Thessalonica Essay, Research Paper
In the day of Paul, Thessalonica was the chief city of Macedonia and the seat of the-99 Roman administration in the century before Christ. It was the largest and most populous city in Macedonia with a population of 200,000 people (Exell vi). The city is strategically located on the Thermaic Gulf and has mountains surrounding the city from the east and west. Also the famous highway, called the Egnation Way, ran directly through the city and linked the capital with all the important cities of Macedonia. Because of Thessalonica’s location, it was a valuable center for the spread of the Gospel.
According to Strabo, a famous Greek geographer, Thessalonica was founded in 315 BC by the Macedonian general Cassander, who named it after his wife, the daughter of Phillip and stepsister of Alexander the Great (Ellwell 2056). It was settled by refugees from a large number of towns in the same region that had been destroyed by war. When Macedonia was divided into four districts (167 BC), Thessalonica was made the capital of the second division. Because of its natural advantages as a harbor, Thessalonica was a naval base, and a home for and very important commercial port. Thessalonica would be a very diverse city because of its easy access to the outside world. Paul took advantage of that opportunity, and used it to preach to Jews and Gentiles alike (Pfeiffer 457). Paul would come into contact with people from many different nations and ethnic backgrounds. With this opportunity sharing the word with others is why God sent him there.
When Macedonia was divided, it became under the rule of the Roman Empire. Under the Romans the city was given considerable independent power, and the citizens governed themselves by politarchs. It was a free city with its own Macedonian democratic constitution (Mills 910). With this much freedom and population this cosmopolitanism must have appealed to Paul. Paul founded the church in Thessalonica with a mixed group of Jews and Gentiles. Since he also went to other major cities in the area to evangelize, it seems like he used the population factor to hand out the Gospel. Thessalonica was the first place where Paul’s preaching achieved a numerous and socially prominent following (Douglas 1195).
The Egnation Way stretched through Thessalonica and went east to west. It was the main highway for all travel in Macedonia. The Vardar gate and the Arch of Galerius marked the eastern and western borders of the city. The Vardar Gate was erected by the people in honor of Octavian and Antony in memory of the battle at Phillipi. The gate was constructed of large blocks of marble and had inscriptions on it which mention the politarchs. In 1876 this arch was removed to make room for modern construction. The Arch of Galerius, which still stands at the east end of the street, was built around 305 AD and has no relation with the New Testament period. Most monuments left in the city with inscriptions and signs telling about Thessalonica’s political history was destroyed in a fire that swept the city in 1917.
Thessalonica had much to offer to the growth and spread of Christianity. Its location, politics, and wealth boosted its influence throughout the region of Macedonia. Paul knew that this city was a great place of gathering of all types of people, so he used that to his advantage to witness and start the church. Christ has a plan in everything he does. He used Paul and the city of Thessalonica to share his love throughout the world and to show all who is Lord.