During Paul’s time in Corinth the city boasted of many temples including the Temple of Asklepios, the god of healing. As you can imagine it attracted the sick and the diseased and the injured. Legend says those seeking to be cured were required to offer a clay replica of the body part that was diseased or broken. And according to later archeological discoveries, the temple was littered with such clay terra cotta likenesses of body parts, many of which originated from the 3rd-4th century BC. A large number of these clay replicas are now displayed at the Antiquities Museum at Ancient Corinth [see the picture at the bottom, a picture of the less risqué pieces (STDs were common in Corinth)]. It’s unclear whether Paul saw these clay casts with his own eyes or whether they had already been buried in the rubble under his feet at that point. But it seems safe to say that in various ways the Temple of Asklepios and its approach to healing led to a disjointed image of health. This may very well be behind Paul’s holistic body image in 1 Corinthians 12:12–31, which is a good reminder that Jesus does not settle for a healthy foot or leg, but desires a healthy Body thriving in unity with each other and in union with their Head. So much so that, “if one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (v 26). Such a contrast with the Temple of Asklepios would not have been lost on Corinthian ears.
3 thoughts on “Strewn Body Parts”
I actually visited this museum back in June while serving for two weeks with a team through Training Leaders International. http://trainingleadersinternational.org/
I have been there as well. My professors pointed out there are an unusual multitude of sexual organs represented in the collection, indicating the presence of various related diseases in Corinthian culture. This is interesting in that it reinforces the presence of the sexual issues the church was facing that Paul fights against in his letter.
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