Back 

Overview of Corinth

89km (55 miles) W of Athens

Today, as in antiquity, Corinth, along with Patras, is one of the two major gateways to the Peloponnese. Still, gates are there to pass through, not to linger in. There's no reason not to stop to see the ships slipping through the impressive Corinth Canal that cuts across the isthmus; then head straight for ancient Corinth, bypassing the modern city altogether. Mycenae and Nafplion both have excellent hotels and restaurants--and are only about an hour's drive from Corinth.

In fact, the entire modern town of Corinth (population 24,000) has remarkably little to recommend it. The town was moved here in 1834, after an earthquake devastated the settlement at ancient Corinth; successive earthquakes in 1858, 1928, and 1981 destroyed virtually every interesting building in the new town. As a result, Corinth is now a thicket of undistinguished, flat-roofed buildings, supposedly built to withstand future quakes.

All this makes modern Corinth a far cry from ancient Corinth, which was famously splendid and lively. As one Greek proverb had it, "See Corinth and die," suggesting that there was nothing to look forward to after visiting the splendid monuments (and fleshpots) of the city that dominated trade in Greece for much of the 7th and 8th centuries B.C. and had a second golden age under the Romans in the 2nd century A.D.


 

CORINTH

CORINTH (kor'inth). A prominent Gk. city evangelized by Paul.

Physical Description. As Greece's most splendid commercial city, Corinth was located just S of the narrow isthmus connecting central Greece with the Peloponnesus. Its strategic situation made it the mecca of trade between the East and West. Its eastern port was Cenchrae (cf. Rom 16:1) and its western emporium Lechaeum. The city derived rich income from the transport of cargoes across the narrow isthmus (a distance less than five miles). Not until A.D. 1881-93 was the present canal dug, saving a perilous two-hundred-mile trip around the stormy Cape Malea. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Nero (who turned the first spade of dirt with a golden shovel) realized the practicality of such a waterway. But all ancient attempts came to nought and were abandoned. The modern engineering feat is four miles in length, spanned by the 170-foot-high bridge.

History. The occupation of the site goes back to Neolithic times (cf. John G. O'Neill, Ancient Corinth, part I: From the Earliest Times to 404 B.C. [1930]). The cult of Aphrodite was cultivated there early. Corinth was an aggressive colonizing city in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.; Corinthian bronze and pottery became proverbial. The Romans completely destroyed it in 146 B.C. Julius Caesar restored it (46 B.C.), and it grew so rapidly that it was made Achaia's capital and the seat of the proconsulship by Augustus (cf. Acts 18:12). Its prosperity continued until the city was taken by the Turks in 1458. A terrific earthquake destroyed the old city in 1858, and a new city was constructed about three and one-half miles from the old city.

Archaeology. The American School of Classical Studies has been excavating at Corinth since 1896, except for war years. Much of their attention has centered on the agora, which was seven hundred feet from E to W and three hundred feet from N to S. Following the natural configuration of the land, the southern section was about thirteen feet higher than the northern part. At the dividing line of the two levels stood the bema where public officials could address crowds and render judgment; no doubt Paul stood before Gallio there (Acts 18:12-13). The bema was flanked by a row of central shops. Along the S side of the agora lay an immense stoa filled with shops of meat and wine merchants, probably the "shambles" (1 Cor 10:25) where Paul told the Corinthians they could buy meat with a clear conscience. At the E end of the agora and S of the stoa stood two similar basilicas used as law courts. Built in the first century A.D., they may well have been the places where the litigious Corinthian Christians went to court against their brethren (1 Cor 6).

On a rocky terrace overlooking the western side of the agora stood a temple of Apollo. Built during the sixth century B.C., it measured 174 feet long by 69 feet wide, and the 38 columns of its peristyle stood almost 24 feet in height. These were especially impressive because they consisted of single shafts of stone instead of being built up with drums, as was the usual practice. In the 1980s work has been going on at the theater, just to the NW of the agora.

