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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Macedonia

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(Μακεδονία)

This was the land of the Macedones, a Doric branch of the Hellenic stock, who settled on the banks of the Haliacmon and Axius, above the Thermaic Gulf, and gradually extended their power over the hill-peoples in the N. and W., as well as the lowland tribes which separated them from the sea. Their enlarged country, with its ‘vast plains, rich mountains, verdant prairies, extended views, very different from those charming little mazes of the Greek site’ (E. Renan, St. Paul, Eng. translation , 1889, p. 82), was a meet nurse for a successful and conquering race. Centuries of undisturbed growth gave them a great reserve of moral as well as material strength. ‘As for Macedonia, it was probably the region the most honest, the most serious, the most pious of the ancient world’ (ib. p. 80). And ere long it had the opportunity of showing its quality. When Greece lay weakened by the mutual jealousy of her city-states and consequent incapacity for concerted action, the genius of Philip of Macedon unified and consolidated a group of free and hardy races, fostered their national spirit, and created the most effective fighting-machine known to antiquity. Entering on a splendid heritage, his greater son achieved the conquest of the world (1 Maccabees 1:1-9). Even a century later, when the Macedonians had to try conclusions with the Romans, whom in many respects they strikingly resembled, their strength and spirit were but little impaired, and ‘with a power in every point of view far inferior’ Hannibal was ‘able to shake Rome to its foundations’ (T. Mommsen, The History of Rome, Eng. translation , 1894, ii. 491). But the bravest armies can do little unless they are efficiently led, and at Cynoscephalae (197 b.c.), and again at Pydna (168), the once invincible phalanx was broken at last.

The conquered nation was disarmed and divided. ‘Macedonia was abolished. In the conference at Amphipolis on the Strymon the Roman commission ordained that the compact, thoroughly monarchical, single state should be broken up into four republican-federative leagues moulded on the system of the Greek confederacies, viz. that of Amphipolis in the eastern regions, that of Thessalonica with the Chaleidian peninsula, that of Pella on the frontiers of Thessaly, and that of Pelagonia in the interior’ (Mommsen, op. cit. p. 508). No one was allowed to marry, or to purchase houses or lands, except in his own tetrarchy. The Macedonians compared the severance of their country to the laceration and disjointing of a living creature (Livy, xlv. 30).

It has been supposed that a reference to this partition is contained in Acts 16:12, where Philippi is described as πρώτη τῆς μερίδος Μακεδονίας πόλις, κολωνία. This cannot mean that Philippi was the first city of Macedonia reached by St. Paul, for he had landed at Neapolis. Following Blass, T. Zahn (Introd. to the NT, Eng. translation , 1909, i. 532 f.) therefore proposes to read πρώτης, and to paraphrase: ‘a city belonging to the first of those four districts of Macedonia, i.e. the first which Paul touched on his journey.’ But the interpretation is not plausible. Not only is the suggested detail regarding the Apostle’s movements singularly flat and commonplace, but it is highly probable that the old division into tetrarchies had long ceased to have more than an antiquarian interest. For the best explanation of the difficult phrase ‘the first of the district’ see Philippi.

In 146 b.c. Macedonia received a provincial organization, and Thessalonica was made the seat of government. Including part of Illyria as well as Thessaly, the province extended from the Adriatic to the aegean, and was traversed by the Via Egnatia, which joined Dyrrhachium and Apollonia in the West with Amphipolis and another Apollonia in the East. Augustus made it a senatorial province in 27 b.c., Tiberius an Imperial in a.d. 15, and Claudius restored it to the senate in a.d. 44. In St. Paul’s time it was therefore governed by a proconsul of praetorian rank.

In the Acts and the Epistles Macedonia is often linked with Achaia (Acts 19:21, Romans 15:26, 2 Corinthians 9:2, 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8), and as the latter term can denote only the province, it is natural to suppose that Macedonia has also its official Roman meaning. St. Paul’s entry into Europe was occasioned by the vision of ‘a man of Macedonia’ (Acts 16:9). Ramsay (St. Paul, 1895, p. 202 ff.) has hazarded the suggestion that this man was no other than the historian of the Acts; in which case the night vision would doubtless be preceded and followed by substantial arguments by day. The theory is supposed to account for the abundance of detail, as well as the apparently keen personal interest, with which St. Luke tells this part of his story. He seems to hurry breathlessly over wide tracts of Asia Minor, until he gets St. Paul down to Troas and across the aegean (Acts 16:1-11), after which his style of narration at once becomes leisurely and expansive (see Luke). St. Paul founded Macedonian churches in Philippi, Berœa, and Thessalonica; to two of them he wrote letters that are extant; and all of them were conspicuous for their loyalty to, and affection for, their founder. He had happy memories of ‘the grace of God in the churches of Macedonia’ (2 Corinthians 8:1) and of ‘all the brethren in all Macedonia’ (1 Thessalonians 4:10). He loved to re-visit his first European mission-field (Acts 19:21; Acts 20:1-3, 1 Corinthians 16:5, 2 Corinthians 1:20; 2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 8:1; 2 Corinthians 9:2; 2 Corinthians 9:4), and among other ‘men of Macedonia’ who aided and cheered him were Gaius and Aristarchus (Acts 19:29), Secundus of Thessalonica (Acts 20:4), Sopater of Berœa (Acts 20:4), and Epaphroditus of Philippi (Philippians 2:25). One of the most remarkable features of all the churches of Macedonia was the ministry of women, on which see J. B. Lightfoot, Philippians4, 1878, p. 56.

James Strahan.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Macedonia'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/m/macedonia.html. 1906-1918.

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