Caesarea Maritima

 

King Herod built a great city on the Mediterranean coast north of modern day Tel Aviv that was the center of Roman government as well as showplace of Greco-Roman culture. This city contained a chariot track, theatre, palaces, extensive port facilities, athletic arenas, and a newly discovered jail. 

 

Herod's Palace

 

The port was constructed with the first use of underwater cement

The newly discovered jail, where Paul may have been held.

An aqueduct brought water from the hills to the north.

The Bagby Kids posing for a photo 2018

The Arches held the slope needed to run the water.

With the water channel on the top. 2007

The amphitheater was the center of the cultural wars

Concerts and productions are held here often.

As well as to teach 

 

Randy with a Greek foot from an ancient statue explaining the culture wars

The lifestyle in Caesarea contrasted sharply with the Jewish communities where the Bible was the guide for morality and lifestyle. It was an attraction for many Jews who were drawn away from God thinking to the current cultural thinking. Hellenistic Jews adopted many of the morals and worldview of the Romans. For example, archeologists have discovered devices that provided a “reverse circumcision” for Jewish boys who competed in the athletic events at Caesarea and other Roman towns. The athletes in these competitions were nude, and a circumcised Jew was noticed immediately. 

The culture wars were fierce then as they are now. 

The draw of worldly culture with its associated morality is a battle that Christians have always faced. It is very real and present. Paul was aware that this was one of the issues that faced his brothers and sisters who were coming out of that culture into the Kingdom of God.

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.                      Romans 12:1-2                                                                                              

Conform: suschēmatízō;  to fashion. To fashion alike, conform to the same pattern outwardly.

 An expanded rendering might read, "Stop being molded by the external and fleeting fashions of this age, but undergo a deep inner change by the qualitative renewing of your mind." Such a transformation can be wrought only by the Holy Spirit

 

13 Therefore,  prepare your minds for action,  keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

 14 As  obedient children, do not  be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but  like the Holy One who called you,  be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”

17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; 18 knowing that you were not  redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.                                                        1 Peter 1:13-19

qadosh;  holy, i.e., pertaining to being unique and pure in the sense of superior moral qualities and possessing certain essential divine qualities in contrast with what is human (Lev 11:44)

“Live according to a  moral code that is different from the culture around you and comes from God Himself.”

 This is the battle and Caesarea was one of the principle battlegrounds during the time of Christ. The athletic competitions, the dramas in the theater, the chariot races in the hippodrome as well as the extravagance of the ruling class drew many from the Jewish culture who abandoned their traditional beliefs and became "Hellenized." They became Greco-Roman in mind and in their behavior.

Understanding Greek Culture affects our understanding of the Scriptures. Here is a good example. Paul wrote to a church in Greece:

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.    1 Corinthians 13:1                                                                                                                     

We have various understandings of this passage, but to Paul’s audience, who frequently went to the local amphitheater to see actors in plays, the message was perfectly clear.

The two key worlds in understanding the vision behind the verses are:

Sounding Brass:   χαλκὸς ἠχέω / chalkos echon  (sounding brass):  a metal drum that was used by Greek actors to simulate the voice of a god backstage.

Clanging Cymbal: κύμβαλον ἀλαλάζον / kymbalon alalazon (loud clanging cymbal): a piece of copper sheeting that was dropped to simulate the sound of thunder. 

In many Greek dramas, characters were interacting with the gods. The actors stood onstage while others in the “orchestra” area in front of the stage spoke the parts. When the actor spoke the part of a god, he usually leaned over into a large brass drum and spoke the god’s lines, giving it a deep “godlike” affect. At the same time, a stage hand would drop a copper sheet which would make a sound like thunder. This is still done in modern stage.

Notice the stage at the Caesarea Amphitheater

 Do you see the cutouts at the front of the stage?

 

This is where the brass drums were placed. The actors leaned into the brass drums and spoke the part of the god while those on stage held a god mask over their face.

 Now we can understand what Paul is trying to communicate to his Greek audience in a culturally relevant manner.

Paul says if I do all these things without love, I “simulate” being a Christian, just as those Hypocrites (Greek word for actors) “simulated” being gods.  His audience in Corinth understood the conventions of Greek Drama.  They receive very clearly a message that often gets muddled in our modern interpretations of this famous passage.

