Delphi’s Influence on the World of the New Testament -- By: Ernest B. McGinnis

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 20:1 (Winter 2007)
Article: Delphi’s Influence on the World of the New Testament
Author: Ernest B. McGinnis

Delphi’s Influence on the World of the New Testament1

Ernest B. McGinnis


The ancient Greek city of Delphi had a worldwide impact, as seen throughout the writings of the ancient historians and poets of the classical period. We find the influence of Delphi in the writings of the greats from Homer to Plato, and the power of the Delphic Oracle stretched from Asia to Rome and Egypt to Macedonia, with everything in between. In a sense, Delphi was the prototypical oracular city which was venerated by both the richest kings and the meekest farmers. Delphi penetrated the lives of those living in both the Greek and Roman Empires. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that this powerful influence is also seen in the writings of the New Testament authors, and probably played a key role in the life of one of Paul’s most problem-filled churches, Corinth.

The power of pagan religious thought was a formidable enemy for the early church. It had not only blinded men and women throughout the Roman Empire from what should have been clearly seen (Rom 1:20), but it also maintained such a powerful grasp on its former adherents that much of Paul’s follow-up ministry involved breaking the practice of syncretism in the church. For the Corinthians, a pagan worldview appears to have distorted their understanding of the very teachings of Paul, namely the use of spiritual sign gifts. This is no wonder, in light of the fact that this most influential religious city was only ca. 42 mi (68 km) northwest of Corinth, across the Corinthian Canal. The city of Delphi had a long and prosperous history, functioning first as the “naval of the earth,” the very seat of Gaia, mother earth and wife

Delphi’s three levels built upon Mt. Parnassos.

Pythian Stadium at Delphi where the Pythian games were held every four years in honor of Apollo.

of Pondus, then later as the main temple of Apollo. Throughout both reigns of these pagan deities, Delphi was known as the place to receive powerful oracles which guided the lives and dominions of men from kings to farmers.

However, the connection between Delphi and Corinth was much deeper than mere close proximity. Corinth boasted major temples to the very gods worshipped in Delphi. Local officials were known to rule between the two cities, for example Gallio. They shared the love of games, as both hosted athletic celebrations—the Isthmian games in Corinth and the...

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