(θέατρον). The Greek term, like the corresponding English one, denotes the place where dramatic performances are exhibited, and also the scene itself, or spectacle, which is witnessed there.
1. It occurs in the first or local sense in Ac 19:29, where it is said that the multitude at Ephesus rushed to the theatre, on the occasion of the excitement stirred up against Paul and his associates by Demetrius, in order to consider what should be done in reference to the charges against them. It may be remarked also (although the word does not occur in the original text or in our English version) that it was in the theatre at Cassarea that Herod Agrippa I gave audience to the Tyrian deputies, and was himself struck with death, because he heard so gladly the impious acclamations of the people (Ac 12:21-23). See the remarkable confirmatory account of this event in Josephus (Ant. 19:8, 2). Such a use of the theatre for public assemblies and the transaction of public business, though it was hardly known among the Romans, was a common practice among the Greeks. Thus Valer. Max. 2, 2, "Legati in theatrum, ut est consuetudo Graeci, introducti;" Justin, 22:2, "Veluti reipublicae statum formaturus in theatrum ad contionem vocari jussit;" Corn. Nep. Timol. 4, § 2, "Veniebat in theatrum, cum ibi concilium plebis haberetulr."
2. The other sense of the term "theatre" occurs in 1Co 4:9, where the Common Version renders, "God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death; for we are made (rather, were made, θέατρον ἐγενήθημεν) a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men." Instead of "spectacle" (so also Wycliffe and the Rhemish translators after the Vulgate), some might prefer the more energetic Saxon "gazing- stock," as in Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Geneva version. But the latter would be now inappropriate, if it includes the idea of scorn or exultation, since the angels look down upon the sufferings of the martyrs with a very different interest. Whether "theatre" denotes more here than to be al object of earnest attention (θέα μα), or refers at the same time to the theatre as the place where criminals were sometimes brought forward for punishment, is not agreed among interpreters. In Heb 12:1, where the writer speaks of our having around us "so great a cloud of witnesses" (τοσοῦτον ἔχοντες περικείμενον ἡμῖν νέφος μαρτύρων), he has in mind, no doubt, the agonistic scene, in which Christians are viewed as running a race, and not the theatre or stage where the eyes of the spectators are fixed on them.
Among the Greeks and the states of Greek origin, the theatre — the proper appropriation of which was for the celebration of the public games — was also used as the place of assembly for every kind of public business; and served for town-hall, senate house, forum, etc., and harangues to the people were there delivered. Indeed, all important public business was transacted in these places-war was declared, peace proclaimed, and criminals were executed. Antiochus Epiphanes introduced public shows and games in Syria (2 Macc. 4:1016); and in a later age theatres and amphitheatres were erected by the Herods in Jerusalem and other towns of Syria (Josephus, Ant. 15:8,1; 16:5,1; 19:7,5; War, 1, 21, 8), in which magnificent spectacles were exhibited, principally in honor of the Roman emperors. The remains of Ione of these near Caesarea are still clearly traceable (Thomson, Land and Book, 2, 237). For the history and construction of such buildings in that day, see Smith, Dict. of Class. Antiq. s.v. Wettstein well observes that the very situation of the theatre at Ephesus would not a little promote and increase the tumult in the case of Paul, since, as we find from the accounts of those who have surveyed the situation of the Temple of Diana, it was within view of the theatre. See Ephesus. The shell of this theatre remains unmistakably to be recognised on Mount Priar, though the marble seats have been removed. Its ruins are described by Fellows (Asia Minor, p. 274) as "a wreck of immense grandeur," and it is said to be the largest of any that have come down to us from ancient days. See Lewin, St. Paul, 2, 328; Wood, Discoveries in Ephesus (Lond. 1877), ch. 4.