My first shock came one year ago today

It’s not that I am slow, and I am aware that the news media celebrated the anniversary of the beginning of the Covid-19 in the United States one week ago today. I keep up with the news. I am sort of a news junkie. I think it is related to my years of travel. It was important that I know what was going on in the various places I wanted to visit.

March 18, 2020 I had an appointment with my ophthalmologist. The waiting time was always long there but I may have been in and out in two hours. When I visit that clinic I frequently stop by a Publix grocery on the corner of Hillsborough and Habana to pick up a few needed items. My regular store is nearer to my home, but I had to get back before our helper was scheduled to leave.

The cell signal was not very good in the eye clinic so I must have missed some significant morning news. First, I was surprised at the large crowd at the grocery. But my real shock came when I went to the bread aisle to pickup up a loaf of bread. You see only one loaf of something that I would not have been interested in unless I was very hungry. It was about 11 a.m. when i walked in the store.

Next, I went by the meat counters. The butchers were bringing out a small tray with perhaps six to twelve items on them from time to time. Shoppers were already waiting to take whatever was available.

Photo made March 18, 2020

Need I go on? The shelves for paper towels, toilet paper, and cleaning products were already cleaned out. This past year has been quite a ride to someone shut in as a caregiver. I have someone who comes to help a few hours a week. This allowed me to keep those necessary appointments, shop for groceries, etc.

My patience with the young ones who complain about beach and bar closings is very limited.

Delighted to say that my wife and I are now weeks past our final vaccine injection. We feel good about that, but we still wear our masks for the benefit of other who may not yet be that fortunate.

St. Patrick’s Day. A Family and Religious Connection to Ireland

It has been my pleasure to lead a few tours to Ireland. I always felt a connection to the country because one fourth of my family history (maternal grandmother) is easily traced back to Ireland. And I sense a slight connection through the religious leaders Thomas and Alexander Campbell.

Thomas Campbell was born in County Down, Ireland, February 1, 1763, but he was educated at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He became a Presbyterian minister but gradually came to question allegiance to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Whether he said it in these exact words his writings agree with the phrase, “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.” As a result of bad health Thomas came to American in 1807 ahead of the planned trip for his family. He settled and eventually died in Bethany, [West] Virginia in 1854.

At one point in his life Thomas Campbell settled at Rich Hill in [northern] Ireland and preached for a nearby Presbyterian church. In order to make ends meet he began an academy with the help of his son Alexander. Eva Jean Wrather, Alexander Campbell : adventurer in freedom : a literary biography, says,

Thomas decided to take up his old occupation of schoolmaster. This time, he would open his own academy. The prospect was especially inviting since Alexander, now age sixteen, was proficient enough in the ordinary branches of learning to act as his assistant.

Campbell lived in this multi-story house with fourteen windows on the square of Rich Hill that provided enough space for the family and the school.

Campbell Country Photos - House in Rich Hill, Ireland, where the

This house faced a much larger house on the opposite side of the square that was occupied by the family of William Richardson the Lord of Rich Hill Castle and high sheriff. Eventually Alexander was hired to serve as tutor to the Richardson daughters. The house now seems to be unoccupied and in need of repair.

Campbell Country Photos - Richardson Castle in Rich Hill, Irelan

Alexander was born in County Antrim, Ireland, about a mile from Shane’s Castle, September 12, 1788. He died at Bethany, West Virginia in 1866.

Thomas sent word for the family to join him in America. They sailed on the Hibernia through Lough Foyle from Londonderry, passing McGilligan’s Point, October 1, 1808. The ship encountered a storm and was shipwrecked on the island of Islay. From there they went into Glasgow, Scotland, and lived for nearly a year. Alexander used the opportunity to attend the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He was greatly influenced by James and Robert Haldane, of the Church of Scotland. They set up independent churches with elders over each church, and observed the Lord’s Supper each Sunday. Alexander soon cut his ties with the Presbyterians.

