50 A.D. BEROEA
Having been eventually chased out of Thessalonika (if we are to believe Acts at all) the company traveled to Beroea which is more inland and 57 miles to the southwest. Here Paul, Silas and Timothy had a brief respite from their antagonists, finding the Jews there more receptive. We are told many believed the message of the Christ preached by Paul and Silas.
Coin of Claudius. Macedonia koinon: probably minted at Thessalonika, copper, 20-21 mm. While in the province of Macedonia, in Beroea and elsewheres, Paul would have seen this copper coin featuring Claudius. The word koinon refers to a voluntary association (collegia in Latin) somewhat like the medieval “guild”, which promoted the economic interests of its members. These coins would have circulated widely within the koinon’s area of activity. Beroea was presumably a part of the confederation along with its nearby neighbor, Thessalonika. On the obverse is the usual image of the emperor, and on the reverse is the traditional emblem of Macedonia, the round shield.
But soon, as Acts tells us, the Jews of Thessalonika found them out at Beroea and began stirring up trouble. The author of Acts is unrelenting in blaming the Jews. However, for whatever reason, the implication is that this repeated antagonism must have been primarily due to Paul because it was decided by Silas and Timothy that he would leave and go to Athens whilst they would stay in Macedonia. Paul went to the coast from Beroea (probably to the port of Methone) and obtained passage on a ship bound for Athens.
Late 50 or early 51 A.D. ATHENS
Athens was, of course, dominated in every way by the image of the goddess Athena. The great temple of the Parthenon on the Acropolis is named in honor of her as the personification of a virgin goddess (parthenos meant virginal). The Pocket Guide relates that “when travellers approached Athens from the sea…their first glimpse of the city was the sunlight glinting on the tip of Athena’s spear “for she was in her guise as Athena Promachos, the female warrior”.
Yet, as famous as Athens was, as the ancient seat of Greek learning and democracy, its day had passed, and when Paul visited it lived more on its reputation than on its prevailing deeds. Paul met with an interested audience when he preached ‘the good news about Jesus and the resurrection’ (Acts 17:18) in the agora, for Athenians were famous for their curiosity about new things. But their attention was not kept long by any of them. No coins were minted during the years of Paul’s activities in Athens.
From late 50 or early 51 to 52 A.D. CORINTH
From Athens Paul moved on to the much greater city of Corinth. Corinth was what Athens wasn’t; it was the administrative center of the Roman province of Achaia and a busy commercial city as well, being situated advantageously at the isthmus linking the Peloponnesos to the rest of Greece. Destroyed in 146 B.C. because of an anti-Roman revolt, it was re-created in 44 B.C. by Julius Caesar as a colony, Colonia Laus Julia Corinthians (Colony of Corinth, the praise of Julius). As the provincial capital it issued large numbers of bronze coins with inscriptions in Latin not Greek.
Coin of Claudius. Achaia: Corinth, bronze, 15-16 mm. This coin was minted in 50-51 A.D. and would have been bright and new during the two years Paul was in Corinth. It features the radiate bust of Helios on the obverse, and Poseidon naked standing on the reverse. It also features the names of the two annual magistrates, called duoviri (‘two men’). On this coin they are Lucius Paconius Flamen and Gnaeus Publius Regulus. If Paul did not see this coin on this visit to Corinth, he would have had another opportunity when he visited the city again on his Third Missionary Journey in 56 A.D.
Paul spent the longest period of time during his second missionary trip in Corinth. This was undoubtedly due in large part to the friendship he found in the Jewish married couple of Aquila (‘Eagle‘) and Priscilla. This couple had recently left Rome because of the expulsion of the Jews by Claudius’ edicts (49 A.D.). They were tent-makers, as was Paul. The three of them joined forces in business in Corinth and Paul settled down to a semi-permanent life for the first time in years. More so than in any other place, at this point in time, Corinth was where Paul was able to establish a strong, living church. Later he devotes two whole letters to this congregation.
It was in Corinth that Silas and Timothy rejoined Paul. With his old companions now back and available for “the work”, and with the addition of Aquila and Priscilla, Paul had a “staff”, or rather, perhaps, he was a part of a staff. Regardless, not all was ‘sweetness and light’. Paul soon ran afoul of the usual groups; Jews on the one hand, who did not like the notion that belief in Jesus as Lord gave Gentiles as much right to be called “sons of Abraham” as they, and on the other hand the pagan Romans, who followed their emperor in believing the Jews to be trouble-makers, and especially those Jews who believed in “Chrestos” (as they mistakenly called the early Christians).