The American School has also been working at the site of the Isthmia (about six miles from ancient Corinth), where the Isthmian Games were held in honor of Poseidon (cf. 1 Cor 9:24-27). The excavators have uncovered the temple of Poseidon, the 650-foot stadium, the theater, an impressive propylaea to the sanctuary, and Roman baths of a period later than the NT.

H.F.V. (From The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

 

CORINTH

Famed for its commerce, chiefly due to its situation between the Ionian and AEgean seas, on the isthmus connecting the Peloponnese with Greece. In Paul's time it was capital of Achaia, and seat of the Roman proconsul (Acts 18:12). Its people had the Greek love of philosophical subtleties. The immorality was notorious even in the pagan world; so that "to Corinthianize" was proverbial for playing the wanton. The worship of Venus, whose temple was on Acrocorinthus, was attended with shameless profligacy, 1,000 female slaves being maintained for the service of strangers. Hence, arose dangers to the purity of the Corinthian church (1 Cor 5-7), founded by Paul on his first visit in his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-17).

The early Greek Corinth had been left desolate for 100 years; its merchants had withdrawn to Delos, and the presidency of the isthmian games had been transferred to Sicyon, when Julius Caesar refounded the city as a Roman colony. Gallio the philosopher, Seneca's brother, was proconsul during Paul's first residence, in Claudius' reign. Paul had come from Athens, shortly afterward Silas and Timothy from Macedonia joined him. His two earliest epistles, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, were written there, A.D. 52 or 53. Here he made the friendship of Aquila and Priscilla, and labored at tentmaking with the former. Here, after his departure, Apollos came from Ephesus.

The number of Latin names in Paul's epistle to the Romans, written during his second visit of three months at Corinth (Acts 20:3), A.D. 58, is in undesigned harmony with the origin of many of its people as a Roman colony. At the time of Paul's visit Claudius' decree banishing the Jews from Rome caused an influx of them to Corinth. Hence, many Jewish converts were in the Corinthian church (Acts 18), and a Judaizing spirit arose.

Clement's epistles to the Corinthians are still extant. Corinth is now the seat of an episcopal see. It is a poor village, called by a corruption of the old name, Gortho. The remains of its ancient Greek temple, and of the Posidonium or sanctuary of Neptune (N.E. of Corinth, near the Saronic gulf), the scene of the Isthmian games, are remarkably interesting. The stadium for the foot race (alluded to in 1 Cor 9:24), and the theater where the pugilists fought (1 Cor 9:26), and the pine trees of which was woven the "corruptible crown" or wreath for the conquerors in the games (1 Cor 9:25), are still to be seen. The Acrocorinthus eminence rising 2,000 feet above the sea was near Corinth, and as a fortress was deemed the key of Greece. N. of it was the port Lechaeum on the Corinthian gulf; on the other side on the Saronic gulf was Cenchraea (Acts 18:18).

The ornate "Corinthian order" of architecture, and "the Corinthian brass" or choice bronze statuary, attest the refinement of its people.

FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS. Its authenticity is attested by Clement of Rome (Ep., c. 47), Polycarp (Ep. to Philipp., c. 11), Ignatius (ad Eph., 2), and Irenaeus (Adv. Haer., 4:27, section 3).

Its occasion and subject. Paul had been instrumental in converting many Gentiles (1 Cor 12:2) and some Jews (Acts 18:8), notwithstanding the Jews' opposition (Acts 18:5-6), during his one year and a half sojourn. The converts were mostly of the humbler classes (1 Cor 1:26). Crispus, Erastus, and Gaius (Caius), however, were men of rank (1 Cor 1:14; Acts 18:8; Rom 16:23). 1 Cor 11:22 implies a variety of classes. The immoralities abounding outside at Corinth, and the craving even within the church for Greek philosophy and rhetoric which Apollos' eloquent style gratified, rather than for the simple preaching of Christ crucified (1 Cor 2:1, etc.; Acts 18:24, etc.), as also the opposition of Judaizing teachers who boasted of having "letters of commendation" from Jerusalem the metropolis of the faith, caused the apostle anxiety. The Judaizers depreciated his apostolic authority (1 Cor 9:1-2; 2 Cor 10:1,7-8), professing, some to be the followers of the chief apostle, Cephas; others to belong to Christ Himself, rejecting all subordinate teaching (1 Cor 1:12; 2 Cor 10:7). Some gave themselves out to be apostles (2 Cor 11:5,13), alleging that Paul was not of the twelve nor an eye-witness of the gospel facts, and did not dare to prove his apostleship by claiming support from the church (1 Cor 9). Even those who declared themselves Paul's followers did so in a party spirit, glorying in the minister instead of in Christ. Apollos' followers also rested too much on his Alexandrian rhetoric, to the disparagement of Paul, who studied simplicity lest aught should interpose between the Corinthians and the Spirit's demonstration of the Savior (1 Cor 2). Epicurean self-indulgence led some to deny the resurrection (1 Cor 15:32). Hence, they connived at the incest of one of them with his stepmother (1 Cor 5).