The Campbell family sailed from Scotland on August 3, 1809 and came to America after 57days of sailing. Alexander and Thomas had independently come to similar religious views. The Campbells organized the Brush Run church, near Washington, Pennsylvania., in 1811. After a year-long study Alexander Campbell was convinced that baptism was immersion. In 1812 he had a Baptist preacher to immerse him in Buffalo Creek. Soon other members of the family and of the Brush Run church were immersed.

Along with other leaders such as Barton W. Stone, Thomas and Alexander became leaders in a movement commonly called the Stone-Campbell Movement.

Some additional information about the Campbell stay in Rich Hill and their efforts to teach the Gospel is available at the Restoration Movement website here.


N.B. I have not forgotten the promised series on the Seven Churches of Revelation. Health concerns in my family have prevented me from completing these post.

Inauguration on the Nile, 2021

This is a re-post from USA Inauguration Day in 2009 and 2013.

Shortly before sunset, January 20, 2009, I made a few photos of the Nile River looking toward the west bank of the river. I thought I would share this one with you.

Sunset on the Nile during Inaguration. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Sunset during a Nile River cruise January 20, 2009. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We are anchored on the Nile a few miles south of Luxor. From my cabin on the Tu Ya cruise boat I am watching the Al Jazeera Network live coverage of the inauguration ceremonies in Washington. The choice of the majority of voters on November 2 was not my choice, but I must say that I am proud at this moment to be an American.

The American ideal of freedom and justice for all is a noble one. Surely there are times when this ideal is not met, but it remains the dream that holds us together, many as one. The diversity of our nation is a testimony to the vitality of that dream.

The inaugural ceremony is the same whether watching it live in Washington, on Al Jezeera in Egypt, or on CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, or one of the other networks in the United States. Well, maybe. The thing that makes the difference is the commentary afterwards and the news chosen to run underneath the live event.

Added Note: I wish to call attention to a fine article by David Diestelkamp in the recent issue of Think under the title @notmyCaesar.

Problems faced by the Seven Churches # 4

The city of Thyatira, modern Akhisar, Turkey, is said to be the least important city among the seven mentioned in the book of Revelation. Yamauchi quotes Pliny the Elder’s statement about Thyatira in the Roman period as “a city of no first-rate dignity” (The Archaeology of New Testament Cities, 51). Thyatira was strategically situated on a main road that ran between Pergamum and Laodicea. Philadelphia also was on this road. Most travel was through the valleys. This road, which was part of “the imperial post road linking Italy-Greece-Asia Minor with Egypt, gave it commercial importance” (New International Dictionary of Church History, 974). The modern road between Izmir and Thyatira is good, but the road between Pergamum and Thyatira has not been among the best during my trips. See map here.

Inscriptions and coins show that Thyatira was noted for its many trade-guilds, roughly equivalent to our labor unions. “There are references to unions of clothiers, bakers, tanners, potters, linen-workers, wool-merchants, slave-traders, copper-smiths and dyers” (Hemer, “Unto the Angels of the Churches,” Bible History 11 (1975). 110). The Christians who lived there objected to the guilds because of the guild rites which required all members to eat a sacrificial meal and to honor a pagan deity. Immorality was often associated with the banquets.

One of the most prominent deities at Thyatira was Tyrimnos, an ancient sun god, but there was also a Artemis type temple whose goddess was called Boreitene. No temple to the Roman Emperor was ever built there. Cosmades says, “When the Romans took over the city, the emperor-worship cult was united with the dominant system” (Nothing Beside Remains, p. 56). Even without a temple to the Emperor at least four Christians of Thyatira (mid third century) were taken to Pergamum and martyred (Meinardus, St. John of Patmos and the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse, p. 95).

The major excavated ruins of Thyatira cover a square block in the center of modern Akhisar, Turkey.

Thyatira rooftop view. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

A rooftop view of Thyatira. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For years columns and arches of the ancient city have lain scattered across the square block in Akhisar. In October, 2020, Dr. Mark Wilson, author of Biblical Turkey who makes Turkey his home, was able to get his first photo of the restored stoa of Thyatira. I have only seen it in the ruins.

The recently reconstructed stoa of Thyatira. Photo by Dr. Mark Wilson. Used by permission.

