Monthly Archives: May 2008

Disaster strikes! Or was it good fortune?

My last photo with my Nikon D40X was made in the Roman agora at Thessalonica. When we arrived at the Athens airport we saw something that we thought our grandson would enjoy. I took out the trusty D40X, but it would not shoot. We made the photo with the standby Canon Power Shot SD630. At the hotel I discovered that all functions of the camera worked except the lense. I have a 55-200mm lense with me. When I put it on the camera everything worked perfectly.

When I get back home I will head down to the Best Buy with my little warranty in hand to get this taken care of before another major trip.

The lense I normally use is the 18-55mm. Most folks I talk with about cameras say they want to get a zoom, long-distance lense. Most of my photos are shot using the wide-angle feature.

What a wonderful time for the camera to go out. Last shot on the last day of touring. I had noticed the camera seeming to have some difficult in firing for the past few days. Finally, it died. The camera is only about six months old, but it has been used for about 7000 shots.

The Canon is a wonderful camera, but it has no viewfinder. This is all right for indoor shots, but it is very difficult to see the digital display in bright sunlight. I strongly advise that travelers get a digital camera with a view finder.

Agora. We have mentioned the agora many times in these blogs. The agora (forum) was the marketplace of the Roman city. This morning we walked over to a gas station to get some water. I noticed the sign over the store read Mikre Agora. We would call it a Mini Market.

Thessalonica in Macedonia

The Capsis hotel in Thessalonica was our home for two nights. Wednesday we used our time visiting the city. Thessalonica (called Thessaloniki now) is in biblical Macedonia. The area is still known as Macedonia, but is not to be confused by the modern country by that name. It is marked on maps of Greece as FYROM (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). I know too little about the dispute to make any comments.

Paul came to Thessalonica on his second journey (A.D. 50-53; Acts 17). He wrote two letters to the church at Thessalonica while he was at Corinth. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica accompanied Paul on the voyage to Rome (Acts 27:2). When Demas forsook Paul he went to Thessalonica (2 Timothy 4:10).

I went to the Archaeological Museum of Thessalonica thinking I would jump in, make a few shots of some items I had need of and then move along. In fact, I found a new (since my last visit in 2001) museum with wonderful educational exhibits, nice displays, and great lighting.

There is an impressive full-length statue of the Emperor Augustus (30 B.C. to A.D. 14). Augustus was emperor at the time of the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1). Here is a photo of the top portion of the statue. This gives some indication of the wonderful lighting in the museum. This photo was made without flash.

On the display around the statue of the emperor there is a statement about the cult of the emperor. In our travels in Asia Minor (western Turkey) we saw many evidences that the admiration of the emperor grew into worship of the emperor as a divine being. This placed a real burden on the Christians of the time. It is this type of tribulation that the book of Revelation addresses.

The cult of the emperor was both an instrument of imperial policy progaganda and a means for the transmission of Roman culture. The image of the emperor gives a concrete form to the abstract idea of the Empire. Whether a full-lenth statue [as this one] of a bust, it makes his presence felt everywhere; in outoor and indoor spaces, in fora, in villas, and in libraries.

Elizabeth and I walked down by the harbor to see the colossal statue of Alexander the Great on his horse, ready to go into battle with sword drawn. We must put Alexander of Macedon among the most influential people of world history. His conquest of the areas we know as the Bible world continue to influence us till this day. He left his mark with the introduction of the oikumene concept of one world and the introduction of Greek culture and language. The Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek in Alexandria beginning about 280 B.C. The New Testament was written in Greek. Even Paul, the Hebrew of Hebrews (Philippians 3:5), could speak Greek (Acts 21:37).

We visited the Arch of Galerius on the modern Via Egnatia, one of the main streets of Thessalonca. I made a few photos in the Roman agora before we rushed to get our bags packed to fly back to Athens.

By the time we arrived at our hotel, near the airport we had both decided that we were too tired to try to go to Delphi today. From our hotel room we are enjoying the beautiful view of a small town surrounded by mountains draped by blue sky with white clouds.

Paul’s journey in Macedonia

During his second journey, while at Troas, Paul saw a vision of a man of Macedonia. Luke gives the following record of the vision and of the subsequent action of the apostle.

A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:9-10)

Paul and his companions, including Luke, landed at Neapolis (modern Kavalla). The text indicates that the real goal of their mission was to reach the Roman colony of Philippi. Someone has commented that it is often the case that preachers have a call from a man to come preach somewhere. When they arrive they find mostly women. Paul found Lydia of Thyatira. She was a seller of purple. Whether the cloth or the dye, we are not told. She was the first convert on European soil. We make much of the fact that this was the first preaching in Europe. At the time the most important thing is that it was the first preaching in the Roman province of Macedonia (now northern Greece). Here is a photo of the modern port at Kavalla.

