Famous cities in the Bible
Corinth is one of the most famous cities in the Bible because of its significant role in Apostle Paul’s missionary activities. Indeed, Paul traveled to Corinth on at least three occasions and wrote four letters to the believers there. Notably, Corinth was located at a strategic trading area on the southwest of Isthmia. Furthermore, Lechaeum and Cenchreae ports were close to the town which allowed trading ships to access the city. Recently, Archeologists under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens have been performing archeological excavations to prove the existence of Corinth in the Bible. Similarly, various scholars have written about the ancient city of Corinth. For instance, Ben Witherington III has written the book A Week in the Life of Corinth that focuses on several characters such as Paul, Aquilla and Priscilla, and Erastos. Witherington’s book educates a reader about Paul’s friendship with Priscilla and her husband Aquilla, Nicanor’s life and the gladiator games at Isthmia, and various activities that took place at Erastus’s home.
The Relationship of Paul, Priscilla, and His Husband Aquilla
Witherington describes the appearance of Paul and his friendship with Aquilla and Priscilla in Corinth. The author relies on an ancient second-century Syriac text that described Paul as an individual who had scanty hair, crooked legs, and projected knees. The text further implies that Paul had a long nose, large eyes, and was full of grace and mercy. Witherington also describes the lifestyle of Priscilla and her husband Aquilla. The two were Jews who had become followers of Jesus Christ while living in Rome and later moved to Corinth. Aquilla and Priscilla met with Paul when he was looking for individuals who participated in leather-working guild activities. Notably, Emperor Claudius had expelled Aquilla and Priscilla alongside other Jewish followers of Jesus from Rome in A.D 49. The Emperor’s reason for expelling them was to quell the controversy that was occurring in the Jewish synagogues between those who followed Christ and those who held on the Mosaic Law. Nevertheless, Paul stayed with Priscilla and her husband Aquilla for two years and helped them in their business.
Witherington also documents the origins of Priscilla and her conversion into a follower of Christ. According to the author, it was common for Paul to report at the workplace in the morning where Priscilla would later join him in the third hour of the morning. At one instance, Priscilla came to the shop dressed in a dark-blue toga with the top of the garment that made her look like the patrician woman. Witherington asserts that Priscilla had indeed had been a part of the Priscilla gens back in Rome but had developed an interest in Eastern religions just like few other noble Roman ladies. Priscilla first became interested in Judaism which to a large extent helped her to learn about and follow the Jewish Messiah, Jesus. According to Witherington, following the Jewish Messiah was dangerous as most Romans viewed the followers as a peculiar sect and thus orchestrated persecutions, prosecutions, and executions on them. On the contrary, Priscilla met her future husband Aquilla at a synagogue in Rome. Witherington notes that Aquilla hailed from the Asian Minor region and was fond of traveling to suit the demand of his tent-making business.
Witherington also teaches the audience that Paul and Priscilla had a mutual ideology on the need to balance ministry and tent business. At the business, Priscilla would always salute Paul with the words “grace and peace, Paulos” and he would respond “and peace unto you Priscilla.” Furthermore, both Paul and Priscilla would have a discussion about the ministry and following Jesus Christ. For instance, Witherington documents an instance here Paul tells Priscilla that he was afraid they would be so occupied in the tent business during the spring which would limit their time of spreading the gospel of Christ. Priscilla replies that it is one of the prices that someone pays after avoiding patronage. Paul agrees to Priscilla’s comment and further adds that he had angered some of his friends such as Erastos for turning down their patronage.
Witherington also exposes both Paul and Priscilla as close confidants as they confessed about their lives to one another. When Priscilla tells Paul that he had to prepare to face Proconsul Gallio, Paul confesses that he hoped he would not play the trump card of Roman citizenship again after doing it in Philippi. Paul then asks Priscilla about her perception of Aquilla’s business trip. Priscilla opens up to Paul and tells him that Aquilla had planned to use a boat to get to Thessalonike. Furthermore, Priscilla does not hide her fears about Aquilla traveling by a boat from Paul. She says that she could hardly imagine her husband in one of those small coastal ships tossed by winter waves and peril of running waters. For this reason, Priscilla successfully convinced Aquilla to travel back to Corinth through the land even if it took much time. Paul on his part laments that his efforts to make peace with the synagogue rulers had occupied his mind such that he forgot to send Aquilla with a letter to brothers and sisters at Thesalonike.
