Monthly Archives: March 2009

Ireland and St. Patrick

Thoughts turn toward the Emerald Isle on St. Patrick’s Day, especially for those with Irish roots. The truth about St. Patrick is shrouded in Irish mist. He is said to have brought Christianity to Ireland, perhaps in the latter part of the fifth century.

I do not celebrate St. Patrick’s day, but for whatever good he may have done I am thankful. I thought this would be a good opportunity to share a photo from Ireland with you.

Ireland is a beautiful place to visit. The photo below of Finn Valley was made near Donegal Bay. The area is noted for beautiful hills, a magnificent coastline, majestic mountains, deep glens, and shimmering lakes.

Ireland's Finn Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ireland's Finn Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

One branch of my family came from County Wicklow on the south eastern side of the island.

Longest underground Roman aqueduct

A recent article in Spiegel Online reports on the discovery of “The Ancient World’s Longest Underground Aqueduct.”

Roman engineers chipped an aqueduct through more than 100 kilometers of stone to connect water to cities in the ancient province of Syria. The monumental effort took more than a century, says the German researcher who discovered it.

When the Romans weren’t busy conquering their enemies, they loved to waste massive quantities of water, which gurgled and bubbled throughout their cities. The engineers of the empire invented standardized lead pipes, aqueducts as high as fortresses, and water mains with 15 bars (217 pounds per square inch) of pressure.

In the capital alone there were thousands of fountains, drinking troughs and thermal baths. Rich senators refreshed themselves in private pools and decorated their gardens with cooling grottos. The result was a record daily consumption of over 500 liters of water per capita (Germans today use around 125 liters).

However, when the Roman legions marched into the barren region of Palestine, shortly before the birth of Christ, they had to forgo the usual splashing about, at least temporarily. It was simply too dry.

The article by Matthias Schulz says,

This colossal waterworks project supplied the great cities of the ‘Decapolis’ – a league originally consisting of 10 ancient communities — with spring water. The aqueduct ended in Gadara, a city with a population of approximately 50,000. According to the Bible, this is where Jesus exorcized demons and chased them into a herd of pigs.

The full story may be read here. There are some nice photos and diagrams.

The identification of the “country of the Gadarenes” (Matthew 8:28-34), and the “country of the Gerasenes” (Mark 5:1; Luke 8:26-39), and the exact place where the swine rushed down the steep cliff into the Sea, is a difficult one.  And I don’t have the time to work on it today.

View of Sea of Galilee from Umm Queis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of Sea of Galilee from Umm Queis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We know that Gadara had a port on the Sea of Galilee, and that Roman coins of the city portrayed ships.

Here is a photo of the Roman theater of Umm Queis. The earliest buildings of this city are made of basalt, the volcanic rock common in the area.

The basalt theater at Umm Queis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The basalt theater at Umm Queis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Joe Lauer

Happy Birthday to the WWW

The World Wide Web is now 20 years old. There are still a lot of people who are at least 20 years behind. Read the full account and links to related topics here.

In March 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, then a scientist at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, published a paper, entitled Information Management: A Proposal, which aimed to provide a framework for academic institutions to organise and share electronic documents across the internet, and were crucial in the creation of the world wide web.

“Tim pulled together ideas of a markup language, getting files on the internet and hypertext,” said Wendy Hall, a professor in the computer science department at the University of Southampton. “The things that made it work were open standards and protocols so anyone could set up their own web server and HTML documents, the fact that it was completely distributed and scalable, and that it worked over the network.”

Sir Tim will mark the occasion with a speech to scientists and technologists in Geneva, exploring the history of the web, and future applications of internet technology.

Earlier this week, Sir Tim warned a parliamentary round-table that allowing advertisers to target internet users by tracking their browsing habits was akin to putting a “spy camera” in people’s homes.

When I first began to use the WWW I would go to the CERN site, long before Google, to search for links to information. I remember telling my students in the 1990s that if they started reading all the pages on the WWW they would never finish. How much more today! Of course, most of the pages are probably not worth reading.

My first web page of biblical information, established May 14, 1996, later became the domain went online September 26, 1998.

On our recent trip to Alexandria, Egypt, we visited the famous new library. One of the guides showed us the computers that store about 85  —  web pages archived since 1998. Try it here. You can see what Bible World looked like in 1999.

Wayback computers in the library at Alexandria, Egypt. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Wayback computers in the library at Alexandria, Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

BTW, Al Gore was Vice President of the United States from 1993 to 2001.

HT: Paleojudaica


While traveling in Egypt we noticed pigeon roosts several places, but especially in the eastern Delta region (the biblical land of Goshen). The photo below was made along the desert road between Cairo and Alexandria.