Luke’s account of the first convert in the city is recorded in Acts 16.

And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. (Acts 16:13-15)

The river Ganga (some say Gangites) is a short distance north of the Agora of Philippi (IDB, III.787). This must be the river under consideration in the biblical account. Here is a photo of the river that I made yesterday.

We also visited Neapolis (modern Kavalla), Amphipolis and Appollonia.

Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. (Acts 17:1)

Today we plan to visit some important sites in Thessalonica.

Group back in the USA

Early yesterday our group left for home. We have received several Emails from tour members saying that they have arrived home safely. For this we are thankful.

Elizabeth and I are spending a few days in northern Greece (biblical Macedonia). Yesterday we visited Berea (Acts 17) and Dion. Dion is in the shadow of Mount Olympus and is suggested by some as the place where the brethren from Berea took Paul down to the sea so he could continue on to Athens.

Today we plan to visit Neapolis, Philippi, et al. (Acts 16). We are staying in Thessalonica. Photos later.

Corinth, where Paul stood before Gallio

Corinth is one of my favorite places to visit. I think that is because it plays such a prominent role in the New Testament story. Paul first came to Corinth on his second journey, after visiting Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea in Macedonia (now northern Greece), and Athens in Achaia. Another reason I enjoy going here is becaue we know the names of so many people associated with the city: Chloe, Aquila, Priscilla, Crispus, Gaius, Apollos, Stephanos, Erastus, et al.

Luke’s historical account is recorded in Acts 18. Paul met Aquila and Priscilla, natives of Pontus, who had been expelled from Rome because of a decree by the Emperor Claudius. There was success in the work at Corinth as individuals heard the gospel of Christ and were baptized.

But there was also opposition. Soon, the Jews brought charges against Paul and had him brought before the proconsul Gallio.

But while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, saying, “This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.” But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you; but if there are questions about words and names and your own law, look after it yourselves; I am unwilling to be a judge of these matters.” And he drove them away from the judgment seat. (Acts 18:12-16)

The Gallio inscription, now exhibited in the museum at Delphi, provides the date for the time when Gallio was proconsul. This, in turn, helps us build a chronology for Paul’s ministry. Based on this information we generally think of Paul entering Corinth in the fall of A.D. 51, and leaving in the spring of A.D. 53.

Our photo shows the “judgment seat” (Greek, bema) in the agora (marketplace) at Corinth. The Acrocorinth is the mountain in the background. The Temple of Aphrodite stood on the Acrocorinth in New Testament times.

Earlier I have written two posts on dealing with Corinth. Check here for Did the apostle Paul attend the Isthmian Games?, and here for The Corinth Canal. We visited both sites yesterday.

Maps and Geography in Biblical Studies

Some time back I wrote about Selecting a Bible Atlas here.

I keep a link to Tyndale Tech (Electronic Resources for Biblical Studies) at Biblical Studies Info Page (under Scholarly, then Blogs). David Instone-Brewer surveys various sources for maps here, including making your own. Later I will try to write about BibleMapper. I have downloaded it and it really looks great.

Not everyone has the opportunity to visit Bible Lands and make good photographs for use in teaching, but there are many sources for photos.

These statement by Instone-Brewer really impressed me:

There is now no excuse to teach or preach without pictures and maps.

Hint. If you aren’t using many pictures, wait till the latter half of your teaching, and then wake them up with a map and some photos.

Santorini and the Minoan Civilization

Last Thursday we visited Santorini on the way from Crete to Athens. Ships anchor (not dock) at Santorini while tender boats ferry the passengers back and forth to the island city built on the half-moon rim of the crater. Some writers hold that Santorini is the ancient island of Atlantis. Santorini is not mentioned in the Bible, but several writers have tried to connect it to biblical events. It has been suggested that one of the several volcanic eruptions at Santorini is to be connected with the drying up of the Red Sea when the Israelites crossed. This is highly speculative, and there are chronological difficulties.

Items from Akrotiri, Santorini, a city covered by volcanic ash about 1600 B.C. are part of the collection of the National Archaeology Museum in Athens. It is good to see these things in Athens because the ruins at Akrotiri are closed for reconstruction. These artifacts from Akrotiri provide a good look at the Minoan civilization.

This photo was made from our ship which was anchored in the crater. The city is built along the rim of the crater. We are able to look into the heart of the volcano.