The elders of the church had written to consult Paul on minor points: (1) meats offered to idols; (2) celibacy and marriage; (3) the proper use of spiritual gifts in public worship; (4) the collection for the saints at Jerusalem (1 Cor 16:1, etc.). But they never told him about the serious evils, which came to his ears only through some of the household of Chloe (1 Cor 1:11), contentions, divisions, lawsuits brought before pagan courts by Christian brethren against brethren (1 Cor 6:1). Moreover, some abused spiritual gifts to display and fanaticism (1 Cor 14); simultaneous ministrations interrupted the seemly order of public worship; women spoke unveiled, in violation of eastern usage, and usurped the office of men; even the Holy Communion was desecrated by reveling (1 Cor 11). These then formed topics of his epistle, and occasioned his sending Timothy to them after his journey to Macedonia (1 Cor 4:17).

In 1 Cor 4:18; 5:9, he implies that he had sent a previous letter to them; probably enjoining also a contribution for the poor saints at Jerusalem. Upon their asking directions as to the mode, he now replies (1 Cor 16:2). In it he also announced his design of visiting them on his way to and from Macedon (2 Cor 1:15-16), which design he changed on hearing the unfavorable report from Chloe's household (1 Cor 16:5-7), for which he was charged with fickleness (2 Cor 1:15-17). Alford remarks, Paul in 1 Corinthians alludes to the fornication only in a summary way, as if replying to an excuse set up after his rebuke, rather than introducing it for the first time.

Before this former letter, he paid a second visit (probably during his three years' sojourn at Ephesus, from which he could pass readily by sea to Corinth Acts 19:10; 20:31); for in 2 Cor 12:14; 13:1, he declares his intention to pay a third visit. In 1 Cor 13:2 translated "I have already said (at my second visit), and declare now beforehand, as (I did) when I was present the second time, so also (I declare) now in my absence to them who have heretofore sinned (namely, before my second visit, 1 Cor 12:21) and to all others" (who have sinned since it, or are in danger of sinning). "I write," the Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, and Sinaiticus manuscripts rightly omit; KJV "as if I were present the second time," namely, this time, is inconsistent with verse 1, "this is the third time I am coming" (compare 2 Cor 1:15-16).

The second visit was a painful one, owing to the misconduct of many of his converts (2 Cor 2:1). Then followed his letter before the 1 Corinthians, charging them "not to company with fornicators." In 1 Cor 5:9-12 he corrects their misapprehensions of that injunction. The Acts omits that second visit, as it omits other incidents of Paul's life, e.g. his visit to Arabia (Gal 1:17-18).

The place of writing was Ephesus (1 Cor 16:8). The English subscription "from Philippi" arose from mistranslating 1 Cor 16:5, "I am passing through Macedonia;" he intended (1 Cor 16:8) leaving Ephesus after Pentecost that year. He left it about A.D. 57 (Acts 19:21). The Passover imagery makes it likely the date was Easter time (1 Cor 5:7), A.D. 57. Just before his conflict with the beastlike mob of Ephesus, 1 Cor 15:32 implies that already he had premonitory symptoms; the storm was gathering, his "adversaries many" (1 Cor 16:9; Rom 16:4). The tumult (Acts 19:29-30) had not yet taken place, for immediately after it he left Ephesus for Macedon.

