Moving from Athens to Corinth, Paul would have passed through Eleusis, which was the centre of Greek religion at the time. The Eleusinian mysteries involved male and female initiates in transcendental spiritual experiences and the hope of personal immortality.
Helmut Koester believes 1 Corinthians is Paul’s upset response to the mesmerising effects of “mystery religions” on the Corinthian church. This is a somewhat eccentric view, given that “mystery religions” in general don’t seem to have been widely influential in this early period. But Eleusis itself, 50km away from Corinth, may have had some impact on expectations of “spirituality” in Corinth…
Eleusinian wall relief: Demeter (left) bids farewell to Triptolemus, king of Eleusis, who is about to teach the people of Eleusis how to cultivate the land. Demeter’s daughter, Kore/Persephone, is on the right. These figures are crucial in the Eleusinian mysteries.
Similar depictions of the mysteries:
Seating added in the Roman era, in order that the faithful could watch other mystery rituals being performed:
Partial remains of the Telesterion, where the mysteries were performed:
A re-creation of the Telesterion in action:
A Mithraion at Eleusis, a centre for the cult of Mithras:
Eschara, used for sacrifices to Persephone (who was kept in Hades for most of the year), built in Roman times:
Tomorrow: “I Came to You in Fear and Trembling: From Athens to Corinth Part III” – Paul Reaches Corinth