Visiting Ctesiphon in Iraq

Ctesiphon was a favorite camping ground of the Parthian kings during the last centuries before Christ. The surviving building probably dates from about the 3rd century A.D. This great Sassanian hall is the widest single-span vault of unreinforced brickwork in the world. The width is over 80 feet and the height from the pavement is 118 feet.

The ruins are located on the East bank of the Tigris River a few miles south of Baghdad, Iraq.

Here is a photo of my 1970 Bible Land group at Ctesiphon. In the event that any publisher should wish a photo of the structure I have one of the same view without people.

Ctesiphon, Iraq. Ferrell Jenkins tour group. 1970.

Ferrell Jenkins Bible Land Group at Ctesiphon, near Baghdad, Iraq, May 15, 1970. There were 16 in the group. I made the photo. Three of our group are totally hidden. My son, Ferrell Jr., is in the foreground. The man over his left shoulder was our guide, an Iraqi named George. Several of these tour members are now deceased. This photo was made before I learned how to line up a group for a photo.

The Parthians are mentioned only once in the Bible. In the account of the events of the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus we are informed that Parthians were among those present in Jerusalem.

Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia,… (Acts 2:9a ESV)

The Parthians were the dreaded enemy of Rome in the east. They lived east of the Euphrates. Some prominent scholars on the book of Revelation see a reference to the Parthians in Revelation 9:13-14.

Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” (Revelation 9:13-14 ESV)

Beale says, “In John’s time the Parthian threat from beyond the Euphrates was identified with the OT tradition…” (The Book of Revelation in the NIGTC, p. 507). In such an event, Asia Minor, including the seven churches, would be caught in the middle and suffer from this invasion.

A ceramic plaque of a mounted archer from Parthia. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A ceramic plaque of a mounted archer from Parthia. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Earlier this week I received a note via the Agade list about a conference on Ctesiphon. Here is the complete notice:

Washington D.C. – Conference
Ctesiphon: An Ancient Royal Capital in Context

Saturday, September 15, 2018, 2 pm
Freer, Meyer Auditorium; Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Smithsonian

Located on the eastern bank of the Tigris River near present-day Baghdad, Iraq, the city of Ctesiphon served as a royal capital of the Persian Empire in the Parthian and Sasanian eras for over eight hundred years. The city’s most iconic structure was the Taq Kasra (Arch of Khosrow) palace, one of the wonders of the ancient world.

Built by the Sasanian ruler Khosrow I (reigned 531–79), the palace’s vaulted brick throne room measures eighty-four feet across, making it the largest of its kind.

To celebrate this exceptional monument, Touraj Daryaee, Matthew Canepa, Katharyn Hanson, and Richard Kurin discuss the site’s importance and recent preservation efforts. Then, watch the first documentary on this unique monument, Taq Kasra: Wonder of Architecture, directed by Pejman Akbarzadeh, produced by Persian Dutch Network, and funded by the Soudavar Memorial and Toos Foundations. Watch the trailer.

This event was organized with support from the Tina and Hamid Moghadam Endowment for Iran and the Ancient Near East and the Ancient Near East Fund.

Free and open to the public.
Independence Avenue at 12th Street SW Washington, DC

HT: Antonietta Catanzariti  via Agade

Spring beauty in Pergamum

The ancient city of Pergamum, at Bergama, Turkey, was the location of one of the churches addressed in the book of Revelation (the Apocalypse). Like the other six local churches mentioned in the book, a short letter is addressed to Pergamum (Revelation 1:11; 2:12-17). I thought I would share a beautiful spring photo made among the ruins of the city.

Reconstructed temple of Emperor Trajan in Pergamum. FerrellJenkins.blog.

Reconstructed temple of Emperor Trajan in Pergamum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo shows the reconstruction of the Temple of Roman Emperor Trajan (A.D. 98-117). This was the second temple in Pergamum dedicated to the Emperor. The first temple in all of Asia was erected to Augustus in 29 B.C. Altogether Pergamum had three imperial temples. Emperor worship was common throughout the Roman Empire, but especially in the eastern part of the Empire. In the centuries following New Testament times this would create a problem for those who were devoted to Jesus Christ as Lord and God.

Transporting cedars for the temple

The cedars grew in the high mountains of the Lebanon range, the north-south range along the Mediterranean coast.

Cedars also grow in the Amanus mountains north of Antakya, Turkey (Antioch of Syria in Acts 11 and 13). I have seen a small number of cedars still growing in the Taurus Mountains of Turkey. In Lebanon, the most famous of the trees are growing in the high mountains about 100 miles north of Beirut near the town of Besharre, but there are also some growing southeast of Beirut at Barouk.