Sosthenes, the ruler of the Jews' synagogue, after being beaten, seems to have been won by Paul's love to an adversary in affliction (Acts 18:12-17). Converted, like Crispus his predecessor in office, he is joined with Paul in the inscription, as "our brother." A marvelous triumph of Christian love! Paul's persecutor paid in his own coin by the Greeks, before Gallio's eyes, and then subdued to Christ by the love of him whom he sought to persecute. Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, were probably the bearers of the epistle (1 Cor 16:17-18); see the subscription.

SECOND EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS. Reasons for writing. To explain why he deferred his promised visit to Corinth on his way to Macedonia (1 Cor 4:19; 16:5; 2 Cor 1:15-16), and so to explain his apostolic walk, and vindicate his apostleship against gainsayers (2 Cor 1:12,24; 6:3-18; 7:2; 10; 11; 12). Also to praise them for obeying his first epistle, and to charge them to pardon the transgressor, as already punished sufficiently (2 Cor 2:1-11; 7:6-16). Also to urge them to contributions for the poor brethren at Jerusalem (2 Cor 8).

Its genuineness is attested by Irenaeus (Haer., 3:7, section 1), Athenagoras (De Res. Mort.), Clement of Alexandria (Strom., 3:94, 4:101), and Tertullian (Pudic., 13).

Time of writing. After Pentecost A.D. 57, when Paul left Ephesus for Troas. Having stayed for a time at Troas preaching with success (2 Cor 2:12-13), he went on to Macedonia to meet Titus there, since he was disappointed in not finding him at Troas as he had expected. In Macedonia he heard from him the comforting intelligence of the good effect of the first epistle upon the Corinthians, and having experienced the liberality of the Macedonian churches (2 Cor 8) he wrote this second epistle and then went on to Greece, where he stayed three months; then he reached Philippi by land about Passover or Easter, A.D. 58 (Acts 20:1-6). So that the autumn of A.D. 57 will be the date of 2 Corinthians.

Place of writing. Macedonia, as 2 Cor 9:2 proves. In "ASIA" (see) he had been in great peril (2 Cor 1:8-9), whether from the tumult at Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41) or a dangerous illness (Alford). Thence he passed by way of Troas to Philippi, the first city that would meet him in entering Macedonia (Acts 20:1), and the seat of the important Philippian church. On comparing 2 Cor 11:9 with Phil 4:15-16 it appears that by "Macedonia" there Paul means Philippi. The plural "churches," however, (2 Cor 8:1) proves that Paul visited other Macedonian churches also, e.g. Thessalonica and Berea. But Philippi, as the chief one, would be the center to which all the collections would be sent, and probably the place of writing 2 Corinthians Titus, who was to follow up at Corinth the collection, begun at the place of his first visit (2 Cor 8:6).

The style passes rapidly from the gentle, joyous, and consolatory, to stern reproof and vindication of his apostleship against his opponents. His ardent temperament was tried by a chronic malady (2 Cor 4:7; 5:1-4; 12:7-9). Then too "the care of all the churches" pressed on him; the weight of which was added to by Judaizing emissaries at Corinth, who wished to restrict the church's freedom and catholicity by bonds of letter and form (2 Cor 3:8-18). Hence, he speaks of (2 Cor 7:5-6) "rightings without" and "fears within" until Titus brought him good news of the Corinthian church. Even then, while the majority at Corinth repented and excommunicated, at Paul's command, the incestuous person, and contributed to the Jerusalem poor fund, a minority still accused him of personal objects in the collection, though he had guarded against possibility of suspicion by having others beside himself to take charge of the money (2 Cor. 8:18-28). Moreover, their insinuation was inconsistent with their other charge, that his not claiming maintenance proved him to be no apostle. They alleged too that he was always threatening severe measures, but was too cowardly to execute them (2 Cor 10:8-16; 13:2); that he was inconsistent, for he had circumcised Timothy but did not circumcise Titus, a Jew among the Jews, a Greek among the Greeks (1 Cor 9:20, etc.; Gal 2:3).

