Bema Seat

A bema seat (rostrum in Latin) was a common element of most any major agora of the Greco-Roman world in the Apostle Paul’s day. It was a raised platform – typically in the center of the agora or near the magistrate’s residence – used to address the city, adjudicate disputes and legal matters, and where citizens would receive public commendation or condemnation from the proconsul.

The term is used 12 times in the New Testament. Of particular interest is Paul’s usage of bema in 2 Corinthians 5:10. It is not believed that Paul used  the image to describe the final judgment (Revelation 20), but more likely a judgment of stewardship (c.f. Luke 19:11-17; Romans 14:12).

The term is also used in the following passages:

  • Matthew 27:19 – “judgment seat”
  • John 19:13 – “judgment seat”
  • Acts 12:21 – “rostrum”
  • Acts 18:12, 16-17 – “judgment seat”
  • Acts 25:6, 10, 17 – “tribunal”
  • Romans 14:10 – “judgment seat”

The cover photo was taken in the agora of Corinth in 2016. This is likely where Paul stood before Gallio in Acts 18:12. 

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