Nicanor the Games at Isthmia
Enlightening the audience about Corinth
Witherington uses the character Nicanor to enlighten the audience about Corinth and especially about the activities in Isthmia. Nicanor owned a taberna in Isthmia that helped him to earn a living. Nicanor made more money during the summer games as more customers would flood the small eating and drinking establishment. Nicanor also owned a construction company that had a task of repairing the aqueduct at Corinth. Furthermore, Nicanor served as a business agent to Erastos who the Bible mentions on some occasions. Indeed, the summer games had made Corinth and the surrounding villages to draw away customers from Athens. Witherington implies that shrewd businessmen like Nicanor were the cause of this business boom. Overall, the author’s analysis of the character Nicanor reveals details about the contests at Isthmia that proved beneficial to businesses in Corinth. Undoubtedly, the Greeks are famous for participating in a variety of bi-annual and quadrennial sports. However, the growth of the Roman Empire led to the introduction of blood sports that involved mortal combat between men. Witherington indicates that the games reached their peak during the first and second century and lasted not only during the social and economic decline of the Roman Empire but also after the official establishment of Christianity in the 4 A.D. However, the new Christian emperors only managed to manage these games until the late fifth century A.D.
Witherington observes that most of the individuals who took part in the bloody mortal combat were slaves who had undergone training under severe conditions. Indeed, there was a mutual feeling among the patrician Romans that slaves were not supposed to mix with the elite folk. However, this ideology did not prevent some patrician Romans from choosing these heroes of the arena as their bodyguards and security men of major estates throughout the empire. Furthermore, Romans started using these games to prove to their enemies that they were tough and fierce fighters (26). Notably, the fighters commonly known as gladiators had little dressing on them as possible to preserve agility. They would often carry a helmet, sword, round shield, harpoon, loin cloth, and a large oblong shield among others. From Witherington’s book, a reader learns that equities, bestiarii, retiarii, sagittarri, and radiarri were the most popular types of gladiators in the games at Ishtmia. Furthermore, the games would involve a contest between the gladiators and wild beasts in the arena as Paul indicates in 1 Corinthians 15:32. For this reason, the Romans would trade slaves at Corinth with the intention of training them as gladiators. On the contrary, some poor Romans would try to join the training since the schools would offer basic amenities such as food, shelter, and also give them access to armor and weapons. Furthermore, some elite owners would allow their gladiators to keep the money and prizes irrespective of their social origin. For instance, Emperor Tiberius once gave some retired gladiators 100,000 sesterces to go back to the entertainment arena. Mark Anthony is also famous for elevating one of his gladiators to be his personal bodyguard. Overall, the Bible does not comprise a detailed explanation of the games at Corinth, and thus Witherington’s book helps a reader to have a deeper understanding of them.
Erastos and His Home
The Bible mentions Erastus in the book of Acts, Romans, and 2nd Timothy. The King James Version indicates that Erastus was a chamberlain which refers to a manager of a household or household affairs. However, the Bible does not give more details about Erastus and his work. On the contrary, Witherington has documented the home of Erastus in his book A Week in the Life of Corinth that offers crucial lessons to the readers. First, Witherington demonstrates that Erastus’s home was full of activities and was open to guests of all calibers. Slaves in the house of Erastus would wake up before the sun broke the horizon and do numerous tasks such as preparing food and feeding animals. Interestingly, Erastus required slaves to use human urine to wash and bleach clothes. Second, Erastus would wake up very early in the morning and join his scribe Territus in preparation for facing the day and its challenges. He would especially assign various tasks that required several days to accomplish. As a result, his villa was always characterized by long queues of clients, slaves, and business partners. Erastus would sit down in the tablinum and prepare himself to deal with the long line of people waiting at the door of the villa. Third, Erastus had recently ditched the Lares that his parents and grandparents had venerated in their morning worship and became a follower of Christ. Hence, he would use the sacred spot to ask the one God to protect and guide him throughout his daily activities. Witherington idealizes that Erastus must have found it easier to worship one God who was capable of blessing and correcting, and who he would consult about critical life matters. It is important to note that Erastus had already believed the non-superiority of other existing gods in the universe even before Paul preached Christ, the crucified one, at the synagogue. Finally, Witherington documents details about Erastus’s beautiful wife Camilla. Just like her husband, Camilla was an early riser who would prepare the domestic servants for the various activities during the day. As a result, Erastus was able to join Tertius and prepare to serve the masses of people outside his villa. Erastus used a specific sequence to serve the people waiting for him outside. He would instruct his doorman, Tyche, to first let the clients in followed by freedmen, and later the slaves who labored at the estate. Erastus proved that he was a generous man as he would instruct Tyche to provide the slaves with lunch baskets that comprised nuts, bread, wine, and figs alongside the work list for the day. In other words, Erastus was committed to feeding his servants better compared to other elites in and around Corinth.
Apostle Paul documents the City of Corinth as one of the important centers for his missions in the Bible. Recently, various archeologists have started excavations at the place where the city existed to prove some of its realities in the Bible. Similarly, some scholars have written books that offer a deeper explanation of the activities that characterized Corinth and the surrounding towns. For Instance, Ben Witherington III has written A Week in the Life of Corinth book that analyzes the life of Biblical characters such as Paul, Priscilla, and Erastus. Precisely, the book offers some lessons to the reader such as the friendship of Paul, Priscilla, and her husband, Aquilla. Furthermore, Witherington discusses the life of Nicanor and the famous gladiator games at Isthmia. Finally, Witherington offers a deeper insight of Erastus’s life and the various activities at his home
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