Corinth, once the ancient equivalent to places like New York City has been reduced to a farming community with a bit of tourism sprinkled in for history buffs and Christians like me who want to trace the steps of the Apostle Paul.
For those that don’t identify with Christianity, the Apostle Paul is the man that basically spread the faith throughout the west in Syria, Greece and Rome. He also penned two infamous letters to the church in Corinth that were made cannon for the Bible and have been taught and studied in churches for the past 2000 years. This was a must see place for us when we landed in Greece and we made sure to book a tour that would get us there.
“Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”1 Corinthians 1: 1-3
After spending our first night in Athens, my wife and I would be picked up for a tour that we booked through Michael (highly recommended) to see the ancient city of Corinth which was about an hour drive. Panos, our extremely gracious tour-guide, picked us up around 7 a.m. in his Mercedes and handed us a few waters. Now, before you think about how fancy we were, just realize that many cab drivers in Greece use Mercedes. I don’t really know why. But if I had to guess, I’d assume it’s because European cars aren’t as fancy to Europeans and are probably cheaper there. But, either way, we were riding around in luxury.
As we headed out of Athens, he explained many of the changes that had occurred in the city during recent years including a large influx of refugees from Asia and the middle east, and the issues brought on by the country’s plagued economy. He also warned us about places we needed to stay away from during our visit that were drug infested and loaded with scammers.
Once we got out of Athens, we rode on a long stretch of highway filled with mountains. We also saw a few refineries while approaching Corinth. Panos started to explain the rich history of the city and how it once acquired great wealth by acting as a gateway for ships, charging a tax for every one that passed through it. He also pointed out that the Apostle Paul made this same trip on foot which would have taken him roughly three days.
As we approached the city, Panos informed us that our first stop would be at the Corinth Canal which is a long waterway that was dug out over the span of two-thousand years. It was started under the reign of Roman Emperor Nero in the 1st Century A.D. and finished in the late 1800s. The canal replaced a stretch of land where sailors used to physically drag their ships across to the other side of the ocean. The water that filled these canals was a rich blue. We first viewed it from a really high-point and then ventured to a nearby bridge that dropped into the water periodically for ships to pass through. The bridge would sometimes be raised back up with fish on it. We wrapped up at the canal and started heading towards St. Paul’s church which is closer to the ancient ruins. The church was built sometime in the 1980s and dedicated to the Apostle. The outside yard contained a beautiful mural.
As we drove closer to the ruins, we received a clear view of the Corinth Acropolis where the castle that used to house the city’s royalty was located. We arrived at the ruins after a few minutes of driving from the church, paid a fee and entered into the grounds. This was my first time doing a tour of an ancient city so I couldn’t help but picture what was going on during those times. The fashion, conversations, commerce and daily activity of these people were all things that went through my mind while walking around the ruins.
The first structure in Ancient Corinth that stood out to us was the Temple of Apollo which was built from columns that were made from one solid piece of marble. Most other Greek columns that formed temples were made from stacked pieces, so this was a rare feat for the ancients. Another highlight of the ruins was BEMA, the place where the Apostle Paul was tried for preaching about Jesus. We also got to see the remains of a house that he stayed in while on missions in the city.
The ruins included an archeological museum which hosted much of the items that were found through digs at the site over the years. Tools, pots and graves of people who once lived in this city could all be viewed there. The museum started filling up with tourists, so we took that as our cue to leave.
We then drove up the hill to the castle that sat at the highest point in the city. During the drive up, Panos explained that it contained three gates to keep intruders out. We got out of the car and started walking up the road to the castle. Once we got inside, we noticed it was pretty bare. Also, the road up was extremely slippery and rocky so we made a slow trek up towards the three entrance gates. The walk felt like a hike. My wife and I gave up after getting through the third gate and headed back down towards the car. It was also almost 100 degrees out so we needed a water refill.
Panos then took us to the port where the Apostle Paul sailed off from after his work was done in the city. There’s actually a street named after him where he supposedly walked down to get to the port. The place is now a small beach where locals like to relax and swim. Tracing his steps was really humbling and put the Epistle to the Corinthians into perspective. The book is commonly used at weddings for its selfless take on love. And with that being said, I’ll end with the infamous passage.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13