There are numerous inscriptions strewn among the ruins of Thyatira that illustrate some aspects of this longest of the seven letters [edicts].

You may have noted that various statements about the glorified Christ in chapter 1 are used in the text of the individual edicts. One statement says, “his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace” (Rev. 1:15 ESV). Roman coins from Thyatira highlight this statement.

Coin of ancient Thyatira, Ramsay, Letters to the Seven Churches, 325. ferrelljenkins.blog

Hephaestus is portrayed as a metal worker making a helmet for Diana. Ramsay, Letters to the Seven Churches, p. 325.

The Lord tells the church at Sardis,

The one who conquers will be dressed like them in white clothing, and I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will declare his name before my Father and before his angels. (Rev. 3:5 NET

Thyatira inscription showing erasure of Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus II. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

This inscription shows the erasure (blotting or wiping out) of the name of Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus II ) = Elagabalus, A.D. 218-222) on the fifth line from the top. This indicates he was of damnable memory. Note last line – oi gnapheis – the fullers – one of the important trade guilds. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Another inscription from Thyatira has the name of Domitian chiseled off on the fourth or fifth line. You will see the name of Titus Vespasian, the brother of Domitian on the top line.

Thyatira inscripton mentioning Titus and Vespasian, with name of Domitian chiselled off. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Inscription photographed at Thyatira in 2001. It has the name of Titus Vespasian on the top line, but the name of his brother Domitian (Roman Emperor A.D. 81-96) is erased. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The problems faced by the saints at Thyatira was much the same as those faced by the other churches. Idolatry, the worship of pagan gods, and Emperor worship was a problem they all faced to some degree. Eating meat sacrificed to idols and immorality was also a problem for many of the Christians. Compromise with these more common practices had already been mentioned in the letter to the church at Pergamum where the Old Testament character responsible for leading the saints to compromise was the Old Testament character Balaam. In the letter to the saints at Thyatira the person responsible was a woman who claimed to be a prophetess like Jezebel.

What do we know about the Old Testament Jezebel?

  • She was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians, and a
    devotee to Baal.
  • She supported 450 prophets of Baal and 450 prophets of Asherah.
    It was these prophets of Baal with which Elijah contended on Mount
    Carmel (1 Kings 18).
  • She sought to kill the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19:2).
  • She had Naboth murdered and confiscated his vineyard at Jezreel (1 Kings 21).

If you have read the Old Testament account you know that Jezebel came under the judgment of the LORD. Both this account and the one in Revelation illustrates the folly of making a concession to error and the practice of immorality.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the situation described in the book of Revelation fits perfectly with what we learn when we read the history of the area and visit the ruins of the ancient cities named in the book.

A gift beyond comparison

The exact date of the birth of Jesus is unknown but whenever it was I am grateful for God’s gift of His son. Artists paint their conception of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, and artists are generally known for combining two or more ideas into one. That is certainly done in the scene pictured below, but I read the Scripture and the culture of the time as we know it and enjoy the message of the scene.

Nativity scene at Bethlehem. Photo: Ferrelljenkins.blog.

A nativity scene at Bethlehem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For the two biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus I suggest you read Matthew 1:18-2:12 and Luke 2:1-20.

Here is the account of the physician Luke as recorded in Luke 2.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,
5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.
7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.
17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.
18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.
19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:1-20 ESV)

Bryan Windle posted a good article on his Bible Archaeology Report about the Archaeology of Christmas here.

Problems faced by the Seven Churches # 3

There is something unique about the way each of the seven “letters” of Revelation begin.

Each of the “letters” to the named churches of Asia in Revelation 2-3 differs from a letter in being essentially an oral statement and in not making reference to particular individuals. The “letters” to the seven churches (Rev. 2:1, etc.) are edicts and open, as here, with the characteristic verb of declaration, λεγει [says] (Horsley, New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity, I:40. Horsley points to numerous examples of this use during the Roman Imperial period, as do major lexicons.

The terminology used sets up the great battle of the book. It is Lord God versus Lord Caesar or, to say it another way, King Jesus versus the king of Rome.

