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Corinth

Corinth (See also wiki article Ancient_Corinth.)
CORINTH was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia, and, in every respect except educationally (see ATHENS), the most important city in Greece in Roman times. It was also a most important station on the sea route between E. and W., the next station to it on the E. being Ephesus, with which it was in close and continual connexion. Its situation made it an important centre of Christianity. The city occupied a powerful position at the S. extremity of the narrow four-mile isthmus which connected the mainland of Greece with the Peloponnese. Its citadel rises 1800 feet above sea-level, and it was in addition defended by its high walls, which not only surrounded the city but also reached to the harbour Lechaeum, on the W. (1½ miles away). The other harbour, Cenchreae, on the E., on the Saronic Gulf, was about 8½ miles away. The view from the citadel is splendid. The poverty of the stony soil and the neighbourhood of two quiet seas made the Corinthians a maritime people. It was customary to haul ships across from the one sea to the other on a made track called the Diolkos. This method at once saved time and avoided the dangers of the voyage round Cape Malea (S. of the Peloponnese). Large ships could not, of course, be conveyed in this way, and in their case the goods must have been conveyed across and transhipped at the other harbour. In AD 67, under Nero, a canal was begun across the isthmus, but the project was abandoned. In 1893 a modern ship canal was opened, which saves 200 miles on the voyage from Italy to Piraeus. The place was always crowded with traders and other travellers, and we find Paul speaking of Gaius of Corinth as 'my host and of the whole Church' (Ro.16.23). The moral conditions at Corinth, in ancient times, were notorious. It was virtually a seaport, a meeting place of all nationalities, and its devotion to Aphrodite encouraged prostitution. But it had many other shrines in addition to the famous temple of Aphrodite which crowned the height of Acro-Corinthus; there were temples to Isis and Sarapis, Helios, the Great Mother, the Fates, Demeter and Kore. Within the city was at least one Jewish synagogue, a fragment of whose inscribed lintel still bears the letters AGOGEEBR, obviously part of the title, 'Synagogue of the Hebrews.'

The Corinth of St. Paul was a new city. The old Corinth had been destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, but exactly a hundred years afterwards it was refounded by Julius Caesar as a colonia, under the name Laus Julia Corinthus. A number of Roman names in the NT are found in connexion with Corinth: Crispus, Titius Justus (Ac.18.7f), Lucius, Tertius, Gaius, Quartus (Ro.16.21-23), Fortunatus (1Co.16.17). The population would consist of (1) descendants of the Roman colonists of 46 BC, the local aristocracy; (2) resident Romans, government officials, and business men; (3) a large Greek population; (4) other resident strangers, of whom Jews would form a large number (their synagogue Ac.18.4). Of these some joined Paul (Ac.18.4-8, Ro.16.21, 1Co.9.20), and the consequent hatred against him led to a plot against his life. The church, however, consisted chiefly of non-Jews (see 1Co.12.2).

Paul did not at first intend to make Corinth a centre of work (Ac.18.1), but a special revelation altered his plans (Ac.18.9f), and he remained there at least eighteen months. The opposition he met in the Jewish synagogue made him turn to the Gentiles. Paul left the baptism of his converts almost entirely to his subordinates, and himself baptized only Stephanas (1Co.16.15), Gaius (Ro.16.23), and Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue (1Co.l.14-16). Some weeks after his arrival in Corinth, Paul was joined by Silas and Timothy, returning from Macedonia. News brought by Timothy caused him to write there the First Epistle to the Thessalonians (1Th.3.6), and the Second was probably written there also, soon after the receipt of an answer to the First. While Paul was in Corinth, Gallio (q.v.) came there as proconsul of the second grade to govern Achaia, probably in the summer of the year AD 52. The Jews brought an action before him against Paul, but Gallic, rightly recognizing that his court could take no cognizance of a charge of the sort they brought, dismissed the action. Paul's preaching was thus declared to be in no way an offence against Roman law, and in future he may have relied more on his relation to the State, as he faced the growing enmity of the Jews. After the examination, Gallic permitted the populace to show their hatred to the Jews (Ac.18.17). It was in Corinth that Paul became acquainted with Prisca and Aquila (Ac.18.2, 3, 18, 26), and he lived in their house during all his stay. They worked at the same industry as himself, as leather workers or 'tent-makers,' and no doubt influenced his plans for later work. They also left for Ephesus with him.

Christianity grew fast in Corinth, but the inevitable dissensions occurred. Apollos had crossed from Ephesus to Corinth (Ac.18.27, 2Co.3.1) and done valuable work there (Ac.18.27f, 1Co.1.12). He unconsciously helped to bring about this dissension, as did also Cephas, if he visited Corinth. The subject of these dissensions is, however, more appropriately dealt with under the following two articles. The Apostle wrote at least three, perhaps four, letters to the church; first, which is lost (1Co.5.9); the second, which we call First Corinthians, and which was probably carried by Titus (Timothy also visited Corinth at the instance of Paul, 1Co.4.17); the third, our Second Corinthians, which was taken by Titus and Luke (2Co.8.16-18, 12.18). Some scholars view 2Co.10-13 as part of the 'stern' or 'painful' letter which preceded 2Co.1-9. Paul spent three months in Greece, chiefly no doubt at Corinth, in the winter of AD 56-57. Whether the Corinthians actually contributed or not to Paul's collection for the poor Christians at Jerusalem must remain uncertain though most probable. [Article: Dictionary of the Bible, J.Hastings, 2nd Ed., T&T.Clark, 1963 - A. So.—F. C. G.]