Beautiful Karamursel

Subtitle

 

Athens and Corinth

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 The Apostle Paul was a traveler and an adventurer. He grew up as a Jew, a Roman Citizen, in a culture that encouraged his study and travel; eventually he came under tutor of some of the best minds. When he converted to Christianity he moved his enthusiasm and loyalty to Jesus Christ.

Being stationed at Karamursel Common Defense Installation (KCDI) in Karamursel, Turkey, we were right in the hub of the early expansion of the Christian Church in Paul’s Day. This expansion was just a few years after Christ resurrection from the dead and his return to glory in Heaven.

Now let us begin our trip to Greece.

In Karamursel we were only a short distance away from Greece. Just the mention of the name comes recollections about Trojans, the Iliad and the Odyssey, Homer, the Spartans, Athens, Corient, Alexander the great, and of course The Apostle Paul. We now had the opportunity to visit there, just how would we get there. There were military flights often, but at the time we had to travel we chose to fly commercial. I can’t remember the details exactly, but there was some problem with the flights that day. The Turkish ticket agent at the counter graciously straightened out the problem and we would be flying Air France. The pilot came through the passenger compartment speaking a mixture of French and English.

One area that other cultures put us to shame is in linguistics. When traveling many people that we stopped to talk with could speak 2 sometimes 3 dialects. When they would ask us what our second language was, we would say sorrowfully we do not have one. Earlier this year we were talking with a German couple at an AMTRAK station who were bound for the musical festival in New Orleans. They spoke German, English, French, and a little Spanish. They asked the same question. Americans must seem dumb sometimes.

International airports are fun places to be. It is very interesting to observe people at airports, how much of a rush they are in, what language they are speaking, the cloths they are wearing, how much baggage they are dragging around, and their travel destination. Custom Agents are going through baggage and asking questions. These guys are intense; one of them asked me a few questions such as "What is your purpose in traveling today, what is your destination, what is it you plan to see?" After having most people repeat a few words they could make a close guess to where you origionally were from.

This plane we loaded from the rear. What fun it is to fly high looking down on a carpet of white clouds. As we began to descend into Greece we were peering out of the window looking to see if we could see any ancient temples on top of a mountain. Then we landed at the Athens airport. There were symbols of its past and culture everywhere. We were here at last. One thing that most Middle Eastern airports showed high visibility in was the number of airport police with Tommy Guns. Instant respect!

Leaving the airport we made our way to the older part of the city near the Acropolis and Agora (ancient market place). There were stores, plazas, hotels, and lots of outdoor cafes. One café in particular overlooked the acropolis. How fun it was to stroll around and looking in all the stores at different items to purchase. Usually in the evening at one of the squares would be a concert of some kind, with lots of young people talking and visiting. The atmosphere seemed to be electric, there is something about being in a strange land with icons around of the past.

"Athens was said to be originally founded by Cecrops, the first king of Athens. It was here that he found an easily defensible hill, close to the sea with fertile planes surronding it. It was here that he built the Acropolis (high city) on a formidable hill, easily defended and near the sea and two rivers. The first place any tourist heads in Athens is the Acropolis complex. This was the spiritual center of Ancient Athens. Near by to the Acropolis is the ancient Greek Agora, which was the commercial center of ancient Athens. Near by is the Roman Forum, which was the Roman version of an Agora. On the Side of the Acropolis/Parthenon complex is an ancient theater/temple complex which has some interesting ruins. The plaka is where most of the tourists stay and it is located on the North side of the Acropolis. On the Eastern Boundary of the ancient city of Athens is Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of the Olympian Zeus. The Likavitos is a second mountain found in the city of Athens. It has a beautiful church on the top and gives you excellent views on clear days."

The Ancient Agora with its shopping market.  Acropolis as shown from the Agora.

 "As Socrates had done five hundred years before on the same spot, Paul began conversations every day in the market place with those who met him.  The Agora was the public square and recognized as an intellectual exchange or "lounge of the learned."  Here Socrates had taught, here was the Academy of Plato, the Lyceum of Aristotle, the Porch of Zeno, the Garden of Epicurus."  As Paul raised and stirred interest in Christ he was invited to Mars Hill to elaborate.