That many of his detractors were Judaizers appears from 2 Cor 11:22. An emissary from Judaea, arrogantly assuming Christ's own title "he that cometh" (Matt 11:3), headed the party (2 Cor 11:4); he bore "epistles of commendation" (2 Cor 3:1), and boasted of pure Hebrew descent, and close connection with Christ Himself (2 Cor 11:13,22-23). His high-sounding pretensions and rhetoric contrasted with Paul's unadorned style, and carried weight with some (2 Cor 10:10,13; 11:6). The diversity in tone, in part, is due to the diversity between the penitent majority and the refractory minority. Two deputies chosen by the churches to take charge of the collection accompanied Titus, who bore this 2 Corinthians (2 Cor 8:18-22).

(from Fausset's Bible Dictionary, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1998 by Biblesoft)

 

CORINTH

(kor'-inth) (Korinthos, "ornament"): A celebrated city of the Peloponnesus, capital of Corinthia, which lay North of Argolis, and with the isthmus joined the peninsula to the mainland. Corinth had three good harbors (Lechaeum, on the Corinthian, and Cenchreae and Schoenus on the Saronic Gulf), and thus commanded the traffic of both the eastern and the western seas. The larger ships could not be hauled across the isthmus (Acts 27:6,37); smaller vessels were taken over by means of a ship tramway with wooden rails. The Phoenicians, who settled here very early, left many traces of their civilization in the industrial arts, such as dyeing and weaving, as well as in their religion and mythology. The Corinthian cult of Aphrodite, of Melikertes (Melkart) and of Athene Phoenike are of Phoenician origin. Poseidon, too, and other sea deities were held in high esteem in the commercial city. Various arts were cultivated and the Corinthians, even in the earliest times, were famous for their cleverness, inventiveness and artistic sense, and they prided themselves on surpassing the other Greeks in the embellishment of their city and in the adornment of their temples. There were many celebrated painters in Corinth, and the city became famous for the Corinthian order of architecture: an order, which, by the way, though held in high esteem by the Romans, was very little used by the Greeks themselves. It was here, too, that the dithyramb (hymn to Dionysus) was first arranged artistically to be sung by a chorus; and the Isthmian games, held every two years, were celebrated just outside the city on the isthmus near the Saronic Gulf. But the commercial and materialistic spirit prevailed later. Not a single Corinthian distinguished himself in literature. Statesmen, however, there were in abundance: Periander, Phidon, Timoleon.

Harbors are few on the Corinthian Gulf. Hence, no other city could wrest the commerce of these waters from Corinth. According to Thucydides, the first ships of war were built here in 664 BC. In those early days Corinth held a leading position among the Greek cities; but in consequence of her great material prosperity she would not risk all as Athens did, and win eternal supremacy over men: she had too much to 1ose to jeopardize her material interests for principle, and she soon sank into the second class. But when Athens, Thebes, Sparta and Argos fell away, Corinth came to the front again as the wealthlest and most important city in Greece; and when it was destroyed by Mummius in 146 BC, the treasures of art carried to Rome were as great as those of Athens. Delos became the commercial center for a time; but when Julius Caesar restored Corinth a century later (46 BC), it grew so rapidly that the Roman colony soon became again one of the most prominent centers in Greece.

When Paul visited Corinth, he found it the metropolis of the Peloponnesus. Jews flocked to this center of trade (Acts 18:1-18; Rom 16:21 ff; 1 Cor 9:20), the natural site for a great mart, and flourishing under the lavish hand of the Caesars; and this is one reason why Paul remained there so long (Acts 18:11) instead of sojourning in the old seats of aristocracy, such as Argos, Sparta and Athens. He found a strong Jewish nucleus to begin with; and it was in direct communication with Ephesus. But earthquake, malaria, and the harsh Turkish rule finally swept everything away except seven columns of one old Doric temple, the only object above ground left today to mark the site of the ancient city of wealth and luxury and immorality - the city of vice paragraph excellence in the Roman world. Near the temple have been excavated the ruins of the famous fount of Peirene, so celebrated in Greek literature. Directly South of the city is the high rock (over 1,800 ft.) Acrocorinthus, which formed an impregnable fortress. Traces of the old ship-canal across the isthmus (attempted by Nero in 66-67 AD) were to be seen before excavations were begun for the present canal. At this time the city was thoroughly Roman. Hence, the many Latin names in the NT: Lucius, Tertius, Gaius, Erastus, Quartus (Rom 16:21-23), Crispus, Titus Justus (Acts 18:7-8), Fortunatus, Achaicus (1 Cor 16:17). According to the testimony of Dio Chrysostomus, Corinth had become in the 2nd century of our era the richest city in Greece. Its monuments and public buildings and art treasures are described in detail by Pausanias.

