The judgement seat (2 Corinthians 5)

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Illustration: The judgement seat (bema) of Corinth

Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 5:10: “We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ” (cf. Romans 14:10). The Greek word translated “judgement seat” is bema. A bema, referred to numerous times in classical literature, was a raised speaker’s platform from which proclamations were read and on which citizens stood to appear before officials. Three bemas are referred to in the New Testament:

  • Pilate tried Jesus at the bema in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:19, John 19:13).
  • King Agrippa I was struck by an angel of the Lord while making a seach at a bema in Caesarea (Acts 12:21-23), and Paul later appeared before governor Porcius Festus there (Acts 25:1-12).
  • The Jews of Corinth brought Paul to the bema to be tried by governor Gallio (Acts 18:12-17).

The Corinthian bema (pictured above) where Paul was tried has been excavated. It is a large stone structure at the side of the agora, or public market, rising some 2,3 m above the pavement and originally covered with beautifully carved marble. A partially reconstructed Latin inscription found nearby reads: “He revetted the rostra and paid personally the expense of making all its marble”. (The word rostra is the Latin equivalent of bema.)


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