Too many times I have heard the statement made something like this: “I don’t know what this biblical passage meant to the original readers, but here is what it means to us.” Such a statement frightens me. If I do not understand what a text meant to the original readers, how can I know what it is supposed to mean to me? Understanding a text in its original context allows one to make an application of it to his or her own life situation.

What problem did the church at Pergamum face? Certainly they faced the problems we have already mentioned, the worship of pagan gods and the worship of the Roman emperor. Conditions were extremely difficult for the Christians at Pergamum (Rev. 2:12-17. The church is said to dwell where Satan’s throne is (2:13). In spite of this the saints were holding fast to the name of the the risen savior even in the days of Antipas who was martyred.

Asklepios, Athens National Museum. ferrelljenkins.blog.

Statue of Asklepios displayed in the National Museum, Athens, Greece. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The photo below was made at the Askelpium. From there we see the citadel of the ancient city.

Pergamum Ascleipium with citadel in distance. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

The Asclepium at Pergamum with a view of the citadel in the distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

What is the meaning of the expression “where Satan dwells”? E. M. Blaiklock, Cities of the New Testament, finds three strata of paganism at Pergamum.

  1. Associated with the worship of snakes and handling of reptiles. There was a great center involving the worship of Asklepios, the god of healing, at Pergamum. The serpent was the symbol of Asklepios.
  2. The worship of Zeus and Athena. There were temples to each of them at Pergamum.
  3. The Imperial cult during the Roman period.

When we see a statue of Asklepios we see a serpent entwined around his staff. The temple of Zeus has been reconstructed in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin, Germany. Some of the reliefs from the temple shows battles involving giants whose legs were massive serpents. The Christians would be familiar with the Old Testament account of the fall of man and the part that the serpent played in it. The book of Revelation presents the great dragon as “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). The woman of Revelation 12:14-15 was given wings of a great eagle in order to fly into the wilderness to be cared for, like ancient Israel was, for a time, times, and half a time. See also Revelation 20:2 that tells of the binding of “the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan.”

Reliefs from Zeus Altar, Pergamum. Berlin. Ferrelljenkins.blog.

Reliefs associated with the Zeus Altar at Pergamum show giants with legs of serpents. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Much of the symbolism of the book of Revelation may be unfamiliar to modern readers, but I strongly contend that it was not unfamiliar to the original readers of the book. Even the coins they used portrayed some of the same symbolism.

In the garden of the museum at Bergama, the modern Turkish city at Pergamum, an inscription naming Pergamum as twice Neokoros (temple keeper or warden) of the Imperial cult. The city was the first of Asia Minor to be awarded a temple. This temple was erected to Augustus in 29 B.C. The second temple was erected to Trajan (A.D. 98-117). A third temple was erected to Caracalla (A.D. 211-217).

Inscription names Pergamum twice Neokoros. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Inscription in the garden of the Bergama Museum naming Pergamum as twice Neokoros (see fourth line: ΝEΟΚΩPOY) of an Imperial temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins of the Trajan temple have been partially reconstructed at Pergamum. Several times I have worked with churches meeting in rental halls or small buildings. Occasionally someone asks, “where is your church [building]”? When I told them where we met they might say that their church was the large magnificent one a block from the city square…. One can imagine how the saints at Pergamum might have felt under similar circumstances.

Inscription in the garden of Bergama Museum naming Pergamum as twice Neokoros of an imperial temple. Photo Ferrelljenkins.blog.

Reconstruction of the beautiful temple erected to Trajan at Pergamum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some of the saints at Pergamum held to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Some at Ephesus hated the works of the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:6). I know no more about this group than you can read in dozens of commentaries. But there were some in the church “who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality” (Rev. 2:14 ESV). These were the requirements to be placed on Gentile converts (Acts 15:29; 21:25). John had urged Christians to “not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15-17). This, he said, includes the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and the pride of life. I hear some putting all of this under the term worldliness. Adding sexual immorality to the eating of food sacrificed to idols definitely introduces our third problem faced by the Christians of the Gentile world. Paul’s discussion in Romans 1:18-32 and in the first epistle to the Corinthians provides more insight into the problem (see 1 Corinthians 6:9ff. and chapter 8).