(A geographical note for those who may not know. If we go east we have the Bekah Valley and then the Anti-Lebanon range of mountains. The Lebanon range continues south and becomes the mountains of upper and lower Galilee, and the mountains of Samaria and Judea. The Bekah Valley continues south to become the Hula Valley, passing through the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan Valley, passing through the Dead Sea, the Arabah, etc. The Anti-Lebanon mountain range continues south through the Golan Heights, the Mountains of Gilead, and the trans-Jordan plateau or highlands.)

Browsing in Pritchard’s Ancient Near Eastern Texts, I noted numerous reference to ancient rulers cutting cedars and transporting them to built projects in their home country.

Gudea of Lagash (2141-2122 B.C.) calls the Amanus Mountains “the Cedar Mountain.” He says “he formed into rafts cedar logs 60 cubits long, cedar logs 50 cubits long (and) KU-wood logs 25 cubits long and brought them (thus) out of the mountain.”

Tiglath-Pileser I, King of Assyria (1114-1076 B.C.), says he went to the Lebanon mountains and cut cedar beams for a temple.

Ashurnasirpal II, King of Assyria (883-859 B.C.),  says, “I ascended the mountains of the Amamus … and cut down (there) logs of cedars” and other trees.

Shalmaneser III, King of Assyria (858-824 B.C.), claims that he ascended the mountain Amanus and cut cedar and pine timber.

Esarhaddon, king of Assyria (680-649 B.C.), claims he made 22 kings of the Hatti transport material for his palace: “big logs, long beams (and) thin boards from cedar and pine trees, products of the Sirara and Lebanon (La-na-na) mountains which had grown for a long time into tall and strong timber….” Sirara was one of the towns of southern Mesopotamia. Esarhaddon left his image and an inscription on the cliffs above Dog River in Lebanon.

Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon (605-562 B.C.), refers to the Lebanon as the “[Cedar] Mountain, the luxurious forest of Marduk, the smell of which is sweet.” He says no other god has desired and no other king has felled the trees. He says Marduk desired the cedars “as a fitting adornment for the palace of the ruler of heaven and earth.”

The Neo-Babylonian king claims to have rid the country (Lebanon) of a foreign enemy and returned scattered inhabitants to their settlements. In order to transport cedars to Babylon, he explains some of his projects.

What no former king had done (I achieved): I cut through steep mountains, I split rocks, opened passages and (thus) I constructed a straight road for the (transport of the) cedars. I made the Arahtu flo[at] (down) and carry to Marduk, my king, mighty cedars, high and strong, of precious beauty and of excellent dark quality, the abundant yield of the Lebanon, as (if they be) reed stalks (carried by) the river. Within Babylon [I stored] mulberry wood. I made the inhabitants of the Lebanon live in safety together and let nobody disturb them. In order that nobody might do any harm [to them] I ere[cted there] a stela (showing) me (as) everlasting king (of this region) and built … I, myself, … established.…

The Arahtu was a canal built by Nebuchadnezzar near Babylon that was used in the transportation of the cedars. Some of the kings speak of building roads for the transportation of the cedars.

In 1971 I was able to make a photo of the inscription left by Nebuchadnezzar at Dog River north of Beirut. Some more recent travelers have found this covered by vines. Click on the photo for a larger image and you will get a better view of some of the cuneiform writing.

Nebuchadnezzar's inscription made on the right bank of Dog River in Lebanon. FerrellJenkins.blog.

Nebuchadnezzar’s inscription made on the right bank of Dog River in Lebanon. On the left bank on the rock cliffs there are reliefs and inscriptions by Ramses II of Egypt, and Assyrian kings Shalmaneser III (?) and Esarhaddon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hiram, king of Tyre, promised Solomon that he would transport cedars by sea to Joppa.

And we will cut whatever timber you need from Lebanon and bring it to you in rafts by sea to Joppa, so that you may take it up to Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 2:16 ESV)

The parallel text in 1 Kings 5:9 says,

My servants shall bring it down to the sea from Lebanon, and I will make it into rafts to go by sea to the place you direct. And I will have them broken up there, and you shall receive it. And you shall meet my wishes by providing food for my household.” (1 Kings 5:9 ESV)

The comment in The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament explains:

Transport of the logs along the Palestinian coast south would have involved either tying them together into rafts, which required staying very close to shore for fear of storms breaking them up, or loading them on ships. Assyrian reliefs show Phoenician ships both loaded with logs and towing them.

