Acts - Part 4

Course: Introduction to the New Testament: Gospel and Acts

Lecture: Acts - Part 4

(Note: Even though this is a continuation of the Gospels: an Introduction and survey, it is also listed as the fourth of the lectures & sound files used in conjunction with the textbook from Pentecost to Patmos as stated in the sound file, itself. According to the lecturer, it is taken from the course: Acts to Revelation by Craig Blomberg, the sequel to this course. The header of this lecture, however, is entitled: Acts Part 4, of which there are a total of five parts.)

This presentation represents a group of slides covering certain sites associated with this lecture series out of the Book of Acts. We see the Orontes River which is the largest in ancient Syria and was also known in ancient times as Typhon, Draco or Axius. It is a river of Lebanon and flows past Antioch and reaches the sea at the foot of Mount Pieria. Antioch, itself, was the early home of evangelical outreach and was the place where people were first called Christians; but today, it is an insignificant provincial capital town in Muslim southern Turkey. The Turkish spelling of it is Antakya and is located only a short distance from the city of Aleppo in Syria. As Paul and Peter had a significant ministry in Antioch where today exist the ancient ruins of the Church of St Peter built into the side of a cliff.

The next slide showing Salamis and Paphos is where Paul, Barnabas, and Mark traveled on their first missionary journey to Cyprus, preaching in both places. Tombs of ancient kings are still able to be seen at Paphos. Their next stop was the city of Perga where the ruins of a giant ancient gate still exist. The group then travelled north to another city called Antioch where an ancient aqueduct is still visible and much more complete along with other ancient Roman ruins including that of a Roman Road. Next there is a slide of the city of Berbe which lies east of the cities of Lystra and Iconium. Derbe is located near Cilica and the ancient city of Tarsus where Paul was originally from, which still has a gate by his name.

On Paul’s second missionary journey, they went through the Kairos Mountains as he headed for the central plateau of Southern Galatia and eventually reached the city of Troas on the coast with only a few ancient ruins still present today. It is here Paul received the vision of the Macedonian man and so from there he heads over to Neapolis onto Eastern Macedonia. One slide shows the town looking back to the Aegean Sea. Another view shows the east from Neapolis with yet another Roman Aqueduct along with the ruins of Roman walls. Paul followed the coastal road to the major towns located to the west. One such ancient town Amphipolis comes right after the town of Philippi. Paul eventually reaches Thessalonica, today the second largest city and urban center in Greece, Thessaloniki or sometimes referred to as Saloniki with 800,000 people. One of the slides displays ancient Roman walls, where the Thessalonians Agora with various shops lining the area. There is a series of Roman baths located in the area as part of an ongoing excavation. There is also an enclosed Roman Amphitheatre and original Roman Paving Stones surrounding by modern tiles. Paul next stopping point was the ancient town of Berea further to the west, followed by a synagogue located on an ancient site which would have been there in Paul’s day. This current synagogue would be hundreds of years old. There is a slide that shows a mural of the vision of the Apostle Paul when Christ appeared to him and a second mural depicted his preaching to the inhabitants of Berea in the first century.

As Paul continues his ministry in Greece, a significant port of call was the inland city of Philippi as shown in the slide where Paul baptized Lydia. The area shows ancient Roman stone paved roads situated around Philippi and ancient foundations of shops that would have existed in the days of Paul. Of course, we read about Paul’s overnight imprisonment there in Philippi where ruins are still present with some public facilities. There’s also another amphitheater along with a memorial in honor of the first European Christian converts baptized by Paul, a small group of women along with the before mentioned Lydia. The women were near a place of flowing water which was the custom place to worship when there was no synagogue to attend.

Paul then travels onto the city of Athens, as then as it is now; it is the capital of Greece where the Parthenon along with other ancient ruins is prominent. In Paul’s day, there was a giant statue of Athena, the goddess of wisdom which was taken to the British Museum in London in the 19th century. A nearby temple of Poseidon also exists, all consisting of very intricate artwork and then on to Mars Hill, the Areopagus where the supreme tribunal of Athens met and also where philosophers spoke in long discourses as teachers with students listening and asking questions. The Agora or stoa of classical Athens is located to the northwest of the Acropolis and bounded on the south by the hill of the Areopagus. This Agora dates back to around the 478 BC when it was rebuilt after being destroyed during the Persian invasion of Persian. It was the center of political and public life in Athens. It was also utilized for commerce, political, religious and military used. Right below the Acropolis Mount, an outdoor theatre has been restored to its original.

The final stop on Paul 2nd missionary journey was where he ends up staying the longest, the city of Corinth. The city was located on an isthmus that connects mainland Greece with the Peloponnese. It was an important city in Greek, Hellenistic and Roman times, receiving the status as a major Roman colony. The mythological founder was believed to have been King Sisyphus, famed for his punishment in Hades and later his grandson Belerophon with the winged-horse Pegasus, which eventually became the symbol for the city and even featured on Corinthian coins. Julius Caesar founded this colony in 44 BC and changed the agricultural land into developed plots called centuriation for Roman settlers. It eventually became the center of early Christianity in Greece. Paul had to defend himself against accusations from the city’s Jewish population. The pro-consul Lucius Julius Gallio judged that Paul had not broken any Roman law and so permitted him to continue his teaching. During Paul’s day, it was also the center of sacred prostitution which was associated with the temple of Aphrodite which made the city into a place where sex workers, wearing flimsy dresses and garish were seen near the temple, in the town and especially on the docks. There were as many as a thousand so-called priestesses who doubled as prostitutes allowing sex with individuals of their choice in belief that you were achieving union with god or goddesses. Another slide shows the main city center with the road still intact. Again, there was the dominating presence of the pagan religion and later of Roman domination. It reveals the agora of Corinth with foundations revealing what were probably shops that lined the area. Snowcapped mountains were seen by the Corinthians from a distance that completed the scenic view which was also seen by visitors on first coming into the city.