An important episode in the history of Israel involved Balaam (Numbers 22-25; 31). He is known from
an 8th to 6th century B.C. Aramaic inscription found at Deir-Alla, Jordan, in 1967. Deir Alla is identified with biblical Succoth, the place where Jacob built a house for his family and shelters for his livestock (Genesis 33:16), by some scholars. Others say it is the site of Penuel where Jacob wrestled with the angel (Genesis 32:25-32). I am inclined to the first view, but that is not why we are mentioning the site.

Deir Alla in the Jordan Valley. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog

View of Deir Alla in the eastern Jordan Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In 1967 Dutch archaeologists led by Prof. H. J. Franken, found a fallen plaster wall containing a reference to the seer Balaam son of Beor. For some reason Balaam continued to be a significant influence to some in the area. See Franken’s entry in the Anchor Bible Dictionary and Lemaire’s article in Biblical Archaeology Review 11:05 Sept./Oct 1985. This is slightly aside from our main purpose here, but it illustrates the illumination provided by archaeological discoveries.

Deir Alla inscription showing name of Balaam. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Inscription from Deir Alla showing name of Balaam. The name of the prophet is on the line above our blog name. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins in the Amman Archaeological Museum.

The problem here is that of compromise with religious error and sexual immorality. Paul refers to the Old Testament episode (Numbers 22-25) but does not call Balaam by name (1 Cor. 10:8). G. B. Caird (A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John) says Balaam is “the father of religious syncretism.” Earlier we stated that the Christians were not persecuted because they worshiped Christ, but because they would not worship the Emperor. Like Paul and John, the apostle Peter commanded the Christians to whom he wrote to keep their conduct among the Gentiles honorable (1 Peter 2:11-25).

The lesson from this episode in the account of Balaam and Balak is to get the people of God involved in the worship with the the pagans and in the immorality associated with it. I would say that it seems to work with most of the people most of the time.

Problems faced by the Seven Churches # 2

In the first of this series we discussed the worship of Artemis and other gods that were prevalent at Ephesus. None of these problems are limited to a single group of Christians but I will often use one of the churches as an illustration.

The second problem faced by the Christians of Asia Minor was Emperor worship. It is common to hear a lot of talk about the persecution of the early Christians, but the term is not used in the Apocalypse. Instead we find the terms trial (Rev. 3:16) and suffer (Rev. 2:10) and tribulation (Rev. 1:9; 2:9,10,22; 7:14). The term tribulation implies pressure brought upon the Christians. We may think of this as persecution but let us not get hung up on that particular term. In my tour notebooks for this area I have included a chart showing the Ten Major Persecutions under the Roman Empire typically listed in works on church history. Here below is that simple list. Nero’s persecution seems to have been limited to Rome. By the time we reach Diocletian we see a more widespread situation. In A.D. 305 Diocletian ordered that all church buildings be burned along with all books and Bibles of the church.

1. Nero (A.D. 64–67).
2. Domitian (A.D. 81–96).
3. Trajan (A.D. 98–117).
4. Hadrian (A.D. 117–138).
5. Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 161–180).
6. Septimus Severus (A.D. 193–211).
7. Maximinus the Thracian (A.D. 235–236).
8. Decius (A.D. 249–251).
9. Valerian (A.D. 257–260).
10. Diocletian (A.D. 303–311).

Major persecutions against Christians by the Roman Empire. ferrelljenkins.blog

Ten major persecutions against Christians by Roman emperors. Photo: Ferrelljenkins.blog.

If one understands the Babylon of the book of Revelation (14:8; 16:19; 17-18) to be the Roman Empire then we see the “soon” of passages like 1:1, 3:11, et al. to include this entire period. Certainly the same or similar situations face Christians of all ages.

A bit of background of the situation in Asia Minor might be helpful to some readers. The next section comes from my Studies in the Book of Revelation which includes a chapter on Emperor Worship.