This photograph illustrates the comment above, but the biblical text indicates that the logs cut for Solomon were made into rafts.

Sargon transporting cedar logs from Lebanon by sea. Displayed in the Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sargon transporting cedar logs from Lebanon by sea. Displayed in the Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lebanon had two famous rivers, both of which had their source in the Bekah valley. The Orontes River flowed north past Kadesh, Hamath, and other cities and then turned west to flow past Antioch into the Mediterranean at Seleucia.

The Leontes River (also known as the Letani), flowed through the Lebanon mountains and into the Mediterranean a few miles north of Tyre. Since we know of other rulers floating the timbers on rivers, I have thought that perhaps some of those going to Jerusalem may have been moved from the southern forests by means of the Leontes, then tied into rafts near the coast for the trip to Joppa.

The Litani river a few miles north of Tyre, Lebanon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Leontes (= Litani) river a few miles north of Tyre, Lebanon. Photo: Ferrell Jenkins.

The distance from the mouth of the Leontes River to Joppa is about 95 miles (152 km). Our photos below is an aerial view of Joppa and its modern harbor.

Aerial view of Joppa, showing the modern harbor. ferrelljenkins.blog.

The modern harbor at Joppa. We know that the tel (a green mound with some paths on it) you see in the left bottom quarter of the photo was inhabited by Egyptians as early as the 15th century B.C. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land (1990) says,

Some scholars believe that the port referred to is that of Tell Qasile, east of Jaffa.

If that is so, the logs would be floated up the Yarkon River a short distance to Tell Qasile which is a little northeast of Joppa, close enough to be considered Joppa.

From Joppa the logs were transported by Solomon’s men across the plain of Sharon and up into the mountains of Judea. Quite a project without trucks or trains. In addition to the temple, the Bible records that Solomon built “the House of the Forest of Lebanon” (I Kings 7:2).

Our final photograph shows some stone anchors displayed at Tel Qasile which is located on the grounds of the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. I notice that these are larger than anchors found at the Sea of Galilee. These would be more suitable for use on a river such as the Yarkon.

Stone anchors displayed at Tel Qasile at the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv. FerrellJenkins.blog.

Stone anchors displayed at Tel Qasile at the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

The Cedars of Lebanon

The Bible records that King David provided materials for a proposed temple in Jerusalem before his death.

…and cedar timbers without number, for the Sidonians and Tyrians brought great quantities of cedar to David. (1 Chronicles 22:4 ESV; see verses 1-5)

  • The cedars were floated from Lebanon to Joppa for Solomon’s Temple (2 Chronicles 2:16).
  • Hiram, king of Tyre, built a cedar house for David (2 Samuel 5:11; 7:2).
  • Solomon requested that Hiram have cedars of Lebanon cut for him (1 Chronicles 22:7).
  • Cedars from Lebanon again were floated to Joppa for the rebuilding of the temple (520-516 B.C.; Ezra 3:7).

Only a few of the fabled cedars remain in Lebanon. One cluster of trees grow at Besharre in the north of Lebanon at an elevation of about 5000 feet or more above sea level. Our photo below was made in May, 2002, when there was some snow still on the surrounding mountains.

A view of the clump of cedars at Besharre, Lebanon. FerrellJenkins.blog.

A view of the clump of cedars at Besharre, Lebanon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The cedars in Lebanon are now protected and may be cut for the wood only when a tree has fallen.

A fallen cedar at Besharre in northern Lebanon. FerrellJenkins.blog.

A fallen cedar at Besharre in northern Lebanon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Cedrus libani is described in Fauna and Flora of the Bible.

The enthusiasm with which the OT writings praise the cedar of Lebanon is understandable. It is a majestic tree of great beauty, reaching 27 m [88 ft.] in height and 12 m [39 ft.] in girth. Its long branches spread out horizontally from the trunk, and the leaves are dark and evergreen, glittering like silver in the sun. The cones take three years to mature. The fragrant wood is much sought after for building purposes, as it does not easily rot. Its great value as timber is often mentioned, especially in the history of King Solomon. (p. 108)

Small twigs and cones from the cedars of Lebanon. ferrelljenkins.blog.

Small potted plants and cones from the cedars of Lebanon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo illustrates how the branches “spread out horizontally from the trunk.” This tree is different from the cedars so many of us have enjoyed for Christmas trees.

A few of the Cedars of Lebanon at Besherre. ferrelljenkin.blog.

A few of the Cedars of Lebanon at Besherre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Not so many of the cedars remain because various nations have used them in buildings projects.