Beth exiting a temple in the agora that was still complete.

From near Mars hill looking North towards the ancient Agora (shopping market).  The temple on the left is complete.

When a person visits the Acropolis, they go right by Mars Hill. Mars Hill is down below the Acropolis and one looks up and out to see the complex. You can just imagine Paul the Apostle waving his arm towards it as he gets into his discourse about Jesus Christ. There were temples everywhere. One imagines what it must have been like in times past with the huge columns and stones when they were intact, painted different colors, and stood tall and grand. One of the temples in the Agora was still complete; even though it was a hot day as you worked your way back into the temple the temperature cooled down considerably like air conditioning.

On top of Mars Hill looking up at the Acropolis

 Model of Acropolis

Beginning the assent up into the Acropolis
  

The Acropolis at Athens is the main icon in the City of Athens.  As one walks and strolls through the ruins of the ancient city on a hill one cannot stop thinking of the past.  Remembering things like looking at pictures in magazines and now realizing we are here!  None of us can imagine what dreams one day will be realized and will come to past.  Life can be tough and complicated.  But with persistance and will some wonderful opportunities unfold.  Suffering builds character, we don't like it, but it makes the joy of the good times all that much sweeter, and makes us empathize with those who are presently undergoing trials.  We learn to love people as 1 Cor 13:4-6 mentions, but still will confront inappropiate or wrong behavior by them.  When confronted we are sharpened into better people.  We do not like it when people stop and take the time to rebuke us, but the benifits are far reaching in the future.  Think of the struggles, war, and trials of all the people of the past who paraded through this city.  Most of all think of the ways each influenced the lives of others as they busily buzzed here and there. The experiences of life are so much more special as they are shared with others.  Now back to history.

The three big minds of Greece were Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Phillip of Macedonia hired Aristotle to tutor his son Alexander for a period of 7 years. Then Alexander rode off into history to conquer the world, bring Greek reasoning, culture, and their common language to all the lands that he touched. Alexander was shown the Jewish prophecies that the book of Daniel mentions at one point in his travels, one wonders what he thought. It is said that Alexander cried when there were no more cities to conquer. He was fulfilling his destiny in preparing a worldwide common communication for the coming of the divine savior of the world 300 years in the future. The Greeks were masters at carving stone and statures. Everywhere you look in museums and temples one could seen the demonstration of their skill. At night there would be a light show on the Acropolis. One show that we attended after dark was narrated in English and different parts of the Acropolis would be lit up as they explained some fact of knowledge. It lasted about an hour and was very interesting. Some time exposure pictures at night were taken but so far they haven't been located.  Here is one by a National Geographic Photographer, these guys are good!

Mars Hill

 The very icon that identifies Greece( the Acropolis) is right next to Mars Hill. An ancient Proverb claimed that there were more gods in Athens than men. One travel commentary states "The Areopagus (Mars Hill) is the bald marble hill across from the entrance to the Acropolis. Its marble steps are so slippery that it is never an easy climb, and is positively treacherous in the rain. Wear appropriate shoes!" Here the Apostle Paul made his eloquent speech for Jesus Christ.

 

Looking from the Acropolis down on Mars Hill where Paul proclaimed Christ. 

This is found in Acts chapter 17. 

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.

17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.

18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, "What is this babbler trying to say?" Others remarked, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods." They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?

20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean."

21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.

23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

24 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.

25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.

26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.

27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

28 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

29 "Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone--an image made by man's design and skill.

30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."

32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, "We want to hear you again on this subject."

33 At that, Paul left the Council.

34 A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

18:1 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

 On to Corinth

Athens was the hub for our travels in Greece.  We would spend the nights in the Hotel shown in the pictures above and venture out to other locations by bus.  Bus trips were always fun!  One of the bus trips in Greece included a driver and a tourist guide who were obviously involved romantically.  They were almost as fun to watch as the sites along the way. 

Beth on way to the Bus

The scenery in Greece was unique.  In each country the mountains were always different.  The scenery was just as beautiful and it was unique.  With a little creative imagination you can almost see in the minds eye the different soldiers from the past marching round and through the area.