The Roman Empire was made up of many smaller nations. Rome accepted all of the “gods” and the Pantheon in Rome was erected so that all these “gods” could be worshiped. Later, the rulers were often worshiped by all citizens. The worship of kings was common in the eastern portion of the Roman empire. About three hundred years before Christ the Attalid Kingdom was set up in Asia Minor. These Attalid kings, many of them bearing the name Attalus, were worshiped as gods. At Pergamum one may see the ruins of the heroon, outside the citadel gate, which served as a sanctuary of the heroized kings.

Attalus III, who died in 133 BC, bequeathed all the movable assets of his empire to the Romans. “This was misinterpreted as meaning all his possessions, including his whole kingdom. Thus, the Romans inherited a country of 66,750 square miles with the most beautiful cities of Asia Minor” (Cosmades, Nothing Beside Remains, 36). This territory served as an excellent buffer between Rome and the Seleucid empire of Syria and later the Parthians. This explains how Rome came to have power in Asia Minor. Emperor worship was easily adopted by the people of this region.

Christians could not worship the emperor and were considered atheists by Empire standards. The Christians were not persecuted for serving Christ, but for not worshiping the emperor. The cities of Asia Minor vied for the honor of erecting a temple to the emperor. Pergamum won this honor as early as 29 B.C. (cf. Rev. 2:13). When the Christians were persecuted some of them were willing to serve the Emperor but others were willing to die. It cost something to be a Christian then. (Studies in the Book of Revelation, p. 5.)

⇒ This book is available from the Florida College Bookstore here. Search for the title of the book or the author’s name.)

One of the significant things to see during a visit to the ruins of ancient Ephesus is called Domitian Square. There we see the platform with steps leading to the top where the Temple of Domitian, or Temple of the Flavian Emperors once stood.

Domitian Square, Ephesus. Ferrelljenkins.blog.

Domitian Square at Ephesus. Some writers refer to this area where the temple stood as the temple of the Flavian Emperors. This would include Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. The temple stood on the platform above the arches. The steps to the right of center led to the temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A large statue of the emperor stood on the platform. Several scholars hold the more recent view that the head discovered here is that of Titus.

Portions of the larger-than-life statue of Domitian (or Titus) from the temple in Ephesus. Ephesus Museum. Photo:  ferrelljenkins.blog.

Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey) became a great center for Emperor worship. Out of the Pax Romana (the Roman peace) grew the worship of Dea Roma (the goddess Rome). Smyrna was the first city of Asia to erect a temple to the cult of the city of Rome in 195 B.C. In 26 B.C., during the early imperial period, eleven cities of Asia were competing for the right to build a temple of Tiberias and thus become the neokoros (temple warden) for the Roman Imperial cult. Rome decided in favor of Smyrna in recognition of her long loyalty (Tacitus Annals Iv. 55.56). Smyrna won the title of “First of Asia” (found on coins) and was thrice named “Temple Warden” (Cosmades, Thomas. Nothing Beside Remains, 1964. 26).

During the reign of the emperor Trajan (A.D. 98-117), Ignatius of Antioch passed through Smyrna on his way to execution in Rome. While at Troas he wrote letters to several churches including The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smymaeans, and an epistle to Polycarp (The Ante-Nicene Fathers).

Polycarp, a leader in the church at Smyrna, was martyred by the Romans in about A.D. 156. He was arrested and ordered to say Lord Caesar” and to offer incense to the image of the Emperor Antonius Pius (A.D. 138–161). Upon refusing to do so, Polycarp was then asked to swear by the fortune of the emperor, to
deny Christ and to denounce the atheists (Christians). He was sentenced to death by burning because he would not comply with the wishes of the authorities. He is remembered for his offer to teach the
Roman soldiers, and for saying “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury; how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?” Yamauchi says about 10 other Christians were martyred in the city’s stadium at the same time (The Archaeology of New Testament Cities in Western Asia Minor, p. 61).

Persecution of Christians at Smyrna. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Polycarp of Smyrna was put to death during the reign of Antonius Pius in about A.D. 156. Powerpoint slide: ferrelljenkins.blog.

In Izmir, Turkey, the modern counterpart of ancient Smyrna, we find the Polycarp church. There a large piece of art illustrates what we know about his death.