We have an example in a temple from the Late Bronze Age, a period of Egyptian control at Lachish. The description of the temple by David Ussishkin is fascinating, but I must concentrate on two things. Several charred beams were found on the floor of the building. Ussishkin says,

The roof was spanned by long wooden beams laid parallel to one another across the main hall. Their charred remains, identified as cedar of Lebanon, were found lying on the floor; altogether, remains of about ten beams could be detected along the southern part of the hall… (Ussishkin, David. “Excavations at Tel Lachish – 1973-1977.” Tel Aviv 5:1-2 (1978): 1-97: 13.

This temple is also designated as the Acropolis Temple. Information about it, including a plan and reconstruction drawings are found in Ussishkin, Biblical Lachish, pp. 140-164.

In our photo below that I made in 1980 only one piece of wood remains (in the center of our photo).

Charred beam made of Cedar of Lebanon in the Egyptian-period temple at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1980.

Charred beam made of Cedar of Lebanon in the Egyptian-period temple at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1980.

Notice the column base. Two of these were found in the temple. The scholars who analyzed the carbonized beams with a diameter of about 30 cm [12 inches]. Cedar trunks of that diameter could have been 14 metres [45 feet] or longer, and thus easily capable of spanning the ceiling across the main hall without additional support (Usshishkin, Excavations).

Ancient nations used the cedar of Lebanon for their boats and buildings. Several panels are displayed in the Louvre showing boats transporting logs of cedars of Lebanon for use in the palace of Sargon. Our photo shows a small portion of one panel.

Assyrians transporting cedar of Lebanon for their buildings. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Assyrians transporting cedar of Lebanon for their buildings. Period of Sargon II (721-705 BC). Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dr. Jack P. Lewis — 1919 – 2018

We note the death of Dr. Jack Pearl Lewis earlier this week on July 24th. The name Jack Pearl Lewis will be unknown to many readers of this blog. Others will recognize his name and his work. I write here because he was an outstanding biblical scholar who played a part in my travel experiences.

Lewis was a founding faculty member at the Harding Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, now known as Harding School of Theology. At the time of his retirement he was named Professor Emeritus. Among several good teachers that I had, Lewis was unique. He held two earned doctorates, a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, and a Ph.D. in Old Testament from Hebrew Union. He was the most demanding teacher I had, and one of a few from whom I learned the most.

After the high school years at Athens Bible School, and four years of Bible at Florida Christian College (now Florida College), with teachers such as Homer Hailey and Franklin T. Puckett, I had a good general knowledge of the Bible. I think I had about 60 hours of Bible at FCC. I had added about seven years in full-time preaching before attending the Graduate School. The graduate work was not too difficult, it was just on a more demanding advanced level. Dr. Lewis was always available to talk with if you could locate him among all of the books in his office.

It was part of the graduate program generally, but Lewis taught the importance of using primary sources where possible and the importance of thorough preparation. He entered the class room, called the roll, and began lecturing. As a student I made notes the best I could, then spent hours after each class verifying the names, dates, and facts presented. Different from the students I had in college, we would never imagine asking “How do you spell that?” He taught us the importance of using up-to-date sources in our research.

Jack Lewis was my first teacher who had spent a considerable amount of time studying the land of the Bible. He had worked in the archaeological excavation at Arad, and had spent a year as a fellow at the American Schools of Oriental Research in Jerusalem (now the Albright Institute).

In one of the classes with Dr. Lewis I did a paper on “Authentic First Century Remains in Palestine.” Soon afterward I began to prepare for my own visit to the Bible lands. I might have gone anyway, but I must credit Dr. Lewis, and his unique insight into the land of the Bible, for spurring my interest in traveling to this part of the world. The last time I visited with him was March 6, 2008, at Faulkner University where he made a couple of presentations and was honored for his work. As we visited, he said something like this: “There is nothing as valuable as seeing the places you study about.” So, now you know one of the major motivations in my travels to Bible lands over all these years since the first trip in 1967. I still learn on every trip, and in the preparation for the trip.

Dr. Lewis was a prolific writer. His many books included The History of the English Bible from the KJV to the NIV, The Interpretation of Noah and the Flood in Jewish and Christian Literature, Historical Backgrounds to Bible People, and a two-volume commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. There are also books on the prophets and other areas of biblical studies.

One of the lectures given by Dr. Lewis at Faulkner University was on “The Battle for the Integrity of the Bible.” In his typical rapid-fire manner, he surveyed the battles that have been won in demonstrating the integrity of the Bible. It was just a survey, but he seemed as sharp as in those classes on The History of the English Bible and on Archaeology and the Bible from which I profited so much.

