The Greeks were visited by prophets

WiBiLex

In contrast to the present, “Greece” in the ancient world did not necessarily mean a uniform state structure, but rather the cultural area shaped by religion or philosophy, sport, education and language, which geographically alongside the Greek mainland as a continuation of the Balkan Peninsula also includes the islands of the Aegean Sea including Crete and Cyprus as well as the coastal region of Asia Minor included.

The inhabitants of this cultural area - the "Greeks" - were seen by non-Greeks less as members of a nation than as representatives of a specific culture and way of life.

The history of ancient Greece is not the history of a nation across epochs, but that of regionally limited sub-states and city-states - the poleis. Historically significant philosophers such as Plato or Socrates are not pan-Hellenic personalities in the narrower sense, but came from the Athens city-state, whose influence on the whole of Greece was limited geographically and temporally (5th / 4th century BC).

1.1. From the city-states to the hegemony of Athens

After the decline of the high civilization of the Minoans on Crete and the Mycenaeans on the Peloponnese begins around 1000 BC. The age of the city-states. Smaller cities (Poleis) such as Athens, Corinth, Argos or Thebes are developing into centers of a regionally oriented culture. The political and social conditions of this epoch form the background for Homer's struggle for Troy.

Fig. 1 Lion gate of the castle complex of Mycenae

The founding of numerous colonies on the coasts of Asia Minor, the Black Sea and also in southern Italy shaped the following period (8th - 6th centuries BC) and gave rise to the idea of ​​a great Greece (Magna Graecia). Domestically, approaches to democratic forms of government are developing in the city-states of motherland Greece, which - as in Athens - enable free citizens (not slaves and women) to participate in the political decisions of their community.

The invasion of Greece by the Persians forced the city-states to unite and strengthened the Greek national consciousness. In the battle of Marathon (490 BC) the Athenians won alone, ten years later an alliance of Spartans, Athenians and other city-states of Greece at Salamis. Strengthened by the triumph, Athens rose to sea power, but came into conflict with the Spartans due to its hegemonic policy. The Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) did not produce a victor, but broke the supremacy of Athens.

1.2. From the rise of Macedonia to Roman rule

In the north of Greece a new power grew up with the kingdom of the Macedonians. Philip II of Macedonia proposed in 338 BC. an alliance army of the Greeks and became the ruler over all of Greece. For the first time in history, Greece was politically united. His son → Alexander put the plan of a campaign against the Persian Empire into practice (victory at Issus in 333 BC).

Fig. 2 Alexander the Great

Alexander advanced as far as India and established an empire of unprecedented size. Although his reign only lasted a good ten years, it was of world historical importance and earned him the nickname “the great”. The age of → Hellenism began with Alexander. Greek culture and way of life, language, religion and philosophy spread over the entire eastern Mediterranean region to Afghanistan. Alexander's successors (Diadochi) promoted this development by founding new cities and by settling a Greek-speaking upper class. The Hellenization of the eastern Mediterranean area is so extensive that the Romans, who lived from the 2nd century BC, were also Chr. To penetrate gradually to the east and bring down the Hellenistic kingdoms, could not stop this process.

168 BC BC Greece comes under Roman rule. The → province Macedonia will be set up. The Greek heartland and the south (Boiotia, Attica, the Peloponnese and Epirus) form from 27 BC onwards. Its own province with the name Achaia.

Even if the political independence was lost with the appearance of the Romans, the culture of the Greeks lived on in the Roman Empire. Hellenistic literature and philosophy also increasingly shaped Roman civilization. Roman emperors such as → Nero (54–68 AD), → Claudius (41–54 AD) or → Hadrian (117–138 AD) were great friends of Greece and granted the country generous privileges.

Fig. 3 Emperor Nero (54-68 AD)

Numerous cities were enlarged and monumentally designed in state building programs. Until late antiquity, it was a matter of course for the Roman elite to send their sons to study in Athens. Of course, Greek was spoken, just as Greek in general remained the predominant language in the entire east of the Roman Empire. This is also borne out by the New Testament, whose scriptures were written entirely in Greek. Latin was only able to establish itself in the west of the empire. Through its incorporation into the → Roman Empire, Greece lost its political independence, but remained - especially in the eastern Mediterranean - the formative force in cultural, religious and linguistic terms.

2.1. In the diaspora

The cultural influence of Hellenism did not stop at → Judaism either. Although there seems to have been contacts with the Greek culture through the Phoenicians in Tire (cf. Eze 27:13, 19; Joel 4: 6), the acquaintance of the Jewish people with Greek civilization only began with Alexander and his successors tangible.

