B.C. Temple of Apollo had 38 Doric columns surrounding the two rooms of the shrine.  Each column was about 24 feet tall and six feet in diameter.  Seven remain standing today. Two additional rows of columns inside supported the roof.  You can see the ocean in the distance.

Paul was brought before the proconsul Gallio for judgment on the accusation of conducting illegal teachings, but Gallio refused to judge what he deemed a mere religious dispute among the Jews (Acts 18:12-16.)  The photo below is of the site where his trial was held.  City life revolved around the  marketplace (Forum for the Romans, Agora for the Greeks.)  This is where public speeches were made, debates held, politics discussed, and justice meted out.  The "Bema" was the elevated rostrum that predominated the marketplace, the stone platform our group is facing.  Gallio would have been on the platform with Paul standing where we are standing.

Paul often used athletic metaphors in his writings, and his letters to the Corinthians contained the first of these. Paul likely attended the "Isthmian Games" celebrated in Corinth during his stay.  In 1 Corinthians 9:24-28 he refers to boxing, wrestling, and running. and refers to the "perishable crown" awarded to the winners (wreaths made of vegetation.) 



Built from 1881 to 1893 by Bulgarians, the canal runs 3.5 miles in length, connecting the Adriatic and Aegean Seas.  It is 75 feet wide at the top, 65 feet wide at the bottom, and the walls are at an angle of 85 degrees.  It is only for recreational craft and is one-way traffic, but this 3.5 mile sail replaces a seven day sail around the Isthmus of Corinth!



Initially chosen for defensive purposes, a settlement existed here as early as 1600 B.C.  More than 500 feet at its highest point with steep slopes on three sides, it was easily defended.

The most famous of the buildings here were erected during the second half of the 5th century B.C. by Pericles following Athens' victory over the Persians in 480 B.C..  They established the truest form of Democracy the world had ever seen to that point, which fostered cultural and artistic endeavors that still draw visitors world-wide.

The Propylaea (monumental entrance gate)  was begun in 437 B.C. and is the fourth of such structures on this site, with all prior versions destroyed in wars.

The Theatre of Dionysus (333 B.C.) replaced earlier theaters and was the home of Greek drama and the birthplace of the tragedy.  It premiered the works of the three great Greek masters of tragedies, Euripides, Sophocles, and Aeschylus. Only 25 tiers of seating remain of the original 64 rows.  An additional 14 rows added later brought its capacity to 17,000 spectators.

On the north side of the Acropolis stands the Erechthelon built from 421 to 406 B.C.   It was built on four different levels and had three different roofs.

The crown jewel is the Parthenon (House of Maiden/Virgin) and it was erected between 447 and 438 B.C. on three vast platforms with seventeen Doric columns on each side and eight at each end. These fluted columns are 34 feet tall and over six feet in diameter at the bottom.  It was engineered so each column had a bulge about two-fifths of the way up and all lean slightly inward.  If they continued upward, all would meet about one mile up in the sky to form a giant pyramid!  It was the largest temple of the classical world.  The roof was marble tiles and the entire structure was nearly all marble.

Here's the view of Athens from Mars Hill...

Paul likely came to Athens by sea (Acts 17:14) and accompanied by unknown Christians, having left Timothy and Silas back in Beroea.  He soon sent those companions back requesting Timothy and Silas to join him.  He spoke in the synagogue and agora (marketplace.)  Athenians loved philosophy and dialogue and loved hearing something new, which Paul certainly and willingly provided to them.  He began by preaching in the local synagogue as was his usual avenue, but soon Paul was invited to go up on Mars Hill to present his new views, and Acts 17:22-31 records his famous "Unknown God" sermon, the results of which were mixed with some willing to hear more from him and others scoffing at the notion of resurrection of the dead, a non-Greek concept since their philosophy regarded the human body as a hindrance to the spiritual nature of the soul. Some became believers (Acts 17:34) but no other information is given except that Paul left for Corinth (Acts 18:1.)

Here's a video of my visit:


(Information taken from A Guide to the Biblical Sites of Greece and Turkey by Clyde Fant 
and Mitchell Reddish, a book I heartily recommend to anyone traveling to these sites.  
All photos are my own.)

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