Advent: Day 2

December 2, 2023 | You’ve Been Bought With A Price

In the Bible, we can read a letter that Paul wrote while he was in Corinth to his friends living in Rome. We know it as the book of Romans and in the closing paragraphs of his letter Paul sends greetings from three men in Corinth named Gaius, Erastus and Quartus to the Christians in Rome. Here is what Paul writes:

Gaius says hello to you. He is my host and also serves as host to the whole church. Erastus, the city treasurer, sends you his greetings, and so does our brother Quartus. Romans 16:23

The reason this sentence is important is because during the 1800’s this verse in scripture became contested when a group of German scholars known as the higher critics said it couldn’t be true. They believed that it would have been impossible for Paul to know the treasurer of Corinth, much less for this person to become a Christ follower. They believed Pauls followers were largely made up of the poor and slaves, and further during Paul’s day, the city treasurer was responsible for managing the public wealth, it was considered a very high office. Since most treasurers were honorable men, at the end of their term, they offen expressed their gratitude to the city by giving back a lasting monument of some kind- a fountain, a building, a road, a statue- as a token of their appreciation and a marker of their service. Another argument these scholars had was that Erastus was a very rare Greek name which doesn’t appear on any historical records of Corinthian treasurers, so they postulated it couldn’t be accurate.

That is until 1929 when archeologists were excavating a site in the theater in Corinth, and they unearthed pavement of the ancient city’s road. On the sidewalk next to the road they discovered an inscription from the person who had donated the road to the city. The transcription reads, “I, Erastus, the treasurer of the city, laid this pavement at my own expense as a sign of my gratitude to the city.”

Paul and the truth of the NT were vindicated.

Not only that, but during the time Erastus lived in Corinth, there was a large temple dedicated to the worship of Aphrodite that was in the center of the city. As part of the temple worship, women slaves who were property of the temple served as prostitutes. People would come and pay to have sex with the prostitute slaves as an act of worship of Aphrodite and the money that the temple slaves brought in supported the operations of the temple and made the temple very rich.

What was happening in Corinth at the time, was that people were hearing about Jesus and deciding to follow him, this included some of the women who were temple slaves. But they faced a problem. As Christ followers, they desperately wanted to leave the temple service and start a new life, but it couldn’t happen until someone redeemed them.  

What that required was for someone to go have a conversation with the high priestess, and offer to buy them, to negotiate a price which would have been quite high. A price that only a handful of people in the city could have paid at the time. The person with the means to buy these women’s freedom was likely Erastus, the city treasurer that Paul mentions in his letter to the Romans. There isn’t direct biblical evidence to prove this, but Greek historians consider it to be true. Additionally, in 1 Corinthians, Paul uses temple slave language to speak of Christ’s purchase of sinners with the price He paid with his death on the Cross. Paul writes,

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Christians in Corinth would have deeply understood this concept of being bought with a price by Jesus’ sacrifice, because the concept that you have been bought with a price carried a very practical, visceral meaning as they worshipped alongside women whose redemption had been bought with a literal price.

Daily Reading: 1 Corinthians 6

Source: Greece, A Biblical Tour of Historical Sites by Costas Tsevas (HIGHLY RECOMMEND)


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