Monthly Archives: December 2007

Todd Bolen and the BiblePlaces Newsletter

Just when I had about given up,
what to my wondering eyes did appear,
but a BiblePlaces Newsletter with 8 tiny photos of Jerusalem and Judah in Snow. (with apologies to no one!)

When Todd Bolen left Israel to come to the USA to pursue doctoral work I surmised that he would soon become too busy to continue with his Newsletter. He has done a fine job of keeping the Bible Places Blog up to date with notices of important archaeological news from Israel.

I have encouraged many people to subscribe to Todd’s BiblePlaces Newsletter and to buy his wonderful Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. After nearly forty trips to Israel, I still find that I am sometimes lacking the exact photo I need. I often find just the right one in this collection.

In the December BiblePlaces Newsletter there are 8 beautiful photos of Jerusalem and Judah in the snow. Todd was in the country about 10 years and had the opportunity to get photos at the right time.

Here is a small photo of the Mount of Olives and Kidron Valley. From the Newsletter you may download high resolutions copies of all eight photos. For those who use PowerPoint the photos are also available in PowerPoint format.

Mount of Olives and Kidron Valley in Snow

Here is Todd’s comment on the photo:

Looking northeast from the City of David, one gets an impressive view of the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives. Several stories occurred within the view of this photo, including David’s fleeing from Absalom (2 Sam 15:30) and Jesus’ crossing the Kidron Valley on his way to Gethsemane (John 18:1). The church in the center left of the photo is built over the traditional Gethsemane and the impressive tomb monument in the lower right is incorrectly known as the “Pillar of Absalom.”

To see the BiblePlaces Newsletter, December, 2007, click here. Opportunity to subscribe to the Newsletter is available at the bottom of the page. You can also learn how to order the Pictorial Library there.

Thanks, Todd. Your work has been a blessing to many.

Christmas, St. Nicholas, and Myra

Christmas is approaching. I would like to call your attention to an article I have written about Christmas. You may read it here. A more detailed outline, The Truth About Christmas, giving both biblical and historical information is available in PDF at You are welcome to duplicate these articles for your own use. Please do not make changes in them.

Even by the end of the first century the church was beginning to move away from the apostolic pattern. One of the earliest departures was in church government. Instead of each church having a plurality of elders (bishops, overseers, pastors) (Acts 14:23; Philippians 1:1), it became popular to elevate one man to the position of Bishop over the elders.

In the fourth century there was a bishop at Myra, by the name of Nicholas, who was benevolent to those in need. From this historical person there arose the legend of Saint Nicholas, eventually Santa Claus.

Myra was a town of Lycia about 85 miles from Antalya, Turkey (biblical Attalia, Acts 14:25). The town is located a few miles away from the Mediterranean, but has a port. When Paul was being escorted by a Roman centurion from Caesarea Maritima to Rome, the ship sailed along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, and landed at Myra in Lycia (Acts 27:5). There they found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy.

Whether Paul was close enough to see any of Myra we do not know. There are several interesting things that could have been seen. I have only visited Myra once, in 1987. I mention this to say that it was before the days of digital photos. Here is a photo of the house-type tombs in the cliffs at Myra dating from the 4th century B.C.

Rock Cut Tombs at Myra in Lycia

The theater at Myra dates from the 2nd century B.C., and had a capacity of 10,000 spectators. The following photo comes from the Wikipedia entry on Myra.

Theater at Myra in Lycia

Ruins of the Church of Saint Nicholas can be seen at nearby Demre. Here is a photo I made of the statue of St. Nicholas in 1987.

St. Nicholar at Demre (Myra) in Lycia

And that’s how legend grows!