The church in Corinth consisted principally of non-Jews (1 Cor 12:2). Paul had no intention at first of making the city a base of operations (Acts 18:1; 16:9-10); for he wished to return to Thessalonica (1 Thess 2:17-18). His plans were changed by a revelation (Acts 18:9-10). The Lord commanded him to speak boldly, and he did so, remaining in the city eighteen months. Finding strong opposition in the synagogue he left the Jews and went to the Gentiles (Acts 18:6). Nevertheless, Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue and his household were believers and baptisms were numerous (Acts 18:8); but no Corinthians were baptized by Paul himself except Crispus, Gaius and some of the household of Stephanas (1 Cor 1:14,16) "the firstfruits of Achaia" (1 Cor 16:15). One of these, Gaius, was Paul's host the next time he visited the city (Rom 16:23). Silas and Timothy, who had been left at Beroea, came on to Corinth about 45 days after Paul's arrival. It was at this time that Paul wrote his first Epistle to the Thessalonians (3:6). During Gallio's administration the Jews accused Paul, but the proconsul refused to allow the case to be brought to trial. This decision must have been looked upon with favor by a large majority of the Corinthians, who had a great dislike for the Jews (Acts 18:17). Paul became acquainted also with Priscilla and Aquila (18:18,26; Rom 16:3; 2 Tim 4:19), and later they accompanied him to Ephesus. Within a few years after Paul's first visit to Corinth the Christians had increased so rapidly that they made quite a large congregation, but it was composed mainly of the lower classes: they were neither `learned, influential, nor of noble birth' (1 Cor 1:26).

Paul probably left Corinth to attend the celebration of the feast at Jerusalem (Acts 18:21). Little is known of the history of the church in Corinth after his departure. Apollos came from Ephesus with a letter of recommendation to the brethren in Achaia (Acts 18:27; 2 Cor 3:1); and he exercised a powerful influence (Acts 18:27-28; 1 Cor 1:12); and Paul came down later from Macedonia. His first letter to the Corinthians was written from Ephesus. Both Titus and Timothy were sent to Corinth from Ephesus (2 Cor 7:13,15; 1 Cor 4:17), and Timothy returned by land, meeting Paul in Macedonia (2 Cor 1:1), who visited Greece again in 56-57 or 57-58.  J. E. HARRY

(from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)

 

CORINTH

[KAWR inth]-ancient Greece's most important trade city (Acts 18:1; 19:1; 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1,23; 2 Tim 4:20). Ideally situated on the Isthmus of Corinth between the Ionian Sea and the Aegean Sea (see Map 7, B-2), Corinth was the connecting link between Rome, the capital of the world, and the East. At Corinth the apostle Paul established a flourishing church, made up of a cross section of the worldly minded people who had flocked to Corinth to participate in the gambling, legalized temple prostitution, business adventures, and amusements available in a first-century navy town (1 Cor 6:9-11).

Although the apostle Paul did not establish the church in Corinth until about A.D. 51 (Acts 18:1-18), the city's history dates back to 10,000 B.C., when ancient tribesmen first settled the site. Always a commercial and trade center, Corinth was already prosperous and famous for its bronze, pottery, and shipbuilding nearly 800 years before Christ. The Greek poet Homer mentioned "wealthy Corinth" in 850 B.C.

