1.As I stated yesterday Samothrace is an island in the northern Aegean Sea. During Paul’s foray into Asia Minor discussed in Acts 16:1-10 he stopped on the island while on the way to Phllippi as detailed in Acts 16:11….From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of the district of Macedonia. And we stayed here several days.
2.While we don’t have an exact amount of time Paul spent in Samothrace, he did spend the night. There is no mention of any converts at Samothrace even though they are frequently documented at other towns along Paul’s travels.
3.That very fact begs for further study concerning this place. Why is just a bump in the road to Paul? Why no mention of converts or interaction with the people of Samothrace?
4.Paul’s letters generally indicate to us that one of the first things he did upon arriving in any location was to visit the local synagogue, however, there is no archeological evidence of a synagogue on the island of Samothrace.
5.Remains of several small church have been found but they are dated to a period many years after the time period Paul would have visited the island. The remains of one church can be found at the base of Mount Phengari at the end of a city wall that runs down the slope.
6.In 1863, Monsieur Champoiseau, a French Consul, stationed in Greece made some chance discoveries that sparked archeological interest in Samothrace. In 1873 and 1875 two Austrian teams made extensive excavations of the area and were able to publish their research. In 1938, New York University began excavations on the island led by Karl Lehmann. The process continued until the 1970s except for an eight year period during World War II.
7. The Americans found ruins that help to explain the ancient religion of Samothrace including a colonaded façade of a santuary structure, and they excavated several cemetaries.
8. The ancient religion is known today as the Kabeiria Mysteries of Dionysus. It attracted people from all over the Greek world including the parents of Alexander the Great. There are literary references from the Chrisitan Era supporting this fact from Aristophanes to Plato.
9. Was Paul aware of the mystery religion/cult that existed on Samothrace?
10. We aren’t told, but the idea isn’t that far fetched as the Romans were very interested in the cult religion after they conquered the Greek Empire from the 2nd Century B.C. Many Romans made annual pilgrimages to the island and many initiates of the cult include high ranking Roman officials.
11. It is true, however, that Pauls brief overnight stay on the island would not have been long enough to fully examine the culture and lifestyle of the people there. Many Bible scholars feel that if Paul had been able to fully experience Samothrace he would have condemned the actions of the people much like he did the people of Athens in Acts 17...Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you, "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'
12.Over time the interest in the mystery religion ebbed and flowed, but eventually fortunes on the island began to decline and by the fourth century A.D. the cult seems to have disappeared. The island began to suffer from pirate attacks and later they would hide out on Samothrace. By the 8th Century the harbor was filled with sand due to severe erosion from deforestation. There are absolutely no historical records to follow regarding the island from 1500 to 1800 A.D.
13. Seems like a lot of wasted time. What if Paul’s stay in Samothrace had been longer? Would it have made a difference?
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