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.

John was “on the island called Patmos”

Posted on November 10, 2020

Map, made in BibleMapper, to show Patmos in relation to cities of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) such as Miletus and Ephesus.

John, the writer of the book of Revelation, was “on the island called Patmos, because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9). I am convinced that this was the apostle John. He was there because of (Greek dia, on account of) the word of God. Filson says this could mean either banishment, or banishment to hard labor. He points out that the word of God and witness or testimony are used in Revelation 6:9 and 20:4 “in reference to a persecution situation” (Interpreter’s Dictionary Bible III:677).

The Romans used the island as a penal settlement to which they sent political agitators and others who threatened the peace of the empire (Tacitus Annals 3.68; 4.30; 15.71). According to the church historian Eusebius, John was banished to Patmos by the Emperor Domitian, A. D. 95, and released 18 months later under Nerva (HE III.18.1; 20.8-9).

Two coins bearing the likeness of the Emperor Domitian. They are displayed in the Pergamum Museum, Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Patmos is a rocky island off the west coast of Asia Minor in the Aegean Sea, about 37 miles southwest of Miletus. The island is one of the Dodecanese (twelve) or of the Southern Sporades. It is about 10 miles long (N–S) and 6 miles wide at the north end, and consists of about 22 square miles of land area. The island is mountainous and of irregular outline. Some visitors to the island have suggested that the natural scenery “determined some features of the imagery of the Apocalypse” (HDB III:693-94).

Patmos. The port of Scala from Chora. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Patmos has been a part of Greece since 1947, and may be reached by boat from Piraeus, Samos, Kos, or Rhodes. The ferry from Samos takes about 2 1/2 hours, arriving at the port of Skala. Some cruise ships sail from Kusadasi, Turkey, to Patmos.

On the way from Skala to Chora, the only other town on the island, one passes the Monastery and Cave of the Apocalypse. This Greek Orthodox site is marked as the traditional place where John received the Revelation.

Interior of the traditional Cave of the Apocalypse on Patmos. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

At Chora, the monastery of St. John the Theologian dominates the island. It was built by a monk called Christodulos (slave of Christ) in A. D. 1088. The monastery library is noted for its manuscripts, but especially for its collection of more than 200 icons. The oldest book in the library is part of a 6th century codex of Mark (Codex Purpureus). The second oldest manuscript is an 8th century A. D. copy of Job.

The modern port of Scala at Patmos. The island receives many visitors during the summer vacation season and many workers come to take advantage of the summer jobs.

The view we have of the harbor of Scala today is a far cry from the Patmos where John lived, but it was here that he saw the vision of the glorified Christ as recorded in Revelation 1:9ff.

Note: Friends at the church we attend in non-pandemic times are currently studying the book of Revelation. I thought a few photos that I have made over the years might be helpful to them and to others.

All the Light We Need

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, provides a brief explanation about the Aladdin Lamp:

The subject of a story in the Arabian Nights. The young boy Aladdin acquires a magic lamp that, when rubbed, brings forth a genie, who grants Aladdin’s wishes to win the hand of the sultan’s daughter and to build a palace. The magician who first gave Aladdin the lamp steals it back, but Aladdin regains the lamp, and he and the sultan’s daughter live happily ever after.

The lamp that Americans of the 1930s and 1940s came to know as the Aladdin Lamp was already in use in Germany during the early part of the 20th century. The flat wick kerosene lamp was common in the rural south when I was a youngster, but the Aladdin Lamp provided much more light because the flame heated a frameless mantle that hung over the flame. We had one Aladdin Lamp which we kept in the “big room” where both my parents and I slept until during my early grammar [now elementary] school years. This was literally our “living room.”

The Aladdin Lamp provided light for all in the house. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

All of my evening school work was done in the light of the bright Aladdin Lamp. I thought that was the brightest light I had ever seen at night, and it was.

A few years ago, during a speaking engagement, I stayed with the James A. Metcalf family in Cullman, Alabama. They had the largest collection of Aladdin Lamps I have seen. Many of them had been refitted with electric fittings to make them usable today, like the one in our photo. I asked if he knew how much “wattage” one of the original lamps provided. He told me that it was about 60 watts.

Lamps like this provide us with a reminder of the wonderful illustration used by Jesus.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 ESV)

And, we recall the illumination and guidance provided by the LORD and His word.

Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105 NAS)

This photo above has been prepared in a size large enough to be used in PowerPoint presentations by my preaching/teaching friends. Just click on the image for a larger one.

I have not seen any of the Metcalf family since those few days in their home, but today at noon I learned of the death of James Metcalf. Immediately I recalled the lamps he had and how much I learned about them during that visit. My condolences to his good family.

Colossae – known only from Colossians

The word Colossae appears only once in the New Testament.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. (Colossians 1:1-2 ESV).

Colossae was one of the tri-cities of the Lycus River valley. Paul’s letter to the saints at Colossae mentions two other cities, Laodicea and Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13-16).

Colossae is located on the south bank of the small Lycus River which continues to flow westward to join the Meander River. In the photo below you will see the ancient mound central in this image. In the backgound (south) to the left you will see Mount Cadmus. The city of Honaz is located at the base of the mountain.

Between the vineyard in the foreground and the mound there is a a little black line. Hidden there is the small Lycus River flowing west (to the right).

Colossae, Mount Cadmus. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

The mound or tel ( Huyuk in Turkey) of Colossae is located on the north side of Mount Cadmus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The site of Colossae was discovered by William J. Hamilton in 1835. The tell (Turkish, huyuk) is located on the south bank of the Lycus River about three miles northwest of Honaz. Colossae was deserted by A.D. 800 when the city moved to the new town of Khonai (modern Honaz). There is little to be seen today. Several organizations have shown interest in excavating Colossae but so far there has been no major expedition. See article by Dr. Harold Mare, NEAS Bulletin, New Series No. 7, 1976. A group from Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia, has conducted some research in the area.

The Arch of Domitian at Hierapolis

Hierapolis is a city famous for its hot mineral springs and terraced travertine formations. Tradition associates this city with Philip. It is not clear whether Philip the apostle, or Philip the evangelist is intended. See here for more information and photos. A colonnaded street and the Arch of Domitian (emperor A.D. 81-96) was erected by Julius Frontinus, proconsul of Asia about A.D. 82-83. The book of Revelation was written about the time of Domitian’s death.

Arch of Domitian at Hierapolis. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

The colonnaded street and Arch of Domitian, Roman Emperor (A.D. 81-96), erected by Julius Frontinus, proconsul of Asia about A.D. 82-83. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Papias (about A.D. 60 to A.D. 130) was a disciple of the apostle John and a companion of Polycarp. Fragments of his writings about the apostles survive in Irenaeus and Eusebius. He is said to have been Bishop of Hierapolis. Eusebius (active about A.D. 185), tells us that Papias wrote as follows:

Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him.

Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia. (Euseius, Against Heresies III.1.1)

Paul commended Epaphras for his labor on behalf of all of the churches of the Lycus River valley.

For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis. (Colossians 4:13).

The photo is suitable for use in presentations for teaching.

How would Bet Guvrin look during a pandemic?

After the Parthians destroyed Maresha (40 B.C.), the city moved to a nearby village known as Bet (or Beth, or Beit) Guvrin. In A.D. 200, the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus established a Roman city and named it Eleutheropolis (A. Kloner, The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, I:195). Murphy-O’Connor says, “The prosperity of the city at this period is underlined by an oval amphitheatre.”

Aerial view of Bet Guvrin (Eleutheropolis). The amphitheater is located at the bottom of the left top corner of the photo. Highway 35 is on the right. Some ruins of Eleutheropolis can be seen on the south side (right) of the highway. If you have traveled in this area you may have stopped at the small gas station for a snack or a bite of lunch. The small road in the upper right corner leads to the entry to Maresha and the caves. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins in April, 2016.

Stemius Severus, Roman Emperor, AD 193-211. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Marble bust of Emperor Septimius Severus (A.D. 193-211) displayed in Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Before I move to the idea of a pandemic I should say that I really enjoy the artwork used in so many of Israel’s national parks. I even use one from the city of Avedat as the header for this blog.

There were plagues in the Roman Empire. The popular article by Caroline Wazer in The Atlantic discusses “The Plagues That Might Have Brought Down the Roman Empire” (March 16, 2016).

When Leon Mauldin and I visited the excavated ruins at Bet Guvrin in 2017 we enjoyed seeing many of the cutout figures adorning the ancient ruins. There were leaders from the Roman, Byzantine, Crusader, and the Mamluk period welcoming us.