In particular, the → Diaspora Jews living in Egypt, Syria and Asia Minor enter into a fruitful dialogue with their Hellenistic environment and over time develop a “self-imprinted” (Eißler) Hellenistic Judaism. Its language is no longer Hebrew, but Greek. This is particularly evident from the LXX - a translation of the Old Testament into Greek, which has been used since the 3rd century BC. BC in Alexandria originated.

2.2. In Palestine

In the motherland itself, the development did not go so smoothly: Judea became 332 BC. Conquered by Alexander, since 302 BC. In BC Palestine belonged to the → Ptolemaic Empire, 100 years later it fell to the → Seleucids. → Antiochus IV. Epiphanes (175-164 BC) in particular pursued a radical policy of Hellenization. In 175 he installed a Greek-friendly high priest at the temple in Jerusalem and had the city redesigned so that the Greek way of life became possible: a gymnasium for sports and education (cf. 1Makk 1:14) was built, Greek temples and baths were built and that Jewish sanctuary was redesigned so that pagan sacrifices became possible - the abomination of desolation from the book of Daniel (cf. Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11).

Fig. 4 Antiochus IV. Epiphanes.

The situation escalated in 167 BC. In the order to sacrifice Zeus and the prohibition of circumcision, which met with fierce resistance from law-abiding and national-religious circles (cf. 1Makk 1.51ff). The openness of Greek world culture and the exclusivity of Jewish religion and tradition collided in the Maccabees revolt (cf. 1/2 Makk). In contrast to the concept of Hellenization (Hellenismos), the word "Judaismos" is encountered for the first time in the meaning of "Jewish observance of the law" (e.g. 2Makk 2.21; 8.1).

The military success of the insurrectionary movement led to political independence (establishment of the → Hasmonean kingship) and to religious restoration, but it was only able to halt the process of Hellenization - especially of the leading Jewish circles - for a time. Under the rule of the Romans (from 63 BC) it continues unabated: Even → Herod the Elder. Size as "King of the Jews" (Mt 2,2) is closer to the Greeks and their way of life than to their own people.

Fig. 5 Herod the Great.

2.3. At the time of Jesus

At the time of Jesus, the villages of Palestine were already surrounded by Hellenized cities in which Greek culture, religion and way of life were cultivated - especially in the Decapolis, in the coastal cities, in Tiberias and Samaria / Sebaste. How far Greek culture had penetrated into Palestine is shown above all by the naming: even among the disciples of Jesus there are genuinely Greek names (cf. Mk 3:18: "Andrew", "Philip"). According to Jn 19:20 this is titulus also written in Greek above the cross of Jesus.

To what extent Jesus himself was familiar with Greek culture, which he encountered now and then (cf. e.g. Mt 4,25; Mk 5,20; 7,26; 7,31; Joh 12,20f) is controversial. According to Mk 5:20 and 7:31, Jesus also stayed in the area of ​​the → Decapolis and won followers from this area (cf. Mt 4,25). Mk 7.26, Jesus meets a Syrophönzierin in the area of ​​Tire, who is referred to as “Greek” in order to make clear that she is not a Jew. When Jesus enters Jerusalem according to Jn 12: 20f, "some Greeks" - obviously godly (or → proselytes?) - ask the disciple → Philip to want to see Jesus.

The term "Greece" is a marginal phenomenon in the Bible. The Luther Bible records a total of only seven references, four of which refer to the Old Testament (Dan 8.21; 10.20; 11.2; Zech 9:13), two to the apocryphal Maccabees (1Makk 1,1; 6,2) and only one is accounted for in the New Testament (Acts 20: 2). The word “Jawan” used in the Hebrew Old Testament for “Greece”, which is also treated as a proper name in the Luther Bible and is therefore not always translated, can be found in seven other places (Gen 10.2.4; 1Chr 1.5.7; Isa 66:19; Eze 27:13, 19).

3.1. The AT

In the → Table of Nations, the term “Jawan” (Gen 10,2.4) is probably used as a designation for the Ionians - a Greek tribe on the coast of Asia Minor (similar to 1Chr 1.5.7).