Artist rendition of the martyrdom of Polycarp displayed in the Polycarp church in Izmir. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Artist rendition of the martyrdom of Polycarp in the city stadium displayed in the Polycarp church in Izmir. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The letter to the church at Pergamum names a Christian by the name of Antipas who was killed (Rev. 2:13). After the close of the New Testament we find other references to followers of Christ who were martyred at the hands of the Romans.

From the writings of Pliny, governor of Pontus, to the emperor Trajan we learn that the same procedure was practiced by the authorities before they killed Christians. See our article with more photos here.

Numerous illustrations could be used from other cities, but I will leave the subject here. The situation described in the book of Revelation fits perfectly with what we learn when we read the history of the area and visit the ruins of the ancient cities named in the book.

The term autokrator (= English, autokrat) is used of the Roman emperors on coins and inscriptions. Domitian styled himself Master and God. Two inscriptions found at Jerash, Jordan, in 1974 describe Domitian as son of the divine (theou) Vespasian. Domitian’s name is erased from both inscriptions as it is on many other inscriptions indicating that he  is of damnable memory. After the death of Domitian the Roman Senate issued a damnatio memoriae (of damnable memory) and his name was erased from many monuments throughout the Empire. I have examples of this from Ephesus, Smynra, Thyatira, and other places. (See Franz, Gordon. “The King and I: The Apostle John and Emperor Domitian.” Bible and Spade 12.2 (1999): 44. Print.

Above I mentions my Studies in the Book of Revelation. There I list several believers who were martyred during the reign of various Roman emperors (pp. 79-81).

Our lesson from all of this is to be loyal to Christ no matter what the threat may be.

Problems Faced by the Seven Churches # 1

As Gentiles heard the Gospel and obeyed it, the new Christians faced problems that had not been faced by the Jewish converts. At Lystra a man lame from birth was healed by Paul. So effective was this miracle that the crowd began saying in their own Lycaonian language,

“The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!”  Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker” (Acts 14:11-12 ESV).

Zeus was considered by the Greeks to be the chief god of the pantheon of gods. Among the Romans he was known as Jupiter. Sometimes he was known as Olympian Zeus because he is said to have resided in Mount Olympus.

/classic

View of Mount Olympus from Dion, Greece. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There may have been several temples dedicated to Zeus in Asia Minor. One outstanding one was the temple at Pergamum. But more about that one later.

This bust of Zeus is displayed in the museum at Ephesus

A bust of Zeus, the chief of the pagan gods, displayed in the museum at Ephesus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the letter to the church at Pergamum it is said that they had some who hold the teaching of Balaam, “who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality” (Rev. 2:14; see also 2:20; 9:20; 21:8; 22:15 ESV).

For many workers in the ancient world participation in banquets where food was sacrificed to idols was expected and the practice of sexual immorality apparently was common.

At Ephesus the most popular god was Artemis or Diana as she was known to the Romans. There were temples dedicated to her in other cities of Asia Minor. Sardis, for example. Paul’s preaching the gospel of Christ ruined the business of the silversmiths who made small images of Artemis at Ephesus. The outrage brought about the massive gathering in the theater at Ephesus (Acts 19).

We have only a few remains of the Artemis temple at Ephesus, but enough remains to determine the size of the temple where the statue of Artemis was displayed. Pausanias said the temple of Artemis surpassed every structure raised by human hands. One of the best displays of artifacts relating to the temple is in the British Museum.

Model of the Temple of Artemis/Diana. Located in the Ephesus Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Artemis is said to have been worshiped “in all of Asia and the world.” She is described as magnificent and great (Acts 19:27-28). Artemis probably would not have fared well in a modern beauty contest. She was not a lovely figure, but originally she was a “black, squat, repulsive figure” covered with many breasts. It is thought that originally she might have been carved from a meteorite. The final form of Artemis is seen in our photo below. Suggestions regarding her appearance include multiple breasts, ostrich eggs, bunches of dates, ova of bees, testicles of bulls, (bunches of grapes). It is agreed that Diana was the mother of fertility.