I do not know what the elevation of this area is, but I would imagine it is beautiful in the winter with snow all around.

This was a beautiful backdrop to the ancient temples that were scattered around.

We were always hoping the bus driver was paying attention to his driving, because if he made a mistale on the side of a mountain there would be a price to pay.  The winding roads seemed to make 10 miles into 30 sometimes.  In one of the towns the souvenir shop had many sheep and goat items to purchase.  Coats, rugs, it is amazing how many items could be assembled to use these products.

A beautiful church with with a picture of Jesus Christ inside.

One very interesting place that we stopped at was the Corinth Canal.  This canal had been dreamed of for 2000 years but was not completed until 1893.  In ancient times the ancients came up with a plan that was workable but required much less work.  They paved a road with limestone reaching 4 miles from one sea to the other, then they built a wheeled vehicle upon which all but the largest ships could be placed. They moved them along the limestone road thus saving 200 nautical miles and several days of additional travel time.  Ships were dragged across the isthmus on rollers up until the 12th century.  Traces of the old path are still evident today.

The modern city of Corinth with a beautiful Greek Orthodox Church.

The Ancient City of Corinth

Beth looking out towards the Acrocorinth. This was a steep limestone mountain which protected the southern side of the old city.  In ancient times it was an important natural fortress against invaders.

The Isthmian Athletic Games were held here beginning in 582 BC. Phillip of Macedon conquered Corinth in 338 BC, then after his assassination his son Alexander the Great came here to confirm his authority as ruler of Greece.  In the Isthmaian Athlectic Games of 336 BC the Greeks chose Alexander to lead them in the war against the Persians.  In 67 AD Nero with a golden shovel began the work of digging the canal but it was not completed until modern times.

Beth in Corinth

After leaving the city of Athens this was the city that Paul came into around 50 AD.  What a city it was!  Very rich, because of its location on the isthmus with its participation in all the trade movement.  But also it was full of unscrupulous vices.  "In the known ancient world the Corinthians were the butt of dirty jokes, and in theather plays they were portrayed as drunken brawlers.  The Greek verb "to Corinthianize" ment to live shamelessly and imorally."  When the Bible talks of Paul entering this city "in fear and trembling", knowing its reputation shows why.  Paul knew of the challenges he would face and he spent 18 months here.  In fact the church here would be the source for many instructional situations that would guide future churches later.  Paul in 56 AD discusses these in his first letter written to the Corinthians written from The city of Ephesus.  In  57 AD Pauls second letter to the Corinthians talks about the trials, suffering, and pain the church there indured.  He also talked in lenght of the comfort, growth, joy, persitance, and future glory of the heavenly kingdom for believers.

Paul begins to build with some very important statements on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

(1)The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

(2)Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block to Jews and foolishnes to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and wisdom of God.

(3)God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of th world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things, - and the things that are not- to nullify the thing that are, so that no one may boast before him.  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

(4)No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him - but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

(5)The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

(6)Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, 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 trust, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never Fails!

In Corinthians chapter one we read the message of the Cross is the Power of God.  I used to wonder about this when I was younger, but now since I am older the answer is obvious.  My dear mother instilled in her children a healthty respect and fear of God, but the love and appreciation would follow later.  At the cross we are offered unconditional love, mercy, forgiveness, grace, redemption, adolption, acceptance, and eternal life.   This is exactly what is needed for us to cast off the burdon of guilt and condemnation heeped on us by our sins.  Then we can boldly have an intimate relationship with a righteous, just, and holy God.  Through the cross we receive his mercy rather than his wrath.  The love and appreciation for what Christ accomplished for us as he suffered on the cross come as we began to understand truth.  Chruches that do not stay close to the Cross of Christ have no power to serve a Holy God.

The Corinthian Church is the perfect model for instruction of the Church today.  We would be wise to heed it!

Now we follow Saint Paul on to Rome

 

 

(1) 1st Corinthians 1:18

(2) 1st Corinthians 1:22-24

(3) 1st Corinthians 1: 27-30

(4) 1st Corinthians 2:9

(5) 1st Corinthians 2:14

(6) 1st Corinthians 13:4-6

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