Monthly Archives: February 2008

Eighth Century B.C. Seal Found in the City of David

The Israel Antiquities Authority reports on the discovery of another seal from the area of the City of David. Read the full account here.

Finds recovered from the excavations in the City of David reveal an interesting development in the ancient world: whereas during the 9th century BCE letters and goods were dispatched on behalf of their senders without names, by the 8th century BCE the clerks and merchants had already begun to add their names to the seals.

In an excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting together with the Nature and Parks Authority and the Elad Association, a complete seal bearing an ancient Hebrew inscription with the name of its owner – Raphaihu (ben) Shalem – as well as parts of other seals with writing on it were found.

Here is a nice photo of the seal, courtesy of IAA.

Rephaihu (ben) Shalem seal discovered in the City of David. Courtesy of IAA.

Seals were commonly used during Old Testament times. Jeremiah speaks of sealing and signing a deed (Jeremiah 32:10). Jezebel sealed letters with Ahab’s seal (1 Kings 21:8). Numerous seals bearing the names of biblical characters have been found over the years. It is suggested that this seal belonged to a clerk or merchant of some importance in the 8th century B.C.

Professor Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron are the excavators of the project where this find was made.

HT: BiblePlaces Blog; PaleoJudaica.

Writing in the Snow in Bowling Green

The temperature might reach 36 degrees today. There was enough snow overnight that the schools were closed today. I took advantage of the back window of my rental car to do a little writing.

“Drew” in Snow. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rivers in the Desert

Todd Bolen, over at BiblePlaces Blog, calls attention to an article in the Jerusalem Post about an American tourist who was killed in a Flash Flood at En Gedi. He calls attention, in one of the links, to some photos I made April 2, 2006 of a flash flood in the Wilderness of Judea. Afterwards I wrote an article about it for Biblical Insights. Read Todd’s blog and then read my article below. Todd also includes a beautiful photo of Nahal David at a more tranquil time.


Rivers in the Desert is the title of Nelson Glueck’s 1959 history of the Negev. These rivers also may be seen in the Judean wilderness and in the Sinai. Thomas Levy followed up on some of Glueck’s research in a Biblical Archaeology Review article in 1990.

Wilderness of Judea Waterfall - April 2, 2006. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If one travels in the desert during the summer months he will see a dry, desolate bad land with only an isolated tamarisk tree or shrub where the last water of the winter rain flowed. In the winter it can be different. Israel has two dominant seasons: winter and summer. The summer is dry and the winter is wet. The early rains begin about mid-October and continue till the late rains of early April. See Deuteronomy 11:14 and Joel 2:23.

he wilderness of Judea receives very little rain, but the area is affected by the rains that fall in the central mountain range (Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives; Bethlehem; Hebron). We sometimes describe the road that runs along that range as the water parting route. The rain that falls must seek its lowest level. From an elevation of about 2500 feet above sea level the water flows east through the wadis to an elevation of more than 1300 feet below sea level at the Dead Sea.

Levy reminds us that “Nahal, incidentally, is Hebrew for a dry river bed or valley that flows at most a few times a year. In Arabic, the word is wadi. The two words are used interchangeably in Israel today.” The wadi is similar to the arroyo of the American southwest.

Wilderness of Judea Waterfall - April 2, 2006. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Several members of my group told me of being awakened during the morning of April 2 by the severe storms in Jerusalem. At breakfast I explained to the group that this would be no problem for our planned sightseeing; we would just go to the Dead Sea and Masada. Eli, our guide, told the group that when we came out of the new tunnel that now cuts through the mountain between Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives, it would probably be dry. In fact it was still raining on us almost all the way to the Jordan Valley.

Our driver decided to pull off the highway onto the old road that overlooks the Wadi Kelt (Qilt) on the way down to Jericho. On the south side of the wadi there is an overlook allowing a view of the Monastery of Saint George of Koziba. There we saw one of the most fascinating sights that can be imagined. It rained an astounding 4.41 inches in Jerusalem. This is about three times what the city normally gets for the entire month of April.

In this normal desert land there was a tremendous waterfall pouring down the side of the cliff into the wadi. Our guide said, and another experienced guide is reported to have told his group, that he had never seen it like this. That evening Todd Bolen and his wife were my guests for dinner at the hotel. Todd has lived and taught in Israel for the past ten years. He has provided us with excellent photos in his Pictorial Archive of Bible Lands (see He was excited about the photos I had taken that day and included three of them on his blog. He was headed for Galilee the next day. He reported seeing hail at En Gev on the Sea of Galilee. The Jerusalem Post ran a photo of the flooded road at the Megiddo junction, and reported that five people had died as a result of the heavy rains.

Not only could we not get to Masada that day, but we could not go to Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea. A couple of days later when we visited these sites we saw the damage to the road in multiple places where the wadis descended to the Dead Sea. Debris could be seen in the Dead Sea.

