A Theater And The Church -- By: Raymond L. Cox

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 04:1 (Winter 1975)
Article: A Theater And The Church
Author: Raymond L. Cox

A Theater And The Church

Raymond L. Cox

[Raymond L. Cox, a frequent contributor to BIBLE AND SPADE, is pastor of the Salem, Oregon Foursquare Church. He has traveled extensively in Bible lands and has written over 1650 articles on biblical and archaeological subjects. In addition, he is the author of four books.]

It is not easy to locate the exact sites where most biblical events unfolded. Of very few incidents can it be said, “This is exactly where it happened” — competing shrines vie as the locality of historic occurrences. There are, for example, two areas called “Calvary,” two empty tombs, several Gethsemanes, and three Shepherds’ Fields.

Of course, the cities sprawl over the same sites in most cases. Old Jerusalem’s layer cake of history offers strata which correspond with the times of David, Solomon, Jesus, and others. The Mount of Olives is definitely the Mount of Olives of Zechariah and the Gospels. The Sea of Galilee is the very lake on which Christ walked and where he stilled the storm. But where on that body of water those and other events occurred no one can say for sure.

There are other sites that have the scholars’ nod as being authentic. The shaft called Jacob’s well near Nablus in Samaria is certainly the place where Jesus ministered to the woman of Sychar, as reported in John 4. The grotto of the nativity beneath Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity is very likely the birthplace of Christ.

Of very few other sites, however, can it be said with assurance that they witnessed the incidents which tradition attaches to them. But present day Turkey boasts a structure which definitely was the place of an important biblical occurrence.

The Theater at Ephesus

This structure is the Hellenistic theater at Ephesus. I had the pleasure of visiting it in 1964 and again in 1973. When I first climbed to the top of the cavea (auditorium) and sat on the topmost bench, looking down upon the orchestra area in front of the stage building, I felt time-machined back to the period of the apostle Paul. It seemed as if momentarily the raucous crowd Acts 19 describes was thronging the theater, shouting at the top of their voices, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.” (Diana, as translated in the KJV, is the Roman name for the Greek goddess Artemis.)

Why did the mob choose the theater for their riotous assembly?

In ancient times theaters served not only for entertainment but also to host what the Greeks called the Ekklesia of the community, the General Assembly of the town. The New Te...

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