Why discuss the Temple of Apollo in this blog?
Upon entering the city of Corinth, whether today or during Paul’s mission in the first century CE, the Temple of Apollo, made from Limestone, dominates the landscape. The temple cannot be missed and can be viewed from miles surrounding the polis. The Temple was constructed in the Greek era of 570CE and replaced an earlier construction from 7CE. This in itself is significant because of the vast number of earthquakes that Corinth had suffered, seeing most buildings, monuments, statues and even pavements utterly destroyed.
The reconstruction by the ancient Greeks and extremely cautious preservation of the Temple thereafter by the Romans and throughout the centuries including the Ottoman invasion of 1458 provokes us to curiosity. The clear reverence of the Temple can tell us many things. Firstly, of interest should include the possibility that inhabitants and invaders of the polis not only feared the mythical God Apollo for bringing ill health, but wished to keep him as an emblem of the city. When considering Apollo’s features this is even more interesting to readers of Paul’s Corinthian correspondence.
Apollo represented the desire to perfect the human body. He was presented as athletic and youthful in physique and greatly gifted in music and poetry. He was one of very few gods that the Roman’s decided to keep the same name the god had acquired by the Greeks. The people Corinthia and possibly beyond traveled to pray to Apollo at this Temple and offered pottery replicas of their body parts that suffered ailments. The readers of Paul’s letter (1 Cor 12) may well have this exact practice in their minds when Paul references body parts as being part of one body.
Another interesting association that should be considered is how Apollo was widely thought of as a purifier with the ability to cleanse those stained with the blood of their relatives. This association could be looked further into when reading Paul’s atonement theology (if we can even use the word theology with Paul’s writings!!)