Wadi Qelt (Kelt) in the Wilderness of Judea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In forty years of travel in the Bible Lands, this was one of my most exciting days for photography. I am delighted to share it with you.

The photo below is of a typical dry wadi in the Wilderness of Judea.

A dry wadi in the Wilderness of Judea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Understanding Postmodernism

What does this have to do with travel? Well, it is travel of the mind, and the road of history that has brought us to the place we are now in the early part of the 21st century.

I do try to stay on target with this blog, but I regularly check a blog called Parchment and Pen. There is a short video explaining, with a visual illustration, what Postmodernism is, and how we got to this place in modern thinking. I think you will profit by taking the time to listen to this discussion about Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Postmodernism.

Here is the link to the video produced by Reclaiming the Mind Ministries. You may watch it online or download it to watch.

Hopefully this will help clear up some fuzzy thinking!

Photo for the 20,000 winner

And the winner is Jennifer!

Back on January 30th we announced the winner of the digital photo for being the twenty thousandth visitor to the site. The winner has asked for a surprise photo from Turkey. So, I have decided to send her a photo of the waterfalls on the outskirts of Tarsus in Cilicia, the hometown of Saul (Paul, the Apostle). Here is a small copy of the image I am sending to the winner.

Waterfalls at Tarus in Cilicia, home of the apostle Paul. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tarsus was important historically. Because of its position on the River Cydnus near the Mediterranean about 30 miles below the Cilician Gates, Tarsus in Cilicia served as one of the great crossroads of history. Paul described his hometown as “no insignificant city” (Acts 21:39; 9:11; 22:3). It was a fortified city and trade center as early as 2000 B.C. It was captured by the Assyrian kings Shalmaneser III (833 B.C.) and Sennacherib (698 B.C.), and had seen the likes of Alexander the Great and Cleopatra.

Tarsus was commercially important. Ancient writers mention the linen woven here from flax which grew in the fertile plain. A material called cilicium was woven from goat’s hair and used to make coverings which would protect against cold and wet .

The city was culturally important. Strabo describes the people as being avid in the pursuit of culture. Tarsus was a university town, and was noted as the home of several well-known philosophers, especially of the Stoic school. Barclay says,

If a man was destined to be a missionary to the world at large, there was no better place in all the east for him to grow to manhood than in Tarsus” (The Mind of St. Paul, 25-26).

It is not difficult to imagine that famous leaders and armies stopped by this waterfall to be refreshed before (or after) making their way through the Cilician Gates. And it is easy to imagine that young Saul and his friends often visited the site.

How Much Is My Blog Worth?

The value keeps going up, because so many of you find this blog of interest.

My blog is worth $5,645.40.
How much is your blog worth?

That is up from $564 last June.

March/April edition of BAR online

Biblical Archaeology Review announced today that the entire March/April edition is available online. Certainly this is to gain subscribers. Nonetheless it is a good opportunity for those who have not read the magazine to take a look.

Subjects include an article about a seal bearing the name Jezebel. Does it belong to the wicked Phoenician Queen, wife of Ahab?

Another article is about Emmaus, or Emmaus-Nicopolis, where Jesus met with some disciples after his resurrection (Luke 24:13ff.). Here is a photo I made of the fifth century baptistry at Emmaus in 2005.

Baptistry in 5th century church at Emmaus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

BAR has a photo of this baptistry, but calls it a “baptismal font.” The article says,

Two steps lead down into the basin where the penitent would stand when the priest poured water over him (the basin is not large enough for total immersion).

Of course, I must disagree with BAR. Many a preacher has baptized in a bathtub or some other small vessel when nothing else was available. In New Testament times baptism was immersion, as the word indicates, and as history records. The first known instance of the pouring of water as a substitute for immersion is the case of Novation in A.D. 251. It may well have been that pouring was practiced by the 5th century at Emmaus, but it is a departure from the New Testament (Romans 6:3-4). Baptism is commonly called a washing in the New Testament (Acts 22:16; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 10:22).

Anyway, go online and read these and other articles from the current issue of BAR. Here is the link.

Earthquake Felt in Israel, Syria and Lebanon

The Jerusalem Post reports that an earthquake was felt in Israel last Friday, Feb. 15. Read the full story here.

The earth shook in many parts of Israel at 12:37 p.m. Friday. The quake was felt mainly in coastline cities, including Haifa, Tel Aviv and Nahariya.
The quake, Israel Radio reported, was also felt in Syria and Lebanon. A faded echo of the quake that hit the coast was also felt at the editorial offices of The Jerusalem Post in Jerusalem.

The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center said on its Web site that the quake Friday was 5.3 on the Richter scale and that its epicenter was in Lebanon.