Among the peoples who, according to Tritojesaja's prophecy, will come to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage to the end of time, there is also “Jawan” (Isa 66: 19f). Ezekiel mentions Jawan and the Rhodians in a prophecy about Tire as the city's trading partner (Ezek. 27: 13.15.19). Zechariah speaks of the eschatological struggle between the sons of Zion and the sons of Jawan before the appearance of the King of Peace (Zech 9:13), during the rise of the empire of the Greeks under Alexander the Elder. Size The subject of the visions in the Book of Daniel is (Dan 8:21: "King of Jawan"; 11,2: "Kingdom of Jawan"). The two documents for “Greece” in the first Book of Maccabees also refer to Alexander the Elder. Size (1Makk 1,1; 6,2).

3.2. The NT

Greece is an important location for the missionary activity of the apostle → Paul, especially for the second (cf. Acts 16-18), but also for parts of the third missionary journey (cf. Acts 20; 2Cor 2:13). Philippi, Thessaloniki, Beroea, Athens and Corinth are the sites of the Pauline mission in Greece.

Fig. 7: Map of the second and third mission trip (German Bible Society)

Since Greece in the 1st century AD in Macedonia (Capital Thessaloniki) and Achaia (Capital → Corinth), the New Testament uses the names of the Roman provinces (Achaia: Acts 18:12, 27; 19.21; Rom 15:26; 1 Cor. 16.15; 2Cor 1,1; 9.2; 11.10; 1Thess 1,7f; Macedonia: Acts 16.9ff; 18.5; 19.21ff; 20,1.3; Rom 15:26; 1 Cor 16.5; 2 Corinthians 1.16; 2.13; 7.5; 8.1; 9.2ff; 11.4; Phil 4.15; 1Thess 1,7f; 4.10; 1Ti 1.3). The only exception and direct evidence for the term “Greece” is Acts 20: 2: Paul traveled from → Ephesus via Macedonia to “Greece” (Hellás), which presumably refers to the province of Achaia (cf. also Acts 19:21).

According to the testimony of Acts and the letters, Paul set out for missionary work in Asia Minor and Greece after the apostolic convention in Jerusalem (48/49 AD) (cf. Acts 15; Gal 2). As "apostle of the Gentiles" (Rom 11:13) he pursued the plan to bring the → Gospel to Spain (cf. Rom 15:23). Before that, Asia Minor and Greece had to be won. In doing so, he focused on the planting of churches in the urban centers, which in turn brought the gospel to the surrounding territories. In a relatively short time, Christian communities emerged in the eastern part of the empire. In AD 55/56 the → Apostle can claim that the entire area between Jerusalem and Illyria came into contact with the preaching of the Gospel (cf. Rom 15:19).

According to the Acts of the Apostles, the mission in Greece begins with the crossing to Macedonia. Motivated by a vision (cf. Acts 16,9), Paul and his co-workers (→ Timotheus, → Silas) set out from Alexandria Troas in Mysia and traveled by ship via Samothrace to Neapolis in Macedonia (today Kavála). The small port town near Philippi was the first city in Greece (and Europe) that the apostle entered (cf. Acts 16:11).

Fig. 6 The Vision of Troas - Paulus Monument in Veria.

4.1. Philippi

On the Via Egnatia - the most important east-west connection between Byzantium and Rome - Paul reached → Philippi. The city belonged to the first district of the province Macedonia (cf. Acts 16:12) and was 42 BC. After the defeat of the Caesar murderers in the Battle of Philippi, it was appointed a Roman colony. It had the name Colonia Iulia Augusta Philippensis (42-30 BC Colonia Victoria Philippensis) and was home to a large number of retired legionaries and Italian settlers. According to the inscriptions, the degree of Romanization was high - the Latin language and tradition predominated. The long-established population (Macedonians and Thracians) spoke Greek.

According to Acts 16: 13ff, the Pauline mission began with the sermon in a Jewish place of prayer at the gates of the city. → Lydia - a purple trader from Thyatira in Asia Minor - was baptized with her “house”, which becomes the nucleus for the Christian community (cf. Acts 16:15).

The Acts of the Apostles know of conflicts with the city government (Acts 16:20), of a brief negotiation in the forum (Acts 16:19: "Agora") and of the subsequent imprisonment and hasty release of the missionaries (cf. Acts 16: 16-40 ). The story about the prison guard seems to be embellished with legendary elements.

Fig. 7 Philippi - Roman Forum.

As Paul's → Letter to the Philippians testifies (cf. Phil 1, 7f; 4, 15f), the relationship between the church planter and the “first fruits of Macedonia” remained exceptionally good even after his departure. Via Epaphroditus and Timothy Paul maintains contact with the congregation from a distance (cf. Phil 1,1; 2,19; 2,25; 4,18), which he visits again during the third missionary journey (cf. -3).