There was a size and immensity to the overall area of the agora. Another slide reveals a shrine to the god of healing and one of the beliefs the Greek religion of the day was if one desired a body part to be healed, they created a clay replica of it and offered it as an offering at the shrine. There are clay examples of arms and hand left over plus that of genitalia, both male and female. Then there was the judgment seat of Gallo where the Gallo inscription was found which allows us to date Paul’s time in Corinth, imaging an image of where Paul was brought before the magistrate where his sentence was thrown out. We see an inscription at the synagogue in Corinth of the end of the words, ‘sinaggo gay’ and then another inscription designating, perhaps, the office of the city manager. In 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, a man by the name of Arasmas is called at the end of the greetings of the letter to the Romans which was written from Corinth. We can’t be sure but the individual may be the same person as everything lines up for him to be that very person. This person was one of the few powerful and wealthy people within the Corinthian Church.

Interestingly, at the time of Nero, a failed attempt was made to dig a canal so that boats would not have to be completely unloaded and dragged by dozens of labors, moving ships across the isthmus avoiding the dangerous 180 mile trip around the peninsula, but as shown a canal was finally dug at the end of the 19th century. The technology was simply not available in Nero’s day to do such a task. The path way by which the ships were dragged was called the deokoss. Another slide shows the harbor at Cenchrea. In Romans 16:1 Phoebe was a deacon of the church at Cenchrea and a letter carrier of that Epistle.

From there, Paul sailed to Jerusalem, stopping only briefly at Ephesus but promising to return as soon as he could. He continued to re-visit the cities he passed through in his earlier over-land trip. On the outset of his third missionary journey, he then fulfilled his promise and arrives in Ephesus as a major stopping point during his third missionary journey. Here we see the Ephesian Agora. Perhaps the most spectacular ruins at Ephesus in the library of Celcis, the pagan philosopher; the library had several hundred thousand scrolls. The harbor now is further out as it has become increasingly silted up over the centuries. The theater at Ephesus is where the silver smiths rose up against Paul for destroyed their sales of statues. Paul wanted to address the people but was advised against it by his followers for fear of harm coming to him. Instead he was encouraged to leave town. So after revisiting the church in Greece, he travels across the Aegean Sea again wanted to meet the leaders of the Church in Ephesus at the near port city of Miletus. The ruins of this harbor are shown in one of the slides. The theater of Miletus is well preserved as shown. As Paul continued to Jerusalem, he stopped briefly at the harbor of Myra in Lycia in route to Judea.

Finally we come to what some calls Paul’s fourth missionary journey, but unlike the others, it was his captive journey as he was aboard the ship with other accused criminals as he had appealed to come before the emperor. During the ill-fated voyage, he was ship wrecked on the island of Malta over the winter. Eventually on the new ship with the ornamental statues represented the gods of seafaring, they made their way to the Sicily, Rhegium Puteoli and eventually to Rome. You can see the road and solid mile markers as one heads to Rome. The coliseum is shown here which was built later in the 70s just past the time of Paul and after the time of Nero. It is the most famous tourist site in Rome; indicative of the kind of building the Romans were capable of building. Symbolically, it is a reminder of the persecution of Christians to which Paul experienced under Nero. Inside one can see how similar it is to a modern stadium. The original floor has not been preserved so what you see is the underground enclosures where men and beast awaited to do battle.

Also, from the 70s one can see the arch of Titus, commemorating General Titus’s victory under the Emperor over the battle of Jerusalem. The relief within the Archway pictures Jewish prisoners of war chained together at the waist, a vivid depiction of what Paul in 2nd Corinthians. This referred to as the triumph of procession for the victors but humanly speaking, a disgrace for the captives and Paul in that picture saw metaphor for the Christian life. You can also see the Jewish prisoners of war carrying their sacred Torah scroll a second scroll near the front of the prisoners. In front there is the mynora, the seven branch candle stick. The shining white figure is the Roman ruler or soldier leading the procession.

A slide that shows the Roman forum, the outdoor market place and a large number of temples in a small place to all the gods and goddesses of Rome. There existed a temple of Saturn and ruins where the Roman Senate met under the Empire, at times only symbolic in their duties of legislation which the Emperor always had the right to veto. In the republican days, prior to Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC, the Senate had much more power and representation of the people as such. You can see the ruins of what’s left over of the ancient Roman race track where athletes competed included those in training for the Olympics held in Corinth. Nearby is the famous, Palestine hill and ruins of the Roman Palaces and facilities that created their summer time escape from the heat and bustle of the town. This is part of a higher elevation in Rome with a dried up swimming pool plus fountains at the Emperors palace. The last two slides show the Roman prison and dungeons.