The result of Paul’s antagonizing was that he and his followers were brought before the local magistrate, Gallio. This audience before Gallio has allowed us to date Paul’s presence in Corinth quite exactly, because of an inscription left by Gallio dated to 52 A.D. Gallio did not choose to become involved in these squabbles between rival religious factions and let Paul and company go. The mob however beat up one of the group anyway, a man named Sosthenes. It seems improbable that the beatings were limited to just Sosthenes, since the leaders of this group were Paul and Silas.
Acts never tells us directly what happened with Silas after Corinth; he is never mentioned again. It is possible that Silas left Paul after this latest ruckus and returned to his home in Jerusalem; no doubt delivering a full report on Paul to James as well.
The Pocket Guide devotes a large section to the considerable number of coins that would have been in evidence in Corinth. Perhaps some of these can be obtained in future. Until then we are left with only the one coin discussed above (i.e. radiate bust of Helios).
Paul also left Corinth at this point in time. He proceeded to the eastern port of Corinth, Cenchreae.
52 A.D. CENCHREAE, EPHESUS, (JERUSALEM?), ANTIOCH
“Paul…sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had his hair cut, for he was under a vow. When they reached Ephesus, he left them there…When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch”. Acts 18:18b 19a, 22.
Quite a whirlwind this traveler! In fact, many scholars of Pauline chronology have found that they must sometimes take exception to Acts’ chronologies, such as they are. Acts simply does not allow enough time for Paul to do all that he is said to have done. Nonetheless, thus far we have relied upon Acts heavily in this essay, following the lead of the Pocket Guide to St. Paul. However, from this point forward we are going to experience some more serious difficulties with Acts.
There is no real problem with the voyage from Corinth to Ephesus via the port city of Cenchreae. We can believe that Paul dropped off Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus, not staying there any appreciable length of time. And it can be assumed that this was done so that they could prepare for Paul’s return to Ephesus later on in the following year.
However, the trip to Jerusalem really does not make sense. There was no reason for Paul to go there and in Acts nothing is made of it. It is much more likely that Paul went from Ephesus by ship to Syrian Antioch, which was his true base of operations.
Late 52 or early 53 A.D. ANTIOCH
Regardless, we must accept never knowing and move onwards, following Paul to Antioch. Once there he was informed of some serious problems with the congregations he had previously established in Galatia. At this time he could not afford to leave right away from Antioch. The church there needed some of his attention and time, and it is also possible that there were other churches in Syria and/or in Cilicia as well.
There were few new coins appearing in Antioch that had not already been seen, and that we have not already discussed. In passing though, we can point out that the large Claudian bronze with the SC on the reverse, minted in 47-48 A.D., would have been still quite common on the occasion of this visit, and if Paul had not seen it on his previous visit he certainly would have on this one. (We are presuming that it is now, or soon will be 53 A.D.).
THIRD MISSIONARY JOURNEY 53 to 57 A.D.
“After spending some time there [i.e. Antioch] he departed and went from place to place through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening the disciples…Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus”. Acts 18:23; 19:1b.
53 to 54 (55?) A.D. EPHESUS
Acts 19:10 tells us that Paul spent two years and some odd months in Ephesus. The Pocket Guide sets the stage for us. “Ephesus was an important city and seaport near the mouth of the Cayster River in Asia Minor. It was situated south of the river about 5 km. upstream from where it enters the Aegean Sea. It’s harbor was reached by a canal…the canal and harbour were kept deep enough for ocean-going vessels by dredging…Ephesus was an ancient city even in Paul’s time…In fact, it was, with Rome, Alexandria and Antioch, one of the four great cities of the Roman Empire”. Ephesus replaced Pergamum as the capital under Augustus. Ephesus was also notable for the great temple of Artemis which was one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Ancient World’. It is no wonder that Paul spent so much time and thereby devoted so much of his energies and efforts there.
There was certainly no dearth of coins minted at Ephesus. We are told by Pocket Guide that it had been “producing coins of electrum, gold, silver and bronze almost continuously since the seventh century B.C.”. Of the silver coins there were none finer than the large cistophori; and those which depicted Augustus were produced in enormous numbers and Paul would certainly have seen them . Unfortunately for us, and for use as examples in this essay, these silver coins are very, very expensive today easily fetching from $600 to $2,500! Neither Tiberius nor Caligula issued any cistophori. Claudius did and they would have been brand new in 53 A.D. And today, they also fetch very high prices.
Bronze coins were also issued during the emperorships of Tiberius and Claudius. These are discussed at some length in the Pocket Guide. They are not common in the trade, which is a bit odd considering the significance of Ephesus both in terms of the Empire as well as regarding the story of Paul’s residence there. I have been able to acquire two types, a bronze coin of which a case can be made that it was minted at Ephesus, or at least in Asia, and another which features the jugate busts of Claudius and Agrippina on the obverse and on the reverse a stag standing (the stag was an animal associated with Artemis).