4.2. Thessaloniki ("Thessalonica")

Coming from Philippi (cf. 1Thess 2,2; Acts 17,1) Thessaloniki was the next station of the Pauline mission in Greece. Amphipolis and Apollonia are only known in the Acts of the Apostles as transit points on the Via Egnatia (cf. Acts 17: 1).

Today's metropolis on the Thermaic Gulf was founded in 316/15 BC. BC and was an important base for trade and navy in Macedonian times.

Fig. 8 Thessaloniki - promenade and "White Tower".

In Roman times (after 148 BC) Thessaloniki became the capital of the province Macedonia and developed into the largest city in Northern Greece. After 42 BC Chr. To civitas libera ("Free City") raised (cf. Inscriptiones Graecae X 2.1 No. 6), Thessaloniki retained the institutions of municipal self-government from Macedonian times such as the council, the people's assembly (demos) and politicians (cf. Acts 17: 6ff). A few testimonies of a literary and epigraphic nature suggest the existence of a Jewish synagogue to which the Pauline mission could connect (cf. Acts 17: 1b). According to Acts 17.2-5, the Pauline sermon was particularly successful among those who feared God and “most respected women”, but came into conflict with the Jews who had a negotiation before the city government (“Politarchen”; cf. Inscriptiones Graecae X 2.1 no . 126) obtain. The naming of a certain Jason, who accommodates the missionaries and vouches for them (cf. Acts 17: 5b-9), should go back to old Christian local tradition. Paul leaves the city at night in the direction of Beroea (cf. Acts 17:10), but continues to maintain contact with the congregation through his co-workers (cf. 1Thess 3,6; Acts 19:22). For a few months he wrote the First Letter to the Thessalonians in Corinth and visited the congregation again on the third mission trip (cf. Acts 20: 1-3). The Second Letter to the Thessalonians is mostly considered a pseudepigraph, but it is a testimony to the continued existence of the Christian community in the 1st century AD.

4.3. Beroia ("Beröa")

The old one, already in Thucydides (460-396 BC)BC) mentioned city of Beroia (today: Véria) was the seat of the Macedonian city council in Roman times (cf. coinage) and bore the honorary title "Metropolis".

The relative remoteness (Cicero: In Pisonem 89: oppidum devium) - away from the Via Egnatia without access to the sea - and the well-known tranquility after the incidents in Thessaloniki may have contributed to Paul and his companions choosing Beroia as their next destination (cf. Acts 17:10). As in Thessaloniki, the local synagogue provided the starting point for the Pauline mission. The preaching of the gospel is successful. Acts 20: 4a later mentions a member of the young congregation by name: Sopater from Beroia, who is counted among Paul's companions on the third missionary journey.

Fig. 9 Paul monument in Véria.

The quarrels reported in Acts 17: 13ff on the occasion of the mission's success (jealousy of the Jews) are literarily strongly reminiscent of the events in Thessaloniki. According to Acts 17:15, Paul leaves the city and travels - accompanied by members of the congregation - on to Athens. Silas and Timothy stay behind in Beroia and only meet with him later (cf. Acts 18,5, but also 1Thess 3,1!).

4.4. Athens

By the time of Paul, Athens had long since lost its independence and the political influence it had had after the Persian Wars. But the city remained the place where the tradition of philosophical education founded by Socrates and Plato lived on. The Mediterranean elite, including quite a few Romans, studied here. → According to his own statements, Horace received his decisive training under the trees of the Platonic Academy (Horace, epist. 2,43).

Philhellenism, which was already evident in the 2nd century BC. Through generous sponsorship of monumental buildings on the agora or at the foot of the acropolis (Olympieion, Attalos-Stoa, Eumenes-Stoa etc.), continued in Roman times. In particular, the reigns of the emperors → Trajan (98-117 AD) and → Hadrian (117-138 AD) contributed to the fact that the city was able to maintain its reputation as an educational and cultural metropolis until the end of antiquity. Officially honored with the title of one civitas libera et foederata the city kept its traditional institutions (council, people's assembly, Areopagus etc.).

Fig. 10 Athens - Agora and Acropolis.

Luke made Paul's visit to Athens with the famous → “Areopagus speech” a literary highlight of the second mission trip (cf. Acts 17, 16ff). The historicity of his information is controversial. The discussion of the apostle with the Epicureans and Stoics in the agora - the traditional place of Socratic conversation - could be a conscious literary connection to local color (cf. Acts 17: 16-18). Similarly, the appearance before the → Areopagus as the venerable body of Attic democracy. Paul's speech there (cf. Acts 17:21ff) is strongly stylized, although the existence of altars for "unknown gods" to which the speech is linked (cf. Acts 17:23), through the travel description of Pausanias (2 . Century AD) is documented (Descriptio Graeciae I 1.4).