 

When the Christian Crusaders occupied the Holy Land in the 12th and 13th Century, they built a classic European style castle in Caesarea. It has a moat, drawbridge, arrow slits in the walls, and beautiful interior rooms.

This setting provides a place to discuss the culture wars, and how it manifests itself on our lives.

 

According to many pastors and counselors, “Speculations and Imaginations” are the one of the major problems among Christians. Many of us live our lives by fear. In addition, “Strongholds” develop when we construct a belief system apart from God. It’s important that we bring every thought inside the “sphere of God” in our life.  God says that when we do, our relationship with Him will grow.

Years ago, Dr Randall Smith taught us how a famous passage of Scripture relates to this concept. Randy at the time was reading Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars, and came to a section where Caesar described attacking a fortified city. He was also reading 2 Corinthians 10 and noticed a similarity: Here are Randy's thoughts.

In 2 Corinthians Chapter 10 there is a fabulous image of the battle to take a human heart and to conquer our own thoughts and beliefs. We have a very interesting Roman military document from the 2nd century that describes the four steps in which you take an ancient city. These mounted walled garrison cities have a glace or an angled wall at the base of the vertical wall.  This is about a 30 degree angled slope that prevents a battering ram of doing its job effectively by deflecting the force- it will glance off. The glace also prevents attackers from having a firm level ground to try to climb up and over the wall- usually this slope is slippery (from oil) and it makes ground attack more difficult.

 The only way to take a city like this was to bring in shielded men called sappers who would come in to the sewer pits, the drains at the base of the wall, and begin to take out a section of the wall from below.  Now the problem is that if you are a sapper and are good at your job, you only get to do this once, because the wall usually collapses on top of you.

When the wall collapses, the second team comes in.  They are called the casters.  They cast away the bodies of the sappers and of course the stones of the fallen section of the wall.  Allowing the third group- the infantry - to pour through the breach in the wall. They will begin to take each section of the city block by block in a sustained attacked.

Finally, just in time to take credit for the battle, you have the fourth element, the captains, who come in and put up two poles.  You will have a pole set up for the execution of everyone who will not get with the program – a gallows, and then you will have a flagpole to allow the captives to pledge their allegiance to the new regime.

Paul picks up on this illustration and uses it with the people of Corinth who are familiar with warfare, because they have been soldiers and naval officers. He says in 2 Cor 10:

‘For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,’

 We are the sappers at the bottom of the wall, pulling down these weighty things that have imprisoned us for so long. It seems that like the sappers, we will die in the process. In the human heart you won’t die doing this- you may feel like you are dying and there is this spiritual sense that you are dying to yourself, but your physical body will live.

‘casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God’,

Now we are like the casters, removing all the, plans, and strategies that exalt ourselves.

‘Bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,’

As the infantry moves in and takes control of each part of the city, we allow God to move into each room of our life.  And finally

‘and being ready to punish all disobedience. . . .’

 The captains bring in the gallows, and everything is placed in order.

 You have a great warfare analogy, for a simple conclusion. It is a big grandiose picture to produce one point, which is: How is the life of the believer lived?  One thought at a time.

Go into the base, and remove all the garbage, and thoughts of self-importance, and root out any thought or belief that does not line up with the Word of God.

 

There are beliefs that we all have as part of our “conscience” that don’t agree with God’s Word, or His nature or character.  Since childhood, lies have been formed in us regarding ourselves, others, and God.  We form beliefs from our own hurts, traumas, life experiences, things spoken to us or about us that are simply not true. 

When we come to Christ, He begins a process of renewal of our thinking.

Since you have heard all about him and have learned the truth that is in Jesus, throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception. Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes.                               Eph 4:21-23

We need to identify the “Ungodly Beliefs” in our lives. God wants us to continually line up our thinking with His thinking, knowing that His ways are higher than our ways.  We must put aside our thoughts, and adopt His. It is this continual inventory and cleansing that allows us to grow in our relationship with Him.  This allows for more flow of that “Living Water” in our lives. 

Our trips to Caesarea always bring out the reality of the spiritual warfare that goes on around us and we deal with it one thought at a time.

One thought at a time.

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