In the following centuries Corinth competed for power with Athens, its stronger neighbor across the isthmus to the north. And in 146 B.C. invading Roman armies destroyed Corinth, killing the men and enslaving the women and children. Only a token settlement remained until 44 B.C., when Julius Caesar ordered the city rebuilt. Not only did he restore it as the capital city of the Roman province of Achaia; he also repopulated it with freed Italians and slaves from every nation. Soon the merchants flocked back to Corinth, too.

The city soon became a melting pot for the approximately 500,000 people who lived there at the time of Paul's arrival. Merchants and sailors, anxious to work the docks, migrated to Corinth. Professional gamblers and athletes, betting on the Isthmian games, took up residence. Slaves, sometimes freed but with no place to go, roamed the streets day and night. And prostitutes (both male and female) were abundant. People from Rome, the rest of Greece, Egypt, Asia Minor-indeed, all of the Mediterranean world-relished the lack of standards and freedom of thought that prevailed in the city.

These were the people who eventually made up the Corinthian church. They had to learn to live together in harmony, although their national, social, economic, and religious backgrounds were very different.

Perched on a narrow strip of land connecting the Peloponnesus, a peninsula of southern Greece, with central Greece and the rest of Europe, Corinth enjoyed a steady flow of trade. The city had two splendid harbor cities-Cenchreae, the eastern port on the Saronic Gulf; and Lechaeum, the western port on the Corinthian Gulf.

In the outlying areas around Corinth, farmers tended their grain fields, vineyards, and olive groves. But the pulse of Corinth was the city itself, enclosed by walls ten kilometers (six miles) in circumference. Most of the daily business was conducted in the marble-paved agora, or marketplace, in the central part of the city. Although only one percent of the ancient city has been excavated by archaeologists, some interesting discoveries give ideas of what the city was like when Paul arrived.

A marble lintel or crosspiece of a door was found near the residential section of Corinth. It bore the inscription, "Synagogue of the Hebrews." This may have been the very synagogue in which Paul first proclaimed the gospel message to Corinth, accompanied by his new-found Jewish friends, Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:2).

Not far from the synagogue excavation site was the magnificient judgment seat, covered with ornate blue and white marble. There, the Roman proconsul of Achaia, Gallio, dismissed Paul's case (Acts 18:12-17).

South of the marketplace were the butcher stalls (shambles, KJV; meat market, NKJV, NASB, NIV, NEB, RSV) that Paul mentioned in 1 Cor 10:25. Corinthians purchased their meat from these butcher stalls. The meat was often dedicated to pagan idols before being sold. This presented a cultural problem for the Christians in Corinth (1 Cor 8).

Today the Temple of Apollo, partially in ruins, towers above the ancient marketplace. Each fluted Doric column, about seven meters (almost 24 feet) tall, was cut from a single piece of stone in one of several quarries outside Corinth's walls.

Rising 457 meters (1,500 feet) above the city itself and to the south is the acropolis, or citadel. From there, the acropolis at Athens, about 73 kilometers (45 miles) away, can be seen. Also, the infamous Temple of Aphrodite (or Venus) was located on top of this fortified hill. This pagan temple and its 1,000 "religious" prostitutes poisoned the city's culture and morals. For this reason, the apostle Paul sometimes had to deal harshly with the converts in the Corinthian church. Most of the Corinthians had lived in this godless society all their lives, and the idea of tolerating incest had not seemed so terrible to them (1 Cor 5).

In spite of Corinth's notorious reputation, God used the apostle Paul to establish a vigorous church in the city about A.D. 51 (Acts 18:1-18). Later, Paul wrote at least two letters to the church at Corinth (see CORINTHIANS, EPISTLES TO THE). Both deal with divisions in the church, as well as immorality and the abuse of Christian freedom.

The Corinth that Paul knew was partially destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 521, then totally devastated by another in 1858. Modern Corinth, rebuilt about four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the ancient site, is little more than a town. It is certainly not a thriving trade center, but the inhabitants only need to look at the ancient ruins to recall the former glory of their city. The success of the gospel at Corinth-bittersweet though it was-illustrates that the grace of God comes not so much to the noble as to the needy.

(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)