Loosen your mind and let it fly as we enter this Israeli National Park, imagining there is a pandemic. I wanted to be friendly. At first I thought the soldier was welcoming me, but I think now that he may have been saying “stay two meters” from me. If we can’t control this thing we may have to begin wearing masks. None of us want that.”

Ferrell Jenkins greeted by Roman soldier at Bet Guvrin. Photo by Leon Mauldin/Ferrell Jenkins.

Ferrell Jenkins with a Roman Soldier at Bet Guvrin. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

As we approach the Roman amphitheater we observe that those still willing to gather in public are social distancing as they approach the entry.

The amphitheater at Bet Guvrin. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

The Amphitheater at Bet Guvrin has been decorated to remind us of the Roman period. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some fans can not resist giving their opinion to the others around them.

Glatiatorial fans approach the entrance. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

One fan turns to the other and asks if the monkey has been tested. The man behind wonders if he has been washed. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The amphitheater has been reconstructed with seating for various modern performances.

Inside the amphitheater we noticed that almost everyone was social distancing. We felt better about deciding to attend. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The gladiators are fighting viciously but still keeping their distance.

Gladiators at Bet Guvrin keep their distance from each other. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Even the gladiators keep their distance. Getting the virus could be worse than the sword or trident. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In a future post I plan to show you how the pandemic is affecting the archaeological work at the site.

When we are once again allowed to travel to Israel I think you may want to visit Bet Guvrin.

The day after Tisha B’av

The phrase Tisa B’av may be strange to Christians, but it means the Fast of the Ninth. The observance “is a day of mourning to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people” (Judaism 101). According to this source, five terrible events took place on or near the ninth day of the month Av, the fifth month of the Jewish calendar.

The most significant of these events are the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:8-9; Jeremiah 52:12-13), and the destruction by the Romans in A.D. 70.

In the past half century a considerable amount of evidence has come to light concerning the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The temple destroyed in 586 B.C. had been constructed by King Solomon in about 966 B.C. It was rebuilt by those who returned from the Babylonian Exile (530-516 B.C.).

Herod the Great began about 19/20 B.C. to rebuild the temple. This work was still in progress during the ministry of Jesus.

The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” (John 2:20 ESV)

Christians take seriously the prophecy of Jesus preserved by the Jewish writer Matthew.

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:1-2 ESV)

Vivid evidence of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem was discovered at the SW corner of the temple area in the Tyropean Valley. Some of the rubble can still be seen on the street which was probably built by Agrippa II in the 60s of the first century.

Evidence of Roman destruction of the Temple precinct in A.D. 70. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Stones that fell, or were pushed, from the Temple Mount platform to the street below in A.D. 70 at the time of the destruction by the Romans. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

As a result of archaeological excavations in Jerusalem since 1967 we have other vivid examples of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Take a look at the ruins of the Burnt House in the Jewish Quarter. These ruins were discovered at a depth of about 20 feet below street level. It is near the Western Wall of the temple and is what is left of a luxurious house belonging to the Kathros family, a family known for the making of incense. A stone weight bearing the phrase “of Bar Kathros” was found in the excavations (Avigad, Discovering Jerusalem, p. 130. The wealth of the family living here is evidenced by the stone table and the stone jars found in the rubble.

Bar Kathros weight in the Burnt House, Jerusalem. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

A stone weight with the inscription “of Bar Kathros.” Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The stone weight was found among the rubble of the basement work room of the Kathros family.

The burnt house after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

The house of the family Kathros, makers of incense for use in the temple, after the destruction by the Romans in A.D. 70. I have used a filter to highlight the result of the burning. Notice the ashes in the lower left corner. Some of the jars have taken on a silver look but they are stone jars. Do you see the arrow? Click on the photo for a larger image. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

It happened just as Jesus said it would.

Anathoth – the home of Jeremiah

The prophet Jeremiah was was from the little town of Anathoth northeast of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 1:1). We still lack certainty regarding the specific location of the town, but the name lives on today in the Arab town of Anata.

It is difficult to get a good photo of the hillside town of Anata. I think my photo from several years ago was made from a bus traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho along Highway 1. It was back when some tourist buses still had windows that would let down a few inches at the top. I asked the driver if he could slow down some to give me the opportunity to make a photo.

Jeremiah’s town may be buried somewhere under this village or nearby. The photo is suitable for use in visual presentations.

Anata, an Arab town on the eastern slope of the central mountain range. View to the north. The town of Anata derives it name from the biblical site of Anathoth, the home of the prophet Jeremiah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.