The region of Macedonia is a land of mountains, rivers, and forests located to the north of ancient Greece. Its name, possibly meaning “highlands” in Greek, is befitting its geography. Ancient mythology recorded by Hesiod in the 8th century BC, however, also linked the name of the region to a son of Zeus named Macedon (Hesiod, Catalogue of Women). Home to the Macedonian Kingdom with the ancient capital at Pella, this nation was made famous by Philip II and his world conquering son Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. The rapid conquests of Alexander the Great and the subsequent break into 4 kingdoms after his death was prophesied in the book of Daniel about two centuries before the events occurred (Daniel 8:5-8, 21, 7:6). Later, during the expansion of the Roman Republic, Rome defeated the Macedonians in the Third Macedonian War in 168 BC, then annexed Macedonia in 148 BC to the Republic, leading to the reorganization of the area into a Roman province. Yet, Alexander the Great, who spread the Greek language and culture over much of what would be the eastern part of the Roman Empire, had a lasting impact on history as he helped to set the stage for the world of the 1st century AD and the early Church in which the common language and that used for the New Testament was Koine Greek.
During the time of the Roman Empire, the area of the province of Macedonia included much of modern day northern Greece, southern Macedonia, and part of Albania. The famous Mount Olympus, fabled home of the Olympian gods led by Zeus, was located in Macedonia of the 1st century. Situated between Italy and the eastern territories, Macedonia was the site of several important battles during the Roman civil wars just prior to the formation of the Empire, fought by the likes of Julius Caesar, Pompey the Great, Augustus, Mark Antony, and Brutus. During part of the 1st century AD the province included Achaia starting in 15 AD, but Emperor Claudius reestablished Macedonia as its own province in 44 AD with Thessalonica as the capital and residence of the governor (Hartog, “Macedonia”). Therefore, when Paul, Silas, and Luke first visited in about 49 AD, the area was once again its own province of Macedonia as Luke indicates (Acts 16:11; Macedonian coin of Claudius). The earlier client kingdom had been divided into four “districts,” which seem to have remained as local regions even by the time of Paul’s first visit (Acts 16:12, possible translation as “a city of the first district of Macedonia”; see Macedonia district coin).
During the “Second Missionary Journey,” in addition to visiting major cities in Macedonia along the Via Egnatia such as Neapolis, Philippi, Amphipolis, and Thessalonica, Paul also went slightly off the main highway to Berea and Apollonia, and later sent Timothy and Erastus back into Macedonia to help spread the Gospel throughout the province and disciple the new Christians there (Acts 17:1, 10, 19:21-22). Paul visited and passed through Macedonia multiple times, and three New Testament letters were written to churches in Macedonia (1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, Philippians), and Macedonia featured prominently in the travels and writings of Paul (Acts 20:1-3; Romans 15:26; 1 Corinthians 16:5; 2 Corinthians 2:13; Philippians 4:15-16; 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8; 1 Timothy 1:3). The Macedonian believers were especially devout, kind, and generous, and for this both Luke and Paul commended them (Acts 17:11-15; 2 Corinthians 8:1-2, 11:9 and above).