Dr. Jack P. Lewis and Ferrell Jenkins. FerrellJenkins.blog.

This photo was made March 6, 2008, after the lecture on “The Battle for the Integrity of the Bible” at Faulkner University. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

If you would like to learn a little about the background of this unique man we suggest his 2012 autobiography, As I Remember It.

I wrote some of this material back in 2008 after the visit with Dr. Lewis. When our mutual friend, Don Meredith, the librarian at HST, saw it he printed it for Dr. Lewis. Here is the response I received from Dr.Lewis:

I appreciate very much the kind things you had to say.  I am trying to get finished the work on the twelve prophets I started more than twenty years ago.  I am a great one at starting, but less successful in finishing. I will look forward to seeing you in Boston in November  [at the annual professional meetings].  Sincerely, Jack P. Lewis.

Weaving in Bible Times: “Her hands hold the spindle…”

The importance of weaving in Bible times is described by John A. Beck.

The typical family of Bible times had its own looms and some family members who were skilled at the art of weaving (Prov. 31:13). At its most fundamental level, weaving involved the interlocking of threads at right angles to one another in order to create a piece of cloth that could function as a garment, tent curtain, or even carrying sack. The threads were derived from wood, flax, or goat hair that could be left in their original, subtle tone or be dyed radiant colors. (Beck, John A. The Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013; 292.)

This practice continues in many parts of the world to this day. On various tours that I have conducted the group will gather around a woman working at the loom to make clothing or carpets. They usually marvel at her skill and finesse.

In the description of the worthy woman (or capable wife), the book of Proverbs says,

She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. (Proverbs 31:13 ESV)

She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. (Proverbs 31:19 ESV)

We see a wonderful example of this at Nazareth Village. Sometimes an older, more experienced woman demonstrates how to spin wool to weave cloth. On this occasion a young lady was using wool previously dyed to make the thread needed for the project we see on the loom.

A young lady spinning wool at the Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A young lady spinning wool at the Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There is a long history behind the wool waiting in a nearby basket, but that is for another time.

A basket of wool waiting to be spun into yarn. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A basket of wool waiting to be spun into yarn. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

You might enjoy a longer article about “Weaving in Bible Times” here.

Thomson on the pesky sparrows in Syria

William M. Thomson writes of the pesky sparrows in Syria.

No traveler in Syria will need an introduction to the sparrow on the house-top. They are a tame, troublesome, vivacious, and impertinent generation, and nestle just where they are not wanted. They stop up the stoves-pipes and water-gutters with their rubbish, build nests in the windows and under the beams in the roof, and would stuff your hat full of stubble if they found it hanging in a place to suit them. They are extremely pertinacious in asserting their right of possession, and have not the least reverence for any place or thing. David alludes to these characteristics of the sparrow in the eighty-fourth Psalm, when he complains that they had appropriated even the altars of God for their nests [Psalm 84:3]. Concerning himself, he says, “I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house-top” [Psalm 102:7]. When one of them has lost its mate—a matter of every-day occurrence—he will sit on the house-top alone, and lament by the hour his sad bereavement. As these birds are not much relished for food, five sparrows may still be sold for “two farthings;” and when we see the eagerness with which they are destroyed as a worthless nuisance, we can appreciate the assurance that our heavenly Father, who takes care of them, so that not one can fall to the ground without his notice, will surely take care of us, who “are of more value than many sparrows.” [Matthew 10:29, 31; Luke 12:6-7] (Thomson, William M. The Land and the Book. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1886. Vol. 2, p.59.

The photo below shows one of the many varieties of sparrows found in the Middle East.

Two sparrows at Ein Avedat in the Negev of Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Two sparrows at Ein Avedat in the Negev of Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The first verse mentioned by Thomson illustrates the nuisance of the sparrow, making a nest even at the altars of the LORD.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. (Psalm 84:3 ESV)

The next speaks of the lonely sparrow.

I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop. (Psalm 102:7 ESV)

The last reference speaks of the custom of buying sparrows.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31 ESV)

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Keener, Craig S.)  explains this custom.

Sparrows were one of the cheapest items sold for poor people’s food in the marketplace, the cheapest of all birds. Two were here purchased for an assarion, a small copper coin of little value (less than an hour’s work); Luke 12:6 seems to indicate that they were even cheaper if purchased in larger quantities. This is a standard Jewish “how much more” argument: If God cares for something as cheap as sparrows, how much more does he care for people!

The Lord’s use of simple examples from nature and everyday life to illustrate great truths provides an example for all who teach.