Into the Heart of Paganism
On his first two journeys, Paul and his traveling companions—first Barnabas and then Silas—set fairly rigorous itineraries. They headed for the capital cities of districts or provinces, preached in the local synagogues, gathered those who responded—both Jews and Gentiles—into new church units, and then moved on. Their purpose was to remain only long enough to help a new church get established.
When Paul reached Corinth, however, he broke this pattern dramatically. Despite the sense of urgency he felt about the imminence of a judgment day, he decided to “take up residence” at Corinth (and later, as we shall see, at Ephesus). Why?
Is it simply that these were large, tradition-rich cities? Paul had passed through other cities impressive in size, such as Thessalonica, or rich in tradition, such as Troas. Athens had both impressive buildings and a rich classical heritage. Yet Paul did little more than pause there.
In fact, Corinth and Ephesus had special features that help explain Paul’s decision to abandon his frenetic travel schedule and establish residency.
The World at His Doorstep
Corinth’s strategic location was perhaps of prime importance. It was a hub city for travel between the eastern and western halves of the Roman Empire. The narrow isthmus separating the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf had been spanned as early as the sixth century B.C. by a stone-paved roadway (the diolkos), making it relatively easy to pull most ships across the low, three-mile land strip without even unloading them.
The diolkos saved some 200 miles of extra sea travel, and the sheltered waters of the Saronic and Corinthian Gulfs were far safer for sea-going ships than the treacherous winds around Cape Malea at the Peloponnese’s southeastern tip. ...