The region is long overdue for an earthquake of epic and potentially catastrophic proportions, scientists say.

The Great Rift runs all the way from northern Syria through Lebanon, Israel, the Arabah, and into eastern Africa. In Israel the area is called the Jordan Valley or the Dead Sea Rift, It is not surprising that earthquakes are mentioned frequently in the Bible. The prophet Amos dates his visions to “two years before the earthquake” (Amos 1:1). The earthquake he makes reference to must have been so memorable that everyone would know what he was talking about. Zechariah (14:5) also calls attention to this earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.

Jesus, in predicting the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans, said, “and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes” (Matthew 24:7; see Luke 21:11).

We have a wonderful example of the power of an earthquake in the Jordan Valley at the site of Bethshan [Bet-she’an, Beth-shean], about 25 miles south of the Sea of Galilee. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 749. This photo shows the evidence brought to light during recently archaeological excavations in the city.

Earthquake Damage at Bethshan in A.D. 749. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Book of Enoch on Display

The book of Enoch has received some attention in the news today. The Courier-Journal reports that a printed copy of Enoch was recently purchased by a collector, and is being placed on display at the Remnant Trust in Jeffersonville, Indiana. The article includes a nice video with good images of the book.
Book of Enoch at Remnant Trust, Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Enoch was originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic by Jews, and some ancient fragments of it have been found near the Dead Sea. But the oldest complete versions are in the ancient Ethiopian language of Ge’ez because Ethiopian Christians are the only enduring church group that revered the book as Scripture.

James C. VanderKam, a professor of Hebrew Scriptures at Notre Dame University and a leading expert on the Book of Enoch, has inspected the book on loan to the trust and estimates that it’s probably one of the five oldest manuscripts of the work.

“We don’t have very many that go back that far,” said VanderKam, who is co-author of an English translation of Enoch and is working on a commentary. VanderKam estimated that the text was about 500 years old because its script and contents are similar to a manuscript of that age in the British Museum. Specialists in Ethiopian script could make a more specific determination, he said.

Enoch is mentioned in Luke’s genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:37). The writer of the epistles to the Hebrews says,

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God (Hebrews 11:5 NASB).

The most interesting mention of Enoch in the New Testament is the quotation from the book in the little letter of Jude. In the midst of a litany of charges against “certain persons” who had crept in unnoticed among the Christians to whom he writes, he says,

It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” (Jude 1:14-15 NASB).

The book of Enoch was not considered one of the canonical books of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) by the Jews, but Jude seems to think it expressed the truth about what will happen to false teachers. In the same way, Paul quoted pagan poets whose work expressed the truth he was seeking to express (Acts 17:28).

For several weeks I have been looking for an excuse to mention that my book, The Early Church, is now available in the Amharic language. All distribution is being done by Christians in Ethiopia, and I have no copies for distribution.

The Early Church by Ferrell Jenkins in Amharic, used by Christian in Ethiopia.

Ethiopians, sometimes called Abyssinians, have a small chapel adjoining the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. There they sometimes show a portion of the Gospels prepared in the shape of a cross. One of my guides used to ask the Ethiopian to read to us from Amharic. This photo was made in 1977.

Ethiopian reading the gospel in Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1977.

Waterfalls of Israel

Tourists often fail to see the waterfalls in Israel because they are hidden in the hills off the main roads and require a hike to get to them. Several years ago I was browsing the books at a profession meeting (SBL) I attended. One of the new publications was The Holman Bible Dictionary (1991). I noticed a photo of the waterfall at Engedi (En Gedi) on page 419. The caption for the photo reads:

The only natural waterfall in Israel is located at Engedi on the west side of the Dead Sea.

I spoke to one of the representatives of the publisher that I had come to know and told him this was a mistake that should be corrected. He thanked me and gave me a copy of the dictionary for having pointed out this error. I assume that future editions of the dictionary have a corrected caption.

Here is a photo of the Jordan River Waterfall (sometimes called the Banias Falls) that I made in 1984. This waterfall is not far from the main road as you leave Banias (Caesarea Philippi) west toward Dan. A place like this would be most refreshing to a person like David as he was fleeing from Saul (1 Samuel 23:29-24:1). Of course, that was at Engedi, in the south.

Jordan River Falls (Banias Falls) Near Caesarea Philippi in Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins 1984.

What really got me to thinking about this today is Todd Bolen’s BiblePlaces Newsletter which came today. In addition to links to news mentioned on the Bible Places Blog, the main feature includes the Waterfalls of Israel. There are five high-resolution photos and a PowerPoint presentation available for download. Todd also mentions other waterfalls in Israel.

Several times before I have recommended the BiblePlaces Newsletter and the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. Click here to subscribe to the Newsletter. Click here to go to BiblePlaces for information about the Pictorial Library.