The success of the missionary work in Athens is unclear. In addition to an unspecified number of men, the Acts of the Apostles names two people who join the apostle: Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, who is the first bishop of the city in Orthodox tradition, and a woman named Damaris (cf.Act 17, 34). In the letters of Paul and in the rest of the NT there is no reference to the existence of a Christian community. Paul traveled from Athens to Corinth (cf. Acts 18: 1; 1Thess 3: 1).

4.5. Corinth

The city on the Isthmos with its large ports (Lechaion and Kenchreai) was the most important and largest city in Greece. After flourishing in the archaic and classical periods (8th-4th centuries BC), the city-state came into conflict with the great powers from the 4th century onwards. After the destruction by the Romans (146 BC), Corinth was rebuilt as a Roman colony by Julius Caesar (44 BC). The Colonia Laus Iulia Corinthiensis was since 27 BC Capital of the newly founded province of Achaia and seat of the proconsul. In 51/52 AD Lucius Junius Gallio, a brother of the philosopher Seneca, held this office. According to Acts 18: 12-17, Paul had to answer to him during his stay in Corinth. According to evidence of the archaeological finds and the ancient sources (cf.Pausanias, Descriptio Graeciae II 1,1-5,5) the city developed in the 1st / 2nd centuries. Century AD to a pulsating and cosmopolitan trading center.

Fig. 11 Corinth - Lechaion Street and Forum in the background.

The beginnings of the Christian community go back to the Pauline mission. According to Acts 18: 2, Paul met Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth, a Jewish couple from Rome who, like the apostles, pursued the profession of tentmaker. In Corinth, too, the apostle seeks contact with the local → synagogue (cf.Philo, Legatio ad Gaium 281). In the house of Titius Iustus - a God-fearing man - the first community seems to have formed (cf. Acts 18: 7).

Corinth developed into the center of the Pauline mission in Greece. According to Acts 18:11, Paul spent at least a year and a half here. During this time he wrote the First Letter to the Thessalonians (cf. 1Thess 1,7f; 3,1.6).

The two letters to the Corinthians, which were written after the apostle's departure, give an insight into the everyday difficulties of a young Christian community in a pagan environment. At the same time, they reflect the varied and sometimes complicated relationship between the apostle and his "beloved children" (1 Cor. 4,14f), some of whom are known by name (e.g. Stephanas, Gaius, Crispus, Sosthenes, Phoibe in Kenchreai; cf. Acts 18.8.17; Rom 16.1ff; 1Cor 1.1; 1.14ff; 16.15ff). The “city treasurer” Erastus mentioned in Rom. 16:23 could be identical to the one mentioned in a floor slab in front of the theater.

Fig. 12 “Erastus inscription”.

Personal hostility, divisions and other internal church problems caused Paul in 55/56 AD. for further stays in Corinth (cf. Acts 20.3; 2Cor 10-13: “Interim visit”). From here the apostle also wrote the letter to the Romans (cf. Rom 15.22ff; 16.1ff; 16.21ff). The first letter of Clement, written around 95 AD, testifies to the continued existence of the Christian community.

Literature research Index Theologicus

Literature research Biblical Bibliography Lausanne

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  • Fig. 1 Lion gate of the castle complex of Mycenae

    Photo: Christoph vom Brocke

  • Fig. 2 Alexander the Great

    Photo: Christoph vom Brocke

  • Fig. 3 Emperor Nero (54-68 AD) Photo: Christoph vom Brocke
  • Fig. 4 Antiochus IV. Epiphanes. Photo: Christoph vom Brocke
  • Fig. 5 Herod the Great. Photo: Christoph vom Brocke
  • Fig. 6 The Vision of Troas - Paulus Monument in Veria. Photo: Christoph vom Brocke
  • Fig. 7 Philippi - Roman Forum. Photo: Christoph vom Brocke
  • Fig. 8 Thessaloniki - promenade and "White Tower". Photo: Christoph vom Brocke
  • Fig. 9 Paul monument in Véria. Photo: Christoph vom Brocke
  • Fig. 10 Athens - Agora and Acropolis. Photo: Christoph vom Brocke
  • Fig. 11 Corinth - Lechaion Street and Forum in the background. Photo: Christoph vom Brocke