For the next five week’s we’ll be walking through a little New Testament book called 1 Thessalonians. It’s pretty small - just five chapters and only about two pages in my Bible, but it was actually written to a really important city.
Thessalonica (now Thessaloniki) is still the second largest city in Greece, but it is some 2,300 years old. Around the New Testament times, it was the capital of Macedonia - the northern half of Greece. And it was rich, very rich. It had an excellent port, comfortably nestled into the northernmost port of a gulf. It was also centrally located on the major Roman highway running east and west through the empire. All of this led to lots of importing and exporting. They worked hard, and they had lots of cash.
Thessalonians were also very religious. Like most ancient Greeks and Romans, they worshiped a wide variety of gods.
- Of course, there were the traditional gods of Greek mythology, but the most prominent in Thessalonica were Dionysius and Artemis.
- Dionysius was the god of wine and ecstasy. His followers were famous for wild drunken party-parades which “freed” everyone from all their social inhibitions.
- Artemis was worshiped both as goddess of wild animals and goddess of fertility.
- Thessalonians also adopted two Egyptian gods: Isis and Osiris.
- Isis was the goddess of motherhood, fertility, and magic. Her statues often showed her nursing a son. Also known as the Queen of Heaven, she offered salvation and eternal life to all in exchange for humility, confession, and repentance.
- Osiris was Isis’s brother and husband, and he was supposed to be the god of the afterlife and underworld. Osiris was believed to die every year and be raised from the dead by Isis’s tears.
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