Artemis/Diana of the Ephesians. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Artemis statue from Ephesus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If everyone in town adored Artemis it would be more of a temptation for the new Christians to leave their love for Christ and return to the former practice. The Lord told the Ephesians, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev. 2:4 ESV).

The Suez Canal at Sunset

Promised posts on the book of Revelation have not been forgotten but other more pressing things have consumed my time.

This morning I ran across some photos I made of the Suez Canal and thought I would post one of them. This photo was made from the Asia side of the Suez Canal. The view is west toward Africa. At this point the Suez Canal cuts through Lake Timsah.

Ship in Suez Canal at sunset. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Ship passing through the Suez Canal where it crosses Lake Timsah at sunset. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Suez canal connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. After ten years of work the canal was completed in 1869.

Some scholars have suggested that the crossing by the Israelites as they left Egypt may have been in the area around Lake Timsah (through, south or north of it). Other suggestions include a site in the vicinity of Lake Ballah or the Great Bitter Lake for the crossing. We have several posts dealing with this subject. Search for Suez Canal, Great Bitter Lake, or the Exodus.

Read the biblical account in Exodus 13.

Locating the Seven Cities of Revelation 1-3

The Address Tells Us a Lot

“The book of Revelation is addressed to the seven churches that are in Asia. In the Roman Empire the province of Asia comprised the territory in Asia Minor south of Bithynia, north of Lycia, west of Galatia, and east of the Aegean” (Pfeiffer 287). Separate letters are addressed to the seven churches of Asia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea. The “letters” actually take the form of Imperial edicts, opening “with the characteristic verb of declaration, legei [says]” (Horsley I:40; cf. Deissmann 375). These churches must be representative, for there were other churches in Asia: Troas (Acts 20:7); Colossae (Col. 1:2); Hierapolis (Col. 4:13). Beginning at Ephesus, the cities named formed a type of circuit or loop. If one begins at Ephesus and follows the route suggested in Revelation, the distance from Ephesus to Laodicea is about 256 miles. From Laodicea to Ephesus is almost 100 miles.” See source below.

The map showing Patmos and the area of Asia Minor where the Seven Churches of Revelation 1-3 were located in Asia Minor (Revelation 1:4, 11). Take a look at the map. Begin with Ephesus, then move north to Smyrna, on to Pergamum. Then take the road southeast to Thyatira. Continue southeast to Sardis. From there continue east to Philadelphia, then southeast to Laodicea. If you wanted to complete the circuit you could travel west back to Ephesus. You could trace these same places on a modern map of Turkey, but the modern names of the cities must be followed: Selcuk, Izmir, Bergama, Akhisar, Sardes, Alasehir. Laodicea is located between Pamukale and Denizli. Most tours use the hotels at Kusadasi (near Ephesus) or Izmir, and Pamukale, working in and out from these cities.

This map showing the location of Patmos and the Seven Churches of Revelation was made in BibleMapper by Mark Hoffman.

The seven churches are said by the Lord to be “seven golden lampstands” (Rev. 1:20). We should not think of the Menorah, a seven-branched lamp. Instead we think of seven individual stands, each with a lamp on top. The church is to hold up or display the light. The example from Ephesus pictured below may give us insight into the imagery being used here.

Lamp on Stand, Ephesus Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

When we read about the church in Jerusalem, Samaria, and other cities of the Levant we see a special set of problems related to the relationship between the new Christian movement and Judaism. When we move into the territory of Syria, Cilicia, Galatia, Asia Minor, Greece and Rome we see different problems and circumstances.

One reads Exodus in the light of the circumstances faced by the Israelites in Egypt. One reads Leviticus and Numbers in the light of the wilderness travel of the Israelites. The gospels are read with an understanding of the background of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. In Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome we read the Epistles and Revelation with an understanding of that background.

Source: The first paragraph is from: Jenkins, Ferrell. “Introduction to the Book of Revelation.” Overcoming with the Lamb: Lessons from the Book of Revelation. Ed. Ferrell Jenkins. Temple Terrace, FL: Florida College Bookstore, 1994. 19. Print. Florida College Annual Lectures.) This book is available from Logos in digital format.