June 16, 2006

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

St. Paul: From Athens to Corinth in Greece

Paul, Timothy and Silas (Silvanus) were in Athens early in the year 50 A.D. Paul was worried about the Christian community he had left behind in Thessa-lonica. He couldn’t help but wonder what happened after they had been spirited out of the city at night. He told the Thessalonians later that he tried

twice to return, but “Satan thwarted us”

(1 Thes 2:18). Finally, he sent Timothy and Silas back to see what was happening.

While they were gone, Paul preached at the Areopagus in Athens, a popular place where Greek philosophers had taught for centuries. He managed to make a few converts (Acts mentions Dionysius and Damaris), but his ministry in Athens was basically unsuccessful.

Even before Timothy and Silas could return, Paul decided to move on to Corinth, a much more prosperous city then. It was a bustling city that had more business than it could handle, and Greeks went there to make their fortunes. It was also the site of the Isthmian Games, celebrated every two years. It was only 50 miles away, a two-day walk. Paul left word for Timothy and Silas to follow, and made the trip.

After arriving in Corinth, Paul sought work as a tentmaker. He found employment with a Jew named Aquila and his wife Priscilla (or Prisca). When Paul started to talk about Jesus, he was surprised to find that Aquila and Priscilla were already Christians. They had been in Rome when Emperor Claudius expelled Jews from Rome in 41 A.D. because—according to the historian Suetonius—of disturbances caused by disagreements over Jesus’ messiahship. Aquila and Priscilla would have been excited to meet Paul, especially since he had actually lived in Jerusalem.

Paul was in Corinth for 18 months and it was a fruitful 18 months, probably thanks in large part to Aquila and Priscilla, who were well-established in the city. His Christian community grew to at least 40 or 50, of whom we know 16 by name. Most were converts from paganism because, when Paul tried to preach in a synagogue, Acts says, he was reviled for teaching that Christ was the Messiah. So he went to the house of Titus Justus.

As his congregation grew, Paul needed the houses of relatively wealthy believers to accommodate it. He found that in Stephanas, Crispus and Gaius. Stephanus had the leisure to travel with Paul later, Crispus was a wealthy patron of a synagogue and Gaius had a home that could accommodate “the whole Church” (Rom 16:23).

Most members of his Church, though, were not wealthy. They were a mixed group that had only their Christianity in common.

Once again, though, the Jews rose up and accused Paul of “inducing people to worship God contrary to the law” (Acts 18:13). This happened while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia. We know that he held that position only from July to September of 51 A.D.

Gallio dismissed the charges, but shortly after that Paul decided that it was time for him to return to Antioch. †


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