Pigeons may serve many purposes: food, eggs, making fertilizer, message carriers, etc. Our guide explained that many people thought of the pigeon as an aphrodisiac.

Pigeon roosts near Alexandria, Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pigeon roosts near Alexandria, Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Every reference to pigeons in the Bible is related to sacrifices. Most of the references are in Leviticus (1:14; 5:7, 11; 12:6, 8; 14:22, 30; 15:14, 29). Note two other references:

  • When the LORD made the land covenant with Abram at Shechem, He asked Abram to bring “a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon” (Genesis 15:9). The Hebrew word here is different. Fox, in The Five Books of Moses, uses the term fledgling.
  • Mary’s offering of purification in Jerusalem was “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:24).

Another Byzantine church uncovered

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced today the discovery of a church building dating to the Byzantine period. This one is located near Moshav Nes-Harim, about 3.11 miles east of Beth Shemesh. The full press release may be read here. The Byzantine period in Israel may be dated from about A.D. 325 to the early part of the 7th century.

Christianity grew out of the soil of Judaism. In the early part of the first century Jesus said, “for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22).

Max Miller says,

The population of the Holy Land became almost entirely Christian, except for Jewish enclaves primarily in Galilee. moreover, Christian pilgrims flocked to the Holy Land from all over the Roman-Byzantium world and Christian churches were built over virtually every spot which could be imagined to have any connection with a biblical event. (Introducing the Holy Land, 130-131).

He continues to say,

By 640 most of Egypt, the Holy Land and Syria were under Islamic control.

Mosaic dedicatory inscription in Greek. Photo by Daniel Ein Mor, IAA.

Mosaic dedicatory inscription in Greek. Photo by Daniel Ein Mor, IAA.

Evidence for the existence of Jewish and Christian buildings and settlements continues to become known rapidly. It has become common among some Muslim sources to deny the existence of Jews in the land of Palestine before the 20th century. The evidence of archaeology says otherwise. The Old Testament scriptures say otherwise. The New Testament, and the existence of the church in those early centuries, say otherwise.

The sad thing is that buildings are found, not churches composed of Christians. The church had so departed from the New Testament order that it was not able to effectively survive the pressures of  the Muslim invasion. The church of our day appears very weak as it faces the cultural pressures of the postmodern world.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer


Einstein. That all we have to say. When it comes to the archaeology of Palestine the name Kenyon needs no supporting terms. Professor Magen Broshi, an archaeologist and historian, and the former curator of the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem, wrote a review of Dame Kathleen Kenyon, Digging up the Holy Land, by Miriam C. Davis.

Here are a few interesting statements by Broshi:

She was, however, one of the most important archaeologists ever to dig in the Land of Israel.

That is not a negligible achievement, because more archaeological work has been done in the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, in other words in the State of Israel and the territories, than anywhere else in the world. There is no other country that has been so thoroughly researched, and the number of digs and surveys carried out here is incomparably greater than what has been done in far larger countries. Kenyon is not only one of the most important archaeologists to have worked here (and they number over 1,000), she is also the leading female archaeologist to have worked anywhere (along with the prehistorian Dorothy Garrod).

Kenyon dug at Samaria, Jericho, and Jerusalem. Broshi concludes,

The figure of Kenyon as portrayed in the book is a model of diligence and dedication. The book is based on thorough research, including written and oral testimony. It is well-written and the story is appealing. In my opinion it deserves high praise.

The complete review may be read on the Haaretz web site.

There are several articles on the Associates for Biblical Research web page about the excavations at Jericho. This one by Bryant G. Wood on “The Walls of Jericho” is a non-technical article that is helpful. Wood wrote a doctoral dissertation evaluating the evidence at Jericho. He discovered some oversights in Kenyon’s conclusions. Notice one of the concluding paragraphs of the popular article.

Jericho was once thought to be a “Bible problem” because of the seeming disagreement between archaeology and the Bible. When the archaeology is correctly interpreted, however, the opposite is the case. The archaeological evidence supports the historical accuracy of the Biblical account in every detail. Every aspect of the story that could possibly be verified by the findings of archaeology is, in fact, verified.

Both Garstang (excavated Jericho between 1930 and 1936) and Kenyon (excavated Jericho between 1952 and 1958) found evidence of pottery jars full of grain in destruction levels. Even with the constant deterioration of the exposed evidence, we still see fragments of jars in the side of the balk.

Pottery in the side of a trench at Jericho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pottery in the side of a trench at Jericho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wood argues that “this is a unique find in the annals of archaeology.” He says,

Grain was valuable, not only as a source of food, but also as a commodity which could be bartered. Under normal circumstances, valuables such as grain would have been plundered by the conquerors. Why was the grain left to be burned at Jericho?

The Bible says,

The city and all that is in it must be set apart for the LORD, except for Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house, because she hid the spies we sent. But be careful when you are setting apart the riches for the LORD. If you take any of it, you will make the Israelite camp subject to annihilation and cause a disaster. All the silver and gold, as well as bronze and iron items, belong to the LORD. They must go into the LORD’s treasury.” (Joshua 6:17-19 NET)

But they burned the city and all that was in it, except for the silver, gold, and bronze and iron items they put in the treasury of the LORD’s house. (Joshua 6:24 NET)

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

After completing my comments, I see that Todd Bolen has commented on the review of the Kenyon biography here.

Reminders of Patriarchal Life

The Bible paints a clear picture of the life of the patriarchs, especially Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Just type the words tent and tents in your computer Bible search engine. Here are a few things said about the biblical patriarchs. (You need to remove the hits referring to the “tent of meeting” or tabernacle.)

  • Lot and Abraham had flocks and herds and tents (Genesis 13:5).
  • Numerous references mention moving the tent (see Genesis 13:18).
  • Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents (Genesis 25:27).
  • Even as late as the time of David many were living in tents (2 Samuel 18:17).

The writer of Hebrews describes the faith of Abraham this way:

By faith he lived as a foreigner in the promised land as though it were a foreign country, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, who were fellow heirs of the same promise. (Hebrews 11:9)

One of the values of travel to the lands of the Bible is to see many customs reminiscent of Bible times. In 2002 I spent nearly a week in Syria with a colleague visiting biblical and historical sites. North of Latakia, almost to the border with Turkey, we saw a settlement of what appeared to be at least three families living in tents. One man was clearly the “patriarch” of the group. Several women were busy working. One was milking the sheep. The tents were spread out over about an acre or more of land.

Shepherd settlement in northeastern Syria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shepherd settlement in northeastern Syria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I think one could envision Abraham and his family in much the same way.

Like an owl in a desolate place

The owl, as a bird of prey, is mentioned among the unclean birds — those that were not to be eaten by the ancient Israelites (Leviticus 11:16; Deuteronomy 14:15).

Owl at Hai-Bar Nature Reserve in Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Owl at Hai-Bar Nature Reserve in Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Psalm 102 is described as “A Prayer of the Afflicted when he is faint and pours our his complaint before the LORD.” The owl is mentioned in Psalm 102:6 NASB.

I resemble a pelican of the wilderness; I have become like an owl of the waste places.

According to Keil and Delitzsch the owl mentioned here is “the night-raven or the little horned owl.” Note the comparison of the pelican and the owl with the person who is afflicted.

They are both unclean creatures, which are fond of the loneliness of the desert and ruined places. To such a wilderness, that of the exile, is the poet unwillingly transported. He passes the nights without sleep, … and is therefore like a bird sitting lonesome, … upon the roof whilst all in the house beneath are sleeping.

ESV Study Bible online free (for a while)

Recently I received a copy of the ESV Study Bible from the publisher, Crossway Books and Bibles, for review. Hopefully I will be able to get to this in the next week or two.

Meanwhile, you have the opportunity to use the ESV Study Bible online free of charge until March 31, 2009. The Bible has been available online and in several computer Bible programs for some time. The Study Bible has many additional features such as explanatory notes, charts, maps, diagrams, etc. This will give you a few weeks to read some passages you may be studying and check the additional resources.

Check the ESV Bible Blog for complete information.

ESV Study Bible

ESV Study Bible

Or, you may go to this link, create a login and password and begin using all features of the ESV Study Bible.

The cost of discipleship: “foxes have holes”

Jesus used simple illustrations to reach the heart. When someone said, “I will follow You wherever You go,” He responded this way:

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:57-58 NASu; see Matthew 8:19-20)

Foxes have holes. Photo at Hai Bar Nature Reserve by Ferrell Jenkins.

Foxes have holes. Photo at Hai Bar Nature Reserve by Ferrell Jenkins.

William Barclay, in The Daily Study Bible, comments on this account at Matthew 8:19-20.

It is as if Jesus said to this man: “Before you follow me—think what you are doing. Before you follow me—count the cost.

Jesus did not want followers who were swept away by a moment of emotion, which quickly blazed and just as quickly died. He did not want men who were carried away by a tide of mere feeling, which quickly flowed and just as quickly ebbed. He wanted men who knew what they were doing. He talked about taking up a cross (Matthew 10:38). He talked about setting himself above the dearest relationships in life (Luke 14:26); he talked about giving away everything to the poor (Matthew 19:21). He was always saying to men: “Yes, I know that your heart is running out to me, but—do you love me enough for that?”

Jesus still demands full allegiance.